Humiliation for Heatley

Wednesday 23 January 2013

When it comes to losing your job, having it happen at short notice and in the public eye are probably not conditions anyone desires.

But Housing Minister Phil Heatley had the double whammy this week when the Prime Minister whipped away his ministerial portfolio and handed it to back-from-exile Nick Smith.

It was quite an unexpected move. While Heatley hasn’t been an inspiring Housing Minister, he hasn’t been involved in anything of the magnitude of the damning Pike River Royal Commission report, which tarred Kate Wilkinson’s reputation.

But during his tenure, calls for action on housing affordability have got ever stronger as prices soared. The Government has looked to be sitting on its hands while young people were priced out of the market.

The Opposition has been able to get some fairly easy hits in and Labour’s policy of a building scheme on a grand scale has seemed to capture public imagination in a way that made National’s plans to encourage councils to open up more land look a bit weak.

During Heatley’s time at the helm, waiting times for Tenancy Tribunal dates have grown and there has been mounting dissatisfaction from both landlords and tenants.

But you are forced to wonder – is it fair that a minister loses his job over the actions of a free market?

Yes, house prices have gone up in Auckland and Christchurch, but is that not mainly because of people wanting to live close to the city centre, and the earthquakes, respectively?

It remains to be seen what Smith will come up with as a solution.  PM John Key says he has the type of energy needed to tackle the portfolio. Let's hope he has some solid ideas, too.

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