There can’t be many Kiwis who don’t know about the leaky homes crisis. The last National government deregulated the building industry. Bad idea. Cowboy companies used bad materials and bad designs to build thousands of houses that leak and rot. It’s a problem worth up to $22 Billion (in the words of Nat MPs “simply ginormous” or the “elephant sitting in the room”). Taxpayers and ratepayers (that’s most of us twice) are going to be paying huge bills for many years.
Like I said, pretty much every Kiwi knows all this by now, right? Or not. Buried at the end of a piece yesterday on a new TV documentary on the crisis was this little snippet:
One of the defining moments in the documentary is an on-the-fly interview Gray wrenched from PM John Key that concludes with an ill-conceived comment from the Prime Minister about solving some leaky homes claims by getting people off benefits.
It caused ripples of mirth and incredulity from the special screening, in large part because it shows even the country’s leader is struggling to grasp the enormity of the problem.
“It was most unfortunate that we had to resort to standing him up in that way,” concedes Gray. “And in fairness to him it’s a complex subject and as a Prime Minister he’s not expected to know the minutiae of every topic that the Government is dealing with.
So in some cases Key thinks that the fix will be “getting people off benefits”. What? How many beneficiaries own these comparatively modern homes? How will a (probably modest) change in their income suddenly fix tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage? Unbelievable.
That goes beyond showing that Key is “struggling to grasp the enormity of the problem”. That goes beyond not knowing “the minutiae of every topic”. That response is simply formulaic drivel that has nothing at all to do with reality. It would be laughable from any MP. From the PM it is genuinely disturbing.