Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford says we need to work together to ensure everyone in New Zealand has an adequate home to live in. 'We must leave nobody behind'

Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford says we need to work together to ensure everyone in New Zealand has an adequate home to live in. 'We must leave nobody behind'

The following article is the tenth and final chapter from Progressive thinking, ten perspectives on housing, a Public Service Association (PSA) publication. Interest.co.nz has now published all 10 chapters from different authors on various aspects of housing.

By David Rutherford*

In 1972, when Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto” was a number one hit in New Zealand, my home was an adequate house in Patea, Taranaki. I was glad I wasn’t living in a ghetto in Chicago. I was glad that the idea of ghetto was something none of us would stand for here in New Zealand.

Forty years later when I read a report describing the clustering of low income renters in Auckland¹, I thought again of Elvis’s song, and the lines:

“Take a look at you and me, Are we too blind to see, Do we simply turn our heads And look the other way?”

We – government, all political parties, public and private agencies, you and I – need to turn our heads together toward the people. We need to work together to ensure everyone in New Zealand has an adequate home to live in. We must leave nobody behind.

Responsibilities

From the start of our lives there are certain things our governments must to do to help us reach our potential – things they have promised to the world they will do for each of us. These expectations and claims we have of our elected representatives are called human rights. Every single person has them.

The most basic minimum human rights standards have been discussed and written down and countries, including New Zealand, have agreed to follow them. They have become international law. Successive New Zealand governments have committed us to abide by these international laws, and thus to respect, protect and fulfil our human rights in New Zealand.

The role of the NZ Human Rights Commission is to hold the state to account for the promises they have made to protect the human rights of people in New Zealand.

For decades all sides of our political spectrum have made promises about adequately housing New Zealanders and yet no side has yet delivered adequate housing to all New Zealanders.

In 1948, the New Zealand Government of the time helped to draft and promised to fulfil the right to adequate housing in Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Since then, we have signed a multitude of international covenants aimed at eliminating discrimination in the provision of housing and requiring the state to provide housing for our most vulnerable people.

The most recent expression of our Government’s commitment to ensuring adequate housing for all New Zealanders is found in the² Sustainable Development goals, targets and indicators contained in the 2015 UN Global Agenda 2030.

We signed up to these goals, including SDG 11 – “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Part of SDG Target 11.1 is: “to by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing.”

We appear to have a “what goes on tour, stays on tour” approach to our international human rights commitments.

Those in the political sphere are good at making international promises about adequate housing in New Zealand, but when push comes to shove, what is actually being delivered?

Since 1948, New Zealand governments have promised internationally repeatedly to deliver adequate houses to all New Zealanders and yet they have failed to deliver. The reality is that it will likely take longer than any single electoral cycle to deliver adequate housing to all New Zealanders.

The Human Rights Commission argues that we need a New Zealand ‘Homes Accord’ that all political parties sign up to and that commits them to providing all New Zealanders with an adequate home.

‘Adequate housing’ has been well defined in international human rights law.³

We believe a Homes Accord should be based around the UN indicia of adequate housing and apply right across the spectrum of housing.

It means ensuring everyone has somewhere affordable, secure, safe, warm and dry to live and grow up.

The indicia are:

  • Security of Tenure
  • Habitability
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure
  • Location

Cultural Adequacy

It’s clear to me that the only way our political parties can deliver adequate housing is by working together. This will mean leaving egos, political point-scoring and ‘beef’ at the door.

Our political representatives will never deliver adequate housing if they continue working apart.

Finally, I want to share with you why ensuring all New Zealanders have an adequate home matters so much to me. I write as the son of Irish and Welsh immigrants to this great country, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Because of my parents’ courage I was born here. The homes I was brought up in were adequate houses in Te Aroha and Patea because the Education Board supplied them to my teacher father.

This year my father passed away. On the way to Hawera for his funeral, I stopped at Patea and saw the two schools I learned in, the rugby grounds I played on, the church I prayed at and the two houses I called home. I also thought of the iwi, whose korowai of aroha has always cloaked my family, particularly my father and I in tough times.

