Questions And Answers March 8

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 — 7:47 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Is he satisfied that actions to address the Christchurch earthquake are an adequate response; if not, what are his areas of concern?
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Earthquake, Christchurch—Adequacy of Actions and Areas of Concern

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is he satisfied that actions to address the Christchurch earthquake are an adequate response; if not, what are his areas of concern?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Generally yes, but due to the severe damage in the eastern suburbs, some households may well be without power, water, and sewerage for some time yet. However, I want to assure people that everything that can be done is being done in terms of restoring central infrastructure.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister agree with his national Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, John Hamilton, who said “We grossly underappreciated the scale of damage in the suburban areas.”, and does he believe that the pace of addressing the problems, particularly in the eastern suburbs, is now at a satisfactory level?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not seen John Hamilton’s comments, but I will accept the member’s word that that is what he said. In terms of the latter point, yes, everything that can be done is being done. New Zealanders will appreciate that, as the worst affected of the people in the eastern suburbs have said to me or to my colleagues, the reality is that in that early period, when we were all desperately trying to find people alive in the search and rescue effort, that was of paramount importance. I think all of us would accept that relative to the significant inconvenience those residents have had to go through, looking for people who might have been alive was the top priority. Of course, now our full effort is turning towards restoration of residents’ services.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister consult his Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mr Hamilton, before making the statement that some neighbourhoods in Christchurch would not be rebuilt, and what advice did Mr Hamilton or any other official give him on the propriety of making that statement?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and none.

Hon Phil Goff: Given the reaction of people on the ground to the Prime Minister’s statement, what process does he have in mind to consult the communities affected, and will such a process be implemented quickly, given the huge uncertainty that has been created by his statement?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We have to acknowledge the anxiety of those people who have damaged homes that may not be able to be rebuilt. I think everyone understands and appreciates that. The process is that currently geotechnical advice is being sought. When we have that geotechnical advice we will be in a position to understand whether that land can be remediated. If it can be remediated, I suggest that it will be, depending on the costs of doing so. But, obviously, we need to get that advice first, and we are working as aggressively and as quickly as we can.

Hon Phil Goff: Given the concern that is being expressed in those communities because people do not know which community will now be written off and which homes not rebuilt, when can he provide some certainty to those communities about what will be happening to them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As soon as we have that geotechnical advice.

Hon Phil Goff: Given the massive job that will exist in rebuilding 10,000 houses that are due for demolition and a central business district two-thirds of which may require rebuilding, what special plans has he got to upskill people in Christchurch so that we do not have unemployment alongside a major skills shortage in the construction trades in the months to come?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is hard to look for a silver lining in a tragedy of the extent of the one we have witnessed in Christchurch, but if there is one, it is that there will be enormous economic stimulus in Christchurch over the course of the next few years—in fact, over quite a number of years. That will lead to opportunities for people from Christchurch. In terms of the skills capability, my understanding is that all the insurance companies are aligned to a major building company, and there is quite a pool of people in the construction sector from around New Zealand, and, potentially, from around the world, that can help in that process. Again, when we are in a position to start that work, I am sure we will try to soak up as much of that skill as possible.

Hon Phil Goff: In light of the controversy that occurred over the comments of the Minister for Earthquake Recovery about heritage buildings not having any place in the future of Christchurch, can the Prime Minister give an assurance that emergency regulations will not be used to implement arbitrary decisions that have not first been consulted with stakeholders, with the chance for all of the community to express their views?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, that is not what the Minister said. Of course, one of the dangers in these situations is that people interpret from whatever perspective they want to take the comments that someone might make, and, like Chinese whispers, they end up being in a completely different place from where they started. But the point I would make is that, in terms of the demolition of buildings in the city, there is clear process if it is happening under the civil defence emergency powers. If the buildings are heritage buildings, then the requirements are more stringent, and they have to go through that process.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Economic Impact

2. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economic impact of the earthquake in Christchurch on 22 February 2011?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): First of all, it is important to acknowledge the impact on the communities and families of Christchurch ahead of the impact on the economy. But there is no doubt that the earthquake will have significant impact on the Canterbury economy and some impact on the wider New Zealand economy. Treasury’s latest monthly economic indicators, issued over the weekend, estimate that national GDP growth will be about 1.5 percent lower in 2011, solely as a result of the earthquake. It also notes that the rebuilding and reconstruction effort will bring a sizable boost to the economy in 2012. Although in the shorter term, for instance, there are fewer prospects of a drop in unemployment, by 2012 those prospects will be considerably better.

