“The silence of National and Labour on transparency is noted”

Neither of the two large parties, Labour or National, show any sign of following the Green Party example of transparency and a refusal to accept corporate baubles. Neither does NZ First. This is a shame, but it’s unsurprising.

The Green announcement: Green Party announces new transparency measures

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw has today announced two important new transparency measures, which will apply to Green Party Ministers, MPs and staff, to help counter the influence of money in politics.

Green Party Ministers will soon proactively release their ministerial diaries, to show who they’ve met with and why. Additionally, Green Ministers, MPs and staff will not accept corporate hospitality, such as free tickets to events unrelated to their work.

ODT editorial: Green Party transparency welcomed

Transparency is a hallmark of any functioning government and the Green Party says it will continue to aim to uphold that – in Parliament and in Government.

Green co-leader James Shaw recently announced two important new transparency measures which will apply to Green Party ministers, MPs and staff to help show what he says is the influence of money in politics.

The actions are a major step forward in transparency and one which should be held up as an example to other political parties, both inside and outside Parliament.

The power of big business over politicians has become insidious in the United States. It is possible many New Zealand voters will be surprised by the influence of lobbyists in New Zealand.

Because New Zealand is such a small country, MPs, or their staff, often move into areas of influence outside of Parliament while retaining their close ties with the parties with which they previously worked.

Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran was blindsided in Parliament recently when questioned about her relationship with public broadcaster Radio New Zealand. It was revealed Ms Curran, the Dunedin South MP, had met privately with a highly ranked staff member of RNZ.

Then, National revealed an employee of the Prime Minister’s Office promoted Government policy while participating in an opinion segment on Radio New Zealand National, only describing herself as a public relations consultant from a private company for which she no longer worked.

The silence of National and Labour on transparency is noted.

There should be no reason why big wealthier corporates have better or more access to politicians than those organisations who cannot afford to shout free tickets to the rugby or a corporate box at the tennis.

Some will view the Greens’ actions as naive. However, the party must be congratulated and voters should push hard for other ministers and MPs to also start opening their diaries.

Yes, the Greens should be congratulated on walking the transparency walk.

Pressure needs to be put on Labour in particular to front up on this. They have an agreement with the Greens to do this – their Confidence and Supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour agrees to work with the Green Party on these and other policy areas as may be identified from time to time, and in good faith.

There is little sign that Labour is living up to their agreement. There is one Beehive release from Associate Minister for State Services (Open Government) Clare Curran that touches on it: Continued effort needed against corruption

“While we continue to hold the position of least corrupt country, and already have high standards of conduct and integrity, we must not be complacent. These results show we are not immune to behaviour and actions that can erode the great work done by the majority of people in the public sector.

“Our focus must be on building and maintaining the public’s trust in the integrity of the public sector, a key enabler in our ability to do better for New Zealand and New Zealanders. I expect a continued commitment to transparency and the highest levels of integrity,” Ms Curran says.

“This government is also committed to reviewing and improving our access to information frameworks and is currently initiating work on human rights in the digital environment.

“Our commitment to open government plays an important role in New Zealand’s democratic system, underpinning the public’s respect, trust, and confidence in the integrity of government.”

That’s just talk from Curran – and she has been embarrassed twice in Parliament over questionable actions of herself and of Government advisor and lobbyist Tracey Bridges.

Greens have shown Curran up by committing to having open diaries and not accepting corporate baubles, while all she seems to have done is waffle and duck and dive.

If all parties currently in government establish more open and transparent procedures and practices then whenever National next gets into Government they should be under pressure to continue with similar levels of transparency and openness.

Talking of National, they don’t make it easy finding their list of MPs on their website. Todd McClay is their spokesperson for State Services – I can’t find anything from him on open government, although Nikki Kaye has called for greater transparency over Partnership Schools.



Accusations of Labour shielding Ministers from scrutiny in Parliament

Claims have been made that Labour is protecting some of it’s Ministers from scrutiny in Question Time in Parliament.

The second, directed at Minister of Employment Willie Jackson:

Question No. 11—Employment

11. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he still stand by all of his statements?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): on behalf of the Minister of Employment: Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement in the Manukau Courier that there is a “crisis” in New Zealand employment?


Hon Paul Goldsmith: How many jobs has the New Zealand economy created in the past year while it has been in crisis?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I don’t have those figures with me.

Jackson did front up for questions from Goldsmith the day before:

The first minister switch yesterday:

Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

MELISSA LEE (National): I seek leave for this question to be held over until the next question time when the Hon Clare Curran is available to answer this question.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is.

