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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Parliament’s Grassy knoll: who tried to character-assassinate Winston?

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The leaking  of Winston Peter’s superannuation over-payment is well known. Also known is that Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed by Ministry of Social Development and State Services Commission, respectively, on Peters’ private details regarding the over-payment before it was leaked to the media and made public knowledge.

Also briefed – though it is unclear why, as he was not a warranted Minister of the Crown – was political appointee, Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson.

Evidently the only person in the entire country not briefed was the Prime Minister, Bill “Double Dipper from Dipton” English.

Bennett, Tolley, and Judith Collins have all denied any involvement in the leak.

Paula Bennett was adamant;

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. “

Which is true, in a Bizarro World kind of way. In 2009, when Bennett mis-used her Ministerial powers to reveal personal details of two solo mothers on the DPB, it was done in a very public manner.

However, Bennett never apologised publicly for the breaking of the two women’s privacy. And she stubbornly insisted she would do it again;

Asked if she would do the same thing again, Bennett said “it would depend on the circumstances”.

Perhaps Judith Collins, who disclosed a State servant’s name and personal information to a right-wing blogger, was involved in the leaking of Peters’ situation?

Prime Minister John Key has conceded it was “unwise” for Judith Collins to give Cameron Slater a public servant’s name, job title and phone number which was then used in an attack post on his Whale Oil blog.

However, John Key says no disciplinary action will be taken against the Justice Minister because the action pre-dated the final warning he gave Ms Collins over the Oravida scandal.

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

“I think the passing of private information, in terms of phone numbers, I think that’s unwise. It’s unwise of a Minister. Look in the end it’s one of those things,” Mr Key says.

Collins also refuse to accept she had done anything wrong – despite being forced to resign in 2014;

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

Only Minister Tolley has not been accused of a direct privacy violation of any individual(s) – at the moment. However, MSD is know to leak like a sieve and it was MSD that briefed the Minister regarding Winston Peters.

One thing is for certain; some Ministers are not averse when it comes to leaking personal details of individuals who run foul of this government.

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

Recent revelations that blogger and activist, Martyn Bradbury, has had his private bank details scrutinised by Police shows how little National and its state agencies respect the privacy of individuals.

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Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

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A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

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Meet Anneka Carlson, ACT’s New Plymouth candidate and number seven on their Party List;

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Carlson is seventh on the list and would enter parliament if ACT gained 5 per cent of the party vote.

The 28-year-old never dreamt of being a politician but standing for ACT in her home town “just feels right.”

“It was meant to happen.”

Parliament needed people with life skills and her life experiences would help stand her in good stead if she is elected, she said.

The former West Auckland police officer owned her own business in New Plymouth, is a North Taranaki SPCA board member, and ran fitness programmes for cancer support groups.

She is also completing a business studies degree extra-murally at Massey University. 

“I’m fairly young, and I’m surprised to be high on the list because I’m a bit of political newbie, but I’ve already seen lot of things from working in the police.

All well and good – engaging young New Zealanders to enter politics should be encouraged. It should never be  the sole “happy hunting grounds” for Baby Boomers seeking to feather their own nests, at the expense of younger generations.

Unfortunately, there are times when youth counts against a candidate.  Such as when Ms Carlson lamented ACT’s lack of public support;

“It makes me wonder why people don’t know more about ACT in New Plymouth.”

It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms Carlson wonders why ACT is not supported more at the ballot box. It’s not because “people don’t know more about ACT“.

Quite the contrary – most New Zealanders middle-aged and over – are very clear about ACT and what it stands for. After all, we lived through ACT-style so-called “reforms” in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

That is why ACT is not well supported except by a tiny minority of unreconstructed wealthy, privileged extremists. (Aka, the One Percent.)  At 28, Ms Carlson would be oblivious to all this.

But at least Ms Carlson understands how privileged she is as a middle-class pakeha from an economically well-supported background. As she herself admitted;

“I’ve come from a fairly privileged upbringing…”

At least Ms Carlson has a measure of self-awareness. Given time and experience she may understand how that privileged upbringing gives her a head start in life that is denied many others.

She may even experience that critical Road-To-Damascus revelation that ACT’s market-driven ideology has made matters much, much worse since 1984.

I suggest the next cuppa tea she has is not with David Seymour, but Jim Bolger.

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Another poll indicates coming change in government

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A recent Horizon Poll released on 1 September reconfirms the rise of Jacinda Ardern’s popularity with voters;

Jacinda Ardern has a 6% lead over Bill English as preferred Prime Minister among definite voters.

Among the 860 adult respondents who are both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote, Ardern leads English by 43% to 37%.

Among all of the 960 respondents to the August 11-15 Horizon Research poll Ardern leads 45% to 32%.

Winston Peters is preferred Prime Minister by 15% of all respondents and 14% of definite voters.

James Shaw, the Green Party leader, is preferred by 2%, and David Seymour of ACT and Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party each by 1%.

Coincidentally, English’s current popularity at 37% is similar to Key’s Preferred Prime Minister ratings before he stepped down as Dear Leader Prime Minister.  By May last year, Key’s PPM rating had  fallen to 36.7% – continuing a steady downward trend.

Which means Ms Ardern is now more popular than John Key was, prior to his resignation.

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Another step back from globalisation

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Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a major step back from neo-liberalism’s prime enabler, globalism, by announcing that the State government would prioritise local businesses for contracts. The aim is to create more local jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

“ Our new procurement strategy is unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one.  No longer will we be constrained by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.

Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered. Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.

