Child poverty target versus targets

There has been an ongoing argument in Parliament this week about how to target child poverty after the Children’s Commissioner suggested an overall target of reducing it by 5-10% in a year.

1 News: Key shuns Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty target

A target promoted by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft  to reduce child poverty has been rejected by Prime Minister John Key who says it’s not as simple as that.

The new Children’s Commissioner says politicians should put aside politics and agree to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year.

Debate on this continued yesterday in Question Time, with Metiria Turei pressing John Key on a single target, while Key insisted it was far more complex than that and that the Government had a number of poverty targets.

Draft transcript:

Prime Minister—Government Policies

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o ngā kaupapa here katoa o tāna Kawantatanga?

[Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister still believe, as he said in this House yesterday, that it is better and more effective for the Government to set individual targets on components of child poverty rather than a specific child poverty reduction target?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister talked yesterday about the Better Public Services targets, like rheumatic fever and early childhood education, did he know that the expert advisory group on child poverty provided a comprehensive list of 51 child poverty – related indicators, including both of those?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but that is exactly the point, is it not? Last week the member was saying that the target should have 17—today she seems to be saying it is 51. For the last while she has been saying that the number of children is 360,000 and then she said yesterday that she wanted to accept that the Government’s number of 85,000—or at least, 60,000 to 100,000—was correct. She is all over the map, and that is the point. The Government is far better to approach—

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has not addressed the question, and has instead talked about a Green Party position, which he has no authority over.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. When the Prime Minister rose to answer the question he addressed the question immediately. He certainly has gone on to enlarge on that answer, which is probably unnecessary, but he certainly answered the question immediately.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister committed to his Government using individual indicators and targets to address child poverty, did he mean that he would adopt the expert advisory group’s recommendations for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related indicators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the Government did—and, I think, quite correctly—was to say that poverty is a very complicated issue, but that there are some individual component parts which, if the Government focuses resources on and gives attention to, can make significant gains. We are doing that in terms of rheumatic fever. We are doing that in terms of the number of children being immunised. We are doing that in terms of the number of children having access to early childhood education. We are doing that in terms of the number of teenage pregnancies, with young mums on the equivalent of the domestic purposes benefit. I think it is far more sensible for the Government to approach this issue in a systematic and thorough way, dealing with each of these issues, rather than the member spending, as she wants to, her lifetime dreaming up some dodgy number that she knows is wrong.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an unnecessary and personal attack—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I could not hear correctly what the point of order is.

Metiria Turei: I take personal offence at that personal attack on my integrity, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the final part of the answer was helpful to the order of the House; I accept that. But I hardly think it was a personal attack on the member.

Metiria Turei: So will the Prime Minister expand the Better Public Services targets to include all of those other indicators that experts have said contribute to child poverty, such as household crowding, infant mortality, self-harm and suicide by children, and serious skin infections?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I doubt we would have an individual Better Public Services target for each one, or there would be so many individual targets that it might lose some of its meaning. All of those issues are on the Government’s radar, and all of them are getting attention.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister is refusing to establish official measurements of child poverty, and also will not set targets for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related outcomes, is he not really telling the country that he will avoid any attempt to identify, to measure, or to reduce child poverty in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the opposite. This is the first Government in the history of this Parliament that has had a list of Better Public Services targets and has been quite happy to be measured against them, and has set those targets in quite challenging areas. The Government produces a raft of different measures and reports in relation to poverty and income, including the longitudinal study by Bryan Perry, which shows that income inequality is not getting worse. The reason the member does not quote it is that she does not like it, because it does not suit her arguments.

Metiria Turei: So what has changed since 2012, when the Prime Minister said: “If you don’t measure, monitor and report on things, I don’t think you can make progress.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely nothing, and that is why the Government has these individual targets and has a range of different measures. But it is not this Government; there has been longstanding advice from officials that one single measure of poverty in this country would be an inappropriate way of dealing with it.



