First the facts :
1. The Auckland housing market has gone crazy over the last few years making it all but impossible for first home buyers on average incomes to buy a house. The situation has become so bad that a piece by Peter Calder in yesterday’s NZ Herald was titled “House rage – we’re right to be angry“.
2. As a result of the neoliberal reforms of the 1980-ies and 90-ies New Zealand has one of the most open (to foreign investors) real estate markets among civilised countries. Our government unlike overseas jurisdictions has steadfastly refused to gather specific data on overseas investors in the overheated Auckland housing market. As a result anybody interested in property in Auckland is making up his own mind from observations at auctions and other anecdotal evidence of what the reasons for the price explosion are.
3. The Auckland housing crisis has become a major problem for the government. They are blaming everything and everybody else but themselves for the problem like their favourite for all things the Resource Management Act and of course the Auckland Council.
4. In this situation the recent quarterly sales figures for Auckland residential property were leaked from a major real estate firm. The names of the buyers were correlated with the electoral role and analysed by statisticians. The indisputable result points to one ethnic group buying four times as many houses compared to their representation in the population of Auckland even if the average income of that ethnic group of Auckland residents is well below the overall average.
So far so good. Everyone can draw his own conclusion as the Labour Party did and the NZ Herald running the story, which is that the discrepancy can only be explained by non-resident overseas members of that ethnic group buying residential property in Auckland as investment.
As I have so far not named the ethnic group nobody will call me racist (yet) for stating the above facts.
What am I going to do if I want to keep it that way ? Call the Chinese our tangata whenua, the ethnic group our own Maori people came from thousands of years ago according to DNA evidence. Winston Peters already years back defended himself this way against the accusations of racism when he pointed at the Chinese immigration, investment or in whatever context ?
It was interesting to watch the reaction from certain quarters against Labour alerting us to the above facts. Not surprisingly “Racism” was the battle cry.
Also a lot of little straw-men were built to be beaten down. The fact that you cannot individually be sure that a Chinese sounding surname means Chinese ethnicity, which my wife of pure anglo-saxon-norman heritage can attest too having a Chinese sounding maiden name. Or the fact that Chinese ethnicity does not distinguish between Chinese New Zealanders living here for generations or recent immigrants and residents and overseas Chinese investors. The published data clearly acknowledged that problem without changing its conclusions. So there was nothing really to criticise.
The Racism outcry is nothing but a red herring or as it is often called “the dead cat trick” by its Crosby-Textor practitioners when you pull out a dead cat and put it on the table and everybody forgets the serious subject they were discussing and all are talking about the dead cat.
The serious issues we should keep discussing, of which the Auckland housing market is only a part is the neoliberal dogma of globalisation with its effects on our sovereignty, our economy, our environment and even our education and health services. Look out for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) currently negotiated in secret ! We should be discussing if our local consumers really want to compete with the prices of the Tokyo fish market for tuna or snapper or with the price for milk and cheese our producers get overseas. Or if our first home buyers in Auckland should compete with mainland Chinese who are looking for a safe haven for their abundant cash some of it even being laundered according to Chinese government concerns.
We also have to look at the usual suspects crying foul in this case “racism” when the failings of this National Party government’s policies to even collect reliable data come under attack.
We have the real estate industry, which of course thrives on the skyrocketing house prices.
We have Chinese community leaders who must by now own the National Party if the donation figures are anything to go by.
And we have the plainly ridiculous like
“When asked about non-resident people from China buying houses her, Mr Li criticised New Zealanders’ spending habits.”Why do you spend $100 on beer while you can save it and spend it on your house one day?” Mr Li asked. According to the NZ Herald.
And we have the government and the National Party itself crying “Racism”. The same people who ran a recent election campaign like this :
Most disappointing is that some members of the “Liberal Intelligentsia” (Chris Trotter) have also fallen for the dead cat and chimed in. Bryce Edwards headlining his latest blog “Labour’s dangerous racial politics ” reporting that some old Labour Party members and staffers have resigned quoting one resignation letter :
“In light of Labour’s calculated decision over the weekend to deploy racial profiling as a political tactic, I resign my membership of the party. I am stunned that Labour, as a matter of conscious political strategy, would trawl through a dubiously acquired list of property buyers to identify Chinese sounding names”. He adds, “I cannot, however, belong to an organization that considers racial profiling fair sport”.
Of course nothing is further from the truth as all the data showed and Labour pointed out was the huge discrepancy between the number of Chinese New Zealanders and residents in Auckland and house purchases. This leaves the most obvious conclusion that these houses are bought by overseas based (Chinese) investors/speculators. This is much needed information the government and the real estate industry do not want us to have.
The emphasis is on overseas investors/speculators who could come from any country. Russian oligarchs laundering their money would get the same attention if we had the numbers to prove that they might be distorting the Auckland housing market.
Chris Trotter in his blog on the subject “Perilous Whites: Labour, China and the Liberal Intelligentsia” writes :
If racism is at work in this matter, then it is not in the Labour Party. No, the racism at work here is born of the towering arrogance and ignorance of the Liberal Intelligentsia itself.
All this does not mean that there is no racism in New Zealand directed against the Chinese and any other ethnic minority even our own. Comedian Raybon Kan who also wrote an excellent piece used to make jokes out of it “You are Chinese wearing glasses, you must be good at math.” However this deserves another blog.
To answer the question if there is racism in real estate I would say yes if I heard from one vendor who wouldn’t accept an extra $100,000.- over the value of his house because the buyer is Chinese. Please let us all know if you find one !