This money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers as much as possible.”

According to the SBS report, Queensland spent  A$14 billion per annum  on supplies, services, plus A$4 billion  building and maintaining State infrastructure.

Ms Palaszczuk made a valid case for buying-local when she pointed out “this money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers“.

The prime role of a government in a Western-style democracy has always been (or should be!) to protect and enhance it’s citizens. Creating an environment where local jobs flourish  is part and parcel of that dictum.

Governments are not “in business” to create  jobs in other countries at the expense of their own workers.

ExportNZ’s Executive Director, Catherine Beard, was predictably hostile;

The ‘Buy Queensland’ promotion should be about encouraging Aussies to buy their local product, just like ‘Buy NZ Made’ encourages New Zealanders to buy Kiwi-made. It’s OK to encourage your people to buy local, but it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism.

The protectionism in Queensland’s policy is completely contrary to Closer Economic Relations between New Zealand and Australia.

In plain english, Ms Beard is fine with “it’s OK to encourage your people to buy local,” but “it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism” because it harmed the interests of her members.

Tough. It’s about time globalisation began to be rolled back instead of continually exporting jobs and entire businesses to off-shore jurisdictions where labour is cheaper and easily exploitable because of lax (or unenforced) labour laws.

We need fair trade, not so-called “free” trade. “Free” trade is not free when we, the tax-payers, have to foot the bill to pay for welfare, because workers became unemployed after their jobs were exported to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, etc, or cheaper (and often shoddier) goods imported to unfairly compete with locally-made products.

Queensland’s Premier understands this. She wants jobs created for her own workers – not in some other country. Especially when those workers in other nations won’t be paying tax in Queensland.

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References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

NZ Herald:  Beehive knew of Winston Peters’ super payments weeks ago

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett says she doesn’t go ‘scuffling around doing leaks’

Fairfax media:  Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

Fairfax media:  Government backs down over collecting individuals’ data until security confirmed

Fairfax media:  Former promotional ‘hype girl’ keen to get more dancing to ACT’s tune

Fairfax media:  Tick party vote for ACT to bring quality candidates into parliament, leader says

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Fairfax media:  Hamilton social service providers dispute PM’s ‘almost’ no homeless claim

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

Mediaworks:  Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

Martyn Bradbury:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2017.

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Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

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Recent comments by Paula Bennett regarding introducing tipping to New Zealand are more revealing of National’s contempt for workers than most realise.

On 22 May, Bennett was reported as promoting tipping for reasons that – on the face of it – sound reasonable, but are questionable;

“ If you receive excellent service, you should tip.  I don’t think that tipping should be mandatory in New Zealand, but I do think that we shouldn’t tell people not to tip when they come here, which we did for a while.

 People will enjoy their work more and get paid more – it’s plus plus plus.
I don’t want us to turn into that mandatory tipping for people just to survive, but I do think if we reward good service it’s going to make everyone smile a bit more.”

“Smile a bit more”? “People will enjoy their work more”?

Perhaps in Bennett’s narrow world, hermetically-sealed in Parliament with her ministerial salary; perks; golden superannuation; and tax-payer-funded housing.

To put Bennett’s comments into some context, in March 2012 NZ Herald journalist, Fran O’Sullivan gave us a glimpse of her privileged life;

My sense is that Bennett always knew how to work the system to her advantage – and good for her. Let’s face it, at the time she went on to the domestic purposes benefit in 1986, knowing how to rort the system was a national sport.

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At just 17, she gave birth to her only child, a daughter she named Ana. Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo. All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.

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Bennett was also fortunate in getting a training allowance to go to university when her daughter was 8. Her backstory suggests that she was still on a benefit while studying.

The Training Incentive Allowance that paid for Bennett’s university education meant she was not lumbered with any of the $15 billion debt that 728,000 other Kiwi students are now facing. Her tertiary education was free.

This would not be a problem – except that one of Bennett’s first acts on becoming social welfare minister was to remove the same Training Incentive Allowance that she used to put herself through University;

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Evidently, Bennett’s working life was “too exhausting” and she made a “career move” back onto the DPB;

“ Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB.”

In opting to chuck in her paid job and return to the DPB, she became an oft-parroted cliche that  many on the Right – especially National/ACT supporters – often accuse welfare beneficiaries for.

From being an on-again-off-again beneficiary on the DPB, in 2005 Bennett became a beneficiary of the Parliamentary Service and she entered Parliament on the National Party List.

Today, as Deputy PM, the tax-payer is responsible for meeting her $326,697 p.a. salary, plus free housing, and other perks.

It would be a fair guess that Bennett does not require tipping to make up her weekly pay packet, to meet the necessities of life that many other New Zealanders find challenging in the 21st Century;

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In 2007 – and for the following five years – the former Dear Leader, John Key, constantly made eloquent speeches on raising the incomes of New Zealanders;

We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”   – John Key, 6 September 2008

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Who would have thought that Key’s goal of raising wages would be achieved… with tips.

It speaks volumes about National’s disconnect with the working men and women of this country, that the best that our generously paid Deputy Prime Minister can come up with is that raising wages should be dependent on the largesse of others.

Is this the essence of National’s ambition for New Zealanders?  That not only should we be tenants in our own country

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– but that we should be paid as such?

On 18 April, our new Dear Leader, Bill English announced a $2 billion pay increase for under paid care and support workers in the aged and residential care sector.

However, there appears to be a ‘fish hook’ in the much trumpeted announcement;

Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.

The pay increase will be “delivered over the next five years“.

