Throwing Down the Mere

Unborn Babies Have a “Right to Life”

Alabama Approves Amendment

Steven Ertel
Life Site News

Alabama voters proved once again that when people get a chance to go to the polls they generally vote for unborn children. And they did just that tonight by approving a amanemdment saying unborn babies have a right to life.

The proposed constitutional amendment asked voters to “affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful.” The amendment also would guarantee that “the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Voters said yes by a 60-40 margin.

The vote came despite the Planned Parenthood abortion business spending $1.5 million to defeat it.

Yellowhammer News reports the out-of-state, dark money came from the abortion giant Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups. These groups spent about $1.5 million to attack Amendment 2, which would affirm unborn babies’ right to life in the Alabama constitution, according to the report.

Planned Parenthood has attacked the amendment repeatedly with misleading claims. Contrary to what Planned Parenthood says, the amendment would still allow exceptions for abortion when the mother’s life is at stake. It would not punish women whose unborn babies die in miscarriages or stillbirth, or women who undergo infertility treatments or experience ectopic pregnancies.

Pro-life leaders, writing at Yellowhammer News, pointed out how ridiculous some of the claims have been:

We find it quite ironic that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider where hundreds of thousands of babies are killed inside its clinics every year, and its allies are claiming that Amendment Two is “anti-family,” when the Amendment clearly declares the importance of protecting life.

Amendment Two is emphatically pro-family and pro-life, and that’s why the Amendment is a threat to Planned Parenthood’s radical agenda.

State Rep. Matt Fridy, a pro-life Republican, previously said he had the future in mind when he proposed the amendment, according to the local news. He said he was thinking about Tennessee where the state Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a “right” to abortion under the state constitution.

That ruling made it basically impossible for Tennessee lawmakers to pass even moderate abortion regulations, such as parental consent for minors or a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. In 2014, Tennessee voters approved a ballot measure to amend their constitution to make it clear there is no right to abortion.

Fridy said he wants to prevent the same potential court trouble in Alabama.


my submarine


John 8:33-36

33 They answered him, “We are a seed from Abraham, and none have ever been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered, “I honestly tell you, every sinner is a slave of the sin.
35 A slave does not stay in the household permanently, but a son does stay permanently.
36 That is why if the Son liberates you, you really will be free.

my submarine

Does anyone out there want to be liberated from sin? I sure do. I have been a Christian for 47 years, and I still feel the results of the bondage I was born into. Slaves have committed all sorts of crimes — even murder or suicide — in order to become free. I understand that desperation.

But I have found a better way to deal with my inherited slavery. First, I refused to deny it. Many — like these “seed of Abraham” try to deny the reality of their own sinfulness. That did not work for them, and it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I confessed my own ability to become good that I found help in Jesus.

Jesus explains here what he can do for the person who comes to him in repentance and trusts in him for liberation. He is God’s only Son, so if he decides to declare a person free, it happens. The rest is living a life of faith in the Son who has set you free. It is like living in a submarine. There is water all around you, but you cannot drown. When my Savior returns, he will rid this universe of sin completely. Until then, he is my submarine!

LORD, set more people free today!


Beware an Unbound Judiciary

The Judiciary in New Zealand

Ardern’s Most Important Decision as PM

Matthew Hooton
NZ Herald

The appointment of a new Chief Justice to replace Dame Sian Elias is the most important personal decision Jacinda Ardern may ever make as Prime Minister.

This will be the first time a Prime Minister has simultaneously chosen someone to be head of both the judiciary and New Zealand’s court of final appeal.

When Prime Minister Jenny Shipley appointed Dame Sian Chief Justice in 1999, the court of final appeal was still London’s Privy Council. Beyond the obvious symbolism, Helen Clark’s Government replaced it with the new Supreme Court in Wellington to encourage the evolution of a distinctly New Zealand jurisprudence.  It was time, Clark’s Attorney-General Margaret Wilson told Parliament in 2003, for our country to enter the 21st century and New Zealanders to take responsibility for our legal system and destiny.

The issue facing New Zealand is a fundamental one.  Either the rule of law is mediated through the legislature, or it comes via the judiciary–which by its very nature is an elite, non-representative institution.  The present Chief Justice has pushed for a more intrusive judiciary–wrestling wider and higher powers for the judiciary at the expense of Parliament.

