Ardern: “housing for every price point, every income, every need”

In an interview on Newshub Nation Jacinda Ardern has defended Kiwibuild providing what many would see as expensive housing to people with very good incomes, and said that the Government should provide housing for just about everyone – “So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.”

That’s a remarkable statement.

Here is the whole part of the interview transcript that discussed KiwiBuild and housing.


You mention KiwiBuild — there’s been more controversy this week around the income thresholds for KiwiBuild. Have you over-promised on how affordable KiwiBuild homes actually are?

I think when you look at the context of where we’re building in the Auckland market, when you’ve got houses sitting around the million-dollar mark, and first home buyers saying that’s simply not a threshold that we can meet. What we’ve done with KiwiBuild, of course, is not about subsidising housing, but about providing more supply in the housing market where builders and developers just were not producing houses.

From memory, roughly five per cent of houses being built in that market were what you would call something adequate for a first home buyer. We’re trying to turn that around. We’re intervening in the market by building what people are looking for. When you think about that fact that, say, two teachers with five years’ experience, you know they just come under the threshold for KiwiBuild and even then those couples are struggling to find a home.

So that’s what KiwiBuild is all about. It’s rightly been popular, and I think we’ll look back on what we’re doing in the housing market and think this is something that will be a real turning point.

MBIE figures released to us early this year suggested that a first home buyer would need to earn at least $114,000 to buy a $600,000 home. The median household income is only $88,000. We’re looking at seven times the median income in order to afford a $650,000 home. That’s not considered affordable. The New Zealand initiative would say that you would need to bring that down to three times the median income to meet international affordability ratings.

Two points that I would make there. That’s the upper end of KiwiBuild, of course there are price differentials across the country, and we expect they’ll be much more affordable in different parts of the country. That’s the first point. The second point is that that demonstrates — the fact that even at 650 that’s a very big difference from the million-dollar houses that we’re seeing sold more frequently in the Auckland housing market — pointing to the unaffordability that we have right now. So we know we have an issue.

That’s the top end of what KiwiBuild is offering. There are lower price points as well for slightly smaller homes that are good starter homes and, again, they’re cheaper across the country. But it points to the problem that we have in New Zealand that that is the price point that people are having to look at in order to get into the market. We are looking at other options. We’re looking at shared equity schemes.

We are increasing the number of public and state houses available. We’ve got an agenda to build 6400 state and public houses within New Zealand as well.

So for us it’s about providing housing for every price point, every income level and every need.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army says KiwiBuild is one example of how Labour has become the party of middle-class welfare. What do you say to that?

I totally disagree. People still have to pay for these homes themselves. They have to muster a deposit themselves.

I think that many would argue with that. KiwiBuild has been criticised widely for months, like “Disappointment is setting in as more people realise that the scheme is really only going to benefit the rich.” – see Political Roundup: Kiwibuild is now ‘socialism for the rich’ (NZH).

The high income couple who Labour used to promote the first KiwiBuild house hand (Ardern described it as “a momentous occasion) over said it was like winning lottery – see Purchasing new KiwiBuild home ‘like winning Lotto’ (1 News).

This is just one of the things that we’re doing across housing. I’ve already mentioned state housing. We’ve brought on an extra 1200 public housing spaces. We’ve invested in housing first, which is to try and work with those who are homeless in New Zealand. We know that a home affects everything. It affects your ability to build community, to keep your kids in the same school, and so we’re looking at everyone’s income needs and everyone’s housing options to make sure that we’re providing for everyone.

But what I would say to Alan as well, is that it’s part of our psyche — the idea of home ownership and the fact that people who consider themselves to be in the middle haven’t been able to afford a home, we should want to turn that around too. I don’t apologise for that — as long as we’re also meeting the needs of other New Zealanders who might not be able to muster those deposits and that’s why we’re looking at shared equity as well.

There are almost 9000 people waiting for a state house; you mentioned state housing. 800 homeless in Auckland alone. Can you see how people would think maybe that $2 billion going to KiwiBuild could be better used elsewhere?

