Questions and Answers – March 17

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 — 8:42 PM

Questions to Ministers

Prime Minister—Statement on Deployment of Defence Force to Iraq

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he still believe that people who oppose the deployment of New Zealand soldiers to train Iraqi Government forces need to “get some guts and join the right side” in light of widespread evidence that Iraqi Government forces are committing war crimes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. The right side is the international coalition of over 60 countries that are contributing to the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL is a brutal threat to stability not only in the Middle East but regionally and locally too. I am advised that the Iraqi Government is investigating allegations of abuses by Shia militia and individuals within the Iraqi security forces. We share the concerns of other partners about these allegations, and we will ensure our view is communicated to the Iraqi Government.

Andrew Little : Given that everyone in this House agrees that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is evil, how is it gutsy to force young New Zealanders to train an army guilty of many of the same crimes as ISIS?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is not correct; we will not. We will set the terms of the mission, including whom we will train, how we will train them, and when we will train them.

Andrew Little : What has the Government done to ensure New Zealanders will not help the Iraqi units that have committed war crimes and been banned from receiving US assistance under Leahy’s Law?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member has answered his own question. The US has identified those involved. The Government will make it clear to the Iraqi Government, as indeed the Americans have, that we find that behaviour reprehensible. The Iraqi forces must be consistent with the law; otherwise they stoop to the same level as ISIL. But I go back to the point I made earlier—we will set the terms of the mission, including whom we will train, how we will train them, and when we will train them.

Andrew Little : Will he give the New Zealand public a cast-iron guarantee that under no circumstances will our troops work with the Iraqi army units or militia that have committed war crimes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What I can guarantee is, in terms of our own deployment, we are still planning the mission to Taji. However, we will set the terms of the mission including whom we will train, how we will train, and when we will train them.

Andrew Little : Why has he declared that the deployment to Iraq will end, whether or not its objectives are completed, about 6 months before the next election? Is that just a coincidence?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Andrew Little : Is the truth not this: although the goal of defeating ISIS is noble and shared on this side of the House, his plan risks our forces mixing with war criminals, has a cut and run exit strategy, and is timed with a New Zealand election in mind, not the Iraqi people?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government is committing to building partner capability in Iraq for 2 years. In our view, that is an appropriate step for us to take, given the threat from ISIL. The member said in his opening statements that he found the actions of ISIL barbaric, or words to that effect. We agree with him. On this side of the House we are prepared to do something about it.

Economy—Employment, Consumer Confidence, and Economic Growth

2. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received about higher employment, consumer confidence, and economic growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have received Treasury’s Monthly Economic Indicators February 2015report. It notes that retail sales point to solid growth and household consumption, supported by reasonable employment growth, in the December quarter. It also shows more migration and a pick-up in tourist spending. This report reinforces the unusual conditions we have at the moment with quite low inflation alongside sustained economic growth. These are pretty good conditions for New Zealand families managing their household budgets, because low unemployment, low interest rates, and low inflation make it a bit easier for them to get ahead.

Hon Judith Collins : What effect is net migration having on the economy, particularly in employment and housing?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Net migration has stayed higher for longer than most people expected, with a net inflow of 50,900 in the year to December. This is driven by fewer departures to Australia, more New Zealanders returning home, and somewhat higher inflows from other countries. This is expected to ease, though, in 2015 with lower net migration. Net migration flows are larger in this cycle than in the 2000s, but they are having a smaller effect on house prices for two reasons: first, the dominance of 20 to 34-year-olds in this cycle and, secondly, net migration is more driven by a fall in departures—that is, more people staying in their own communities, particularly in regional New Zealand—and this has a weaker effect on house prices.

Hon Judith Collins : Are there risks to New Zealand’s economic situation?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : That is a very good question. There are always risks to our economy, which is why no one in New Zealand should be complacent about the progress of our economy. In particular, our major trading partners are a critical determinant of our success, and as Australia has a higher unemployment rate, the Reserve Bank there has cut its cash rate and there is some uncertainty about the Australian growth path. Also in the case of China growth forecasts have been lowered, and in the euro area high levels of debt are going to burden their economies for some time, although Germany is doing pretty well. In New Zealand the effects of drought might still come through into GDP figures and, of course, we are expecting some kind of improvement in dairy prices, but if that did not eventuate, that would represent a risk to the economy.

