26 Jan 2021

Judith Collins focuses on housing, Covid-19 in National's state of the nation address

4:53 pm on 26 January 2021

National is calling on the government to introduce urgent temporary legislation to make it easier to build houses.

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National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Leader Judith Collins laid out the opposition's priorities in a state of the nation speech in Auckland this afternoon.

She said New Zealand needed to "harness the upheaval caused by Covid-19 to drive meaningful change".

Collins highlighted five priority areas National wants to see urgent progress: Covid-19 response, economic recovery, hardship and public safety, housing and the tech sector.

"It is important that we hold the government to account because when they fail, New Zealanders pay the price through higher house prices, lower incomes, higher unemployment and the risk of further Covid-19 lockdowns," she said.

On housing, Collins said a law change was needed to give the government the power to rezone council land, making room for 30 years' worth of growth in housing supply.

"Tinkering with who can buy a house, giving grants to some buyers, and putting barriers up for others - as Labour has done - is again about the symptoms, not the cause.

"It is too hard to build a house in New Zealand, it's as simple as that. We need to make it drastically easier. This isn't impossible. Hundreds of other cities around the world have affordable housing," she said.

Collins said she had written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today, suggesting a special select committee be established immediately to develop emergency legislation.

"Given their track record on KiwiBuild, I just don't trust the government to deliver quick changes to get more houses built.

"So, today, I am calling on the government to introduce urgent temporary legislation to make it easier to build a house, until the permanent RMA reforms are completed.

"It was done by National following the Canterbury earthquakes. It's now urgent for the rest of the country," she said.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected the call for emergency legislation.

"The thing that she's saying we should do, we've already done," Ardern said in response.

"We already put in place that significant National Policy Statement which says to all councils across New Zealand you have to free up land supply to make sure we have enough housing for our population."

Ardern said the "first blush" of this stock take was due to be released in July and it would have an impact this year.

However, she said she took Collins' letter in "good faith".

"We want to fix the housing crisis, it's been a persistent issue over multiple governments, over multiple decades. If there are any extra silver bullets that have been suggested here that we haven't already picked up on I'll engage in good faith, but I'm very pleased for the offer to work on the RMA," she said.

On Covid-19

Collins said National's first priority would be the Covid-19 response and ensuring the border is kept secure.

"New Zealanders can't afford another lockdown. But even more than this, failing to secure vaccinations for our frontline workers, border staff and those who work in and around managed isolation and quarantine shows a massive disregard for the sacrifice New Zealanders made last year. It is not good enough.

"We need to match Australia's schedule. We should be like Singapore, rolling out the vaccine to frontline workers and those vulnerable New Zealanders who need it urgently," she said.

Collins said National would also be focused on how the economic recovery is driven, as well as ensuring there is targeted, evidence-based support to help people most in need.

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