Another theory on Winston’s ambitions

Theories about the ambitions of Winston Peters are a staple of New Zealand political discourse. Matthew Hooton added his own in his NBR column.

Mr Peters knows that if he can get his party up another five points at the expense of Labour, Mr Little – a list MP – will not even be in parliament. The result might be something like 23% for Labour, 17% for NZ First and 12% for the Greens.

The crisis in the Labour Party would be readymade for Mr Peters to step in, declare that he will be prime minister, Ms Ardern his deputy, Mr Robertson finance minister, Mr Jones foreign minister, Phil Twyford transport and housing minister, and James Shaw climate change minister.

Ms Ardern would then become prime minister after 18 months and Mr Peters would retire, to be replaced as NZ First leader by Mr Jones, Ron Mark or Tracey Martin. Like his namesake Sir Winston Churchill in 1952, Mr Peters would see himself as mentoring his young queen as she grew into the role.

Under the circumstances towards which Mr Little appears to be leading them, why on earth wouldn’t Ms Ardern and her colleagues go for it?

It’s hard to know whether Hooton is being serious or mischievous.

My prediction – someone will be right about NZ First’s result in the election, and someone will be right about the eventual coalition arrangement. And given the variety of predictions, most people will be wrong.

Twyford on land for Kiwibuild

Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Tyford was interviewed on The Nation yesterday (repeated this morning). He was questioned about where Labour would get land to build on in Auckland for the 50,000 houses they planned to build under their Kiwibuild policy.

Twyford seemed unprepared for this fairly predictable line of questioning, and was very vague on what land would be available.

  • “many of them around the railway network in Auckland”
  • “on the fringes of the city as well”
  • “if necessary, we will buy private land to develop”

And “We are going to work with the council, we are going to work with Ngati Whatua, we’re going to work with other investors.” Much like the current Government is trying to get land for development.

With the not insignificant matter of the RMA to deal with.

Let’s move on to what your solution is, which is KiwiBuild. You’ve already said that freestanding houses will be 600,000 or less. And where exactly are these 100,000 houses going?

So, Lisa, we don’t have a land shortage in New Zealand. Fewer than 1% of the land is urbanised. We have a highly restrictive planning system that chokes off the supply of new land. Labour’s going to free up those controls and allow cities to grow up and out.

So where specifically? Where specifically? Because as you pointed out, we’re four months from an election. Where’s the list from Labour which shows exactly where the houses go? Like this list from National, which shows me exactly which suburbs and how many houses. Where’s your list?

So, we’re going to build large urban development projects, many of them around the railway network in Auckland. So places like Henderson, Manukau, Mt Wellington, Onehunga, Panmure, Avondale.

Have you got the sites specifically identified?

Actually, Auckland Council’s already done much of the work on this. Their development agency, Panuku, has already identified all of those sites as being appropriate for development. Lisa, we’re also going to developments on the fringes of the city as well.

Amy Adams says that they are using, in this plan, basically all the available Crown land, so I’m struggling to understand where your land is that you’re going to build 100,000 houses on and why I haven’t yet seen… Because this policy of yours is, what, four and a half years old?

So here’s where Labour’s approach is different from National. National lacks ambition in this area. Their approach is confined to knocking down state houses and building private houses on that land. We are going to take a much broader, more productive approach, so—

So have you got a list of lots, of land lots, that you can give to us so we can have a look at it? Have you got that?

We are going to work with the council, we are going to work with Ngati Whatua, we’re going to work with other investors. And if necessary, we will buy private land to develop.

Okay, and what budget are you putting aside for that?

We’ve committed $2 billion to kick-start KiwiBuild, and we’re going to establish an affordable housing authority that will act as an urban development agency.
So that $2 billion of seeding money, are you telling us that that’s going to pay for the first wave of houses and all the commercially bought land that you’re going to have to buy?

