Auckland Mayor Phil Goff backs Bill English's call to scrap Housing Minister
Prime Minister Bill English has defended canning the position of Housing Minister, saying the Government shouldn't pretend to control things it can't.
Mr English's Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday afternoon contained a few surprises, the biggest perhaps being the dismantling of the housing portfolio at a time when the Opposition claims the country is in the midst of a housing crisis.
Instead, former Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith will now look after Building and Construction, while Social Housing moves from Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett to Amy Adams.
Despite first calling the change "bizarre", Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is confident Mr English hasn't forgotten what influence the Government can have over housing affordability.
Mr Goff says Mr English's planned Budget surplus of more than $5 billion by 2019 shows "dedication" to the cause.
"He has also said that he sees a major way of expending that surplus will be on infrastructure. That is good news for Auckland, because it means investment in the infrastructure necessary to lift the number of houses being built."
Auckland house prices appear to have levelled off after years of record rises, likely because of the Reserve Bank's moves to limit borrowing and the Government's bright line tax.
Speaking to RadioLIVE on Monday morning, Mr English played down the significance of the change.
"There's been one small name change in Nick Smith's portfolio," he told hosts Mike Puru and Trudi Nelson.
"Housing's a big, complex thing. No one person has one answer, because if they did we would have solved all the problems."
He believes the Government's focus should be on social housing, rather than the market.
"In terms of housing prices, that's a product of the demand with low interest rates and how many houses are coming onto the market - the Government doesn't control that. I don't think we should give the impression that we do."
Veteran MP and Labour deputy leader Annette King said it was the first time "in living memory" the Government hasn't had a dedicated Housing Minister.
"At a time when we do have a housing crisis - albeit that Bill English himself has said we don't - I think anybody out there who wants to buy their first house knows they're locked out of the market," she told RadioLIVE.
"Who do you put your question to when you want to talk in the House on housing?"
Mr English on Sunday said Auckland Council, being the local authority where the housing situation is perhaps most difficult, has the bigger part to play.
"So if you live in Gore, go and talk to the Auckland Council if you've got a problem with housing?" asked Ms King. "It's bizarre."