Questions and Answers – March 11

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 — 8:27 PM

Questions to Ministers

Dairy Products, Milk Powder—Response to Contamination Threat

1. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Primary Industries : What steps has the Government taken in responding to the criminal threat to New Zealand’s infant and other milk formula products?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Although the threat has been assessed by police as being low and possibly a hoax, the Government is treating the nature of the threat seriously. As soon as this threat was received in late November last year, an all-of-Government response was initiated, and every resource has been made available to treat this issue as a top priority. Since that time every possible step has been, and is being, taken to respond to this threat and ensure the ongoing safety of our food products.

Ian McKelvie : What specific measures are in place that will ensure the integrity of our infant and other formulas?

Hon NATHAN GUY : Over the last few months we have taken expert advice on how to respond to a threat of this type and made considered decisions. Officials have analysed the supply chain in meticulous detail, right through from cow to can, and have worked with manufacturers to put in place additional security measures. On top of our normal thorough testing, auditing, and verification system, we have a comprehensive new 1080 testing regime for dairy products, which gives us a high degree of confidence in the safety of New Zealand infant formula. It is extremely unlikely that anybody could deliberately contaminate formula during the manufacturing process, and there is no evidence of this ever having occurred.

Ian McKelvie : Why did the Government not go public as soon as the threat was received?

Hon NATHAN GUY : This is, first and foremost, a police investigation into a criminal threat. The Government took advice from police and officials on the timing of the announcement. The threat was assessed by police as being low and possibly a hoax. If there was any serious risk to consumers, this would have changed the approach. The Government has taken this time to work closely with manufacturers to bring in a new testing regime and further improve security. Thanks to this work, we are now able to give every reassurance to mums and dads, both here and around the world, that infant formula they are using is as safe today as it was prior to the threat being received.

Ron Mark : Is it customary with a bioterrorism threat to reveal that police have no leads and to alarm the general public and our trading partners while also giving massive publicity to the perpetrators of the crime?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Nathan Guy, in so far as there is ministerial responsibility.

Hon NATHAN GUY : That is an outrageous allegation from that member. If the member listened to the answers and the questions, he would have known the thorough process that the Government has been through and the reasons for that.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am seeking your assistance, Mr Speaker. My question was whether it is customary. I heard all the other explanation, but I have asked him whether it is customary.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No. On this occasion it is questionable whether it was even of ministerial responsibility—addressed to the Minister for Primary Industries. The question has been addressed.

Hon Damien O’Connor : Why, then, did the Minister and his colleague the Prime Minister use the term “ecoterrorism”, which has heightened the international concern and publicity over an incident that the New Zealand Police has called criminal blackmail?

Hon NATHAN GUY : It is definitely both. I stand by the statements that I made yesterday.

Hon Damien O’Connor : You’ve overblown it.

Hon NATHAN GUY : No, we have not.

Ron Mark : Given that the Prime Minister has told us that this was kept quiet by over 1,000 people for 3 months and that the supply chain has been secured, is the only reason it was revealed yesterday, like with the Government Communications Security Bureau and the Iraq deployment, that some reporters have been tipped off to make this an issue in the middle of a tight by-election?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, in so far as the Minister feels he has ministerial responsibility, the Hon Nathan Guy.

Hon NATHAN GUY : No, that is completely incorrect. I think that member has been travelling on a bus in Northland going round a roundabout the wrong way.

Ian McKelvie : Why did the Government alert overseas markets prior to the announcement yesterday?

Hon NATHAN GUY : When the Government says that overseas markets were notified in advance, we are not saying that overseas consumers were notified ahead of New Zealanders. We briefed overseas authorities prior to the notification of the threat in the same way that New Zealand authorities were briefed. It is important to remember that a large quantity of our infant formula is exported and consumed by families overseas. It is prudent that overseas regulators were also able to answer any questions that overseas consumers may have had as soon as the news broke to help mitigate any adverse reaction to New Zealand dairy products. So far, I must say, this reaction has been very measured.

Prime Minister—Statements

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei : Does the Prime Minister still consider that the number of children in low-decile schools who “actually require lunch is the odd one or two.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member would have to go back to the full interview that she is quoting from. I do not think that is a direct quote, but what I did say was that the vast bulk of youngsters actually do come to school with lunch, and I stand by that statement.

Metiria Turei : How can it possibly be true that only the odd one or two kids in low-decile schools need lunch when since the beginning of this year alone 1,000 more children have joined the KidsCan waiting list, meaning that 7,500 children are now waiting for KidsCan’s help?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The starting point of the member’s question is wrong, and she knows it is wrong because I just corrected it in the first answer. Putting that to one side, actually this is the Government that supported KidsCan. This is the Government that has enabled it to have more resources to do the very good work that Julie Helson does.

