The unions are clearly taking the new Labour-led Government for a ride with yet another strike underway today led by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, National Party MPs Michael Woodhouse and Jami-Lee Ross say.
“We are seeing another union power grab with strike action at Lyttelton Port from midnight last night. The culprit is again the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, the same Union behind the extremely disruptive train and bus strikes in Auckland,” Workplace Relations Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“This strike has the potential to be particularly significant, with warnings that it may shut down the port and that if it continues past a week, shortages of some critical supplies will begin to occur affecting thousands of people and businesses.
“This is not good enough. With union demands increasing at an alarming rate, these strikes are starting to become more common. This is now the fifth major strike within the first four months of a Labour-led Government.
“The unions know that the more disruption they cause, the more likely they are to force the Government to side with their excessive demands.
“I doubt this is the last time our transport industries will be held to ransom by unions. New Zealanders who rely on coastal transport need certainty of service, not strikes,” National Party Transport Spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“The transport sector is bearing the brunt of unions flexing their muscles with the new Government.
“Whether it’s commuters or exporters, they are all being inconvenienced by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union’s actions.
“Strike action will only get worse when Labour’s pro-union law changes take effect later this year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
The Government's housing stocktake report released today adds no new knowledge or solutions and simply repeats the already well-publicised views of the authors, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The proposals are largely the ones the previous Government already had underway, however the Government has also stopped approvals for Special Housing Areas and cancelled the Te Ture Whenua land reforms,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The only new programme is their flagship KiwiBuild policy, but advice from officials released last week shows it is unlikely to deliver more than 4,000 additional houses over the first three years – only a quarter of what the Minister has promised.
“In fact the Reserve Bank in its Monetary Policy Statement last week said it expected house building activity to grow more slowly in the next couple of years than it has in the last couple of years.
“The Government has created an expectation that thousands of New Zealanders are going to get access to a significantly subsidised first home and there's no sign that that's going to happen.
“The solution to housing pressures is simply to get more houses built.
“We are in the biggest residential boom in New Zealand’s history with more than 30,000 houses a year being built, and house prices are now flat to falling.
“The previous National Government had 102,000 houses forecast to be built over the next three years. The new Government needs to stop writing reports and get on and build on that.”
Official advice shows that in spite of claiming a ‘housing crisis’ the Government’s proposed solution will take years to ramp up, and even then around half its contribution will be instead of private sector builds, National’s Housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Despite Mr Twyford’s big promises to build 100,000 houses over the next ten years, the moment he got into Government that target was slashed to 16,000 over the first three years and now he’s only going to achieve to half of that,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Labour Party spent years in Opposition whipping up a frenzy over a ‘housing crisis’ it claimed needed an immediate fix and that it had the magic bullet – its flagship Kiwibuild policy.
“MBIE advice released under the OIA states that Kiwibuild will build only 8,000 houses over the next three years while Treasury advice shows that most were either going to be built anyway through the existing Crown building programme or purchased by the Government from existing developments.
“On top of that, the Reserve Bank has already stated that it expects ‘around half of the proposed increase will be offset by a reduction in private sector activity’. And today, the Reserve Bank has pushed off into the future any positive impact of the KiwiBuild policy and is actually expecting residential house building to grow more slowly than it has been over the next couple of years.
“So if we’re being generous, we’re talking an extra 1,333 houses a year over the next three years, most of which were going to happen anyway. That’s this Government’s much ballyhooed solution to the ‘housing crisis’?
“By contrast, the housing policies implemented by National were supporting the building of 102,000 houses in the same time frame. That’s an extraordinarily telling difference.
“Like the rest of his Government, Mr Twyford’s made huge promises he simply can’t back up and he’s being caught out as his Government is forced to reveal officials’ scathing assessment of his policy.
“We are already building more than 30,000 houses a year, as part of the biggest residential boom in New Zealand’s history and house prices are now flat to falling as a result.
“Through measures like ensuring access to tradespeople, building the infrastructure and that land and funding is readily available for development, we have made real progress and this Government has done next to nothing to add to that.”