Sanders/Trump/Brexit syndrome in NZ?

In the US and UK where there’s a lot of disillusionment with politics and parties, as illustrated by strong levels of support for alternatives like Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.

Volatile polls suggest there could be a large lump of disgruntlement in New Zealand too, but there is one significant difference here – no political alternative has appealed as much.

NZ First has picked up some of the protest support, but Winston Peters is hardly a breath of fresh air on the political scene here.


Waiting for the top job…

None of the other alternatives have popular appeal – Andrew Little, Metiria Turei and James Shaw don’t have the maverick attraction of Sanders, Trump, Corbyn.

However Brexit may have a parallel in our flag referendum,

There may be a groundswell of disgruntlement but here there is no one to attach it to.

A Burr under the Green saddle

Lloyd Burr at Newshub echoes and highlights the hypocrisy of the Green Party over their apparently unconditional support of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary  at the expense of Māori treaty rights, something the Greens normally promote as sacrosanct.

Newshub: Greens have turned back on Treaty

By unconditionally supporting the Kermadec ocean sanctuary proposal, the Green Party is turning its back on the Treaty of Waitangi and its own Te Tiriti policy.

The Greens have always been a strong voice on Treaty issues and like to publicise that fact.

But its current support of the Kermadec legislation, which walks all over Māori rights, is a slap in the face for all its past rhetoric.

In fact, it’s hypocritical.

Burr details a number of issues where the Greens put a lot of importance on Te Tiriti.

  • The water rights debate during the asset sales saga? The Greens said “the Key Government’s rush to sell assets does not justify it ignoring its Treaty obligations”.
  • The  private members bill that would stop Māori land confiscations under the Public Works Act? The bill will “stop any more unfair confiscations of what is left of whenua Māori”.
  • Co-leader Metiria Turei’s Ratana speech a few years ago about how proud she was of the Green Party’s Māori policies? “We in the Green Party deeply believe in the benefits of honouring the Treaty,” she said.
  • The Greens saying it opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership because “the damage it could do to Māori rights and the Māori economy”.

But the Greens, plus organisations closely associated with the Greens like Greenpeace – Māori versus the environmental lobby – see the Kermadec sanctuary as important enough to ignore rights negotiated by Māori under the Treaty.

The saga must be a kick in the guts for Green MP Marama Davidson who has been such a champion on Māori issues.

It must be a hard pill for her to swallow.

Where does co-leader Metiria Turei fit in to this? She makes a big deal about the importance of Māori issues. When it suits her.

Minister for Women or activist?

The Chiefs Rugby/stripper story keeps on getting attention, despite the stripper Scarlette wanting it left alone so she can move on.

Some of the attention has turned to (and turned on) Minister for Women, Louise Upston. She has been strongly criticised for not strongly criticising what happened in Hamilton.

Green MPs have become involved, illustrating a clash of women’s activism versus the responsibilities of a Minister.

Upston was overseas when the story was being done to death by media but she maintains that she doesn’t and won’t comment on individual cases. All she has said is via Twitter:


That’s not good enough for Jemma Lynch at Newshub: Minister for Women? Yeah, right

The Prime Minister defended her silence saying he’d already said enough as the voice for the Government on the issue.

And after that she sent a tweet.

Yes, instead of reassuring over half of the population by saying she, the minister for all women, is standing up for women, she sent a tweet to her three-and-a-half-thousand followers on a social media platform basically none of the country uses.

A tweet two days after the shameful investigation was concluded, which did not mention the Chiefs, nor New Zealand Rugby, nor the investigation itself.

Sorry Minister, that’s simply too little too late.

Minister, step up, or step aside.

Generally it’s normal and advisable that Ministers don’t comment on everything that happens that could be related to their portfolio. The Minister of Finance doesn’t comment on every cough of the NZX, the Minister of Police doesn’t comment on every crime, the Minister of Housing doesn’t comment on every trashed State House or person waiting too long to be housed.

