Questions And Answers March 16

by Desk Editor on Thursday, March 17, 2011 — 12:14 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources : Does she accept her ministry’s advice that the value of New Zealand’s onshore minerals, excluding hydrocarbons, is $194 billion overall, with $80 billion estimated …
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Mineral Resources—Value and Government Plans for Development

1. Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she accept her ministry’s advice that the value of New Zealand’s onshore minerals, excluding hydrocarbons, is $194 billion overall, with $80 billion estimated in schedule 4 land; if so, what plans does the Government have to allow their development?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources): To the first part of the question, I accept the Ministry of Economic Development’s advice that an estimate of the gross value of New Zealand’s in-ground onshore minerals, excluding hydrocarbons, is $194 billion. To the second part of the question, the Government has made it clear that it does not intend to remove any land from schedule 4. However, the Government is interested in seeing an increase in mineral activity on non – schedule 4 land in which there is considerable potential, and it has taken a number of steps to encourage that.

Hon Rodney Hide: Why is it that the Government thinks a simple hole in the ground is so damaging that the country should forego $80 billion worth of wealth, the jobs and the investment in growth, and instead live from hand to mouth by borrowing $300 million a week?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member will know that the Government recognises the need to balance economic opportunities with environmental responsibility. New Zealand has had a robust debate about mining on schedule 4 land. The Government listened to the debate and has ruled out removing land from schedule 4. However, like the member, the Government is keen to see New Zealand’s extensive mineral wealth utilised in a responsible way for the benefit of all New Zealanders, and it is taking a number of steps to encourage that.

Hon Rodney Hide: Can the Minister share with the House the number of jobs and lost opportunities that the decision to leave that $80 billion under the ground represents; or is it, in fact, the case that the Government does not know?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The Government has taken a number of steps to explore opportunities on non – schedule 4 land, including undertaking a significant aeromagnetic survey in Northland and on the West Coast of the South Island, to learn more about which areas have the highest concentrations of valuable minerals.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you could anticipate my point of order. The answer did not address what was a straightforward question about schedule 4 land, not the other land.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question, bearing in mind that he is addressing the question to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources.

Hon Rodney Hide: Can the Minister share with the House the trade-off in terms of jobs and lost opportunity that leaving the $80,000 million of minerals under the schedule 4 land represents, or does the Minister not know?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I answered to the primary question, the Government is focused on the $114 billion worth of mineral potential on non – schedule 4 land, and that is what we are exploring.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called.

Hon Rodney Hide: Again, with the greatest of respect, that was a perfectly fine answer to the first question, but the third question was different. It was to the point. The Minister could have answered it quite simply, but repeating the answer to the first question does not answer the third question, which was straightforward.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think, unfortunately, the member did give an alternative: whether the Government knew or did not know. I think the answer actually indicated—

Mr SPEAKER: I blame myself for having allowed that point of order, which was not particularly helpful. I think on this occasion, in fairness, the member asked whether the Government had weighed up the opportunities, or the cost and benefits of the opportunities, against the costs of not taking action. The Minister’s reply was that the Government is focused on a certain portion of the mineral extent that was identified in the primary question. I believe that was an answer to the question. I did listen carefully, and I think with this kind of question there is no particular answer to it. The Minister chose to answer it in that way, and I believe that was not unreasonable.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I tread warily, but that was not my question. I did not ask about the trade-off or whether the Government had considered it. I specifically asked—twice—whether the Minister could share with the House the trade-off, or whether the Government did not know. Talking about what the Government is focused on in the other land definitely does not address that question. The Minister could just say the Government does not know because it did not do the work, but she cannot talk about—

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member is being unreasonable. If he thinks about his question he will realise it was what I summarised, in very loose terms. I do not pretend to be perfect in summarising member’s questions, but the answer that the Minister gave was her reaction to that issue. She said, on behalf of the Government, that the Government is focused on a certain part of the land—that having weighed up the costs and benefits of the entire mineral estate, the Government is focused on a certain part of it. In answering in that way, I believe she did address the issue of trade-offs. But there is no specific answer to that question. That is why I am not being any harder on the Minister in trying to get a particular answer from her: because there is no particular answer to that question.

Charles Chauvel: Has she seen the reports valuing mineral resources and mining’s impact on tourism, both by Terry Consultants, which show that the actual value of the proposal outlined in the substantive question is nothing like $80 billion and more like $25 per person, and that is before taking into account the tourism revenue that New Zealand would lose if the proposal proceeded?


Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table, for the Minister’s benefit, the two reports to which I referred in my supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the transfer of questions is fraught. I have had a discussion on this issue with your office, not about the ability of Ministers to transfer questions but about what happens with the wording of the question when one has been transferred, as this one has been. This question, as you know, was originally drafted to ask about the Prime Minister’s knowledge of a particular situation. We accept his right to choose not to answer the question and to transfer it. My question is whether, when a question is transferred to another Minister, we can get a better format in relation to the words when the question is about the actual advice, especially from the Prime Minister’s office and his department, which we are focusing on, and which no other Minister can have responsibility for.