The Government’s senseless axing of the transfer of state houses to community housing providers is another example of its blinkered and backward approach, National Party Social Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Government’s announcement today that it will cancel the ability for community housing providers to take on state houses, improve services to tenants and grow the amount of housing available, is a major step backwards.
“All it means is vulnerable New Zealanders miss out on the opportunity to have more people providing more houses and better services for tenants.
“Working with social housing providers also attracts further investment, above the Crown’s contribution. Labour’s ideological position will therefore reduce social housing supply and place yet more pressure on its over-burdened books.
“In Christchurch for example, the now-axed agreement to take over up to 2500 state houses included a requirement for the successful provider to add a further 150 properties – growing the total number of social houses with no further capital cost to the Crown.
“Tenants don’t care whether their landlord is the Government or a community housing provider. It’s just another example of Labour thinking only the Government can provide services to New Zealanders.
“Doing what we have done for decades doesn’t work – that’s why the previous Government was so focused on innovating and doing things better.
“Community housing providers know their local communities and neighbourhoods better and they can focus on individual tenants and their needs.
“This Government’s antagonistic approach to the private sector is taking New Zealand backwards. It needs to stop arrogantly believing the Government is the only one with the answers and work with New Zealanders who are improving the lives of our vulnerable.”
The Government is already being forced to axe programmes which are making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders because it is mindlessly spending money and running out of cash, National Party Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has struggled to explain why he is axing the relocation grants which have helped almost 500 households, potentially thousands of people, move from Auckland to other parts of New Zealand and it’s clear why he is so unconvincing – it’s an indefensible decision.
“The housing shortage remains most acute in Auckland and this programme was helping hundreds of families move to the regions where there are lots of jobs and fewer housing pressures, and at the same time freeing up houses in Auckland.
“It gave these families an opportunity to take a job and set themselves up in other parts of New Zealand which are thriving.
“And on average it was saving the taxpayer $170 a week in subsidised housing costs for every family that moved out of Auckland. With the average grant being about $4,637 the Government was seeing a saving in costs well within a year of people moving.
“The grants were a useful part of the former Government’s comprehensive housing plan, playing a part in easing pressure in Auckland while the record residential building boom was underway to address the shortage. For Mr Twyford to argue otherwise is absurd.
“The simple fact is the Government has spent everything already and now it is having to cut its cloth. Just last week KidsCan was told its funding won’t be continued and we know the Government hasn’t left itself any room for everything from police pay rises to conservation funding.
“This is just the start and we will see other areas suffer because this Government isn’t thinking beyond its next set of headlines, it’s playing fast and loose with taxpayer’s money and it’s already feeling the pinch.”
National Party Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse has welcomed Phil Twyford’s clarity that Kiwibuild would deliver 100,000 homes over and above what the private market or former National Government were going to deliver.
“Mr Twyford has been fudging the numbers for Kiwibuild since he came into office, and was suggesting it might include houses bought from developers and Government housing projects already in plans. Kiwibuild was becoming Kiwibuy,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Following questions in the House yesterday, Mr Twyford was finally clear that the 100,000 Kiwibuild homes would be over and above what the private market or National Government were going to deliver.
“We now have clarity about how we can hold Mr Twyford to account.
“Mr Twyford has set a very challenging target for himself, given 200,000 houses are already expected to be built over the next six years – the equivalent of four Dunedins.
“And the Government has now clarified that Kiwibuild will also be in addition to the 34,000 new houses the previous Government were going to deliver in Auckland through the Crown Building Project.
“Mr Twyford’s Kiwibuild programme was built on vague promises and plans. Now he has given clarity about what he will deliver, I am determined to hold him to account for doing so.”
The Government’s surprise announcement it has asked three people to spend a month writing a report on the state of New Zealand’s housing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has spent years arguing the Government has all the answers. But now he has those answers he’s decided they don’t fit his narrative so he’s outsourcing the work.
“The views of those asked to write the report are well known. If the Housing Minister wants to read them he can look them up. That begs the question, why do they need to spend a month re-publishing them?
“Government officials from agencies including the Treasury, Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have developed a comprehensive plan on housing issues ranging from increasing supply to growing the social housing sector and that’s working.
“The housing market is flat to falling and we are in the middle of a record residential building boom. The solutions were implemented by the previous Government based on official advice and they are working.
