Questions and Answers – March 19

by Desk Editor on Thursday, March 19, 2015 — 7:33 PM

Questions to Ministers

Transport Infrastructure—Investment in Northland

1. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport : Did Cabinet consider a proposal for sealing roads in the Pipiwai area, as claimed by Dr Shane Reti; if so, why has no funding for this work been announced?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Minister of Transport : I would expect the Opposition transport spokesman to know that Cabinet does not make decisions on funding for specific local road projects. It is, however, I would have thought, reasonable for him to know that up to 60 percent of local road funding does come from the Government through the National Land Transport Fund, which includes a number of roads, as lobbied for by MPs from all sides of the House.

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

Phil Twyford : Supplementary—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I apologise to Mr Twyford. I have a point of order.

Ron Mark : And I apologise too, but I do really want to hear the questions. You might have noticed that the sound system was completely different when both members spoke. I had trouble hearing Mr Twyford. Could you have a look at that or have someone look at that, please.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We will certainly have a look. I did not notice anything wrong with the sound system. We will certainly have technicians who are looking at it, now the point has been raised by the member.

Phil Twyford : As transport Minister, is he concerned that his parliamentary colleague told the people of Pipiwai that he had taken a proposal to Cabinet for the sealing of their roads and has thus misled the public on his transport policy?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : Can I say that many MPs in this House approach Ministers of Transport, lobbying them for roads in their particular districts, and then write letters to their constituents or, in the case of one person I could name, goes to the newspaper to say what a wonderful job they have done convincing Cabinet to support their particular road. That is what local MPs do, and that is why we expect Mark Osborne to be a very effective MP in the north.

Phil Twyford : When he allocated $70 million to 10 Northland bridges recently, did he consider alternatives like sealing roads in places like Pipiwai, given that the Whangarei District Council says that dusty roads are linked with increased mortality and lung cancer?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : I would first point out to my friend over there that, in fact, this is National Party policy that we will eventually see put into place, because that is what Governments are able to do. Suggestions that he makes otherwise are wrong. When it comes to the sealing of roads, there is a $16 million project currently set up for Northland over the next 3 years, in accordance with the local roading programme sponsored by the regional roading committee, and I think that is where you are going to see significant amounts of seal on what are currently dusty roads.

Phil Twyford : Is he aware that the 700 kilometres of unsealed road in the Whangarei District Council area has decreased by less than 1 percent over the last 6 years, and does he think that bullying locals to stop criticising the Government will work, given that they have already had next to nothing from this Government?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Gerry Brownlee—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : Northland has had 40 percent more funding from this Government than it got from the last Government. What is more, when it comes to these dusty local roads, the priority that is put on them is put on by the regional council through the regional transport programme and the draft land transport plan, which Cabinet does consider.

Pita Paraone : Can the Minister please confirm whether Dr Reti has contracted foot-in-mouth disease by his use of bully-boy tactics against hard-working Northland—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. That question is completely out of order.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No more—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I have not yet called the member. [Interruption] Mr Brownlee will sit down when I rise to my feet. That behaviour creates disorder. There was a point of order raised by Mr Brownlee. I have not heard it because I was asking him to resume his seat, but members on this side need to be aware that when a point of order is called, it will be heard in silence. Does the member have a legitimate point of order?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : No, I will let it go.

Mr SPEAKER : He does not.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I respect that ruling, but there was silence at the beginning of Mr Brownlee’s point of order. It was when it was very clear that it was just a straight out political attack that noise started—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, there was noise throughout the point of order, to the extent that I could not hear any part of the point of order. But I was on my feet asking Mr Brownlee to resume his seat.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Points of order are heard in silence.

Ron Mark : Could you explain why you have ruled that question out of order.

Mr SPEAKER : Because there is no ministerial responsibility for a member of Parliament, and a member who has been here before, as Ron Mark has, should be well aware of that and not have to raise it as a point of order.

Pita Paraone : Will the Minister now pledge to help the Far North District Council seal the 70 percent of its local roads that are unsealed, along with the 1,100 kilometres plus those in Kaipara district that are similarly unsealed; if not, why not?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : The record of this Government is to have increased funding for the far north by 40 percent over the last terms of our Government. What is more, the member should know that the local roads are the responsibility of the local council and regional council, that they set the priorities for the funding, which has an up-to 60 percent subsidy provided by the Government. That subsidy will continue, and the priority will continue to be set by the far north. And I tell you what, it will not matter how much someone called “Winnie in a Bago” goes around promising the earth, it will not happen unless the funding is available.

