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Clark On The Campaign Trail In Hamilton

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Helen Clark
Helen Clark

Politicians dream of moments like these.

A child with a health problem, who wonders if honey is made in the Beehive and who is excited to meet the boss of New Zealand, sits and listens patiently while Helen Clark and his mum talk about the value of home insulation.

Then he grabs the prime minister by the hand to show her his room and his hats -- a collection his savvy mum encourages because she might need to auction it one day to pay for a lung transplant for seven-year-old Chase who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

Miss Clark's first stop in Waikato today was at the home of Donna and Steve Slater.

The couple have another son, Joshua aged four months, who slept like an angel until the end of the visit, waking up just in time to meet the PM.

The visit was set up after Mrs Slater emailed politicians furious at National's intention to can a 15-year, $1 billion programme to insulate old homes.

The Slaters' home in Ngaruwahia was insulated five years ago by Huntly Energy Efficiency Trust (HEET) which got sponsorship for the job.

HEET stepped in to help because the Slaters weren't eligible for any funding but the damp was worsening Chase's respiratory problems and he'd been often hospitalised with pneumonia and other problems.

"I rang and said `I suppose you can't help me either' and burst into tears," Mrs Slater said, telling reporters of her frustration at the lack of assistance back then.

The family would now qualify for an interest-free insulation loan. HEET got sponsorship and help from Waikato District Council.

Now Chase is much healthier and was one of the few kids who didn't get sick at his school last winter.

Mrs Slater thinks as many as 40,000 houses in the Waikato need insulation.

She used to vote National but will now vote Labour after National MPs failed to respond to her email.

She says it makes sense to pay for the insulation and has started her own business.

It is making money and she is paying tax.

"We didn't want a handout, but we wanted some help," she said.

"There are other families out there who need would be crazy to cut such a practical service."

Mrs Slater was disappointed with National's lack of response.

"This is a crucial time to make decisions. Yes, we care about the environment, and I care about my son's health more. We care about taxes but I still care about my home and family more."

After the formalities Miss Clark spent about half an hour chatting with the family, telling them of her father's love of beekeeping, and hanging out in Chase's room. She promised to give him hats she's been given when she's been on overseas trips.

Miss Clark was also a hit at Hamilton Mosque, where she wore a gold scarf over her hair and talked about tolerance.

She answered questions about family reunification and overseas qualifications before having to face questions from the media over New Zealand first's call to ban migrants unless they had a job lined up.

Hundreds showed up at Waikato Management School and Wintec to hear Miss Clark speak.

She talked about the Government's record helping students, the economy, independent foreign policy and the importance of innovation and saving.

The biggest laugh of the day was when a student asked how the Defence Force could protect New Zealand when it couldn't fly, sail or fight.

"Can you tell me what the threat is?" Miss Clark asked before going on to a more detailed response.

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