Government announce bottom of cliff emergency housing measures

Recognising that problems of homelessness and the difficulty of getting affordable housing haven’t been resolved, the Government has announced more emergency housing measures – and keep blaming the ‘last nine years’ again, despite property prices climbing right through the last three government tenures.

Government steps up action to prevent homelessness

  • 1000 new transitional housing places delivered by end of year to reduce demand for emergency motel accommodation.
  • Introduce 25% of income payment, after 7 days, for those in emergency motel accommodation to bring in line with other forms of accommodation support.
  • Over $70m extra to programmes that prevents those at risk of losing their rentals becoming homeless and support people out of motels and into permanent accommodation.
  • Alongside these immediate actions, there is a long-term plan of action to address and reduce homelessness.

More vulnerable New Zealanders will be moved from emergency motel accommodation to transitional housing as the Government steps up efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, released today, will also see an increase of 1,000 transitional housing places by the end of the year, adding to the over 1,300 places already created since the Government was formed, further reducing the reliance on leased motels for emergency accommodation.

Using attack as a form of defence the inevitable blaming of the last government.

“This Government inherited a homelessness crisis decades in the making when we took office, that will take time to fix. The previous Government left us with a chronic shortage of houses and were selling off state houses that people desperately needed,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We campaigned on tackling housing and homelessness and we are delivering. This Government has put a public housing building programme into action on a scale that hasn’t been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

A claim to have addressed the living in cars crisis.

“On coming into office, our immediate priority was to get people out of sleeping in cars and garages or on the street and into safe and warm accommodation.” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Over $70 million in this package is dedicated to programmes that are proven to work in helping vulnerable New Zealander’s to stay in their homes and not end up on the streets.

Two years later a lack of housing is still a problem.:

“This next step in our plan aims to both prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and reduce the reliance on motels for emergency accommodation by increasing the supply of transitional housing,” Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said.

The full set of measures are detailed in the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan https://www.hud.govt.nz/community-and-public-housing/support-for-people-in-need/homelessness-action-plan/

Details of Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan package, backed by over $300m of extra funding, include:

  • $175m to deliver 1,000 additional transitional housing places by the end of 2020
  • $25.6m extra to the Sustaining Tenancies programme to help those at risk of losing their rental with practical support including budget advice, property maintenance, and mental health and addiction support
  • $20m to work with Māori to prevent homelessness & expand housing supply that delivered by Māori
  • $17.5m to support young people leaving Oranga Tamariki care into accommodation with wrap around support services
  • $16.3m to help acute mental health and addiction inpatients transition into the community with housing and other wrap-around support
  • $13.5m to pilot a rapid re-housing approach for people receiving Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants
  • $19.8 million to expand intensive case manager or navigator support services for people in emergency housing longer than 7 nights
  • $8.7 million for a new housing broker service to connect with local landlords and help more MSD clients secure private rental homes
  • $740,000 to fund programmes to help people gain skills and confidence to secure and manage a private rental home
  • $9.3 million to support the wellbeing needs of children in emergency housing, such paying for transport to school or early childhood education

One thing has caused consternation from the left:

Additionally, to ensure parity with other tenants in social housing, a 25% of income payment will be introduced for people staying in motels for longer than 7 days.

No Right Turn: Labour’s festering Neoliberalism

…the “contribution” will be 25% of a “client’s” income, exactly what they’d be paying if they were in a state house with individual bedrooms and a proper kitchen and a backyard rather than a shitty motel.

What stinks is the reason for it: if you read the Cabinet Paper (paragraphs 63-68), its intended to “support a reduction in the reliance on motels” and produce “behavioural changes” which will supposedly reduce the cost of the programme. In other words, it will cause people to either leave those shitty motels earlier than they otherwise would have, or not ask for assistance in the first place.

None of this fixes the big problem – the continued climb in property prices and rental costs.

Post image

From https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/f36cp8/yelp/

That’s something that past governments plus the current government have failed to deal with.

Some factors are outside government control, but one huge problem remains – the Resource Management Act makes it slow and costly to make more land available for new housing.

And one problem with the RMA is that it allows small numbers of people to hold things up. One example is playing out in Dunedin now. The 2nd Generation District Plan was notified in september 2015. After a lengthy submission process decisions on the 2GP were notified on 7 November 2018.