Hon Judith Collins : What reports has he seen on perceptions of higher interest rates and lower growth in the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Some people think that interest rates are much higher than they are and that growth is much lower than it is. I have seen one political aspirant who was asked about the official cash rate and answered that he thought it was 7.8 percent, when it is actually 3.5 percent—that is, interest rates are less than half of what he thought they were. There was another who was asked about growth, who thought that it was a bit over 0.25 percent, which, of course, is almost recession, when it is actually 2.9 percent, or around 3 percent, which is moderate growth. These were potential leaders of the Green Party, who indicated that they do not really care—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Darroch Ball : Has he received the Northland economic quarterly report stating that Northland still maintains one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the country, with one in five youth not being in employment, education, or training, and that this figure would be even higher if we included those working for just 1 hour a week?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, I have seen that. I would be keen to share with the member reports about the Government initiatives in the Youth Service, in the Youth Guarantee, and in achievement levels at National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, which are the most comprehensive and serious attempt by any Government to turn round that long-term problem.

Rheumatic Fever—Causes

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health : What advice, if any, has he received on the causes of rheumatic fever?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I am advised that rheumatic fever is caused by an autoimmune reaction to group A streptococcus bacterial infections such as a sore throat. It predominantly affects children aged 5 to 14. Symptoms usually start 1 to 5 weeks after the initial infection. We have invested more than $65 million to tackle rheumatic fever, which includes a range of prevention and treatment programmes. Although there is clearly more to be done, these programmes are starting to make a real difference.

Hon Annette King : Does he agree with the recent research published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health that showed there is an alarming rise in the rate of rheumatic fever amongst Māori and Pasifika people and significant and worsening ethnic disparities in New Zealand?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Obviously Māori and Pasifika are one of the target populations for the many initiatives we have, but what I can say is the rate of rheumatic fever has dropped by 25 percent in the last year. It shows that compared with when Annette King was Minister and she said that rheumatic fever was a priority but did absolutely nothing about it—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That will be sufficient for that answer.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So I do not get to finish my answer?

Mr SPEAKER : No, the member does not. The Minister has moved to where he does not need to to answer the question.

Hon Annette King : Does he agree with Professor Baker, who said in September last year that New Zealand may be throwing money at rheumatic fever and not making an ounce of difference because half of those with acute rheumatic fever do not have a sore throat and we are failing to address the causes of rheumatic fever?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That just is not correct, because, as I said, the rate of incidence of new cases has dropped by 25 percent in the last year. What that shows is that our strategy, which is based around prevention and around sore throat swabbing and walk-in sore throat clinics as well as a healthy homes initiative, is starting to turn the tide. But there is no doubt there is more that needs to be done. It is a pity Labour never did anything.

Hon Annette King : Why have 16 reports by the Ministry of Health and the Housing and Health Research Programme plus two action plans failed to motivate the Government into addressing urgently overcrowded households in New Zealand, now recognised in the latest research as a risk factor for rheumatic fever?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I will refer the member to the analysis of household crowding published in December by the Ministry of Health. It shows that, actually, the only time that the proportion of New Zealanders living in crowded conditions has increased in the past 24 years was between 2001 and 2006, when Annette King was doing nothing as Minister of Health to address rheumatic fever. I would say, furthermore, that this Government is putting $2 billion into accommodation support and has insulated 300,000 houses. We are addressing the underlying causes of rheumatic fever; Annette King did nothing.

Hon Annette King : Supplementary question, Mr Speaker. In light of—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have not yet called the member.

Hon Annette King : In light of the fact it is 10 years since I was Minister of Health, is he aware that the rheumatic fever hospitalisation rate was 3.4 percent per 100,000 population in 2014 but the notification rate was 4.5 per 100,000, and why does the Government continually use the lower figure to disguise its failure to address the causes of rheumatic fever?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : The first thing is, look, you always have to check Annette King’s figures. But what I can tell you is the figures from the ministry show that last year there were 194 cases of children admitted to hospital for the first time with rheumatic fever. That was 2013. That dropped in 2014 to 153, so that is nearly a 25 percent decrease. I can tell you that our programme is working. Labour did nothing.

Hon Annette King : I have some very good information to table—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member needs to know how to do this. She needs to rise to her feet and seek leave to examine the type of paper. There is no need for further explanation besides what the source of the document is.