And again, we need to be really careful around the way that we talk about KiwiBuild. That’s, of course, a rotating fund that’s set up to ensure that we have the initial funding for the project. Of course, people are purchasing these homes, and that money goes back into the pot to rebuild additional houses. This is not a subsidy.

This is actually just the state using its large buying power and determining that there’s a gap in the market and partnering with developers to build what’s missing. It is not a subsidy scheme for buyers; it’s just plugging the gap and ensuring that we’re providing where the market has failed.

More than 296,000 people, Prime Minister, are getting an accommodation supplement because they can’t afford their housing costs. That’s 6500 more people than this time last year. Do you need to do more?

Look, absolutely. Absolutely we do. And that’s why it can’t be just about KiwiBuild. It can’t be just about state housing. It can’t be just about emergency housing places.

But one of the great issues, of course, with things like accommodation supplement – what we ultimately need to be doing is making sure that we’ve got that public housing in the first place. So that’s why we stopped the state housing sell-off under the last government. We are increasing supply. We just announced a huge amount of work that we’ll be doing in Porirua to renew and refresh 2900 state homes there. It is a huge agenda that we have.

And I hark back here to something Michael Joseph Savage first said when we first started building state houses under that Labour government. He said, ‘We don’t claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advancement on where we have been in the past.’ And I’d say the same for us. It’s not perfect. We’ve had 12 months, but already, we’re ramping up a building programme that I think will really pay dividends and make a real difference for people who need shelter.

It was always going to take quite a bit of time to make a significant difference on housing. The National Government tried (with disappointing results) to resolve growing housing shortages and homelessness. The Labour-led Government promised a lot but struggled to show results over their first year in office.

And things aren’t going smoothly. To try to fast track KiwiBuild houses the Government has bought houses ‘off the plan’ – from developers who were already building houses.

The elephant in the room largely remains unaddressed, the Resource Management Act. Things like the constraints it puts on making land available for new housing, and the use of the RMA by NIMBYs to oppose high density housing in their neighbourhoods.

The shortage of land and the shortage of housing are major factors in pushing the prices of housing up to levels that are unaffordable for many on lower incomes who can’t save deposits and can’t afford large mortgages, even at the current low interest rates.

A typical KiwiBuild house has a price of about $650,000. That requires a deposit of at least $65,000, a substantial amount for those on low incomes. And a mortgage of $585,000 at say 4.5% (current KiwiBank rate, low deposit buyers often pay higher mortgage rates) would cost about $26,000 a year, or about $500 per week. That’s hefty enough, but if mortgage rates go up (they were more than double current rates 10-12 years ago) many people would be unable to afford to pay their mortgages.

It is proving difficult enough to build 10,000 houses a year (Labour had a target of 100,000 houses in ten years).

But suggesting that the Government should provide “housing for every price point, every income, every need” sounds like Ardern is in lala land.

Foreign buyer rules relaxed

Prior to getting into Government Labour talked up the effect of foreign buyers on the New Zealand housing market, and copped a lot of criticism for their ‘Chinese sounding names’ claims. They were also accused of exaggerating the impact of foreign buyers – and this has turned out to be true with foreign buyers being just 3% in recent statistics.

Once in power Labour restricted foreign buyers despite warnings of what that would do to discourage new housing developments. They have now partly backtracked.

RNZ:  Government relaxes rules on foreign buyer ban

The government’s overseas buyers’ ban on New Zealand homes has been softened, with some multi-storey apartment buildings now being exempted.

New Zealand officials and minister have also been negotiating with Singapore as the ban contravenes agreements between the two countries – that has now been resolved with Singapore securing an exemption, along with Australia.

Since the legislation has gone through select committees the government has acknowledged some fish hooks, that may have actually put the brakes on housing supply in Auckland.

Broadly, they apply to developers concerned about not being able to complete big projects if they can’t sell individual apartments to foreign buyers.

Another issue was overseas corporates getting caught up in the ban when they wanted to buy residential land – for example to build cell phone towers.