What is happen here though is that people are demanding that Upston say and do something about the Chiefs’ incident.

The Greens have become involved calling the Minister to resign. MP Jan Logie claims that Upston  doesn’t give a damn about women because she won’t do what activists demand.

One News: ‘NZ women don’t deserve a minister who doesn’t give a damn’ – Greens call for minister’s resignation

The Minister for Women is accused of being derelict in her duties – and the Greens want her to resign.

“The Minister for Women Louise Upston needs to resign,” Green MP Jan Logie, backed by fellow women parliamentarians, told media.

“If the minister cannot support women who are challenging our culture of violence then she needs to stand down. New Zealand women don’t deserve a minister who doesn’t give a damn.”

“She should have made a specific statement, she should have supported Scarlette, she should have joined the Human Rights Commission in calling for an investigation and a change in culture instead she chose a generic statement that let them off the hook.

“We have the highest rate in intimate partner violence in the OECD and this is the minister’s best opportunity to change that culture, to get engaged, get involved. Her absence is a derelict of duty.”

Green co-leader Metiria referred to that on Twitter:

The Minister for Women needs to advocate for women or go.

I engaged:

Should the Minister comment on every issue raised by MPs or by social media? That could be a very slippery slope.

Sorry, tell me why she should be silent about the epidemic of violence suffered by women?

If you were Minister for Women would you comment on any/every individual case that was publicised and action was demanded?

Tell me why the Minister of Women should be silent?

Tell me why she should speak on individual cases, especially those already done to death and the victim wants out of the spotlight?

And that’s not an individual case. Is she failing to address violence? I thought Government announced measures today.

Metiria didn’t respond.

She has been an activist for a long time, being involved with the McGillicuddy Serious Party(1993) and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (1996). She became  opposition MP in 2002, becoming co-leader in 2009.

Is Metiria ready to switch to the role of Minister? The responsibilities are hugely different to being an activist who criticises and pushes for action on everything that comes to mind.

She may or may not get to find out how big a transition it would be.

If Metiria was to become Minister for Women I doubt she would speak up on every issue demanded as demanded by others – or at least she shouldn’t.

I don’t think the Minister for Women should climb into every issue as demanded by activists. If Upston did it once then the  pressure would increase for her to be a knee jerk reactionary, time and time again, which would be quite inappropriate for a Minister.

I don’t know how effective Upston is as Minister For Women but jumping on media bash wagons should not be in her job description.

Turei, housing and government

A comment from Bob in Open Forum last night:

Metiria Turei lost it during her speach on the third reading of the Housing bill, completely unbelievable display, unfit to be in Parliment and should never be anywhere near goverment.

First on the housing debate debacle itself from Vernon Small in National left red-faced as blunder opens way for ‘endless’ housing debate

Chaos in the housing market, now chaos in the House.

As if the Government didn’t have enough trouble, with Auckland house prices topping the million dollar mark, a blunder in Parliament opened the way for Labour and the other Opposition parties to trigger a virtually indefinite debate over the nation’s housing woes.

National’s support partner, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne, summed it up best: “(The) Government now looking snookered by Labour on Housing Bill, and seems to have no idea/plan to move debate, other than by exhaustion. Inept.”

Dunne also took a swing at Labour’s tactics as “equally inept” for delaying something they supported.

The state of New Zealand’s politics is dire, illustrated by the conduct of parties and MPs in Parliament. A battle to be the least inept suggests they are trying to be better, which may be inaccurate.

Turei’s speech in the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill – Third reading – part 6

Draft transcript:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): So the Opposition took control of the House over the last 2 days, and what did we do with the time? We made housing our No. 1 priority as an Opposition. Why is that? Because when we are in Government, it will also be one of our main priorities. Why is that? Because it is the priority for New Zealanders.

We have thousands of New Zealanders who are sleeping rough in garages and cars, on their friends’ couches, in tents, and in hotel rooms because they are desperate for housing.

