Russel Norman

Leaky homes crisis – Hyde/Joyce won’t waste an opportunity

by Russel Norman

So the leaky houses fiasco could cost $11billion dollars to fix, or more.

The leaky houses debacle was caused by the National Party Government with their 1991 Building Act, an act which basically said “whatever” when it came to building regulation. National in 1991 is the political equivalent to National/Act now or Joyce/Hyde.

Even, the NZ Herald this week had to admit:

Thousands of homes were built in the 1990s with inadequate weather-proofing because the principle of deregulation was taken too far. It really is as simple as that.

It is actually as simple as that. Read the Hunn report if you don’t believe me. Ruthless right deregulation caused the leaky homes crisis.

So now the National/Act Party, that gave the taxpayer an $11billion liability and made life a misery for tens of thousands of people trapped in decaying ruthless right houses, says that they are willing to kick in $0.8 billion of our money by 2024 to help out. This would cover 10% of the cost for some homeowners, leaving a quarter for councils and two thirds for homeowners.

This is sick and wrong as many homeowners can’t afford their two thirds share of the cost and it doesn’t acknowledge that central govt was the cause.

But it also has a more sinister dimension. The ruthless right wanted to use the recession to advance their no-brain ideas – “don’t waste a good recession” was their slogan – and, in a similar vein, why waste the leaky houses crisis. For them it is an opportunity.

Remember that the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hyde, wants to privatise everything possible, and that many in National (especially Stephen Joyce) share this ambition but realised that they needed to have a more moderate policy if they were to be elected. But there is an elegant solution….

So, what if, Auckland’s share of the leaky houses bill is, say, $5 billion.

And, what if, the Auckland supercity is forced to come up with a good proportion of that cost – maybe a quarter or more so anywhere from $1.25billion to $2.5billion.

And, what if, when it’s formed, the Auckland supercity has a series of Council Controlled Organisations that hold a few billion in assets in the form of water, transport, airport share holding companies, port company etc etc in a form that is very easy to sell as it’s already separated from council as a commercial enterprise with a board with a large proportion of central govt appointees.

Then there is a great opportunity to load up the supercity with the leaky houses liability while setting the CCOs up for easy sell-off to pay the leaky houses bill without pushing up rates. The ruthless right can come across as the angels of compassion – “we feel for those poor leaky houses people but we don’t want to lumber the poor people of Auckland with big rates increases so we must reluctantly sell off the assets of Auckland to our friends and donors.”

If you think it’s far fetched, remember this is exactly what National did in the 90s when they established the Auckland Regional Services Trust by an act of parliament and gave it the Auckland Regional Council’s assets (primarily the Port of Auckland) and liabilities. It appeared the only way out was for the ARST to sell the assets to pay the debt. Of course they didn’t figure that the Alliance and Bruce Jesson would win four of the six elected positions on the ARST under a three word campaign slogan “We won’t sell”. Bruce then figured out how to pay the debt without selling the Port of Auckland – an asset that just keeps on giving to the people of Auckland (we remember and love you Bruce).

So we all need to take responsiblity for a serious chunk of the leaky houses debt, because we can’t stand by while our fellow citizens live in misery and it was central govt that enabled the leaky houses. But we also need to take on a good proportion of the debt because otherwise Hyde and Joyce will use the debt to force privatisation of local government assets.

Published in Environment & Resource Management | Featured by Russel Norman on Fri, November 13th, 2009   

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