Turei Members’ Bill for renters

In yesterday’s Members’ Bill ballot a bill submitted by Green co-leader Metiria Turei was drawn, aimed at giving much stronger rights to house renters.

As usual Greens were quick off the mark with a press release promoting the bill and renters rights.


Green Party Bill puts renters’ rights on the agenda

A Green Party Member’s Bill pulled from the ballot today will put renters’ rights firmly on the political agenda, where it belongs.

Metiria Turei’s Residential Tenancies (Safe and Secure Rentals) Amendment Bill strengthens tenants’ rights, and will lead to stable, long-term tenancies that are good for both renters and landlords. The 2013 Census records 453,135 households as renters, an increase from 388,275 in the 2006 Census.

“My Bill will help people who rent get the stability they need to put down roots in their community,” Mrs Turei said.

“The home ownership rate is reducing and more families are renting – those families’ rights need be protected so they too can have a stable and secure home life.

“Families who rent often find themselves pushed around from house to house, and their kids moved from school to school, unable to settle down.

“The rental market is the other side of the housing crisis that affects hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

“In many other countries, particularly in Europe, long-term tenancies in quality, warm homes are the norm.

“Landlords benefit too when tenancies are stable and long term, because the property gets looked after and there are no time gaps when tenants aren’t paying rent.

“Home ownership is at the lowest level since 1951 and everyone deserves a home to call their own – whether they rent or buy,” said Mrs Turei.

The Bill makes six changes to the Residential Tenancies Act:

  • Allowing tenants a right of first refusal when their lease expires.
  • Requiring landlords to be transparent about how they calculate rent rises.
  • Removing obligations on tenants to pay leasing fees.
  • Creating a default lease term of three years, with the ability to choose a shorter term.
  • Preventing rent increases more often than once every 12 months for periodic and fixed-term tenancies.
  • Restoring the 90-day notice period when landlords wish to sell the property.

There’s comments on this plus rental property Warrants of Fintess – “Landlords can pay” – at  The Standard in Green Party Bill to improve the rights of renters

Back in Parliament

Parliament resumed yesterday after a long winter recess. Andrew Little, supported by Metiria Turei, in their first confrontation with John Key:

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Building and Housing, given that, after 3 years in the job and numerous policies that were supposed to make housing more affordable, he now says it’s “probably not a good time for a young family to buy” and they “should be patient”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I am pleased that the member acknowledges the Minister has advanced numerous policies as part of the Government’s comprehensive housing plan. They include a new $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, over 210 special housing areas for 70,000 new homes, an expanded HomeStart scheme for first-home buyers, the national policy statement on urban development, Resource Management Act reform, a raft of extra tax measures, a new unitary plan for Auckland, more tools for the Reserve Bank, and independent urban development authorities for areas of high housing need. By any definition that is a comprehensive housing plan.

Andrew Little: In light of that answer and moving on from good intentions, does he agree it is a bad time for young families to buy, especially given Bill English’s estimate that only 500 affordable homes were built in Auckland last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the point the Ministers have been making is it is important for every person who buys a house to consider all the factors and to do so with their eyes open. We have interest rates that are at a 60-year low. Of course, we have a very strong economy with strong wage growth, and that makes it more affordable. But house prices do go down, as well as going up, and I think it is important that people just are observant of those facts.

Andrew Little: Given Auckland house prices have doubled on his watch from $496,000 to $992,000 does he now accept that the average Auckland house is out of reach for most families?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. If you look at the year to 31 March 2016 in Auckland there were 31,963 sales. Sales in the under $600,000 category of existing homes were over 30 percent of that—9,638 sales. For new houses under $650,000 there were 11,842 constructed—37 percent of sales.

Andrew Little: After 8 years why has he failed to stabilise house prices and build enough affordable houses?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said to the House before, in the early part of the term of this Government there was not strong demand for housing, but because of the economic programme of the Government we have now seen New Zealanders returning from overseas, we have seen New Zealanders not leaving, and on the back of all of that we are actually seeing the biggest housing boom in New Zealand’s history. An enormous number of houses are being built—and yes, of course it is taking some time to work its way through the system. It is not unique, I should say: if one looks around the world at cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London, Dubai, New York, and many others, they are also experiencing quite high house price increases.

