Last week I put out a post on possible mechanisms to enable groups of neighbours to protect their interests in their own and each others’ properties, while allowing the flexibility for them, rather than councils, to determine what, if any, and when changes in the land use rules affecting that group of properties would be put in place. It was prompted by a combination of the Productivity Commission’s recent discussion of the private covenants that reportedly apply to most new developments, and the conflict in various Wellington suburbs around the council’s desire to determine which suburbs should be more intensively built and which should not. Neither the Commission’s apparent distaste for private covenants, nor the situation where councils can somewhat arbitrarily – and without any compensation for the regulatory taking – alter private property rights, seemed very appealing.
This afternoon, I stumbled on this post from the Not PC blog. It is several years old, but still seems very relevant. The gist of his proposal is as follows:
Second, register on all land titles (as voluntary restrictive covenants) the basic “no bullshit” provisions of District Plans (stuff like height-to-boundary rules, density requirements and the like).
Next, and this will take a little more time, insist that councils set up a ‘Small Consents Tribunals’ for projects of a value less than $300,000 to consider issues presently covered by the RMA and by their District Plans. These Consents Tribunal should function in a similarly informal fashion as Small Claims Tribunals do now, with the power to make instant decisions.
This would mean that instead of talking to a planner about your carport, about which he couldn’t give a rat’s fat backside, you decide for yourself. And, if your carport would violate one of the covenants, you then talk about it to your neighbour—with whom you and he would have plenty of negotiating room. And once you (and your neighbour if necessary) have made your mind up, The Consents Tribunals would consider your small project on the basis of the codified common law principles, the voluntary restrictive covenants on your title, and the agreements (if necessary) you’ve negotiated with your neighbour(s). Simple really.
You should be able to reach agreement in an afternoon, and have your title amended the next day.
No doubt there are pitfalls in this scheme that I don’t see. But I thought it was worth drawing attention to. Finding mechanisms that allow both greater flexibility and protection of property rights, but on a basis that puts more weight on mutual consent, and rather less on rather arbitrary administrative or political fiat, should have considerable appeal.