Nick Smith blames Labour for Auckland's housing problems, says National introduced most generous FHB scheme in a generation; English skips around Barclay Affair & ACT defends our freedom to eat a medium-rare burger

Nick Smith blames Labour for Auckland's housing problems, says National introduced most generous FHB scheme in a generation; English skips around Barclay Affair & ACT defends our freedom to eat a medium-rare burger

By Alex Tarrant

Tuesday’s was one of the more interesting Parliamentary Question Times of the year.

Nick Smith sought to shift the blame for unaffordable Auckland housing on to Labour, the Prime Minister managed to dodge answering questions about the Barclay Affair, David Seymour’s attempt to hold the Food Safety Minister to account came out medium-rare, and Grant Robertson was kicked out after refusing to apologise for his reaction to references of slave labour from across the House.

We’ll start with housing, even though it came mid-way through all the fun and games. These articles always seem to go better for some reason when we put the words “Nick” and “Smith” high up the page.

First-home buyers & cashed-up foreigners

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford asked the Building and Construction Minister whether he thought the level of sales to first home buyers in Auckland falling to its lowest in 12 years was a 'problem of success'?

What followed seemed to indicate a bit of disagreement on the data. Although thinking about it, perhaps it was just a case of using different timeframes to make your own side of the argument sound better – they seem to be the same thing in Parliament.

“No,” Smith began. Question answered. Now freedom to put his own spin on things: “The proportion of first home buyers, both in Auckland and nationally have been increasing since this government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme was announced in 2014. I also note that the proportion of home sales to first home buyers according to Corelogic is currently 21% nationally. That’s actually better than when we became government in 2008.”

Twyford took a different tack. “Does he agree with Quotable Value that lending restrictions have meant “cash buyers purchasing property in New Zealand from overseas often have the advantage over New Zealanders,” and if so, why is he content for New Zealand first home buyers to be at the back of the queue?”

Things were quite the opposite, Smith replied. This government had introduced the most generous scheme for first home buyers in over a generation, he said, referencing KiwiSaver and HomeStart.

Was it reasonable then, after nine years of a National-led government, for first home buyers to have to take out a $500,000 mortgage just to buy an entry-level home in Auckland today? Twyford asked. Smith’s answer implied that he didn’t think it was reasonable:

“That’s why this government is working so hard to grow housing supply and why I’m so dumfounded that today…the members opposite are going to oppose new housing in Point England, why they oppose housing at Hobsonville, why they’ve opposed houses in Mangere, why they’ve opposed houses in Three Kings. And I just don’t get it, how he’s got the audacity then to complain there’s not enough houses being built.”

Back to foreign buyers. Did Smith agree that because the government does not accurately measure the number of residential sales to foreign buyers, there was no way of knowing what share of sales were going to those offshore? Why, after all these years, was the government still not gathering accurate data on foreign buyers?

Not so, was the response. Legislative changes meant the government did have better information on purchases by non-NZ tax residents. “The problem for Mr Twyford, after his Chinese-sounding names debacle, is that the numbers are so small and his embarrassment is so great he now wants to invent some other set of numbers to try and justify his Chinese-sounding name debacle.”

If the government’s data on foreign buyers was so good, why would Quotable Value say it is not gathering accurate data on foreign buyers? Twyford pressed.

Again, the government had accurate data right down to the “very last number of the number of tax-resident overseas buyers,” Smith said. Then the dig: “And the number is so [infinitely] small that it’s even less than the number of foreign-paid slave workers that the Labour Party is recruiting to try and help their…”

Speaker David Carter cut him short.

English skips around Barclay Affair

Earlier, the Opposition took two shots at trying to hold Bill English to account over the Todd Barclay saga. Winston Peters and then Andrew Little were met with largely the same answers to every question.

English was helped by a handy rule that the Prime Minister is only responsible to the House for his conduct as a Minister and the conduct of his Ministers, and not for the conduct of mere National Party caucus members without Ministerial warrants. “I don’t have Ministerial responsibility for this issue,” was the standard response.