Since then one small group of people have appealed, have changed their appeals a number of times, have failed to come to an agreement through mediation, and currently after more changes are headed to a hearing in the Environment Court probably about June. There have already been 9 filings on this one appeal so far this year. Over a thousand properties are impacted, with no development possible until this is resolved.

The Dunedin City Council are aware of an urgent need for more land for building, and are trying to get it resolved, but have had to follow RMA processes that allow people to oppose and delay.

There is no sign of this RMA problem being fixed, hence the need for emergency housing measures being tacked on to previous emergency housing measures.

Business case now planned for RNZ/TVNZ merger before legislating

Plans to merge RNZ and TVNZ have slowed further, with  business case process now under way. This is expected to be completed by about mid-year, after which ‘final decisions’ will be made. With the election due in September it seems unlikely much will actually happen this year.

Minister of Broadcasting Kris Faafoi had wanted to get a decision from Cabinet last December to rush through legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and do a business case later. He was supposed to be one of the more competent ministers.

RNZ last November:  Govt to consider replacing RNZ, TVNZ with new public broadcaster

The fate of RNZ and TVNZ may soon be in the hands of Cabinet ministers, with a proposal to disestablish both broadcasters and create an entirely new public media entity.

An advisory group, with representatives from both media companies and a range of public service agencies, was set up to look at future funding options.

RNZ understands there were three options: merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, put more money into New Zealand On Air, or the third, preferred option now heading for Cabinet – most likely in early December.

17 December Government plans for RNZ and TVNZ remain up in the air

A Cabinet decision on the future on RNZ and TVNZ has been delayed until early next year.

The Broadcasting Minister will not meet his commitment to announce the government plan for public media by Christmas, because ministers want more work done before making a final decision.

Cabinet had one proposal to consider – disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and create one new public media entity.

Minister Kris Faafoi said he intended to make a public announcement by Christmas, but that was not going to happen.

“Cabinet colleagues had a few questions and I think that’s fair to go and make sure that those issues are addressed before we make a final decision.”

29 January: New details revealed as Cabinet agrees on RNZ, TVNZ public broadcasting decision

Cabinet is forging ahead with the plan to create a new, super-sized public broadcaster, but ministers have taken some convincing.

RNZ understands they have signed off on a high-level decision to proceed and to commission a business case, after the Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, presented a revised paper on Monday.

RNZ understands there was pushback from some senior Labour and New Zealand First ministers about the way the preferred option was landed on, the implications for public broadcasting if RNZ ceased to be a standalone company, and the speed at which it had been progressing.

However, this may not necessarily change the timetable – the plan was to work towards having the new media company in place by about 2023 and that appears to still be the goal.

It’s already taken Labour most of this term to get to this point; Clare Curran’s plans for ‘RNZ+’ were canned when she lost the Broadcasting portfolio in 2018 and Faafoi took over.

Curran established a ministerial advisory group headed by Michael Stiassny that started the work on the new model; through that process and subsequent work by consultants three options would emerge – merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, boost NZ On Air funding and the third – create a substantial new media organisation.

Those three options were given to a working group to thrash out, comprising representatives of TVNZ, RNZ and a range of public agencies, including DPMC and Treasury.

Its recommendations formed the basis of the December Cabinet paper that concluded the status quo was “unsustainable” and that the working group had “collectively recommended the government agree to disestablish TVNZ and RNZ and to establish a new public media entity”.

That paper laid out guidelines for how it would operate, including having a “clearly defined public media mandate and purpose, with the core functions of a globally recognised public media entity”.

It would provide public media services across a variety of platforms, “some of which may be advertising free”.

The new entity would have a “mixed funding model” that would be funded both directly from the Crown, and from a range of “non-Crown” sources including advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions.

It would operate as a not-for-profit, and would have “statutory protection for editorial and operational independence”.

2 February:  New public media plan still a work in progress behind closed doors

Cabinet has approved the idea of a new public service outfit to replace state-owned RNZ and TVNZ by 2023 – but they want more details from the broadcasting minister. So does the public and the rest of the media. 

…the proposal went before Cabinet again last Monday and this time ministers approved it, according to Jane Patterson’s RNZ scoop.

But they still want to see more details and a completed business case.

Jane Patterson said ministers wanted it “crystal clear” that this would be a public broadcasting outfit with a charter to uphold, but it is still not clear how public funding and commercial revenue will be blended.

That point was made last Wednesday by Victoria University’s associate professor of media and communication studies Peter Thompson on RNZ’s The Panel.

