Key Points:

Housing Minister Maryan Street was last night critical of Housing New Zealand Corporation after she was caught unaware in Parliament about a second conference in a plush hotel south of Auckland.

The conference at Heritage Hotel & Spa du Vin, south of Auckland, was in 2003 and a group of 75 maintenance managers spent $36,000 on a one-day retreat there.

"I haven't been well-served by the corporation in terms of information to date," she said. "I have asked for more details on previous conferences."

She said that from what she knew of the hotel, "it is not at all acceptable as a venue for a HNZC conference."

Maryan Street's disapproval of that venue was in marked contrast to her defence of the corporation on Tuesday over its expenditure of $65,000 for a two-day conference this month at the Tongariro Lodge, for 94 of the same group of managers. She told Parliament that the $250 a night cost for food and accommodation was "not a luxury price" and that if the upshot of the conference was better delivery of service to state house tenants "then I am all for it".

Prime Minister Helen Clark revealed yesterday she had advised Maryan Street two days ago not to defend the use of a tourist resort by Housing New Zealand Corporation for a staff conference, yet she did.

Helen Clark's explanation yesterday was that newer MPs "do not always express themselves in the way that they should".

She also said that National had spent $260 a night for accommodation at its last caucus retreat in Rotorua for a double room.

"Whether they doubled or not I wouldn't want to ask."

State Services Minister David Parker said the bonus of the corporation's chief executive, Lesley McTurk, should be docked for having approved the venue.

National housing spokesman Phil Heatley said: "Will [Maryan Street] now phone Carlos Maxwell and Israel Roberts and their 8-month-old son Franklin at their Mangere boarding house, where they say 'It's dirty. There are thieves and there are rats,' and tell them she now realises that a warm sit by the fire at Tongariro Lodge or that playing croquet and petanque at Heritage Hotel and Spa du Vin does not help them?"

- NZPA