Housing New Zealand boss must quit

Andrew McKenzie is a man skating on thin ice. As the boss of Housing New Zealand, Mr McKenzie had oversight of the meth testing done on houses in its stock. During those many tests a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars was racked up across a number of clients who found their tenancy aborted. Now with the meth testing industry in a state of disarray and the whistle having been blown on what could be a major cover up, why is the H.N.Z. boss not being forthcoming with answers?

His reluctance to be interviewed by media – declining twice in the space of a few days – suggests an agency boss with something to hide.

However, Mr McKenzie has compounded his problems. His failure to properly stop the charging of people in meth houses for costs incurred in their decontamination is just one other problem among several. Housing New Zealand’s failure to apologize for the charging of decontamination, thus leaving landlords and tenants alike significantly out of pocket should have been Mr McKenzie’s responsibility. Comprehensive methamphetamine testing has been known to cost up to $3,000 with decontamination costing up to another $15,000.

If one believes Minister of Housing Phil Twyford, Housing New Zealand was supposed to have stopped charging tenants for meth testing that had to be undertaken nearly 18 months ago. Yet just the same day that the meth testing story broke it was found out that Housing New Zealand was still pursuing tenants. When that was put to Mr Twyford i in a radio interview, Mr Twyford said that he had felt misled by the agency and demanded that it come clean with answers.

This leaves Mr McKenzie in an untenable spot. As the person in charge of H.N.Z., he would have known what it was doing, despite making a commitment to stopping such charges. The public of New Zealand have a right to know what went on and why its word was not backed by the matching actions.

There is only one thing for Mr McKenzie to do and that is apologize and resign immediately from Housing New Zealand. He is not fight to continue in that role.

It is highly improbable that it will happen, but former Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett who took great zeal in kicking tenants using methamphetamine out of their homes, also owes an apology. It is highly improbable since it is not like Government ministers to apologize for their past actions.

Another agency that needs to review its actions despite not committing to doing so is the Tenancy Tribunal which would have heard numerous cases of people being unfairly evicted and left to fend for themselves.

Across the board there were failures at all levels in this sorry saga. Across the board all of the agencies and individuals who knew things were not right, but failed to take the appropriate actions should be taking an ice cold look at themselves in the mirror. Are they still fit for purpose? What will it take to make them fit for purpose? And why are they not actively seeking to learn from this?

Meth houses not so methed up as New Zealand thinks

A report into how New Zealand houses are tested for methamphetamine has delivered some stunning results. For years it has been thought that a house contaminated with methamphetamine would need to be gutted and everything in it thrown out. But, with the report suggesting that those in the methamphetamine testing and clean up industry knowing that the houses were safe all along, it is either game over for the industry or time for a complete overhaul of how it works.

The results are stunning. The Government Chief Scientist Peter Gluckman’s report has found no evidence that there is any third hand risk to tenants in houses where methamphetamine has been consumed. In the years that this has been known, but not admitted, possibly several thousand houses in New Zealand that could have been used for housing some of our neediest and most vulnerable people have been unnecessarily off limits, pending gutting or complete demolition. It has been suggested that there may be as many as 670 houses that are actually not contaminated by methamphetamine in the perceived way that led to them being shut down.

Not suprisingly advocates for tenants evicted as a result of the methamphetamine are insisting on compensation. Their reasoning stems from the fact that the tenants would have lost their possessions in being forced to move out from contaminated property and are therefore justified in seeking some sort of reparation.

The financial cost of getting a house tested is just the start. A basic test to determine whether methamphetamine has used in the house might set one back $200. Depending on the materials used in the houses construction and decoration it might cost anywhere between $7,500 and $40,000 to get the methamphetamine removed from any suspect houses.

But from whom will this reparation come? The Government has already suggested that it will not be offering any – a standpoint that I think may be challenged in a court of law in good time. The methamphetamine testing industry may have suffered a fatal blow with this report, which insiders admitted they knew was going to come sooner or later and that many were aware that the testing regime had set a very low threshhold.

So, who is to blame for the lack of oversight that might have prevented this happening in the first place? Judith Collins, National spokesperson for Housing says that the previous Government was acting on advice from experts familiar with methamphetamine. Yet when interviewed on Breakfast by Jack Tame, Ms Collins said she did not know who these experts were. Ms Collins also said that many agencies used the information supplied to make decisions and the decisions made at the time were justified on the basis that if one supposed that it had been ignored and risk turned out to be true, then the conversation would be about negligence.

Negligence or not, the testing industry needs to be held to account before it can be trusted to do any more work.


Real estate industry needs stronger regulation

When we think of Real Estate agents in New Zealand, people want to think that they are an honourable bunch. New Zealanders want to believe that when they are buying or selling a house, should they deal with a real estate agent, that not only is the person totally qualified to do the job, it will be done to a level of proficiency where both the buyer/seller and the agent are happy.

And why not? A house most certainly is the single biggest purchase in terms of personal financial cost any New Zealand will make, with a few rare exceptions. A house is a substantial and ongoing investment that means one must be prepared to invest time in maintenance, time in possibly occasionally doing the house up, and time in making sure it is not causing the neighbours undue stress. So, one better want a house to be sold to them/or sold on their behalf by an agent who knows what s/he is doing.

For the most part real estate agents are – like most New Zealanders – fairly decent people. They have lives, they might well have family and probably travel ambitions. They do not want to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

But what happens when there is a rogue in the building. A rogue who has racked up nine misconduct charges; a rogue who poses such a risk that he cannot deal in the real estate industry until 2021, after being banned in 2015?