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman asking, amongst  other things;

” You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “delivered over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

… will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?”

To date, Minister Coleman’s office has put off replying, stating that his office was busy and “response times vary between 4 – 6 weeks but also depend on the Minister’s schedule and availability“. (More on this later.)

Perhaps aged and residential care sector workers  should ask for tips in the meantime, from their clients?

According to the website Numbeo.com, New Zealand wages have not kept pace with our nearest neighbour;

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Former Dear Leader Key’s grand ambition of matching Australia’s income levels have remained illusory.

In fact, despite heightened economic activity through immigration and the Christchurch re-build, wages have remained suppressed. As Head of Trade Me Jobs, Jeremy Wade, said in April this year;

We’re seeing small increases in average pay across growth industries such as Construction and Customer Service, but overall wages aren’t matching demand.

The number of roles advertised has exploded in recent months which in turn means that the average number of applications per role has dropped 13 per cent on this time last year. Job hunters can be more selective, which makes it harder to fill these roles.

Some employers have looked to immigration channels to address this shortage. Immigration alone won’t correct the shortfall, though it may be suppressing wage growth…

Immigrationmay be suppressing wage growth“.

There is no “may” about it.  Immigration is suppressing wage growth.  The simple laws of market supply & demand dictate that in times of “low” unemployment, wages will rise as the supply of workers does not meet demand.

This is not some marxist-leninist tenet. This is core doctrine of the Free Market;

The law of supply and demand is the theory explaining the interaction between the supply of a resource and the demand for that resource. The law of supply and demand defines the effect the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price. Generally, a low supply and a high demand increases price, and in contrast, the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price tends to fall.

The only way that the price of labour can be suppressed is to increase the supply of labour. National has opened the floodgates of immigration, increasing the number of workers, and hence the price of labour has remained suppressed (also incidentally fuelling increasing housing demand, ballooning prices, and construction in Auckland).

There is a grim irony at play here.

National has exploited high immigration to generate economic activity and National ministers continually boast to the electorate that they have boosted economic activity;

Despite the dairy sector continuing to be under pressure, other sectors are performing well and contributing to an overall solid rate of economic growth.” – Bill English

We are the fifth fastest growing economy last year in the developed world. That’s unexpected.” – Steven Joyce

That’s why the good economic growth we’re seeing with rising incomes and a record number of jobs available is the best way this Government can help New Zealanders. ” – Paula Bennett

The New Zealand economy is diverse and dynamic. Strong GDP and job growth, together with the impact of technology, is driving change in every sector.” – Simon Bridges

But the same immigration that has generated that economic “growth” has also suppressed wages. National’s exploitation of high immigration to pretend we have “high economic growth” may have worked. But the unintended consequence of suppressed wages is now starting to haunt them.

What to do, what to do?!

Enter Paula Bennett and her desperate plea for New Zealanders to tip each other.

Unfortunately, tipping each other is simply a band-aid over low wages. In the end, like a pyramid scheme, the money-go-round of tipping fails to generate long term wage increases and we are back at Square One: low paid jobs and no prospects for improvement.

To compensate for chronic low wages, Labour introduced Working for Families in 2004. This became a means by which the State subsidised businesses to ensure that working families had some measure of a livable income.

Bennett’s lame suggestion – tipping – does not even pretend to come close to Labour’s solution.

Perhaps that is because National are in a quandry; cut back immigration to raise wages? That would wind back economic growth. Increase immigration to boost economic growth – and have wages stagnate.

This is what results when a political party with the unearned reputation of being “good economic managers” is revealed to being a fraud. Their short-term, unsustainable, “sugar-hit” policies eventually catch up with them.

Here’s a tip for you, Paula; saying silly things in election year is not helpful.

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References

Fairfax media:  Deputy PM Paula Bennett calls for more tipping

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

Beehive: Key Notes – Boosting Science and Innovation

Beehive: John Key – Speech from the Throne

Fairfax media: Key wants a high-wage NZ

NZ Herald: PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Numbeo: Cost of Living Comparison Between Australia and New Zealand

Trade Me: New Zealand job market booming but wages languish

Investopedia: Law Of Supply And Demand

Fairfax media: Record migration sees New Zealand population record largest ever increase

Fairfax media: New Zealand’s economic growth driven almost exclusively by rising population

Radio NZ: Billions for infrastructure reflects booming economy – Joyce

Fairfax media: Minister Paula Bennett – Challenge to house more people on taxpayer dollar

Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce: Minister of Economic Development Announces New Economic Data Tool

Wikipedia: Working for Families

Additional

The New York Times: Why Tipping Is Wrong

The Huffington Post: 9 Reasons We Should Abolish Tipping, Once And For All

Wikipedia: Paula Bennett

Other Bloggers

Martyn Bradbury – Paula Bennett’s call to tip is National’s new plan to subcontract out lifting wages without raising minimum wage

The Standard: Tipping vs fair wages

Previous related blogposts

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Letter to the Editor: Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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

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

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

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Hat-tip for above cartoon: Anthony Robbins

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2017.

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Why I won’t be congratulating Nikki Kaye

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Bill  English today (24 April) announced his Cabinet re-shuffle.  As expected, departing non-performers and walking public-relations-disasters,  Nick Smith and Hekia Parata, were replaced by “rising stars” Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye, respectively.

Both Ms Adams and Ms Kaye have conveyed a public perception of calm efficiency, without the PR cluster-f***s that have come to characterise Nick Smith and Hekia Parata’s erratic performances in their respective ministerial  portfolios.

