The Press on Council housing

March 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

On the face of it, the attack last week by the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, appears to be amply justified.

While there may be room for quibbling about the exact numbers, the pace with which the Christchurch City Council has repaired and replaced the social housing damaged by the earthquakes has been slow.

Quoting from the council’s own latest report, the council has closed 327 social housing units but has managed, in a programme that is supposed to be urgent, to repair and relet only six of them.

Astonishing.

Brownlee is quite right to draw attention to it and to try to set a fire under councillors to get something done about it.

His singling out of Cr Yani Johanson for criticism was, however, misdirected. It is possible to understand the minister’s temptation to target Johanson. In the political spectrum of the council, Johanson sits on the gadfly Left wing.

After some years in office, he still has the slightly bumptious and irritating air of the student politician about him. He is also not slow to criticise the performance of others.

Indeed.

So when the council fails in a serious responsibility he appears to be in charge of, one can see how taking a swipe at him would be hard to resist.

It is, nonetheless, unfair.

For one thing, while Johanson is chairman of the committee that is in charge of the social housing stock, he is only one councillor among the others. He is not like a minister of the Crown. Any failure with repairs to social housing lies not with Johanson alone but with the other councillors on his committee and with the whole council.

I agree, Johanson is not solely responsible. However his share of responsibility must be greater than other Councillors as he chairs the committee in charge.

Taking the opportunity provided by Brownlee’s broadside to have a dig of his own at Johanson, Cr Aaron Keown suggested there were tensions between Johanson’s committee and council staff that were impeding progress on repair work.

If that is correct, the remedy is not, as Keown suggested, to transfer the work to the committee on which Keown sits, but for any difficulties to be identified and fixed. Council staff must provide councillors with prompt, accurate, complete information, and councillors must provide staff with clear and precise directions.

It is hard to say what the solution is, until we know what the problem is. The Council needs to clarify why it has only been able to fix six houses in two years and what changes are necessary to speed this up.

It was almost exactly a year ago that Brownlee lit a rocket under the Housing Corporation for its apparent lethargy on getting state houses repaired and replaced. More action quickly followed.

Beleaguered city council tenants will be hoping his latest blast will be as effective.

That would be good.

Personally this reinforces my belief that Councils should not be landlords. They tend to be very bad at it, and providing community housing is better done by Housing NZ and community groups. If the Council was not the owner, I suspect many more of those houses or apartments would be repaired by now.

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Editorials 12 February 2010

February 12th, 2010 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald calls for a temporary fix for Queens Wharf.

Three options released yesterday by the Minister for the Rugby World Cup, Murray McCully, provide alternatives for this. The cheapest, at $23.9 million, involves removing the ugly sheds from the wharf and creating a temporary village. The two others, at $27.2 million and $31.3 million, envisage the sheds being refurbished for the “party”. That represents no choice at all, given the sheds will remain an embarrassing eyesore no matter how much they are tarted up. They must go.

The Press is concerned about Iran. I doubt the feeling is mutual :-)

This week the bellicose Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, defied a string of United Nations sanctions resolutions and ordered the firing up of dozens of centrifuges to greatly increase his country’s output of enriched uranium. Although the product these facilities will produce is only to a level needed to run nuclear power stations and is not of sufficiently high grade to create nuclear weapons, it is a crucial technical step up in Iran’s nuclear programme. Having mastered the techniques required to produce this material, the next step to create weapons-grade material is a relatively simple one. And almost no-one believes Iran’s repeated denials that it intends eventually to take that next step. …

Iran with nuclear weapons, or military action to prevent it getting them, are highly undesirable alternatives. But if the world wants to avert them diplomacy must not be allowed to fail.

I think it pretty much already has failed.

The Dominion Post rails against pokie machines:

Gamblers pump about $1 billion a year into machines in pubs, RSAs and sports clubs. Of that, about a third finds its way back to the community via gaming trusts. (The rest is consumed by the Government, in the form of taxes, as well as by pubs and clubs and the gaming machine trusts.)

The majority of machines are concentrated in lower socio-economic areas. Newtown, for example, has 72. Khandallah, Thorndon, Kelburn and Wadestown have none. However, the proceeds are distributed evenly across communities. That means the people who frequent gaming machines in poorer neighbourhoods are subsidising the sporting and cultural pursuits of their neighbours in wealthier parts of town.

For this reason, and many others, tentative Wellington City Council proposals to gradually lower the number of machines in five “areas of concern” – Tawa, Johnsonville, Miramar, Karori and Newtown – are welcome.

I disagree. Gambling is effectively a tax on stupidity. the left always go on about how we should tax bad things more. Well stupidity is a bad thing, and if the taxpayer and community groups can make money from stupid people, then that is fine with me – so long as there is total transparency about odds – ie people know that over time they are almost certain to lose money.

The ODT looks at Sarah Palin:

Her popularity is as baffling as it is perhaps frightening to liberal intellectuals, Democrats – and, some suggest – to old-school Republicans whose most fervent wish is to retake the White House in 2012 and who fear her potentially divisive influence on the party. …

She may embody all the colourful hyperbole and grammatical integrity of a hastily penned country and western anthem, but down-home, emotive, illogical, God-fearing and at times disturbingly ignorant, she epitomises a certain cross-section of the electorate.

As such Mrs Palin is a potentially powerful influence on the future course of US politics.

Mainstream political forces will continue to dismiss her at their peril.

She may of course self-destruct at some stage. What will be interesting is how many GOP candidates ask her to appear with them in the mid-terms in November.

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