Hive News Tuesday: National passes on Mt Albert by-election; English eyes more state houses; Auckland consents fall; Credit tightening

Bill English's Ministry will be sworn in today and he is expected to give his final news conference of a tumultuous year.

Ministers and the policy-making machinery of Government will soon be packing up for a rest over the summer ahead of an election in the second half of 2017. English confirmed the late 2017 time-frame on Sunday and cemented it in place yesterday by announcing the Mt Albert by-election would be held on February 25 and that National would not stand a candidate.

"The National Government is focussed on winning the 2017 General Election later in the year. To achieve that goal, we don’t intend to participate in a by-election in the new year that is in a safe Labour seat," English said.

Some had suggested the Government could avoid the cost of a by-election and strike during the new Prime Minister's honeymoon and while the economy was hot by bringing forward the General election to early 2017.

More state houses coming

But English indicated again yesterday in this 24 minute interview with Kathryn Ryan that he would lay out a timetable early next year for a late 2017 election -- copying a practice adopted by John Key.

He also talked up the prospects for more state house building.

"In the long run you need more houses. The Government house building programme will certainly ramp up. We'll be looking to be building over the next 10 years thousands of houses," he said, pointing to 6,000 houses committed to be built on Housing NZ land at Northcote and Tamaki.

"Our capacity to do it has now been built and the funding will be available and we can have an extensive house building programme," he said.

English also signalled that the next round of state house sales would be in Porirua and the Hutt Valley, having announced sales in Christchurch, Tauranga and Invercargill.

Taxing water, rather than land

He rejected the prospect for major changes in the way property was taxed, although opened up the prospect of water taxes or charges at some point.

"I don't see a case for radical change. New Zealand has had a good look at its tax systems many times in the last 20 or 30 years. We do have one of the more efficient and effective tax systems in the world -- broad based, low rate, very few holes in it -- companies, individuals and businesses paying their fair share," he said.

"I don't see a strong case for revolution, but of course there's going to be evolution. With respect to water quality, you're increasingly going to see pricing or taxing type systems as the best way to ensure we get the balance of environmental quality and productivity."

In other economic and financial news...

Statistics New Zealand reported building consents rose 2.6% nationwide in seasonally adjusted terms in October from September, but the number of consents fell 2.4% and economists said the flattening trend in Auckland was concerning. There were 9,947 consents in Auckland in the year to October, which is not nearly enough to house the extra 45,000 people in Auckland over that period.

Westpac reported its McDermott Miller survey of consumer confidence found a 5.2 point improvement in the December quarter, while ANZ's Business Outlook survey found a 1 point improvement in business confidence in December from November. However, the most salient point was a tightening of credit conditions.

"If there was a Grinch in this month’s survey it would be firms reporting more difficulty getting credit," Cameron Bagrie wrote. "A net 32% of firms report it is getting tougher, a deterioration of 10 points on the month prior and the lowest reading since the question was first asked in mid-2009. It’s across all sectors," he said.

Tweets of the day:

James Blunt:

If you thought 2016 was bad - I'm releasing an album in 2017.

GCSB Intercepts:

No Gerry, I didn't see the need to confirm it in the Cabinet reshuffle but yes you've kept your role as Santa at the Xmas party

Dave Armstrong:

NCEA Blingish: How many errors can you spot in this headline? Housing Minister and Broadcasting Minister support Mt Albert Nat candidate.

Have a great day.