Government’s move to end mass state house sell-off honours long-standing social contract

The National Government’s insistence that the private sector would do a better job than the state was based on its ideological bedrock that the free market is always a better choice to serve people’s wants and needs.

The market is great at providing people’s wants – just wander into any electronics store and marvel at how cheap flat-screen televisions have become in the last five years or so. But it struggles to provide needs when there is little profit to be had.

When a Government runs down its own ability to provide solutions, that is a hint of where ideology is triumphing over pragmatism.

That became clear when the types of agencies the National Government thought would be the natural buyers of 2500 Christchurch state houses, such as the Christchurch Methodist Mission and the Salvation Army, both indicated they disagreed with the policy.

Such opposition from groups who work at the coalface of low-income community needs should have prompted a rethink, but instead the Government turned to Australia to market the properties, which was described by Christchurch doctor and Korowai Youth Well-Being Trust chairwoman Dr Sue Bagshaw  as selling to “absentee landlords”.

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