Speech to the National Māori Housing Conference 2021

E te tī, e te tā 

Tēnei te mihi maioha ki a koutou 

Ki te whenua e takoto nei 

Ki te rangi e tū iho nei 

Ki a tātou e tau nei 

Tēnā tātou. 

It’s great to be with you today, along with some of the ministerial housing team; Hon Peeni Henare, the Minister in charge of Māori Housing, Hon Marama Davidson, who looks after the area of homelessness, and Hon Willie Jackson, on behalf of Māori development; and to hear so many of you talk about what is happening in Māori housing.

Our commitment to working with you on tackling this critical issue for Māori is stronger than ever. It is many of you in this room who have the opportunity to re-shape and drive the future of Māori Housing – this will change what the statistics tell us – it is our job as Government to work with Māori to support and enable that.

I don’t need to tell you about the long history that has taken us to the position we are in, in regard to Māori today; and equally I think we all appreciate it won’t be a short journey to change that course of history.

This history is something that I have been personally interested in for many years – the dr part of my name comes from a PHD in NZ history – more specifically a study of Māori urbanisation during and after WWII, and the housing policies that facilitated one of the swiftest rural urban shifts in history. That study not only looked at the houses and the policies but also led me to talk to many young men who came from around here to Christchurch to learn their trade in the 1950s and 1960s and are still there today.

What I learned from my research was that governments need to be deliberate in their housing policies – following the war PM Fraser and his Labour government saw a problem in a massive housing shortage but they also saw an opportunity to train a generation with skilled trades and to rapidly build the houses that were so badly needed. Now I am not about to get into a 15 minute speech about the politics of urbanisation but I do think there is much we can learn from the past – about what to do and what not to do. I also learned that housing is more than buildings, it’s about skills, jobs, place, wellbeing.

Today I’m going to talk to you about some of the broader work that we have going on in housing, I’ll briefly touch on some of the specific approach we are taking through MAIHI and place-based work which will deliver better outcomes for Māori housing.

A driving belief of our Government is that all New Zealanders should live in warm, dry, secure housing whether they own those homes or rent them.

While home ownership remains a challenge in New Zealand, it is particularly so for whānau Māori.

One of the ways we are supporting Māori into home ownership, is through the Progressive Home Ownership Fund.

We have ring-fenced funding for Iwi and Māori and provider pathways.

This $400m fund will help between 1,500 and 4,000 families into home ownership

It’s for households who can afford mortgage payments but just can’t manage to save a deposit, or families who can get a small deposit together but are not able to afford the ongoing costs of a mortgage at current house prices. In short whanau shut out of home ownership.

I’d like to thank all the Iwi and Māori organisations that have been working with Te Tūāpapa Kura Kainga for their early and continued engagement as we have worked through the design and delivery of the Fund. I’d particularly like to acknowledge the role that Te Matapihi has played to advocate for whānau Māori and help to ensure the Fund takes a Kaupapa Māori approach. 

Since the Fund’s launch seven months ago, over 100 households and whānau are being pulled onto the path of home ownership, and around 50 households will be living in their own homes through PHO funding by June this year.

12 families have already moved into their own new homes in Auckland.

It was sad to see that this significant achievement was belittled earlier this week by people who appear not to understand the significant barriers some people face in making the transition from renter to homeowner. This is hard work, one whanau at a time.

 This Labour Government is particularly proud of what we are doing in public and transitional housing.

We are building more new public housing in a generation.

When we came into government 3 years ago one of the jobs we had to tackle was to relearn how the state builds social housing and homes – after nearly a decade of inaction it was fair to say some of the muscle memory had been lost – we have been building on our public housing programme with every budget, to the point we are on track to deliver an extra 18,350 public and transitional housing places by 2024.

The demand for public housing and emergency housing assistance continues to rise, driven by a range of interrelated factors including a shortage of housing, population increase, inadequate housing, homelessness, and insecurity of tenure.

We have implemented a different approach to building housing; namely where it’s most needed and wanted, so Kāinga Ora is taking a place-based and MAIHI approach to focus on priority areas, such as here in Hastings.

We need to build more public houses so people can move off the Housing Register, as quickly as possible.

We are concentrating our efforts in regions where there is high need.

