Projection of special votes for 2017

One nerdy post-election exercise I find fun is to project (not “predict”) the result including special votes, based on the 2017 preliminary results and the impact of the 2014 special votes. The most significant assumption I make is that the relationship between special votes and the preliminary count in 2014, is a good predictor for the same relationship in 2017. Now, this isn’t a great assumption: in 2014, the Greens actually did even better than projected, and National worse. But it’ll probably provide some guidance.

A full description of the method is in the post I wrote for the 2014 election.

This election, special votes comprise 15.4% of the total votes cast, compared to 12.6% in 2014. This fact is accounted for in the projection, so the impact looks slightly larger than in 2014.

Here’s what I got:

Party Preliminary results Projected final results Gain/loss
Votes % Seats Vote % Seats
National 998,813 46.03% 58 1,150,396 44.85% 56 -1.18%
Labour 776,556 35.79% 45 938,382 36.59% 46 +0.80%
NZ First 162,988 7.51% 9 187,707 7.32% 9 -0.19%
Greens 126,995 5.85% 7 162,564 6.34% 8 +0.49%
Act 10,959 0.51% 1 13,044 0.51% 1 +0.00%
TOP 48,018 2.21% 0 56,783 2.21% 0 +0.00%
Māori 23,456 1.08% 0 28,698 1.12% 0 +0.04%

So under this projection, Labour and the Greens would each pick up a seat at National’s expense. This wouldn’t really affect the underlying “balance of power”, which would still rest with NZ First. But it would put the left (Labour/Greens) and right (National/Act) blocs closer together, having 54 seats against 57 (currently 52 vs 59).

It turns out that this projection’s not especially sensitive this year. Golriz Ghahraman, number 8 from the Greens, would pick up the 114th seat, leaving plenty of room to spare. Number 9, Mojo Mathers, wouldn’t be due until the 129th seat, miles away. As for Labour, Angie Warren-Clark gets the 120th and final seat, Labour’s 46th quotient of 10,312, a bit ahead of National’s 57th quotient, which is 10,181; Labour have about 2 percentage points on special votes to spare. For Labour to get Helen White in, their 47th quotient (currently the 122nd seat) would have to leap-frog National’s 46th (currently 119th). This would require them to do a full 9 percentage points better in special votes than ordinary votes—a tall order.

So small shifts in special voter behaviour relative to 2014 won’t really affect this outcome, though of course large shifts would.

Now, in 2014 I said that it would be “close”, then the Greens picked up so many special votes that their 14th quotient leap-frogged into the 119th position. So maybe a “large shift” isn’t out of the question. Then again, the Greens would need to win about 12% of the special votes to get Ms Mathers into Parliament, more than double their percentage of votes in the preliminary count.

Graeme Edgeler published his version over at Legal Beagle a few hours ago. Our methods are the same in principle but different in some subtle details, so our projected vote counts are marginally different, but not in a way that impacts how many seats each party would get.

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Labour tries to be anti-immigration without being anti-immigration

“This is a debate about policy, not a debate about immigrants,” declared Grant Robertson at Labour’s conference in May. The false dichotomy was as lost on Mr Robertson as it was on his party. He was, after all, talking about Labour’s policy on immigrants. He can’t shy away from the latter—his debate is about both.

Andrew Little, his leader, has been calling to cut immigration by “tens of thousands” since April. In May, he pared back his stance to merely “taking a breather” until infrastructure can “catch up”. But this month, Labour confirmed its policy: to slash the number of immigrants by as much as 30,000, a reduction in net migration of over 40 per cent.

Having been burnt by its “Chinese surnames” debacle two years earlier, and in a year where xenophobia in America, Britain and France have dominated world headlines, Labour is walking a tightrope, and it knows it. Hence the references to other issues in its policy document: infrastructure, housing, student visas, “genuine skills shortages”.

Don’t be fooled. Labour’s policy is about cutting down on immigrants first, and everything else a distant second.