“Now Mr Twyford is saying that advice doesn’t suit him and his go-to analysis is going to be written by three people in a mere four weeks. It makes no sense. Is he that worried he’s going to be caught out for telling tall tales? Or is he looking for an excuse to implement radical and unpopular policies that aren’t necessary?
“Mr Twyford needs to realise that and let the building industry and social housing sector get on with the job.”
The Government’s new bill supposedly aimed at imposing stricter regulations on landlords does nothing to further improve the quality of New Zealand’s rentals, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“National strongly supports efforts to make homes warmer, drier and safer but Labour’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill does nothing to further those aims and in fact takes a number of backward steps.
“The previous National-led Government took a range of practical measures which improved rental accommodation for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, without imposing unreasonable costs on landlords and driving up rents.
“We invested heavily in insulation and made it compulsory in all rental properties along with smoke alarms, and we changed the law to ensure bad landlords were more accountable.
“Under Labour’s bill, the date for homes to be insulated could actually be delayed and the responsibilities placed on landlords will remain the same, as will the penalties they face when they fail to comply.
“The requirements for homes to be heated, ventilated, properly drained and free of draughts are also already required under existing housing regulations - so what is the point of this needless legislation?
“As with a lot of what we are seeing from Labour, they are struggling to come up with ideas and when they manage to do so they are failing to deliver the detail.
“Instead we continue to see them impose superficial and ill-thought out changes which only create uncertainty, and then spin them as significant improvements.
“That’s exactly what we are seeing here. This latest bill is a waste of the House’s time and National won’t be supporting it.”
New Zealand’s inaugural Motorcycle Awareness month, which begins today, is an opportunity to increase awareness around the risks for motorcyclists on our roads, ACC Minister Michael Woodhouse says.
“Motorcycle safety is one of the four priorities of the Government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan 2016 -2020,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Over the past decade, motorcycle travel has increased by 60 per cent, which is why we are committed to raising awareness through Motorcycle Awareness month.
“Motorcyclists should use this month to think about how they can sharpen their skills to not only lower their risk of harm, but also to ensure they make the most on their time of the bike.
“Last year, sadly 52 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents. Motorcycle Awareness month will play an important role in helping to reduce that number by bringing safety to the forefront of all road users’ minds.”
As part of Motorcycle Awareness month, ACC will be running a number of initiatives to help motorcyclists stay safe and improve their ride. These include:A Get Ride Ready campaign in conjunction with local councils which guides riders through actions to enable them to make the most of summer riding. ACC’s motorcycle safety programme Ride Forever is sponsoring this year’s Motorcycle Show in Auckland over September 16 -17. The Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council’s Ride and Decide summit programme. This incorporates a number of events bringing together motorcyclists and road safety agencies to share insights and knowledge. This will result in a joint commitment to improve the safety of motorcyclists.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced details of a new Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship category to complement the annual refugee quota.
“When the Government announced an increase to the refugee quota last year, we also committed to piloting a Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship category,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Today’s announcement delivers on that commitment and provides an alternative form of admission for refugees wanting to resettle in New Zealand.”
The key objectives of the category include:Providing an opportunity for community organisation to be actively engaged in refugee resettlement, and in doing so, to build local communities that welcome refugees. Enabling sponsored refugees to quickly become independent and self-sufficient in New Zealand. Providing an alternative form of admission for refugees to complement our annual refugee quota.
Applicants will need to have a basic understanding of English, have a minimum of three years’ work experience (or a qualification requiring at least two years’ tertiary study), have an acceptable standard of health and be aged between 18 and 45.
"An initial pilot of the category will test the objectives of the category by providing for 25 refugees to be nominated by sponsoring community organisations on the basis they can achieve self-sufficiency and participate in society quickly,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“This is an excellent opportunity for community organisations to take the lead in providing resettlement options for some refugees and further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fulfilling our international humanitarian obligations to provide support and protection to refugees.”
A call for expressions of interest from potential sponsoring community organisations will be made by Immigration New Zealand in October this year with successful organisations decided before the end of the year. The first refugees are expected to arrive in New Zealand by June next year.