We have thousands of young New Zealanders who are working hour after hour and have no chance of ever getting into their own home because they are locked out by speculators supported by the National Government. They need houses too.

We have young families, families with children, who are trying to find secure, decent, warm, dry, and safe affordable housing to raise their children, so that their children have the best opportunities for the best health, for the best education, and for the best future for their kids. Those families need housing.

We have elderly people who are heading into retirement who were not able to buy a home and secure their housing, who are worried about what their retirement will be like if they have to spend their superannuation not only what they need daily but for their rent as well, because it was never designed to deal with renting in the same way. Those elderly people—they need houses.

Who was here over the last 2 days, standing in this House hour after hour, with our caucuses lined up along here on the Opposition benches? We were the ones putting forward the solutions, trying to figure out what the different options were, and thinking about negotiating with the Government to find solutions to work through the housing provisions and housing solutions that were on the table.

Why is that? Because it is the Opposition that puts housing as a priority. Where was the Government over these last 17 hours? Did you hear a peep out of these people? No, they were sitting there, hopeless, their mouths open—gobsmacked. They were gobsmacked, just sitting there doing nothing and saying nothing while it was the Opposition—Labour, Greens, New Zealand First—that was here standing up minute after minute, hour after hour, putting forward the solutions to deal with the housing crisis that our people are facing every day.

I think Phil Twyford has got it absolutely right. It was the Opposition that represented New Zealand over the last 2 days while the Government was sitting around trying to figure out how to get rid of Nick Smith—because he had made such a terrible fiasco of this entire process. That guy—honestly. Ha, ha! I mean, really, he could not have made more of a mess of this legislation or the process—from start to finish it has been an absolute disaster. He will be in such trouble, having humiliated the Government over the last 2 days.

But as he handed to us, the next Government of New Zealand—Labour and Greens, and New Zealand First if that is what it wants. Nick Smith handed to the next Government of New Zealand two full days to debate the single most important issue that is facing New Zealand families today. So I do thank him.

Thank you, Nick Smith. Do you not think we just need to say: thank you, Nick Smith, for being so terrible at your job, and such a great representative of National. You are such an excellent example of what National Ministers are—their incompetence, their fallacies, and the secrecy that they promote in the process of their legislation.

Let us not forget that one of—[Interruption] Oh, now the insults from the Minister who walks past me and makes nasty little insults as she goes past because she cannot bring herself to engage in the debate. Minister, where have you been over the last 2 days? You could have come here and debated the issue, but no. She just walks past me and makes a little nasty insult in my ear. That is the kind of Minister that John Key puts up in his Government. You are either incompetent or you are nasty—that is what they promote over there.

Hon Member: Or both!

METIRIA TUREI: Or both. Come and debate the issues with us over here, Minister. You could have been here for the last 17 hours talking about the most important issue facing New Zealanders, which is warm decent affordable housing. Where was this Minister? I did not see her here during those 17 hours. Where was she? Where was her debate? Where was her passionate conversation—her passionate solutions for dealing with the housing crisis? No—just nasty little things.

But she diverted me from the point, which was reminding us that one of the core provisions in the piece of legislation that was put forward by Nick Smith was an attempt—and, unfortunately, a successful one thanks to the ACT Party—to take away from New Zealanders their property rights in order to disguise a mess that he has made over the legal status of State housing land.

We have tried to ask him the question of the mess that he has made, we have offered options for him to talk to us about that mess to find a better way to clean it up, but Nick Smith is keeping the details of the mess he has created secret, so we do not actually know what is really going on.

What we do know, though, is that ACT and National have joined together and are complicit, under this legislation, in taking from New Zealanders their property rights, and they are disguising it as not really being anything—yet again, another example of the kind of behaviour we can expect from National Party Ministers.

In this debate, the Opposition has put forward a large number of solutions.

We offered a percentage of affordable and a definition of affordable housing; National said—no, it said.

We gave them the option to help build 10,000 homes a year; National said—no, said National.