Mr SPEAKER: My understanding is that when this question was transferred, the wording was amended so that the question still focused on the advice that the Prime Minister, the Government, or Rugby New Zealand 2011 had been given. The focus of the question remains on what the Prime Minister knows about it. Obviously, in transferring the question, one would expect that the Minister for the Rugby World Cup would have knowledge of that, or the question should not have been transferred. It is very simple: questions should not be transferred to avoid their being answered by the only person who might have knowledge of something.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a relatively obvious one. The Minister for the Rugby World Cup cannot have responsibility for the advice that is given by agencies for which he is not responsible. Clearly, for those agencies further down the line, such as the Ministry of Economic Development and Rugby World Cup 2011, he does have responsibility, but he cannot have responsibility for advice given—as it was in this case—by the Prime Minister’s office and the department, because he is not part of that chain. I know this is a hard question, but we have seen, I think, 17 public statements from the Prime Minister in the last day on this issue, and it seems to me that even if the Prime Minister is not able to answer the question, it would have been better to leave it to the Prime Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: The question of who answers questions is a matter totally for the Government. I repeat what I said a moment ago. If I as Speaker perceive that a question is being transferred from the only Minister who could possibly have the information that is the focus of the question, I would become very concerned, because if the question was being transferred to avoid its being answered by the only Minister who could possibly have responsibility for, or knowledge of, the matter, that would be a serious matter. In the transfer of this question I would expect the Minister to have knowledge of what the Prime Minister has been advised. The question of whether he divulges that information to the House, and whether it is in the public interest to do so, is another matter. But if the question is being transferred, I would expect that the Minister would have knowledge of the subject matter.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Rugby World Cup Matches

2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister for the Rugby World Cup: What advice has he, the Government, or Rugby New Zealand 2011 been given on Christchurch’s ability to host Rugby World Cup matches later this year?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister for the Rugby World Cup): In the early part of this week Vbase, the Christchurch City Council company responsible for operating AMI Stadium, received an assessment from engineers of the work required to restore the stadium to a standard capable of hosting test matches. At the same time reports were received by the Government on the current state of hotel accommodation in Christchurch and on the likely state of hotel accommodation in September of this year. Those reports are being discussed by the Minister for the Rugby World Cup, officials from the International Rugby Board, Vbase executives, and New Zealand Rugby Union representatives in Christchurch this afternoon. It would serve the public

interest to allow the Minister to complete his discussions with other stakeholders before providing more information on those reports.

Hon Phil Goff: What recommendation has the Government or Rugby New Zealand 2011 made to the International Rugby Board about the ability of Christchurch to host these matches?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not know whether any recommendation has been made. All I know, again, is that the discussions are continuing currently and that it would best serve the public interest for those discussions to have the opportunity to be completed. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that I think there has been an announcement that a news conference will be held around 3 o’clock this afternoon in Christchurch, at which point, no doubt, the Minister will further update the media on the discussions.

Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister said earlier this week that it was the International Rugby Board’s call but in the end they look to the Government, does he expect the International Rugby Board’s decision to reflect the view of the Government? Is the Prime Minister correct?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Prime Minister is always correct. The International Rugby Board is the owner of the tournament, and, of course, it has been working alongside the Government and other stakeholders. As the member may be aware, the International Rugby Board officials have flown overnight to arrive in Christchurch for the meeting that is occurring right now. Once again, I think we should wait until the meeting has been completed. I understand there is a media briefing afterwards and at that point the Minister will no doubt update discussions.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister received any advice of the International Rugby Board’s likely decision; if so, on what date did his office receive that advice?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is my understanding that the discussions are continuing right now, and I presume that that is why the International Rugby Board officials have flown overnight to have those discussions this afternoon with the Minister, Vbase, the New Zealand Rugby Union, and Rugby New Zealand 2011.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. It asked whether the Prime Minister had received advice on the International Rugby Board’s likely decision; if so, on what date. I do not believe that the Minister actually answered that specific and very straightforward question. It is a yes or no answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister in his answer said the International Rugby Board officials have come here and are having discussions right now. Unless the Minister wishes to clarify that point any further, it would seem that he has made it clear to the House that the officials are here now to discuss the matter, so they can hardly have made up their mind yet. The Hon Steven Joyce may be able to assist.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is exactly the point I was making.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he aware of the Prime Minister’s view of the preliminary decision of the International Rugby Board, which is to be announced at 3 o’clock?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think everybody on that side of the House is trying to get ahead of themselves. The point is that the discussions are currently taking place.

