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Tommy Taylor Courts housing complex opening

Hon Sandra Lee
4 August 2001 Speech Notes

Local Govt Minister's speech to open the Tommy Taylor Courts housing complex in Christchurch


(Please check against delivery)

Mayor Garry Moore, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to open the Tommy Taylor Courts housing complex today.

When I accepted the invitation to come, I wasn't aware that Tommy Taylor featured in Jim Anderton's book on New Zealand's "Unsung Heroes", as the local MP nearly a hundred years ago for what is now known as the electorate of Sydenham.

I have since discovered that even though Tommy Taylor's views were described by Wellington's Evening Post in 1897 as those of "an extreme socialist", he was also praised as "a most earnest and progressive democrat who (had) the courage of his opinions¡K"

Unusually among the politicians of his day, he was prepared to pursue matters because he thought that was the right thing to do, not because of expediency.

Regrettably Tommy Taylor died in 1911 after serving only three months as Mayor of Christchurch. But during that time he had already set in train schemes for the removal and replacement of slum housing. He was so well respected that 50,000 people lined the city streets for his funeral.

That is a part of the tradition that lies behind this housing complex. Another part of the same tradition was set by Christchurch city itself when it became the first local authority in New Zealand to provide community housing for its citizens.

Additions to the council's community housing stock by successive councils have ensured that Christchurch can now claim to be the second biggest landlord in New Zealand for low and fixed income tenants. Only the Government has more rental houses than the 2600 held by the council. (Wellington City comes close with 2300). The Christchurch city council's well-established Building Fund ensures that new complexes such as this one are not a charge on the ratepayers.

Tommy Taylor Courts is a worthy legacy of the council's investments in community housing. I am advised that it offers a good standard of accommodation at affordable rents. Almost every city or district provides some rental housing, with most offering accommodation for senior citizens. However Christchurch city prides itself in offering a wider range of rental housing than most councils, and Tommy Taylor Courts is no exception.

This $2.95m complex of 25-units already houses a variety of age groups and ethnicities, ranging from Samoan to Afghani, young and old, and there are two units specially configured for disabled tenants. Such a mixed group living together as a small community in one place is a reflection of New Zealand's own increasingly diverse population in the cities of the 21st century. I applaud the Christchurch city council, both for providing this facility to serve its community, and for understanding the needs of that community so well.

The establishment of this housing complex is very much in keeping with the approach that the government is proposing in our new Local Government legislation:
„h community focussed;
„h innovative;
„h empowering.

A review of the old Local Government Act is well under way, and a public consultation document has been widely distributed throughout the country. (Submissions on this document close on 30 August, so please ensure you make a submission if you have a view on what is being proposed).

The provision of community housing is one of the areas that should benefit from the broader empowerment of local government proposed for the new legislation.

Rather than councils having to trawl through an outdated and often confusing statute to determine the rules for providing a service like community housing, they will be able instead to put their time and energy into ensuring they are meeting community needs in the best ways available.

I confidently expect that the general empowerment of local authorities, along with an emphasis on determining the precise wishes of the communities they serve, will mean councils will have a much greater scope for innovative approaches to local housing. They will be far more likely to actually deliver what their communities want.

I think that you will agree that this housing complex is a good example of a council working to meet its community's needs.

I congratulate the Christchurch city council for having the foresight to provide this fine new facility. And I have much pleasure in declaring open the Tommy Taylor Courts.


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