Well, we haven’t identified exactly how much land we will buy, but we are going to establish an affordable housing authority—

Isn’t that the problem, Mr Twyford? Isn’t that the problem, though — the details?
Hang on, Lisa, you’ve asked me a question. Let me answer and I will give you an answer. We’re establishing an affordable housing authority that will cut through the red tape. We’ll put capital in to get it started, but it’s going to manage the Crown’s entire urban land holdings. It will use that balance sheet to buy land and develop land with other partners. So it’s a very different approach to what the government is saying.

Who will build all the houses?

So, who is going to build your 10,000 houses a year? Because we know that there’s a shortage of workers in the construction industry. So who’s going to build these?

So, call us old-fashioned, but we think it’s the job of the government to grow a New Zealand workforce of skilled tradespeople. So we’re going to massively increase the training for the construction trades and professions. That’s our priority. Now, the fact that National—

That takes time, doesn’t it? And you are aiming to build 10,000 houses a year. The apprenticeship industry tells us that we need 60,000 new workers over the next five years, and half of them need to be tradies. So come December 24th, who’s— September 24th, who’s building these houses?

Look, so National has completely failed to build the New Zealand workforce. They haven’t invested in the apprentices and the professions to do this work. Now, if we have to, we will rely on skilled tradespeople. We’ll bring in electricians, plumbers and carpenters from overseas if we have to.

Despite your policy of tightening up immigration.

Well, Lisa, the reason it’s called an immigration policy is we get to choose who comes here. So we will choose the electricians, the plumbers and the carpenters instead of bringing people to this country to flip burgers and pump gas.

Andrew Little has said Labour would cut immigration by “tens of thousands” and at one stage intimated by up to 50,000 a year.

I would have thought on two of the key issues Labour is pushing for this election campaign they would have things worked out better than this by now.

Newshub: Interview: Phil Twyford

Full transcript: The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Phil Twyford

ACT on ‘Labour-lite’ housing policy

Yesterday the Government announced plans to build about 25,000 extra houses in Auckland over the next ten years – see National’s Auckland housing policy.

This looked a lot like a partial Labour ‘Kiwibuild’ policy. Despite this Labour MPs slammed it.

Andrew Little belittled the policy:

Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis

National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“National can’t now credibly claim to be tackling the housing crisis four months out from the election when, for nine years, they’ve ignored the plight of first home buyers and families in need.

“This Government has long rubbished the idea of building houses. Time and again it’s failed to deliver any significant increase in housing supply.

“National cannot be trusted to do anything meaningful for the thousands of first home buyers in Auckland who have been denied their shot at the Kiwi dream.

“Amy Adams has fudged the figures. How many of these houses will actually be affordable? What does ‘affordable’ mean? How will that give hope to first home buyers when speculators can buy these houses too?

“It’s just more smoke and mirrors from a Government that’s failed miserably. It’s a mish-mash of old and new housing programmes. Many of these houses have already been announced.

“Auckland currently has a shortfall of 40,000 houses and growing. This plan won’t address the shortfall, let alone build the extra houses needed to keep up with demand.

“This last minute announcement just won’t do enough. National has had its chance. It’s time for a fresh approach.

“Labour will build 50,000 houses in Auckland people can afford to buy and we’ll increase the supply of state houses; we’ll crack down on speculators; and we’ll invest in warm, dry homes.

“National hasn’t a shred of credibility left. The evidence keeps mounting:

• It promised a big increase in emergency housing beds in the last six months, and hasn’t delivered.
• It’s Special Housing Areas promised an extra 39,000 homes, fewer than 2,000 have been built.
• Housing New Zealand has failed meet its building targets and reduced the number of state houses by 2,500.

“This cynical announcement by National should be seen for what it is – an election year fudge to paper over the cracks of its failure in housing. It’s time for Labour’s plan,” says Andrew Little.

However it was ACT’s David Seymour who went into detail with his criticism.

