28 Jan 2013

Key accuses Labour of housing about-face

9:10 am on 28 January 2013

Prime Minister John Key has accused the Labour Party of doing an about-face on its housing policy.

Labour leader David Shearer and Mr Key have outlined their priorities for 2013 in major speeches within days of each other.

On Friday, Mr Key said the economy would be front and centre this year, and announced a revamped apprenticeship scheme.

The Labour leader told party faithful in Wainuiomata, near Wellington, on Sunday that jobs, housing, education and the economy are his top priorities for the year, along with getting Labour ready to be in Government after the 2014 election.

Mr Shearer said under its policy affordable homes built in Auckland would be a combination of apartments, terraced housing and compact homes.

The Prime Minister told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday that is a change from what Mr Shearer announced last November.

"We need honesty in the debate. The Government is putting honesty in the debate. Yesterday we saw Labour fundamentally admitting they'd been dishonest and having to back away from their policy."

Mr Key said he is confident incoming Housing Minister Nick Smith will prepare a plan that will address the housing shortage in Auckland. He said he had asked Environment Minister Amy Adams to urgently work on changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) to reduce planning costs for housing developments.

Mr Shearer said an active hands-on government is needed as housing won't be made affordable by "simply tinkering around with the RMA and hoping that the market's going to come to the party."

He is confident the scale of Labour's plan to build 100,000 homes over 10 years would mean construction companies could keep costs down, so the new homes will be within reach of many first time buyers.

"When you talk to construction companies and others and you say 'you will be given a contract to build a thousand houses a year', they say 'we can bring those costs dramatically'. And that's the point about building houses at the scale that we're talking about."