They were valid concerns, Trade Minister David Parker said.

“The advice we had from officials was that if we didn’t allow investment in apartment buildings then the whole complex was more likely not to proceed so there would be fewer purchase choices for New Zealanders,” Mr Parker said.

Parker has admitted they rushed to implementation of the changes and have had to reconsider when it became apparent it was having an adverse effect on trying to get more houses and apartments built.

Under the new regime, overseas investors would be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

The new rules allowed foreign buyers to purchase apartments ‘off the plan’ but they had to sell them once built. They can now retain ownership, but can’t live in them themselves.

This seems weird, especially when the government says they want to get more Kiwis into home ownership.

And the changes announced yesterday are still being criticised.

Phil Twyford in Opposition in 2016: Foreign buyers’ data selective and ineffective

The Government’s newly released foreign buyer data doesn’t give an accurate picture because it was collected at a time when offshore speculators had temporarily deserted the market, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says.

“The Government is out of touch with the 70 per cent of New Zealanders that support Labour’s policy to ban offshore speculators from buying existing homes. National should back my Bill when it comes before Parliament next month, instead of supporting foreign speculators against the interests of Kiwi first homebuyers,” Phil Twyford says.

Twyford as Housing Minister in December 2017: Ban on overseas speculators a step closer

“This Government welcomes foreign investment in houses to add to our housing supply,” Phil Twyford says.

“However, purchases of homes by offshore speculators push first home-buyers and families out of the housing market.”

Phil Twyford says the legislative changes demonstrate the Government’s determination to make it easier for New Zealanders to buy their first home.

“We expect the law to be passed early next year fulfilling a key pledge in our 100 Day Plan. The previous National government said it couldn’t be done without breaching trade agreements. They just didn’t try and in doing so, they put foreign buyers ahead of New Zealanders.

“This Government prioritises home ownership and housing affordability for all New Zealanders. This Bill will ensure that house prices are set by New Zealand-based buyers, not international buyers,” Phil Twyford says.

The National opposition now say: Twyford’s numbers badly wrong on foreign buyers

“When challenged on the AM Show today and faced with official statistics, Phil Twyford failed to defend his previous stance that foreigners – particularly Chinese – dominated New Zealand’s property market,” Mrs Collins says.

“He originally claimed that 30 per cent of homes in New Zealand were being sold to foreigners. In the face of irrefutable evidence – he could not defend those numbers.

“Official statistics released yesterday show foreign house buyers make up just three per cent of New Zealand’s residential property market, exactly what the previous National Government maintained.

“In the lead up to the election Labour and Phil Twyford ran a scare campaign claiming buyers with ‘Chinese sounding names’ were not real New Zealanders deserving of a home and were responsible for ‘pricing first-home buyers out of the market’.

RNZ: Overseas house buyer problem ‘was never real’

Many developers are still opposed to a ban on the sale of existing homes to foreigners despite a slackening of the proposed new rules.

Only a fraction of New Zealand’s housing stock is foreign-owned and there are developers who think banning or restricting that investment discriminates.

In the first draft of the Overseas Investment Amendment bill, overseas buyers could buy apartments off the plans, but would have to sell them once the building was completed.

The new draft has softened that, now allowing developers to sell up to 60 percent of their apartments off-plan, without the requirement for buyers to sell within a year.

Official figures show nationally 3 percent of people who bought residential property in the last quarter didn’t hold New Zealand citizenship or resident visas.

Mr Church and other developers believe these figures prove the whole law should be scrapped.

“It indicates that the hyperbole around this issue being a much larger problem is just that, it was never real.”

Interestingly Twyford didn’t feature in yesterday’s announcement, it came from David Parker as Associate Finance Minister.

Foreign buyer screening law reported back

The Bill putting in place the Government’s policy of banning overseas buyers of existing houses has been reported back to Parliament by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Under the new regime, overseas investors will be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

“This will help first home buyers to get their foot on the property ladder,” David Parker said.