I took a photo of the adequate house that was the home my parents brought our family up in when we lived in Patea. Those parents, that home, and that community brought up a Sydney-based software developer and now-builder, a Taranaki dairy farmer farming on Māori owned land, a Cannons Creek kindergarten teacher and me.

I want all of our tamariki to have the opportunity that a home – an adequate house – enables. Imagine if every parent and every child had the chance we had, because we had an adequate house to call our home.

I believe that our tamariki and all of us will only have the opportunity to have a home that is an adequate house if all of our political parties bind themselves to a New Zealand Homes Accord. And I believe they should do that now.

Mā te mahi ngātahi,

ka tū te rongomau ka tiaki te mana

o ia tangata

o ia hapori

Kia ora. Whanau ora.

¹NZ Productivity Commission (2012), “Housing Affordability Inquiry”

²United Nations Development Programme

³The Human Right to Adequate Housing in New Zealand


*David Rutherford was appointed Chief Human Rights Commissioner in September 2011. Prior to his appointment, he was the managing director of Special Olympics Asia Pacific and based in Singapore.

Note: The views expressed in Progressive thinking, ten perspectives on housing belong to the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of PSA members or the organisation.

The foreword is here.
The first chapter is here.
The second chapter is here.

The third chapter is here.
The fourth chapter is here.
The fifth chapter is here.

The sixth chapter is here.
The seventh chapter is here.
The eighth chapter is here.
...and the ninth chapter is here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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We need to work together to ensure everyone in New Zealand has an adequate home to live in. We must leave nobody behind.

Shall we not leave behind these nobodies:

  • Criminals who use that 'adequate home' for a tinny or grow house, a meth/P lab, or as a warehouse for stolen goods
  • Folks who use their Adequate Home as Partay Central
  • Folks who are constantly in rent arrears, if indeed any rent whatsoever is forthcoming
  • Folks who sign up as an apparent nuclear family, then proceed to stuff the Adequate Home to the brim with one family per room, one in the garage and one in a caravan on the back lawn

Universal 'rights' run slap-bang into that old Shakespearean tragedy - Human Nature.

But we mustn't Leave Anybody Behind.....

'Adequate Homes' perhaps are only a right for 'Adequate Tenants' - a heretical thought.....

Sounds a lot like being a landlord is more trouble than it's worth to you, you could always sell them?

10
up

Sounds like rather than leave folks behind, we must concentrate on painting all of NZ's lower and middle class with the bottom 1% scallywag brush, lest some be mistaken for folk of good character?

I may be mixing my sources, but not all poor folk are Fagan and not all landlords are Ebenezer Scrooge.

What about getting more of those stack pods? You can fit 8 to a room in 'pods' easily... https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/96311581/move-to-stack-aucklan...

14
up

At troll school, they use your posts as incorrect answers in the 'trolling 101' multiple choice exam

So its not correct trolling then. All good.
My first thoughts about pods were: hygiene. Humid, window closed apartments. yuck.
Another one: "Hello dharling, how about you come back with me to my....pod tonight..... We can close its door and...."

I actually think you're onto something. They probably have more utility as a "love motel" for short-time quickies than as a living space. Especially as society changes to pack more and more people into existing housing spaces, and couples look elsewhere for privacy. Hire by the hour and really change up your lunch break, for example.

I reckon Jucy should take this on. Their existing branding will work swimmingly.

I don't think there would enough room to maneuver (well, for the standard missionary position anyway), though it could be excellent training for the mile high club. LOL

Do they come with a glory hole?

I think the owners could get a lot more yield if they came with one of those new Japanese robots.

That is so funny

Sadly, she/he is being serious.

