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Archive for the ‘housing’ Category

Those evil town planners

Posted by on January 31st, 2014

Those town planners, they sure are evil. A little while back the Finance Minister was saying 20 town planners were a threat to macro-economic stability.  Now he says they are causing inequality.

This week at the Finance and Expenditure Committee, he was trying to fend off David Parker’s assertion that a falling home ownership rate was causing a widening wealth gap between those who own and those who rent.

I actually think that in the housing market the biggest generator of inequality are planning rules what deliberately drive out low and middle income housing and deliberately drive up the prices of housing so we can have nice looking apartment blocks in the so-called ‘liveable city’, not those messy low and middle income people. It is very unfair and it is locking a whole lot of people out of the housing market or pushing them into part of the market to make access to work and education difficult and we need to change that

This is a great example of diverting and distracting when you are in a tight spot. While it is true that planning rules do need to be reformed to encourage more and better urban development, Bill English’s demonisation of town planners is hilariously misplaced for the following reasons:

1.  Home ownership rates are falling, down to 65% according to the census, and 61% in Auckland.  Rampant house price inflation, and now the LVR lendng limits have shut a generation of first home buyers out of the market. Increasingly there are two classes: those who own property and make windfall capital gains, and those who pay rent and slip further behind.

2. The Member for Dipton seems to be saying the “liveable” or compact city stops affordable housing being built in order to provide apartment blocks for the well-off. This is confused to say the least.  If his answer is to deregulate urban planning so low income people can buy cheap houses an hour’s drive from where the jobs are then he is seriously mistaken about the economics of sprawl. It adds huge travelling costs to residents,  and huge infrastructure costs to the ratepayer and taxpayer. In fact, good quality medium density housing near train stations and town centres offers the best options for affordable housing.

3.  Auckland is a property speculator’s paradise. Yet Bill English refuses to consider a Capital Gains Tax that would take the steam out of those speculative pressures, or restrictions on offshore speculators who outbid Kiwi first home buyers.

4. Not only does National’s fixation on deregulating planning ignore the costs of rampant property speculation, it fails to tackle chronic low productivity in the construction industry, lack of competition in the market for building materials, and the fact that the new Auckland Unitary Plan will bring ample greenfields land into the market.

5. The big driver of inequality is the failure of National to rein in out of control house prices. They’ve been in Government for five years and it wasnt until the fourth year they started to do something, and that pretty much just amounted to tinkering with planning rules.

Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work? Labour Leadership Q&A #9

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 9

Economy : How will you convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?

Question : How can we get the voting public to believe that the present economic thinking has failed? And that Labour’s ideas will work for them?

Submitted by : Angie Croft, Christchurch


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Grant Robertson

We have to relate our economic vision to the reality of everyday lives.

This means an economy where people come before money. Where the centerpiece is full employment- decent jobs paying decent wages.

We need to talk about Labour using the power of government to help create a productive economy, not one like National’s that is based on speculation and selling off assets.

To create this economy we cannot tinker at the edges. We have to leave behind the neo liberal agenda and create a Labour way. This means changing the settings of monetary policy, giving Kiwi firms a fair go at government contracts, lifting wages, reducing power prices, building affordable homes and investing in industry and regional development.

The message from Labour must be, the economy will work for all New Zealanders not just John Key’s mates.


Answer from David Cunliffe

We need to be clear that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) blew the lid off the myth that trickle-down economics will create a fairer, more prosperous New Zealand.

Free markets left to their own devices are ultimately destructive of human well-being. Unregulated markets tend towards monopolies and often concentrate vast wealth in the hands of a few. Neither outcome is sustainable or morally right.

When National says they are going to cut people’s legs off, Kiwis don’t want to hear that Labour will too, just nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic. The post-GFC modern social democratic alternative must include:

• using the power of the state to intervene when markets fail;

• guaranteeing fair workplaces and decent wages through employment laws, including industry standard agreements;

• lifting the minimum wage to $15 and rolling out a living wage as fast as can be afforded;

• building new partnerships between communities, regions, industries and an empowering and investing State; and

• revised marco-economic settings that do not solely focus on inflation but include growth, employment, and our external balance.

New Zealand desperately needs change.

The next Labour Government mustn’t be more of the same.

I am offering Labour a bold economic agenda and leadership with the vision and economic credibility to see it through.


Answer from Shane Jones

Our ideas are exciting. We will use both the market and the State.

I am convinced that our tax system can be refined to incentivise and expedite fresh investment.

Industry will be actively supported, regional development will be promoted and in special cases underwritten.

Our mix of economic stewardship and equity is desperately needed throughout NZ.

I have the experience and the communication skills to sell this narrative.