10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she believe it is important for State-owned broadcasters to be independent?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Yes.

Melissa Lee: Does she agree that maintaining the independence of Radio New Zealand includes full disclosure of any meetings the Minister has with RNZ’s head of content?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, and the Minister has corrected the written answer that she gave, which was referred to in the questions yesterday.

This follows Lee questioning Current on Tuesday:


Melissa Lee has been submitting many written questions to Curran.

RNZ “should receive a rocket”

I’m not the only one who has noticed the sparsity of news provided by RNZ over the holiday period.

Perhaps if Curran gives RNZ more funding they will improve their holiday news coverage,

Official Information Act – reform, or just compliance?

Governments have tended to gradually get more tardy with complying with Official Information Act requests – if not deliberately obstructive.

The new Government has promised a review. Is reform needed? Or will ensuring that the current act is properly complied with be sufficient?

Slowness of supplying information on request is an issue of increasing concern, but quality information does sometimes take time to compile.

The key aim should be that making information available should largely be a civil servant procedure without manipulation or  interference from Ministers.

The key principle of that act is that “information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it”:

5 Principle of availability

The question whether any official information is to be made available, where that question arises under this Act, shall be determined, except where this Act otherwise expressly requires, in accordance with the purposes of this Act and the principle that the information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it.

A politician or their office not wanting awkward or embarrassing information made public is not a good reason.

ODT reporter Eileen Goodwin talked to the only surviving member of the Danks Committee that set out the principles of the Act that became law in 1982 – ‘Slippage’ affecting information Act

Ministers and officials need to “recommit” to the Official Information Act, but the law itself  need not be changed, Emeritus Prof Sir Ken Keith says. Sir Ken (80), of Wellington, is the only surviving original member of the Danks Committee that laid down the principles of the 1982 law.

It decreed information should be available unless there was good reason to hide it, and it should become progressively more available over time. Sir Ken said the Act fundamentally lived up to its promise, and maintains people forget how secretive things were before.

But there had been some “bad slippage”, he said, and officials needed to re-focus on the principles and purpose of the law.

So he thinks that the law is sound, but compliance with the principles and the law need improvement.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has promised to review the Act as part of her “open government” mandate as Associate State Services Minister.

It is not yet known how far the review will  go, but Ms Curran told online news outlet Newsroom she supported calls for the Ombudsman to be given the power to fine non-complying departments and ministers’ offices.

Fining non-complying Ministers may hit the right target.

Committee chairman Robin Williams, then chairman of the State Services Commission, knew he was making life difficult for officials, but pushed to make them accountable.

The late Dr Williams, a mathematician who had worked on the Manhattan Project, was a talented public servant and academic vice-chancellor whose achievements deserved to be more recognised, Sir Ken said.

“He was absolutely committed to the principle stated right at the beginning of the Act. The principle is that official information is to be available unless there is good reason to withhold it.”

Sir Ken said the law could possibly use some tinkering to bring it into the modern age, but the committee had shown some prescience.

“One of the skilful things we did in retrospect …  was to use the word information rather than documents.”

That is a useful word given the degree we have progressed into the electronic information age.

Dunedin journalist Elspeth McLean agrees culture change in the public service is needed for the law to work.

Mrs McLean said there was far too much interference from government ministers, and Labour was  as bad as National in that regard. A prolific user of the Act, Mrs McLean pursues many complaints about refusals of information through the Office of the Ombudsman.

Through the Ombudsman, she uncovered emails between the Ministry of Social Development and the former Minister’s office about her request for information about a controversial risk prediction model for children. One ministerial aide even bragged about the usefulness of so-called “free and frank Friday”, an allusion to a section of the Act often used to withhold information by claiming it was advice given in a free and frank manner.

Section 9 states ” the withholding of the information is necessary to…maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through…the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown or members of an organisation or officers and employees of any department or organisation in the course of their duty”.

A nine-page “risk assessment” had been written, which included a list of her unrelated roles and interests. While she appreciated the information about her was publicly available, the tactic made her  uncomfortable.

“You wonder what it would take for them to go a step further.”

She said it was a waste of money and overly intrusive.

Why should it matter who is asking for the information? It should simply be a matter of whether there was no good reason to withhold information.

The problems are not just with Ministers and their offices and departments. Reporting has changed.

When she returned to journalism in 2007 after a long time out of the industry, Mrs McLean looked forward to making use of a law that had not existed when she was a young reporter.

