Green Party co-leader James Shaw is outraged every time a political party proposes improving the quality of rental stock it gets accused of a “war on landlords”.
“And then we back off because that’s somehow worse than people dying – that’s outrageous,” Shaw told Newsroom.
Six people died and others are still missing following the Loafers Lodge fire that started in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the Wellington suburb of Newtown.
The residents of the hostel come from a range of backgrounds, including people serving community sentences, those referred there by government housing providers, and others with complex backgrounds making them particularly vulnerable.
There is cross-party support in Parliament for a review into building regulations after questions have been raised about the multi-storey building not being required to have a sprinkler system, and whether fire alarms were activated.
In addition, concerns about the equipment available to firefighters attending the scene, and a history of trucks and equipment being out of service, have arisen in the aftermath of Tuesday’s tragedy.
“Yet again yesterday we heard, if the fire had taken place 24 hours earlier [they] would have been three fire trucks short, including ones with ladders, meaning there could have been even more deaths there,” Shaw said.
“I actually think now is the time to say that we need to be dealing with these things, that is the way to honour those people who lost their lives.” – James Shaw
These are not new issues, with Shaw pointing to his colleague and Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick raising similar worries about the state of the fire service and the types of housing people were living in when the extreme weather events hit the North Island earlier this year.
Shaw couldn’t say either way whether there are people living in situations right now that mean if a fire were to break out, they’d be at risk of dying due to their living standards and what emergency services would be able to deploy.
“I can’t say there is, but I also can’t say there isn’t and that to me is deeply concerning given the fact we’re finding out about this as a result of a fire where we’ve got multiple fatalities, rather than because we actually have some idea about this.”
He also pushed back on those saying now isn’t the time to be asking questions when investigations are only just beginning.
“That’s exactly what you hear out of the National Rifle Association every time there’s a shooting in the United States.
“It can be used as an excuse to delay things to allow the heat to go out of a moment, and to stymie the momentum for change.
“I actually think now is the time to say that we need to be dealing with these things, that is the way to honour those people who lost their lives,” Shaw told Newsroom.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson blamed decades of successive governments’ actions for leading to Tuesday’s “preventable tragedy”.
Again, she called for a comprehensive warrant of fitness for housing stock to guarantee all buildings are safe and up to standard.
She said Tuesday’s fire “didn’t need to happen and shouldn’t have happened”.
Housing Minister Megan Woods has already sought advice from officials on what needs to be done to ensure all buildings are safe.
She said a range of investigations were underway, including the police, and the Government would soon consider the next steps it should take.