Tim Macindoe: How is the Government’s comprehensive housing plan translating into new houses around New Zealand, where they are needed most?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are now in the middle of the biggest housing boom New Zealand has seen. We are on track to build 85,000 houses across New Zealand in this term—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I apologise for interrupting, but the level of noise now coming from my left is at a level where I am going to have to deal with it rather severely. I do not mind some interjection, but just because members may not like a question or like an answer it does not need to lead to a constant barrage coming from my immediate left.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The construction industry is the biggest it has ever been; there are around 40,000 more people working in the sector than 2 years ago. In the year to June residential building consents increased 16 percent to over 29,000—the highest for a June-year since 2004. The Government’s comprehensive plan is boosting housing and supply, and we need to build on this good momentum.

Andrew Little: Why is Auckland City 40,000 houses behind what it needs to accommodate today’s population?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Primarily, actually, it is because of bad planning rules, I think, around Auckland. But the good news is that those planning rules are about to be reformed under the new Auckland Unitary Plan.

Andrew Little: Rather than hoping that the problem will fix itself, is it not time that he got off his backside and he and his Government got in behind Kiwis who want to own their own homes, and just built some bloody houses?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The only person who is in hope is Andrew Little, who hopes that one day he will poll higher than Winston Peters.

Tim Macindoe: What reports has the Prime Minister seen about whether alternative approaches would succeed in controlling house price inflation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen one report, which was completely inconclusive about its chances of controlling house price inflation. It said: “It’s hard to be specific about that.” That was, of course, Andrew Little on his pipedream of building 100,000 houses for just $2 billion.

Andrew Little: Why does he think that the majority of New Zealanders now back Labour’s KiwiBuild plan to stabilise house prices and build 100,000 affordable homes for families to buy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A sound bite does not make a plan. [Interruption] If the best that New Zealand can do is 100,000 houses over 10 years then we are in serious trouble, because this Government will see 100,000 constructed over 4 years.

Andrew Little: Is this not the truth: his half-baked policies, his bumbling Minister for Building and Housing, and all the hollow promises will not solve the housing crisis, and that he leads an arrogant and out-of-touch Government that has given up on the Kiwi Dream of homeownership?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. If one looks at the activity that has taken place, the enormous amount of action that we are actually seeing—and actually the inaction that we saw in the 9 years of the previous Labour Government—then we can actually see a credible plan to more houses being built. And that is the reason why most New Zealanders actually can see that that is working. Of course it is going to take some time, but that is a factor that we are working our way through. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Twyford, please, less interjection from you specifically.

Metiria Turei: Does he agree that for homes to be more affordable for families, the gap between house prices and incomes needs to reduce?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, as the Minister for Building and Housing said earlier in the House today, that is a factor—but there are many other factors, including interest rates. One thing I will say is that if house prices in New Zealand were to halve, that is a war on the poor. It is the poorest New Zealanders who, in percentage terms, borrow the most against their houses. Metiria Turei has been telling New Zealanders—and the Opposition is supporting her—that halving house prices will actually see the poorest New Zealanders have all of their equity eliminated. That is a war on the poor.

Metiria Turei: Given that house prices are rising at more than 10 percent nationwide but Treasury predicts wage growth at less than 3 percent, when does he expect that housing will become more affordable for families in Auckland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a number of factors. Firstly, very low interest rates, stronger real wage growth than we have seen for a very long period of time, and strong employment markets actually are supporting young people and, actually, people across the board to be able to afford housing. That is the reality—that they have got the confidence of doing that. One of the reasons why more people are interested in buying houses in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland, is that they do feel that confidence in the Auckland market.

Metiria Turei: How many of the 400,000 Aucklanders aged between 20 and 40 will be locked out of the housing market because of low wage growth and skyrocketing house prices?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: By any definition, you cannot say there is low wage growth in real terms. When one looks back at the previous Government, there was virtually zero real wage growth in New Zealand because inflation was high. Inflation is running at extremely low levels, interest rates are extremely low—in fact, they are at a 60-year low—and employment markets are very strong. They are the conditions that support young people to get into a property. What we will see, I think, is a change in the nature of the sorts of properties that young people buy—more of them buying apartments and the like. That is an international trend that we are seeing. But to say that someone cannot buy a house in Auckland at under $600,000—which is where the Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme is set—is not true: there are many apartments, townhouses, and some homes in that category.

