Revealed: The simple texts between Sir Bill English and Chris Bishop that led to Kāinga Ora review

Newshub can reveal Sir Bill English was signed on to head a half-million-dollar review of Kāinga Ora through a couple of simple text messages with the Minister - weeks before he even got Cabinet signoff for the review. 

Kāinga Ora's response to the scathing report said they were hardly consulted and Newshub's obtained text messages showing it was the Minister's preference they had no involvement. 

Billboard duty with Sir Bill and Housing Minister Chris Bishop back in 2017 - six years on, out with the staple guns and in with the calculators. Sir Bill was appointed to undertake a review of Kāinga Ora which, when completed, was highly critical.

"Kāinga Ora is underperforming and not financially viable," Bishop said.

Newshub can reveal how the former Prime Minister came to head the half-million-dollar probe.

Here is the text exchange:

Sir Bill: Chris will there be a review of KO.

Bishop: We are going to do an independent review into finances, performance, cost, etc. Commence it asap, hopefully get terms of reference and reviewers sorted before Christmas. 

Sir Bill: I could help with that.

Bishop: Excellent lets do that.

Chris Bishop and Sir Bill English.
Chris Bishop and Sir Bill English. Photo credit: Getty Images

Bishop told Newshub he "absolutely" followed proper processes in appointing Sir Bill.

The message saying "excellent let's do that" to the review was sent on November 29 but the review was only taken to the Cabinet 100-day plan committee to sign off two weeks later on December 13. 

When asked why he said that before taking it to Cabinet, Bishop said he was "expressing interest in getting him to do the review".

"It doesn't sit right and everything suggests that this was a stitch-up and that the outcomes were predetermined," Labour housing spokesperson Kieran McAnulty said.

A day after Bishop gave the green light, Sir Bill issued some terms of his own. 

"I will help if it's a short sharp review. No public submissions or field trips," he texted. 

Bishop agreed saying: "Definitely not. Three people. You and two others... No involvement from KO. Independent."

To reiterate, the Housing Minister said there would be no involvement of Kāinga Ora in the review of Kāinga Ora. 

"Did he advise Sir Bill English not to involve Kainga Ora in the review?" Bishop was asked in the House, to which he replied: "Uh, no. And they were involved in the review, he met with Kāinga Ora."

"How on earth can you review an organisation without actually talking to the organisation?" McAnulty asked.

"He didn't want an extended period of consultation and roadshows around the country. They did as part of the review talk to a whole range of people from developers to construction people. They did talk to Kāinga Ora themselves extensively," Bishop said.

Except, in a letter to Sir Bill ahead of the release of his final report, the acting chair of Kāinga Ora's board said:

"There was relatively limited engagement with our organisation, leading to some review conclusions appearing to be based on analysis informed by anecdotes."

"Well, that's their perspective, it's not mine," Bishop said.

McAnulty said it is an "absolute shocker".

"The whole thing is an absolute stitch-up. No doubt," he said.

Kāinga Ora's letter to Sir Bill also took exception with a number of the report's findings alleging there were many factual errors - their list of errors is three pages long.