School buses need seatbelts

29/04/2021

Phillipa Cameron is driving many extra kilometres to keep her children safe:

Philippa Cameron will continue driving a 64km round trip to Kurow twice a day until she can be assured her young daughters will be safely belted in on their school bus ride.

The Otematata mother, who has more than 16,900 followers on her Instagram page What’s for Smoko, has launched a petition to get seatbelts on school buses and has managed to collect about 3000 signatures so far.

The issue made its way on to Mrs Cameron’s radar about a year ago, when her eldest daughter Flora was about to turn 5.

“I was that new mum who was looking at how my daughter was going to get to school,” she said.

It was unacceptable to Mrs Cameron that her small child, who was legally required to be in a carseat when travelling by car, could climb on to a school bus and travel along country roads at high speeds, without any type of restraint.

It is risky enough in town at speeds up to 50kph, it’s much more dangerous on country roads and highways at much higher speeds.

She was not the only mother concerned about the issue, but she was one of the lucky ones who had the time to drive her children to their Kurow School, from Otematata Station, where her and husband Joe live.

“Then you’ve got the mothers who are in a position that they can’t take their children. And then they’ve got this terrible mum guilt, you know.

“They have to put their kids on the bus and put their faith and trust in a driver, who gets to have a seatbelt, by the way.

“I feel their pain, because I understand why they have to put their children on the bus.”

In August last year, then Minister of Transport Phil Twyford had told her there was no change in sight for the laws, Mrs Cameron said.

Now new Transport Minister Michael Wood was saying the same thing, citing cost as the biggest hurdle. . . 

What cost do you put on a child’s safety?

Given the law that puts so much responsibility on a person operating a business or enterprise to ensure all workers and customers are safe, how can it be legal to not have seatbelts on school buses – or any bus, come to that?

The petition has the support of Rural Women and Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers transport and health & safety spokesperson Karen Williams is asking rural residents to sign a petition calling for a law change requiring seat belts in school buses. . . 

Karen also believes the current situation is unacceptable.

“When our children are babies we invest in baby capsules, then car seats with 5 point harnesses, both rear facing and then forward facing as the baby’s neck gets stronger, and then lastly booster seats until they are tall enough to safely fit in the seat belt.”   

“But when they turn five and get on a school bus, suddenly having a restraint doesn’t matter?  

“School bus routes can include narrow, windy gravel roads, often busy with heavy trucks.  The bus driver will be secured in a seatbelt, but one row back there’s nothing to buckle in the child passenger,” Karen said.

Radio NZ reported that two children were seriously injured and six others suffered minor injuries after a school bus crashed near Murchison last month.   A week earlier four school students were injured after two buses crashed in Christchurch.  In 2018, St John urged the government to make wearing seatbelts compulsory on some bus services after two people died and many others were injured in a spate of accidents. . . 

The petition closes tomorrow.

You can sign it here.

 

 


2020 Jonesies

15/07/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at www.taxpayers.org.nz/2020_jonesies.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”

“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”

“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.

x


About that fuel tax

26/06/2020

The Taxpayers’ Unions is calling on the government to scrap the increase in the fuel tax which is due to take effect next week.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The Government justified its annual hikes to fuel tax on the basis of funding infrastructure projects – the biggest one being Auckland Light Rail.”

“Now that light rail is canned, there is no excuse for next week’s hike to fuel tax. In fact, during an economic recession, hiking a tax on productive travel would be madness.”

“If Phil Twyford forges ahead with his planned tax hike, it should be seen as nothing more than a cynical revenue grab.”

And what about the tax already taken?

With plans for light rail from Auckland CBD to the airport abandoned. Gull asks what happens to the 11.5 cent per litre and an estimated $150 million annual tax take from the Auckland Regional Fuels Tax?

Gull, New Zealand’s leading innovative energy retailer, today questioned what happens to the Auckland Regional Fuels Tax levied at 11.5 cents per litre including GST on each litre of petrol and diesel delivered into the Auckland area. This Tax introduced in July 2018 raises an estimated $150 million dollars per year and would be happily welcomed back into the wallets of stretched households and businesses.

If the $300 million Taken over the last two years hasn’t been spent on light rail, where has it gone?

