When friends point out your flaws

09/01/2020

Shane Te Pou look at the stars and safe hands in the government and opposition and finds only one real dud:

In fact, across all the leading figures in the main parties, only Phil Twyford displays none of the traits necessary to be a successful minister.His management of KiwiBuild turned it into the most humiliating policy failure in the New Zealand Labour Party’s history but it is soon to be eclipsed by the Auckland light rail shambles. But the Twyford problem is easily fixed. The Prime Minister must know her own reputation depends on her sacking him altogether early in 2020.

I don’t agree Twyford is the only one in the governing parties not fit to be a minister.  I do agree with Te Pou’s assessment of him.

There’s no surprise in that view from the right.

But Te Pou is a former Labour Party candidate, campaign manager and executive member.

When your friends are as blunt about your flaws as this, you’re in trouble.

 


KiwiBuild failed

05/09/2019

The government’s KiwiBuild reset is an admission of how flawed the policy was in the first place.

The 10,000 houses it said it would build wasn’t a target, it was a figure plucked out of the air, completely distanced from reality.

Worse than the unrealistic number, was the money wasted on houses no-one wanted to buy and houses sold to people who should not have been beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance.

Now Housing MInister Megan Woods has announced another plan, with no targets, which includes selling the houses no-one wanted – almost certainly to be a win for the buyers and a lose for the public.

There’s also a government backed low equity scheme that sounds horribly like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scheme in the USA that precipitated the Global FInancial Crisis.

The Taxpayers’ Union points to the potential  dangers that poses to taxpayers:

Replacing KiwiBuild with easy credit policies for first home buyers places significant risk on taxpayers, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. 

Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says “The American housing crash and ensuing Global Financial Crisis was driven in part by the American Government’s decision to offer subsidized mortgages to low income households, who then failed to meet debt repayments when interest rates increased. Our Government’s decision to adopt a similar approach by offering taxpayer-backed mortgages to households who can only scrape together a 5 percent deposit is an uncomfortable echo to those easy credit policies which induced a housing crash overseas.”

“If households on ultra-low deposits ever failed to meet repayments due to rising unemployment or interest rates, either taxpayers or the banking system would be put under significant pressure.”

“Of course, the best approach to housing unaffordability isn’t to load on more debt and subsidies – which will inevitably push housing prices higher – but to enact meaningful supply-side reform. Allowing our cities to become more dense and removing the rural-urban boundary would be good places to start.”

The new policy, like many of this government’s lack details and the Minister’s repeated “we’ll build as many as we can as quickly as we can” is no substitute for a target tand a concrete plan to get there.

The root of the housing problem is simply one of supply not keeping up with demand, this hasn’t been helped by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s calling a halt to development at Ihumātao.

The solution is more houses, faster which requires sorting out the infrastructure restraints, regulations that make the consent process so long and costly, and building here so much more expensive than in many other countries.

Anything which gives people more money without increasing the supply of houses will only make them more expensive.

KiwiBuild failed because it didn’t deal with the underlying causes of the problem and the so-called reset will do very little, if any, better.

We’d all benefit if the government set about addressing the constraints on supply rather than throwing more taxpayers’ money at policies that will benefit a relatively few people at considerable cost and risk to all of us.


Stardust dulls in sunlight

07/08/2019

A Prime Minister who is well regarded overseas is good for a small country.

But being well regarded overseas isn’t good enough. A Prime Minister has to earn, and keep, approval at home and the stardust that settled on Jacinda Ardern early in her leadership is dulling under the sunlight of scrutiny.

There is no doubt she is a good communicator, compassionate and likable. As Matthew Hooton told Sky New Australia, she would be a good princess or president without power, but she is a hopeless Prime Minister.

But, but, but what about the way she handled the aftermath of the mosque shootings?

There is no question she did that well but that’s the New Zealand way. Other recent Prime Ministers, Bill English, John Key (who did at least as well after the Canterbury earthquakes) and Helen Clark would have reacted with similar compassion.

But those Prime Ministers also delivered, and this one is failing to. Matthew Hooton, again, on the year of delivery:

. . . For those still committed to reality-based politics, Ardern’s “year of delivery” is as credible as her earlier promise to be “transformational”.

