Naisi Chen


Thinking of your childhood, what does the word “home” bring to mind?

It brings a feeling of safety, comfort, and nourishment—I obviously relate that to food. Food means a lot to Chinese people. And an intergenerational family as well, that’s very important to us as a culture. So, where my parents are, I still think of that as my home. The second time we went into lockdown, the minute Jacinda called lockdown and said we were extending the election for a month that night, I chose to pack up and go back to my parents’ house. I didn’t feel I had anything left in me, and I decided to go home.

What about your house makes it a home?

The fact that I can host people. I’m a big believer in breaking bread together and hosting people. It’s a privilege to have a place to
host people. It’s not a big house—it’s three bedrooms, and I live with two other people—but we made it a thing that we would be hosting people.

What makes New Zealand appealing to people who want to put down roots?

I would be the first person to admit that New Zealand isn’t perfect, but we are doing better than the rest of the world. I don’t think my family has come across things that we feel are racist or xenophobic. So broadly, we felt empowered to put down our roots in NZ. Putting down roots means political and economic involvement, and I think NZ as a society has been really open.

For your family, who or what helped you put down roots?

Definitely the Chinese community. You’ve almost got this Chinese-speaking economy. So you don’t need to speak a word of English, and you can live this perfectly good life. It is helping, but at the same time, it is hindering the Chinese community’s integration into NZ.

How can we, as Kiwis, help newcomers with the process of putting down roots?

Think about it intentionally. Yes, there’s a refugee resettlement pro- gramme, but we’ve never purposefully thought about what it means to be a multicultural nation. I’ve put out an idea for marae visits for incoming migrants. And it’s not just about Māori; it’s about how to vote in a local or general election, whom to go to if you need help, and the social institutions.

What more would you like to see Government do—or not do—for those who are priced out of the rental or housing markets?

We need to build more houses. In solving a housing crisis, including the price of rentals, the key lever is still the supply one, not demand. So speeding up consent processes. Infrastructure—roading, pipes, all that stuff—so you don’t need to wait for a big Fletcher Building company to develop and open up a piece of land. Government can go in, and then we can partner with smaller developers. Apprentices—unlocking the potential of our domestic trades market. Those are all significant pieces of the puzzle when we say we need to increase supply.


Nicola Willis


What does the word “home” bring to mind when you think of your childhood?

A place of safety, love, belonging, and family for me. I also think of the bush and the beach, the outdoors, and the joy of being able to share in those experiences.

What do you think makes your own house a home?

There’s the six of us in it together. That’s where we come together and where we can all be our most relaxed and authentic selves. Where my children can talk and laugh and play and cry. Where we come together for meals, we come together to watch movies and a place open to friends and family. It’s a place of belonging.

What makes NZ appealing to people who want to put down roots?

I think New Zealand is unique because of our relationship with nature. We have pretty distinctive landscapes, and New Zealanders often associate the particular landscape of their home with their own identity.
Another thing about New Zealand is our sense of community and responsibility to each other—a widely shared belief that we are our brother’s keeper, and we want to ensure fairness and opportunity for everyone.

How can we help newcomers with this process of putting down roots?

I want us to be as open to new people and new perspectives and experiences as we can and allow our culture to be enriched by the new connections and perspectives that people from different countries bring. There’s also the practical aspect, in that we must provide people with housing. We haven’t always been great at doing that.

What would you like to see Government do—or not do—to help people who’ve been priced out of the housing and rental markets?

In terms of restoring the private rental market, I’d like us to recognise that landlords aren’t to be blamed for housing issues but are actually part of the solution. I’d like to see New Zealand remove some of the barriers that have prevented purpose-built rental accommodation from being built, which provides longer-term security of tenure. The only thing stopping it from happening here is barriers in our investment and taxation regime.
I’d also really like us to embrace the opportunity that exists in the community housing sector, to work alongside some of those non-government organisations—the Salvation Army, the Monte Cecilia Trust, Habitat for Humanity and others—who are willing and able to build homes, but need access to a bit more capital. Government should partner more strongly with them so they can not only build houses but also support families to make those real homes.

Is there anything you’d like to be more of a part of our national conversation on housing?

