Part 3: Monitoring and overseeing the housing and urban development system

Leading New Zealand’s approach to housing and urban development.

In this Part, we discuss:

We carried out this audit when the Ministry's leadership of the system was changing from setting the strategic objectives to delivering on them. This shift is challenging because although the Ministry has a mandate to lead the system, it cannot tell other groups and organisations involved in housing and urban development what to do. The Ministry must use its influence to achieve change in the system.

We wanted to understand whether the Ministry had effective oversight of the system, including whether it had arrangements in place to influence system performance. We expected the Ministry to:

  • understand and monitor the system's current and projected performance, using relevant and reliable information;
  • publicly report on the system's performance and identify any need for improvements;
  • identify and manage system-wide risks; and
  • have effective governance arrangements to oversee the system.

Summary of findings

During our audit, the Ministry published the first iteration of a monitoring framework that would help it to assess progress against the outcomes of the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora. The Ministry was also working with other organisations to set milestones for tracking progress against the Government Policy Statement's implementation plan. The Ministry is making further improvements to its understanding of the performance of the system, including by building a data model to understand future housing needs.

The Ministry is also maturing its approach to risk management by improving its strategic risk register and setting up an enterprise risk management and assurance framework. We encourage the Ministry to continue to build on the improvements it has already made to monitoring information and managing risk. This work is important to better inform decision-making by governors, and to support transparency and accountability to stakeholders.

It is important for the Ministry to use its detailed knowledge about the system to improve its reporting to the main system-wide governance group (the Chief Executives' Housing Group). To provide collective oversight in achieving the Government Policy Statement, chief executives in the Chief Executives' Housing Group and the organisations they are responsible for will need to provide deliberate focus and engagement.

The Ministry is increasing its system monitoring capability

Sharing good information about the system is critical to planning, measuring progress, and monitoring outcomes. Making that information publicly available also contributes to transparency and accountability.

Monitoring and reporting progress against the strategic aims of the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora

During our audit, the Ministry prepared and published the first iteration of the monitoring framework it will use to measure progress towards outcomes in the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora. The Ministry states that the indicators in this framework:

  • have a strong connection to the outcomes of the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora;
  • measure change in the whole system, rather than specific policies or programmes; and
  • measure change at a national level, with information for population, geographic, and tenure groups,11 where appropriate.

We support this system-wide monitoring approach. As the public sector increasingly works in a more unified and collaborative way to manage long-term issues and outcomes, there might be value in more sector-based or outcomes-based monitoring and reporting.12

However, certain aspects of the Ministry's current framework are incomplete.

Figure 7 shows an example of the monitoring framework under the Government Policy Statement outcome of "Wellbeing through housing".

Figure 7
Indicators under the Government Policy Statement outcome of "Wellbeing through housing"

Objective Indicator Desired direction
Everyone lives in a home, whether rented or owned, that is stable and affordable Reporting the number of people estimated to be experiencing Severe Housing Deprivation illustrates the number of people who are experiencing homelessness. This estimate helps the Ministry understand the extent to which homelessness is becoming rare, brief, and non-recurring. Decrease
Tracking the percentage of people living in an owner-occupied dwelling provides information on whether housing affordability is improving for those who are able to own their home. This indicator helps the Ministry understand whether the housing market is providing a more diverse range of stable and affordable housing. Increase
Comparing changes in rental prices with changes in median household disposable income helps the Ministry understand the affordability of rental properties throughout the country. This indicator helps the Ministry understand whether the housing market is providing a more diverse range of stable and affordable housing. Increase
Reporting the percentage of households paying 30% or more of household income on housing costs provides information on the affordability of housing, for a range of tenures. This indicator illustrates whether people have enough income, after direct and indirect living costs, to meet their needs. Decrease
The quality, accessibility, size and features of our homes support people and families to live healthy successful lives Reporting the percentage of people who report living in a warm, dry home which does not require repairs shows how residents perceive the quality of their housing. This indicator helps the Ministry understand the extent to which people are living in houses that are safe, warm, and dry. Increase
Reporting the percentage of people living in a severely crowded home illustrates the number of people who are living in homes that need two or more extra bedrooms. This indicator highlights whether houses are meeting the needs of New Zealand's changing and diverse populations. Decrease

Source: Based on information from He Oranga Kāinga, He Oranga Hapori – Housing and Urban Development Indicators, at

The Ministry intends to make changes to the monitoring framework over time as priorities change and better information becomes available. For example, the Ministry is currently preparing indicators for the priority area of Māori housing sustainability. We encourage the Ministry to prioritise this work so that all elements of the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora are covered.

