8 Sep 2009

Key rejects Greens' criticism of housing package

6:27 pm on 8 September 2009

Prime Minister John Key says criticisms from the Green Party over a new system for ministerial housing allowances are a "bit rich" given arrangements for their own MPs' accommodation.

From January, Government ministers will take care of their own accommodation in Wellington. Those ministers not based in the capital will be given $37,500 a year to cover costs.

Ministers say they believe it will be a more transparent system and will abide by the new rules.

But the Greens say because the payments are bulk funded, the system will be less transparent.

Mr Key says the Greens are in no position to criticise, as its MPs effectively receive bulk funding for some of their accommodation.

The Green Party Superannuation Trust owns two properties in Wellington, which are rented out to three of its MPs. They claim the cost of rent and other expenses as part of MPs housing allowances.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says only the actual cost of the rent is reimbursed, and no Green MP is bulk funded.

The Green Party also says the review of ministerial accommodation fails to address key issues, such as the definition of a primary residence.

The Labour Party says the recommendations clear up the confusion over entitlement to accommodation allowances.

ACT hopes the review will meet the expectations of the public and the concerns that have been raised.

Mr Key says the new arrangements for out-of-town ministers will save the country hundreds of thousands of dollars and strike a balance between the rights of taxpayers and ministers.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says ministers are expected to heed tough economic times.

In August, Mr English was forced to pay back part of what he had been claiming for his Wellington home, after admitting it was not a good look. He will now receive about $6,000 extra a year.