Archive

Archive for June, 2016

Letter to the editor – give us a chance to vote, Mr Key!

30 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Jun 27, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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British voters have voted to leave the European Union, and our esteemed Prime Minister, John Key responded statesmanlike;

“This was always a decision for voters in the UK and we respect the decision they have made.”

I wonder if our dear leader will also give New Zealand voters the opportunity to vote in our own binding referendum whether to Remain or Exit the controversial TPPA?

Will Key demonstrate the same respect for New Zealand voters?

I call on John Key to give us a referendum so that we, like our British cousins, can determine our own future.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Brexit’s impact on NZ will be limited – PM

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Letter to the editor – “Throwing money at the problem” of homelessness

23 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jun 19, 2016
subject: Letter to the Editor

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Letter to the editor
The Listener

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 19 June, former National Party President, Michelle Boag referred to solving homelessness as “throwing money at the problem”.

Because as we all know, the homeless should just bunk down at the nearest Marae or in a ute parked up by some handy public toilets.

Meanwhile, National forked out a $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto; $26 million for a flag referendum, and $11.5 million to a Saudi businessman for a farm in the middle of the Saudi desert. These are evidently not “throwing money at the problem”. They are ‘investments’.

In the next breath, Boag shed a couple of crocodile tears saying, “we want to be a compassionate society”.

Well, actually, many of us already are compassionate.

It’s Boag who seems to have trouble with the concept.

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Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – The Panel

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Flying the Red-Green Banner of Resistance

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The Red Green Banner of Resistance

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May 31st was the day that many in the Labour and Green parties had so earnestly wanted to see – a formal declaration between the leadership of their respective parties for greater co-operation to remove National from power. For most (if not nearly all) of the rank-and-file membership, it was a no-brainer that the two parties – both similar in so many ways – would seek a more formal partnership.

The wonder is that it has taken so long to achieve.

When Labour undermined Hone Harawira’s chances of holding on to his  Te Tai Tokerau electorate, I wrote this prescient piece on 11 June 2014;

That is why the Left will lose on 20 September [2014].

Unless Labour radically changes tack and demonstrates to the public that they are more interested in working together with potential partners – than wrecking their chances at winning votes – voters will be put off. Telling the public that Labour “can work with other parties after the election” is not good enough. Labour must show it can do it.

Otherwise, as one quasi-fascist right-wing blogger put it, the public will perceive that “things are falling apart for the Labour Party“.  He may have a valid point.

Again, as Gordon Campbell stated,

 Labour may just be mule-headed enough – and tribally fixated on the FPP-era of politicking – to try and get rid of Harawira at all costs, and thereby torpedo one of its main chances of forming the next government.

At which Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish added;

 How not to win an election…

…Pretend that we still have a First Past the Post electoral system.”

It is supremely ironic that National – the champion of the Cult of Individualism – can work collectively and collegially with other political parties. But Labour – a party of the left, which espouses collective action for the greater good – is desperately and greedily scrabbling for votes for itself and attacking  potential allies.

That was written four and a half months out from the 2014 election.

After Labour’s disastrous drubbing at the 2014 election,  I penned this post-mortem on 26 September 2014;

The forces on the right are very united”,  said Josie Pagani, on TV3’s political panel. And she would be 100% correct.

This is one of the lessons that Labour should be taking from the 2014 elections; unity is strength.

National did not seek to destroy potential allies. With the exception of the Conservative Party, it actively supported them. Either with direct deal-making (Epsom and Ohariu), or with “nods-and-winks” (Maori Party).

Even with the Conservatives – though Key refused any actual deal-making, he did not go out of his way to under-mine Colin Craig’s party. Just in case they reached the 5% thresh-hold and thus became potentially useful to the Nats.

By contrast, Labour campaigned to destroy the Mana-Internet Party, and the Greens undermined Labour with it’s comment that Labour’s policies would have to be “independently audited” – a phrase picked up by Key and used to attack Cunliffe.

Key projected stability and co-operation on the Right.

The Left projected intense rivalry and a hatred of each other that was volcanic in intensity.

Who did Labour and the Greens think the public would vote for?

Ten things Labour and the Greens should consider in the coming days, weeks, months, and next three years.

A couple of weeks later, on 10 October 2014, I repeated my views;

Perhaps Labour’s worst mistake of all the above was constantly deriding the Mana-Internet alliance. The constant attacks on Hone Harawira and his Party signalled to the public that Labour was weak; full of self-doubt and lacking in self-confidence. Labour’s  desperation for votes was so dire that they were willing to attack and destroy a potential coalition ally, to cannibalise their electoral support.

That showed weakness.

And the public took note.

Contrast Labour’s treatment of Hone Harawira and Mana-Internet, with how John Key related to ACT, United Future, and the Maori Party: with confidence; courtesy; and collegiality.

When Key refused to make a deal with Colin Craig’s Conservative Party, he did so with professional courtesy. There was never any rancor  involved, and despite refusing any Epsom-like deal, Key still left National’s options wide open to work with the Conservatives.

Key even flip-flopped on his previous hand-on-heart promise never to entertain any coalition deal-making with Winston Peters;

I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead.” – John Key,  2 February 2011

When the public looked at Key, they saw a politician who said categorically he would be prepared to work with anyone.

The public liked that. The public want politicians to work together for the good of the country. Key not only said as much – he demonstrated it by working with parties as disparate as ACT, the Maori Party, United Future, and the Greens (though the latter not in any formal coalition agreement).

When the public looked at Labour, they saw a left wing party willing to consume another left wing party, to further their own selfish agenda.

Key showed collegiality and co-operation.

Labour exuded desperation.

Whoever leads the Labour Party after 18 November – take note.

It appears that Labour, belatedly, has finally taken note. Specifically, they have taken note of 21st Century Realpolitik in New Zealand;

  • We are no longer operating under First Past the Post
  • John Key is very adept at fostering good relationships with potential coalition allies
  • Labour either ignored potential coalition allies, or – in Mana-Internet’s case – actively destroyed it
  • Post FPP, National is still a monolithic  party of the Right simply because it has successfully become a political vehicle for religious conservatives, urban neo-liberals,  rural conservatives, and other assorted right-wingers
  • Post FPP, the Left is fractured because ideologies are wider ranging, and because many perceive Labour as still carrying baggage from it’s Rogernomics days and do not trust the Labour Party (whereas the Green Party has a pristine, untarnished reputation, free of dirty baggage from past betrayals of the electorate)

Adding to Labour’s woeful performance is it’s constant habit of  replacing their leader almost like we change the oil in our motorcars. As I wrote on 10 October, 2014, after Cunliffe was dumped as party leader;

Changing the leader, post-election. Does that mean Labour never had confidence in Cunliffe in the first place, and this his appointment was a mistake? Does that mean Cunliffe’s replacement may also be a mistake? Does it mean Labour has 100% confidence in their new Leader – until they don’t? So… why should the public have confidence in Labour’s new choice of a new Leader, when s/he may be temporary?

