Kiwibuild not affected by the budget

There were comments about the omission of Kiwibuild from budget announcements

Newstalk ZB: No money for flagship housing policy KiwiBuild in the Budget

There have been plenty of winners in today’s Budget, but one of the big losers has been the housing portfolio.

Apart from $283 million for transitional housing, and $197 million to boost emergency housing, there’s not much in budget 2019.

One thing in particular stands out is the Government’s flagship housing policy KiwiBuild, which has not received any additional funding.

@HenryCooke explains:

I don’t understand why people are writing about KiwiBuild not getting any new money like it is interesting. it wouldn’t have got any even if the policy was going well. the $2b envelope has been fairly firm and its problems are NOT down to a lack of cash.

Maybe you could make the argument whatever comes out of the reset will require new cash, but two billion dollars is a lot of effing money.

If anything the Budget shows Kiwibuild’s one great success so far – because the money ain’t being spent it is making the short term surplus bigger.

Stuff: Govt made right call in leaving floundering KiwiBuild out of the Budget

Fixing New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis was one of Labour’s key policy goals going into the last two elections.

But KiwiBuild has been conspicuously absent from the Government’s vocabulary in recent months, and yesterday’s Budget was no different.

The Government might not have given up trying to improve housing affordability, but it seems to have realised that KiwiBuild is not the answer to the problem.

The bulk of the additional $90 million per year allocated to Housing and Urban Development in the Budget will go towards emergency and transitional housing. It’s not sensible to throw good money after bad, so the silence on KiwiBuild is welcome.

But:

Minister Phil Twyford is not short of cash to use for KiwiBuild’s supposed “recalibration” anyway. Just 101 KiwiBuild homes have been completed – and the majority of those had already been financed by developers and were under construction before Twyford put a KiwiBuild sticker on them.

So it’s not like the Government has used much of the $2 billion of capital set aside for the programme. Even by July 2020, the Government only expects to have completed 1535 homes, which is woefully short of its initial target.

The fact that more than 10 per cent of the small number of completed KiwiBuild homes have failed to sell reiterates the policy’s poor design.

Kiwibuild was not a problem in this budget, it has been a problem since it was conceived.

Kiwibuild is a policy for a different type of government in a different time

And maybe for a different type of minister than Phil Twyford.

Government defensive as Opposition keeps up pressure over KiwiBuild targets

The National Opposition continues to apply relentless pressure on the Government’s lack of significant progress with what was once a strongly promoted ambitious KiwiBuild target of 100,000 houses in ten years.

But the key target seems to be missing – the lack of availability of reasonably priced land.

Yesterday in Parliament:

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Government still committed to building 100,000 KiwiBuild houses over 10 years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member well knows, we’re going through the process of a reset around the KiwiBuild programme [Interruption]. Are we committed to building affordable homes? Are we committed to trying to improve access for first-home buyers? Are we the Government that has built more houses than any other Government since the 1970s? The answer to that is yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is that a confirmation that the 100,000 houses in a decade commitment is now gone?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it Phil Twyford who’s been reset?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: Then why did the housing Minister Phil Twyford say this morning, on that 100,000 commitment: “It’s like American nuclear ships in the 1980s. It’s a neither confirm nor deny situation.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve just said, we are in the process of working through a KiwiBuild reset, but whilst we do so we are continuing to build houses. Again, as I’ve said many a time in this House, we are a Government building more houses than any other since the 1970s.

Hon Simon Bridges: When is the climb-down on her flagship policy of 100,000 houses in a decade going to be confirmed?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: (a waffly reply)

Hon Simon Bridges: How can she have confidence in Phil Twyford, when he’s seen only 80 KiwiBuild houses built so far and he won’t confirm her flagship policy of 100,000 houses?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because we’ve built more State houses, more transitional houses, and housed more who have been homeless. We have also stopped the sale of residential housing to foreign buyers. We have also closed tax loopholes. We have made a difference to the housing market, and that is ultimately making a difference for families. We inherited a dire situation with our housing market, and we are turning it around.