Carter did allow Peters and Little to ask questions, though. If questions related to comments made by English as Prime Minister, they would be within Standing Orders – fair game. Luckily again for English, he had another foil. In light of the Police re-opening their investigation into Barclay’s actions, it was not appropriate for him to comment.

Perhaps it didn’t matter. Being allowed to ask questions meant Peters and Little were able to raise various matters on the floor of the House which some media were waiting for (you can’t defame someone in the House, and those particular comments can then be used by the media).

From Little: “Given the contents of the tapes have now been revealed to concern Todd Barclay and sex and drug matters, does he accept the tapes exist and when was he aware of their contents?” It was let through to the keeper.

English then sought to shift the attention back on to Labour, in particular the party’s attempts to clean up a scheme linked to them which brought in 85 foreign students to work for former chief of staff Matt McCarten’s change-the-government campaign.

“In response to the leader of the Free Foreign Labour Party…” was a favourite. English tried to get the dig in a couple of times before the Speaker sat him down again. The first retort from Little: “And how many young Nats have gone to help the Republicans?” The second: “Putting aside the Prime Minister’s admiration for my exemplary truthfulness…”

ACT medium-rare

Then, a bit of an interlude. Free market campaigner and anti-nanny-stater David Seymour had his opportunity to hold National to account over a gross act of government imposing itself on the free rights of individual citizens.

Was it about tax? Nope. Education? Nope. Free speech? Nope. Law and Order? Nope. Free Trade? Nope. Transport? Nope. Immigration? Nope. The Welfare State? Nope. The Environment? Nope. Superannuation? Nope. But that’s basically all of ACT’s key themes…

“What is the cost to restaurants of a bespoke custom Food Control Plan for a burger in time and money?”

Ah. The “sad, bureaucratic over-reach” of Medium-Rare Burger-Gate. Very topical. Very close to the hearts of so many New Zealanders looking to decide who to vote for in 87 days’ time. How many people have actually been killed by medium-rare burgers in New Zealand, Seymour thundered down the floor of the House to Food Safety Minister David Bennett who played back with a straight bat.

The ACT Party leader (and only MP – can’t guess why) even raised examples of actions that had caused greater levels of e-coli poisoning than undercooked meat had, including contact with household pets and contact with children wearing nappies. What was Bennett going to do about these instances, Seymour asked.

“He’ll change your nappy,” came a cry from across the Opposition side of the House. This wasn’t the only time baby-of-the-House Seymour was the butt of a wise-crack Tuesday. During an earlier speech congratulating Emirates Team New Zealand for winning the America’s Cup (every party leader gave one), Seymour had referenced “traitorous” sailors who had previously left ETNZ’s employment. “It’s called the free market, David,” came the interjection.


Back to the more serious stuff. Time for Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce to continue their great data disagreement match.

The primary question from Labour’s finance spokesman: “Is the New Zealand economy delivering for all New Zealanders, in particular the 41,000 who are homeless, the 533,000 who could not afford to go to the doctor last year, or the 90,000 young people not in employment, education, or training?”

Joyce: “I do have to note the member for misrepresenting those statistics. There are around 1,400 people who don’t have a place to live, 2.1 million New Zealanders have access to free or low-cost GP visits, and the unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds is actually 4.7% of the total age group, which is lower than the general population rate of 4.9%.” Then the customary dig at Labour voting against the Budget family incomes package.

Robertson wasn’t convinced: “Can he confirm that the number of 41,000 homeless in the primary question comes from the census produced by Statistics New Zealand, and is in fact the government’s definition of homeless?”

“No,” Joyce replied. “In fact, the member should go back and look at the data because the data refers to 41,200 people who are living in a range of situations, including temporarily resident with friends or family, in boarding houses, motels, emergency housing or women’s refuges. The amount of people estimated to be living rough or in improvised dwellings is 1,413. The member needs to get his figures accurate.”