Their policy’s concern about “low-value courses” being a “backdoor route for immigration” is, by itself, reasonable. But if that were really their worry, they wouldn’t be trumpeting—in bold italics, no less—that cracking down on these “will reduce net migration by about 9,000–12,000”. Similarly, prioritising immigrants to fill “real skills shortages” sounds sensible, but if that were really their motivation, they wouldn’t be emphasising the expected reduction “by 5,000–8,000”.

If Labour really wanted a “breather” on immigration, they would have included a sunset clause in their policy, or at least an indication of how long they think New Zealand needs to brush up its infrastructure. Instead, they say that immigration “should be a stop-gap, not a permanent crutch”—a vision that contradicts the very concept of a “breather on immigration”.

I don’t think they’re obliged to give a detailed infrastructure plan immediately; it can come later. But it’s telling that they’re more eager to blame immigration for “unnecessary pressures on our infrastructure” (three times in one document!), than they are to see investment in infrastructure as a means of improving New Zealand’s capacity to take advantage of population growth.

Credit where it’s due: The mechanisms they’ve chosen are better than the blunt tools advocated by their counterparts in other countries. Their desire to fix those loopholes might even be genuine, albeit secondary. It’s also comforting that they propose increasing the refugee quota.

But even taken at its best, Labour is trying to have it both ways. They’re slashing immigration to court voters who are anti-immigrant, with decorations to appease voters who aren’t. If you’re in the latter group, please don’t let Labour get away with it. They opened the debate by saying we don’t want so many immigrants, and wrote a policy whose main goal is to reduce immigration. Their rhetoric emphasising this has been consistent for months, and their line on foreigners has been consistent for years. Throwing in student visas and “genuine skills needs” now doesn’t remove that fact.

On immigration in NZ and tikanga Māori

By Carrie Stoddart-Smith

What we do at home with immigration policy matters in the international community. It speaks to the authenticity of our story as an inclusive, progressive and whānau centred country. It affects the credibility of our social, political, cultural and economic relationships. Yet, there are no signs of cooling the debate this election year as tensions rise over decades of inadequate policy settings which now pit immigrants against the ‘ordinary’ New Zealander. Dog. Whistle.

Who is an immigrant?

Some people consider all people living in Aotearoa New Zealand (including Māori) to be immigrants. Māori are the indigenous people of this land. Fact. Some people whose Pākehā ancestors settled in colonial times also consider themselves now indigenous. Fiction. And there is also always a gap in the dialogue – ignoring how we classify people of Asian ancestries as immigrants – whether they arrived in settler times or more recently, while those of European ancestries are viewed as New Zealander, Kiwi or even Pākehā. In effect, we give preference to white immigrant populations and demonise the non-white. We ignore their existence, unless there is a political point to be scored.

In my view, there are probably three primary reasons for this narrative capture:
• The prominent role of biculturalism in our political discourse, and the fear from some Māori of multiculturalism displacing the rights and interests of Māori,
• Almost two centuries of Māori/Pākehā interracial marriage and interracial children where we are more likely to have adopted western values, and
• Racism (Pākehā) and internalised racism (Māori)

For me, being both Māori and Pākehā, I am both indigenous and immigrant. And the tension is inescapable in a million different contexts.

Framing Māori as an immigrant

For Māori, to be labelled an immigrant, is to displace our indigeneity and to question the legitimacy of our claim to this place and our connection to the whenua and all its resources that our tupuna established over hundreds of generations before the European Settlers arrived.

Framing Pākehā as an immigrant

For Pākehā, being labelled an immigrant questions the legitimacy of our legal and political institutions imposed on the indigenous people already settled on this land. It brings the residual guilt of our ancestors to the surface. A feeling that we have happily allowed our political and social institutions to actively suppress to avoid taking ownership of the injustices committed against Māori and the intergenerational effects of those injustices.

Framing people of Asian descent as “the” immigrants

As alluded to above, for both Māori and Pākehā we sidestep the racism in our views on immigration. Offering up reasons to ban or restrict immigration, as if the root cause of our social and economic anxiety isn’t connected to some deeper systemic flaw. We allow our politicians to propagate stories of the immigrant as a non-white undesirable – where to be an immigrant in New Zealand in 2017, is to be Asian. In doing so, we are complicit in the embedding of their hidden xenophobic truth.

