Archive for the ‘Auckland’ Category
Speech to Labour Party Auckland-Northland regional conference, Henderson
You’ve seen the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the furniture into the first state house at 12 Fife Lane, Miramar in 1937. It’s a big moment. Bob Semple, Walter Nash and John A Lee are all there. The Ministers have their sleeves rolled up. People are smiling. It’s an exciting moment.
The massive programme of state house building was one of the greatest achievements of the First Labour Government. They did it because they knew sub-standard housing lay at the root of so many social problems: illness, and the vulnerability of the poorest people to extortionate rents.
They did it because they were willing to use the power of the state to tackle problems that for decades the political establishment said were intractable, that such things must be left to the market to sort out, that in any case where would the money come from?
It is time once again to roll up our sleeves.
The quality of our housing, the shape of our cities, the lack of public transport, the cost of buying a house…these issues have once again become red hot issues. Labour’s willingness to pick up a hammer and actually build houses; our readiness to build the City Rail Link; these issues will have an impact on next year’s general election.
Third world diseases, associated with overcrowding and sub-standard housing, have come back to haunt New Zealand as poverty and inequality have risen. 900,000 homes have inadequate insulation. We know these diseases affect the children of the poor. The research shows there are too many kids dying unnecessary deaths from diseases like asthma, rheumatic fever, meningococcal disease. We know that most children growing up in poverty live in private rentals. That is a fact.
Which is why our Healthy Homes Guarantee will make it compulsory for rental homes to be properly insulated and have an efficient source of heating. We will amend the Residential Tenancies Act. End of story. National announced they will consider the development of a warrant of fitness they will trial in Housing NZ homes. They are going to trial this policy in the very houses – Housing NZ homes – that don’t need it. Houses that have all been retrofitted and insulated. But they won’t do a damn thing for the tenants of private rentals where hundreds of thousands of the poorest Kiwi families live in uninsulated damp and cold houses.
I woke today to hear Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse declare on Morning Report the housing accord between the Government and Auckland was in danger, and Auckland Council would not ratify the accord until certain matters had been sorted out.
Crikey, it didn’t take long for the centrepiece of the National Government’s Budget to start unravelling.
Was it poor political management? Did Ministers English and Smith really think Auckland Council would not be annoyed by the Goverment sneaking into the Bill extra powers to override the Council in direct contradiction of its agreement announced only a week earlier in a grip and grin session at Hobsonville involving Key, Smith and Brown?
Or was it all about getting a few hairy chested headlines the day after the Budget with the Government getting tough on housing affordability? And tough on Auckland Council as a useful proxy? Bill English told his post-Budget breakfast he wasn’t going to let 20 planners in the Auckland Council planning department wreck the economy!
In any case, the Government has just bought itself a couple of months of uncertainty and controversy over its flagship housing policy. Auckland Council, with Len Brown’s inexhaustible supply of good will, has shown itself to be remarkably patient and wily when it comes to dealing with the long list of mostly South Island ministers sent to deal with it: Gerry Brownlee, Amy Adams, Nick Smith, and now Bill English. (Except Bill English is from Karori.)
This is a high stakes tactic for the Government. If they provoke Auckland Council enough the Council could walk away from the Accord. The Government would then have to choose between backing off and losing face, or using its new powers to override Auckland Council and impose its own planning rules.
I suspect that would not go down well with Aucklanders who tend to view central government Wellington as a foreign country which should as much as possible be kept at bay. Imposing martial law on Auckland Council’s urban planning would be unpopular to say the least.
National are already offside with Aucklanders on transport (the most recent Herald poll had support for the City Rail Link at 63%). Gerry Brownlee’s impersonation of a human roadblock has left the city distinctly unamused. Even National’s traditional allies like the Employers and Manufacturers Association, and the Chamber of Commerce, have deserted it on this issue.
Over-riding Auckland Council’s planning laws would be up there with the suspension of Environment Canterbury and Gerry Brownlee’s post-quake wartime powers in the great pantheon of this National Government’s power hungry dealings with local councils.
National clearly thinks local government is a convenient punching bag. And I have no doubt councils around the country are watching this latest stoush with alarm. The housing accords bill sets up a legal framework that allows these powers to be used anywhere in the country.
It will be really interesting to watch how this slow motion punch up plays out. The super city reforms created something new and different. The Auckland Council, representing one-third of the country’s population and bigger than Fonterra and Telecom combined, is not like a council. It is more like an Australian state government.