We offered to improve the brightline test to reduce the effect of speculators in the market; National said—no, said National.

We tried to stop foreign ownership in our housing market so that New Zealand families can have a genuine go, and what do we get from National? No, said National.

We offered to improve urban and infrastructure planning to make it easier for cities like Auckland to grow like they ought to; what did National say? It said no.

Phil Twyford: Even David Seymour voted against that one.

METIRIA TUREI: Even David Seymour voted against that one. We offered an opportunity to build 250 more State houses a year, and what did National say?

Hon Members: No.

METIRIA TUREI: National said no—that is right.

Finally, at the end of an incredible piece of work with the homelessness inquiry—which was a joint effort on homelessness between Labour, the Greens, and the Māori Party—after hearing all of those tales of woe that were real stories about the real lives of New Zealanders who are affected by homelessness, the Opposition offered to the National Government an opportunity to deal with that homelessness crisis in a practical way, and what did National say? It said no.

It said no to helping the homeless, it said no to helping young families, it said no to helping young people, it said no to helping the elderly to get the kind of decent, warm, safe, and affordable housing that all of those people need.

How could National stand there—or sit there, because they did not really go anywhere, did they—and say no to those thousands and thousands of New Zealanders who want these solutions put in place?

I want to thank National members for giving us the opportunity to expose their failures, to expose their fallacies, to expose their secrecy to the country, and to offer to New Zealanders the genuine alternative at the election in 2017—the alternative of a new Government that will put the issues that New Zealanders consider the most important for them at the centre of the work that they do.

Housing is that, but that is because housing represents the right of New Zealand families to live a decent life in this beautiful, rich country that we have; to live a well life for them and their children; to have access to a beautiful environment, to a great education, and to a good and bright future for those kids.

That is why we will change the Government in 2017. Thank you.


Housing promises don’t compute

Vernon Small points out that political rhetoric on housing does not match reality, and it simply does not compute when you look at some basic numbers.

Stuff: Promises houses can be more expensive – and more affordable – do not compute

But whether it is a crisis or not, it is certainly becoming a farce.

No more so than in the mutually-exclusive policy aims that Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith has to trot out on behalf of all his colleagues – and he was at it again over the weekend.

Policy goal one is that house prices should not fall, but should rise by single digit percentages.

Policy goal two is that the ratio of house prices to income should fall from the current nine time (going on 12 times) to an average of four to five times across the country.

Policy goal three is that incomes should rise steadily, but not in a highly unsustainable or inflationary way. That will not, for yonks, deliver the $200,000-$250,000 a year household income needed to ensure the average $1 million Auckland home is around five times the average household income.  

Play around with the figures, and give Auckland a price margin over the rest of the country (shall we say six times household income?) and you still have a very long wait.

Then add in percentage house price increases that even in single digit percentages are likely to outpace wage increases and  … well you get the picture.

The picture is very clear.

Unless house prices come down a lot or wages go up a lot then ‘policy goals’ are way off the mark. They don’t compute.

And not just for the Government.

Labour MPs are hoist on a similar petard by refusing to publicly admit they would like to see a fall in prices. They have one mitigating grace; that they are prepared to use Government cash to build a swag of affordable houses; but refuse to face the inevitable (perhaps even desirable) truth that house prices must soften – not just rise more slowly.

But Labour’s policy of providing tens of thousands of ‘affordable houses’ comes nowhere near close to making what is actually affordable to people on modest wages possible in Auckland and other cities and regions.

Only Green co-leader Metiria Turei – and a raft of clear-eyed economists – seem prepared to utter the unlovely truth; only a big dive in house prices, especially in Auckland, will provide a significant easing in home affordability in the next 10 to 20 years.

Many may not agree with what Turei has proposed but at least she is being honest about the numbers.

We either need significant housing deflation, or some honesty from National and Labour.

They don’t seem to be inclined towards either.



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.


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.


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:


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.