Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill - First reading

Sunday, March 15, 2015

STUART SMITH: Well, I would just like to comment on the previous contribution and remind the member Metiria Turei that the worst day in Government is better than the best day in Opposition. I suspect the member had something for dinner that did not agree with her.

It is a pleasure to have a contribution on the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill in the name of Phil Twyford. I commend the member for having a go and getting it through the ballot, which seems to be quite difficult. I understand that many members have not had it happen and have been here many years, so I look forward to having one drawn out myself.

However, in 1937 Michael Joseph Savage carried a table into the very first State home in New Zealand. They were cold and damp then and they are cold and damp today. Nothing has changed with that, but what has changed is National has actually gone out there and insulated every State house that it could—every single State house that it could. That costs a lot of money and it is not practical in some cases.

I would like to take it back to a personal experience. I lived in a cold house for quite some time when I was starting out. It was cold and it was damp. We used to get ice on the windows, but not on the outside; we got ice on the inside. It was pretty cold. In fact, when my brother stayed with me one time in the cold winter, we ended up with a bottle of beer freezing under the bed, so it was pretty cold, but we got through it all right. That is living in the country in rural Canterbury.

That is what happens in the winter; it gets cold. We looked at insulating that house but we could not. To try to put insulation under the floor was impossible. To try to put insulation in the walls became just undoable. It was too expensive. So what we would have, if this bill was to go through, would be that the people at the very bottom who are living in those houses in the worst places in New Zealand would be priced out of the market. It is the law of unintended consequences.

It really is something that has to have a lot of thought put into it. If you are going to bring in standards, it has to be done in a way that is actually practical. Look, it is great to have good ideas, and I commend the member for that, but a little bit of practicality every now and again would be quite helpful. There are lots of health issues, which we have heard, with all these sorts of things, but the amendments proposed for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000 and the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 simply will not do what we want—to try to make houses better for New Zealanders.

With the State houses, as I have said, we have insulated every one that can be insulated, and now we are trying to get rid of those houses, but we cannot. The Opposition is really kicking up a stink about it. We are trying to do the right thing for those people who are living in those houses, and we are not really getting any support. What is the end game here?

Hon David Parker: Jeanette Fitzsimons.

STUART SMITH: I beg your pardon?

Hon David Parker: It was Jeanette Fitzsimons. Give credit where it’s due. It was her Budget bid.

STUART SMITH: No, she did not hold the purse strings there. The one reason why it is so difficult to actually get all these houses up to standard is that these designs have changed so much over the time that they have been designed and built that there is no one standard that will easily fix that problem.

So I am not going to support this bill. We are not supporting the bill. I do commend the member for having a go, but really he just needs to go back and have another think about it. Thank you.