Under Dame Sian’s leadership, the Supreme Court has obliged, developing a distinctive New Zealand role. Part of that is an inevitable assertion of its authority vis-a-vis Parliament.  To some extent, this predated the Supreme Court. Dame Sian ruled in R v Pora (2001) that the courts could ignore legislation if they thought Parliament had “misfired”.

More recently, in Buchanan v Jennings (2004) and Attorney-General v Leigh (2011), the courts tried to extinguish aspects of parliamentary privilege, forcing Parliament to override them with the Parliamentary Privilege Act 2014.  For better or worse, the Supreme Court sought to set policy over pay for home carers and voting rights for prisoners, previously thought to the preserve of the executive and Parliament.

The Supreme Court seems to believe there should be more of this type of thing.

This has all the trimmings and dangers of an elite assuming powers and controls and inflicting them on, not just Parliament, but the people–for the legislature is the people’s assembly.  When judges think they know better than the people, tyranny lurks in the corridors of power.  This situation has been allowed to develop because of the removal of the UK Privy Council as our highest court of appeal.  This action has left us with a NZ Supreme Court that has very little in the way of checks, controls, and balances. 

We are still far from the American system where the Supreme Court can overturn legislation it says is unconstitutional. But it is also clear the Chief Justice’s role has developed beyond what it was when Dame Sian was appointed.  In 1999, there was no suggestion the Chief Justice and her colleagues could actually make law because the Court of Appeal could always be overturned by the Privy Council.

But no longer, because the right of appeal to the Privy Council has been removed. 

Who now appoints the Chief Justice?  Well, it is the current Prime Minister and the legal elite.  Consequently, since this is the first post Privy Council appointment, it is essential that Prime Minister Ardern does the “right thing”.   The process as it is presently lays out smacks of elitist privilege far, far from the people and Parliament.

[The choice] is limited to Ardern and the existing legal elite, will be conducted in secret, and has no role for the public, Parliament or even the Opposition. Solicitor-General Una Jagose will hold secret talks with unnamed “people experienced in the law” about potential candidates.  A panel will generate a confidential shortlist which Ardern will discuss secretly with Dame Sian and unidentified “ministerial colleagues”.

Ardern promises that before she makes a recommendation to the Governor-General, which Dame Patsy Reddy must accept, she will consult the Opposition.  In practice, this means the final decision will be made by a secret handshake between Ardern and Simon Bridges.

But a secret appointment process that involves only the legal elite, executive and judiciary, and excludes the legislative branch except for Ardern having a private chat with Bridges, is wholly unsatisfactory in the 21st century, especially with the court seeking a bigger policy role.

Hooten argues that there needs to be more advice and consent in the process that breaks it out of an elite huddle and brings it into the wider domains of government by the parliament.

Canada may have an answer. There, the ultimate decision remains with the Prime Minister.  But, being the most important branch of government as representative of the people, Parliament has some role, with its justice and human rights committee holding a question and answer session with nominees before the final decision.

In a New Zealand context, this could see Labour’s David Parker and Andrew Little,
National’s Chris Finlayson and Amy Adams, NZ First’s Winston Peters and the Greens’ Golriz Ghahraman conducting a public discussion with nominees about the limits to parliamentary supremacy, the proper policy-making powers of the courts and the constitutional place of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It would ensure that not just Ardern and Bridges, but everyone else has those insights before the Prime Minister makes her final decision.  And it would help the public develop a better understanding of the importance of the judiciary as one of the three branches of government.

Bridges should insist Ardern reconsiders her planned process.

Matthew Hooton is managing director of PR and corporate affairs firm Exceltium.


State Education Like a Rusty Skoda

Crushing Charter Schools Hurts the Poorest

Alwyn Poole
NZ Herald

The New Zealand education system is in major trouble.

The gaps between New Zealand’s Asian population (67 per cent of school leavers with UE), European (44 per cent), Pasifika (22 per cent) and Māori (19 per cent) are a national disgrace and we have given up on believing it can be different.

We are sliding rapidly in international measures and our schools are among the worst in the OECD for closing the gaps. Socio-economic advantage has a stronger impact on achievement in New Zealand than many OECD countries.

Our best university is no longer in the top 100 in the world. Teacher’s training is a mess — the entry bar far too low for primary training and the opportunity cost of another year without pay means the best university graduates won’t even give teaching a second thought.   The latest pay rounds have turned into massive whine-fests and many teachers are simply putting off anyone looking for a positive profession to be involved in.