National need to think bigger than Labour-lite

National needs to do more than just adopt tunnel-vision Labour policies, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“If the goal is to close the housing shortfall, this is a step in the right direction, but it won’t be enough. The proposal will add 25,000 homes when what we need is another 500,000.

“We can only achieve this by fixing the underlying problem: that regulations and infrastructure pressures prevent private developers from building homes.

“The Government will have to loosen up land use rules if it wants to get 34,000 homes built on a few scraps of Crown land. Why not just follow ACT’s plan to replace the Resource Management Act for the whole city, letting private developers do the building for us?

“The Government will also struggle to build houses at an affordable cost under current construction regulations. ACT has a policy for this: we’d replace construction red tape with an insurance requirement, letting developers cut costs in risk-free ways.

“The other problem the Government will face is pressure on infrastructure. Fortunately, ACT has a plan for this too. ACT will allow Councils to use half of the GST from construction projects to fund local infrastructure.

“The Government is right to say we need more homes. But if we want to see these homes built on anywhere near the scale required, we’ll need a stronger ACT to make the government enact substantial reform, instead of Labour-lite tinkering.”

National has failed in it’s attempt to substantially reform the RMA this term and even if they get the chance and try again next term that would talk some time, they would probably need the support of NZ First or Labour, and in the meantime Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) housing shortage will get worse unless a lot more houses and flats are built.

Little speech: on Maori

In his ‘state of the nation’ speech in January Andrew Little didn’t mention Maori at all – see Maori 0f Little importance? – but since then Labour’s Maori MPs, candidates and votes have been talked about a lot.

In his Congress speech yesterday Little had to mention Maori, and he did.

And, get this, after the election, at least 1 in 4 Labour MPs will be Māori.

We are going to have the largest representation of Māori MPs of any party, ever, in New Zealand politics.

It’s common for opposition parties to talk in positives in their speeches, like ‘the next Prime Minister’ and from his speech “to all of our dedicated activists and organisers who are going to sweep Labour to government on September 23rd“, and likewise, claiming “at least 1 in 4 Labour MPs will be Māori” presumes all Labour’s electorate MPs will retain their seats and they will improve their share of the party vote. Neither are guaranteed.

Through all these policies and in every decision, Māori will be at the table.

If they have Maori party members and Maori MPs then yes, they will be at Labour’s policy table, but it doesn’t mean they will be influential. 1 in 4 is 25%, from from a majority vote.

Māori aspiration sits at the core of Labour’s vision for New Zealand.

That’s vague and means little in reality.

And that’s all on Maori in the speech. Nothing specific, no policies addressing Maori issues beyond “the Kiwi dream” generalities.

Two contentious Maori issues flared up last week, partnership schools and prisons. On schools:

Thank you for the policy you launched yesterday of health teams in all our schools, which is just one of the ways we’ll bring a fresh approach to our neglected mental health services.

On prisons – nothing.

On the Treaty of Waitangi – nothing.

If Little wants Maori voters to step up and tick Labour in September’s election then Labour may need to step up with some actual policies that will give them some incentive, and promises of policy rewards.

ACT response to Labour’s housing policy

David Seymour has responded to Labour’s housing policy.

Labour puts Envy Politics over Economics

“The Labour Party’s policy of ring fencing and negative gearing will only pass costs onto renters in a tight market,” says ACT leader David Seymour.

“As renters well know, the rental market is a tight one, it is a landlord’s market.  Renters have few options, so landlords can pass costs on to tenants easily.

“Labour’s policy is unbelieveably stupid, because it pushes up costs without generating more homes. It is a recipe for rent hikes, putting the most vulnerable out on the streets.

“Unfortunately the Labour Party is still driven by envy first and economics second, it is highly disappointing.

“The only way to improve conditions for renters to increase the overall supply of housing, creating a renter’s market where it is the renters who have the options.

“ACT advocates serious policy reform that would do just that. Replace the RMA in cities, and fund infrastructure by giving councils half the GST on construction that they consent. This policy would get homes built and improve tenant’s options, whereas Labour’s policy will only price more people out of the market as landlords pass costs on to them.

