The Minister for Regional Economic Development must stop meddling in the operations of Ports of Auckland and allow it to make commercial decisions free of political interference, National’s Infrastructure spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Shane Jones says he is seeking advice on whether the Government can stop the council-owned company from building a multi-level waterfront car handling facility because NZ First wants to relocate port services to Marsden Point.
“This is reckless behaviour from a Minister. Businesses need to know they can operate independently in their best commercial interests without being caught up in political games.
“Businesses can’t be expected to wait for one of the Government’s 180 working groups to report before making investment decisions. The facility isn’t a surprise because it was included in the Port’s 30-Year Master Plan published a year ago.
“The Port’s statement of corporate intent shows its primary objective is to operate as a successful business at arm’s length from its council owner. The Government has even less claim. I doubt the Greens will be happy at the huge environmental impact if cars were to come into North Port.
“An NZIER report from September 2017 found that the costs of moving the vehicle processing facilities away from Auckland would outweigh the benefits by $1 billion, including the loss of up to 10,000 jobs.”
“This sort of interference is exactly why businesses have no trust in this Government and its economic management.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford needs to urgently look into security issues with houses in the McLennan development and direct Housing New Zealand to replace all failing locking systems, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“I have been contacted as the local MP about a failed locking system on state houses in the McLennan development, just along from the first of the KiwiBuild houses Mr Twyford and the Prime Minister opened last week.
“A Housing New Zealand tenant moved into their new home earlier this year, and has been burgled three times in the last two weeks, with the burglar breaking in with a screwdriver.
“The latest burglary has been defined by Police as aggravated burglary with intent to rape.
“The tenant has repeatedly asked Housing New Zealand to fix the locks so the tenant is able secure their home – currently the door can be unlocked using a screwdriver.
“But Housing New Zealand has failed to acknowledge the tenant’s fears for themselves and their family’s safety and not only hasn’t replaced the locking system, but also refused to compensate the tenant when they bought their own security system.
“This issue not only affects one tenant, but is likely to affect a large number of McLennan properties. It’s astonishing the Minister had no idea his state houses had such a security failure, and that Housing New Zealand is refusing to do anything about it.
“Mr Twyford has repeatedly boasted he is getting cheap deals for housing. But if it’s at the expense of tenants’ safety, it’s at a very high price.
“The Minister telling Parliament today that this is an operational matter doesn’t wash. The Minister must be satisfied that Housing New Zealand is looking after its tenants.
“Mr Twyford must ensure Housing New Zealand steps up, fixes the issue and acts like a good landlord.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s admission KiwiBuild isn’t for low income families is further evidence of an ill thought out, untargeted lottery costing billions but not making a difference to the lives of those who need it most, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“While National is committed to helping more New Zealanders into houses, government support should be targeted at those who need it most and it should come with an obligation on people to help themselves.
“KiwiBuild does neither.
“With billions of taxpayer dollars involved and significant personal benefit to lottery winners at the expense of taxpayers there should be stringent eligibility criteria. Applicants should at least have to show they have done what generations before them have done and made a demonstrable effort to buy a home, and people should be prioritised based on need.
“The Government now has real questions to answer about who wins here.
“It has created an expectation that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are going to get access to a Government provided home but that’s simply not going to happen.
“A year after it started there are only 70 houses under construction, most one or two-bedrooms, and their cost continues to climb beyond the reach of many.
“The Government’s own officials have estimated that a first home buyer household would need to be earning $114,000 a year to purchase a $500,000 KiwiBuild house, but the median household income is $25,000 less than this.
“Labour likes to argue they are offering housing support to Kiwis on a range of incomes, but in reality the only people who can actually access that support are those on a middle to high income.
“That’s why National’s plan was better. By increasing the overall supply of housing in general, first-home buyers on a low income could use the KiwiSaver HomeStart and Welcome Home Loan schemes to get a deposit together and more New Zealanders were getting ahead on their own steam with support from the Government.”
Potential KiwiBuild buyers will be rightly concerned that the Government is being unclear whether developments will be mixed KiwiBuild and State Housing National’s spokesperson for Housing Judith Collins says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has promised his KiwiBuild scheme is the answer to New Zealand’s housing woes. But he has expressed concern to colleagues that there is a risk these houses won’t all be sold under KiwiBuild.
“The risk of unsold KiwiBuild houses is increasing as the Minister continues to announce developments with a majority of one-bedroom and studio apartments. However only 2 per cent of those who have registered for KiwiBuild have expressed an interest in a one-bedroom property.
“In the event that houses are not sold under KiwiBuild, the Minister has said they can be transferred to Housing New Zealand.
“This means when entering the ballot for a KiwiBuild property, buyers cannot be sure if the development will be include some houses that will be sold to Housing New Zealand.
