Sharples to apologise over quake squatting call

Last updated 15:00 28/06/2012
STANDING BY THE TREATY: Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.
Fairfax NZ
PITA SHARPLES: Suggested those freezing in their cars in Christchurch during winter should temporarily squat in homes "considered not worthy of living in".

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Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says he will apologise to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee for advising people to squat in abandoned red-zone houses rather than sleep in cars.

Sharples made the comments yesterday during a hui, saying he was shocked at what he heard about the hardship some residents were facing.

Brownlee said yesterday Sharples' comments were completely out of order.

"I've tried to get  hold of Minister Brownlee to apologise, because I was in my capacity as a minister when I made it and I made it at the hui and because someone's picked it up,"  Sharples said today.

"I stand [by it] that it's the ethical and moral thing - really about people."

Asked if it was dangerous to move into red-zoned houses, he said some only lacked power and toilet facilities. It was better they squat in houses than die in cars.

"We are the government and I've got workers on the ground who are looking for people who are in a homeless situation and under some real discomfort, particularly with the cold in the winter,'' he said.

"I can't give them [numbers] off the top of my head, but I have 15 workers out there and we had a hui just to see how they're getting on... the cases they were reporting were shocking considering the temperature down there at times,'' he said.

"So I think we really need to enlarge that group, to go round the streets at night and look for people who are in need of accommodation. The idea was that my group would have a meeting with housing down there and work something through. But because the contracts of my team haven't been renewed just yet it hasn't happened.

"I've been funding them. I'm trying to find a way, you can pass this on to the Minister of Finance, to keep them on the road."

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