Mi­gra­tion flat­ters eco­nomic growth

The Dominion Post - - Business - HAMISH RUTHER­FORD

A boom­ing Ki­wifruit in­dus­try made Bay of Plenty the fastest grow­ing part of the coun­try, while plung­ing oil and dairy prices saw Taranaki’s eco­nomic out­put record a re­mark­able plunge.

Mean­while, al­though Auck­land’s pop­u­la­tion is boom­ing, the amount New Zealand’s largest city is pro­duc­ing per per­son is grow­ing, but not nearly as fast as other re­gions over the past three, or seven years.

Fig­ures re­leased by Sta­tis­tics New Zealand yes­ter­day re­veal the rel­a­tive speed with which New Zealand’s re­gions grew in the year to March 31, 2016.

Al­though at a na­tion­wide level more re­cent growth fig­ures are avail­able, Sta­tis­tics NZ pub­lishes re­gional break­downs a year af­ter the pe­riod the fig­ures re­fer to.

Across New Zealand, eco­nomic out­put (gross do­mes­tic prod­uct) on a per per­son ba­sis grew at 2 per cent in 12 months.

Some re­gions were boom­ing, while three were in de­cline.

Bay of Plenty recorded the big­gest gain in over­all terms, as well as on a per per­son ba­sis, grow­ing 5.6 per cent to $44,997.

Taranaki’s per per­son GDP re­mains the high­est in the coun­try, de­spite its out­put per per­son plung­ing 9.3 per cent, from $78,625 to $71,297.

As well as fall­ing dairy prices, Taranaki – the home of New Zealand’s oil and gas sec­tor – was hit by a sharp fall in global oil prices in 2015 and 2016, which re­sulted in a large num­ber of projects in the sec­tor be­ing can­celled.

De­spite the fall, Taranaki’s out­put was al­most twice as much per per­son as North­land ($36,531) and Gis­borne $36,955). Welling­ton had the sec­ond largest out­put per per­son at $67,888, fol­lowed by Auck­land at $58,717.

The fig­ures re­veal the ex­tent to which pop­u­la­tion growth is flat­ter­ing New Zealand’s eco­nomic growth fig­ures, with record net mi­gra­tion driv­ing pop­u­la­tion growth to a 40-year high.

In a press re­lease, Sta­tis­tics NZ her­alded Auck­land’s growth at 6 per cent and 4.1 per cent across New Zealand.

How­ever, on a per per­son ba­sis, Auck­land grew at 3.1 per cent while the na­tional figure was 2 per cent.

Over­all 12 re­gions ex­panded in the year to March 31, 2016, while Taranaki, South­land and the West Coast con­tracted. It was the sec­ond year in a row that the Taranaki, West Coast and South­land economies con­tracted.

The fig­ures also show which parts of the coun­try have out­per­formed the oth­ers over a longer time pe­riod. While Auck­land’s pop­u­la­tion is boom­ing, its out­put is closer to the mid­dle of the pack.

A wind-down in the Christchurch re­build meant that Can­ter­bury’s econ­omy grew by just 1.2 per cent on a per per­son ba­sis in the year to March 31, 2016.

But over the seven years since 2009, Can­ter­bury has been the strong­est grow­ing re­gion by some mar­gin, grow­ing 33.48 per cent, fol­lowed by Marl­bor­ough and Bay of Plenty.

Since 2009 all parts of the coun­try have grown apart from Taranaki, where out­put per per­son is down 9.64 per cent.

Since 2013 Marl­bor­ough was streaks ahead, ex­pand­ing 16.38 per cent in three years, fol­lowed by Can­ter­bury (12.7 per cent) and North­land (12.46 per cent). OPIN­ION: The busi­ness community has been con­cerned about the Re­source Man­age­ment Act (RMA) for a long time.

Any­one want­ing to grow a busi­ness, build a build­ing or in­stall some in­fra­struc­ture will at some stage need a con­sent from lo­cal gov­ern­ment, work­ing un­der the rules of the RMA.

Un­for­tu­nately those rules are not work­ing – for com­mu­ni­ties, the en­vi­ron­ment or our devel­op­ment needs.

Some of our most press­ing prob­lems – hous­ing short­ages, high house prices, costly busi­ness ex­pan­sion, con­gested roads and lack of good in­fra­struc­ture – stem largely from the RMA.

