Widespread support for Twyford’s policy

May 19th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey reports:

Economist and former Reserve Bank Chairman Arthur Grimes, who has researched the effects of the Metropolitan Urban Limit on land prices, said he also supported its removal and a change to infrastructure financing, as well as the relaxation of density limits. Along with other researchers from Motu, Grimes found in 2008 that land prices inside the Auckland boundary were 10 times higher than outside the boundary. See my 2009 article on that here  and subsequent Productivity Commission research showing similar results here.

“I’m partial to removing whatever they want to call it this week — the Metropolitan Urban Limit or the Rural Urban Boundary,” Grimes told Interest.

“There are two urban growth boundaries in Auckland. One is a horizontal one and one is a vertical one, and it’s important to get rid of both of them,” he said.

Grimes said he opposed the recent practice of progressive extensions of the RUB, which simply gave land owners serial monopolies on land that pushed up land values.

“The way it’s been discussed in the draft Unitary Plan really shows a misunderstanding of basic economic principles and is almost designed to give people their own specialised monopoly for a while that forces up the price of land.”

Grimes points out very well the problem of just moving the boundary.

Grimes also supported moves to finance the infrastructure needed for development with targeted rates, pointing to other similar tools used overseas such as as (Tax Increment Finance) TIFs.

“These sorts of things are quite mainstream internationally and would seem to me to make a lot of sense to investigate. I can’t see major fishhooks in them and they’re definitely worth looking at,” he said.

Grimes also said Councils also had low debt ratios in New Zealand and linking rates payments to infrastructure bonds was an accepted and sensible practice.

I’ve previously blogged in support of Twyford’s infrastructure bonds proposal, so that the costs of infrastructure to new properties is funded through targeted rates over time, rather than up front.

Property Council CEO Connal Townsend said he agreed with Labour’s call to abolish the Rural Urban Boundary.

“The Rural Urban Boundary is a barrier to entry into Auckland’s land market which will continue to distort market behaviour. An artificial boundary that chokes land supply is counter intuitive,” Townsend said.

He said he also agreed a rethink of infrastructure financing was needed.

“We know that paying development contributions through targeted rates over a number of years is workable. And, we already have the Local Government Funding Agency which more and more councils are starting to make use of,” Townsend said.

The property people support it.

Business NZ also welcomed Labour’s proposal.

CEO Kirk Hope said providing more land for building was needed.

“With agreement on this issue between both main political parties, it is to be hoped that local government planning decisions will take heed of the need to focus on land and housing supply,” he said.

As does business.

A great policy from Labour

May 18th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour wants the Government to abolish Auckland’s city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the urban growth boundary had to go because it has fuelled the housing crisis and people would not be forced into bad circumstances if the Government acted.

“The Government should rule out any possibility of an urban growth boundary in Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis,” Twyford said.

“Over 25 years the urban growth boundary hasn’t prevented sprawl, but it has helped drive land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in garages and campgrounds,” Twyford said.

I’m stunned, but in a good way.

Twyford had been showing signs of getting it for a few months now, acknowledging that land supply restrictions were a huge issue. Every expert report into housing says the artificial restriction of land for housing is the biggest factor, and other measures will be ineffective if you don’t fix this.

I thought that Labour would have some imprecise policy such as supporting some movement in the boundary. I never thought they would come out and say abolish it.

This is excellent they have. Huge kudos to Phil Twyford for getting Labour to agree to this. They’ve done a lot of things wrong in recent times, but this is a sign they are doing some things right.

But Twyford said the urban growth boundary created an artificial scarcity of land, driving up section costs. Land inside the boundary is up to ten times more valuable than rural land.

“It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary.

Twyford is dead right – moving it is not enough.

National needs to get some balls, and come out with the same policy. Auckland Council should be left under no mistake – abolish the boundary, or Parliament will step in and do it.

There is a less dramatic way to abolish it. Labour’s candidate for Mayor Phil Goff could adopt this as policy. Also will Twyford get the Labour-aligned City Vision candidates to support abolishing the boundary?

This announcement by Twyford makes him my MP of the Week, MP of the Month and maybe even better than that. It is a seriously good policy that will make a huge difference to Aucklanders if implemented.

UPDATE: You can sign a petition here (from the Taxpayers Union) calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s policy on abolishing the Auckland Metropolitan Urban Limit. The more people who sign the petition, the more pressure on National to do the right thing and sign up to Labour’s policy.

Twyford wrong

May 12th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Rampant speculators are cashing in big on Auckland’s property market, with one house sold five times in just nine months.

