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Time to reconsider Hobsonville

Written By: - Date published: 10:34 am, December 17th, 2008 - 29 comments
Categories: flip-flop, housing, john key, national/act government - Tags:

After initially saying they would cap the number of state houses, National/ACT’s Housing Minister Phil Heatley actually got informed. Despite the good work that Labour did increasing the number of state houses and their quality, the problem has not been completely solved – there are thousands of families still in need of affordable housing. Now, Heatley says, there will be more state houses in South Auckland. He hasn’t said how many, or where in South Auckland, or if there will be more in other parts of the country that need more, or if the overall number of state houses will remain capped and new ones in South Auckland will replace ones sold elsewhere but, from National, we can’t expect too much in terms of substance.

I’m happy that National has had finally caught up and realised that there is a shortage of low-income housing. At least they’re heading in basically the right direction now. Question is: now they are going to build state houses, will they do it right?

Brian Rudman has an excellent piece today where he discusses this issue, and he has a good suggestion – allow Housing New Zealand to build state houses at Hobsonville. HNZ had planned 500 state houses for that project but John Key called it ‘economic vandalism’ and the incoming government cut the state house from the plans. Now that they have decided they do want more state houses, Hobsonville is an excellent site for them with building ready to commence very soon.

Rather than yet another isolated, low-income suburb tacked on to the bottom of South Auckland, far from jobs and amenities, a natural home for unemployment and crime, we could have State house families living in a modern, well-planned suburb on the North Shore. Rather than further accentuating the physical divide between rich and poor, National could create the kind of mixed-income community close to jobs and with good amenities that give children from poorer households a better chance to succeed.

Of course, if he were to do that Key would have to disappoint the wealthy voters of Helensville who cheer at the end of this recording when he promises no state houses at Hobsonville. And, unfortunately, I think we can safely assume Key will back the interests of wealthy people like himself over the interests of state house kids like he once was.

29 comments on “Time to reconsider Hobsonville”

  1. Pat 1

    I happen to live in Hobsonville. For a start, it’s in Waitakere City, not North Shore City.

    Personally I don’t have a problem with some State housing in Hobsonville, for the needs of West Aucklanders. I can’t agree with your suggestion of uprooting families from South Auckland and relocating them to West Auckland, far from their jobs, There is far more employment opportunities in South Auckland, hence why 70% of Waitakere residents drive to work each day to other parts of Auckland.

  2. Daveski 2

    For a change I agree with SP – it doesn’t make for an interesting thread mind you.

    It’s good to see National change policy where and when it makes sense. I’ve always been a pragmatist on both main parties’ policies simply because situations change. Admitting you got something wrong is also preferable to doing the wrong thing.

    I also agree that creating ghettos has long term social costs that the good burghers of Hobsonville and elsewhere will decry. It will be interesting to see what influence if any the Maori Party will have on this decision.

  3. Ianmac 3

    When people say good old John-Key-State-House lad made good, some picture him in a run down house in a long street of wrecked cars, runny-nosed kids, and poverty. This is simply not the way it was.
    In the Bryndwr/Burnside area, the state houses were pepper-potted amongst good well-heeled housing stock and evidenced today as a sought after zone especially as the Burnside High was, and is one of the best schools.
    So. For John Key to block the Helensville pepper-potting is supreme hypocrisy. Especially as the planning is well underway. Bloody shame really.

  4. vto 4

    I think you are wrong and would be willing to place a bet of say $1 that this govt will be entirely proactive over this. Whether Hobsonville is the right place is a moot point, but Key will not forget where his state house was located. Sometimes I think your heavy partisan approach results in blinkers.

    The nats are after labour’s typical voters and this is prime picking territory. Better watch out!

  5. Pat 5

    More pressing than new housing in Hobsonville, is the 1500 student High School in Hobsonville that was due to open in 2006. Thanks Labour – so far a spade hasn’t touched the ground. There is no point building any houses in Hobsonville until this and other school infrastructure is complete. There simply is no room in any of the local schools to cater for the increased population.

  6. Joshua 6

    Not sure where plans for the school sit at, but Waitakere City Council recently held an important planning hearing on the Hobsonville development. I agree with Rudman and SP that not allowing Housing NZ properties here is monumental stupidity.