This is where Aaron Brever comes in. Mr Brever was banned in November 2016 on his ninth misconduct charge. In its ruling the Real Estate Agents Authority said that he was unable and/or unwilling to change and that the public need to be protected by him.

NINTH charge?!

Sorry Mr Brever, but New Zealand needs stronger real estate monitoring regulation than it currently has. It is people like you who are the unfortunate cause of this happening and my promoting it. The Act needs to require all real estate agents are New Zealand permanent residents before they apply for a real estate license. The real estate licencing needs to maintain a standard whereby a client can have confidence in the agent, but at the same time

After nine such charges I think most people would accept an Agent should have been long stripped of his/her license, which should only be reinstated pending appropriate review. I think it would also be appropriate to say that that agent should be permanently barred from being involved in the sale of real estate in any capacity where they may gain some form of financial or other gain should another charge of misconduct be brought against them.

Mr Brever might have been stripped in November 2016. I see nothing to suggest he is credible of getting his licence back.


Housing New Zealand not being restructured – for now

Yesterday it was announced that working income families would get a boost in their wages.To Labour this is a chance for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to stamp her mark on a particular topic currently quite relevant in New Zealand as students take off for their summer holidays.

To National it is the breaking of an election promise, according to Stuff writer, Henry Cooke – who  notes shortly further down that Labour had acknowledged that H.N.Z. had made positive moves in the right direction. To Labour it is a sensible but necessary readjustment, something that could have happened with less fanfare, bar for actually seeing on Stuff that this had actually happened.

As far as I am concerned, Housing New Zealand has one job and one job only: to manage the state housing assets in New Zealand. Fair enough, but if we include the other tasks that it was set, the role of H.N.Z. becomes significantly bigger than many think.

It is responsible for 64,000 properties across New Zealand.

I believe it is a state asset that must be 100% N.Z. owned.  Few S.O.E.’s are on this list of ones that must be exclusively New Zealand owned. It should reflect the importance local managers knowing local conditions that non locals will probably not care about, or view as artificial. Rental property companies want to establish a market here – or participate in an existing one – they are welcome to do so, but the house at the end of the day is only for sale to someone who has permanent residency at the minimum.

Of Housing New Zealand stock, none should be for sale to anyone in the first instance. If it is inhabitable whilst complying with the standard of care expected by New Zealand law the most desirable occupant shall be sought.It should not be sold to a foreigner first unless there is a demonstrable improbability of a New Zealander to buy it.

With a hopefully developing waiting list this change in tact will acknowledge the long suffering users of their campers. Some will find it too hard and keep trying to develop alternative solutions – whatever makes for the best reading over the next several days. But for me it is clear. The market failed vulnerable human beings just when they could least afford it.

Which is why I am pleased to see that:

  1. Labour have acknowledged a change in direction from Housing New Zealand
  2. Labour understand that rural communities need support to by their supporting of Housing New Zealand.


The New Zealand social emergency created by National

As we move further into the first term of the new Government, it is starting to become clear that there is a significant crisis in New Zealand society. The issues fuelling this crisis are numerous and varied, and none started on the watch of the recently ousted National-led Government. But in nine years in office these symptoms advanced far enough that combined they now pose an immediate and direct threat to New Zealand society.

National has in effect created a social emergency. The failure to address despite repeated warnings that there were problem emerging with housing, health, social welfare and justice have combined to create conditions where the so called market has left behind sections of New Zealand society whose deprivation is feeding social decay.

The conditions created consist of a combination of contributing factors. They include but are not limited to:

  • Drug addled neighbourhoods with police struggling to contain the epidemic of methamphetamine, synthetic cannabis and other harmful substances
  • Absentee parents/caregivers and a break down of parental/caregiver responsibility
  • Rampant truancy and young people leaving school with no qualifications, and no jobs or training to go to
  • School children living in inadequate housing, constantly having to move and living in conditions that are not compliant with basic human rights or housing law
  • Housing rents eating up money for food, clothes, medical expense – children go to school hungry and/or distracted

The problems start in the home or at school, but often end in a police cell. The following is a brief synopsis of how a person might go downhill. I am not suggesting that all people in such circumstances will experience this – indeed there are many fantastic parents who care very much, who go without themselves and try to be a positive influence in their child’s life, but in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods, this is a real issue.

In the first instance at home or school, they have no food and often start the day on an empty stomach, are irritable or distracted. A failure to be settled in one spot for any length of time will mean the child has trouble settling in at school, distracted by problems at home. Over time this may fuel other problems, because the student will start getting into trouble, picking fights, associating with the wrong crowd. At home the parent/caregiver might be working long hours to make sure there is enough money to pay rent and will not be at home at critical times such as when they have homework or need underage supervision, so the children start misbehaving. At school the teachers realize that the person or people in question have a discipline problem. Homework is not being done, and the student is disruptive, argumentative. It begins to escalate with children missing school and truancy officers picking them up. At this point, the child is at an intersection in their life. At this stage the choice is stark. The child unless there is substantial intervention by the parent, the school and potentially social social workers will either leave or wind up being expelled from school with poor prospects for the future.

It never needed to be like this. And the long term cost to society, the economy and the people who know the child are substantial. If s/he devolves into drugs, then a life of crime and prison awaits. If s/he tries to turn themselves around their past – especially if a criminal history is involved – may catch up with them and hinder their future development.

This is why there is a significant and dangerous poverty issue in New Zealand. It has the potential to fuel illegal substances, crime, violence and gangs, none of which are welcome or wanted. All of which are horrendously destructive and all of which we need to shut down.