The humble three-bedroom home in Papakura was repeatedly flipped between February and November last year, its price spiralling from $335,000 to $590,000 – a capital gain of $870 a day.

Two of the transactions were settled on the same day, giving the seller an instant $80,000 profit without ever taking possession.

“This is frenzied activity,” Labour’s housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, told theWeekend Herald. “These people are making massive tax-free gains at the expense of ‘Generation Rent’.”

Last August National introduced a law change so that a property (except your main one) sold within two years of purchase is automatically taxed as income on the gain. This means that they will be paying (probably) 33% on their profits. This incidentialy is massively greater than the 15% capital gains tax Labour had proposed.

So Twyford is wrong – any purchases after 1 October sold within two years are taxed. He is campaigning on a falsehood.

Labour claimed 30% of Auckland houses purchased by Chinese, actual data shows 2.3%

May 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Twyford claimed last year:

Nearly 40 percent of the houses sold in that period went to people of Chinese descent, and as your introduction pointed out, the Chinese New Zealander population in Auckland, according to the most recent census data, is about 9 percent. Now, that is a remarkable discrepancy, and, in my view, it’s simply not plausible to suggest, as many have done in the last couple of years, that the Chinese— ethnic Chinese people who are buying houses in Auckland are all Chinese New Zealanders. It points, I think, to only one possible conclusion, and that is that offshore Chinese investors have a very significant presence in the Auckland real estate market when you consider that Auckland house prices are spiralling out of control at the moment. …

This is an issue about foreign investment, and it doesn’t matter in one sense what the surnames of the buyers are, but if this data shows, and I believe it strongly suggests, that offshore Chinese investors have a major presence, possibly as high as 30 percent of the houses sold by this real estate firm over a three-month period, then that is very significant.

Louise Upston has released actual data. It shows that 4% of Auckland buyers were overseas tax residents and 58% of those 4% were from China which is 2.3% of total Auckland sales.

Phil Twyford should be ashamed of himself for his disgraceful and shoddy data where he failed to differentiate between New Zealanders and foreigners on the basis of their surname. You may have a Chinese sounding surname yet be a 4th generation New Zealander.

The LINZ data is not perfect and they go to great lengths to state its limitations. But the gap between the 30% Twyford was claiming and the 2.3% in the LINZ data is so great that is is preposterous to suggest that Twyford was anywhere near correct.

Stats Chats says:

The LINZ report does a good job explaining the real limitations of `tax residence’ as a criterion, but it’s a lot better than any previous data we’ve had.

I’m looking forward to a Mt Roskill by-election (if Goff wins) where the Labour candidate has to explain to the many Chinese New Zealanders living in Mt Roskill why Labour whipped up Aucklanders to blame them for high property prices.

The data will continue to be updated every three months, so we will be able to see if the levels of purchases by foreign tax residents increases. But for now there is nothing to suggest they are having a big impact on the market, and hence Labour’s policy to ban them is basically worthless, as it would have a miniscule impact on house prices at best. Maybe Labour could focus on real solutions such as increasing the amount of land available, instead of deeming people with Chinese sounding surnames as the problem.

Apartment law reform

February 24th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A political consensus has emerged between two Auckland MPs over the need to reform the law governing the apartment and multi-unit sector.

After Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye this year launched a campaign to hear people’s concerns, Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford said yesterday he supported her actions.

Good to see a Labour MP come on board. Also good to see Kaye showing that you can be a Cabinet Minister but also run campaigns on issues important to your constituents.

But he finds it bizarre that it was Kaye running the campaign for change.

“The National Cabinet has been deaf to people’s concerns about the apartment sector,” Twyford said, criticising its makeup as dominated by MPs outside Auckland.

Twyford seems to be rather confused.

Four of the top six ranked Ministers are from Auckland.

In total nine out of 20 in Cabinet are Auckland MPs.

In fact Auckland has significantly more representation in Cabinet than its share of the population.

So once again Twyford not letting facts get in the way of his assertions.

Twyford targeted by ex Labour staffer

January 13th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A former Labour member plans to run a candidate in Te Atatu in protest at Phil Twyford’s use of Chinese-sounding names to analyse Auckland property purchases.

Former Labour staffer and political commentator Phil Quin, who resigned as a Labour member over the data analysis which he called racial profiling, said he hoped the candidate would win enough votes in 2017 to oust Mr Twyford from the seat. Mr Quin told the Herald he was searching for a candidate who could run as an alternative for Labour voters who had been made uncomfortable by Mr Twyford’s use of the housing data.

“I don’t expect such a campaign to win more than a couple of thousand votes – not nearly enough to win, but enough to force Twyford to rely on his high list ranking.”

