Over the last three months as the debate over this Bill has progressed through the House, the Maori Party has consistently raised the question: how can anyone ignore the realities of lower-grade housing for Maori when debating the enhancement of leaky homes claims for other New Zealanders?
We have speculated – when will be the day when the Sub-standard Homes Resolution Services (Remedies) Bill will come before this House?
We have talked about the range of housing related bills before Parliament this term - data matching for housing corporation clients, weather-tight homes number one, weather-tight homes number two; and yet none of these Bills have even come close to addressing the kinds of issues we have raised throughout the debate.
I recall the words of Dover Samuels last year, who confirmed that Housing New Zealand had assessed some 1527 families living in sub-standard housing in Northland. And Mr Samuels estimated around 80% of people living in sub-standard housing in Northland were in fact Maori; and that even if they built one thousand houses tomorrow that wouldn’t solve the issues.
The funny thing is, that we know that there are probably enough houses for all the families in New Zealand if they were distributed according to need rather than according to wealth.
Instead, the rich live in spacious, comfortable surroundings while in poor parts of the country people squeeze into small over-crowded and dilapidated homes.
And we have made these points – and we will continue to raise them in this House and outside.
We have described sub-standard houses as unsafe dwellings where people may rely on open flames for light, heat or cooking. Houses which lack basic services such as a fresh water supply and a sanitation system.
The infrastructure in some of these areas has been badly neglected - as evidenced in the poor sewage disposal, and inadequate water and electricity supply.
And we know of communities where the septic tanks are failing, greatly increasing the risk of Hepatitis A and other infectious diseases.
These are life and death issues, Mr Speaker, and we must never forget the challenge of overcrowded, substandard and dangerous housing conditions.
But we, in the Maori Party, in line with our belief in manaakitanga, do, also acknowledge the deficiencies – and the traumatic impact – that have been suffered by the victims of leaky homes.
And so we have consistently supported the passage of this Bill through the House in order to ensure that these people are entitled to the general damages for mental distress and anxiety that they should expect.
But a funny thing happened just ten days ago.
Just immediately prior to the third reading of this Bill suddenly the Bill was recommitted, with the impact of Supplementary Order Paper 133.
In effect, the last minute change brought about what can only be described as an abuse of the privilege of Parliamentary procedure.
We started off this whole debacle, back in 2002, when under urgency, Labour rushed through legislation to set up the Weather-tight Homes Resolution Services Act 2002 – which was eventually repealed.
And I take note of Minister Duynhoven’s comments before that these issues happened during the regime of the National Government.
Three years later they realised they’d made a massive stuff-up, and so, hello, a whole new batch of rushed laws got sped through the house.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, another bandage had to be applied and so a whole new series of laws gets put before us.
Then ten days ago, when one would think no more mistakes could be made, the Minister realised more last minute emergency surgery had to happen in order to set things right.
The request for registration changes from 30 November 2007 to 30 June 2008 looks like a mere technicality from afar. The emergency amendment was dreamed up to extend the period for which a Council may act as a Building Consent Authority without registration.
It was sold to the House as a mere courtesy to allow more time for councils to get their acts together and get registered by the 30 June 2008.
And not a big deal maybe.
Except, that what Labour did, was to over-ride the Standing Orders.
So instead of going through the normal process of working through a Supplementary Order Paper, Labour decided to surrender the Standing Orders – putting forward a motion to suspend them.
In the weekend as the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released its damning report on New Zealand’s recent race relations policy, I came across this quote from Martin Luther King which I thought the House would appreciate in the context of this Bill.
Martin Luther King said,
“Discrimination is a hell-hound that gnaws at negroes in every waking moment of their lives, to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them”.
The lie of inferiority that this Government believes it can get away with, is to push aside any process, to suspend procedures, when it suits in order to create a particular type of truth – the Labour truth.
· And Labour pushed through the Electoral Integrity act in which they validated the invalid – made legal the illegal;
1 In this Bill, Labour has reduced the time that is available for perusal of the fine print at select committee;
2 Labour say that giving kids a slave rate – 80% of the ‘normal rate’ – 80 cents to every dollar that an adult earns – is actually a triumph for Labour because they can then announce a pay-rise three months later.
So Mr Speaker, the Standing Orders of Parliament are here to do just that – to create order. The standing orders provide a system of checks and balances which honour the investing of legislative power in Parliament.
Mr Speaker, we will not block the rights of the New Zealanders, who have suffered the incompetence of this Government, to benefit from the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Remedies) Amendment Bill.