“If you look at other entities overseas like Ireland’s RTE or Canada’s CBC, successful and sustainable hybrid models of public broadcasting require at least 50 percent of their funding from public sources,” he said.

“It is high time the government announced its blueprint for the new public media entity, and sought public feedback to ensure the best outcome and informed debate before the 2020 election,” Dr Thompson said in a statement issued by the pressure group he chairs, Better Public Media.

7 February: Work to begin on business case for new RNZ, TVNZ public broadcaster

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed work will begin on a business case for creating a new, super-sized public broadcaster.

He said Cabinet has approved a business case to examine the viability of establishing a new public media entity as an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation.

When asked about the impact the proposal would have on the commercial market, Faafoi said he would need to wait for the business case.

One could wonder why a business case wasn’t sought in the first place. Faaafoi had wanted a decision on the merging from Cabinet last year.

Final decisions about the future of RNZ and TVNZ will be made once the business case is completed.

Faafoi said he wanted the new entity to be more nimble and designed for a digital 21st century environment.

He said PricewaterhouseCoopers will conduct the business case, and it is expected to report back by the middle of this year.

While Labour may want a proposed plan in place before the election it seems unlikely legislation will happen in time.

New Zealand First broadcasting spokesperson Jenny Marcroft said her party supports the decision to commission a business case.

“We need to see what the options are, the design and cost, and the likely timeframes.

“In a media environment that is increasingly dominated by digital platforms, and people receiving their news from dubious sources. It is clear that the future of organisations such as TVNZ and RNZ are preserved”, Marcroft said.

Sounds like NZ First weren’t keen on Faafoi fast tracking the merger. And natikonal aren’t keen on the proposal at all.

In the lead up to the election, the National Party has already made clear it does not support the idea of having one big public broadcaster.

The National Party’s Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media spokesperson Melissa Lee criticised the Government for leaving the future of public broadcasting in a state of uncertainty.

“There is no plan still, this is almost three years down the line [and] we are no clearer as to what they are going to do,” she said.

Lee was also unhappy with what was known about the proposal so far.

“We want plurality of voice in the media space and anything that reduces that voice is something we would be very concerned about,” she said.

Faafoi said the future of RNZ and TVNZ will become a political football whether the Government liked it or not.

I wonder why he thought he could rush it through.

Last month RNZ reported that it understood Faafoi’s original plan presented to Cabinet in December was to prepare legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ, and then proceed with a business plan later this year.

That seems a crazy way to go about things – rush the changes through, and then see if it’s a good idea later.

Faafoi has been seen as one of the more competent Government ministers, but this isn’t good for his reputation.

 

Improved Government-Māori relationship, Treaty is ‘a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship’

Protests (and crowds) were down at Waitangi this year, but the relationship between Māori and the Government seems improved. Discussing things better is a positive, but doing things better has to get more impetus.

Sam Sachdevaa (Newsroom): Patience, positivity on display for Ardern’s Waitangi visit

Patience will eventually wear out unless posit9ve communications doesn’t lead to positive actions.

…Ardern and company have succeeded in convincing Māori that while they may not have all the answers to the problems they face, they are willing to have a real discussion about how to find them.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little is the most obvious example of that, winning yet more praise (this time from Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene) for his whaikorero in te reo Māori and wider efforts to better understand the issues facing Ngapuhi in their settlement talks.

The Iwi Chairs Forum also failed to produce any public flashpoints, with Ardern saying there was “real common ground” between iwi and the Crown in a number of areas.

Given the talks took place behind closed doors, it was hard to test that, although Te Rarawa iwi leader Haami Piripi told RNZ the hui was “was one of the best meetings that we have had yet between ourselves and the Government”.

Of course, there are many justified criticisms of this government, including a number of significant issues for Māori that may be difficult to resolve.

A media statement from the Iwi Chairs Forum after their meeting emphasised the need to address the rights and interests of iwi, hapū and whānau in freshwater, Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen saying: “Nō tātau te wai – we own the water.”

Then there is the funding (or lack thereof) for Whānau Ora, with Ardern and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare meeting five Māori women leaders in Wellington next week to discuss their Waitangi Tribunal claim over the issue.

And Ihumatao continues to loom over the Government, Ardern’s hopes of a resolution before Waitangi Day dashed with more work to be done.

It appears that Winston Peters did the dashing, and may stand in the way of a resolution for Ihumatao before the election.

Simon Bridges didn’t do so well with his communications at Waitangi.

