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Twyford Throws A Incendiary Device!

The land use saga that is at the heart of the urban growth boundary dispute around Auckland, into which Labour's Phil Twyford has thrown his little incendiary "abolishment" bomb raises a whole raft of issues well beyond Len Brown's absolute determination to force central city high-rise, and zone changes adverse to National's blue-rinse heartland.

At the very least, the ability of this country to feed itself certain key fruit and vegetable categories would be placed immediately at risk were Twyfords ill-thought through policy switch adopted without protections.                                                                               

This has nothing to do with the dastardly "land bankers " of the ilk of the late Mr Green of Green & McCahill fame who accumulated vast areas around Auckalnd that he knew would eventually be required, and on which his family now contemplate a vast capital gain, and argue the toss in Court as to who really controls it.

It relates instead to the areas radiating from Pukekohe that meet by far the greatest part of the vegetable demand not only of Auckland but substantial areas of the country that are simply unable to grow similar crops either because of climatic or soil conditions. By way of example, the vast tarry soils around Oamaru that used to contribute greatly to the national demand are now converted to dairying and seed production - the landscape is unrecognisable.

But Pukekohe is irreplaceable in the overall scheme of things, and those soils simply cannot be allowed to disappear into the maw of fenced sections as is happening right now next door at Pokeno with its similar but less valuable soil profile. Anyone who has observed the remarkable and seasonal transformation while passing through Bombay will surely be in no doubt that this is not something that can be reproduced overnight. In fact, in cannot be reproduced ever - drainage, soil profile and access are factors that are unique, must be, and have been treasured by those of varying ethnic background who have worked it for generations.

So what is to happen to them? Are they ro be denied the ability to capitalise on the value that they will forego if Twyford's policy fails to get up? Or are they to be permitted to enter into the sub-division frenzy that would follow its adoption?

It does seem to me that there is a perfectly simple solution (not an orinigal concept by any means) that would enable the needs of Auckland to be met. That would involve the imposition of a substantial tax  where land bankers have been active, and where the boundaries can be immediately altered that would be used to compensate those occupying the areas around Pukekohe and Kumeu deemed to be irreplaceable by responsible soil scientists (the maps already exist!) in a really meaningful manner.

Neither would get what they really wanted, or what they would have obtained in an open market situation as implied by Twyford's suggestion, but even accepting that it would be a departure from the 'free market' that we hold so dear, it seems to me that it would meet the needs of every sector.

Would any Government have the courage to implement such a scheme? I doubt it, but by God it could create a whole new ball-game, and I for one would be cheering on the side-lines just to get those Auckland prices down before they implode. when interest rates return to 'normal.'

Twyford is not wrong - just mis-directed!




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