Mike Hosking is a breakfast host on Newstalk ZB.

Mike Hosking: English lessons well overdue

Bill English. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Bill English. Photo / Mark Mitchell

You know I love a person who tells it like it is.

Which is why this morning I am tipping my hat to Bill English.

Bill English has come out firing this year, in a Bill English kind of way, with that laconic southern pace he has about him.

But his points are relevant and well overdue and he deserves every credit for it.

He started with domestic violence.

Basically he said what we all know but are too afraid to say. Our attempts to address it are failing abysmally.

As a numbers man he more than anyone else knows what we're throwing at this problem, and it's millions upon millions and the return, he says, is virtually zero.

That sort of honesty is refreshing because domestic violence is one of those topics no one wants to truly be honest about.

We all agree it's an issue, we all agree we need to do something about it.

But at some point, like most things in life, we need to stop and have an audit, and Bill's done that for us.

Ironic too I thought that he singled out the Salvation Army as the only group that appears to be really interested in results.

You know the day the Sallies are being plugged by a conservative Finance Minister that all the other players in the field must be failing badly.

And that is the trouble ... I am sure all those who work in the area have the best of intent, I am sure they're passionate and care and want to help.

But there is a distinct difference between intent and results, and the results speak for themselves ... and it's not until someone like English bites the bullet and points that out, that we can hopefully put the hand brake on, draw breath - and basically start again.

A side issue of the domestic violence dilemma is that Judith Collins was telling me the other day that the clinks of this country are filled with gangs and domestic violence abusers.

So if you don't believe Bill on the numbers, look at the jails and see who is in them.

Which by the way, was it not an odd story the other day when we got exercised about the size of the prison muster?

We've never had so many people in jail, but why are we surprised? What have we begged governments for years? Longer, tougher sentences, so having got them, what possible outcome can there be other than more people behind bars for longer?

Anyway, back to Bill.

He wasn't finished in his campaign of telling it like it is.

Next stop was Auckland Council, who he must be thoroughly fed up with, given its lack of action over the housing issue.

He, for the first time as far as I can tell, is threatening it with a takeover: Do something, or we will do it for you.

My advice would be to flag the warning and simply get on with it.

You've never seen a more abject failure of leadership. The hot air and babble that's gone on over intensification versus spread is worse than a bad soap opera.

The simple truth around housing and land in a place like Auckland is that you're never going to get universal support.

It doesn't matter what you do, you'll have protest and bitching and moaning.

This is where leadership comes in. Start from a point of indisputable agreement, in this case: We don't have enough houses and we don't have enough land.

Next step is accepting that no matter what you do, you'll have a fight on your hands. That's no reason to behave the way the council has, by talking and delaying and delaying and talking, and ultimately pulling the pin on your original idea.

Great leaders own their decisions, great leaders don't rely on a committee and a committee mentality that does nothing but delay and stall and water down.

Great leaders don't workshop an idea to a standstill, which is all this council has done. Great leaders make bold calls and take people with them.

Which is why Auckland has gotten nowhere fast and frustrated Bill English.

Auckland doesn't have great leaders.

Which, by the way, doesn't appear to be getting solved if the line-up of mayoral candidates is anything to go by, but that's a comment for another day.

I assume Bill is drawing some confidence out of Christchurch and the rebuild.

The Government basically took Christchurch over, yes to much chagrin from the locals, but Christchurch was a national problem, and Christchurch was way too big for local body part-timers to handle.

God knows where we would be if the locals had been left in charge.

So if you can mount a case for Christchurch, Auckland can't be far off the threshold. I know Auckland is not a rebuild. But it is the engine room of this economy, it is the recipient of much of the migration that's driving the growth, and it is the centre of the angst that has now gone on for well in excess of a year around housing.

The trick here is to own it, and the council seems unable to own anything, so Bill and co should pull the pin, come up with a mix of "up and out" and simply do it.

Yes, there will be gnashing of teeth, but I think if this Government has learned anything in the past seven to eight years it's that big calls always attract noise, but what people like most of all is leadership. They like bold people and bold decisions, and they like a sense that things are getting done.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Mike Hosking is a breakfast host on Newstalk ZB.

Mike has been Newstalk ZB’s breakfast host since taking over from Sir Paul Holmes in 2008. He also hosts TVNZ’s nightly current affairs show, Seven Sharp. Mike's insightfulness and knowledge makes him one of New Zealand’s most successful broadcasters.

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