David Williams: We’ve hoped for too long, now it’s time to act


OPINION: Governments big and small sometimes have to do what’s right, whatever the cost.

Look at Health Minister Jonathan Coleman last week, announcing a $2 billion pay equity settlement.

Care worker Kristine Bartlett’s union, E tu, brought the claim against her employer, TerraNova.

Now 55,000 workers – most of them women – will get a pay increase by between 15 and 50 per cent.

In a sign of the upside-down state of politics, Coleman, a National Party bigwig, shook Bartlett’s hand and thanked the unions for being “constructive and positive” in negotiations.

Would he have done that if the Supreme Court hadn’t tossed out TerraNova’s bid for an appeal? Probably not.

But what he announced on Tuesday was right and fair and overdue.

Just like Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

And the 2015 benefit rises to try and tackle child poverty.

Some policy changes in Queenstown are long overdue, too.

For years, the local council and business bigwigs have pinned their hopes on a bed tax to help keep the town running.

But with Tourism Minister Paula Bennett basically ruling that out it’s time for the council to get on with it.

If the rise in rents and house prices continues, this town will become staffed mainly by itinerant singles sharing rooms in houses converted into 22-room pod hostels.

If the government won’t step in the council has to.

It was a great idea to make parts of Gorge Road a special housing area to encourage developers to create affordable housing.

But so far that’s drawn a blank.

Roy Thompson’s $30 million worker digs plan for the old Carters site was scrapped.

And we understand another developer has run the numbers and decided not to pursue it.

The council seems to be the last man standing.

Good on mayor Jim Boult for convening an affordable housing taskforce.

But whatever the group’s initial timeline, it needs to be halved.

And any solution can’t send house prices spiralling, bankrupting over-mortgaged owners.

Barring a surprise Budget announcement next month the council must step in.

The need for affordable housing in Queenstown is so urgent that something has to be done now.