She was disappointed to find an atmosphere of defensiveness in which the Act was over-utilised for simple stories because reporters could not talk to ordinary staff in public organisations.

“Things got pushed through it that once  upon a time would have been answered in a simple interview.

“A legion of public relations staff prevented reporters from forming relationships and gaining an understanding of issues.”

Barriers have increased substantially (and deliberately) between reporters and ex-reporters who are now political PR protectors.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has made changes to speed up the handling of complaints, but Mrs McLean cautioned fast decisions were not always good ones. She has modest hopes for the new Government’s pledge to review the Act and be more open with information. She hoped it would usher in a system of proactively releasing often-requested documents.

A lot may depend on how much Clare Curran and Labour put into practice what they had pushed for when in Opposition.

There was nothing about the OIA in Laabour’s 100 day plan, nor in their coalition agreement with NZ First, but there was a commitment in the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement under ‘Fair Society’:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and
transparency around official information.

Labour doesn’t have much to say about information availability in their 2017 manifesto.

The Greens do: Open Government and Democracy Policy

From Key Principles:

7. Freedom of information and openness of government and its procedures are essential elements of a democracy.

From Specific Policy Points: 8. Cabinet decisions to be published 

People have a right to know what has been decided by Government, not just when it is announced, but soon after Cabinet has signed it off. The Green Party will:

  1. Ensure that Cabinet minutes and decisions are published on the internet within one month of each Cabinet meeting unless there is a pressing and valid reason not to publish.
  2. Publicise when decisions or minutes are withheld, including the reasons why, and ensure the ability to request a judicial review of such decisions. Further ensure that withheld information is published as soon as the risk subsides.

From Specific Policy Points: 9. Changes to the Official Information Act (OIA) 

It is vital that the political system is more open and accountable. The OIA needs to be
more effective so that people can access the information they want without lengthy
delays or censorship. The Green Party will:

  1. Support legal responsibilities and penalties for public servants to keep good
    records, and make sure staff have training in the proper implementation of the
  2. Require agencies to respond promptly to OIA requests and narrow the exclusion
    provisions to withhold important information. Ensure the security exclusion is
    only available where the issue has been reported to, and the exclusion
    approved by, the responsible Minister, and review the use of the commercial
    sensitivity exception in light of concerns that public organisations have become
    more market oriented.
  3. Require all OIA and Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act
    request responses to be published on a designated website seven days after
    they have been sent to the requester, operating similarly to the Parliamentary
    questions for written answer (QWA) system. All information will be published
    unless the requester asks that the information not be and the Ombudsman
    agrees, or it is not in the public interest to do so. This includes where privacy
    would be compromised.
  4. Ensure the Ombudsman has the resources needed to respond to all OIA
    complaints in a reasonable timeframe, and greater powers to censure agencies
    for non-compliance or lack of co-operation.
  5. Investigate removing the Cabinet and local government ‘veto’ power over an
    Ombudsman’s recommendations.
  6. Stop the practice of excluding application of the OIA to certain agencies, and
    bring Parliamentary Service under the OIA (while keeping in mind the resourcing
    constraints for opposition parties), with an exemption to protect communication
    between constituents and MPs and to protect opposition parties from
    government intervention.
  7. Remove charging for OIA requests and require costs to be met out of
    Departmental baselines with an exception for vexatious, excessive and frivolous
  8. Ensure that, where information relates to a decision being made by a public
    body, the information is released as soon as possible, with consultation
    deadlines amended to facilitate maximum public participation wherever
  9. Apply the changes above to the Local Government Official Information and
    Meetings Act as well.

I hope the Greens work with Curran and the Labour led government and push hard for ensuring better practices under the OIA.


Questions asked of Digital Advisory Group

Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran is setting up a Digital Advisory group that will be consider 11 questions:

  1. What is the current state of the ICT sector and ICT capability throughout the economy, society, and government?
  2. What are the possible future scenarios and their relative merits?
  3. What would be required to achieve an optimal future state?
  4. What should a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement look like?
  5. How might we most effectively work together to build our digital economy, improve productivity and increase the economic benefits of the internet?
  6. How might we better understand the ‘digital divides’ between people who can have access to the internet and can use digital tools, and those who do not?
  7. What would it take to eliminate digital divides by 2020?
  8. How might we identify develop the skill sets needed for the work of the future?
  9. Do we need to take steps to accelerate/optimise infrastructure rollouts such as UFBl/2/2+, RBl2 and 5G? If so, what steps could and should we take?
  10. How should Government evolve its own ICT use in sectors where it plays a prominent role, such as health, education and justice?
  11. What would be needed for New Zealand to:
    1. Increase its position relative to other countries in measures like the Networked Readiness index
    2. Increase the amount that ICT contributes to GDP so that it is the second largest contributor to the economy by 2025?