Metiria Turei: Given that when he became Prime Minister the median Auckland home cost six times the median household income and now it is almost 10 times that, when does he expect that that number will stop growing?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: When I became Prime Minister, 35,000 Kiwis a year net left for Australia. When I became Prime Minister, interest rates were 8 percent, and 11 percent in some retail numbers. When I became Prime Minister, there was a significant recession and a decade of deficits. One of the reasons why New Zealanders are coming back to this country is that they see the opportunities that are being created. I think most New Zealanders would prefer the conditions they see today than those in 2008 when I first became Prime Minister.

Labour’s Kiwibuild supported

Newshub/Reid Research have polled on Kiwibuild.

‘Do you support Labour’s Kiwibuild policy?’.

  • Yes 56%
  • No 41%
  • Don’t know 3%

This time a reasonable headline – Labour’s ‘Kiwibuild’ popular with voters  – but Patrick Gower again goes a bit overboard with his commentary.

Labour’s policy of building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years for first home buyers is supported by a clear majority of voters.

It’s another blow on the housing front for National, as it shows Labour’s signature policy has significant support.

I don’t see it being a game changer, not at this stage at least. Much may depend on the state of the housing market in a year, leading into the next election.

Labour likes the result.

Leader Andrew Little says the result vindicates the policy and is proof it’s not only popular, but Kiwis believe it’s one of the best solutions to the crisis.

“People do expect when we do have a crisis of the nature we’ve got – a shortage of houses across the country – that if the private sector can’t do it, then the Government needs to step in and lead a building programme,” says Mr Little.

And Greens beat National over the head with it.:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is also welcoming the result, saying it flies in the face of the Government’s vehement opposition to a mass-scale house-building programme.

“National will not do it because they are so fixed in their ideology,” she says.

“I mean, they just launched a billion-dollar fund which had nothing to do with building new homes. They have no new ideas and I think that’s why they’re failing.”

Ironic for Greens to accuse someone else of being fixed in their ideology.

Prime Minister John Key says the poll result is not a sign the current system is failing.

“We don’t think it’s necessary because that’s 100,000 homes over 10 years,” he says.

“We’re going to build 100,000 homes under our programme in about 3.5 years.”

There has to be real signs of progress towards that by next year’s election or National could be dumped on housing.

 

Turei telling the truth as she saw it

Audrey Young writes that their can be harsh political lessons in telling the truth, and she thinks that Metiria Turei has been taught one, in Harsh lessons about telling truth in politics

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei was telling the truth as she saw it, that in order to improve affordability of housing, house prices needed to fall by up to 50 per cent. She didn’t say they needed to fall fast. In fact she said they needed to fall gradually to prevent a crash.

But she didn’t think it through and Labour was smeared with it, less than two months into the memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

Disregarding the political carelessness of her comments, they also breached the agreement because Labour was not warned in advance that Turei was going to posit such a controversial policy. Andrew Little and John Key seized on them.

You can hear it already: A Green-Labour Government says house values must fall. It is a gift that National will return to no matter what qualification the Greens put around it and no matter how much Labour seeks to distance itself from it.

Little needed to distance himself quickly from the Green policy. The only thing scarier than the prospect of falling house values for a home-owner is a politician with a plan for falling house values – and Labour cannot be associated with that plan.

But it appears to have been a carefully planned announcement by Turei.

The Greens promote themselves as a party of principle and courage.

Turei was attempting to meet the challenge of former National leader Don Brash who told me three weeks ago that politicians of the left and right were terrified of saying house prices had to fall.

She later described her own comments in terms of political courage.

Somebody has to be “brave enough” to talk about cutting house prices so a rational conversation about how to do it could begin.

But…

Turei may have told the truth as she saw it but for someone who has been a party leader for seven years, it was careless and damaging to her party and to Labour.

Stacey Kirk: Labour and the Greens fall out over whether house prices should be cut in half

Just two months later the Greens have thrown a grenade at their cosy little home.