Phil Twyford : Does the Minister agree with Shane Reti, in relation to the communication of his transport policies, that during the by-election the people of Northland should keep quiet even if they have strong concerns about his transport policy, and if they do not they will get nothing, and does he consider this stance a vote-winner?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Gerry Brownlee—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : What I consider a vote-winner is a continuation of the increases in funding for local roads provided by this Government over the past 7 years—and looking forward to doing more in the future.

Pita Paraone : Given that this all started with his “bridges over troubled waters” comment, will the Minister at least pledge to help the Far North District Council and Kaipara District Council to double-lane the 778 bridges classed as local roads; if not, why not?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : As I said before, what has to happen in the far north is to continue the funding stream that this Government has increased, and that will enable those local councils, in their regional priorities, to make those decisions. That is their responsibility.

Phil Twyford : As Minister, is he concerned that the communications of his transport policies in Northland over recent weeks are being characterised locally and in the media as bribery, blackmail, and now lying?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : I have no responsibility whatsoever for the public utterances of candidates like Winston Peters or the forgotten Labour candidate, who constantly make these scurrilous allegations.

Pita Paraone : What fate will befall Northland’s iconic “Darby and Joan” kauri trees, given the Minister of Economic Development yesterday listed for double-laning the “Darby and Joan” Kauri Bridge—the double-laning of the bridge named “Darby and Joan”?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : This would be the first time that the “Darby and Joan Party” has asked not to do something for Darby and Joan. They are either for the bridge being double-laned, or they are not. Do not ask me to start backtracking on a policy that we have made as a priority in this election and will do our best, if we are seeing Mr Osborne on this side of the House, to deliver on.

Pita Paraone : I seek leave to table a spreadsheet provided to New Zealand First’s research unit by Kaipara District Council, detailing the exact locations of the 454 stretches of roads that are unsealed.

Mr SPEAKER : On the basis that it is information prepared by the Kaipara District Council, I will put the leave and the House can decide its relevance. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Pita Paraone : I seek leave to also table the infrastructure committee of Far North District Council’s transport strategy, an advocacy plan—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document has been described. It will be on a website and available to members I assume?

Pita Paraone : No, not that I am aware of. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. The member will resume his—[Interruption] Sit down. It is very important that members who are seeking leave to table documentation actually take the time to find those questions out, because I am going to be asking them and I do not want to see a member in a situation when he has not done that research. Leave will not be put.

Pita Paraone : Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is this a further tabling of—is this the last one?

Pita Paraone : I seek leave to table a spreadsheet provided to New Zealand First’s research unit by Kaipara District Council detailing the exact locations of the 244—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The document has been described. Before I put the leave, is there any other document from the Kaipara District Council the member intends to seek leave to table?

Pita Paraone : No, sir.

Mr SPEAKER : Then I will put the leave and it will be over to the House. It is now a spreadsheet detailing information on the bridges under the control of Kaipara District Council. 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.

Economy—Inflation Rates

2. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance : In light of his statement in the House on 11 March that low inflation “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”, does he agree that this phenomenon of fiscal drag is just another description for an increase in effective tax rates? 14:15:52 Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : As the Minister said at the time, New Zealand is in the unusual situation of having solid economic growth but also historically low levels of inflation. This is, of course, good for households because it means their cost of living is increasing at a very low rate, but it is a challenge for Government revenue.

Hon David Parker : This is just a speech, which doesn’t address the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Just take your time, Mr Parker.

Hon David Parker : Unless the country goes bankrupt.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Shh, take a breath, David. Low inflation—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Listen. The constant barrage coming from my left is not acceptable—

Hon David Parker : Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am on my feet. If the member wants to take the opportunity to ask a supplementary question, he will have his chance. But to engage with the Minister while he is attempting to answer the question is distracting, certainly to me and to the House, and in itself it is disorderly.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to enforce the Standing Orders and to expect Ministers to address questions, rather than—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. He will be having a very early departure from the House if he carries on like that. The answer was being given. It was being interjected on from the member, so that was—[Interruption] Order! If there is one more outburst from the Hon David Parker, he will be leaving the Chamber this question time. If there is constant interjection coming from the left of the House and the Minister is responding to that, that is not helpful, but the initial cause of the problem is the interjections from the Hon David Parker. Steven Joyce, if he could complete his answer.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I was saying, low inflation reduces Government revenue in part because of less fiscal drag, as the member knows. In times of high inflation—for example, as recently as 2008—fiscal drag was very significantly important and was an effective tax increase. In times of very low inflation, as we are experiencing at the moment, there is, in fact, a lack of fiscal drag that is noted. Despite pressures on its revenues, this Government’s management of expenditure remains disciplined, and we are on track to surplus.

