One of the best things about flying into this country is that view you get of Auckland.
From America it's early in the morning and if the weather is good you go right over the top of New Zealand as the sun is coming up. From Cape Reinga to the Coromandel, over Auckland taking in Waiheke, it's like looking at a map.
But better still is the trip in from Australia as you hit the West Coast. Last week we came in smack over Muriwai Beach ... in over West Auckland, just to the south of the city. But with spectacular views of the North Shore, the Sky Tower, the Eastern suburbs out over Waiheke, then the big turn right into Mangere.
Apart from it looking stunning, what strikes you about each of these extraordinary sweeps over the landscape is just how much space there is. Just how much room, how many pastures and paddocks, how few people there actually are.
And when you see the cityscape or the countryside like that, you wonder just how it is we got ourselves into this ridiculous argument we have this year over housing. Nothing has dominated or been as consistent as far as stories go, than that of housing.
The price of housing. The housing bubble. The interest rates. The first-home buyers. The LVRs. The political answers to housing. The housing accords.
Anyone and everyone got dragged in, either complaining and wanting answers, or offering answers and taking grief as to why those answers weren't good enough.
This very paper has spent more time on housing I bet than any other story, more column inches on what your house is worth, what the rates on your house are now we have new CVs, how many Asians are at auctions, what's the monthly change in your suburb.
An industry has grown around the obsession on housing. And none of this had to be the case. The greatest mistake came when we roped the politicians in.
To be fair it was always going to happen given it was election year, but the moment they entered the debate we were doomed. They took a simple issue and complicated the bejesus out of it. The only tangible and useful thing they have done is free up land.
Councils, of course, should have freed up land but councils generally, Auckland's in particular, are useless so they had to be brought kicking and screaming to the table.
Complicating it further is Christchurch, which has sucked up so much resource in terms of builders and contractors. But beyond that, housing is not something to be interfered with.
Housing is a classic study in supply and demand. And as long as supply loses out to demand, prices will continue to rise.
The Reserve Bank made the classic mistake of thinking it could address matters by introducing the LVRs. All they did was cut young people out of the market.
The social consequences long term of doing something that stupid could fill a column all by itself. Suffice to say, all that happened, and it was entirely predictable, was that investors would swoop and buy the houses the young people once had.
Thus, leading once again to the entirely predictable scenario of the Reserve Bank having needlessly interfered in one aspect of the market then worrying about the fallout of the ensuing problems it created by doing so. Hence we end the year with them pondering about chasing investors.
Racism played its role as well.
Tony Alexander of the BNZ did the work for us. His research showed the number of offshore buyers of houses was tiny, and of the tiny number an even tinier number of those buyers were Asian. Not that that stopped the racists. Asians were flooding the market, New Zealanders were being bought out of their own country.
We were to be tenants in our own land. Except, of course, that we weren't and aren't.
Many of the Asian faces were New Zealanders of Asian descent and were as entitled to be in an auction room as anyone else.
If we really cared or were worried about foreign ownership we should be talking to the Poms, Americans and Australians. But they're more difficult to spot given they don't look different.
Perhaps the greatest irony in this whole needless, racist, ill-informed politicised debate we've allowed to spiral completely out of control this year, is the simple reality that we love housing, we fall over backwards to buy a house and renovate it. And love it and raise a family in it.
It's the best way of saving there is, and in the years before retirement we get to live in it.
And the maddest thing of all is the return - the so-called spiralling prices, the eye watering rises. Housing is up on average 40 per cent in three years, about 100 per cent in a decade.
That's about 10 per cent a year - a solid but not spectacular return.
If you want to get rich, you should have been in the sharemarket this year. Housing is doing what housing has always done, go up in a solid and steady way. Housing is today what it has always been - an easily understood concept that provides pleasure and surety. An investment for the everyman.
This year we lost our marbles and went nuts. And made it into something it never needed to be, an hysterical obsession.
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