A Glen Innes tenant battling against eviction from her former state house has put a surprising argument to the Tenancy Tribunal - that the agency purporting to evict her isn't actually her landlord.
Tenant Niki Rauti, 62, and her advocate, perennial campaigner Penny Bright, have also discovered that the 2700 former Housing NZ homes that were supposed to have been transferred last year to an entity jointly owned by the Government and Auckland Council have actually gone to another entity that is still almost 100 per cent owned by the Government.
A third entity, Tāmaki Housing Association Limited Partnership, has been set up to manage the houses, but will seek bids next month from other social housing agencies to take over managing the houses from early next year.
By next year the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company, the joint venture owned 59 per cent by the Government and 41 per cent by Auckland Council, will no longer predominantly either own or manage the properties.
Bright told the Tenancy Tribunal today that the complex structure looked like "a massive smoke and mirrors exercise" - with real consequences for Aucklanders.
"The 41 per cent shareholding of Auckland Council seems to have completely evaporated into nothing," she said.
She argued that the tribunal should not grant a possession order of Rauti's home in Taniwha St because the applicant, Tāmaki Regeneration Ltd, was the owner but not the "landlord".
She tabled an email from a Ministry of Social Development official yesterday stating that the landlord was Tāmaki Housing Association Limited Partnership.
"I believe this possession order must fail on the fundamental question of who is the landlord," Bright said.
Tribunal adjudicator Philip McKinstry is expected to deliver his decision in the case on Friday.
The complex company structure appears to have evolved in stages.
Tāmaki Redevelopment Company (TRC) was set up in 2012 to plan the redevelopment of the Glen Innes area where Housing NZ was the major landlord. At that stage Housing NZ planned to keep roughly its existing number of homes, while selling off much of its land for private development by a consortium of four property companies.
In April 2015 Cabinet ministers Bill English and Nick Smith announced that "ownership and management of approximately 2800 Housing NZ properties at Tamaki will be transferred to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company" from April 2016.
Tāmaki Regeneration Ltd was set up in November 2015, wholly owned by TRC with 100 shares, as a legal entity to take ownership of the properties.
Then on April 15 last year, two weeks after the former state houses were transferred to Tāmaki Regeneration Ltd, that company notified the Companies Office that it had issued 1.6 billion extra shares to English and Smith, reducing TRC's 100-share holding from 100 per cent to 0.00006 per cent of the new total.
TRC chief financial officer Sam Hansen said today that the new shares were redeemable preference shares based on the $1.6 billion value of the properties transferred, and could be redeemed by the Government at any time.
"The likelihood that they will be redeemed is very slim, but at any time the Crown can say we want to convert those preference shares into ordinary shares and take full control of TRC," he said.
"So it's effectively the Crown saying we are not going to give all these assets to another company without some protection."
He said that any profits after redeveloping the properties would flow to the parties in proportion to their total shares, including redeemable shares - that is, 99.99994 per cent to the Government.
"But the word 'profit' is not one that should be attributed to it. I don't believe there will be any long-term profits from the redevelopment," he said.
He said TRC would seek expressions of interest next month from parties interested in taking over management of the 2700 Tāmaki social housing tenancies.
"We are looking to transfer the business as it is as a going concern," he said.
"It's generally running along with the social housing reform programme and getting more players in that market."