Smith’s accident-prone political career reached it’s nadir in March 2012 when he was forced to resign for mis-using his ministerial influence on behalf of a close friend and National Party apparatchik, Bronwyn Pullar.

Hekia Parata’s controversy-riddled career crashed in June 2012 when her proposal to increase class-room sizes was met with a deafening chorus of outrage from middle-class mums and dads. The backlash from voters was such that Parata was forced to back down in a humiliating policy u-turn.

English’s re-shuffle puts new(-ish) faces into his Cabinet giving the illusion of “rejuvenation”. But more importantly, it removes Parata and Smith from public view and from  media questioning.

As  housing and education are both going to be hot election issues this year, having Parata and Smith front to answer difficult questions regarding National’s problematic portfolios (health, education, housing, and dirty waterways) would be embarrassing. National’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors would be banging their heads against brick walls in sheer frustration.

Adams and Kaye had very little of the baggage that their predecessors had, in abundance.

Until, that is, on  15 March this year when then-Youth Minister, Nikki Kaye, launched into an ad hominem diatribe against Jacinda Ardern during a debate in Parliament. It was an orchestrated, pre-planned, personalised attack;

I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House—and we got Jacinda Ardern. Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done. What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot. Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.

On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she? She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.

Ardern, to her eternal credit, refused to take the bait to dive head-first into a political sewerage and replied in a manner that epitomises statesmanlike behaviour;

It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before. Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that. I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.

It was also in stark contrast to the 2014 General Election where Kaye and Ardern agreed to conducting an issues-driven campaign and not resort to increasingly dirty, personalised attack-politics.

That agreement served both women well. They became (generally) more respected than their more “excitable” colleagues in Parliament who were not averse to “getting down and dirty in the bear pit of politics”.

Two days after Kaye’s attack, Jacinda Ardern went further and actually tried to defend her rival on Mediawork’s ‘AM Show’;

I just know that Nikki doesn’t believe that…

… I don’t actually think she believes that, because we’ve worked side-by-side, she knows the case work I’ve done, she knows what I’ve done locally, so I’m going to shrug it off.

National’s Deputy PM, Paula Bennet – herself no stranger to a bit of ‘bene-bashing’ to stir up support from the red-neck element in our society – was having none of it, and refused to accept Ardern’s placatory comments;

That is so condescending Jacinda, that is absolutely condescending.

Bennett was making sure that Kaye’s vitriol would stick and no amount of charitable turning-the-cheek from Ardern would be allowed to dilute the venom.

The result of this petty bickering, name-calling, point-scoring chest thumping is ongoing public scorn and derision at behaviour they would not tolerate from their own children.

In her attack on Ardern, Nikki Kaye has shown that she is not above cheap politicking. It is not Ardern’s reputation that suffered when Kaye launched into her contrived bitchfest.

On the same ‘AM Show’ Bennett attempted to re-frame the viciousness of political scrapping by referring to it as “robust” debate;

“ Of course she meant what she stood up and said and she’s got every right to say it. It’s robustness, and when you step into leadership roles, you are going to be called out and times that’s going to be uncomfortable, and at times you are going to disagree. ”

“Robust” is one of those new ‘buzz-words’, like the increasingly loathed ‘resilient’ or weird-sounding ‘stake holders’. It  can be used to disguise bullying behaviour that would not be acceptable in any other workplace.

Imagine for a moment if the behaviour of personal attacks was replicated throughout society, in every workplace and home in the country. Such behaviour in domestic situations would be labelled domestic abuse. Very few would accept it as “robust discussion”.

Unfortunately, the host of the ‘AM Show’ – Duncan Garner – failed to pick up on this abusive aspect of politics. (Modern  media commercial imperatives demand conflict raging – not conflict resolution. Garner might as well handed both women a knife each and told them to get on with it.)

If Nikki Kaye (and all other Members  of Parliament) wants to work in a constructive, professional manner instead of a toxic culture of threats, point-scoring,  and abuse, each Parliamentarian is personally responsible for their own behaviour.

Ardern’s mild response to Nicki Kaye’s verbal abuse, and refusing to pander to Bennett ‘egging’-on, has raised the standard of behaviour for her parliamentary colleagues.

Ms Ardern was correct to refuse to lower herself to their level.

Kaye, Bennett, et al need to raise themselves up.

Nikki Kaye,  don’t let yourself be persuaded by your colleagues to engage in behaviour you would find unacceptable elsewhere.

Be the person you really are. You are better than this.

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Postscript1

One of Nikki Kaye’s “criticisms” of Jacinda Ardern was that she “struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done”.

The simple reality that being in Opposition renders an MP with very little legislative power. Even when a Private Member’s Bill is drawn from the Ballot; debated; put through Select Committee process; and passed into law by a majority of MPsit can still be vetoed by a dogma-driven Finance Minister.

However, even in Opposition,  Ms Ardern is not without her personal achievements.

In the 2014 General Election, Ms Ardern was Number 5 on the Labour Party list. Nicki Kaye was Number 19;

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One of those parties has more faith in their candidate and her abilities than the other.

Postscript2

In her 15 March diatribe, Nikki Kaye accused Labour of indulging in a certain style of superficial campaigning;

“This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops…”

When it comes to photo-ops, there is only one person in the last decade who mastered the art to a preternatural degree;

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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Whether it be babies, kittens, or puppies…

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john key photo op (1-4)

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Though some weren’t quite so keen…

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john key photo op (5)

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Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

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john key photo op (6)

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And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

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Act member for Remuera, John Banks and Prime Minister John Key stop in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Urban Cafe. 12 November 2011 New Zealand Listener Picture by David White.