Amy Adams: What is Treasury’s early assessment of the costs of the earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Treasury has assessed two different aspects of the costs. The first is the total financial cost of the damage of this earthquake. At the moment, those numbers are reasonably vague, between $10 billion and $15 billion, which is two to three times the estimated cost of the September earthquake. Secondly, Treasury has estimated the impact on the wider economy. This estimate takes into account the fact that the economy was growing more slowly before the earthquake occurred, and will then be affected by the earthquake. Treasury estimates that that could mean a reduction of about $5 billion in tax revenue for the Government over the next 4 years.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm that Treasury’s February monthly economic indicators states at page 4: “Over the 2011 to 2015 March years, nominal GDP is expected to be a cumulative $15 billion lower than in the Half Year Update … This is mostly related to the weaker outlook we were seeing prior to the February earthquake,”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I can confirm that. The forecasts of growth, either those by Treasury, when they are published finally in the Budget, or those by the Reserve Bank, which will be publishing forecasts this week, are likely to reflect the fact that most of the reduction in the growth outlook was occurring before the earthquake. The earthquake has certainly had a negative impact on it.

Amy Adams: What is the potential impact of the earthquake costs on the Government’s finances?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government’s finances will be affected in two ways. Firstly, it will face its own direct costs of the earthquake. The costs of the earthquake are shared between private insurers, the Government, private individuals, and businesses. The Government’s share is likely to be around the $3 billion to $5 billion mark. It will also be affected by a drop in revenue, some of which was going to occur even without the earthquake. It means the Government will have to keep a pretty close eye on its priorities. It will probably take on some additional debt, and then look to see how we can absorb those costs over the next 3 or 4 years.

Amy Adams: How will the Government approach its policy response to the Christchurch earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Although the earthquake is a significant setback for the Government’s books and a significant hit on the economy, it is something we can handle. The Government will be taking a pretty considered and balanced approach. We are willing to take on more debt in the short term; there is not much choice about that. The costs are being incurred now, and the debt for this financial year will be higher than was expected. Over the next 4 or 5 years we have a total Government spend of about $350 billion, and within that we should be able to accommodate a cost of $9 billion or $10 billion, just by thinking about it a bit harder. The earthquake certainly is not significant enough to knock New Zealand off course, with an economy that is gradually rebalancing towards savings, investment, and exports.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Government Support for People Affected

3. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Canterbury

Earthquake Recovery: Is he satisfied with the level of support being offered to the people of Christchurch in the wake of the earthquake on 22 February 2011?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the

Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: In the interest of not constantly repeating myself, I indicate to the House that I will be answering questions Nos 3, 8, and 11 today on behalf of the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. The answer to the member’s question is generally yes, but there is always room for improvement.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: When will the people of Christchurch, and especially of Christchurch East, have reasonable access to temporary toilet facilities?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The Minister has been advised that as of today a number of Portaloos and chemical toilets are being moved into the area. More are on order, and more are coming from overseas. If the member, or any other Christchurch member, has a specific case where there is a very, very serious shortage, I understand all of them have been provided with a direct phone line to the national controller. We would really appreciate a call. I give an assurance that when we have some stocks, we will get them to the places that are most in need.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What thought has been given to mobilising army shower facilities in the worst-hit parts of Christchurch, to complement the Englefield mobile shower unit being supplied by the private sector, as recommended to him last week?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I think it is fair to say every one of the suggestions that have been put to us, or put to the people who will make the decisions about what facilities are utilised, is given serious consideration. The suggestions are prioritised and then they are acted upon. As I said before, as we speak a number of facilities are pouring into those areas where I think there has been a shortage of facilities up until now.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister explored the feasibility of utilising mobile army catering facilities in areas where power and water are yet to be restored and hot food is extremely limited, as recommended to him last week?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I have not personally explored that, but I do know that those options have all been considered carefully. Where there is merit to them and where they will not interfere with other decisions that are being taken, they are being moved on straight away.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What consideration has been given to the provision of transportation for those who are unable to access welfare facilities through lack of transportation themselves, as was recommended last week?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Again, I understand that free buses have been provided for moving people around and helping them to get to and from shops, welfare centres, and so on. Again, if any of the members from Christchurch know of specific cases where that is not being of assistance to people or where people cannot make use of it, I say please let us know, and we will try to provide individually tailored responses.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What measures have been put in place to ensure that business owners have the opportunity to salvage stock and records so as to restart their businesses as soon as possible?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: That is a very, very high priority for us. As we start to lift the cordons and move further and further into the area of the central business district, every business owner is being given the opportunity as quickly as can feasibly be done to access all of their equipment and their records, so that they can then resume normal business, located in other locations.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What functions does the Government intend to take away from the Christchurch City Council as the rebuild of the city commences?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I have no knowledge of any functions yet planned to be taken away from the Christchurch City Council.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What assurances has he sought and received from the Minister of Education to address concerns from schools that their funding might be affected if their rolls fluctuate as a result of taking on students from earthquake-damaged schools, and what assurances has he sought and received from the same Minister that schools will not be adversely affected by taking on students from earthquake-damaged schools despite the funding announcement today?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I received a briefing from the Minister of Education just this morning, in which she indicated that all schools around the rest of New Zealand that are taking those children will be funded accordingly, that they will not be impacted by what their enrolment zone might or might not have excluded, and that the schools in Christchurch that those kids have come from and that are not functioning will still retain their funding, as well.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Government Support for Business and Employees

4. NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to support Canterbury businesses and employees through the earthquake recovery?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): We have put in place a range of support for Canterbury businesses and employees. A response implemented within 6 days of the earthquake includes a 6-week financial assistance package to support workers through the earthquake support subsidy, and individuals through the job-loss cover payment. To

date we have assisted over 41,000 individuals and we have paid out assistance of more than $53 million to those Canterbury businesses and their employees.

Nicky Wagner: Who is eligible for this financial assistance?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: In comparison with the earthquake in September we actually broadened the criteria of the subsidy and increased the weekly amount. That acknowledges the scale and how big this earthquake was. We have included large employers. We have included those who are sole traders and contractors. We have also in circumstances included those who have had a significant loss of trade—for example, taxi drivers and the like—which makes it quite different. People are applying more online than they are by phone, which is freeing up a lot of that activity locally, as well.

Jacinda Ardern: Is it her intention to extend the Government’s earthquake employment support package; if so, how long for, and when is a formal announcement on this likely to be made?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Decisions on that have not yet been made.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Ministry of Social Development’s Response

5. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social

Development and Employment: Is she confident that the Ministry of Social Development has responded adequately to the Christchurch earthquake?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. I think it has responded more than adequately, and I am intensely proud of the work that the Ministry of Social Development staff have done. As well as those numbers I gave in answer to the previous question, the list is very long. Staff have fielded more than 94,000 inbound calls, and they have proactively contacted more than 23,200 elderly and vulnerable people. In terms of outbound calls, they have sent text messages to more than 18,000 students about their payments, they opened all weekend for the last two weekends to process payments and provide assistance, and they have set up recovery assistance centres. Eight mobile vans have been out to those areas. They have staffed the welfare centres. They have made more than 54,000 civil defence payments. It has been quite remarkable.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, what has the Ministry of Social Development done for older, vulnerable superannuitants who do not have telephones or transport, in terms of contacting them?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It has been working alongside non-governmental organisations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, which have been out door-knocking. It is also part of— sorry, I cannot remember the name of the operation; the one that is going door to door, in consultation with the Christchurch City Council. It is working alongside it, too.

