22 Feb 2016

Does the new housing bill support rangatiratanga?

7:53 pm on 22 February 2016

When the government passed the Social Housing Reform Bill last week it opened the door to the sell-off of up to 8000 state houses.

State housing in Upper Hutt.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Maori Party supported the government's bill and hailed the move as rangatiratanga, a description opposition MPs say could not be further from sovereignty.

Green Party Housing spokesperson Marama Davidson is concerned the law would only benefit a small group of Maori, rather than those who rely on state housing.

"I'm absolutely sure this is not Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty). I've had responses that it's an insulting line and saying we're not falling for this privatisation that is the driver of this legislation."

There are more than 60,000 state houses in New Zealand and Maori have a high occupancy, a third of Maori live in state housing.

But a new bill will see 10 percent of that housing stock sold and transfered to new providers within a year, just who will be the new landlord is yet to be decided.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said he was hoping some were iwi and other Maori groups.

"We've certainly spoken to a number of Maori housing providers up and down the country who have absolutely supported our position."

Mr Flavell said if those groups were not able to afford purchasing housing stock they would have to look at joint ventures.

Both Mr Flavell and his co-Leader Marama Fox have defended the accusation that the sell-off was a part privatisation of the housing stock and said it was in fact tino rangatiratanga or sovereignty, a comment opposition MP Peeni Henare said was disgraceful.

"That's taking licence, lingustic licence probably to the extreme. What they've actually gone and done is open it up to the wholesales of those assets. Just how many of those iwi or Maori housing providers are in a position to actually provide the level of care that those people need?"

RNZ News asked Mr Flavell how many of the groups he had consulted with had put their hands up to purchase houses but he could not say.

Labour's Peeni Henare said the Maori Party should have put in some assurances before backing the bill.

New Green party  MP, Marama Davidson, after she was sworn into Parliament today.

Marama Davidson Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Marama Davidson said she was concerned the law would benefit a small group of Maori and affect the large number reliant on state houses.

"When political parties and ministers are saying they've consulted with Maori what they mean is the upper echelons of Maori or corporate Maori and that's not consulting with Maori."

Ms Davidson said iwi she had spoken with did not have the funds to purchase housing stock which was rundown and overpriced. She said it would end up offshore.

"There is a huge possiblity of these houses and lands going to offshore foreign ownership and that is made very clear in the bill."

Mr Flavell said the party consulted widely with potential Maori housing providers and iwi.

RNZ News spoke to a number of iwi and housing groups none of them were willing to speak publically nor did any indicate they were considering purchasing any of the housing stock.

One group said they would be interested in taking on houses if they could secure funding through schemes like Kainga Whenua but it was not certain whether there were any schemes available to assist.

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