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Housing NZ helping National to manage ‘public perception’

Moana Mackey
Housing spokesperson

3 August 2011

Housing NZ helping National to manage ‘public perception’

Housing Minister Phil Heatley needs to hold his own department to the same standards of accountability and compliance with the law that he is expecting from state house tenants says Labour Housing spokesperson Moana Mackey.

"Documents released under the Official Information Act included a letter drafted for National Members of Parliament by Housing New Zealand communications staff designed to ‘manage public perception’ about National's 'Options and Advice' service.

"This is in clear breach of the requirements for impartiality under the State Sector Act,” Moana Mackey said.

"Options and Advice has been controversial in the way it has been rolled out and is currently being used to turn people away and send them out to the private sector before they are able to have a needs assessment.

“Labour has consistently said that while we are not opposed to an Options and Advice service for those who may have to wait long periods of time to access state housing, it is important that applicants go through a needs assessment process first to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

"Housing New Zealand's waiting list dropped by nearly 3000 following the introduction of Options and Advice, with many of these people turning up in emergency accommodation, having lost everything trying to sustain private sector tenancies, they could not afford in the first place.

"No wonder the National Party felt they needed to manage public perceptions of this controversial policy. However by asking Housing New Zealand to produce this clearly political letter, they were in breach of the law. It would be nice to see some consistency from the National Party when it grandstands about illegal behaviour.

Ms Mackey said that while Labour supports moves by Housing New Zealand to deal with tenants who defraud the corporation, principles of natural justice must also apply.

"No one is defending those tenants who break the rules. With massive social housing shortages and a Government which has slashed funding for new state houses back to the bone, tenants who deliberately mislead the corporation about their circumstances should expect to be discovered and dealt with appropriately," Moana Mackey said.

"However at the beginning of the year flaws were highlighted in Housing New Zealand's processes when three state house tenants in Canterbury, who had already been evicted, were cleared of all fraud charges brought against them by Housing New Zealand.

"Anyone caught defrauding the corporation must take responsibility and face the full consequences of their actions. Equally however there has to be the opportunity for a tenant who has been falsely accused to defend themselves against these allegations before they are evicted,” Moana Mackey said.

ENDS

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