KiwiBuild, the Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund handing out only 3 per cent of the money Shane Jones has paraded are the most risible. . .

He goes on to list more failures and there are plenty of them.

He isn’t alone in his criticisms and that’s not surprising for people on the right of the political spectrum but even the very left blog The Standard is saying it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania:

Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis. . . 

. . .  it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

Coming from the left that’s damning.

But wait there’s more. Her interview this morning with Mike Hosking was a train wreck which Steve Braunias dissects:

O the joys and woes of being Prime Minister! One minute you’re swaying your hips for the cameras in the lovely warmth of Tokelau while the world gazes with adoration at your picture on the cover of Vogue, as chosen and commissioned by Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle the Princess of Trans-Atlantica; the next minute you’re back in New Zealand, there’s a serious sex scandal rocking the Labour Party, the cops have gone feral at Ihumātao, the weather’s gone all to hell – and worst of all, you’re stuck on the phone for your regular Tuesday morning convo with Mike Hosking.

It’s paramount that the Prime Minister keeps her cool and shows every sign of being at ease and in control when she makes media appearances. There is but one emoji to maintain: the one with a smiley face, round and yellow and all good, expressing the optimum vibe of inane happiness. . . 

But good cheer and happiness was entirely absent during Ardern’s 10-minute interview with The Hosker on Newstalk ZB this morning. Her appearance was an emoji trainwreck, and it crashed every time that the Prime Minister called the ZB talkback host by his first name.

She said it 11 times. . .

He goes on to give an emojiological analysis of those 11 times.

It’s behind the paywall and it’s worth paying for, here’s a taste:

The interview which prompted this is here.

There was no stardust dazzling and personality sparkling there and even had there been it is no longer enough.

Stardust is no use without substance and personality doesn’t pay the bills.


Police complaint over Ardern’s interference

30/07/2019

A senior member of Te Kawerau a Maki, David Rankin, plans to lay a complaint with the Police this week over Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s interference in the current land dispute at Ihumatao.

The complaint will allege that the Prime Minister used her position to interfere in a legal transaction and as a consequence, will deprive the iwi of dozens of homes which Fletchers has contracted to provide to the mana whenua of Ihumatao.

“I don’t take this action lightly,” says Mr Rankin, “but the Prime Minister has directly interfered in a legally valid arrangement, and at great cost to the iwi. First, she destroyed kiwi-build, and now she is destroying iwi-build. Fletchers have agreed to provide 40 houses to our people, which is exactly 40 more houses than the Labour Government has managed to provide to us.”

Gerry Brownlee quipped at the National Party conference that Kiwibuild was aptly named because it can’t fly.

Now Ardern has grounded iwi-build.

Mr Rankin admits that the complaint to Police will make him unpopular, but he says that there is a bigger issue at stake. “Ms Ardern has breached the kawa of our hapu, and her actions will leave some of our old people without houses. This is intolerable, and also breaches the law.”

Whether or not it’s a matter for police, it threatens the whole Treaty process, as Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Henare pointed out:

. . .But I want to be very clear and put a word of caution here. If the government steps in to buy this land back, we undermine every treaty settlement that’s been done to date. We then allow re-litigation of settlements that have been done in the past, and are we prepared for that? . . .

For many of the protesters the issue is bigger than Ihumatao. 

The PM’s interference has made it even bigger.

She has given way to protesters in what is a fraught family disagreement.

In doing so she has trampled over Fletcher Building’s property rights and an agreement between he company and Mana Whenua, and is delaying the building of much-needed houses.

She has also sent a message to businesses that they can’t rely on the government to back them, even though the law is on their side.


Counting down

30/06/2019

David Farrar has been doing a regular count-down on what’s required for the government to keep its KiwiBuild promise:

I don’t usually gamble, but am confident to wager they’re not going to make it, even with all the new ministers.


More than half way

24/06/2019

This government is more than half way through its term and what has it achieved?

Duncan Garner says it’s the least effective government in 25 years.

It’s flagship KiwiBuild policy has flopped and the flop looks even worse now we know how it began:

. . .Senior MP and shadow housing minister Annette King had just the ticket.

