Hive News Monday: Motel bill for homeless blows out; homeless counted as tourists; Binnie attacks Collins

Sign on footpath on Lambton Quay. Copyright Lynn Grieveson / Hive News

The housing crisis seems to find new ways to complicate life for the Government at every turn.

Jenna Lynch reported last night Government spending on motel rooms for the homeless jumped to NZ$7.7 million in the December quarter, almost quadruple the full year's budget of NZ$2 million.

A response to an OIA request found 8,860 grants were made in the three months to the end of December, which was six times more than expectations.

Bill English told Duncan Garner this morning the blowout would not put the scheme in jeopardy. Paula Bennett announced the scheme in May last year.

"It's a demand-led grant, so if people show up, they get it. We'll just keep paying as people need it," he said.

He said the scheme had "flushed out" people in difficult housing situations.

English said not everyone shared the Government's sense of urgency about building more houses quickly, apparently referring to residents and others opposing new developments or councils unable to fund new infrastructure.

"We all want to get our foot on the accelerator, but getting the houses out of the ground, getting the roads built, getting the pipes in the ground, all this takes time - particularly when you have to meet quite often legitimate community concerns, but sometimes people just don't want to see development happen," he said.

Lynch also reported on another quirk in the surge in demand for hotels from homeless people -- they are counted as tourists in official statistics.

Statistics Minister Mark Mitchell confirmed to Lynch that hotel and motel night statistics included those in motels who had received emergency housing special needs grants.

English said that if they were being counted as tourists they shouldn't be.

English was also challenged on the issue by Susie Ferguson on Morning Report.

He again refused to describe the situation as a crisis.

"It's a definition of a crisis for those families of which housing is a part," he said.

Andrew Little described the situation as an indictment of English's policies on housing.

"Clearly, National have no understanding of the scale of the housing crisis and how many families are homeless. It’s another cock-up from a government that has a long list of failures on housing," he said.

In other political news...

Canadian Judge Ian Binnie sharply criticised former Justice Minister Judith Collins in an interview with Janet McIntyre on Sunday over his report on David Bain. Binnie said Collins had a pre-determined view on Bain and had stitched him up with her criticism of the report.

"My thoughts were that this was a woman of surpassing arrogance and she considered herself the centre of the universe, and the rest of us were bit players who come and go at her beck and call," he said, referring to a 15 minute dressing down he received from Collins in the Beehive after he was summoned to hear concerns about his initial report. He had flown to Wellington from Cairo for the meeting.

Jacinda Ardern easily won the Mt Albert by-election for Labour on Saturday, receiving 10,000 of the 12,971 votes cast. National did not stand a candidate and there were 36,052 votes cast in the electorate in the 2014 General Election.

National list MP Paul Foster-Bell said yesterday he would not contest the Wellington Central electorate at the September 23 election. Nicola Willis, a former adviser to John Key, is expected to contest the seat. Foster-Bell received the list seat in 2013 when Jackie Blue left Parliament. He faced criticism over his electorate spending and high turnover in his office.

Coming up...

Bill English is scheduled to hold his weekly post-cabinet news conference later today in Wellington.

Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to publish its net migration and tourism statistics for January at 10.45 am today.

The Reserve Bank will publish data on new residential mortgage lending by borrower type and LVR ratio for January at 3 pm today. It is scheduled to report overall lending figures for January at 3 pm on Tuesday.

Parliament is not sitting this week. It resumes next week.

Donald Trump is due to address Congress late on Tuesday and is expected to lay out some of his legislative agenda. Infrastructure stocks and US bond yields fell on Friday after Axios' Mike Allen reported Republicans in Congress expected to delay Trump's big infrastructure spending package until next year. The US 10 year yield fell to 2.31%.

Tweets of the day:

CNN's Jake Tapper trolling Sean Spicer after Spicer complained the New York Times had gotten his birth place wrong:

I imagine it must be really annoying when someone puts out false info about where you were born. Must really bother you!! cc @BarackObama

Half an Onion bag after Donald Trump withdrew from the White House Correspondent's dinner. Usually the sitting President attends and is 'roasted' by a comedian.

I've never seen someone so afraid of being roasted. And all my friends are vegetables.

Have a great week.