Barracked by speakers at the powhiri for an overly political speech, Bridges was then put under pressure from media over National’s stance on the Māori seats.

His absence at both the opening of Te Rau Aroha (the new museum honouring Māori servicemen and servicewomen) and the Waitangi dawn service was noted by some.

Bridges appeared unrepentant: speaking to some of his MPs after the powhiri, he was heard to exclaim, “And I’d do it again for the TV cameras” (it was not clear exactly what “it” was).

He seemed intent on trying to attract voter support for National, and there’s not going to be much of that from Māori.

Given National’s worst party vote performances last election came in the seven Māori seats, he seems to be calculating it is better to create wedge issues rather than making a doomed attempt to win voters who are unlikely to ever support him.

The problem with wedge politics is that while it may attract some voters (who Bridges and Peters appeared to be fighting over), but it can put others off. And I think there’s likely to be more moderate voters, and they can be crucial to getting a good election result.

But more quietly some in National seem to have an understanding of dealing with Māori issues.

Where there is some agreement between Labour and National, and between politicians and Māori, is that the Crown’s relationship with Māori cannot be solved simply through the transfer of land and other assets.

“This is not a partnership where there’s a commercial agreement, this is not a partnership to say, ‘Hey, look, let’s try and work things out together, let’s just go to court, it’s judicial’,” National MP Alfred Ngaro said.

“When you talk about kawenata [covenant] and what they signed up to when they heard that word, that means that goes deep. That’s a blood relationship, but we don’t treat it that way.”

The words seemed strikingly similar to Little’s description of talks with Ngāpuhi: “They don’t see if and when we do get to an agreement, that’s not the end of a process – it’s a restoration of the relationship.”

That common understanding is a start – but the gaps between the two major parties, and between the Crown and Māori, will still require much more effort to be bridged.

From the Māori Dictionary:

kawenata

1. (loan) (noun) covenant, testament, charter, contract, agreement, treaty – any undertaking that binds the parties in a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship.

So a treaty – and specifically Te Tiriti o Waitangi – is not an undertaking that, once settled, is done with. It is an ongoing relationship, forever.

Understanding that is important. It means there can be no ‘full and final settlement’. Discussions and resolutions need to continue.

Infrastructure spending splash – conservativeness disappointing

The Government announced details of $12 billion of infrastructure spending, splashing big money mostly around Auckland and the North island, and a lot of it in roading, but despite Jacinda Ardern promoting it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in New Zealand” it is really quite a conservative, and it’s lack of innovation and it’s failure to prioritise the supposed ‘biggest problem of Ardern’s generation’, climate change has been very disappointing for some, including myself.

Much of what is being funded could have been included in normal budget announcements, but this is clearly packaged to kick off an election campaign.

Labour and National have ended up arguing about who deserves the credit for the many roading projects to be funded – (so much for Ardern’s positive politics promise.

Rail gets some funds, but scratches the surface of alternatives to fossil fuel use.

The South Island gets a disproportionately small amount, with Orago and Southland just about missing out altogether apart from a few million dollars to try and sort out Queenstown traffic problems.

NZ First get another billion dollars or so to dish out on top of the Provincial Growth Fund so no doubt hope that this helps attract (buy) a few more votes.

The Greens have tried to talk up their ‘wins’, but must disappointed with the huge focus on roading, and they get much less to play with for their preferred projects than NZ First. There is some funding for converting schools from coal to wood heating, but just 8 schools out of the 200 or so using coal furnaces will get initial funding.

Many of of the big spends are on roading projects that had been announced (but not funded) by the last National government and dumped by Labour when they took over.

So this looks like a big splash of cash on ‘same old’ type projects, with Labour and National arguing about semantics, making this appear largely like a Tweedledum/dee Labourlite/Nationallite sort of iniative, with little initiative used in applying the big borrowing to transformative future looking projects.

The Labour leaning The Standard post on the announcement – The Government’s $12 billion infrastructure package – is slammed by the greener participants. The first comments:

Sacha

I am disgusted. What a wasted opportunity.

Building more roads is utterly the wrong thing to do if these clowns were serious about climate action. Another win for the dinosaurs. Young people will be well pissed off.

weka

I can’t even rally the energy to try and blame some of it on Peters.