For most indicators, the Ministry focused on a desirable trend instead of setting a specific target. For example, one of the indicators in the Government Policy Statement to understand progress in achieving the outcome of an "adaptive and responsive system" is "increasing the proportion of building consents granted for higher-density housing in urban areas".

Although trend information can show change over time, it is not clear what the "right proportion of building consents" would be to prove that urban change is responding to housing needs and climate change. We encourage the Ministry to consider using clearer targets linked to impacts to provide more focus for the system.

The Ministry intends to publicly report on progress against outcome indicators for the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora in October each year. The Ministry expects to publish the first annual system update in late 2023. The update will include progress made against outcomes and the implementation plans for the Government Policy Statement and MAIHI Ka Ora. The annual system update will be provided to relevant Ministers, and the MAIHI Whare Wānanga will review progress against the MAIHI Ka Ora indicators and implementation plan at its annual hui.

Monitoring the implementation plans

During our audit, the Ministry was working with organisations responsible for actions in the Government Policy Statement's implementation plan to create milestones that could be used to track progress.

High-quality reporting will support the Ministry to influence the changes needed in the system. More detailed monitoring of the implementation plans will help the Ministry identify where it needs to work with individual agencies or responsible governance groups to overcome obstacles and mitigate risks to achieving the outcomes in the Government Policy Statement. In our view, this reporting needs to happen as soon as possible.

The Ministry is looking to improve data capability

Since 2018, the Ministry has been improving data and information about how the system is working. For example, to provide good contextual information, the Ministry prepared a report on the housing market that brings together commentary and data on aspects of the market, such as the property market, the rental market, and residential construction.

The Ministry is making this information more accessible to stakeholders and the public. For example, the Ministry is responsible for an urban development dashboard that provides insights on local markets. This dashboard provides market indicators (such as dwelling sales prices) and price efficiency indicators (such as the extent to which construction costs or land costs contribute to house prices). The Ministry has made the dashboard publicly available. Councils are required to monitor and use the dashboard when implementing the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020.

The Ministry reports other information and data publicly, such as in the Public Housing Quarterly Report and its interactive housing dashboard, which is on its website. The interactive housing dashboard includes data about the Housing Register13 and progress in adding new public housing by Kāinga Ora and Community Housing Providers.

The Ministry also commissioned or carried out data analysis to inform its work (such as its work on homelessness or work to identify specific regions or communities where it should roll out its place-based approach).

Councils and government agencies told us they welcomed the information and data the Ministry makes available. One person told us they appreciated how the Ministry was building data sets that were previously unavailable to their organisation. Another person told us they used information from the Ministry's housing dashboard to inform their agency's housing strategy. However, most people we spoke to, including senior Ministry staff, thought the Ministry could do more to collate, integrate, and share data throughout the system.

The Ministry recognises that it needs to continue improving its collection and collation of data. For example, there are some gaps in the available data for housing outcomes for Māori and people who receive social services and housing assistance.

During our audit, the Ministry was considering:

  • a model that would help the Ministry get a more detailed picture of future housing need versus supply for specific groups of people;
  • how it could build its data capability and capacity, including by refocusing the Ministry's Impact and Evaluation Team to assess system outcomes and impact;
  • what further reports and analysis were needed to inform decision-making (for example, the recently published "Homelessness Outlook") to provide more information about the impact of those programmes; and
  • making more of its data and evidence publicly available.

These are all steps in the right direction.

The Ministry's approach to managing risk is maturing

Identifying, understanding, and managing risk is fundamental to the Ministry's system leadership role. When a risk is not managed effectively, projects and interventions can fail to meet their objectives and undermine their intended impact. Understanding system-wide risks also supports effective decision-making and enables the Ministry to work with others to reduce the likelihood of the risks eventuating.

The Ministry's strategic risk register helps it to focus on risks to long-term objectives and outcomes. The risk register includes descriptions of each strategic risk, what could trigger it, the preferred mitigation, and risk ratings based on likelihood and impact. The Ministry's senior leadership team reviews the strategic risk register quarterly and uses it to monitor trends and identify emerging opportunities and priorities.

During our audit, the Ministry set up an improved enterprise risk management and assurance framework and shifted the strategic risk function to the Office of the Chief Executive. These are positive developments. However, more time will be needed to embed and mature the Ministry's risk management and assurance systems so that the Ministry can manage its own risks and system-wide risks.

