Mrs Fixit has a new task: can she work a miracle?

Housing Minister Megan Woods this week eased herself  past the KiwiBuild fiasco to   announce a fresh range of housing policies. She conceded the commitment to specific KiwiBuild targets had been a “mistake”: others have labelled KiwiBuild as a “political humiliation”. Woods exuded confidence the new bundle of policies has what it takes to deliver on the government’s housing goals.

As for Greens co-leader Marama Davidson who appeared alongside Woods as the government’s housing policies were “reset”, she exclaimed that it was one of the best days in her political career. “I want to say to those NZers today who have given up hope on their dream of owning a home we have opened the door to you”.

Pardon?

This after all is the coalition which won office on its flagship policy of erecting 100,000 houses under the KiwiBuild flag.   So far, after two years in office, 258 have been built.

History records the key issue in the 2017 general election as the “housing crisis”. Labour had the definitive answer: KiwiBuild will provide 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years.

A great marketing slogan (and the policy, it turned out, had been dreamt up in the back of a car by onetime Labour deputy leader Annette King, now doing the honours for NZ as High Commissioner in Canberra).

And what a triumph it was for Labour in the election campaign.

In the formation of the coalition, Phil Twyford emerged as the minister to fulfil NZers’ housing dreams.  He never doubted his capacity to do the job — nor did the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

And when Treasury questioned the policy, Twyford responded:“Some of these kids at Treasury are fresh out of university and they’re completely disconnected from reality”.

Treasury was closer to the mark than Twyford would ever be, and when KiwiBuild started to be an embarrassment, it was Twyford who was chopped (as Housing Minister, but not from Cabinet).

And of course he was not the only culprit in the dismal outcome. The Prime Minister would have been aware Twyford has higher skills in political bluster than actual   performance.

Ardern who spent some of her political apprenticeship in London in the time of Tony Blair’s government should have been familiar with the rubric from the Blair lexicon in implementing policy: “Ensure you have the delivery unit”.

Whether the KiwiBuild “humiliation” (as some journalists label it) will have any lasting effect on voters has yet to be discerned. Sensibly, Ardern appeared to put some distance between herself and the announcement of the new policy, preferring to take   some camera ops in Dunedin.

She appears content that Megan Woods is already wearing a new title as the Mrs Fixit in the Labour-led coalition. But can she go a step further, work a miracle, and breathe fresh life into KiwiBuild Mark 2 ?

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