"Phil Heatley: 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?
Hon MARYAN STREET: 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.
Hon Steve Maharey: 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 Tongario?
Hon MARYAN STREET: 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.
Phil Heatley: 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 help those poor people?
Hon MARYAN STREET: 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."
$250 per night? "Cheap rates"? Well, I guess when you live in a Ministerial bubble, driven around in your new BMW, you lose your sense of perception. But wait, as they say on the Infomercials, there's more:
"Phil Heatley: 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?
Hon MARYAN STREET: 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—
Madam SPEAKER: 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.
Hon MARYAN STREET: 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.
Phil Heatley: I wish to make a personal statement.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can he indicate what it is about.
Madam SPEAKER: Can the member indicate what it is about.
Phil Heatley: It is about the fact that I was a guest speaker there.
Madam SPEAKER: Does the member still wish to make his statement?
Phil Heatley: No, I think the House gets the point."Oh dear! Even when Ms Street tries to score a point at Phil Heatley and National's expense, she scores an own goal. You'll have to do better than that Ms Street!