All permanent residents and resident visa holders who spend the majority of their time in New Zealand will be able to purchase homes under the regime without obtaining consent.

Australian and Singapore citizens and residents will be treated the same as New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Australia was always a special case. Singapore was not happy with the initial changes and also pushed for an exemption.

 

 

 

Will housing ‘super ministry’ address RMA restrictions?

Phil Twyford is announcing a housing ‘super ministry’ It will only help fix the housing shortage if it finds a way of increasing land supply and significantly reducing section prices.

RNZ: Housing super ministry ‘will help fix crisis’, says Twyford

Housing Minister Phil Twyford will announce the establishment of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development this morning, which will provide policy advice on affordable housing, homelessness and urban development.

“Having a more focused and capable public service to deliver the [government’s] reform agenda will ultimately allow us to build more houses, better houses, more quickly,” Mr Twyford said.

The new organisation will include functions currently spread between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE); Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Treasury.

Mr Twyford said the new ministry would cost about $8 million in the first year, and it be funded from existing operational budgets of the units that shift to the new ministry.

The new ministry will be established on 1 August, and officially start operating on 1 October.

Mr Twyford remains confident the new ministry will help address some of the challenges.

“It’s only a small part of it … (but) it certainly will help us fix the housing crisis,” Mr Twyford said.

An RMA reform super ministry may do more good.

Ardern on ‘affordable housing’

Jacinda Ardern has been interviewed by Guyon Espiner on RNZ’s Morning Report on so-called affordable housing.

“This is still a price point significantly lower than what people are paying at market rates,” tells . The govt has raised its ‘affordable’ AKL price point from $600k to $650k.

Is $650,000 ‘affordable’ for an Auckland house? “For too many people it won’t be”.

“This is still a price point significantly lower than what people are paying at market rates.

“I would rather try than do nothing at all.” discusses what is ‘affordable’ for a house in AKL.

“We’re still doing policy work [on immigration fixes]. Making sure we have best export education system we can,” & also other changes in ensuring tests meet labour needs.

They keep missing what i think is an important point.

In the past most first home buyers started with older cheaper houses. Some people then go on to build new houses.

I’ve (part) owned seven houses and none of them have been new. I bought what i could afford at the time (sometimes barely afford). I don’t feel deprived.

Nation – Solving the housing ‘crisis’

This morning on Newshub Nation:

Can the Government’s big ideas really solve the country’s housing crisis? We talk to housing strategist Leonie Freeman and Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army:

Kiwibuild is going to benefit the young middle class, not the people he deals with everyday.

The Government is being unrealistic thinking they can reach Kiwibuild goals with very little subsidy

 

Twyford under pressure on Kiwibuild policy of straw

Labour campaigned on a bold policy to build 100,000 new ‘affordable’ houses in ten years. Phil Twyford was prominent in promoting the policy and slamming the then National led government for it’s poor record on housing.

But Twyford has hit some speed bumps, with chimneys falling off Labour’s grand plans.

Twyford has been found wanting on detail over affordability and pricing of Kiwibuild houses, and it now seems that the Government won’t necessarily build all those houses promised – they will buy from existing housing stock, developments and off plans.  This may allow them to claim numbers, but it will reduce privately built and owned houses.

There has always been questions about how affordable Kiwibuild houses might be. How does half a million dollars for a one bedroom apartment  sound?

NZH: Larger Kiwibuild homes will cost $50k more than promised during election campaign

The Government has hiked the price of larger houses in its flagship building programme by $50,000.

Labour’s election promise to build 100,000 affordable houses in 10 years included prices of between $500,000 and $600,000 for standalone homes and a cap of $500,000 for apartments.

Tender documents sent out to developers on Tuesday show that new homes built under the Kiwibuild programme would now be priced according to how many bedrooms they had.

One-bedroom properties would be sold for $500,000, two-bedroom for $600,000 and three-bedroom for $650,000.

That meant the larger houses were $50,000 more than Labour promised during the election.

