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

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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

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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.

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$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.

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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…

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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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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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State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

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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’.

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… 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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