The only other parliamentary party that goes through it’s leaders like I go through a pack of toilet-paper is ACT – and we don’t really want to be like ACT, do we?

Support for the formal  MoU was positive from Labour-leaning blogs such as The Standard, and grass-roots members generally seem to welcome what was an obvious strategic move by both parties.

Those who were ascerbic tended to be the Right Wing (for obvious reasons), and some cynical media for whom deep political analysis has long eluded them.

Peoples’ Exhibit #1

This asinine “tweet” from  Heather du Plessis-Allan had all the constructive insights of a rural long-drop made from decaying, moss-covered weatherboards;

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Heather du Plessis-Allan - Labour Green MoU - tweet - twitter

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It “hurt her eyes”! Oh, how jolly witty!

It received eleven “likes”. Out of 4.5 million New Zealanders.

Is this the new nadir of 21st century journalism in New Zealand? All I can say is; thank-the-gods-for-Radio-NZ.

’nuff said.

Some other media punditry was only marginally better. Either New Zealand’s political journalists have become too cynical; too jaded; too dismissive to offer constructive reporting and analysis of new events – or, perhaps, such new events are beyond their ken to fully understand.

Peoples’ Exhibit #2

This column from former ACT-leader Rodney Hide, published in the Herald on 5 June;

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Rodney Hide - Marriage of convenience - Labour Green MoU - nz herald

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– spoke more of the author, than the political event he was commentating on.

Hide’s piece is little more than some bitchy, snide derision dressed up as political commentary. However, the more one reads, the more one becomes acutely aware that – carrying the “marriage of convenience” metaphor a step further – Rodney Hide is positively purple with apoplectic jealousy.

Hide is the bachelorette who missed out on getting a rose, and he’s miffed!

Whatever Hide might say about the Greens, there are certain truths he cannot easily dismiss;

  1. The Green Party won 10.7% of the Party Vote in 2014. ACT won 0.69%.
  2. The Green Party won it’s votes through it’s own efforts. ACT’s sole MP won Epsom through a deal between National and John Banks in 2011, and later, David Seymour.
  3. The Green Party leadership has been stable since 2008. ACT has changed leaders five times since 2008. (The next change will see them officially run out of members, and they will have to start from Roger Douglas again.
  4. In the 1999 General Election, ACT won 9 seats and the Green won seven. A decade and a half  later, in the 2014 General Election, ACT had one MP (elected solely at the whim of the National Party) and the Greens have doubled their parliamentary representation with fourteen MPs.

So for Hide to sneer at the Labour-Green MoU is a bit rich, considering his own party is on terminal life-support, and survives purely at the pleasure of the National Party. When ACT’s usefulness to National has finished – the electoral plug will be pulled from the political respirator that keeps ACT’s brain-dead corpse “alive”.

ACT’s passing will be the point in our history when we mark the decline and demise of neo-liberalism in New Zealand. Future generations will view it as a mirror-image of the 1960s/70s youth counter-culture movement; cruel, self-centered, and full of hatred for those impoverished for whom the “free” market failed.

In the meantime, the Green Party will do what green things tend to do: grow.

And the jealous bitterness of Rodney Hide will consume him to his final days.

Peoples’  Exhibit #3

Winston Peters dismissed the Labour-Green MoU. He repeated his usual mantra;

“We do not like jack-ups or rigged arrangements behind the people’s back. We’ll go into this election, just ourselves and our policies seeking to change how this country is governed.”

And five days later on TVNZ’s Q+A;

@  0.46

“But the idea that you would go out there with a pre-arrangement on a deck of cards you’ve never read, we simply can’t see how that works.”

Which is deeply ironic, considering that;

(a) Prior to an election, Peters never discloses to the voting public whether he would coalesce with National or Labour,

(b) Once the election is over, Peters then negotiates in strict secrecy with both National and Labour – in effect, “behind the people’s back“.

In effect, a Party Vote for NZ First is akin to giving that political party a blank cheque; the voter has no way of knowing where that “cheque will be spent”. Will we get a National-led coalition? Or a Labour-led coalition?

At least with parties like ACT and the Greens, the voter has a good idea where a vote for either party will end up on the political spectrum.

With a vote for NZ First, you are effectively handing over to Peters your voting ballot-paper, un-ticked,  and he alone will decide whether to cast it for a National-led coalition or Labour-led coalition.

Peters’ derision of the MoU  was therefore wholly predictable.

Peters understands that a resurgent Labour-Green team poses a dire threat to NZ First’s chances of being “king maker”, post-2017 election. If closer co-operation between Labour and the Greens  results in electoral success and the birth of a new red-green coalition government, NZ First’s role as “king maker” would be scuttled.

In such a case a  vote for NZ First becomes a “wasted” vote.  He would be left isolated on the cross-benches, sniping impotently at Prime Minister Andrew Little, and his Deputy PM, Metiria Turei.

Another jilted political suitor who missed out on  a rose.

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Steven Joyce - green labour memorandum of understanding - twitter

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Evidence for the Defence

There is nothing preposterous about a closer  Labour-Green relationship.  It is no more absurd than the Liberal–National Coalition which has existed in Australia since early last century;

The Coalition, also known as the Liberal–National Coalition, is a political alliance of centre-right parties, which has existed in Australian politics in various forms since 1923.

The Coalition is composed of the Liberal Party of Australia (formerly the United Australia Party, the Nationalist Party of Australia and the Commonwealth Liberal Party) and the National Party of Australia (formerly named the Country Party and the National Country Party), as well as the Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland and the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in the Northern Territory.

And coalitions in Europe are the norm.

So what was the fuss about the “living arrangement” between Labour and the Greens?

Summing up for the Jury

At the moment, the public sees the National-Maori Party-Dunne-ACT coalition, and understand it. But one thing that voters want to know is; what would an alternative to a National-led government look like?

Far from negotiating this Memorandum from a position of weakness, as some have suggested, it is instead a well-executed strategy. As Andrew Little said with simple clarity;

“Voters want to know that there are opposition parties who are capable of working together, can work strongly together and can offer stability and certainty. And that’s what this agreement is about, that’s what we will demonstrate.

