State house sell off Bill gives extraordinary powers

The Government is about to give Ministers extraordinary powers to take direct personal control of selling state houses, exempting Ministers from normal legal requirements and leaving the sale process wide open for corruption, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says.

The Social Housing Reform (Transaction Mandate) Bill tabled today is the latest attempt by a Government desperate to off-load state houses and keep its troubled policy afloat. 

“This Bill puts Ministers above the law. There is a good reason Ministers are supposed to be at arm's length, and that checks and balances are in place. This Bill is a charter for corruption at a time when these Ministers are planning to hock off billions of dollars of public assets.

“National wants the power to do dirty deals, flogging off billions of dollars’ worth of land and housing, and it doesn’t want to be bothered with pesky public servants or the rule of law.

“Instead of working through public servants in the normal way, this Bill will give Ministers the power to personally conduct negotiations and sell state houses on any terms they choose. It exempts them from the Right of First Refusal provisions in the Public Works Act.

“And it exempts them from Housing NZ’s obligation of ‘social responsibility’ and ‘good financial oversight and stewardship’. Clearly Bill English and Paula Bennett don't want to be bound by that.

“It also allows Ministers to sell off Housing NZ land and houses and put the proceeds straight into Government coffers, bypassing Housing NZ completely.

“These powers are so unusual the Departmental Disclosure statement attached to the Bill states: ‘there are no direct precedents for this approach in other statutes’.

“National is desperate to find a buyer – even foreign companies are welcome – they want a free hand to sell off state houses any way they want,” Phil Twyford says.