Metiria Turei : Does the Prime Minister still think that the number of kids in low-decile schools who require lunch is still just the odd one or two, when nine schools in Northland are now on the waiting list for help from KidsCan?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member obviously has a hearing problem because she did not hear the answer to the first question or the second one. I know—that is right. She just likes to make things up as she goes along, which actually destroys her own argument. If you cannot come up with decent statistics that actually stack up, or decent quotes, by definition you defeat your own argument.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was explicitly about the nine schools in Northland that are now on the KidsCan waiting list, and the Prime Minister did not address that question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That was not the specific question. The question also included an opening comment, asking whether the Prime Minister still thinks the numbers involved are just simply one or two. That was the part the Prime Minister certainly addressed in his answer.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister commit to spending just a fraction of the cost of the 10 new Northland bridges on the nine Northland schools, so that the children in those schools can have a lunch to eat every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think it is important to understand what the Government does spend, which is billions and billions and billions of dollars a year supporting low-income families and low-income New Zealanders. But one thing I do know is that a stronger roading infrastructure in Northland, under a National-led Government, will lead to stronger job growth. We already saw the GDP numbers for Northland this year as very, very strong. We know that 7,500 jobs have been created in Northland in the last 12 months. We know that this Government has spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on roading over the last 7 years in Northland, which is 40 percent more than Labour did. Actually, even on this side of the House we are in the slightly novel form of knowing which candidate we are going vote for.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked the Prime Minister whether he would commit to new funding for the nine Northland schools whose kids go without lunch every day. He did not address that question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, can I invite the member to carefully look at her question, after question time. She included a statement around a fraction of what was being spent on the bridges announcement that was used in the House yesterday by the Government. The Prime Minister addressed that. He also addressed spending on education. The question was addressed.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister vote for the “Feed the Kids Bill” in Parliament next week, so that all political parties can work with experts to develop the best legislative solution so that all of our kids are being fed at school?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, and no for a very good reason. The vast majority of kids are actually fed by their parents. Their parents, irrespective of their economic circumstances, actually do a very good job of providing breakfast and lunch and the Government would far rather direct those resources, on a targeted basis, to those in need. The Government already supports the breakfast in schools programme. I am advised that 791 schools out of the 2,500 schools approximately in New Zealand take up that programme in some part, and I think the Government has got its target in the right direction.

Metiria Turei : Will he at least commit to his Government working with cross-party agreement to provide food in schools, given that KidsCan says that 23 percent, on average, and up to 90 percent of kids in schools are going without lunch every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I look forward to the quote from Julie that says that 90 percent of kids going to school, in the approximately 2,550 schools in New Zealand, are going without lunch. I hate to tell the member, but I reckon I have been to way more schools than she ever has. I have been a prolific visitor to schools in the 7 years I have been the Prime Minister. I will tell you what. Of the 500 schools I have been to, if 90 percent of the kids did not have lunch I would be pretty surprised, because I tell you what, I have seen a lot of them munching their way through lots and lots of lunches. If the member wants to come with me to a school, and I will name the school, and 90 percent of the kids do not have lunch, I personally will buy them lunch for the whole year.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am not in a position yet to hear the point of order.

Metiria Turei : I would like to take the Prime Minister up on his invitation.

Mr SPEAKER : That is not a point of order. The member is welcome to communicate with the Prime Minister later.

Prime Minister—Statement on Reserve Bank

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Reserve Bank that “it’s not an option for the bank to raise interest rates”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): First of all, as I said at the time, that is a matter for the governor, but I do stand by my statement, which simply reflects what just about every market commentator is saying.

Andrew Little : To the Prime Minister, not the market commentator—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just ask the question to the Prime Minister.

Andrew Little : Why did he put public pressure on the Reserve Bank Governor to use his power to not raise interest rates, when the whole point of the Reserve Bank independence is to protect the governor from partisan interference?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I did not put any pressure on the Reserve Bank Governor. As I said, it is a matter for the governor. But is the Leader of the Opposition telling us that in an environment where inflation is at 0.8 percent and probably going lower, where our base rates are 3.5 percent, where seven countries in the developed world this year alone have cut interest rates, and where three-quarters of the world have base rates between zero and 1 percent he seriously wants the governor to raise rates, in which case, no wonder he has thrown Willow-Jean Prime under the—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I remind the Prime Minister that when I rise to my feet, it is important that he then resumes his seat.

Andrew Little : In light of that answer, if he thinks that megaphone diplomacy with the Reserve Bank is OK, why did he not intervene to exempt first-home buyers from the Reserve Bank’s loan-to-value ratio restrictions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, actually, I am glad the member raised that because that was going to be one of my points, so I may as well cut straight to it. That is exactly what the Labour Party did when the loan-to-value ratio came out. It ripped straight into it, with David Cunliffe, and said: “Oh, by the way, it shouldn’t be doing it.” And in 2014 Labour—Mr Parker will know this because it was his policy—actually went into the election with a variable KiwiSaver contribution, which would have meant that, actually, politicians would have to decide part of what was happening in terms of interest rate – setting, not the governor.

Andrew Little : Is he aware that house prices in Auckland went up by almost $90,000 on average last year alone, and is that not a sign that his half-measures on housing affordability are a failure and the only real solution is to get out there and build affordable homes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It seems pretty well wide of the mark in terms of the question, but, you know, the Government is building a lot more—insisting on building a lot more homes. I think 84 of the 100 special housing areas that have been consented are actually in Auckland. What the member Andrew Little, I assume, seems to be saying, if we tie the two together, is that interest rates should rise. That is a remarkable thing to think. If that is your level of economic understanding, I am shocked that you want interest rates to go up. Fair enough.

Tim Macindoe : What reports has the Prime Minister seen that explicitly question the Reserve Bank Governor’s independent judgment in setting monetary policy?

Grant Robertson : Has he used this answer?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, actually, no, he has not. Actually, I have seen a number of reports regarding monetary policy decisions over the years. They include: “The Reserve Bank Governor is out of order.”, “We’re disappointed by the Reserve Bank’s decision to raise the cash rate.”—OK—and, best of all, “Politicians must stop cynical point-scoring in these matters.” Those comments were made in a press release by Andrew Little.

Andrew Little : Point of order. [Interruption]

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

Andrew Little : I seek leave to table a print-out from the website confirming that average Auckland house prices rose $90,000 last year.

