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Housing allowances review to be launched

Published: 6:14PM Monday August 03, 2009 Source: ONE News

A review of the housing allowances claimed by cabinet ministers is being launched on Monday by the Prime Minister, as anger builds over the issue.

It comes as it's revealed several ministers are claiming tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, for living in Wellington despite owning property there.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley is responsible for the state housing stock, but the state picks up most of the tab for his own housing costs in Wellington.

Heatley claims more than $1000 a week, or $53,000 a year.

He owns an apartment in Wellington but rents it out, saying it is too small for his family of five.

Prime Minister John Key defends Heatley, despite his salary of $243,000 a year.

"Most New Zealanders would support me in my desire to see the marriages of my cabinet ministers and the happiness of their families stay to remain in tact, and housing plays an important part in allowing them to unify their families in Wellington," says Key.

However he does believe that the accommodation expense rules need to be reviewed in order to save money.

Wellington based ministers like Peter Dunne don't claim housing costs.

But others dig deep into the public purse for Wellington accommodation allowances despite owning property in the capital.

Foreign minister Murray McCully is constantly travelling, but when he is in Wellington, the taxpayer helps with the rent.

McCully claims about $725 a week, or more than $37,000 a year .

He owns a Wellington apartment but rents it out, saying it's not fit for entertaining foreign dignitaries

"As foreign minister, he's determined he wants to entertain in the new property, and that is quite legitimate," says Key.

The review comes after it was revealed Finance Minister Bill English was claiming more than $900 a week in Wellington accommodation allowances even though the English family home is in Wellington.

"This isn't about the money, this is about the support I get, which I appreciate, which enables our family to be together," says English.

There are three ministers who live and own property in Wellington who don't claim the accommodation allowance.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne, Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy and Attorney General Christopher Finlayson.

The review will specifically look at housing allowances.

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