Dave Bodger General Manager Gull New Zealand says “we support greater investment in public transport, but with one of the largest projects now reported in the media as abandoned what happens to the tax that was imposed on Aucklanders to help fund this infrastructure? In tough times is this an opportunity to halt the tax while there is no plan? To reduce the tax? If that is not on the cards, then can we have a plan as to where this significant slice of the motorist’s pay-packet is now being spent or planning to be spent? “

If a tax can be increased it can be decreased.

“All motorists are watching every dollar they spend and with a major economic slowdown looming, returning this into the economy would be a welcome relief for each family’s budget,” notes Bodger.

He continues “If the motorist has the opportunity to spend or save this money, people with better abilities than me and access to data could probably estimate how many jobs this type of stimulus boost may create. In our view Kiwis need every piece of help available right now. Can a change in this tax, that appears to be in the main not needed right now, be part of economic support packages? “

Fuel taxes are inflationary. They hit all goods and every service with a transport component, chief of which is food, and they hit the poorest hardest.

If a private business took money from a customer for a particular purpose and used it for another it would be guilty of misappropriation.

If the government continues to inflict the fuel tax for public transport when it’s major project has been canned it will be misappropriating money that every individual and business hit by the recession needs for their own purposed and to help with the recovery.


Twyford touch derails another promise

24/06/2020

Another broken promise:

Auckland’s light rail project is officially an election issue after the Government gave up on trying to reach an agreement on which plan to back.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Auckland Light Rail process had “ended” this morning.

“Despite extensive cross-party consultation, Government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal,” Twyford said.

“The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election.” . . 

That’s another reason to ensure this government isn’t the next one.

National’s transport spokesman Chris Bishop described the issue as an “epic fail” of a similar scale to Kiwibuild, saying it was one of Labour’s first promises during the 2017 election.

“They said it would be built to Mount Roskill, not just started, but built from the Auckland CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021, which is just next year,” Bishop told RNZ.

“After three years of work, millions of dollars to consultants and lawyers and policy advice, back and forth, we have no route, no consent, no business case, we have no plan, we have no estimate of the cost.

“Light rail’s actually gone backwards compared to what it was three years ago.” . . .

Three years and millions of dollars have been squandered on another project that has fallen victim to the Twyford touch.

Like KiwiBuild, this is another expensive failure of a policy that should never have been promised in the first place.


No plan, wrong people

15/05/2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Where are all the Ministers?

08/04/2020

Several questions have arisen in the wake of Health Minister David Clark’s admission he breached lockdown rules twice, one of which is why was he in Dunedin rather than in Wellington during this unprecedented crisis?

That leads to another question, raised by Chris Trotter:  where are the other Ministers?

Beyond the sterling example provided by the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister, New Zealanders could be forgiven for wondering if there is anyone else in the Coalition Cabinet equal to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 Pandemic. One has only to consider the curiously disengaged behaviour of Health Minister, David Clark. Yes, there was that ill-advised bike ride, but of even more concern is the fact that, in the midst of a national health emergency, New Zealand’s Health Minister has isolated himself in his Dunedin family home – 600 kilometres south of the capital. Moreover, as citizens’ rights are being necessarily curtailed, why do we hear so little from the Justice Minister and the Attorney-General? With more and more “idiots” flouting the Covid-19 rules, where is the Police Minister?

Shouldn’t Police Minister Stuart Nash be in Wellington, working with officials and available to answer questions given the draconian powers police have under the state of emergency?

Shouldn’t Justice Minister Andrew Little be concentrating on the crisis rather than trying to rush through the contentious Bill on prisoner voting?

Civil Defence officials are regularly fronting the media, where is their Minister Peeni Henare?

MBIE has a huge job working out what’s an essential business and what’s not. Where is their Minister Phil Twyford and why isn’t he at the media briefings?

Phone and internet enable good communication but conversations and deliberations at a distance are second best when compared with being on the spot.

The response to Covid-19 has been likened to a war. Shouldn’t there be a war cabinet, albeit at the two metre distance required for anyone outside their bubbles, working to not only deal with the health crisis but formulating the plan that will be needed to counter the economic and social challenges that are already apparent?

It doesn’t need a whole of government approach – and given the three parties in this one that wouldn’t be advisable. But it does need more than a cabinet of two.

Could it be that the crisis has shown the shallowness of talent in the government and that as Chris Trotter says, we could be forgiven for wondering if there is anyone else in the Coalition Cabinet equal to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 Pandemic? 

