Bennett challenged to visit caravan park

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 08:05 18/07/2012
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett
NATASHA MARTIN/Fairfax NZ
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has been told to "get off her fat arse" and visit a caravan park she complained was unfairly hiking rents for "substandard" accommodation.

The Waitakere MP yesterday singled out a caravan park in her electorate - Western Park Village - as "very expensive for what I'm sure most New Zealanders would see as quite substandard living".

But the park owner, Darryll Heaven, said they did everything they could for many tenants that were forced upon them by Work and Income.

"That is absolute bulls . . . That really annoys me because she won't get off her fat arse - she's only 500 metres away - to come down and see us. We've got a dozen staff and we're working 24 hours a day to control the place. She doesn't understand that and if she thinks we're ripping her off, come and have a look at our bottom line any time she likes."

A spokeswoman this morning said Bennett had been to the park many times and met constituents there regularly.

Bennett was responding to questions about the accommodation supplement, which Labour has called for a review of. Labour says the supplement has turned in to a $1.2 billion "subsidy" for landlords, with little improvement in housing.

Bennett said she did not think it was a "subsidy" but agreed there was a growing number of landlords raising the rent of "vulnerable tenants".

"You often have people who have been kicked out of other homes for whatever reason, have got themselves in to some sort of trouble or they're unable to live anywhere else. By the time they get there, they're kind of desperate, they will pay whatever is necessary," Bennett said.

A caravan park in her electorate - later confirmed by her office as Western Park Village - had "absolutely sub-standard" housing, she said.

"I think it is well overpriced and I'm not an expert in housing markets."

But Heaven said Western Park had a challenging task with its tenants.

"Yes, there is a lot of sub-standard [housing] here. But we try to put the right people into the right accommodation and Winz will turn around and say, no, we're not paying it, put them in a caravan."

The park supported tenants with a range of services "like medication and running a bus service".

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