Ad provides their analysis here including:

There’s a tiny bit for Green special projects like removing a few of the 200 coal-fired boilers from school heating systems.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA2001/S00124/flicking-the-switch-on-a-clean-powered-public-service.htm

There’s nothing on a signature scale like the CRL was from National in October 2016. Nor anything about shifting the Auckland port, given the Prime Minister stated that it will move. Nothing on light rail for Auckland – just a general hint that every time we pay a ticket we support our own superannuation.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12292277

Not a whole bunch of national plan or coherence to it all.

But they are all projects that needed doing.

Projects that probably should have been happening already, but lacking in anything bold.

It’s a lot of money to underwhelm with.

Beehive blurb:


Roads, rail, schools and hospitals will be built and upgraded across the country under the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Minister for State Owned Enterprises Winston Peters says the funding of four major rail projects under the New Zealand Upgrade Programme is yet another step in the right direction for New Zealand’s long-term rail infrastructure.

A new programme to build and upgrade roads, rail, schoo

The Government’s programme of new investments in roads and rail will help future proof the economy, get our cities moving, and make our roads safer.

The New Zealand Upgrade Programme to modernise the economy includes new and expanded child health, maternity and mental health facilities as part of a package of priority health investments.

Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says today’s capital investment announcements show the Coalition Government is the Government of Infrastructure.

Our Government’s programme to upgrade infrastructure and modernise the economy will help more communities to be part of the solution to climate change through a clean-powered public service.

 

Election date announced – 19 September

The prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the date for the 2020 general election – 19 September. It will include two referendums, one on euthanasia, the other on legalising the use of cannabis.

PM announces election date as September 19

The 2020 General Election will be held on Saturday 19 September, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“I’ve always believed that announcing elections dates early is fair. It improves the opportunities for New Zealanders to take part in the democratic process and gives a greater degree of certainty to the political landscape.

The practice of an early announcement of election dates was started by John Key for the 2011 election and it has continued since then. The old practice of game playing with late date announcements was ridiculous.

Ms Ardern has advised the Governor-General of the election date.

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday, 6 August 2020 and Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday, 12 August 2020.

Writ day will follow on Sunday, 16 August 2020, and nominations will close at noon on Friday, 21 August 2020. Advance voting will start on Monday 7 September 2020.

Subject to the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the House, the last day for the return of the writ will be Thursday, 15 October 2020.

As well as being early the announced date was no surprise.

“When it comes to the campaign, I’ve set out Labour’s plan to give New Zealanders an election contest that is positive, factual and robust.

She didn’t indicate when the positive, factual and robust campaign period would begin. It may take a while to get the positive message through to all the Labour MPs and troops.

Labour’s election support by district under threat?

From Harry Jamieson@graveyjones5

The Labour party managed to form a coalition government after this election, making @jacindaardern the 2nd youngest PM in NZ history. They performed best in cities (Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson ect) as well as in rural areas with large Maori populations (East Coast).

Image

This excludes special votes but should be approximately the same.  It is done per district rather than per electorate.

Māori support was strong, but that could be challenged this year.

RNZ: Whānau Ora head warns minister over funding allocation

Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare can kiss Māori progress goodbye if he continues to allow other agencies to dip into its funding, the organisation’s head has warned.

It comes as distinguished Māori leaders seek an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing over the government’s handling of Whānau Ora funding.

It received an $80m funding boost over four years in the 2019 Budget, but North Island commissioning agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said not all of that money was going to Whānau Ora.

“From what we have seen, particularly in the last 12 months, we believe that the government is starting to undermine Whānau Ora,” Raukawa-Tait told RNZ’sCheckpoint.

She – along with Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Tariana Turia, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi – wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in November last year expressing their concerns, but said they had not had a response.

They are now seeking an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing, claiming the government has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by refusing to adequately and transparently fund Whānau Ora.

Of the $20m extra funding Whānau Ora was promised last year, only about $5m was received by the commissioning agencies.

Raukawa-Tait said that did not make any sense, and she had a message for the Minister of Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare.

“Be the minister that we want to have confidence in. At this present moment we do not.”If he does not understand his role and our expectations of him than you can kiss Māori progress goodbye for the next two decades.”

She said if he continued to allow government agencies to use its funding, Whānau Ora faced destruction by stealth.

Henare denied any of the Whānau Ora funding was going to other government agencies, and said the move was politically motivated.

He’s referring to the move to challenge the funding of Whānau Ora – of course there’s politics involved, that’s how the Government is lobbied, especially in an election year.

It’s hard to know how Labour support will be generally this year, but it should actually increase. In the 2017 election they got 36.89% of the party vote, but since then have mostly polled in the 40s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

That trend my be a bit of a concern for Labour.