King, who declined to comment for this story, had been in a car on the way to an event with Salvation Army head Campbell Roberts and Housing Foundation head Brian Donnelly in the months before the conference, chatting about the emerging problems in housing. Donnelly’s agency had a scheme where affordable homes were built and sold, and the capital immediately recycled to build more. King liked the idea.

“We said there was a supply problem, and there was a need for there to be an increase of supply of affordable entry-level housing. But the emphasis was on the affordable,” Roberts told Stuff.

“To tell you the truth, I was a bit concerned with the speed at which they grabbed it. I don’t think there was pretty much more than our conversation – which was in the car going to something – it was a not a sitdown meeting, and the next thing they were introducing it,” Roberts said.

And then  it grew:

. . .KiwiBuild is an unmitigated disaster. Dreamed up by Annette King in the back seat of a car, she latched on to it and set the original target of 50,000 houses because it sounded good in her head. A wish-list, not a policy.

Legend has it the close breathing of David Cunliffe down David Shearer’s neck was precisely what prompted the last-minute decision to blurt out 100,000 homes on the day of the announcement. . . 

It wasn’t a carefully thought-out and costed policy. It was an idea prompted by a conversation and a number blurted out.

And what else has the government done?

  • Wasted millions on fee-free education for tertiary students, many of whom would have enrolled anyway.
  • Got soft on beneficiaries – ending the requirement to be looking for work and for solo mothers to name their children’s fathers.
  • Wasted millions prolonging the grief of those mourning the lives lost in the Pyke River mine.
  • Wasted millions on good looking race horses.
  • Incentivised overseas purchases of farmland for conversion to forestry.
  • Virtue-signalled on the environment while ignoring the science provided by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
  • Wailed about the road toll while refusing to do anything to deter drug driving.
  • Done nothing about the risk to mothers and babies with the lack of maternity centres in Central Otago and Southland.
  • Failed to increase funding to Pharmac to keep up with inflation.
  • Contributed to a slowing economy and a drop in confidence. . .

And while it’s spending more on doing less, it’s taking more money from us to do it:

Kiwi households will be $1750 a year worse off on average because of the taxes being piled on by the Labour-led Government, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“This Government has increased fuel taxes three times since it came into power, it’s added on a regional fuel tax in Auckland, introduced ring fencing of losses, an Amazon Tax, GST on overseas roaming, extended the bright-line test, increased Worksafe levies and cancelled tax relief.

“When you add all of these taxes together and take into consideration the cancelled tax relief, Kiwi families are looking at $7000 out of their pockets over four years. That does nothing to increase the wellbeing of an average family.

“The economy is continuing to weaken because of this Government’s poor policy decisions. The cost of living is increasing, rents are up an average of $50 a week, petrol and electricity are increasing.

“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.

“You can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax. National will index tax thresholds to the cost of living and will not introduce any new taxes in our first term. National believes New Zealanders should keep more of what they earn.”

A lot of the commentariat are taking it for granted that this government will have another term.

But it has less than half a term left to earn a second one.

It will have to do a lot more effective in the next few months than it has been in the last 19 if it’s going to translate its warm words about wellbeing into making a positive difference to the country and its people.


Sometimes a sausage is just a sausage

15/02/2019

If all publicity is good publicity the National Party’s latest advertisement has succeeded.

It’s a dig at KiwiFarce KiwiBuild.

One character says it’s good, the second points out that there’d have to be 33 houses built a day to meet its goal and so far it’s built only 33.

The third character who is barbecuing says that’s Labour, all sizzle no sausage.

So far so good, except that the character who thinks the policy is good is  a woman and the other two are men which some people have taken exception to, saying it’s sexist.

Would it be sexist if the one asking the questions was a bloke and at least one of the others was a woman?

No. So why is it sexist if the less informed character is a woman?

Doesn’t that that suggest women aren’t people who can be portrayed as stupid but men could be?

If equality is  the aim, women have to accept the bad with the good.

If equality is the aim, women can’t just be shown in more positive roles.

If equality is the aim, it’s best to look at people as people and not get hung up on gender.

And let’s not lose sight of the message in the clip – KiwiBuild is an expensive mistake.

The priority for housing is not people on well above the average income.

