Amy Adams will be responsible for the National-led government’s house building programme, as a three-way work stream is brought together under one portfolio, Prime Minister Bill English has announced.
English presented a mini Cabinet reshuffle Monday, with several changes triggered by Hekia Parata and Murray McCully’s decisions to step down from government, leaving their Education and Foreign Affairs portfolios free.
But he also took the chance to again change the Ministerial responsibilities for housing. English last year got rid of the Housing Minister position. Nick Smith has held the Building and Housing portfolio, and will continue to do so, although now without responsibilities for government-led house building programmes.
Adams, as Social Investment Minister, had previously taken on responsibilities for social and emergency housing. She will now oversee all aspects of Housing New Zealand – including the government’s plans to ramp up building on HNZ land, particularly in Auckland – and take on responsibility for the government’s Tamaki redevelopment.
English said the government’s new plan for Housing New Zealand was coming along. Asked whether this included a HNZ-led house building programme in Auckland, he responded that the government was working through an "overall plan".
“We’re into the implementation phase at the moment, and the Housing New Zealand plan is coming along, so there’ll be announcements about that.”
As reported by Interest.co.nz on Sunday, National is set to announce a large house building programme - with a focus on Auckland - in coming months. Speaking to media Monday afternoon, English said it made sense to bring all building programmes together under Adams.
Smith will continue to hold responsibility for Building and Construction regulations. English said the move should not be read as a demotion of Smith’s responsibilities. Smith had effectively gained responsibilities for housing developments in an opportunistic way, as he had previously been heavily involved in the development of emergency housing plans in Christchurch after the city’s earthquakes, English said.
The shift to Adams was more of a practical move, as it made sense to consolidate all state-led house building schemes, as the government’s “large scale” house building programme developed, he said.
Large-scale house building programme
"Building and Construction is a portfolio that is fundamentally about the regulation of the building and construction sector," English said. See his comments in the video above.
After Smith's work in Christchurch had completed, that team had been transferred to looking at Auckland issues.
"But now that’s all set up and a lot of the complicated land and Iwi work has been done. It’s really just now just a construction programme, and therefore we can consolidate it with some of the other functions in Auckland, rather than running it out of…MBIE here in Wellington," English said.
"The only thing you should read into it is, the government has got a large-scale building programme, and we’re consolidating that – the management of it – so it’s effective and we can get scale," he said.
"We’ll be talking a bit more about that over the next three or four months."
English has previously said the new Auckland Unitary Plan would allow for the government to increase the amount of houses on state-owned land in Auckland from 27,000 to over 69,000 over the next ten years.
'Shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic'
Labour Party housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the shift of responsibilities on to Adams was akin to "the orchestra playing on as National’s Titanic housing crisis slips below the waves – along with the hopes and dreams of countless Kiwi families."
National were in denial that there was a housing crisis, he said. “National’s housing policy won’t be saved by getting someone new to front it. The policy itself has been a total disaster."
“They are spending $100,000 a day putting homeless people up in motels. And The Economist magazine says Auckland has the most unaffordable housing in the world," Twyford said.
“Now the masterstroke from Bill English is to put Amy Adams in charge of finding the missing 470 ha of Crown land promised two years ago by Nick Smith. These people have had nearly nine years to fix the housing crisis. And now five months out from an election, this is the best they can do?
“If National’s housing policy was covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, the people of New Zealand would be asking for their money back. At least in September New Zealanders can elect a new Government that will fix National’s housing crisis. Labour has done it before and we’ll do it again,” he said.
Read the other Ministerial changes in the release below:
Prime Minister Bill English today announced the appointment of Gerry Brownlee as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy as Minister of Civil Defence, Nikki Kaye as Minister of Education and Mark Mitchell as Minister of Defence.
The changes follow the resignations from Cabinet of Hekia Parata and Murray McCully.
In other changes Simon Bridges has been appointed Leader of the House and Nicky Wagner has been made Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration.
Mr Mitchell has been promoted to Cabinet.
Tim Macindoe, a former chairman of the justice and electoral select committee and National’s senior whip since the 2014 election, and Scott Simpson, the chairman of the local government and environment select committee have been appointed ministers outside cabinet.
“This is a Government that is focused on the future. Our careful stewardship of the Government’s books over the past eight years has given us a rare opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and we are going to take it.
“These changes illustrate the depth of talent within National’s parliamentary ranks,” Mr English says.
“As education minister, Ms Parata has changed the conversation in our schools and driven sharp rises in achievement for all our students, particularly Māori and Pasifika.
“As foreign affairs minister, Mr McCully has improved existing relationships and developed new ones, all the while running a truly independent foreign policy for New Zealand.
“Neither will be easily replaced but in Nikki Kaye and Gerry Brownlee we have two very well qualified successors.
“The same holds true for the Ministers who are picking up the roles relinquished by Mr Brownlee to take up the demanding foreign affairs position.
Mr English said he particularly wanted to pay tribute to Mr Brownlee for his untiring efforts to put Christchurch back on its feet after the 2011 earthquakes.
“Having worked alongside him as associate minister for several years his successor, Ms Wagner, is ideally placed to replace him.”
The Prime Minister also announced some changes to the housing portfolios.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams will remain responsible for Housing New Zealand and all aspects of the Government’s supply of social and emergency housing. She will also take responsibility for the Crown land programme and have a closer involvement in the Government’s overall house building programme.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith will continue to oversee the various aspects of building regulation, including planning, minimum codes and building sector productivity issues.
The new ministers will be sworn in next Tuesday and the new Cabinet will hold its first meeting on May 8.