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Minister talks housing at Finance 2015

Finance Minister Bill English focused on Auckland’s housing issues at Finance 2015, an annual event co-hosted by Massey University and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

The Auckland business community, academics and media turned out in force to hear the Minister’s first major speech of the year, which outlined the government’s priorities for its third term.

Mr English described Housing New Zealand’s housing stock as a “massively inefficient land bank” and said that both central government and the Auckland Council needed to develop more of their land for housing.

He identified the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company, which is a partnership between the government and Auckland Council, as a project that is rejuvenating the suburb.

Housing New Zealand owns over half the houses in Tāmaki, Mr English told the audience, and many were more than 50 years old and not suitable for today’s social housing tenants.

“Over the next decade or so, the company and its partners expect to build around 7,500 affordable and social homes, along with other community facilities,” he said. “That’s a net increase of around 5,000 houses after accounting for removals or demolitions of older properties.”

He said the government was focusing on supply because Auckland had decided it preferred to grow out, rather than up.

“Densification is about as popular as Ebola in parts of Auckland...You’ve made the choice to grow out and the government can now contribute by redeveloping our massively inefficient land bank in Auckland.”

During the question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr English fielded questions about inflation levels, which he said could head towards zero this year; whether New Zealand should follow Australia and charge foreign property investors large fees; and what were his plans for easing Auckland’s growing congestion.

The Minister played to the Auckland crowd with his answer to the final question.  

“The rest of the country would love to have your congestion. You live in a city that is fantastic, people want to live here and, as soon as you create a bit of room, it fills up. It’s a problem we’d all like to have in Invercargill.”

Finance 2015, now in its sixth year, provides business leaders with an update on the state of the New Zealand economy, as well as an opportunity for the business and academic communities to engage.

“I’d like to acknowledge the partnership the Chamber has with Massey University,” said Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

“It is one that recognises the need for talent to grow the economy. As the Minister says, it is a problem that the rest of New Zealand doesn’t have – and that’s growth. And we need talent, we need skills and I’m sure our partnership is contributing to that.”

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, agreed.

“Both our organisations share a view that we want to see the economy of New Zealand growing and that we are particularly focused on ensuring this city, which is crucial to the growth of New Zealand, is growing too,” he said.

“It’s not just business as usual. The kinds of challenges we face are new and different from those of the past century, so that’s why we refer to the new New Zealand and set ourselves the task of driving change.”

The relationship between the University and the Chamber was also cemented with the presentation of the Finance 2015 Top Student Awards, funded by the Finance 2015 event. The top first-year students from 2014 in finance (Liam McDonald) and economics (Bronwyn Bruce-Brand) at Massey’s Auckland campus were each awarded with a $1000 prize.

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Tags: housing new zealand