If such a campaign were successful it would not damage the Labour Party overall or the number of MPs it would take into Parliament, Mr Quin said. “I’m not interested in helping National – that runs counter to my life’s work to date – and MMP allows us to target electorate MPs without affecting overall parliamentary representation.”

Many constituents in Te Atatu feel let down by Twyford over his Chinese surnames stunt. The electorate is 24% Asian and they don’t like being blamed by Twyford for high house prices because of their surnames.

Twyford sees the light on housing affordability

December 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A remarkable joint op ed in the NZ Herald by Labour’s Phil Twyford and the NZ Initiative’s Oliver Hartwich.

A big part of the problem in Auckland is escalating land costs. Linked to this, too few houses are being built. The houses that are being built are too expensive.

To quote Bill English: “It costs too much and takes too long to build a house in New Zealand. Land has been made artificially scarce by regulation that locks up land for development. This regulation has made land supply unresponsive to demand.”

We agree with the Minister.

Labour have almost ignored land costs to date. They put all the blame on profits for property developers and the lack of a capitals gains tax. This is despite numerous reports highlighting land cost as the major factor.

So this is a huge concession from Twyford.

Our own research leaves no doubt that planning rules are a root cause of the housing crisis, particularly in Auckland but not only there.

Again this is great.

In our view, there are three issues to be addressed.

First, urban growth boundaries driving up section costs. Second, anti-density restrictions stopping affordable housing. Third, the expensive and inefficient way we fund infrastructure.

The parties of the left have been hostile to expanding urban boundaries. To have Labour’s spokesperson say that the first issue is the urban boundary is a huge change in rhetoric.

My view has consistently been you need to build out and up. You need both. You can’t just choose one. Sure there will be some areas where you don’t want 20 story apartment blocks, but there are many many areas where you can go taller.

So it is great to see Labour finally focusing on the real drivers of house prices inflation, rather than peripheral issues such as tax.  This, combined with their support for RMA reform, is starting to show them as a party that is getting fit to be Government one day.

Chinese does not mean foreign

November 18th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour MP Phil Twyford says he will not be intimidated by an alleged smear campaign that is apparently backed by foreign property speculators.

Labour’s housing spokesman will reportedly be targeted by controversial political consultant Simon Lusk at the 2017 election because of his strong stance on offshore buyers.

TV3’s Duncan Garner said last night he was told Mr Lusk was being funded by “Chinese money” to carry out a “direct mailout” that would focus on the Te Atatu MP.

Asked to respond this morning, Mr Twyford said: “I think it’s interesting that foreign property speculators are so concerned to defend the tax-free mega-profits they’re making in the Auckland housing market that they’re willing to hire the National Party’s dirty tricks machine to do their work for them.”

Phil Twyford makes the same mistake as he made in his research in which he claimed up to 40% of Auckland house purchases are made by foreigners because they have Chinese sounding surnames.

I don’t know anything about this rumoured campaign, but Chinese money is much much more likely to refer to local Chinese who felt greatly offended by Twyford claiming that most purchasers with Chinese surnames must be foreigners.

You see the interesting thing is that Twyford is the MP for Te Atatu.  And Te Atatu’s electorate profile shows 24% of residents are Asian. So I guess he has pissed off a huge number of his own constituents, and they’re the ones who want a new MP – one who doesn’t insult them.

So Twyford has just gone and made it worse for himself by referring to his own constituents as foreign property speculators.

Twyford’s idea worth considering

November 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand wasn’t very clever when it came to how infrastructure at new housing developments was funded, he said.

At present, developers would have to pay all the costs for services inside a new subdivision, with the costs passed on to home buyers.

“It gets added on to the price of the house and paid off over time as you pay the mortgage off, with expensive commercial bank interest rates.”

The impact of this was to pump up the cost of new houses by as much as $100,000 and have that cost capitalised into the market value of all homes nearby.

Twyford said a smarter way of paying for that infrastructure would be by local government borrowing for it, at cheaper rates than mortgage rates.

Home owners would then pay it back through a targeted rate over 30 years, spreading the cost over the lifetime of the infrastructure.

I think this is an issue worth considering. Should infrastructure for new homes be funded by way of up front developer levies, or by targeted rates on the properties?

I think there is a case for more of it to be funded by targeted rates.

The climate change “refugee” Labour wants to stay here

September 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

One News reported:

Ioane Teitiota was sent back to the tiny Pacific island this afternoon after a last minute appeal to let him and his family stay in New Zealand on humanitarian grounds was denied.

However revelations have been made against Mr Teitiota by a former employer saying he sexually assaulted a female co-worker and violently assaulted other colleagues before being fired from a west Auckland market garden.