Hon Phil Goff: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Leader of the Opposition, I say to the shadow Leader of the House that he is very experienced and he knows that that kind of interjection is unacceptable. He will not make further such interjections.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the engineering reports that he received on the AMI Stadium indicate that the stadium would by the due date be able to hold those games?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware. I presume that the Minister has seen the assessment now, because he is in Christchurch having meetings with Vbase. I understand that the assessment discussed the work required to restore the AMI Stadium, and I assume that it would also include the timetable that it would take to do so. But, again, those discussions are continuing this afternoon, and there will be a media briefing at 3 o’clock.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Minister received advice that, following the earthquake, accommodation and other infrastructure in Christchurch is capable of meeting the needs of the thousands of rugby fans who would come to the city to watch those games?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The advice received indicated a significant level of uncertainty as to the exact level of accommodation available at this time.

Hon Phil Goff: If Christchurch is deemed unable to host the games, will he be pressing for as many games as possible that were to be held at the AMI Stadium to be held within the Canterbury region and in the South Island?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not privy to the approach that is being taken or the discussions that are taking place at this point, or, indeed, whether those issues will be addressed at 3 o’clock this afternoon when the media briefing takes place. I think we have to just wait and see. It is not a long time between now and 3 o’clock; it is currently 40 minutes and 30 seconds away. We should get some information then.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Do the discussions that are allegedly currently occurring in Christchurch involve the Prime Minister by way of phone conference?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware that they do.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer back to the earlier point of order by my colleague Trevor Mallard. The difficulty I have with the answers to those questions is that the acting Minister was unable to answer any one of them, supposedly because he did not have any of the advice. Does that mean it is appropriate to transfer a question to another Minister who does not have the information?

Mr SPEAKER: In all sincerity I say to the honourable member that if he reflects on the questions asked and the answers given, it may just be that he is about an hour early in asking his questions. There may be no answer to them yet. That is what any, I think, reasonable person would take from the answers given. If members believe that some other plot is going on somewhere, I cannot help with that as Speaker of the House. Questions were asked and I believe the answers, under the circumstances, were reasonable. To suggest otherwise is, I think, not being reasonable.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect to the ruling that you have just made, if you reflect on the questions that I have asked, you will see that they are questions where the information is available because reports have been received. That is why I made the point that I did. It cannot possibly be correct that we do not know what is in the reports, because those reports were received—

Mr SPEAKER: Now we are debating the substance of the issue, which we are not going to do. Let me just point out to the member that he was asserting in his questions that the Prime Minister had had some pre-discussion advice from the International Rugby Board and that he would somehow know what the International Rugby Board was going to decide. That was the implication in the questions asked. The Minister pointed out that that was not his understanding of the situation, and that is where the matter has to lie. Members were pursuing a certain line of questioning and the Minister answered the questions. Given the facts of the matter—as the Minister described to the House, there will be a press conference shortly to advise on some of these matters—it does not seem unreasonable, if there is a meeting going on right now. I do not intend to take the time of the House to litigate it further.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Trevor Mallard briefly, but it had better be a good point of order.

Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a good point of order. I think there were two specific quotes from the Leader of the Opposition. One was from the Prime Minister, which indicated that—

Mr SPEAKER: Can I first check with the member what issue of order he seeks to address.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The issue of order goes to the answers given and whether they are likely to lead to disorder—

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not a valid point of order. It is not a valid point of order. The Speaker determines whether a question has been answered. It is my assessment that the questions were answered in a reasonable manner, given the facts of the matter. That is the end of that. That is not an issue of order to be debated further by way of point of order.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the member in case I have made a mistake.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I know this is getting dangerous. The problem we have is that we are aware that a decision has been made and the Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: This is not a point of order. The member is treading on very dangerous ground. Any further deviation from the Standing Orders and the member will be leaving the House, because that is not a point of order. It is irrelevant what members might understand or think they understand about what decisions may or may not have been made. It is absolutely irrelevant to the order of this House. The member has questioned the acting Minister and the Minister answered, and that is the end of the matter for question time.

Economy—Prospects After Christchurch’s Immediate Needs Met

3. CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy’s prospects after New Zealand meets the immediate challenges of the Christchurch earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Both Treasury and the Reserve Bank expect economic growth to be weaker in the first half of the year but to pick up strongly in 2012. The Reserve Bank forecasts GDP peaking at about 5 percent next year and unemployment falling below 5 percent. These forecasts recognise a number of favourable factors for the economy: high commodity prices, both interest rates and inflation being expected to stay low, the exchange rate with Australia being the most competitive in 20 years, and households significantly lifting their savings rates.

Chester Borrows: What are some of the likely costs the Government will face as a result of the earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Although the costs of the earthquake are likely to be significant and may delay growth in the economy, we still agree with the Reserve Bank and Treasury views that next year we are likely to see significant economic growth. But the costs are likely to include about $3 billion of residential property claims to the Earthquake Commission, significant contributions from the Government to the cost of roading, water, and sewerage systems in Christchurch, some costs for land remediation, and significant costs that are being incurred now for welfare assistance and temporary housing. They are significant costs but they will be manageable.