Mr SPEAKER : As I have ruled on many occasions, if it is freely available for members to go and search on the web themselves I do not intend to put the leave.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I seek leave to table the press release “Reserve Bank Governor out of order” by Andrew Little.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Such press releases are also freely available.

Hon Member : Has anybody read it?

Andrew Little : Widely read. Widely read. Just so we are clear: does he dispute the figures from Harcourts chief executive officer, Hayden Duncan, and from ASB economist Jane Turner showing that current rates of building consents are not high enough to cope with Auckland’s population growth?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There has been an explosion of building activity in Auckland and around New Zealand.

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, members might laugh but, actually, it is true.

Phil Twyford : Where are they?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There are quite a few, actually, and they will continue to happen. Actually, they will happen under a National-led Government that has allowed special housing areas to take place, which the Opposition was opposed to. They will happen because interest rate settings are affordable for New Zealand, which, by the way, the Opposition was opposed to. But if the member really cares about Aucklanders, here is an idea: join with us and vote with us on the Resource Management Act reforms. Oh, that is right, you will not.

Andrew Little : Why not just be straight with the people of Auckland and admit there are more people per house than before, it is projected to get worse in the years to come, and his tinkering will only send house prices higher and higher again and again?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think, actually, if we go back to the primary answer I was very straight. As I said, it is a matter for the governor, but, in my opinion, raising interest rates at this time is not the right thing to do. But when it comes to being straight, here is the answer: Mark Osborne. Because—guess what—Andrew Little does not know the answer to the question: Winston Peters or Willow-Jean Prime? He does not know the answer. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Making question time too much fun! When is he going to stop doing the Reserve Bank’s job, start doing his own job, and realise that under his watch homeownership has plummeted, prices have skyrocketed, and for hundreds and thousands of Kiwis the dream of owning their own home just now lies in ruins?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am doing my job and one of my jobs is leader of the National Party, and as leader of the National Party I am voting for Mark Osborne. As leader of the Labour Party that member does not have a clue whom to vote for. Interesting. Here is the answer: Willow-Jean Prime. She has got “Labour” on the bottom of her billboards—

Tracey Martin : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! There is a point of order called by Tracey Martin.

Tracey Martin : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just some clarification, Mr Speaker. Previously the Prime Minister has denied—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard—so I can hear it—in silence.

Tracey Martin : Previously the Prime Minister has declined to answer questions because he was working in his capacity as the leader of the National Party. We now have the Prime Minister standing and as the leader of the National Party making statements in the House in answer to questions. Can I ask you to clarify when it is suitable and when it is not.

Mr SPEAKER : It is a very difficult line for me to clarify, but on many occasions when I go back through Hansard, I note that various Ministers or Prime Ministers have declared that they have made statements as party leader and therefore should not be questioned because that is the basis on which they have made the answer. The Prime Minister in this particular answer brought in the fact that he was a leader of a political party, which is not out of order. When I considered the question “Why won’t you do your job?”, or words to that effect, I gave the Prime Minister a fair amount of latitude in the way he did then answer that question.

Health, Ministry—Provision of Rural Health Services

4. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health : Does he have confidence that the Ministry of Health is providing the best public health service for rural New Zealand communities?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes. Last year the Government provided record funding of $11.4 billion for district health boards, including specific funding to support the rural communities that they serve. Rural health service delivery has been particularly strong in Northland, where last week I met with hard-working Bay of Islands Hospital staff and primary care providers. They were just part of the extra 74 doctors and 99 nurses employed by the Northland District Health Board under this Government.

Barbara Stewart : Can the Minister confirm that the Waitematā District Health Board will not close down the Wellsford community health office after the 6-month lease expires, meaning that Wellsford residents will have to travel 21 kilometres through to Warkworth in order to receive their necessary health care?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : What I can say is that the Waitematā District Health Board has had a huge increase in funding in the last year. It is very well chaired, and basically, it is having to put its services where the public is best placed to access them. It is all about delivering the best possible health care for New Zealanders.

Barbara Stewart : Why has the Ministry of Health allowed the Wellsford community health office to be relocated to a public space where people now need to walk through the so-called office to use the bathroom facilities?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Look, I am not familiar with the bathroom arrangements in the Wellsford health office, but I am sure the district health board is doing its very best to make sure that both health and bathroom facilities are made available for the people of Wellsford.

Barbara Stewart : Is the Minister concerned that more rural health offices will be forced to closed or be forced to move to unsuitable locations once the additional $200 million in spending cuts are made to district health board budgets later this year; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : What I can tell the member is that there has been an extra $95 million poured into the Northland District Health Board in the last year, and more doctors, more nurses, and much more elective surgery. We have had free under-13 doctor visits there. They are doing very well on immunisation, so, basically, health provision in Northland is improving all the time.

Joanne Hayes : What progress has been made in delivering better access to elective surgery for Northlanders?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : A very good question. Over the past 6 years a remarkable 9,367 extra Northlanders received elective operations over and above the level that Labour was delivering in 2008, and including an extra 2,616 Northlanders who received surgery last year. This Government is delivering more and more surgery for Northlanders, and that is a direct result of our proactive approach to delivering health care services in Northland.

Tracey Martin : Can the Minister confirm that he understands that Wellsford and Te Hana are in the Northland electorate and in the Northland area, and can he explain why spending is being cut in Wellsford and Te Hana if the rest of Northland is doing so well?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : The member is right. The rest of Northland is doing very well, as is Wellsford, and the people in Wellsford have access to top-class health care services.