Digital advisory group to be established

A new advisory group is to be set up to advise the Government on how it can build the digital economy and reduce digital divides.

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services Minister, Clare Curran, called for expressions of interest today.

“I’m committed to reducing the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. This group will help us achieve that,” Ms Curran says.

“Digital technology is changing the way Kiwis live their lives, affecting the way we do business, work, and interact with each other and our communities. Given the pace at which our world is changing, we need to ensure no-one is left behind.

“The advisory group will bring immediate focus and a plan to ensure all Kiwis have affordable access to digital services, and the motivation, skills and trust to fully participate in our digital world.”

Its first task will be to provide advice to the Government on the development of a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement.

“I’m also keen for the group to consider possible future scenarios and identify what’s needed from government to enable everyone – businesses and individuals – to take advantage of the opportunities provided by digital technology,” Ms Curran says.

“There’ll be up to 15 people in the group, with the ability to bring in additional members or expertise to address particular issues. I’m particularly keen for it to reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities and to include all age groups and ethnicities, including perspectives from Māori.

“Genuine collaboration is needed if we are serious about increasing productivity, growing the digital economy and reducing the digital divides. That’s why I haven’t pre-determined the group’s membership and am seeking the best thinkers across the community.

“I want to harness the enthusiasm and great work that’s already happening across the country, and to see what we can deliver together for New Zealanders,” Ms Curran says.

Expressions of interest close on 31 January 2018. Terms of Reference and an application form is available at: : http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/science-innovation/digital-economy/dedimag

Note for Editors:

In her first scene setting speech at Nethui on 9 November the Minister set out her priorities which involved:

  • Setting up this advisory group and two others in three main portfolios areas to look at Broadcasting & Digital Media; ICT/ Communications; and Open Government. The brief for each is to build a consensus view of the current state of its sector, to pose scenarios of possible future states, and to state what would be required from Government to achieve the optimal future state. 
  • Laying the ground work for establishing the position of a ‘Chief Technology Officer for NZ’ with responsibility for preparing and overseeing a ‘National Digital Architecture’ or roadmap for the next 5-10 years.
  • A blueprint for digital inclusion
  • Setting the framework for the establishment of RNZ+ as the centre-piece for a full non-commercial, public media service for all New Zealanders.
  • Establishing a process for the pro-active release of government information
  • A framework for strengthening citizens’ rights in the digital environment


Curran: Chief Technology Officer a priority

Clare Curran, in a keynote address at NetHui 2017 as new Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services, has promoted the need for a Chief Technology Officer.

She also emphasised the need for ‘digital inclusion’.

20/20 Trust:  Digital inclusion: “We must never leave anyone behind” – Hon. Clare Curran

In her  wide ranging speech – her first keynote speech as Minister – Clare Curran covered many digital issues, with one strong and consistent thread being digital inclusion and addressing the rise of digital inequality in NZ.

She said that being open and transparent, diverse, open for debate,  future-focused, solution-focused and collaborative were attributes of InternetNZ’s NetHui – she has participated in virtually every one – that the new government hopes to emulate and she intends to demonstrate.

Lack of home internet access highest factor in social deprivation

Talking about the digital divide (39 mins into video), she highlighted that Otago University’s Social  Deprivation Index has identified the lack of home access as the highest weighted factor affecting social deprivation for working age Kiwis.

1 in 5 Kiwis are no or low users of the internet

The World Internet Project report estimates that 19-20% of New Zealanders are no or low net users – that is 1 in 5. Affordability was a key issue (42 mins). Acknowledging the work of the 20/20 Trust, Computers in Homes, Spark Jump and other charitable initiatives, she went on to say “We don’t need to, and cannot afford to, exclude anyone from the benefits of digital connectivity. …. New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right.  …  our aim is to close the Digital Divide by 2020. ”  Digital inclusion, innovation and economic development could all be done.  … “We must never leave anyone behind.”

