Questions and Answers – November 7

by Desk Editor on Thursday, November 7, 2013 — 3:40 PM

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Earthquakes, Canterbury and Christchurch—Progress of Recovery

1. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Is he satisfied with progress on all aspects of the Canterbury earthquake recovery?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): No. Although there are many good things happening, there are also many things that could progress more speedily.

Denis O’Rourke: How can he be satisfied, if he is, or not, when the court has found that his Government’s residential red zone land clearance offers were unlawful on grounds of improper process?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is an interesting question, given my answer, so I will repeat it for him. No. Although there are many things that are going well, there are others that could be progressing more speedily.

Denis O’Rourke: How could he be satisfied when the result of the red zone land— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has every right to ask his supplementary question.

Denis O’Rourke: It is good to hear that there is so much—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask it.

Denis O’Rourke: How could he be satisfied when the result of the red zone land clearance process, using an outdated and hit-and-miss 2007 rating valuation, gave a few red-zoners a windfall but many more of them such large losses that they could not afford to buy another home?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Of the more than 7,000 flat land red zone clients, well over 6,900 have entered into sale and purchase agreements with the Government, and many others are in that process. I think that speaks for itself. Those people were in a dreadful position. They have been given an opportunity to move on with their lives.

Denis O’Rourke: How could he possibly be satisfied when the Government’s inexplicable decision to offer only 50 percent of the outdated 2007 rating value to owners of residential bare land and to uninsured property owners has also been declared unlawful by the court because the Government did not use the powers or follow the process required by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, as required and as intended by Parliament?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a matter that is currently before the courts, so I do not think it would be in the public interest for me to engage in a discussion of what at the end of the day is Mr O’Rourke’s own opinion.

Denis O’Rourke: How could the Minister be even remotely satisfied with the deeply unpopular and badly performing Earthquake Commission, especially when it gerrymanders its survey results by marking 31,000 out of 154,000 claimants with “do not survey” tags?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I clearly said that there were some things I am not satisfied with, and I have today asked the State Services Commissioner to conduct a full review of that particular issue so that we can have confidence in the surveys of the Earthquake Commission.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Has the Minister asked for or received any advice on an alternative to red zone financial settlements for those who are still waiting for the Port Hills zoning review decisions, which were due before Christmas last year; if so, will he do something—anything—to fix the situation for them?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are 511 households on the Port Hills that are in review. We had hoped to make an announcement about that, but the Quake Outcasts decision would have meant that we were pursuing an offer that has for the time being been determined as inappropriate. That would put us in contempt of court until we have gone through the appeal process. There is not a lot that can be done at the present time. I am deeply distressed by this, I have to say, and I do find it extraordinary that someone can sit on the bench of a court in this country and inflict such injustice on so many people.

Hon Ruth Dyson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.

Hon Ruth Dyson: I understand the issue that the Minister is faced with in terms of the Quake Outcasts decision, which is why my question specifically asked about financial settlements as alternatives to red zone offers.

Mr SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the question and to the Minister’s answer. On this occasion I believe the Minister addressed the question. If the member is not satisfied, the way to advance this issue is to ask further supplementary questions.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister, in his answer, denigrated the judiciary for the decision that they have brought down against his decision.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, I did not.

Hon David Parker: Yes, he did—

Mr SPEAKER: I am hearing a point of order.

Hon David Parker: —and I would have thought that for him to, on the one hand, refuse to answer a question from the primary questioner on the ground that this is before the courts, and to then take a slap at the judge for laying down a lawful decision would be outside the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not believe in any way that the issue was outside the Standing Orders. It was for the Minister to be responsible for the answer that he gave. He gave the answer and he bears responsibility for the way he answered the question.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to belabour the point, but Standing Order 114 does read: “A member may not use offensive words against the House or against any member of the judiciary.” I think Mr Brownlee was right up against Standing Order 114 in what he said there. There are, obviously, rules around the separation here, and I think Standing Order 114 is very clear in its nature.

Hon David Parker: Speaking further to that, the second point to be made is that Standing Order 112 says:“(1) Matters awaiting or under adjudication … may not be referred to …”. For the Minister to say that that was the reason he could not answer Mr O’Rourke and to then put pressure upon the judiciary by criticising them, effectively, in the way that he did seems to me to be entirely inconsistent, and, therefore, his later comment must be out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Again, I thank both members for their contributions. I think Grant Robertson used words like “It was right up against the boundary”, or words to that effect. I think that is a fair comment, but on this occasion the Minister has answered that way, the statements have been made, and I am not going to rule them out of order. The Minister has to accept responsibility for the answer he gave.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Will he take up the offer from the recently elected Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, to work better together and get agreement between the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority red zoning and the Christchurch City Council’s section 124 notices so that people in green zoned but red-stickered homes can get their lives back?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes.

Sexual Offending Allegations—Confidence in Police Investigation

2. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: Does she have confidence in the Police investigation of alleged sexual violation against young women and underage girls in West Auckland?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): I have confidence in the police. Although the Police Commissioner has provided me with assurance that the police investigation has been thorough and appropriately managed, a number of questions have been raised about this investigation. That is why I have written to the Independent Police Conduct Authority this morning, asking it to undertake an inquiry into this matter and to provide me with an independent assurance that police have conducted this investigation to the highest standard. The public of New Zealand needs to have confidence that police take allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously and that they will do all they can to ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

Jacinda Ardern: Why on Monday did she state that victims needed to come forward in order for their cases to progress when it has been revealed now that several young women and girls did exactly that, as long as 2 years ago?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Simply because the information that I had on Monday and again on Tuesday was that although girls had been spoken to, they had not made formal complaints. What was revealed last night was, in fact, that a young girl had made a complaint. Neither the commissioner nor I were aware of that. That is one of the questions that has been raised and one of the reasons I have asked the Independent Police Conduct Authority specifically to investigate the investigation of this young girl’s complaint—who was 13—2 years ago.

Jacinda Ardern: Why was neither she, nor the Waitematā district commander, nor the Police Commissioner properly briefed on this case at the very beginning?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have expressed my disappointment this morning to the commissioner that that has been the case. He is extremely disappointed that that has been the case. My understanding is that he is conducting, with the district commander, an inquiry into why that information was not available to them.