Hon Simon Bridges: How about a straight answer to a straight question—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Now, he’ll stand up and he will ask a question properly.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the 100,000 houses in a decade target gone?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already said to the member’s original question, we are working through our KiwiBuild reset. When we have completed that, we will be making announcements in due course.

Hon Simon Bridges: To be clear, has she had any input into the issue of removing the 100,000 KiwiBuild commitment in recent times?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: (a waffly reply)

Judith Collins also touched on it in question 6.

Hon Judith Collins: Will the recalibration of KiwBuild drop the additionality tests as well as the 100,000 houses target?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I expect that in June we’ll be releasing the results of the reset of KiwiBuild, but I would say this to the member: this Government will not back away from building large numbers of affordable homes for Kiwis, building more State housing, reforming the rental market, housing homeless people, reforming the planning system and infrastructure financing—all of the things that are part of our housing programme that that party never did for nine years in office.

So Twyford did not challenge the suggestion that the 100,000 houses target might be dropped.

National have followed up on this line of attack. RNZ:  KiwiBuild ‘a broken promise’ – Bridges

The government has broken its flagship election promise on Kiwibuild and the Housing Minister should resign, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

A question mark hangs over a core plank of KiwiBuild – with the government refusing to guarantee its promise to build 100,000 houses over 10 years.

“It was really Labour’s number one flagship promise,” Mr Bridges told Morning Report

“It was the big bold thing they were delivering.

“I’m absolutely certain it is a broken promise and half way through their term it is gone.”

Mr Bridges said if the target did go, Mr Twyford should resign.

While the target number may provide a target for National, it is missing the real target – the lack of availability of reasonably priced land to build on. When in Government National failed to deal with that. There is no sign of Labour dealing with it anywhere near adequately, all they seem to have done with Kiwibuild is put a different label on a continuation of similar means of building, but still with limited land supply.

I don’t think that 100,000 houses in ten years is important at all.

10,000 houses – that is additional houses, not just the Government taking over the development of houses that were being built anyway – in two years would still be underperforming but a big improvement.

National will no doubt claim a win if the 100,000/10 year target is dropped, but who trusts long term political promises?

But the fundamental failure continues – it is too hard to make more land available for building houses. And it looks like fixing that is in the too hard basket for this Government, like the last. What Labour labelled as a housing crisis is more of a crisis of timid government.

 

NZ First on the Capital Gains Tax capitulation

NZ First have prevented the Government from proceeding with any changes to capital gains taxes, despite a CGT being a core policy of Labour, backed by Jacinda Ardern, and despite it being something Greens have wanted for a long time (and James Shaw stated earlier this year that the Government didn’t deserve to be elected if they didn’t introduce a CGT).

New Zealand First Leader media release:

Tax Working Group Report

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has welcomed Cabinet’s decision not to implement an extension of capital gains taxation, following the Prime Minister’s statement in response to the Tax Working Group Report.

“This decision provides certainty to taxpayers and businesses. We in New Zealand First wanted first and foremost for New Zealanders to have time to discuss and debate the contents of the report,” stated Mr Peters.

“During that time we have listened very carefully to the public.

“There is already an effective capital gains tax through the Bright Line test brought in by the last National Government and New Zealand First’s view is that there is neither a compelling rationale nor mandate to institute a comprehensive capital gains tax regime,” said Mr Peters.

“We also welcome the announcement that the coalition government will be urgently exploring options with the Inland Revenue Commissioner, in concert with central and local government, for taxing vacant land held by land bankers and reviewing the current rules for taxing land speculators. Tightening these rules was a priority for New Zealand First.

“Current tax policy, rigorously enforced by an Inland Revenue Department properly resourced will by itself 1) improve the administration of existing tax policy, and 2) target those multi-nationals not paying their fair share of tax,” Mr Peters said.