Hon Annette King: What provision has been made to ensure that people who have lost their homes and are now renting properties at inflated prices are able to quickly access the accommodation supplement if their insurance company is not meeting the cost, and has the level of supplement been lifted to take account of the spike in rents?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: In answer to the last part of that question, no, the accommodation supplement has not been increased, but there is an accommodation side to the civil defence payments. It is actually quite generous, and that is what we have clicked in at the moment. From memory, about a million dollars has been spent throughout New Zealand, but mainly in Christchurch. That is the payment we are using at the moment to cover those accommodation costs on a weekly basis.

Hon Annette King: Will Government decisions on the Welfare Working Group report be applied to the people in Christchurch on any of the benefits; if so, when?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Welfare Working Group’s report is still being considered, and will be considered for some time. I can let the member know that the Future Focus stuff that we introduced last year to do with work testing—those on the unemployment benefit having to come in

after 12 months and reapply for it, and those on the domestic purposes benefit being work tested when their youngest child is 6—has been halted for 6 months. That went through Cabinet this week.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Temporary Levy on Income

6. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Has he considered raising a temporary levy on income to help fund the rebuilding of Christchurch; if so, how much could it raise?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As I have said publicly, the Government is keen to get much better information as time goes on about what costs are likely to be incurred in the rebuilding of Christchurch. Many of those costs will be one-off costs and therefore more appropriately funded by higher debt in the short term. It is also likely that earthquake levies applying to all residential housing in Christchurch are likely to rise significantly as the costs of Earthquake Commission insurance rise. At this early stage, we believe that those two sources of funds are the most appropriate way to pay for whatever outgoings the Government has for the reconstruction of Christchurch.

Metiria Turei: Does he agree that a fair and balanced economic response would be one that raises a little more revenue from those who can afford it, adds a little more debt to be shared over the medium term, and reprioritises infrastructure spending to where it is most needed at the moment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is important that we achieve a fair and balanced response. One of the reasons the Government is reluctant to impose a new levy is simply that when the economy is relatively flat and the whole country would benefit from stronger economic growth, we do not want to put in place a levy that is likely to slow down that process. If there are other ways we can fund the rebuilding of Christchurch that do not directly affect the prospects of stronger economic recovery, we would prefer to use those methods.

Metiria Turei: Does he agree with Fran O’Sullivan, who argues that by setting a levy at a high threshold, the additional tax is unlikely to affect economic growth, because high-income earners are currently using their wealth to retire debt as opposed to consume?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not necessarily agree with Fran O’Sullivan, on quite a range of issues. What the Government is doing will ensure that we go through a process where Earthquake Commission levies are likely to go up, which is an appropriate measure and will affect every homeowner in New Zealand. We will be looking at the priorities for Government spending over the next 3 or 4 years—something like $300 billion of spending. We believe that those will be better ways of dealing with the increased debt that inevitably will go with Government funding of the rebuilding of Christchurch.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Minister today accept that growing Government debt is better than raising revenue to pay for the earthquake damage, when before the election he used the size of Government debt to justify the sale of State assets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This Government has always been reluctant to unnecessarily increase Government debt. However, we are not completely rigid about it. The fact is that we need to incur significant costs to support the people of Canterbury, even in terms as basic as giving them cash in their pockets over the last couple of weeks so they can live. We are committed to rebuilding Christchurch. Those are our top priorities, and if we have to incur some extra debt to achieve them, then we are willing to do so. But over the next 3 or 4 years we need to reduce our debt levels, because we are a country that is still vulnerable with high levels of debt. We do not want to increase that vulnerability.

