Constructive Opposition

The Herald reports:

Two Opposition MPs are proposing long-awaited changes to the law governing the $50 billion apartment sector, drafting an overhaul which they hope the Government will support.

Nikki Kaye, Auckland Central MP, and Judith Collins, National’s housing and urban development spokeswoman, have produced draft legislation to amend the Unit Titles Act which governs the management and running of thousands of apartments.

They aim to strike a balance between the benefits of more compliance requirements and any potential costs.

A statement said the MPs saw the opportunity to strengthen the existing regime in areas such as pre-contract disclosure, record keeping of body corporates, better management of conflicts of interests and proxy votes. 

“The driver for this change has been concerns around a lack of transparency and inadequate long-term maintenance plans, and a clearer understanding of the role of a body corporate manager,” Collins said.

The apartment sector is thought to be worth at least $50b. Under-investment in long-term maintenance plans could result in large unexpected bills for homeowners if defects occur, or sharp rises in body corporate fees, the MPs said.

“Places like Auckland have seen a huge increase in unit titles. The number of multi-unit housing developments in Auckland increased from just over 15 per cent of new houses in 2010 to over 40 per cent in 2017,” the statement said.

Phil Twyford, now Housing Minister, supported the push for change in Kaye’s ‘apartment blues’ report when he was in Opposition.

This is a good example that Opposition is more than just opposing.

Nikki and Judith have written draft legislation in an area that needs reform. It isn’t partisan. The Government could well support it.

Another example of this is around adoption laws. TVNZ reports:

Changes to adoption laws will take time, the Prime Minister said today, but she maintained the Government knows “it’s a problem”, after broadcaster Toni Street criticised the current legislation. …

Ms Ardern replied to Street’s Instagram post writing: “The adoption act is well over 50-years-old and definitely needs fixing. It’s on our work programme!”

During the last Government there was a bipartisan group of MPs working on adoption law reform. Kevin Hague from the Greens and Nikki Kaye spent scores of hours meetings experts and academics and eventually drafted a comprehensive reform bill Hague submitted in 2012.

Another MP, Jacinda Ardern, put up a rival bill which was arguably the worst members’ bill in recent years. It was voted down. The Ardern bill didn’t do any actual law reform. It merely asked the Law Commission to write a bill for her. It was virtue signalling rather than legislating.

So you don’t have to be in Government to be a constructive legislator. But you do have to be willing to do the hard work. Writing a bill in a complex area involves scores and scores of meetings, revisions, analysis etc.

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