The Ministry receives independent advice from its Strategic Advisory Committee. This Committee consists of members external to the Ministry. It advises, supports, and challenges the chief executive and the senior leadership team on matters about the system, including a particular focus on investment and delivery risks.

In our view, the Ministry could usefully consider how it can best involve other organisations in identifying and managing strategic risks to the system. This would help the Ministry get a more complete understanding of those risks, whether those risks are increasing or decreasing, and help it influence other organisations to mitigate those risks. It would also help create a culture of shared ownership for managing strategic risks.

The Ministry could also ensure that the Chief Executives' Housing Group is responsible for risks to the system, to encourage collective oversight. The Ministry could, for example, have a standing agenda item to have a detailed discussion on individual risks, which would, in turn, encourage joint responsibility for mitigation or management actions. We discuss the effectiveness of the Ministry's governance arrangements in paragraphs 3.34 to 3.59.

Our recent work on audit and risk committees highlights the importance of discussion and personal experience in managing risks. It concentrates on improving the ability to influence others. We said:

Although there is immense capability in the public service, issues will arise that have no obvious answers or require experience and skills outside what is already available in the government department. The Committee offers a confidential forum to speak openly, test ideas, receive direct feedback, and to have free and frank conversations on issues and risks the department is facing.14

We encourage the Ministry to continue developing its approach to system-wide risk management with this guidance in mind.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development continue to improve its understanding of the housing and urban development system's current and projected performance, and regularly report on it to the public and those responsible for influencing housing and urban development outcomes.

System leadership relies on effective system governance

Because the Ministry does not have direct responsibility for most parts of the system, it needs to influence others to make changes. We wanted to know whether the Ministry has appropriate governance arrangements to influence strategic action throughout the system.

Because the system involves multiple groups, organisations, and work programmes, governance is required at several different levels. We were not looking for "one" system. Instead, we focused on whether the types of arrangements felt broadly appropriate and whether there was effective system-level governance supported by a good flow of information about the way the system was functioning.

There is system-level governance, and there are arrangements to oversee the implementation of MAIHI Ka Ora and individual work programmes and support the 10 place-based partnerships (see Figure 8). The Ministry set up, or has been involved in setting up, some of these arrangements, such as the Chief Executives' Housing Group. It is also involved in governance arrangements for housing and urban development that other agencies, such as the Social Wellbeing Board, are responsible for. Most of these arrangements were set up before the Ministry had developed, with others, the strategic framework for the system.

Figure 8
How the housing and urban development system is governed

Figure 8: How the housing and urban development system is governed.

Source: Based on information from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

We discuss these different governance arrangements below.

Sub-system governance is generally seen as effective

The Ministry is involved in several governance arrangements that focus on either a particular sub-system or a particular location. These are:

  • bespoke governance arrangements for the Māori housing programme;
  • place-based governance arrangements; and
  • other governance arrangements.

Recognising the need for a strong and enduring partnership between Māori and the Crown, the Ministry and Te Puni Kōkiri set up bespoke governance arrangements for the work to improve housing outcomes for Māori. This includes setting up:

  • a forum called MAIHI Whare Wānanga, which intends to improve collaboration and partnership between whānau, hapū and iwi, and the Crown to address Māori housing inequities. The forum is considered the main oversight and steering mechanism for MAIHI Ka Ora. It first met in December 2020 and now meets annually; and
  • joint governance arrangements for activities related to the Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga investment programme, which include representatives from the National Iwi Chairs' Forum, the Ministry, and Te Puni Kōkiri.

Place-based governance arrangements have been set up in 10 priority locations (see paragraph 2.42). These governance groups agree on actions to address specific housing challenges and monitor progress. For example, the Wellington Regional Leadership Committee, which involves seven local authorities in Wellington-Wairarapa-Horowhenua and several iwi, has developed a Wellington Regional Growth Framework that looks at issues such as access to, and affordability of, housing.

These place-based governance groups are at various levels of maturity – some are still working to agree roles and responsibilities and others are delivering agreed work programmes.

There are also bespoke governance arrangements for some sub-systems of the system. This includes work programmes led by the Ministry, such as the Aotearoa/New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan (2020-2023), and work programmes that involve or affect housing and urban development (such as the Ministry for the Environment-led Resource Management Act reforms) that are led by other agencies.

Many of these individual arrangements are generally seen as effective by people we spoke to. For example, we were consistently told that the governance arrangements for the Aotearoa/New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan (2020-2023) were effective at examining initiatives and facilitating information sharing and discussion. We also heard positive feedback about the place-based governance arrangements and the Ministry's involvement in the Spatial Planning Board leading the Resource Management Act reforms.