Jacinda Ardern: Is it her expectation that a person who makes a complaint of sexual violation and gives information about their clothing at the time of the incident would then have it implied that what they were wearing could influence the case?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I really think that we should stop jumping to conclusions. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! This was a legitimate question. It is a serious matter, and I want to hear the answer.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The police have very strict protocols around the investigation of sexual assault charges and allegations. It is my expectation that police will adhere to those. They have done a tremendous amount of work over the last years to raise their performance to focus it on the needs of victims. I would be extremely disappointed if they had not lived up to those standards. That is one of the reasons I have taken this so seriously that I have taken the unprecedented step of referring this to the Independent Police Conduct Authority for investigation. I caution this House that the investigations are ongoing and we should be very careful that we do not say anything that might prejudice bringing some of these young men to account.

Carol Beaumont: What efforts were made by the police over the last 2 years to warn young women in west Auckland of the actions of this group, given its predatory nature and well-signalled plans to target young women and to increase the number of young men involved in its activities?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am assured by the commissioner that this has been a thorough and enthusiastic investigation by the police. They have been—

Grant Robertson: Enthusiastic?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, the police are very enthusiastic to bring these young men to account. It is my understanding that the police have interviewed the young men on numerous occasions and have spoken to their schools and the principals of those schools.

Grant Robertson: What about the girls’ schools?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is the information that the commissioner has given me. But I repeat: the Independent Police Conduct Authority will investigate the entire investigation from 2 years ago, and it is important that politicians do not get involved in that investigation because it is a police operational issue. The Independent Police Conduct Authority is the only one that can go through it minute by minute.

Carol Beaumont: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I actually asked what efforts—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question, and on this occasion I invite the member to repeat the question to the Minister.

Carol Beaumont: Thank you very much. What efforts were made by the police over the last 2 years to warn young women in west Auckland of the actions of this group, given its predatory nature and well-signalled plans to target young women and to increase the number of young men involved in its activities?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, I thought I had just addressed that. The commissioner has advised me that the police went to great efforts to track down these young men and speak with them and their families, and went and talked with their schools. The police also talked with the parents of the girls, but without any evidence, they cannot make unsubstantiated accusations about young people.

Carol Beaumont: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I still do not believe that answers the question about warning young women in west Auckland.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion, the Minister included the statement that they had been and talked to the schools, etc., which obviously would have been [Interruption]—I have determined that on this occasion the Minister has addressed the question. It may not be to the member’s satisfaction. The way forward is for the member to ask more searching questions if she wants to.

Economy—Productivity and Competitiveness

3. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has the National-led Government made in building a more productive and competitive economy capable of supporting more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The National-led Government was elected 5 years ago tomorrow, and I am pleased to report that very considerable progress has been made in that time. In fact, on just about every score the economy is in much better shape than it was in late 2008. Back then the economy had been shrinking for four quarters. In the past year the economy grew by around 2.5 percent, one of the highest rates in the OECD for that year. This is helping to push business and consumer confidence to their highest level in many years. Businesses are indicating strongly that they plan to invest more and hire more staff over the coming year. This was confirmed in the employment data issued yesterday.

Paul Goldsmith: What other indicators confirm that the economy is in better shape than it was 5 years ago?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, there are many of them, and perhaps you could let me run through just a few of them. Before our first Budget, Treasury told us that if we continued with the previous policies, we would run deficits for ever and net debt would soar to over 60 percent of GDP by 2023 and never come down. Under this Government’s responsible economic and fiscal management we are now on track to a surplus in 2014-15. Net debt is expected to peak at below 30

percent of GDP despite the $15 billion expected cost to the Crown of the Canterbury earthquakes. On the subject of debt and deficits, back in 2008 the current account deficit was almost 9 percent of GDP and New Zealand’s net external debt had blown out to 84 percent of GDP. Now the current account is 4.3 percent of GDP, less than half of what it was 5 years ago, and net external debt is 71 percent of GDP.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. What confidence does he have that the decline in the rate of youth who are not in employment, education, and training, which was announced yesterday as falling to 11.4 percent, is an indication that our young people are being actively employed or are in study; and is a similar decline being experienced by Māori?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, the household labour force survey showed yesterday the “neet” rate for 15 to 24-year-olds falling to 11.4 percent, which is the lowest level since the December quarter in 2008. That is great to see. The number of “neet” Māori was flat this quarter, but the Government has a range of initiatives that are improving Māori employment and education outcomes, for example, Māori and Pasifika trade training, Youth Guarantee, vocational pathways, and a focus on Māori and Pasifika attending university, with domestic tertiary enrolments for Māori students at 21 percent in 2012—up from 19 percent 5 years ago. I was pleased to see that, overall, Māori employment has increased by nearly 5 percent over the last year and that unemployment has dropped by 2.9 percent at the same time.

Paul Goldsmith: How have families benefited from the Government’s economic programme over the past 5 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Five years ago annual inflation for consumers was running at more than 5 percent; it has now fallen to a little over 1 percent. In 2008 food prices alone jumped 11 percent; they have gone up by only 1.2 percent in the last year. Floating mortgage interest rates averaged almost 11 percent in 2008; they are now less than 6 percent, although forecast to rise somewhat next year. New Zealand superannuation payments have increased by 25 percent over the past 5 years. The tax system has been made more progressive, reducing the proportion of net income tax paid by those on lower incomes. Taken together, these positive indicators are helping New Zealand families get ahead after several challenging years. This Government has a busy agenda to ensure that this progress continues.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If things were positive, would not even the most obsequious National MP know that; so how does he explain the endless, repetitive questions in the Goldsmith vein, or the interminable time he has taken—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Could the member just ask a supplementary question that is consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I have and I am.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has not. I will give the member one more chance; otherwise— [Interruption] Order! If the member wants to remain in the Chamber for question time, I will give the member one more opportunity to ask a supplementary question that is in line with the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would you please tell me what was wrong with the question I was asking.