Hon Annette King : The source of the document is the Ministry of Health’s hospitalisation data showing the increase in acute—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! It has now been described. [Interruption] Order! I just need to finalise—is that information publicly available to members?

Hon Annette King : It is not easily available. I had to hunt for it.

Mr SPEAKER : I will take the member’s word for that. Leave is sought to table that particular—[Interruption] Order! Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I seek leave to table the declining rate of first-instance rheumatic fever between 2013 and 2014. That is a document prepared by the Ministry of Health. I also seek leave to table the analysis of household crowding, which shows the increase in crowding between 2001 and 2006.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, I just need to see—are those two reports freely available for members to obtain?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Not easily. I—

Mr SPEAKER : I, again, accept the Minister’s word. Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Marama Fox : Are you aware of the quote that was attributed to the former Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia when she was described by an Australian conference as being “a shining light in a wasteland of neglect” for the work that she did in regard to rheumatic fever, and is the Government prepared to continue with that work in the coming years?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I was not aware of that, but thanks for enlightening me. We are also continuing with that work.

Christchurch, Recovery—Short-term Housing

4. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister for Social Housing : What support is the Government providing to families in Christchurch in need of short-term housing?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): The Government has contracted with two community housing providers—VisionWest Community Trust and Comcare Trust—to provide vulnerable families and single people with short-term housing in Christchurch. The service, which is already up and running, is targeting people living in insecure housing such as tents and cars, who need help to get back on their feet. People will be housed for an average of 8 weeks in individual properties, for single people, and in a leased motel, for families. The community providers will link people with services to help them address issues that are holding them back and that could include drug and alcohol counselling, mental health support, budgeting, or parenting support. This is an innovative solution made possible by community housing providers and the Government working together and being prepared to try new ways to work with people who are disadvantaged.

Joanne Hayes : How will this initiative help families get into more sustainable housing?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : This support is all about providing short-term relief so that we can then get them into more sustainable, long-term housing. Providers work with them to develop plans to help them move into longer-term housing, help them look for that home, and help them with the bond and with what needs to be done. This includes getting families to pay up to 25 percent of their income while they are in the short-term housing, but when they are ready to move on the community providers will give them that money back for use on things such as bond or moving costs. This means that we can actually sort out and clear some of their debt while they are there, help them with budgeting, pay the whole bill, and when they move out they also have some cash.

Joanne Hayes : What else is the Government doing to improve emergency housing in places other than Christchurch?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : The Government is committed to improving emergency and short-term housing. We recently announced a $500,000 boost to the sector, and it will be announced shortly which providers that is going to. We are also working through a review of the emergency and short-term housing problems where we will be looking at the Christchurch example to see where else it can be rolled out to in New Zealand.

Poto Williams : Does the Minister believe that providing short-term housing for 30 families is an adequate response when the 2013 census shows there are 2,200 people living in temporary accommodation and Housing New Zealand has 504 people on priority waiting lists?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, actually, that is 30 at any one time and we envisage up to 240 people getting that short-term assistance over a 1-year period—so up to 500 people over the 2 years. What I would say is that of those who are on the wait list, it is 92 of them who are in that kind of insecure housing. Others are in other situations, so it is those 92 whom we see as being the most urgent. So I think that providing up to 240 places will make a real difference for those who are in need.

Wage Rates—Average Wage

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Can workers still expect that the average wage will rise to $62,000 in the next three years, as he stated during the period of the election campaign in 2014?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): That depends on whether Treasury forecasts for growth in the average wages from the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update actually occur, because it forecast in the update that the average wage would grow by $6,600 to $62,000 by mid-2018. The most recent forecasts, which reflect lower inflation, push that point out 3 months later—that is, they would reach $62,000 by the third quarter of 2018 instead of the second quarter. Treasury’s latest forecasts actually show slightly stronger real wage growth over the next few years, which would mean households will have slightly more spending power but low inflation, which has now been forecast to reach zero this year. That means that the dollar view of wage increases may be slightly less than in that forecast.