Up-coming polls will show whether the voters like what they see.

And on election day next year, the verdict will be delivered.

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References

Green Party: Memorandum of Understanding

Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the rise of Laila Harré

Imperator Fish: How to win an election

Fairfax media: Greens eye bigger supluses

TVNZ News: No deal – Key leaves Colin Craig out in the cold

Fairfax media: Possible coalition line-ups after election

TVNZ News: Winston Peters not grabbing John Key’s olive branch

NZ Herald: PM rules out any NZ First deal

Twitter: Heather du Plessis-Allan

NZ Herald: Rodney Hide: Marriage of convenience

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2014

NZ Herald: Political cups of tea shared

Wikipedia: ACT Party Leadership

Wikipedia: 1999 General Election

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election

Fairfax media: Labour and Green leaders announce closer co-operation agreement

TVNZ: Q+A – Winston Peters interview (video)

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Wikipedia: Coalition (Australia)

Radio NZ: NZ First labels Labour-Green deal ‘worthless’

Other bloggers

Boots Theory: On the M.O.U.

Pundit: In which universe will Winston Peters become PM?

The Standard: Labour Green announcement – working together to change the government

The Standard: Why is it that?

The Standard: Labour Green MOU well received in poll

Previous related blogposts

A Study in Party Stability

The secret of National’s success – revealed

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

2014 Election – Post-mortem Up-date

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 June 2016.

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Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

17 June 2016 5 comments

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1949-state-house-in-taita

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From December 2014…

A year and a half ago, Paula Bennett showed little hesitation in milking the opening of community housing for a photo-op*;

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paula bennett opens community housing

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Bennett was not shy in using tenants with disabilities as part of her “feel good” propaganda piece.

The Present…

Bennett appears to have lost her willingness to front up to the media and be photographed with the homeless who have been given shelter by the Te Puea Marae;

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Message of hope at Te Puea Marae

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According to John  Campbell, Bennett refused to appear on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint  for an interview.

Poverty in New Zealand has been put under the glare of  the media spotlight (at least, by Radio NZ) and National ministers have gone-to-ground. Their inaction on poverty has created a crisis in our society that is no longer possible to ignore.

When ministers  of an incumbent government are no longer willing to defend their policies and track-record, and refuse to be held to account by the media, then it is a clear sign they are in deep trouble.

No doubt Bennett’s taxpayer-funded spin-doctors have advised her to keep her head down; refuse all requests for interviews; and hope desperately that this latest crisis for National will blow over.

Unfortunately for Bennett and her parasitic, dogma-driven Tory cronies, they do not realise the tenacity and sense of fair-mindedness from one of New Zealand’s best investigative journalists: John Campbell.

This is what an inept, self-serving politician looks like when the bullshit is stripped away; their spin-doctors have no answers; and they stand revealed in the glare of public attention.

This is what speaking truth to power looks like.

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* Note: The identity of the tenant has been redacted to protect his privacy, and the title of the article removed for similar reasons. Readers are asked not to post  information or links which identify the tenants. – FM

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References

Radio NZ: Message of hope at Te Puea Marae

Previous related blogposts

Job Hunting, Bennett-style

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

Bennett & Borrows – where are the jobs?!?!

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Paula Bennett: one strike and she’s out.

Paula Bennett – massive *facepalm*

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed

Homelessness, Poverty, and the Final Solution

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Recommended previous related blogpost

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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homelessness in new zealand - tom scott - dominion post cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 June 2016.

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Success for National Govt – new bank opens!

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In 2002, the Labour-Alliance Coalition gave us a new bank;

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This year, National’s policies (or lack of) delivered us this new bank;

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New foodbank opens in New Lynn - Radio NZ - Generation Ignite - John Campbell

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Nothing quite spells “success”  like a new Food Bank opening in a community near you.

Listen to John Campbell interviewing Jo Noema on her foodbank project, “Generation Ignite“. Truly a remarkable New Zealander.

Generous people like Jo are the reason that disadvantaged, impoverished families are able to survive. They are doing what well-paid, well-resourced National Ministers are tasked to  do, but are failing miserably.

When John Key promised us a “Brighter Future”, I don’t think this  is quite  what we were anticipating.

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References

Radio NZ: New foodbank opens in New Lynn

Additional

Facebook: Generation Ignite

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Dear Leader John Key sitting on his hands - Tremain

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on11 June 2016.

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The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

12 June 2016 8 comments

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Budget-2016

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In a Budget-related piece dated 26 May, Bernard Hickey wrote;

“As largely foreshadowed, English increased the Government’s spending allowance in Budget 2016 for the 2016/17 year to NZ$1.6 billion from NZ$1.0 billion to accommodate extra spending on health and education because of population growth, and includes money spent up front on child welfare reforms.”

Hickey’s suggestion that “English increased the Government’s spending allowance in Budget 2016 for the 2016/17 year to NZ$1.6 billion from NZ$1.0 billion to accommodate extra spending on health and education because of population growth seems at variance with the Finance Minister’s own denial that his Budget was predicated in any way on a per-capita basis.

On 28 May, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, Bill English was interviewed by Lisa Owen;

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The nation - lisa owen - Bill english - budget 2016 - homelessness

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English was at pains to reject per-capita calculations as a basis for his Budgetary considerations;

Lisa Owen: “… I just want to be clear on this, because if you look at the figures, let’s say for health, a variety of economists say that we needed about 700 million a year just to keep pace, yet health is getting about 570 million a year. You’ve frozen the schools’ operational budgets, so to be absolutely clear, per capita spending on health and education, it’s down, isn’t it?”

Bill English: “No. Look, I couldn’t say for sure whether it’s up or down. It’s probably about the same. The point I’m making is it’s the wrong measure. The measures that matter are the ones that are about focusing on getting results.”

Lisa Owen: “Shouldn’t you know whether it’s up or down in terms of spending per capita? Because that’s something that our viewers will want to know.”

Bill English:It’s not a measure we apply… Now, per capita, I can’t tell you whether it’s up or down.”

To be fair on Hickey, he wrote his story prior to English’s comments, which were two days later.

At least now we all know that English does not factor-in per-capita data in his Budgetary calculations. He was categorical in his assertion.