Summary of some of the research

Economic

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Initiative wrote a report on immigration. In it, they found that Māori have particularly negative attitudes towards new immigration compared with non-Māori.

(Disclaimer: I was invited to attend a seminar on the draft of that paper, and to submit any comments I might have on the kaupapa).

In providing feedback, I posited that employment, housing, natural resources, and ethnic displacement and Te Tiriti o Waitangi provided the context that shaped a contemporary Māori view on immigration. I suggested that our individual experiences of other cultures in a domestic and international context would shape how we view immigration. For example, I noted that Māori in business or who are economically secure through existing international relationships or those who have experienced positive cultural exchanges will inevitably see immigration in a more favourable light. While those who feel threatened by workforce displacement, homelessness, resource exploitation or diminished rights and status would be less favourable.

I drew on examples to demonstrate the frustration of Māori – where correlation is unfortunately treated as causation. For example, where headlines on ‘foreign ownership of homes’ appear alongside ‘more whānau experiencing homelessness’. Where we are still fighting for rights over freshwater, while foreign companies can access, and sell it overseas. Where we have lost almost 95 percent of our land (most of it stolen) to European settlers, while we continue to sell productive farmlands to overseas interests. Where we see workers brought in from overseas to meet labour demands, while our unemployment rate remains at almost twice the national unemployment rate. Yet, in all these examples, the issue is not immigration – it is policy and it is politics.

Political

In 2014, I also wrote a research paper where I explored the validity of the ‘right to exclude’ immigrants. This supposed right is linked to territorial rights established through the imposition of borders i.e. the nation state. I found the only potentially justifiable reason for immigration restrictions to be resource scarcity. In the contemporary New Zealand context (as noted above) that would be jobs, houses, natural resource depletion, pollution or exploitation. I concluded that there is no right to exclude immigrants in the formal sense of what constitutes a ‘right’ but that restrictions related to resource scarcity could provide a case for establishing a system of responsive rights.

I likened a responsive rights system to tikanga Māori, in particular a rāhui, which is a temporary ban to enable local resources to replenish. However, I argued that even in this sense, there was no right to exclude only immigrants – a ban would need to apply to all returning members of that community also. So the right to exclude on the basis of resource scarcity would only be justifiable if it was an indiscriminate responsive right.

A problem with my line of thinking is that from a political – and even a cultural sense, this argument would evoke a visceral reaction from community members excluded from their tūrangawaewae. I concluded that there can be no right to exclude new members from a community as that right is discriminate. This is effectively an argument for open borders.

Cultural

When I consider immigration to Aotearoa from my indigenous perspective, I think about the extent to which our tupuna supported the arrival of early settlers, going so far as to enter into a Treaty that would govern the relationship. Where we shared in cultural exchange – in some cases, adopting new customs and value systems that we were able to reconcile with our traditional values. I think about our core value of aroha and our obligations to manaaki our manuhiri. I think about kaitiaki of our resources to ensure we can fulfil all our tikanga tuku iho.

Another notable and valid concern, as Tahu Kukutai has written is that of ethnic displacement where some Māori fear “the prospect of Asians displacing Māori as the country’s ethnic “majority minority” and that the perceived preference of migrants for multiculturalism over biculturalism will diminish Māori rights and the status of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

Māori concerns with immigration can be allayed with robust policy developed and implemented through strong Māori political leadership. Policy that does not involve bans and restrictions on immigrants, instead policy that ensures the government upholds its end of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Housing policy that makes homeownership more accessible for all, fit for occupation rentals at fair prices, and culturally relevant solutions for homelessness. Innovative solutions to education and training speaking to the aspirations of our people, policy to support social and economic mobility and pastoral care for those adjusting to a highly dynamic society with new needs. These are where the fixes are needed. We also need our iwi and those of us engaged with international audiences to speak truth to the value of strong international relationships – emphasising the importance of whanaungatanga in these settings.

Conclusion

Restricting immigration does little to change attitudes, and will not resolve institutional failures afflicting Māori. We are a people who place people as the most important thing in this world. Our future then depends on the authenticity of the relationships that we can build and the integrity we show both at home and abroad. Rather than shutting manuhiri out – a practice that sits in opposition to our tikanga, we must remain committed to fulfilling all our obligations to ensure we position our relationships right for the mutual benefit of all of our uri and the uri of those who arrived here as manuhiri.

