Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Shearer's new direction

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Dean Purcell
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Dean Purcell

Labour leader David Shearer has promised to take New Zealand "in a new direction" under his leadership, speaking at his party's annual conference today.

Mr Shearer pointed the finger at National for what he described as a "path of disappointment, decline and constant struggle".

"The new direction under Labour will be a hands-on government that's willing to get involved and back businesses and Kiwis who are working hard to get ahead. It's not the hands-off, leave it to the market approach of the current government which has failed."

Shearer's speech was met with a standing ovation from the Labour Party faithful.

One of the ways Labour would address this would be to tackle the problem of affordable housing, he said.

Labour's new affordable housing policy is to build 100,000 basic homes over 10 years - a scheme Labour's leader David Shearer said will create jobs as well as give first home buyers in areas of high house prices such as Auckland the chance to buy a home.

Mr Shearer set out the details of the 'KiwiBuild' policy in his keynote speech at the party's annual conference today. He said it was the largest public building programme in 50 years - and as well as addressing the problem of housing affordability for first home buyers, it would create jobs.

Labour will also clamp down on landlords by requiring rental properties to meet minimum standards of insulation and heating before they can be tenanted out.

It was Mr Shearer's first Labour conference speech as the leader -and the pressure was high even before leadership speculation was re-ignited yesterday by David Cunliffe's refusal to rule out a further challenge.

That distracted attention away from the main business of the conference and Mr Shearer made a pointed reference to it at the beginning of his speech saying Labour had to show New Zealanders it was focussed on their ambitions "rather than our own."

He said his time working in countries of hardship overseas had emphasised for him the important of the values that underpinned New Zealand society - and sparked the belief that he could not just stand back.

"I am in politics to make lives better. I'm not here to cross something off my bucket list, or to indulge in some sense of celebrity. I went out into the world to help improve people's lives and I've chosen to enter politics for the same reason."

Mr Shearer also criticised the National Government, saying it had failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs. He pointed to changes made by former Labour governments and pledged to hold to the same values.

Mr Shearer was introduced by his wife, Anuschka, who said she first met Mr Shearer in the early 1980s of the Muldoon government when they flatted together. She also spoke about their time spent working for UN aid and his leadership abilities.

"I have stood beside Dave in many of the world's most difficult places and I have seen what he did. I know he has what it take to change for the better this beautiful country of ours."

This morning, many of Mr Shearer's supporters openly pledged support for Mr Shearer. Others who had previously been aligned with Mr Cunliffe such as Charles Chauvel, Lianne Dalziel, Moana Mackey and Louisa Wall refused to comment.

Some MPs also called for a quick resolution to the speculation - indicating they supported an early vote on it. Clare Curran was among those who said the issue needed to be resolved quickly.

* KiwiBuild: a 10 year programme to build 100,000 basic homes for first home buyers (less than $300,000). In partnership with the private sector and community housing groups.

* Two thirds of the homes built in the first 5 years will be in Auckland. Others will be in other 'unaffordable' centres such as Christchurch, Tauranga, Nelson, Wellington and Queenstown.

* Cost: a one-off $1.5 billion initial investment, to be recouped as homes are sold. Will also sell 'housing affordability bonds.'

* Will require landlords to ensure rental homes are insulated and warm.

- NZ Herald

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