The need isn’t for  two- bedroomsemi-detached houses without garages in Wanaka.

. . .Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said yesterday she considered the houses ”not practical” and ”not functional”.

”The Government expects Wanaka families looking for a home to pay over half a million dollars for a two-bedroom townhouse that doesn’t even have a garage.

”How appealing is a two-bedroomed town house that’s attached to another property by a shared wall, with no garage, and costs upwards of $560,000?

”It’s no wonder no-one wants to buy them.”

Ms Dean said the lack of interest showed how out of touch the Government was ”when it comes to delivering suitable first homes for young Kiwi families”. . .

Not only is the target unachievable, the houses being built are replacing others that would have been built by the private sector.

The Reserve Bank estimates that for every 100 houses built under the government’s KiwiBuild programme over the next three years, between 50 and 75 other houses may not be built because of capacity constraints. . . 

The government should be working to change the root causes of the housing shortage – the Resource Management Act, compliance costs, land availability, infrastructure constraints and skill shortages.

And people who think the National ad is sexist should remember that sometimes a sausage is just a sausage.


Labour pains National delivers

31/01/2019

The National Party will put an end to tax bracket creep:

A National Government would link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living and allowing New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living because this Government is imposing more red tape and taxes,” Mr Bridges said in his State of the Nation speech in Christchurch today.

“Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

“On top of that, by 2022 New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. That’s not right or fair. So in our first term National will fix that by indexing tax thresholds to inflation.

“We will amend the Income Tax Act so tax thresholds are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. That will mean that within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This would prevent New Zealanders from moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. It would ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs of living such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the changes in the rare circumstances there is good reason to. But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.

It would take a very serious change in economic health, or a very stupid government, to do that.

“The changes would make a real difference. Assuming inflation of 2 per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.

“A family with two earners – for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 – would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.

“That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.

“The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650 million a year in tax based on today’s estimates. We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.

“We will also do more on tax – but add no new taxes – and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.

“National is committed to helping New Zealanders get ahead. This step means that as well as cancelling new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.” 

This is a very positive start to the political year from National and a stark contrast to Labour’s which featured what amounts to an admission of failure on their flagship policy:

KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.

The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.

The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland. . . 

They expect us to believe they can build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade when they can’t build 300 in the first year?

Labour is planning to waste money on houses for a relatively few people earning well above the average income. National has committed to letting people keep a bit more of their own money.

It gives voters a very clear choice – Labour pains over housing or National delivering clear policy to end bracket creep.

 

 


KiwiFiasco

10/12/2018

Last month we learned only seven of Wanaka’s KiwiBuild houses sold.

Last week we learned Housing Minister Phil Twyford hadn’t bothered to run his decision to substantially reduce the penalty KiwiBuild rule breakers would face face for flipping homes past the Prime Minister or cabinet.

We also learned five Auckland KiwiBuild houses failed to sell off the ballot and the runners-up didn’t want them either.

Mike Hosking sums it up:

• A housing scheme that doesn’t have enough money put in, in the first place. That’s Treasury’s assessment.

A housing scheme that won’t contribute anywhere near what the Government said it would to the market. That’s from Treasury and the Reserve Bank.

• A housing scheme that isn’t even close to getting people locked out of the market into a home, given the prices.

• A housing scheme in parts of the country that’s actually more expensive than the open market prices already in play.

• A housing scheme that doesn’t actually have any real demand, given they extended the ballot in places like Wanaka.

• A housing scheme with some homes in Auckland now on the open market, due to the fact the people who won the ballot didn’t want the property, and the runners up didn’t either.

• A housing scheme that is unilaterally being fiddled with, with our money, by a bloke whose head is so big it can’t get through a door.

• And now, a housing scheme that because they changed the rules unilaterally, now needs a dedicated team to monitor who is selling their houses for the profit they’re allowed to keep due to the changes of rules, and that team costs upwards of half a million dollars a year.

That was before Saturday when we learned that the chief executive of KiwiBuild, Stephen Barclay, had resigned a month ago, after just five months in the job, but no-one bothered to let the public know.

KiwiBuild is turning into KiwiFiasco.