We have not recognised how the world has changed. If the education system was once a performance car it was built in the 1950s.  Successive governments have crashed and bashed it and worn down the engine, the Ministry of Education sits firmly on the bonnet and the unions have run off with the keys.

Those establishments continue to preserve their power and the children miss out, especially the vulnerable.  Legislation has now crushed the charter school model. In one sense it will mean very little. Those highly irrational sorts in education who were entirely triggered by innovation will be able to go back to their knitting. The established charter schools will continue to run under a different model because the good people who set them up will stay around, at least for a little while.

The two Villa Education Trust Schools will still have 15 pupils per class, provide uniforms, stationery and IT and ask for no donations — and upset many schools who could use their operation funding to do the same but choose not to.

Experts had concluded the model had significant success factors that ideologues like Associate Minister for Education Tracey Martin could not grasp.
  The schools will continue in another form so what has been lost? On a ground level it may not be obvious for a while. The innovators will commit to at least see the new form up and running and the Government could mitigate against the loss of freedoms from the removal of bulk funding, a different governance model and being able to have staff outside the collective contract.

The ministry may also come to grips with the need to be less controlling and conformist. A better “designated character schools” policy and establishment process, if developed as promised, may effectively see an expansion of some of the successful operations.  Something much bigger has been lost however. That is a sense in New Zealand that creative people and social entrepreneurs (let alone philanthropists) are not welcomed by the stale and outdated educational establishment of our country.

Our ageing teaching population, our massive educational bureaucracy, many of the failing schools, the teacher unions, bizarre social media sites and blinkered politicians who use slogans and parrot nonsense to attempt to impress those in their own bubble, all lost the plot over 12 [charter schools] out of 2600 schools.

It came to a head in Parliament when some politicians felt they were naming and shaming these individuals and organisations in the House. One said that they had treated children “like dogs” and the Minister of Education even used the word “dodgy”.

The messages: If you are an educator who thinks there may be different ways of doing things, keep your head well down. To families; you better hope that your child fits the one-size-fits-all model or that you have enough financial means to make some choices in terms of where you live or schools you can access.  To those that don’t — including many of our Māori and Pasifika families — the inequities will be perpetuated in succeeding generations.

The New Zealand political and education system has sent a strong message to the nation. They are going to keep on with the 1950s jalopy (no Tesla for them) and pretty soon we will be well short of drivers, let alone good ones.

• Alwyn Poole’s Villa Education Trust runs three schools in Auckland. Two of them were charter schools.



Psalms 18:8-9

8 Smoke rose from his nose, and consuming fire came from his mouth; coals were set on fire by it. 9 He bent the sky and came down, its total darkness was beneath his feet.

Darkness and consuming fire are words that describe God’s final punishment of the wicked. The psalmist uses these words to describe the passion with which God responds to his prayer. The nose is often used for Hebrew expression of emotion. A long nose equals patience, but a smoking nose equals anger.


An Honourable Death

Noble Soldier

We grew up in a post-World War II home.  Our father had fought against Rommel in the Desert Campaign.  In retrospect there was an oddity associated with our parents’ recounting of that campaign.  The Desert Fox was always spoken of with great respect.

Rommel’s reputation amongst other things was that of being a stickler for the standards, rules, and regulations of the Geneva Conventions of warfare.  At one point we learned that the Allies were treating German prisoners in a “vigorous” manner, shall we say.  Word got around.  Rommel took to the airwaves and rebuked the Allied commanders to the effect that if such breaches continued, he would be forced to retaliate.  The upshot?  The Allied commanders immediately cleaned up the acts of a minority of their troops.

Rommel was not a Nazi: he never joined the party.  He was a product of the Prussian military aristocracy.  He and his family were professing Christians.  As more of the depredations of Hitler and the Nazis became known to him, the more uncomfortable Rommel became–even to the point of becoming involved in the famous plot to assassinate the Fuhrer.

He was “informally” executed by the Nazis.
  They feared a public execution which, given Rommel’s celebrity, would have had a significant negative propaganda effect throughout the Reich.  The Gestapo visited him at his home.  He could either go with them and ingest the poison they had in their vehicle, leaving his family alone, or they would take him by force along with his wife and son, and execute them all.