No, he obviously uses more precise techniques…

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DICE

 

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Yet, English himself has readily admitted that yes, he does factor in population (aka “per capita”) in his Budgetary considerations;

Strong population growth is both an indicator of New Zealand’s economic performance and a contributor to it,” English told the parliament in his Budget address. “For the first time in a generation, we have a net annual movement of people into New Zealand from Australia, rather than an exodus of Kiwis across the Tasman.”Bill English, 26 May 2016

And,

“Some spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 has been brought forward, so net new operating spending in Budget 2016 has increased to $1.6 billion per year. This recognises pressures from higher population growth, and opportunities to invest in core public services and economic initiatives.”Bill English, 26 May 2016

And the clincher;

“Spending pressures have changed since the last Budget – in part because higher-than-expected population growth has increased demand for public services… District Health Boards will receive $1.6 billion over four years to invest in services, meet population growth and deliver better results.” Bill English, 26 May 2016

English’s own words reveal that he wilfully misled Lisa Owen on 28 May, on  ‘The Nation‘. Unfortunately, fact-checking politicians who spin untruths is not easy, and requires quick-thinking and an encyclopedic memory.

Only in retrospect can we fact-check politicians’ statements and determine how honest they have been with the public.

As always, eternal vigilance is the duty of all citizens.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Govt sees NZ$0.7 bln OBEGAL surplus in 2016/17

National.org.nz: Govt books show rising surpluses, falling debt  (*1)

Scoop media: On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English (transcript)

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget Speech – Bill English

Previous related blogposts

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Letter to the editor – Did Bill English try to pull a swiftie on ‘The Nation’?

Budget 2016 – Who wins; who loses; who pays?

Notes

*1: I have downloaded and retained a copy of the National Party webpage. In the past, National Party webpages tend to “disappear”, and are no longer searchable, making referencing and verification of quotes problematic. If this webpage disappears, English’s comments can still be verified to anyone requesting it. – Frank Macskasy

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Lies - The art of political lying

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 June 2016.

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Letter to the editor – homelessness, class eugenics, and middle class sensibilities

11 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The first three paragraphs are brilliant. The next three are a descent into the depths of wilful human blindness. It is tragic how many people feel this way…

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letter to the editor - homelessness - class eugenics - russell vant

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… as if the right to have a family and raise children to be good citizens of this country  is now the sole privilege of the affluent.

So I replied, with my thoughts;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Jun 4, 2016
subject:Letter to the editor

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The editor

The Wellingtonian

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Russell Vant’s first three paragraphs of his letter, on homelessness, conveyed the true spirit of Kiwi generosity. (26 May)

But his last three paragraphs appears to make a subtle argument for what can only be described as class eugenics; the elimination of undesirables from society for economic reasons.

Mr Vant demands, “at what point does the collective have a say in the reproductive process, coming together to work out how many children our society can adequately support”?

It is a chilling suggestion that our “reproductive processes” should be pre-determined and enforced like some Kiwi version of China’s one-child policy.

Perhaps his idea is more targetted at a specific group in our society? Not Jews – this time it’s poor families. The suggestion that poor people shouldn’t “breed” because of their financial circumstances is not uncommon.

It is a naive, simplistic response to low incomes and growing poverty since the neo-liberal revolution in 1984.

Addressing the real causes of income/wealth disparity is a complex process. That is no reason to make scapegoats out of those who have been crushed by the cold invisible hand of the so-called “free” market.

The day New Zealand allows only the affluent to raise a family is not a day I want to live to see.

.-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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halloween trickle down - what could go wrong

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 June 2016.

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Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

10 June 2016 6 comments

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Upper Hutt, NZ, 4 June – Residents in a State housing community in Upper Hutt are continuing to mobilise to strengthen opposition to planned sell-off of Housing NZ vacant land, and planned further demolition of so-called “un-safe, earthquake-prone” State houses.

Following from previous meetings organised by local community worker and activist, Teresa Homan (pictured on right);

.housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (4)

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– read out a petition to Bill English that has been launched calling on the withdraw of public-owned land in Trentham, Upper Hutt, from sale to private developers.

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petition to bill english

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[A full copy of the petition form can be downloaded here]

Ms Homan said she had already been gathering signatures and was “pleasantly surprised” that only a few people had refused to sign it.

Ms Homan represents the St Joseph Parish Justice, Peace, and Development Group. She said that the vacant land they were standing on had recently been filled with State housing that were homes to several families. She said some of families may have been relocated to other State houses further away in Timberlea, or private rentals elsewhere, up-rooting children from their local schools and disrupting their established education and local connections to the community.

Transience is a well-recognised problem for low-income families, as they do not have guaranteed security-of-tenure. A 2010 Ministry of Justice “working document” referred to hardship for vulnerable families, including transience;

Barriers to engagement in services by “hard-to-reach” groups include service level or structural barriers (e.g. location, hours of operation, cost, lack of awareness about availability, lack of cultural responsiveness, and poor coordination between services), and barriers specific to families and their situations (e.g. transience, low literacy, physical or mental health issues, domestic violence, lack of transport, low income, negative perceptions of services, and generally chaotic lives).

There is good evidence about how policy-makers and service providers can address these barriers and improve engagement by those who are hard-to-reach.

Ms Homan said the buildings had been torn down, ostensibly because they were “earthquake prone”. She added that that bulldozers and other wrecking machinary had had difficulty in tearing down the structures.

The land was now for sale to private developers. There is no guarantee that social housing will be built on the site. Ms Homan said she was fearful that Housing NZ would be moving fast to sell the land. She said,

“This is about this local community, but it’s also about land that we own as the public of New Zealand. So, once it’s [public land] sold, it’s gone. And it’s not about not allowing people to have private ownership of land, but this land’s owned by the New Zealand public.

…I think we need to hold onto the land we have for those families that can’t afford private [rental] homes.”

Ms Homan said she had been in contact with Housing NZ and when asked if they had claimed the demolished houses were the “wrong size, wrong place”, she agreed that statement had been used. She said she had lodged an Official Information Act (OIA) request  seeking an explanation why the houses had been deemed “wrong size, wrong place”.

[See related story: State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?]

One State house tenant, Wayne (pictured below,  in wheelchair) has been waiting for a new state house for four and a half years that is better suited to his disability and use of a wheelchair;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (8)

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Wayne said that whilst he had ramped access to his home, and a wet-area in the bathroom, that the rooms in his house and doorways  were too small to accomodate his frame and wheelchair. He said he was waiting for an appointment with Upper Hutt mayor, Wayne Guppy, to discuss his case.