Metiria Turei: If he does not agree with Fran O’Sullivan, does he agree with Bernard Hickey, who says that the fastest, fairest, and safest way for New Zealand to save as a nation—given the Minister’s concern about savings—and to use those savings to rebuild infrastructure is to impose an earthquake levy on those who can afford it, and that that is the most effective way to do it?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, for similar reasons to why I disagree with Fran O’Sullivan, who makes the same proposition.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that an earthquake levy is more transparent than Government spending cuts, and that it takes the politics out of paying for the rebuilding of Christchurch?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think we can certainly achieve transparency around the rebuilding of Christchurch to show what public money is being spent and where it comes from. That should not be difficult, at all.

Metiria Turei: Who does the Minister think should fairly bear the cost of this disaster: those who can afford to and who have said publicly and openly that they want to, or those who are receiving Government support like Working for Families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That will depend to some extent on the decisions we make, but, by and large, one can expect the Government to stick to the method it has used through the recession, when Government spending has been tight. We will continue to protect the vulnerable, to maintain frontline services, and to continue with long-term investment in infrastructure so that we can have a stronger, growing economy. In the longer run, a stronger, growing economy will help the rebuilding of Christchurch and the reinvigoration of the rest of the country more than any particular spending or taxing measure will.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Assistance for Tertiary Institutions and Students

7. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What work has been done to help the families of tertiary students and tertiary institutions affected by the 22 February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education): Ministry of Education officials have been meeting daily with the families of those tragically affected by the earthquake, particularly those from King’s Education, which, as most members will now be aware, was located in the CTV building. I have personally met with most of the international students’ families and the directors of King’s Education to offer my and the Government’s sympathies and support to the families of both students and staff. Officials are working hard to coordinate support from other Government agencies, insurance providers, and foreign embassies to obtain certainty for the affected families as soon as possible.

Aaron Gilmore: What is the Government doing to assist tertiary students in institutions that can no longer provide tuition as they expected to do?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Firstly, I note that it is the intention of Canterbury University, Lincoln University, and Otago University to begin to restart classes in Christchurch next week on 14 March, and they will progressively increase their provision from that date. Tertiary officials are currently working with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, as well as other institutes of technology and private training establishments in the city, on options including relocating within the city and temporarily housing courses at other institutions. Many tertiary providers have obtained alternative space, and some continue to seek alternative space for their students, either with other institutions in Christchurch or, in some cases, further afield, like Auckland and even Adelaide. I am very pleased that the public and private providers are working together to address the space issues. I have also relaxed enrolment caps in institutions outside of Christchurch to allow them to take on some students directly affected by the earthquake, if that is required.

Earthquake, Christchurch—Insurance Cover

8. Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Canterbury

Earthquake Recovery: Will he ensure that Christchurch homeowners and businesses are able to access insurance cover from existing policies or new cover they require since the 22 February 2011 earthquake?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the

Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: We have had, and will continue to have, discussions with the insurance industry. The ability to get future cover will in no small part depend on good quality information regarding the land condition and future performance of that land. Work has already begun to collect and collate that information. The insurance industry has, for the most part, done a good job since 4 September, and we expect that good work to continue.

Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister seen or heard any reports about businesses that had business interruption insurance claims denied after the first earthquake, of 4 September last year, because they could “open the door of their businesses”, even though customers could not climb over the tonnes of rubble to get inside to do any business?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The advice I have had is that if the member is aware of any specific case of an insurance company failing to honour the terms and conditions of the policy, he, or the person involved, should take it straight to the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman. If the insurance company is in breach of its responsibilities, it will soon be put right.

Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister seen or heard any reports of home buyers who signed contracts before the earthquake of 22 February being unable to get insurance coverage for their new home after the earthquake; if so, what is to happen to them?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I am advised that after any great disaster like the one Christchurch has experienced there is a period in which insurance companies will not provide cover while they try to reassess what the risks are and try to re-establish, on an actuarial basis, what sorts of premiums would be required to cover them. In every case that we have seen elsewhere in the world, including after the 4 September quake, that insurance coverage came back into the market quite quickly after things had settled down.

