We continue our series where Mt Roskill by-election candidates respond to Indian Weekender's survey conducted earlier in the month. In this concluding edition, we bring excerpts of candidate's comments on two important issues—housing and public transport.

Housing was the second-most important issue for the electorate in Mt Roskill with 35% of total respondents identifying as their main concern. This is an Auckland-wide issue with home ownership in the city being at the lowest in New Zealand.  

According to statistics from 2013, 43% of people aged between 30 and 39 years owned their home, down from 54.6% in 2001. For those in 40s, 60.8% owned their home in 2013, down from 71.5% in 2001. 

The situation has gone worse in the last three years with a large number of people being locked out of the housing market that has led to a further decline in the numbers on home ownership.  

HOUSING

IWK: What will you do for the problem of rising housing prices in your electorate?

Dr Parmar: Housing is an Auckland wide issue. You will see from what we have done in Christchurch where we improved the supply of houses and the inflation in house prices have come down from 13% to 3%. This is what I want to see in Mt Roskill. I am happy to see the kind of development that is happening in Mt Roskill. Now the lot more people are coming to New Zealand and less number of people are leaving New Zealand, and that is why there is pressure on housing. There is a big housing development happening in three kings under Special Housing Accord.

Special Housing Accord is a way of fast-tracking housing development. Around 100 houses are going to build and close to 40 houses will be available in the market in early next year, which is great news. There are several other clusters in Mt Roskill where special housing project are in progress. Then Housing New Zealand is making great strides in Mt Roskill. I have been to some sites where two houses are converted to eight houses. There was one section where three houses are now converted into nine houses. These are great modern houses, great facilities and very appealing and very comfortable. That's what people want to see in their neighbourhood.    

IWK: Have you got any other special housing development program that you want to promise to people of Mt Roskill?

Dr Parmar: In Mt Roskill area special housing project is going well. We have already passed legislation to extend that. Of course, we have to improve the consent process by making it faster and streamlined. When we came to government, there were only 4000 houses consented every year. We have already doubled that. But yes we need to do more. I am also very keen to see three kings quarry development. I want to move that ASAP which has been stuck for several years because of several local board members against that. So on one side they say yes houses should be affordable then, on the other hand, they block this development. That project has a potential to provide around 1000 homes and I am very keen to see progress on that.

IWK: Do you agree with the argument that the increase in the Housing prices is linked to immigration?

Dr Parmar: Immigration is an important part of every country. The world is so globalised that people want to move from one country to another country. This is not happening just in New Zealand it is going on worldwide. In New Zealand, yes we are multicultural, and day by day we are becoming more multicultural as more and more people coming from all parts of the world to make New Zealand their home just like I have come here. So immigration is an important element and what we have seen here that earlier in the previous Labour government people were not happy here in New Zealand they were looking for a better opportunity overseas. But now the economy is doing so well we have created 250,000 jobs in last three years, and unemployment has gone down to 4.9%. Wages have gone by 25% since we came into office. So all these things are keeping people here in New Zealand. There is no need for them to go around and look for better opportunities. That is why there is pressure on housing. Blaming migrants for that is unfair.

 

IWK: What will you do for the problem of rising housing prices in your electorate?

Michael Wood: New Zealand is a first world country and it is unfortunate that there are people in this community who don't have adequate housing. There are large number young couples who work very

hard in good jobs but they can't afford housing in this community anymore. Mt Roskill has always been a place where people from all over the world and diverse background have been able to buy a house and start their life in New Zealand. I did that with my wife 13 years ago when we bought our house in less than $300,000 (which felt a huge mortgage at that time) in Roskill South. But now on our street, the average cost of a house is $8-900,000, and young people can't afford that kind of money. So they are locked out of the housing market.

At another end of the scale, we have got families with low income who happen to live in garages and floors of their family's houses because there is no house for them at all. And in the middle, are of course are people who are renting, and the rents have pushed up astronomically

I think housing is a real crisis and we need quite an urgent action to bring affordable houses in the market so that people get an opportunity to own a house.

IWK: How do you plan to do that?

Wood: Very simply, we need to build more houses. Going back to what I said earlier that National government had lost energy on most of the important issues including housing and the government needs to roll up their sleeves on such big issues.

Labour's policy is to build 10,000 affordable houses per year. We did this before! The first Labour government did it when we had a housing crisis in the 1930s - 40s. This will give a fair chance to young people particularly, to get into the housing market.

Then we have to take actions into the demand side to stop the huge amount of speculation in the housing market that is pushing up the prices in the housing market and ultimately driving rents up.

Also on social housing sides. For people in real need, we only need to build more social housing. We need 1000 new Housing New Zealand houses every year as opposed to the current National government which is selling of Housing New Zealand properties in the middle of the housing crisis.