I had to google that. You have expanded my vocabulary, about the only thing worth reading today. Based on the other posts, Darwin has a lot of work yet to do.

waymad,

What a dystopian world you inhabit. I almost feel sorry for you-you would have made a wonderful Victorian mill owner-a bit like Gradgrind.
Yes,of course there are bad tenants,just like there are ratbag landlords,but my experience has been that if you treat people well,then most respond well. If you treat them as scum,then they respond in kind.

Hey, don't waste your sympathy on me. I've never had rental property, but see fit, now and again, to inject a leetle Reality into conversations.

Because Utopia and Dystopia are two sides of the same coin - that old devil called Human Nature.....

waymad,

If tht really is your considered view of humanity,then I am truly sorry for you.You talk of reality,but what you miss out is that it is only a part of reality and a small part at that.

The diplomats feel good when they sign up to ""“to by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing.”"" I wouldn't have signed. Certainly not because I am uncaring about the accommodation Kiwi kids are growing up in but because it is a commitment made on others behalf - say equivalent to my signing a pledge that my children will donate 10% of their income to charity in 2030. Secondly because the terms 'safe', 'affordable' and 'adequate' are not defined. Go to Howick Historical Village to see how adequate housing changed just during a part of Victoria's reign.

For me the solution is rather like a time machine: universal child benefit and state provided housing not just for the impoverished but available for any working class family who wants it (as per my own childhood). State housing must never be synonymous with a dump for life's inadequate.

There will still be the "1% scallywag" to use Rick's phrase and there is no perfect solution but a starting point could be the French concept that all children belong to the state (they go so far as to specify what is a legal French name leaving some Breton children without state benefits because of their names, although they were taxed of course).

So the solutions offered here are:
1. Political parties need to work together.
2. Political parties should bind themselves to a NZ Homes Accord (whatever that is).

Since housing is the main expression of unearned income in this country, then to tackle the problem means to attack unearned income head on. Can't see that happening, that is a restructure of society it isn't ready for.

What does the location in that list represent? Does everyone need cliff top accomodation 5 min from Auckland cbd or can we build 10 apartment blocks to hold 5,000 each somewhere in Southland?

'there are certain things our governments must to do to help us reach our potential'

Key words are 'help' and 'us'. Both imply some personal effort to improve ones lot. NZrs are however conditioned to accept that no matter what an individual has done or neglected to do ( e.g. jobs a plenty but 130,000 'unemployed'), it is their unquestioned right to receive ongoing taxpayer provided housing to a good standard; that the rest of us must subsidise their lifestyle choices.

Clearly, many people cannot for various genuine reasons provide themselves with adequate housing. Along with most Kiwis who pay tax, I am willing to work longer hours than would otherwise be necessary to pay the cost of providing this group with social housing. But I object to implications (such as contained in this article) that I have an open ended moral obligation to pay the cost of providing good quality housing to anyone who demands it.

The 'need' for social housing is insatiable. Rationing has to occur and some will miss out unless we are willing ,as a community, to divert an ever increasing ppn of our GDP to meeting this expectation. Perhaps we are. Certainly that is the implication in the regular media stories about social housing. But it is almost taboo to question eligibility rules and whether the latest media paraded case is fully deserving of our sympathy. We are required to just accept that if a taxpayer funded house is desired - it should damn well be provided.

Suggest that high immigration will inevitably deliver lowering home ownership rates and you are also looked at strangely - 'it's everyones right to own a house' is the unquestioning mantra, with the corollary that it's the governments fault and it should be doing more; as though a booming population and economy have never before in human history caused housing markets to overheat.

It's probably good to consider that after being flattened in WWII, both Japan and Germany were able to rebuild and accommodate their entire urban citizens within a shorter period of time than what seems possible in an exercise to provide affordable housing in NZ. Probably the biggest differences between Germany / Japan and NZ is vision and the ability to mobilize for national goals. That involves a bit more than getting behind the All Blacks.

NZers like to think that individually and collectively we are a pragmatic, productive people. The housing crisis seems to suggest that we're not. The political vision seems to be closely aligned with that of Australia where the creation of national wealth seems closely aligned to manufacturing asset bubbles as opposed to productive enterprise.