    The only other places in Auckland where significant number of state houses can be built are Mt Roskill-Owairaka, Otara and Glen Innes. And they create concentration issues obviously.

  7. Rhys 7

    John Key’s rags to riches story is well utilised by the National Party. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want any rags in his electorate. How inclusive…

  8. Pat 8

    The pressing need for State housing is in South Auckland. A new suburb does not need to be built, and it would take too long to address the problem. Phil Heatley could apply some common sense to solve the problem:

    – Buy up suitable houses that are currently on the market. There are numerous mortgagee sales, investors selling empty renters etc.

    – Borrow 50% to 80% at cheap rates from the Banks to help fund the purchases.

    – Quickly insulate, repair, fence etc as required (creates employment).

    – Get families in need into the homes in 2009 – not some far away time in a far away suburb.

  9. higherstandard 9


    I agree with your views- can I add to you list or consideration

    – Get families not in need out of the homes in 2009.
    – Enact and enforce regulations/legislation to allow those families who improve and live in state houses to purchase the house over time.
    -Enact and enforce regulations/legislation to allow prosecution (and in the worst cases eviction) for those in state houses who abuse the privilege.

  10. Pat 10

    It is a nonsense to suggest that Hobsonville can help solve a state housing problem in South Auckland. They are at opposite ends of a geographically vast city. It takes 12 months to get a section subdivided with Waitakere City Council, so they is no way any house in Hobsonville will be finished in 2009. There is limited opportunities for work in the region, compared to the large industrial infrastructure in South Auckland.

    I would rather see solutions for those kids living in garages in South Auckland that will see them not having to spend another winter in them, but still be able to live close to their existing support networks of their whanau, church, school etc. Labour has failed them. National has the chance to change their lives if they take action now.

  11. Joshua 11

    Actually bigger shortages of state houses exist in West Auckland than South Auckland.

    If Housing NZ goes around buying up every suitable house on the market they effectively price everyone else out of the “affordable housing market” and actualy reduce housing affordability as a whole for the area. That’s why they generally prefer to build rather than buy.

    Say there’s a shortage of around 5000 state houses in Auckland, the last thing you would want is all of those to be dumped in Otara, Mangere, Manurewa or (worse still) a completely new suburb. Why do you think Otara, Mangere and Glen Innes are centres of poverty and crime? Simply because in the 1960s the suburbs were built to be completely state-owned. Although some sell-down has happened, huge chunks of property in these suburbs is still state-owned and – ironically because there is such a housing shortage – only those with severe housing needs (and generally significant social issues) end up getting a house.

  12. Tim Ellis 12

    This is an interesting question, and it is even more interesting that Rudman appears quite happy to use the issue to poke the borax at the National Party. The last Labour Government left $2 billion of deferred maintenance in the current state housing stock for the incoming government. That is a scandal in my view. It shows that the current state housing stock has been systematically run down while Labour Ministers could go about the country congratulating themselves on building new houses, while allowing current state house tenants to live in appalling conditions in existing properties.

    The priority for state housing should be to bring the current state housing stock up to a good condition rather than venturing into pie-in-the-sky property development initiatives.

  13. Joshua 13

    The thing is Tim that Labour did do a lot of renovations and modernisation, just the problem was so damn big that they couldn’t do it all. Healthy Housing and Modernisation programmes were actually slammed by National for their $100,000 a house cost (never mind that involved a pretty damn significant makeover for each house).

    Also, in many cases it doesnt make sense to upgrade a house if you have plans to redevelop the site in a few year’s time. Imagine the uproar if HNZC spent tens of thousands on maintenance and upgrading a house, only to knock it over 3 years later. Many houses are/were in such bad condition (and on large, redevelopeable sites) that there’s little sense in upgrading them rather than redeveloping them.

  14. Bill 14

    http://www.giroscope.co.uk/aboutus.html signposts an empowering, but in no way complete solution to housing shortages. Good shit.

  15. Carol 15

    If my memory is correct, there was quite a big blue colllar switch to National in Waitakere, while in South Auckland people who usually vote Labour did so, or didn’t vote at all. It seems to be at least partially confirmed by KB stats:


    ie Waitakere (New Lynn, Te Atatu) vote seems to overall be better for National than Manurewa or Mangere. And Paula Bennett now is MP for Waitakere.

