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The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #7


I have been remiss in not posting more frequently on this Labour debacle helmed by Phil ‘The Builder” Twyford and promoted by Jacinda Ardern.

Especially as he has now firde most of the NZTA Board.

These posts are built around an excellent article at Stuff by Henry Cooke.

Henry Cooke at Stuff – How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage–  A detailed look at the fiasco from a journalist.

This and other posts will explore the article and it’s ramifications

The series provides a good backdrop to the recently announced, no targets, do our best but achieve nothing KiwiBuild ‘Reset’

Previous posts can be found as follows

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #1

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #2

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #3

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #4

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #5

The KiwiBuild Fiasco: How KiwiBuild fell down, and whether anything can be saved from the wreckage – #6

Now we come to Part 7


On October 27, Twyford and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the first 18 families into the first batch of KiwiBuild homes in McLellan, Papakura. One of the first couples is happy to speak to the media: Fletcher Ross and Derryn Jane.

National MP Judith Collins, the local MP, almost immediately mars the narrative. She tweets a conservative troll account that has unearthed Ross’ Instagram account and screenshotted a post where he mentions “204 countries + 7 seas and I had the privilege of meeting you”. This is a meme about the chances of meeting a partner, but on first glance it looks like the couple have managed to get to that many places on their OE, and Collins pounces, tweeting “204 countries – maybe doesn’t need taxpayer support … #justsaying”.

Unfair, but it served to reframe the debate so from Collin’s perspective it was successful. It had the impact of making people realise that the vision sold to the electorate had flaws. Interestingly, I cannot recall any coverage of the backgrounds of other purchasers. I wonder whether that was because Twyford’s spinners thought that might not be helpful to Twyford and Labour?

A flurry of articles followed. Twyford attacks Collins for “bullying” the couple. She said any expenditure of taxpayer money deserves scrutiny and she had nothing against the couple. No other KiwiBuild homeowner has since talked to the media in a sustained way, frustrating any attempt at positive news coverage.

Possibly a missed opportunity for Twyford and Labour, or maybe not!

But behind the scenes things are getting a lot worse.

At the start of October, the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development opens, taking in KiwiBuild under its wing. This seems to have irked Barclay, who is now more directly subordinate to ministry head Andrew Crisp. He’s also frustrated with the process he has to go through to get underwrites and off-the-plan deals approved, writing in an email to Twyford’s office on October 1 that he needs a system to deal with “20 or more” a week.

This is not the first sign of frustration. In August Barclay had texted Twyford saying: “To be frank I’m disappointed a number of leads I talked to you about haven’t closed. Further, 2 or 3 opportunities I personally bought to the table and will deliver this year haven’t progressed.”

What exactly was going on here? Why were things not progressed,given the huge political implications of any KiwiBuild failures?

Was it bureaucracy? Or was it something else?

Was Barclay irked by having to provide justifications or was something else in Play here? We may never know!

The tensions between Crisp and Barclay escalate to the point where complaints are made about Barclay’s conduct as a manager – complaints he rejects as relating to “style” and “tone”. Four sworn affidavits will eventually be gathered for an Employment Authority case. At the end of October, Twyford is verbally advised of the ongoing employment matter with Barclay, and in the early weeks of November Barclay stops coming in the office at all, something journalists soon hear about.

Bit then then it all gets worse, in some ways hard to imagine, but it does

It isn’t just the employment mess. An October status report had shown some fairly strong numbers for KiwiBuild, with “high certainty” that 627 homes would be ready for the July deadline. By November, this had dropped to just 347. The ministry told Newshub in a statement that “the number of dwellings reported in the October status report included a very broad definition”.

Obfuscation or a lie? Broad definition or a lie? When were the homes consented? How many were off plan?

In short, the wheels had really fallen off.

In public, serious questions are asked about whether the houses that are being built are wanted by enough people, as the Government is forced to extend the ballot process for 10 KiwiBuild homes near Wanaka in early November. By February six of these homes will still be on the market: it turns out a ballot wasn’t needed. These demand problems start to pop up in other developments too, even necessitating the use of the underwrite – by June the Government will own 13 homes purchased as a result of the underwrite, feeding into National’s narrative that the scheme is acting as welfare scheme for property developers.

O’Sullivan told Stuff the unit had learnt some “painful early lessons”.

An understatement of monumental proportions and possibly not realistic.

Then we get this

The demand problems, combined with the pipeline problem, take things from “bumpy start” to crisis. As the new year starts, is abundantly obvious that 1000 homes will not be ready by July and that, even if they were, the Government might have trouble selling them.

On January 23, Twyford tells Stuff that the 1000-home target is gone, and in fact only about 300 are now expected.

“It’s been more difficult than we expected to really shift developers off their existing business model which is about getting a return on capital from small numbers of mid to high end homes. We are wanting them to build more modest lower quartile homes,” Twyford said.

He motioned towards the problems with Barclay, who finally resigned a few days later, but doesn’t explicitly blame him.

What a crock!

Labour had years in opposition to come up with a workable policy.

They did not do so.

Twyford failed and in my view he was economical with the truth at best

A week later, KiwiBuild is the only topic the media are really interested in at Labour’s annual caucus retreat in the Wairarapa. Twyford and Ardern tell the journalists the interim targets will be scrapped and the whole policy taken away for “recalibration” – but they remain firmly behind the overall 100,000-home target.

As it turns out this was a lie!

In fact a really out outrageous lie, but where is the media condemnation

Twyford says he will deliver a paper to Cabinet in “a few weeks” recalibrating the policy. It doesn’t appear that this has happened yet, almost six months later.

In late August we got the ‘Reset’  aka Labour’s New Lies


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