Is the reason the reason there isn’t a new Health Minister because there isn’t anyone else up to the job?

This begs another question: if they’re not equal to dealing with these challenges, are they equal to dealing with the challenges the recovery will pose?


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.

 


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.

 

 


KiwiBuild is KiwiFail again

24/01/2019

A report from the New Zealand Initiative calls KiwiBuild Twyford’s tar baby:

  • Relative to income, dwelling prices in New Zealand are among the highest in the OECD. This is New Zealand’s housing affordability problem in a nutshell.
  • High population-driven demand growth has collided with inflexible supply-side constraints.
  • Land prices have sky-rocketed, but construction costs are also too high.
  • KiwiBuild cannot hope to materially increase home ownership proportions – the original 2012 objective. Additional housing, if achieved, will likely lift renting and ownership more or less in tandem.This report explains why KiwiBuild – defined as the government’s pledge to build or deliver 100,000 homes within a decade – fails against all the objectives set for it:
    • It is not about social housing to help those at the bottom.
    • Nor is it about helping struggling first-home buyers. They cannot afford KiwiBuild homes at current costs. KiwiBuild is for the relatively well-off.
    • It is intended to be subsidy free, since wealth transfers to the well-off are hard to justify. But its inducements to attract private developers are subsidies.
    • Even more paradoxically, if there were no subsidy, there would be no gap for KiwiBuild to fill. Private developers will meet unsubsidised market demand.
    • It cannot hope to increase the housing stock sustainably. Only enduring lower property prices can induce people to own more dwellings than otherwise. KiwiBuild reduces neither land values nor construction costs at the margin.
  • The enduring effect of the policy is a changed composition of the housing stock by decree rather than by public demand.
  • KiwiBuild is floundering having no clear public interest objective. It constitutes a massive political and bureaucratic distraction from what is really needed – direct action to reduce land values and construction costs.

The government should not be in the business of subsidizing property developers and people on well above average incomes.

It purports to be focused on helping the poorest and most vulnerable.

Instead, policies like KiwBuild and fee-free tertiary education waste millions on people who aren’t poor, many of whom are or will be wealthy.

Not only is it a bad policy, it hasn’t a show of meeting its target to build 1000 houses by July.

KiwiBuild is KiwiFail again.


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.

 

 


Growing middle income welfare

01/11/2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says KiwiBuild houses aren’t for the poor:

​KiwiBuild isn’t intended to help low-income families, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says, in the face of criticism about some of the scheme’s first buyers. . . 

To qualify for a KiwiBuild house, buyers must have joint income up to $180,000 as a couple, or $120,000 as a single person.  Buyers must be first-time purchasers or in the same financial situation as first-home buyers.

KiwiBuild houses sell for up to $650,000, for the largest homes in Auckland.

Twyford said KiwiBuild was aimed at building affordable houses because market failure has led to only 5 per cent of houses being built in this price range in recent years. 

“KiwiBuild is aimed at those families who years ago would have expected to own their own home but have been locked out of the market because of the national housing crisis,” he said.

“It is not a programme aimed at low-income families because they may not be able to service a KiwiBuild mortgage.” . . 

If the houses aren’t for the poor, why are taxpayers’ paying for them?

Houses that are only affordable for people on well above average incomes are affordable in a very limited definition of the word.

People earning that much ought to be able to afford a house without taxpayer assistance.

It might not be brand new. It might not be in the best condition. It might not be in a really desirable suburb. But it would get them on the housing ladder which is a big step above anything low income people could afford.

Labour purports to be the party that helps the poor but its policies increasingly use taxpayers’ money to help people who aren’t poor, boosting the growth of middle and even upper income welfare.

 

 


Poor pay less and more

29/06/2018

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the poor will pay less fuel tax than wealthier people.

He’s right in dollar terms but if he’s worried about the impact that’s not what matters, it’s the proportion of income that counts:

“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is either very brave or very stupid in arguing that fuel taxes are easiest on the poor,” says Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke.
 
“He is doggedly focusing on the dollar impact of the fuel tax, and ignoring the cost as a proportion of total income.”
 
“It’s no surprise that rich people buy more fuel – they buy more of everything. But people on low incomes spend a far larger proportion of their income on fuel, meaning a tax hike will have a far bigger effect on their real quality of life.”
 