More precisely, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei announced (debatably on the hoof) that her party supported slashing house prices in half to fix the crisis.

Labour leader Andrew Little was never going to agree to this – he’s spent the last however many months repeating the word “stabilisation” like it’s going out of fashion.

To add salt to the wound, the first Little heard of the Greens’ plan to drop house prices to about three or four times the average household income, was when media started calling him asking for his thoughts.

Turei’s random announcement is a serious breach of the MOU – there’s no two ways about it.

What possessed the Greens to put a wedge between the two just as the Opposition was making some headway is anyone’s guess.

LabourGreenSplit

How ‘on-the-hoof’ was Turei’s announcement?

At Dim-Post, on the Notes towards a Red Queen hypothesis of New Zealand politics thread, a claim was repeated that everything the greens decide on has to be agreed to by the membership:

RJL:

The Greens are driven by their membership, so for the Greens to move to the right, their membership would need to utterly change. That is, not going to happen.

But Ximenes responded:

Strange that none of the Greens I know knew anything about the latest policy on driving down house prices. Did that ever go before the Policy section or was it just made up on the hoof? At the latest branch meeting not a single person was aware of the policy.

Turei made it sound like it was a party proposal – Greens want 50% house price drop:

“The Green Party is putting together a plan for how to reduce house prices responsibly and gradually, and that will include making sure people who’ve recently taken out big mortgages to buy a home are safe and secure.

“Nobody, including the Green Party, wants to see the housing market crash and equally nobody thinks the current situation can go on like this.

“Our plan for more affordable housing will include building more houses, a capital gains tax (excluding the family home), and restricting non-resident foreign buyers,” Mrs Turei said.

But she went further on RNZ, clearly saying that Auckland house prices should be deliberately reduced by up to 50 percent over a period of time to make the market affordable again.

Andrew Little and Labour weren’t aware of this Green target, and Little strongly reiterated opposition to any drop in house values.

It appears some of the Green membership was unaware.

Was James Shaw in the Turei loop, or did she decide to go it alone?

She may have been telling the truth as she saw it, but perhaps it wasn’t the Green truth, and it certainly wasn’t the whole truth in respect of the Labour/Green MoU.

The truth is Turei made it look like a Misunderstanding of Unity.

 

Greens want 50% house price drop

On RNZ this morning Metiria Turei said she supported up to a 50% drop in house prices.

Auckland house prices need to drop 50 percent – Greens

Auckland house prices should be deliberately reduced by up to 50 percent over a period of time to make the market affordable again, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Ms Turei said the only way to reverse that was to slowly bring prices back down to three or four times the median household income.

She told Morning Report the Green Party was considering what timeframe would work without crashing the market and hurting people who already owned homes.

“The only way to prevent a bust, and to protect families in the short and long term is to lay out a comprehensive plan, which means using every comprehensive tool that we’ve got so that we can slowly bring down house prices so that they’re reasonable.”

She backed this up (without the numbers) with this:

Responsible house price reduction needed to avoid bubble bursting

Auckland housing is unaffordable and a responsible Government would have a sensible plan to reduce house prices over time, while protecting families with mortgages, the Green Party said today.

“The simple fact is that housing in Auckland is totally unaffordable and if we don’t take action to bring house prices down, we will have a whole generation of people locked out of ever owning their own home,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“In around 10 to 15 years’ time, we’d like to see families on the median household income buying their first home for about three to four times that income – not 10 times like it costs now.

“I want to be very clear that we are talking about a responsible, carefully managed reduction in house prices over a period of time like 10 to 15 years.

“The Green Party is putting together a plan for how to reduce house prices responsibly and gradually, and that will include making sure people who’ve recently taken out big mortgages to buy a home are safe and secure.

“We know housing isn’t affordable for families now, so the only way to protect people from market instability is to lay out a plan using every tool we’ve got to slowly bring down house prices to a reasonable level.

“Nobody, including the Green Party, wants to see the housing market crash and equally nobody thinks the current situation can go on like this.

“It’s a fundamental part of Kiwi values that people who work hard should be able to afford their own home.

“Our plan for more affordable housing will include building more houses, a capital gains tax (excluding the family home), and restricting non-resident foreign buyers,” Mrs Turei said.