Homeless versus homeless, I guess. It's a serious issue. But it also provides a nice segue to wrap up on. Later, it was Robertson who was out of the House. Remember Nick Smith launching into a rant about foreign slave labour? Well that set Robertson off.

“You lie Nick...” The one accusation you can’t make of another member in Parliament. Withdraw and apologise, David Carter ordered, to which Robertson said he was not prepared to do. That could only mean one thing – out of the Chamber for him.

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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Are there any adults in the room?

This is a non-partisan question. I am amazed at the petty levels that the politicians are displaying, on both sides of the aisle.


Agree 100%....

How anybody could be a fan boy sycophant for ANY of these bottom feeders living off our dime speaks volumes about them and their lack character

The ultimate test of your theory will be the state of mind of the voters of the Nelson electorate

The sitting member was the best man at Bill English's wedding, Bill's best mate, Bill's foil
He is a protected species, protected by Bill

Can do no wrong, day after day

What is the point in actually having this system if all it ever amounts to is misrepresentation, blatant lies, arrogance and personal insults.
What exactly was achieved by this sitting? Of course, apart from some smug meme material that will no doubt feature on the front pages of fanboy facebook political pages today.

I watched a clip a few days ago where Julie-Ann Genter questioned Simon Bridges on the East-West link. Four questions were addressed each time with smug personal insults. By the end of it, SB hadn't actually answered anything.
What is the point of the debating chamber if neither side actually wants to debate on the merits of arguments?

Video here for those interested in watching Simon Bridges being a dick.

I especially like Winston's point of order at the 5.00 mark.

"Why is this minister allowed 4 insults in 4 answers while he mangles the english language syllable by syllable?"

The problem with Parliament is the referee -The Speaker of the House -who enforces the rules is appointed by one side -the governing block. It is like when home rugby teams provided the referee. It wasn't good for rugby. Somehow NZ needs to get neutral Speaker's into Parliament. In the past I have suggested that the Speaker should be appointed by a super-majority (say 90%) of MPs. In fact if I had my way -MPs at the start of each Parliamentary term would be locked in the debating chamber until they collectively agreed on a neutral Speaker to control Parliament.

Sortition would be even better.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer's proposal in that regard;

Good points Kate from the "Constitution for NZ" people

"We propose that the Speaker be elected through a free vote in Parliament– not a party vote as at present.

We also propose that, once the Speaker is elected, he or she should be replaced by the next person on his or her party’s list, and should not vote on issues before the House."

I would argue that a free vote isn't enough -govt MPs could still be under secret orders to vote for the Speaker which the PM + cabinet (govt leadership team) want. I think a super majority is necessary.

"once the Speaker is elected, he or she should be replaced by the next person on his or her party’s list, and should not vote on issues before the House" is a good idea -simple, straightforward, fair........

Put it to the people. As part of each election we vote for a speaker (i.e. parliamentary referee)
They can't vote in Parliament,....

oh heck, save some time and make the Governor General do it.

Who appoints the Governor General ......the PM........ The same person who gives out the knighthoods..... It is not a good idea to look too closely at how sausages are made and how countries are run.....

Fair point, I completely forget about that. Back to the vote idea then.

To be fair this doesn't seem to be a problem that only New Zealand has.
Also, too much consensus causes problems too for some folk.

It is one of the failings of democracy.

There are so many checks and balances to stop the abuse of power, that they have effectively stopped power, period.

Combine that with everybody having exactly equal rights, and the fact that none of them can be violated in the slightest way.

Is it any wonder nothing gets done?

ACT would prefer an increase in food poisoning. I'm guessing they're heavily invested in medical or pharmaceutical shares. It's rather selfish to encourage people to get sick so they can profit from it.

Nick Smith has not pushed any significant changes through with respect to the Building Code since Maurice Williamson screwed everything up and ended up on the back bench. His dithering about is still encouraging black market construction activities. This is what happens when rules and their enforcement reaches absurd levels. Black market construction isn't just a leaky building issue but it's also a safety issue. Not to mention that eliminating the artificial costs and delays with some Council processing we would have developers taking a chance on larger developments which would also mean more homes.

