The Government is going ahead with the next stage of selling up to 1500 state houses in Tauranga and Invercargill, despite polls showing that the policy is deeply unpopular.
The Treasury has announced that the sale process will proceed to "market sounding" with the release of an information memorandum on August 31, just keeping within the timetable signalled in June of market sounding commencing in August.
"Ministers and Cabinet have now considered the findings of the recently concluded iwi consultation process," the Treasury said.
"Consultation confirmed Ngāti Ranginui has 115 Right of First Refusal (RFR) properties within the Tauranga proposed transaction area and Ngāi Tahu has three RFR properties within the Invercargill proposed transaction area.
"These properties will be excluded from the open and competitive commercial process. We are working directly with Ngāti Ranginui and Ngaī Tahu on how to include the properties within the SHRP [social housing reform programme]. The discussions will focus on realising both the Government's RFR obligations as well as the objectives of the SHRP."
The Government announced in May that it had chosen Tauranga, with 1140 state houses, and Invercargill, with 370, for the first tranche of sales which are expected to involve selling up to 1000-2000 Housing NZ properties a year for the next three years.
Ministers promised that Housing NZ would still have at least 60,000 homes by 2017, down from about 68,000 now.
Buying consortiums must include at least one registered community housing provider.
Treasury officials told potential buyers at briefings in June that houses could be either sold or leased.
The country's biggest non-government social housing provider, IHC-owned Accessible Properties, confirmed today that it is still keen to buy all the available houses in Tauranga, although it is not interested in Invercargill.
Two iwi organisations are also registered community housing providers in Tauranga: Nga Potiki a Tamapahore Trust and Mangatawa-Papamoa Blocks Inc, both representing Maori in the Papamoa area. A trustee of both trusts, Victoria Kingi, has said in the past that they were keen to buy 149 state houses in their rohe, and that they were interested in joining a collective approach for the wider area.
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Housing NZ Minister Bill English's statement in a radio interview today that houses might be leased rather than sold "has the whiff of a backdown" after a hostile public reaction to news that Queensland's Horizon Housing wanted to buy NZ state houses.
"A recent poll showed 75 per cent of New Zealanders opposed the sale of state houses to an offshore company," he said.
"Kiwis don't want billions of dollars of publicly owned land and housing flogged off to overseas landlords. And they don't buy the line that an Australian company like Horizon is more in touch with the needs of Kiwi state house tenants than locals are."
Horizon Housing has not yet registered as a community housing provider in New Zealand.