Red Alert

Archive for February, 2012

Steven Joyce Can’t Count

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

An embarrassing slip occurred by Steven Joyce in the House today.

When I asked in a supplementary to his own patsy question by how many billion the current account defict was forecast to deteriorate over the next four years, he said “less than 5″ and said he based the estimate on the PREFU (Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update).

The actual number in the PREFU is down to $17.6 billion. Nowhere close to sub $5 bn. He then blamed the earthquake for the deterioration. In fact, the PREFU forecasts estimate only a quarter of the deterioration as eathquake related.

Mr Joyce has not corrected the errors – which is required under standing orders at the earliest opportuity.

His problem is that reducing the current account deficit is one of the most basic goals of economic development policy. Not knowingthe headline numbers is embarrasssing. Just making it up is downright risky.

This is the same minister busily negotiating “deals” with corporates, casinos and media moguls. I wonder how many Kiwis would trust his financial nous if he keeps fluffing the numbers?

Bill English is smiling inside.


Now it’s aged care workers

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

Tomorrow morning 1500 nurses, health care assistants and support staff employed by the 20 facilities in the Oceania chain of Aged Care Facilities are striking.  Some of the residents they care for will join them in the protest.

Caregivers do magnificent work caring for members of our families as they get older and less able to look out for themselves. But they are underpaid and undervalued.  I know.  I was privileged to be a Rest Homes organiser and advocate before I became an MP and I have nothing but admiration for the work that aged care workers do and the commitment they make.

This isn’t an easy job. Looking after older people in aged care facilities requires skill and intensive responsibility for people with enormous support needs.

There’s been a change from “mum and dad” owned rest homes or Religious and Welfare homes, where older people could have a sedate and dignified retirement, to “ageing in place”  where older people stay in their homes with support from Home Support Services.  I support this approach, but it means our aged care facilities have been taken by corporate interests, looking to cash in our growing population.  Oceania is a private equity firm, whose parent company is Macquarie Global Infrastructure.

While much of New Zealand’s aged care support comes from our health budget - funded by you and me, corporates are shipping off the profits to their overseas shareholders.

I also know how much former Labour Ministers did to try to address the problem of low pay in this burgeoning industry, and how much it was resisted by the industry.  They seem to be more interested in discussing their return on investment rather than the terrible state of the workforce and the crises that keep occurring through low-paid workers caring for very vulnerable old people.

Some Oceania workers are paid as little as $13.61 an hour.  They shouldn’t have to strike.

But that’s all they can do.


Mapp to Law Commission – Cronyism

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

Wayne Mapp’s commercial legal experience is limited to three years assisting one John Collinge, former President of the National Party who is better known for activity on the the table at the London High Commission than legal expertise.

He spent thirteen years at the University of Auckland but was unable to obtain a chair or a position in the Law School. He then became an undistinguished MP and a lacklustre Minister.

Mapp got the push from the National caucus but has been given a job at the Law Commission – a role normally reserved for distinguished lawyers.

Cronyism again.


The mayor, the port, and the wharfies

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs.

Len Brown is one of the few people with a lever to pull in this situation. He is the shareholder. He and the Council bear a large part of the responsibility for the dispute because their demand for a 12% return on capital from the ports handed the Ports board the justification to embark on this drive to casualise its workforce. The 12% demand is ridiculous. No other port in Australasia achieves this. Few if any companies in the transport and logistics sector achieve it. The current return is 6% and the ports of Tauranga, poster child for port productivity, only gets 6.3%.

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security.

With the port company intent on contracting out, the wharfies now have nothing to lose. The current strike is due to continue for two more weeks. Disruption will likely go on for months. The financial cost to the ports, and the economic disruption to Auckland’s economy will be significant.

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

The union has already agreed to almost all the company’s demands for greater labour flexibility designed to increase the labour utilisation rate and improve productivity. The company and union should get back to the table and settle so everyone can get back to work.

Len Brown is a good man. His Auckland Plan and advocacy for the City Rail Link is the kind of leadership the city has been crying out for. But if the port company’s crude union busting succeeds in casualising its workforce on his watch it will be a stain on his legacy.


