Minister for Urban Development and Transport Phil Twyford is saying the government is still on track on dealing with some of the teething issues that the country has been facing due to years of negligence and underinvestment. 

Mr Twyford was speaking with The Indian Weekender in an exclusive interview, about how the government was progressing on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s promise of this year being the year of delivery.

The Minister refused to be bogged down by the criticism among some quarters, particularly in big-ticket policies like KiwiBuild, where the government has to rewind from some very ambitious goals.

“We have acknowledged that there was a housing crisis. We have acknowledged that the KiwiBuild policy was not delivering at the early stage and we have made some changes,” Mr Twyford said.

“We built some 2100 houses in public housing just last year.

“The previous government has reduced the number of houses in public housing by 1500 over the nine years,” Mr Twyford said.

The Minister also rejected the suggestions that the absence of any targets of the number of houses to be built in future in the recent KiwiBuild reset announcement by the Minister for Housing Megan Woods on Wednesday, September 4, was not a failure.

“We are as ambitious as always. We have acknowledged the housing crisis. We are committed to not only working with first home buyers enabling them to get into the property ladder.

“We have also tripled the amount of emergency and transitional housing and the amount of money spent on housing the homeless people,” Mr Twyford said.

Explaining further the current focus of the Ministry of Urban Development in terms of unleashing some fundamental reforms in the way planning and resource consent was done in the big cities across the country Mr Twyford said, “There is a whole lot of work underway to reform the planning rules.”

“The reason that we are 70,000 houses short is that the market is not building enough homes, even though there is a lot of demand,” Mr Twyford said.

“Our planning rules have been too restrictive. They are not allowing our cities to grow up and out. We have released a draft national policy statement under the Resource Management Act. It is a policy document that will have the legal power to direct the council to change the rules,” Mr Twyford said.

Similarly, the Minister was confident that the much criticism around some of the big-ticket transport policy announcements like Auckland’s Light Rail was completely unfounded.

“We reoriented Transport budget to build a modern integrated transport system in our cities that give people choices and provide sustainable solutions to terrible gridlocks,”

“For decades we have been putting all the money in motorways.

“Auckland now has a mature motorway system but has appalling gridlocks. It is because in the morning and afternoon peaks there is no alternate to motorways.

“That’s why we have to build a modern public transport system that gives people alternatives,” Mr Twyford asserted.

Explaining the cause of some delay in the progress of the light rail project Mr Twyford said that the Ministry received an unsolicited proposal from a consortium of New Zealand Canada superannuation funds, who have between them an international experience of owning, financing and managing a world-class public transport system.

“This has never happened in New Zealand, and we believe that it is worth considering.

“If we get this right then every time someone will take a ride in the public transport system they will be contributing towards their pension funds for the future,” Mr Twyford asserted.