Winton has issued proceedings in the Auckland High Court under the Commerce Act, alleging anti-competitive conduct by Government housing agency Kāinga Ora.
The claim follows Kāinga Ora’s refusal to use its powers under the Urban Development Act (UDA) 2020 to facilitate Winton’s innovative Sunfield development, a sustainable, integrated master planned community in South Auckland. Sunfield will comprise 4,400 individual homes, three retirement villages, and 250,000 m2 of employment, education, and healthcare buildings creating 11,000 permanent jobs, a new 4 hectare town centre, with a renewable solar energy network for the development, 22.8 hectares of open spaces, and an autonomous electric shuttle fleet.
”The purpose of the UDA is to ‘empower Kāinga Ora to initiate, facilitate and undertake transformational, complex urban development that contributes to sustainable, inclusive and thriving communities’. Not only does Sunfield deliver over 4,000 affordable homes and 11,000 permanent jobs all within walking distance from home, it enables a more sustainable and more affordable lifestyle with 90% fewer cars, localised renewable energy within the community and therefore collectively significantly lower emissions. In short, a sustainable, inclusive and thriving community at zero cost to the taxpayer,” says Winton Chief Executive Chris Meehan.
We have not taken this decision lightly. The new UDA was a positive step to enable faster large-scale development of much needed homes in New Zealand. However, in a competitive market the new legislation should be available to all participants, not just limited to projects where Kainga Ora is involved.”
In the legal proceedings, Winton Land Limited and subsidiary Sunfield Developments Limited allege that Kāinga Ora refuses to use its statutory powers to facilitate property developments like Sunfield which are led by the private sector, and instead reserves those UDA powers for its own benefit, misusing its market power. Included in its determination to decline Sunfield for assessment under the UDA, Kainga Ora claimed to be ‘too busy’ to process private sector applications.
At the same time, Winton has repeatedly observed Kāinga Ora over-paying for the purchase of land and thereby further excluding private developers. Ferncilffe Farm near Tauranga is a recent example where Kainga Ora outbid 11 private developers, justified by basing their valuation on a re-zoning that does not yet exist, only to then provide itself access to the UDA shortly afterwards.
“Kāinga Ora repeatedly outbids the private sector using Government borrowings, which artificially increases the price of development land and leads to less affordable housing being produced for the public,” said Mr Meehan.
Winton is seeking Court declarations that Kāinga Ora’s conduct is unlawful and in breach of the Commerce Act, an order requiring Kāinga Ora to consider Sunfield for assessment under the UDA, as well as substantial damages for Kāinga Ora’s conduct to date.
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