- Date published:
10:19 am, May 11th, 2015 - 23 comments
Categories: Media, national, national/act government, Politics, radio, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: nick smith, radio new zealand, simon bridges, todd niall
The Auckland housing crisis, and that is exactly what it is, poses major political threats to the Government. All Auckland landowners are having a great time, totalling up increases in land prices which seem to be increasing daily. Everyone, apart from the young and renters, is having a party.
But it is becoming more and more likely that there will be a significant correction, and the effects could be disastrous. And besides any city that makes it so difficult for young people to own their own home is going to have problems.
The Government is facing a politically difficult choice. Clearly it does not want to rain on everyone’s parade but it realises that it has to do something.
It has hitched on a tactic, blame Auckland Council for everything. If things go pear shaped it is someone else’s fault. The added benefit is that it can claim that the Council is Labour aligned and therefore it is all Labour’s fault. The facts that Len Brown was not endorsed by Labour, that only two of the twenty councillors were elected on Labour tickets and only another two were elected on a Labour endorsed ticket are irrelevant technicalities.
Over the past week this tactic has reached absurd heights basically because National ministers have been pulling figures out of their arses in trying to blame the Council for the current situation and also for associated growing transport problems.
As reported by Radio New Zealand’s Todd Niall (in more careful terms than I would use):
Transport Minister Simon Bridges has used two council figures he said showed the local body had reduced its previously planned spending on transport.
In both debates over the past week, the underlying message from the ministers has been it is the council which is getting in the way of solving the region’s two biggest problems – both require the council and Government to work collaboratively.
Firstly Bridges claimed on the Nation that Auckland Council had shaved $600 million dollars off its transport spend for the next three years and that the figure was going from $2.5 billion to $1.9 billion. He even claimed that the reduced spend included the recently passed transport levy, even though this is clearly not the case..
With careful language Todd Niall describes the situation in this way:
Let’s keep this simple. The minister’s base figure came from the council’s ten year budget as it was written in 2012. In those more optimistic times, the budget counted on early Government backing for the downtown rail tunnel, or City Rail Link.
So, according to the council, for the years 2015 to 2018 it listed $1.4 billion for major works (including the Government’s share). In the latest ten year budget, or Long Term Plan, that has now been pushed further out in the decade, after the Government insisted it would not back major works before 2020.
Instead it has been replaced by a council-funded programme of $400 million on early stages of the project.
The council in a statement said, “The council in its 2015-25 Long Term Plan is budgeting for $2 billion of transport capital investment over the first three years of the plan. Adjusting for the significant change to CRL budgets, this is a very similar level of investment in transport as was planned for in council’s last LTP.”
Get that? The reduction is because the Government has delayed funding for the City Rail Link. Bridges is criticising the Council for spending less money even thought the Government is clearly to blame.
The second case of innumeracy is by Nick Smith and involves his claim that Auckland Council had deferred the creation of two to three thousand sections in Huapai.
Transport and housing merged several days earlier, when Radio New Zealand reported that the council had deferred approving three rural Special Housing Areas in the north-west, until the Government was prepared to discuss additional transport spending along State Highway 16 which serves the area.
The council had decided to draw a political line in the sand, to ensure that new rural housing subdivisions created under the Government-driven Housing Accord would be backed by adequate government investment in projects such as the proposed northwestern busway.
When asked on Morning Report how many sections were involved, Dr Smith ventured “two to three thousand”. The correct answer, according to the council which made the decision, was 40 to 90.
Get that? Smith was out by a factor of up to 75.
The least this Government could do is get its facts straight before attacking Auckland Council. And if it wants to actually do something about Auckland’s problems it should sit down and work out a cooperative approach to resolution of these issues.