Last week’s budget offered little for Christchurch. In fact, you could argue that it took from the city to enable a wafer-thin surplus for Key to crow about. Well, there was one tangible policy relating to Christchurch; paying beneficiaries to come to the city if they get a job.

nats-to-chch2It was widely lampooned when it was announced, and rightly so. A story from the Sunday Star Times yesterday further confirms the futility of this policy. Cecile Meier reports that Fletchers EQR, one of the biggest employers in the rebuild, is telling contractors to look for work elsewhere.

Two contractors, speaking anonymously, said Fletcher EQR, which is contracted to manage repairs, last week apologised to a group of its preferred contractors in Christchurch because it would not be able to give them as much work as promised. One of them, who has worked for Fletcher since the start of the repair programme, said the announcement came as a surprise.

“They told us last week that they couldn’t guarantee us work because EQC had not given them the jobs,” he said, speaking anonymously.

So the “come to Christchurch, there are heaps of jobs” bit has fallen flat, but where are these people going to live? CERA figures showing that rents in Christchurch will soon match those in Auckland confirm that there is indeed a housing crisis in the city, and that the government’s “hands-off” policy is leaving our most vulnerable people to suffer in a distorted market. Projections in a CERA report show that by January 2015, the average rent will be around $460 – on par with what you might expect in Auckland. This isn’t just an issue limited to the suburbs which sustained the most significant earthquake damage. In fact, data from MoBIE shows that the annual rent increase in the suburb of Aorangi in the Ilam electorate was a staggering 39.1%.

Despite these clear signals that the housing market in Christchurch is indeed in a crisis, the government continues to act as though everything is fine. Just this morning, Key was on Morning Report denying that there is any crisis. Meanwhile, projections from Housing New Zealand, released to Labour under the Official Information Act, show that over the next ten years, the government plans to sell off more than 500 state homes in the city.

We put a great crew of doorknockers out in the electorate at the weekend, and the single biggest issue was housing. This policy, and the PM joining Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith in denying a housing crisis in the city shows just how out of touch they are with what is going on down here.