"our planning processes have probably done more to increase income inequality in New Zealand than most other policies"and was rightly skewered by Max Rashbrooke noting that inequality is an old problem in NZ, whereas rampant housing costs are relatively new. English would have been on safer ground if he'd either referred directly to child poverty directly or to increasing inequality of disposable income.
But enough with the backward-looking stuff: we should at least welcome the new focus of the government and the NZI on inequality and child poverty. Let us look forward then, to what can and should be done about inequality and child poverty in New Zealand.
We should start with the split in household budgets between the income and cost items. The income side of this split is left largely unexamined by the government or the NZI - the market rules here, and that seems fine by them.
But even if we want to ignore labour market contracting issues (don't mention the minimum wage!), we can't think about the impact of RMA/housing costs without considering at least the location of jobs. At which point it is much less obvious that the RMA is to blame. Instead, it seems to me that
- manual jobs have largely migrated out of city centres as have manual workers, and
- apparently more productive sectors such as FIRE have displaced them - jobs and workers both.
These movements show that/how markets adapt to changing values. All workers want the best pay close to nice & affordable accommodation and all employers want happy workers. But why, even after following their jobs to the edges of cities, do manual workers still struggle to avoid poverty?
I'm also uneasy about assuming that removing environmental protections and consultation opportunities from the RMA will reduce housing costs. Even if it does lead to more housing being built, market forces are likely to allow them to be sold at current prices. Unless there is a very big surge in construction, we are not going to see significant house price reductions.
So the best we can hope for with housing policy is that it might stop making child poverty a lot worse. That's not nothing. Major changes to the RMA might, if we're lucky, help stop or reduce future growth in child poverty, but it will not address the problem we currently have.