The Demise of the Blue and Gold

Posted by on February 28th, 2012

I thought I had witnessed Otago’s darkest day in rugby. It was 1979 and Steve Marfell the strapping Marlbrough 2nd-five lined up a penalty that would have sunk Otago into the 2nd Division South with the likes of Buller and North Otago. He missed and over the years following Otago built up an enviable record under the likes of Laurie Mains, Gordon Hunter and latterly Tony Gilbert. But now Otago rugby stands on the edge of oblivion- at least in the short term. It is truly shocking for those of us who grew up in awe of the blue and gold.

The truth is that the professional era for rugby has never really been kind to Otago. In the years following 1996 there was a legacy of player strength that carried Otago to an NPC title a couple of years later, but it soon became clear that retaining players was going to be a struggle. As the performances of the team declined, so did the crowds, and no doubt the sponsorship revenue. Player payments went up and up, and the cost of retaining Carisbrook as a facility also grew. That much I can see, what on earth else was going on to see the debt rise so much I have no idea. This must have been some pretty shocking decisions taken in the last few years to see it get this bad.

The NZRU seem likely to ensure club and school rugby will continue, and that as Clare and David have pointed out, must be a priority.

As for the ITM Cup (NPC) team I think it is important that something is done to try to field a team this year. This might well be the opportunity to see the wider community come back in behind the team. With local commercial support as the base, maybe Otago people can be given the opportunity to help get the team on the field. The rest of the year then needs to be spent establishing a more sustainable base for the future.

But the real question that does have to be answered is the sustainability of professional rugby at the provincial level. Chris Laidlaw has made the case that we pretty much can not afford it, and there is evidence to back that up. Many provinces are really struggling, and as we can see in Otago’s case, it can have massive consequences. But what would a return to amateur rugby mean for provincial teams? The looming private ownership of Super 15 franchises will put more distance between local rugby and the professional game, and the chances of money earned professionally coming back to support the game will reduce.

The NZRU urgently need to re-look at the model for the game here to ensure that it survives and thrives at a local level. They tell us that is their goal- now is the time to take stock and make good on that commitment.

Filed under: sport

Back benches this week

Posted by on February 28th, 2012

CHANGES ARE A COMIN’: Changes to the benefit are a comin’—with reforms announced this week. The focus is on our youth and getting them off the dole and into work. $20 million a day or $8 billion a year is spent on beneficiaries. What are the reforms? Is it about training or incentives? Are there jobs for the unemployed? Do the reforms look at early intervention programmes? Do we need to reform more than our youth sector? Will these reforms fix the problem or leave more young people out in the cold?

SPEAKING OF JOBS: A new poll shows many tertiary students plan to head overseas because they fear they won’t be able to find a job in New Zealand. Are their fears justified? It’s “O” week—should new students keep this in mind when entering University? How do we keep our students in the country?

MMP: In November we decided we wanted to stick with MMP. Now, it’s time to have our say on MMP reform. What changes would you like to see to MMP? What should the threshold be for list seats? Should a list MP be able to stand in a by-election? Should a candidate have to choose between the list and an electorate? Who should rank the list? How many MPs do we need in Parliament? How should we manage proportion of the seats? What if a party wins more electorate seats than it would get under its share of the party vote?

A night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 29th of February. Our Panel: Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty, Labour MP Sue Moroney, New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin, and National MP David Bennet


People Power in Ohariu

Posted by on February 27th, 2012

A community group has formed in Ohariu to put pressure on Peter Dunne not to vote to sell shares in Air NZ and our power companies.
The group is not aligned with or set up by (as far as I am aware) any political party. A couple of Saturdays ago it had a band playing in the Johnsonville Mall, then it tied ribbons and balloons to every power pole between Peter Dunne’s electorate Office and Parliament. They wanted to make sure that Peter saw them and was reminded of their message every time he took a limo ride from his home to his office.
I just got an email from the group about their next activity. On Thursday night (1 March) at 745pm they are holding a public meeting in the Johnsonville Community Centre (just behind the mall, near J’ville Railway Station) to appoint a citizen’s select committee to hold hearings on public views in Ohariu about asset sales.
I can’t attend the meeting on Thursday, but I think this is a great idea, and I would encourage anyone who agrees to attend. Here’s to people power!
For more information – John Maynard – bflatjohn@hotmail.com


Where’s Murray?