Back to RNZ with Labour’s reaction:

The Auckland Council’s chief economist had suggested bringing prices down to five times the median household income by 2030, she said.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Ms Turei’s declaration that Auckland house prices should be deliberately reduced was irresponsible.

There was no way a Labour-led government would consider the idea, he said.

“We have a very clear plan. It’s not about crashing house prices. It’s about stabilising prices.

“We don’t want to cause undue economic harm to those who – in good faith – have bought homes, entered into mortgages. That’s not a responsible approach.”

Labour and the Greens recently struck a co-operation agreement, including a no-surprises policy.

This seems like a planned announcement by the Greens, and they are likely to have known it would be a bit of a surprise to Labour.

So who is right?

I don’t think a 50% reduction in values is a sound target. Too many risks.

For a start it’s probably impossible to plan house prices over the short term let alone over a decade or two. There are too many factors that are hard to control, and major ones of those are international.

I think if house prices drop by more than  20% it  starts to put recent purchasers at risk of going into negative equity, so dropping much more than that must be highly questionable.

Perhaps there needs to be some middle ground – some drop in values, limiting increases in values by ensuring adequate land supply, and and working more towards raising wages to meet somewhere in the middle.

Ideally. If that were at all possible.

 

Labour’s new co-leader

Perhaps this was a Freudian slip by Andrew Little’s office in a letter sent out by Labour and the Greens this week, announcing the parties’ joint inquiry into homelessness.

LabourCoLeader

A possibly unobservant Metiria Turei signed off as Labour Party Co-leader.

Ten dirty rivers?

At the Green party AGM Metiria Turei launched a new (sort of ) policy to target ten rivers for cleaning up.

Stuff: Green Party launches campaign to point out dirty rivers

A travelling campaign to highlight 10 major rivers in need of a clean up has been launched by the Green Party at its annual conference. 

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei unveiled the campaign during her keynote speech, saying the Government needed to lift its “wadable” standards. 

But while the campaign was new, the policy was not. Turei said it wasn’t just Green Party members that were being targeted, it was an issue “of enormous importance” to all New Zealanders. 

In what appears to also be doubling as a data-gathering exercise, a new Green Party website requires petitioners to register with email addresses. 

“The best hope for our rivers is that we change the Government. Today’s petition is an opportunity for New Zealanders to demand rivers clean enough to swim in. 

The 10 filthy rivers: 

  • Wairua (Northland)
  • Kaipatiki (Auckland)
  • Waikato
  • Tarawera (Bay of Plenty)
  • Tukituki (Hawkes Bay) 
  • Waitara (Taranaki) 
  • Ruamahanga (Wairarapa) 
  • Manawatu
  • Waikirikiri/Selwyn (Canterbury) 
  • Mataura (Southland)

The following day on Stuff/Taranaki Daily News: Green party looking to clean up quality of Taranaki’s Waitara river

The sewage-spill plagued Waitara river has made a list of 10 waterways around the country the Green Party wants cleaned up. 

Waitara has been plagued by sewage leaks this year, with three sewage discharges since February. 

In the Green Party’s campaign information it states the Waitara river is impacted by nutrients and sediment from dairy farming upstream. But its recent issue with sewage overflows haven’t gone unnoticed. 

“If you thought raw sewage going into rivers was a thing of the past, think again,” it says. 

“When the sewerage system at Waitara, north of New Plymouth in Taranaki, is overwhelmed by heavy rainfall, raw sewage spills into the river and ends up in the sea.”

However the following day, also from Taranaki Daily News: Green Party’s Waitara River claims slammed as baseless by council

Green Party claims that the Waitara River is so polluted it is unsafe for bathers have been described as “baseless” by councillors.

But the claims were refuted by the Taranaki Regional Council during a meeting of its consents and regulatory committee on Tuesday.

“The Green Party’s facts are totally misaligned with reality,” council chief executive Basil Chamberlain said. 

“It’s sad for the community of Waitara who can right now swim in their river 95 per cent of the time.”

The council’s director of environment quality, Gary Bedford, said he could find “no factual base to the Green’s claims”.

“We test the Waitara River every week during peak bathing season and have found it swimmable for 95 per cent of the time,” he said. 

