First home buyers, homelessness key focus of new Labour leadership team in Parliament Wednesday; Auckland traffic congestion, health and education also talked up

By Alex Tarrant

Housing was front-and-centre for Labour’s new leadership team in Parliament Wednesday, with Jacinda Ardern taking on Bill English over first home buyers and Kelvin Davis questioning Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell over the homeless and Maori housing initiatives.

Auckland transport was also on the agenda, with Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood asking Transport Minister Simon Bridges about the city’s worsening congestion problems. Light rail to the airport sooner-than-planned, as well as improved public transport within the city look set to be a big part of Labour’s election platform.

Meanwhile, David Clark continued his challenging of Health Minister Jonathan Coleman over the stuff up that saw more money allocated to District Health Boards than there was to dish out in Budget 2017; the health portfolio and promises to spend billions more another key campaign plank.

Free education was then picked up by Ardern in her first General Debate speech as leader, with a quote on fairness from former Labour MP Peter Fraser and an acknowledgement that while voters did not expect politicians to produce silver bullets, they did want to see ideas for how to foster a fairer society.

Other current policy ideas promoted by Ardern included on research and development tax credits, multi-national tax avoidance and work schemes for youth not in education, employment or training. “We are the peoples’ party,” Ardern said at one stage – and the people were concerned about the state of the land on which they lived. The message there: New Zealand should be a leader on climate change policy.

First home buyers

Ardern’s line of questioning on first home buyers could have well been written last week initially for Andrew Little to take to Question Time today. But it seemed to fit better coming from the new candidate in the Leader of the Opposition’s chair.

It also didn’t seem to matter how English answered – he raised some valid points on why it’s tough to argue the environment for first home buyers is worse now than a generation ago.

The PM sought to bat away the primary question of why only one in five New Zealanders under 40 owned their own home by mentioning that figure includes 16, 17 and 18 year-olds. He also argued the government was increasing access to finance by allowing KiwiSaver funds to be withdrawn – 27,000 first home buyers helped there – and by putting up HomeStart grants – enough for 90,000 buyers over the next few years, he said.

Ardern fired back: In that case how come home ownership rates had fallen constantly over the previous nine years? “Nine long years,” one of her backbenchers chimed in. English’s response was that this had been a phenomenon around the developed world, with home ownership in many countries falling over the past 25 years. Add another plug for those HomeStart grants.

Then it became generational. Ardern asked English whether he thought it was harder for first home buyers today than it was a generation ago? Buyers in each camp faced different problems, English replied. In 2007, just before Labour left office, first home buyers faced 10% interest rates, he said en route to arguing that in the 1980s buyers faced rates of 20%.

While it was easier to service a mortgage nowadays, English said that current roadblocks include saving the initial deposit for a first home. Ardern put to him that this was $200,000 required to buy an average home in Auckland – not the best example of what a FHB typically goes for, but a big round number that sounded good in Parliament.

“It’s always been difficult,” was English’s response. That’s why HomeStart existed. A faux-patsy question from ACT’s David Seymour also allowed English to rail against Auckland’s previous planning rules. Thank goodness for the new unitary plan, then.

Ardern had a question for that as well. Was it not a problem that, of the houses getting built, only 5% were ‘affordable’ starter houses? English trumpeted a growing supply of new houses. The PM brushed off a question about a 40,000 shortfall by saying the government didn’t accept the figure.

But he did accept there had been problems. Auckland Council had underestimated just how successful the city would become, English said. If current build rates were sustained, then any shortfalls should be overcome within a few years, meaning more New Zealanders would be able to afford a first home. At least he admitted there is a shortfall.

Auckland transport

On the issue of Auckland, another major plank of Labour’s election campaign in the city looks set to be led by transport spokesman Michael Wood, MP for Mt Roskill. Wood took on Transport Minister Simon Bridges over congestion, raising a report indicating the city might experience $1.3bn in productivity gains if it were able to tackle the problem. He used the opportunity to put in a plug for Labour Party support for light rail from the CBD to the airport earlier than planned.