Mr SPEAKER: It was unnecessarily long, it was very hard for me to even decipher what the question was, and it was derogatory of some National members of this House. Would the member—[Interruption] Order! If members want to be leaving this Chamber before the end of question time today, they will be. I invite the Rt Hon Winston Peters to ask a supplementary question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: All right. If things were positive, would not even the most obsequious MP, party unnamed, know that; and how, therefore, does he explain the endless, repetitive questions in Mr Goldsmith’s vein, or the interminable time he is taking to try to convince his nervous backbench colleagues that something positive is happening?

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Hon Steven Joyce to answer that question if there is much ministerial responsibility.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate that the member is obsessed with the politics of this place, but, actually, New Zealanders outside of this House of Representatives are very interested in hearing about the progress of the New Zealand economy. The member may be bored because he has been here for so long, but, actually, the rest of the world is very—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He cannot possibly be allowed to get away with that, given your restraints against my asking the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat. Otherwise he will not be remaining in the House in question time. The member can reconsider his question in light of a question that I think was very, very marginal. He has every right to receive the answer he is getting from the Hon Steven Joyce.

Paul Goldsmith: What new policies is the Government undertaking to continue the positive economic momentum?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Here is an opportunity to explain to the House, including the elderly member opposite, that I am pleased—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am on my feet. I am on my feet. On this occasion, I can anticipate the point of order. The Minister will repeat his answer without any reference to the age of any member in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is not my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Then I will hear the point of order, provided it is—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Standing Orders give me a right to raise a point of order, particularly when an ageist inference like that one there has been slung across the House— particularly when he is the one that has got no hair on his head!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have just addressed that point of order—[Interruption] Order! I will not put up with another spurious point of order being raised by the Rt Hon Winston Peters in this question time. The Minister will recommence his answer without any reference to the age of any member in this House.

Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister; I think we have a further point of order. Brendan Horan.

Brendan Horan: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Let me just make it clear: if members from the Government’s side of the House want to stay for the balance of question time, this is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.

Brendan Horan: In the past 3 days, that member has got away with slinging insults at members in this House—the type of insults that you would not tolerate from the newest member of this House. Yet again, that member gets another warning—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I have not had an opportunity to phone the member. There was an insult cast yesterday that I think was unparliamentary. The member Mr Horan took objection to it. I had not heard it, but after reading Hansard the member makes a good point. If I was to hear such an interjection and the member was offended, I would deal with it appropriately. At this stage, the matter has now passed. I now invite the Hon Steven Joyce to answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am slightly hurt at the reference to my high forehead. I am pleased to advise that the initiatives keep on coming. A sample of announcements that the Government has made in just the last few weeks include progress on work on the Transmission Gully road, which is very important, of course, in the Wellington region; the new technology incubators to speed up company start-ups, which was announced last week; new social housing developments for

Auckland, to grow the private provision of community housing; $260 million to support the rebuild of the University of Canterbury; the launch of the New Zealand Story, to help firms leverage off a strong narrative about New Zealand’s uniqueness; proposals to bring down the cost of building materials to support our housing supply programme; a new direction for Te Puni Kōkiri and economic development; $30 million to develop new schools; policy changes to attract more international students to New Zealand; and a record $59 million in Marsden Fund grants for top researchers. As I said, this is just a sample of our announcements within the last couple of weeks. There are plenty more to come as the economy improves.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We were willing to listen to such a long diatribe as long as Chorus was listed in there somewhere.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That member, as a very senior member of the Opposition, should also stand on his feet and raise points of order that are legitimate.

Paul Goldsmith: What alternative approaches would put progress in building a more productive and competitive economy at risk?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have given this quite a bit of thought, and there are some alternative approaches that would put our good progress at risk, and that would cost jobs, push up interest rates, and depress incomes. We know what those alternative approaches are, because they have been tried in the past and they have failed. They include high and wasteful Government spending, more costs and more taxes on households and businesses, more State control of the economy, and politicians running everything from the electricity market to risky insurance businesses and monetary policy. This Government rejects all these nutty old ideas that are coming from the Greens and Labour by the day.

Sexual Offending Allegations—Police Investigation

4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Police: When was she first advised that Police had received a complaint from a girl who alleged she had been raped by members of a group calling themselves the Roast Busters?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): My office was advised in a phone call from Police National Headquarters at about 5.55 last night. I was advised by my office just after the start of the 6 o’clock news.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister share the confidence of the Prime Minister regarding the police response to this case, that “If there is criminal wrongdoing that they can follow up on and take action, then I’m absolutely confident that they will do their job and do it as … thoroughly professionally.”, given that she has now referred the police response to that case to the Independent Police Conduct Authority?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have made it clear in this House today that I do have confidence in the police, but there are enough questions over this case, partly because information has literally dribbled out this week, that have prompted me to ask the Independent Police Conduct Authority to conduct a full investigation into it. It is really important that the public have confidence in the police processes around serious sexual assaults.

Metiria Turei: What reasons have the police given the Minister for waiting days to correct the statement that was made on Sunday, that “None of the girls have been brave enough to make formal statements to us so that we can take that to a prosecution stage or even consider a prosecution stage.”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have made it clear today how disappointed I am that neither I nor the commissioner nor even the district commander knew that a formal complaint had been lodged by a 13-year-old girl 2 years ago, but the commissioner does assure me that that formal complaint was very thoroughly investigated and did not produce enough evidence to take a case to court.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not trying to make a political point, but I did ask what reasons the police gave for failing to provide the accurate information in a timely way, and that was not answered.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I think it was. As I interpreted the answer, the question has been asked and they are still trying to find out the reason. The commissioner did not know, and he was just as concerned. The way to tease this out is by further supplementary questions.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister consider that the police’s apparent failure to act in this particular case is likely to be isolated; if she does think so, why?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Again, I am assured by the commissioner that the police conducted a thorough investigation into the formal complaint that was laid by the 13-year-old girl and did not produce enough evidence to take a case. But the very fact that there are still questions about the handling of this case is why I have referred it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority to give both me and the public the assurance that the way that the police handle these serious sexual assault cases is thorough and is in line with the new protocols, and to give us all an assurance that this is an isolated case.

