GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Minimum Effort


I listened to Simon Bridges explaining to John Campbell the other morning why National might rescind Labour’s minimum wage legislation if it wins the upcoming election.

We are a nation of small businesses , the Opposition Leader argued , the owners of which often do not earn much money and so they are being asked to share too much of the economic burden by such unfair legislation.

This is only true of course if you turn a blind eye to the fact that the very rich are not doing their fair share of carrying the tax load and you don’t plan to do anything about that fact.

Labour, the only other major party likely to form the next government, has also refused to introduce any kind of wealth tax .

The result ? We bicker over how much struggling small businesses should pay their employees.

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It’s been my view since I made the documentaries Mind The Gap and Who Owns New Zealand Now? ( which you can find on Youtube ) that it’s time we faced up to such basic issues as how people can look after themselves and their families and put an affordable roof over their heads, by framing such problems in a different way.

First of all – let’s reset some of the language.

Tax is not a “burden” or some sort of State theft of your hard earned dollars. It’s a responsibility. A duty of care to each other if you like. And a few of us are getting very rich indeed by making sure they don’t have to meet that responsibility.

Secondly – both major parties still seem obsessed with the question – How can everyone get to own a home ?

If we reset the question as How can we make sure that everyone has security of tenure? then home ownership becomes just one option to solving that problem.

Other options, for example, could be long term leasing for life ( as they have in Germany) . The funding for such a scheme could come , say, from large financial institutions if the government provided inducements to make it worth their while. Or the government could insist that a percentage of the profits of the big funds it controls (such as the Superannuation fund) be put into building new properties for long term leasing.

Joint or shared mortgages where groups of people could club together to, say, built an apartment block on a shareholder basis is a housing solution I have filmed overseas . I can’t see why a similar scheme should not be encouraged here .

Of course recognizing that there is nothing wrong with the State being the nation’s biggest landlord would be a good thing . We are, after all signatories to The Declaration of Human Rights which at Article 25 states:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, HOUSING ( my emphasis) and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.”

Through legislation we could also move away from the idea that people can increase their wealth simply by owning a property and sitting on their assets, but I’ve covered that in previous posts.

In short, to squabble over things like the Minimum Wage simply reflects the fact that those who wish to lead us are making a Minimum Effort to think outside the neoliberal box they have created for themselves .

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. Germany has a high wage economy with huge regulation, lots of housing stock, great train system and domestic ownership of it’s corporations.

    NZ has a low wage economy, McMansion construction mentality or poor quality apartments that fall apart and need constant remedial work, no public transport, deregulation of business, low domestic ownership of it’s corporations,..

    So you are comparing completely different economies, cultures and motivation of people living and working there on how a radical change in housing could work that conveniently does not look at the bigger picture.

    Those who followed another neoliberal woke Idiot Yet Intellectual Shamubeel Eaqub’s advice not to buy a property in NZ and invest in shares instead because that was a bad investment have come to a poverty end but no doubt it is someone else fault.

    Yep if we were a high wealth nation with strong regulation on business and a low static population and high levels of wages and strong redundancy laws to be able to save, then relying on renting all our lives might be a possibility, but in NZ our government is committed to a low wage economy of liquor stores and retail shops and overseas franchise holders and dramatically changing our population growth through immigration and it’s not targeted at all, anyone can get a visa and come here it seems.

    Not content with that there seems to be a NZ trend of bankrupting/weakening of local businesses by managers like Theo Spiering types running our formally world leading locally owned corporations into the scrap heap with overseas investments gone wrong, formally NZ owned corporations making everyone redundant constantly or being liquidated, Cadbury, Mainzeal.

    Therefore residents who want to avoid homelessness in NZ are strongly incentivised to look outside of Rogernomics controlling wages here into other ways to survive.

    I see a lot of ‘expert’ commentators looking at trying to control what locals choose to spend their savings on but little insight into changing that by increasing wages, work stability and so forth.

    The new mantra is rent stability, what is the point of that if you don’t have wage stability and can be made redundant and not afford to rent or pay your mortgage and thus become homeless by someones stroke of a pen?

    Rent stability is also a downgrade from the formally sought ‘house ownership’, now that looks less possible on today’s wages even when not partaking in Smashed Avocado breakfasts, we are now downgraded to pretending that rental security is a goer, next election is it going to be the transitional housing security of 100,000 new transitional houses … maybe by 2016 it will be rental security of shanty shack under the bridge in one of NZ’s most expensive roading projects?

    • SaveNz your points are well made. People need to look up from coping with the procedures we are running under here and ask why can’t we have diversity – in housing provision. Diversity is a catchword at present, then why can’t we have it for our pressing requirement for life. Come on you talking heads, get out of Yes Minister stranglehold thinking. And China may be going through a quieter phase using less of our timber. Now is the time for good government to come to the aid of the party (and the party of the first part are needy citizens wanting a house). You should be driving a hard bargain with the timber companies that your past pollies privatised our national timber to.

      What savenz says is mostly fact, nothing is 100%. What NZs seem to like to do is avoid the major truth, and witter on about the 5 or 10% that is arguable in any posited suggestion. Stop wittering and havering and start a small agency that works from the bottom, with providing practical provision from local labour and materials that people can afford, sign people up who need a first home, have the small deposit, have an ethic to pay off the 20 year table mortgage, and preferably can help with the work on the house. And once they are in, help them with paths and a fence. That would show some diversity now wouldn’t it!