This is be­cause plan­ning reg­u­la­tions de­vel­oped by lo­cal gov­ern­ment un­der the RMA have in many cases be­come overly com­pli­cated and dif­fi­cult, con­strain­ing busi­ness growth.

A good ex­am­ple is the ur­ban bound­ary around Auck­land. Plan­ners work­ing un­der RMA rules have de­creed devel­op­ment may take place only in­side an ar­ti­fi­cial bound­ary around Auck­land’s squeezed isth­mus area. This has pushed up the price of houses and sec­tions in­side the bound­ary, mak­ing them un­af­ford­able for many.

An­other ex­am­ple is the kind of dis­trict plan now op­er­at­ing in many cities and towns that dic­tates what you may or may not do with your own prop­erty – rules re­quir­ing sit­ting rooms to face the street, fences of a cer­tain height or ap­proved colours for letterboxes.

The RMA does not di­rect plan­ners to re­strict bound­aries and im­pose triv­ial con­di­tions, but it al­lows them to. And that’s how we be­come over-reg­u­lated.

This week the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion said it was time to re­place the RMA. It has an­a­lysed the prob­lems caused by the act and

Welling­ton had the sec­ond largest out­put per per­son at $67,888. A new act with sep­a­rate ob­jec­tives and prin­ci­ples for the nat­u­ral and built en­vi­ron­ments would be a great im­prove­ment.

con­cluded that we could do much bet­ter.

The com­mis­sion has made rec­om­men­da­tions for a re­place­ment act. First, it sug­gests sep­a­rate ob­jec­tives for the nat­u­ral and the built en­vi­ron­ment – a good rec­om­men­da­tion.

The nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment needs pro­tec­tion. We want plan­ning laws to pro­tect the water, soil, air and veg­e­ta­tion in the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment where ap­pro­pri­ate.

The built en­vi­ron­ment, on the other hand, needs en­able­ment. Here we want busi­ness, hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment to be en­abled (of course within ap­pro­pri­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards).

Un­der the RMA, a big prob­lem is the pro­tec­tive – not en­abling – ap­proach be­ing ap­plied to the built en­vi­ron­ment. A pro­tec­tive ap­proach to the built en­vi­ron­ment sim­ply leads to more and more re­stric­tions be­ing placed on devel­op­ment, as we have seen.

A new act with sep­a­rate ob­jec­tives and prin­ci­ples for the nat­u­ral and built en­vi­ron­ments would be a great im­prove­ment.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant rec­om­men­da­tion is for clearer word­ing. Many of the prob­lems ev­i­dent in cities to­day have arisen be­cause of broad, un­clear word­ing in the RMA that al­lows plan­ners to reg­u­late or over-reg­u­late as they see fit, within their own un­der­stand­ing of what the RMA re­quires.

The com­mis­sion rec­om­mends a new act should have clearly de­fined ob­jec­tives to give plan­ners clearer pa­ram­e­ters to work within. In a new act, the ob­jec­tives should also be ap­pro­pri­ately cir­cum­scribed.

Un­der the RMA lo­cal gov­ern­ment has a broad man­date – for ex­am­ple, to en­able ev­ery­one’s ‘‘so­cial, eco­nomic, and cul­tural well-be­ing and health and safety’’.

More nar­row ob­jec­tives, fo­cused on lo­cal gov­ern­ment’s core re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, would be wel­come, es­pe­cially by com­mu­ni­ties want­ing bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

These are just the ba­sic rec­om­men­da­tions made by the com­mis­sion for re­plac­ing the RMA – there are many oth­ers cov­er­ing plan­ning, hous­ing, in­fra­struc­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment.

It will be a sig­nif­i­cant un­der­tak­ing to write a new act be­cause of the wide range of mat­ters in­volved. Other acts will need amend­ing as part of the process, in­clud­ing the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act and Land Trans­port Act.

But it is a job that is much needed and shouldn’t wait any longer.

Let’s hope the Gov­ern­ment heeds the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions and moves quickly to re­place the RMA. Kirk Hope is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Busi­nessNZ.

A boom­ing ki­wifruit in­dus­try helped make Bay of Plenty the fastest grow­ing re­gion in New Zealand in 2015-16.

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