It is nice at last to have a Government that treats Auckland not as a rival power base but as part of the country.

On Sunday it was Housing Minister Phil Twyford addressing the city's housing crisis by revealing plans to kick-off the Government's ambitious KiwiBuild programme, with 3000 to 4000 new homes on surplus Unitec land in Mt Albert.

Then on Monday, Minister of Economic Development David Parker unveiled an America's Cup bases deal central Government had put together which was far superior to the "final solution" Auckland Council's property development agency Panuku had persuaded mayor Phil Goff and councillors was the only option possible.

Parker had ignored Team New Zealand's bluster and threats to decamp to Italy and hunted out a solution that didn't require huge wharf extensions and view-blocking sheds. He did what Panuku should have done and talked to Stolthaven, the owner of the southern tank farm, and asked if it would surrender its almost-expired lease on the land a year or so earlier. It said it would. He also got a deal from ASB Bank to use its large car park for another base.


A tantrum or three later from the sailors and all now seems resolved.

I do gag at the $212 million costs, particularly the $40m "host contribution fee" which Team NZ has squeezed out of us. But then again I'm yet to become a believer in the god of "economic benefit" to whom our politicians are so quick to bow to.

The good news is that as part of the deal the races will be televised live "free to air" in New Zealand. This means the majority of us without a Sky subscription will be able to join in the fun on the water as it happens.

Meanwhile, across in Mt Albert, Twyford can't have believed his luck. His National Party critics are now trying to claim credit for his house building plans!

Trapped in that awful hiatus between promising to build 100,000 affordable homes and the actual house-building starting, the Housing Minister, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, filled in time on Sunday by revealing the Government had taken over Unitec's plans to redevelop its surplus land for housing. He said it had bought 29ha of Unitec's land and would build between 3000 and 4000 homes on it. There would be "a mix of affordable KiwiBuild homes for first-home buyers, public housing and open-market homes". Apart from this, detail was light. We were told Unitec had already done comprehensive due diligence on the site's housing potential and seen it suitable for up to 3000 houses. The Government expected to be going out to the market "soon", and was looking to partner with developers and builders "who have development-ready proposals set for consideration".

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

But instead of National attacking this vagueness, or continuing its "what housing crisis" line, leader Simon Bridges tried to claim Twyford's plan was just a "rebranding of what we were doing".

On breakfast television he said National hadn't unveiled the policy during the campaign because "it would look a bit pork-barrel politics just before the election".

This from the mouth of Mr Pork Barrel himself, the former Minister of Transport, who during the Northland byelection in 2015 promised to replace 10 one-lane bridges in the electorate at a cost of up to $69m!


National's housing spokeswoman, Judith Collins, took a similar "been there, done that" dismissive tack.

Together they tried to claim prior ownership of Labour's housing programme. In so doing, they as good as acknowledged what National has long denied: That there was a housing crisis they had failed to solve under their watch over the past nine years, which now needed urgent attention.

Just 9km from downtown Auckland, within established parkland and next to the Western Rail line, cycleways, bus and road routes, the site seems an ideal launching pad for this exercise in post-quarter-acre-block living. As National thought of the idea first, I look forward to its positive encouragement for the project from now on.