A spokeswoman for Twyford said that was because the modelling on the prices had been done two years ago and had now been updated.

Will prices be updates again when the houses are actually built?

Newshub: Housing Minister apologises for ‘confusion’ on price of KiwiBuild homes

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has apologised for a mistake he made about the price of a KiwiBuild home.

On Friday morning on The AM Show, Mr Twyford said the price of a one-bedroom Kiwibuild home would be $550,000.

Mr Twyford now admits he was wrong.

“I misspoke this morning when discussing the KiwiBuild price points. I apologise for any confusion caused,” he said in a statement to Newshub.

“Yeah, it’s gone up slightly. We did the original modelling for those price points two years ago, and under Judith’s [Collins, National housing spokeswoman] Government’s policies, build costs are rampant,” Mr Twyford told The AM Show.

 

And KiwiBuild seems to have also become KiwiBeg and KiwiBuy.

The Government has also been under fire from the Opposition over its plans to buy homes currently under development in order to reach its ambitious KiwiBuild targets. Documentation on the scheme now says it “aims to facilitate the delivery of 100,000 affordable dwellings”, rather than just build.

“By underwriting or buying affordable KiwiBuild homes off the plan, what we do is we de-risk and speed up developments that otherwise might not take place at all.”

It is also likely to take over private developments, simply moving numbers from private to public and not increasing housing stock as much as promised.

Duncan Garner calls it “a total hoax”r: If Twyford can’t Phil us in on KiwiBuy/Build, who can?

Seriously, what has Labour and its MPs been doing these last nine years? Eating their lunch? We’d been led to believe its flagship Kiwibuild idea was this amazing, smart and innovative housing policy. We’d been told it was an answer to the housing crisis for those who couldn’t get into their first home.

And I assumed KiwiBuild meant just that;  as Housing Minister Phil Twyford said, 100,000 homes would be built.

Now we learn, um no, that’s not the case. It’s Kiwibuy, that house, your house, any house will do.

Labour has simply thrown its arms up in the air and put up a classified advertisement the size of a house that calls for all houses to be bought and sold as Kiwibuild dwellings. Labour wants the biggest shortcut to success possible.

It wants to buy current homes under construction or off the plans and call them Kiwibuild’s own. It’s a total hoax.

And what, Labour suddenly wants to partner up with the private sector? How convenient.

What happened to development on a genuine scale and with true Government buying power.

To me, it looks like Labour and Twyford have made this all up on the back of a moving envelope. It is underwhelming nonsense from a party that looks bewildered and blinded by the size of the challenge. It lacks detail.

 

Labour now thinks motels for emergency housing ok

Now they are facing the realities of housing shortages in Government Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford have switched to supporting the use of motels for emergency housing.

RNZ: Govt’s use of motels ‘morally irresponsible’ – housing advocate

The government has announced it will spend $100 million to try to tackle homelessness and provide emergency housing.

That is badly needed to try to alleviate a dire housing situation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would be irresponsible to not make use of motels and hotels because there was so much immediate need.

“That remains a very quick option and, in the time we had available, still remains on the table but of course there a number of other options we favour over that,” she said.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said of the 1500 extra housing places the government was delivering, 115 were long term motel stays.

They allowed for flexibilty if there was a spike in homelessness, particularly with winter approaching, he said,

“No one likes the idea of the government spending money to put people up in hotels but if we have to do that in order to ensure people have a roof over their heads we will,” he said.

Sounds fair enough and quite sensible. But it is a change of view since switching from Opposition to Government.

Stuff last October: Emergency motel stays starting to decline, but still cost govt $97k a day

New figures from the Ministry of Social Development show that in the last three months $8.96 million was given out to cover short seven-day motel stays for families or individuals in dire need. The money made up 9159 grants and several families claimed the grant more than once.

This is a drop on the previous three-month period of April-June when a record $12.6m was spent on 11,446 grants.

Outgoing social housing minister Amy Adams said the numbers had peaked mid-year.