 Bedford stressed that the council’s water quality data was publicly available and audited by Niwa to ensure its accuracy.

“It’s important to point out that if the bacteria levels reach even one point above the threshold it’s deemed at risk,” he said. 

Water spokesperson for the Greens Catherine Delahunty said the rivers selected in their top 10 didn’t necessarily represent the dirtiest in the country.

“We wanted ten from different regions from around the country that showed the different types of threats and problems rivers are facing, but which also highlighted the potential solutions for cleaning them up,” she said.

But the Taranaki Regional Council claims have fallen on deaf ears at Green HQ. Today Metiria Turei continued the 10 rivers campaign unchanged. Via email:

We’ve chosen 10 rivers to focus on, to find out what’s wrong and how we can clean them up again – we want your support for this campaign, can you add your name?
 
We can do it! Aotearoa has the resources and the know-how to clean up our rivers and protect the wild places that we love.

Our reward at the end of the hard work? The magic sound of a big splash and a shriek as that kid hits that sparkling, cold water.

How could anyone argue against that?

Taranaki Regional Council claim they have already done the hard work on the Waitara River.

Metiria Turei’s AGM speech

Metiria Turei’s keynote speech to the 2016 Green AGM/conference in which she announces a  clean river policy (Greens have campaigned on cleaning up rivers for years but there must be something new in this).

“I am the River, and the River is me”
Metiria Turei
Speech to Green Party AGM, 5 June 2016

Tenei au e tu whakaiti nei, i raro i a Ranginui i runga i a Papatuanuku, e titiro ki nga maunga whakahi me nga tini uri of Tane

Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, e te ti, e te ta, tena koutou katoa.

Ki ngā iwi me ngā hapū katoa o te rohe, mihi atu ki a koutou e pupuri tonu ana ki te mana o te whenua nei.

A ka huri au ki te hunga Kākāriki – anei tātou kei mua I nga kaupapa o te ra nei, anei taku mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa.

E rere kau mai te Awa nui
Mai i te Kāhui Maunga ki Tangaroa
Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au

The Great River flows
From the Mountains to the Sea
I am the River, and the River is me

This whakataukī speaks of the awa, the river, as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea, its tributaries and all its physical and spiritual elements. It speaks of the indivisible connection that we have as people, all people, to the life that comes from water.

Ko Tararua te maunga, Ko Ruamahunga te awa, Ko Metiria Turei ahau.

One of my rivers, my awa, is the Ruamahanga which flows from the beautiful Tararua Ranges, down through the Wairarapa lowlands. It winds lazily down to Lake Onoke before it meets Raukawa Moana and then Te Moana nui a Kiwa.

And I say it is worth saving.

The Green Party says it is worth saving.

My awa is a stunningly beautiful river. In the old days the abundant tuna, longfin eels, were a taonga for my tupuna and they still are. The Ruamahanga was the lifeblood of the rohe, its beating heart.

But now its lifeblood is diminished – and that’s why we need to Change the Government.

When my dad and his brothers and sisters were growing up, the river was their playground. They learned to catch tuna off its banks.

But in recent years, our river has been treated badly. She leaves the ranges pristine, but then she meets Masterton, where for decades, sewage was dumped into the river.

She passes by farms where farmers have taken water from her to grow their crops and filled her with nitrogen run-off. She has been tampered with so she no longer flows into Lake Wairarapa.

Sediment washes into her, which clogs her up like someone with a bad cold. By the time she reaches Lake Onoke, the pristine water from the ranges is unrecognisable, as is the river itself.

This is the same story that’s repeated throughout the country. Rivers so poisoned by pollution they’re not safe enough for kids’ to swim in, let alone drink from.

National likes to say this is just the way it is.

And they’re right, this is the way it is when you choose to defend polluters, rather than to protect our rivers.

This is the way it is if you ignore the risk to our environment, to our society, and yes, to our economy.

But our rivers don’t need to continue their decline.

That’s why we need to Change the Government.

Because the alternative, is that if we clean up our rivers, we bring them back to life again. And the good news is we can. Aotearoa has the resources, and we have the know-how to clean up our rivers and protect the wild places that we love.

We just need a Government prepared to make it happen.

