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Entering a winter of discontent . . .

Opinion Piece

The first really cold weather of the year last week may be a symbol and the first signs of what could be a winter of discontent for the whole country.

It is certainly going to be a long, hard winter for many in our largest city, where rental accommodation is both hugely expensive and hard to find.

The sight last week of people queueing in pouring rain from 2am at Winz’s Manukau City centre to collect emergency benefits was a sad one. Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni was to meet today with groups including Auckland Action against Poverty, a strong government critic.

One of the newer problems is an unintended consequence of the Government’s heating regulations that are meant to improve the quality of the country’s rental properties.

It is believed this has driven some landlords, faced with recovering the costs of the new standards, to increase rents or pull out of the market altogether, which has the double-effect of fewer homes and higher rents — at a time that New Zealand urgently needs more houses for “Generation Rent”.

The waiting list for state houses has also surged by 28 percent to reach 11,655, the highest level since 2004.

This is a different problem than KiwiBuild’s travails and falls into the lap of Kris Faafoi, who has the state housing portfolio after a recent ministerial reshuffle.

Fixing this and the shortage of rentals will take time but the Government does need to be seen to have solutions and be starting to address the problem.

There was more bad news from the NZ Institute of Economic Research which said that business confidence was at its lowest level since 2009, sparked partly by a gloomier international outlook.

A further projected interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank, possibly next month, has brought more life to the stockmarket’s long bull run as investors turn to utilities that can provide much better returns than term deposits.

It all looks like this is going to be a hard winter on both the weather and economic fronts. The message is clear, stay warm and wait for spring.