“While we’ve spent a lot in the last quarter we’re also seeing that that has peaked now, and there are some really pretty good signs that that is dropping, which is exactly what we expected,” Adams said in July.

“This is exactly what we wanted to happen but it takes time to build 1400-odd transitional houses, and the motel grants have been a way for us to bridge that.”

House building does take time, especially the finding of suitable land and getting consents, and also given the dire shortage of housing in Auckland in particular and the shortage of builders and tradespeople.

Labour’s Phil Twyford, likely to be Housing Minister by the end of the week, could not be reached for comment.

 

Further back, a statement from Twyford in July: English out of touch on homelessness

Bill English’s comments that he doesn’t know why people are complaining about the blowout in the number of homeless families the government is putting up in motels just shows how tired and out of touch National is after nine years, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“New Zealanders are rightly outraged that National is selling off state houses while spending $50m a year dumping families in need in motels. They’re stunned that National is so out of touch they thought they would be spending just $2m a year on motel rooms, when the problem is 25 times that size.

“New Zealanders know that every family needs a home, a permanent roof over their heads. Shunting kids from motel to motel, week to week, is no solution.

“Labour will stop National’s state house sell-off and stop sucking profits out of Housing New Zealand. We’ll build thousands of state houses for families in need, alongside our KiwiBuild programme to build good starter homes for first home buyers.

“Last week, we learned that New Zealand has the worst homeless rate in the developed world, and National’s response was to quibble about definitions. They have no ideas, no solutions, just excuses.

“National’s legacy is the worst housing crisis in the world. It’s time for Labour’s fresh approach to make sure that every Kiwi has a decent place to live,” says Phil Twyford.

The ‘fresh approach’ looks like more of the same.

Ardern in April last year: Motel buy-up bad policy

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says National continues to underestimate the size of the housing crisis.

“After particularly the likes of Te Puea Marae and the amazing work they did last winter, we thought the government would be more prepared, unfortunately they haven’t been and now we’re in a situation of buying hotels. I accept that we want to do everything we can to house people, make sure they’re warm, dry have a roof over their head but it makes much more sense for us to have permanent state housing and social housing rather than paying private moteliers a lot of money,” she says.

Now winter is looming and there still aren’t enough houses Twyford and Ardern are biting the motel bullet.

And now, as well as conceding that motels are necessary to fill housing gaps, a novel approach – Govt appeals to public to identify rentals, marae and land which can be used for homeless

The Government is appealing to the public to provide houses and land to help solve New Zealand’s homeless problem.

It promised today to invest $100m into tackling homelessness, by increasing short-term and long-term housing options and increasing funding for social services.

Rehousing people from the street or temporary housing has been complicated by the lack of available or affordable housing, especially in Auckland.

That led the previous Government to start renting motels to house the homeless. Labour criticised this at the time but admitted today that it needed motels until more homes were available, and has put aside $8m for this purpose.

After announcing the funding today, Housing Minister Phil Twyford pleaded with the public to identify properties that could be used for emergency shelters or pop-up homes.

“We can’t do this alone,” Twyford said. “If you know of properties that might be available over winter, such as seasonal worker accommodation or private rental homes, we’d like to hear about those.

“We’d also like to identify small land options suitable for temporary housing with power and water connections ready to go, such as marae and private land.”

Property owners would be paid market rents, he said; they were not expected to simply donate properties.

“If there’s a massive surge over winter, we need to have those other options in our back pocket.

There was never going to be a quick fix to the housing shortages.

Flaws in land management report need to be rectified quickly

A report on management of New Zealand land was released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, with admissions it lacked data and the data used was six years old. It is important to have a good plan for land use and environmental protection.

ODT editorial: Insights into the environment

The “Our land 2018” report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand this week, confirms the need for more action to improve land management.

Environment Minister David Parker says he is particularly troubled by how much  urban growth is occurring in irreplaceable highly productive land. Even in a country as lucky as New Zealand there are only limited qualities of these high-class soils.

The report identifies New Zealand is losing some of its most productive land to houses. Agriculture is under pressure from the loss of highly productive and versatile land due to urbanisation.