Grant Robertson : Given that answer, when he said in the election campaign “National’s economic plan will make those forecasts a reality.”, is he now reneging on that statement about possible wage rises for New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, but we have been very clear that these are economic forecasts. The member may not be aware of this, but they will be subject to uncertainty. Inflation may end up being lower than people expected, migration figures might change, the housing market might alter, but I think what is pretty clear is that the forecasts indicate a path of sustainable moderate increases in income—and that is not a bad outlook for New Zealand families. It is not ideal but it is not bad.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that to achieve the wage growth that he promised New Zealanders in the election campaign would require an average wage increase for New Zealanders of 3 percent per annum, and is he guaranteeing New Zealanders that will happen?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The member knows that no one can guarantee wage increases, and it was not a promise. I simply pointed out a fact that the Labour Party was not happy with, and that was that all economic forecasts actually showed average wages rising, when it was trying to argue that New Zealand incomes were going down, and it was simply wrong. Those forecasts remain roughly on track. New Zealand households can look forward to sustained moderate wage increases if current economic conditions persist, and this Government will do its best to reinforce current economic conditions that support higher incomes, because we think it is a good idea.

Grant Robertson : In light of that answer, where he said it was not a promise to New Zealanders that the average wage would rise to $62,000, does he recall this graphic being produced by him and the National Party that said “National’s economic plan will make those forecasts a reality.”, and why is he once again misleading New Zealanders about wage increases under his Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I am not. Actually wages are pretty important to most New Zealanders, and I do not think you would be able to mislead them. The Labour Party may try to do that, but we do not. In fact, many New Zealanders have a degree of confidence that they can look forward to sustained moderate wage increases, and actually they voted back in a Government that they think will take measures that may assist that to occur. So we certainly stand by the fact that all economic forecasts show sustained moderate wage growth in New Zealand.

Grant Robertson : If when inflation was higher it was too hot for wage increases, and now that it is low it is too cold for wage increases, can he tell New Zealanders what the Goldilocks solution looks like when it is just right?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I thought the member would have more original lines than those coming straight out of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association. I have not actually said either of those things. His job is to be spokesman for the economy, not for the Post Primary Teachers’ Association, the secondary school teachers union.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to have a look later, as you always do, at the nature of the exchange that we have just had. Frankly, I do not think it worked out terribly well for the Opposition—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just make the point.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I assume, now that you have allowed political points to be made about campaign matters, that when reports are received by Ministers that would point out the fallacies of some of the claims being made by the Opposition, they may be used by Ministers in answers to their questions.

Grant Robertson : This was a question on notice. Authentication was provided for the question. It was accepted by the Clerk’s Office. It noted the fact that the statement was made during the period of the election campaign. All of my supplementary questions drew on that statement, so I do not think Mr Brownlee can rule out those sorts of questions.

Mr SPEAKER : The member Mr Brownlee has asked that I have a look at the transcript later, and I certainly will do so.

Health, Minister—Statements on Health Centres

6. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health : Does he stand by his statement regarding the closing down of a health centre, published on Newstalk ZB this morning, “there’s no facility in Wellsford that is closing, and that is what my officials have told me”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes.

Barbara Stewart : Does the Minister believe that moving the community nurse from the Coast to Coast health care medical centre at 220 Rodney Street in Wellsford to Wellsford School is not a cost-cutting exercise?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : What I can tell the member is that no health centre is closing, no service is ceasing, and no staff are leaving. All we can find is that one nurse who did admin in her old office is moving to a new office in Wellsford, where she will still do admin. Services in Wellsford are expanding, not reducing.

Barbara Stewart : Is this a dedicated nurse for Wellsford School; if so, how will the adult needs of the Wellsford community be met?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : They will be just fine.

Barbara Stewart : Does the Minister believe that Wellsford School is a suitable venue for a community nurse when any member of the community with physical or mental health needs may enter that school in search of health care from the community nurse?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : She is not providing health care services there. She is just doing admin, and I would have thought that is a great place to do it.

Transport Infrastructure—Investment in Northland

7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport : Why was the Government’s new policy to double-lane ten Northland bridges not announced by him or the New Zealand Transport Agency?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Because there is a by-election going on, and in by-elections you spell out your policies. National has a tremendous candidate in Mark Osborne, who is a strong voice for Northland and—wait for it—actually lives in Northland. As transport Minister, I think Mark Osborne’s commitment that he has made with me, as National’s spokesperson for transport, is an excellent one that I wholeheartedly support. On this side of the House we can make political commitments and keep them, unlike on that side of the House.