Metiria Turei: What advice has the Minister sought on removing the systemic barriers that prevent the police from taking complaints to trial, which lead the police to wait for more assaults on young girls to occur, as has happened in this case, for some years before they believe they have sufficient evidence to take the case to trial?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Again, the commissioner assures me that there has been a very thorough investigation, and that that investigation has been ongoing for 2 years, trying to put together enough evidence to meet the requirements to take a case to court. As recently as 2 weeks ago, the other three girls were approached by police to try to get a formal complaint from them. In two cases their mothers refused, and, again, the commissioner advises me that the third girl has also refused. No one underestimates the difficulties for these young girls in making a formal complaint, but the police have done an enormous amount of work, and I refer the member to the protocols that were tabled by the Minister of Justice in the House earlier this week. They were worked through with Louise Nicholas, who was involved in very notable case. She has worked very closely with police from a victim’s perspective. What I want to be able to assure New Zealanders is that through an Independent Police Conduct Authority report into this investigation, and, in particular, into the investigation around the case of this young, 13-year-old girl, all those protocols were followed, the victim was at the centre of the investigation, and New Zealanders can have confidence in the police in order to come forward and make these complaints.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister support the urgent development of a specialist sexual violence court and an alternative process for sexual violence offence cases, both of which have received very strong support from judges, lawyers, sexual violence support services, and the public, given the difficulties that victims have bringing their complaints to the police, the difficulties the police have in dealing sensitively and responsively with those complaints, and the police’s reluctance to take sexual violence cases to trial?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: First of all, I have no ministerial responsibility for the development of such a policy, but I have discussed it with the Minister of Justice, who addressed it in this House earlier this week. These cases are extremely complex. One of the difficulties is trying to separate out a particular set of charges around these assault cases in order to try them in a different way from some of the other aspects of that case, in which case you would be putting your victims through the process twice, which is a difficult enough process anyway without revictimising a person and making them go through two lots of courts. It is ongoing. The Minister of Justice has made it clear that she is willing to talk with the police and her department about some ways of easing the process for these young women, but these are very difficult cases to take to court and to prove.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister commit to leading a cross-party working group to build both a political consensus and also political urgency for the reforms of the court and police processes, such

as a specialist sexual violence court and changes to police process, to better deliver real justice to the victims of sexual violence offences, particularly children—as in this case—and better justice for their families and New Zealanders?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Again, I repeat that I have no ministerial responsibility. I cannot make that guarantee. But I what I have said, to try to explain to this House today, is that the police have made enormous changes to the way that they deal with sexual assault cases, and victims in particular. I would like the Independent Police Conduct Authority to investigate this case to give me reassurance, and to give the public reassurance, that as much as we can do—and will continue to do—has been into practice by the police in this instance. But if the member and her party have any suggestions about how we can ease this process while still retaining the need to have evidence to take to court, I would be delighted to hear it.

Broadband, Ultra-fast—Contract with Chorus

5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Communications

and Information Technology: Will the Government enforce its broadband contract with Chorus?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): As I have previously stated, the Government expects all parties to fulfil their contractual obligations with the Government. The contract with Chorus contains a number of enforcement options if it were to fail to meet its obligations. The concern for the Government is ensuring that New Zealanders get ultrafast broadband to deliver high-quality, high-speed, world-leading telecommunications. That is our focus in this issue and our consideration of options will be guided by the best way to achieve that.

Hon David Parker: Why was an independent review of the financial viability of Chorus not undertaken prior to awarding the broadband contract to Chorus?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Although I would take issue with that, I can assure the member that considerable due diligence was done through the contract negotiations into the capability of parties to undertake the obligations. What we have said consistently through this is that although there was an understanding that the copper price may well fall, nobody expected a price drop of this level and none of the pricing methodologies, therefore, would have worked through such an unanticipated drop. I would point out that that failure to anticipate such a drop was shared by members of the Labour Party who, as I recall, actively predicted that the copper price would rise under these arrangements.

Hon David Parker: Will this latest review examine the role of Mr Joyce, the former Minister for Communications and Information Technology, in crafting the legislation and awarding the contract to Chorus?

Hon AMY ADAMS: The independent stream of advice that I have asked for today is about ensuring that the Government and the wider community have good information as to whether or not having the copper price set at this level would seriously undermine and threaten New Zealanders’ ability to get ultra-fast broadband. That is certainly the indication that we have had, but some people, including some members in this House, have suggested that that is not right. We need good information to back up whether or not—as we suspect and as the advice we have had says—that would put it at risk. That is what this review is about.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is all very interesting, but it was not my question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question. The difficulty I had was actually in hearing the answer accurately because of the noise coming from Opposition benches here. If the member has further supplementary questions, that is the way to get the answer he wants.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Speaker could not hear the answer and therefore could not judge whether the question was addressed, the Speaker should have brought the House into order. My point of order was that I did hear the answer and my question was not addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: In the bits of the answer I heard, because it was difficult to hear, I believe the question was addressed—maybe not to the member’s satisfaction. But it would certainly assist if the deputy leader of the Labour Party could ask for his party to support him so that when he asks a question, the question can be answered without a level of interjection [Interruption]—Order! [Interruption] There is not much point in looking behind yourself. It would certainly be assisted if we had a level of interjection that was substantially less than what is occurring on this particular day, mainly from the Labour Opposition benches.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have some difficulty in being told that my point of order is out of order because the Speaker could not hear the answer to assess whether the question was addressed, and then be told that that is my fault.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member maybe misheard me or maybe misunderstood me. I said I did not hear all of the answer because of the level of interjection. I asked for the member’s assistance with his colleagues to try to minimise the level of interjection. I then said that although I did not hear all of the answer, what I did hear of it led me to believe that the question had been addressed. I accept that it may not be to the satisfaction of the member, but the way forward is not to raise a point of order saying that the question has not been answered the way the member wanted it to be answered. The way forward is for the member to rise to his feet and ask a further searching supplementary question.