Our Public Housing plan supports the delivery of solutions for Māori that align with MAIHI principles, to respond to whānau needs and aspirations.  

We will continue to work alongside Iwi and Māori to advance housing projects that increase housing supply that attends to whānau needs, prevents homelessness, and improves Māori housing security. 

 Now, wearing my hat as both the Minister of Energy as well as Housing, a project I’m very interested in is the Māori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund.

This has been established to trial small-scale renewable energy technologies for Māori houses.

Renewable energy solutions can improve health outcomes for people in public and Māori housing, by reducing the cost of power bills for Māori whānau. We want to support renewable generation that consistently makes energy more affordable, so heating is used more, leading to warmer and healthier homes.

 I’ve talked a little already about our place-based work but would like to let you more about why we are working this way.

We know that some communities are harder hit than others by rising housing prices.  We also know that every community has its own aspirations for its future. 

So we cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to housing and urban development. 

A place-based means we work in partnership with communities to achieve these aspirations and take a close look at what the barriers are to achieving them, and options to overcome them.

It means we respond to what we learn with the right policies, so that all communities have the tools they need to succeed. 

Our partnerships in Hastings and Rotorua have taught us the value of this approach. In both places we are working with iwi, local government, and the private sector to tackle long standing housing and urban issues in an enduring way. 

Alongside these, our urban growth partnerships are supporting high growth urban areas to develop in ways that best meet their needs. Partnerships between local government, central government and iwi are in place for Auckland, the Hamilton-Auckland Corridor and Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty. We are also progressing spatial plans in the Hamilton-Metro, Tauranga Western-Bay of Plenty, Wellington-Horowhenua and Queenstown Lakes areas.  

Our kaupapa Māori (Te Maihi o te Whare Māori) approach and our place-based approach is proving the foundation for the Government’s work in housing. We expect to see more bespoke responses to different housing needs, especially for Māori.  

For example, the recently released Public Housing Plan will deliver more new public housing in regional centres and towns where housing demand is growing fastest, alongside delivery in main centres. Delivery will be collaborative, working with iwi, Māori Community Housing Providers, and others in the community to deliver solutions that meet the immediate and long-term needs and aspirations of vulnerable individuals, whānau and communities. 

The Government is working on the development of a Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (GPS-HUD), to form Kāinga Ora’s strategic direction that it needs to perform its very significant role in our housing and urban system.

But the value of the GPS goes well beyond its role in guiding the activities of Kāinga Ora.

Importantly, we see the GPS playing a critical role in agreeing and sharing a long-term vision for housing and urban development, to help build consensus on what New Zealand wants for the future, and to help align everyone across the system to help get us there.

In particular, the GPS will reflect the principles of partnership, participation, and protection, which underpin the relationship between the Government and Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

 We recognised quite early on that developing a GPS that is enduring and meets the needs and aspirations of Iwi, Māori and all of our partners requires good engagement, with opportunities to help shape the direction.

Last year my officials held a series of online hui with partners and stakeholders to get early views on what the GPS should contain – thank you to many of you who attended to share your perspectives.

My officials are taking what we heard through those workshops — together with the rich information and perspectives that we have heard through engagement at the MAIHI Whare Wananga and through the various Te Pou Tahua - Iwi Chair Forums, and the Housing Policy and Services Kaupapa Inquiry (WAI 2750) — and are starting to give shape to a draft GPS.

 There are two aspects of the GPS that I want to share with you now.

The first aspect is that — alongside a clear vision and outcomes — it will contain around six key priorities. These will focus on New Zealand’s fundamental needs, such as: helping our most vulnerable; providing affordable, healthy, and secure housing options that meet all needs; and shaping resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous communities.

Importantly, it will include delivering solutions that are tailored and enduring for Māori needs and aspirations and aligned with the MAIHI includes, reviewing and resetting the system so that future policy provide for equitable outcomes for Māori.

The second aspect is that it will outline key shifts in the way we want the housing and urban development system to work, including the role of government. These will include embedding a place-based approach, building genuine and enduring relationships (and through that build capability across the system), and partnering with Māori to bring innovation and leadership to design and implement solutions with Māori, by Māori for Māori.

 Māori make up a significant portion of the number of people who rent in New Zealand.

The Government delivered on its promise to reform rental laws to better reflect the modern-day rental environment. New tenancy rules came into effect in February this year.

