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Suspend state house sales so quake victims can be housed

Phil Goff
Leader of the Labour Party

3 March 2011 Media Statement
Labour calls for the suspension of state house sales so quake victims can be housed

Senior Labour MPs have today met to discuss the impact of the Canterbury earthquake and the effort needed to rebuild the devastated region, says Labour Leader Phil Goff.

"The loss of life, devastation and disruption of the Christchurch earthquake is a huge tragedy for Canterbury and New Zealand,” Phil Goff said.

"Our first priority is to recover the remains of those who lost their lives and to support the grieving process their family and friends are going through.

"For the living, the restoration of basic services like power, water and sewerage is a key priority. But we will soon also need to confront the challenge of the rebuild of Canterbury and the recovery of its economy.

"This is a time for strong communities, strong public services and a united effort by all New Zealanders.

"On the ground, people in Canterbury are telling us they want a well-thought out response that is flexible and lasting.

"Labour is working on a number of ideas to deal with both short-term and long-term issues.

"One of those issues is adequate housing for quake victims. People are living in tents and garages or doubling up with other families. They desperately need proper accommodation,” Phil Goff said.

"Labour is calling for the suspension of the sale of state houses to help house the tens of thousands of Cantabrians who have been forced from their homes and their city by the quake.

"We need as many homes as possible for these people and this is one simple way the Government can help. Rather than being sold, any state house surplus to requirement across the country should be used to provide accommodation for quake victims," said Phil Goff.

"Meeting the cost of the earthquake is a major challenge and some tough choices will need to be made. Priority for investment in infrastructure must be given to rebuilding Canterbury. That means investment in projects like the holiday highway north of Auckland, the Kapiti Expressway and Transmission Gully will have to take second place.

"Quickly rebuilding the business infrastructure within Canterbury must also be a priority so that businesses can be kept viable and jobs retained.

"But the earthquake in Christchurch should not be responded to with slash and burn policies. The Government has acknowledged that New Zealand has relatively low government debt and that we are in a good position to meet the costs of rebuilding Canterbury.

"Part of that will be met by the Earthquake Commission, much by private insurance and re-insurance. The cost of rebuilding Canterbury over the next decade will not be met by one year's taxation but over a long period.

"Before the earthquake, Finance Minister Bill English indicated that he was already looking at cutting Working for Families and interest-free student loans. The tragedy in Christchurch must not be used as a pretext for implementing unpopular policies arising from an ideological agenda.

"If all New Zealanders are to come together to support Canterbury, the Government must be open and honest with the country.

"While we will all share in the cost of restoring the devastated region, it is important that a heavier burden is not placed on those already struggling to make ends meet. Cutting back programmes like Working for Families will only further cut peoples' ability to spend and further delay the economic recovery,” Phil Goff said


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