Rob Hosking on Labour’s surnames research

July 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Hosking writes at NBR:

This is where Mr Twyford’s effort is a cheap and nasty political shot. By basing his claims on data about whether investors have what Labour considers foreign-sounding names, he has opened up a seam of racism.

It appears he and Labour Party researcher Rob Salmond have simply gone down a list of property buyers and singled out anyone who has a name that sounds vaguely Chinese.

This has been wrapped in a patina of bogus statistical chatter in a bid to make it sound less odious: for example, Mr Salmond says someone with the surname of Lee has a 40% chance of being Chinese.

Message: if you have a Chinese-sounding name, you’re probably foreign. What’s more, Labour researcher Rob Salmond has an algorithm that calculates just how foreign you might be.

And over 30,000 have visited the parody site – and a fair number it seems think it is a legitimate Labour site. Labour should reflect on what that means that such an obvious parody is not seen as too far from what they have been doing.

This is really nasty stuff. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with some of the more bloody racial conflicts of the 20th Century will feel a chill that the Labour Party is doing this.

Really though, the matter of offshore investment in Auckland’s property market distorting that market is primarily an economic issue, not one of race.

By emphasising the racial aspect of the matter, Labour has deliberately embarked on a move calculated to raise racial tensions.

Why?

A good question.

Some of this is to do with Mr Twyford’s ambitions for the deputy leadership. This is also tied up with those well-known west Auckland voters who deserted Labour for National in recent elections.

Not sure this will help him. I understand a fair few Labour MPs are very upset with him.

There is no doubt people with Chinese names whose families have been here for years are justifiably enraged by Mr Twyford’s rather glib, shallow and irresponsible ploy.

But even for more recent arrivals: the assumption that anyone with a Chinese sounding name is foreign is nasty and poisonous.

Yep.

Now that is playing the game well

June 15th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald profiles Phil Twyford:

Twyford was among those understood to be trying to persuade David Shearer to step down although Maryan Street took most of the fall publicly for that. In the ensuing leadership contest Twyford helped run Grant Robertson’s campaign.

On the day the results were announced, Twyford arrived at Robertson’s side to a function in Wellington but quietly left soon afterward. To the surprise of those at the Robertson do, an hour later Twyford suddenly popped up at Cunliffe’s shoulder in Auckland.

That’s impressive speed!

Labour on interest rates

June 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The average Kiwi household is $250 a year worse off because the Auckland housing boom has kept interest rates high, Labour has claimed.  

With the Reserve Bank due to revise its 3.5 per cent official cash rate (OCR) on Thursday, Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford has issued figures showing an across the board 0.5 cut would provide an immediate $725 million boost.

He says the analysis – which he admits is an assumption, given all interest rates would not immediately respond in a uniform way – reinforces his criticism of National’s “abject failure” to control soaring prices or build enough affordable housing.

“This is money that is currently going to offshore lenders. The whole country – households, consumers and businesses – are paying the price of the Government’s failure to fix the Auckland housing crisis,” Twyford said.

So Phil Twyford is complaining that under National the OCR is 3.5% and this is costing businesses and households too much money.

Let’s have a look at the history of the OCR:

ocr

Yeah that 3.5% is just killing businesses and households. Labour never had it below 4.5% and even had it above 8% until they crashed the economy into recession (before the GFC struck).

Vote Labour for lower interest rates – yeah right.

Median house price doubled under Labour

May 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prime Minister has been accused of lying about housing price increases under Labour – but figures support his often-repeated claim.

John Key was called a liar after an exchange with Labour leader Andrew Little in Question Time Tuesday.

Mr Little asked what effect the Government’s new rules on taxing capital gain on residential properties would have on the Auckland housing market.

In response, Mr Key repeated a claim he has made in recent weeks – that house prices doubled under the previous Labour Government.

That prompted Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford to tweet that the Prime Minister was repeating the lie that house prices went up more under Labour than under his own Government.

So what is the truth?

Mr Twyford referred to statistics from the Real Estate Institute of NZ (REINZ) that showed its Auckland housing price index rose by 77 per cent during the Helen Clark Labour Government, and 87 per cent under the current National Government.

But another data set also released by REINZ – median national sale prices – does support the Prime Minister’s statement.

Under Labour, the national median price rose from $172,000 in November 1999 to $337,500 in November 2008, a 96 per cent increase.

The national median price has since gone up another 35 per cent under National to $455,000.

So median price for NZ doubled under Labour, compared to 35% under National.

Twyford tries to wriggle out of his claim by saying:

Mr Twyford told the Herald that he stood by his criticism.