There was nothing about a CGT in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. This was the only reference to tax:

  • Increase penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion.

Peters via Twitter yesterday:

Despite the claimed hearing and listening, Peters has done what he has said he would do for a long time.

During the 2017 election campaign (Politik): Peters ready to throw spanner in Labour’s capital gains tax plans

Peters says he is not ready to support any moves labour might want to make to extend capital gains taxes.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has arrived at a neat compromise. Labour would set up a Taxation review once it got into Government.

Phil Twyford (on The Nation): “In the first three years we’re going to do a taax working group that will redesign the entire tax system”.

Robertson (on NZ Q&A): “We will have a working group that will have a look at getting a better balance into our tax system between how we tax assets and how we tax income”.

Peters though is adamant.

“I am not for an extension of the capital gains tax” he told POLITIK.

Peters is critical of the review and Labour’s plan to provide details on it’s water levy policy after the election.

“How many times can you get away with this sort of nonsense” he said.

So why did Labour insist on going ahead with the Tax Working Group that had an aim of recommending a capital gains tax?

It seems to have been a wasted exercise, unless the intention was to provide Peters with an opportunity to say NO CAPITAL GAINS TAX.

Auckland light rail may be scaled back

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford says that the Government may scale back plans for light rail in Auckland.

Auckland light rail projects were a big deal for Labour. They campaigned on it for the 2017 election, and it was included in their policy on Auckland transport.

Labour will:

  • Build light rail from the CBD to Auckland Airport. This will be part of a new light rail network that will be built over the next decade with routes to the central suburbs, the airport, and West Auckland, and will later be extended to the North Shore

It was included in their Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Green Party:

2. Reduce congestion and carbon emissions by substantially increasing investment in safe walking and cycling, frequent and affordable passenger transport, rail, and sea freight.

b. National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and walking.

d. Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland

Now from NZ Herald:  Auckland’s $6 billion light rail programme could be scaled back, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford

The Government may have to scale back its $6 billion light rail programme for Auckland by scrapping a line from the city centre to west Auckland, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

The MP for Te Atatu said it was his strong preference to see light rail built from the city centre to the west and to the airport, but if it is not possible to fund and finance both lines, then light rail to the airport will get priority.

If that happened, a rapid bus network – along the lines of the Northern Busway – would be considered along State Highway 16 to the north-west, he said.

Along with KiwiBuild, light rail is one of Labour’s flagship policies. It was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her first public appearance as Leader of the Opposition in August 2017 where she called it a “game-changer” and a solution to the city’s congestion.

Ardern promised to build light rail to Mt Roskill within four years, followed by light rail from Mt Roskill to the airport and to Westgate in west Auckland within 10 years. Labour later said it would extend the western line a further 9km to Kumeu.

Last month, the Herald reported work on light rail, or modern-day trams, is making slow progress as bureaucrats grapple with the complexities of one of the biggest projects in New Zealand’s history.

“It’s only a contingency. If we weren’t able to fund and finance it, there are many, many calls on the transport purse, then with that corridor (to west Auckland) we would need to look at some other options. It could be bus rapid transit or other things,” he said.

“Obviously money does not grow on trees,” Twyford told the Herald.

It looks like light rail from central Auckland to somewhere near the airport may still go ahead, but other projects may be ditched.

Collins keeps pressure on Twyford over KiwiBuild

Judith Collins continued applying pressure over KiwiBuild to Phil Twyford in Parliament yesterday.

Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development

6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many times, under the KiwiBuild programme, has he approved a Crown underwrite to build houses that were already being built, and what is the total price of these underwrites?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The test applied to determine whether a KiwiBuild underwrite should proceed is additionality—does the proposal increase affordable supply for KiwiBuild buyers in the KiwiBuild price range? I’m advised that the threshold can be met in four key ways: by getting a development under way; by bringing forward a development, or the stage of a development that is scheduled for a later time period; or by redesigning part of a development to provide for additional, affordable homes, rather than a smaller number of more expensive homes. All underwrites approved by the Ministers meet this test. An underwrite has been approved while construction was under way four times. The expected net cost to the Crown of these underwrites is zero. The homes are valued at $26 million, or 4 percent of the total number of underwrites, and almost 0.5 percent of total KiwiBuild homes.

