Former Prime Minister Helen Clark shared her thoughts on Donald Trump, gender diversity and what can be done to tackle the housing crisis in Rotorua at the New Zealand Property Council National Conference.

More than 300 delegates from across the country attended the conference at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre today.

Sir Wira Gardiner and former Prime Minister Helen Clark were among the speakers.

Clark was interviewed by master of ceremonies Ward Kamo on everything from life after parliament to Donald Trump.


On her appointment to the United Nations as administrator of the Development Programme, Clark said she had run the course of public work in New Zealand.

"It's not in my nature to put my feet up and just go play golf and I'd been a strong supporter of the UN my whole life."

Clark lost a bid to become UN Secretary-General in 2016 and she said: "maybe it was never going to be possible, but you don't know that until you try".

On the question of gender diversity, she said in lots of ways New Zealand led the rest of the world, but we were let down by one thing, or "high levels of domestic and family violence".

"All the evidence points to [having more women in higher positions] as being good for business.

"We wouldn't want to be sitting here having this conversation in 10 years' time."

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Former Prime Minister Helen Clark (left) with Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick at the Property Council New Zealand National Conference in Rotorua. Photo / Supplied
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark (left) with Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick at the Property Council New Zealand National Conference in Rotorua. Photo / Supplied

Clark became the second woman to serve as Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the first to have won office at an election, in 1999.

She also discussed the "disruptive nature of Donald Trump and how he had "enticed the people who felt left behind"; climate change and the other key global issues facing New Zealand.

"There are lots of challenges out there that we have to mitigate for," she said.

"[Climate change action] will be expensive, but not preparing for it would be worse."

She said across tourism, immigration, exports and business New Zealand needed to take a "value over volume" approach.

Clark spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post after her stage interview about how to tackle Rotorua's housing crisis.

She said one of the issues was Airbnb and similar platforms taking rental stock, and Rotorua was not alone in that type of issue.

"New Zealand will need to look at where else this is happening and what approach they have taken.

"This is an issue that's affecting lots of cities around the world."

She said she was always wary of greenfield development and spreading the city out, like what has happened in Auckland.

"I am a great advocate for more intensive development.

"I mean a two-story building is high here, you have very little upward growth, it's about involving the community and asking what they want to see here."

Gardiner spoke on the Māori economy and the importance of whenua (land) in a Māori cultural sense.

"These are energetic and interesting times and for those interested in creating more wealth, have Māori got a deal for you," he said.

Other speakers included the chief executive of Property Council Australia Kathy MacDermott leading a panel on diversity, Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton who discussed the 'risky business' of ensuring commercial property, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones on infrastructure and impact and All Blacks manager Gilbert Enoka discussing leadership from the All Blacks inner circle.