A cat has nine lives, or so the old saying goes. When I think about current Cabinet Ministers of the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, none fit that description more accurately than Minister of Housing and Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford. And whilst I do not think it is possible to accurately account for the number of Ministerial lives lost by Mr Twyford, one might guess he is well on the way to his ninth.
Since coming to office as Minister for Transport, Minister for Housing and – until Ms Ardern stripped him off it – , Mr Twyford has really struggled with his portfolio’s. The shadow spokespeople for Transport and Housing in the National Party have managed to land a number of hits on the good ship Twyford, though none yet appear to be fatal.
But damaging they are. The two most notable fires on the M.S. Twyford are in the handling of the Kiwi Build programme and the handling of the Warrant of Fitness scandal.
The Kiwi Build programme, was meant to promise 100,000 affordable homes for New Zealand. A lofty target to meet and one that we are falling a long way behind on. Not only has Mr Twyford bitten off far more than he can chew, it would appear that he is being a proverbially messy eater, some of the specifics that Mr Twyford has mentioned have themselves turned into botch ups. For example Mr Twyford appears to have a quite different interpretation of the word “affordable”, which to most New Zealanders in terms of housing would be a two bedroom house costing no more than $350,000 instead of the $500,000 price tag he is offering. As for the rate of houses being built, only a few thousand have been put up so far in the first term of this Government.
The other damaging problem that Mr Twyford has to deal with is the W.O.F. scandal. This is a scandal which has left New Zealand Transport Authority red faced and having to admit thousands of people may have had Warrants of Fitness issued to their vehicles which should never have been certified. Not only that, no one seems to be really certain of how many registered garages have been issuing substandard W.O.F.’s and for how long. It begs several serious questions of the N.Z.T.A.:
- Where has their regulatory unit been among all of this?
- Are the W.O.F.’s issued by suspect garages going to be null and voided?
- Do we know who all of the potential victims in this are?
Combined these two problems make me wonder how long Mr Twyford can hang on to his job. It is clearly obvious that he has significant issues on his plate and very soon some serious answers are going to have to be given. N.Z.T.A. need to come clean immediately on the scale of the problem. The problem garages are going have to have their registrations suspended until they can prove they are fit to certify peoples cars, and the head of N.Z.T.A. regulation is going to have to be prepared to quit if this does not happen.
Equally seriously, Kiwi Build is obviously not going to work. The range of issues faced extend beyond just the exaggerated promises and the massive over pricing of units. Do we actually have enough builders and other trades people to reach such a lofty goal? Does Kiwi Build actually have its priorities worked out? Or should we simply scrap it and start again?