Housing, housing, housing. There's no doubt the Government grasped what a huge issue it (housing, that is) was becoming after the election last year, when John Key subdivided the ministerial housing estate, appointing three Cabinet veterans to housing portfolios.
Housing NZ became the responsibility of Bill English, the former leader of the National Party. A new ministry of Social Housing went to Paula Bennett, the future leader of the National Party. Housing, building and environment went to Nick Smith, of the National Party.
But three is not enough. To have a hope of slaying the many heads of the housing crisis hydra, there may need to be even more new ministers appointed.
Minister for dealing with meddling outsiders
On Wednesday, a report from the rich nations' gang, the OECD, warned that the overheated Auckland housing market was "posing financial stability risks" for New Zealand. John Key, who insists there's no housing crisis in the city, rubbished the OECD wonks, but he might be better to appoint a minister to deal with these pesky interventions on his behalf. The OECD also urged Auckland to consider a congestion charge for overcrowded houses. No, sorry, that was overcrowded roads.
Minister for the Auckland non-bubble
Even before yesterday's milk-fuelled interest rate cut, the week brought a reprise of Auckland's most perennial headline. "The Auckland market ... continues its meteoric rise," said someone from QV. See? It is not a bubble. It is a meteor. And as everybody knows meteors don't pop they just keep going and going, until they don't any more. In any case you can get a perfectly adequate place in Herne Bay for two mil.
Minister for the not-the-capital-gains-tax
This role is perfect for someone who can explain crisply and without equivocation how capital gains taxes simply do not work and the last thing that New Zealand needs is a capital gains tax and of course the Budget decision to create a bright line test was not introducing a capital gains tax because as any fool knows New Zealand already had a capital gains tax, we've had a capital gains tax for decades, and have you seen some of the crazy contraptions at Fieldays this year because they are crazy. See also, minister responsible for flexible purchasing arrangements and other assorted euphemisms.
Minister for boomer truth and reconciliation
Young people, old young people even, are increasingly priced out of the housing market. A generational gulf is opening, says economist Shamubeel Eaqub, co-author of Generation Rent. Those meteoric price rises are creating "social and housing apartheid", he said this week, leaving Gen Rent "locked out of so much of New Zealand that predicates itself on owning a home".
Mild-mannered boomer mouthpieces Michelle Boag and Tau Henare would make perfect ministerial advisers.
Minister for deflecting calls for housing warrants of fitness
When a housing WOF pilot scheme on 500 state houses was launched a couple of years ago, Nick Smith heralded an initiative that would "ensure tenants can live in warm, dry, safe and healthy homes". When WOFs for all houses were mooted this week, Bill English dismissed an "extreme measure" that would drive rents up and people out on to the street. Moreover, how are we supposed to get our houses all the way down to the testing station?
Minister for dealing with foreign buyers
In the absence of any proper information, fears of foreign buy-ups of New Zealand properties circulate, propelled by anecdotal reports of several million Chinese investors crowded into every auction room. The Government recently announced that foreign buyers will need to register with the IRD, but the pressure is unlikely to cease. This week in Australia, treasurer Joe Hockey announced a fresh crackdown to enforce laws that ban non-residents from purchasing existing properties. This new Cabinet post might alternatively be titled Minister for dealing with Winston.
Minister for dryness and warmth
Two heartbreaking deaths in South Auckland have come to light in recent days. In the first case, a coroner found that cold and damp conditions in a Housing New Zealand property contributed to the death of 2-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne. In the second, a coroner linked a cold and damp state house to the death of 37-year-old father of six Soesa Tovo. Housing NZ has acknowledged it needs to do better, and these things are complicated, but it's also completely, shamefully unacceptable.
Minister for first-refusal defusing
The failure to consult Auckland iwi about the proposed release of Crown land to developers was criticised as in breach of the spirit, if not also the letter, of legislation that guarantees a first-refusal option. An MP from the government-supporting Maori Party would be ideal for this position, except for the fact that they're as pissed off as anyone. Maybe that young man from ACT.
Minister for the Salvation Army
The Sallies seemed to be keen to be marching beautifully in time with the scheme to sell a bunch of state houses, but then they went all ten-shun-about-turn, saying they did "not believe the lives of tenants would be sufficiently improved by such a transfer". They've also called the housing situation an "unfolding social disaster". Someone needs to get them back in step. In the meantime, freeze any plans to invite the Salvation Army to take over the actual army.
Minister for Milo and Marmite
Nothing to do with housing really but someone needs to take responsibility for these things.
Minister for cross-party accord on housing
It is nonsense to suggest MPs don't have shared interests in housing. They do, of course: pretty much all of them own property. It's like the House of Landlords down there. You should see them playing Monopoly. Two-thirds of government MPs own more than one place. Almost a third own investment properties in Auckland. A tally of four MPs on the pub-politics show Back Benches the other night found that they owned, between them, eight houses, an apartment block and a castle.