Chester Borrows: What will the earthquake mean for the Government’s wider economic programme to build a faster-growing economy and higher incomes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The earthquake has simply made it more important that the Government press on with its programme to build on savings, exports, and productive investment. The costs we are incurring now will mean that we have to take on more debt in the short term. But, of course, a stronger economy will mean that later on we have more capacity to repay that debt.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why should New Zealanders have any more confidence in these forecasts of a rebound in 2012 than in those in Budgets 2009 and 2010, which had all been consistently revised downwards prior to the earthquake because of low growth, high unemployment, falling revenues, and National’s deepening recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It will be up to them, of course. New Zealanders will make their own decisions about whether to invest more or spend more. Over the last couple of years they have wisely been careful with their spending and increased their savings. I expect that as their confidence picks up as the rebuild gets going, they will be willing to invest more in the productive side of the

economy. When they have their debt levels right—that is, when they have got their debt down— they may start spending a bit more.

Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill—Report-back


4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Communications and

Information Technology: Would he indicate his agreement to a further extension, if it were required, to the report back date for the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): No; I do not think such an extension is necessary. The first reading of this bill occurred on 9 December last year and the Finance and Expenditure Committee has until 16 May to complete its consideration, which is a period of getting on towards 6 months. Supplementary Order Paper 204 in relation to Telecom’s potential structural separation was tabled on 16 January, but I note that many of the issues—in fact, most of the issues—in it were canvassed in a discussion document, which was released in September of last year.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister consider 10 minutes for the submission of a major corporate or industry body on this complex legislation to be sufficient, or might he agree with the Chief Executive Officer of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, Paul Brislen, who said that the process for this bill has been “outrageous”; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I note to the member that the deliberations of, and hearing of submissions by, the committee is one for the committee. I also note that one of the companies, I think it was Vector, was given 40 minutes in front of the committee—this morning I understand. The other point to make in terms of Mr Brislen is that he needs to decide which view he is taking, because he congratulated us previously on the approach we were taking to the bill. He said: “There is plenty to get our teeth into and now we have the time to do just that.”

Hon David Cunliffe: Has he been involved in any way, either directly or through his staff, in communicating to Government members of the Finance and Expenditure Committee or their staff in relation to the process for oral hearings on the bill; if so, on approximately what dates and to what end?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I have not. I cannot vouch for every member of everybody’s staff, but I am not aware of anything occurring in that regard.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with TelstraClear’s Chief Executive Officer, Allan Freeth, who claims that the hearing process for oral submissions on the telecommunications amendment bill is a “Democratic Farce”, and that not enough time has been given to speakers to adequately articulate a position; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am aware of Mr Freeth’s views. I point out to the member that Mr Freeth has been opposed to the whole idea of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative since it was first announced in 2008. So I suppose the question for the member would be whether he is now siding with Mr Freeth in terms of his views on the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with Vector’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Simon Mackenzie, who warned the Finance and Expenditure Committee just today that the consequences of the Supplementary Order Paper and the truncated, partisan process of the bill will increase regulatory risk and investor uncertainty, and that that will be priced into up-front bid costs; can the Minister then explain to the House why his process is costing the taxpayer potentially millions of extra dollars that could have been sent to Christchurch?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister to answer, I tell the member that, of course, the select committee process is not the Minister’s process. But in so far as the question can be answered by the Minister, I call the Hon Steven Joyce.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Obviously, I was not at the select committee to hear whatever it was Mr Mackenzie is said to have said. But I think, taking it at face value, the point that it is important to have bipartisan support on these matters is important, because it ensures—to the extent that we can—that future Governments will take the same approach. Therefore I ask the member and his colleagues on the committee to deliberate carefully and, if possible, support the legislation.

Fonterra—Trading Among Farmers Proposal

5. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Is he concerned to learn that New Zealand’s first majority Māori-owned dairy company, Miraka, has reportedly stated that there is a serious risk that Fonterra’s proposed Trading Among Farmers exchange will be illiquid, volatile, and unstable; if so, what assurances can he give Miraka and other dairy processors and industry groups that anti-competitive behaviour will not be tolerated?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): I am aware of the concerns that have been raised by Miraka, and, indeed, I have agreed to meet the directors of Miraka next week. I take this opportunity to assure the member that for Trading Among Farmers to work the market will have to be deep, liquid, and stable. I have made that absolutely clear to Fonterra.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is it the Government’s intention to introduce a dairy industry restructuring amendment bill to the House this year to facilitate Fonterra’s introduction of its Trading Among Farmers capital structure proposal; if so, will he invite the Commerce Commission to thoroughly examine this proposal in order to avoid the risk of anti-competitive behaviour that would continue to drive up the price of milk for New Zealanders?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The answer to the first question is that, yes, it is the Government’s intention to introduce legislation before the end of the year, although final decisions will be made only when the consultation phase has concluded. The legislation will proceed only if there is confidence from other investors within the dairy industry and from general financial investors. I agree with the member that for Trading Among Farmers to work it is absolutely vital that there is a method by which the price of milk is set fairly. It is vital that there is some transparency around the setting of that price. The final point is, in relation to the Commerce Commission, I am aware the commission has already made a submission on the current proposal.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware of concerns from Waikato’s Tātua dairy company about future raw milk pricing; if so, is he prepared to establish an independent milk price panel with representatives from the Commerce Commission and the Securities Commission, and with oversight by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to achieve enhanced milk price regulation?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I am not specifically aware of Tātua’s concern, but, again, it had the opportunity to make a submission. I expect that its concern is one that is shared generally by many in the dairy industry. The setting of the milk price is vital, and, as I said in answer to an earlier question, for Trading Amongst Farmers to work satisfactorily it will be essential that there is some transparency around it.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does he support the statement in his own report on domestic milk pricing that prices in the domestic market are also influenced by the structure of retail and wholesale markets; if so, can he explain the fact that although Australian farmers supply the same milk into the same international market, Australian consumers are now paying $1 per litre for milk and New Zealand consumers are having to pay up to $2.75 per litre; and will he do anything about it?