Some staff from the Ministry and other government agencies told us that although there was effective sub-system governance for work programmes (such as for homelessness), there were no effective mechanisms to bring together emerging themes and issues from these governance groups to give the Ministry a system-wide view. We were told that there was no fully functioning system for reporting the risks of particular projects or sharing what had been learned.

System-level governance is in transition

The Ministry set up system-level governance that seeks all-of-government alignment towards achieving outcomes through the Chief Executives' Housing Group. Now that the system has a strategic framework, the Ministry is supporting a change in the Chief Executives' Housing Group's focus to improve collective oversight for leading and driving cross-system action towards achieving the outcomes in the Government Policy Statement.

The Chief Executives' Housing Group was set up in 2019. In 2021, the Ministry refined the group's terms of reference, intending for a smaller group of chief executives of nine central government agencies to oversee the work programme, and a wider group, which includes a further 10 central government agencies, to be kept informed and have input when required.15

During the last 12 months, only the wider group has met about every six months.

We heard mixed views about the value of the Chief Executives' Housing Group, including that it was a useful forum that helped align the work of the different agencies, that it provided useful information that could inform the different work programmes, and that the Ministry could do more to use the Group to influence the system.

The Ministry is working to change the Chief Executives' Housing Group into a more deliberate and focused decision-making body, with active collective oversight of the work programme to achieve the Government Policy Statement's outcomes.

In our view, two elements are required to make this change. The first is quality engagement from the chief executives of government agencies participating in the Chief Executives' Housing Group (for example, ensuring that there is a clear focus on what is best for the overall system, recognising and using the levers they each have, and being prepared to commit the resources of their organisations to any decisions made).

The second is having good performance information and monitoring and reporting to inform decision-making. In our view, the Ministry needs to consider improvements to the reporting it provides to the Chief Executives' Housing Group.

Currently, the Chief Executives' Housing Group receives an update on the progress of the Government Policy Statement's implementation plan. This update does not include:

  • risks to implementation or system-wide risks;
  • clear milestones for individual actions and whether they are on track;
  • progress against the indicators identified in the new monitoring framework; or
  • impacts or outcomes being achieved.

The Ministry is improving the information it has about the system and its capacity to monitor the system. It is also involved in a wide range of governance arrangements throughout the system. This means it should be well placed to provide better reporting to the Chief Executives' Housing Group.

In our view, reporting to the Chief Executives' Housing Group should include, at a minimum, information about:

  • progress toward specific milestones for key actions throughout the system;
  • the main risks to implementation;
  • system-wide risks; and
  • proposals to mitigate or manage risks.

For example, this reporting could include issues facing the individual programmes and place-based partnerships that might affect whether the Government Policy Statement's objectives are achieved.

The Ministry could also consider more frequent reporting against key performance indicators, impacts, and outcomes.

The Ministry told us that it intends to revise the terms of reference and membership of the Group in the next few months.

In our view, the system is in transition but moving in the right direction. Most of the current governance arrangements were there to respond to specific initiatives or need before a strategic framework had been set up.

During our audit, the Ministry told us that it intends to map the different governance groups throughout the system to ensure that each group has a specific purpose and to minimise any gaps or overlaps in remit. We support this.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development strengthen system governance by:
  • ensuring that the Chief Executives' Housing Group members agree on how they will provide collective oversight for achieving the Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development; and
  • providing better reporting to support decision-making, including on current and expected housing and urban development outcomes, delivery milestones, and delivery and strategic risks.

11: Tenure groups are used to organise data by how long people have lived at a specific address.

12: Controller and Auditor-General (2021), The problems, progress, and potential of performance reporting, Office of the Auditor-General, paragraph 4.55, at

13: The Housing Register includes people not currently in public housing who have been assessed as eligible by the Ministry of Social Development and who are ready to be matched to a suitable property.

14: See Getting the most out of your department's Audit and Risk Committee, at

15: The core group consists of the Chief Executives of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (Chair), Ministry of Social Development, Kāinga Ora, Ministry for the Environment, Department of Internal Affairs, and Te Puni Kōkiri. The core group also includes the Chief Executives or representatives from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury, and Te Kawa Mataaho. In addition to the core group, the wider group includes Te Arawhiti, the Inland Revenue Department, the Ministry of Transport, Land Information New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Oranga Tamariki, the Police, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, and the Department of Corrections.