Posted by on February 27th, 2012

This morning John Key, responding to criticism that Foreign Minister Murray McCully is missing in action as his Ministry is radically restructured and as his emails remain a matter of interest, told the world:

I have absolutely no clue where he is

This is a serious situation. Losing someone like Kate Willinson, now that happens most days, but losing a Foreign Minister is a whole other thing. I’m sure the PM has tried emailing him on the Gmail. The whole country needs to lend a hand to help find Murray. A possible sighting has been reported, and an image sent through to us to help in the search. If you know where in the world is Murray, please let us know.

wheres-murray

(Click the image to enlarge it)


Whose nightmare ?

Posted by on February 26th, 2012

I’ve had a bit to do with the Computer Clubhouse movement. Some seed funding and a building back in the day when I was Minister of Education.

Went to the second birthday of the Naenae Club (thanks Hutt City) and within a couple of minutes I was cloned by the kids.


Youth NEETs change since 2008

Posted by on February 26th, 2012
Youth NEETs

Youth NEETs

Despite the foodhardy belief by some that all is well with New Zealand employment under National, if they would just pull their heads out of John Key’s armpits for a second and took seriously that our unemployment rate from Dec 2008 to Dec 2011 has doubled, and these are NOT just numbers but REAL people with families to support, then perhaps they might get a sense of the looming employment crisis that I’m talking about. Take note of the job losses so far announced with MFAT, Air NZ, and a host of other companies that have laid off workers in the last few months.

What should also compoud our collective concern is the increasing numbers of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training. As of December 2011 they numbered 83,000 as highlighted in the graph above.

Some might be providing homecare to family members but I suspect the vast majority are drifting doing nothing. These are our future leaders – now mostly at risk. Without work, without skills and without the hope for a better future, what will be the chances of them slipping into drugs, alchoholism, crime and benefit dependency? If these trends continue to worsen, what is there to stop it from becoming a ticking time bomb making New Zealand susceptible to the kinds of riots we’ve witnessed on TV occuring in Europe and the likes.

The NZ Institute who released proposals last year of reducing youth disadvantage estimated that the cost of youth unemployment, youth incarceration, youth on the sole parent benefit and taxes forgone, is around $900 million per year. Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training is not only a tragic waste of talent and potential, but we also all carry the cost.

We should also be worried that Maori & Pasefika youth make up a large number of NEETS. While the 6.3% unemployment rate in NZ is worrying, its not at the crisis levels of the PIGS. But the 6.3% unemployment rate hides the fact that for some parts of New Zealand unemployment truly is at crisis levels. I’ve shown int the graph below the figures by HLFS showing 43.3% of Pasifika 15-19 year olds are unemployed. That’s a shocking figure, right up there with the worst youth unemployment rates of Europe.

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment


MFAT- Privatisation and the end of diplomacy

Posted by on February 26th, 2012

When I was working at MFAT I was invited to be part of one of the many reviews that have taken place to re-look at the organisation. A very earnest consultant hired for the job asked the assembled group of MFAT staff to tell her what it was like when we first started. No one said anything for a while before I piped up and said. “Its like being shown into a dark room full of furniture. You spend all your time banging into the furniture, and no one turns on the light. Eventually you learn to navigate your way around the furniture, before they pick you up and put you in a room with the furniture differently organised and the process begins again.” The consultant decided to move on to a different exercise.

MFAT is an organisation that has been in need of change. It has operated for too long as an old boys club where innovation was stifled, postings were handed out like favours and time served ruled all. John Allen’s appointment as CEO gave some grounds for optimism. In his early days many staff warmed to the idea of change.

Now as the major change process is unleashed, morale is at an all time low, and the possibility of enhancing and improving our diplomatic service has been all but ruined by an abysmal process, and a drastic, ideological slash and burn exercise. Having talked to a number of my former colleagues its not possible to overstate what the impact of this process will be. We will lose a significant number of highly capable people.

This exercise effectively ends the notion of a diplomatic service. Those who go on postings have no guarantee of jobs on their return. The support on postings that has allowed families to stay together is being slashed. What’s more it appears to be being slashed while families are away on posting. One friend has calculated a 40% effective pay cut. Long serving local staff, paid a small wage that is vital to their families and villages are being dumped, all in the name of an experiment.

Meanwhile back at home, a large exercise in privatisation is to be launched. Anything from the management of property and assets, some aspects of Ministerial visits, managing staff transitions and other HR functions is all to be contracted out. This kind of contracting out has seen huge cost blowouts internationally. Moreover it won’t work. I will bet you anything that when the first logistical disaster involving a Minister occurs as a result of a private provider just not getting what is needed, it will all be back in-house.