Hon DAVID CARTER: As the report the member referred to concludes, the dairy legislation— and he was a vital part of it being passed by this House in 2001—does provide for competition for the domestic milk sector. It does not ensure competition, and that is not a matter for me as the Minister of Agriculture, but, of course, it is a matter for the Commerce Commission. On the point regarding the Australian retail milk price, the member may be aware that milk is the subject of an

intense price war between supermarket chains, with the suggestion that it is a loss-leader for some of those supermarket chains in Australia.

Economic Development, Acting Minister—Duration of Appointment

6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Acting Minister for Economic Development: Has he been advised by the Prime Minister whether his appointment as Acting Minister for Economic Development is temporary or expected to carry on to the election?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Acting Minister for Economic Development): No. I serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

Hon David Parker: Given that it appears that his appointment is at least for the foreseeable future, can he tell the House what new plans he has as Acting Minister for Economic Development to stop the slide in the New Zealand economy?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I intend to follow the very strong focus of this Government on an economic growth agenda. We need to improve trade opportunities and we want to invest in innovation—Labour opposes that. We intend to reform a lot of poor regulations—Labour opposes that. We intend to improve skills—Labour opposes that. We intend to spend more money on infrastructure—Labour opposes that. We have already much improved the tax system—Labour opposed that.

Hon David Parker: Why does his Government still not take responsibility for New Zealand’s slide when even business commentators are now saying: “If bombed-out economies such as the US and the UK are showing strong signs of investment-led recovery, why aren’t we?”

Hon DAVID CARTER: The member who should take responsibility for the slide in New Zealand’s economic performance is that member and his Government, who neglected the economy for 9 long years.

Hon David Parker: Is the real reason for the economy not prospering that National’s steps to transform the economy have been timid and have merely tinkered around the edges, when strong steps are needed to make new exports thrive?

Hon DAVID CARTER: Absolutely no.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister saying that he is happy with the performance of the economy and the steps his Government has taken to date, given that even business commentators are saying that “The new recession is the Government’s—it must own up.”? When will he own up?

Hon DAVID CARTER: No, I am not happy with the performance of the economy. But it is very evident to me that it takes a long, long time to turn round an economy that was so dramatically neglected by the previous Labour administration.

Question No. 4 to Minister—Amended Answer

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): I seek leave to make a correction to an answer I gave to question No. 4 earlier.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the Minister to make a correction to an answer. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I transposed a date. Instead of 16 January I should have said 16 February.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Reopening of Schools and Early Childhood Education Centres

7. JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the Minister of Education: What progress has been made on reopening Christchurch schools and early childhood education centres since the 22 February earthquake?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): By the end of yesterday 77 percent of all schools had reopened, and we currently expect that 94 percent of schools will be open by Monday

of next week. In addition 237 early childhood centres—that is, 70 percent—have opened in Christchurch, and by Monday of next week 265 are expected to open.

Jo Goodhew: What initiatives have been put in place for those children whose school has not yet reopened?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: In addition to individual schools providing out-of-school learning initiatives, the Ministry of Education has set up 10 learning hubs and more will be set up if they are needed. These hubs are available for children in years 1 to 8 and provide a supervised learning environment. They are proving popular with children, and by 10 a.m. today 334 children had enrolled.

Hospitals, Public—Sale

8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Health: Does he favour the sale of any public hospitals in New Zealand; if so, which one or ones?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The Government is not interested in selling public hospitals, as the Government is committed to growing and protecting the New Zealand public health services. However, that does not prevent existing buildings from being sold if a hospital moves to a better facility—one that is better for patients. In Queenstown, for example, I am advised that the Southern District Health Board is looking at a number of options for improving services, including co-location on the existing hospital site or co-location on a new site in Queenstown.

