COMMENT:

There are three poisoned chalices in government: health, housing and education - and two of them have just converged in a rather spectacular fashion.

Put health aside for the time being, Minister David Clark's got enough on his hands squabbling with the nurses over their pay and conditions.

There was certainly no raising of the chalices of the other two in celebration, more like drowning their sorrows.

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Phil Twyford was, in his words, opening the door to affordable home ownership, which was little more than a public relations exercise. He invited aspiring home owners to register their interest in a ballot for a KiwiBuild home which was a bit like taking a stab in the dark.

Far from opening the door, there's still not a door to open - the first house has yet to make its appearance and over the next year just 1000 doors will beckon the ballots. And to qualify for a key to your phantom household you'll have to be earning less than $120,000 if you're a singleton and $180,000 if you have a partner.

Unfortunately it looks as though it's shaping up to be a middle class housing programme where you'd certainly need that level of income to cope with the mortgage, with the current average expected to be $650,000 and rising.

The idea of the half gallon, quarter acre, Pavlova Paradise that people of my generation expected as they scoffed and watched the kids on the trampoline in the backyard is long since gone. These days it's more like a stubby, 150 square metres and a meringue cupcake if you're lucky.

National's making hay while the building blocks are being put in place, but there's no reason for them to crow. They did little in terms of a house building programme until their final months in government but at the same time refused to acknowledge there was a housing crisis.

Still it seems they weren't averse to our country's biggest technology institute Unitec in Auckland's Mt Albert selling off 30ha of land to housing developers, until Labour got a whiff of it which is where the education chalice has been shattered.

Labour snaffled the land for its KiwiBuild programme, promising an elusive 3000-4000 apartments and Coronation Street terraced homes.

Unitec's now in dire financial straits, with the Minister Chris Hipkins likely to sack the institute's council and replace it with a commissioner. One of the main reasons cited for the polytechnic's black hole is a fall in student numbers.

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It seems you can't even give away an education these days!