Hamilton housing jibe upsets

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 16:26 19/07/2012
Jacinda Ardern.
THOMAS BUSBY/Fairfax NZ
QUIP QUIBBLE: Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern says her comment about Hamilton's sameness in housing was meant in good humour.

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Auckland-based Labour list MP ''Morrinsville girl'' Jacinda Ardern has been forced to explain herself after slating Hamilton housing at a select committee.

And while many Hamiltonians may agree with her reference to the sameness of some of our newer suburban sprawls, Ms Ardern said she meant no offence.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson has argued that having identical homes could bring down the costs of building new houses but this week told the social services select committee New Zealanders might not accept that.

But Ms Ardern replied the concept already existed here: ''It's called Hamilton.''

Her remarks have drawn return fire from several local politicians, including city councillor Dave Macpherson who said that the ''foolish swipe at Hamilton by a little-known Labour party hack would have been more hurtful to the city, had it been made by a representative of a more relevant party, such as the Greens.''

Councillor Angela O'Leary jeered at the comment online as tacky and unfounded.

Ms Ardern said the discussion was about ways to provide more affordable housing.

''We were talking about housing affordability, and ways to overcome that. [Maurice Williamson] was talking about developments overseas..that have led to houses that have a generic look to them. Because he was talking about overseas examples I made reference to the fact that we do have some of that already,'' she explained.

''But I did it in a way that was intended to be light, and certainly did not intend any offence to the good folk of Hamilton. Botany I would certainly add to that list as well. Probably Hamilton first came to my mind because that was the first time I noticed, growing up in a small town, rapid development and expansion,'' she said.

''Everyone knows I'm a Morrinsville girl, Hamilton's still the big city in my eyes.''

Mayor Julie Hardaker's response was diplomatic.

"Jacinda Ardern may be making a good point - as Hamiltonians, we are innovative and early adapters. I'm sure Hamilton would be a great place for the government to test this new, more economically viable form of social housing,'' she said.

''Besides, Hamilton has such stunning and beautiful natural features; it won't matter if the houses all look the same.  Hamilton is often the butt of jokes but anyone that has been to Hamilton knows it's a great place."

''Obviously this was not a blanket reference to an entire city, and as soon as I said it, Tim Macindoe challenged me, we had a bit of banter about it,'' said Ms Ardern.

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''I have been known, in an Auckland context, to have made reference to Botany suffering from this, It's not that I'm not picking on my own backyard,'' she said.

During the same meeting Mr Williamson explained that before licences were introduced, all you needed to be a builder was ''a cellphone, a dog and a ute''.

- Waikato Times

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