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Turia - (Damage Insurance) Amendment Bill

Residential Tenancies (Damage Insurance) Amendment Bill Tariana Turia; Spokesperson for Housing

Wednesday 3 May 2006; 8.35pm

What is said in the whare, or in this case what is said by the Members of Parliament, is heard by the Tahuhu, who hear everything that has been said and everything that has gone before us and those who are gathered here today.

Housing matters - whether as owners, as tenants, as insurance agents, as inhabitants - have always been of importance to Maori.

The current housing profile for Maori is unfortunately, not a very pretty picture.

Despite the fact that home ownership is a strong aspiration for Maori, such a desire is frequently not translated into reality.

Maori are about three times more likely to live in rental accommodation than New Zealand Europeans.

Currently 59.7% of Maori people are living in households paying rent, compared with 21.6% of non-Maori.

Factors such as higher levels of unemployment, lower personal incomes, strong urbanisation and concentration in high-cost housing markets like Auckland have all contributed to the disparities evident between Maori and non-Maori in the housing market. Other factors such as institutional racism may account for differences in housing allocation. In looking at this Bill, we must be guided by the high rental environment that tangata whenua inhabit. We will be supporting this Bill going to select committee in order to enable the large number of Maori who are renting, boarding and flatting as tenants, to be able to have a say. The Maori Party seeks every opportunity for people to participate and for the voices to be heard. We are, however, also mindful of the numbers of Maori who are involved in the housing sector as landlords, as investors, as owners.

And we are aware of key housing networks, such as the Tai Tonga Housing forum being led by Rikihia Tau, who would have considerable experience to contribute to this debate about the universal goal of achieving quality, affordable housing, with safe and secure homes.

These people must have a say as well as the tenants.

We understand the purpose of this Act being to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to protect tenants against personal liability for major damage caused to premises that they played no part in causing.

The fundamental question, however, must be, why should we automatically assume that landlords should therefore be liable for damage caused to premises that they also played no part in causing.

The Maori Party is keen to encourage further discussion on the concept of collective responsibility and ownership and by this we mean, the capacity to care for one another.

Putting it simply, who is more likely to know about the damage caused to premises - the landlord who may not even live in the same town - or the tenant in the next room?

We must restore the sense of responsibility as individuals and collectives - a whanau, or a group of tenants in a single property who all sit around the same television at night, who contribute to the same food kitty, and who collectively pay the rent.

Why could not these same people also pay to protect themselves?

That is the question.

Although we appreciate that nothing in the Bill will prevent landlords from passing on the cost of additional premiums to tenants as part of the rent, could we not see this as an educational process for tenants, particularly our young people, about the value of insurance and taking responsibility for one's property and other people's property?

The final issue that we seek further ideas on from the select committee stage is the matter of the low insurance coverage for Maori in the housing sector. If there is any doubt of this, one only needs to look at the nature of the crisis response required after the freak damage created by the floods, earthquakes and storms of the last few years.

For example, in my electorate, in the Rangitikei / Manawatu floods, the East Coast floods, and the destruction that ravaged through the Bay of Plenty.

Indeed, in one report in 2004 in Whakatane, an incredible 111 of the 141 homes that were deemed uninhabitable did not have contents insurance.

Those are but some of the issues that we hope will be raised in the ongoing debate around this Bill.

The provision of quality, affordable housing, particularly for low-income families is a significant priority focus for the Maori Party.

If this Bill can do anything for these families - particularly the 63,000 Maori families who have been cut out of the Working for Families package, then we will be eager to hear about it.

We will support this Bill going to Select Committee to ensure that Maori views are able to be heard and we look forward to that process.

ENDS

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