5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received on the Government’s finances and how does this compare with forecasts in the Half-Year Update in December?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It is a very good question. This morning Treasury released the Government’s—[Interruption] Just listen. This morning Treasury released the Government’s financial statements for 7 months to January. These show that in the year to January the Government posted a surplus of $77 million. The surplus was driven by higher than expected tax revenue and lower than expected expenses. The outturn was $712 million better than forecast by Treasury in the half-year update in December. Although it is too early to say whether we will have a surplus at the end of the 2014-15 year, this is a part-year surplus—the first one for some years. It demonstrates that the Government has made significant strides in managing public finances.

Hon Judith Collins : What are the implications of this result on the full-year surplus for 2014-15?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : One of the implications is it looks a bit more likely we could get to a full-year surplus than perhaps we thought back in December. Corporate tax and source deductions are both ahead of forecast, but actually these are both pretty difficult numbers to forecast accurately. It remains to be seen whether the higher than expected growth in revenue continues through the rest of the financial year. The Government still considers that the strong economy and responsible fiscal management can deliver a surplus when the final accounts are published in October, despite the fact that Treasury’s latest forecasts in December show a $572 million deficit. We will not know whether we have achieved a surplus for the whole year until the final accounts are published in October, but it is nice to have one for at least 1 month.

Grant Robertson : In light of those answers about the surplus, was then ACC Minister Judith Collins correct when she said that the Government had ignored ACC’s recommendations for bigger cuts for the third year running because we needed to get to surplus?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : As I answered that question yesterday, every Minister thinks that the decisions that are made in respect of their Budget bids—or, in this case, the ACC bids. Every Minister believes that it is their bid that is going to put us over the line or not over the line. In the case of the Minister’s statement, it is one of many decisions made by a Government that add up to a surplus or a deficit. But I have to say the former Minister for ACC did a great job of reducing levies, and we now levy $1.5 billion less than just a few years ago.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Robertson’s question was a very direct question that has not been answered once again by this Minister—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume—[Interruption] The member will resume his seat. The Minister addressed the question. I accept he did not answer the question as to whether the Minister was correct, but he pointed out that every Minister has a different perspective as they argue their case around the formation of a Budget bid.

Hon Judith Collins : What have been the trends in revenue forecasts in recent years, and how has this impacted the return to surplus?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The revenue has gone up each year, but we are in the unusual situation where we have solid economic growth but also historically low inflation, so this is good for New Zealand households because it means their cost of living is increasing at very low rates, but it makes it more challenging for the Government because higher inflation pushes up the tax base and enables us to collect more tax in a growing economy. However, the Government’s management of expenditure has been disciplined, and, despite the fact that the tax base is not growing as fast as was expected, we are able to manage expenditure and therefore stay on track for surplus.

Hon Judith Collins : What were the main drivers of the better than expected financial result in the year to January?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : In any given month things move up and down, and, of course, they can change in subsequent months. But in the month of January corporate tax was $158 million above the forecasts and source deductions, such as PAYE, were $146 million, or 1 percent, above forecasts. Expenses were around a quarter of a billion lower for the first half of the financial year, with variances spread across a number of departments, but it is likely that some of this lower expenditure will be due to timing differences and the money will be spent later in the year. These are encouraging trends: a slightly higher tax revenue than expected, and expenditure is on track or a bit lower.

Prime Minister—Statement on Northland By-election

6. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement regarding the Northland by-election that “last week we were looking through the various policies we want to announce so they were finalised I suppose last week. We’ve got another couple of announcements; we are making another this week on something else”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Those statements I made were as leader of the National Party. There is no ministerial responsibility for the comments I make in that capacity. I intend to reserve my long-term position, as did Helen Clark, of not answering questions undertaken in my capacity as leader of the National Party. But because the Clerk of the House has allowed the primary question through, and as a courtesy to the House, I will answer it. The answer is, in my capacity as leader of the National Party, yes.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took the quote not from the leader of the National Party but from the Prime Minister’s post-Cabinet conference. He did not do it as the leader of the National Party; he did it as the Prime Minister.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is quite clear, actually, and it has been established over quite some time that comments I might make at my post-Cabinet press conference are made in a variety of different capacities. I make them in my capacity as Prime Minister. I make them in my capacity as leader of the party. In fact, I have no doubt that next Monday I will be answering questions in my capacity as New Zealand’s home handyman, Bunny Rigold, too.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is an important matter, and the line between the Prime Minister answering a question in a prime ministerial capacity or as the leader of a political party is one that is not easy to decipher on some occasions. On this particular occasion the question was taken as a quote from the Prime Minister’s press conference. The Prime Minister was certainly then free to answer it the way he did, but I do not think anyone could sensibly argue that it was not a legitimate question, and the quote came from a press conference held by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Prime Minister.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would urge you to reflect on those comments later on because the important point here is that every week I do a post-Cabinet press conference. It is actually a post-Cabinet press conference. Obviously, on many, many occasions I answer those questions as Prime Minister. I also answer questions, as I legitimately said, as leader of the National Party. I have answered many questions in that regard. I also answer them as a citizen, as a father, and as a husband. But, Mr Speaker, if your ruling is to stand that comments I make at my post-Cabinet press conference are only ones that will always be interpreted as those made as Prime Minister, I would have to inform members of the press gallery that I will be answering questions only in my prime ministerial capacity.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The question I was responding to is whether the question is in order. If the question takes a quote from a prime ministerial press conference subsequent to a Cabinet meeting, then, in my opinion, such a quote means that it is a legitimate question. The way in which the Prime Minister then chooses to answer the question is entirely his decision. I am not in any way arguing against the answer that was given by the Prime Minister, but I am certainly saying on this occasion that the question was a legitimate question to be accepted in the first place.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In making such rulings in the future, too, I would submit that where the Prime Minister is answering questions about the spending of money that comes from New Zealanders through taxes and levies and that he spends through the authority of this Parliament, he is almost certainly speaking as Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER : I will consider that at the time.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We can have a debate over the merits or otherwise of whether something is policy—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I just want to be clear. This is another point of order. I will be hearing it in silence.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We can have that debate. Obviously, the Clerk of the House has allowed the question on that basis. I am more than happy to answer the question, as I said. But I would just go back to this point that I would ask you later on to review that, because if you are saying that every comment I make at my post-Cabinet press conference could legitimately be used as a statement—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. We have covered this ground before. I am not in any way critical of the answer. I am simply saying the question was in order. It is the Prime Minister’s job to justify any comments that he makes and in what capacity he makes them. That is a matter for the Prime Minister.