Gloves off election looming

presentation1By Ellipsister

In a stroke of strategic positioning, we may be witnessing the birth of a National/NZ First/ACT coalition after 2017 election. NZ politics just got interesting. In a weeks’ time, NZ will have a new PM.  And while we puzzle on who that might be, we could also consider how  a change in National Party leadership might shake things up (or down) for the micro-parties – ACT, United Future, Māori Party (and Mana Movement). Time to take the gloves off or NZ First might pinch them (the gloves, that is).

National Party and NZ First

The National Party should be a little nervous that NZ First have not slipped below the 5% threshold in any of the polls since the 2014 General Election. They are up and down, but oscillating between the 7-11% range.  The beef between Key and Peters is, well, seemingly irreconcilable. Erasing Key from the equation, positions National better to negotiate with Peters should he become kingmaker next year. This is not a suggestion Key was ousted by the party. In fact, I highly doubt that. Rather, next year is going to be rough and if last election is anything to go by, the gloves don’t just come off, the inner hulk busts out. National will not want their star player embroiled in a media maul and having to grovel for Peters hand in government, if it came to it.

A National/NZ First coalition, would  give National a clear majority, and the thing any party wants – fewer policy concessions. That is not to say there won’t be trade-offs. Peters is no snowflake. He will use his hand to get (or revoke) as many policies as possible in his play for power. Arguably, that’s where they’ve got him though – he can sit centre right with not everything he wants but a Cabinet position, or sit centre-left at an impasse with the Labour Party who will be torn between Greens and NZ First, likely needing both to govern.

So what then of the current governing coalition?

National would never swallow any kind of merger, alliance, collaboration between the Māori Party and Mana. National have often stated the Māori Party were a ‘stable’ partner and have denounced Hone Harawira. So add him into the mix, and the dynamics change. national will certainly be weighing up all their coalition options for the most palatable outcome. Part of me wonders if the National Party machine are also still reeling at the Māori Party dogging Helen Clarke’s bid for UN Sec Gen.

So what then of the Māori Party in this scenario? If NZ First are in, then the Māori party are out of the coalition. Peters has made it clear he despises the Māori Party. Potentially more so than he despises the Greens. That means the Māori Party may possibly find themselves back to the cross-benches after next election. Unless, they take back the Māori seats and then some. The cross-benches would not necessarily be a bad thing either. It would give the party time to reignite their support base and to rebuild after being branded by opposition parties as the National Māori Party. A brand they are having difficulty shaking.

Peter Dunne might be gone altogether, if Labour and Greens can coordinate the strategic vote to take his seat for the left. (Of course, that is the case with or without a change in National leadership)

ACT could potentially benefit

Interestingly, ACT could potentially benefit from a change in National Party leadership. If David Seymour holds his Epsom seat and is able to draw in right wing voters with a bruised confidence, increasing the ACT vote even marginally to get just one more seat, we might just see the strongest right wing block under MMP with National/ACT/NZ First in the driving seat.

Early election?

National’s positioning might also signal an early election, the shorter time to showcase the new leader, the less holes to pick in their capability to deliver on promises. It could be another two month post-election cliff hanger, unless the Māori Party can regain the confidence of Māori voters, secure the Māori seats and raise the party vote.  The voting scenarios will become clearer in the next few months, but voters will likely need to weigh up more seriously now the most probable scenarios: Labour/Greens/NZ First or National/NZ First/ACT. It’s basically 1996 again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Right to Know

On Thursday I went along to a panel discussion for Gavin Ellis’ new book, Complacent Nation, also with Toby Manhire and Mihirangi Forbes. The book is about the role of media, journalism, and politics in eroding our ability to seek information about what our government is doing. Part of the book and the talk centred on the concept of “the right to know”. Ellis argues that every citizen has the right to know the important information that we need in order to function as a citizen of our society, yet increasingly our media is saturated with celebrity gossip and trivia.