The Prime Minister was being deliberately misleading by referring to nationwide prices in responding to questions about Auckland prices, without saying he was using nationwide figures, Mr Twyford said.

Twyford is wrong – again. Let’s look at Hansard:

Interestingly enough, if you look at the information by the Real Estate Institute, figures across New Zealand actually show that although Auckland house prices are up, the rest of the country is very mixed; some are actually down. And, interestingly enough, if you look at the equivalent period of time under the last Labour Government, house prices doubled. Under National they have gone up nationally by 35 percent.

Twyford should apologise. And to remove doubt, Key in a previous question used a different figure in reference to Auckland prices:

I know that Labour members do not like it, but house prices doubled under their watch. Actually, Auckland house prices went up by 79 percent under the previous Labour Government.

So John Key clearly linked to doubling of house prices to being nation-wide and used the 79% figure correctly for Auckland house prices under Labour.

Twyford will of course refuse to apologise.

Labour supporting competition – good

November 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford has raised concerns about anti-competitive building industry practices after the world’s second biggest wallboard maker said it was reviewing its structure in New Zealand. …

Twyford said building materials competition was essential to lowering costs and he urged the Commerce Commission to release the findings of its investigation into the wallboard market, first announced in August last year.

But Nick Smith, Building and Construction Minister, said while wallboard market dominance was being investigated, politicians needed to stay out of it.

“It’s well-established that ministers or MPs shouldn’t be interfering in the independence of the commission,” Smith said.

But good to see a Labour MP talking up the merits of competition to lower costs.

Violent Crime

June 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest desperate go by Labour is to blame National for the recent killings in West Auckland.

David Cunliffe’s chief setter upper of secret trusts blogs at The Standard:

Lately West Auckland has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Four alleged homicides in less than a month, two domestic, one from a neighbourhood dispute and the latest allegedly involving a 12 year old and a 13 year old and the robbery of a local dairy owner have put West Auckland in the media for all of the wrong reasons.

The deaths have created a deep sense of unease.  What is going wrong?

Local MP Phil Twyford has expressed his deep misgivings:

What kind of country have we become when a dairy owner is killed in his shop at 7 o’clock in the morning allegedly by a child with a knife?

“The young accused were well known to local shopkeepers in a retail centre where begging, intimidation and anti-social behaviour have unfortunately been all too common.

“The community is asking why there has not been a more visible police presence, with regular foot patrols to discourage law-breaking. There is a community constable delegated to cover Henderson but the officer is based in Massey. We’d like to see a community constable based in the town centre, with a shop front on the main street.

The right have responded predictably.  Cameron Slater claimed that Twyford was politicising murder.  Obviously as far as he is concerned it is better for the causes not to be debated.

This claim is deeply hypocritical.  David Farrar during 2008 posted a series of posts suggesting that violent crime was worsening and implying that the fifth Labour Government was responsible.

Firstly I blogged on official crime stats, I never went blaming the Government the day after a (alleged) murder. That is sad and desperate.

As for the “suggestion” that violent crime was worsening, well here are the stats from Stats NZ:

violentcrime

Doesn’t that tell a dramatic story.

The Government doesn’t control all, or even most, of the factors that cause crime. But it does control policy on sentencing, parole and bail, and also funding for Police and for rehabilitation.

Presland continues:

As far as I am concerned there is a political element to what is happening out west and this is why this Government’s policies should be put under the microscope.  Potential causes include the following:

  1. Poverty.  Three of the deaths occurred in one of the poorest parts of West Auckland and the alleged killer in the fourth was apparently begging.  Trickle down is not working.

  2. Policing.  I have heard that the Waitakere Criminal Investigation Unit is severely understaffed, with up to a third of positions not currently filled.  There are many dedicated police officers working in the area but if the Police does not have sufficient resources they will not be able to do their job properly.

  3. Education.  It is astounding that the Government can find $360 million to attempt to bribe teachers with promises of more pay but cannot increase funding for alternative education.  Imagine what a difference this sum could make if applied to kids who are clearly at risk.

  4. Working conditions.  The right are already saying “what about the parents”.   Sure there are bad parents around.  There are also good parents working inhumane hours just to make ends meet.

I think my favourite is that National offering $360 million to pay the best teachers more, so they can share their skills with colleagues, is somehow linked to the murder in West Auckland. And this isn’t some deranged anonymous blogger – but one of the closest advisors to the Labour Leader.