    Could this focus by National on state housing in Sth Auckland just be a cynical exercise in vote buying for the next national election?

  16. rave 16

    The suburbs you talk about have high crime rates because they are working class and workers on low wages don’t have money to spend on buying houses or prettyfying their gardens. Pay decent wages and youll see suburbs blossoming. Resource the schools and amenities, tailor the education like Gordon Dryden advocates, and the crime rates will come down. But that means taxing the rich which neither Labour nor National is prepared to do.

    Your a cabinet mouthpiece. You talk crap. Sure Labour didnt spend enough maintaining houses. Sure Labour didnt build enough to keep up with the demand. But who sold thousands of state houses in the past? Who denied the need to build more until yesterday? Who is refusing to pepper pot them in Hobsonville and reduce his record majority?

    The fact that there are homeless people and a shortfall in affordable housing is because the National Government allowed state houses to be sold so that everyone could join the great get rich quick buy and sell houses with no capital gains tax.

    Pay living wages and tax capital gains and the problem is solved. But National is busy making sure NZ becomes an even lower wage country (so much for Australia) and Labour has refused to bite the bullet and impose a capital gains tax on property speculation. Labour has bought into the national dream of capital gains as a substitute for living wages.

  17. vto 17

    Carol, that is what I was getting at with my post above. I don’t think it is cynical though, I think it is pure pragmatism as the nats try to reclaim their so-called ‘natural party of power’ position which they can only hold if they move the party into labours areas. For evidence see Maori Party manouevre, now Hobsonville issue, and others during election campaign. Part of a longer term move to cater to a larger proportion of the population. Politics at its most simple.

  18. the sprout 18

    I assume the vague references to “South Auckland”, without giving any other detail, is code for “some ghetto in the making away from the nice houses”.

    Wouldn’t want those quaint poor people coming through the windows of rich folk now would we.

  19. Joshua 19

    South Auckland is probably where most of the people with “severe housing need” are living at the moment, simply because it’s the cheapest part of town. However, that doesn’t really mean South Auckland is where they have to live, or indeed where their social networks might be.

    While it’s likely that a decent chunk of additional state housing should be built in South Auckland, I definitely don’t think ALL of it should go there. There’s significant housing need in other parts of Auckland, plus it may well be more responsible to put state houses in other parts of Auckland like… hmmm.. Hobsonville maybe?

  20. rave 20


  21. Daveski 21

    The Pollyanna in me agrees with VTO ie Key is trying to rebuild the Nats while in office.

    As I’ve mentioned ad naseum, the Greens and Labour are in competition for the left while Labour and the MP will always be in competition (not necessarily in terms of principles or policies but votes). Unless Labour stands aside for the MP in the Maori seats, then what’s in it for the MP to cosy up with Labour?

    The real battle for Labour will be in the centre which National has overlooked for a number of reasons – old school politics, stupidity, ineptitude. Agreed, National still has a right flavour (as Labour has a left flavour), but Key has already done enough to show that he is prepared National to build on its centrist support.

    That’s why there is such a loathing for Key’s policies as the potential impact for Labour is deadly, especially if the Greens influence grows and particularly if the Maori Party dalliance can be made to work (it’s in both the MP and NP interests).

    In this light, state housing is an issue that Key could use to benefit both the MP and the NP.

  22. Tigger 22

    Heatley seemed to think there were lots of state houses on land that could be subdivided so maybe they’ll look to cram in more houses that way.

    But here’s an idea. Rip out a bunch of houses in Parnell and replace with state houses! It’s central, close to transport and one of the residents surely will be happy with state house neighbours given that he came from one.

  23. Joshua 23

    I listened to Heatley being interviewed on National Radio this evening. Sounds like he’s really back-tracked on the state housing cap, as he’s now proposing additional state houses in South Auckland AND also other areas with growth pressures. Surely Hobsonville fits this criteria very nicely then, I wonder if he’ll have the guts to raise that issue with his boss.

