Politics in Full Sentences - 2 September 2019

Mon, 02 Sep, 2019

Ihumātao

Jacinda Ardern has created a mess at Ihumātao. Rather than standing up for the property rights of the owners of the land, she waded in, halted development, and conferred legitimacy on the protestors. Now we’ve seen the protest group march on her Auckland office and speculation about the Government lending money to a third party to purchase the land. That would be a disaster.

The speech Jacinda should have given

How should the PM have addressed the nation on the Ihumātao issue? David Seymour set out some of his thoughts in his weekly Magic Talk column last week. Firstly, the Prime Minister should have acknowledged that it was wrong that the land was taken against the wishes of its owners in 1863, and before then, too. But New Zealand has drawn a line under property by conquest because insecure property rights help nobody. There’s a widespread consensus that privately-owned land is not available for settling grievances. Leaders in Māoridom agree because they own property and want to live in a country with secure property rights, too.

Property rights matter

Ardern should have gone on to argue that a system of property rights is paramount to achieving our goals. If we consider the way different countries set up their institutions, the ones with strong property rights are prosperous. If you own a piece of property, you cannot have it taken off you unless you freely and genuinely consent to sell or gift it. Then consider places where nobody owns anything with any certainty, and the strongest thugs own everything by default. These places are basket cases. Zimbabwe, much of Central America, North Korea. How do property rights help? They let people plan. If you can’t be sure you’ll own the things you own today tomorrow, how can you invest? How can you get a bank loan to support your investment? How do you keep your spirits up when everything you’ve worked for is just taken away? You can’t.

A nightmare scenario

Finally, the Prime Minister would have been wise to warn the protestors that they would not achieve justice by returning us to a world of property by conquest. New Zealand cannot become a place where anybody could lose their property if a group of protestors show up and set up camp. Such an outcome would be a nightmare. It amounts to saying that if someone occupies your property for long enough, you may be bullied into selling it. People need to be able to own property, and plan their futures around using it, such as by building homes. The current system of property rights enjoys support from every group of New Zealanders and it is the Prime Minister’s job to defend it.

What will the KiwiBuild ‘reset’ look like?

Remember KiwiBuild? One of Labour’s flagship policies heading into the 2017 election, it was supposed to solve the housing crisis and create 100,000 new affordable homes for New Zealanders. After stuttering along for almost two years, and ‘building’ just 202 houses (they were purchased off the private sector, and so haven’t added to the overall supply of housing), the Government will on Wednesday announce a KiwiBuild ‘reset’. We don’t know how the Government will sell KiwiBuild 2.0, but we do know that Megan Woods now has the toughest job in New Zealand politics and that the policy almost certainly cannot be salvaged.

The fundamental problem with KiwiBuild

The issue with KiwiBuild is that it does not solve the underlying problem causing the housing crisis. Houses are a combination of land, buildings and infrastructure. The shortage is not in buildings. It is in sections, i.e. land and infrastructure. The price of the median Auckland section has gone up 903 per cent since 1993. Over the same period, inflation has gone up 66 per cent and construction costs per square metre has gone up 212 per cent. In other words, building costs are a problem but section prices are the real issue. If section prices had gone up at the same rate as building costs, the average Auckland house price would be $500,000 – half of what it is now. KiwiBuild doesn’t do anything to generate more sections. It is just a project to build homes on the (scarce and overpriced) sections we already have.

A serious housing plan

Senior building executives tell us that only one housing plan can solve the current crisis. That plan would see Government make better planning laws in all urban environments, replacing the RMA with a law that reflects the Productivity Commission’s Better Urban Planning report. Such a law would set out infrastructure plans and let people build around it without restrictive zoning such as the municipal urban boundary. The Government would allow councils issue targeted rates to pay for infrastructure for new developments and, if it really wanted to see building go ahead, get councils out of the building consent and inspection business. Councils are the bane of a builders’ existence and didn’t stop leaky buildings anyway. Mandatory private insurance of new builds would be better. That plan is ACT’s housing policy.

Firearms ‘buy-back’ rate far too low

ACT has crunched the numbers on the gun ‘buy-back’ and it’s bad news for the Government: Police need to increase their collection rate six-fold. More than 250,000 firearms have been banned, but as of last Monday just 15,276 firearms had been handed in at 118 events. That’s 129 guns per event and many of these guns weren’t even banned by April’s legislation, as the Police Minister admitted last week. At least 234,724 prohibited firearms are still in circulation. Assuming Police add another 200 collection events to their schedule, they would need to collect 775 firearms at each, a 6-fold increase in the current rate. Given the ongoing failure of the ‘buy-back’, the Government needs extend the firearms amnesty beyond 20 December.

Tuffley on the economy

In response to a massive increase in people asking him about the economy, David Seymour is hosting the first of a series of economic-related events in the Epsom electorate tomorrow. Nick Tuffley from ASB will give his perspective on what to expect in these unconventional times. Please RSVP here if you'd like to attend.

Freedom to Speak Tour

David continues to take his message about the importance of free speech, and freedom generally, around the country. He will host events in Hamilton on Wednesday, Palmerston North on 16 September, Wellington on 23 September, and Dunedin on 27 September.

Your weekly reminder

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