Clare Curran: Will her review announced today include examination of whether any private or other assurances were given to parent company Telecom and/or Chorus during the demerger and ultra-fast broadband tendering processes that led them to believe that there would not be a fall in copper prices; if not, why not?

Hon AMY ADAMS: The review is not my review. I have asked for an independent review to be provided to the Government, which I have indicated I will release to the public. What that will look at is whether Chorus is reasonably able to be expected to complete its contractual obligations to provide ultra-fast broadband. That is what it will look at. It will not go into any Opposition conspiracy theories.

Clare Curran: How has her decision to undertake a narrow, specific, and possibly illegal review of the 2011 amendment to the Telecommunications Act 3 years before it was due—bypassing the Commerce Commission’s legal process of reviewing copper broadband pricing—created more certainty, and is it not so that her tactics between last December and now have failed, resulting in greater uncertainty about the future of both Chorus and the Government’s flagship ultra-fast broadband process?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, firstly, I reject most of the allegations in that member’s question, and, secondly, no and no.

Hon David Parker: Why is the Government creating investment uncertainty for other investors in telecommunication companies, and what measures has she put in place to ensure that the review is not just a snow job to justify more corporate welfare or higher copper broadband prices?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, it seems to me that just yesterday the Opposition was demanding an independent look into the affairs and numbers of Chorus. Actually, that is something that I signalled 2 days earlier that we were going to do. That is what we are now doing. So is it the Opposition’s position that we should not actually ask independent questions? Regardless, we make decisions—

Hon Simon Bridges: Yeah, nah, yeah, nah.

Hon AMY ADAMS: That is right. We are not the “Yeah, Nah Party” on this side. We make decisions based on information and analysis. Where that information is challenged and we think it is a matter of significant public interest, as this is, we are happy to get further independent analysis and we are happy to release that publicly. This will help inform the debate and get New Zealanders focused on the question of whether this copper price—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is now getting a bit long.

National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management—Announcement

6. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister for the Environment: What announcements has the Government made in relation to the national policy statement for freshwater?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Today my colleague the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, and I released proposals for improving the way New Zealand manages its fresh water, including science-backed national water standards, which were a key recommendation of the Land and Water Forum. Ensuring that we protect and improve water quality now and for the future is one of our most critical challenges. The discussion document we have released seeks feedback on a national framework to support communities setting freshwater objectives, explicit recognition of tangata whenua values for fresh water, ecosystem and human health as compulsory values in regional plans, bottom lines for those values, and requiring councils to account for all water takes and all contaminant discharges into water bodies.

Claudette Hauiti: What is the purpose of the national objectives framework?

Hon AMY ADAMS: The national objectives framework will provide regions with both a process and a scientifically informed basis for the difficult communications and conversations that communities are having to have on water quality. When combined with the Government’s already announced collaborative planning process option and better water accounting, it is our hope that the framework will result in more informed discussions in communities about the trade-offs, and reduce the arguments in councils and in courts over the science that sits behind regional plans and resource consents.

Meka Whaitiri: Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Why does her Proposed amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management contain incomplete standards and standards lower than current levels, when the lack of clear bottom-lines was a core issue highlighted by the Land and Water Forum?

Hon AMY ADAMS: We have been very clear that the work around completing the table and the values to be attributed for each attribute is ongoing. The science work is still being completed, but the scientists have been very clear, as has the reference group, that we need to start with the information we have. We are not going to wait an interminable number of years, as the Labour Government did. We are going to start to improve water quality today, and I can assure this House and the member who asked the question that the level at which those bottom lines have been set— and they are bottom lines; they are not targets—is the level at which 60 of New Zealand’s top scientists agreed was the appropriate place to set them.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā tātou. How have the rights and responsibilities of Ngāti Kahungunu as tangata whenua in Hawke’s Bay been recognised, given that both the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the Ruataniwha Dam project have been dealt with by the Government at a national level and not at a regional or local level?

Hon AMY ADAMS: To the best of my recollection, in the instance of the Ruataniwha Dam application it was the regional council of that area that requested that the application be dealt with through a national Environmental Protection Authority process. So that has come from the region. The other point I would make to the member is that, of course, that determination is being made under the current framework, and this is about how we improve that going forward. I can certainly advise the member that one of the key messages we took from community consultation was the integration of tangata whenua values within the national objectives framework. Te mana o te wai is a core principle of the document. You will see values such as the mahinga kai use of water and wāi tapu clearly reflected in the framework. When you combine that with the increased and enhanced integrated role of iwi in the planning process, I think Ngāti Kahungunu and other iwi can be satisfied that they will have a much greater level of involvement in such decisions in the future.

Affordable, Housing—First-home Buyers, Mortgages, and Reserve Bank Intervention

7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: What reports has he received on the effect of loan-to-value restrictions on the housing market?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): I have not received any formal reports, and the advice from my officials is that after just 1 month it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the effect of the loan-to-value ratio restrictions on the housing market. I have noted three reports from other sources. The first is from Statistics New Zealand on building consents. It showed a 22 percent increase in new dwelling consents, as compared with the same month last year; the highest build rate in Canterbury in 37 years; and the highest build rate for New Zealand in 5 years. I also note the latest real estate figures on house prices, which show a slowing in house price increases, and a report from the ASB showing a dip in house price expectations. The final report I note states: “We do support Loan to Value Ratios…we’ve been calling for them for ages,”. This report was from Mr Phil Twyford.

Phil Twyford: Is he concerned that Master Builders said that inquiries for new builds have dropped off by 30 percent since loan-to-value ratios were introduced, and that because of the time lag it will not be until next year that we see the drop-off in new builds; if so, is this not just more evidence that the Government’s housing policy has collapsed?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is hard to say that it is collapsed when we have got the highest rate of new building consents in 5 years, when we have got the highest rate of building in Canterbury in 37 years, and when this Government has got work under way on materials, on land supply, and on infrastructure costs—all opposed by members opposite, who somehow pretend that they want to help New Zealanders to get access to affordable houses.