“When the Minister removed the eviction for anti-social behaviour, I warned him that this would likely see KiwiBuild first-home buyers in developments with anti-social neighbours in Housing New Zealand rentals.
“Hard working Kiwis buying their own home should not be expected to have to put up with anti-social people living next door in taxpayer-funded housing, nor would they rightly want their small children growing up in such an environment.
“After handing over your life savings for the keys to your first home, it may be distressing for some young families to find out they share an apartment block with Housing New Zealand tenants.
“The Minister needs to step up and build KiwiBuild homes at the size the majority of prospective first-home buyers want and re-instate the eviction policy for anti-social behaviour by Housing New Zealand tenants so Kiwis aren’t hamstrung when wanting to sell their property to get the bigger house they needed in the first place.”
KiwiBuild is failing to deliver on its key objective to get Kiwi families into their first homes, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has recently announced another KiwiBuild development where all of the houses are one or two-bedroom units.
“But 80 per cent of New Zealanders who have registered for KiwiBuild want a three or four bedroom home. A reasonable request considering most first home buyers have children, or are wanting to expand their family.
“A year into Government and Mr Twyford’s KiwiBuild scheme has only 70 houses under construction and 56 of those are two bedrooms or smaller.
“On top of this, earlier this year the Minister told his Cabinet colleagues that smaller houses were likely to be built to achieve the price points for the programme.
“Mr Twyford wasn’t confident in Parliament today when asked whether he would be able to build sufficient three-bedroom houses in Auckland for the $650,000 affordable price point, only saying his Government would do their very best to achieve that.
“Mr Twyford has repeatedly argued KiwiBuild will be a housing programme for all, with a mixture of homes suitable for ‘big families, small families, couples without kids, single parents with kids, people who live alone with their cat’.
“But he’s yet to deliver on that promise. So far in the Mt Albert development properties consist of nine studio apartments, six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments.
“The Minister is so determined to build 1000 houses that he does not care how he gets there. He is simply building small homes that are only fit for one person and a cat.
“He needs to ensure that KiwiBuild is suitable for the Kiwi families he claims it will deliver for.”
The Government’s claim it is striking a balance between the interests of landlords and tenants has been further rubbished in Parliament today, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“New Zealand landlords are set to lose out if the Labour-led Government goes ahead with its proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.
“Under the proposed changes, landlords are limited to increasing rents once a year, they will need to give 90 days to terminate a tenancy under all circumstances, and the changes will end ‘no cause’ tenancies.
“National believes good tenants who pay their rent on time and take care of their property should have their leases protected, but these changes will make it impossible for a landlord to move out difficult tenants who trash their homes.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford continues to miss the mark with his tenancy proposals, as he fails to look into unpaid rent.
“Persistent unpaid rent makes up about 72 per cent of total applications to the Tenancy Tribunal. But if the ‘no cause’ tenancy provision is removed landlords won’t be able to evict tenants who aren’t paying rent.
“Minister Twyford confirmed today the proposed changes will allow tenants to keep pets and make modifications. This would mean tenants would have free rein to modify their houses, including painting walls or adding as many shelves as tenants want.
“The discussion document comes on top of the prohibition of letting fees which is currently being pushed through Parliament, further restricting the rights of landlords.
“We know the changes will just drive more landlords out of the market, something we are seeing already. Trade Me has already confirmed the number of rentals on its site is down 3 per cent.
“We need to protect both landlord and tenant rights. But with these changes, it seems like tenants will be favoured well above the Mum and Dad landlords who have put their hard earned savings into an investment property.”
After several years of work the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill to strengthen the management of apartments and townhouses has today been released by National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.
“We see a huge opportunity to strengthen the existing unit titles regime in areas such as pre-contract disclosure, record keeping of body corporates and better management of conflicts of interests and proxy votes”, Ms Collins says.
“The main reason for the change has been concerns around a lack of transparency and inadequacy in long term maintenance plans, and a clearer understanding of the role of a body corporate manager.
“Some estimates have the apartment sector alone worth more than $50 billion. Under investment in long term maintenance plans can result in large unexpected bills for homeowners if defects occur, or sharp rises in body corporate fees.
“Places like Auckland have seen a huge increase in unit titles. The number of multi-unit housing developments in Auckland increased from just over 15 per cent of new houses in 2010 to over 40 per cent in 2017.
“A refined governance, management and planning structure will ultimately lead to more quality housing through improved long term maintenance plans and boost the confidence of first time buyers.
“Nikki Kaye, alongside property and legal experts, produced a report for the last National Government and a discussion paper was subsequently released which forms the basis of this law. National had committed to ensure the legislation would be progressed if we were in Government,” Ms Collins says.