Hon Judith Collins: Why did he approve a Crown underwrite to build houses in Marshland, Christchurch, in November 2018 when council records show these houses were already under construction in April 2018, seven months before he signed the Crown underwrite?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I’d have to go back and look at the details of that particular case, but, as I’ve said, the test that’s applied is that of additionality, and there are a number of ways that that can be provided—

Hon Simon Bridges: Spell it.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I’ll give the member the case of Mike Greer, who’s committed to 104 homes in both Canterbury and west Auckland, and, as he himself has said in the media, the KiwiBuild underwrite has allowed him to bring forward that development more quickly than it otherwise would’ve happened and include more affordable homes in the development.

Hon Judith Collins: Why did he approve a Crown underwrite last November to build houses in Somerfield, Christchurch, when council records show the houses were built and clad last September?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The answer to that question is exactly the same as the one I just gave. As Mike Greer has said, it has allowed that development to come to fruition more quickly than it otherwise would’ve and for more affordable homes to be included.

Hon Judith Collins: Why has he underwritten already-built three-bedroom, one-bathroom houses in Westpark Rangiora, selling for $480,000, while Mike Greer Homes are advertising neighbouring three-bedroom houses with an extra bathroom and a larger floorplate on their own website for $20,000 less?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That development is bringing into the market more affordable homes than it otherwise would’ve. This Government is in the business of building affordable homes, unlike what that Government did for nine years—didn’t build a single affordable home and denied there was a housing crisis.

Hon Judith Collins: How many of the Mike Greer homes he has underwritten so far have monolithic cladding?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put that question down in writing, I’d be happy to answer it.

Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a council inspection report on failed monolithic cladding at 5 Te Rito Street, Christchurch.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Judith Collins: What is the purpose of him underwriting the price that a developer gets for a house when that house has already been built and, in some cases, marketed unsuccessfully to the public?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, if the member has got evidence that properties have been unsuccessfully marketed, I’d be happy to receive it. But we’ve made it very, very clear that in the case of the 104 homes that Mike Greer Homes is contributing, they were brought to market more quickly, he reduced his margins, and there are more affordable homes available through Mike Greer than there otherwise would’ve been because of the KiwiBuild underwrite.

‘Healthy home’ rental property standards announced

The Government has announced new minimum standards for rental houses. The health aims are laudable, but are the practical or enforceable?

And will they result in more people dumping their property investments? This adds to financial disincentives for landlords, which will increase further if a more comprehensive property Capital Gains Tax looks likely as recommended by the Tax Working Group.

I wonder why this has been announced on a Sunday?


Standards to make homes warm and dry released

The new healthy homes standards to make rental properties warmer and drier were today announced by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford.

The standards set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties. They reflect feedback from a wide range of public health experts, stakeholders including landlords, tenants and building experts.

Phil Twyford said making sure all New Zealanders had warm, dry homes was one of the most important public health changes the Government could make.

“Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand, and our rental stock is of poorer quality than owner-occupied homes. It’s estimated about 200,000 families live in rental homes that do not have ceiling or underfloor insulation.

“The Ministry of Health says 6,000 children are admitted each year for ‘housing-sensitive hospitalisations’. These children have been found to be nearly four times more likely to be re-hospitalised and 10 times more likely to die in the following 10 years. We cannot continue to accept this.”

The new standards go a long way toward making rental homes healthier for tenants:

  • All rental homes will be required to have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18oC.
  • Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation that either meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard, or (for existing ceiling insulation) has a minimum thickness of 120mm.
  • Rental homes will also be drier under these changes as kitchens and bathrooms will have to have extraction fans or rangehoods.
  • Where rental homes have an enclosed subfloor space  property owners will need to install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home
  • The standards also reinforce existing law that says landlords must have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home.
  • Draughts that make a home harder to heat will have to be blocked.

