The Eye of the Fish

January 29, 2019

Who runs KiwiBuild?

Who runs KiwiBuild? A rhetorical question, I know, as currently it seems as if nobody does, but the debacle that is Labour’s housing policy has me intrigued morning, noon, and night.
Some questions, I’d love to hear the answer to:

• How can a policy that is – at the heart of it – so simple, come so badly unstuck?

• What is it that has riled the KiwiBuild people so much that they have sacked former head Andrew Barclay?

• If he is that horrible to work with, how come he is now suing for constructive dismissal?

• Why was the HUD created (Housing, Urban Design), and KiwiBuild slipped into it?

• How in God’s name (pick any God you want, there are plenty of names!) have they only built 33 houses in the last year?

• How can a policy fail when it has a budget of millions and billions, and a fairly simple mandate: build more houses. What IS IT that is going so disastrously wrong?

• Why don’t they sort their shit out and make it right?

I am, in case you have not guessed it, a staunchly red-green left-leaning person at heart, with little time or sympathy for the deeply flawed right-wing Nats, and zero empathy at all for ACT or the Conservatives or that sort of nasty splinter group. I deeply, deeply want to believe that Labour / Greens / NZ First can make it all work, but this policy of KiwiBuild is at the heart of why they were voted in, and it is a disaster if they cannot deliver on it.

To that end, therefore, if and when they end up actually re-advertising the position of Head of KiwiBuild, I plan to apply for it. Not only that, I plan to get it too, and even more so, I plan to make it a success. May I say, before I start, that I have always thought that Andrew Barclay was 100% the wrong choice for the leadership of the programme. His CV (pre-KiwiBuild) was stated as being:
• Mr Barclay is currently Chief People and Transformation Officer at the Ministry of Health,
• Prior to that he was Chief Executive of the San Francisco America’s Cup Events Authority.
• His career spans construction, consulting, event management and government.
• His roles have generally involved implementing change in large listed or high-profile organisations in New Zealand and overseas.

I don’t know about you, but none of that spells out to me: get this guy on the job wrangling new build houses on the go. Nope, instead, it says to me, this guy is the sort of person who CAN organise a piss-up in a brewery, but not much else. He is an events manager, which is all very well and good, but 10,000 houses in 10 years is (or was it 100,000 houses in 10 years??) is a task that requires someone who actually knows what the fuck he is doing. Actually, if you click this link here, you will find out that the last person “who actually knows what the fuck he is doing” died about 8 years ago.

I’m very tempted to nominate 60mPa to the position, as I have a suspicion that he is also someone who could do the job very well, even with one hand tied behind his back. What d’ya say, 60 ?

However, I’m also going to put my hand up, and my best foot forward. I’m going to stick my head above the parapet, my nose to the grindstone, and my chest across the finish line. Of course, they have to actually advertise the damn job first.

I know what I’d do, but first I’m going to throw it open to you: what would you do to make it work?

30 - 01 - 19

Is there enough of an incentive for building in smaller cities (Gisborne, Palmy, New Plymouth, Levin), as well as just building in Auckland and Porirua?

Encouraging people to move out there might help alleviate some of the pressure being felt in (say) Auckland by doing something to spread out population growth across the other parts of the country.

I would expect a proportion of the first-home buyers targeted by KiwiBuild would be recent uni graduates with jobs that might allow them to work remotely – so incentives for companies in the “information” and “creative” industries to open up small satellite offices in smaller cities and/or have small “clusters” of employees there might also be a nice addition to the regional policies.

I think part of the problem is that, from what I can see, the govt is trying to provide a lot of housing in a few places where there is high demand already – which is fine, except that building thousands of new homes in just a couple of cities seems to have been unrealistic in terms of actually getting it done because dealing with trying to get thousands of new builds through planning permission departments of only two or three councils is always going to take forever with current processes. (Not that trying to put a couple of hundred of new homes in Masterton or Marton is going to be easy, but it spreads out the stress on council procedures across several councils instead of putting all the pressure on a couple).

My question, therefore, is `does “build it, and they will come” apply to houses?’, at least to some degree.