It often feels like everyone is decrying the decline of journalism, with the rise of clickbait and low-quality news. In fact, a very recent analysis found that almost half of the New Zealand Herald’s online articles were syndicated, most commonly from the Associated Press (which is probably okay) and the Daily Mail (maybe less so). Part of this is blamed on what Ellis calls “technology” – analytics-driven newsrooms that craft articles and change headlines based on what is or isn’t producing clicks. With clicks and impressions of advertisements responsible for the majority of digital revenue for news agencies, it stands to reason that managers are seeking efficiency – getting the most clicks for the least amount of work. I don’t blame this on technology, just economics. Maybe the technology is enabling the economics to be applied faster, almost in real-time, but it’s still the underlying economics that are causing the shift from “real” news to “junk” news.

When it comes to economic theory, the managers can easily argue that the shift is market-driven. Clickbait only exists because it is so effective at attracting the attention of readers/viewers, and “junk” news is only disseminated because it is consumed so vociferously. This is the other side of the right to know – what we want to know, that frustrates intellectuals because we can only consume so much information and our insatiable appetite for “junk” news gets in the way of “important” news. When the public is more interested in the Real Housewives of Auckland than the water contamination scandal in Havelock North, it can be argued that the public checks and balances of the democratic system may be compromised.

Everyone needs someone to blame; journalists blame their editors and managers, managers blame their capitalistic overlords, ivory tower academics blame the government, the government blames the apathetic public, Grammarly gets grumpy at me for using too many run-on sentences, and the public writes angry tweets at the journalists, and we’re left with a chicken and egg situation. The right to know as envisioned by Gavin Ellis only works when the public knows what it is that they’re supposed to know in order to keep democracy accountable. But what the public knows is so strongly driven by the information that they’re fed, that it’s difficult to know where the problem comes from. Do the choices made in media reporting cause poor civics understanding, or does poor civics understanding drive the media into making those choices? As is often the case, it’s probably both.

For those that believe that something needs to be done about the New Zealand journalism and reporting, one good proposal comes from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting. Their ten point plan essentially boils down to levying commercial broadcasters and internet service providers to fund public service broadcasting and media. A 1% levy would raise about $60 million a year to go towards investigative journalism, documentaries, political debates, arts and science programmes, and regional news and current affairs, without the commercial pressures that promote reality TV. They argue that producing poor quality media is like polluting a river, and that maybe we should move to a “polluter-pays” model. It’s hard to argue against (unless you happen to be a commercial broadcaster or ISP).

Of course, there have been other shifts that have contributed to our current journalism landscape too. A significant portion of the talk centred on the Official Information Act, and how it has both opened up the public sector to scrutiny but also been used to obfuscate efforts to get information. The “no surprises” rule between public agencies and ministers has meant that the ministers are almost always informed when OIAs come in, and political considerations become a factor in when and how to release information (or not). Mihirangi Forbes also talked at length the difficulties of working in small New Zealand, where the two degrees of separation (especially in the Maori community) that works so well for the telecommunication company’s marketing campaign means that it’s difficult to conduct crucial but relationship-destroying investigative journalism without burning a lot of leads.

The pace of technological change will continue to impact many industries – it remains to be seen which industries will be willing to change fast enough and which will try to cling onto the old ways for too long. It’s not just the journalists that have to make this decision; it comes down to the editors and commercial managers who will have to make those decisions. An engineer in Kodak’s research and development group was the first group to create a digital camera – it was the managers who refused to sell it because they feared it would cannibalise sales of traditional film. We’re seeing competing interests between the public’s right to know, the journalists’ desire to report, and the capitalistic pressures of their bosses, morphing the journalism industry into something that perhaps cannot fit anyone’s ideals. Toby Manhire’s quip that there is a burgeoning industry for future of journalism panels hits a little too close to the truth.

Power to the tenants: re-claiming the rental market

By Ellipsister (Co-Ed.)

The housing crisis does not stop at home ownership. It is about rents. It is about landlords. And it is about tenants.