Labour’s housing policy announcement

Labour announced new (and some old reintroduced) housing policy at their election year Congress.

Build more affordable houses


Create an Affordable Housing Authority to fast-track development in our cities

Labour will establish an Affordable Housing Authority to work with the private sector to cut through red tape and get new homes built fast. It will partner with private developers, councils and iwi to undertake major greenfields and revitalisation projects, building affordable homes with KiwiBuild and the private market. These homes will be part of great communities built around parks, shopping centres and transport links.

Build 100,000 affordable homes across the country

Labour’s KiwiBuild programme will build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over 10 years, with 50% of them in Auckland. Standalone houses in Auckland will cost $500,000 to $600,000, with apartments and townhouses under $500,000. Outside Auckland, houses will range from $300,000 to $500,000.

Growing the building workforce

Increased house-building will require a larger workforce. Labour’s Dole for Apprenticeships policy will subsidise employers to take on around 4,000 young people for on the job training in fields including building and construction. Labour’s policy of three years free post-school education will see tens of thousands more people study in all fields, including building and construction. KiwiBuild is projected to create 5,000 new jobs at its peak.

Remove barriers that are stopping Auckland growing up and out

Labour will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls. This will give Auckland more options to grow, as well as stopping landbankers profiteering and holding up development. New developments, both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, will be funded through innovative infrastructure bonds.

 

Crack down on speculators


Ban foreign speculators from buying existing homes

Labour will ban foreign speculators from buying existing New Zealand homes. This will remove from the market foreign speculators who are pushing prices out of reach of first home buyers.

Tax property speculators who flick houses within five years

Labour will extend the bright line test from the current two years to five years. This will target speculators who buy houses with the aim of making a quick capital gain. Current exemptions from the bright line test will continue.

Consult on rules around negative gearing to prevent abuse by speculators

Negative gearing can be used by speculators to make taxpayers subsidise losses on their properties. This is effectively a subsidy for speculation. Labour will consult on ways to close this loophole.

 

Read more about our plan to address housing demand here >>

Support for those in need


Focus Housing New Zealand on helping people, not making a profit

Labour will make Housing New Zealand into a public service rather than an SOE, and will substantially increase the number of state houses. Unlike the current government, Labour will not milk state housing for a dividend, and will end its programme of state house sales.

Read more about our plans for Housing New Zealand here >>

Help 5,100 more Kiwis into emergency housing every year

Labour will take serious action to end homelessness by increasing funding for emergency housing, helping an extra 5,100 people a year. This money will be given to emergency housing providers to purchase or build new accommodation and help people get off the streets.

Read more about our Emergency Housing package here >>

Require all rental homes to be warm, dry, and healthy.

Andrew Little’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill is currently before Parliament. It will set standards that will require all rental properties to meet proper standards in: insulation, heating, ventilation, draught stopping, and drainage. This will ensure people who live in them don’t get sick.

Ardern’s Congress speech

Jacinda Ardern has given the key Saturday speech at Labour’s election year Congress, and has announced new policy on mental health.

Labour on Facebook:

And today, Jacinda Ardern has announced that we’ll deliver comprehensive health services to every state secondary school. These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds.

We’ll make mental health an absolute priority.

It’s great to put more priority on dealing with mental health issues – in the shorter term this may put more pressure ion the Government to take more action.

But I question this claim: “These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds”.  There’s no way of knowing in advance what degree of success it might have.

Ardern’s speech:

A curious personal intro to her speech by Ardern, trying to appeal to a social media audience.

Stuff reports: Labour promises a nurse in every secondary school

An emotional Jacinda Ardern has spoken about her grief at losing a childhood friend to suicide.

Speaking to Labour’s election year congress, Ardern put youth mental health on the political agenda, with a promise to place a nurse into every public secondary school.  Schools will also get the support of a GP.

