Hard News by Russell Brown


Make you crazy like datura

Simon Grigg has two thoughtful blog posts ruminating on his recent visit home to Auckland. One on the state of some people: "It’s terrifying. At every turn you find people, often old friends, at each other, and others staggering from drama to drama, or worse, completely fried. And, overwhelmingly fucked up or recovering from being fucked up from excessive drug use (both legal and illegal…it’s not just the scourge of meth, the booze imbibed daily is both shocking and appalling and we both found ourselves slipping into it again)."

And another on the state of politics: "Everybody, seemingly, wants to change all that. You rarely hear a good word about either Helen Clark or the Labour government, and the word seems to be its time to go. And no-one really, if you ask, seems to know why."

Speaking of which, I thought Helen Clark's speech in Parliament yesterday was substantial and impressive; certainly better than her flabby contribution to the yoof debate last month. John Key, meanwhile, was surprisingly poor in the House. So I was interested to see what the Herald's editorial voice would make of it all this morning. I shouldn't have held my breath. Here's the editorial.

It makes the reasonable point that missing from yesterday's housing announcements is a pledge to remove the tax advantages n rental property investment. This is a widely-observed issue that no political party is presently promising to fix. The editorial rages that such absence "makes it plain that the Government does not possess the courage to tackle the tax distortions which, more than anything, have created the affordability problem. Instead, it has gone for easier options."

The editorial also berates the government for, um, looking to streamline the consent process in construction, although it seems to have missed the fact that the chief instrument here will probably be a standardardised pre-approved design for low-cost housing, as proposed by Shane Jones:

Worse still is the plan to tackle issues in the consent process that add unreasonably to the cost of building. That, again, will enhance demand. The demerit points do not stop there. It is reasonable to ask if the Government should be exposing itself to the housing market during a cyclical downturn. Its participation may have a sickly tinge for the next few years.

ZOMG! The market's going up! And it's going down! But the demand is already there. Won't making it easier and cheaper to build houses increase the supply? Whatever …

A more reasoned account of what the government proposed yesterday can be found in the Herald's own reporting: creating new urban development authorities, which will probably include private developers (modelled on the new Tamaki Establishment Board) and freeing up or intensifying development on existing public land (which seems to make more sense than paving over farmland halfway to Hamilton, as the editorial proposes). Read that and draw your own conclusions. Reading the editorial will make you crazy like datura.

Meanwhile, The Fundy Post finds Fran O'Sullivan so eager to find the malign in Helen Clark that she is now simply making things up. I really don't think this is doing the paper any good.

Anyway, I'm in Welly for Webstock and I'm writing this in a café. (The Museum Hotel's apartment extension is very nice, but the arrival of a mass of geeks has completely overwhelmed its wi-fi capacity) so I'd best be off about my business.

To close, just a couple of bouquets for this week's Listener (that's the one with the cover that looks like last week's, and the week before): the feature exploring the issues raised by the Tea Roptai case is excellent, the more so given that, as I understand it, David Fisher knocked out it in his first two days at his new job. Ditto for Ralston's column on the same topic. Ralston writes so well on such difficult topics, yet his forays into politics and economics in the HoS are so often so much tosh. I think he needs to go more often where his inner SNAG leads him.

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