“The standards are pragmatic, enduring and don’t impose an unreasonable burden on landlords and industry while being mindful that renters need to have warmer and drier homes as soon as possible,” Phil Twyford says.

The next step is for the standards to be drafted in regulations and approved by Cabinet. The regulations will become law by mid-2019.

Compliance timeline for the new standards:

  • 1 July 2021 – From this date, private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with the healthy home standards within 90 days of any new tenancy.
  • 1 July 2021 – All boarding houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2023 – All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Providers houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2024 – All rental homes must comply with the healthy home standards.

For more information on the healthy homes standards visit the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website.

Public housing wait list climbs as landlords sell up

The waiting list for public housing has doubled over the past two years, increasing substantially since the Labour-led government took over in late 2017, despite Labour promising to increase housing stocks and decrease waiting lists and homelessness.

The suspension of tenancy reviews, and landlords selling up and getting out of supplying rental housing, have both been blamed.

Stuff:  Public housing waitlist cracks 10,000, with more families waiting for longer for housing

The public housing waitlist has rocketed past 10,000 as more people wait longer for public housing.

At the end of 2018 fully 10,712 eligible households were waiting for state or social housing – 73 per cent more than a year ago, and over three times the number waiting at the end of 2015.

The vast majority – 78 per cent – were deemed as “priority A”, meaning the Government believed they were the most in need of help. Almost half were in Auckland.

This is despite the Government building 1658 new public housing places over the last year, the largest increase in a decade.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Development officials blamed higher rents, greater awareness of public housing, and a slowdown in the rate of people exiting public housing for the increase.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said concerted effort over “many years” would be needed to fix homelessness.

He didn’t say that during the election campaign in 2017.

Twyford paused “tenancy review” last year – the process by which Housing New Zealand check whether a tenant is still eligible for a state or social home.

National housing spokeswoman Judith Collins vigorously criticised the move, but Twyford said previously that it had not contributed significantly to more people staying on in state homes – only around 200 households would have been up for review during the pause.

Tenancy review resumed on Monday with some changes: any family with children or someone over 65 is now exempt.

Emergency motel stays were on the up too.

In the three months to the end of 2018, 15,676 emergency housing grants for motel stays were granted -up from 14,000 the quarter prior. These went to just under 2700 individual clients – with many taking multiple grants. This was up from 2585 in the quarter prior.

Collins said Twyford’s multiple reforms to private rental market – both enacted and promised – had driven up rents as landlords were selling up and getting out of the business.

“Landlords are leaving the market in droves. The Government in its steps to try and attack landlords has actually sent a whole lot of people out of that market and that means that there is now more people wanting public housing,” Collins said.

“They are selling up and they are selling to people who might put two people or one person in a house rather than five or six.”

Twyford received advice last year from officials saying rents could rise as the result of his reforms to tenancy laws thanks to landlords feeling like they were under assault and selling up to owner-occupiers, who generally have less people in each house than renters.

“While these effects should be minor, the cumulative effect of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 may lead landlords to perceive the effects as more than minor. As a result, even if legislative changes did not materially affect the financial returns of landlords, some many nevertheless choose to sell their rental properties,” the officials wrote.

“The combined increase of these policies will be to increase sales of rental properties, with fewer landlords purchasing.”

Twyford’s changes included ending letting fees and increasing the quality of rental properties via the Healthy Homes Act.

Sorting out major housing issues was never going to be quick or easy.

The National government were perceived to have dropped the ball on housing, and also on RMA reform (which would have made it easier and cheaper to open up land for development), leaving Twyford and the incoming government with huge problems too deal with.

If anything Twyford has managed it worse than National.