And with mayoral and council elections in October, a stoush with the National Government may be just what Len Brown needs to guarantee re-election. (Maurice Williamson by the way has gone very quiet on his mayoral plans. I suspect there is an inverse relation between the amount of time the Government spends fighting Auckland Council and Maurice’s poll numbers.)
Given the constitutional supremacy of Parliament, the National Government could bludgeon Auckland Council into submission if it wanted to. But is that an outcome, with all the likely consequences, National really wants, given that in relatively short time it is going to need the votes of Aucklanders?
Labour voted for the Bill at first reading for two reasons: the housing affordability crisis demands a response and while it is inadequate, it is at least something. The accord cherry picks from the draft Unitary Plan. Opening up greenfields land and fast tracking consenting gives no guarantee that any affordable housing will be built.
We also felt that if the Government and Auckland Council spent six weeks hammering out an agreement on this issue then it at least deserved scrutiny at select committee. If Auckland Council decide not to ratify the accord that is going to make select committee hearings very interesting.
I think I might put up an amendment to the Bill giving Auckland Council the power to override the National Government if it can’t get what it wants and introduce a Capital Gains Tax in Auckland. Excluding the family home of course.
Two weeks ago Housing Minister Nick Smith accused Len Brown of killing the dreams of Aucklanders, and said the city’s planning rules had a stranglehold on the city. The potshots have continued for the past fortnight. Then today on Q&A, the day before he flies to Auckland to meet Len Brown and Penny Hulse, Smith comes over all olive branches and white doves: there is a lot of agreement, the Auckland Plan is now “balanced” and he and Len are “in the same paddock”.
So what gives? The Member for Nelson is a lion in Parliament but a mouse when he comes to Auckland. What has changed?
My theory: all the sound and fury from the Government is just political play acting designed to hide the fact that the Government has done nothing about housing affordability over the last four years. Nick Smith’s main job as Housing Minister is to run interference – blaming Auckland Council and framing the issue as being about the availability of greenfields land when even the Productivity Commission questions whether opening up large quantities of new land on the fringes will result in more affordable homes.
This is familiar stuff from Nick Smith. Remember the manufactured ACC crisis? Remember the bogus numbers on Council borrowing he used to justify his local government reform bill that had to be taken down from the Internal Affairs website?
But the risk here is that he is picking a fight with the country’s biggest city, as Mai Chen argued in the Herald. Aucklanders don’t take kindly to another South Island MP trying to run Auckland from his office in Wellington. Having Gerry set our transport priorities is bad enough.
Nick Smith flies to Auckland to meet with Len Brown and Penny Hulse tomorrow. I welcome his visit. He might learn something. But if he wants to play at being an Aucklander by having a say on our plan then he should at least walk the talk. I challenge him to skip the limo tomorrow and drive himself from the airport to the Town Hall in morning rush hour. Let’s see how he gets on.
Auckland is a great place to be at the moment. The summer festival season is in full swing: Waitangi, Chinese New Year, Pasifika, and right now a stunning arts festival.
There are exciting changes underway in public transport. A new high frequency network in the offing, electric trains will start to arrive later this year, and the City Rail Link is a matter of when not if. Ludo Campbell Reid has remodelled city streets downtown and out in the burbs. Wynyard Quarter, Britomart and Imperial Lane are buzzing. And the harbour is full of snapper!
It confirms the suspicion that if you could sort out the gridlock and housing affordability, Auckland would start to become a damn fine city. Today’s release of the draft Unitary Plan is a key milestone in that.
It’s just a shame the National Government is so out of sync with it. They cannot bear having to deal with a progressive Mayor, and just want to take the city back to its vision of Auckland as a 1950s sprawling, motorway-crossed cow town.
I have posted at The Standard on The Government’s War on Auckland. How long do we have to put up with South Island Ministers like Nick Smith and Gerry Brownlee trying to run Auckland from their offices in Wellington?
Nick Smith, the Minister of Sprawl, and Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Gridlock.
Labour’s vision for Auckland is a highly liveable, job-rich powerhouse for the New Zealand economy, and a magnet for investment, visitors and migrants. A 21st century compact city with great public transport, public spaces and thriving urban neighbourhoods. A city that protects and celebrates its natural taonga: the Gulf, volcanoes, the Waitakeres, and the rural hinterland. A more democratic super city, and active government from the Council and central government working together.