“It only takes five minutes to graph Twyford’s figures and see the real impact of fuel tax.”

“The verdict is clear: fuel taxes whack the poorest almost four times as hard as they whack the richest.”
 
“It’s stunning to see such selective ignorance from a centre-left Minister who is meant to understand issues of fairness and equality. Isn’t this stuff Labour Party 101?”

As David Farrar points out, the poor consume less of almost everything (except tobacco) but spend a higher proportion of their income on it

The cost of the fuel tax will be greater for higher income people but the poor will pay more of what they earn on it:

Now let’s look at the average incomes for each decile

  • Decile 1 – under $23,900
  • Decile 5 – $64,400 to $80,199
  • Decile 10 – over $188,900

So the extra fuel tax as a percentage of income is:

  • Decile 1: 0.52%
  • Decile 5: 0.27%
  • Decile 10: 0.14%

Let’s not forget it’s not just the direct cost that will hit the poorest hardest.

Every service and all goods with a transport component (and can you think of anything that doesn’t have one?) will be impacted by the tax and that will, sooner or later, lead to price increases, inflationary pressure and interest rate rises.

The Ardern/Peters/Shaw/Davidson coalition government, all parties in which purport to represent and work for the poor, is adding to the cost of living and making life harder for them.

And adding to that is yesterday’s announcement we’ll all be paying an extra 10.5 cents a litre over the next two years in excise tax.

P.S.

Michael Redell writes on regressivity, petrol taxes, and ministerial PR at Croaking Cassandra.

Thomas Lumley examines the issue at Stats Chat.

Sam Warburton tweets on it here.

 


Shouldn’t smoke anything in other people’s houses

27/06/2018

Chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has found there is no evidence that contamination from smoking meth poses a risk to health.

• Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant used illicitly in New Zealand and around the world. It is obtained either through smuggling into the country, or by being manufactured locally in clandestine laboratories (meth labs). These meth labs may be found in residential dwellings, commercial accommodation, and even vehicles. 

• A dwelling can become contaminated with methamphetamine residues if the drug is manufactured or smoked within it. Smoking usually results in much lower residue levels compared with manufacture. . . 

• Passive, third-hand exposure to methamphetamine can arise through residing in a dwelling previously used as a clandestine meth lab, or where a significant amount of methamphetamine has been smoked. Former meth labs generally have relatively high levels of methamphetamine residue on sampled surfaces (levels greater than 30 μg of methamphetamine per 100 cm2 surface area are thought to be indicative of manufacturing activity). There is some evidence for adverse physiological and behavioural symptoms associated with third-hand exposure to former meth labs that used solvent-based production methods, but these symptoms mostly relate to the other toxic chemicals in the environment released during the manufacturing process, rather than to methamphetamine itself.

• However, there are no published (or robust, unpublished) data relating to health risks of residing in a dwelling formerly used only for smoking methamphetamine. Yet, given the relatively low number of confirmed meth labs found, and the very low average levels of methamphetamine found in most houses that test positive for the drug, most New Zealanders will only ever encounter very low levels of residue that are the result of methamphetamine use. . . 

In the past meth users were evicted from state houses, now Housing NZ will let meth users stay in their houses and try to get them help.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said Housing New Zealand is a landlord for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

He said if the agency discovers a tenant is smoking meth, it will try to help them. . . 

He said the response from Housing NZ now was to treat people using meth as a health issue.

“Under the old government the policy was to make that person homeless – the worst possible thing that you could do.

“If someone’s got a drug addiction problem, you couldn’t do anything more calculated than to make them vulnerable to greater risk in their health, and in fact incurring greater expense to the taxpayer than throwing them out of their home and making them homeless.

“Housing New Zealand is a landlord … they’re not the police.

There is merit in treating drug use as a health issue and  trying to find help for addicts.

But I am concerned that this policy sends a message it’s fine to smoke in other people’s houses.

All landlords have the right to tell tenants they can’t smoke anything – legal or illegal – in their houses.

We have a strict no smoking rule in all our farm houses. One of our sharemilkers goes further, telling his staff the whole farm is smoke-free.

Property owners and employers have a right to do that.

Another thing to remember is that no evidence of harm is not the same as proof of no harm.