30 - 01 - 19

What if, as Jacinda demanded for our dear petrol companies, building suppliers (across all levels from importers to retailers) and their pricing strategies were subject to commerce investigation? Would that make a difference to affordable housing (including Kiwibuild)? Are we being fleeced as a nation?

30 - 01 - 19

m-d – well, yes we are indeed being fleeced, but I’m not sure that a Commerce Investigation would be the right answer. And no, probably wouldn’t make much of a difference to affordable housing. Still unaffordable….

60 MPa
6 - 02 - 19

Thanks Leviathan for your vote of confidence but some of the things required to get it done would rub some people up the wrong way

The main costs are land and materials

The libertarian model of getting rid of zoning so that people can build anything anywhere ( I think Dallas does it? not sure ) would be one way but then you’d leave the local councils scrambling to keep up with infrastructure and it wouldn’t really suit our rather socialist soul

We have private developers getting together with the money men ( and yes they are mostly penis-wielding eedjits ) to build several large housing projects around the place for kiwi build or to sell them to kiwi build at the moment
Here, the Hutt, Palmy, all over the show

So that’s moving, but it’s not dropping the price of land as quick as Milton Friedman would like..

On the oligopoly building products front the solution may be something as follows
Analogous to Pharmac except for basic building lines – the govt either buys or underwrites a private company to buy at set margins the basic units on the open world market

alum window/skylight units
Ext cladding materials
Treated timber
Electrical cable & basic switchgear
Waterpipe in the main common sizes
Roofing iron in bulk coils

You get the idea

Now, they bring it in by chartered shipping and unload it onto Kiwirail trains
Without shipping too much between the islands it should be relatively inexpensive to store in warehouses somewhere along each island’s rail network
Then they set up a simple website
Any home owner/builder/developer can buy but no trade
Pallets/ full packets only
Delivered to the nearest railhead and customers can get local trucking companies to deliver it to site

Placefakers and whatnot will squeak but eventually the Gull effect will take place and we will all enjoy real prices for the things that the bulk of our houses are made out of

Strict quality control to avoid shoddy products will be required but I think it’s doable

Of course the question then will be do you want to see the whole place covered in houses..

60 MPa
7 - 02 - 19

It is being discussed here
but the solutions offered tend towards the Randian
The obsession with Palmerston North escapes me

7 - 02 - 19

Leviathan has gone quiet – perhaps he got the job!
I’m looking forward to that announcement…

7 - 02 - 19

Are there really not 10 or 20,000 urbanistas in Auckland and Wellington at least who would actually be very happy to live in elegant high-rise blocks? And are the economics and land use implications of high density development not much better than sprawl? During the care-(and car)free 1980s I rented and later owned inner city Auckland apartments built in the 1930s and 40s. Some of the best places I have ever lived in and always in jealous demand.

We seem now to be stuck in a loop of city fringe subdivisions vs medium density infill – with consequent objections from greenies and nimbys respectively. Build some elegant 8-12 storey towers of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments (with proper acoustic separation) along Adelaide Rd and Great North Road. Rent them, sell them, whatever, but don’t abandon the cities to the current strange mixture of rich empty nesters and sardine-packed students.

8 - 02 - 19

Thank you all – I hadn’t gone off permanently, just been busy in the back room, tinkering. Working on my grand meister-plan for taking over the world. I’ve yet to read 60’s links (thanks 60 !) But I certainly do like the sound of starkive’s row of elegant towers along Adelaide Road. Curiously, the row of towers along Taranaki St here in Wellington are anything but elegant – just a row of snuggle-toothed ugly detritus so far, courtesy of the worst architects in Wellington.

By the sounds of it Starkive, you must have been in either Courtville, Mayfair, or Dilworth? All lovely buildings. Elegant urbanism indeed.

8 - 02 - 19

Brooklyn (twice rented, once owned), Hampton Court (by St Matthews in the City) , Little Courtville and Cintra (in Whitaker Pl). All of them comfortable, warm, quiet and – usually – neighbourly.

Elegant too. Just checked and at least two of them were given gold medals by the RIBA!