Having my rights taken away gives me the sh*ts dictator so maybe I should get MPI on the job! Oh hang on a minute............MPI would just recommend washing my hands of my rights!

The issue people have is not about food poisoning. It is about being told what to do in every minor aspect of their life.

Whereas I see the main problem being the lack of public consultation because the Government's Ministries and Departments are too arrogant and think they know everything. Of course their knowledge is highly flawed and ignorant.

You could make a burger with cautiously sourced and prepared ingredients, unfortunately this has gotten caught up in sweeping requirements because of the large number of poor quality food outlets.

Given that burgergate, or whatever we should call this, is not an isolated incident it's driven by the National Party. If you don't like their far-left socialist ideals I recommend voting against them.

"If you don't like their far-left socialist ideals I recommend voting against them."

I agree, I wonder when they will change their colours to be purple, rather than blue, as they are clearly now left of centre.

As a listener to Question Tome, I would suggest that children often give childish answers.
'nuff said.


This is pure ARROGANCE from a third time term government... people need to open their eyes and look beyond the prospects of this government protecting their house values and look to the generation beyond...

It should be ELEGANCE not ARROGANCE.


So get this.
After 9 years of rule the red faced one is blaming Labour for AKLs housing woes?

Phil Goff or Len Brown have always had the power to free up supply of land around Auckland and solve the housing woes. Doing so would be in agreement with "official" Labour Party policy.

Nowadays Phil Goff restricts Auckland very tightly and yet loosens up land supply around Warkworth, because that costs more and whatever.

The problem that Len Brown had and Phil Goff has -is they have no money for infrastructure. Freeing up zoning will only create competitive elastic housing supply if there is a reasonable way of accessing that rezoned land. Infrastructure has to be provided in advance. At the bare minimum corridors of land have to be purchased for trunk infrastructure.

Experts on urbanisation, such as, Solly Angel explain this.

"Freeing up zoning will only create competitive elastic housing supply if there is a reasonable way of accessing that rezoned land. Infrastructure has to be provided in advance. At the bare minimum corridors of land have to be purchased for trunk infrastructure."

Yes. A short corridor costs a lot less to build than a long corridor. He seems a eminently sensible man.

"The problem that Len Brown had and Phil Goff has -is they have no money for infrastructure."

No money? Have you seen Auckland Councils infrastructure spending? It is huge. The problem is that Auckland has no more money than the ginormous amount they spend - which is not quite the same thing.

Auckland's inherent problem is simple. Auckland spends $billions developing very long infrastructure corridors to far off huge new suburbs. Auckland bans the spending of $millions on very short infrastructure corridors, by banning suburbs next to the city.

Only the government has to be blamed and no one as they have ignored and denied that their is a problem. For any problem to be solved - first step is accepting that their is a problem and need a fix.

While this may help, it would be simpler to address the demand side of the equation, and instant.

Freeing up land then building is a 3 year plus project before anything meaningful comes of it. Put the brakes on immigration and foreign ownership, and it will negate the need for 100's of Noddy houses.

NZ needs to pull all the levers -demand, supply....short term, long term...... Most levers belong to central government, but local government will need to play its part too. First though government has to acknowledge there is a problem and find the political will to act......

Bill English is in trouble when the Southland Times editorial says this;

"Politics is not a game in which bluffing and misdirection are to be placidly accepted as tactical necessities. Especially when straightforwardness is such an important part of your brand.

It's a brand English himself has perceptibly debased."

I don't think the National spin that the Barclay affair is about an employment dispute that went wrong, that it was avoidable, if only the opposing party's had been more reasonable -is a fair summation of the situation. Once Barclay had made a secret recording of his staff -then this started a completely unavoidable chain of events -especially when the truth was exposed.

But I do think there may be something in the story of a cultural clash between the down to earth, straight talking, harding working farming types from Gore versus the fast talking, hard playing, globally connected types from Queenstown. A kind of internal National party battle of Jim Bolger versus John Key.

