Housing promise to spark National campaign

TRACY WATKINS AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 07:04 24/08/2014
John Key
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

HOME, SWEET HOME: Prime Minister John Key visits the first homes refurbished by prisoners in the Christchurch suburb of Aranui on Saturday. Key will launch National's election campaign in Manukau on Sunday.

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John Key will make a pitch to aspiring homeowners today with a promise on housing to launch his campaign.

National is expecting more than 1500 party faithful at its campaign launch in Manukau, a foray into heartland Labour territory in South Auckland.

After a torrid first week on the campaign trail, Key will unveil a new policy responding to the housing shortage, one that is expected to clear the way for more affordable new homes.

The Government and Auckland City Council have already pushed through measures they believe will see 40,000 more new houses built in Auckland alone within three years, including some big developments of 2500-plus new sections.

But pressures including a reversal of the trans-Tasman exodus are putting pressure on the government to move even faster.

National sources were tightlipped yesterday but confirmed Key's announcement would focus on boosting housing supply.

Housing is an election battle ground after a round of interest rates hikes, soaring Auckland house prices and the Reserve Bank clamping down on first home buyers by forcing up the size of deposits.

There was speculation yesterday that one weapon in National's arsenal might be low interest loans for first home buyers on low incomes but government sources ruled that out.

That would  be "difficult" because it would work against the Reserve Banks efforts to rein in the market with a deposit cap, one senior Cabinet source said.

Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford yesterday took aim at the Government's record on housing and said under National's watch Auckland house prices had risen by an average $225,000 since 2008.

It now took 50 years to pay off the average house in Auckland, Twyford said.

The Government's record in Canterbury was no better, and only 2000 houses had been rebuilt out of 11,000 destroyed by the earthquake. It was estimated as many as 7400 people were homeless.

Security will be heavy for National's campaign launch which National needs to go smoothly after a horror start to the election campaign with the release of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics.

Key has been on the back foot over revelations in the book that a close aide, Jason Ede, was a conduit to right wing blogger Cameron Slater.

There will be jitters in National that hackers who have been drip-feeding Slater's emails will seek to upstage today's event by releasing more damaging communications.

Other incidents including campaign trail vandalism and protesters burning effigies of Key will also heighten fears of an attempt to derail the campaign launch.

Emails detailing the extent of the relationship between Slater and Key's ninth floor office have sparked an inquiry by the intelligence watch dog and a police complaint.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has also gone to ground after emails emerged showing she gave Slater  details about a public servant, who later received death threats over information published about him on Slater's blog.

Across town at Western Springs College, Internet MANA is promising something different at its own campaign launch.

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Internet Party leader Laila Harre said they had 400 people registered and were expecting turnout to be higher.

"It will be far more dynamic it, will be open to the public. Our job is to bring people into the doors, not to have exclusive events and so you'll see something far more inclusive, far more diverse than you'll see at the National Party launch."

Harre was giving little away but said the major policy launch would be around how the party would reduce inequality by creating jobs. Candidates will also man policy tables so delegates can discuss the party's positions and the party will launch its creative campaign focussing on key policy areas in the final month of the campaign.

- Stuff

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