With Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford set to continue leading key housing-related law changes, Jenée Tibshraeny argues he shouldn't be written off as an architect of the Government’s broader housing policy

With Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford set to continue leading key housing-related law changes, Jenée Tibshraeny argues he shouldn't be written off as an architect of the Government’s broader housing policy
Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Phil Twyford may have lost his Housing portfolio, but as Urban Development Minister he is by no means out of the housing fold.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet reshuffle announced on Thursday saw Megan Woods made Housing Minister (responsible for building houses and KiwiBuild), and Kris Faafoi made Associate Housing Minister (responsible for public housing).

While Ardern divvied up housing-related duties between ministers, the Government's in the process of changing the law to consolidate these duties in one agency. 

Twyford on May 29 introduced the Kāinga Ora-Homes and Communities Bill to Parliament to create a new Crown entity, ‘Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities’.

Pulling together three existing agencies – Housing New Zealand, its subsidiary HLC and the KiwiBuild Unit – the idea is for this entity to lead urban development projects and be a public landlord.

While Ardern said the team would be headed up Woods, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's office told interest.co.nz she wasn’t in a position to detail exactly how responsibilities would be shared and who would oversee Kāinga Ora.

Even if Twyford isn’t given this task, Ardern confirmed he would continue to “take the lead on urban development and the legislative changes needed to ensure more affordable houses can be built with the right infrastructure around them”.

The legal groundwork

The way I see it, getting these legislative changes correct is at the heart of addressing the country’s housing problems.

If there is an entity that can override local planning laws to speed up the development of large scale projects in designated areas; or introduce new infrastructure funding mechanisms like the one used in Milldale north of Auckland that sees homeowners help fund local infrastructure via a levy added to their rates; that will lay the groundwork for the implementation of the Government’s various housing programmes.

Twyford will essentially be creating the tools to allow Woods and Faafoi to be more effective in delivering public housing and low-cost housing.

In this sense, one can assume his vision will continue to underpin the Government’s broader housing strategy.

Woods and Faafoi will deliver on what the law and Kāinga Ora enable them to.

While the Bill currently before Parliament establishes the entity, another Bill will be required to outline its powers.

Ardern acknowledged progress on the housing "reset" would be further delayed as Woods and Faafoi needed time to get up to speed and provide input.

This reset will consider the future of KiwiBuild, and based on Twyford saying he's broadening his focus to renters, may include build-to-rent or rent-to-buy schemes. 

So all-in-all, Woods and Faafoi will be able to refine housing policies and in Ardern’s words, be “fresh pairs of eyes”. But it appears that on a higher strategic level Twyford might continue to call the shots.

A matter of perception 

This brings us to politics. Twyford is synonymous with KiwiBuild, which is synonymous with the phrases: “flop” or “slow to launch” - depending on your view.

You can see why for the sake of the profiles of both Twyford and the Government’s housing programme, Ardern might want a fresh face in this space. Someone new to cop the flak, take the public pressure off Twyford and leave him to get on with things behind the scenes.

Why Ardern chose Woods to be the flak-copper is a mystery to me. She hasn’t proven to be the sort of Minister who thrives under the pressure of a vicious media scrum or debate in the House.

Ardern said Woods had experience leading “transitions” in her capacity as Energy and Resources Minister.

However, banning new offshore oil and gas exploration without consultation and then failing to communicate a clear plan forward, mark impractical ambition rather than smooth transition.  

While Twyford might in time escape a tiny bit of the public scrutiny he put himself up for by making KiwiBuild the focal point of his campaign, I wouldn’t write him off as an architect of the Government’s broader housing policy.

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Finally Phil fell , face first , into the abject murky swamp of defeat that Kiwibuild is ...

... it was a daft policy from the outset ... and an insane target of 100 000 houses ...

Admit defeat guys ... dump this policy completely , and get back to social housing , to looking after the genuine needy ... the electorate will be more forgiving if you cut your losses and move on , than if you blindly push on , regardless of the obvious stupidity of doing so ..

.. at the very least , Labour admit that we have a housing price issue ... the Gnats spent 9 years in complete denial ...

Admit defeat guys ... dump this policy completely , and get back to social housing , to looking after the genuine needy ... the electorate will be more forgiving if you cut your losses and move on , than if you blindly push on , regardless of the obvious stupidity of doing so ..

Yes. Or even better, go and learn from Singapore and Japan where soical housing has worked for the benefit of the people and as a pillar for social cohesion and economic development.

... absolutely ! ... we ought to pluck and adapt the best ideas from around the world ...

My hesitation is that Taxcinda has split the housing issue across three people now , and not one of those three have any experience of the house construction industry ....

... so .... more academics telling us and the industry experts how they envisage a successful housing should work ?

@ JC we cannot even begin to compare ourselves with Singapore .