Phil Twyford : Who approved the bridges policy and on what date?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : As I have made quite clear in an answer to the member’s question last time in the House, before he was ejected, I made this decision at the end of last week. I appreciate that the member is a little bit sore about the fact that on this side of the House we have got a strong voice standing for us, and the candidate on his side of the House is not even allowed to talk, let alone advocate for policies.

Phil Twyford : What New Zealand Transport Agency and ministerial resources were used in the preparation and announcement of this $70 million policy as part of a National Party candidate’s by-election campaign?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : We sought general information. But be very clear. On this side of the House we actually like the people of Northland. We go up and talk to them. We find out what they think. We did it in December. We have got a strong voice there. On this side of the House, when we make political commitments, we can actually follow through on them. The only thing that side of the House has followed through on is throwing its local candidate, Willow-Jean Prime, under Mr Peters’ bus.

Phil Twyford : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question about the use of ministerial resources. I do not believe that it was addressed.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! On this occasion I am unsure whether it was addressed because I could not actually hear because of the level of noise. I will invite the member to ask the question again.

Phil Twyford : What New Zealand Transport Agency and ministerial resources were used in the preparation and announcement of this $70 million policy as part of a National Party candidate’s by-election campaign?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : As I made clear, I asked for information. Minimal resources were expended, because on this side of the House we actually go out and talk to people in the regions. I did it in December. We have a strong candidate, who has been making very clear his priorities on this, including—

Dr Megan Woods : What’s his name?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : —the need for bridges—Mark Osborne, a tremendous—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The question was answered.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Phil Twyford : Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER : Point of order—

Ron Mark : Oh, I am happy to take it after the member has asked his question.

Phil Twyford : Has he been advised that the Pipiwai Tītoki Advocacy for Community Health and Safety Group, which is campaigning to get more money spent sealing Northland roads, allegedly received a threatening phone call from his colleague Shane Reti telling it to tone down its demands or it would not get what it wanted?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I am not aware of that. I am aware of the general project. It is one that I think does need looking at. Of course, if we did that, the other side would accuse us of pork-barrel politics. On this side of the House we have got strong voices inside Government who can make a difference on projects that matter to people in the north.

Phil Twyford : I seek leave of the House to table the email from the Pipiwai Tītoki Advocacy for Community Health and Safety Group—

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought—[Interruption] Order! I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I ask you to have a look at that transcript and pay some attention particularly to the first supplementary question, which is virtually an identical supplementary question to one I asked the very same Minister last week. The problem is that the answer he gave here is different from the answer he gave last time.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I will undertake to relook at transcripts—I always do—but the member is not raising a point of order. I will certainly have a look at it for him, but I do not consider that it is a valid point of order. If the member feels that anybody misleads the House, there is a very appropriate course of action, which an experienced member like Mr Mark will be well aware of.

Tropical Cyclone Pam—Reports on Impact on New Zealand

8. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Civil Defence : What reports has she received on the impact of Tropical Cyclone Pam on New Zealand?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister of Civil Defence): Over the last few days I have received regular updates on both the preparations and response of agencies to the potential impact of tropical Cyclone Pam. Rain, wind, and heavy swells have caused some damage on the East Coast of the North Island. Very high winds over 140 kilometres per hour, heavy rain, power cuts, large swells, slips, and road closures have all been reported in affected areas. There has been coastal erosion and flooding of houses in beach communities in the East Cape and southern Hawke’s Bay. More than 100 people were evacuated. They either stayed with family and friends or received support for temporary accommodation. The effects of Cyclone Pam are still being felt in the Chatham Islands.

Scott Simpson : How did communities across New Zealand prepare for Cyclone Pam?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : Over the last few days, civil defence staff and volunteers have been working hard to prepare for possible severe weather. Several excellent examples of local preparedness were: in the East Coast the Defence Force, the New Zealand Fire Service, St John Ambulance, the district health board, and local roading and network services moved extra people and equipment into various townships to help keep people safe. The Hawke’s Bay civil defence groups visited coastal communities in Haumoana and Te Awanga, and went door to door to offer advice. Some households were evacuated on Sunday as a precaution. I would like to personally thank all of the volunteers and civil defence staff across New Zealand who have done such a great job. In particular, I want to acknowledge Gisborne for their comprehensive planning. As with other emergencies over the last few years, I have constantly been impressed with how local authorities, emergency services, and welfare groups have assisted communities to deal with these events.