Like many in my generation, I am a serial renter. In fact, we (my whānau) currently pay rent in two places because I commute between Auckland and Wellington. Although, I only pay rent for a room in Wellington, and not an entire house. That I am in a position to commute is a privilege that very few others can afford. I get that. However, despite my privilege, my experience and the similar experiences of others is not irrelevant simply because of the wider reaching social impacts of the housing crisis on low-income families and earners. We need to get on the same page. The reality is that it is situations like mine – those of middle income that contribute to homelessness and not in the way you might think.

 The spectrum

Talk of the housing spectrum from homelessness to home ownership is common in policy circles. But it is flawed. The spectrum is not linear and treating it as such perpetuates the problem. A major assumption from policymakers and political parties alike is that if we just build more houses (supply) and make finance more readily available to prospective buyers then bingo! Everyone will have a home. We just have to look to the US sub-prime lending that led to the 2008 GFC to see the horrible consequences of that kind of an initiative. We need to understand that the housing crisis is as much about rules and the distribution of power, as it is about supply and finance.

 The middle

In the past, the housing cycle saw people move into their own homes, or upgrade their rentals as their incomes increased creating financial security. The housing crisis that began in Auckland and its cancerous spread to other regions has created a short circuit in that cycle. For my generation, only those people whose parents can help can continue on that cycle. The rest of us languish in dilapidating properties, unable to save for our own homes due to the excessive rental prices we pay, unable to upgrade to suitable rentals because we are priced out of the next rung on the ladder, and often unwilling to move because value for money properties no longer exist. This means that we – the middle-income earners – have captured the affordable rental and created a rental scarcity for low-income earners. We are the group who in practical terms not only prevent low-income whānau accessing affordable rental homes, but exacerbate the growing levels of homelessness.

I know it’s not right to talk about middle income earners moving into nice homes so that low income families can access their left over rundown rentals. I’m not proposing that we only find solutions for middle income earners. I am highlighting that part of the problem lies in the rental space and the short-circuiting of a cycle that has operated to minimise homelessness. Ignoring the hamstringing of middle-income earners prolongs the problem of homelessness, inaccessibility to suitable rentals, and the unequal share of power held by landlords.

 The key issues for renters

Some general themes that consistently arise for renters include:

  • Move in costs: These upfront costs usually involve –
  • 2 weeks rent (up to 4 weeks max) as bond;
  • 2 weeks rent in advance; and
  • 1 weeks rent plus GST as a letting fee.

For a middle-income family, the rent will often be around $500-700 per week. This amount of rent signifies these families could conceivably service a mortgage of their own. But even on good income, people don’t generally have over $3,000 just sitting around that makes it possible for them to move and given the rental costs, are not in any position to ‘save’ the 20 percent deposit needed to make them eligible for a mortgage.

For the record, I’m not interested in anecdotal policy qualifications of ‘I saved X while doing A, B and C, so everyone else is just lazy and stupid’. I mean it’s great that the system worked for those of you who think like that. You clearly had the privilege of some particularly favourable conditions. But by your own admission, it’s not working for the majority of other people. Evidenced by your view that people who don’t experience the world as you do are, um stupid and lazy.

  • Affordability:  Price is the key determinant for whether a renter will tenant a rental property. We know that rental prices vary for homes of similar size and quality and we understand that major price discrepancies are often associated with location. But this isn’t always the case, and despite some reports claiming rents are not increasing we renters are seeing spikes in prices on properties without any maintenance or upgrade. The reality is that a 3-bedroom hardy plank shit box with no upgrade since it was built in the 1970’s will now sting the renter over $500, a price that only a few years ago would get you a new build or renovated rental.
  • Quality:  Renters want and need a property that is warm, dry, safe and functional (i.e. no outstanding major repairs). What is on offer is often uninsulated (or depleted insulation), damp homes in need of some fundamental repairs (e.g. wiring, light fittings, plumbing, joinery) and upgraded furnishings such as carpets, curtains, wallpaper or paint.

 

  • Tenancy agreements: Tenancy agreements are an annoying but necessary part of being a tenant. They protect both the tenant and landlord. However, it is the landlord who will ultimately determine if the lease is for fixed or periodic tenancy. Being bound to a property for a fixed term and liable for rent if you find a more suitable property before your lease expires means that people cannot move unless they can afford to service two rental properties. Fixed term arrangements are intended to provide certainty, but they don’t they minimise the choices a renter can make.

