What a premier waste of money: PM's house law needs to change

It is illegal for our Prime Minister to live in his own house. No, really. Bill English legally can't move into the official Crown-owned residence set aside for the prime minister to inhabit. 

How stupid is that?

A law intended to stop Wellington-based MPs double dipping - collecting an accommodation allowance that they don't really need - has ruled out the Prime Minister being able to move into Premier House.

Even the Prime Minister thinks it's silly - not that he'd come out and say it.

"Well, it's the law," he said, while stifling a bit of a laugh.

"It's probably an unintended consequence but it is what it is and we'll follow it."

It means the $14 million house owned by the taxpayer will sit empty - and effectively be turned into just a function venue - while Mr English continues to live in the family home in Karori.

The Government's very own "Premier Party House".

The place is immense. It's on 3.5 acres. It's got a ballroom with a sprung floor. It's home to the country's first ever elevator.

And while the bedrooms here sit empty we'll keep forking out cash for ministers' Wellington accommodation allowance. Why not let Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett move in? She claimed almost $40,000 for her accommodation over the last year - why not save the taxpayer some cash?

"We haven't considered that," Bill English says. "Theoretically, you know, I suppose that's possible, but look it's Premier House.

"It's not Deputy Premier House," Paula Bennett says.

Mr English said it is far from perfect: "It's a function centre, you can't actually use the living quarters without going through the function centre so if it's going to be a busy public place it's probably not appropriate."

John Key and Helen Clark both lived there - but their real homes were in Auckland and they did not have a big family like English.

Lots of other prime ministers have lived there since it was bought by the Crown in 1865.

If Andrew Little is elected he will face the same issue as he is Wellington-based too.

So no matter what happens at this year's general election this mansion is going to sit empty for the next four years. A $14 million Crown asset that won't be used.

And to fix that? All it would take is a simple carve out that means a prime minister is allowed access to Crown-owned property.

Change the law. It's dumb.


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