Scott Simpson : What support has been provided to the Chatham Islands in preparation for the arrival of the severe weather?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : On Sunday evening the Chatham Islands controller requested additional civil defence support. At the time I personally spoke with the chief executive of the Chatham Islands. By early Monday morning three civil defence staff had been deployed from Christchurch. Yesterday the Mayor of the Chatham Islands declared a state of local emergency to strengthen the island’s ability to respond to the cyclone as well as several rural fires that were stretching its resources. The islands are currently experiencing severe weather, including heavy rain and high winds. I expect to receive an update shortly on the impact on the Chatham Islands. I also expect to speak to the mayor later today. I can confirm that the National Crisis Management Centre is currently activated. Government agencies are ready to further help the people of the Chatham Islands if they need it.

Roading, Auckland—Pūhoi to Wellsford Route

9. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport : When will the detailed plans, designations and construction schedule be available for the full Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): I appreciate the member’s eagerness, but good things take time. I can assure the member, though, that I am working really hard on bringing forward this road of national significance. One reason for that is the great National Party candidate we have in Northland, Mark Osborne, who is pestering me in relation to this road of national significance. Unlike other candidates, he actually wants this road of national significance. He does not call it a “Holiday Highway”, and unlike Winston—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Denis O’Rourke : When will action be taken to appoint a board of inquiry to consider and finalise designs for the Warkworth to Wellsford leg of the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway?

Hon Simon Bridges : It is good to see that New Zealand First takes a keen interest in these sorts of projects. I think you will find we already have had a board of inquiry.

Denis O’Rourke : Why has he been making pronouncements about a motorway for Northland as far as Wellsford, when the only substantive actions taken so far relate to the route from Pūhoi to Warkworth?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Because I really like motorways and I back the people of the north.

Denis O’Rourke : How can Northlanders trust the Minister and his Government on getting a better State highway for them when the Government’s real interest in Northland has been limited to making belated election promises rather than real preparations for a complete route from Pūhoi to Wellsford?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Seven hundred and fifty million dollars is not belated. I would call “belated” not even standing a candidate in the last three elections. We have backed the north previously, we continue to do so, and with a $1.75 billion highway on its way, we are doing a great job in Northland.

Prime Minister—Statements

10. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, like the one that the official cash rate is 3.5 percent, the unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, the current account deficit is approximately 2.6 percent, and the current inflation rate is approximately 0.8 percent, and printing money is a really bad idea.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he stand by his statement that “We are a fair-minded people … Tackling climate change requires global action, and [as a responsible international citizen] New Zealand should stand up and be counted …”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the findings of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which stated that current climate change projections mean that there will be a likely increase in both global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speeds and precipitation rates, or, to put it in plain English, that climate change leads to more intense and stronger cyclones?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the balance of scientific opinion would support the view that climate change can lead to greater climatic conditions like cyclones, but I would just caution the member that there is no evidence to support the view that Cyclone Pam is a consequence of climate change. It is simply mere speculation if he did suggest it is, if he is doing that.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the findings of climate scientist Dr Nick Klingaman, who said: “In a warmer world, [the] combination of rising sea levels and more-intense tropical cyclones may increase the damage caused by an individual cyclone, …”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Could the member just repeat the question, sorry?

Mr SPEAKER : I can ask the member. Dr Russel Norman, supplementary question.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the findings of climate scientist Dr Nick Klingaman, who said: “In a warmer world, [the] combination of rising sea levels and more-intense tropical cyclones may increase the damage caused by an individual cyclone, …”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have not seen those particular reports. As I said earlier, I think it is well accepted, actually, that climate change, if it continues to become a more and more significant issue, has environmental impacts. So that is why New Zealand takes its responsibilities seriously, it is why we have an emissions trading scheme, it is why we are investing heavily in science, and it is why we will be taking a responsible target to Paris. We are a small country but we do our bit.

Dr Russel Norman : By how much have New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increased since he has been in Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Despite the misinformation that the member has been out there saying, the advice I have is that New Zealand’s total emissions now are 3 percent lower than they were at their peak in 2005. That is, New Zealand’s net emissions are at about the same level as they were in 2007. A National-led Government is doing a pretty good job in this area.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank the Prime Minister for his answer—

Mr SPEAKER : Can I just have the point of order, please?