The Auckland Plan gets the fundamentals right: fix gridlock by investing in public transport, bold plan by central govt and Auckland Council to deliver affordable housing, compact city to contain the sprawl, local and central govt working together a. to stimulate high value manufacturing and jobs, and b. tackle entrenched inequality and poverty via the Auckland Plan’s southern initiative.
But it needs progressive leadership both at the Council and in central government to make it happen. Len Brown and the Council are doing their bit. Maybe if National doesn’t want to be part of the solution they should just hand Aucklanders a cheque for their share of taxes paid and let us get on with it? (At least until we get progressive leadership back in the Beehive.)
Resolve is really building in West Auckland to stop National’s chainsaw massacre in the Waitakere Ranges.
Te Atatū Labour MP Phil Twyford, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Maryan Street, Councillors, Local Board representatives and ratepayers groups are all backing the community’s determination to save our trees – which together we surely will.
Here’s wishing Red Alert readers the chance to enjoy some of New Zealand’s great outdoors with family and friends this weekend.
For too many attendees this was a groundhog day event.
Because yet again Westies are being forced to stand up to a Wellington-led move to abolish tree protection rules in the Waitakere Ranges. It really is crazy. But it seems that destroying West Auckland’s natural heritage has become a National Party obsession.
Environment Minister Amy Adams’ so-called Resource Management Reform Bill is a very poorly drafted piece of law. I reckon it’s deliberate, because when you untangle the jargon it’s nothing but a recipe for a chainsaw massacre.
Well West Aucklanders have seen all this before. We love our patch, we were staunch against Wellington’s chainsaws every other time – and last night the public meeting unanimously voted that we’ll be staunch against them now.
The National Government could save themselves one heck of a headache (and avoid underestimating the West Auckland community again) by simply excluding the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area from part 12 of Adams’ Bill.
But if National uses its numbers on behalf of the Property Council to push the chainsaw massacre through, then locals are determined this will not be the end of the story.
With the support of Auckland’s Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Councillor Sandra Coney, Waitakere Ranges Local Board Chair Denise Yates and member Greg Presland, the Ratepayers have agreed we will propose to Auckland Council a Local Bill to revisit this attack.
Waitakere is our place. The rainforest in the Ranges is our children’s and their children’s natural heritage.
With shared resolve, and with history on our side, Westies will certainly save our trees again.
The Ngati Whatua Orakei Settlement Bill passed its third reading today. As an Aucklander the occupation of Bastion Point, and Ngati Whatua’s 170 year struggle for justice has always meant a great deal to me. I felt really privileged to be able to contribute to the debate on behalf of Labour.
Ngati Whatua’s loss of land, and their extraordinary struggle to hold on to some of it, and then get some back, is a story every Aucklander should know. The 1987 Waitangi Tribunal report sets it all out, including how city authorities in 1911 built an 8 foot high pipe across the foreshore to discharge the city’s raw sewerge onto Ngati Whatua’s shellfish beds.
And the compulsory acquistion and forced clearance in 1951 of the village at Okahu Bay. Today’s kaumatua remember watching their houses being burned to the ground.
The turning point for Ngati Whatua, and arguably for race relations more broadly, was the 507 day occupation of Bastion Point led by Joe Hawke 1977-78 to stop the National Government of the day selling off the land for high income housing.
The eventual eviction of the protesters by police and army shocked the nation, including me.
To see the settlement finalised today, in light of that history, is quite something. Something that all New Zealanders can take pride in.
Hone Harawira’s speech in the debate was one to remember. He recalls the occupation of Bastion Point with great humour.
Auckland’s integrated ticketing saga might seem like just another IT boondoggle with delays and cost blow outs.
But when the progress of Auckland’s public transport system is at stake, not to mention $98 million of public money, it is inevitable the public will want someone held accountable.
The Herald has pointed the finger at Snapper, saying the company should make its smart card compatible with the new integrated ticketing system or face the consequences.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has threatened NZ Bus (which like Snapper, is owned by Infratil) could be “off the run”, losing the $70 million subsidy it gets for running 70% of Auckland’s buses if it can’t get the Snapper machines on its buses to work with the new system.
