When I consider Phil Twyford’s performance in Cabinet, I must give him full credit for establishing a wonderful department to ensure that all parts of the Government housing system are in one place. He led the creation of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD). He also made Housing New Zealand into Kainga Ora, which reports to the Government via MHUD.
My concern about Phil is that he thinks the state should control as much as possible. I was a Labour Party member for decades, and will die a member of the Labour Movement, however I don’t see the state as being in control of everything as necessarily a good thing. There must be a place for community and the private sector. We have gone way too far with privatising things and the “contract out” theory of neo-liberalism certainly has massive faults. Now is the time for the restoration of some much needed balance.
Phil Twyford appears to be the sort of politician who gets new structures into place. This week he started talking about what is effectively the return of the Ministry of Works. Here is an article about this idea’s return.
When the Labour Government scrapped the old Ministry of Works in the 1980’s they scrapped huge amounts of institutional memory. The old MOW would have predicted the housing shortage and would have ensured that successive governments would have had plans in place to remedy it. Remember that much of what we rely on, like our power system, were all built by the MOW. Proud, highly trained, public servants worked within the hallowed walls of the MOW from its establishment, until its unfortunate demise. Vast numbers of these properly trained bureaucrats poured out of this Government Department and into the private sector. The private sector could not afford to train them to the level of institutions like the Ministry of Works.
I worked around NZ as the Departments were broken up in te 1980’s and into the 1990’s. I recall often hearing the chant “look at the South Island. Everywhere you see MOW workers on the side of the road breast feeding shovels”. Well now MOW has been replaced by Fulton Hogan. One monopoly replaced by a another, this time privately owned.
I hope that the new department is led by an enlightened public servant. I look forward to Phil Twyford’s latest effort. He didn’t do a bad job of the last one.