[Sitting date: 21 March 2012. Volume:678;Page:1143. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the
Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Does he stand by all his recent statements?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery)
: Generally yes, although as the seismic events and the recovery unfold, material facts will and are changing, so positions previously stated will evolve.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Minister think it acceptable that Christchurch residents who have in many cases lost their homes and experienced thousands of earthquakes
should now suffer rents often in excess of 50 percent above reasonable market rents; if so, at which point will he intervene—100 percent, 200 percent, 500 percent?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It does not matter how loud the member likes to yell out those figures, if they are not backed by some factual material they are worth nothing. What I can tell the member is that today’s newspaper has a considerable number of properties to rent in Christchurch, TradeMe has 612, and there are three agencies in there inviting people to make contact because they have more properties. I do not doubt that there are some landlords who want to create an environment where they can raise rents. I am sorry the member is helping them.
Denis O’Rourke: What are the reasons he believes the best solution to the Christchurch rental housing crisis is to leave it to the market, and, in doing so, why is he putting the interests of profiteers ahead of serving the needs of the people?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Firstly, I reject both aspects of that question, but would simply say the Government is offering to buy 7,000 households in Christchurch, and so far around 3,000 have settled. They have taken a cheque for either their land or their house, and they are moving on. That is going to create opportunities for people, both in the rental housing provision sector and in new building, and it is happening. If the member looked at the property section of today’s
Press, he would be better informed than he appears to be.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Minister not understand basic third form economics, especially that when demand outstrips supply, prices soar, and when will you do something about it?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What I do understand about economics—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, I could barely hear my colleague’s very intelligent question—because I have seen—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. I heard the question perfectly clearly, and the member’s description of it is his business.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What I do know is that people who want to profiteer in these situations need an advocate to get the circumstances right so that they can enjoy that excess profit. The member is helping them with that.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Can I take it from the Minister’s answer that if we were able to produce evidence of significant price-gouging in the housing market in Christchurch, he would be willing to look at intervening in those instances?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government has already put two temporary villages in place, with a total of, I believe, 70 units. We have a further 70 units available for relocation, and we are looking at a site. I am hopeful that we will have 20-odd people relocated on that new site very, very quickly. But what I would also have to tell the member is that if she also looked at the property pages of today’s—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would not mind the Minister giving the member a lecture, if he answered her question first.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: But I did.
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked specifically whether, if the Minister was shown evidence of rent gouging—or something to that effect—the Minister would be prepared to investigate. Now—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, she said “intervene”.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, intervene. I will invite the member to repeat her question, because I believe that the Minister did not answer her question, at all. The member is welcome to do that; she does not need to if she does not wish to.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Well, it is just that I did not have it written down. I am going to try to do it as best I can. Do I take it from the Minister’s answer to the previous question
that if we were able to produce evidence of price gouging in the Christchurch rental market, he would investigate intervening in the market?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: My point before was that we have intervened in the market, in what I think is a relatively significant way and in a timely fashion. I have said repeatedly that we are monitoring that situation and looking at it carefully. I think it is very important that people do inform themselves of what sorts of rents are on offer out there, and do not pick out extreme examples that happen in any market.