Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am pleased and proud to be standing to speak on this,
what will be the passing of the Healthy Homes Act.It is about time that we had a Government that understood what it has meant for nine years of the previous Government for things to be getting worse for families, for children, for our elderly community, and people living in homes for which there is no darned excuse are in shocking condition. In this 2017 in Aotearoa there is no darned excuse. Madam Speaker, what are we doing today with the passing of this bill? We are putting the livelihoods of children, our elderly, and all New Zealanders first, and all those people vulnerable to preventable diseases—preventable diseases that this Government has always had the power and the capacity to do something about, and we are finally on a significant start to do that.
So, Madam Speaker, what are we actually dealing with here? The previous speaker, from the Opposition benches, tried to say that they had done a good job. It is clear that over nine years things got worse for New Zealanders, for families, for children, for elderly. We were looking at over 40,000 hospital admissions every year. We are dealing with 1,600 extra winter deaths every year. We are dealing with up to 15 children every year who die in this country, in Aotearoa, from preventable diseases due to unhealthy homes—homes in poor condition. On that I want to thank the Children's Commissioner who, in his submission, reminded us that by keeping the insulation standards at 1978 we were upholding a broken promise to the children and citizens and families of this country by sticking with those very standards.
So what does this look like on the ground? What does that damage look like on the ground? It looks like families having to choose between paying for healthy food or the rent or a power bill. No one should have to weigh those up. No one should have to trade any of those items off in their household budget. We are looking at families huddling in one room so that they can afford to heat a room to some sort of level that is liveable in. We are looking at wearing socks and hats and thermals to bed because it's just not—it's just unconscionable to go to bed with less. We are looking at the situation in the winters in Aotearoa. We are looking at walking into a room at night where the children are sleeping where you get hit as if you've just walked into a fridge.
I note that the previous speaker referred to his experience in his communities and his neighbourhoods, and named the streets where he had gone to visit these very homes, as if to align himself with the experiences of New Zealanders roughing it in these homes. I too am aware of those realities. I wasn't there as a social worker; I know the streets in Manurewa that I'm talking about. I wasn't there even as an MP visiting. I was there as a mother. I was there as a mother dressing up children in those beanies, in those socks, sending kids to bed with five woollen blankets and a hat, walking into their room at night and being hit like I was walking into a fridge. I was there as a mother and so I welcome this legislation change today for the conditions that worsened under the nine years of the previous Government. What we are looking at and dealing with and wanting to fix today is that stress - that unnecessary stress - on our communities, the people that we are here to serve and listen to.
Madam Speaker, I've mentioned that the previous Government had nine years—nine good years—of being in power, with all of the officials, with all of the resources, with the very things that Minister Twyford has managed to put early passing of this legislation into place in only weeks of stepping into his office. They had nine years to suss that out, with all the tools and resources right at their fingertips, and they did not. That's why things got worse.
The Greens are proud to be working with the Labour Government to fix this, finally. We are proud that my colleague Gareth Hughes helped the Greens to put minimum housing standards on the political agenda when his first rental warrant of fitness bill was brought to Parliament in 2010. Sadly, it didn't get through that time. Later, when my colleague Metiria Turei also brought a similar bill as a member's bill, that was voted down by the National Government in 2016. I am proud of the long work that we have done with my Labour colleagues to fix this. I congratulate Minister Twyford and my Labour colleagues for getting this up on the board real fast, real quick. It's a start, and it's a significant step in righting the wrongs that have sat here and ruined people's lives for far too long.
This bill is going to fix the failing insulation standards from 1978. We don't need 1978 standards. We can do much better than that. This bill is going to ensure that we have moisture controls, ventilation, fixed heating that is modern, safe, and affordable—and affordable. No use having a good house if you're still going to be on the sort of budget that makes you want to weigh up whether you want to turn the heater on—no good. That's why we're going to make sure that we've got fixed heating sources.
As I said at the start, there is no excuse in 2017 Aotearoa for homes to be nothing but safe, warm, healthy, and affordable. This legislation will be welcomed by the landlords, the majority of whom understand what it is to run a good investment and to care for the tenants who are looking after their property. This legislation will be welcomed by those who get it, which are most, and for those who need a hand, well, that's what this legislation is also going to do—to realise the moral and financial imperative that is a good investment into your rental properties. The Greens will continue to push for standards that make sure that every New Zealander has a warm, dry, affordable, safe whare, and today marks the most significant step in that direction in 10 years. I congratulate Minister Twyford. Thank you Mr Chair.