Dr Russel Norman : The question was about since he has been in Government, not since any of those other dates. It is about since the Prime Minister has been—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, no. It is not about designing an answer to satisfy the member’s answer to the question. The question was asked and without doubt the Prime Minister has addressed the question. If that is not to the satisfaction of the member, the way forward is to ask further insightful questions.

Dr Russel Norman : In light of the fact that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent since the Prime Minister has been in office—

Hon Member : Not true.

Dr Russel Norman : —which is a simple fact—does he think that his Government has been a good Pacific neighbour and a responsible international citizen?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member is being extremely selective with the truth, and his facts are incorrect.

Dr Russel Norman : Does the Prime Minister, then, deny that from 2008 to 2012, according to the official statistics from his Government, New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : On the advice I have had, the misinformation that the member is putting out is literally that—misinformation. He is being selective with the truth.

Dr Russel Norman : In light of the fact that the Prime Minister does not know what the net greenhouse gas emissions are under his Government, does he believe he is being—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just reprimanded the questioner for his expectation that he should be able to design an answer to a question, but then have allowed him to say that given he did not get the designer answer that he wanted, that means the Prime Minister does not know. That is a completely unreasonable approach and quite outside the Standing Orders.

Dr Russel Norman : Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I will hear from Dr Russel Norman.

Dr Russel Norman : The reason why I did that was that the Prime Minister has been accusing me repeatedly of misleading, and I am not. I am simply stating the facts.

Mr SPEAKER : That does not mean that the member then has the right to defy the Standing Orders, which mean that a supplementary question should be concise and it should not contain imputations. I did allow the question through. I was probably very generous to the member to allow the question through, but a question like that then gives very wide licence to the Minister, in this case the Prime Minister, when he comes to answer the question. Now, the member would make more progress, as I pointed out to him earlier, by trying to make his questions more concise, and then I can assist him to try to get the answers he may be hoping for.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he believe that New Zealand has been a good Pacific neighbour, and a responsible international citizen in light of the fact that since he has been Prime Minister of New Zealand, New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent, according to the statistics from his Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In terms of the latter part of the question, I reject the member’s suggestion. In terms of the former part of the question, actually, New Zealand has been a very good Pacific neighbour. The member may remember that it was under the leadership of a National-led Government that we hosted the renewable energy conference here in New Zealand, where we have been investing heavily in ensuring that Pacific neighbours actually are no longer reliant on the importation of fossil fuels and that over time they will have a variety of options, but most likely it will be solar and wind available to them, to stop the importation. New Zealand has been doing the same things, for instance, down in Antarctica. New Zealand has been investing extremely heavily in research when it comes to agriculture, and in fact the Government is on track not only to meet its 2008-12 commitment to reduce net emissions to the 1990 levels, but we are actually on track to achieve—

Dr Megan Woods : No, you’re not.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY :—the objective of reducing emissions further to a minimum of minus 5 percent, and yes, we are.

Dr Russel Norman : In light of that answer, is he surprised, then, to find that the Ministry for the Environment, in its official projections, shows that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 48 percent in just 10 years, according to the report from his own Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is assuming no other action. It is one of the reasons why the Government has been investing heavily. The member is aware of the fact that over half of New Zealand’s emissions come from agriculture. If the member is suggesting that New Zealand destocks, shoots animals, and reduces its world food supply, then he is welcome to do that. That is one of his more daft ideas, but at least it would have some idea about the economy, because any of the people who want to replace him do not even know what the—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is not going to help the order of the House.

Dr Russel Norman : Is he even aware of the comments from the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who said of climate change and its effect on the Pacific yesterday: “It is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights… and our survival into the future.”; and will he take action to actually reduce New Zealand’s emissions in light of those comments?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am well and truly aware of the President of Kiribati’s comments. I have had numerous discussions and have been involved in numerous meetings with him. The Government can be proud of the actions it has taken when it comes to climate change. On this side of the House, we actually stick to the facts and we know what climate change is. On that side of the House, they do not even know what the official cash rate is.

Dr Russel Norman : I seek leave to table a research paper from the Parliamentary Library showing net emissions have increased 20 percent under this Government.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, if it is a research paper that is prepared by the Parliamentary Library it is then available. It was not specifically prepared—I will get the member to clarify.

Dr Russel Norman : It was specifically prepared on my request.