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But let’s get back to kitten and puppies – always an easy, safe bet for a photo-op… (especially with a visiting compliant Royal chucked in for good measure)…

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john key photo op (7-9)

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Talking about visiting Royals – they are proven rich-pickings for Key to exploit for photo-ops…

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john key photo op (10)

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And there were photo-ops-galore with various sundry Royals…

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john key photo op 11-14)

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Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

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And another Aussie Prime Minister…

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John+Key+Julia+Gillard+Visits+New+Zealand+HLo_hFr7PRPl

 

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Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

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And – wait for it! – an Aussie Prime Minister!!

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6862798-3x2-940x627

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Ok, that line of Aussies was getting tedious. Let’s try something different.

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

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Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

Slow down, Dear Leader, you’ve got Cameron dead in your sights for that manly grip…

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Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (L), greets the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, outside 10 Downing Street in central London September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

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See? Nailed that handshake…

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john_key_and_david_cameron__number_10_Master

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Enough of Prime Ministers. Let’s try a current German Chancellor…

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Angela+Merkel+John+Key+New+Zealand+Prime+Minister+IxtkHCovagLl

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Or a (former) US State Secretary…

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John-Key-Hillary-Clinton-1200

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Maybe another Royal…

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john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

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And a Queen or two…

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[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

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Key and Queens

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Some bloke from China…

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New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, inside the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

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And some bloke from America…

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key1200

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Here is our esteemed Dear Leader with perhaps The Most Important Bloke in America…

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5399238

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And we know what followed next…

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key - letterman

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Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

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RWC_JohnKey

*facepalm*

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But just to keep the “common touch” with the Great Unwashed…

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Key in toy boat

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And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

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key-smile-wave

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But for the Top Prize for photo-ops, you just can’t get more Ordinary Blokey than hanging out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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GettyImages-89998537-e1445817662233

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Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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1445739667347

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Ah, John, I think this is The Boys telling you ‘enough is enough, go the f**k home!

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Good night John!

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Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

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John-Key-All-black

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And then it just hits rock-bottom, in Key’s eagerness to be In-On-The-Act…

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eight_col_hand_shake

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It’s obvious that our esteemed Dear Leader is not shy in front of a camera.

So… what was that you were saying about photo-ops, Ms Kaye?!

[Images and text above re-printed from previous blog-story: John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay) ]

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References

Radio NZ: Brownlee to take on Foreign Affairs in ministerial reshuffle

Otago Daily Times: Cabinet minister Nick Smith resigns

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

NZ Herald: Gloves off – National MPs target Labour’s Jacinda Ardern in series of attacks

Parliament: Hansards – Nikki Kaye

TV3 News: Nikki Kaye launches war of words on Jacinda Ardern

TV3 News – The AM Show: ‘Gloves off’ for Bennett, Ardern on The AM Show

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Radio NZ: Govt vetoes paid parental leave bill

Electoral Commission: 2014 General Election Party Lists

Other Blogs

The Standard: “All show and no substance”

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern backfires

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern – Day 3

The Daily Blog: With all due respect to Nikki Kaye and Paula Bennett, if you want to slag off Jacinda Ardern

Previous related blogposts

National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Citizen A – Susan Devoy; Nick Smith; Len Brown; and DoC job losses – 28 March 2013

Nick Smith

Nick Smith – #Rua

Congratulations Dr Smith!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 April 2014.

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= fs =

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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= 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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= fs =

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed

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70 percent pure NZ

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TVNZ’s Q+A on Sunday 24 April featured an interview with Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett. Her responses were further evidence that  National was  increasingly  unable (or unwilling) to cope with the growing threat of climate change.

Posing a series of surprisingly incisive questions and follow-ups, the ever-youthful-looking Jack Tame held Minister Bennett to account in a way that few other interviewers have done;

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paula bennett - climate change - Q+A - 24 april 2016

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Up untill now, Jack Tame’s presence in the US focused mainly on the theatrics of the  Hollywood entertainment industry or the equally-theatric Presidential primaries. They were for the most part light, breezy stories – even with the increasingly bizarre and somewhat menacing nature of the rise and rise of  Lex Luthor Donald Trump, as the potential Republican candidate.

However, on this occassion,   Tame’s Q+A interview was a masterful deconstruction of Minister Bennett’s waffle, revealing  how woefully unprepared for Tame’s skillful probing she really was.

As the thirteen minute segment progressed, it rapidly became apparent that, aside from platitudes and rhetoric,  Bennett had no real answers or  any actual, meaningful commitment to addressing New Zealand’s increasing emissions of  greenhouse-gas pollution of our atmosphere. It was as it she were still Social Welfare Minister, patiently explaining how National would be “helping” solo-mums with contraception, all the while sounding like an overly-concerned, benevolent, tough-loving  nana.

In fact, not since 2 May 2015 – when Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was interviewed and demolished by seasoned interviewer, Lisa Owen, on TV3’s The Nation – has a government minister had their ineptitude so publicly paraded for the entire country to witness (if they so decided to tune in on a Sunday morning, at 9am.

Unfortunately, we should not be surprised that National is luke-warm on the looming crisis of climate change. Despite making very clear promises, National has broken one of it’s prime committments to the Emissions Trading Scheme – to eventually  include agriculture.

The time-line to this act of duplicity clearly illustrates National’s early promises and then reneging;

13 May 2007

In a speech by  then Opposition-leader, John Key;

In particular I’m going to speak about the biggest environmental challenge of our time: global climate change.