Here is the account from Rommel’s fifteen year old son, Manfred:

 At about twelve o’clock a dark-green car with a Berlin number stopped in front of our garden gate. The only men in the house apart from my father, were Captain Aldinger [ Rommel’s aide] , a badly wounded war-veteran corporal and myself. Two generals – Burgdorf, a powerful florid man, and Maisel, small and slender – alighted from the car and entered the house. They were respectful and courteous and asked my father’s permission to speak to him alone. Aldinger and I left the room. ‘So they are not going to arrest him,’ I thought with relief, as I went upstairs to find myself a book.

A few minutes later I heard my father come upstairs and go into my mother’s room. Anxious to know what was afoot, I got up and followed him. He was standing in the middle of the room, his face pale. ‘Come outside with me,’ he said in a tight voice. We went into my room. ‘I have just had to tell your mother,’ he began slowly, ‘that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.’ He was calm as he continued: ‘To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ‘ “In view of my services in Africa,” ‘ he quoted sarcastically, ‘I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.’

‘Do you believe it?’ I interrupted. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I believe it. It is very much in their interest to see that the affair does not come out into the open. By the way, I have been charged to put you under a promise of the strictest silence. If a single word of this comes out, they will no longer feel themselves bound by the agreement.’ []

Rommel chose the only courageous and honourable course.  We consider him a true hero.


Into the Void

A Star is Born: Review

​Alistair Bain
The Gospel Coalition

The song Shallow, sung superbly by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and currently occupying top spot in charts around the world, is the beating heart of Cooper’s latest film, A Star is Born. In the film, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, the wildly popular country singer at the top of his game, and Gaga plays Ally, the unknown girl with the incredible voice who Maine discovers in a bar and promptly falls in love with.

Existential Ache

Shallow describes an existential ache to crash through the surface of life and find something deeper, and safer, something far away from the pain.

It begins with Maine singing to Ally:

Tell me somethin’ girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

And then Ally responds:

Tell me something boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?

Repeated throughout the song is the chorus which they sing together:

In all the good times I find myself longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

It’s the perfect song for the movie. Maine and Ally are in love. But Maine is an alcoholic coming to the end of his fame, and from the first scene you just know his story is not going to end well. Ally, on the other hand, is a star on the rise.

The performance by them of Shallow at a Maine concert is truly euphoric. It is the moment in the film where the stories of their life intersect and unite. And it looks as though Ally might just be the redeemer Maine needs.

Too Great a Void

But she’s not. And she can’t be. The void in Maine’s life is just too cavernous to be filled by Ally. He is desperately longing for change. But his shame, his guilt, and his fear of himself and of what he might do to Ally are things he is never able to overcome, not even with her help.

A Star is Born is yet another film from Hollywood that brilliantly, painfully, and compellingly lays bare the problem that lies at the heart of the fallen human condition—the existential longing to crash through the shallowness of our existence and find something deeper and safer. We are desperate for someone to find us, and change us; someone whose life can intersect with ours in a way that fills us with hope and brings us redemption.

For those who have ears to hear, A Star is Born is begging us Christians to get out of our ghettos and to engage much more deeply and openly with our neighbours.

For those who have ears to hear, A Star is Born is begging us Christians to get out of our ghettos and to engage much more deeply and openly with our neighbours. We need to love them better by listening to their stories, by being curious about the world they inhabit, and by tuning in to longing for change.

And at the same time we need to pray that God will use everything about us to introduce those same neighbours to the one who was born under a star – the one who offers love and forgiveness and freedom, who fills the void with hope, and who changes us in ways that will last into eternity.

Note: This film includes strong language and some confronting material. As always, viewers should exercise discretion.

Alistair Bain is senior minister of St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Hobart. He is married with three children. As an Arts/Law student at the University of Tasmania he came to faith in St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Hobart, before then working as a lawyer for eight years. He went on to complete his M.Div at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, undertook further studies at the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, and in 2011 became senior minister at the church in which he was converted.



Psalms 18:6-7

6 I called to Yahveh in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. 7 Then the earth shook and quaked; the foundations of the mountains trembled; they shook because he burned with anger.

The psalmist describes the Lord’s reaction to his prayer as a violent earthquake. He does not say how long the period was between his prayer and God’s reaction. Perhaps we can be more patient if we realize how much pressure has to build before a seismic eruption happens.


Signs of an Apocalypse

When God Gives Them Up

Evil is not a constant.  Like all things human, it waxes and wanes.  One of the clearest passages in this regard is Romans 1: 18-32.  This passage describes and prescribes what Van Til called the integration into the void.

