New minister defends lofty house building targets

The new Housing Minister, Phil Twyford, is defending lofty targets for building desperately needed affordable homes. 

Mr Twyford is promising to build 10,000 homes a year for first time buyers under the Government's KiwiBuild policy. 

But it'll be the luck of the draw who gets one, with no means testing and no targeting for hard to staff professions like teachers. 

"That is the fairest way to do it, and we don't want to set up a heavy, bureaucratic, means-testing regime to do it," Mr Twyford told TVNZ's Q+A.

It was put to the Minister that the KiwiBuild pledge works out to 27 houses per day on average and he was asked how is that doable.

"In our first hundred days, we are taking the first steps towards setting up our KiwiBuild programme, our Housing Commission to lead the development of big urban development projects," he said.

The Reserve Bank has questioned the numbers using Treasury advice, saying 10,000 houses a year is more likely to be 5000 because private sector building will go down. 

But Mr Twyford said the Treasury advice was incorrect.

"We've looked at the advice. It was based on incomplete information. I've had the Treasury officials in my office. We've talked through all of the elements of the policy and I'm confident we can move ahead and be on the same page," he said. 

On top of the KiwiBuild homes, Labour is also vowing to double the number of state houses it builds. 

"I've asked officials to look at how we can double that and build 2000 extra state houses a year," Mr Twyford said. 

Phil Twyford also says those who get the affordable houses will be decided through a ballot, not means testing. Source: 1 NEWS

Pike River families handed keys to access road on seventh anniversary of tragedy

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Pike River Mine explosion and there was a symbolic moment for the families of the  29 workers who were killed.

The Government handed over its keys to the Pike River Mine’s access road, marking its pledge to do everything it can to enter the mine tunnel safely.

The families had set up a blockade at the gate to prevent the mine tunnel from being sealed, but that year-long standoff has ended with the unlocking of the gates.

Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little is set to take the Pike River re-entry details to Cabinet tomorrow.

The aim is to find more evidence on the cause behind the explosion,  and the remains of any men who were in the tunnel at the time of the incident.

"From everything I’ve seen, I’m reasonably confident that we can do this and fulfill the promise made to the families to do everything we could to get into the drift," Mr Little said.

Pike River Families’ spokeswoman Sonya Rockhouse said above all, safety has got to be at the top of the list.

"And we don’t want anybody to be injured or killed doing this. For us, that’s the last thing we need," she said.

While four families have made it clear they would prefer the mine to remain undisturbed, the majority hope there will be access to the mine before next year’s anniversary.

It was a symbolic gesture to mark the seventh anniversary of the Pike River mine disaster. Source: 1 NEWS


Police hunting pair over shooting of Wellington taxi driver to review cab's video

Capital Taxis, whose driver was shot last night after a dispute over a taxi fare, said it will work with police to help identify the shooter. 

The manager of Capital Taxis told 1 NEWS it would provide police with video footage from inside the car that the driver was shot in in Miramar. 

Manager Tim Lauagiagi said the company would work with police to help identify the male and female passengers who were inside the car before the driver was shot.

“Hopefully the public will identify who they are,” he said.

Mr Lauagiagi said he hasn’t yet spoken to the driver who was shot, but has been told by police he's doing okay. 

He said all registered taxis are required to have a CCTV system installed.

The car the driver was shot in has now been taken to Porirua, while investigations continue. 

Mr Lauagiagi said there are some drivers who prefer not to work Friday and Saturday nights because of the risks.

"They deal with a lot of intoxicated people at night and that's always a risk working Friday and Saturday nights, taking people home from the bars. 

"There has been issues before with disputes between drivers and passengers, but nothing like this. To see this type of violence happening here is unsettling," he said.

Police say they are investigating after the driver was shot in the shoulder in Miramar at 9.10pm. 

The taxi had taken a male and a female from Courtenay Pl to Stone St and a dispute over the fare was believed to have happened. 

Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch said the dispute "escalated into a staggering level of violence". 

"While our investigation continues, people on Stone St and the surrounding area will see a police presence," he said.

The driver managed to get to a service station after receiving the gunshot wound and was taken to Wellington Hospital. 

Police are relieved the victim only received moderate injuries and is expected to make a full recovery, Mr Leitch said.

Police are seeking sightings of a Capital Taxis white Toyota Camry sedan and a man and a woman on foot on Stone St between 9pm and 9.15pm.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the inquiry team on 04 381 2000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The driver was shot by passengers in his taxi in the Wellington suburb of Miramar. Source: 1 NEWS