Priorities for first 100 days

Her priorities for the first 100 days are:

  1. Groundwork for a new position of chief technology officer for the government, with responsibility for preparing a national digital roadmap for the next 5 to 10 years
  2. A Blueprint for Digital Inclusion
  3. The framework for the establishment of Radio NZ Plus as the centrepiece of full, non-commercial public media services in NZ for all New Zealanders
  4. Process for proactive release of Government information.
  5. A framework for strengthening citizen’s rights in the digital environment

Her speech starts 27 minutes in, digital divide approx. 41 mins: https://livestream.com/i-filmservices/NetHui2017Stream1Thursday/videos/165647108

Press Release: New Zealand Government

Government signals Chief Technology Officer a priority appointment

The Government has outlined its priorities across digital technology, media and open government signalling that the establishment of a Chief Technology Officer is at the top of the list.

Delivering the keynote speech at NetHui 2017, the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services and the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government), Clare Curran, said that the Chief Technology Officer would be responsible for preparing and overseeing a national digital architecture, or roadmap, for the next five to ten years.

Ms Curran also said that the Government would begin work on a blueprint for digital inclusion to address the emerging digital divide, establish RNZ+ as the centrepiece of a full non-commercial public media service for all New Zealanders, institute a process for the proactive release of government information and create a framework for strengthening citizens’ rights in the digital environment.

“This Government will be modern, future-focused and innovative. We will also work collaboratively with industry, non-government organisations and communities.”

Further, Ms Curran said she would convene reference groups in her key portfolio areas and task them with pulling together leading thinkers and actors in each area, from inside government and across industry, local government, Māoridom, non-government organisations and community groups to ensure that the best thinking is applied to realising Government policy.

“This Government intends to progress its goals to close the digital divide by 2020, and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.”
“New Zealanders rightly expect that their government
should behave in a predictable, open and transparent way and ensure that nobody is left behind. The internet and digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals,” Ms Curran said.

The Minister’s full NetHui speech here.

Curran wants union and party member roles ‘reviewed’

Clare Curran wants the Labour party to review the role played by unions and party members in selecting party leader.

Jacinda Ardern was installed as leader by the caucus alone because of a rule that allows this within 3 months of an election.

ODT: Selection review urged

The powerful new role played by unions and party members in selecting Labour leaders needs to be reviewed, one of the party’s Dunedin MPs says.

The system has delivered two leaders, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, who failed to connect with the general public.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said a discussion was needed about whether unions and party members should continue having a say in who leads.

”I think we do need to re-look at the way we select our leaders, but that’s a question for after the election,” Ms Curran said.

Unions get a 20% vote share under the system introduced in 2012. It took some power away from MPs, who get a 40% say in the decision.

New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was appointed in a simple caucus vote because it was less than three months before the general election.

After affiliated unions piled in behind Mr Little, he squeaked ahead of rival Grant Robertson in the 2014 selection by just over 1%.

Unions won’t be keen on this changing.

Bill Newson, a top union official, defended the unions’ role in propelling the former union boss into the role after just three years in Parliament.

”We knew Andrew closely and stand by that assessment; a very high sense of integrity and responsibility, a team player.”

Mr Newson, Etu union’s national secretary, acknowledged that Mr Little ”didn’t work out in the public eye”.

Mr Newson said Mr Little’s decision would have ”weighed heavily” on the former national secretary of the EPMU.

In 2014, Mr Little got 75% of the union’s 20% vote share. In the final result, he got 50.52% to Mr Robertson’s 49.48%

University of Otago public law specialist Prof Andrew Geddis said it was a matter for the party, but the unions’ involvement was problematic.

”The problem … is it’s not the members of the unions who [vote], it’s the officials within the unions. It’s not a popular choice by union members.”

The E tu Union donated $120,000 to Labour on 20 June 2017 (which may or may not be a popular use of members’ money). If they can’t play a part in choosing leader the union leadership may not remain this generous.

The party stands by it’s current system.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth defended the system. It selected leaders in a ”very clear way”.

”The effort that both our previous two leaders have put into campaigning has been exceptional. The fact that they haven’t necessarily won elections can’t be sheeted home solely to them.

”The members very much wanted a new system in 2012. They will no doubt look at its performance and if they want to make changes they will,” Prof Haworth said.

A lot will depend on how well Labour do in the election. If they do poorly the members and unions may not be very happy.

‘Homelessness’ and inadequate housing

‘Homelessness’ has been a hot topic over the last few months, but a lot of political rhetoric gets in the way of an accurate picture. There is a significant difference between homelessness and inadequate housing, but the two are often combined as one problem.