Their poll support peaked at 50.8 in June 2019 (Newshub/Reid Research), but the same pollster had them at 41.6% in October and three polls since then (two from Colmar Brunton and one from YouGov) were 40%, 41% and 39%.

A generally sound economy with promises and money available for big spending boosts this year will be in Labour’s favour, but influential coalition partner NZ First is best known this term for dishing out dollops of money to the regions, and the Greens are pushing for even higher levels of borrowing and spending,

Labour will need to try to get the balance right between buying voter support (with voters’ money) without appearing too financially reckless.

Billions boost in borrowing to address public housing pressure

Housing has been a growing problem for years, and despite promises by the incoming Government in 2017 the problems have grown, especially for those trying to buy their first homes as house prices keep climbing, and also for the many who have to rent.

The Government has quietly enabled a major increase in borrowing “for the newly formed Kāinga Ora social housing agency by $4.05 billion to $7.1 billion so it can build and refit almost 4,800 more state houses on top of the 6,400 already planned”.

But this is  bit of a bottom of cliff solution as people who face a cliff of property and rental prices seek state help for their housing.

Newhub: Tenants going to extremes to find housing as rental prices surge

Tenants around the country are going to extreme lengths to secure a roof over their heads as rental prices hit record highs.

Last year, the average cost of a rental property in Christchurch went up 1.7 percent to $379, while Dunedin went up 8.4 percent to $464.

Rental properties in Auckland rose 2.2 percent to $563 a week. Hamilton went up 6.1 percent to a December record of $420. Wellington went up 10 percent, topping the country with rents of $604 per week.

It mostly comes down to supply – high house prices mean people stay in rentals longer to save deposits, putting pressure on the market.

In turn, rent prices are going through the roof.

“Essentially, we need more houses,” Olsen said.

Trade Me’s latest figures from December show the number of enquiries on its rental listings has risen 17 percent on the year before.

Demand in Auckland and Wellington has increased by 20 percent and 8 percent respectively. In Christchurch, it was up 22 percent, and in Dunedin, 24 percent.

“With demand already really high, we expect to see record rents and some pretty startling demand figures over the next few months,” Trade Me head of communications Logan Mudge said.

Some landlords warned the Government they would need to pass on the costs of its rental reforms – which include limiting rent rises to once a year and introducing new healthy homes standards.

It’s obvious that increasing costs would be past on to renters.

Stuff: Warning 2020 may be a tough year in rental market

Trade Me Property spokesman Aaron Clancy said demand for rental properties was increasing enormously. “Unfortunately for tenants, this is a trend we expect to continue in 2020,” he said.

“As house prices continue to climb around the country, tenants are staying in rentals longer to gather a deposit, and that’s putting pressure on the market. In areas like Wellington city and Auckland city we reckon we will see record-breaking median weekly rents in the coming months as we head towards what we call March madness – when students return to the area for the university year and look for a new place to rent.”

It’s not surprising that more people are trying to get state houses.

Stuff: Public housing waitlist hits new record of 14,496

Close to 14,500 households were on the waitlist for public housing as of November last year, a record high.

The figures show 14,496 eligible households were on the waitlist for state-assisted housing at the end of November, up from 14,355 the month before and almost three times the 5844 households waiting when the Government was elected two years ago.

The vast majority of the households waiting are “Priority A”  – or the most in need. The median time to get eligible people into a house was 116 days, up from 100 the month prior.

Over November the Government managed to house 567 households, but this gain was wiped out by a growth of 1649 new eligible applicants.

The Government have argued that the waitlist has ballooned thanks to a hidden demand unleashed when they it was elected, as people would then see it as more likely they would get help.

Public housing minister Kris Faafoi said the increase was thanks to this new stance.

Partly perhaps, but it must also be due to rising rents and an ongoing shortage of houses.

Faafoi noted the Government had built 3300 public housing places and had another 2500 planned to be finished by the end of the this year.

There are currently 67,253 total subsidised state tenancies, up from 63,300 in 2017.

And it looks like an increase is planned.

Newsroom: Kāinga Ora’s borrowing limit lifted by $4b

The Government has quietly lifted the borrowing limit for the newly formed Kāinga Ora social housing agency by $4.05 billion to $7.1 billion so it can build and refit almost 4,800 more state houses on top of the 6,400 already planned.

