LIST MEMBER, LABOUR PARTY
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.
DEPUTY LEADER, NATIONAL PARTY
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.