IWK: Do you agree with the argument that the increase in the Housing prices is linked to immigration?

Wood: I don't think it is linked to immigration. I do see it linked to offshore investment and that's where Labour's policy is very clear. We are saying that if you want to immigrate to New Zealand and contribute to New Zealand economy, no problem at all. It is a good thing. New Zealand is built on immigration, and my ancestors have also immigrated here.

When people living overseas are investing in New Zealand housing market just to make profits and as a consequence driving the prices up in New Zealand then it affects one and all equally, regardless of the fact that you are a sixth generation migrant or a recent migrant.

We need to stop this.

IWK: What will you do for the problem of rising housing prices in your electorate?

Roshan Nauhria: The first and the most important aspect of housing in Mt Roskill is to ensure that the people who live in them are safe. Moving on to housing affordability, I believe that this issue needs immediate action. The only way to ensure affordability is to concentrate on the supply side of the problem. There is a need to build a large number of high-quality, affordable houses. These should be built in available pockets of land near key infrastructure such as highways and rail. There are several options to make this happen in South Auckland, and this needs to be fast-tracked by Auckland Council and supported by the Central Government. Only then we can meet the pressure on the demand side of the housing problem and gradually see easing up of the housing market for the first homebuyers in Mt Roskill and other areas.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

IWK: What solutions are you proposing to the Mt Roskill people for public transport?

Dr Parmar: I want to see T3 lanes to be abolished, as when I drive, I see that T3 lanes are underutilised. The other thing that we need to do is to make our bus system more efficient. Timetables need to be streamlined so people can rely on the bus system. There are a lot of things that we can do by utilising the current infrastructure. I want to do things now that have an immediate effect on people's life and not 10 years down the time. I am keen for the Western ring road to open that will reduce traffic by 15% on Mt Eden and Hillsborough road. We have east-west link route, which is again a big investment from this government that will ease traffic around Onehunga. So a lot of things are happening. I want to see the bus system serving the people not the bureaucrats and the council.

IWK: Why don't you see light rail as an effective solution for the Auckland of tomorrow, particularly Mt Roskill of tomorrow? 

Dr Parmar: What we are keen to see is that we should be able to utilise the current infrastructure to improve transport congestion while we are looking to explore new ways of meeting the growth of population. Yes, we have to look into the future we have to keep the community with us. We need to do homework on such a big project where the money is coming from us. I need to be satisfied where the money is coming from before we go ahead and make such big promises. I am here to serve the Mt Roskill people and am focussed on the local transport. It is not about making Mt Roskill a better "thoroughfare" for other people. It is about helping people to live in Mt Roskill.

IWK: What solutions are you proposing to the Mt Roskill people for public transport?

Michael Wood: We are anticipating major growth in this community, and if we do not act decisively now, then there is going to be major congestion and gridlock in the future. We need some bold solutions, and I am advocating for a light rail on the Dominion road as a start of a proper mass transit light rail system. Mt Roskill is the only part of Central Auckland that does not have access to the modern mass transit transport system. Other communities have proper busways and train system, but Mt Roskill does not have anything like that. So I think light rail is what we need to unlock those roads.

IWK: Where will the funds for such a project come from?

Mr Wood: The money comes from the government's National Land Transport Fund. Over the next 10 years, the current National's government has allocated $10bn to invest in the new transport capital project. The problem is that they anti-rail. They will only put money on the big road projects. What Labours say is that we should be neutral on that question. We should use that money where the evidence shows will fix the problem. We know from the detailed project that the Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and the government have done that we actually need light rail on the Dominion road. So money will come from that fund, which is already allocated for Auckland transport.

What Labours have put forward is that the central government will contribute 50% to the project, similar to the Central Rail Link project that this government has agreed to fund and the other 50% will need to come from the Auckland Council.

What we have also said is that we need to look into some smarter ways of bringing money for these major projects. Everyone knows that Auckland needs to invest in major transport projects to fix our traffic problem. We absolutely need to invest. Now, we also need to make sure that this cost is not offloaded on Auckland rates. Phil Goff has said that and the Labour Party is also saying that. We are prepared to look at some smart options such as "regional fuel tax" and others. We will work constructively with Auckland Council to find solutions for our transport problems. 

What solutions are you proposing to the Mt Roskill people for public transport?

Roshan Nauhria: There needs to be comprehensive work between Auckland Council and the Central Government on this issue. Any proactive work to find solutions is something I will support. More buses to link to the Onehunga train station and to the central city to move the people of Mt Roskill to where they need to be is a short-term solution, but long-term I would like the public to be aware of all options.