Not something Human Rights Commissioner should be getting involved in or pronounce on at all . "Positive" human rights are a dangerous delusion .
He could also declare that living to 100 years of age is an intrinsic human right - that would sure change things / help the world.

Stick to your knitting - defending "negative" human rights that is ( the right NOT to be discriminated against , NOT to have your free speech restricted ) - if you want to be taken seriously .

I didn't take your post with your straw argument on living to 100 seriously. The distinction between positive and negative rights is complex and one that isn't universally agreed on (unless one is an Ayn Rand fanatic). A negative right isn't necessarily more inalienable (or confer a higher obligation) than a positive right.

The key human right to this social justice clique is the right to force others to labour (or face violence and dispossession of property from my enforcers) to provide for them and their designated victims. But the policies and general push to make welfare more and more generous is actually hurting the very people they claim to be trying to help. Multi-generational beneficiary families in NZ are real and doom their children to half-lives lived at the bottom of the heap precisely because welfare is a viable lifestyle choice, enabling self-destructive, irresponsible and anti-social behaviour and enabling and excusing bad parenting. The PI community in NZ is far higher achieving than Maori, big on educational and financial success and family cohesion, and burdened with far fewer 'social' issues and criminality precisely because they haven't been pandered to by the destructive forces of welfarism and culturally excused failure for so long.

How about some real responsibilities, like: Responsibility to work at educating yourself and developing economically useful skills rather than expecting others to labour to provide for you. Responsibility to not indulge in drug use and other criminal or personally destructive behaviour that prevents you from adequately supporting yourself and your dependants. Responsibility to work in whatever jobs you can find, no matter how hard or boring or inconvenient you may find them rather than demanding others sacrifice their time and effort to provide for you. Responsibility to move to places where work and housing you can afford is available (why do we need to import so many immigrants to do agricultural work, when we have 100k+ unemployed?) . Responsibility to not have children unless you are able to financially, emotionally and educationally support them and keep them safe from harm through your own efforts.

Responsibility to work in whatever jobs you can find, no matter how hard or boring or inconvenient you may find them rather than demanding others sacrifice their time and effort to provide for you. Responsibility to move to places where work and housing you can afford is available...

Surely it's quid pro quo. Stop requiring young people to give up their wages to pay social welfare to those over 65. It's all about standing on one's own two feet, not about forcing folk to give up what they've earned so we can give it away to others who aren't working.

We either live in a social democracy and the discussion is about balance and mix, or we don't - in which case the elderly should also stand on their own two feet rather than demanding the wages of the young be docked and redistributed to them.

As before, all I ask is some philosophical consistency.

40% of households don't pay any income tax after WFF. Their contributions to the tax base are limited to GST and the various taxes by stealth such as fire services levies. Many 'young' people are in this category. The vast majority of income tax comes from middle and upper income people. So the subsidy of old by young, is not occurring to anything like the extent you suggest.

I don't need to point out that the pension is paid for out of taxes, do I? And that income taxes come from people working?

At the end of John's day you still have almost half of tax revenue coming from individual income tax, and over half our welfare budget going on the pension.

This is much palava about nothing much, we're having here.

Yep, agree, mostly circular piffle now. But contention was young to old intergenerational transfer, I argue the not so young are doing most of the paying. More than point scoring.....but only just !

Ah, got it, fair enough.

9/10 Would piffle again.

You are very one eyed. Pensioners paid for the Pension by paying Taxes during their working lives, IT AINT A HAND OUT>

the taxes they paid were to pay for the expenses of the day, Muldoon saw to that, it never front loaded super payments for the future, so the people paying today are paying for your super, any money you have paid was spent already
the government of the day also took away incentives for private funded super.
we now have kiwisaver and eventually that will replace universal super and it will be up to the individual to front load for their retirement with the state only stepping in to help those in need, we are probably ten years away from kiwisaver being 8 % and compulsory

Perhaps push back the super entitlement age by 1 month every 6 months such that every 6 years the super entitlement age increases by a year. That will allow KiwiSaver to transition into being the principle retirement viehecal. I was born in the 90s and based on the above method I'd be pushing out the age at which I would be entitled to super by about 7-8 years.