I could go on and on. Suffice to say a pretty much unfettered free market model is to be unleashed at MFAT, and to hell with what it might mean for New Zealanders, our relationships developed over decades or our reputation on the world stage. This is nonsensical, unproven and such a lost opportunity. It also gives a hint to the further privatising of the public sector that lies ahead. This second term National government is going to make the 90s restructuring look like child’s play.


Not the Kiwi way

Posted by on February 26th, 2012

Talley’s-AFFCO have told their 750 odd unionised meat workers in its plants in Moerewa, Manawatu, Imlay, Horotiu and Wairoa that they will be indefinitely locked out from Wednesday, unless they agree to significant casualisation of their jobs.

We’re not talking highly paid or privileged workers here; meat workers are already seasonal workers, who have to fill the gap with other bits and pieces of work in between seasons.  Just visit any small town where the meat works is a major employer and driver of the local economy – and you will know what I’m talking about.  It’s grim.

A long term lockout saw 100 ANZCO CMP workers forced to take cuts to pay and conditions last year, and Mr Talley isn’t slow to learn.

But I reckon it’s about more than that.

The climate is now ripe for employers who can’t accept the role of unions in their workplaces to try to smash them. The National Government has promised to further weaken workers’ collective bargaining rights, and any pretense at its support for decent work is rapidly disappearing. The lip service we saw paid to the role of unions in engagement and economic change in the first term of the National Government is now on the back burner.

Union or non-union, this isn’t the Kiwi way.


Manufacturing renaissance

Posted by on February 26th, 2012

I’ve just been sent an article about a report released late last year by the Boston Consulting Group which elaborates on why there is an American manufacturing renaissance occuring. It’s a pity I didn’t have it last year. However, it just reinforces what is becoming accepted by many New Zealanders (and Americans) that manufacturing in their own country makes good economic sense.

A return of manufacturing to the U.S. will accelerate as companies take into account the full costs of outsourcing to China and the strategic advantages of making products closer to consumers in North America, predicts a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

It argues that the rising cost of wages in China means that the advantage of lowest cost will continue to diminish. And also there are strategic advantages in locating production closer to the consumer and the downside of global supply chains.

All these reasons make sense. Along with the economic flow on effect of tax paid on wages inside New Zealand. And keeping and building a manufacturing skill base here.

I wonder when the light will go on with this government? Buying rail wagons from China which are of dubious quality because of lowest cost is not economically sound. And certainly isn’t good for New Zealand in the short or long term.

This is worth a read.


‘Twas the night before Christmas

Posted by on February 24th, 2012

Slane Grinch cartoon

Public support continues to grow for getting ANZAC and Waitangi Public Holidays Monday-ised when they fall on a weekend.  New Zealanders work some of the longest hours in the OECD. Naturally, it is disappointing when some years we miss out on one or two of the eleven Public Holidays we look forward to every other year.  This week’s Listener editorial makes the same point.  Cartoon courtesy of @slanecartoons.

I reckon attendance at ANZAC dawn services will go up when people know they can sleep an extra hour or two on the Monday that follows.  Waitangi festivals around the country are growing in popularity as family events. This Bill recognises the growing importance of 6 February and 25 April to our sense of history and national identity.

I think National will show just how out of touch they have become if they don’t get in behind my Bill.  A recent Stuff poll had public support at around 80%.  Hard working Kiwis deserve every one of the eleven Public Holidays they currently get.


Port dispute not about eggs

Posted by on February 24th, 2012

The start of an extended strike today by Waterfront workers over the Port of Auckland’s determination to casualise or contract out the jobs of its workforce means everyone loses.

Port workers and their families will lose incomes, businesses will be disrupted, other workers will be affected and the Auckland economy will take a hit at a time when we least need it.

Last week, there was a call from a group of influential Auckland business interests and the CTU for a modern approach to employment relations which maintains an efficient and productive Port, retains decent jobs and is not part of the race to the bottom. This was refreshing and gave hope of a solution.

But I wasn’t that impressed with Council CEO Doug McKay’s comments at the recent Council meeting where he said :

But I keep reminding Len, and I have been in a commercial environment in this sort of situation a few times over the years, that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and the people have to feel like they can almost go to the brink and look over it before they come back.

This isn’t about making omelettes or brinkmanship, although Doug McKay‘s done plenty of it in his time.