“Evidence around existing services shows where students had more time with on-site professionals there was significantly less depression and suicide risk. Depression and suicide risk were up to two thirds lower in schools with comprehensive health services. Early intervention works.”

Ardern revealed that as a 13-year-old in Morrinsville, her best friend’s brother took his own life.

“I had just started high school and was waiting for class to start when I heard the news, I can remember exactly where I was standing, just outside the science block.

“I went straight to my friend’s home and spent the next few days with her as her and her family went through the unimaginable grief of losing their only boy, grief that was felt by everyone that knew him, and was captured in the handwritten notes and messages from his classmates that hung around the walls at his funeral. Every single thing about it seemed unfair and still does to this day.”

Ardern said school based health services were introduced by Labour in 2008  but were currently only funded directly for nurses in decile 1-3 public secondary schools, teen parent units and alternative education facilities.”

Under Saturday’s announcement, the average secondary school would have a full time nurse and also the support of a GP.

The cost would be around $40 million a year, funded out of Labour’s commitment to reverse National’s $1.7 billion of health cuts.

That doesn’t sound a lot in the whole scheme of things. The question to ask is whether it’s the most effective way to deal with a big problem.

Personal experiences can be a powerful driver of change that matters.

Full text: Jacinda Ardern: Labour Congress Speech

Make or break weekend for Little?

This weekend could be make or break for Andrew Little’s ambitions. Same for Labour as they have their election year Congress (a party conference with PR rather than conferring),

Labour have failed to impress voters since Helen Clark lost the 2008 election. In every election this century Labour has lost support and have trended downwards since 1938.

Embedded image permalink

Lately Labour has been polling in the high twenties, hardly improved on their a record low election result in 2014 and well short of where it needs to be if they want to be in a strong position to lead a coalition government.

Andrew Little took over the leadership after the 2014 loss but two and a half years later he is struggling to appeal to voters.

Little and Labour are trying hard to address those issues, but while they talk about them they have been slow to come out with clear or decisive policies. Little is reported to be announcing something on housing in his big speech tomorrow.

An issue not on that list but probably critical to Labour’s chances is ‘Maori’ Little didn’t mention that word at all in his January ‘state of the nation’ speech.

He will need to do much better tomorrow, without getting tangled up trying to appease two distinctly different voter groups, the ‘middle New Zealand’ said to be essential to ‘win’ an election, and the Maori vote that Labour are putting so much hope on while giving them little in the way of policies – Little has ruled out two policies promoted by Maori candidates and MPs this week, partnership schools and Maori prisons.

Labour’s Maori electorate MPs (and Labour’s strategists) have created a problem for themselves by not standing on the party list.

While party vote is essential for Labour’s overall success, six Maori MPs have to win their seats again or they are out of Parliament, so they are going to put more effort into their own interests.

The controversies over partnership schools and Maori prisons is indicative of this.

Somehow Little is going to need to overcome this perception…

…without annoying voters who don’t want preferential treatment for Maori.

If he doesn’t deal with that successfully then whatever he says about housing, inequality, poverty immigration and economy may not matter much.

This could be a make or break weekend for Little.

It’s still over four months until the election, but there are signs Little could be losing support from within Labour and signs that confidence in Labour is really struggling, again (or still).

Little’s speech will be important – what he says and how he delivers it, but more important than the PR driven RA RA will be in the next week or two when the contents and ramifications of the speech sink in amongst Labour’s MPs, candidates and rank and file.

If they are not happy and confident amongst themselves – and that is difficult to fake – then voters are going to remain unimpressed.

Labour’s ‘fresh approach’ on mental health

Labour has announced policy on trying to deal with difficult mental health issues.


Fresh approach on mental health

Labour will introduce a pilot scheme of specialist mental health teams across the country in government to ensure swifter and more effective treatment for those who need urgent help, says Labour’s Leader Andrew Little.