Hon Trevor Mallard : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not in any way to dispute your ruling, but to point out to the House that there is considerable written material on this question from the Ombudsman—but to indicate, given the primacy of this House, it is for you and not for the Ombudsman to decide what is relevant for the Prime Minister to answer.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I am only making a comment because Mr Mallard has tried to imply that there is something that members of the House should go and look for to get guidance on this. I would add to that that they should go and look at the Hansard for 2 August 2005 and subsequent days, where in fact the then Prime Minister, Helen Clark, used exactly the same language the Prime Minister has used, and made it very, very clear, and had it accepted by the then Speaker, that there were occasions when she maybe, on the one hand, at that moment in her official capacity—but then because of the question asked and the answer given was acting in her capacity as the leader of the party. And Labour Party members need to realise that it was they who set that precedent.

Mr SPEAKER : And if members are inclined—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. If members are inclined to do further homework, they can also look at the Hansard of 21 February 2006, where a very similar argument eventuated in this House. It is interesting to note that the proponents for the argument on that particular case were on the other side of the House.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just clarify that if this is continuing to relitigate the matter, that is creating disorder.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No. I am not wishing to relitigate the matter, but what I am asking—and what I have asked on a couple of occasions, and I do not think you have actually answered—is for you to go away and actually give us a ruling. Because the way I interpret your current statements—and correct me if I am wrong—is that if I make a statement at a post-Cabinet press conference, then that will always be allowable as a question in the House. My point to you is that I do those press conferences wearing a number of hats. That has been a very legitimate process. The Clerk has determined that this particular question, for a variety of reasons, fits the category of me speaking in my capacity as Prime Minister. I can debate that point, but I accept that point of the Clerk. But my main point is that I do think you should give this House a written ruling, or otherwise every question I answer at post-Cabinet press conferences could be subject to a primary question, and I do not think that would be correct.

Mr SPEAKER : And I think the Prime Minister makes a reasonable point. It is important I not get this wrong. I will give consideration to it a bit further, but I am certainly not saying that simply because the answer is given at a press conference subsequent to Cabinet that it will automatically be a legitimate question. I am saying that on this particular occasion, when I study the transcripts very, very carefully—aware that there was some dispute about whether this was a legitimate question—I am quite satisfied that the question on this occasion was legitimate. Equally, I am saying that I am quite comfortable that the Prime Minister, in giving the answer he gave, addressed the question.

Hon Annette King : Does he think it is important to be straight with the people of Northland when talking about Government spending—

Hon Steven Joyce : Straight with the people of Northland? How about Labour being straight about who they want to vote for?

Hon Annette King : —Government spending in Northland, Mr Joyce—and, if so, why has he—[Interruption] Mr Speaker, I cannot even hear myself think.

Mr SPEAKER : It would help if the member could ask a concise question.

Hon Annette King : I am asking a precise question, and will I start again?

Mr SPEAKER : I think, unfortunately, the member will have to start again, but that is unlikely to be a concise question. But if the member would just continue.

Hon Annette King : Does he think it is important to be straight with the people of Northland when talking about Government expenditure in Northland; if so, why has he claimed his Government has spent $750 million on roads in Northland when $240 million of the funding came from Labour’s 2007-08 budget, 2008-09 budget—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question now is far too long.

Hon Annette King : No, it is not.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, I am saying it is.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Because I am advised that it is correct. Secondly, if Labour members care so much about Northland, maybe they would like to tell us which candidate they are voting for: Willow-Jean or Winston. It is pretty simple. Just answer the question.

Hon Annette King : Is it honest to claim 30 percent of funding from a previous Government’s Budget as your own contribution to roads in Northland in an effort to get votes while at the same time claiming that this Government is spending 40 percent more? Could that not be called chicanery?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Is it honest to criticise a political party for, for instance, finding an accommodation with the ACT Party or United Future, but then to be in exactly the same situation and be “so confused” about who you would vote for as the leader of the political party that you cannot work out whether you would vote for your own candidate or Winston Peters? If someone needs to be straight, it is Andrew Little with the voters of Northland.

Hon Annette King : When he told reporters yesterday that he “assumed that all 10 bridges promised in Northland were justified on a cost-benefit analysis”, have his minders subsequently told him that only three were mentioned in the Northland regional land transport plan over the next 6 years and only one of the three could manage a medium priority rating? Would that not be called duplicity?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What is becoming quite clear is that Labour members are opposed to the 10 bridges in Northland. I tell you what—if this keeps up, by the end of the day Willow-Jean will not be voting for Winston; she will be voting for Mark Osborne.

