Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Cunliffe to end conference with housing announcement

Mr Cunliffe announced KiwiAssure would be established under a future Labour Government as a subsidiary of NZ Post. Photo / NZ Herald
Mr Cunliffe announced KiwiAssure would be established under a future Labour Government as a subsidiary of NZ Post. Photo / NZ Herald

Labour's conference will end today and new leader David Cunliffe is expected to cap it off with a housing announcement for Christchurch as the Christchurch East by-election continues.

The announcement is expected to relate to Labour's KiwiBuild programme to build affordable houses in areas such as Auckland and Christchurch and will set out how Christchurch will be prioritised.

Party members will also vote on a range of policy issues, including a referendum on republicanism, making te Reo Maori compulsory in schools.

Another which is up for the vote is a proposal to allow all women to choose whether to have an abortion - an issue Mr Cunliffe said he expected to remain a conscience issue for MPs.

Meanwhile, National has been quick to bite over Labour leader David Cunliffe's new policy to launch an insurance company to try to drive down premiums, saying it would put taxpayers at risk.

Mr Cunliffe announced KiwiAssure would be established under a future Labour Government as a subsidiary of NZ Post as a reaction to problems in the insurance industry since the Canterbury earthquakes.

Mr Cunliffe said it would reduce the concentration of foreign-owned companies in the insurane sector and the competition would help keep down premiums for householders. He denied it would expose taxpayers to a lot more risk, saying that although the Government was putting in capital - expected to be be up to $80 million - it would sit within NZ Post and would not be Government guaranteed.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said attempting to undercut the competition in the sector required taking greater risks - and smaller businesses could not spread that risk out in the same way as a major international companies.

"Labour's insurer would be completely exposed to the New Zealand market, which every citizen knows is at major risk of incurring heavy losses from natural disasters."

So what Labour is saying is it's prepared to increase the financial risk to every New Zealand taxpayer by entering a market in which it has no expertise and cannot offer any competitive advantage without ratcheting that risk up even higher."

He said the two New Zealand insurance companies operating before the earthquakes had both collapsed under the claims from it because they had been unable to absorb the impact.

However, Mr Cunliffe maintained it would introduce better competition and strong service standards. "It will keep the market honest." Although he had not yet talked to NZ Post about the proposal yet, he believed it would fit in with NZ Post's structure.

He said he could not promise cheaper premiums, but it would be a competitive player. It would be subject to the same regulations as other insurance companies.

- Herald on Sunday

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