We do not have their savings culture or ethic ( They basically follow the Confucian savings dictate of 25 % of income , most Kiwis save ZERO )
They have additional compulsory saving for housing through the CPF
They live in high rise buildings
The have leasehold land ( so they dont have to buy land )

Now try this in New Zealand and see how far you get

Someone needs to tell the Singaporean Government about Confucius. Their National Debt to GDP is 108.79%. The grass always looks greener until you scrape away the paint.

"... and an insane target of 100 000 houses ..."

I 100% agree, 100,000 house won't cut it, especially given immigration and the time horizon of 10 years.

A target of between 200,000 - 400,000 homes would be more appropriate. Also the 2 billion currently allocated to KiwiBuild is a very poultry amount.

... 2 billion is a poultry amount .... too cheep ?

It is when you have self serving interests looking to feather their own nest.


Only 158 Kiwibuild houses actually built...have left them with egg on their face.

202 , apparently . . Quite a few short of what Twyford steadfastly promised us to this point: 1000 he said , half way through his governments first term ...

"This is the year of delivery" LOL

@Zack , yes agreed the amount is chicken feed ..............poultry LOL ............I dont know if it was a typing or spelling error or a piss take , but well done .

'Architect of the government's broader housing policy'
Now there is one very scary thought.

Hi Fritz,
Through various comments it would seem you don’t hold Phil in particularly high regard.

Equally it seems based not just on his performance, or lack thereof – but also on his personal style and attitude etc.

Just wondering if you’ve had much interaction with him on a personal/group professional level? I really want to agree on Jenee’s take in the article but you make it sound like all is lost with him in the mix in any way, shape or form.

I have been part of some delegations to him.
On one of them he mysteriously cold shouldered a proposal that could have delivered a lot of housing. The potential project was not without challenges but in my view were ones that could have been overcome.And then by comparison he's put a while lot of time, energy and money into the Hamilton- Auckland corridor. A daft project, where he thought at the outset that there could be several small cities connected by fast train. A nice fantasy but....
He seems to pursues fantasies at the expense of real world housing projects.
I also think he's bought far too much into the theory that dismantling Auckland's RUB will make a meaningful difference.
I admire his energy and enthusiasm though

Appreciate your reply – might be clutching at straws but perhaps the events of the last few days may help to sharpen or refocus that energy and enthusiasm in a more positive way.


Reflects the voting population

That is the issue, he thinks the Auckland - Hamilton corridor IS removing the RUB. It's not.

They all redefine any solution put to them in the light of their own ideology, cherry pick those one or two points in any proposal, and then think that by implementing 20% of the original proposal they will get 100% of the result.

They think their issue to date is that they haven't been arranging the deck chairs fast enough, hence get more Ministers involved.

"This brings us to politics. Twyford is synonymous with KiwiBuild, which is synonymous with the phrases: “flop” or “slow to launch” - depending on your view."
Politics aside, you have got to feel sorry for the guy.
Always had to play the Minister's role defending both party policy and government by putting a positive confident spin on KiwiBuild over the past year at Question Time while personally digging himself a deeper and deeper hole.
It has become as much a "personal failure" rather than Party or Government failure and for that he is the scapegoat casualty; much like the captain of a sinking ship. I feel sorry for the captain of the Titanic - that wasn't a personal failure on his part but he was the one that took the rap.

He is not the captain though, Ardern is

KB started as a dog of a policy managed by incompetent people.

After this reshuffle it is now incompetent people managing a dog of a policy.

Jacinda must be up all night with her turd polisher. Trying to make headway on it.


Some wit on Twitter has named them the WTF team based on their surnames.

Yeah the crap quality of our houses make our prices look even sillier

Even our current standards are pretty poor - our house is built to a higher than minimum standard and still isn’t that warm (although a big improvement on old homes).
The ceiling insulation standard could be raised a lot without adding much extra cost, and a heat exchanger should be mandatory with aluminium framed windows (without ventilation condensation forms on the aluminium causing mould). Maybe compulsory central heating too.
I think the current building code is too big on paperwork and experts and blame denial, and too light on minimum standards. We spent 10x as much on architects and engineers and council in our build as we did on insulation!

Global warming is taking care of this problem out.

So far Mr.Twyford's most memorable artifact is the Chinese sounding name list LOL.

... yes , Labour have the rich comic team of Twyford and Mallard : Tweedledee and Tweedledumber ....

And perhaps the only thing he got right.

I actually do think Twyford is the best man for the job. But giving him both housing and transport, probably the 2 biggest issues in the country (well Auckland at least), seemed a bit much for one person.

Mr Twyford and most of his cabinet minister mates are just not up to the task of running anything, as their history clearly shows!
The sooner the ones that voted this lot in admits that they have stuffed up majorly the better.
They have achieved absolutely nothing that they campaigned on and seriously they are out of their depth.
The KiwiBuild reset has been delayed further due to the fact that they have got no idea on what to do!
Megan Woods has no expertise either and it will be the blind leading the blind and just delaying the inevitable.