Grant Robertson: Did he tell the Southern District Health Board chief executive, Brian Rousseau, that he supported the sale of Lakes District Hospital if a privately run medical centre was developed in its place in Queenstown?

Hon TONY RYALL: No. The Queenstown district is one of the fastest-growing parts of New Zealand and is expecting an increasing demand, particularly from older people. Meeting this growing demand will require significant financial resources and the smart cooperation of the public and private services. As the Southern District Health Board works through the options, I am sure there will continue to be more publicly provided hospital services in Queenstown in the future.

Grant Robertson: Given that answer, was Mr Rousseau not telling the truth when he told local councillors on 3 March that he had the Minister’s support for the sale of the hospital if a privately run medical centre was developed in Queenstown in its place?

Hon TONY RYALL: I cannot verify what Mr Rousseau actually said. But I can tell the member that the Government has made it very clear to the Southern District Health Board that we think there need to be improved services for the people of Queenstown. They have been talking about that for—it must be—almost 20 years, and it is time the board got on with it.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What additional public hospital buildings has this Government invested in over the past 2 years?

Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has approved more than a dozen hospital capital projects, totalling more than $500 million in the last 2 years: the Waikato Hospital acute medical precinct, at $30 million; Middlemore Hospital future growth, at $200 million; Lakeview emergency care centre at North Shore, at $48 million; Dunedin Hospital and Wakari Hospital upgrades, at $24 million; Greenlane surgical centre, at $24 million; Whakatāne Hospital, at $65 million; and on Friday $80 million for a new Taranaki Base Hospital was announced.

Grant Robertson: What guarantee can he give to Queenstown residents that their health services will be affordable, when the Queenstown Medical Centre is the driving force behind the privately run medical centre that is planned to replace the hospital, and when that centre is responsible for some of the highest after-hours medical fees in the country, including a $102 fee for a baby for an after-hours visit?

Hon TONY RYALL: That compares with some $200 when Labour was in office, according to Hansard. The guarantee that I would give to the people of Queenstown is that the district health board is currently consulting on a number of options, one of which is the co-location of services on

the Queenstown hospital site. The other option is the co-location of services on a new modern facility, yet to be determined. Co-location was not uncommon under Labour, with private providers working alongside public services at Wairau Hospital, Wanganui Hospital, Hāwera Hospital, and Middlemore Hospital. Indeed, at Wairarapa Hospital there is a private hospital working in the public hospital, and the MidCentral District Health Board provides public health and mental health outpatient clinics out of a private hospital in Dannevirke. That was done under Labour.

Grant Robertson: Will he follow through on his commitment that clinical leadership should be “from boardroom to bedside” and ask the Southern District Health Board to take notice of the recommendations of the overwhelming majority of the clinical advisory group on the Queenstown proposal, who oppose the board’s plan to have a privately run centre?

Hon TONY RYALL: The Government’s commitment to clinical leadership speaks volumes in the results that we are delivering for the people of the Southern District Health Board, with record levels of elective surgery, faster cancer treatment, and faster emergency departments.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Department of Building and Housing Advice

9. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What advice has he received from the Department of Building and Housing regarding last month’s Christchurch earthquake?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction): The Department of Building and Housing has commenced an investigation into the performance of some key buildings in Christchurch in last month’s earthquake. The investigation will include the CTV building, the Pyne Gould building, the Forsyth Barr building, and, indeed, the Hotel Grand Chancellor. The department will investigate why these buildings collapsed or suffered serious damage in last month’s quake by gathering information on the original design and construction of the buildings, the impact of any alterations to those buildings, and how they performed in the September fore-quake. The investigation will also consider how the current building code compares with overseas codes for earthquakes. The department’s investigation is separate from the royal commission of inquiry announced by the Prime Minister on Monday. However, the technical information provided by the departmental investigation will inform and assist the royal commission of inquiry. The investigation will proceed as quickly as possible. However, this is an important task and it is vital that we get it right.

Simon Bridges: How can people contribute any information they have on these buildings to the Department of Building and Housing?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The department wants to hear from people who have firsthand accounts from working in these buildings or who have photographs or video footage that will assist the inquiry. Anybody who has such information can contact the department on 0800 242 243 or email it to

Minimum Wage Review—Factors Considered

10. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What factors did she consider in deciding to increase the minimum wage by 25c from 1 April in her latest review?

Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): I considered a range of factors, as set out in the Cabinet paper, which is available on the Department of Labour’s website. Some of the factors I considered were the impacts on unemployment, job creation, and low-paid workers. I concluded that in difficult economic times a cautious approach was required and that protecting jobs was paramount.

Darien Fenton: Will the 100,000 people on or near the minimum wage find it easier or harder to meet the rising cost of living after her 25c increase in the minimum wage, given that the Department of Labour advised her that the increase does not constitute a real increase in the minimum wage?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think the important factor is that they will have a job. If Labour had its way, they would not have a job, and it would be even more difficult for them to meet the costs of living.