Incidentially see Mr Presland wants to play this game, there were 234 homicides (and related offences) in the last three years (2011 to 2013). In 2006 to 2008 there were 291. So does that mean Labour in its third term had failed to do anythng about poverty, policing, education and working conditions? And doesn’t the 20% drop in homicides then mean that those factors have all improved?

Of and finally, as Mr Presland is talking about West Auckland, I had a look at the violent crime stats for Waitemata Police District.

In 2008 there were 3,952 violent crimes in Waitemata. In 2013 there were 3,134. That’s a huge 26% drop.

So I say bring it on, if Labour wants to start talking violent crime in West Auckland. It will be a great way to get them ever lower in the 20s in the polls.

UPDATE: Rachel Smalley also calls out Labour for politising a tragedy. Smalley notes:

However Mr Twyford suggests that questions should be asked about why there hasn’t been a more visible police presence in Henderson with regular foot patrols to discourage law-breaking. There is a suggestion that a more visible police presence would have prevented this crime.

I don’t think you can say that a lack of police resources contributed, on some level, to Mr Kumar’s death. I don’t think that police officers walking the streets would have stopped such a senseless crime. Whoever killed Mr Kumar had no compassion or respect for humanity, and I don’t believe that you could have prevented what happened by instructing a policeman to walk down the street from time to time.

Tragedies like the murder of Arun Kumar should not be politicised. We’ve seen politicians out in Henderson. Len Brown’s been there, the Auckland mayor. Labour MPs have paid their respects. But I think the Kumar family’s greatest support right now will come from the police, not from politicians.

I don’t want to see more police on the streets. I want to see better parenting in our homes. That’s where the issue of accountability lies. Children who are loved and nurtured don’t grow up to be killers.

Labour, I think, has picked the wrong fight on this.

I think it is just a sign of Labour’s desperation.

Alabama in Auckland?

October 15th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford is crying foul over proposed public transport zones making it cheaper to travel to downtown Auckland from the North Shore than from other areas an equal distance away.

He claims the scheme discriminates against residents of lower-income western and southern suburbs, making it reminiscent of racially segregated “Alabama, 1955”.

I have no view on what the zone charges should be, but really I think the hyperbole is a but hysterical.

Labour on road charges

June 14th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Phil Twyford says:

The Government’s decision to  increase petrol tax and road user charges are outrageous examples of tax and spend at a time when the country is being asked to tighten its belt, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford.

Phil Twyford said Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee today confirmed increases in petrol excise duty of two cents a litre and an equivalent increase in road user charges of an average of 4.1 per cent. The increases are expected to bring in an extra $90 million in 2012-13 and $100 million a year after that.

“The increases will hit motorists at a time when Kiwi families are struggling to make ends meet. Businesses are working overtime to keep afloat and the last thing they need is an increase in transport costs.

Roads should be funded on a user pays basis, and petrol tax and RUCs are the way this is done. I’d like to see us over time move to actual usage charging and congestion charging but there are some privacy issues around that.

It is worth recalling that Labour increased the petrol excise tax by 11.2c when in office – and off memory this was not all spent on transport, but some went to the consolidated fund.

Likewise Light RUC charges went up 66% under Labour, so the crocodile tears over a 4% increase are quite amusing.

I’ve said for some time that I think petrol tax and road user charges should in fact be automatically set to fund all transport projects which meet a certain minimum benefit to cost ratio.

Twyford attacks Brown over POAL

February 29th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Phil Twyford blogs:

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs. …

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security. …

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

This is the same Phil Twyford who spent years saying that Wellington should not dictate to Auckland, yet is now trying to bully Len Brown into putting the interests of the Labour Party (for the Maritime Union is part of the Labour Party) ahead of the interests of Auckland.

Len knows he would be toast if he kneecapped a Council subsidiary, just to please the Labour caucus in Wellington.

Nasty party attacks Stats NZ

November 9th, 2011 at 4:38 pm by David Farrar

Labour MP Phil Twyford doesn’t know the difference between a trend series and a seasonally adjusted series. So what did he do when a data series from Stats NZ showed a positive trend in the trend series? He attacks Stats NZ and accuses them of political bias.

Stats NZ is probably the most neutral agency in the public service after the Auditor-General. Attacking their integrity is very stupid and desperate.

Stuff reports:

Labour’s candidate for the Auckland electorate of Te Atatu yesterday suggested Statistics New Zealand had “massaged” the latest figures on building consents to paint a rosier picture than was correct.

Statistics New Zealand had released building consents for September which found a 17 per cent seasonally-adjusted fall and a 14 per cent fall when apartments were excluded.

“But the headline on the Statistics New Zealand press release read: Trends for new home approvals continue to rise,” Tywford said.

“Talk about spin!”

