Prime Minister Bill English was tackled tonight on the problem of homelessness in central Auckland, replying that more is being done than ever before.

At an event hosted by the central city business group Heart of the City at an architectural practice in Wynyard Quarter, one businesswoman asked English what was happening to people left behind from the economic success.

The homeless, many suffering huge mental and addiction issues, were a major issue for the city, she told the Southland-raised and Wellington-based Prime Minister.

We are very tuned in to these issues.

English said sustainable economic success will only be acceptable to Kiwis if it is broadly based and everyone benefits from it.

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He said the thing that will make the most difference for the homeless is the Housing First process that puts people in a houses. The process started in Hamilton and had been very successful, he said.

"These people bounce around our system. There is a lot of unpredictable crisis-driven intervention with them, often ineffective.

"The Housing First process says let's take them and put them in a house and then work with them to solve the range of other problems they have," said English.

Prime Minister Bill English was quizzed tonight on the problem of homelessness in central Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Prime Minister Bill English was quizzed tonight on the problem of homelessness in central Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Then there was broader group of people of highly complex families with problems of drug addiction, violence and so, said English, whose afternoon in Auckland included a visit to the new Wiri prison.

"We have got a whole fresh angle on that stuff ... which is customer focused," he said.

This group was a relatively small proportion of the population with about 98,000 kids.

"We are very tuned in to these issues ... it does mean Government having to change the way it interacts with people with complex problems and we are getting there," he said.

English, whose afternoon in Auckland included visiting Wiri prison, Redoubt Primary School in Mangere, a retirement village in Ellerslie and the trendy offices of Warren & Mahoney Architects, had high praise for Auckland Council and improved relations with Wellington.

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"Because we have got a common sense of purpose now about investing to support the growth it is amazing what issues we are able to deal with, which in the past were dealt with by duelling press releases getting nowhere," he said.

He gave the example of last Sunday's announcement of a new housing scheme where council and Government organise themselves so private sector finance can unlock some of the infrastructure bottlenecks in Auckland.

"It was a remarkable show of unity," said English.

He said the Government had "put a fair bit of cash on the table" for Auckland - $1.7 billion for the City Rail Link, about $300m from the housing infrastructure fund and $600 into the new housing scheme - Crown Infrastructure Partnerships.

But those were "transitional arrangements really because in long-run growth should be able to pay for growth", English said.

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