... methinks that the reason Chris Farfoi gets handed so many portfolios is because this Labour government is so bereft of any real talent ....

Next head on the block .... Phil Twyford !!! ....

Yeah there's not much talent there. But not much in the Gnats, either.

Nick Smith ! . . Jumbo Gerry ... the Crusher .... hmmmmmm .... meebee I should shut up now .... ( exits , left ) ...

I've started feeling sorry for them. I didn't expect that.

Would any big corporate give these academics any role in their company apart from door person. No because that would be a really bad idea and yet they run this country. And what happens when you fail in the real world you get the boot

But people voted for them...

You don't have to be able to do stuff to be a politician, you just have to be able to convince people that you can do stuff.

For better and for worse, ego is a big part of being a politician.
The most successful politicians can temper their ego and listen to the experts. But that's unfortunately a rare attribute.

The weirdest thing is that some people actually think that the Coalition is doing a good job??????
Could those people please state what they have actually achieved to what they actually campaigned on?
Reduce child poverty was high on their list and that hasn’t worked!
KiwiBuild, no one could have predicted it being so poorly performing!
Pike River, expensive load of bollocks, where no one will be brought out!
More taxes when they stated there would be none.
Landlords screwed by an incompetent minister!

Please tell me what national achieved in 9 years? They sure failed to lower house prices (which they campaigned on originally).
And What more taxes are these?

Have you not heard of the regional fuel tax ALL of NZ are paying for Auckland, that is a tax and its new.
Affects the poor people even more due to the proportion spent on fuel and its affect on other aspects of life as well.
Also Labour cancelled the National tax cuts, so yes that is a tax increase.

Both of those were campaigned on so no broken promises there.
Who do you think should pay to fix Aucklands transport issues? General taxes? Ratepayers? Or the people who use the road the most (fuel taxes)

Well, that certainly does describe John Key's record.

'Academics'? Has Twyford even got a degree?

Just one. 1st degree murder. Of Kiwibuild.

You all can put the COL down as much as you like but they will do at least one more term as National has no one in caucus capable of leading them back into being the government again, they have no mates to get them over the line and they have no policies that make them look a better bet than the COL. ( I voted National in the last election).

Gordon, can you answer my question please?
What have they actually done to improve NZ that they campaigned on?
What the heck would Megan Woods know about housing?

The answer is she doesn't know anything about housing. Which is a big worry.
Labour have a big problem. They have some very good policy intentions but the calibre of their team to implement leaves a lot to be desired.
And they ignore advice, from both officials and externals, then seem surprised when they fail.
It's really disappointing for me, because here was their big chance to rebalance some of the worst excesses of neo-liberalism.

... " kiwi build " ought to have been aborted in the first trimester .... A barkingly bad idea right from the get go ... second best time to kill it off , right now

It's actually a good idea as originally intended ie. the government building housing en masse (using prefab etc) and selling it.
It's gone off track because the govt abandoned the idea of building houses themselves.

.. I reckon it would have been a good idea if Labour had commissioned the building of thousands of state houses , and actually got poorer families into homes ...

Kiwibuild is just more middleclass welfare ... the first couple to buy one was a young doctor and his software consultant wife .... hardly a family on Struggle Street ...

"the first couple to buy one was a young doctor and his software consultant wife"
With the beaming (overpaid) PM right in the middle of the photoshoot, that could not have been a worse PR disaster!

Of course it’s middle class welfare - they are the people struggling to buy a home. Do you think the government should ignore the middle class and make so only the poor and rich own houses?

Totally agree.
Getting the poorer into state houses may have dropped rentals prices on houses and as a result,paying less rent may have increased a families ability to save for a house.

If anyone had any doubts about how far this Government was disconnected from reality , those doubts surely were put to rest when they said they would build 100,000 affordable houses in 10 years .

Clueless is the only word that comes to mind .

They did not even have a plan / strategy /roadmap / or anything other than a big dose of wishful thinking

An aspect both the comment stream and you, Jenée, seem to have overlooked in this reshuffle, is that, by divvying up the responsibilities as noted, two consequences are generated, both with Posidive outcomes for the Gubmint and the looming election (15 months away and counting):

  1. There are now three sets of support staff, PR flacks, Ministry types and available consultancies, to bring to bear on the 'recalibration'. Given that it's the Skin most voters are swayed by, not the Structure underpinning it, applying lotsa Cosmetics to the Skin is gonna pay electoral dividends.
  2. The responsibilities are nicely diffused. Each Minister will have 'streams of work' to refer to, the troika will neatly be able to say 'well, this is Y stream of work, progressing well, but you'll have to ask Minister Y for specifics'. It will cause three times the effort to shine sunlight on the effort overall. Like a rugger team running the opposition into mental and physical exhaustion, it might well work.