Bridges accepted there were congestion problems in the city, as its economy and population grew. Auckland was even growing at twice the rate of Hong Kong, he pointed out. But projects underway and just finished should help, with the Southern Motorway and Waterview Tunnel prime examples.

David Seymour popped up again – it’s a bit like whack-a-mole with that guy in Question Time - to challenge Bridges on why the government wasn’t moving faster on congestion pricing in Auckland. Was Bridges concerned that he was now to the Left of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who wanted charging imposed sooner?

The answer was somewhat muffled beneath cries from Opposition MPs: “You’re supposed to be on their side,” and “no cup of tea for you,” being hurled over at the ACT Party leader, who is only in Parliament at the good will of Epsom’s National-leaning voters.

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43 Comments

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Too many people. Too few houses. Too much talk. And getting worse.

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Too many immigrants. Too few low cost houses. Too much bickering. And getting worse for the next 20 years until youth vote Zealexit.

Vote Labour and you will see a flood of immigrants and refugees into NZ that would makes Moses blush.

@onwards . you are 100% correct , Labour are as ' joined at the hip' to the current immigration policy as Mc Donalds is to the minimum wage

Not sure I agree. I can see your point that Labour was very fond of immigration when in power - as with any party more interested in growth than facing up to problems. However under the Nats the putrid smell of worker exploitation has grown and it is hard to have the label "Labour" and govern a country where over half the kiwi fruit pickers were being exploited. If there is a Labout government I would expect them to tackle some of the rorts at the bottom but quite happily ignore the ones in the middle (businesses whose only purpose is to be sold to "entrepreneur investor" until they gain residency and then passed on again). I would love to see immigration at the top (say over $150,000) but as NZ sinks down the OECD ranks it is less interesting to top surgeons, professors, engineers, etc).

Labour policy is to reduce the number of migrants, targeting student and work visa applicants.

http://www.labour.org.nz/immigration

I don't know where that idea came from Onwards, you got a link? NZ First are the least pro immigration party but Labour are not much different (see the link from mfd above) in calling for a major reduction at least until infrastructure/housing has improved. Go for one of those two.
It's all a bit academic IMHO, we will be in a major recession next year, regardless of who is in power. With high unemployment almost any non citizen/Aussie immigration would be political suicide.

I don't think anyone can predict a recession precisely but everyone can agree that they will arrive - what goes up usually comes down. When we have a recession the cheerful pro-immigrants in NZ will see things differently if they are out of work and having their home repossessed while their neighbour who arrived in the last year is working happily.
Of course we do have governments that tackle recession with yet more immigration. It will take a decade or two but eventually our low wages will be the same as the 3rd world and nobody will arrive. And I cannot see the countries we have our traditionally moved to (Oz, UK, Canada, USA) being keen to let us in forever.

I agree Lapun.
It is same old same old which isn't solving the issue. We can throw as much money at the problems as we like, and all it is buying is time. Put $xbillion into Auckland's housing and transport and in the near future we are going to be in the same situation.
There are a number of fundamental issues which need to be considered to have a change of thinking and hopefully start to address the problem.
While I strongly support the RMA and planning (getting a balance between development and environmental protection through consultation), I feel that we have allowed this to bog us down. A clear illustration of this is the Christchurch earthquake; more than six years later the rebuild isn't anywhere near complete when following the Napier earthquake the city was wonderfully restored for a city opening within 2 years. Reconstruction following the major earthquake and tsunami in Japan has been largely completed. Both of these were successfully achieved through strong leadership albeit autocratic decision making.
We also need to look at alternatives to just throwing money at addressing Auckland's growth I see in the Herald today that traffic congestion is costing businesses $1.9 billion annually. I have previously commented; why does AAInsurance have a call centre 100 metres from Queen Street? The associated issues for businesses needlessly locating in the central city are considerable and impact on all- businesses, workers, central government and all New Zealand businesses and taxpayers who have to pick up the tab.
We also haven't moved far enough away from the dream of housing being single story quarter acre sections. This ideal is unique to Auckland amongst the large cities internationally.
I could go on.
Radical change in fundamental thinking and significant change of habitats are needed. I hope that we don't have to wait for Auckland to choke to death or Auckland bleeds the country dry before we come to this realisation.

