Housing remains the biggest problem in Nelson’s electorate, says MP Rachel Boyack.
“Absolutely No. 1,” she said in an interview with Things before a speech on Wednesday evening at the Rotary Club of Nelson West.
An increase in the number of social housing units would help. The Nelson Tasman Housing Trust, which completed six new homes in December, aimed to increase its properties from 43 to 100 over five years.
The government‘s changes to the income-related rent subsidy payment structure would help give housing providers such as the trust more financial certainty than they could “bring to the bank”, Boyack said.
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She anticipated news “soon” on Nelson City Council’s $12 million housing stock.
Social housing was another important piece of the puzzle and Kāinga Ora had built its capacity across the country.
“So we actually have the people who work in the [Nelson-Tasman] area now for Kāinga Ora, doing the groundwork,” Boyack said. “I anticipate we will see ideas and plans come to fruition [in 2022].”
For the homeless population, the multi-agency Housing First Nelson Tasman scheme, run by the Salvation Army, was “working well… getting better and better in my opinion”.
Temporary and transitional housing was good, but people could get stuck without enough social or public housing available.
“Where I see the bottleneck right now in Nelson is in this temporary, transitional housing space,” Boyack said.
Emergency accommodation also needs to be improved, for both men and women.
“One of the misconceptions some people have is that Women’s Refuge is there for a woman who has any kind of need, but it’s not – it’s specific to domestic violence.”
Attempts had been made “for decades” to set up emergency housing for women.
The closure of the Nelson Night Shelter for men has given other agencies an opportunity to consider what an emergency housing option “that could work for both men and women” might look like.
Work to help people enter the rapidly growing housing market would continue, such as government grants in the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund. All recipients of the funds were required to have affordable housing in the associated developments, Boyack said.
The government was also “powering up” with the reform of the Resource Management Act, allowing people to “subdivide more easily and build higher more easily”.
Overall for housing, the objective was to “continue to increase supply”.
While the number of new homes was good in the Tasman district, “I think we need to do more in Nelson”.
“I hear comments from people in the industry and from owners that they find Nelson City [Council] hard to get the plans off the ground and that’s the feedback I give them regularly,” Boyack said.
Improving long-term housing affordability for first-time buyers was essential.
“We have to, we have to put houses on the market in that range,” Boyack said.
The planned overhaul of Nelson Hospital and transportation were two other key issues Boyack raised with Things and in his Rotary speech, pointing in particular to the “Richmond traffic mess”.
While the issues around Nelson were well known and the Nelson Future Access Study business case was supported by Waka Kotahi and the City Council, the issues in Richmond were not “on the radar” to the same extent.
Boyack said that in her opinion the problems in Richmond were worse and she spoke about it to her government colleagues at every opportunity.
Rebuilding the hospital was “absolutely an ongoing project”.
“We are committed to it.”
For Boyack, one of the major highlights of 2021 was helping a family get out of Afghanistan and into Nelson.
“It was a really tough evacuation,” she said. “Alongside some amazing community advocates, we put in a number of hours and a lot of energy to bring a few New Zealanders home and make sure their families were with them too.”
The Covid-19 pandemic was both the low point and the high point of the year.
Although the pandemic has taken time off from other issues, it has also brought out the best in many people.
“We’ve seen remarkable acts of kindness, selflessness…people giving each other food [and] people show up to get tested,” Boyack said, before singling out vaccinators, Covid-19 testing station staff and contact tracers.
“These remarkable people, it’s often on short notice, you know, whenever there’s an outbreak,” she said. “They are working long hours, working in hot conditions at the moment. They save lives.