All men, apart from those quickened to life by the Spirit of God, suppress the truth to some extent or another.  God’s existence, glory, power, and wisdom is overtly displayed to all men.  But men, in rebellion against God and lusting after their own glory and power, suppress these self-evident truths.  At that point, things become much worse, for the Scripture says when men attempt to suppress God it is so egregious a response that He gives them up.  [Romans 1: 24].

The first sign of a culture in the throws of being abandoned by God is an increase in lusts and “dishonouring their bodies”.  Then comes a rise in homosexuality.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.   [Romans 1:26, 27]

Clearly Western civilization is in the throes of divine desertion.
  Homosexuality represents the celebration of a death culture.  Homosexuality represents a form of acute self-absorption. Out of it flows a plethora of evils which can be generally described as a hatred of mankind and self.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  [Romans 1: 28-31]

One only has to recall the demise of civil society in our day and its replacement with strident shouting and rampaging hate across social media to have a case study of what divine desertion is like.

It is inevitable that when God gives a culture up, hatred of Christians in particular rises leading to outright persecution.  Here is just one example in the UK.

Between 1719 and 1871, Parliament repealed various laws that had excluded Roman Catholics and Nonconformist Christians from employment in certain professions, including teaching.  In 1854 and 1856, University Test Acts, which excluded people from studying at certain universities unless they affirmed particular beliefs, were repealed.  However, in 2015, academics at Sheffield University effectively introduced a new University Test Act by expelling a student from a social work course because he had posted comments on Facebook supporting a biblical view of marriage. [Barnabas Fund, Turn the Tide: Reclaiming Religious Freedom in New Zealand, 2018 p. 24.]

This does not mean that the Church will be shut down.  After all, the Gospel spread widely and powerfully amongst the Gentiles of Paul’s day–despite the fact that God had given up the Gentiles in general and their culture.  But it does imply that the progress of the Gospel will be marked by resistance and persecution. 

Persecution of the Church, of Christians becomes the norm.  We are to see this for what it is–a divine judgement upon the West.  Eventually this situation will be reversed–but possibly only after many generations, even centuries, have passed.  Meanwhile, the Gospel continues to spread powerfully elsewhere in the world–bringing many social benefits in its train.


Slums in the Making

KiwiBuild: a ‘Community Trainwreck’

Teuila Fuatai

A year after the coalition Government took office, its flagship housing plan KiwiBuild is barely off the ground. At this year’s Bruce Jesson Memorial lecture, Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s Bernie Smith argued KiwiBuild’s flaws not only perpetuate housing unaffordability, but cause further intergenerational social problems.

Bernie Smith tells an interesting story.  After working in some of the most deprived communities in rural Australia and Papua New Guinea, Smith came back to New Zealand in 2016. At that point, homelessness and housing affordability were among the worst ever seen in the country.

Just over a year later, he watched Jacinda Ardern and her party enter into a coalition Government with New Zealand First and the Greens. Following through on their election promise, Ardern and her newly-minted Housing Minister Phil Twyford – a fellow Aucklander – announced their plan to ramp-up New Zealand’s much-depleted housing stock. By July 2019, KiwiBuild targets plan for 1000 new homes on the ground. After that, a target of 5000 new homes has been set for July 2020.

As chief executive of South Auckland based Monte Cecilia House Trust, Smith looked at the numbers eagerly.
 He hoped the Labour-led Government, and its promised influx of new homes would help the hundreds of homeless and precariously tenanted lower income families in Auckland.

After all, Ardern promised to address child poverty, he said in his address at the Bruce Jesson Memorial lecture at the University of Auckland this week.   However, as more information emerged, Smith realised KiwiBuild wasn’t going to deliver what he and other Auckland community housing providers wanted for:

– 92,000 households living in unaffordable rental situations

– 36,000 households living in overcrowded conditions

– 20,300 homeless

Smith: “Over the 2017/18 financial year, Monte Cecilia – just one agency in Auckland – had 1349 children use or access its services, 50 percent of those children were under eight years old.

“Eighteen months ago we had three children who had just undergone cancer treatment, and a fourth child with brittle bone disease. The Ronald McDonald house was over-full and those children had no family home to go back to, so they came to Monte Cecilia.