About twenty people from the local  community turned up for the petition launch;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (2)

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Their signs publicised the concerns they felt at how Housing NZ and the National government were impacting on their lives;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (5)

 

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (6)

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (7)

 

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (9)

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One particular sign, bearing three simple words,  was hammered into the ground – a symbolic statement from the community to the National government and Housing NZ;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (3)

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The size of the now-vacant land is considerable;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (10)

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– especially when seen in conjunction with near-by properties;

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housing nz - state house sell off - upper hutt (11)

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Contrasting National Minister Paula Bennett’s recent announcement offering State house tenants $5,000 to leave Auckland, with the steady decline of state houses in the Hutt Valley, Rimutaka’s Labour MP, Chris Hipkins voiced his exasperation,

“So while the number of state houses in the Hutt Valley is shrinking, and people are being bumped off waiting lists because there aren’t enough houses available, the government have a genius idea to increase demand even further. This is just nuts.”

At a time of rising homelessness and on-going sell-off of Housing NZ homes and land, there is no indication that the National government is changing it’s policy-course. This is despite a recent public opinion poll which condemned National’s inaction of the worsening housing crisis;

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tv3-news-housing-poll

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Upper Hutt is just another community enjoying  National’s “Brighter Future”.

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References

Fairfax media: Answer to school transience needed

Ministry of Justice: Who is vulnerable or hard-to-reach in the provision of maternity, Well Child, and early parenting support services?

Radio NZ: $5000 moving grant ‘laughable’ without work

Upper Hutt Leader: HNZ land sell-off resisted

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

Websites

Facebook: Upper Hutt State Houses 4 U

Facebook: Housing NZ Tenants Forum

Previous related blogposts

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Letter to Radio NZ – Homelessness, Poverty, and the Final Solution

State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Other blogs

TangataWhenua.com: Veteran Activist hospitalised during removal of state houses (2012)

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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40356-atl

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 June 2016.

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= fs =

Budget 2016 – Who wins; who loses; who pays?

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Budget-2016

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The point is if we’re going to have a tax programme [of tax cuts] – we’re not ruling that out in for 2017 or campaigning on it for a fourth term. But having probably a bigger one, to be blunt.” – John Key, 16 May 2016

Philosophically we believe in lower taxes and smaller government, and government’s definitely getting smaller.”- John Key, 16 May 2016

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Paula Bennett denies there is a housing crisis in New Zealand;

I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need.” – Paula Bennett, 20 May 2016

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless and state house tenants to leave Auckland and go live in provinces;

I would say to those that are homeless that there is a chance that they could get a house in days if they were willing to look outside of Auckland.” – Paula Bennett, 25 May 2016

.

Very quietly, a cut here and a decrease there, a failure to keep up with inflation in one place, and ignoring increasing population in another place, the Government is walking away from New Zealand’s longstanding social compact.

In his Budget speech, Bill English proudly says that government expenditure is down to less than 30 per cent of GDP, and that’s the way that it’s going to stay.

But how is this retreat from the economy achieved?

It happens by spending less on health and less on education, and not spending enough on housing for the least well off New Zealanders.–  Deborah Russell, 26 May 2016

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While it’s true the overall numbers of Housing NZ homes haven’t risen dramatically, the mix is changing and there are more in Auckland and less in places that we don’t need them.” – John Key, 27 May 2016

 

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Sadly, it seems once again that the Budget is a missed opportunity for children, while the military and Government spy agencies do extremely well. I don’t recall seeing any public opinion polls or evidence indicating the need for more investment in either of these areas, especially when there is such desperate need among families with children.

The Government has achieved its objective of appearing fiscally responsible and not much else. But through a lack of planning and an apparent lack of caring children are living in garages or cars, and do not have the nutrition or warm clothing that they need. Kiwi kids have a right to better lives than that.” – Vivien Maidaborn, New Zealand Executive Director, Unicef, 29 May 2016

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We would like to see some tax reductions, particularly for those middle income taxpayers who find themselves getting into higher tax brackets.” – Finance Minister Bill English, 27 May 2016

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There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that the 2016 Budget is geared 100% toward building up a surplus for tax cuts to be announced next year. Just in time for the 2017 Election. John Key and Bill English have strongly indicated as much with their “kite-flying” with hints of cuts-to-come.

Funding for various state services have either barely increased – or drastically cut. The result has been a $700 million surplus – which appears to have been achieved at the expense of cutting funding for social NGOs and state services for the most vulnerable people in our society.

Some of the winners and losers from this year’s Budget…

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Winner

GCSB and SIS;

Funding for spy agencies (GCSB and SIS) will increase over the next four years by $178.7 million.

Loser

Department of Conservation;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $471,932,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $430,190,000

Budget: Cut $41,742,000

Who Pays?

Endangered species throughout New Zealand and future generations of New Zealanders.

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Winner

Prime Minister’s Department;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $65,710,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $77,442,000

Budget: Increase $11,732,000

Loser

Radio NZ;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $31,816,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $31,816,000 (Based on zero change to NZ on Air funding; $128,726,000.)

Budget: frozen – nil increase since 2008/09.

Note, based on the Reserve Bank Inflation Calculator, Radio NZ’s funding should be around $36,570,000 and it’s funding freeze by National constitutes a 14.9% under-funding;

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reserve bank inflation calculator - radio nz funding

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Who Pays?

We all do.

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Winner

Education – Charter Schools;

Funding for up to seven new charter schools will be provided in the 2016 Budget, the Government has announced. – NZ Herald

$328.9m of capital funding and $20.2m of operating funding would go towards public private partnerships (PPPs) for seven new schools and three rebuilds. – Fairfax media

Loser

Public schools operation grants – frozen;

School operational funding has been frozen in this year’s Budget in favour of targeted funding for [under-achieving, at-risk] 150,000 kids.

[…]

$43.2 million over four years will be provided to those schools with under-achieving students, and it’s expected the money will be used to raise achievement, there’s no accountability attached to the funding.

[…]

The targeted funding works out at about $1.79 per student, per school week – schools won’t even know which students are being targeted as the policy’s designed not to identify them. – Fairfax media

Early Childhood Education subsidy-funding – frozen;

Early childhood education providers got no increase to their government subsidies for the second consecutive year.Radio NZ

Who Pays?

Our children.

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Winner

NZ military –

The Defence Force receives new operating funding of $300.9 million over four years as part of Budget 2016 to support the work it does, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says. – Gerry Brownlee, Minister of Defence

Loser

Home Insulation Programme –

National has cut home insulation funding to its lowest ever level in Budget 2016…

[…]

Budget 2016 allocates just $12 million this year for the Warm Up New Zealand programme this year and $4.5 million for the Healthy Homes programme, compared to $23.9 million for Home Insulation last year. – Scoop media/Green Party

Who Pays?

