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Housing New Zealand Corporation—Confidence

Tuesday 27 May 2008 Hansard source (external site)

Heatley12. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) Link to this
to the Minister of Housing

Does she have confidence in Housing New Zealand Corporation; if so, why?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) Link to this

Yes; because I support the hard work that the corporation does to house some of our most vulnerable families.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

Does the Minister agree with Steve Maharey, who said: “Government agencies have no business holding conferences in luxury resorts.” and “Social agencies should be helping the disadvantaged rather than spending money on exclusive conferences.”; if so, why did 94 corporation staff spend 2 days this month at the luxury Tongariro Lodge under her watch?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

I absolutely agree that a State housing agency should be looking after State tenants. The purpose of the conference was to improve the service to those tenants.

MahareyHon Steve Maharey Link to this

What are the Labour-led Government and Housing New Zealand Corporation doing to help to house some of New Zealand’s most needy families, away from Tongariro?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

This Government has done a number of things, including reintroducing income-related rents, and, through Housing New Zealand Corporation, housing some 200,000 vulnerable people.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

How does it, as she just said, improve the lot for the 10,000 families on the waiting list and State house tenants who are living in squalor to do these things at the luxury conference: “promoting consistent delivery strategies”, “critically reviewing processes”, and “enhancing capability and delivery mechanisms”; how will it help those poor people?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

The cost for this conference was some $250-odd a night for accommodation, food, and venue hire. That was not a luxury price. The other important thing is that if the member had got his facts right, he would see that these people—94 of them—came from across the country to that place to talk about the corporation’s strategic vision, its goals, and how it might improve service delivery. If that is the upshot of this conference, done at cheap rates, then I am all for it.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

It is impossible to hear the questions or the answers at the moment.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

What on earth are Housing New Zealand Corporation staff doing following the example set by the National Party caucus, which has its retreats not in Wellington, where its members have offices that are paid for by the taxpayer, but in Queenstown, Picton, Rotorua, and Taupō, all at luxury hotels?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

They are not following that example. This conference cost $65,000. If the National Party is going after $65,000 from managers in Housing New Zealand Corporation, then, firstly, whose tax cut will that fund? Secondly, how many State houses are members opposite expecting to sell in order to fund whatever their tax cut promises might be?

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

What does she think the thousands of desperate families on the waiting list, or those who live in squalid boarding houses, think about 94 of the corporation’s staff spending 2 days at the luxury Tongariro Lodge?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

These are the people whom we are expecting over the next 5 years to insulate and retrofit 21,000 remaining State houses. If this process allows them to do that better, then I am all for it. They have to do these things because we require them to retrofit housing in order to ramp up our service to our State housing tenants.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

Does that complaint come from the same party that allowed Christine “I now care for kids” Rankin to hold a conference for the Department of Work and Income at Wairākei, costing over $250,000; or have the National members all been struck down with amnesia?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

I absolutely concur with the point the member is making. Further to that, I say $65,000 for a conference might, I think, on the back of an envelope, equate to a 1.5c tax cut, but I am not sure. So if that is what the National members want, then I reiterate: how many nurses, doctors, and teachers will they cut, and how many State houses will they sell to fund a tax cut promise that we have not heard about yet?

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

Whatever happened to Helen Clark’s pledge that “Labour will be a very careful custodian of taxpayers’ money—no more squandering public money on luxury resorts.”, and how many, if any, alternative quotes did the corporation get from less exclusive venues?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

I am advised that the costs for this conference were at a very competitive rate, that the corporation struck a competitive rate with that organisation for comprehensive coverage—

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

It is impossible to hear the Minister’s answer. You have had your fun. You ask yourselves for other members to be quiet by saying “Shh” when your member asks the question. You should have the courtesy to let the rest of us hear the answer.

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

Further to my answer, I would say that the National Party cannot talk about conferences. It did send its housing spokesperson, Phil Heatley, to a private sector housing conference just recently, which I refused to go to because of the cost. The conference featured Don Brash, but that does not matter. The cost to each attendee was $1,495 for the day.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

I wish to make a personal statement.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought. Is there any objection?

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

Can he indicate what it is about?

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Can the member indicate what it is about?

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

It is about the fact that I think I was a guest speaker there.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Does the member still wish to make his statement?

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

No, I think the House gets the point.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Are there any further supplementary questions? Phil Heatley—

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We heard the member seek clarity as to why Mr Heatley wanted to make a personal statement. He has said he was actually a speaker at this conference. We would like to know the details of the sort of engagement that would require a person to be a speaker, yet pay $1,000—unless it is the case that he is totally useless.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I asked the member whether he wished to still continue with his statement. He said no, he did not. The matter rests there.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

What does she think that desperate families who are living in squalid conditions do in their free time—gourmet dining, trout fishing, or just “sitting in front of an open fire over a four-course evening meal, recounting the day’s activities”; and just how out of touch is this Government?

StreetHon MARYAN STREET Link to this

I presume the member is quoting from a website, because I have seen the conference programme and that question does not bear any relationship to it. So instead of misleading the public and listeners as to the content of the conference, that member would be better advised to say something about the 19 or so presentations that actually happened at that conference, to improve the services that we deliver to Housing New Zealand tenants.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

I seek leave to table question for written answer No. 4520 about corporation staff at luxury Tongariro Lodge.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

I seek leave to table a statement “Agencies have no business holding conferences in luxury resorts” made by Steve Maharey .

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

HeatleyPhil Heatley Link to this

I seek leave to table a statement “The party is over … for Government organisations” made by Helen Clark in l999.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

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