TDB EXCLUSIVE: Alan Johnson – The horrific truth about Bill English’s State Housing Privatisation



The complicity of NGOs

There are NGOs and then there are NGOs.  Rather than being defined by what they aren’t so-called non-government organisations might be best defined by where they get their money from.  

There are NGOs which get their money from members or supporters – these groups are often caused based such as CPAG is or they provide services to members such with RSA or sports clubs.

Then there are NGO’s which get their money from providing services to others most often through Government contracts.  These include charitable trusts, non-profit companies and incorporated societies – large and small, local and national and they provide the bulk of social services on behalf of the Government.  

Superficially this is an ideal marriage.  Well intended well motivated folk in cause driven organisations delivering social services to the poor and vulnerable with the financial backing of the State.  But the organisations involved in such programmes are hardly NGOs because without the Government’s money they are unlikely to exist – certainly at the scope and scale they do now.  As well the delivery of social services on behalf of the State is always driven by clear policy objectives and these are in turn driven by clear ideological ambitions.  This means of course that the NGOs involved in contracts with the State are complicit – wittingly or unwittingly in these ideological ambitions.  

Such complicity is fine as long as the ideological ambitions of the Government roughly align to the interests of the poor and vulnerable.  But if – as appears the case with the present Government’s welfare and social housing reform agendas, this is not the case, the so-called NGOs which are keen to partner with the Government cannot entirely claim to be benignly serving the interests of the poor and vulnerable.  They are in fact serving the ideological ambitions of the Government while ignoring the longer-term interests of those they claim to be serving.

Nowhere is this complicity more apparent than in housing.   

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The most obvious example of this complicity is with the sale of all the state housing units in Tauranga to IHC subsidiary Accessible Properties.  This deal will involve 1140 units and will take place on 1st April 2017.  The value of the deal, and the discounts and concessions involved, have yet to be reported publicly although they are substantial.

It also seems that private investors are involved in the Tauranga deal so it can easily be seen as privatisation by stealth.  Accessible Properties is however promising to add a further 150 units to this stock although the timeframe for this has not been disclosed.  Tauranga is chronically underserved with state and other social housing and is growing rapidly so this gesture of a further 150 houses is something but still not much.  

In essence then the National led Government has washed its hands of any direct involvement in providing housing in Tauranga and a well-respected charity – the IHC, has provided it with the cover and the excuse to do this.

Another example of this complicity is with the Hamilton based organisation known as the Wise Group.  One of Wise Group’s stable of social service organisations is The People’s Project which is addressing homelessness in Hamilton.

Wise Group’s webpage describes the beginnings of The People’s Project as follows. Hamilton City Council, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Social Development, Child, Youth and Family, Housing New Zealand, Department of Corrections, Waikato District Health Board, Midlands Health, Hamilton Central Business Association and Te Puni Kōkiri, put their hands up to join the Wise Group in a ground-breaking collective named ‘The People’s Project’’.

Do you spot many ordinary concerned citizens in this list of culprits?  Wasn’t Hamilton City Council the same Hamilton City Council that sold off its 344 social housing units to Accessible Properties in December 2015? Isn’t Housing New Zealand the same Housing New Zealand which between 2011 and 2016 managed to get rid of over 200 rental units?  Why on earth is the Hamilton Central Business Association so interested in homelessness? If ‘The People’s Project’ is such an inclusive exercise why then did Wise Group bother to trademark the name for itself?

Answers to these questions aren’t really that important because apparently Wise Group has now solved homelessness in Hamilton claiming that it has found housing for more than 800 people over the past two years.  This must surely be good news to a Government which is so keen to dismiss the housing crisis narrative that it can’t even be bothered having a Minister of Housing.  

In claiming to have solved homelessness Wise Group is of course talking about street homelessness rather than things like families living in cars in public carparks or in sheds and garages or overcrowding with relatives.  Their work in addressing the more acute form of homelessness is to be applauded but it is quite wrong to claim that homelessness has been solved in Hamilton.

