Housing Minister Megan Woods perhaps hopes to take the political heat off herself and the government on the matter of the shortage of houses, rampant real estate prices and soaring rents.
She acknowledges there is a crisis. And – in a speech to the Palmerston North Housing Forum 2021 -she said it’s up to all of us to fix it.
The speech was among several items posted on the Beehive website since Point of Order last monitored what Ministers of the Crown are doing and how they are spending our money.
Further north, Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson was demonstrating that the housing crisis has been resolved for six families in Pāpāmoa, in the Bay of Plenty.
And his press statement reminds us that, if we are paying taxes, we already are doing our bit.
We are funding a raft of government programmes, several of them tailored to help people based on their ethnicity.
In this case, the six families received the keys to their new rental homes in stage four of a publicly funded papakāinga project providing “safe and affordable housing in the region”.
Te Puni Kōkiri has invested $1.1 million into this project and Mangatawa Pāpāmoa Blocks Incorporated contributed more than $746,000 to complete stage four.
Jackson has been given charge of more public money for spending on another programme for Maori.
He helped launch a new fund – the Te Kīwai Fund – to provide direct financial support for young Māori throughout the South Island “who are experiencing financial hardship and missing out on physical activity opportunities”.
Hard up and unfit, in other words. We suspect there are many young non-Maori in that category but this money is not intended to help them.
The fund is being disbursed by Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, in partnership with Sport NZ. The two-year pilot will assist around 2,500 young Māori through an investment of $850,000 over the next two years. Funding is available to help pay for new equipment, registration fees, shoes or uniforms, and other costs that could be a barrier to being physically active
Taxpayers were contributing to other programmes and projects mentioned in the latest Beehive statements:
- Because it is April 1, the announcement with the biggest claim on the public purse came from Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood. They announced changes to the minimum wage, main benefit levels and superannuation rates which come into force today, raising the incomes for around 1.4 million New Zealanders.
- Much more modestly, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced details of the first round of the Cultural Sector Innovation Fund, to be delivered through a nationwide series of events called Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa. As part of the Government’s $374 million Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme, this will support innovative arts, culture and heritage projects. The name Te Urungi, references the steering paddle of ocean-going waka, driving them towards their destination with stability and agility.
- Health Minister Andrew Little announced a new support service for people in Hawke’s Bay who are experiencing, or at risk of, mental health and addiction crisis. It’s a pilot programme, Te Tāwharau, meaning shelter, which will be a hub of community-based services delivered as a collaboration between health, social services and police, and will include a dedicated peer support team. It will include adult respite residential beds provided by kaupapa Māori Iwi provider Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, an emergency mental health and home-based treatment team, peer-support workers, Ministry of Social Development support and a police liaison.
- Tourism Minister Stuart Nash is to re-open a government fund that supports councils to build infrastructure for visitors, with a specific focus on regions hardest hit by the loss of overseas tourists. Round Five of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund will open for applications this month. Criteria for projects to be prioritised by the fund have been updated to better reflect the reality that jobs and businesses in some regions, particularly the South Island, are harder hit by the loss of international tourists than other regions.
- Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson and Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash welcomed confirmation New Zealand will host the opening ceremony and match, and one of the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. Matches will be held in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin, the result of a co-hosting arrangement between New Zealand and Australia.
No money was mentioned in the last of those announcements. But last year Robertson and Phil Twford, when he was Economic Development Minister, said the Government had set aside up to $25 million to host the event. Of that, $14.2 million was to go to New Zealand Football for direct support of the tournament.
The remainder would ensure “a seamless, AsOne tournament is delivered” and would be used to leverage the event at home – in particular, supporting and growing the involvement of women and girls in all aspects of sport.
Some of the new Beehive announcements foreshadow spending that has yet to be decided –
- A Governance Group of eight experts has been appointed to lead the next phase of work on a potential new public media entity, incorporating RNZ and TVNZ. Chaired by former Minister Tracey Martin, the group will oversee the development of a business case to consider the viability of a new public media entity. The new entity will operate with a mixed funding model, drawing part of its revenue from commercial sources, and part from Government funding. It will provide content across a variety of platforms and have full editorial and operational independence from Government, enshrined in legislation.
- Transport Minister Michael Wood announced an establishment unit will work on a light-rail system for Auckland. Under its six month programme, it will deal differently with the people of Auckland depending on their ethnicity – it will be “partnering” with Maori and “engaging” with stakeholders and communities. Its mission is to develop a business case so evidence-based decisions can be made on mode and route, providing cost estimates, and funding and financing options which includes looking at value capture; and determining the best form for the delivery entity, which will be either City Rail Link Limited or a new joint venture with Auckland Council.
- Environment Minister David Parker has approved the New Dunedin Hospital for consideration under the fast track consenting legislation. This project, led by the Ministry of Health, covers construction and operation of the hospital, including new inpatient and outpatient buildings, ancillary services building, helipad/s, and air bridges providing access between buildings. It has the potential to create up to 827 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in construction, engineering, and design. The hospital complex, designed with a climate resilient, low-emissions future in mind, will use high-efficiency heat pumps, replacing the coal-fired boilers in use at the existing hospital. The design also includes on-site stormwater treatment facilities and rain gardens.
There was good news for taxpayers who like to keep account of the grand totals.
Speaking as Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson announced that the Crown accounts for the eight months to the end of February 2021 showed both OBEGAL and the operating balance remain better than forecast in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) released in December last year.
The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) deficit at $4.5 billion was $3.7 billion better than forecast in the HYEFU. Tax revenue was $60.9 billion, $2.3 billion above forecast due to higher than expected GST revenue and corporate tax.
Core Crown expenses were $68.9 billion, $0.5 billion below forecast, partly due to higher than expected repayments of the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy.
Net core Crown debt was 32.6% of GDP, $4.4 billion less than forecast.
Oh, and we mustn’t forget Phil Twyford’s speech, delivered in his capacity as Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control. He talked of issues of interest to the Disarmament and Security Centre.
But let’s now catch up with Megan Woods and her speech in Palmerston North, when she gave a rundown on the government’s housing policies.
Striking a positive note for the local audience, Woods said Palmerston North is one of the Government’s nine priority areas highlighted in the 2021 Public Housing Plan, where the need for public housing has grown the fastest and a step change in delivery is required.
The policies she mentioned to stem the housing crisis since Labour came into Government began with the banning of foreign speculators from buying homes and ran through to last week’s package.
“For me there is no semantic quibbling – there is a housing crisis.
“Let’s not spend our time debating what it is – but rather what the solutions are.
“We have the legislative tools set in place to turn this around.
“We have secured funding to lay the critical groundwork necessary for developments.
“And we’re ensuring that first home buyers have a much better chance of securing a step to the first rung on the ladder of home ownership.
“It’s up to all of us to keep doing the mahi to fix the housing crisis, which is to get more housing built and more places for people to call home.”
Here at Point of Order, we are discussing whether this means we should sharpen our saws and chisels, hunt for our hammers, and pitch in with some carpentry – or whether our contributions as taxpayers should suffice.
Bearing mind the timber supply issue to which attention was drawn this week, we are inclined to the view that we are doing our bit as taxpayers.
Latest from the Beehive
1 APRIL 2021
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1 April changes raise incomes for 1.4 million New Zealanders
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31 MARCH 2021
Next steps for Auckland light rail
Tourism fund to prioritise hard-hit regions
Governance Group to lead next phase of work on a potential new public media entity
New funding to keep tamariki and rangatahi Māori active
Single tāne, sole parent dads supported into papakāinga housing
Speech to Disarmament and Security Centre
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