Newshub:  Action, not ‘rhetoric’ needed from Government on housing – poverty campaigner

Ricardo Menendez March from Auckland Action Against Poverty, thinks resources have been wrongly allocated.

“We’ve seen a lot of talk about KiwiBuild, we’ve seen a lot of talk about affordable private rentals, but the state housing sector has suffered as a result.”

Mr Menendez March said not enough is being done to solve the issue and the Government needs to focus on action.

“We are calling on the Government to look at genuinely pulling out all of the stops, not just rhetoric, actually putting in the resources required to build enough state homes.”

He said that more needs to be done to improve the unaffordable private rental market too, including regulation.

“The Government have said nothing about putting a cap on rents, introducing legislation to freeze rent increases or at least limit the amount.”

Reserve Bank predictions about KiwiBuild – very slow, and crowding out private development

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr has said that the Reserve Bank predicts a very slow start to the KiwiBuild programme – that’s hardly a prediction, it appears to be current reality – and also that due to lack of capacity much of the numbers eventually built may simply replace what private builders would have constructed.

RNZ: Reserve Bank predicts KiwiBuild will crowd out private building, progress slowly

The Reserve Bank has sounded a warning that the government’s KiwiBuild programme is likely to crowd out other private house building, because the construction industry simply doesn’t have enough capacity.

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr told MPs on Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure committee this morning KiwiBuild would need time to fully pick up momentum.

“It will be a very slow start, which it has proved to be, we haven’t had to change our forecasts much over the last six months,” Mr Orr said.

The Reserve Bank report said the sector was struggling to find enough skilled and non-skilled labour to meet demand.

“Capacity constraints are restricting firms’ ability to meet that demand.

“The ability of the construction sector to build additional houses therefore depends on whether these constraints can be eased.”

That meant resources were limited, which could impact on private investment, Mr Orr.

“It would crowd out resources if you’re chasing for land building activity etc then you have compete to build KiwiBuild versus something else”.

According to the bank’s estimates that would mean for every 100 KiwiBuild homes built, 50 to 70 houses would not be built elsewhere, Mr Orr said.

This isn’t a new idea either.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the Reserve Bank’s estimates were just “one more projection” and that he was not “fussed all at” about them.

He agreed with the concerns about capacity constraints.

“We’ve inherited some real difficulties in the construction industry, it’s both a lack of workforce, firms that have trouble scaling up, low productivity, lack of access to land.”

Twyford and Labour should have known that before they made bold promises.

NZ Herald – KiwiBuild warning: Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr warns scheme ‘crowding out’ private sector

But Finance Minister Grant Robertson appeared to be at odds the central bank’s estimates and said Orr’s forecast was “certainly challengeable”.

Robertson did not seem to agree with Orr’s data when questioned this morning.

“Whether or not I accept that that is the level of crowding out is certainly challengeable, as we have had other advice.”

Robertson would not say what level of crowding out the Government was expecting; only that the Government’s goal was to add “significantly to the housing stock”.

The aim of KiwiBuild was to promote the building of affordable housing, the Finance Minister said.

I don’t think there is any sign so far that Kiwibuild is making housing more affordable.

The project has been trying to get promised numbers of houses built (dismally) but this focus doesn’t seem to have done much if anything to address the costs of building and the lack of available land (that also contributes to the cost of land).

“If we are starting to shift where some of the development is to more affordable, more affordable homes for first home buyers, that’s good.”

Note that he says ‘if’, not that that is what is actually happening.

The Government has a lot of work to do to prevent this from being both a big embarrassment and a costly failure.

‘Let’s do this’ Ardern promise for light rail now ‘let’s do this later, if NZ First let us’

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has admitted that a Labour promise for a light rail line in Auckland to be completed by 2021 will not be kept, but he says that the Jacinda Ardern promise was made before she was Prime Minister.

Newshub: Jacinda Ardern breaks the first promise she made as Labour leader

The first promise Jacinda Ardern made as Labour leader looks to have gone up in smoke.

