Polity by Rob Salmond


Flaccid balloon, mite-ridden bees

I missed last week’s TVNZ story about Auckland housing, as I was out of the country. It’s quite astounding, and well worth a look if you missed it. Here’s the skinny:

Last May, Nick Smith told the country he had 500 hectares of surplus crown land, and $52 million, to help fix the Auckland housing crisis.

Skepticism reigned, as opposition MPs demanded to know basic details and Smith stalled, and as journalists made fun of Smith’s panicked minibus tour of a couple of new sites.

But Smith was indignant. Of course he had all the land he claimed! Of course his land didn’t have things like power stations or cemeteries on it! Of course he could make a real difference for $54 million! Everyone else was just politicking!

Fast forward to this year, and the truth is out. 

After six months of stalling (otherwise known as breaching the Official Information Act), MBIE officials finally released to Labour the list of crown land holdings it provided to Nick Smith. It’s the list that his claims of “500 hectares of surplus crown land" came from.

Confronted with this by TVNZ, Smith flatly denied he’d ever seen that list. I’ve been shown the list, and I can see why he lied.

There’s a six hectare cemetery on the MBIE list, something Smith has spent a year denying. But now the truth’s out, and Smith's incompetence is revealed for all to see.

There are about six power substations (not the land surrounding substations, but the substations themselves). He’s also spent a year denying that.

There’s a new school, and proposed sites for several more schools.

And, get this, 119 Mountain Road, Epsom is a 2.17 hectare block of land that’s on Nick Smith’s list of potential building sites. What’s currently on that land? Government freakin’ House, that’s what.

It’s a complete shambles, and Aucklanders are the losers for it.

The Minister of Housing, who claimed to be fixing a crisis, is reduced to telling fibs about what his officials showed him, because utterly everyone involved – from the Minister on down – has royally fucked the whole thing up. My bet is that the ringmaster here is Smith personally, who will have demanded information and action and money all in a flurry of last-minute pre-budget prima donna preening.

And that’s not even the worst part. Almost a year after starting his project, TVNZ discovered that Smith has secured only 5% of the land he promised, but has spent 100% of the money he was given.

He’s overspent by a factor of twenty. Twenty!

Anywhere else, he’d be shown the door for this level of incompetence. Sadly foo Auckland families, his incompetence seems to be spreading like a cold instead. Here’s Duncan Garner today, excoriating Smith’s colleague Simon Bridges:

National Party Minister Simon Bridges says Auckland is not facing a 'housing crisis.'

He's woefully out of touch.

Instead, Bridges prefers to call it a 'top tier issue', what ever than means. I prefer to call his position 'bollocks.'

Ahem, “indeed.”

UPDATE: As requested via Twitter, here's the spreadsheet of the land parcels, as relased by the government under the OIA.

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