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PM won't change Premier House law

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/01/2017

The prime minister's official residence looks set to remain empty for at least the next four years because of a law against Wellington-based MPs accessing taxpayer-funded accommodation.

Ministers based outside Wellington are entitled to claim up to $41,000 a year in accommodation expenses but because Bill English lives in his family home at Karori he is ineligible for taxpayer funding which includes living in Crown-owned Premier House.

So too would be Labour leader Andrew Little if he wins this year's general election.

The property on Tinakori Road in Thorndon has been privately leased in the past when not being used as a prime ministerial residence, but Mr English says it will be used as a function centre for now.

"I understand there's two or three dozen (functions) in the queue already so it'll be a busy place," he said on Wednesday.

He admitted the quirk was probably an "unintended consequence" of the law but he would follow it and would not seek to change the law.

Mr English also ruled out allowing his deputy Paula Bennett to move in despite her claiming nearly $40,000 in accommodation expenses last year.

"Theoretically I suppose that's possible but ... 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 for ministers to be living there," he said.

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