Resolution of this dispute needs good will, determination and good faith bargaining. And it will require compromise.

Auckland Council should reconsider its unrealistic demand for a 12% return on capital, Ports management should withdraw their take it or leave it plans to contract out or casualise jobs and the union has repeated its offer to make changes to work practices and its collective agreement that will improve labour utilisation rates.

Broken eggs won’t do it.


NZ unemployment increases vs OECD increases

Posted by on February 24th, 2012
NZ % increase in unemployment rate since Dec 2008 vs OECD increase

NZ % increase in unemployment rate since Dec 2008 vs OECD increase

The graph above compares the change in NZ’s unemployment rate since December 2008 to that of other developed countries. It shows that NZ’s unemployment rate has increased at about twice the rate of Europe.

JohnKey claimed that NZ’s unemployment rate is out of his control. He claimed that it’s the economic performance of Europe, Asia and the US that determines job growth in NZ. While there’s no arguing we live in a closely interconnected world and NZ is not immune to global down turns, Mr Key is somewhat passing the buck here.

The Govt can and does have massive influence on our economy and employment rates. For example the PSA reported more than 3500 public service jobs lost in last 3 years, as a result of Govt policy including the so called “capping” of the public sector policy, and with more public service job losses to come – recent announcement of 305 MFAT jobs to go.

The European debt crisis is not the only factor in our high unemployment rate and JohnKey’s govt as the most influential player domestically must take some responsibility.

New Zealand’s actual unemployment rate is still lower than the OECD average but this is because we started in 2009 at a lower rate, not because we haven’t suffered through the recession.


The Growth Gap

Posted by on February 23rd, 2012

In my last post I indicated that I would be doing a series of posts on growth and jobs, reflecting my portfolio work in economic development.  Here’s the first – and I want to begin with the Government’s results (or lack of).

By way of context, as a country we need to create and export value in order to pay for imports and good wages.  Sustainable economic growth is not at odds with social democracy, but a necessary component of making it work.  Growth is not an end in itself but a means to families and communities getting ahead.  For modern social democrats,  it should occur within a framework that ensures good social and enironmental outcomes.

The trouble is, despite repeated promises from the current government that economic growth is “just around the corner”, it just hasn’t happened.  

After Budget 2011, I posted a graph showing how the economy had actually performed under National compared to the growth forecasts since they came to office. With the latest downgrading of the growth outlook in the recent Budget Policy Statement, I’ve received a few requests for an updated version, so here it is:
 

Government GDP vs Reality

Government GDP vs Reality

(sources: Treasury Fiscal and Economic Updates, and Stats NZ GDP series)
 
What do we see? Well, under National the economy has under-performed each set of growth projections since they came to office by a long way.    The sole exception is BEFU 11, which assumed an immediate GDP hit from the Canterbury earthquakes that didn’t eventuate. It raises the question, is the problem with Treasury’s forecasting models or with National’s economic management?
 
Take a closer look at the 2 oldest sets of projections.
 
DEFU 08 came out immediate after National become government, at the height of the global economic crisis. It predicted that the economy would now be over 6% larger than it is – that’s $12 billion a year.
 
BEFU 09 came out with Budget 2009 – this was Treasury’s ‘doomsday’ predictions written at the peak of the Great Recession (although, ironically, it was released after the recession officially ended). BEFU 09 saw a further two questers of recession that didn’t happen and a gradual return to slow growth.

In the jargon of finance, it’s called a “hockey stick”  – a graph that always starts by going down in each set of forecasts, but is always predicted to curve up in the future.  If  ”NZ inc” was a company with accounts like these, the board would be asking hard questions of the managers.  

In fact,  look where the economy should be now according to that ‘doomsday’ scenario. That’s right, ahead of where it actually is. The recession didn’t get as bad as Treasury thought in BEFU 09 but the recovery under National has been so anaemic that we are now below the level of GDP forecast at the gloomiest period of the Great Recession and falling further behind every day.
 
Here’s how over-optimistic each set of predictions has proven: 

Government Projections Over-optimistic by:

Government Projections Over-optimistic by:

 There is a huge mismatch between what Treasury predicts and what National delivers.
 
So, what needs fixing: Treasury’s forecasting, which serves as the basis for government and opposition policy decisions, or National’s economic growth agenda and “120-point plan” ?
 
