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Labour alleges Budget forced Govt. to quickly axe first home grant

Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 May 2024, 2:28pm

Labour alleges Budget forced Govt. to quickly axe first home grant

Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 May 2024, 2:28pm

Housing Minister Chris Bishop confirmed that Kāinga Ora was only told to stop applications for the now-axed first home grant the day or day before the news was announced to the public.

He said the Government told Kāinga Ora because it needed the agency to take its website down so that people could no longer apply for the grant, which gives first home buyers up to $10,000 towards a deposit for a first home.

Kāinga Ora is the Government agency that administers the scheme.

Hints of the grant’s demise dropped on Tuesday morning ahead of National’s weekly caucus meeting.

Later that day NZ First Minister Shane Jones appeared to confirm that a change was coming in the Budget. When asked about the grant, he said that reporters would need to wait until Budget day. On Tuesday night, Newshub reported the grant was gone. Other media soon followed.

On Wednesday, at 1.30, Bishop confirmed the scheme was gone.

The timeline fits with the argument the Government quickly announced the demise of the scheme to avoid an expensive glut of applications in the week that remained until the end of the scheme was formally announced on Budget day, next Thursday.

Labour’s Housing Spokesman Kieran McAnulty said the “only reason this was announced on Wednesday was because it was leaked the night before”.

“The Government tried to keep this quiet until the Budget in the hope it would be overshadowed by the other announcements”.

McAnulty said there “will be people who were about to apply for the grant but have missed out because of the Government’s mismanagement and disorganisation”

Bishop said the decision to scrap the grants was made as part of the Budget.

“We signed-off on the decision some time ago, but Kāinga Ora was not told either until yesterday morning or the afternoon before,” Bishop said.

“Up until the point at which we told them it was a Budget secret… we had to tell them obviously because we wanted to take the website so people couldn’t apply,” he said.

Bishop made the remarks while touring a factory in his electorate with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

Luxon spoke about New Zealand’s frustrations that flights to repatriate people stuck in New Caledonia have been paused as the focus on the island pivots security for a visit by French President Emmanual Macron.

“We are talking with the French on a regular basis, in Paris in Noumea, and in Wellington as well,” Luxon said.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier expressed frustration with the pace of change.

“We just have to be patient and wait. We understand New Zealanders’ frustration, we’re frustrated ourselves.”

“We just have to be patient and wait ... I can assure you everything we could possibly do from the word go, we’ve set out to and that’s what our responsibilities are.”

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