Phil Twyford: Has he seen the comments by Quotable Value research director Jonno Ingerson, who said today that loan-to-value ratios may have more impact in provincial areas outside of Auckland and Canterbury; and given that 95 percent of house price inflation is taking place in Auckland and Canterbury, and that in a number of parts of provincial New Zealand house prices are either static or declining, will he concede that the Government really did not think through the implications of loan-to-value ratios before it signed off the agreement with the Reserve Bank?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Dr Nick Smith, in so far as he has ministerial responsibility.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first point is that the loan-to-value ratio policy has been implemented by an independent Reserve Bank, under legislation that members opposite actually support, I thought—an independent Reserve Bank. The part that makes the member’s question even more stupid is that he has said on the public record that he has been calling for loan-to-value ratios for years and welcomed them when they were introduced.

Louise Upston: What has been the average house price increase over the past 5 years and how did it compare with the increase over the previous 5 years?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The average price increase in New Zealand over the last 5 years has been 3.6 percent per year, or 20 percent over those 5 years. It is interesting to note that in the previous 5 years it increased by an average of 12 percent per year, or 76 percent in just 5 years, and I note that during the previous 5 years the Labour Government did absolutely diddly-squat about house price affordability. In contrast, we are making great progress in all the areas like land supply, infrastructure costs, and materials, and, ironically, members opposite are opposing every one of those measures.

Phil Twyford: When he compared our mortgage market with that of the United States, which saw “millions of Americans left with mortgages in excess of the value of their properties.”, what advice has he had to back up his claim that Auckland is in a housing price bubble and that it is in danger of bursting, wiping out the equity built up by homeowners?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do think that this country needs to learn the lessons from both North America and Europe, where, for all the enthusiasm there may have been from the building industries, those house price bubbles did enormous damage to those economies. I cannot believe the

attitude of members opposite, which is to completely ignore the lessons of history and not want to take a cautious view around financial stability in the way in which our Reserve Bank is administering those responsibilities.

Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I referred the Minister to a direct quote from his own statement and I asked him what advice he has received on that matter. He did not address that.

Mr SPEAKER: To make progress, I am going to invite the member to ask his question again.

Phil Twyford: When he compared our mortgage market with that of the United States, which saw “millions of Americans left with mortgages in excess of the value of their properties.”, what advice has he had to back up the claim that Auckland is in a housing price bubble and that it is in danger of bursting, wiping out the equity built up by homeowners?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is an absolute matter of public record, with numerous reports, that New Zealand’s house prices are grossly out of step with incomes. The most recent report was yesterday, from the OECD. We could look at the reports from Labour’s period in Government, when house prices more than doubled—grew by over 100 percent—at the same time as incomes went up by only 30 percent. We could look at the report of the Productivity Commission, which was comprehensive in its advice around the concern about ongoing house price increases, and that is why this Government is addressing the fundamentals of land supply, infrastructure costs, and materials costs to make sure that New Zealanders get access to more affordable housing.

Brendan Horan: Is the Minister aware of a collapse in the number of first-home buyer inquiries in Tauranga and Nelson since the loan-to-value restrictions came into force; and did he foresee this, or is it an unintended consequence?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: On 1 October this Government actually increased the support for firsthome buyers. We did that by expanding the KiwiSaver scheme, which was particularly advantageous for people in Nelson and Tauranga, where the house price limit was lifted by over $50,000. We have trebled the number of Welcome Home Loans, which are limited to first-home buyers and provides them with an exemption from those loan-to-value limits from the Reserve Bank, and those changes to Welcome Home Loans are particularly helpful for communities like Tauranga and Nelson, because the previous limits meant that very few families had access to those Welcome Home Loans.

Phil Twyford: Does he have the same attitude to the plight of first-home buyers shut out of the Kiwi dream by high loan-to-value restrictions as that of the Prime Minister, who told them in the New Zealand Herald today: “ ‘yeah, okay, well fine’. That’s the way it goes.”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Prime Minister has been absolutely committed to first-home buyers. That is why this Government, as I have just said, trebled the number of Welcome Home Loans and doubled the number of people who will be eligible for the KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidy, and it is why the Prime Minister is such a strong supporter of this Government’s very ambitious agenda to get house prices under control after a period of Government under Labour, where those house prices more than doubled.

Beneficiaries—Numbers

8. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received about the number of people receiving benefits?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I have received a report that shows that at the quarter ending in September, the number of people on a working-age benefit has reduced by 16,500 people over the last year. To put this in context, at the height of the global financial crisis in January 2010, there were more than 347,000 people on a benefit. There are now just over 304,000.

Hon Phil Heatley: What does the report to the Minister show about long-term welfare dependence, though?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The investment approach is beginning to tackle the issue of longterm dependence on welfare and it is also one of our Better Public Services targets. The report shows that 87 percent of the people who came off the benefit in the year ended September 2013 had been on a benefit for longer than a year. This is crucial because, of course, the longer you are on a benefit, the more you are likely to become dependent in the long term.

Hon Phil Heatley: How is Work and Income better assisting those at risk of long-term welfare dependence?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have more staff, who are able to help more people. To give you an example, before the introduction of these welfare reforms they saw an average of about 2,000 people per week. They are now working with more like 15,000 people per week. That means we can get the support in earlier, look at beneficiaries’ barriers to work, and, of course, see outstanding results for New Zealanders.

Christchurch, Recovery—Participation Rate of Women in Building and Construction

Industry

9. CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and

Employment: How does women’s participation rate of 1 percent in building and construction industry training assist with the Christchurch rebuild?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): I think all participation is helpful in the rebuild. It would, of course, be good to see more women involved in building and construction in Canterbury. There is, of course, no practical limit on the number of female building and construction trades apprenticeships. There are places available right now and I would welcome more women to consider taking up those career opportunities. It is worth noting that the proportion of female industry trainees has been trending upwards over the last 7 years. It was 31 percent in 2012. The proportion of female trainees in the five key building, construction, and infrastructure industry training organisations is also trending upwards around the country, including in Canterbury, although it has to be said that this is off a low base.