Darien Fenton: Did she consider the Department of Labour’s advice that increasing the minimum wage to $13.50, which would put $76 million into the pockets of 100,000 Kiwis, would have a negligible effect on total employment and thus would not be likely to constrain the job market?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I considered the advice, but I was not willing to put at risk the between 480 and 640 jobs that might have been lost had we increased the minimum wage to $13.50.

Darien Fenton: Why did she not increase the wage to at least $13.50 when it would have put an extra $76 million into the pockets of low-paid Kiwis and into the economy at a time when those Kiwis are struggling to meet rapidly rising food, petrol, childcare, health, and other costs?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: As I have said, protecting jobs was a paramount consideration. We looked at what we considered was the most sustainable, realistic, and fair option, and we did not want to risk the loss of 600 jobs.

Darien Fenton: Is she concerned by the fact that the National Government’s increases to the minimum wage have consistently been lower than increases to the average wage, meaning that the poorest Kiwis are falling further and further behind?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I can say that since being elected into Government we have increased the minimum wage by $40 a week. At the end of the day it is a matter of finding a balance and getting the most sustainable, realistic, and fair option whilst protecting jobs.

Question No. 8 to Minister

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): I omitted to do this earlier. I seek leave of the House to table a document prepared by the Wakatipu Health Trust. It is a question and answer document that includes the statement that the Otago District Health Board chief, Brian Rousseau, told the mayor that he had the Minister of Health’s support for the sale of Lakes District Hospital.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Roading Projects, Hawke’s Bay—Progress

11. CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on roading projects in the Hawke’s Bay region?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): Heaps. I was privileged last Friday to open the first two roading projects, completed thanks to the Government’s 2009 half-billion-dollar jobs and growth stimulus package. The first to open was over 12 months ahead of schedule—the Matahōrua Gorge realignment on State Highway 2 between Napier and Gisborne. The 3-kilometre alignment removes the sharp twists of the old route, eliminating closures and delays caused by adverse weather or crashes. This will have significant benefits for all road users. The project was completed on time and under budget due to the contractor’s innovative bridge design and construction. Over 140 workers were on site for the course of the construction, and its completion is a tribute to all stakeholders.

Stuart Nash: What reason did the Minister give to Alan Dick, the then-chair of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, when he summoned him to Wellington last year to tell him he was taking away the $71 million raised through Hawke’s Bay excise tax from the New Zealand Transport Agency fund for Hawke’s Bay, to spend it on roading infrastructure in Hawke’s Bay?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That question is wrong on so many levels. I point out to the member that the Government has invested substantially more in State highway construction than the previous Government was planning to spend—billions more over the next 10 years; $3 billion to $4 billion I think, from memory—and it has not been taking funding away from Hawke’s Bay. It is investing very significantly right around the country much greater funding than the previous Government was intending to invest.

Stuart Nash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to clarify: is that what he told Alan Dick when—

Mr SPEAKER: That is not point of order.

Craig Foss: What improvements have been made to the Hawke’s Bay Expressway due to the Government’s transport stimulus project?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: More good news! The Hawke’s Bay Expressway southern extension was the second project opened last Friday following its acceleration by the Government’s halfbillion- dollar jobs and growth package. The southern extension is the last piece of the expressway, which has been on the book since the 1960s. Its completion better connects Hastings, Napier, and the airport, and removes two busy intersections as well as a crash black spot. There were over 170 workers on site during the course of construction. The project provided local jobs and contributed to the economy during the economic downturn. The completion of these projects is great news for the locals, but it is just part of a wider multimillion-dollar investment that the Government has made in new State highway construction in the Hawke’s Bay region under the current National Land Transport Programme.

Economy—Oil Dependence

12. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Finance: What steps, if any, is he taking to reduce New Zealand’s economic vulnerability that stems from dependence on oil?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government is moving to ensure that in the light of any number of potential international pressures or economic shocks we have a resilient economy where price changes flow through quickly and people have the opportunity to adapt to those price changes, as they will if the price of oil continues to rise.

Gareth Hughes: Is he aware of the UK Government’s recent carbon plan, which sets out a number of Government actions that will reduce the UK’s economic dependence on oil, and why does New Zealand not have such a plan?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: New Zealand had some kind of carbon plan that was put together by the last Government, but the analysis I saw of it showed that it set out very expensive ways of reducing carbon. We actually favour the emissions trading system, which I know the Greens favour, as well.

Gareth Hughes: Is the Minister aware of the Dunedin City Council’s peak oil vulnerability analysis report, which identifies local government actions to prepare for high oil prices? Why is the National Government not undertaking a similar analysis?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not been aware of that report, but it is likely that it will not be particularly effective, judging from the title of it and the fact that a local council has very little opportunity to actually influence the Western World’s vulnerability due to its use of oil.

Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister act on the recommendations of the 2008 New Zealand Transport Agency report Managing transport challenges when oil prices rise, which advises the Government to cease all new motorway building until Government funding and regulations that increase our dependence on oil have been removed?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I expect that under this Government’s programme to upgrade our roading infrastructure, people will have more choices—for instance, to catch buses. I would be interested in discussing the issue with the Greens. A successful public transport system will certainly rely on buses as the main form of public transport. Buses need roads that are not totally congested, otherwise they cannot provide a service to the public.

Gareth Hughes: What percentage of commuter bus services does he expect to use the Waikato Expressway, the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway”, or any of the other five planned motorway projects? Does he not agree that investment in buses and trains would make the existing road network more efficient than new motorways?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Waikato Expressway is a vital infrastructural artery for our export economy. Although commuters have interests and the Government needs to invest in transport infrastructure to meet their needs, it is actually more important that we have an economy that can earn and be competitive in the world. That is why we focus on some infrastructure outside of the main cities.

Gareth Hughes: How can New Zealanders respond to price signals and change their travel behaviour, when his Government is prioritising $10 billion on expensive motorways over other essential public transport projects such as the Auckland central business district rail loop?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: A feature of the Government’s programme is that it has maintained a significant investment in public transport such as the Auckland rail network and the Wellington commuter rail network, alongside a significant investment in roads. We believe the combination of the two will lift our productivity and increase the prospects of sustainable economic growth in the future. We accept, of course, that rising oil prices and rising petrol prices may well change behaviours. People are making those decisions one by one right now. We do not believe an overall bureaucratic plan will do a better job of adapting than individual New Zealanders can do.

Gareth Hughes: Given that oil makes up 16 percent of our imports and 99 percent of our transport fuels, why is the Government failing to act responsibly by developing a national strategy to reduce our oil dependency, as many other countries and local councils are doing?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because we do not see a strategy as a replacement for action. I know that that is a radical change in approach from a New Zealand Government. Every day New Zealanders are making decisions to change their behaviour based on changes in the oil price, and we think that largely they are making pretty sensible decisions.

Gareth Hughes: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a letter, revealed under the Official Information Act, from the New Zealand Transport Agency that states there has been no modelling of high oil prices—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Gareth Hughes: The second document I seek leave to table is the research report 357, commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, entitled Managing transport challenges when oil prices rise, which recommends ceasing spending on the motorways.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.


Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill—Submissions


1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Chairperson of the Finance and

Expenditure Committee: How many submissions have been received so far on the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?

CRAIG FOSS (Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee): Thirty-three submissions have been lodged.

Hon David Cunliffe: How many minutes has he allocated for the oral hearing of each submission that submitters wish to be heard?

CRAIG FOSS: I do not allocate the minutes. That is a matter for the committee.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took the liberty of taking the advice of the Clerk in relation to this supplementary question, and under the Standing Orders it is the responsibility of the chairperson to set the agenda and the timetable for the committee. I understand that my supplementary question is in order.

Mr SPEAKER: To respond to the point of order that has been raised, I advise that the chairperson can set time limits for submissions. Of course, likewise the committee can make those decisions. If the chair has made the decision, the chair can answer it. If the committee has made the decision, it is a matter for the committee.

CRAIG FOSS: Just for clarification, I say that an indicative 10 minutes was allocated to help our agenda through this week. As we know, this morning we heard about five or six submissions, the longest of which took 40 minutes.

Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 2, the Hon David Cunliffe.

Hon David Cunliffe: Because the Opposition fought for it. My question is to the Chairperson—

Hon Members: Oh!

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear what the member said, but obviously it caused disorder. I ask him to please just ask question to member No. 2.

Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill—Requests for

Oral Submissions

2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Chairperson of the Finance and

Expenditure Committee: How many submitters on the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill have requested an oral hearing?

CRAIG FOSS (Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee): Twenty-four submitters have requested an oral hearing.

Hon David Cunliffe: Is the chairperson satisfied that the committee has provided sufficient time to hear and consider all those submissions before the report-back date of 16 May?

Mr SPEAKER: What the committee does is not a matter the—

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have before me a Hansard transcript of questions to members, including a question to the chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, of 14 September 2010, when an almost identical question by my colleague Darien Fenton was allowed to be asked of the chairperson, David Bennett.

Mr SPEAKER: If I erred on that occasion, I apologise to the House, but the chairperson is not responsible for decisions of the committee.

Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill—Times

Allocated for Oral Submissions

3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Chairperson of the Finance and

Expenditure Committee: Is he aware of any complaints about times allocated to submitters on the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?

CRAIG FOSS (Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee): Yes, I am.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why is he attempting to ram through complex technical submissions on a huge and complex bill—

Mr SPEAKER: Order.

Hon David Cunliffe: —in only 1 week—

Mr SPEAKER: What was it about my being on my feet that the member did not see? I ask the member to please not do that again. When I get to my feet, members will resume their seat. That is one of the absolute rules I require. The member knows that that question was not in order.


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