Both are the responsibility of Mssrs Key, English and Joyce.

More on why the Govt’s 120-point ‘laundry list’ is not a real plan, and what a real economic growth plan ought to look like, in future posts.


National’s job claims vs reality

Posted by on February 23rd, 2012
National's job claims vs reality

National's job claims vs reality

Even though the Household Labour Force Survey report reveals that John Key’s ‘brighter future’ promise has utterly failed to materialise in terms of jobs for a growing group of New Zealanders, it hasn’t stopped Mr Key claiming it won’t still come true. Yet we know he has no overall plan, no vision for how this will happen. Last year he made the incredible claim that Budget 2011 would create 170,000 jobs over the next 5 years. He continued to make this claim despite not being able to show anything in the Budget that would actually lead to job creation other than low interest rates and ECE funding. Simply managing the economy and ticking off boxes and hoping that market forces will deliver on the jobs is unbelievable. As expected the Govt is on track to once again fall short of its promise. The 2011 Budget documents predicted 36,000 jobs would be created in the year to March 2012. As at Dec 2011 just 10,000 jobs have been created, leaving the Govt to create a massive 26,000 jobs in the final quarter. If JohnKey keeps promising New Zealanders the world but not delivering, his credibility will be on the line, and we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, don’t we?


A day to remember

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012

IMG_0163

Today was a day I have been approaching with mixed emotions. It was incredibly important that we marked the day, remembered those who lost their lives and their families, and acknowledged what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. As a community we needed to confront all we had lost – people, homes, places, and security. Like many people though, I suspect, I saw today as a bit of a milestone – as David Shearer commented, like in any grieving process one year on you have marked all the significant days.

The last 24 hours have been pretty much wall-to-wall with events marking the day. Politicians from all Parties, the families of those lost, diplomats, and the community came together and remembered, commemorated, and acknowledged at incredibly moving ceremonies. There has been much good and sensitive media coverage of these.

Tonight my day finished with a much less formal event at a local school in Hornby. This was a community BBQ organised by the school (Branston Intermediate), a church (Hornby Presbyterian), and a local business (The Gough Group). The people of this suburb in the west had come out on a drizzly and overcast evening to be together and acknowledge what they had been through. Although the streets and houses in this suburb have got off lightly compared to their eastern neighbours, the people in these houses have certainly felt the stresses of the last 12 months. Many have lost their jobs, and of course like people all over the city they no longer trust the ground under them.

This event was much less sombre than the earlier events I went to. Several hundred people came out to remember but also to look forward to what comes next. There was music, a bouncy castle, egg and spoon and sack races, ice-creams and a BBQ cooked by 4 members of the Crusaders (Andy Ellis, Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock and Patrick Osborne for the rugby fans out there).  This was a community coming together to be together. This was a community doing what we do on a smaller scale in back yards all over the country during summer – having a bbq and a yarn when something happens. A turnout of this scale is not something I could have not imagined before February 22nd last year.

For me there is great hope in Christchurch, albeit a hope that is embedded in frustrations and tensions (but that is for another day). It is this community togetherness with new combinations of co-operation (the school, the church and the business),  this empowered grassroots organisation, and this spirit that are the solid foundation that we will rebuild our broken city on.

Our job as politicians is to make sure these voices are heard and that this collective spirit is part of our new city.


It’s not a problem, it’s a crisis

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012

Yesterday Phil Twyford and I spent the day meeting with key people involved in housing and urban development in Auckland. I recommend Phil Heatley the Minister of ‘no Housing ‘ does the same. He might learn something.

Auckland needs to house another million people over the next 30 years requiring an extra 400,000 dwellings.  That is an impossible task without a long term strategy and total commitment from government, local government and both the private and community sectors. 

The Auckland Council has drawn up a draft Auckland Plan looking forward 30 years. It emphasises a commitment to a quality compact Auckland region. Feedback from Aucklanders has made it clear they want a bold visionary strategy.  They also want the impact of development on the heritage and character of the region to be considered.  And they want the ‘housing crisis’ addressed!

Auckland Council with all the good will in the world won’t achieve their plan on their own.  Around 13,000 new houses a year need to be built every year for the next 30 years.  That is a quantum leap from where we are now.  In 1992 around 4,800 houses were being built a year. The number peaked at 12,000 between 2001 and 2005.  In the latest figures the number has plunged to just over 2,000. (more…)