Minto teams up with National's Nicola Willis | The Jackal

7 Jul 2021

Minto teams up with National's Nicola Willis

It would be easy to get a bit despondent about politics sometimes, especially when you see some of the stats that get bandied about. The numbers themselves don’t lie and tell of a country that has been badly served by neoliberal politicians dead set on decimating our social services through their austerity budgets.

Much of New Zealand’s critical infrastructure including but not limited to its housing and hospitals have been detrimentally affected by the budget cuts of various backwards thinking administrations, meaning that our health and wellbeing indicators often remain stubbornly in the red.

Right wing politicians often hold these numbers aloft and cry crocodile tears about a situation that they themselves helped create. And once in a while a gullible left wing activist also joins in with the right wing's disingenuous propaganda. A classic example of this occurred yesterday when long time campaigner John Minto echoed National Party MP Nicola Willis' complaint about the Government putting more homeless people into motels.

Here's Nicola Willis tweeting:

And here’s Minto on The Daily blog:

The government has no plans to address the housing crisis for low-income New Zealanders

An update on the number of children living in motels by RNZ’s Checkpoint programme should come as no surprise. The programme found an increase in 480 children in the three months from December 2020 to 31 March this year. Things are getting worse in housing for low-income New Zealanders.

Like Willis, Minto fails to mention that much of this increase is likely due to slumlords continuing to evict tenants because they don’t want to adhere to the Government's healthy homes standards. The increase is also likely, as the PM asserts, due to the Government moving families out of cars and into more suitable accommodation such as motels.

Since Labour was elected in 2017 the number on the state house waiting list has increased from just 5,000 to over 23,000 so the net number of state houses being built will not even keep up with the yearly increases in demand, let along eat into the 23,000 backlog.

Now don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for John Minto. But here again he omits an important piece of information. The Labour led Government lowered the criteria for those applying for emergency and state housing, meaning that many more Kiwis became eligible to go onto the waiting lists.

Surely he hasn’t forgotten that under the last National led Government, and more precisely Housing Minister Phil Heatley, people in need of housing weren’t even allowed onto the Housing Corporation's waiting list? One of the first things National did was to make the criteria more strict, which directly resulted in 82 percent of applicants being removed from the HCNZ waiting list by July 2011.

Andrew McKenzie also explained that after that 2017 election, Kainga Ora recommended an increase in state house building from 1600 per year to 2,000 per year but Labour did not accept the recommendation. Yes, you read that correctly – Labour decided to simply continue building state houses at the same rate as the previous National government.

In fact over the last four years of Labour in government, the total number of state houses for rent has remained almost static.

If you were to take these criticisms at face value, you would think that the current Government isn’t doing anything at all to try and fix the housing crisis. However both Willis and Minto are incorrect in most of their assertions about Labour’s current housing policies. 

Firstly, the number of state rentals has increased by 4649 beds since September 2017 according to Kāinga Ora’s housing stats. And according to the Government’s Housing Dashboard there are 4705 new state houses since June 2018.

This is in contrast to the last National led Government who demolished 256 state houses and increased the number of vacant properties by a whopping 471 by 2011. At the end of their first term in government, National had sold off another 548 state houses, many into private ownership for below market rates.

Over the entire nine long years of National's failed administration where John Key continuously claimed that there wasn’t any housing crisis to worry about, the number of state houses declined by a whopping 6000. How on earth is that comparable to Labour building 4705 new state houses in just over three years?

So the accusation that Labour has carried on where National left off is utterly and categorically wrong! Are they doing enough? Of course not! But likening the current administrations housing policies to National’s austerity and dare I say corruption is akin to political whitewashing! And that’s not something anybody who wants to hold past or present Government's to account should be doing.