Tracey Martin : How many Ministers and backbench National MPs have visited Northland to promote these new policies and put up signs since the TV3 poll, and how does that compare with the number of Ministers and backbench MPs who have visited Northland—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I cannot now hear the second part of the question. For the first part there was no prime ministerial responsibility.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There were two parts to Tracey Martin’s question. One was around Ministers and Ministers visiting Northland, for which there is prime ministerial responsibility. I accept—

Mr SPEAKER : Not for backbenchers.

Chris Hipkins : You could rule that out of order potentially but it would be impossible to rule out Ministers.

Mr SPEAKER : I will tell you how we will make progress here. We will have a bit more silence so I can hear the question. The member can ask one supplementary question. If there is an element of it that I do not think is relevant, then I will rule it out of order.

Tracey Martin : How many Ministers have visited Northland to promote new policies and put up signs since the TV3 poll, compared with the number of Ministers who visited Northland in the 5 months prior to March 2015?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I would have to go and check so I can assure the House, but I am pretty sure it would be a lot more in the 5 months prior. The interesting fact, of course, is that the member is having to ask that question because her leader, on the taxpayer, is up there campaigning in Northland. He is campaigning for Labour voters, I have no doubt, but he is nevertheless campaigning.

Tracey Martin : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : The question was addressed in the first part of the Prime Minister’s answer.

Tracey Martin : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order—or I hope it is.

Tracey Martin : I seek your clarification, Mr Speaker. I believe that as a member of Parliament I have every right to ask a question, regardless of who is in my party on the day or not.

Mr SPEAKER : That is not a point of order. The member asked how many Ministers have been up there recently compared with the last 5 months, and the Prime Minister said he did not have that number with him.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is, hopefully, a point of order.

Chris Hipkins : It is indeed a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a clear ruling around referring to the absence of members from the Chamber, which the Prime Minister has just violated. His answer was actually out of order.

Mr SPEAKER : And that is true. No member should refer to the absence of another member. That is true.

Hon Annette King : Could the Prime Minister tell the House when does politicking for a by-election cross over to being a bribe to buy an election—for example, when an unelected private citizen gets to announce $69 million of taxpayers’ money—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. The first part of the question can be answered.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The answer is very clear: zero percent student loans. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am about to move on. Has the member got further supplementary questions? [Interruption] The member will resume her seat. I will allow her to continue to ask simple, concise supplementary questions, but if we are going to have speeches, then I am going to curtail the question and move to the next one.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the end of question time I would like you to—in fact, I will hand the questions over to you, because you will find—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat. My patience will evaporate very quickly with that member. She will be leaving the Chamber early unless she continues to ask concise supplementary questions in line with the Standing Orders.

Hon Annette King : How would Transparency International rate a Government on its Corruption Perceptions Index that uses taxpayers’ money 19 days out from an election to fund projects that are independently rated as very, very bottom of a priority list?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member actually needs to take a step back—

Hon Steven Joyce : Have a breath.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —yes, take a long breath—because political parties campaign on policies. Voters expect to know what parties are going to do. I go back to zero percent loans. Does the member remember that? I remember Trevor Mallard turning up sick as a parrot because the Ombudsman actually released the dodgy costings that the Labour Party had done and would not release them in the public domain before the 2005 election.

Dairy Products, Milk Powder—Response to Contamination Threat

7. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki—King Country) to the Minister for Food Safety : Does she have confidence in the integrity of New Zealand’s food safety system in light of the criminal threat to contaminate infant and other formula with 1080?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for Food Safety): I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of our food safety system. There are both food safety and food protection aspects to this threat. I can reassure the New Zealand public that we are doing everything in our power to protect the entire supply chain, to ensure the safety of all infant and other formulas. This criminal threat is designed to cause fear in order to generate a political outcome. It is using food as a vehicle, but it should not undermine confidence in our world-class food safety system or in any manufacturer.

Barbara Kuriger : What food protection measures have been put in place by the Government as a result of the 1080 threat?

Hon JO GOODHEW : The ability for anybody to deliberately contaminate infant and other formula during manufacturing is very low. New Zealand manufacturers maintain high levels of security as a normal routine. Security and vigilance have now been significantly increased since this threat was received. The increased vigilance has been a team effort, with producers, manufacturers, transporters, and retailers all stepping up physical security measures and surveillance to protect these products. We have also developed an accredited 1080 testing programme for New Zealand milk and milk products and have tested 45,000 samples from all New Zealand formula producers, dating back to September last year. The testing will be ongoing, and the new testing is on top of our normal testing, auditing, and verification system. These measures give us the utmost confidence that there is no 1080 in infant or other formula.

Barbara Kuriger : What reassurances can she give New Zealand mums and dads about the safety of New Zealand infant formula and other formulas?

Hon JO GOODHEW : As both the Minister for Food Safety and a parent I can understand why New Zealand mums and dads will be concerned by this threat. I want to reassure New Zealanders again that every step possible has and is being taken to ensure the ongoing safety of our infant and other formula products. New Zealanders can be proud that our food safety model is among the best in the world. I am confident that the increased security and procedures put in place throughout the supply chain mean our products are safer than they have ever been.

Barbara Kuriger : What advice does she have for consumers who have any questions about infant or other formula that they are using?

Hon JO GOODHEW : The first advice that I wish to give is to parents. I advise them to continue using any infant formula or other formula products as they have been. Our advice to consumers has always been to check for signs of tampering. We are reinforcing this advice as a result of this blackmail threat. So do not use the product if any of the seals are broken or if there are holes in the foil or plastic lid or the bottom of the can. In order to be sure about this advice and to reinforce it, I urge people to look at the website . But for any parents or consumers who have questions that have not been able to be answered thus far, I urge them to call PlunketLine or Healthline.

