Goff on attack during election debate

Labour leader Phil Goff continued his election strategy of attacking National's greatest asset tonight, panning the Prime Minister's record in rebuilding his hometown of Christchurch during a leaders debate in the city.

In the only public debate of the campaign, attended by 600 at Christ's College, both leaders offered lines heard many times before.

In his opening statement Mr Key paid tribute to his hometown to which he "owed a lot''

Mr Goff once again referred to the fact he was in the city during the February 22 quake and shared its pain over the following days,

But as the gloves came off, Mr Goff contended the quake recovery was hampered by a market failure for those seeking land to rebuild on and insurance for their new and repaired homes.

Labour's quake recovery policy includes the Government buying thousands of sections and selling them at cost to remove bottlenecks that Mr Goff says are driving up prices beyond what homeowners can afford with their insurance, EQC and government payouts.

Mr Goff also once again attacked Mr Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee for going back on their promises to quake-affected residents.

Mr Goff asked why the Government had not followed through on Mr Brownlee's promise that homeowners wouldn't lose out on improvements made to their homes since the offer's 1997 valuation date.

"If you're not going to do something for heavens' sake don't promise it,'' he said to cheers from the audience.

"They banked that promise, they thought you were sincere and suddenly you turned around and said no. You went back on your word.''

Mr Key defended the offer as "not absolutely perfect'' but still the only one of its type in the world.

If the Government hadn't taken that course of action, the badly affected eastern suburbs would have lost equity anyway.

Compensating affected homeowners was a balancing act.

His Government had committed $5.5 billion to the recovery in the last budget while holding spending in other areas.

His Government strove to be absolutely fair and reasonable, "but we've also got to be fair and reasonable to every other taxpayer in New Zealand because ultimately that's where the money comes from''.

Mr Goff continued to personalise his attack on Mr Key's record on Christchurch when speaking about the reluctance of insurance companies to re-enter the market.

Mr Goff would like the Government to become the insurer of last resort if those companies don't return while Mr Key believed that was happening already.

But Mr Goff said that was not happening fast enough and the risk was people would abandon the city for Auckland and other centres.

"we can't afford that to happen to your city and your region''.

- Herald Online

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