The extra borrowing could allow the Government to lift its state house building plan from 6,400 by 2022 to 11,200. The plans come as Labour’s support partner, the Greens, called for more borrowing to fund state housing.

Just quietly, the new Treasury Secretary’s Senior Solicitor Katherine Reinhold announced in the Government Gazette on Monday in a snappily headlined item (Notice of Approval Given Pursuant to Section 160(3) of the Crown Entities Act 2004 that Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Housing Minister Megan Woods decided on December 19 to increase Kāinga Ora’s borrowing limit under its own name to $7.1 billion from January 1 this year.

Kāinga Ora then announced in its investor section (but not its home page) to bond market investors yesterday that its lending limits had been increased and it planned to borrow $2.5 billion through issues of its Wellbeing Bonds in calendar 2020, including a new longer-dated bond “in the next few months.”

So this should help address housing shortages, as long as land can be found and there is enough construction capacity, but it will take time.

Lack of available land remains a major problem, as is the time and cost needed to subdivide new building sections, so this looks a bit like tinkering at the wrong end of the problem.

 

Police numbers increasing, but Minister is still deceitful

Increases in police numbers was a touchy topic last year, with the Government, after conflicting statements between the Prime Minister and Minister of Police, appearing to shift from a promise of 1800 additional police officers to 1800 new police officers.

Now things are being phrased more carefully – but I think there is deliberate dishonesty by deception.

Minister of Police on Thursday:  Auckland focus for first Police graduation of 2020

The number of Police on the Auckland frontline is increasing with the graduation today of a special locally-trained wing of new constables.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of eighteen officers from Recruit Wing 333-5 means that more than 1900 new Police have been deployed since the Coalition Government took office.

They took office in November 2017. This number doesn’t take into account resignations and retirements, so is not an increase in police numbers.

“The last Police graduation in December smashed all sorts of records for Police numbers and underlined the Coalition Government’s commitment to crime prevention and community safety. That is continuing during 2020.

“We are training Police at more than double the rate of previous years. During 2019 we deployed 854 new Police, an all-time record for a calendar year. During the nine calendar years 2009-2017, an average of 363 new Police graduated each year.

“Today’s graduation means the number of fulltime Police has grown by around 1047 officers since the start of the 2017/18 financial year, after turnover. In addition, a further 200 recruits are currently in training at Police College.

The start of the the 2017/18 financial year was July 2017, nearly half a year before the new Government took over – and many new police officers since the current Government took over were planned beforehand.

Coincidentally yesterday David Farrar posted this yesterday at Kiwiblog: For use the next time the Government lies over the extra 1800 Police

The Government promised 1,800 extra police officers over three years. Then after it became clear that would fall short, they lied and claimed their promise was 1,800 new police officers (ie just replacing retiring ones with new ones).

Everyone knows it is a lie. The Minister was explicit that the target was 1,800 additional until the point the PM got it wrong in the House.

And further proof, here is an extract from the November 2019 Police News.

Absolutely clear that it is an 1,800 increase that was promised, despite Government denials.

Strictly speaking Stuart Nash hasn’t lied in his latest announcement, which is carefully (and deceivingly) worded. But he promotes the larger number first, only  later in the release giving more relevant figures (increase in numbers rather than new police) – but by using different time periods it is still quite misleading.

I think this is still dishonesty by deception from the Government

Crown accounts surplus, more pressure on spending booost

From the Beehive (Minister of Finance Grant Robertson): Govt accounts in surplus, debt remains low

The Government’s books are in good shape with the accounts in surplus and expenses close to forecast, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Treasury today released the Crown accounts for the five months to November.

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was above forecast by $0.7 billion resulting in a surplus of $100 million.

The variance is due to lower than forecast Core Crown expenses and higher than forecast revenue.

“While the month by month results do tend to fluctuate due to tax timing changes, it is pleasing to see this positive result,” Grant Robertson says.

“The surplus and low levels of debt show the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy remain strong.”

Net debt remains low at 20.1% of GDP, while expenses were within 0.6% of forecast.

Net investments gains of $3.6 billion were $1.3 billion above forecast, largely because of favourable changes in market prices.

“Our careful fiscal management has resulted in low government debt, which alongside record low borrowing costs has given us room to invest an extra $12 billion to future-proof New Zealand,” Grant Robertson says.

“This package of infrastructure projects will provide further support to boost the New Zealand economy in the face of slowing international growth and global headwinds.