Back story: in 2009 Snapper lost out to French technology giant Thales in a competitive tender for the integrated ticketing system designed to be set up in Auckland and then rolled out in other centres. About a year later NZTA and Auckland Transport decided to allow Snapper to roll out its card on the NZ Bus fleet as long as it could guarantee compatibility with the new Thales-built system. There have been successive delays and things came to a head last week with a leaked lawyer’s letter from Auckland Transport to Snapper asserting the November 30 deadline would not be met and that Snapper was in breach of contract, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra costs piling up by the month. (For more history on this see Rudman, or Transport Blog if you are really keen.)
Snapper have been painted as the bad guy: losing out in a competitive tender, then sneaking back into the marketplace, and trying to use their dominant market position in Auckland to establish their card alongside instead of within the main system. The commercial incentive is obvious. If NZ Bus uses Snapper they get access to a sizeable cash float as public transport users charge up their Snapper cards. They also get a treasure trove of data about public transport journeys and consumption patterns that would help them wipe out competitors.
I think having a go at Snapper is too easy. We shouldn’t be surprised that a company aggressively competes for market dominance.
But we should expect our politicians to make decisions in the public interest, and not screw the scrum on behalf of private interest which seems to be what happened here. I’ve been told by former board members of both agencies that then transport minister Steven Joyce intervened on behalf of Infratil, putting pressure on both boards to let Snapper roll out their card in advance of the new system.
Last week in the House Gerry Brownlee denied his predecessor had any role in the decision making, saying it was a decision for Auckland Transport and NZTA.
Both Mike Lee, former chairman of Auckland Regional Council, and Michael Barnett, also a former elected member of the ARC, have publicly said that lobbying of and by central government politicians led to what has turned out to be a very unwise decision.
That is why I have asked the Auditor General, who is already investigating Auckland’s integrated ticketing project, to include an examination of the role of central and local government politicians in the decision making around Snapper’s early roll out.
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.
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…)
It’s great to see the formation of a new group of businesses and the CTU working together to find resolution to the PoAL issues.
The group, which includes Mainfreight Group Managing Director Don Braid, Heart of the City, CEO Alex Swney, CTU President Helen Kelly and Michael Lorimer, Director Grant Samuel & Associates, say they believe there is a demand from a range of groups in Auckland for a
“new approach that balances the need for the Port to make a return and the Port’s role as a service to business, in Auckland, employer of Aucklanders and guardian of the beautiful Auckland space it occupies”.
They have called a meeting in early March to develop a Charter for the Port that calls on the Council to take a broader view of the Port’s future and a vision of a triple bottom line approach to the Port , which includes :
- A Port that meets the needs of both those onshore (the importers and exporters of New Zealand) and offshore (the shipping companies) now and in the future;
- A Port that shares its land with the public, protects its environment and sees itself as part of the development of Auckland including encouraging use of the waterfront and harbour for recreation; and
- A Port that adopts a modern approach to employment relations which maintains an efficient and productive Port including retaining decent jobs and is not part of a “race to the bottom” in employment practice.”
Yes to all that.
Michael Lorimer says :
“The current approach means the Port Board is being forced to cut costs and capital expenditure. This impacts on us all. Now is the time to put up a new vision for the Port that recognises its primary role as a service to this City and New Zealand and its return to the Council must be based on a longer term understanding of its unique role in the City.
The need to increase earnings is being used to justify the current plans to reduce working conditions on the Port including contracting out labour. We support decent work conditions and oppose casualisation in the manner being proposed by the Port. Not only is it unnecessary but it could cause major disruption to its customers and contribute to increasing inequality.”
I’m heartened to hear this from major Auckland businesses and the CTU. We’ve got some smart people working together here who understand that the key to a productive Auckland port isn’t as simple as selling off jobs to the lowest bidder.
I congratulate them all.
Unfortunately we have run out of these great posters already. Considering a reprint but in the interim you can go to here to download or even donate to help print some more.
I sat a few seats along from Rodney Hide at this morning’s launch of the draft Auckland Plan, and as Len Brown and his team unveiled the elements of the plan I wondered if the Local Government Minister was thinking ‘where did it all go wrong?’