Science is rarely settled and regardless of what the research has found, I wouldn’t want to live in a house where people had been smoking meth.


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.


$600,000 is cheap?

26/03/2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced what looked like a big boost to Auckland’s housing supply yesterday.

It didn’t take National’s housing spokeswoman Judith Collins to point out it was old news:

“The previous Government signed off on Unitec’s investment plans to consolidate their campus and develop the spare land for housing.

“The plan change has already been through Auckland Council. We know that because various local councillors were opposing the development.

“All that has happened here is that a land development that was owned by one part of Government is now owned by another arm of Government. A pure re-badging exercise.

“The development at Unitec has already been factored into the plans and predictions for housing development in Auckland.

“All that seems to have happened here is that Mr Twyford wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise the building and selling of homes that were going to happen anyway. . . 

Involving the government is likely to add to costs and delays.

It would be far better to leave building to the private sector rather than tying up taxpayers’ money with all the complications that brings.

Then there’s the cost which Corin  Dann raised on Q&A:

PHIL: So, you’re talking medium-density, as pretty much all the KiwiBuild homes in Auckland are going to be medium-density, apartments, flats and town houses, terraces. 500,000 to 600,000 is the kind of range we’re talking about.

CORIN​: So somebody is going to get a $600,000- what, two-bedroom, three-bedroom house in Mt Albert?

PHIL​: Yes. Two to three, yes.

CORIN​: That’s really cheap.

PHIL​: Sure.

Cheap? Since when has $600,000 for a two to three bedroom house been cheap?

Since demand for houses outstripped supply so badly and as Act MP David Seymour pointed out the government isn’t addressing the root cause of that problem:

. . . The Government’s own officials have said that, in Auckland, land use regulation could be responsible for up to 56 per cent, or $530,000, of the cost of an average home.

“ACT has revealed from Written Parliamentary Questions that Cabinet hasn’t even decided whether to consider reviewing the Resource Management Act – rules that determine what can be built where – after 150 days in the Beehive.

“New Zealand does not have a free market in housing. It is a market created and manipulated by government.

“The Government – whether central or local – controls the Resource Management Act, zoning, consents and other factors that influence the market.

“Our housing market isn’t a case of market failure but an example of regulatory failure. New Zealand has planning rules which mean that the market is not able to increase the supply of houses in response to increases in demand. . . 

The RMA and zoning are a big part of the housing cost problem.

So too are building regulations.

Economies of scale with bigger populations don’t explain all of the difference in the cost of building a house in Australia and New Zealand.

If the government is serious about affordable housing it needs to look at building regulations which require more expensive materials on this side of the Tasman than the other.


Moving up, out and right out

19/05/2016

At last, Labour appears to have caught up with National on one solution to Auckland’s housing problem:

The new position by the Labour opposition calling for an abolition of city limits has been welcomed by Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“This is a welcome repositioning by Labour. Tight city limits and not allowing intensification is at the core of Auckland’s housing problems. It is limiting new housing developments, driving up section and house prices and encouraging land banking.

“A broad political consensus that the policy around city limits needs to change is helpful to progressing the necessary reforms to increase housing supply and to make them more affordable.

“I was given the Housing portfolio in January 2013 and immediately identified Auckland Council’s metropolitan urban limits, set in 1993 when the population was half a million less than today, as a huge barrier to meeting housing needs both now and in the future. At that time Phil Twyford insisted having no boundaries ‘will mean uncontrolled sprawl from Pukekohe to Warkworth’.

“The Government’s housing programme has involved the systematic dismantling of Auckland’s metropolitan urban limit. I have used Special Housing Areas (SHAs) to override the limits in the short-term while fast-tracking with the independent hearings panel a new plan for Auckland with adequate housing supply.

“Both the laws for SHAs and the new Unitary Plan were opposed by Labour. The new Unitary Plan is only six weeks away from going to the council, and I’m confident it will provide a far more permissive approach to new housing because of the depth of analysis that has gone into the new plan.

“It would be counter-productive to ditch this work at this time with a simplistic approach of just abolishing city limits. We still need some rules to ensure new urban areas have appropriate infrastructure and services and that we make separate provision for industry from housing.

“We are making huge progress in growing supply. Only 10 new homes were being built each working day when National came to office but that has grown to 40. I will be keeping my foot hard on the accelerator until we achieve the needed rate of 50-60 per day.

