Govt unveils its guide to housing policies and investment – but check out who gets partnerships and who gets relationships

Border controls have been eased in two government announcements over the past day or so.  Megan Woods, meanwhile, has been busy issuing statements variously as minister of Housing, of Research, Science and Innovation, and of Energy and Resources.

As Housing Minister she drew attention to the Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (GPS-HUD), which will guide government policies and investments in tackling the housing crisis.

But she announced yet another government initiative – the National Māori Housing Strategy – which is grounded in the government’s highly political interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi, an interpretation which has given rise to a spate of race-based “partnerships”.

The place of non-Maori in the Ardern government’s policy-making pecking order is plain from the language in Woods’ press statement:

“The housing crisis we inherited is a challenge the Government can’t tackle on its own.

“We need to pursue meaningful partnerships with iwi and Māori as Te Tiriti o Waitangi partners to make progress.

“We also need to cement resilient relationships with community housing providers and other non-government organisations, local government, the private sector, and communities.”

It’s a “partnership” with Maori and “relationships” with everybody else.

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But it has been an especially busy day or two for Megan Woods who issued three of the press statements recorded above.

One of her statements kicked off by saying:

The Government is propelling cutting-edge innovation through a multi-faceted approach to foster more connection, collaboration and investment in New Zealand…

This – on close inspection – tells us nothing.

Woods went on to say:

 “Backing innovation in New Zealand is one of the key things we can do to supercharge our ongoing recovery from COVID 19…”

And still we don’t know what she is actually announcing that is new.

But we are getting close.

“… that’s why we are supporting the Innovative Partnerships programme with $12 million over the next two years to scale the programme and encourage global R&D-intensive businesses to develop new ideas and products in New Zealand,” says Megan Woods.”

Ah.  She is providing $12 million to someone for something of the ‘innovative” persuasion.

But persevere, dear reader.

Further down in the statement, she said she was pleased to announce an additional two partners, Dawn Aerospace, and Merlin Labs, to the government’s Airspace Integration Trials Programme, which aims to accelerate the safe integration of advanced drones into our aviation system.

Founded in Christchurch, Dawn Aerospace is developing same-day reusable space launch vehicles that don’t require specialised launch infrastructure. Dawn Aerospace is also manufacturing their green propellant satellite propulsion systems in Christchurch.

Merlin Labs is a US based company developing autonomous aviation infrastructure to enable the transportation of goods, and eventually people, without the requirement for pilots. In New Zealand, it is partnering with domestic aerospace companies to develop technology that allows existing certified aircraft to fly autonomously.

Dawn Aerospace and Merlin Labs join Wisk New Zealand, Kea Aerospace, Envico Technologies, Aeronavics, and Swoop Aero in the Airspace Integration Trials Programme.

Woods said the government also wants to back the aviation sector in its shift towards reduced carbon emissions.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment therefore has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Air New Zealand to start preliminary work to find out whether it is possible to produce sustainable aviation fuels at scale in New Zealand.

The study, being done in partnership with MBIE’s Innovative Partnerships programme,

“… will take a national approach and will look into the feasibility of establishing a commercial-scale SAF pilot plant in New Zealand.”

Woods was speaking as Minister of Energy and Resources when she discussed a move by Vector to form a strategic collaboration with X, (formerly Google X) to work together on the virtualisation of the Auckland electricity grid highlights.

She said this was the type of innovation that can help decarbonise and decentralise the electricity system.

Virtualisation?

Or visualisation?

Or both?

We ask because Woods then said:

“The visualisation of New Zealand’s largest electricity network is about modelling energy requirements in a smarter, more sophisticated way to show things like real time and future energy needs. This in turn will enable dynamic asset planning so the network can optimise for price, efficiency and decarbonisation.

“Our Government is ambitious for our energy system and recognises that becoming a net-zero economy will require operators to have the best tools available to manage their networks and inform investment decisions.”

Electricity networks have a big role to play to support the decarbonisation of industry and transport as demand for electricity increases and it is important that they evolve to meet future energy needs, Woods explained.

“It is encouraging to see new technology being developed in New Zealand which could be applied to decarbonise the power system across the globe.

“Domestically, the collaboration can support our goal to have 100 per cent of our electricity generated from renewable sources and has the potential to assist others in the electricity industry with tools to manage their systems,” said Megan Woods.

To cap off a busy patch, this time as Minister of Housing, Woods said the Government has laid out its long-term vision for housing and urban development in New Zealand, ensuring we have the infrastructure and homes needed to nurture thriving communities in the decades to come.

The Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (GPS-HUD) (she said) will guide policy decisions and investment to deliver a shared, consistent, and enduring set of outcomes to achieve this in the long term.

The government’s vision

“… is that everyone in New Zealand lives in a home and within a community that meets their needs and aspirations.”  

But the Treaty looms large in that vision and the Government has also released the new Maihi Ka Ora the National Māori Housing Strategy, which is strongly connected to the GPS-HUD through Te Maihi o te Whare Māori – the Māori Housing Innovation (MAIHI) Framework for Action.

The GPS-HUD sets out six areas of focus:

  • Ensuring more affordable homes are built
  • Ensuring houses meet the needs of our communities
  • Enabling people into stable, affordable homes
  • Supporting whānau to have healthy, affordable homes with secure tenure
  • Re-establishing housing’s primary role as a home rather than a financial asset
  • Planning and investing in our places.

Woods said the government is committed to “evolving” the way it works, including working through Te Maihi o te Whare Māori,

“… taking a placed-based approach to match the right solutions to an area’s housing needs, providing sustainable and reliable funding and building genuine, enduring relationships.”

Let’s wait and see what this means in practice.

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