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Locally controlled urban development authorities (UDAs) with compulsory land acquisition powers and fast-tracked resource consent processes are the latest weapon the government is preparing to fight the slow speed of new city housing and infrastructure development.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith on Tuesday released a public consultation document on legislation allowing UDAs to be established to help enable the goals of last year's National Policy Statement on Urban Development, whose primary aim is to ensure enough urban land is available for housing and associated public infrastructure such as roads, parks, schools and drainage.

UDAs were first mooted by the Productivity Commission in 2015 and the release of consultation documents follows Monday's High Court finding against a group of test cases taken by Aucklanders appealing against aspects of the new Auckland Unitary Plan, which is setting the blueprint for the development of the country's largest city.

Auckland is experiencing rampant house price inflation caused by land and construction sector shortages, prescriptive planning rules, and strong immigration.

"New Zealand needs UDA legislation to enable faster and better quality regeneration of our major cities," said Mr Smith. "These new authorities need the power to assemble parcels of land, develop site-specific plans, reconfigure infrastructure and to construct a mix of public and private buildings to create vibrant hubs for modern urban living."

The UDA model was in use in many cities internationally, including several large Australian cities and should contribute to major Auckland development schemes such as those at Hobsonville, Tamaki, Three Kings, and Northcote "to occur three to five years faster".

UDAs would not be able to grant their own resource consents, but would be subject to the same fast-tracked Resource Management Act consenting processes as are used for Special Housing Areas, where the government has already enacted legislation to try and free up land for residential development.

 
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