Prime Minister Bill English’s new Cabinet – what are the implications for housing Māori?

The recent cabinet reshuffle, announced by Prime Minister Bill English yesterday afternoon, has a number of implications for housing and Māori. Amy Adams has been given the social housing portfolio, previously held by Paula Bennett, and responsibility for Housing New Zealand, previously held by Bill English. Dr Nick Smith's title has changed to Minister for Building and Construction, rather than Building and Housing.

Under the change, which sees the Minister of Housing role disestablished, Dr Smith will retain responsibility for some of the regulatory aspects of housing, including Auckland’s Special Housing Areas. Amy Adams will hold a dual portfolio overseeing Social Housing and Housing New Zealand Corporation, which includes responsibility for the community housing regulatory authority, income related rent subsidies, and accommodation supplements.

Under the new arrangement, it appears that the only Ministers with explicit responsibility for housing will be Minister for Social Housing and Minister Responsible for HNZC Amy Adams, and Associate Minister for Social Housing Alfred Ngaro. So where are Māori in the picture? One future possibility may be for our current Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell to pick up an Associate Minister for Social Housing, similar to the dual roles now held by Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister for Social Housing Alfred Ngaro.

Such a move would imply that the needs and concerns of Māori with regards to housing can be adequately addressed under a social housing portfolio. Is Māori housing to be subsumed under social housing by default? Te Matapihi would argue no. Our people span the housing continuum, with a diversity of housing needs and aspirations that cannot be adequately addressed within the narrow confines of social housing.

Arguably, the more operational aspects of housing sit within the Social Housing and HNZC portfolios. But where does housing strategy sit? And what does this mean for Māori? We do not currently have a National strategy for housing – but we do, critically, have a National strategy for Māori housing – He Whare Āhuru, He Oranga Tangata, which runs through to 2025. Current responsibility for this strategy sits within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Previously, the strategy was championed by Minister for Māori Development and Associate Minister for Housing, the Hon Dame Tariana Turia. So who is He Whare Āhuru’s current Ministerial champion? The answer is, we don’t have one.

With the shift in Dr Nick Smith’s role, this implies increased recognition on the part of the current government of the need for greater alignment between housing and economic development. By virtue of the increased (and increasing) power of the Māori economy, the increasing desire and ability to develop Māori land, much of which is located outside of major employment centres, and the desire of post-settlement entities to develop land received through Treaty redress or right of first refusal provisions, indicate a general trend towards Māori housing development that is closely linked to economic development.

This may suggest that a more appropriate Ministerial appointment may be the establishment of a new Minister of Māori Housing role for Te Ururoa Flavell, who currently holds an Associate Minister for Economic Development portfolio.

Nazarene MihaereComment