Mr SPEAKER : OK, on that basis I will put the leave to table this source from the Parliamentary Library on the effects of climate. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I seek leave to table a report that shows the official cash rate is 3.5 percent, the unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, the current account deficit—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No. All that information is freely available. [Interruption] Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a different point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : If it is a point of order, I wish to hear it.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I seek leave to table a report that shows that 90 percent of New Zealand children are not going without lunch.

Mr SPEAKER : And again, I think that is a political matter. It is not going to be helped by the tabling of any report.

Responsible Lending—Announcements

11. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs : What recent announcements has the Government made regarding responsible lending?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): The National Government wants to help Kiwi families who need to borrow money get better access to information upfront and give them robust protection from predatory practices of loan sharks and unscrupulous payday lenders. Today the Government has released the Responsible Lending Code. The code will give lenders principles-based guidance on how to implement the new lender responsibility principles set out in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Act, and comes into force on 6 June this year.

Simon O’Connor : How will the code help borrowers?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH : Under the code and the legislation, lenders must consider whether borrowers are able to repay their debt without suffering undue hardship and help them make informed decisions. The code also includes more targeted advice for high-cost credit agreements or where the borrower may be a vulnerable borrower. We know that most lenders already follow responsible lending practices with their customers, and we do not want to get in the way of that. However, we know that a percentage of lenders, loan sharks, and unscrupulous payday lenders are not. This code is about providing good, principles-based guidance for lenders, while maintaining robust protections for consumers. It is just another example of the Government’s ambitious Business Growth Agenda, which is working for New Zealand.

Environment Canterbury—Statutory Review

12. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister for the Environment : Has he, along with the Minister of Local Government, released for public consultation the discussion document on the statutory review of Environment Canterbury and options for regional governance, as advised to do by November 2014 in the Briefing to Incoming Ministers; if so, when?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The discussion document was approved by Cabinet on Monday and will be released by Louise Upston, the Associate Minister of Local Government, and I tomorrow. There were post-election changes in both portfolios, and the Associate Minister of Local Government and I wanted to consult with the 10 mayors of Canterbury and with Ngāi Tahu before taking a proposal to Cabinet. We will be meeting with all 10 councils across Canterbury, consulting on the proposal over the next 2 months, and we will also be inviting public submissions by 1 May.

Dr Megan Woods : Why did the Minister fail to complete the review by December 2014, as it was stated it would be by the Hon Amy Adams and the Hon Paula Bennett in March 2014?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : It is a pity the member cannot prepare a question when I have just given the answer. There was a change in both portfolios of new Ministers—myself and Louise Upston. We wanted to meet with the mayors of Canterbury and with Ngāi Tahu and get the very best advice on an issue that is of huge importance to Canterbury.

Dr Megan Woods : Why has the Minister been delaying the time line, against the advice of his officials and the undertakings of his predecessors, to begin the process of restoring democracy to Environment Canterbury?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : We do want to give Canterbury people more of a say in the regional council, but we also want to make sure it is not the dysfunctional mess that we inherited from the previous Government.

Nuk Korako : What progress has been achieved since the 2010 review of Environment Canterbury found the organisation was dysfunctional and failing to meet the statutory deadlines?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The major failing was having no regional plan for Canterbury’s nationally significant freshwater resources, 19 years after the Resource Management Act was passed. Canterbury actually now has one of the most comprehensive water plans of any region in New Zealand. The second failing was the broken-down relationships with the 10 councils and Ngāi Tahu, and the message that Ms Upston and myself have had is that those relationships are actually now stronger than they ever have been. The third failing was that the statutory compliance with processing resource consents was failing 71 percent of the time. With the commissioners, that has been reduced to under 5 percent, and I think that has been welcomed by all Cantabrians.

Dr Megan Woods : How does he reconcile the answer to the previous question and his predecessor’s statement that under the commissioners there have been significant improvements in freshwater management with the High Court’s recent decision that Environment Canterbury, under the commissioners, acted unlawfully and failed to take account of the over-allocation of water for irrigation?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I am yet to meet a single Cantabrian who will not tell me that the commissioners have cleaned up one hell of a mess at Environment Canterbury. I point out the fact that there is actually now a water plan. There are actually now red zones where there cannot be water tanks. There are actually now more prosecutions for farmers not complying with resource consents than there were under the failed Environment Canterbury. The only people whom I know now defending the Kerry Burke – led regional council are the members of the Labour Party.


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