Election Issues 2017 Clergy Comment part 1 kiwiconnexion practical theology
David: Welcome along again to Live On Air.
This evening we’ re doing a New Zealand 2017 election special. It’ s my great privilege
to have with mere here at Waiaki Church, Reverend John Murray, and online are Reverend Uesifili
Unasa and the Reverend Ian Faulkner. Now, all of these people have been very generous
with their time in coming into this evening’ s talk, because way or another they’ ve got
a pretty vast amount of political experience, and some of them have stood for Parliament
and others have been asked to stand for Parliament. We’ ll explore that later in the evening,
but just to begin with it, a very quick whip around guys; what for you are the two most
important election topics? John? John: Hard to choose, David. I’ ve got 200
but hard to name two. I named housing and environment.
Uesifili: Good evening, everybody. It’ s good to be here. I have a very keen interest on
the housing issue, given that my two sons are thinking that they will be shut out of
buying a house forever. I am really interested in the growing divide, which is very obvious
to me now, between those who can have a go at being a successful New Zealand or someone
who can live comfortably and affordably in New Zealand, and those who can’ t. I’ m very
interested around that area. David: Great. Thanks for that, Uesifili. Ian,
what about you; have you got two hot topics? Ian: Similar, actually; my two are the increasing
economic disparity between new Zealanders, and the second one is housing, for the same
reasons that Uesifili has mentioned. David: Okay, I think the common one for all
of you is housing. It’ s obvious that the National Party position is that they’ ve done
enough over the last nine years and the market is cooling down, and more houses are coming
on stream. So it should be any problem, I guess for your sons in the near future, Uesifili.
You guys may have a different perspective on this. John, could I kick it off with you,
thanks? John: Yeah, I think the dilemma I see with
the whole housing issue is National Party as a Government have been caught out, having
denied for almost nine years that there’ s an issue around housing. They’ re trying to
buy some capital with housing issues without admitting that they’ ve done nothing. The
example I give is that they promised to the Auckland City Mission $27 million as a contribution
towards a very large building to accommodate homeless. Now, my involvement in the Methodist
Mission, we didn’ t really support that model at all, because it institutionalises homelessness,
and actually doesn’ t deal with any core issues connecting to communities. The other part
is that $27 million sounds like a large amount of money to give to one project, and therefore
quite a good vote-catcher. The reality is the project costs $90 million, so I’ m not
sure when it will ever happen. I think the other part is that the electorate;
people are generally concerned about the affordability of housing, and the availability of housing.
Anybody who can address that, most people will feel okay with. My personal view is that
when we dealt with housing in the Mission, it was never ever as simple as that. I think
that housing driven by good Government policy is actually a way of addressing a number of
issues; it does deal with homelessness as long as you provide a raft of options and
locations, but I think governments need to seriously think about how do they deal with
the issues around housing affordability – in other words, first home ownership – without
getting into the emotive argument about social housing, which to me is not the same thing.
I think it’ s become a convenient scapegoat for people to talk about social housing as
though it’ s something someone else should do, and the rest of us, we can’ t afford housing.
I suggest they’ re all the same thing, or part of the same thing, and they’ re all attached
to a number of other issues. I talk about housing really as being a living issue; where
do people live – how do they live – what are the cultural networks that we enable to grow
and be nurtured in a good housing policy – what are the infrastructural things that we’ re
going to provide as part of a good social housing, community housing, first housing,
retirement housing program? The other thing is I think housing needs to
be seen as a way of a government, as I’ ve suggested, levelling the housing boom and
bust syndrome out. Governments are involved, and I suggest that they can actually start
building houses when everybody else is beginning to stop. They can actually begin to build
houses by suggesting in the contracts that young people, as part of the contract, actually
have an opportunity to learn a trade. If you don’ t provide workplace opportunities, up-skilling
opportunities to young people, then you can’ t tender for the job.
David: I think that’ s a really interesting social dimension to social housing. It’ s
not just a question of how do we put some houses there, but what is the whole infrastructure
behind that? John: Well David, I would argue that all housing
is social housing. You know? We all need to be able to interact with everybody else. Seeing
housing as simply a political issue or an issue to be avoided doesn’ t help, or simply
saying, if we do this, that’ s the problem solved. No, it’ s not; you have to do a raft
of things, and I think good community education means that you end up not just with a short
term solution – you end up with some good long term communities being established, built
and nurtured around a good housing program. Uesifili: John’ s given a pretty comprehensive
response, but I want to come really to the basic point that housing, which is meant to
be a very basic need for families and communities and individuals, have become so politicised
that we are now using housing in New Zealand society as a divide between generations of
those who have their own houses, and those who want to buy a house. The second thing
is that we are now dividing those who clearly have, because in Auckland for example, you’
re a millionaire instantly with a house, whereas those who are basically needing a house can’
t even get into one, and that’ s a generational thing. It’ s not just going to be Mum and
Dad who don’ t have a house; it’ s going to be their kids and possibly the grandkids.
So it’ s a very big divide that we have now established around what is a very important
part of a healthy and well community. I don’ t know what the…
David: Sorry to interrupt; do your sons see it as achievable to get a house?
Uesifili: I’ m not sure whether they see it as achievable on their own, but it happens
that we have a house that they might want to use to get their own. That is a very real
issue as John had mentioned; the affordability. I mean, if we’ re talking affordability in
the vicinity of $600,000-$700,000 in Auckland for a very basic house, I think that is signalling
some deep social problems going into the future. John: Uesifili, just a comment from you; you’
ve talked about the purchasing of houses – I’ ve not. I wonder if you’ d like to comment
on that, because I am not sure whether home ownership is necessarily a sign of achievement
in terms of a solution towards housing. I wonder whether – do you see rental housing
also as a possibility, but a better costing for it, or do you see home ownership in itself
as a right? I’ m a bit confused. I’ m not certain about that, myself.
Uesifili: Yeah, that’ s a good question. I’ m not sure if I have the answer to that, John.
My sense is that most young people, if I was to take my two sons as an example, would like
to aspire to home ownership; to buy their own home and actually build whatever their
aspirations are for the future as well as building their own families. So, my understanding
is that they’ re talking really about ownership rather than rental accommodation.
Ian: I would just like to contribute to, or to add to what John has said in that for me,
housing is more than just four walls and a roof over somebody’ s head; it adds – it contributes
to a whole range of other things. It provides stability for people. It provides health for
people. It provides a sense of community. It provides a place for recreation. All those
sorts of things are a package which to me come out of secure and stable housing, and
the opportunities for people to be able to live in what we might define as a home.
David: Okay, Ian I’ m going to put you on the spot here; which of the political parties
is going to present the most opportunities for that kind of housing, as far as you’ re
concerned, in this election? Ian: I don’ t see it as putting me on the
spot. What I do hear is one political party speaking a lot about aspirations and hopes,
and being criticised because there is no detail in that aspiration and hope statement – and
the other major political party saying we’ ve shown for a number of years that we’ re
on the right track, you’ ve just got to persevere with us for a little bit longer and all will
come right. The latter group is one which I struggle to come to terms with. I am a person
who likes to look for hope and aspiration, and would like to think that things develop