 

 

 


KiwiCon lottery gets better for lucky few

08/11/2018

KiwiBuild – or as it should be KiwiCon –  isn’t popular in Wanaka:

The South Island’s much-heralded first foray into KiwiBuild home ownership has been a bit of a fizzer — at least so far.

So few prospective homebuyers have entered the ballot for 10 KiwiBuild house and land packages in the Northlake suburb of Wanaka that the developer has asked to extend the ballot period by 10 days.

The ballot was due to close on Thursday.

KiwiBuild senior media adviser Mark Hanson said yesterday 20 ballot entries had been received.

‘‘Some houses have received no entries and the developer has asked us to extend the ballot to Sunday, November 18, to allow for people who they are working with more time to work through their pre-qualification process.’’ . . 

And Housing Minister Phil Twyford has backed down on penalties for those who flip KiwiBuild properties early:

Documents obtained by Newshub show owners will no longer have to give up all capital gain they make on the house if they sell it within three years. . . 

When Labour announced the policy in 2016, its plan to stop buyers reaping windfall gains was they must not on-sell their home for five years – or else they had to hand all the money they made to the Government.

That’s now changed to if buyers sell within three years, they must give up 30 percent of their profit. . .

There is big money to be made. Based on the last three years, the average price of a home in Papakura has risen from $569,000 to nearly $700,000, meaning house owners could have made $130,000 in the last three years.

That means even after the 30 percent penalty applied by the Government, they’d still pocket more than $90,000.

A $90,000 profit for selling up after three years – that’s very easy money.

But you don’t have to wait three years – you will get to keep 70% of the profit it you sell the very next day.

This is not the first KiwiBuild backdown we’ve seen. Since being in government, Mr Twyford has changed the price caps, the eligibility criteria and now this – a change which has the potential to leave KiwiBuild open for abuse.

With each announcement the KiwiBuild lottery gets better for the lucky few who win.

The government keeps saying KiwiBuild houses aren’t subsidised but if the government isn’t putting money in why would the owners have to hand over any profit if they sell?

At the very least there’s an opportunity cost with money spent on this policy not available for spending on the many areas of much greater need – and that’s people on well below the income level for those who qualify for the KiwiBuild lottery.

You can follow progress on the scheme here – so far only four houses have been sold.

 

 


KiwiCon

29/10/2018

The new owners have moved into the first KiwBuild house.

. . .”It feels amazing, it feels like we have won the Lotto,” said Jayne, who at 25 and about to graduate as a doctor, was thrilled at winning a ballot for one of the first 18 KiwiBuild homes at McLennan Park.

Jayne and her 24-year-old partner Ross, an online marketer, were on the verge of giving up hope of getting on the property ladder in Auckland before “getting lucky” with KiwiBuild. . .

This is Lotto at the taxpayers’ expense.

The new homeowners have won but Auckland Action Against Poverty isn’t impressed:

 While the Government prioritises its flagship home-ownershp scheme, tens of thousands of people continue to be homeless in Aotearoa, with no hope of being able to ever afford living in one of these Kiwibuild homes. Auckland Action Against Poverty warns that the focus on building so called affordable private housing, subject to market speculation, will further exacerbate the housing crisis, instead of fixing it.

“KiwiBuild homes are out of reach for the working poor and the unemployed, who are the ones facing the real brunt of the housing crisis. With a price-tag of half a million dollars, KiwiBuild homes are a future speculator’s dream”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty’s Coordinator.

We echo the concerns of Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s Bernie Smith, who called KiwiBuild a ‘community trainwreck’. Displacing thousands of public housing tenants in order to build private housing in public land is a form of partial privatisation of public land, and will cause distress for the tenants evicted.

“The planned net increase to the social housing stock will only be marginal. In South Auckland, the Government is planning to build 10,000 new homes, 3,000 being state homes, which will be built after demolishing 2,700. This means that altogether only a few hundred additional state homes will be available for our fast growing homeless population.

“The Government needs to recalibrate its priorities and instead focus on building far more permanent social housing than it is currently planning. For that to happen, Housing New Zealand needs to be properly resourced and public land needs to be used to house people in public housing, not unaffordable private houses.