Statistics New Zealand’s “enthusiasm” could be excused in less partisan times, he said.

“But during an election period when National is patting itself on the back for doing as good a job as anyone could in terms of keeping the economy ticking over, it is impossible not to see a lack of neutrality in the department’s media release.”

Trying to make a 17 per cent decline look like an increase was the “sort of behaviour” expected of Prime Minister John Key or National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce, Twyford said.

“It’s not what you expect of an organisation that has always – until now – prided itself on being fiercely independent of political bias.

“It is inexcusable for Statistics New Zealand to give even the appearance of bias during an election campaign.”

However, Statistics New Zealand chief executive Geoff Bascand said the government agency took seriously its responsibility to explain and present statistics in a meaningful and accurate way.

“As Government Statistician, I am fiercely protective of my statutory independence in the production and release of statistics.”

Volatility in building consents over past months had caused Statistics New Zealand to judge its trend series of figures as the most useful indicator of movement in building activity, he said.

It had also reported the seasonally-adjusted figures within the first paragraph of its statement and more detailed information had been included.

Maybe someone with a stats degree could explain to Twyford what a trend series is.

Is Twyford in trouble?

August 17th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton blogs at electionresults.co.nz:

As Ian Llewellyn has pointed out already, Mr Twyford has been at some risk in Te Atatu.  Since Ian wrote his piece a few weeks ago, things have got worse for Mr Twyford, with today’s trading having the probability of him winning now down to 72% from over 80% on 1 August.

To put that in context, iPredict is now saying that Te Atatu is the fourth most marginal seat in the country, after West Coast-Tasman, Tamaki Makarau and New Plymouth.

To put it even more in context, iPredict is saying that Mr Twyford has less chance of winning Te Atatu for Labour than Nathan Guy, Ms Kaye and Sam Lotu-Iiga have of winning the previously safe Labour seats of Otaki, Auckland Central and Maungakiekie for National.

This is disastrous for Labour, especially with Paula Bennett looking stronger than ever in Waitakere, and given the political importance of West Auckland.

Worse for Mr Twyford personally, party bosses have given him the insulting low ranking of 33 on Labour’s disgraceful, protect-all-the-losers listAs I discussed recently, this means that, if Mr Twyford loses to Mr Henare, he’s toast (while Mr Henare could expect to be rewarded with a return to Cabinet for such an historic win).

Keep in mind, of course, that Mr Twyford is still most likely to win Te Atatu.  But how extraordinary that a previously safe Labour seat is now grouped with the most marginal in the country.  It suggests Labour has terrible problems in West Auckland and perhaps suggest why John Key to remain prime minister is trading so incredibly high.

As Matthew says, Twyford remains the favourite to win in Te Atatu. But a market probability of 72% is significantly below most safe seats, and indicates that one or more people are willing to spend money on the basis Twyford may not win.

If people think Twyford is a sure bet, then they should buy up his stock and make some money. If you buy at 72% and he wins, you make a 39% return on investment in just four months, which is an annualised return of 119%. So is Twyford a safer bet than a finance company?

I agree with Twyford

January 21st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman reports:

It is undemocratic and untenable for unelected members of the Auckland Council’s Maori statutory board to have voting rights on council committees, says Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman Phil Twyford.

I agree with Phil Twyford on this point.

It is worth noting that the Royal Commission actually recommended having an unelected (appointed by Iwi) Councillor sit on the main Auckland Council itself. Labour criticised National for not following the Commission’s recommendations.

Two Maori representatives from the nine-member Maori statutory body will join up to 20 council committees with full voting powers under a Super City bill passed last year in the name of Local Government Minister and Act leader Rodney Hide.

If the council committees are actually making decisions, not just recommendations, this is a quite serious issue. Non-voting representation would be more appropriate.

It is worth remembering that three of the 20 Councillors are of Maori descent – and elected through wards.

Mr Twyford said hand-picked representatives exercising a full vote alongside elected representatives on council committees went against a fundamental principle of democracy and the Government should amend the law to make the positions advisory only.

I agree. But is Twyford representing what Labour said at the time. Here is a press release on 14 May 2009:

“Labour believes the Government should have adopted the Royal Commission’s proposals to include Maori seats on the council, but it hasn’t.

One of those Maori seats as an un-elected one, appointed by Iwi. So in 2009 Labour seemed to argue for un-elected Maori representation, but now they argue againgst it.

Mr Horomia said the relationship between the Auckland Council and mana whenua is important and it is essential they have a voice in local government decision-making.

“Just how that is reflected and how potential mana whenua seats might complement elected Maori seats is an issue which the select committee will hear submissions on and we will pay attention to this.