There is in fact strong evidence to support the claim that Auckland’s housing problems are descending on Hamilton.  Over the past three years Hamilton’s population has grown by 7.3% yet its housing stock has grown by less than 6% meaning that there is a shortfall in housing of around 700 units.  

While Wise Group may have housed 800 people there are fewer social housing units available than three years ago and population growth is outstripping current house building.  Clearly some people somewhere are missing out but that is not the story Wise Group is telling the public on behalf of their funder the New Zealand Government.

It is a great shame that corporates such as Accessible Property and Wise Group are busy doing the Government’s bidding while passing themselves off as community organisations.  The people working in these organisations appear to have good intentions but their opportunism in jumping into deals with the Government regardless of the Government’s ideological ambitions is disappointing.  Best of luck to them – I hope they like their new friends.


Alan Johnson is a policy analyst for several NGOs.


  1. Bill English is the Global Corporates gate keeper simply put.

    He has no morals or conscience or humanity apparently so we will expect he will carry on with the slow Austerity to sell everything he can of ours then join John Key, Collins, Bridges & Joyce all on the Hawaii golf course eventually then as correctly depicted in the very prophetic musical sketch “Planet Key”.

    Very sad lot these criminals are, and will be severely judged going forward in the future.

  2. Thank you Alan.

    And TDB for allowing the light to shone on this issue. I don’t recall reading it anywhere on MSM. Surprise, surprise.

    As Alan works for The Salvation Army, maybe he could give some assurance that the $49 million that the Sallies received from the Government in grants/contracts (latest annual report ex Charities Register), hasn’t or doesn’t compromise their good works or their ability to advocate for the poor, homeless, etc ? Some bona fide charities have been de-registered (by the government department that oversees charities) because they advocate for their cause and/or beneficaries, but not the Sallies.

    (That said, I have to say such de-registration of charities is a nonsense as no charity can exist unless it advocates for the cause for which it exists, otherwise how to do they convince the public – potential donors – to financially support them?)

    • I cant answer for The Salvation Army as I am merely an employee of that organisation. I am however proud to work for an organisation which has a 130 year history of caring for and caring about the poor and vulnerable in Aotearoa.
      In doing this The Army established the Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit (SPPU) 12 years ago to undertake social research and to advocate for more just social policy. I work as an analyst for this Unit.
      SPPU is entirely funded by The Salvation Army’s own resources and is not supported by Government contracts although most of the Army’s social programmes are to some degree. SPPU works independantly of the social programmes and offers what I believe to be credible objective and forthright analysis and commentary of Government policy.

  3. The Wises Group… I did a weeks work experience with this outfit a few years ago and I was stunned. Having previously worked for 15 years for a couple of real NGOs that ran pretty much on the smell of an oily rag I was amazed at the luxuries the people at Wises surrounded themselves with from a flash but fake “green” building, to subsidized meals in their café, to deliveries of cheap organic produce on site weekly.
    No such things for their clients of course.

    • Well said Janine,

      The “Wise’s Group” is another slush fund for Nactional Party lackeys to find a cushy number bankrolled by the taxpayer through SS Joyce’s mega similar style propaganda agency MBIE!!!!!

      Do you recall the extravagance of the monster TV monitor screen and the outrageous cost of that screen that MBIE placed at the entrance of the MBIE building????? and the exorbitant cost of their propaganda Political junkets that the MBIE spent going around the country feeding on the public budget as well?

      It is time another new elected Government be elected to swiftly kill off this self-feeding Nactional plan, promoting the using our public funding just for their highly inflated false self serving vanity.

  4. Spot on post. National cannibalises it’s coalition partners and destroys them, their involvements in charity partnerships are also damaging to the charities.

    If someone comes to me asking for donations to IHC, forever in my mind is that they are helping the government with their privatisation of state housing. I would not give to them.