“Mental health is in crisis. It needs a fresh approach so we can make a difference quickly because what we’re doing now just isn’t working.

“This is something you can’t put a bandage on and a Labour Government will make it a priority to better equip our health system to cater for those crying out for help.

“Health professionals and those needing treatment tell us it’s hard to find the front door to access mental health services. The present service is over-stretched and fragmented with little co-ordination of the care people need.

“What the new mental health teams will do is offer free, accessible help for those in need and ensure their care is co-ordinated and effective.

“One in six New Zealanders will be diagnosed with a mental health problem in their lifetime. There’s been a 60 per cent increase in Kiwis accessing mental health treatment since National came to power but spending on this sector has only increased by 28 per cent.

“A quarter of all suicides are people who have been in contact with mental health services in the past month.

“Under the two year pilot specialist mental health teams will operate from eight sites across the country and work with doctors, NGOs and District Health Boards. One of the sites will be in Christchurch reflecting the city’s particular needs.

“We expect the teams will be able to help nearly 40,000 people each year at a cost of $43 million over the pilot.

“This is a small investment that we’re confident will make a big difference to those who struggle today to access the services they need. It will be funded through Labour’s budgeted commitment to reversing National’s $1.7 billion of health cuts and is in addition to Labour’s review of the mental health system.

“We believe early intervention and continuing care will help people avoid significant mental health distress and better assist them to live their lives to their fullest. It’s the right thing to do,” says Andrew Little.


This is a timely policy announcement by Labour given Health Minister Jonathan Coleman’s reaction to a mental health report.

The Spinoff: Jonathan Coleman’s attack on ‘anti-government’ ActionStation is a smokescreen. And it’s nonsense

The minister of health has dismissed a report on mental health claiming the authors are ‘left-wing anti-government protesters’. ActionStation’s Marianne Elliott responds.

You know the saying: ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’?

Well, the message is that New Zealanders are deeply concerned about the state of our mental health system, and heartbroken about the family and friends we lose to suicide every year. We’re just the messengers.

The “we” in that sentence is the ActionStation community of everyday New Zealanders, hundreds of whom shared their stories with the People’s Mental Health Review, and 12,800 more who added their names to an open letter asking the government to consider the findings of that review.

So when the minister of health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, dismissed the recommendations of the People’s Mental Health Report on Tuesday because “the people behind the report” were “left-wing anti-government protesters”, that is who he was dismissing.

Attacking the messenger is a classic diversionary tactic when you don’t want to face up to the message itself.

That’s how it looks – not good for Coleman.

Coleman needs to ditch the reactionary petulance and be seen be genuinely dealing with obvious mental health care shortcomings and difficulties. Otherwise voters may choose to go with Labour’s approach.

I’ve always been aware that ActionStation has some close connections with the Greens, and their regular petitions can seem a bit pointless and easy to ignore, but their mental health report was much more substantial and pertinent to current difficulties many people face.

And this from Parliament doesn’t help the metal health debate either: Clark v Coleman on mental health funding

Hooton on Labour and Maori

Yesterday Matthew Hooton promoted his weekly NBR column with a provocative headline (with a promise of similar from Duncan Garner):

A Labour staffer responds:

Hooton’s column isn’t up on the NBR site yet (it will be behind a pay wall anyway) but he pushes some different buttons via Twitter:

Garner’s column doesn’t appear to be up yet either, but it could be a testing weekend for Labour at their election year conference (they are calling it a ‘congress’) with the focus on a speech on Sunday:

Upcoming events

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 01:30 PM

Amokura Gallery, Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand

Andrew Little’s Congress Speech

Join hundreds of Labour supporters, as Andrew Little announces a fresh new addition to our housing plan ahead of the 2017 election at Labour’s Congress in Wellington.

In his last big speech, his ‘state of the nation’ address in January, Little didn’t mention Maori at all – see Maori 0f Little importance?

He won’t get away with ignoring them again on Sunday.