    • It seems to me you’re describing the New Zealand Neoliberal train wreck on our society. basically Profit and selfishness and privatisation and market domination and the binning of “citizenship” before people, well being and social solidarity and government truly responsive to the ordinary needs of kiwis. J.A. pic on Time mag shows a cold lofty distant visage rather like the Neoliberal garbage philosophy her gov follows!
      This Is Neoliberalism ▶︎ Introducing the Invisible Ideology (Part 1)

    • Without taking anything away from your comment SaveNZ, these are the facts as I understand it about some of the wages in Germany. I don’t think they have a high wage economy.
      A freelance midwife there earns about NZD 50,000 per annum, and has insurance costs of about $15,000 pa. A skilled teacher gets around 100,000 pa. A backbench MP, just a few grand more than a teacher. In fact I think their pay scales are aligned but I could be wrong.
      In NZ, the midwife could expect $159,000, the teacher $75,000 and the tool in the back row close to 200,000.
      My point is they have different priorities when it comes to wages, and yes you cannot get a midwife for 3 months around Christmas.
      And rent is cheap, comparable cities to Auckland like Hamburg or Cologne, you can rent a small apartment for $500 per month. In Auckland that is $500 per week.
      As an aside, latest Hamburg election results (from memory), Greens 25%, Social Dems 38%, Christian Democrats 11% and far right AFD less than 5%.
      Greens, go and look at what they are doing there.

  2. Another big problem in NZ, is disinformation on housing. We have a massive problem with demand from new residents, but the woke and neoliberals keep coming up with new ways to solve the housing crisis, while refusing to acknowledge massive rise in residency visas as being one of the biggest drivers of housing shortages in NZ. Thus they will never solve it and instead go for blaming others… for why inexplicably there is a massive rise in homelessness in NZ that was not here a decade ago!

    Reducing the millions of residency visas and tourists is highly problematic for neoliberals going forward (even progressive ones like Helen Clark) as population fluctuation that is changeable leads to boom/bust cycles in the NZ economy and if we get less people eating subways and renting commercial real estate for their liquor business, and buying financial products, neoliberals lose money and that is why they will never solve the housing crisis in NZ. The government don’t want to upset those people aka banks and foreign lobby groups. They are between a rock and a hard place so just think more taxes (to the middle class, can’t rob hedge funds of money, silly) will help.

    This preference of the NZ government has not been helped by one of the biggest issues in NZ on housing which is the shift from building modest low priced house to high value houses for incoming residents bringing money into NZ.

    The obsession of building high value houses has been researched by

    “Since the 1980s, the building industry has shifted from building low value houses to building high value houses, Saville-Smith said.

    “Then, 30 or 40 per cent of new builds were in that [low value] part of the market,” she said.

    “And now, around 50 or 60 per cent will be in the priciest part of the market, with less than 10 per cent in the low value housing.”

    But in the face of hundreds of thousands of new residents coming to NZ, and our governments preferences to spend tax money on roads to airports, new developments and new hospitals and schools for the incoming growth, while quietly running down services in places where they feel they get away with it, its getting to be a drop in the bucket to announce 10,000 new houses a year when another million just fell into poverty.

    BTW, Sweden rental laws, being advocated in many woke/neoliberal “spinoff” circles as the ‘latest fix’ to stop the housing crisis while not mentioning the ‘I’ word, has an 8 year wait for a rental property… this eye watering wait time, is something seldom explored by the woke, who like to take the advantages of other countries housing systems while not exactly being honest about other limitations or any differences that might effect homelessness going forward!

  3. Good ideas Bryan. I’ll just mention what I learned when I ventured to think about housing. The Special Housing Areas promoted some action, and was unfortunately summarily canned by Labour, when it should have been allowed to finish off those good projects ready for action.

    There was an effort to get a co-housing initiative going in Nelson which I joined and found out much. Co-housing can be too expensive as an option for first-home buyers, or micro business entrepreneurs. I noticed that the people involved had differing wants, some quite particular, and when a possible site became available it didn’t match the vision of all. As there were not many affordable sites in the right location it seemed a waste of time to me to continue. Also some of the core group were from the USA and were savvy and were going to use the Special Housing Area ideas as a way to get themselves a home with the co-housing providing compatible neighbours. As I was interested in long-time NZs getting their own place I became dissatisfied.

    The big problem though is that I felt the time had come to have an approach of housing owned by individuals but bought from a trust, with small set, (with controls against swingeing rises), monthly costs for maintenance and joint oversight, and which would be sold back to the trust at a set price based on historic cost plus CPI inflation and improvements. That would ensure a reasonable rise in value, not the space-rocket rise away from ground control at the grassroots! Then the trust could only sell again from a base of that last selling price plus the needed improvements to update it and some amount for legal fees and admin, plus a rise of set percentage going to the maintenance and costs of the trust itself. Nobody wanted to invest in this way. So I have dropped out. I carry the conviction that the body corporate system as used by so many multiply owned projects must be avoided – and I noticed there was in legislation the option to have all owners vote on any actions (or have proxies I think) and this would avoid the autocratic rise of representative decision-makers. ( I am coming to despise representative decision-making and feel that citizens in every case need to pull up their socks and go for participation, and better understanding and control of their affairs.)

    We studied what had been done elsewhere and there has been much done – in NZ and othr countries, with joint housing ventures. Unfortunately our government lost its way and sold itself in 1984, along with the country, to business and the idea that only exporting was a viable way to go and now we can’t get citizens needs attended to. Home-made goods and policies are passe’ to gummint. Rudely put, they are like the constipated maths master who had to work it out with a pencil. And of course no-one has one these days, technology has replaced simple solutions and tools. The machine must be arbiter and tool for everything we do it seems. Meanwhile eager and capable NZs stand by waiting to be utilised to provide cheaper housing, but the government has to look for its lost pencil so still attends to its business, which is dealing with developers eager to build boxes, big boxes, before indulging these inconvenient purveyors of practicality.
    It’s Little Boxes, Peter Seeger (
    versus Our House (

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