So next year, when are in Government – with the Labour Party – the Green Party will set out to save New Zealand’s rivers. I’m pledging today that we will make our rivers clean enough to swim in again.

We’ll save our rivers because it is the right thing to do.

We’ll save our rivers because we believe it’s time for New Zealand to be the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. Our rivers, like our kids, can’t afford to wait any longer.

We will show what’s possible and in so doing we’ll annihilate one of the lies of this National Government: the lie that our rivers are beyond hope, and that the best we can get is water clean enough to wade through.

We know it will take a strong Government committed to protecting our environment and working alongside every community to save our rivers. And the Greens are ready to do just that.

So we have identified 10 precious and loved rivers to highlight how bad government has injured them and how good government can help fix them.

• The Wairua
• The Kaipātiki/Lucas Creek
• The Waikato
• The Tarawera
• The Waitara
• The Tukituki
• The Ruamāhanga
• The Manawatū
• The Waikirikiri/Selwyn
• The Mataura

From the Mataura in the South, to the Wairua in the North, we will be touring each of these rivers, looking at all the things that threaten them – from over-intensified dairy farms to sewerage to industrial pollution.

And we will look at all the solutions people in our communities are coming up with, the solutions that will clean them up and protect our rivers from pollution.

We will work with iwi and communities who are already champions for these rivers and help build even more support through a Swimmable not Wadeable rivers petition.

We will inspire and be inspired by the amazing work of thousands of New Zealanders who every day are protecting the birthright of our kids by protecting our rivers and our environment.

I want all of us in this room, and all of our members and supporters, to get in behind this campaign.

I want you to talk to as many people as possible about it.

To ask them if they think our rivers should be swimmable.

And to ask them to sign the petition to make that goal a reality.

Lots of us are out campaigning at the moment for the Local Body Elections. That campaign is a great opportunity for the Greens to be talking about the importance of rivers. And the rivers campaign is a great opportunity to build our Local Body campaign.

Because I know that New Zealanders everywhere care deeply about water. It’s a great way to connect with people about Green values.

Because I know that the Green Party is leading the way on solutions and others are taking notice.

National is taking notice – and believe me it knows its weak response to pollution and to giving our water away for free is hurting it.

When people are standing up and saying no, National notices.

When more and more farmers are getting behind environmental initiatives, National notices.

When even Dairy NZ is beginning to say that less intensive farms, organic farms, with added value are more profitable than a high volume, high impact approach – National notices.

National is getting its wake up call on this issue. But National will continue to do as little as they can, for as long as they can.

That’s why we need to Change the Government.

In Government the Green Party will do all we can to limit the amount of pollution going into rivers so that they are safe for our kids to swim in.

The Green Party will put a moratorium on new dairy conversions, support land based sewage solutions, put filters on stormwater drains, and plant and fence land around waterways.

We will put a price on the commercial use of water and use that for water restoration projects by hapu and communities. The Ashburton people have our full support.

Our National Environmental Standard (NES) for water quality will require councils to ensure that our rivers are clean enough for swimming.

This will support the National Policy Statement on water and help bring it into effect. We would make sure it set maximum levels for nitrate, phosphorus, zinc, cadmium and other pollutants allowed in our rivers.

And we support Maori as kaitiaki of water.

This is just the start. There is so much more.

Already, people like you, all around the country are working to clean up their rivers. You’ve already started showing the National Government what can be done, and you’ve already started making New Zealand the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. You’re doing what’s right, what’s needed, to protect the precious places that we love.

And for that hard work I think the Government should have your back.

That’s why we need to Change the Government.

Because the National Government honestly doesn’t care if you and I go without the things we treasure, like clean air and water, if its friends can get further ahead.

John Key thinks our rivers are in pretty good shape. That tells me that the so called brighter future that National promised is really only for its chosen few, and it’s costing the rest of us our way of life.

In last week’s Budget we learned that you and I are subsidising industries that are belching out climate damaging carbon, to the tune of $2 billion.

We’re effectively paying those industries to pollute. Meanwhile, we’re having to subsidise them by putting more and more public money into cleaning up the rivers they’re polluting.