Hon Jim Anderton: Given that answer and the fact that many of these people do not have insurance, even though they have a contract for their new house, will he be prepared to convene a meeting in the next week or so between insurance company representatives and Christchurch MPs to discuss issues of concern in relation to both business interruption policy payments and new insurance contracts for housing and other domestic insurance?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I would certainly give the matter some consideration, but I want to be sure that other factors that are being taken into account right now and other actions that are being taken will not be disrupted by such a move.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Public Access and Negotiated Settlements

9. Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Attorney-General: Has he asked the Māori Party to agree to amendments to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill that would make it explicitly clear that customary title holders would not be able to charge individuals for accessing a beach, and require any negotiated settlements to be referred back to Parliament for validation; if so, what response did he receive?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): No, because that is not what the proposed amendments address. There will indeed be a Supplementary Order Paper. It contains a proposed requirement that any negotiated agreement to recognise customary marine title be given effect to through legislation by Parliament—not by Order in Council, as contained in the bill. There will also be a proposed amendment to clause 27 to provide that any individual has rights without charge for access to the common marine coastal area for the purposes set out in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subclause (1). The bill does not change any of the current arrangements for access to beaches.

Hon John Boscawen: On what date did he seek the Māori Party’s support for the Supplementary Order Paper and on what date did he get it?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have had numerous discussions with my colleagues in the Māori Party. I have no ministerial responsibility for how the Māori Party votes in Parliament.

However, in terms of the confidence and supply agreement with the Māori Party, I have a ministerial responsibility for consulting with it.

Hon John Boscawen: If he has indeed received the support of the Māori Party for the amendments that he has outlined this afternoon, why will he not immediately table in Parliament the Supplementary Order Paper, rumoured to run into hundreds of pages, when we are due to debate the Committee stage of this bill in less than 48 hours; alternatively, why does he continue to hold this House and the public of New Zealand in absolute contempt?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I am certainly not holding the public of New Zealand in absolute contempt. The Supplementary Order Paper will be available, probably first thing tomorrow morning.

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave to table a report from John Roberts Laurie on the meeting conducted by the Attorney-General last Thursday in Three Kings, in which he reports that over 90 percent of the attendees opposed the Government’s plans on the takutai moana legislation.

Mr SPEAKER: Is this a letter?

Hon John Boscawen: It is an email.

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

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave to table an email to the Prime Minister, Mr Key, and members of his Cabinet from Richard Montgomery, in which he expresses his opposition to the takutai moana legislation and indicates that unless there is widespread public support, the Prime Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure we are going to go through a process of, every time someone sends the Prime Minister an email, wasting the time of this House in seeking leave to table it. I am not prepared to entertain that notion.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Passage

10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Attorney-General: Does the Government intend to proceed this week with its legislation to replace the existing Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): The bill is set down on the Order Paper to have its second reading later today. If the member wants to know how the bill will proceed, I suggest he speak to the Leader of the House, who has responsibility for House business.

Hon David Parker: Why is the National-led Government, together with its coalition partner the Māori Party, proceeding with its controversial and flawed foreshore and seabed legislation at the very time the Government has been asking the Opposition to cooperate and put politics aside following the earthquake in the wider interests of our country?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The question is fundamentally flawed because the bill is not flawed. It provides an enduring solution to a problem that has vexed New Zealand for many years, particularly over questions of access to justice.

Hon David Parker: How can that be, given that last year the Prime Minister, John Key, told New Zealand that he would stick with the status quo and not proceed with the new bill if it did not have broad support and would not settle the issue, when it is patently clear it will not do that?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I disagree that it is patently clear that the legislation will not solve this vexed problem. I suggest that when one does a count of those for or against a bill, one does more than rely on the statements of those who have the biggest mouths.

Hon David Parker: Is not the real reason the Government is still proceeding with its exceedingly political foreshore and seabed bill the same reason that Government members pushed the bill through the select committee without proper consideration—that is, the Government is

trying to push through its deal with the Māori Party now in the hope that it will be forgotten by the time of the election?


Hon David Parker: How can the Government realistically expect the Opposition to act in a bipartisan way with the Government when National is acting so politically on so many fronts while pretending that it is not?