The reform was a significant and necessary change to the tenancy laws in New Zealand. A key focus of this reform was improving security of tenure for tenants.

Access to secure and sustainable housing has positive education, health, and wellbeing outcomes for children. Looking forward, we will see tenants and their communities experiencing the benefits of the reform.

The new tenancy laws will enable tenants to put down roots in their communities and make their house a home.

The reforms strike the right balance between tenant’s and landlord’s interests.

 You will know that we have committed to reform the Resource Management Act following a review. The RMA is a hugely important piece of legislation because it not only manages our interactions with the environment, including our taonga, it also governs what can be built where, when, and how.

But it’s not delivering the outcomes we want. Our urban areas have struggled to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing, with devastating consequences for our most disadvantaged communities. Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. Māori and iwi have been insufficiently involved or engaged with in decision-making.

In short, the RMA has failed to enable the housing we need, has failed to protect the environmental and cultural values we cherish, and has failed to support Māori housing aspirations.

We need a resource management system that works for all New Zealanders and enables our cities to grow and change, and that is responsive to the changing needs and demands of our diverse and growing populations.

Finally, it’s important to note that the resource management system, while foundational, is only one important piece of the puzzle. The resource management system plans and enables housing, but it does not build houses.

Addressing our housing issues requires a multi-pronged approach that combines a responsive resource management system with more direct housing policies and solutions, including policies that that are effectively targeted to the needs and aspirations of Māori.

 While our resource management laws will get an overhaul, and it will take some time, we have already implemented legislation that will tackle our restrictive planning rules that make it harder for people to build and live in the homes they want, where they want.

The National Policy Statement - Urban Development’s aim is to ensure that New Zealand’s towns and cities are well-functioning urban environments that meet the changing needs of our diverse communities.

The NPS-UD requires council plans to plan well for growth – both upwards and outwards. To do this, councils are directed to open up development capacity so more homes can be built in response to demand.

This will enable a significant shift towards higher density and more intensification in areas where people want to live and that are well connected to jobs, public transport, community facilities and green spaces.

We recognise the importance of the timely implementation of the NPS-UD and the Government has high expectations that councils will implement it as soon as possible, so more housing is delivered quicker and it’s more affordable.

The Government sees this, alongside longer-term RMA reform, as a critical way the planning system can contribute to improving housing affordability in our major cities.

Under the NPS- UD councils are required to ensure urban development occurs in a way that takes into account the principles of Te Tiriti O Waitangi.

Through planning under the NPS-UD, local authorities are required to provide housing for Māori that meets their individual needs. To enable this, they must engage with tangata whenua to determine appropriate methods for incorporating values and aspirations of all Māori living in their urban environment.

The NPS-UD also assists local authorities to fulfil their existing obligations by emphasising existing requirements in the RMA for engaging with Māori.

The Future Development Strategy, developed under the NPS-UD, will require certain councils to carry out long-term planning to demonstrate how they will accommodate growth and ensure a well-functioning urban environment.

The NPS-UD requires that each FDS be informed by the values and aspirations of hapū and iwi as well s Māori that do not hold mana whenua over the urban environment in which they live.

The housing and urban systems clearly need to deliver more homes and support communities and local economies with jobs, education, and services.

Māori bring an important perspective to these important conversations about the role housing plays in community well-being and whānau development – providing a holistic perspective that understands the multiple, complex, and overlapping nature of issues and potential solutions.

Enabling whānau and hapu to create communities centred around whenua Māori creates a platform for wider community development that the housing system can learn from; this has initially been nurtured by the Māori Housing Network in Te Puni Kōkiri but increasingly we are seeing government agencies like Te Tūāpapa Kura Kainga (HUD) and Kāinga Ora leverage this knowledge.

As we move forwards with Kāinga Ora’s urban work programme, we will increasingly discover that in many of our larger urban areas that are land poor, through Right of First Refusal land, Māori are comparatively land rich.

Our aim is to unlock the potential of Māori land, for whānau to have access to reconnect to their whenua, to build and contribute to their communities.  

 Ka nui aku mihi maioha ki a koutou 

Ki tēnei kaupapa mahurangi 

 Mauri ora ki te whare 

Tēnā koutou katoa