The $100 million promised in the Budget by the Government is only $10 million a year, and the money doesn’t kick in for years. That isn’t enough to clean up our waterways, and doesn’t address the causes of pollution like intensive dairying.

The supposed Freshwater Improvement Fund of just $10 million a year is a drop in the bucket of what is needed to make our rivers safe for swimming.

And on top of that the Fund can be used for irrigation!

That’s right, like a cow pooing in the creek, the fund is already so fouled it can be used to further pollute the waterways.

This is typical National Party, talk big, do bugger all.

Thankfully for my awa, the Ruamahunga, there are lots of people who are working hard to restore her health – my hapu, Ngati Moe, are planting native shrubs at the edge of the river to soak up nitrogen run off and are working to restore fat and healthy tuna and other native fish and Wairarapa farmers committed to protecting the river from nutrients. There are changes being made to the sewerage system, working groups listening to the community about what they want for the river, and volunteers getting kids interested in replenishing her with tuna too.

Yes, you can still swim in the upper reaches of the Ruamahanga, and many do. It’s glorious up there, before it hits the towns. And yes, there are still some tuna, but they need help getting down to the sea on their once-in-a-lifetime journey to breed.

And yes, I agree, water is necessary to grow crops and keep livestock healthy.
But what the National Government doesn’t appreciate is that water – like the rest of nature – is never free.

When National gives water away and allows businesses to pump their pollution into our air and waterways for free, the rest of us bear the cost.

We always bear the cost.

You and I know, that if we really want clean rivers, if we want a fair country that’s as good as it can be, we need to change the Government.

By backing those who’re already well ahead, National is denying young families the chance to buy a warm, safe home for their kids to grow up in, it’s robbing us of the rivers we love to swim in, and it’s costing New Zealand the opportunity to make the transition to a cleaner, more prosperous future.

The Green Party understands that in order to have the best country possible, we need to take care of ourselves, of each other and the rivers and wild places that we love.

We think it’s time for New Zealand to be the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. But for it to happen we need a Government prepared to do all it can rather than as little as it can get away with.

To do what’s right, not just what’s easy.

Aotearoa New Zealand can have clean rivers, we can have warm houses and we can have meaningful jobs that pay enough for families to thrive, if we make good changes now.

Our ten rivers campaign shows what’s possible, with a Government prepared to do all that it can.

We can make rivers clean enough to swim in again.

So let’s get started and let’s CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT!

Turei’s speech

Metiria Turei is a far more accomplished and effective communicator than James Shaw and Andrew Little. She actually has the Green crowd buzzing with her AGM keynote speech.

Her big announcement is a Clean Rivers policy that she wants a ‘Green Government’ to implement, to clean up the rivers and waterways so they are safe for swimming.

I have no argument with the ideals of this, and most people would probably agree in principal. But whether there are practical ways of cleaning up waterways faster is more questionable.

For all her appeal to the converted she will have trouble appealing to a wider audience with her over the top ‘National does not care!’ and ‘do bugger all’ and ‘they are so terrible for this country’ rhetoric.

I’ve watched Turei’s speech live on Facebook, 70-80 viewers isn’t many.

I was going to post the transcript here but there hasn’t been one posted on the Green website. Perhaps we aren’t getting one.

Understanding memorandums and Winston

Andrew Little:

People all over New Zealand come up to me on the street and say, “Do I know you? You look familiar. Are you famous?”

Metiria Turei:

And I laugh, and say to them, “In a manner of speaking, yes, I suppose you could say that! Tee-hee!

“Andrew, you need to loosen up! How about I play a merry jig, and you dance to it? Here goes! One, two, three, four!”

Winston Peters:

“Words fail me. I’m lost for words. No, don’t interrupt; I haven’t finished talking.”

I hop into their bed.

I get good and cosy, and commandeer the hot water bottle. I adjust the reading light, and make sure I have the most pillows. But something still isn’t right.

“I should be in the middle,” I say. “Make way.”

We settle in for a good night’s sleep. But Little snores, so I throw him out. I can’t afford to be seen sleeping with Turei, so I throw her out, too.

“Get some rest,” I tell them, “because I’m going to need you to carry me in my bed right up until November next year. Do we have an understanding?”

Understood.

Steve Braunias: Secret Diary of The Labour-Green pact

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