Tent family saga gets political

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 10:05 28/04/2014
Houia family
IAIN MCGREGOR

TENT FAMILY: Taurua Houia and his family living in tents at Spencer Park due to housing shortage.

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Political leaders have joined the debate surrounding a family living at a camping ground, with a Christchurch MP insisting ''no one deserves to live in a tent''.

Taurua Houia and his family have been living in a tent at Spencer Beach Holiday Park for two months. The family cannot afford a private rental home and have a poor rental history, but is now among 270 applicants on Housing New Zealand's (HNZ) priority A waiting list.

Their former landlord Cosmo Jeffrey said the family had trashed his house and failed to pay rent.

Christchurch East MP Poto Williams said there was ''a lot of complexity involved'' in such cases.

''What are we going to do? Are we going to put them out on the street? Are we going to let the kids roam the streets?

''Some people do miss the point that everybody deserves to be in a house. There is no such thing as a deserving poor.''

Williams said the overhaul of the welfare system had a ''huge impact on the low end of the scale''.

She said the Government needed to ''be the backstop'' for the vulnerable, but a permanent solution could only be ''built up over time''.

''The solution is about creating an economy that has a lot more jobs in it, and where the jobs pay enough that you can live and support your family properly.''

Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner said it was the tenant's obligation to be ''as responsible as possible'' to secure a property in the current market.

''Before, people would put up with a lot even if you didn't behave terribly well.''

Wagner said the Government had made provisions for the vulnerable in emergency and social housing, and were continuing to work with HNZ on the issue.

''Even so, we do have to consider that people have to be responsible. They need to take the responsibility of being a tenant seriously.''

Housing committee chairman councillor Glenn Livingstone said both the Christchurch City Council, and HNZ needed to ''step up'' and not ''absolve ourselves from taking responsibility for the housing crisis''.

''There are going to be cases like this because there is a genuine crisis. We all need to step up and use our resources.

''It's too easy to just write people off as ''feral'' in New Zealand; it's a complicated issue and we need a sophisticated approach.''

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- The Press

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