Stuff:  Government ‘failing in most basic duty’ as 24,000 Aucklanders homeless, Labour claims

Labour has hit out at National over rates of homelessness, claiming it is failing in the basic duty of a government.

The allegations come after Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project estimated 24,000 people in the region did not have adequate housing.

Phil Twyford, Labour’s housing spokesman, said the level of homelessness seen in parts of the country used to be something only seen in the United States or Europe.

“After nine years, National’s failure to address the housing crisis means we can no longer we pride ourselves on not leaving Kiwis on the streets.”

This appears disingenuous of Twyford.

Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project, released on Wednesday, showed there were 20,296 people without a house in Auckland in 2013, according to census data.

SO the report is based on four year old data. They problem may well be worse by now, but the report can only guess at that.

Of those, 16,350 were sharing and couch surfing with others temporarily, 3175 were in temporary accommodation such as emergency housing, refugee camps and boarding houses, and 771 were sleeping rough.

Of the “20,296 people without a house” most of them, about three quarters of them, were living in something like a house.

Another 3175 were also accommodated, albeit temporarily. For many that will be inadequate, but they are still ‘housed’.

771 sleeping rough – actually homeless – is a lot, but it is nowhere near 20,000.

Some people choose to sleep rough. I have at times. It didn’t bother me, it was always temporary and I had other options – including staying temporarily with others – but technically I was ‘homeless’ at times.

For some people couch surfing is by choice, especially when travelling. A proportion of couch surfers will be tourists or temporary visitors, as will be some of those house sharing. Technically I’m house sharing with a family at the moment, and have been for over a year, but it’s not inadequate housing, we have the space for it.

But this may be just quibbling over some of the numbers. Except that it’s a pretty big quibble when Twyford refers to those in the ‘inadequate housing’ category as homeless. He is blatantly exaggerating.

There are real problems with housing that are a major concern.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly said homeless people had a life expectancy that was about 20 years lower than the average life expectancy.

“One person dying on our streets or as a result of homelessness is one too many.”

Farrelly said the deaths of rough sleepers were due to myriad issues such as health problems, poor nutrition and continued exposure to the elements.

“We’ve had some very wet, cold nights in the winter so far and it is heartbreaking to think of people sleeping outside in these conditions.”

Another Labour MP trying to address housing problems – MP camps out to protest pair’s plight

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has accused the Ministry of Social Development of the ”character assassination” of two homeless Dunedin women, one of whom is pregnant.

Ms Curran is advocating for Kylie Taggart (30) and Amy Stuart (25), who are receiving emergency accommodation in motels.

Ms Curran slept in the Octagon last night in a tent to protest the women’s situation. She said she would sleep there every night until the women had a place to live.

Ms Curran said a lack of state housing and suitable short-term accommodation in Dunedin meant the ministry was relying on motels.

Each week, Miss Taggart and Miss Stuart must reapply for emergency accommodation.

Miss Taggart said she went into early labour last week and was admitted to hospital to be stabilised. She believes the stress of her situation was the cause. She is 26 weeks pregnant and has two other children in her care, while Miss Stuart has a 3-year-old daughter.

Both say they are trying hard to comply with the rules but feel harassed and belittled by Work and Income.

They were doing their best to provide a stable environment for their children in difficult circumstances.

But as is often the case this isn’t a simple story.

The Ministry of Social Development issued a statement on Friday that appeared to blame the women.

”We have been supporting both these mums with emergency housing special needs grants to ensure that they are not forced to sleep rough.

”They didn’t need to pay this money back; the priority was responding to an emergency need.

”One of the challenges we face is when clients repeatedly exhibit behaviour that makes them unattractive to landlords and many motel owners.

”What is really unfortunate is when the behaviour of some people not only affects them, but everyone in need. ‘In this case there is now two motels in Dunedin that are not willing to take any client referred by Work and Income.

”As a result the support now provided to both these women will need to be repaid,” the statement says.

Ms Curran said the women deny claims of antisocial behaviour.

But from a report on RNZ: Dunedin MP camps out in Octagon to highlight homelessness

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show landlords have taken the two women to the tenancy tribunal six times for not paying rent and damaging property.

The Social Development Ministry said it had not given up on the women, and that they had a high priority rating, but were difficult to house.

Ms Curran said the two women were forced into emergency accommodation because they have spent time in women’s refuges.

So it sounds like partners have been a part of the problem.

But it also sounds like the women have not been model tenants either.

RNZ: In a statement a short time ago the Ministry of Social Development says the two women have a high priority rating, but because they’ve repeatedly exhibited unattractive antisocial behaviour to both landlords and hotel owners, it’s been difficult to find them permanent accommodation in Dunedin.