The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively to confront this challenge.

The scientific consensus is clear: human-induced climate change is real and it’s threatening the planet. There are some armchair sceptics out there, but I’m not one of them…

… National is committed to growing our economy. Confronting climate change will be a vital part of the policy mix for fuelling that growth…

… In the decades ahead, peoples’ perceptions around climate change will affect the brand image of New Zealand and its exports. New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah…

… National will have policies that reflect the fact that living on a diet of carbon will be increasingly bad – bad for the world and bad for our economy. We will have policy that encourages ‘climate friendly’ choices like windmills, hydro power and tree planting, and reduces the desire for ‘climate unfriendly’ behaviours, like burning coal…

… National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target.

8 April 2010

Prime Minister John Key rejects demands  to amend the  Emissions Trading Scheme before it takes effect on the energy and transport sectors in July despite calls from business groups, farmers, and ACT.

Key tells reporters at the launch of the Global Research Alliance’s inaugural meeting on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

6 June 2010

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith announces that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  will depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

9 November 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith announces,

… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet.“

2 July 2012

Then-Climate Change Minister, Tim Groser,  announces four amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme;

  • Keeping the ‘one-for-two’ obligation in place until after this year. This means participants in the scheme will continue to surrender units for half the carbon they emit;
  • Maintaining the $25 ‘fixed-price option’ until at least 2015, which caps the price firms will face if carbon prices begin to rise internationally;
  • Introducing off-setting for pre-1990 forest land owners, and allocating the full second tranche of compensation where off-setting is not taken; and
  • Leaving agricultural emissions out of the ETS until at least 2015.

20 August 2012

National introduces  “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012”, which will remove agricultural emissions indefinitely, and will,

remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

National’s repudiation of it’s 2007 committment to include agriculture was complete. Despite a clear promise by our esteemed Dear Leader, agriculture was permanently omitted from the ETS.

As I pointed out in October 2012;

During National’s four years in office, they have broken several promises and the weakening of the ETS is simply one more on the list. It also further highlights  John Key’s ability to say one thing – whilst knowing full well that he has no intention of fulfilling committments, or will do completely the opposite.

An editorial in the Dominion Post, on 20 April, was no less scathing in it’s condemnation of National’s inertia;

The Government’s climate change policy has been a failure and will have to be rebuilt. There needs to be a fundamental change in the Emissions Trading Scheme, the subject this week of a damning report by the Gareth Morgan Foundation.  But other changes are also needed.

[…]

Bennett concedes, however, that the ETS was “not perfect”, and is now being reviewed. In fact the ETS has been a fiasco. What’s more, it continues to cast its dirty shadow. 

The Government has banned the purchase of  foreign credits, but it could still use the bad credits to meet its climate change targets up to 2020.

It must not do so. Instead, it needs to revamp the whole scheme, starting by ending the subsidies it gives to polluters such as the oil industry. The “one for two” scheme introduced in 2009 allows businesses to pay only half the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also needs to reverse its decision to keep agriculture, which produces half the country’s emissions, out of the ETS. National argues that making farming pay for its pollution would be unfair because there is no workable way yet of reducing animal emissions and our export industry should not be penalised. 

Farmers, however, are not exempt from the country’s global environmental duties, and will also respond to economic signals – even if this is a pledge to bring agriculture into the scheme within, say, five years

Jack Tame’s superb interview on 24 April merely confirms pathetic National’s track record on this issue and it now appears that  Minister Bennett will simply follow in the footsteps of her do-nothing-predecessors, Ministers Smith, Groser, et al.

Bennett certainly has no intention of adopting any of the bold, radical – but much-needed – policies as advocated by Professor Jim Skea, co-chairperson of the IPCC Working Group III, and interviewed by Radio NZ’s Kathryn Ryan on 27 April;

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How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel - Radio NZ - Kathryn Ryan - Prof Jim Skea - IPCC

(alt. link)

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Listen to the two interviews and judge for yourself which person is seriously committed to combating climate change – and which person is a politician who has plenty of empty platitudes to offer, but little else.

In her previous role as Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett had much to say about welfare-fraud.

Her empty words on  addressing climate change is a fraud on a much grander, and ultimately vastly more destructive,  scale.

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Postscript1: Memo to TVNZ

Jame Tame’s interview with Minister Bennett reveals a young man with considerable journalistic skills. He should be given every opportunity to make full use of his under-utilised talents.

TVNZ (and TV3) should maximise the talents of their journalistic and production staff by shifting Q+A and The Nation to prime time viewing slots during the early evening.

Why hide excellence early on weekend mornings, where it is not easily appreciated and valued by the general public?

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Postscript2: Memo to Paula Bennett

Ms Bennett, your performance on 24 April was a dismal failure. You are either unwilling to seriously confront the challenges of climate change or, apparently, you are in way over your head on this issue.

Either way, you should resign your Climate Change portfolio. This job is too important to be left to your glib inanities.

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Climate Change Paris Agreement signed

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target

NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR: ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister

Interest.co.nz: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014

Beehive.co.nz: Government announces ETS amendments

Parliament: Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012

Dominion Post: Editorial – Big changes are needed in the Government’s climate change plan

Radio NZ: How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel ? (alt. link) (audio)

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 April 2016.

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State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

6 November 2015 5 comments

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1949 state house in Taita

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Information released under the Official Information Act (OIA) 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” is not supported by Housing NZ’s own figures.

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 being 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.”

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” .