Mr SPEAKER: The Attorney-General does not have any particular responsibility for how the Government might be relating to the Opposition. The Minister is the Attorney-General and is responsible for matters to do with his portfolio. I do not want to deprive the member of the chance to ask his question. I invite him to reword it.

Hon David Parker: Does the Attorney-General accept that the political way in which the Government is pushing through the foreshore and seabed legislation will undermine calls by the Government for the Opposition to act in a bipartisan manner following the quake?


Earthquake, Christchurch—Situation in Eastern Suburbs

11. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Canterbury

Earthquake Recovery: Did he agree with his spokesman’s response to the situation for residents in Christchurch East following the earthquake of 22 February 2011 that “It is apparent, given the scale out there, that there just wasn’t sufficient hardware out there, loos and the like”, and what urgent actions have been taken to give priority to communities in the eastern suburbs?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake

Recovery) on behalf of the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Yes, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management agreed there needed to be a refocus on the eastern suburbs. I am advised that several thousand chemical toilets have been delivered to homes in the eastern suburbs, and a further 5,000 are due to arrive in Christchurch today from China. Portaloos are also currently being redeployed from other suburbs where they are no longer needed, to the eastern suburbs. Life is difficult for many in Christchurch, and we are all doing all we can to make these tough times a little easier.

Rahui Katene: What confidence can he have that additional resources are being provided to ensure that residents in Christchurch East have their basic human needs met, including the provision of water, food, generators, sanitation facilities, and support, and specific support for disabled and elderly people?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Eight recovery assistance centres are now open, including six in the eastern suburbs. These centres are basically one-stop shops where people can sort out emergency payments and housing issues and get counselling. Also, phone calls were made to more than 23,000 elderly people in Christchurch in the days after the quake to see whether they needed any specific assistance, and 350 rest home residents and more than 250 disability care residents have been moved to other facilities around New Zealand in order to take pressure off damaged facilities in Canterbury.

Rahui Katene: What additional resources are being provided to residents in the eastern suburbs to overcome issues arising from the length of their deprivation of support?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I am advised that more than $8 million has been distributed through 50,670 civil defence emergency payments to cover things like food, clothing, and housing for the residents of Christchurch. To date, 60 percent of these payments have gone to residents in the eastern suburbs.

Earthquake, Christchurch—State of National Emergency

12. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Civil Defence: Why was a state of national emergency declared on 23 February 2011?

Hon JOHN CARTER (Minister of Civil Defence): The significant impact of the 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch on 22 February required this level of response. The declaration of a state of national emergency ensures the maximum possible coordination and cooperation between central and local resources and international assistance. It also demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to help people in Canterbury to respond to this disaster. I am very proud of the civil defence response.

Colin King: Why has the national state of emergency been extended?

Hon JOHN CARTER: This natural disaster has severely stretched the ability of Canterbury to respond and recover. It is therefore appropriate for there to be a national response. The ongoing impact of the earthquake on 22 February and the continuing aftershocks is of such an extent that a combined effort across the nation will be required for some time.

Colin King: How long is the national state of emergency expected to continue?

Hon JOHN CARTER: Just as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of the people of Christchurch.

Charles Chauvel: Why does the Government need to maintain a national state of emergency under Part 4 of the civil defence legislation at the same time as it is preparing to make a number of new orders under the very wide powers available to it under the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act?

Hon JOHN CARTER: Because at the moment we are still in the response stage of the civil defence emergency. What the member is talking about is the recovery stage, which we will address as we move on into this issue. We need to continue through the response until we are ready to approach and address the recovery issues.

Charles Chauvel: Is it not the case that the Canterbury emergency legislation and, possibly, the declaration of a regional state of emergency under section 68 of the civil defence legislation would actually give the Government all the powers that it needs in order to deal with the current emergency, and should he not now bring the national state of emergency to a prompt end in favour of allowing the local civil defence authorities to consider declaring a regional state of emergency, with the Government relying on the powers that it has under the recovery legislation?

Hon JOHN CARTER: That may be the member’s view; it is not mine.


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