And the Ministry’s Southern Regional Commissioner says “Following events overnight yet another motel is not willing to house one of the women, and only late today a short term alternative was found.”

“The people we work with often have a number of hurdles to overcome, and many lead chaotic lives.”

Money is obviously a major issue, but some people been put in bad situations, or have put themselves in bad situations, making accommodation difficult.

Difficult situations for some people for sure, but finding long term solutions can also be difficult.

Politicians overstating statistics doesn’t help, although I think credit is due to Curran for what she is trying to do.

Labour “all the more certain” to win

Party President Nigel Haworth has said that Labour are “all the more certain” to win next year’s election because of Andrew Little’s leadership.  He was speaking at an event in Dunedin celebrating the centenary of the party.

That’s rather optimistic given the current state of the party and polls.

ODT: Labour confident in its 100th year

The event was held at the Community Gallery to celebrate the party’s centenary exhibition.

It allowed Labour to look back on its achievements with pride.

“We have done the hard yards. The other side has picked up what we’ve done and sort of tinkered with it,” Prof Haworth said.

The party expected a September 2017 general election, and was six months ahead of what it had anticipated in its preparations, Prof Haworth said.

Hard to see how Labour is six months ahead of preparations, unless they mean with fund raising or candidate selection.

Clare Curran acknowledged the party had not always lived up to its ideals.

It had mostly, but not always, stuck to its values.

“Let’s be honest,” she said.

Asked about the comment, Ms Curran told the Otago Daily Times  there was no point  “glossing over” the economic upheaval of the 1980s, but people should remember it was one part of a significant history.

Labour in the 80s rescued the country from the dire economic situation left be Rob Muldoon, nut now some on the left seem to see Lange and Douglas as dirty words.

Mr Little was keen to look forward, rather than back, devoting much of his speaking time to a campaign-style speech that talked about the “Kiwi dream” and the “deep housing crisis”.

Littler has been using those themes for some time.

If elected,  Labour would not put up with further delay to the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment, and would start rebuilding immediately.

‘If’ elected? I thought politicians spoke more positively than that.

Labour would guarantee no loss of services, and would safeguard its status as a “fully fledged” teaching hospital, Mr Little said.

Dunedin hospital has battled against losses of services for decades under successive governments. With the city and coastal Otago falling behind other parts the country population-wise and the ongoing centralising of expensive health facilities it’s hard to see the level of services maintained.

Listening to Mr Little’s speech was Labour supporter Richard Thomson, deputy commissioner of the Southern District Health Board and a member of the hospital redevelopment partnership group.

He declined to comment when approached by the ODT.

Thomson will know the reality of the situation.


Does anyone recognise this dude?





Labouring with housing for the homeless

Housing for the homeless, for those living in cars, living in garages and cramming into shared accommodation, has suddenly become a media and political issue even though it’s been a problem for many years, decades.

One morning about ten years ago we found a person sleeping on the floor in a passageway in the building where I work. He must have have entered before the building was locked at night.

Like many social issues it’s a difficult one to deal with. Many homeless people live on the fringes of society and can be difficult to accommodate in the system.

But homelessness happens to be an issue that is suddenly getting the media spotlight. And political interests have either created this attention  or are trying to benefit from it.

Bryan Gould: Homelessness a problem Govt chooses to avoid

The Prime Minister, asked yesterday morning on National Radio, what advice he would offer to an Auckland family with nowhere to live but in a car, suggested that they should, “Go to see Work and Income to see what help they could give them.”

The advice that a desk officer in Work and Income could miraculously find them a house they could afford was the equivalent of shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I have no idea of what they could do and I don’t really care.”

This is a very politically loaded paraphrase from Gould and misrepresenting the Prime Minister like this won’t help informed debate.

WINZ is actually a valid suggestion as they deal with emergency benefits and housing for those who are struggling. It is probably the best place to start.

And saying the Government is choosing to avoid the issue is ignorant or dishonest.

Last week: Emergency housing funds good start – providers

New funding will give some relief to families currently forced to live in cars and garages, emergency housing providers say.

The government yesterday announced it will provide $41 million over the next four years to fund 3000 emergency housing places and a special needs grant for people in crisis.

The fund will provide about 800 beds at any one time across New Zealand – 360 of them in Auckland.

Although providers welcomed the announcement, they said the government also needed to address the underlying problems that were leaving increasing numbers of people homeless.