Demographics, notably longer life expectancy, will dictate that occurring sooner or later. We will have no choice. Labour bottled out on that one.

In fairness, Labour actually put in place the Cullen Fund with the express intent of pre-funding to address this known timebomb. National bottled out on that one.

National is making noises about change that will affect those who follow the boomers, while carefully avoiding their boomer voters. So - back out of pre-funding via the Cullen Fund, while pushing the burden on to younger Kiwis once again.

Far as I know the Nats haven't bottled on the Cullen fund, just deferred contributions during a period of financial stress. The jury is still out on pre funding vs pay as you go. I instinctively support pre funding but that's because I'm a saving for a rainy day investment type of guy.

Fair points, I reckon. I like the concept of a bit of pre-funding while the demographics work, knowing a demographic time bomb is coming.

Then again, this last nine years has certainly shown we can open the spigot wide whenever we wish to bring in vast numbers of people from the third world to prop up economic growth...and you'd imagine such eagerness will only increase over time. I can imagine if left to pay as you go this will be the recourse of more politicians in future. Assuming we haven't increased actual productivity and GDP per capita significantly in the coming decades.

Why not just rip the band-aid off and do it in one shot - move it back immediately to 67. Anyone currently under 67 can look for work, we have unemployment benefit if they can't find it. This slow adjustment to 67 stuff has nothing to do with fairness.

How about some real responsibilities, like: Responsibility to work at educating yourself and developing economically useful skills rather than expecting others to labour to provide for you. Responsibility to not indulge in drug use and other criminal or personally destructive behaviour that prevents you from adequately supporting yourself and your dependants. Responsibility to work in whatever jobs you can find, no matter how hard or boring or inconvenient you may find them rather than demanding others sacrifice their time and effort to provide for you. Responsibility to move to places where work and housing you can afford is available (why do we need to import so many immigrants to do agricultural work, when we have 100k+ unemployed?) . Responsibility to not have children unless you are able to financially, emotionally and educationally support them and keep them safe from harm through your own efforts.

While your cliches probably resonate among people of your own social group at the BBQ, this is a kind of half-baked notion of individual responsibility and libertarian thought. The reality is somewhat different. The problem is that this kind of thinking drips with irony when you consider that without "welfarism", it's likely your own opportunities would be limited, maybe less so than Maori, but still limited. You don't live in some kind of utopian urban existence that is defined by meritocracy, freewill, and self determination.

We either live in a social democracy and the discussion is about balance and mix, or we don't - in which case the elderly should also stand on their own two feet rather than demanding the wages of the young be docked and redistributed to them.

As before, all I ask is some philosophical consistency.

Typically those who decry state interference are usually more reliant on the state than anyone. The lack of any consistency has given rise to political representation by those who can emotionally appeal to them (the Trumps, the Tea Parties, the Pauline Hansons, and even the Winnie Peters). They're all cut from a similar cloth and consistency is the last thing on their minds.

You are conflating 'welfare' with 'welfarism'. One is the morally imperative assistance for those in genuine need, the other a corroding product of extensive welfare dependent existence or a lifestyle choice.

Excellent, limit away! I am pro having my opportunities limited by a lack of welfarism. Given that it limits my own opportunities and I am still altruistically asking for it doesn't that make a wise decision to remove welfarism? (A bit like Gareth's TOP arguements)

Excellent, limit away! I am pro having my opportunities limited by a lack of welfarism. Given that it limits my own opportunities and I am still altruistically asking for it doesn't that make a wise decision to remove welfarism? (A bit like Gareth's TOP arguements)

Actually it's more likely that your opportunities have been enhanced by "welfarism". You're just not aware of how and why.

