'They're just going through the motions' - Christchurch homeowners criticise Budget's quake recovery funding

Some Christchurch homeowners still battling with their insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission say the Government's Budget commitments for the city are a case of "too little, too late".

The Government confirmed yesterday it's providing $300 million to accelerate the Canterbury recovery, for projects in the Residential Red Zone, and the completion of major anchor projects like the Multi Purpose Arena. It also announced a multi-million dollar special insurance tribunal to help with stalled claims and a public inquiry into EQC.

Embattled homeowner Mike Stewart said for those who are already stuck in court battles, an inquiry and a tribunal are of no use.

"I think it's a waste of taxpayer money. They'd be better to spend that money actually fixing people's houses. They'll have a result that they know. They're just going through the motions," he said.

Mr Stewart and his wife Julia McEntyre bought a home in 2013, with a full property inspection and sign off from EQC. Two years later, they discovered more than $300,000 worth of hidden damage.

Despite EQC claiming fault for the botched repairs, its maximum payment is limited at $100,000 and their insurer says it's not its responsibility either.

"I think an inquiry is just going to spend more taxpayer money to find out what we already know. EQC have already said it’s their mistake," he said.

His wife Julia said it's "too little, too late".

"I'd rather that they use that money to fix people's houses, and let people get on with their lives," Ms McEntyre said.

However, Peter Woods, lawyer with Anthony Harpers who assists organisation EQC-Fix, said an inquiry is necessary.

"I think it’s great news. EQC’s been a total mess. So we need to see why that happened and make sure it doesn't happen again. We've still got hundreds, if not thousands, of people with unresolved claims. We need to know why that's happened. And how we can stop it happening again," Mr Woods said.

A spokesman for Earthquake Commission Minister Megan Woods said he expected the inquiry would begin later this year. It would have the power to compel evidence, and hold public hearings. The terms of reference of the inquiry are to be announced shortly.

The Government has assigned funds to a tribunal and independent inquiry, as well to accelerate anchor projects like the stadium. Source: 1 NEWS



'It's extremely disappointing, you know?' - Labour MPs under fire over lack of targeted spending for Maori

Selling the budget to Maori is a challenge for any government.

Labour says its big ticket items will be good for Maori, like the families package it announced earlier, as well as cheaper doctors' visits and building more houses.

"We made a commitment during the campaign that we would focus on housing, health and education. We ran a mainstream campaign during the election. We didn't talk about foreshore and seabed," Labour MP Willie Jackson said.

"Mainstreaming Maori issues has shown over the decades it doesn’t work," Maori Party president Che Wilson said.

Whanau Ora providers, which work with disadvantaged Maori families, are unhappy Labour hasn't delivered an election promise of $20 million in extra funding.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, chief executive of the Te Pou Matakana Whanau Ora commissioning agency, said it's been a long-standing struggle to convince the government to provide more funding for mainstream Maori issues.

"We're in here for the long haul and that's been the problem - trying to convince the government, the previous government and this government that the needs are great. They didn't just happen overnight and they will not be solved overnight as well," Ms Raukawa-Tait said.

Targeted Maori spending for things like broadcasting, community and economic development are also under scrutiny.

The Maori development budget is $316 million this year but that's dropped from under National and the Maori Party when it was $328 million.

The drop in funding has led critics to say the Labour Maori caucus hasn't done well enough.

"It's extremely disappointing, you know? We had two MPs in parliament from the Maori Party and we were still able to leverage and you've got 13 Maori MPs in Labour and it looks like there's no leverage," Mr Wilson said.

However, Labour rejects the Maori Party leader’s claims.

"What I’d say to the Maori Party is turituri - we've got $1.2 billion in the families package alone. That will go to Maori - that's huge in anyone's books," Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said.

Critics says ground's been lost on targeted funding, but Labour says what's good for everyone is good for Maori. Source: 1 NEWS

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Housing Minister Phil Twyford takes aim at Treasury, labels advisers as 'kids' in Kiwibuild stoush

A major stoush has broken out between the Housing Minister and Treasury with Phil Twyford slamming some of those working at the Government's lead economic and financial adviser as "kids."

That's after Treasury downgraded its forecast over how much extra housing investment Kiwibuild will deliver to the economy.

Builders are under the pump and construction is being delayed on some new houses by at least a year.

"We're really busy as an industry and just forever I get reports of builders wanting more and more people. And they're just not available, so we're in a pretty chronic position currently," Grant Florence of the NZ Certified Builders Association told 1 NEWS.

It has prompted Treasury to downgrade its forecasts for the Government's Kiwibuild programme. 

"I just think some of these kids in Treasury are just fresh out of university and they're completely disconnected from reality," Mr Twyford said.

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins said her experience is "you should always listen to Treasury".

"They're not always going to be exactly the way they see things, but ultimately they're looking at it from a dispassionate point of view and independent point of view," she said.

Before Christmas, Treasury said Kiwibuild would result in $5.4 billion of extra residential investment by 2022. 

Now it has slashed that number in half, saying some of that investment won't happen as quickly. 

"One of the mistakes I think Treasury have made is that they've assumed that the investment has to be made before the houses are built," Mr Twyford said.

The Government has also promised to build 1600 state houses a year.

Currently there are almost 8000 households in need of state housing and National says it would have built more.

"National went into the last election promising over 6,000 state houses over the next three years. So we were promising on 2000 a year," Ms Collins said.

Mr Twyford said: "The opposition had nine years and they allowed the housing crisis to spin out of control."

The Government is promising there's no change in its plan to build more houses, and there will still be 100,000 affordable homes in a decade.

The Housing Minister is unhappy Treasury downgraded its forecast over how much extra housing investment Kiwibuild will deliver to the economy. Source: 1 NEWS