Labour leader tackles housing, immigration, Winston Labour leader tackles housing, immigration, Winston
“The bottom line for Labour is that we do not play the race card; we do not discriminate and tolerance is in the DNA... Labour leader tackles housing, immigration, Winston

A roof over one’s head would be nice

The out of control housing market, cutting down on immigration and cosying up to Winston Peters …

By Louie Encabo

 AUCKLAND, Three Kings – According to the latest census conducted in 2013 there are now 40,347 Filipinos living in New Zealand. They represent a sizable migrant population and that number is increasing rapidly.

As with any demographic, Filipinos have needs. And it is essential that they can voice their concerns to our fresh crop of politicians in Parliament in the new year.

Filipino Migrant News spoke to two prominent personalities in the New Zealand political scene, Labour Party leader Andrew Little and the party’s Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff at the later’s electorate office in Three Kings.

The MPs discussed some of the issues that matter most to the Filipino migrant community of Aotearoa – housing, migrant workers’ protection and so on. We had the chance to hear what Labour has to offer to the growing Filipino populace; straight out of the mouths of the party’s biggest players themselves.

We opened the discussion with a question on housing. Auckland is notorious for having inflated housing prices and it is also the region where more than half of the total Filipino migrant population resides. Hence, it follows that housing prices is one concern that Filipinos have.

Andrew Little reiterated the plan put forward by his party during last year’s elections, which was KiwiBuild. The basic concept of KiwiBuild is to increase the supply of houses, which will in turn bring down prices due to competition.

“The majority of those (houses) will be in Auckland, because we know that’s where the big problem is. And to build houses at the affordable housing end and to use the procurement prices of the government on the price of materials and to get local authorities to free up land for building on. That still remains our policy.”

Yet this was very different from the rhetoric we heard last year. We confronted Mr. Little on statements given by then Labour party spokesperson David Parker, who said that cutting down on immigration numbers is something “to look at.

“There are numbers that the immigration department can target and you could change the target,” said Mr Parker when interviewed last year.

This obviously presents an alienating problem for migrants, as it sounds as if Labour blames them for the housing bubble. Mr Little and Mr Goff were quick to clarify these statements and reiterate their support for migration.

“I think what David was talking about as the problem was not foreigners who come to live here permanently – of course they would want to get into the market – but rather the foreigners who continue to live overseas, who are only here for a few weeks at a time, a few weeks a year, but do not continuously live here,” Mr Little stated.

“They live overseas and are not occupying the house and they are the part of the housing market that pushes the prices up. That’s the issue that I think David Parker was trying to get out.”

Goff also added some input to Little’s statements: “There have always been limits on immigration as long as I’ve been in politics and they serve to match the number of migrants coming to New Zealand with the capacity to find work and to meet the needs of the migrants.

“We are definitely, by our track record, not opposed to migration. We believe that migration is good for the country, as it brings in new people and added skills.”

Goff also pointed out that both his parents were born overseas and his daughter-in-law is part Filipino. He added that Labour was not New Zealand First, a party known for hostile remarks and policies aimed at migrants and migration.

Yet, if you remember, in last year’s elections Labour under previous leader David Cunliffe was keen to have a coalition agreement with NZ First. So we confronted both leaders regarding this; if they are not like NZ First then how could they be in alliance with Winston Peters and his party?

Andrew Little pointed out first that there is an Asian MP within the ranks of NZ First, Indian-born MP Mahesh Bindra. He then explained that part of the reason why Labour is losing votes is because many of its traditional voters shifted to NZ First.

Little adds that although he agrees that “Winston says things which are not always helpful,” he believes that “NZ First as a party has evolved over the years and they share certain principles with Labour”.

Mr Goff also added: “The bottom line for Labour is that we do not play the race card; we do not discriminate and tolerance is in the DNA of the Labour party. We do not have prejudice against anybody.”

Mel Fernandez