Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am

Construction has begun at part of Fletcher Building's Three Kings Housing Development, which Labour's Michael Wood has opposed. Photo by Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we look at what might be in tomorrow's Budget, and we watch the continuing debate over house building in Auckland.

1. A family income Budget

Finance Minister Steven Joyce was at his jovial and coy best yesterday at the Petone printing plant as he revealed the front cover of the Budget documents he will unveil in full on Thursday at 2pm.

He wouldn't confirm any detail, but reinforced expectations with his few comments that the Budget would focus on boosting incomes for poorer families who rent, potentially through a combination of tax threshold changes, a boost for Working For Families and changes to the Accommodation Supplement.

Some have speculated some families could receive up to an extra $50 a week from the package.

Asked if the budget would include a family incomes package, he agreed there could be "if we get room." Separately, he said the government's healthy fiscal outlook gave it room to focus on infrastructure spending, public services, debt reduction and an opportunity to "do something for family incomes."

In preparation for a potential family incomes package, Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw has looked in depth at potential changes to Working For Families here, and to the Accommodation Supplement here.

2. The Point England clash

One of the flashpoints around Parliament in the big debate over housing in Auckland has been the government's Point England Development Enabling Bill.

It is designed to redesignate two-thirds of 18 ha of sea-front reserve land at Glen Innes to build 300 houses, with two hectares for a marae as part of a Treaty settlement with Ngati Paoa, and the rest to be added to 32 ha of public reserve.

Last night the bill passed its second reading, but Labour is opposed to the bill on the grounds it uses reserves for housing and the government has attacked Labour for opposing housing development.

"It is poor use of Crown land just 10km from Auckland’s CBD to have 18 hectares fenced off for cattle grazing for more than 30 years," Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said last night.

"This pragmatic response delivers much needed homes, assists in settling a long-standing Treaty grievance, expands the area available for recreation and enables millions of dollars to be invested in improving the facilities and environment," he said.

Labour Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford described the plan as a land grab against the wishes of local residents and said it was nuts to use reserves and parkland for housing that an extra 20,000 residents in the suburb would need in future for recreation.

“Auckland’s going to get another million people in the next generation - if we built houses on parkland, where would the children play?" Twyford said yesterday.

“The Point England reserve is one of the best expanses of open city parkland that we have in the region, and plonking nearly 12 hectares of private housing right in the middle of it completely changes the reserve," he said.

Labour has proposed an alternative plan which would give Ngati Paoa 11 hectares of land for commercial housing as part of the adjacent Tamaki project, while protecting the reserve for future generations.

Smith said Labour's plan did not add to the housing supply because the Tamaki land was already being used for housing.

3. Landlords, tenants and meth

Smith was also busy yesterday introducing The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No. 2) to Parliament, which makes a variety of changes aimed at dealing with meth contamination, the renting of unsuitable properties, and with liability for damages.

Smith said the bill aimed to make it clearer for landlords and tenants on how to measure meth contamination.

"We want homes to be safe but we also don’t want properties being vacated when the risks are low," he said.

“Landlords will have easier access to test for meth and tenants will be able to terminate their tenancy if it presents at unsafe levels."

Standards New Zealand would specify contamination thresholds and the Bill would enable these to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal, Smith said.

The bill also responds to a court decision last year that meant tenants could not be held liable for unintentional damage if the landlord was insured.

The Court of Appeal ruled last April that Kenji and Tieko Osaki were not liable for the damage caused by an untended pot on a stove. The landlord's insurer had pursued them for damages.

Smith said the proposed law changes meant tenants would be liable for the cost of their landlord’s insurance excess up to a maximum of four weeks’ rent for each incident of damage caused by carelessness.

He said the bill also strengthened the law for landlords who rented out converted garages, warehouses and industrial buildings, given the current law only applied to residential buildings, meaning these other types were not covered by the Act.

4. More worry for Kiwis in Australia

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva has taken a look at the latest concerns for Kiwis living in Australia around whether they face a capital gains tax for non residents.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee was questioned on the issue before Parliamentary question time yesterday. He said the Government was talking to Australian officials about the intent of the CGT, but it was too early to say that Kiwis would be affected.

See more detail in Sam's story on Newsroom Pro here.

5. Alfred Ngaro's apologies

Alfred Ngaro appeared yesterday before the Press Gallery for the first time since his explosive comments threatening community groups were reported by Newsroom's Tim Murphy the weekend before last.

Ngaro apologised repeatedly and said he had let down the Government, but said he had not thought of resigning.

"I own my words and I take responsibility for them and I apologise," he told reporters in Parliament.

"The greatest disappointment that I have is the fact is that my comments let down the team, let down the caucus and they've let down the Cabinet as well," he said.

Ngaro faces an awkward appearance on June 7 at the Community Housing Aotearoa conference in Wellington, where he is is scheduled to give a ministerial address to the people he threatened.

6. While you were sleeping

Aside from the Manchester bombing, which was well covered elsewhere, the main news on financial markets is the continued weakness of the US dollar as doubts grow about the Trump Presidency's ability to enact tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

That saw the New Zealand dollar rise over 70 USc yesterday and stay there overnight.

7. Coming up...

The Budget will be the main focus in Parliament over the next day or two, with the Government's last major policy set-piece scheduled to be released at 2 pm on Thursday. Newsroom will be in the Budget lock-up and publish reports on Newsroom Pro and via email as soon as the embargo is lifted.

8. One sobering thing

Usually we have a 'one fun thing' slot at number 8, but today's not the day for that after yesterday's events in Manchester.

Instead, here's a look via the Washington Post at the different notes Barack Obama and Donald Trump left at Israel's Holocaust memorial to get a sense of the different nature of their presidencies.