“I would suggest … this model will become a community trainwreck in three to five years.  KiwiBuild is great for middle class New Zealanders with higher household incomes. But … KiwiBuild properties are not helpful to our working poor or to those in poverty because they’re totally out of reach and unaffordable.”  [Emphasis, ours]

Limited insight and planning has also raised major concerns for community housing providers, Smith said.  “For instance, in Māngere – just one of many projects that the Government is working on at the moment – 2700 state homes are going to be demolished and 3000 state homes are going to be rebuilt, but in a third of the land area. 

“The other two-thirds are going to be KiwiBuild and affordable.  By my estimations, in 2700 homes there now, there’s probably 12,000 to 15,000 people in those homes. Multiply that to be 10,000 homes [on the site in total] and we’re looking at 25,000 to 30,000 people living on the same land mass.  That’s 30,000 human beings of different cultures, different religions, differing values and life, living in the same space as 12,000 people used to.

“The Government says it’s got it sorted. Housing New Zealand will be resourced to meet this intensification and for staff to deal with high and complex tenants who are allocated off the top 5 percent of the housing register – in other words, our community’s most vulnerable.

“I would suggest … this model will become a community trainwreck in three to five years,” Smith told the lecture.

To demonstrate his point, he drew on his own experience at the Queensland government’s Housing and Public Works department.  Smith spent about seven years working in Cairns redoing the government’s “intensified” state housing model.

“Years after the intensification, the government spent millions on what they called ‘Community Renewal’,” he said.  They demolished homes, they created open green spaces for community activities, they sold some of their state houses off to private homeowners, and pepper-potted in the community.

“They also remodelled the odd house to create a community property centre that also had government tenancy staff and government community development staff resident there five days a week.”

That worked for about a year or two, Smith said dryly.  However, once the playground equipment was damaged and repaired too often to justify ongoing maintenance, parks became drug exchange locations, and sex and other illegal activities meant they were no longer used by children.

“Private owners who bought into the suburb thinking they got a cheap house, and things could only get better, started fearing for their own safety and wanted the government to buy their house again.”

The final straw was the government’s eventual decline from funding projects in these communities because they showed “little in positive ongoing change”, Smith said. That has also happened repeatedly in New Zealand, he remarked.

Curiously, the global financial crisis emerged as a type of Hail Mary for these Cairns neighbourhoods. To try and stimulate the economy, the federal government gave billions of dollars towards building state social housing.

“In the city of Cairns, we built 282 new apartment units in small blocks across the city,” he said.  “They were 25 to 30 size blocks, as well as a handful of four and five bedroom homes.”

Smith also oversaw the tenanting process.

“I had three staff and we scanned 3500 state tenant households looking for people to put on the transfer list. I was looking for the best of the best. I wanted to reward our state housing tenants – those who particularly had tenants living beside them where they wrecked the house, broke the windows every five minutes.

“We looked at health needs, addictions, mental health, seniors, solo parents, families, ethnic groups. Then, apartment block by apartment block, depending on the building’s location and community acceptance and non-acceptance, I met with individual community housing providers and we decided which tenants would go into those properties.”

Solo parents were placed in apartment blocks with elderly residents who had no nearby families, he said. A woman with mental health needs who “created problems” after forgetting to take her medication might also be tenanted nearby.

The idea was to place households who would live together well in the same apartment blocks. For high-needs tenants, it created a safer living space and fostered a sense of community because tenants often came together to support one another, Smith said.  The method was labelled ‘Matching for Success’, and eventually received state-wide recognition for the stability it provided in social housing areas, he said proudly.

In addition to that, community housing providers were tasked with managing tenancies, rather than staff from the Queensland government equivalent of Housing New Zealand.

“There was recognition that their own tenancy managers, having 300 to 400 tenancies wouldn’t be doing anything any differently. Whereas, community housing provider tenancy managers had 80 to 120 tenancies and had much better engagement and connection with their tenants and with the social services sector.”

Those “social housing” households were still thriving at Smith’s last visit to Cairns a year ago, he said.  A long-term approach like ‘Matching for Success’, alongside a plan to increase housing stock was what was needed in New Zealand, Smith said.

“Our new Government has set some aspirational targets for new KiwiBuild housing, also in reducing poverty, rental law changes, healthy homes guarantee, regulation of property management, a tax working group, movement to a living wage.”

While these goals were desirable, the lack of planning and “real consideration” around KiwiBuild has meant a year into the coalition Government, little has changed “on the ground”, Smith said.  Previous local and international experience around poorly-planned housing intensification also indicated that in five to 10 years’ time, severe unintended social and financial impacts were likely, he added.