 

Power to the tenants

rental policy

Requiring the letting fee to be payable by the Landlord not the tenant

One means of giving power back to tenants would be to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to require landlords to pay the letting fee not the tenant. See the Tenancy Tribunal website.

The work done by the letting agent, is for the benefit of the landlord. It is grossly unfair. A tenant should not have to pay a fee that deals with administrating a property that they do not own, for work that was undertaken prior to them obtaining quiet enjoyment of the property.  Landlords should not be allowed to pass on administrative costs to tenants. If they don’t want to advertise the property themselves, then that is their choice, not the tenants choice.

Implementing a rent cap and a star rating for rental properties

Like others, I have been thinking about the viability of rent cap, and the idea of a star rating for rental properties was brought to my attention in the weekend. Restricting the price and developing a robust rental property criterion gives rights back to tenants who spend a large proportion of their incomes paying rent, or in many cases, someone’s mortgage.

We know that rent is just too high and even those on good incomes are finding rentals increasingly unaffordable. While Christchurch is reported to be experiencing a reduction in rent prices, with some landlords offering a week’s free rent, Auckland and other parts of the country are ridiculously expensive and there are no signs of cooling off.

A rent cap could provide the right lever to keep people in homes that are affordable, and combined with a star rating could incentivise landlords to maintain and repair rental properties thereby improving the quality of homes in the rental market. It could be either a temporary or a permanent measure. It could include provisions for market or inflation adjustment.

I’m not going to speculate here about what the rent cap should be. However, the process might involve a price band where rental values are based on the star rating they receive from an independent property assessor.

The star rating could align with the housing Warrant of Fitness (WOF) standards. For example, a home that fully complied would receive a 5 star rating and be able to charge rent at the top end of the band. A property that only complied with part of the WOF standards and received a 1 star rating would only be able to charge at the lower end of the band. This would also give tenants an ability to negotiate the rent required to tenant the property.

I note that price bands should vary depending on location, and that should be a factor in establishing the price bands.

A groundrent for despicable landlords

A property that did not meet any WOF standards, could be deemed uninhabitable. If the landlord refused to meet those standards and left the property vacant, then the government could apply a groundrent to cover the social cost of taking a property out of the market. Doing so could help bring about stability, by ensuring vacant properties were not used to create an artificial scarcity that drives up house prices.  The intention would be to disincentivise landlords from simply land banking and encourage them to either repair the property to WOF standard, or sell it.

We need a real world solution for a real world problem not an ideological driven rant that narrows the field of investigation and subdues innovation.

Unseating Labour

By Ellipsister (Co-ed.)

If you had asked me last week whether the Māori Party could unseat the Labour Party in the Hauraki-Waikato electorate at the next general election in 2017, I’d have given a simple “No”. However, the election of Tukoroirangi Morgan as the new President of the Māori Party brings with it the potential for a new alliance with the Kiingitanga and the capacity to unseat Labour.

Although reported to be apolitical, there are certain advantages a political alliance could offer the Kiingitanga given politics is our primary vehicle for influencing policy that affects our people at the central government level.

There is no question that Nanaia Mahuta has served her constituents and her Kiingitanga whānau respectably as the Hauraki-Waikato electorate MP for the Labour Party. However, the contest will not be between the candidates who stand in the seats. The real contest will be behind closed doors, between Labour and the Māori Party. The outcome dependent on which of them can secure the support and influence of King Tuheitia.

It presents an awkward scenario for Labour given at the last reshuffle, Labour dropped Nanaia down the party list, despite her fierce leadership in securing 6 of the 7 Māori seats for the Labour Party and the loyalty the Kiingitanga have implicitly shown Labour in re-electing Nanaia for almost 20 years. In contrast, the Māori Party whose new President is also the trusted ear of the King will push hard for that support. If the Māori Party are successful, this could mean a seat that has resided with Labour for almost 20 years, could now hang in the balance. In TV terms, it is quite the game of thrones, of sorts.