The Bill aims to:
- Improve the information disclosure regime to prospective buyers of units
- Strengthen the governance arrangements in relation to the body corporate, the entity responsible for the management and operation of a unit title complex (owner)
- Increase the professionalism and standards of body corporate managers
- Ensure planning and funding of long-term maintenance projects is adequate and proportionate to the size of the complex concerned.
“The law distinguishes between unit title complexes based on their size so smaller complexes can either be excluded or can opt-out of some compliance obligations. The legislation aims to strike a balance between the benefits of additional compliance requirements with any potential costs,” Ms Kaye says.
“Earlier this year Judith and I met with Housing Minister Phil Twyford where we confirmed we would draft a Bill, and we have now written to the Minister asking the Government to adopt the legislation. If the Government chooses not to adopt the law the Bill will be lodged as a Private Members Bill in Judith’s name.
“As a result of some of these issues, disputes have arisen without accessible and affordable resolutions – the Bill seeks to reduce dispute costs and improve the accessibility of mediation.
“We want to reduce homeowner disputes in multi-unit dwellings and help support easier resolutions.
“For most people their home is the largest asset they have so when things go wrong there can be devastating and life-long impacts.
“Through our discussions with apartment owners, property and legal organisations, including body corporate chairs, we know there is huge support for law reform in this area.
“We will work hard to ensure this law reform is progressed,” Ms Kaye says.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford has once again failed to credit the National Party for his latest plagiarised announcement of thermal upgrades for homes in the Hutt Valley, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“In July last year, the National Government announced Housing New Zealand would retrofit 383 homes with new kitchen and bathroom upgrades, insulation, and new heating to help bring them up to modern standards.
“This was part of a wider significant project to build and refurbish over 700 homes in the Hutt Valley.
“Mr Twyford is consistently re-announcing National Government initiatives under the Labour-led Government banner, and today he’s doing it again.
“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Minister has realised National’s comprehensive housing plan was on the right track, and he is now pinching it and re-badging it as his own.”
The Government needs to start crediting the National Party as Housing Minister Phil Twyford once again plagiarises a previous National Government housing announcement, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“This infrastructure funding is definitely not new. It was announced by the previous National Government in July last year.
“This isn’t the first time Mr Twyford has had trouble coming up with new ideas. Despite claiming in Opposition he had the answer to New Zealand’s housing woes, he has chosen to copy and paste another National announcement.
“In July 2017 National announced that $300 million of new funding provided through the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock new housing developments in Auckland's north-west via investment in transport, wastewater and stormwater projects.
“Today Minister Twyford has announced the $339.2 million to support around 7000 homes in Auckland’s northwest.
“Spot the difference.
“The Minister’s latest announcement will deliver 3500 fewer homes for $39.2 million more than what National announced last year.
“National had a comprehensive housing programme underway. We were on track to build nearly 200,000 houses over the next six years and more houses were being built faster.
“National’s policies were addressing land supply, supporting infrastructure and helping first home buyers with a deposit and loan through National’s HomeStart Scheme.
“Considering Mr Twyford has previously criticised the effectiveness of the Housing Infrastructure Fund and that his own colleague Andrew Little dismissed it as a ‘piecemeal policy which had not been thought through’, I am shocked that Mr Twyford is trying to take credit for the fund today.”
Housing Minister Phil Twyford needs to explain why taxpayers are compensating people for breaking the law, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The fact is the previous National Government acted on the best available expert advice. We repeatedly questioned that advice but it remained - it was unsafe to put people in a house which had been used for smoking methamphetamine.
“Housing New Zealand took the matter so seriously it took precautions whenever tradespeople or tenancy managers needed to enter these houses. What responsible Government would put a family in there? Is the Government saying it would have ignored that advice?
“Embattled Housing Minister Phil Twyford has tried to turn what the experts at the time said was a health and safety issue into a political one and he’s desperately slinging mud and money in a bid to take pressure off himself.
“Housing New Zealand did not evict tenants purely for the level of contamination of methamphetamine if it couldn’t be proved they were responsible - those tenants had to have broken their tenancy in some other way. Otherwise they would have been re-housed.
“Mr Twyford has decided to compensate people for being moved out of their state house for breaking the law or their tenancy agreement. He’s paying out millions of dollars including to people who were smoking or cooking P in state houses while deserving, law-abiding families waited on the waiting list.
“There might have been cases where people were unfairly removed. If that’s the case they should be compensated and Housing New Zealand management should answer for it. But it defies belief all 800 households were evicted unfairly. If they broke the law, or their agreement and were smoking P in their state house they should not receive money from the taxpayer.
“No responsible Government would ignore expert advice when it came of the health and safety of vulnerable children.”