Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How much land?

The Hutt City Council is considering allowing some residential development in the eastern hills of Lower Hutt. The area is a classic example of gorse providing a nursery for regenerating native bush. At different times walking and jogging in these hills I have seen tui, kereru, bell birds, fantails, grey warblers, tomtits and a freshwater crayfish (the latter and I gave each other a fright one day when I was crossing a creek). The area is popular for walking and mountain biking.

Of course, people need somewhere to live, but I hope better alternatives are feasible. New Zealand's natural areas have been shrinking ever since humans came to this country; my view is they have shrunk further than is necessary and it is right to let them increase again. I sent a letter to the Hutt News a few weeks ago expressing my opposition to development in the eastern hills. The following week, there was an interesting response from another letter writer disagreeing and saying that those of us opposed to development can't have it both ways: we don't like it when cities and towns grow outwards but neither do we like to lose small green areas within cities. The additional claim was made that severe restrictions on development force up the cost of housing.

I agree there is some validity to those arguments but I think the incentives in our tax system to invest in property hold a greater proportion of the responsibility for rising house prices than restrictions on development do. And I believe there are alternatives to building on reserve land, including building upwards, which of course has its own problems of creating shadow and invading neighbours' privacy but can be appropriate in some situations, building smaller (saves time on housework too :) ), and building on superfluous farmland.