Housing NZ conference disgraceful'

Housing New Zealand Corporation's decision to hold a conference at a luxury fishing lodge near Lake Taupo has been attacked as "disgraceful" by the National Opposition.

It says the conference shows HNZ is out of touch.

But the Government says it was done on the cheap, and its goal was to improve service to state house tenants.

The two-day conference for 94 Housing New Zealand staff was held last week at the Tongariro Lodge on the banks of the Tongariro River and cost $65,000.

National housing spokesman Phil Heatley asked in Parliament how such a conference improved the lot of the 10,000 people on the state house waiting list, and state house tenants who lived in squalor.

In a question to Housing Minister Maryan Street, he said: "What does she think the thousands of desperate families on the waiting list, or those who live in squalid boarding houses, think about 94 of the corporation's staff spending two days at the luxury Tongariro Lodge?"Ms Street defended it, saying the cost had been $250 a night per person including food and venue hire for the conference. "That was not a luxury price."

Winter/spring rates for Tongariro Lodge are listed as $400 for a share/twin and $434 for a single.

The rate includes a cooked breakfast and a four-course dinner.

Ms Street said the conference had focused on the corporation's strategic vision, its goals and improving service delivery.

"If that is the upshot of this conference, done at cheap rates, then I am all for it."

One Housing New Zealand tenant said last night the money could have been better spent installing more locks - and even alarms - in state houses.

"Every week, I'm ringing them to fix windows and taps, but they never come.

It's coming up to winter and it's freezing here."

The woman, who did not want to be identified, sleeps in the bedroom, and her 17- and 18-year-old children sleep in the lounge.

The woman - who pays $170 a week in rent - said the $250 a night Tongariro Lodge charge would cover her grocery bill for about three weeks.

The $65,000 cost of the trip would pay her rent for more than seven years.

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