On 17 September I lodged OIA requests to Ministers Nick Smith, Paula Bennet, and Bill English. Only English was prepared to answer – and even that took  42 days (30 working days) to eventuate after a reminder was emailed to the Minister’s office.

In a response eventually received on  29 October,  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.

I  specifically asked Bill English;  “How many [state houses] are the “wrong size and in what manner are they the “wrong size“? “Do they have too many rooms; too few rooms?

English replied;

“In general terms, Housing New Zealand has a shortage of smaller two bedroom homes and
larger family homes and a surplus of three bedroom homes, with the exception of Auckland
where there is a demand for homes of all sizes. The type or configuration of particular
properties may also affect demand making them difficult to let.”

English totally ignored the direct question “How many [state houses] are the “wrong size“. He either does not know, or is unwilling to admit the number. “In General terms” is not a specific quantity.

Furthermore, English says that “Housing New Zealand has a shortage of smaller two bedroom homes and larger family homes and a surplus of three bedroom homes, with the exception of Auckland where there is a demand for homes of all sizes.”

Unsurprisingly, the 2014/15 Housing NZ Annual Report confirms the 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)

Yet, the chart referred above (“Stock reconciliation taking into account impaired properties as at 31 January 2013“) states that there are 8,180 houses in the Auckland region that are supposedly “Right Place, wrong home”  and a further 420 that are in the “Wrong Place” – 8,600 in total.

This would appear to contradict the Minister’s assertion that “there is a demand for homes of all sizes” throughout Auckland.  Both cannot be right.

This contradiction is further compounded by the fact that, as of 30 June, there were 2,267 people on the waiting list in the Auckland City area;

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auckland city housing nz waiting list 30 june 2015.

Even where houses have been the wrong size, Housing NZ has been undertaking a programme to add extensions, or entire new, smaller dwellings on larger sections;

Overcrowding is an issue that affects many of our
tenants’ health and wellbeing, especially in Auckland,
where there is high demand for larger homes. Our
bedroom extensions programme is helping to meet
demand from the social housing register in Auckland
by converting three-bedroom homes into four- and
five-bedroom homes. Adding an extra one or two
bedrooms (and another bathroom where necessary)
means more of our tenants are living in appropriately
sized and healthier homes. During 2014/15 we
completed bedroom extensions to 247 homes.

Our existing land in Auckland will also house more small
families, couples and single people in need. We are
building new two-bedroom homes on Auckland sections
that are big enough to have another dwelling. During
2014/15 we built an additional 107 two-bedroom units
on existing Housing New Zealand sections, which also
included making improvements to the existing homes
where these were required.“(p23)

If we substract the 8,600 homes in the Auckland region, from Housing NZ’s original estimate of 13,560 (see above chart), this leaves 4,960 houses “wrong place/wrong size”.

Nearly five thousand homes supposedly in the “wrong place/wrong size” category in Auckland – and there are still 2,267 people on Housing NZ’s waiting list in Auckland City. How is that feasible?

I further enquired from English; “Could you please explain what the term “wrong size, in the wrong place” actually refers to? Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place“?”

English replied;

In 2011 Housing NZ carried out an assessment of it’s future projected stock
requirements for the purpose of forward planning, based on its future use of intention of its
properties and informed by demand forecasting. This assessment was not intended to reflect
current demand at a point in time…

[..]

The analysis identifies some properties as being the wrong home, not specifically the wrong
size.”

It is worthwhile noting English’s comment that “Housing NZ carried out an assessment of it’s future projected stock  requirements for the purpose of forward planning,  [but] this assessment was not intended to reflect current demand at a point in time”.

The apparent purpose? According to English’s 29 October statement to me;

This relates to the number of bedrooms that a property has and also includes
properties that are wrongly configured to meet demand for social housing.

“Social housing” is National’s code for private providers.

The 2011 Housing NZ  assessment of it’s “future projected stock” appears to have been designed to meet the needs of “social housing”, aka private providers.

In respect to answering my question “Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place”?”, English’s response was vague and lacked any informative value (as did many of his answers);

“A property being in the wrong place refers to the location of the property in relation
to demand. On a regional basis, there are areas of general low demand. However, some of
Housing New Zealand’s properties may be in locations with high concentrations of state
housing or existing social issues that may contribute to them being difficult to let or
result in a high turnover of tenants.”

There were no geographical locations; no cities or towns; no suburbs given. The statement in itself is meaningless twaddle with a vague reference to “some of  Housing New Zealand’s properties may be in locations with high concentrations of state housing or existing social issues”.

Where these “wrong places” might be is anyone’s guess.

My follow-up question – “How many areas have been designated “wrong places”?” – was ignored entirely.

In an effort to drill down and assess where houses might be in the “wrong place”, I asked English; “where houses are in a particular “wrong place”, how many people are on HNZ waiting lists in those same “wrong places”?

The purpose of this question was straight-forward. Where demand for housing is high in a given region, it seems inconceivable that any properties in that same region would be in the “wrong place”. Auckland being a prime example.

I wanted to know how many other regions had high numbers on their waiting lists – whilst also having houses in the “wrong place”.

According to the above chart, the following regions designated as having houses in the “wrong places” have the following numbers of houses attached to them;

Auckland: 420

South Island: 740

Central North Island: 870

Lower North Island: 1,740

“Community Group Housing”: 100

Total: 3,870

Because of the (deliberate?) vagueness of English’s response, we have no way of knowing where, for example, the South Island’s supposed 740 houses are located in the “wrong place”.

