Question: Why is compliance so difficult?
Answer: OTM (other people’s money)

Twenty years ago, district plans could be understood by reasonably well educated ordinary citizens. They could write simple applications and presuming they addressed the issues in the district plans, they would receive consent. But then something changed.

In some councils, the planners writing the district plans wrote much more complicated plans and when they were notified, they resigned their council job and became consulting planners, charging thousands of dollars to write applications that council would approve.

Eventually, councils began to pressure applicants to use consulting planners. As the consulting planning industry grew, they pressed for increasingly complex standards and regulations ostensibly in the name of environmental protection.

No surprise when New Zealand then found itself with an affordable housing crisis because the cost of paperwork and the requirements, that did little to actually protect the natural and physical environment skyrocketed. 

A mobile home owner probably has the lightest environmental footprint in NZ, short of sleeping rough on the streets. But they are told to expect a $40,000 charge to receive consent. For what?

Councils and the professional planners are happy to spend other people’s money, especially if it pays their salary. Call it OTM (other people’s money).

In the absence of effective checks and balances within the government, it is up to the 4th estate, the media, to begin investigating the policies and practices that have turned the purpose of the RMA upside down.

Far from enabling people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing, health and safety, they are doing the opposite. They are disabling people and communities.

Question: What is an alternative solution?
Answer: Covenant of title

Fixing the RMA and Building Act is not going to happen. There are far too many vested interests with power, influence and money to fix it. In the meanwhile, there are uncounted vast numbers of New Zealanders living as hidden homeless – people living in cars, tents, sheds, garages and overcrowded conditions who need affordable housing now.

Mobile Homes and DIY tiny homes on wheels are the loophole they need. Loophole because they are not buildings under the Building Act, nor structures under the RMA. They are an omission because when those laws were written everyone, even beneficiaries could afford to buy a home in NZ.

There is another way:

Develop a standard covenant on title form and invite owners of surplus land to volunteer their sites to host mobile homes and DIY Tiny Homes on Wheels. The standard form would contain all the legitimate concerns that councils considered two decades ago, before consenting became corrupted.

The checklist would examine if there was adequate provision for wastewater, site coverage, setback, parking, access, etc. If, for example, a septic system needed upgrading, the covenant would not be approved until a consent was approved for such an upgrade.

The covenant would be for 15 years, enough time for government to solve the affordable housing crisis, and only renewed if it failed. After that, the unit either would have to be towed away, or a conventional application to fix it to land and become a permanent fixture on the land, the same as a minor dwelling.

The covenant would contain nuisance rules, much easier to enforce than with buildings. If it was breached, the ultimate solution is simple: tow it away.

Most importantly, it should be like a dog license. Register the mobile home for a $220 annual fee, with $200 going to the host council in lieu of rates. Require all have GPS so every unit can be located nationwide.