Housing subdivisions

Lots of bold speeches from Parliament have pointed the finger for the high costs of subdivided residential sections at everyone but themselves. Councils (especially where there are still the two layers of local and regional), marketplace issues and the subdividing community, of which I am one, all contribute to some extent but Government has legislated in some real cost-drivers.


Sales prices are indeed higher in the demand centres such as Auckland where there are other options for central government to reduce demand, but the actual costs of subdividing, other than the cost to the developer of buying the land in the first place are broadly similar right across NZ.


Planning issues are widely cursed within the subdividing industry and much of this is due to the nonsense that forms what is taught to our young planners who emerge from the Universities and Polytechs much fuller of confidence than wisdom.


Then there is the physical stuff, the roading, footpaths, water supply, storm and waste water infrastructure and this is where the actual money that the developer pays goes, plus the highly controversial Development Contributions which have become the drug of choice for councils across NZ.


Standards NZ is the quasi-Government body who set the standards that determine what a developer has to do to gain approval of the finished physical works and they have come up with NZS 4404:2010 the NZ Standard for Land Development and Subdivision lists what must be done.


This draconian document is the product of a well intentioned but large committee that includes the representatives of the main professions, being engineers and surveyors, plus a whole lot of organizational representatives of the type that always have the time for these committees, but nobody from expected groups like the Contractors Federation or developers themselves.


A lot of the standard is readable and fairly sensible but a lot of it is just cost compounding and reduces the engineering profession to box ticking dummies not allowed to actually use their skills to come up with innovative cost saving solutions or even examples of international good practice that are cheaper than what we are forced to do here.


Let me give you a couple of simple easily understood examples.


Sewerage pipes are plastic pipes that gather household effluent and deliver it to a remote treatment plant. According to the Standard the minimum size of any pipe serving more than one house is 150mm, yet any engineer worth his salt can show that this is way over-sized, especially if there is a decent fall on the pipe. Indeed, the good folk of England are allowed to have a dozen houses connected with only 100mm diameter pipe but not us. Incidentally Plastics NZ has a rep on the standards committee!

Water supply pipes have to be 100mm diameter for the good reason of supplying fire hydrants, even though a much smaller pipe will provide enough for the household. This seems sensible enough in most cases, but is required even when there is a nearby lake or river or even the sea that the Fire Brigade would use. No, no naughty!


Why do we allow ourselves to be convinced that we must have higher standards than countries that can actually afford them?


Author Editor

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