    Although the Salvation Army is a quality organisation that genuinely seems to provide real help for those in need, I didn’t donate this year over the unitary plan fiasco. A lot of charities unwittingly provided cover for the governments housing agenda using the smoke and mirrors approach like the unitary plan. There are hundreds of reasons why there is a growing homeless problem in NZ and council zoning is not a big part of it. (Try National welfare “reforms”, immigration, massive foreign student targets, profit driven development, sell off of state houses, building materials monopolies and price fixing, council planning fiefdoms, supercity and a commercialised approach to running a council, electricity privatisation, lack of regulation of consumer debt, lack of investment by government and the robbing of the piggy bank for dividends on housing NZ, etc).

    As someone has once said, a person is poor because they don’t have enough money.

    I’m also concerned at the plethora of ‘new charities’ offering kids lunches, raincoats and even recently on TV fronted by some TV personality a charity that gave kids in foster care, toothbrushes and school bags.

    WTF??? Shouldn’t this be the job of the government to provide basic care of foster kids??? How can some charity with a toothbrush somehow help the transition of a foster kid who has come from some traumatic event into foster care? What sort of gross undermining of an incredibly important issue is that?

    It is taking commercialisation, privatisation and god know what else to a new realm into this country. Some of these charities seem to be more fronts to a lavish lifestyle for the founders and workers, or cover for the National parties ideology, than actually delivering to the poor. Or the ‘charities’ targets are so low, they are ludicrous. (Giving a toothbrush to a foster child for example, that’s what our taxes should already be paying for and more!).

    How about we go back to old fashioned welfare state where those in need get a benefit that is adequate to provide for them, and our taxes go to that no frills approach, not 1000 different charities competing with each other, and some more akin to a charity washing promotional operation, than a traditional charity.

  5. @SAVENZ –

    “1000 different charities competing with each other,”

    Those who are above that sort of thing love to watch the piranhas jumping for tidbits. It’s cute.

    And it helps the trickles reach the Right People; the proper pockets.

    Deserving and undeserving poor Mark 10, because, so often, the people drawn to serve in charities have that sort of discriminating mind…

  6. Thanks Alan.
    More focus on greed and criminals behind these politicians and running these corporations is a very good thing.

    The are not — ” walking the walk ” — they are self focused psychopaths indulging their personal needs and to hell with those who pay the price and are suffering as a result of their poor management and DIRTY POLITICS.
    Our govt. is controlled and owned and most politicians are bought puppets.

  7. The “solving” of homelessness in Hamilton appears to be “smoke and mirrors” – something National has achieved with great effort.

    If was June last year that unemployment miraculously “fell” after Statistics NZ changed it’s definition of what constituted being unemployed.

    As I reported in November last year;

    On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

    Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

    Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

    The statement went on to explain;

    Change in key labour market estimates:

    * Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate
    * Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent
    * Increases in the number of people not in the labour force
    * Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

    The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%…


    Ms MacPherson’s assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

    If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

    As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

    In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.


    Nothing this government purports to be factual can be taken at face value.

    The same can be now said of various NGOs that have decided to collude with National’s covert privatisation agenda.

    • Personally would believe any statistic from this government. They are just lying to themselves so what sort of idiot does that or are they just so bent on staying in power they are prepared to destroy our country, our reputation and the publics trust in government with these fake statistics on everything from homelessness, overseas investment and pollution?

      Also forgot to add on my list of things contributing to homelessness, the “P’ scams where houses are empty because someone without any credibility is doing tests saying they have P without any credibility on what levels are even acceptable for P in a house, i.e. bank notes having more P than the “unliveable” houses which are being sold off cheap to opportunists and cronies or just another excuse to demolish a house and evict a tenant.

      Also want to say that the government is clearly trying to muddy the waters on language. We have the taxpayers ‘union’ a far right organisation using the ‘union’ monikor, someone a while back was saying a new organisation has taken over a similar name to the kindergarten moniker to get government funding and so forth.

      More things to confuse the public into not knowing what is really going on and push public funding out to new pro government groups while pretending it is for the old charities and organisations.

      Truly despicable.

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