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Kiwibuild now firmly belongs to recent housing minister Megan Woods (Getty Images)
Kiwibuild now firmly belongs to recent housing minister Megan Woods (Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 5, 2019

The Bulletin: Reaction to the Kiwibuild reset

Kiwibuild now firmly belongs to recent housing minister Megan Woods (Getty Images)
Kiwibuild now firmly belongs to recent housing minister Megan Woods (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Range of reaction to Kiwibuild reset, Peter Ellis dies before Supreme Court appeal can be heard, and calls for apology for te reo suppression. 

Hang on, it is still called Kiwibuild right? The government’s flagship policy, which has by most metrics been a disaster, has been completely overhauled. Toby Manhire has a cheat sheet outlining the big changes, the most headline-grabbing of which is that the target of 100,000 homes in 10 years will be scrapped.

For many, that pretty much was Kiwibuild – the number and the policy were inextricably linked – so the idea that the policy still exists at all is dubious. As Stuff’s Henry Cooke – a long-time watcher of the policy – put it rather brutally, it’s “like selling someone a car and delivering a scooter. They both serve the same purpose, but the product is not what was said on the tin.”

However, as the NZ Herald reports, the government still intends to build houses, only now the target is “as many as possible”. And there are quite a few interesting aspects of the reset which are worth mentioning. The Green Party are satisfied that the changes meet their confidence and supply agreement, with a commitment to develop a ‘rent to own’ scheme. There will also be reductions to deposit levels for government based mortgages, and eased rules on people pooling first home grants and Kiwisaver funds. Other changes will be made to push up demand, including the listing of existing unsold Kiwibuild houses on the open market.

Of course, despite the government removing the lead weight from their ankle, this is still a political embarrassment. The PM Jacinda Ardern, and housing minister Megan Woods, have even admitted the policy fell short. It leaves National’s Judith Collins saying she has been vindicated, reports Newshub, and she has been saying for a long time that what was promised couldn’t be delivered.

But for Megan Woods herself, this is a huge moment to demonstrate why the PM put faith in her, writes NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young. Woods is now in charge of a portfolio which can move forward, rather than being stuck with the flawed policy of a predecessor. And speaking of one of those predecessors, Phil Twyford will still have a role to play in freeing up Crown land to build on, writes Richard Harman at Politik. But whoever gets the credit, the government still has a big task ahead of it to address the shortfall in housing, which is estimated to still be well above 100,000 around the country.

Peter Ellis, a man convicted of child sex offences that many believe he was innocent of, has died at the age of 61. Stuff reports he died in the process of challenging those convictions, which he unsuccessfully appealed against in 1999. Some of his supporters intend to push ahead with a Supreme Court appeal scheduled for November, and the court is considering whether to still proceed.  

Calls are being made for a formal apology to the generation of Māori kids who were beaten for speaking te reo at school. Former minister Dover Samuels told Waatea News that he wants a Waitangi Tribunal report on language suppression brought forward, because the generation it happened to is getting old. The results of the assimilation policy were disastrous, not just for the language but for wider Māori economic and cultural power as well.

Concerns are being raised about how an Otago University study is being used to calculate WINZ food grants, reports One News. Researcher Claire Smith says despite WINZ using her data from the food cost survey, she hasn’t ever been consulted about it, and she isn’t comfortable with it. The reason for that is because assumptions are made in the study that don’t apply to the actual lives of beneficiaries, and so the calculations are likely to end up lower than what people actually need to get by.

The trial of the man charged over actions at a Labour Party youth camp has come to a sudden end. The NZ Herald reports that five counts of indecent assault have been dropped, but also that he has pleaded guilty to two counts of assault, both against other men. His lawyer will be seeking a discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression – currently interim name suppression will remain in place until November.

A new study has found a “cocktail of pesticides” in streams running through agricultural areas, reports Farah Hancock for Newsroom. As might be expected given pesticides are effectively poisonous, that’s likely to be putting freshwater fish species at risk. But because it’s a relatively new area of study, more research is needed to fully understand the effects.

Thousands of top-earning employees of Fonterra have had their pay and bonuses frozen, reports Andrea Fox for the NZ Herald. Around 6000 employees will be affected by the move aimed at those earning more than $100,000 a year. It is another cost-cutting measure for the cooperative, which is about a week away from announcing what are likely to be pretty dire annual results.

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Why is life so hard? Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the NZ Warriors, March 2016 (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Maire Leadbeater writes about the Indonesian crackdown in West Papua, and how the world must heed the lessons of East Timor. Katie Meadows looks at the latest season of 13 Reasons Why, and argues the “unremitting darkness” of the show makes it genuinely dangerous. Author Jeff Murray has written a thoughtful essay about the stories we will tell to make sense of climate change. Sam Brooks writes about his relationship with energy drinks, which he cracks open constantly in the office.

And yesterday saw the last edition in a regular column I’ve very much enjoyed. Elle Hunt has been writing about life in London for a year now, and it has always been insightful and interesting. Her finale is a similarly good take on national identity, as seen through the lens of those quizzes some countries make prospective citizens take.

For a feature today, some feedback on the ongoing review of the health system, discussed in yesterday’s Bulletin. Here’s what reader Laurice had to say.

Workers in this sector are also directly affected by the fragmentation and chaos that exists. I left my secure and well-paid DHB job in 2006 because of the emotional struggle I had working within the guidelines for outpatient care. My department had already been instructed by management to stop providing “Rolls Royce care on a Toyota budget” and we then had our administrative support stripped, with no replacement in sight. That meant doing all our own paperwork and file preparation, reducing patient contact time even further.

I used the EAP (employment assistance programme) to try and clarify how I could manage to work in such conditions and was advised to let my manager know what needed fixing, with a date by which I needed to know things were going to improve. I resigned on the deadline date without having had a response from the manager, who left shortly after I did.

I missed my job, which I had been in for over 26 years. I missed the patients, the collegial atmosphere of working with other like-minded people, and the satisfaction of knowing I was making a difference in people’s lives. I took on a much more poorly-paid but less stressful job in the NFP sector, which I then stayed in for 10 years, even after the charity ran out of money and I was doing it for free.

I can’t be that unusual. People go in to health and similar professions because they are meaningful and contribute to the social good. It was a common saying where I worked that nobody was in it for the money (well, maybe managers, of which there was an alarmingly rapid turnaround. In 26 years there were a few that I didn’t even meet before they moved on).

I was good at my job, committed to staying in it for the long haul, and was not replaced for nearly 4 years, such is the shortage of qualified people in my (ex) profession. A review of the DHBs is very long overdue.

Something to keep you occupied during the long grind of the Rugby World Cup – Kiwi-watch. A huge number of players with connections to New Zealand will be taking part with other teams, and Newshub have compiled a list of what appears to be all of them. Going through it, it’s remarkable how many names jump as people who also made a real mark on the game in New Zealand, and one can’t help but wonder what might have been for some of them.

And for Warriors fans – those who still care, that is – this piece is a must read. Former CEO Trevor McKewen has gone into great depth about the various ownership sagas around the club, and why they have held the on-field team back from ever reaching their full potential.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them. And if you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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