Sam Lotu-Iiga – $130k is affordable

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

On TV3’s The Vote, National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga tried to tell New Zealanders that a $130,000 deposit isn’t out of reach for the average first home buyer. What do you think?


Filed under: housing

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination? Labour Leadership Q&A #4

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 4

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?

Submitted by : Lesley Soper, Invercargill



Answer from Shane Jones

The previous Labour Government made progress in this area.

It increased the wages of nurses.

I will use my position of leadership to ensure that the States resources are spent to give concrete improvement towards pay equity.

This is a core feature of Labour Party strategy and will not be neglected if I am leader.


Answer from Grant Robertson

I am really proud of the work of SFWU, Kristine and her lawyer Peter Cranney in getting that ruling.

It offers the prospect that equal pay will now become a matter of common law, and we will not need legislation to ensure it.

But we must be vigilant. National has no commitment to equal pay, and if legislation is needed, just as previous Labour governments have done we will pass it.

An immediate increase to the minimum wage, scrapping the Youth Rates, support for the Living Wage campaign and re-establishment of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit within government are also important parts of ensuring that we achieve equal pay for work of equal value


Answer from David Cunliffe

I believe we need to lead by example. National has not been ambitious for women. When National took office, there were 1153 women in boardroom positions. Today, there are only 1059, and falling. Government has a role to play in setting a leadership example, that is why I am committed to no less 50 % of the Labour caucus being women by no later than 2017.

Labour has a strong record of working to address gender pay inequality.

I am committed to investigating legislative and policy changes to close the gap based on the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. This includes, recognising the right to equal pay, a positive duty to advance equality, and a mechanism to determine work of equal value.

I am also supportive of ensuring information about pay rates are made available so that comparisons can be made and unfair inequalities in pay rates between men and women are revealed.


The tunnel of love

Posted by on June 27th, 2013

Love today’s Emmerson in the Herald.

The Government’s U-turn on the City Rail Link is quite something. It is completely at odd with everything they’ve said on the matter over the last three years.

But as today’s Horizon poll shows, they will need a lot more than a U-turn on the CRL to repair what looks like a pretty sick relationship with Auckland.

Only 18 per cent of Aucklanders rate the government as trustworthy.

While nearly half of the Aucklanders surveyed  rated the Government’s performance on the Central Rail Link as poor in the fortnight before it announced yesterday’s U-turn, even more – 65 per cent – gave its performance on affordable housing the thumbs down. It’s lack of action on traffic congestion rankled with 60 per cent.

The survey results indicate there is clearly something rotten in the Government’s relationship with Auckland. I guess it’s not surprising. Ministers like Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith and Steven Joyce want to run Auckland from their offices in the Beehive, despite setting up the super city so Aucklanders could speak with one voice.


The Grass and the Elephants

Posted by on June 12th, 2013

Tuifa’asisina Mea’ole Keil gave a submission to the select committee on the Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill. Mea’ole is the Labour Party’s Pacific Vice President and serves cleaners and caretakers in his day job with the Service and Food Workers Union. Have a listen. I thought what he had to say was a powerful plea on behalf of New Zealand’s forgotten people, and a reminder how important affordable housing, public transport, and a living wage are for them.

National’s war on Auckland

Posted by on May 28th, 2013


Building a better Auckland

Posted by on May 26th, 2013

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.


National’s war on Auckland: a report from the front

Posted by on May 17th, 2013

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.

A lion in Parliament but a mouse when he comes to Auckland

Posted by on March 24th, 2013

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.

The appearance of activity

Posted by on February 27th, 2013

Five weeks ago John Key appointed Paula Bennett as Associate Housing Minister, putting her alongside Nick Smith and Tariana Turia in a housing team to emphasise National’s commitment to tackling the crisis of unaffordable housing.

Problem is Ms Bennett still has no responsibilities – “to be advised” – according to the Government website. She doesn’t even have ‘general duties in the portfolio’ as others have.

She has no housing staff in her office and has been unable to answer written questions about her priorities. In fact a written question about her goals as Associate Minister of Housing was referred to Housing Minister Nick Smith’s office and then back to Bennett, and then back to Smith again.

Smith claimed in a written answer he has “formal and informal” meetings with Bennett on housing issues. It’s hard to imagine these will be much use if Bennett doesn’t know what she is doing!

National’s response to the housing affordablity crisis is all about creating the appearance of activity: a three member housing team, blaming Councils, threatening to tinker with the RMA.  Meanwhile with Kiwibuild, Labour has a robust, achievable plan that will get 100,000 Kiwi families into their own homes over the next 10 years.