Accident Compensation—Levies on Small and Medium Sized Businesses

8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Small Business : What advice has he received, if any, on how much small and medium sized businesses will pay in ACC levies this year?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): I am advised that this year small and medium sized businesses will pay substantially less in ACC levies thanks to almost $1 billion – worth of levy reductions made by the National Government since 2012-13. In addition to the $1 billion of levy reductions already locked in, I am advised that this year businesses will pay even less in ACC levies with a reduction in the work account levy from 1 April and the motor vehicle levy from 1 July. So, from 2015-16, that is $1.5 billion in the pockets of New Zealand households and businesses. Small and medium businesses now benefit from a financially robust ACC system—

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has been speaking for some time. I asked how much small and medium sized businesses are paying in ACC levies. He has yet to come to that answer.

Mr SPEAKER : Could the Minister get to the substance of the question?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Certainly, Mr Speaker. Small businesses do benefit now from a sustainable and substantially financially robust ACC. All businesses pay levies on the basis of liable earnings and their industrial classification. I was advised it is not possible to break it down by small and medium sized businesses before question time today.

Jacinda Ardern : Has he advocated on behalf of small and medium sized businesses that there be a further reduction in ACC levies to the level that ACC has itself recommended; if not, why not?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : I constantly advocate on behalf of small and medium businesses across New Zealand. I am particularly concerned about their cash flows and any threats to their cash flows—for example, the $500 million additional cost that raising the minimum wage to $16.25 that Labour is proposing would substantially damage the cash flows of small and medium enterprises in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.

Jacinda Ardern : Thank you. Can he name any initiatives he has introduced that would save small and medium sized enterprises up to $3,000 per annum, which is the amount some could be saving if their levies were reduced?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : For example, not raising the minimum wage to $16.25 would save small and medium sized enterprises substantially more than $3,000; not introducing some complicated, complex capital gains tax on small enterprises would save them substantially more than $3,000 per annum.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he believe that a reduction in ACC levies would make a difference to the ability of small businesses to increase their employment opportunities?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Last year 80,000 new jobs were created, mostly by small and medium sized enterprises, so anything to help their cash flow and their ability to hire, such as the 90-day trial, of which 62 percent of businesses—

Hon Members : Answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am going to invite the member to ask her question again. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If Mr Brownlee wants to stay for the balance of question time, I would be grateful if we did not get that sort of interjection from him.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he believe that a reduction in ACC levies would make a difference to the ability of small businesses to increase their employment opportunities?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : That is a very naive question because on its own it cannot be considered. There are labour laws, tax laws, compliance, and ACC, amongst many of the conditions that small businesses have to consider before they think about hiring someone. But I do note that last year 80,000 new jobs were created under this Government, mostly by small and medium sized enterprises.

Jacinda Ardern : Have small and medium sized businesses told him they have more money than they know what to do with and do not mind being overcharged by ACC?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : No, small businesses have not told me that, but they have told me thank goodness a National Government was elected, to prevent raising the minimum wage to $16.25, which would have cost them an additional $500 million per annum.

Jacinda Ardern : Will the Minister advocate to Cabinet, on behalf of small and medium sized businesses, that ACC levies be reduced to the rate that ACC has recommended?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : As previous Ministers have answered in relation to a similar question, there are many matters that go into considering what the ACC levies might be. I do note, though, that Cabinet has made decisions that will have saved New Zealand businesses and New Zealanders around $1.5 billion this year, with previous decisions made by this Cabinet. I also note that Labour opposed each one of those decisions.

World War I Centenary—Commemorations

9. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage : What is the Government doing to commemorate the centenary of the First World War?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): The Government has committed more than $10 million to the official elements of the WW100 programme. These include three official legacy projects: the Ngā Tapuwae heritage trails here in New Zealand and in Europe, the Great War exhibition in Wellington, and the Cenotaph database project, which will hold the records of all New Zealanders who served in our forces. In addition, a further $120 million has been provided for the National War Memorial project, which includes major roadworks, the Arras Tunnel, and $23.8 million for Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, which opens next week.

Paul Foster-Bell : What are some significant First World War centenary projects to which the Government has committed?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : The soon-to-be-opened Pukeahu National War Memorial Park will be the national place for New Zealanders to commemorate and reflect on our country’s experience of war and how that has shaped our national identity. New Zealanders in communities all over New Zealand have organised more than 750 initiatives, which are listed on the WW100 official website. The park, which is opening next week, will have garden memorials from countries around the world including Australia, Belgium, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, with more to come. The Government has also helped fund the national Great War exhibition, which will be at the war memorial and it has been very generously supported by the creative genius of Sir Peter Jackson. As well as that, there is an exhibition at Te Papa that will impress all New Zealanders—Lest We Forget.

Prime Minister—Statement on GCSB Surveillance

10. Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that he had not heard from any Pacific leaders following the allegations of GCSB mass surveillance within the Pacific “And that will be because they understand completely that either things are sensationalised, fundamentally not true, or of no concern to them”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Su’a William Sio : Has he picked up his phone and spoken to the Tongan Prime Minister, who declared publicly his discomfort about the allegations of spying by New Zealand on the Pacific?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Su’a William Sio : Do New Zealand citizens in the Pacific, including Niueans, Cook Islanders, and Tokelauans, have the right to know whether their emails, text messages, phone calls, and personal data are being gathered up by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and passed on to the United States?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The law is very clear when it comes to New Zealanders. In fact, in the open session today I thought it was interesting that the acting Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau made a number of things clear. Firstly, the level of information gathered by the GCSB over the last 7 years that I have been the Prime Minister is less than the level of information gathered in the previous 7 years by Helen Clark as Prime Minister; that the countries that might broadly have been places of interest have been consistent over that 14 year period; and that the level of oversight that now occurs with the GCSB is much stronger under my Government.

