Key, English defend possibility that Queensland-based housing charity could buy quarter of state houses up for sale; Labour, NZ First say move 'desperate' and social housing reforms now a 'farce'

By Bernard Hickey

The Government has defended the possible purchase of up to a quarter of the Housing NZ houses to be sold this year by an Australian housing charity, saying the sale of state houses had always been open to both foreign and local housing providers.

Finance Bill English confirmed to TV3's Paddy Gower on The Nation on Saturday that Australian not-for-profit community housing provider Horizon Housing was interested in buying 400-500 state houses.

English defended the potential sale to overseas providers, saying the process of selling 1,000 to 2,000 Housing NZ homes over the next year had always been open to overseas providers, as long as they registered here as community housing providers.

Prime Minister John Key downplayed the potential sale on Morning Report , saying Horizon had yet to make a bid and that other foreign charities often worked in New Zealand.

"On the basis they're going to buy these properties and maintain them and ensure they're well looked after and provide the other services they provide, I think it's not a bad fit," Key said, adding that other foreign not-for-profit groups such as Greenpeace were able to operate in New Zealand.

Key denied that a potential sale to an Australian provider was an act of desperation.

"What it shows you that there are international players that are involved in this sort of thing," he said. "Quite what their interest in New Zealand would be I don't know, but maybe they've got wider ambitions here." he said.

"Let's wait and see," he said.

'A desperate farce'

Opposition parties criticised the move as a desperate sale of state assets to foreigners and no substitute for a full state-funded house building programme.

"Bill English should face reality and admit his state house sell off policy has collapsed. The Salvation Army didn’t want a bar of it. Iwi leaders said they’d only take them if they got them for free," Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford said.

"Now Bill English is so desperate to keep his failed policy afloat that he’ll even flick the houses off to the Aussies," he said.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters described the policy as a farce.

"The government never mentioned that it was willing to sacrifice our assets to foreign buyers," Peters said.

"The effect of Australian ownership is that the New Zealand taxpayer will be subsidising the tenancies with money normally going to the state now going to Australia or private interests," he said.

Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei said the admission of potential foreign sales showed the policy was in tatters.

"National seems determined to do everything but what’s needed when it comes to housing – and that’s building more state houses and more affordable housing," Turei said.

"The Government’s got the existing stock and they’ve got the ability to borrow cheaply."

Ngati Whatua goes to court

Meanwhile, Ngati Whatua said in a statement late on Friday it had filed a statement of claim in the High Court seeking an opinion over the issue of Right of First Refusal on Crown Land in Auckland.

There had been some reports the Government was in discussion with iwi over avoiding a court process.

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9 Comments

Oh dear! More money pouring out of the country if these deals with foreign investors getting into the NZ Rental market happen. They'll be able to "Clip" that "Ticket". The $1.6b of accommodation supplement for poor families! Maybe Key will increase Accommodation Supplement to the poor to sweeten the deal??

Agreed, the Government is looking to short term cash in the hand while committing to a long term river of money leaving the country. By what measure do they suggest that this will be good for the country? As is usual for NZ Governments, in their third term thay are making it easy for Labour to win the next election! Actually could this be another "Not a Bribe" to an Australian entity this time to keep the Ozzies on side?

that has been this governemnets mantra all along sell for short turn gain might get another term, let the future generations worry about the growing cost in the future.
same logic they used selling the power cos ( i was one that benefited from that)
i tried to simpify why it was a bad deal for some young Pm sheeple but they think since he was a money trader he knows what he is doing and it was a good deal

"Sheeple", I like it, describes them well. Gullible and stupid and blindly follow the Government in power. There just has to be a better way.

I wonder how many people would have thought this is what was going to happen in 2015 when they voted for this lot in 2014.
There is almost a tangible air of desperation about this. State housing by and large is in a pretty parlous state, and what needs to happen is definitely more houses on the land that some of these houses already stand on. I mean to say, we still have these houses standing singly on 1/4-1/3 acre plots when all around sections are down to a fraction of that, but the provision of social housing IS the responsibility of govt and so too is the upgrading of existing stock.
And as for comparing selling these houses off to Greenpeace operating here surely only demonstrates how utterly out of touch this lot is.
It must not happen without the say so of us, as no-one has had a chance to voice their view over it.
This and a few other things, like the TPPA

New Zealand : one nation under private equity.

Not sure what the problem appears to be. Is an "Australian housing charity" really such a bad idea? Would a Chinese investment fund be more welcome?

Do you seriously think that ANY form of overseas investment in this is something that someone will do with the good of us the primary consideration?
Have we come so far and got so accustomed to this "overseas investment" mantra that we can no longer see why it is that anyone "invests" money here, particularly in real estate.

[ Rants and insults are not 'comments' that meet our minimum standards. You need to make a point of some sort. Ed ]