Hypothetically instead of paying circa $40,000pa in tax we reduce that by 50% (that being roughly how much of our tax take goes to welfare) and I put that $20,000 in a managed investment fund ( 10% pa seem reasonable? ). Your contention is that this $20,000 annually + compounding returns is worth less than the benefit (enhanced opportunity) accorded to me by welfarism?

Asset markets are inextricably linked to "welfarism." Just because you may not rely on benefits is beside the point. For example, the perceived wealth from rising house prices is crucial for our economy, particularly with regards to consumer spending. Any ruling power is reluctant to interfere is such situations, even if lower prices might benefit certain segments in society. I think it's fair to say that asset bubbles are ultimately destructive in terms of outcomes. The promotion of or acceptance of asset bubbles is an indirect form of "welfarism."

Secondly, if welfare dependents spend money in an economy, do you think that has any impact on the wider economy of which you are a component? Indirectly, you're a recipient of welfare whether you like it or not. In a hypothetical scenario, imagine if all welfare-related govt spending was wiped out overnight. Would the private sector be impacted in anyway? You know if most likely would but you're unlikely to understand the extent to which if would affect you personally.

Honestly, if you really want to prove yourself as an self sufficient individual free of any "welfarism", you'd make a stronger case living a life like that if he Unabomber. You'd be far more honest with yourself.

The welfarism that I'm opposed to is the form where money is taken from those who earn it to be given to those who prefer not to earn their money (via taxation). Assets can bubble away as they please ( I call that the market ). Beneficiaries spending or earners spending may make a difference at the micro level (staples vs luxury goods / financial assets) but at the macro level the shift shouldn't be too painful. In fact I believe that the extra disposable income & stronger asset position would result in more credit worthy borrowers who have access to more credit meaning that there should be more "money" floating around the system creating more jobs and more "wealthy" people!

Yes, well markets and your own economic wellbeing and rung on the economic ladder is both directly and indirectly affected by "welfarism" whether that be transfers of benefits to welfare recipients or the support of asset prices through central banks' open-market operations. What you describe as your belief about wealth generation is exactly what we see when asset prices are at heights that we see today. It's also one of the positive impacts of "bubbles". But it's a delusion to think that you live independently from all the impacts of "welfarism." No different to the dyed-in-the-wool outlook of the Tea Party followers and those who support people such as Donald Trump.

I was looking more to Singapore actually. I was there in November last year and it looks like by having no welfare and no minimum wage (instead they build suburb sized blocks of apartments on the cheapest available land and partially sell them to the poor ~govt retains a % of equity that gets recovered upon sale) they achieve a much higher standard of living, lower suicide levels, more wealth, higher levels of educational achievement & longer life expectancy! All this despite starting well below where we did 60 or 70 years ago!

I'd take America's economy over the Greek one...

Meh I indulge in drug use, admittedly far less than I used to in my student days, but still on occasion, albeit not rubbish drugs like P. My wider social circle are all similar, I reckon you'd be amazed at the level of drug use in high-performing, highly paid professions - if you put us through the same tests as welfare beneficiaries you'd see a higher extent of drug use.

If you are paying for your lifestyle out of your own pocket and ( and not a welfare benefit ) I have zero objection to that - enjoy .
If however you are able-bodied and live on a benefit I provide as a taxpayer it is only reasonable to expect that you make every effort to get off it by getting a job ; this includes staying drug free.

On that note, we should be drug testing all our MPs and random testing those in taxpayer-funded jobs.

I see the Aussies are bringing in drug testing for beneficiaries (despite the fact it seemed a waste of time and money here), but they're also not extending it to politicians - despite at least one recent case of being drunk in charge (of votes).

I'd agree that there is a right to adequate housing. Ultimately though it falls to the individual as to whether they exercise that right. E.g. if a warm, dry home is available in say Invercargill, some people are still going to choose to live in a garage in Auckland. Not much that could or should be done about that.