“It will also give certainty to the construction industry about upcoming infrastructure projects and will create more opportunities for Kiwis.

“We’ll be announcing the specific projects in the near future,” Grant Robertson says.

I think we can expect some election year spending announcements on top of the proposed large spend on more infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if they adjust the personal tax rates – part of the reason for rising revenue is tax bracket creep.

Grant Robertson has been a relatively low profile and uncontroversial finance minister, with most criticism coming from the left who want a lot more Government spending.

Like: Borrow, build, hold says Green co-leader

Government should hold onto the houses it has pledged to put out on the open market, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says.

The Government taking on more debt for public housing would open up more opportunities than fully funding existing programmes like the Auckland Housing programme.

Davidson said a reluctance to ditch the Budget Responsibility Rules and take on debt is the reason those houses aren’t being provided to low-income tenants as part of a mixed tenure development scheme.

“We’ve got low borrowing rates, we’ve got expensive land, the Crown can borrow money. It can hold onto more of the houses it is building right now.”

Stuff:  Green Party scrap Budget Responsibility Rules

The Green Party is ditching its commitment to the restrictive Budget Responsibility Rules, which set targets for lowering government debt and spending.

The Greens first signed up to the rules ahead of the 2017 election while teaming up with Labour.

Labour retained a commitment to the rules, while signalling it wanted to somewhat loosen them next term.

So they may not move much on this until after this year’s election, if Labour and Greens get back into government, and NZ First don’t demand most of the extra spending.

Green Minister accused of ‘rubber stamping’ land sales (implementing the law)

Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage has been accused of allowing land to be sold to ‘foreigners’, but Sage says she is implementing the law as her job requires.

Critics seem to expect that Sage should change the way things are done ‘because the Greens are in Government’, but the Green Party doesn’t have to power to change how laws are implemented, nor to change laws to suit green activists.

RNZ: Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ‘rubber-stamping’ land sales to foreigners

Eugenie Sage is being accused of continuing National’s practice of “rubber-stamping” the sale of sensitive land to foreigners.

New figures reveal the land information minister and Green MP has approved nearly every application to cross her desk over nine months, rejecting just 30 hectares out of almost 60,000 hectares.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford is warning the news will stir up more disquiet among the party’s supporters after an earlier backlash over Ms Sage’s decision to allow a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

“Her role is meaningless. The party’s role is meaningless,” Ms Bradford told RNZ.

She was shocked Ms Sage approved the sale of so much land to overseas people.

Bradford doesn’t seem to understand how multi party MMP governments work. Ministers don’t get to do whatever a few activists from their party demand.

“You’d think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they’d negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it.”

If Green ministers couldn’t do whatever party activists wanted they should resign? That would give them even less say over how things are done.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton said the approval rate made a “mockery” of the government’s promises to curb foreign investment.

“The Greens need to be a bit bolder, frankly. They’re in government for the first time ever.

“They have a mandate from their members and the people who vote for them to actually establish a point of difference.”

But they don’t have a mandate from the country, they only 6.27% of the vote. That is nowhere near a democratic mandate.

Between 1 November and 26 July, Ms Sage approved 21 applications covering about 55,957 hectares. She turned down two requests relating to 30 hectares.

But Ms Sage said most of approved land – roughly 40,000 hectares – related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury.

In that case, the Czech buyer already had permanent residency and his wife and children were New Zealand citizens.

“There was very limited opportunity for discretion because … it had only been triggered as an application under the Overseas Investment Act because he was out of the country for a period.

“I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

Many of the other applications related to forestry which was a government priority area, she said.

“We need more investment in forestry to meet the billion trees’ commitment to ensure that we are sequestering enough carbon to meet our climate change objectives.”

Ms Sage rejected claims she was acting in the same way as her predecessors, pointing out that she had turned down two applications in nine months.

“Under National, I think you had one application – Lochinver – turned down during their period in government.”

Not a big difference in numbers.

The government extended the Overseas Investment Office’s oversight in November and banned house sales to most foreigners in August.

Ministers also directed officials to review the Overseas Investment Act with changes expected by 2020.

So some changes have been made and more could change this year. These things take time in Government.

Sue Bradford has proven in the past she can act on her principles, but idealists outside parties and outside Parliament can’t do anything but criticise what happens within the democratic process.

Dissatisfaction of Government by green activists risks dividing the Green Party and reducing the power they do have. It wouldn’t take much for them to drop out of Parliament altogether, and then they would have much less ability to change anything.