“In a few years time we’ll have state led gentrification, with middle and high income earners being able to access some of the KiwiBuild homes while those at the bottom continue to struggle with fast rising rents and lack of social housing.

“We are calling on the Labour Government to get its priorities right and focus on the creation of social housing, instead of entrenching housing unaffordability”.

The price of the house and the age and occupation of the new owners make KiwiBuild look like more middle to upper income welfare.

If this young, professional, childless couple fit the criteria for a brand new home subsidised by taxpayers, then the criteria is wrong.

Yes it’s hard for people to buy any house in Auckland, and lots of other places. But why is helping people earning well above the average income into their own home a higher priority than meeting the needs of poorer people?

Mike Hosking calls it a con:

We may have discovered the crux of the KiwiBuild problem through some new figures from CoreLogic.

The median price paid by first home buyers for a home, for example, in Auckland, is $699,000. KiwiBuild do them for $650,000, so yes a saving, but not a lot.

What we are discovering here, is that the Government doesn’t appear to be able to do anything the market already isn’t. . . 

The real issue here – and this has become clearer and clearer with time and experience – is not the price of the KiwiBuild home, but the affordability.

At $650,000, you can call these homes anything you want. But affordable, for most, they are not.

Affordable for higher earners, a struggle for middle income people and the poor would need to win Lotto to afford them.

It’s called KiwiBuild, it should be KiwiCONstruction with the empahsis on con.

I don’t blame the couple for playing the game but do blame Labour for bad rules and bad policy.

 

 


More welfare for well-off

06/07/2018

KiwiBuild is yet more welfare for the wealthy:

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

A solo buyer can earn up to $120,000 a year. A couple can earn up to $180,000.

The median income in New Zealand is just under $50,000, and median household income is just over $82,000. . . 

If the government was serious about helping people buy houses it would address the underlying causes of the shortage – the RMA and zoning constraints; the consent requirements and processes; and the high cost of building materials.

Buying houses that would have been built already, selling them to anyone but the top 8% of income earners, regardless of their asset backing and allowing them to sell again and pocket the windfall gain after only three years is economic and political stupidity.

If the well-off can’t afford to buy houses without assistance there’s something wrong with their money management and/or the housing market.

Providing more welfare for the wealthy won’t solve either of those problems.

As the Taxpayers’ Unions shows, the government promised a masterpiece and has delivered a doodle.


Unprepared, ill prepared

08/06/2018

The ODT opines, there’s been a lack of progress from the government:

The Government seems intent on digging itself into a hole from which there may be no escape.

After nine years in Opposition, there were expectations change would happen quickly once New Zealand First went with Labour to form a coalition government, with support from the Greens.

However, that has not been the case. More than 100 working parties or inquiries have been established, some of them at least reporting back by the end of the year.

The latest one involves ‘‘fair pay agreements’’, seemingly code for collective bargaining agreements, to set industry standards.

Although the Government appears keen to talk to everyone possible about changes it wants to make, it seems Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods did not bother to consult her colleagues when it came to deciding to stop offshore oil and gas permits being allocated in New Zealand.

When the papers were finally released this week, it was discovered the Government was warned its plans for future oil and gas exploration could have a chilling effect on investment.

The papers said if the supply of natural gas was restricted, the likely price rise for consumers posed a significant risk to the security of energy supply and could have a detrimental impact on some regional economies.

Wasting multi-millions on working groups then failing to consult on a policy with such significant ramifications as this is the sign of a government both unprepared and ill-prepared.

The Government is hamstringing itself. There is a chance, and a real one, the Government will achieve nothing before the 2020 election if it does not start making progress on some key policies.

The only policy it has made real progress on is fee-free education for tertiary students, most of whom don’t need it and which hasn’t resulted in an increase in students.

Even KiwiBuild seems out of reach for Housing Minister Phil Twyford. Branding private housing developments as KiwiBuild will not solve the problem of building 10,000 houses a year. Within a few months, the Government will have been in office for 12 months. Recriminations which are bubbling under the surface now will become fully-fledged attacks on the core competency of ministers who should have hit the ground running when it became their time to serve.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can only hold the coalition together for so long if progress is not being made.

