21 Aug 2015

Labour accuses Govt of property meeting 'rort'

9:57 am on 21 August 2015

A Government taskforce set up to get rid of red tape in the building industry has been labelled 'a National Party rort.'

The Labour Party said the Government was using its Rules Reduction Taskforce to promote itself and its MPs.

National MP, Paula Bennett.

Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Taskforce was charged with listening to public concerns about frustrating property rules and regulations before recommending any changes to the Minister of Local Government.

The Government has spent about $108,000 so far hosting the 50 community meetings around the country. About $56,000 of that was spent on advertising.

Every meeting but two have been hosted by National MPs, and Labour MP Kris Faafoi said that was a "rort".

"Nearly 50 meetings all hosted by National MPs. If it wasn't in a National-held area, it was hosted by the local list MP.

"So instead of reducing rules, it looks like they are rorting the rules to promote themselves and getting the taxpayer to pay for it with departmental spending," he said.

But Minister Paula Bennett rubbished that.

"Most people would see the cost as a pretty effective spend - so that was to cover fees, it was to cover travel, it was to cover the set up of the meetings.

"Some members didn't even take a fee because they were that committed. We had over 50 meetings - that's a lot."

She said she was conscious of cost and didn't want a budget blowout.

"They were hosted by them [National MPs] because that made the meetings cheaper, to be quite blunt... so they paid for a bit of advertising, in most cases, out of their budgets to get that done...

"Look, others could have done it, they chose not to, it was available right throughout the country.

"I'm actually really grateful for those members in showing an interest and pulling a crowd together."

National backbencher list MP Chris Bishop hosted a taskforce meeting in Lower Hutt.

"At the end of the day, it's a Government taskforce that's been set up. We're keen to reach as many people as we can and quite rightly, National MPs are hosting public meetings," he said.

Kaikoura National MP Stuart Smith hosted two taskforce meetings with a range of sectors including councillors, engineers, builders and architects.

He was quick to dismiss any suggestion it was just a way for National MPs to promote themselves.

"I wouldn't have thought that was the case. The point we were aiming to achieve was to find out are there any rules that are surplus to requirements or just silly," he said.

The taskforce will report its findings to the Minister at the end of the month.