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Government seeks feedback on no-consent ‘granny flat’ policy

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The government has announced consultation on a move that would force councils to allow buildings up to 60 square metres in certain areas, without requiring a consent.

It sets out the policy as a way of making it “easier to build granny flats and increase the supply of affordable homes for all New Zealanders”.

NZ First leader and Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters announced it alongside Housing and RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop after the Monday Cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was overseas, headed to Japan for an official visit.

The move follows a commitment in the National-NZ First coalition agreement, which requires the government to “amend the Building Act and the resource consent system to make it easier to build granny flats or other small structures up to 60 square metres, requiring only an engineer’s report”.

However, the discussion document released as part of the announcement makes clear the requirement for an engineer’s report was being abandoned, as it could mean additional costs and engineering services.

“Instead, we are proposing that all work is conducted or supervised by competent professionals under current occupational licensing requirements to ensure all building work will meet the Building Code,” the documentation states.

Peters said the policy would “make it more affordable for families to live the way that suits them best”.

“High housing costs have a greater impact on Māori, Pasifika, and people with disabilities, as well as seniors – so unlocking the space in the backyards of family members opens the door to new ways of living,” he said in a statement.

“We know granny flats are a great option for seniors, but they’re also increasingly popular with other families such as those who want homes where their university-age children can live at home but maintain some privacy and independence, or families who want to provide extra support to a loved one.”

Bishop said many councils already allowed granny flats without requiring a resource consent.

“But there’s a lack of consistency and different standards across the country. We’re proposing a National Environmental Standard (NES) to require all councils to permit a granny flat on sites in rural and residential zones without resource consent. An NES means changes can come into force quickly.

“We are determined to get on top of how expensive it is to build a house in this country.”

It would apply in rural and residential zones, but the documents called for feedback on whether it should apply in other areas like mixed-use zones.

The changes would also need to be balanced against things like flood risk, so some district plan rules would still apply. As well as building size, other restrictions include percentage of a property able to be covered in buildings, and distance from a boundary.

He said he would hope the move would not leave councils worse off because the fees from consenting were meant to be cost recovery, and he would be “horrified” if they were making money off it. He pointed to the ACT Party’s proposal to share GST with councils, with the aim of incentivising the building of new houses, as another way the government was looking to support local authorities.

Bishop said the granny flats would not be allowed to be more than one storey, would need interconnected smoke alarms, and be distant enough from the boundary to prevent the spread of fire to other buildings.

He said the consultation is a couple of months long to ensure they get the settings right.

Consultation is open from today, 17 June, until 5pm on 12 August. Final policy decisions will be made later in 2024, expected to be in place by mid-2025.

VIA RNZ

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NZ First Minister Casey Costello orders 50% cut to excise tax on heated tobacco products

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Associate Health Minister Casey Costello has cut the excise tax on Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as she aims to make them more attractive as an alternative to smoking.

Costello, who is also Customs Minister, has cut the excise rate on HTPs by 50 percent effective from 1 July – a move silently dropped on the Customs website.

Costello refused to be interviewed by RNZ but a spokesman said she had made the move to reduce the cost of the products to encourage smokers to switch to safer alternatives.

But Janet Hoek, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, told RNZ that the move seemed weighted in favour of the tobacco industry.

“Certainly that is something that tobacco companies would have been keen to see happen,” Hoek said. “This is not advice that is coming from the Ministry (of Health). It certainly seems to be advice that is suiting tobacco industry interests.”

Tobacco giant Philip Morris owns a leading brand in the HTP market, the IQOS, where sticks of tobacco are inserted into a device and heated, rather than burned.

Philip Morris has lobbied for a cut to the excise tax on HTPs, telling the Tax Working Group in 2018 that the government should “establish a tax rate for heated tobacco products significantly below the tax rate” for tobacco.

In a statement to RNZ Costello said that vaping had been a successful quit-smoking tool and she wanted to see whether HTPs would also be a useful cessation device.

“Vaping does not work for everyone and some attempting to quit have tried several times. HTPs have a similar risk profile to vapes and they are currently legally available, so we are testing what impact halving excise on those products makes.”

HEETS are tobacco sticks or refills that are heated in an electronic device, rather than burned like a traditional cigarette.

There is no evidence that Heated Tobacco Products help people to quit smoking, the Ministry of Health says. Photo: 123RF

Documents released by the Ministry of Health show Costello also asked for advice on liberalising the regulation of HTPs but it was opposed to the idea.

“There is no evidence to support their use as a quit smoking tool,” ministry officials told her. “We do not recommend liberalising the way HTPs are promoted. This would likely compound existing concerns about youth uptake and addiction to nicotine products.

rnz

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26-year-old charged after man found dead in car outside vape store

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Police in Auckland have arrested a man in relation to the homicide investigation launched in Mount Wellington at the weekend.

Officers were called to Penrose Road in Mount Wellington about 10.40pm on Saturday after reports of a gun being fired outside a business.

On arrival they found a man dead in a car.

Police have named the man as 22-year-old Texas Jack Doctor.

They say a 26-year-old man has been arrested, charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

He is expected to appear in Auckland District Court Wednesday.

VIA RNZ

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Police pay deal: Commissioner’s advice to cut super payments ‘foolish’

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Police officers are accusing the police commissioner of “robbing our future”, after a leaked email suggested staff reduce their superannuation contribution to save cash after a disappointing pay offer.

The email to police staff from Police Commissioner Andrew Coster suggested officers forgo their contribution to the police superannuation scheme to compensate for the government’s final pay offer not keeping up with the cost of living.

An officer with nearly 20 years’ experience says cops were feeling “unappreciated and despondent”.

The Police Association and the government have been arguing over pay rates for more than a year.

Independent arbitrator Vicki Campbell was appointed in April to decide which of each party’s final offers would be adopted after no agreement was reached in negotiations.

On Monday, she found in favour of the government’s latest offer, which included a $1500 lump sum payment, a flat $5000 pay increase for officers, plus another 4 percent increase in July and the same in 2025.

There would also be a 5.25 percent increase in allowances backdated to last November.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the officer said backdating the allowances to November instead of July – when the previous pay agreement had expired – was one of the biggest bones of contention among officers.

“It’s always months down the track after after the contract expires before we get a resolution. We’ve been sold short and have we just set a dangerous precedent that we won’t get our back pay from when our contract actually ends?” they said.

Another officer, who RNZ agreed not to name, said members of the Police Association had welcomed the arrival of the new government’s Minister of Police – former officer Mark Mitchell – but he was not “walking the walk”.

“I was optimistic given what Mark Mitchell was saying that it would be a better environment for police. He’s good at talking it up but he’s not supporting the staff who are supposed to deliver on his big promises. He’s just talked shit,” the officer said.

Mitchell has defended the deal saying it was the best the government could do. He told Checkpoint on Tuesday officers would be paid overtime for the first time ever.

The officer RNZ spoke to said his family was struggling and he had hoped negotiations would bring some significant relief.

“We live from pay day to pay day. What they’ve done doesn’t give us anything like inflation or most interest rates costs.

“I don’t understand how that’s okay when you have a review for this date, the police stall negotiations, and then somehow move the date back,” he said.

In a leaked email sent to police staff following the decision Coster said the delays to negotiations were compounded by the timing of the election and the change of government.

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