Planting one billion trees has not yet started, social policy is edging its way into the system, and the so-called housing crisis is not being addressed by Labour, which christened it such.

It is unrealistic to expect the Government to implement all its policies in the first 12 months, but some progress should be measurable by now. . .

What is measurable is a lack of business confidence, which is worsened by the prospect of a return to collective bargaining.

Employers say the fair pay agreements are a major cause of concern. BusinessNZ is part of the working group announced on Tuesday but employers say they are not supportive of a national award-type employment regime in New Zealand.

Under the proposal, employers and workers cannot negotiate their own conditions — unless they are above the fair pay rates. Although workers cannot strike for a fair pay agreement, they can strike to get their own rates above the fair pay agreement rate.

This is a return to the days of multi-employment contract agreements (Meca) which broke out separate pay agreements for workers living in high-cost areas, such as Auckland and Wellington.

This is a recipe for job insecurity, an increase in unemployment and business failure.

The craziness of continually forming working parties smacks of a Government ill-prepared to govern. Until Ms Ardern stepped into the position of leader, it did look as though National would win a fourth term. Perhaps Labour MPs had given up on the treasury benches and were going through the motions.

There’s no perhaps about that – they had and they were.

There have been missteps from some ministers, something not good enough from three-term MPs. The at-fault MPs are surely surviving because there is no-one with experience to replace them.

Labour, the major party of the coalition, needs to stop thinking about solutions and start enacting policies. Otherwise, a second term is starting to look out of reach.

Just eight months into government is very early to be talking about it being a one-termer.

But Labour, which spent most of its nine years in opposition wallowing directionless with most of its energy going on undermining its leaders, is unprepared and ill-prepared for government and it shows.

The fee-free policy is Labour’s, the other ones in which there has been any progress are New Zealand First’s money for good looking horses and the regional slush fund which Shane Jones admits is politically biased.

Shane Jones’ admission this morning that his Provincial Growth Fund is a political tool is backed up by new figures released this morning revealing Northland as the main recipient of taxpayers’ money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Provincial Growth Fund should really be renamed the Political Survival Fund after more than half the funding announced so far has gone to one region – one with less than 10 per cent of regional New Zealand’s population.

“MBIE information shows Northland has sought $54.6 million from the fund so far. Applications from all the other regions combined amounted to $240 million.

“Yet Northland projects have received funding up to $61 million – even more than they’ve asked for. While the rest of the regions have had to make do with $42.4 million combined, plus a $7.5 million grant to the Howard League covering the whole country, including Northland. . .

Northland’s got more than it asked for and the whole of the rest of the country has had to share two-thirds of that amount.

Yet even Northland hasn’t got what it really needs – a better road to and from the rest of the country.

Northlanders will be scratching their heads, wondering why some groups are getting all this attention, while the single most important investment for their region – the double lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei has been scrapped in favour of Auckland’s light rail.

“Shanes Jones is being allowed to use public money for a thinly veiled political slush fund – but on the really big issues, such as advancing oil and gas production, there is no question that New Zealand First’s ‘provincial champion’ label is nothing more than wishful thinking.”

We need a government that’s prepared to govern for the whole country, not one whose major party is so ill-prepared it is mired in the quicksand of working groups and lets its minor partner get away with pork barrelling.


Labour’s housing policy shambles

29/08/2014

Labour chose the wrong couple as the poster children for its housing policy:

David Cunliffe is backing the party’s choice of a couple used as a case study for Labour’s housing policy, after the pair conceded they weren’t actually looking to buy.

The Labour party leader and the party’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford confirmed Labour’s KiwiBuild policy at a housing development in Hobsonville yesterday with a young couple who Mr Cunliffe said would benefit from the policy. . . .

Ms Leigh said they were currently living with her parents and although they had “had a look at houses in the Auckland area” she conceded they weren’t actively in the market to buy.

“We haven’t actively been looking for a home to buy in the near future – that’s definitely not our goal – our goal is to have a home in a few years. We’re trying to start a family.” . . .

Patrick Gower wasn’t impressed either:

Labour’s campaign is listless, meandering and shambolic.

The media with him say it’s a bit of a shamble and have been reporting on it.