It wasn’t meant to be like this. Hide, backed by PM Key and Transport Minister Steven Joyce, set out to hijack the process begun by the last Labour Government when it set up the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. Their plan was to go for a more highly centralised model, wrap up most of Council operations in corporate-style CCOs, and then win control of the mayoralty and council. They achieved the first two aims, but Len Brown’s resounding win derailed the bigger plan which would have seen the ACT Party’s current Epsom candidate preside over asset sales, dismantling of the metropolitan urban limits, and roads roads roads.
Instead Len Brown and the Auckland Council have developed a plan that is distinctly social democratic. It assumes active government creating the conditions for and managing growth, reducing social inequalities, and putting people first, all under the banner of creating the world’s most liveable city. It builds seamlessly on the brilliant work done by the Royal Commission, and when implemented will herald big change for Auckland.
Which is why the Government now speaks about the draft plan through gritted teeth. Managed growth? Urban limits? Public investment in public transport? Hands on support for economic development? These things are anathema to the National Party. Not to mention ambitious education and health targets that invite central government to sign on.
The genius of Len Brown’s mayoral campaign was that he evoked an optimistic, inclusive, twenty-first century Auckland with a place for everyone, including the young, the brown, and the new arrivals. It had success stamped all over it. The demographics are all on his side, and John Banks was left looking like an angry old white guy.
National are now being wrong-footed in a similar way. Aucklanders know the motorways and sprawl model imposed by National in the 1950s won’t do any more. We yearn for a vibrant waterfront and central city. Look at the crowds that descended on Wynyard Quarter’s phase one in recent weeks. We know a modern public transport system can be done. We see them everytime we visit almost any Australian state capital.
In a funny way I think Rodney Hide probably gets it. He is an urban liberal with an interest in what makes cities tick. But Steven Joyce and the National Cabinet are so imbued with an anti-urban, pro-motorways, anti-planning ideology. It is setting up an interesting choice for Aucklanders at this election, given that Auckland’s big ambitions cannot be met without funding and support from central government. If you support Len Brown’s vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city you are not going to get it under a National Government.
McCully doesn’t need to apologise, yes he micro-managed the RWC, but everyone it seems screwed up except him. So in his mind it’s perfectly logical he takes charge. A question: did McCully inform Key before he invoked the emergency legislation that cut the Auckland Council off at the knees – or did he just go it alone?
McCully didn’t see the need to let Len Brown know before telling the world he was taking over, not even a courtesy call – and if Key did know, neither did he. Is that a touch arrogant?
Probably, I imagine that he decided the Council deserved it for spoiling his world cup. But rather than pushing the blame on to the Council, it’s more an admission of wider failure. And for the world’s media, McCully has given the story new legs.
And maybe I missed it, but unlike the PM and Mayor, I didn’t hear the Minister for the Rugby World Cup say sorry. But I guess he’s been too busy being more in charge.
I just hope that Saturday night’s transport debacle stimulates some real thinking about Auckland’s transport. The fingerpointing is out: bigger crowds than expected, alcohol, idiots pushing the emergency stop button, though that happened at the U2 concernt and should have been factored in.
But a world class event being held with a third world train system lies at the heart of the problem. When can Aucklanders finally see a world class transport system like other cities of our size? Not with the rear-visionary Steven Joyce in charge.
Other than adding a few more electric trains to the current order, there have been no new rail initiatives announced by this government – except for pouring a bucket of cold water on the Coucil’s inner city link. Without it we can’t expand the system including running trains to the airport – something that Aucklanders see as a top priority and a symbol of us joining other smart cities – because the network will not run frequently enough without a link.
So hopefully Saturday’s failings – in the midst of a great, great opening – will get Joyce out of his yesterday’s thinking and support the Council rather than white-anting its plans.
Posting from day two of the Labour/ Green co-hosted Smart Transport event in Wellington. Focus today is on groups working regionally or nationally on specific campaign issues.
Couple of stand out issues. Almost everyone has noted the difficulty they have had engaging with Steven Joyce on issues. Anyone who has observed his response to any suggestion of alternatives to roading projects will not be surprised by that. But secondly, so much of what is being discussed here is about providing people with genuine choice when the government is instead focused on entrenching the use of cars, and ignoring that it is becoming less and less affordable (not to mention the environmental, urban design, and quality of life issues.) Case in point- the CBD rail link!
And a final word to one group in particular- Rob George from the campaign for better transport in Hamilton is who driving a huge campaign for Waikato trains. Hard slog, but you wouldn’t find a more passionate campaigner. Now he just needs some political will behind him…..