Carol Beaumont: How does a women’s participation rate of 4 percent in the boatbuilding industry, 5 percent in the infrastructure industry, or 7 percent in the electrical supply industry help with the Better Public Services goal of increasing the number of people with advanced trades qualifications?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is true that in some areas women have less participation in training; in other areas the rates are higher—for example, in the area of universities and tertiary education generally more women are involved than men. You cannot say that that is necessarily a bad thing, but there are initiatives that we can take. It is good that the member raises the Electricity Supply Industry Training Organisation. The organisation has got more initiatives. One is called Ultimit and encourages women to apply for trade and technical roles in their sector. There are things like the Top Female Trade Student Award at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, which was announced today too. That is also designed to raise the profile of women in trades.

Carol Beaumont: What initiatives has he put in place to lift the participation rate of women in industry training, which has decreased from 30 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2013, noting that he conveniently talked only about 2012?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: My records here are 31 percent in 2012. But the member makes a very interesting point. I do think it is fair that we consider more policy options, because as well as trying to lift the participation of women, we could perhaps restrict the participation of men until the participation of women gets to the same level. I think that is what is colloquially known as a man ban. I think that could be a way in which we could achieve—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That answer is not going to help you. [Interruption] Order! Is there a supplementary question?

Carol Beaumont: Getting back to the matter in hand—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Carol Beaumont: How successful does he believe the initiatives he has worked on with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, like the research project showing there is a pool of women available to assist in the Canterbury rebuild or the research following nine women—that is right, nine women—in the electrical supply industry, have been in lifting women’s participation?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, they have had some success, but I stand by my view that there are perhaps more policy options that we could consider. But I think it is important that if we did consider those policy options, they were of a bipartisan nature, because some of those are quite challenging. So, for example, if we decided to introduce, let us say, a man ban—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is diverting from the answer. He was asked about—

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am not.

Grant Robertson: No, he is. He is diverting from the answer. He is not addressing the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need any assistance. No, the Minister was not diverting from the answer until the very moment the member rose to his feet, so he has got supernatural powers to know that the words “man ban” were about to be used. At that stage I said to the Minister the answer was concluded. We are in agreement, but on this occasion the member was almost too quick on his feet.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do think it is entirely fair. If you are dealing with gender equality issues, one option is such a thing as a man ban. Many organisations have considered that. It is quite a genuine policy option. I was debating it in this House as an answer to a question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has a right to raise a point of order. I will determine whether it is a point of order, and on that matter I do not need assistance from this side of the House. The question was about how successful the Minister’s initiatives have been, and the Minister answered that by saying that there has been some success.

Carol Beaumont: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have—[Interruption] Order! I have only just finished ruling that the Minister did address the question that the member asked. I invite the member, later on today, to have a look at her question and the answer. It was without doubt addressed by the Minister.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not contesting the last ruling that you have made, but I do note the difference in your response to Carol Beaumont challenging your ruling and Steven Joyce, who was allowed to speak for some time before you stood up. That is an issue for us on this side of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that point but when I have just finished ruling that the question was addressed and I used that in an answer to addressing the point of order raised by the Hon Steven Joyce, it is absolutely fruitless and pointless for the member to stand and then say that the question had not been addressed when I had just returned to my seat having said it was.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the point we are seeking to make without creating any further trouble is that when you shout, it brings disorder to the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his incisive point of order. When the member continues to shout, as he has done throughout question time, that also assists in bringing disorder to the House. Both the Hon Shane Jones and I need to be more careful in not raising our voices.

Teachers—Announcement

10. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made to strengthen the status of the teaching profession?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Today I was delighted to launch the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards, which aim to recognise,

value, and celebrate the teaching profession. The awards will recognise and celebrate groups of New Zealand educators and parents partnering for a better education for our children and young people. The four categories are teaching, leadership, community engagement, and governance. These awards aim to acknowledge these people and practices that are delivering a better education to our children and young people, and to help raise the bar for the profession by identifying and showcasing quality teaching.

Dr Cam Calder: What other announcements did she make to highlight best practice among educators?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Today I also announced a series of education festivals to be held next year in March, which will complement the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New Zealand. The education festivals will be held in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch around the time of the summit, and will share best practice amongst educators and will bring the best in the education system to the wider community. Holding the international summit, holding the festivals, introducing the excellence awards, and establishing the new professional body, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (EDUCANZ)—not “Edu-can’t”—are all part of acknowledging the importance of the teaching profession, working with the profession to raise its status, and recognising the critical contribution that the highest levels of achievement by our children and young people make to the future prosperity of this country.

Chris Hipkins: Why does she believe that the new education council she announced last week will be able to act as a professional voice for the teaching profession, given that its members are being appointed exclusively by the Minister rather than selected by those whom the council ultimately seeks to govern?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is worth noting that the Minister already appoints the majority of the New Zealand Teachers Council. Why do I think it? Because the proposal is to make the new education council statutorily independent, unlike the current status of the New Zealand Teachers Council. Secondly, the proposed nine members will have publicly advertised the critical skills and competencies that will be required in the final selection. Thirdly, there will be an opportunity for anyone, including the members opposite, to make nominations. It is expected that a majority of those nine will be from the profession and it will be seasoned by other experience that is also in the interest of the public, and, of course, education is high on that list.

Chris Hipkins: Why does she believe that the teaching profession will have any confidence in the independence of the new education council given her statement: “The Government’s key lever to manage its interest in the teaching profession will be through the Minister’s power to appoint the members of the governing board.”, and is that the reason why she has already selected a National Party office holder to be one of the first members of the board?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not a matter of my belief; it is a fact of the constitutional democracy of New Zealand that statutory independence means independence. It is also my view that given that we have advanced significantly in terms of what the proposed new council is expected to do, it will indeed strengthen the profession in order to enable it to meet the 21st century education challenges. Moreover, it has taken 3 years of conversation. Thank you.

Brendan Horan: Is the Minister concerned that teachers were formerly respected and valued members of the community, yet over the passage of time, and certainly under her tenure, teachers have been unpaid and feel unappreciated, and over Christmas many will be unemployed?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I certainly celebrate the teaching profession and the contribution that teachers make to New Zealand and have made over many generations, including my own parents. The announcements that I have made today seek to strengthen that status and the value that the profession is held in by all New Zealanders.