During her first big public outing as leader during the election, she promised rail for all – including a line from the Auckland waterfront to Dominion Rd to Mount Roskill, all to be completed by 2021.

The promise was part of a $15 billion package and came with a plea from Ms Ardern – she needed cash to fund it.

“You can call a regional fuel tax ‘crowd-sourcing’ if you like,” she told the public.

That part of the promise did come true: Aucklanders are paying the 10 cents a litre more at the pump.

But Labour hasn’t done the rail part.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford admitted the Government would fail to build light rail down Dominion Rd by 2021. Instead, he only expects work to start on it next year.

Mr Twyford’s defence is that promises made by Jacinda Ardern as Labour leader are completely different from promises made by Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister.

NZ Herald (6 August 2017): Jacinda Ardern outlines Labour’s light rail plan for Auckland

Labour is promising to build a 20km light rail line from the city to the airport as a priority – partly funded by higher petrol prices – leader Jacinda Ardern announced today.

She says Labour will build light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill within four years, followed by light rail from Mt Roskill to the airport and light rail to West Auckland within 10 years.

I wonder if this is another scrapping of an interim target but retaining the 10 year target (as the Government has done with KiwiBuild targets).

“I believe Labour’s plan is a game-changer. It will reduce the $2b a year that congestion costs Auckland. It will realise Auckland’s potential to be a truly world class city,” said Ardern.

She said Labour will give Auckland Council the power to introduce a regional petrol tax – understood to be 10 cents a litre – to help pay for light rail. Infrastructure bonds and targeted rates will also be used to fund transport in Auckland.

A world class city needs a rail connection from the CBD to its international airport – that’s why Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority, said Ardern.

The fuel tax to fund it was a priority – it is already being paid in Auckland.

But the actual building seems to be less of a priority – or it was a promise made without a proper assessment of how long it might take to do.

Twyford was still talking up light rail in Auckland as a game changer yesterday in parliament, but the game was going into extra time.

Question No. 8—Transport

8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Is he committed to building light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland and if so, when will work begin?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes. Light rail will be a game-changer for Auckland. It will be a magnet for private investment in urban renewal, and each line will be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour, the equivalent of four lanes of motorway. The light rail project will extend Auckland’s rapid transit network, a core part of our plan to build a modern transport system for the city. There is a procurement process under way now, so work has already started.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the Government on track to have built light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill within four years of becoming Government, as promised by Jacinda Ardern in August 2017?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: At that point, Jacinda Ardern was not the Prime Minister.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That’s not answering—

SPEAKER: Well, it answered as much as the Minister has any responsibility for it.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, the core part of the question was—

SPEAKER: Well, the member can ask it again. Ask another question if he wants to.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the Government on track to have built light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill within four years of becoming Government?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’ve expressed the view that we hope to have shovels in the ground in 2020. There’s a procurement process under way; that’s what we’re working towards.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is that another target he no longer intends to keep?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the premise of the question.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister agree with infrastructure Minister Shane Jones’ message to Phil Goff about the light rail project: “I would say before Phil Goff gets too enthusiastic about the Dominion Road idea he needs to sort out how he’s going to fund the CRL project. It hasn’t been completed yet and now he’s got to find $500 million to $1 billion for that.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would point out that the light rail project is being pursued through the Auckland Transport Alignment Project and is expected to be funded and financed as part of that 30-year transport plan, and funded partly through the National Land Transport Programme. The member will know that the City Rail Link project that was entered into under the former National Government is funded through Crown contributions—completely separate from the National Land Transport Programme.

Twyford fobbed off the promise as “At that point, Jacinda Ardern was not the Prime Minister.” Does that mean that any promises made by Ardern during the election campaign are not worth the PR they were written by?

An implication raised here is that NZ First are not playing ball in Labour’s ambitious game changer.

Can any election ‘promise’ be taken seriously when governing agreements negate them?

Single party claims like “Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority” are meaningless if Labour is not going to run a majority Government alone.