Two of the biggest crises of our times - housing and climate change - could be the target of a new Ministry of Green Works that would integrate important responsibilities related to safeguarding Aotearoa’s future, according to a report released today by FIRST Union.
A Ministry of Green Works for Aotearoa New Zealand: An Ambitious Approach to Housing, Infrastructure, and Climate Change is a policy report commissioned by FIRST Union from co-authors Max Harris and Jacqueline Paul that considers Aotearoa’s systemic infrastructural problems and how they could be addressed by a new governmental entity that builds on the former Ministry of Works and integrates several key departmental responsibilities to future-proof the country for significant challenges to come.
"From our experience in workplaces, we know that contracting is a broken model that has driven down wages and led to massive inefficiencies in construction and infrastructure," said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.
"As the report describes, the private sector doesn’t have the capacity to deliver on large-scale housing projects and inevitably there are now worker shortages due to poor conditions in the sector."
"Finally there is insufficient coordination to tackle climate change under the current model - the public sector has limited powers to ensure green building standards in housing and infrastructure, and it’s not equipped to respond to other unexpected challenges, like quickly building managed isolation facilities, for example."
The report argues that the right response to these problems will be consistent with seven values: honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi; manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata; Indigenous innovation; collaboration and coordination; creativity; safety and accessibility; and transformation of our economic model. The authors note that any new Ministry of Green Works must learn from its historic namesake and considers twelve risks related to its establishment.
The report contains feedback and interviews with experts including Ganesh Nana, John Tookey, Rosslyn Noonan, Len Cook, Andre Brett, Matthew Scobie, Syd Keepa, Judith Aitken, Susan Krumdieck, Alexis Harris, Murray Parrish, Jen McArthur, Troy Brockbank, Brendon Harre, Joe Gallagher, Ben Schrader, James Muir, Patrick Cummuskey, Andre de Groot, Ben Ross, Huhana Hickey and Nick Collins.
The report is being launched as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) begins in the United Kingdom over the upcoming weekend.
"Even with our best intentions to fix our housing, infrastructure and climate problems individually, we will miss the boat if we don’t consider their interrelatedness and set firm goals that integrate core functions of all agencies - this is where a Ministry of Green Works comes in," said Mr Abbott.
"When the last Ministry of Works was cut up and sold off during the extreme ‘reforms’ of the 80s, we ended up a decade later with the leaky homes scandal and a lot of pressing questions - we can’t afford to wait for the consequences of climate change to set in before we act."
Max Harris (Pākehā) is a writer and researcher, who has worked in law, academia, campaigns, policy, and parliamentary politics. He recently completed a PhD (DPhil) in Law at the University of Oxford, having been an Examination Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is author of the book, The New Zealand Project. He has been an economic policy advisor in the UK Parliament and a consultant at the United Nations Development Programme, provided media support for campaigns at ActionStation, and worked as a judge’s clerk to Chief Justice Sian Elias at the Supreme Court of New Zealand.
Jacqueline Paul (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga) recently completed a Master’s (MPhil) in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration at the University of Cambridge. She is a lecturer at the School of Architecture, and researcher at Ngā Wai a Te Tūi Māori and Indigenous Research Centre at Unitec. She has undertaken Māori housing research for the National Science Challenge: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities and is an independent specialist for the Urban Planning and Development Committee at Kāinga Ora - Homes and Communities.