P.S -there is a good long form interview of Jim Bolger by RNZ for their "9th Floor" series here.


"Nick Smith blames Labour for Auckland's housing problems'

Are they either stupid or Arrogant to come with such a statement after 9 years of rule.

Do they really deserve 4th Term, if they cannot own the responsibility and act.

How true ! National policy : Denial, Lie, Manipulation and if nothing works pass on the blame.

Anything that they say or do can be attributed to their policy.

In this case - Housing, first they denied that their is a problem, than they manipulated and lied and now being election year and nothing is working blame other (In first term if they blame the past government can understand but not after 3rd Term)

Real Shame that we have been voting for such a government for so many years. High time : Vote for change.

Yes they have had the best part of a decade to correct anything like that. But the divide between rich and poor in nz has only increased during this time, and can't see any policies that are likely to reverse that. Eventually we will get to a brexit/Trump effect which won't be good.

Much like it did under Labour.

And much like Labour don't have any policies that will change that.

I wish our country was more mature than "I don't like something so I'm voting for the other guy" without any proof that the other guy would solve the issue that you have.

But then again nz isn't really run by the politians. Just look at local councils, the elected members have very little to do with what actually goes on. They just vote for and against policies, it is the council staff members doing much of the work behind the scenes. So voting for change often just results in a slightly different shade of grey. They also don't want to introduce policies that they know their voter base won't agree with, or will negatively affect them. Really really need impartial policies, but that can't happen under the current system.

The other guy may be good or bad when in power but the guy in power is no good SO go for change the other guy.


Among the list of possessions National do not own, the most conspicuous by its absence is a sign reading "The buck stops here".

The are the spiritual antithesis of President Harry S. Truman.

Yes ACT are definitely invested in pharama stocks and the only way they can see to get a significant dividend or decent share price rise over the near to middle term is to ensure the burgers CAN be cooked medium or medium rare so the flow on impact of food poisoning are feeding in to their pharma holdings.

Or not...

Most people who get campylobacter get better without any medicines.......
If you do get sick then take activated charcoal and or slippery elm powder like you do in other countries where food issues are problematic which is due to poor hygiene......what MPI is saying is practice your poor hyhgiene practices but cook the hell out of the meat to compensate.........the word bandaid comes to mind.......NZ is supposed to be a first world country but we have breaucracies with a thinking that preceeds even the caveman.

The problem with undercooked mince is infection with VTEC e-coli, otherwise known as "hamburger disease". The effects are from mild food poisoning through to explosive bloody diarrhoea, through to kidney failure and death. Worst affected are children and those with low immunity.

Are you sure that national is blaming labour for current housing crisis -after they be in power for 9 years.

If still blaming Labour than is it not advisable to change government who will not blame but act.

They blame labour for the housing crisis because they say labour keep opposing housing developments in general,which is not true, and in the house.but Nats have the numbers in the house to do what they want as I evidenced on the pt england bill.act and UF puppets do what they tell them.

Perhaps Bill English's recent antics suggest merely that their collective first resort is simply to lie and obfuscate, rather than take responsibility.

Deleted comment - there can be only one.

Deleted comment - there can be only one.

At least Labour care about residents and kiwi's, they also recognize the fundamental problems behind Auckland's housing crisis and how much foreign buyers impacted AKL, decoupling house prices from NZ wages and are more importantly prepared to do something about it. That still gets my vote.

They just need to watch out for National, trying to smoke screen an twist facts. Stick to your guns Labour, stick to you principles, protect your backbone which are the citizens and residents of New Zealand.

Come on. Labour Party brings in unpaid overseas students!

All parties use volunteers. As was noted above, young Nats even go to volunteer for the Republicans too.

The big problem I have with Labour is that they could implemented several of their policies by using the power they hold at Auckland Council. Instead Labour have done the exact opposite.

So it appears strongly that Labour are full of it.

At least ACT is consistent; this is the party that is advocating for suicide so why not kill yourself eating an under-cooked burger!

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