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

Claire Trevett: Little's upcycled policy may well do the trick

Labour leader Andrew Little announces policies to attack Aucklands housing crisis at New Lynn Community hall. Photo / Nick Reed
Labour leader Andrew Little announces policies to attack Aucklands housing crisis at New Lynn Community hall. Photo / Nick Reed

Labour leader Andrew Little announced Labour's affordable housing policy at the New Lynn Community Centre - the same venue where, in 2014, former leader David Cunliffe suffered through one of Labour's worst election defeats ever.

Yesterday, Little was there to deliver the policy he hopes will win Labour the next election.

Labour boasted of the "comprehensive plan" it had coming in Parliament. All the hype clearly had National nervous: it was John Key who took media interviews preceding the announcements rather than housing-related ministers such as Nick Smith and Bill English.

When the announcements came, Labour treated it like a bride at a wedding: they had something old, something new, something borrowed and even something blue.

The old was a slight rejig of its 2013 KiwiBuild policy to build affordable homes; the new was the Affordable Housing Authority, the borrowed was Green Party policy on Housing NZ dividends; the blue was expanding National's "bright line" capital gains tax on property speculation - although National took that from Labour to begin with.

It amounted to taking bits of policy from here and there and calling it a comprehensive plan. It may well work.

National has its own long list of measures and many are similar to Labour's. At first blush, Labour's appears best for first home buyers, but only those who get what is effectively a state-subsidised KiwiBuild home. There is no guarantee that will make homes more affordable in the long term.

Both are looking at urban development authorities to speed things up, as recommended by the Productivity Commission; both want to elbow Auckland Council into action; both want the public and private sectors to work together; both need the same things to succeed - more land, more builders, more infrastructure and fewer speculators.

But impression trumps reality in voterland. It is now down to who can do the most convincing sales job.

By and large Labour has stuck to simple messages while National has reeled off statistics, long lists, bureaucrat-ese and lengthy explanations as to why things will or will not work. Little has stuck to a simple two-fold message: speculators bad, houses good. Labour will stop speculators and build houses: "When you don't have enough houses, you bloody well build some more. And that's what we're gonna do."

It hopes its housing tub-thumping makes it look as if Labour will Do Something. In that respect, Labour's timing could not have been better. It may have been coincidence rather than design, but Labour rolled out its announcements just after Key got on a plane for a trip to Europe and Indonesia. That has left a vacuum for Little to exploit - National no longer has its most convincing communicator on hand to prosecute the case against Labour's policy.

Then again, Key is overseas because it is the Parliamentary recess - and school holidays.

The ski slopes are open. Pokemon Go! is distracting the nation. That could mean nobody is listening to politicians playing show and tell with comprehensive housing plans either.

- NZ Herald

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

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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