If it’s good enough for Chris Carter, it should be good enough for state housing tenants

Does Chris live here?

What sort of housing do you think Chris Carter has found for himself – or been allocated – in Kabul?

Appropriate housing. He’s living in a container.

Alf assumes you remember Chris Carter, of course.

He’s the leftie sad-sack who was put on stress leave after throwing a tantrum while fleeing from journalists questioning him over his credit card spending.

Leader Phil Goff called the episode a circus and sent Carter on leave to ponder his political future.

By then he had been demoted from seven to 13 in the party rankings and had lost his job as foreign affairs spokesman, but was given conservation and retained ethnic affairs.

According to the TV One report which refreshed Alf’s memory –

Carter was repeatedly warned about his credit card use, but was still caught misusing it. He paid for flowers, movies and spa treatments in hotels, repaid some money and says he will reimburse any other wrongful spending discovered.

However, Goff says rather than the breaches he is concerned about the ongoing excessive travel, often with his partner, which is technically within the rules.

Carter was subsequently suspended from the Labour Party after sending a confidential letter to the media which said Labour leader Phil Goff could not lead the party to victory at the next election.

Presecient. But not politically clever.

Carter then vowed to stay in Parliament as MP for Te Atatu, meaning a by-election would be avoided before the election last month.

In the upshot, he left New Zealand a few weeks before the election to take up a post in Kabul with the United Nations.

His departure didn’t force a by-election because it was less than three months before the November 26 election.

So what’s he up to now?

The NZ Herald gives us the answer today.

His first day on the job in Kabul was the same day the Taleban launched five simultaneous attacks in the Afghan city.

“I saw the attacks and was grounded in the office for about 13 hours. Spent bullet casings were falling in our compound as helicopter gunships attacked the insurgents in an adjacent building,” Mr Carter said. “In my second week in Kabul, former President [Burhanuddin] Rabbani was assassinated very close to my office. I heard the suicide bomb go off.”

And this month he watched victims of a suicide bombing at Abdul Faisal mosque being carried to hospital.

The report tells us Carter had about 90 national and international staff working for him in Kabul and five regional centres.

His challenge “is to make ordinary Afghan people start to recognise that strong, democratic, effective local government structures are relevant to their lives and have value”.

But here’s what caught Alf’s attention:

He is living in the insulated world of the UN compound in Kabul, in a converted metal shipping container.

Alas, the report does not expand on this gem.

But Alf imagines it is a fitting place for Carter.

He recalls Crusher Collins using containers to house prisoners.

The results were the stuff of a laudatory media statement a few months ago.

The first prison unit built of recycled shipping containers in New Zealand has outperformed expectations in its first year of operation, Corrections Minister Judith Collins said today.

The unit at Rimutaka Prison was opened last June and is housing 60 prisoners in double-bunked cells.

It was built in response to a projected shortage of prison beds due to a lack of planning by the previous Government. The container cell block, along with expanded use of double-bunking averted the capacity crisis.

“I’m very pleased that the unit is outperforming all expectations,” Ms Collins said.

As Ms Collins pointed out, speculation by critics who said container cells would create “tin shanties and slum prisons” had proven unfounded and ill-informed.

Carter’s experience in Kabul reinforces what Crusher was saying.

Moreover it suggests the container idea could be extended to provide state housing, too.

Alf will be discussing the possibilities with our Minister of Housing next time we meet.

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