0800 Job Shuffle at HNZ

Posted by on June 7th, 2012

70 Housing New Zealand staff made redundant in April have good reason to feel let down as National’s drive for efficiency has seen them almost immediately replaced with call centre staff.

Housing New Zealand won’t be the last government department to fall victim to National’s short-sighted drive for efficiencies.


Filed under: housing

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…)

National’s perverted idea of urban renewal

Posted by on February 14th, 2012

We need good urban development in Auckland.  The city is crying out for urban renewal, more affordable healthy homes, public transport, you name it.

But in Glen Innes where Housing NZ is redeveloping 156 of their properties the Government is breaking every rule in the book, and giving urban renewal a bad name.

At a lively public meeting in GI last night, three hapless National backbenchers (the new member for Tamaki Simon O’Connor, list member Alfred Ngaro who was a community worker in the area, and neighbouring MP Sam Lotu-Iiga) got an old fashioned bollocking from a crowd of around 300 including many Housing NZ tenants facing eviction.

At least they turned up, which is more than can be said for Housing Minister Phil Heatley.

Under his watch, National has reneged on commitments made by the Labour Government when it started the project.  They have walked away from the pledge that residents would have the right to move back into the community after the redevelopment. They have broken the promise the number of Housing NZ properties would be increased. And they dropped the community development process that was part of the original design.

Housing NZ reports the current 156 properties will be redeveloped to generate 260 new properties. Only 78 will be owned by Housing NZ. Another 39 “affordable” properties will possibly be managed by community agencies although I understand all expressions of interest were recently rejected and it is uncertain what will happen to them now. The remainder will all be sold to the highest bidders.

No wonder the dozens of GI residents who have received eviction notices were enraged at last night’s meeting and howled down O’Connor, Ngaro and Lotu-Iiga down as sell outs.

It is a disgrace what is happening in GI. National’s perverted version of urban renewal is moving poor people out, and shipping the rich in, as if low income Kiwis should not be allowed a sea view. Just as John Key stripped the state housing out of the new development in Hobsonville in his electorate.

The people of Glen Innes deserve our support.

The passing of Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man

Posted by on January 16th, 2012


I felt a real sense of sadness hearing the news of the death of Ben Hana, known to most Wellingtonians, and others as Blanket Man. Like many Wellingtonians I had a few conversations with Ben over the years. Early on in Cuba Mall when he used to talk a lot more, and more latterly when he enjoyed the sunshine in Courtenay Place, with less to say, but still a nod of acknowledgement.

Ben was a polarising person. For many he was an iconic figure, part of the unique and quirky Wellington. A number of people had close relationships with him, and supported him with gifts and food. The gift of an IPod a few years ago saw him rocking out even more in his own universe. For others how he looked and acted was affronting and challenging and they felt threatened by him.

He was the face of homelessness in Wellington. It is true to say that he shunned the idea of moving off the streets in recent years, and indeed of taking on much in the way of formalised help. He was beyond that, and wanted none of it. But this is a misleading view of the experience of the homeless. For most of the homeless in Wellington it is not such a choice, and indeed for Ben earlier in his life as things went wrong, and he became unwell mentally, and his addictions developed I am sure he would have liked and benefited from some more support and somewhere to call home.

Homelessness is not necessarily about sleeping on the streets, its about not having a stable place to live, to be your base. It is often associated with mental illness and addiction, and there is far too much of it in our city. A number of organisations, especially the Downtown Community Ministry do a great job supporting those who are homeless, but we are falling short.

We have a real shortage of emergency accomodation, affordable accomodation and accomodation for those with mental illness. The different agencies involved are getting better at working together to find solutions, but still need to be more coordinated and flexible if we are to truly address these issues. Its not just government either, the community has a responsibility too. Many private landlords will not take on those who have a history of mental illness. I will be continuing to advocate and organise on these issues in Wellington. This is a nationwide issue though, and I believe it merits a select committee inquiry, as Labour has pushed for in recent years.

For me the best memorial for Ben would be that we as a city and community come together to say that we will look after and look out for all the residents of the city. We will make it a priority to deal with homelessness and the issues that lie behind it. We will respect those who are homeless for who they are, and work with them to give them real choices that will address the issues that cause their struggles and put them back in charge of their own lives. RIP Ben.

Housing letter

Posted by on November 22nd, 2011

Nats and their mouthpieces are upset. Hooton raving, whale lost direction and beached and even the penguin making an idiot of himself.

It is an absolute lie to say National is reviewing all state house tenancies. The policy clearly says only *new* tenancies will be placed on periodic review.

I’m going to accept Heatley’s word. He is the Minister after all. From Q + A.

