When the National Government sold 49 percent of Genesis Energy, prime minister John Key promised it would be the last asset sale that his government would undertake.
Following the 2014 election, the spectre of a significant asset sale has come on to the agenda – the sale of a portion of our state housing stock. The PSA opposed the unpopular sale of the power companies and Air New Zealand by the Government, and we oppose the further privatisation of social housing for private benefit.
So far, finance minister Bill English and social housing minister Paula Bennett have been careful not to put a precise figure on the numbers of houses to be sold, but they have indicated it could be as many as a third of state houses, valued at around $5 billion dollars.
While some of the state houses are expected to be sold to social housing providers such as the Salvation Army or Presbyterian Support, the ministers concerned have refused to commit that the total number of state houses will remain the same (let alone increase).
When 5500 families are on the urgent waiting list for a state house, a reduction in the total amount of social housing is a serious worry.
This move is part of a shift towards the privatisation of provision of state housing. The push to lessen the functions of Housing NZ (with a number moving recently to the Ministry of Social Development) leaves it ready to be steadily pulled apart and sold off, and this is dangerous.
Selling off state houses will at best result in a short-term cash injection, while inflicting real long-term harm on the thousands of New Zealand’s most vulnerable families who rely on social housing to put a roof over their heads, not to mention the loss of quality public service jobs in Housing New Zealand.
This push to privatise the provision of public services is not restricted to state housing. Recently, the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) decided to expand the contract given to Babcock Ltd at the Devonport Dockyards, moving roles that were previously held in-house by both civilian and military staff to the private contractor.
NZDF is also considering a proposal to outsource hospitality jobs at Trentham Military Camp, despite opposition from PSA members and military personnel who enjoy the current in-house provision.
As the National government moves into their third term, it seems this is what we can expect. A sneaking privatisation of public assets and services for the benefit of private profit.
The PSA stands for quality public services by well-trained, professional public servants. We will continue to speak out on the importance of public services being provided by the public sector.
This article is from the December 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.