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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: When the Minister of Housing and Urban Development said earlier this year that no one should be sleeping in a car this winter, does she stand by her response, “Absolutely, no one.”; if so, why has the Government not delivered on that?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, this Government absolutely stands by that statement. No one in New Zealand should be sleeping in a car, which is why we have come in with an ambitious plan around both addressing the issues of supply—making sure that there is emergency housing, increasing public housing supply by over 6,000 places. We have also told people “If you are in need, our door is open.”, and we acknowledge that as soon as we said that we knew the numbers would go up. We said they would go up, and they have.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that in fact the cost of living is hurting New Zealand families when the median rents across New Zealand have increased $30 a week in the past year, petrol taxes are costing some New Zealand families an extra $15 a litre—

SPEAKER: That’s two questions.

Hon Simon Bridges: —every time they fill their car, and, to make things worse, electricity prices are starting to rise as well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do want to bring a few numbers into this debate. Look, no one is denying that we have a supply issue with housing in New Zealand. That’s why we’ve acknowledged there is a housing crisis and it’s why we are building more houses. It is going to take us a bit of time to turn this ship around. Nine years is a long time for there to be both inaction and the sale of State houses, but we’re getting on with the job. I do also want to point out, though, the latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show the average household income in the year to June 2018 was up 5 percent from the previous year, compared to an average rise under National of 3.3 percent.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she seen reports from Auckland City Mission of a 27 percent increase in demand for food parcels this Christmas; if so, what is her response to Chris Farrelly, the head of the city mission, who says that high rental costs were to blame for growing food insecurity?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ll be visiting Chris before Christmas. It’s something I frequently try and continue—to make contact with the city mission. It’s why this Government has contributed in the order of $16 million to try and support the building of a project which will help ease the strain on those in housing crisis. I would imagine, though, that those who work in the housing sector will agree that as a Government we have come in with an ambitious plan that includes building more houses. That is the only way we are going to deal with what ultimately is the lack of supply that we were left with by that last Government.

Hon Simon Bridges: What’s her explanation to the Christchurch City Mission, who’ve experienced a 43 percent increase in demand for food parcels this Christmas compared to last Christmas?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, and as I acknowledged in the answer to the last member’s question, since July, of course, we’ve put significant changes into our tax transfer system. I can only imagine how dire it would have been if we had National in office giving tax cuts and not putting $75 a week into the pockets of those who need it the most.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that increasing taxes on residential property investors is increasing rents for low-income households—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Sorry, I apologise. There’s some commotion happening at the back of the House, and it’s to stop.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that increasing taxes on residential property investors is increasing rents for low-income households and making things worse in terms of rent costs all around New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: How can she say, as she did earlier, that the Families Package will help when it has been in effect since July and yet, compared to last year, demand for food parcels has increased 27 percent in Auckland, 43 percent in Christchurch, and 54,000 more people are receiving hardship grants across New Zealand this year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m saying it will make a difference because $75 a week on average, once it’s fully rolled out, is a significant change—the biggest change in over a decade. Add to that the winter energy payment. These are huge changes that were made to our benefit system and far more than the last Government ever proposed or ever did.

MIL OSI