Reporters are doing stories about Cunliffe having curry for lunch and there are even whispers from the press pack that Cunliffe is taking naps, but I asked him straight up yesterday and he said “no”, no nana-naps, only the odd bit of kip while in the car (which isn’t a crime). 

I took a look at Cunliffe’s campaign myself in Hobsonville yesterday.

Hobsonville quickly turned into campaign trail bizarro-world.

Cunliffe was out there to counter-attack on housing after Key trotted to the very same streets earlier in the week.

Cunliffe and housing spokesperson Phil Twyford re-announced the party’s Kiwbuild policy, saying Labour could build a $485,000 two-bedroom terraced house for $360,000 because of economies of scale.

But they didn’t have a house as an example, they were just standing on the street.

Twyford was saying there were heaps of examples of the $485,000 homes in Hobsonsville, but he didn’t know where they were and never got back to me with an address.

I can tell Twyford where one is – it’s just around the corner, a $450,000 two bedroom – I know because Key took us there on Monday.

Then they rolled out two first home buyers, Harrison and Jordy, who bagged National’s Homestart policy.

But under questioning they weren’t first home buyers at all, they weren’t even looking.

In fact they wouldn’t even buy a house under Labour’s policy.

Then it turned out that they were members of the EPMU, and they stopped answering questions when asked if they voted in Labour’s leadership campaign last election.

And despite the policy being around since David Shearer was leader, Labour still couldn’t come up with simple lines like when the first house will be built.

Then media weren’t allowed any more questions about the news of the day, Cunliffe had to “have a briefing” – for the uninitiated, this is unusual, as reporters usually just ask all the questions in one stand-up. 

Cunliffe then went off on a “walkabout” which is what politicians do when campaigning, you shake a few hands and the cameras follow.

But there was nobody on the street, Cunliffe eventually turned around and came back again.

Then Cunliffe jumped in the Crown limousine which went for a cruise around the block using up taxpayer petrol so he could have his briefing. . .

The media stands around on the side of the street waiting. . .

Labour looks disorganised.

I will give Labour this free advice: Cunliffe won’t get to be Prime Minister by wandering aimlessly around a Hobsonsville cul-de-sac.

The party’s in a cul-de-sac, driven there by internal dissent, poor organisation and shambolic policy.

Labour chose the wrong couple and they’ve got the wrong policy:

New Zealanders can have no confidence in Labour’s housing policy when they can’t explain how it would work, when its housing spokespeople say different things and the announcement is a shambles, National’s Housing Spokesman Dr Nick Smith says.

“KiwiBuild is a joke because Labour has no idea how it would build 10,000 homes a year, cannot explain how they would pay for it and they still have not worked out who would be eligible for the homes,” Dr Smith says.

“Launching the policy in Hobsonville only served to highlight Labour’s previous failings.

“Labour in government announced a 1600-home development on this land in 2002, but by 2008 had no planning approved, no resource consents, no infrastructure built nor a single house constructed.

“If they couldn’t build 1600 houses in six years, how can they promise 10,000 a year now under KiwiBuild?

“Hobsonville is progressing at pace under National’s Special Housing Area, with 444 built and sold and another 350 to be completed this financial year.

“KiwiBuild keeps changing. In November 2012, it was 100,000 three-bedroom standalone homes costing under $300,000 each. In 2013, it had become two-bedroom townhouses for $300,000 and up to $550,000 for standalone four-bedroom houses. Today they are saying two-bedroom terraced houses for $360,000.

“Housing Spokesperson Phil Twyford says the houses will be paid for when built. Associate Housing Spokesperson Poto Williams says they will rented with a later first right to buy.

“Three years from now, under Labour’s numbers they would be lucky to deliver even 7000 homes.

“National’s policies address land supply, council development charges on sections, building materials costs, and help for first home buyers with a deposit and loan. This is the way forward to help more New Zealanders realise the dream of owning their own home.”

If Labour’s policy is this confusing it’s no wonder they couldn’t find anyone who could represent those who will benefit from it.

Contrasting with that is National’s policy which will help people help themselves.

Photo: Over the next five years we’ll help 90,000 New Zealanders into their first home. ntnl.org.nz/1BQ94dK #Working4NZ


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