Canterbury Water Management—Potential Health Risks from Nitrate Levels in

Groundwater

11. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she agree with the Canterbury Medical Officer of Health that increasing nitrate levels in Canterbury groundwater are a health risk, particularly for pregnant women and babies; if not, why not?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister of Health): I thank the member for the opportunity to talk about the actual magnitude of health risk currently faced in Canterbury due to nitrate levels in water. Firstly, there are no community drinking-water supplies in Canterbury that have unsafe levels of nitrate. Secondly, in Canterbury the concerns are for people on their own individual household bores, and the community and public health advisory committee is encouraging people to test their supplies for nitrate, as there may be some that are of some risk to some people. The medical officer of health and his colleagues are working with lead maternity carers to make sure that pregnant women and families with babies know to have their water checked if they are on individual bore water.

Eugenie Sage: Although the Associate Minister says that there are no community water supplies that are unsafe, is she concerned that there are at least eight community drinking-water supplies in Canterbury that now have to be monitored because their nitrate levels are more than half the maximum acceptable value as determined by the World Health Organization, compared with only two community water supplies that were in that position in 2010-11?

Hon JO GOODHEW: I think the point the member makes is that these particular supplies are being monitored, and I would agree that that is, in fact, where we should be. These particular supplies are at 25 milligrams, or a little more, per litre. That is the level of nitrate in the drinking water that triggers the monthly monitoring. It is, in fact, the essence of the issue—that we are monitoring them. None of these particular water supplies is above the maximum allowable value, and that is the point to make.

Eugenie Sage: Does the Associate Minister think it is acceptable that Canterbury midwives have to advise expectant mothers to test their drinking water because her Government has failed to stop the pollution of our groundwater through agricultural intensification?

Hon JO GOODHEW: I absolutely reject the assertion of the member. It is under this very Government that, in fact, we are working to clean up fresh water. The announcement of the Minister for the Environment today certainly underlines that at long last Governments are grasping difficult issues. In the meantime I think it is entirely responsible that midwives are giving correct and timely advice to women who are pregnant, so that the women can make sure they understand any risk that occurs for them.

Eugenie Sage: How many more wells and community drinking-water supplies will need to have elevated nitrate levels before her Government reconsiders its promotion of large-scale irrigation and intensification of agriculture, which causes nitrate leaching and pollutes our drinking water?

Hon JO GOODHEW: It is absolutely important that as a public health measure we continue to monitor nitrates and other things that are in our drinking water. That is the action this Government is taking. The member is perhaps being a little creative to suggest that only agriculture is causing the nitrate levels.

Poverty—Government Plans to Address

12. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister of Finance: What is his budget plan, if any, to immediately address growing poverty in New Zealand, which has got so bad that charitable organisations have today said they are expecting an influx of more than 40,000 struggling families for Christmas dinner because they can’t afford to put food on the table?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government has a very strong track record in protecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders. It is worth noting that the inequality gap, as measured by the annual Ministry of Social

Development household incomes report, has narrowed in recent years after peaking around 2004. This year’s Budget included more than $900 million to help vulnerable families, through a significant investment in a range of programmes: $189 million to assist people from welfare into work; $377 million to build 3,000 new State house bedrooms and 500 new two-bedroom homes; $100 million over 3 years for the Warm Up New Zealand programme; the KickStart breakfast, which was expanded to five mornings a week in decile 1 to 4 schools; $21 million over 4 years for rheumatic fever prevention; $15.7 million for the Children’s Action Plan; $172 million in new investment in early childhood education; and $7 million to increase the coverage of B4 School Checks on health and development. Nobody is saying it is easy for those who are in vulnerable positions, but the Government is doing its bit by investing in services to support those who need them.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the member for his supplementary question, can I ask the interchange between my right-hand side and my left-hand side to cease.

Hone Harawira: Will the Government use any surplus funds to reduce the crippling unemployment figure of 150,000, plus the 4,000 people who lost their jobs last month, by initiating a comprehensive Government job creation programme to put Kiwis back to work in their communities until such time as the private sector has picked up the slack, or is it the Government’s intention to use such surpluses to simply continue to subsidise the likes of Rio Tinto, banks, finance companies, Skycity Casino, Warner Bros, and wealthy property developers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Actually, the unemployment rate—the member may not have noticed—dropped again yesterday, and employment is growing.

Hon Shane Jones: Not in Kaitāia.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The other member raises a point about Northland that I think is very important. Both of those members could be of assistance to the Government as we seek to increase job opportunities in Northland. For example, they could support the exploration of minerals in Northland, which I know that Mr Harawira does not support. They could support and encourage the resolution of Treaty settlements to make assets available for iwi in Northland. That has been very successful in creating economic activity and job growth elsewhere. They could also perhaps assist with the primary sector productivity work being undertaken by my colleague the Hon Nathan Guy. They could also support the Pūhoi to Wellsford road, which would provide a huge amount of access to that Northland area from the biggest city in New Zealand to its south. All of those things would support employment and job creation opportunities in Northland.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise we are at the end of question time—going on for 3.30 p.m.—but can you please ponder as to why it has been necessary to castigate this side of the House in terms of the length of questions, and yet you have let the Minister get away and take responsibility for my views on mining, which are already well-known.

Mr SPEAKER: I can certainly ponder the point that the member is making.

Hone Harawira: Will the Government use surplus funds to support a living wage for the nearly 50 percent of Kiwis earning less than $25,000 a year, or to feed the 270,000 children still registered as living below the poverty line, or is it the Government’s intention to simply throw another $40 million after the $80 million already squandered on a yacht race for the greedy and the gluttonous?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Steven Joyce, in so far as he has ministerial responsibility.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: With the greatest respect to the member, if he actually made more effort in assisting with job creation in Northland, then we would actually have a lot better outcomes than just sitting here bagging people who are interested in job creation for New Zealanders, including all the companies that he has mentioned so far. In relation to the living wage, I would draw his attention to the Treasury report that points out that the living wage would have very little impact on inequality or poverty measures, and that most people affected are actually those who are single adults or couples with no children, and not the families earning below a so-called living wage of $18.40 an hour.

ENDS

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