So the Government is clearly trying to address the issue, and this will have been planned and the funds allocated some time before homelessness jump into the spotlight.

A cynic could suspect that news that the Government is trying to do something about it has prompted opponents to try and create a negative impression.

And last month the first increase in benefits for a long time kicked in. Governments will always be questioned on whether they are doing the right things and doing as much as they can but claiming the are deliberately ignoring social problems is dishonest.

Gould suggests:

Yet let us be clear. The problem of families with children forced to live in third-world conditions is eminently resolvable. It simply requires the application of resources – resources that a country with our wealth could easily afford. The issue is one of priorities.

Allocating Government resources is always one of priorities. But there is simply nowhere near enough money to fix every social problem, even if that was possible – money is just one part of a complex mix.

We could put an end to child poverty and housing shortages if we decided to move the issue nearer the top of the list.

While Gould refers to ‘the issue’ he names two and they are both parts of much wider issues. Many children statistically deemed to be in poverty in New Zealand are already housed.

It doesn’t happen because we choose that it shouldn’t. We choose to elect a government that we know will give a low priority to the most vulnerable in our society – a government that on the other hand will strive might and main and will take considerable political risks in the interests of, for example, its friends in the foreign trust industry.

Gould now switches to his real aim – to promote a change of Government. As if that would suddenly fix all problems with housing and children.

Sadly, the cynical view of human nature represented by the values of so-called “middle New Zealand” now allow our government in effect to wash its hands of the problem.

This sort of political rhetoric will do nothing to house the homeless and lift all children out of poverty.

Gould seems to think that waving a socialist wand will solve all the problems, but he is expressing a more extreme ‘diss the Government, vaguely suggest magic solutions’ than the Labour party he supports – a party that is struggling to be taken seriously as an alternative to National, in part because of messengers like Gould.

And it’s not just Gould.

NZH: Andrew Little’s crowded house stunt backfires

There have been recent stories in the media about overcrowding in Auckland, with people having to live in cars, garages and tents on properties.

The problem appears to be worst in Otara, where one house in particular reportedly had 17 people living on the property, with some forced out of the house to sleep in a tent.

Everyone recognises there are real and serious problems with housing , especially in Auckland.

Labour leader Andrew Little attempted to show reporters an overcrowded house in South Auckland yesterday – but it backfired when the indignant owner insisted it was only being renovated.

The media were given an address on Bairds Rd in Otara, which fitted the description of the above house, to wait for the Labour leader.

However, as the cameras were set up, the occupant came out and told journalists the house was in fact being renovated and the tent was full of furniture and renovation materials.

Labour’s communications director Sarah Stuart redirected journalists to the party’s local office before Mr Little arrived.

At the office, Mr Little was a little lost for words and confused about which house he was earlier meant to be at.

There was a house with a tent in the yard whose occupants his MPs Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare had been working with, he said.

An important part of an MP’s job is to help constituents.

I think that using constituents with problems for political stunts with the media is highly questionable.

However, as the cameras were set up, the occupant came out and told journalists the house was in fact being renovated and the tent was full of furniture and renovation materials.

Labour’s communications director Sarah Stuart redirected journalists to the party’s local office before Mr Little arrived.

At the office, Mr Little was a little lost for words and confused about which house he was earlier meant to be at.

There was a house with a tent in the yard whose occupants his MPs Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare had been working with, he said.

“I haven’t been to that house, I’ll need to clarify which one that is – there was a house that I was invited to go and talk to the people of, then asked not to go, people didn’t want the level of attention,” he explained.

Labour does not look capable of managing a crowded house story let alone a country.

And it looks like Labour MPs may have a mission to find people with housing problems.

Yesterday Clare Curran posted this on a closed Dunedin News Facebook page:

Dear admin I hope this post is ok:
I am concerned that Work and Income are making calls to people living in state houses to tell them they no longer qualify for a state house and they need to find a private rental. This is despite their circumstances remaining the same. Can anyone verify this has happened to them or someone they know? Message me if you want to provide the information privately.


I thought that generally constituents went to MPs if they wanted help. Here it looks like an MP trying to find people who will help her with a story she is pursuing.

It seems odd that she claims “I am concerned that Work and Income are making calls” but then says she wants verification.

One example was given:

I know of someone who has been in a HNZ house for years and was given a month to get out so a refugee family could move in. There was no change in her income or anything else

Curran responded:

Can you get in touch and ask if she will speak to me

Another Labour housing story in the making?