Lloyd Burr: Doesn't National hate KiwiBuild?

"Having the Government build the houses would only displace the building activity that is actually growing at record rates in the private sector," Nick Smith said in July 2016 (Getty)
"Having the Government build the houses would only displace the building activity that is actually growing at record rates in the private sector," Nick Smith said in July 2016 (Getty)

OPINION: If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a National MP sledge and scoff at the idea of a government-run large-scale house-building programme, I'd almost have a deposit for a one-bedroom shack on the outskirts of Gore.

Labour's KiwiBuild plan has been the butt of National's jokes and attacks on housing for five years.

It's been called "fantasyland", "half-baked" and even a "dog" by National MPs. It's been blasted because it would see the government enter the property development business.

That's why I nearly choked on my fish burger when I saw National's new policy arrive in my inbox yesterday.

"Government's Crown Building Project - 34,000 brand new purpose-built houses over 10 years," the press release read.

At first I thought it would be some private market-driven initiative beefed up with some stats about consents spun to make it look like housing wasn't a big issue. But then I looked closer.

"These will be built by Housing New Zealand.

"These houses will be for our most vulnerable families, for first-home buyers.

"Significant undertaking for the Government, for taxpayers."

Shut the front door. That sounds exactly like a policy I read in November 2012 called KiwiBuild, only a quarter of the size.

I couldn't believe it. It was policy plagiarism. It was KiwiBuild-lite. It's hilarious.

So I thought I'd have a look back through some of the comments National and its support partners had made about KiwiBuild over the years.

John Key, Nov 26, 2012

"I think they're in fantasy land."

John Key, 25 Jan, 2013

"Labour's so-called 'plan' to build 100,000 houses doesn't do anything to fix the actual cost of building so will either fail miserably, deliver dwellings that people don't want to live in, or require massive taxpayer subsidies."

Tony Ryall, Jan 29, 2014

"They have got this half-baked plan to become the country's biggest property developer."

Nick Smith, 27 August, 2014

"KiwiBuild is a joke because Labour has no idea how it would build 10,000 homes a year, cannot explain how they would pay for it and they still have not worked out who would be eligible for the homes," Dr Smith says.

David Bennett, Dec 4, 2014

"KiwiBuild is a dog of a policy; it would never work."

John Key, to Andrew Little, March 18, 2015

"If the member [Andrew Little] really thinks that the Government getting out there building houses is the solution to the housing problem, then why does he not suggest that the Government should be out there building schools, hospitals, roads, and everything else? Because it does not. The private sector builds it."

David Bennett, 25 March, 2015

"The Labour Party has not given up its state-owned, state-run, state-built, state-delivered housing policy."

Alastair Scott, June 25, 2015

"[Labour] is sanctimonious, in that they do not understand that those in the private sector are quite willing and able and capable of choosing where they want to live, how they want to live, and the design of the house that they want to live in."

Nick Smith, July 6, 2016

"Having the Government build the houses would only displace the building activity that is actually growing at record rates in the private sector."

David Seymour, Sept 6, 2016

"I do not believe that the Government should be in the housing development business. There is no public policy justification for the Government to be building houses."

Nick Smith, Oct 19, 2016

"I just saw a pig flying through the House - because anybody who believes that Labour, with the minuscule amount of money that it has budgeted, can build 100,000 houses also believes in the tooth fairy and Father Christmas."

Nick Smith, Oct 19, 2016

"Members on this side of the House do not agree that the only way to have houses being built is to have them built by the Government."

There's also this Newshub Reid-Research poll done is August 2016: 

Do you support Labour's KiwiBuild policy?

Yes: 56 percent

No: 41 percent

Don't know 3 percent

There's no doubt National will defend to the death that this policy is nothing like KiwiBuild. But that would be wrong. At the end of the day, the government is still entering the property development business and is still building tens of thousands of homes.

I'm sure it'll be a challenge (not a crisis). 

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