“I welcome this change of tack by Labour on city limits because the next key step is gaining support for a more enabling plan for Auckland. I hope Mr Twyford and Labour will join me in encouraging the Auckland Council to support the new Unitary Plan in July, when the independent hearings panel reports back.”

Some political tragics might care whose idea it was to allow Auckland to move out but most other people just want the best solution to the imbalance between supply and demand – and that’s more houses.

Auckland has to move up and out and it would help if some people moved right out of the city to other regions where houses are far more affordable.

Strong family links and work will be keeping some people in Auckland but there are good livings and good living in other parts of the country.

All New Zealanders are either descended from immigrants or immigrates themselves. Many of our forbears made long and dangerous journeys to get a better life for themselves and their families; some came not just to a new land but a new language and culture, some new New Zealanders are still doing that.

What’s stopping at least some Aucklanders easing the housing problems in their city by making the much easier move to somewhere else in New Zealand?

 

 


Naming, blaming shaming

13/07/2015

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford did some numbers on names and leapt to the conclusion that Auckland’s housing woes are caused by Chinese buyers.

(The transcript is here).

Thomas Lumley, Professor of Biostatistics counters his assertion in a post headlined what’s in a name?

. . . So, there is fairly good evidence that people of Chinese ethnicity are buying houses in Auckland at a higher rate than their proportion of the population.

The Labour claim extends this by saying that many of the buyers must be foreign. The data say nothing one way or the other about this, and it’s not obvious that it’s true. More precisely, since the existence of foreign investors is not really in doubt, it’s not obvious how far it’s true. The simple numbers don’t imply much, because relatively few people are housing buyers: for example, house buyers named “Wang” in the data set are less than 4% of Auckland residents named “Wang.” There are at least three other competing explanations, and probably more.

First, recent migrants are more likely to buy houses. I bought a house three years ago. I hadn’t previously bought one in Auckland. I bought it because I had moved to Auckland and I wanted somewhere to live. Consistent with this explanation, people with Korean and Indian names, while not over-represented to the same extent are also more likely to be buying than selling houses, by about the same ratio as Chinese.

Second, it could be that (some subset of) Chinese New Zealanders prefer real estate as an investment to, say, stocks (to an even greater extent than Aucklanders in general).  Third, it could easily be that (some subset of) Chinese New Zealanders have a higher savings rate than other New Zealanders, and so have more money to invest in houses.

Personally, I’d guess that all these explanations are true: that Chinese New Zealanders (on average) buy both homes and investment properties more than other New Zealanders, and that there are foreign property investors of Chinese ethnicity. But that’s a guess: these data don’t tell us — as the Herald explicitly points out.

One of the repeated points I  make on StatsChat is that you need to distinguish between what you measured and what you wanted to measure.  Using ‘Chinese’ as a surrogate for ‘foreign’ will capture many New Zealanders and miss out on many foreigners.

The misclassifications aren’t just unavoidable bad luck, either. If you have a measure of ‘foreign real estate ownership’ that includes my next-door neighbours and excludes James Cameron, you’re doing it wrong, and in a way that has a long and reprehensible political history.

Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive, Ashley Church also uses the term  ‘reprehensible’ and calls the claims ‘an exercise in unveiled racism’.

Mr Church describes the data used by Mr Twyford as ‘shonky’ and says ‘it has so many holes in it that it would be marked with an ‘f’ if it was submitted as a High School Economics project’.

“Mr Twyford uses ‘Asian sounding’ surnames as his means to identify which buyers are ‘Asian Investors’ – without any way of knowing whether the buyer is a New Zealand immigrant who lives here, or an investor based in China”.

“On that basis Mr Twyford should be blowing the whistle on Scottish foreign investment in this country – because a large number of kiwi homes are owned by people who have names starting with ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’”.

“This is the sort of racist sideshow we’d expect from NZ First – not a serious political party with pretensions to hold the reins of power”.

Mr Church says that Mr Twyfords claims that the Auckland property market is being skewed by non-resident investors may prove to be correct – but he says that any action taken should be based on hard data and facts – and that the race of the buyer shouldn’t be a factor.

“We might be surprised to learn who the major investors really are. Work done by the Overseas Investment Office, in 2012, suggested that the biggest buyers were Americans, Brits, Canadians and Aussies – with the Chinese a long way behind”.

