National leader Judith Collins calls on emergency plan for housing

Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Jan 2021, 2:06PM

National leader Judith Collins calls on emergency plan for housing

Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Jan 2021, 2:06PM

National leader Judith Collins wants the Government to pass temporary emergency legislation to make is easier to build houses.

She said the time had come for an extraordinary solution to an unfolding emergency.

"It is too hard to build houses in New Zealand," she said in a state of the nation speech to Auckland Rotary.

"We need to make it drastically easier. With rents and house prices spiralling out of control, Kiwis can no longer afford to wait."

She has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposing a special select committee develop a law that would give the Government the power to rezone council land, "making room for 30 years' worth of growth in housing supply, both through intensification and greenfields development".

Appeals would not be allowed and requirements for infrastructure to be built before zoning would be suspended.

Collins said the proposal would be a nationwide equivalent to emergency powers passed after the Christchurch earthquakes. The new builds had led to the ratio between median incomes and house prices to remain constant in Christchurch between 2014 and 2020.

"With house prices having jumped 41 per cent since Ms Ardern became Prime Minister and the waiting list for public housing almost quadrupling to 22,409 households, buying public houses alone will not be enough to make a meaningful difference," Collins said.

"New Zealanders have had enough. It's time for the two political parties to work together to fix this problem," she said.

Ardern last week set out the details of where 8000 new state houses and emergency housing would be built by 2024.

National housing spokeswoman Nicola Willis said that while the dream of home ownership had been disappearing for many New Zealanders, weekly rents had risen by an average $100 over three years.

People were struggling to keep up with the other necessities of life – food, power and doctors' visits.

The Labour Government is planning a major housing announcement in February to dampen demand for private sector housing.

The party won an outright majority with 50 per cent of the vote and the ability to govern alone for a second term, although it has a co-operation agreement with the Green Party.

Collins took over the National leadership in July last year after the unexpected resignation of Todd Muller three months after he had ousted Simon Bridges. The party slumped from 44.4 per cent in 2017 to just 25.6 per cent in the October election.

"I constantly say adversity is an opportunity to show character," Collins said in her speech. "But last year I occasionally wished I didn't have quite so many opportunities."

She said National spent far too much time last year focused on its internal problems and not enough time on the needs of the public.

"As a result, voters sent us a clear message."

She reiterated her dislike of her nickname "Crusher Collins", which she acquired when she promised as police minister new laws to crush the cars of boy racers.

"As a politician, the public can sometimes see a caricature of you. Being Labelled 'Crusher' encourages that one-dimensional view," she said.

"I did enjoy driving through changes to take boy racers off the road because I like getting things done, not just talking.

"But that nickname misses the 'why.' It wasn't just about the boy-racers. It was about making Kiwi communities safe."

Collins went through some of her personal background, her career in small business and as a lawyer and her upbringing on a farm near Matamata.

She came from a staunchly Labour family and her first political meeting had been to see a new Labour candidate in the area – Helen Clark.

But she said the values she was taught by her parents were National Party values.

"My parents were very careful about what they bought. They hated debt and only spent money they had already earned.

"And we had a strong sense of community. We were surrounded by farming families who got stuck in and helped each other out, particularly when times were tough.

"It wasn't something to be remarked on or exclaimed over, it was just the way things were – as a Collins, as a farmer, as a Kiwi."

Collins set out what she described as National's priorities:

  • Covid-19 response: protecting borders and New Zealanders from job losses and excessive costs of further restrictions and lockdowns;

    • Economic recovery: leveraging businesses as a way to help Kiwis get ahead;

    • Hardship & public safety: focusing on evidence-based support to change the lives of those most in need, and supporting the Police to keep communities safe;

    • Housing, infrastructure and world-class cities: making it easier to build houses and freeing up land with greater urgency;

    • Technology and post-Covid opportunities: Growing the tech sector to create high-paying jobs and world-leading companies.