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NZ government names taskforce to slash property sector red tape

Paula Bennett, minister of local government, has appointed a rules reduction taskforce with the intent to slash regulatory red tape in the property and building sector.

The taskforce, to be co-chaired by National MP Jacqui Dean and Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, will look at rules and regulation surrounding buying and selling property, as well as development and renovations, Bennett said in a statement. The nine-member group will hold public hearings across the country in March and May and will report back to the government on where cuts could be made.

The taskforce "has been set up to get rid of loopy property rules and regulations that are stopping people from getting on with the job," Bennett said. "There's a great deal of frustration out there from people looking to build, redevelop or make home improvements, who are being held back by confusing, costly rules which have long since lost their relevance."

The government is under pressure to improve housing affordability, particularly in Auckland, where a lack of housing density and a fast-growing population in the New Zealand's largest city has played a role in pushing the real estate market to record highs. Adding to the problem is the cost of building a new house, which the Productivity Commission found costs as much as 30 percent more to build a house in New Zealand than in Australia, and in part blamed the lack of competition in the building and construction market.

In the 2014 budget the government cut tariffs to building supplies in a bid to boost competition in the housing market, but has focused on regulatory reform to reduce costs and streamline new housing. It has returned to plans to reform the Resource Management Act, which it says is part of the problem in the housing affordability problem.

Earlier this year, Environment Minister Nick Smith claimed the act added as much as $30 billion to the cost of new homes and stopped as many as 40,000 being built in the last decade, and also flagged reforms to local government planning, to simplify the building process.