Nick Smith, Minister for housing, has introduced the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill into Parliament today and the Government is seeking to pass it under urgency.
The legislation shows clearly how shambolic his handling of his portfolio is.
The bill attempts to achieve two goals. The first extends times for special housing area applicants to do various things. The original bill should have provided regulatory power to extend these dates. That it did not is clearly a mistake.
But the more startling provision is the removal of the right of prior landowners of land taken under the Public Works Act to be offered their land back. This is a valuable right preserved under sections 40 to 42 of the Public Works Act 1981. If land is taken compulsorily but then no longer needed then as long as certain conditions are met it is meant to be offered back to the original owner of the land or their successor.
The bill removes this right. They want to pass this change under urgency. This is banana republic stuff.
It appears the Government’s disingenuous ways is creeping into legislation drafting. The bill seeks to amend section 15 of the Housing Act 1955 and states that “to avoid doubt, sections 40 to 42 of the Public Works Act 1981 do not apply (and have never applied) to the disposal of State housing land …”. It then lists various circumstances where the amendment applies.
The wording suggests that there is a possibility that the Public Works Act applies and all they are doing is clearing up a possible inconsistency. All I can say is utter tosh.
In it present form section 15 of the Housing Act 1955 states:
Subject as hereafter provided in this Act, any State housing land and any buildings or chattels held for State housing purposes may be disposed of by way of sale, lease, or tenancy by the Corporation.
The section does not override the Public Works Act provisions. All it says is that state housing land may be disposed of by various ways. You need much clearer language to change the very clear rights of buy back which the Public Works Act 1981 achieves.
But wait there is more. The Regulatory Impact Statement does not refer to the removal of buy back rights. And I am struggling to see why both parts of the bill need to be passed under urgency. The first certainly does, but the second should go through some sort of select committee process as a minimum.
Treaty of Waitangi settlements are not affected. Ngati Whatua took Smith to Court last year but withdrew its proceedings after Smith promised rights of first offer to develop land before it was offered to other developers. But if the situation is so clear why did Smith settle with Iwi rather than fight it out in court?
Labour is seeking to split the bill into two parts. The first could be passed and the second sent to select committee. When property rights are affected then nothing less than a full select committee process should be followed.