There has been a 7% reduction in land used for agriculture, meaning land and soil is lost to urban subdivisions, forestry and lifestyle blocks. Mr Parker is taking steps to address issues such as the loss of prime market gardening land around Pukekohe, as Auckland expands, as well as the impact of lifestyle blocks on the most productive land.

He recognises the need to ensure there is enough land to build the houses people need while noting the need for protecting the most productive areas of the country.

It was natural for towns and cities to be established and grow near productive land, but as the population grows it puts pressure on the best land. This is a major issue in Auckland, and it has been a problem in Dunedin where marginal land on the fringes of the city has been zoned against housing but productive flat land on the Taieri plain has been increasingly subdivided.

Federated Farmers is disappointed with much of the report, saying the data is six years out of date. The report lacks significant data and admits this multiple times. One of the factors highlighted by scientists is the shocking lack of rural waste data. Better records and tracking of waste disposal is a key to understanding the risks waterways, soil, air and towns face — especially in an expanding industry known for generating important volumes of non-natural waste.

Parker needs to ensure that more research is done and more data is collated.

The report finds New Zealand loses about 192 million tonnes of soil each year to erosion, of which 84 million is from pasture land. The high volume of soil being swept into the waterways is choking aquatic life.

The Government, farmers and others with an interest in land have a role to play in better managing erosion-prone land. Much of the response to the report comes from environmental agencies firmly opposed to farming. However, farmers are not the only ones with a stake in the environment.

If, as predicted, we get more and heavier rain events erosion will be an ongoing challenge. There are many hilly areas prone to erosion. A lot of land has been cleared of erosion protective forest.

The report also confirms the continued loss of New Zealand’s limited wetlands which contain some of the most precious biodiversity and filter contaminants from the land. More must be done to protect these.

A lot of wetlands have been drained and converted into pasture – and housing, like the flood prone South Dunedin flat – since European immigration began.

Mr Parker has taken note of the report, and its shortcomings. He understands the need to have balance in the environment and has asked officials to start work on a National Policy Statement for versatile land and high-class soils. His contribution is important.

The effort of the Government in publishing this report, and the strong self-criticism implied in its findings, should be applauded. Further reports of this character will be needed to get better insights into how New Zealand manages its land and resources.

It is a bit alarming that the report has such poor data to work with. That’s the fault of past governments. Parker now has the opportunity to put this right – but with the rush to built a lot more houses he may have to act quickly.

Q&A: Twyford and housing

Labour campaigned strongly agaisnt the national government over it’s poor handling of growing housing problems. They have promised big (100,00o new houses in 10 years), but are yet to look like delivering.

Today on Q&A: Can Labour fix our housing problems?

Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford is Corin’s lead interview. He has ambitious plans to make housing affordable again – can he deliver?

Twyford was mostly vague about progress, saying the government is working on things and yet to decide on many aspects of the house building project.

He couldn’t give specifics on how windfall profits of those who draw new houses from the ballot will be treated – potentially those who win the housing lottery could gain hundreds of thousands of equity. Twyford said that eventually the increased housing supply would rectify it. There is no guarantee of that, far from it.

Twyford said there will be no means testing – I think that referred to people who are well off (high earners or with family financial support) will not be excluded from entering the ballots.

They must means test any house purchaser in respect of being able to afford to service their mortgage.

It will take a year or two to see whether sufficient progress is being made.

Poll: most important problems facing New Zealand

A Roy Morgan poll on most important general issues facing New Zealand compared to the world shows that economic issues, inequality and housing are of most concern.

Most Important Problems Facing New Zealand and the World - February 2018

And the most important specific New Zealand issues compared to the world.

It’s not surprising to see economic issues so high, including inequality, and in New Zealand housing is also of major concern.

Interesting to see that New Zealand is significantly less concerned about environmental issues.

Perhaps this is why the Greens are so keen on advocating on social issues.

Source: Economic Issues dominate New Zealand concerns early in 2018