 

  • “low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs.
  • …young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.” – Jonathan Coleman, Simon Bridges

 

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There are three significant stand-outs for this Budget…

1 – This Surplus was achieved at the expense of the poor.

With school operational funding frozen; no increase for early childhood education funding;  a dire crisis of homelessness; State houses being sold of by National; and a critical shortage of housing – it does not take much wit to understand that Bill English’s $700 million Budget surplus was achieved by under-spending in key social areas.

Worse still, National continues to doggedly pursue it’s policy to sell up to eight thousand state houses  by 2017.

Compounding National’s mis-management of the country’s scandalous housing crisis is National’s unrelenting and inhumane demand for dividends from Housing NZ.

This far, National has extracted over half a billion dollars from Housing New Zealand by way of dividends.

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

The above figures do not include taxes paid by Housing NZ to the National government.

Imagine how many state house could have been built by Housing NZ in the last seven years.

Imagine that every low-income family that needed a warm, dry, home – could have had one by now.

Imagine that instead, National will be demanding another dividend this year from Housing NZ – and will be effectively giving it away by means of tax-cuts to affluent New Zealanders.

2 – Many so-call “increases” are illusory.

When taken over a four year period many of English’s Budget “increases” are actually a cut in expenditure. Just two examples from many;

School  funding for 150,000 under-achieving, at-risk school children, was budgeted at  $43.2 million This sounds good. But that figure is spread not over the 2016/17 period – but  over four years.

Same with the Warm Up New Zealand and Healthy Homes Initiative, touted by Ministers Coleman and  Bridges as;

“…to insulate rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs” and “to reduce preventable illnesses among young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes”

The media release touted;

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$36m for warmer, healthier homes

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But look further into the detail;

The investment includes:

  • $18 million of operating funding over two years to extend the Warm Up New Zealand programme to insulate rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs.

  • $18 million over four years to expand the Healthy Homes Initiative to reduce preventable illnesses among young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.

This is how English created his Budget “surplus” – with cleverly concealed cuts to social programmes that impact on the poorest; most powerless; most desperate people in our society.

And we wonder why entire families are living in garages, cars, and tents?

And we wonder how it came to be that children are dying from mould in damp houses?

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Damp state house played part in toddler's death

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3 – This is an Ideological Budget

Make no mistake – this was an ideological budget with “Neo-Liberal Approved” stamped in big, red letters all over it. It was cold-blooded and remorseless in it’s pursuit of specific objectives;

  • reducing government spending on the poor, by freezing/cutting expenditure on social services
  • increased government spending on security agencies (spy, defence, police), in case the 1981 up-rising is repeated
  • satisfying demands from National’s business, conservative, and anti-welfare constituents
  • to give Bill English a second surplus
  • set the stage for tax cuts to be announced in next years’ budget
  • and offer an electoral bribe to voters in time for the 2017 general election

As is almost always the case, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are the ones who pay for National’s ideologically-inspired budget. Sometimes they pay with their lives.

Expect more of the same next year.

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Addendum

Spotted at a Z Service Station in the Hutt Valley; this Charity “voting” box, where customers vote for the charity of their choice. The charity gaining  most tokens wins a $4,000 donation from Z. Of the four, Fostering Kids NZ is ‘miles’ ahead with tokens;

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Manpreet, standinmg beside Coin-Vote Box, at Z Service Station in Hutt Valley

Z staffer, Manpreet, standing beside Coin-Vote Box, at a Service Station in the Hutt Valley

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Note the level of support for Fostering Kids NZ;

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Fostering kids - charity - homelessness - budget 2016 (2)

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It is refreshing to see indications that  New Zealanders are still compassionate to children  from vulnerable, less well-off families. There is still hope for our society, even if people like Key, English, Bennett, Tolley, et al have turned their heads to look the other way.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Deborah L for her sharp eye, spotting, photographing, and sending me the above images along with relevant info.

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References

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key hints at $3billion tax cuts for next election

Fairfax media: John Key is beating the tax cuts drum for 2017 with bigger surpluses ahead

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

NZ Herald: Dr Deborah Russell – Budget 2016 – How do we look after all New Zealanders?

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – PM puts onus on Auckland Council to create land supply

Fairfax media: Budget 2016 – A bare-minimum budget for children

Radio NZ: Tax cuts may be on cards – English

NZ Herald: Budget 2016 – $700m surplus this year

Radio NZ: Budget 2016 – SIS and GCSB get extra $178.7 million over four years

Budget 2016: Vote Conservation

Treasury: Budget 2016 – Vote Prime Minister & Cabinet

Budget 2016: Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage

NZ on Air: Radio NZ Funding Decisions 1993-2016

Reserve Bank: Inflation Calculator

Budget 2016: Vote Education

NZ Herald: New charter school funding announced

Fairfax media: Budget 2016 – School property and early childhood the big winners

Radio NZ: Budget promises funding for nine new schools

Treasury: Summary of Initiatives in Budget 2016

Budget 2016: Defence Force receives $301m new funding

Scoop media: Government cuts Warm-Up programme that saves lives

Beehive.co.nz: $36m for warmer, healthier homes

Radio NZ: Thousands of state houses up for sale

Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death

Interest.co.nz: Govt sees NZ$0.7 bln OBEGAL surplus in 2016/17

TV3 The Nation: Interview with Bill English

Additional

NZ Herald: Shamubeel Eaqub – House crisis puts Auckland’s future at risk

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Budget 2016 – What Bill English Didn’t Say In His Speech

The Daily Blog: The rules for the old too good for children?

The Standard: The Mother Budget

The Standard: Key’s powerful speech on the urgent housing crisis

The Standard: John Key used to be ambitious about dealing with poverty in New Zealand

The Standard:  Budget 2016 – F for Fail

Previous related blogposts

Tax cuts & school children

Tax cuts and jobs – how are they working out so far, my fellow New Zealanders?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

Letter to the Editor – tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered

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give the rich tax cuts

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 June 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Did Bill English try to pull a swiftie on ‘The Nation’?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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On TV3’s “The Nation“, Lisa Owen asked Finance Minister Bill English if funding for health and education had been cut on a per-capita basis. The response from  English was jaw-dropping;

“…if you look at the figures, let’s say for health, a variety of economists say that we needed about 700 million a year just to keep pace, yet health is getting about 570 million a year. You’ve frozen the schools’ operational budgets, so to be absolutely clear, per capita spending on health and education, it’s down, isn’t it?”

