Auckland family begs Labour to keep promise to wipe emergency accommodation debt

A west Auckland family says Labour should keep its promise of wiping emergency accommodation debt for beneficiaries.

The family owes tens of thousands of dollars to Work and Income (WINZ) after being forced to live in a motel for more than eight months.

Two years ago, James quit his day job to further his education so he could get ahead for his family.

But continual payment mix-ups by WINZ and government agency Studylink caused them to fall behind in their rent, and they were eventually evicted.

Sarah says that led them to months of living in motels, racking up thousands of dollars in debt on top of what they already owed WINZ.

"From our last interview it was $31,000, but we were still in the motel for a few, maybe three or four months after that - so it's $1000 a week on top."

In June 2016, then-Labour Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni told The Hui if the party got into government, it'd wipe the slate clean.

But after nine months in power, Labour says emergency accommodation debt runs into the millions, if not tens of millions - and its hands are currently tied by legislation.

"What I can say to Sarah is that we are looking at the debt issues - but other than that, I can't make any promises right now," Ms Sepuloni told Newshub.

Sarah says that's frustrating, and the Government shouldn't make promises it can't keep - but she still has hope.

"I don't think it's fair for them to wipe my whole debt, because some of it I accumulated and I take ownership of that.

"But the stuff that was caused by Studylink and WINZ and their stuff-up, I think they should take ownership of that."

Otherwise she says she'll be paying off the debt for the rest of her life.