Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: June 29

A condemned house with a cracked roof may well let in more light than a frost encrusted car on a Christchurch street.  Photo / Geoff Sloan
A condemned house with a cracked roof may well let in more light than a frost encrusted car on a Christchurch street. Photo / Geoff Sloan

A condemned house with a cracked roof may well let in more light than a frost encrusted car on a Christchurch street. National did promise a brighter future for all last election, but that is definitely not the type of upgrade they want government ministers like Pita Sharples advocating. The Minister of Maori Affair's suggestion was damaging, not so much because he is actually advocating illegal acts, but more because he has shattered the Government line on Christchurch housing of 'there is no crisis' - see Olivia Carville and Vernon Small's Hardship but no housing crisis, says Key. With much of the housing quake damage going back nearly two years, the admission that some residents still face a choice between living in dangerous and condemned houses or freezing to death in the cars isn't, as they say, a good look - see Olivia Carville's Abandoned homes preferred to cars.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee had much success portraying themselves as action heroes, slashing red tape, sidelining a dysfunctional City Council and setting tight deadlines for action plans.

They have certainly been given the bureaucratic equivalent of super powers. And they've certainly used these super powers when it comes to the central city and high profile infrastructure like rugby stadiums. When it comes to housing, however, the action is less impressive. Although most affected residential owners finally know the fate of their homes after many months of anguish, there are many more economic casualties of the earthquakes. In particular, it seems that those with the fewest resources who have been pushed out of the rental market by those, not with greater needs, but simply with bigger bank accounts. That's the clear picture painted by Liz McDonald's Rental rises called obscene. She says that landlords are chasing short term gains: 'The investors are trying to cash in on a premium short-term market created by companies housing earthquake rebuild staff, and insurers putting up displaced homeowners'. It isn't just do-gooders complaining. With numerous cases of rents being doubled, McDonald quotes real estate agents and property managers describing such activity as 'obscene' and 'price-gouging'.

Steven Cowan wonders where the Maori Party leader has been for the past year, detailing a number of warnings about the problem in his blogpost, Never fear, Pita is here!: 'Rather than political grandstanding, Sharples and the Maori Party should be publicly challenging the Government for its failure to accept that a massive social crisis has unfolded in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch'.

The Rebuilding Christchurch blog argues that the top-down structures may well speed up action for known issues but at the cost of preventing problems being identified in the first place - see: Crisis? What Crisis?.

Sharples' comments raise some interesting contradictions: Can party leaders who are government ministers say one thing while wearing their 'leader hat' and another thing while wearing their 'ministerial hat'? The Minister of Maori Affairs appears to be saying that he is a) apologising, but b) still stands by what he said?. Here's what Sharples has said: 'It is an irresponsible comment as a minister, but you know as the leader of the Maori party I meant every word because I've got people out there whose job is to pick up people in the street who are in a bad way, and they work non stop, and they were very emotional about their reports' - see Barry Soper's Sharples suggests homeless sleep in red zone.

Was he saying one radical thing to his constituency when he thought he could get away with not being reported, but then had to backtrack when his targeted political communication went to an unintended wider audience? It sums up the political struggle facing his party. Those ministerial BMWs are probably comfortable enough to sleep in, but they come with a political price that Sharples seems unwilling to pay.

The Press editorial doesn't offer much hope to the homeless, both slamming Sharples' suggestion and claiming that other solutions, like rent freezes, will only make the situation worse - see: Shortage hits home.

Pressure is mounting on the Christchurch Council CEO, Tony Marryatt, to follow through with his pledge to repay his controversial pay rise if the councilors played nicely together - see RNZ's Marryatt not saying whether he will return rest of pay rise. Christchurch voters may be searching the last council election results in vain to find out how Marryatt thinks he has a mandate to dictate such things to elected representatives. See also, Steven Cowan's blog post, Marryatt Madness.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Opposition parties are hoisting the 'nationalist' flag again. Russel Norman's private members bill to protect farmland from foreign purchase has just been drawn from the parliamentary ballot - see Newstalk ZB's Land sales to overseas buyers in spotlight again. And Labour is pushing against the foreign purchases of farm land - see: Adam Bennett's Shearer: Kiwis being priced out of farming.

* Jane Clifton adds up all of the National Government's recent mismanaged issues and ponders in her latest Listener column whether 'Key is losing his famous trader's eye for a sweet deal' - see: Mixed Ownership Model Bill.

* Morgan Godfery has blogged his monthly Maori Politicians - The Good and The Bad. The surprise entry this month is honorary Maori MP, Catherine Delahunty, who Godfery salutes as 'one of the strongest advocates for Maori'. He says 'Impressively Catherine almost always puts a Maori perspective on issues. In her opposition to mining, Catherine always speaks of Maori values and the Treaty. I like it'. There's also bouquets for Nanaia Mahuta, Paul Eagle, Te Ururoa Flavell and Denise Roche, and brickbats for Hone Harawira, The Maori Party and MOM Act, Pem Bird, and Tau Henare.

* Tariana Turia may not have been as 'blindsided' as she has claimed about problems at a Palmerston North Women's refuge - see: Greens call for apology from minister over refuge claims.

* 'Never say never' is essentially the response from Steven Joyce on accusations of further asset sales - see: Govt not ruling out KiwiRail sale.

* A PR boss' comment that the loss of 380 editorial staff at Fairfax Australia will 'remove barriers' to getting stories in the media has outraged aussie journos reports John Drinnan in Editor unfazed by challenge. The really sad and outrageous bit is: it's true.

* 'A good day for the rule of law' says Gordon Campbell of Kim Dotcom's legal victory yesterday, and he finds some spooky comparisons between John key and Captain Kirk: 'Kirk had Spock, the vehicle of pure rationality devoid of human emotion. Key has Steven Joyce' - see: On the Dotcom/Obamacare rulings and Star Trek.

* Mr Dotcom is a PR genius according to Scott Yorke, but warns that although yesterday's legal win may turn out to be embarrassing for the police, it mean very little in the long run - see: Dotcom Wins Battles, But War Is Not Won.

* They're calling it the 'C-bomb' in Southland. Swear words are flying around in local body politics in Bluff -see: And you thought local politics was boring... and the Southland Times editorial, Language language. And if that doesn't prove how antiquated local body politics can be, then this should - see: Council says no to blog link. A Timaru Herald editorial tells the council to Get with the times.

* Chris Trotter blogs a 'thank you' to Fran O'Sullivan in appreciation for providing the public with an insight into how 'the 1 percent think of, and speak about, the 99 percent of New Zealanders who could never afford... an Annah Stretton creation' - see: This Is New Zealand: Anna Stretton.

* Finally, who's heard of 'Rusty Norman'? Apparently that's the nickname that the parliamentary press gallery uses for the Green Party co-leader Russel Norman - see the Dominion Post's Today in politics: Friday, June 29.

Political roundup will be taking a break for a week - Bryce Edwards will be back with political analysis and aggregated news on Monday 9 July.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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