Su’a William Sio : Will the allegations of blanket surveillance of the Pacific have the potential to go as far as to “diplomatically damage New Zealand’s reputation”, as Professor Robert Patman, professor of international relations at Otago University, pointed out last week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, because if one looks at the public comments from the countries involved, or the countries, at least, that are claimed in the articles, they are—as I believe I said earlier in the week—sensationalised, fundamentally not true, or of no concern. I would strongly urge the member to have a high dose of scepticism about things he reads in these particular articles.

Su’a William Sio : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know we have gone past the third question I asked, but it seems to me, as I have pondered on what the Prime Minister has said, that the question was very straightforward: do New Zealand citizens in the Pacific—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member should have perhaps raised it at that time.

Su’a William Sio : Does he think the revelations of spying in the Pacific will comfort Pacific communities now that they know there is at least one Government agency listening to them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The first point I would make is that the GCSB and the Government do not comment on the particular countries where information may be being collected, except to say that the GCSB is a foreign intelligence service. But I go back to the comments made in an open session today by the acting director—that the level of information gathered by the GCSB in the 7 years that I have been Prime Minister is less than in the 7 years prior to that, and there has been no noticeable change of countries from where the information may be collected.

Employment—Small Businesses

11. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister for Small Business : What reports has he received on small businesses hiring more employees in the coming year?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): I have seen a number of reports on small businesses hiring more employees in the coming year. Earlier this month the MYOB Business Monitor came out and outlined that small to medium sized enterprises are still hiring and paying staff more: “In a sign of continued confidence, over a fifth … of SME operators will look to increase the amount they pay their staff in the next year, while 7 per cent will take on more full time employees and 11 per cent will increase their part-time roster.” These sentiments were also highlighted in the most recent ANZ Business Outlook, which stated that a net 23 percent expected to hire more. On top of the 80,000 new jobs created in the past year, small businesses continue to benefit from a strong economy, creating more jobs for New Zealanders.

Brett Hudson : What factors have contributed to small businesses looking to employ more Kiwi workers?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : The ANZ Business Outlook states that profit expectations have firmed: “More money in the till is positive for expanding employment and investment.” The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion in January stated that “The economic recovery is flowing through to increased hiring (which surged in the last quarter to the fastest pace since December 2003),”. In addition to the voluntary 90-day employment trial period introduced by this Government, that reduces the risk for businesses of hiring an employee and has been invaluable for small businesses.

Brett Hudson : What reports has he seen that give differing views on this Government’s changes to allow small businesses to operate in a more flexible labour market?

Mr SPEAKER : In answering the question, the Minister can answer with regard to ministerial responsibility. It is not an opportunity, when answering a question like that, to respond to any other political party’s policies.

Hon CRAIG FOSS : This National Government introduced the 90-day trial period, which has been of great benefit to small and medium sized businesses—and, in fact, large businesses—across New Zealand. I have seen reports that state that we do not need the 90-day law, and I have seen reports that say that there has been a myth put about for a long time that Labour does not support trial periods or probationary periods. Small and medium sized enterprises across New Zealand need to know where the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon CRAIG FOSS : —stands on this matter. I welcome Andrew Little’s U-turn on the 90-day trial, but he cannot have it both ways.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That answer has gone far enough.

Conservation, Minister—Statements

12. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation : Does she stand by all her statements?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Yes, I do.

Eugenie Sage : When the Minister said yesterday that she was concerned that Auckland Council had allowed the felling of centuries-old kauri, is she also concerned that her Government plans to strengthen landholder rights, change the Resource Management Act, and further weaken environmental criteria in that Act?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : That is not what I said, and Resource Management Act issues are not my ministerial responsibility.

Eugenie Sage : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The functions of the Department of Conservation under section 6 of the Conservation Act include “to advocate the conservation of natural and historic resources generally:”. That is part of the Minister’s responsibility.

Mr SPEAKER : The member asked two questions. That is the difficulty. If she had asked one, I might have been able to help. But she asked two questions about comments the Minister said yesterday, and the Minister said: “I didn’t make those comments.” The question was, therefore, addressed.

Eugenie Sage : Does the Minister believe that it is acceptable under the Resource Management Act for private landholders to be able to cut down centuries-old kauri trees when less than 1 percent of the original extent of kauri forest remains in New Zealand?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : I do not support the felling of mature kauri trees. That is not something that, as the Minister of Conservation, I would ever support.

Eugenie Sage : Is the Minister comfortable that in the case of the Titirangi kauri forest, the Resource Management Act has totally failed to ensure the protection of New Zealand’s most treasured species and habitat on private land, and the Act is likely to be even weaker in future when the Government amends it to strengthen private property rights and strip out environmental criteria?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : The Resource Management Act is not under my ministerial responsibility. However, I would say this: the changes, the reforms that we brought in around the Resource Management Act in 2009 have not weakened in any way or changed the protection of these trees. The laws that we have put in place are left to the councils and their communities to decide what it is that they want to do with trees. The Auckland Council, in this case, has the responsibility for this particular tree. I would urge it to re-examine what it is doing, and my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith has spoken with the Mayor of Auckland, who has undertaken to look at the options. He expressed surprise, which I share, that the Auckland Council chose to use its discretion not to notify around that particular tree. I would hope that that can be changed. The council is meeting tomorrow to have further discussions, as I understand it.


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