Again, Labour were not saying they were against appointed Maori representation back then.

“Imagine how people will feel in a really heated debate on some important issue, a committee is evenly split, and these non-elected, hand-picked advisers have the casting vote. People will be furious,” Mr Twyford said.

Again I agree.

Last night, Mr Hide, who is overseas, on his honeymoon, issued a statement saying the decision for Maori to be members of committees was made at the select committee state.

Labour was on that select committee. In their minority report they said:

This bill introduces a Māori Advisory Board. While we have worked hard to ensure this board is more effective, we have not altered our position. Labour believes there should be Māori seats on the new Auckland Council.

Working hard to make it more effective doesn’t sound like arguing they should not have representation on council committees.

He did say he was surprised the board would appoint people to sit on all council committees when the legislation required it to appoint people only to committees that dealt with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.

This is correct. So it is a decision of the Auckland Council itself that gave voting rights to the non-Councillors on all the other Committees. So will Phil Twyford call on Len Brown to restrict these appointments to those few committees dealing with natural and physical resources.

4th time lucky for Twyford

December 18th, 2010 at 3:32 pm by David Farrar

As widely expected Phil Twyford won the Labour nomination for Te Atatu, which should eventually kill off his nickname as “Shadow Minister for the Homeless”.

Now the focus will be on whether Chris Carter finds a job in the next few months. His book is due to be completed in March and published in May.

Anyway congrats to Phil Twyford – better late than never!

The Te Atatu selection

December 18th, 2010 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Labour Party president Andrew Little says its next candidate in Te Atatu will have to repair damage done to it by ousted MP Chris Carter to stop the seat slipping into National’s hands.

The party will select its candidate today. After a threat from Mr Carter to stand against the party as an independent if his preferred candidate, Phil Twyford, does not win that selection, Mr Little said Mr Carter was now irrelevant and any remaining local support was “dwindling rapidly”.

How does Andrew than explain the letter from the Te Atatu LEC which said that they supported Chris Carter unamiously?

Mr Carter said he believed Mr Twyford had the best chance of keeping the seat out of National Party hands. Although not a local, Kingsland resident Mr Twyford had a profile from his work opposing the Super City. Mr Carter said if Mr Twyford was not chosen, he himself would consider standing again to keep the seat in centre-left hands.

Mr Twyford has the support of at least three unions with voting rights – the Service and Food Workers’ Union, the Maritime Union and the Amalgamated Workers Union.

Mr Little is standing aside from the selection panel because Mr McCracken was an EPMU organisere about five years ago. However, Mr Little said yesterday that the union had not endorsed any candidate.

With Chris Carter threatening to split the vote as an independent candidate if anyone but Twyford is selected, and with three unions behind him, and the EPMU neutral, even Phil should be able to clinch the nomination.

Mr Carter said he did not know what his political future held and he might leave politics before the election if a good job came along – forcing an unwelcome byelection for Labour.

And this is what will be his ultimate revenge. Twyford gets the nomination, then Carter suddenly picks up a job (maybe with the UN) and we have a by-election. And if Twyford wins the by-election, it brings Judith Tizard back into the Labour Caucus for seven months or so.

More turmoil in Labour

December 9th, 2010 at 9:19 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

Turmoil is continuing within the Labour Party as it heads toward Sunday’s contentious candidate selection in Manurewa with current MP George Hawkins threatening to resign and force a byelection if the party selects a candidate he dislikes.

The party will select its new candidate to replace the retiring George Hawkins on Sunday and Mr Hawkins is understood to have told Labour leader Phil Goff he would force a byelection or publicly criticise the party if candidate Jerome Mika was selected.

George should not rule out both!

While the EPMU supports Mr Mika, the Service Workers Union, the Maritime Union and Amalgamated Workers Union support Louisa Wall. If the two sides can not agree on either candidate, they could choose a third person as a compromise rather than take a majority vote.

This is Labour Party democracy in action.

The three unions are also supporting List MP Phil Twyford in Te Atatu, which will have its selection a week later. Mr Twyford’s chances could be hurt if Mr Mika is selected for Manurewa because of calls for more female candidates in Auckland.

I suspect it will be fourth time lucky.

Things must be quite fragile in Labour at the moment, as Phil Goff has yet to announce the further rejuvenation reshuffle that was expected. When he did reshuffle due to perks abuse, the Herald reported:

Labour leader Phil Goff said there would be further changes ahead of next year’s general election.

You generally avoid reshuffles in election year. I wonder if Goff has backed off a reshuffle, as he can’t afford to upset any of his caucus at the moment?