Driving to work this week I've been passing a large billboard questioning whether I elected Housing Minister Nick Smith to run Auckland.
Curious as to who was behind this campaign a quick Google search revealed it's the Labour Party, which unsurprisingly is siding with Auckland Council in its battle with the Government over Auckland housing.
Phil Twyford, Labour's Te Atatu MP and spokesperson on both transport and Auckland issues, is urging Aucklanders to "send a message to Nick Smith." Labour's website is also asking for donations to its anti-Smith billboard campaign.
"Aucklanders have been appalled at the way the Government has been undermining and blocking Auckland on key issues affecting the city's future. In response Labour MPs have coordinated a billboard campaign that confronts Aucklanders with an image of Cabinet Minister Nick Smith and asks: Did you elect this man to run our city?"
"Housing Minister Nick Smith, who is the MP for Nelson, is the latest Minister to try to run Auckland from his office in Wellington with his threats to take away Auckland Council’s planning powers, and open the city up to uncontrolled sprawl."
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, another South Island MP, insists on setting Auckland’s transport priorities by refusing to support the popular City Rail Link, and blocking Auckland from raising its own revenue to fund our transport projects.
The Government has misjudged the mood of Aucklanders. Under the super city, Auckland is moving ahead. Unfortunately this Government is a dead weight, saying no at every turn and acting as a brake on the city’s progress.
Why did the Government go to the trouble of setting up the super city so Auckland could speak with one voice, if it didn't want to listen to what Auckland says?
On the two most important issues for Auckland - housing affordability and transport - the Government is imposing its own agenda on Auckland just because it is ideologically opposed to the Auckland Plan, even though the Plan was developed by the elected mayor and council, and subject to a massive public consultation process.
Aucklanders don't want LA-style sprawl and they do want a modern public transport system. But the Government doesn't want to listen. It is arrogant and out of touch.
If Nick Smith wants to have a say in our urban plan he should give up his Ministerial job, move to Auckland and run for the mayoralty.
After a meeting between Smith and Auckland Mayor Len Brown last month it was announced a working party would be formed to address differences of opinion between the Government and Auckland Council over Auckland housing issues. A key area of difference between the two has been the Council, through its Unitary Plan looking to contain 60% of Auckland's development within existing city boundaries over the next 30 years, and Smith suggesting 'smashing" the metropolitan urban boundary to allow more houses to be built in greenfields areas to tackle housing affordability issues.
In a speech yesterday Finance Minster Bill English noted recent international experience shows periods of fast-rising house prices can create financial instability for households and the financial system when prices eventually drop.
"We will act where we can to reduce these risks following recommendations of the Productivity Commission last year," English said.
"Decisions to stop or restrict housing development where populations are growing have an effect on the whole economy, not just the local neighbourhood."
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand data out yesterday showed the median Auckland house price up NZ$27,000 in March to a new record high of NZ$562,000. The median Auckland price is now 13.5% higher than it was a year ago.
The Productivity Commission last year called for the immediate release of new land for residential development in Auckland and Christchurch to help alleviate housing affordability problems, a recommendation the Auckland Council attacked as narrow minded.