So agree with you about the fascination with the CBD - why expand council offices, why keep the port, why expand the university, etc. The complaints are about congestion but how often is a road congested in both directions - just road works or major accidents.
Also agree with you that if all the proposed infrastructure appeared by magic tomorrow it would only take a couple of years before we were back to square one. I remember only a decade ago wondering why they had a motorway north of Albany - it was always empty - no now it isn't. Needs at least one more lane each way and as you say that wouldn't help for more than a few years because even more housing would be built in Silverdale etc.

And we have homeless people ( our own people ) and what do Labour want to do ?

Double the number of refugees .

WTF is wrong with these politicians, dont they think anything through ?

You are taking Labour's policies in isolation. Yes both Labour and the Green's want to double the quota which is actually low for OECD countries I believe but they also want to greatly increase housing availability.

However I agree with you, until we have substantially solved the present housing crisis for homeless NZers and those living in motels at huge cost we should be cutting back on immigration.

I am sure they have thought this through, there are votes in it. The Syrian population want 10,000 per annum not 1700 and are pushing for it. Whichever party offers the biggest numbers wins that voter base.

Its all the same, voter buying.....hence why I left the Green's got sick of them selling their principles for votes.

Many coming in to work in areas with "skills shortages" are basically economic refugees anyway. Might as well take actual refugees and get the kudos from our trading partners.

Their policy is to reduce migrants by 20,000-30,000

http://www.labour.org.nz/immigration

Any increase in refugees will be in the order of hundreds and from a very low base. Does your maths run as far as identifying which is the bigger number?

You are right about refugees - they are not part of our immigration or over population or even population distribution problems. I would love to see the refugee issue treated seriously with information about how they identify refugees, how much they cost, how many remain on benefits, how many never learn English and how many bring in traditional wives they have never met. Far too much virtue signalling and far to little actual analysis as to how effective our expenditure is. But they are almost irrelevant to Auckland's housing problem.
And in case the previous paragraph sounds anti-refugee I am happy to pay more taxes to assist refugees - just want to see a some unemotional cost benefit analysis.

Double the number of refugees, to what? 1,500?

Are you arguing that Labour is the same as National because Labour is going to take in 1,500 refugees, despite the fact they're proposing dialing back immigration by the tens of thousands?

That...is an odd argument. Odd indeed. One might say it's being disingenuously misrepresentative, to put it kindly.

The number of times I've felt the need to point out his inaccuracies in party policies, especially Labour policies, is getting quite silly. Not sure if he has memory problems or an agenda, or both.

"If current build rates were sustained, then any shortfalls should be overcome within a few years, meaning more New Zealanders would be able to afford a first home."

Ahh, what?
How does that one work out?

He means that if the 2014 - 2017 acceleration of building rates continue for another 6 years NZ will build enough houses to overcome the shortage. NZ is theoretically on track to achieve in 9 years the scale of building that Australia managed in 3 years.

I suppose when you don't believe the numbers quoted for the shortage, it's easy to make blind assertions like this.

Here we go again. No wonder she got rid of the "Fresh Approach" idea, coz it's old news!

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On a broad front, the National government is wide open to attack on their performance favouring, cronying if you like, corporates, big business in other words, over the rights and status of the tax paying public. They have created Corporate New Zealand and we as tax payers are of as little importance as any minority shareholder in any big corporate. Think, for example, the Insurers & Fletchers over the EQ claimants in Canterbury, the Pike mine fiasco. All the new Labour leader needs to do is hammer that theme, get the electorate to understand it, appreciate & react to it, and they will get votes alright, but there will not be that much ball to play with though, if they go, and stay, way out on the left wing.

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I think you're right Foxglove. Like John Key believing that the views he hears at the Koru Club are those of typical Kiwis. The business/farm/real-estate lobbyists and overseas interests appear to have a direct line to the obsequious Bill English if the recent backdown over low skilled immigration is anything to go by.