Bill English replied;

“No. Look, I couldn’t say for sure whether it’s up or down. “

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The nation - lisa owen - Bill english - budget 2016 - homelessness

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What?! The Finance Minister was saying to the New Zealand public that he “ couldn’t say for sure whether it’s [per capita spending] up or down“?! So how does he allocate money within the multi-billion dollar budget? By roll of a dice?

It deserved a response…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sat, May 28, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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On 28 May, Finance Minister Bill English was interviewed on TV3’s “The Nation“. Host Lisa Owen asked English if funding for health and education had been cut on a per-capita basis;

“…if you look at the figures, let’s say for health, a variety of economists say that we needed about 700 million a year just to keep pace, yet health is getting about 570 million a year. You’ve frozen the schools’ operational budgets, so to be absolutely clear, per capita spending on health and education, it’s down, isn’t it?”

English replied,

“No. Look, I couldn’t say for sure whether it’s up or down. “

Which he repeated;

“It’s not a measure we apply… Now, per capita, I can’t tell you whether it’s up or down. “

It beggars belief that a Finance Minister, responsible for a budget of $77.4 billion of taxpayer’s money, appears not to know if per capita spending on health and education is up or down.

This would be akin to mum and dad doing the weekly grocery shopping – and not knowing how many children to buy food for.

It simply is not credible that a Finance Minister would be unaware of such basic information.

So which is it – incompetence or evasion?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

TV3 The Nation: Interview with Bill English

Fairfax media:  Budget 2016 – $700m needed for health to stand still – CTU

NZ Herald: New Zealand Budget 2016 – At-risk students targeted, operational funding frozen

Budget 2016: Core Crown expenses

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You might be suffering from capitalism

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  29 May 2016.

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= fs =

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

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1949-state-house-in-taita

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State Houses – “Wrong place/wrong size”?

Last year (2015), National confirmed it’s intention to sell-off thousands of state houses to “community groups”;

Hundreds of state houses in Tauranga and Invercargill could be sold to independent providers in the first phase of the Government’s plans.

In January Prime Minister John Key announced that state house reforms would see up to 2000 state homes sold to “community housing providers” this year, as it cuts the number of state houses it owns by 8000 over three years.

Although the Government was marketing the process as “transfer” the houses would be sold to community groups, generally charity based providers. Because the houses would have to be kept as social housing rather than private sales, the houses were expected to be sold at a discount to the market value.

After nationwide consultation, Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said that the first sales were likely to take place in Invercargill and Tauranga.

In a blogpost in November last year, I pointed out the oft-repeated phrase used by our esteemed dear Leader and various Ministers;

Various ministers, including our esteemed Dear Leader,  have indicated that up to “a third” of state houses are “in the wrong place or wrong size (or ‘type’).

The “wrong size/wrong place” claim is the argument used by National to advance a major sell-off of Housing NZ properties.

On 1 November, 2014, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said on TV3’s ‘The Nation’,

“It’s about being smart in what we’re doing. So you just look at us having the wrong houses, in the wrong place, of the wrong size..”

On 2 December, 2014, the Minister responsible for Housing NZ, Bill English expressed his agreement with the proposition of one third of Housing NZ homes being in the “wrong size/wrong place” ;

“Yes. As recently as just last month Housing New Zealand issued a press release that said: ‘around one third of our housing stock is in the wrong place, wrong configuration or is mismatched with future demand’.

[…]

… in fact, a third of them are the wrong size, in the wrong place, and in poor condition.”

On 28 January this year, John Key announced in his “state of the nation” speech;

 “Around a third of Housing New Zealand properties are in the wrong place, or are the wrong type to meet existing and future demand.”

After lodging an OIA request with relevant Ministers late last year information released under the  Act suggests that National’s oft-repeated claim that around “one third” ( or 22,000)  of  state houses are in the “wrong place and wrong size” was not wholly supported by Housing NZ’s own figures. As I reported last November;

Housing NZ currently  “manages 67,245 homes” (as at 30 June 2015). When Key, and other National ministers refer to “around a third of Housing NZ properties”, simple arithmetic translates that fraction into 22,190 homes being the “wrong size/wrong place” .

[…]

In a response eventually received on  29 October 2015,  information in the form of a  chart -“Stock reconciliation taking into account impaired properties as at 31 January 2013” – was attached;

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minister english oia response 29 october 2015 - HNZ housing stock - wrong place wrong size

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In two columns headed “Right Place, wrong home” and “Wrong Place“, the respective figures add up to 13,560. This constitutes a little over half of the “22,000” that is being bandied about by National.

Like much of National’s “facts”,  the numbers did not stack up.

Which led to the last question I put to the Minister; “If HNZ houses that are in the “wrong place” are sold/given away to community organisations – what will make those houses suddenly become in the “right place”?

Because if it’s in the “wrong place” when owned by Housing NZ – why would it suddenly be in the “right place” owned by someone else?

The Minister’s response was baffling. In his 29 October 2015 letter to me he said;

“The Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers. In Tauranga and
Invercargill for example, the areas identified for initial potential transfers of social
housing properties from Housing New Zealand to community housing providers, MSD’s purchasing
intentions anticipate stable demand. Following a transfer, any new provider would receive
both the properties and a contract with MSD to continue to provide social housing.”

[See full text of letter here]

English’s response seemed to cast a distinction between State housing “in the wrong place/size” and properties to be sold/transferred to community organisations.

Yet, his statement above would appear to contradict a statement issued by English and Bennett earlier on 6 May last year, which is explained further below under the heading, “The Great Invercargill and Tauranga Sell-Off”.

See: State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

State Houses, “Wrong place/wrong size”? – Up-date

English’s responses to my questions were vague and offered little in the way of specific detail. In a follow-up letter to the Minister, I repeated two of my questions;

I refer you to two questions which you have not answered in my OIA request;

4. Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place”?

5. How many areas have been designated “wrong places”?

His response arrived too late to be included in my November 2015 blogpost, but is still highly relevant to the growing housing crisis in this country. On 9 December 2015, English said;

“The analysis produced by Housing New Zealand  in 2013 and provided to you with my previous response [see table here – FM] identifies  the number of houses as being in the wrong place on a regional basis. No specific locations have been designated ‘wrong places’ and, based on this analysis, each region has some properties assessed as being in the wrong place. These will generally be in provincial  areas away from the main centres.”

[See full text of letter here]

In none of the Minister’s correspondence was he able to provide specifics as to where State houses were in the “wrong place”. The ‘best’ he could do was list five regions; Auckland East & South; Auckland North West & Central; South Island, Central North Island, and Lower North Island.

