Audrey Young: Sound bites and swagger as MPs return after long break

By Audrey Young

Prime Minister John Key was told to "just built some bloody houses" while he was in Parliament today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key was told to "just built some bloody houses" while he was in Parliament today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Housing has been the issue of the year so unsurprisingly it was the issue of the day when Parliament resumed for the first time in four weeks.

Leaders came armed with sound bites and figures (Andrew Little and John Key), birthday wishes and backdowns (Metiria Turei), and the usual swagger from Winston Peters.

Little said it was time the Prime Minister got off his backside "and just built some bloody houses" - that sound-bite made the telly.

Auckland house prices had doubled on his watch from $496,000 and $992,000 and Little said the average house was out of reach for most families.

Key responded by saying that 30 per cent of existing house sales in Auckland in the year to March 31 (31,963) had been under $600,000; and 37 per cent of new houses sales in the same period (11,842) had been under $650,000.

New Zealand was in the midst of the biggest housing boom in New Zealand's history, he said. "We are on track to build 85,000 houses across New Zealand this term."

Little said Labour's Kiwibuild plan, to build 100,000 affordable houses in 10 years, was backed by a majority of New Zealanders.

Key shot back: "A sound bite does not make a plan," he said - that sound bite made the telly, too.

"If the best that New Zealand can do is 100,000 houses over 10 years then we are in serious trouble, because this Government will see 100,000 constructed over four years."

Greens co-leader Metiria began question time by wishing Key a Happy [55th] Birthday, and made her own wish that he could answer the housing questions she had put to him.

They had been transferred by the Government to Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith. Buy she got the chance later to ask Key a question and it was an important question for what it didn't say.

Instead of repeating her controversial call for house prices to fall by up to 50 per cent - which Labour backed away from at a million miles an hour - she attempted to reframe the issue in terms of the gap between prices and incomes - otherwise known as backing away.

Turei: "Does he agree that for homes to be more affordable for families, the gap between house prices and incomes needs to reduce?"

But Key did not let her forget what she had said: "If house prices in New Zealand were to halve, that is a war on the poor," he said.

Winston Peters, undeterred by interjections on his grammar, directed his housing question to Nick Smith: "Why is the minister blaming everybody but the Government and himself for a result that sees us building less houses than we built [interruption] - or fewer - many less...

"Call it what you like. It is crisis sunshine. We are building fewer houses now than we built 42 years ago."

Postcript: Metiria Turei says she has not backed down and she stands by her comments that house prices must fall.

- NZ Herald

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