Mr Church says the Property Institute supports the recent move, by the Government, to create a foreign buyer register by requiring investors to have a New Zealand tax number.

“This will provide good, accurate, information and it will help us to determine whether we need to be taking steps to ban foreign investment in kiwi homes – or direct it into the construction of new houses, as is the case in Australia”.

If there is an issue with non-resident foreigners buying houses it’s not one of people from any particular country.

But in light of Twyford’s comments, who could blame anyone with a foreign-sounding name if, as Gravedodger suggests, they start buying property under some variation of The Smith Family Trust numbered whatever.

However, let’s not forget the real problem is not who’s buying houses but that there’s not enough of them in some areas nor who’s responsible for the imbalance between supply and demand:

Hugh Pavletich co-author of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey says blame the incompetent council:

If Auckland was a normal housing market, like most in North America, house prices would be at or below $300,000 for those on $100,000-a-year household incomes.

Thanks to the incompetent Auckland Council, an Auckland family with a household income of $100,000 is forced to pay $820,000 for a house.

The council is forcing them to pay an extra $520,000 for the house and this new study calling for more apartments in the suburbs is no solution to the crisis.

That money for an Auckland house must come from a grossly excessive mortgage, crippling the city’s residents for the remainder of their working life.

Add the interest over the life of this inflated mortgage and this $100,000-a-year household is forced to pay over $1 million in excessive mortgage costs, and all because the Auckland Council is incompetent.

The council is being deliberately misleading because it has lost control of its costs and has lost the capacity to meet its infrastructure responsibilities to its community

Land supply, infrastructure financing and processing for new housing are issues councils must tackle – and no council more than Auckland needs to deal with this.

Back to Professor Lumley:

But on top of that, if there is substantial foreign investment and if it is driving up prices, that’s only because of the artificial restrictions on the supply of Auckland houses. If Auckland could get its consent and zoning right, so that more money meant more homes, foreign investment wouldn’t be a problem for people trying to find somewhere to live. That’s a real problem, and it’s one that lies within the power of governments to solve.

It’s not difficult for people with a better grasp of statistics and without the political desperation that’s driving  Labour down this divisive path to counter the claims.

But let’s not forget that the naming, blaming and shaming by numbers can hurt people.

I received an email from a Young Nat, Melissa Hu, who wrote:

. . . I was born here, I study here, I work here and I’m a New Zealand citizen but because my last name sounds Chinese I’m apparently a big part of the housing affordability problem – (I’m actually of Mongolian descent but would Labour care about that?

Labour chose to make racially inflammatory comments based on half-baked data from an anonymous real estate agent in Auckland. They chose to say that there are too many Chinese buyers in the Auckland housing market based on whether your last name was Wang, Lee – or even like mine.

 The problem is, this data doesn’t actually prove whether the buyers are foreigners or not. Even NZIER’s Principal Economist said Labour’s comments were “very damaging for a multi-cultural, welcoming place like New Zealand”.

 I’ve lived here all my life, and I’m proud to call myself Kiwi. Young New Zealanders like me are ambitious, excited and open about New Zealand’s future. I don’t think my last name, or yours, has anything to do with trying to buy a house. 

 We need to be encouraging all Kiwis – young, old, European, Maori, Chinese, whatever – to aim high, work hard, create wealth and continue to raise our living standards. We also need the Government to keep taking common sense steps with councils to make more land available for housing. That’s why I support National they know there’s a problem and they have a real plan to fix it.

 We don’t need to start a “pick on the Chinese” attitude which could create more problems than it solves. Auckland’s housing problem is a supply issue – not a Chinese issue. We’re a multicultural, ambitious and prosperous country – I hope we stay that way.

There’s nothing new about this naming, blaming and shaming.

My father-in-law was the butt of some because his name was German, even though he’d though he’d not long returned from serving overseas with the New Zealand army.

How sad that nearly  70 years later it’s still a political tactic.

 


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


Pot, kettle SMOG

26/11/2013

Inventory 2 at Keeping Stock calls them SMOGs – Social Media own Goals and Labour MPs keep doing them:

https://twitter.com/Travis_Poulson/status/404913099834015744

Apropos of SMOGs on another subject, Twyford compounds his leader’s stupid remark about Judith Collins.

 


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