Surprisingly, Auckland was deemed to have  8,180 houses  that are supposedly “Right Place, wrong home”  and a further 420 that are in the “Wrong Place” – 8,600 in total.

However, the Minister’s data was contradicted by the 2014/15 Housing NZ Annual Report which confirmed the on-going high demand for housing in Auckland;

“Across the country we also have too many three-
bedroom properties, while demand has grown for smaller
one- or two-bedroom homes or for much bigger homes.
Demand for homes in the Auckland region is high and
more Housing New Zealand homes are needed.” (p22)

English did, however, point out that “these will generally be in provincial  areas away from the main centres“.

Even that has proven to be a mis-leading assertion from the Minister. Tauranga is certainly a “main centre” by most definitions, and the choice of that city would  prove to be embarrassing to National, as the next chapter below showed.

The Great Invercargill and Tauranga Sell-Off

As National began to roll  out it’s sale of State houses, Bill English specifically referred to State houses being sold in  Tauranga and Invercargill. On 6 May last year, Bennett and English released this statement;

“This is another important step to creating a more effective and efficient social housing sector with more housing providers supporting tenants and their needs.” – Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English.

As announced by the Prime Minister in January, the Government’s Social Housing Reform Programme includes plans to transfer 1000 – 2000 HNZC houses to registered CHPs over the next year.

“We’ve gone through a robust process to identify the first areas for potential transactions. Tauranga and Invercargill have been chosen because they have stable demand for social housing, and active community housing providers keen to consider the next steps. Providers in other regions are also interested.” – Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett

The same media statement referenced;

The Social Housing Reform Programme (SHRP) is designed to get more people in need into quality social housing – either through Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) or registered Community Housing Providers (CHPs). The objectives of the Social Housing Reform Programme are to:

  • […]

  • Ensure social housing is the right design and size and is in the right places for people who need it.

English and Bennett continued to exploit the “wrong size/wrong place” spin that National was using to disguise the privatisation of State housing.

Bear in mind English’s statement in his 29 October 2015 letter to me, where he said;

“The Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers. In Tauranga and
Invercargill for example, the areas identified for initial potential transfers of social
housing properties from Housing New Zealand to community housing providers, MSD’s purchasing
intentions anticipate stable demand. Following a transfer, any new provider would receive
both the properties and a contract with MSD to continue to provide social housing.”

Obviously the Ministers find it difficult to keep their “story” straight.

In March this year, potential buyers for State houses in Tauranga and Invercargill had been lined up;

Four potential buyers have made the final shortlist to buy over 1400 state houses being sold in Tauranga and Invercargill.

[…]

In Tauranga, Accessible Properties, Hapori Connect Tauranga, and Kaiana Community Housing Partners made the shortlist to take over 1124 properties or tenancies.

However, even as National’s English and Bennett were prepping State houses for sale, the country’s housing crisis began to be reported elsewhere throughout New Zealand.

Tauranga was one of them;

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Housing situation critical - Tauranga principal - radio nz

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Tauranga gripped by housing crisis - sunlive

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Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars - TVNZ TV1 News

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Community leaders, social agencies call for urgency on 'housing crisis' - bay of plenty times

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People living in caravan parks while waiting for a rental - bay of plenty times

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Campsites for emergency housing debate - bay of plenty times

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People resorting to living in camping sites and caravan parks?

Is that what this country has come to after thirty years of neo-liberal “reforms”? To become a South Pacific version of America’s trailer-park “communities”?

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trailer park community USA

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If, by shuffling ownership of State houses from Housing NZ to “community groups”, National believes it will solve our housing crisis and growing homelessness – they are far more out of touch than I ever thought possible.

This is not just a stubborn pursuit of a free market dogma that has failed to meet basic social needs – this is pseudo-religious self-delusional behaviour from our elected representatives. English, Key, Bennett, Smith, et al, appear to be paralysed into inaction, like possums caught in the headlights of an approaching truck.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett floundering around like a beached cetacean. She first denied that a housing crisis existed in New  Zealand on 20 May;

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No housing crisis in NZ - Paula Bennett - radio nz

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Five days later, she was willing to bribe homeless and State housing tenants up to $5,000 to quit Auckland, making  a sudden announcement that caught Finance Minister Bill English off-guard;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

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I have said it before and will repeat my conclusions that National is incapable of resolving this crisis. Considerable State intervention is required, and that is anathema to a political party whose very DNA is based on the free market; reducing State involvement in commercial and social activities; and promoting private good over community benefit.

It will take a collective anger from New Zealanders to take notice of what is happening in their own society. At the moment, so many New Zealanders seem insulated from the  growing social problems that are worsening with each passing day.

As Shamubeel Eaqub said on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, on 26 May, there is an absence of empathy amongst many New Zealanders – a moral-disconnect with the poor; the homeless; those who have been left behind after thirty years of failed neo-liberal theory.

Remarkably, Eaqub invoked the name of Michael Savage, when New Zealanders were capable of building and solving social ills. For an economist,  Eaqub has deep insight where we have arrived in the year 2016;

The only thing that’s missing now is aspiration and leadership,” he said.

Perhaps our economist friend has nailed the problem perfectly; 21st century New Zealand is not just suffering from economic poverty. There is a poverty much, much worse.

A poverty of spirit.

And that affects us all, regardless of wealth and income.

 

 

 

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References

Fairfax media: Invercargill and Tauranga chosen for first state house sales

TV3: The Nation – Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett

Parliament: 6. State Housing—Suitability of Housing Stock

Fairfax media: John Key Speech – Next steps in social housing

Letter from Bill English, 9 December 2015

Housing NZ: 2014/15 Annual Report

Beehive.govt.nz: Next steps in social housing reform announced

Fairfax media: Invercargill state houses may survive sell-off as Government reveals short-list

Radio NZ: Housing situation critical – Tauranga principal

Sunlive: Tauranga gripped by housing crisis

TVNZ News: Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars

Bay of Plenty Times: Community leaders, social agencies call for urgency on ‘housing crisis’

Bay of Plenty Times: People living in caravan parks while waiting for a rental

Bay of Plenty Times: Campsites for emergency housing debate

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Radio NZ: Airport CEO, health leader & economist look at the Budget

Additional

Dominion Post: Housing MPs cost taxpayers more

Treasury: Social Housing Transactions

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Paula Bennett blindsides her own Finance Minister in desperate scramble to respond to housing crisis

The Standard: Newshub poll – Key’s government has failed on housing

The Standard: Bennett’s housing “announcement” is a re-announcement and a lie

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

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emmerson - homeless - National govt housing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2016.

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