    Subdividing existing property is not just a matter of “cramming” more houses in. Generally houses are redeveloped to much higher standards, and with very careful analysis of urban design principles and the like. Just check out the new development that will be taking place on Tonar Street, Northcote in the next year or so, or have a look at what Housing NZ have done at Talbot Park in Glen Innes – a million times better than what was there before. That is the kind of development that should be happening through HNZ land-holdings.

  24. Swampy 24

    How is Housing Corp going to guarantee such a large number of houses is not going to become another state housing ghetto of the type well known to the authorities for social deprivation and high crime rates etc.

    Labour poured bucketloads of money into these communities yet has failed to shift the fundamentals that much.

  25. Swampy 25

    “In the Bryndwr/Burnside area, the state houses were pepper-potted amongst good well-heeled housing stock and evidenced today as a sought after zone especially as the Burnside High was, and is one of the best schools.”

    Dear Mr Ianmac,
    I know the area well myself and can assure you that the Bryndwr state housing estates were as rough as anything in South Auckland or Aranui. All of the worst behaved kids, and there have been plenty at Burnside High, came from the same kind of streets of mass housed ghettos around that area.

  26. Swampy 26

    “Just check out the new development that will be taking place on Tonar Street, Northcote in the next year or so, or have a look at what Housing NZ have done at Talbot Park in Glen Innes – a million times better than what was there before. That is the kind of development that should be happening through HNZ land-holdings.”

    I don’t buy it. I know that HNZ is still funding developments of new multi apartment complexes yet it has been well proven that putting a lot of socially deprived people together in close proximity either in a complex or in a whole street of state housing creates a ghetto.

    The real problem is that HNZ ends up dealing with bottom of the barrel tenants who generally create a lot of problems for any landlord. I don’t agree with rave’s claims that high crime is purely down to low wages. A lot of my friends started their families by buying their own state house, the relative lack of money wasn’t an issue or didn’t cause them to go out and commit crime.

  27. Ianmac 27

    We must be talking about different parts of Bryndwr. My sister bought up her family over a period of 45 years and the spread of private and state houses was well done. I believe John Key came from a pepper-potted area and it certainly wasn’t a slum. The parents of friends also had State Pool houses in the area and made a pretty good supply of straight up kids to schools like Wairakei Road Primary, and on to Burnside. There are ratbags in every school unless they are blocked entry. You must have a sort of belief that State House = Ratbags. Also I guess every area rises and then falls the becomes reborn and rises once more. Cyclic. Too many State Houses in one area can create problems.

  28. rave 28


    High crime is not ‘purely’ a matter of low wages. Look at Madoff. High wages big time crime.

    This post is about the hypocrisy of John Key exploiting his State House background to make out the poor can get rich like him, but then turning around and promoting the rich prick propaganda that State Houses in Hobsonville would be ‘economic vandalism’.

    In other words he has dropped his election spiel for his real estate agenda. He never really believed it and his supporters don’t either. Maybe you should try talking to him. But the way he is going wages will be too low to buy even state houses.

    Key is signaling that he doesnt really believe his hype that aspirational growth will be equitably shared out to all. He is expecting high unemployment and lower wages to bring more crime and he doesnt want his mates suffering loss of capital value let alone home invasions.

    Its OK that the bankers can foreclose on workers homes, that’s not a home invasion, that’s only grand theft of a roof over the kids… The real high crime is the huge financial rip off that is paid for by us. Key can rip off the workers, and filtch their labour and taxes to kingdom come, but his bosses law doesnt hold this to be a crime, rather its ‘aspirational’ its ‘growth’…so is cancer.

  29. Joshua 29

    A fairly large chunk of people who need state housing are actually pensioners or those with significant disabilities. For these people apartments are fine.

    Generally HNZC has a big shortage of apartments and 2 bedroom places, and also a big shortage of much larger 5-6 bedroom houses, but quite enough 3 bedroom ones as they were pretty stock-standard in the 1950s and 1960s when much of the housing stock was built.

    So even though Housing NZ might be building apartments in their new development, they are very careful in ensuring that people don’t end up in innapropriate houses. For example, the Tonar Street development has 18 apartments, 11 townhouses and 12 or so larger houses, ranging up to a couple of six bedroom houses. So it’s definitely not true to say that everyone’s getting squished into apartments.

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