  PHIL Well, yes, and the second step.  So the first step is for any new tenant from the 1st of July this year.  After the election if we’re re-elected, we’re going to be rolling this out for current tenants.  .

National’s approach to state housing

Posted by on July 4th, 2011

Pomare demolition

This photo was taken in Pomare over the weekend. Until recently, Pomare was a great little community in the southern part of my electorate. When National came to power they set about evicting people, leaving the houses there empty rather than finding new tenants for them. The places were allowed to be vandalised and some fell into an awful state of disrepair.

Now the wreckers have moved in, and this entire neighbourhood is being torn down (before some of the tenants have even moved out). Housing New Zealand don’t have any money to replace them. Their current plan is to sow grass in their place until they decide what to do. They call this process “neighbourhood renewal”.

Phil Heatley announced last week that a change in policy will see up to 148 Hutt Valley families purged from the Housing New Zealand waiting list. Those who do have houses already also now have a bit question mark hanging over their tenancy should National win this year’s election.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. When they were last in government National introduced market rents and sold off 13,000 houses. Their promise to keep income-related rents looks pretty hollow in the context of more evictions, waiting list purges, more house sales, and even state house demolitions. Frankly it’s a disgrace.

Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011


t Cut Our Future

It is happening around the world

Posted by on April 22nd, 2011

The final decisions on the last Key/English budget were taken earlier this week. I’m told the cuts are massive, going right to the core of what we value as New Zealanders. But we are not alone. Manny Herrmann of the AFL-CIO writes :-

On April 15, nearly every House Republican voted to give massive new tax cuts to corporations and the rich while demolishing services for seniors, children and low- and middle-income Americans.

This isn’t a budget bill—it’s a political payback bill that raids Medicare, Social Security and education to reward corporate CEOs with massive tax cuts.

My night at the shelter

Posted by on April 21st, 2011

Earlier in the year Mike Leon who runs the Wellington Mens Night Shelter asked if I would come and spend a night staying at the shelter. I have worked with Mike and his team over the last couple of years, and have great respect for what they do, so I said yes. On the condition that I was not taking a bed that someone else needed. That night was last night.

Mike, of course, had an ulterior motive. The Shelter has never been busier, and its resources are stretched beyond breaking point. They would love to do more for those that stay there, but they just dont have the resources to do it. An MP staying was bound to draw attention- and you can see the end result of that on Campbell Live here.

For those that dont know the Shelter caters for homeless men with around 20 dormitory style beds, and another 20 or so hostel rooms upstairs. For the dorm beds you pay $10 a night. There is no food (many of the residents eat at the soup kitchen). It is not luxury. A single bed, with a cabinet. There are partitions that provide some privacy, but certainly do not block out the noise! By all accounts last night was a pretty calm night. It was uncomfortable, noisey, and there was a fairly tense atmosphere. But its a bed and a roof over the head.

I had really good chats with a number of those there. They range in age from early 20s to early 70s. Everyone has a different story. There is Tom (name changed) who’s life took a turn for the worse when he got a brain injury in a car accident a few years back, has chronic alcohol problems and is desperate to get in a rehabilitation facility (more that another day). There is Ian (name changed) who got evicted from his last flat and just can’t get the money together to find another one as he does not have a job. He has a list of places he has applied to, from here to the Kapiti Coast, but nothing is coming his way. There’s Nathan (name changed) recently out of Rimutaka Prison, with nowhere to go. He has a set of health problems that make the mind boggle, and at least at the Shelter the wonderful doctors and nurses from the Te Aro Health Centre come in each week and he can see them.

Mike and his team are a magnificent ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that is homelessness. But we must build the fences at the top. What was clear from almost every conversation I had last night was that the people there have ambitions and dreams. They might be modest in some eyes, but they are about dignity. They want a job, a secure place to live that is theirs and many talked of wanting someone to share it with.

We need to take homelessness seriously. The government would not even have an inquiry when it was proposed by Moana Mackey. That would be just the first step for me. To really tackle homelessness we need to find stable accomodation for these guys, and put in place the support and the programmes that will allow them to live independent lives. That will be easier for some than others. Some will need extensive support to deal with their addictions (did someone say a Wet House), others will need support to get basic life skills and other work skills. But it is worth the investment. Not just for them, but for all of us. It is a social and economic scandal that in a relatively wealthy country people are caught in this cycle. The social cost is huge, the pure economic cost (and loss) is huge.

In the meantime what Mike and his people do is a great service to the community. If you want to support them they need money, blankets and sheets. If you want to donate food, and you live in Wellington the Downtown Community Ministry is desperate for more food for its foodbank. If you want to solve the underlying issues, well, that would politicise this story, but I think you get my drift.