It is difficult to understand why the Minister could not be more precise.

If the “wrong size/wrong place” issue is real, then National must have hard data, with supporting numbers, identifying where state houses are located  in the “wrong place”. This information should be on-file; readily accessible; and easily released to interested parties.  Then again, my OIA lodgement to Minister English took 30 working days (including one “request” for an extension) to complete.

Perhaps such data does not exist.

According to Housing NZ itself, every district within it’s authority has people on their waiting list;

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Housing NZ waiting list - by region - by bedrooms needed

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Source

Source

There is no district recording zero-need.

I asked English; “What replacement houses are being built to replace those that are the “wrong size”, and how many rooms will they have? More? Less?” andWhere Housing NZ houses are in the “wrong place” – will new State houses be built in exactly the same place?”.

The Minister responded;

Housing New Zealand’s Asset Management Strategy provides for the redevelopment of its
land holdings in order to align the typology, location and size of its portfolio with demand.
As a result, it is building more two, four and five bedroom properties. Where there is low
demand, Housing New Zealand will look to sell surplus properties and reinvest the proceeds
into providing homes in areas of high demand.

As outlined above, Housing NZ has a current programme of adding bedrooms to existing three bedroomed houses, and, where the land is big enough, adding two bedroom houses onto an existing built-up section.

English’s reference to selling “surplus properties” is troubling, as we are still none-the-wiser where such properties exist. Especially when all Housing NZ districts have people on waiting lists.

As for English’s assertion that “Housing New Zealand will look to sell surplus properties and reinvest the proceeds  into providing homes in areas of high demand” – Paula Bennett was not willing to give that assurance on 1 November last year, speaking on Q+A.

Which leads on 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;

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.”

That statement appears to be at complete variance with this undated Beehive document, headed “Social Housing Reform Programme – Media Qs and As“;

SOCIAL HOUSING REFORM PROGRAMME – Media Qs and As

“Around one third of the $18.7 billion Housing New Zealand portfolio is in
the wrong place or of the wrong type to meet this need.”

[…]

“To help community housing providers grow, there will be sales of
Housing New Zealand properties and we will involve these providers
in the redevelopment of Crown land…”

[…]

“Details will be determined after national engagement, including
with community housing providers and iwi,over coming months.
Providing we can achieve better services for tenants and fair
and reasonable value for taxpayers, we will look to sell
between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties over
the next year.”

[…]

“15. Will properties being sold be tenanted, and if so what
happens to the tenants?

In most cases where houses transfer to a community housing
provider, the properties will have tenants. The new owners
will continue providing social housing with the income-
related rent subsidy.”

[…]

“Look at selling between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand
properties for continued use as social housing, run by approved
community housing providers. These providers might buy
properties on their own or go into partnership with other
organisations lending them money, contributing equity, or
providing other services.”

The document specifically refers to the sale of state housing, that are “the wrong place or of the wrong type“,  to community service providers.

And in Parliament, on 24 March, Bill English himself made reference to the sale of “wrong place” Housing NZ properties to Community providers;

“In the first place, Housing New Zealand has an ongoing sales
policy, and often it is selling houses that we do not need or
that are in the wrong place, or some of them have just become
unsuitable to be lived in and cannot be upgraded at reasonable
cost. In respect of the transactions that are coming up over
the next 6 months or so, there is a process of testing what
the real values of those houses are. For instance, many
community providers believe those houses are not up to date
on maintenance, and therefore are overvalued when they are
valued as if they can be sold for the best price on the day
in the location that they are in. Those are exactly the things
we are having discussions about over the next few months.”

[…]

“Neither property developers nor community housing providers
are compelled to buy houses off the Government. If they do
not want to do that—if they do not want to manage the tenants
or own the stock, which may be the wrong size in the wrong
place—then they certainly do not have to do that.”

Which creates doubt over English’s assertion that  “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”.

So if Housing NZ properties that are in the “wrong place” are sold to community housing providers – as confirmed by Minister English on at least two occassions – what will transform those “wrong place” houses into “right place” houses?

Very little of National’s “wrong size/wrong place” proposition makes sense – unless viewed through the lens of raising revenue by way of partial asset-sales.

That is the only thing that makes any sense of this issue.

The only reason that the “wrong size/wrong place” meme has worked for National thus far is that very few (if anyone) has delved behind the phrase to check it’s validity.

Perhaps it is time this issue was scrutinised more carefully?

The apparent fudging of Bill English’s response to my OIA request, in itself, speaks volumes.

Postscript

On 29 October, I wrote to Bill English expressing my dissatisfaction with his response to my OIA lodgement;

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: “B English (MIN)” <B.English@ministers.govt.nz>
date: Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:01 PM
subject: Re: State houses – wrong place, wrong size

 

Thank you for your letter dated 29 October.

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”?

Please advise if you do not intend to answer those questions, and I will lodge a formal complaint with the Office of the OImbudsman.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Appendix1

In 2014/15 Housing NZ “returned” $321 million to the government’s Consolidated Fund. This comprised of $118 million in tax; $96 million in interest costs, and $107 million as a dividend. (2014/15 Annual Report, p24)

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References

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

Housing NZ: 2014/15 Annual Report

Housing NZ: Register by priority and Auckland local board – 30 June 2015

Beehive.govt.nz: Social Housing Reform Programme – Media Qs and As

Parliament Today: Social Housing Reform — Objectives

Other Blogs

The Jackal: More homelessness under National

Previous related blogposts

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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)

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Housing NZ - state housing - over crowding

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2015.

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