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The national party is all talk, this is a clear sign of failure... how on earth by any definition can this be a sign of success, rather than a sign of utter FAILURE!!!
Time for the National party to Go Go Go!!!! Let them Go!!!

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Yes I quite agree. It's worth voting for any other party other than National who have completely betrayed and sold out their own citizens and residents.

I will give you 100 upvotes with that one. Betrayed and sold out citizens.

We even have people on here who say, if you dont like it leave. Why leave when we can vote the offending party out, and change NZ. Why leave our own country.

Just ask yourself one simple question .

Where were all these homeless people living a year or 2 years ago ?

This homeless problem is new , so why suddenly ?

Its Immigration ....... stupid ........... nothing else

But how stupid can the folks of NZ be to listen to the bullsh!t that National keeps blurting about

So you'll be voting NZ First, TOP, or Labour, then? They're the only three parties which even present immigration policies on their main policy summary pages. National we can be very confident will not do anything dramatically different to the current status quo.

May be time to give this Labour a shot in September. Obviously the current framework isn't working too well and only benefiting few on the top end.

to be fair, JA seems a lot more ministerial than BE, so national have got a fight on their hands

Does any common tater think that a Labour-led Gubmint (with, mais naturellement, the Wizened One as PM, as extra frisson) will be strong-arming Auckland City/Phil the Goff, to unclog the land supply/consenting/planning fustercluck which is the Actual Cause of the horrendously slow effective build rate?

Gotta do a better job than national has done in 9 years. They would pretty much have to physically destroy houses to do worse!

Incompetence over willfully destroying NZ as we know it.

I am still difident because I would like to see results but of course that cannot happen untill Ardern is in power but I now may vote for Labour.

People are complaining about housing costs despite prices dropping $90,000 in the last year? How big a crash do you want? It prices drop another $100,000 - $200,000 I will probably look to buy existing property instead of building new houses on land I currently own.

...because it's cheaper? Exactly! Land prices will likely be the first to get hammered if this keeps going ie: the return on land has no yield, only speculative potential, and when the banks come a callin' they will look at where yield is....and Land won't be where it is.....

Gareth Morgan's offer to Labour: Take my policies.

There’s less than 8 weeks to the election now. Labour is back in the race but its policy cupboard remains bare. Jacinda is a competitive leader it appears. But competitive policy matters more. 

There is no way Labour can develop such policy between now and September 23rd. That is why I’m offering them all the work we have been doing over recent years synthesising best practice, evidence-informed policy that more or less represents the consensus of the policy research and advisory community. We have distilled it, it is on the table and all of the research and documentation behind it is available for Labour to pick up and enter the policy contest with.

http://www.top.org.nz/jacinda_might_just_be_more_than_hope?utm_source=Gareth-Morgan&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=general-content

That thinking is why I joined TOP. Something's got to give.Thx for the link!

The subtext of GM's pitch to Labour could well be This (IMHO, natcherally):

  1. Take the policies and behind-the-scenes calculations as per the offer
  2. And I'll help fix Winnie's brakes with you into the bargain
  3. But of course there's Quid Pro Quo to be negotiated
  4. So I'm happy with Finance Minister instead of that Robertson drongo
  5. Oh, and fuggedaboud that MOU with the Green Fraudsters while you're at it

    re#5, cant find anything to suggest Gareth Morgan thinks the Green Party are fraudsters.

    Complain about our remarkably and unusually high rate of immigration and you are accused of Xenophobia. Most of families living in cars, garages and motels are probably not reading this blog site but if I was sleeping in a car with my kids I really wouldn't care where the excessive numbers of immigrants came from - they could all be from the Vatican city and they still would be resented.

    Just read a headline saying Trump is cutting immigration to USA - time I took a good look at my 'lets reduce immigration' stance - I dislike agreeing with anything Trump says or does - I admit to a strong instinctive prejudice against the Donald.

    Ironic English mentions that people can use their kiwisaver funds towards their first home, when he removed the tax credit for the under 18's. This means less young people will have a decent kiwisaver amount to use. to buy a house.