New Zealand was once a place of home ownership, and I believe we should hang on to that aspiration. Homeownership is about much more than ownership of a financial asset. It’s about stability, it’s about community, and it is about family strength.

Ricardo Menéndez March

Ricardo Menéndez March


What comes to mind when you think of your childhood home?

How I connect to Tijuana (Mexico) as my home is based on both the natural environment and the communities I have a connection with. For me, that would be my immediate family and the friends that I grew up with. So whenever I go back to Tijuana, what feels like going home is being able to see my family and that understanding and connection with the uniqueness of the place.

What do you think makes your house a home?

I’ve been renting or boarding my whole time in Aotearoa. Right now, having lived somewhere for, I think, the longest period in my life, I’m fortunate to feel a bit more grounded. I live with my best friend and partner in my best friend’s home. Knowing that the relationship is not one of owner and boarder but a sense of community for those who live there has given me a sense of security.

What makes New Zealand an appealing place for people to put down roots?

That will very much depend on the person. As a first-generation immigrant, I have come to appreciate the connection that so many people have with the land and the revival of indigenous ways of thinking—one’s own connection to the land you come from.

As a country, how can we help newcomers with this process of putting down roots?

Aotearoa has a significant migrant population. Too many people have been caught in a temporary status because they haven’t been able to get residency. Many workers live five, six, seven or even ten years plus on a temporary visa. It’s tough to plan ahead more than six months or a year at a time, and that can create a sense of disconnection. I think pathways to residency allow more people to form that sense of connection.

What you like to see Government do—or not do—to help people who’ve been priced out of the housing or rental market?

As the social housing spokesperson for the Greens, I think of our many communities living in public housing, whether it’s Kainga Ora, council housing or community housing. Public housing plays a massive role in supporting many communities to have affordable rents, but many people face an inability to have that home as a place for multiple generations. I would love Government to create pathways for multiple generations to stay in the same state house so that we can create that sense of security.

Is there anything you would like to be more of a part of the national conversation about housing?

For too long, we’ve seen housing as a commodity to make a profit instead of a place where families are supposed to build communities. I think public housing acknowledges that homes are for people and not for profit. That’s why I feel really strongly about moving the conversation into supporting public housing initiatives.

Brooke van Velden

Brooke van Velden


What does the word “home” bring to mind when you think of your childhood?

Home is about family. I’m one of four; I have three older brothers. So we were constantly together, playing, going to rugby matches, netball practice, and cricket practice. I really enjoyed growing up in that environment. But broader than that, there was a sense of belonging to an area. We were always connected with the local community.

What do you think makes your own house a home?

I live by myself, but I’ve picked up bits and pieces to decorate my home with that remind me of my family. The last time I visited my grandma in Taupo, she gave me a figurine I now have on my bedside table. I have a painting on the wall that was given to me by my mother. And all the photos around my house are from trips I’ve taken with my brothers overseas.

What makes New Zealand attractive for people who want to put down roots?

It doesn’t matter what ethnicity or culture you come from, we are a multi-ethnic society, and everybody who comes here has an equal stake in it. What unites all New Zealanders is that we’re immigrants; whether our families came here hundreds of years ago or we’ve just arrived, we are all equal. And I think that’s quite beautiful.

How can Kiwis help newcomers with this process?

There are many community organisations where people can become involved, like choirs, church groups, and the local tennis club.

What more would you like to see Government do—or not do—to help those who’ve been priced out of the rental and housing markets?

The government has finally acknowledged a problem, but they don’t have the right solution. They’re focused on regulating the rental market and not addressing the underlying issue. They need to reign in un-targeted government spending, which has increased the cost of living for everyone and acknowledge the infrastructure problem. Councils don’t want more intensification because they know they don’t have the funding for the infrastructure to support it. I currently have a members’ bill proposing that we share 50% of the GST on every new build with the local council. That would help fund infrastructure in communities; it changes the incentive structure.

Is there anything you’d like to be more of a part of our conversation about housing?

We need to have solutions that are not dividing people against each other. When I see what the government is recently trying to do with the interest-deductibility limitations, they’ve said they want to pivot the housing market away from speculators and towards first-home buyers. But that’s dividing people against each other. They’re not acknowledging that if we just had more homes, there would be more rental accommodation and more homes for first-home buyers.