David Seymour : Is a time of low inflation when fiscal drag provides little additional revenue, as the Minister has noted, not the perfect time to introduce greater transparency into the nation’s tax system by indexing tax thresholds for income to inflation?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : In regard to income tax and indexation reducing tax rates, we have been very clear that that was something we would consider from 1 April 2017 if economic and fiscal conditions allowed. Any tax reduction would be modest and focused on low and middle income earners. We do have the concern that the member outlines, which is if wages are rising, people can be taxed more. So we are interested in doing that. Would we do it in terms of an indexation? That is something that we would address at the time, once we were confident we had the room to do so.

David Seymour : Given the Minister’s ambivalence about indexation, is he aware that since 2010 the lack of indexation of income tax thresholds to inflation has cost the average earning household $1,036?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I do not have those exact figures to hand but, of course, there are a number of other considerations in terms of household incomes. For example, we have had very significant ACC reductions over the period. The income tax reductions in 2010 reduced income tax revenue by around $600 million over 3 years, and that broadly offset the estimated fiscal drag effects. On top of that, of course, households benefit because inflation is lower and that, of course, means that their costs of living increases are lower, which means that most households will be better off under the fiscal arrangements that this Government is progressing than we have seen from previous Governments.

David Seymour : I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library for the ACT Party, detailing the cost to households from the lack of—

Mr SPEAKER : It has been described. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that information. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document , by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Economic Growth—Reports

3. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received on New Zealand’s economic growth?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Perhaps for the benefit of that member, “Mr Parrot”, opposite, earlier today Statistics New Zealand released gross domestic product data for December 2014. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It confirms the economy grew by 0.8 percent in the December quarter and by 3.5 percent in the year to December. This is the highest growth rate since before the global financial crisis—in fact, since September 2007. Economic growth was reasonably broad-based, with 13 out of 16 industry sectors growing. Growth was led by retail, trade, accommodation, property services, and manufacturing, which means, of course, that the manufacturing crisis—

Hon Ruth Dyson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the early part of the Minister’s answer he referred to a member opposite, using an unparliamentary term. You clearly did not hear it because you did not sit him down and ask him to apologise. That was the cause of the disorder, which you did notice, and I draw that to your attention now and ask that you ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise for the unparliamentary comment.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Let us be clear as to why the noise arose. The noise arose because of an interjection from my left, which is a very—[Interruption] Order! It is a very regular interjection that I hear from the member, and it was a response to that. If the member is offended by the term that was used, then the member should rise to his feet and state that he has been offended, and then I can act. But otherwise it is not for another member to be offended on behalf of the member who could have been offended by the term. [Interruption] I will hear from the Hon Ruth Dyson.

Hon Ruth Dyson : The point of order I raised was not that I was offended by the term; it was that it was an unparliamentary term.

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am—no. The use of that word is not, in my opinion, deemed to be unparliamentary—[Interruption] Order!—on the assumption that we are talking about the same term, but be aware—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. Be aware that the reason for the disruption was an interjection that came from my left. It is a regular interjection and it does not help the order of this House.

Dr David Clark : Speaking to the point of order, if it helps—

Mr SPEAKER : No, it does not help to speak, but if the member wants raise a point of order he is perfectly able to.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to make it clear that as the person I think it was directed to, I am not offended. I believe—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Then that is—[Interruption] Order! Resume your seat. Again, the member is very lucky that he is remaining. That is not a point of order. Does the Minister, the Hon Steven Joyce, wish to complete his answer? No, he does not.

Alfred Ngaro : How does current growth in the New Zealand economy compare with growth in other OECD countries?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Earlier today New Zealand’s 3.5 percent growth rate in the year to December was noted, and it is among the strongest performing economies in the OECD, so it is sort of all trousers, I think, on this occasion. It compares with growth of 2.4 percent in the United States for the December year, 2.5 percent in Australia for the December year, 2.6 percent in Canada for the December year, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. So that is New Zealand’s 3.5 percent compared with those. Growth in the euro area was 0.9 percent, and in Japan growth was actually minus 0.7 percent. So under any comparisons New Zealand is doing reasonably well, but, of course, there is much work to do as we seek to sustain this growth rate over a much longer period of time.

Alfred Ngaro : How is the growing economy delivering higher wages and more jobs, helping New Zealanders and their families to get ahead?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The outlook over the next 2 to 3 years is for ongoing growth that delivers income and job growth for New Zealand families. Alongside the growth of 3.5 percent in the last year, 80,000 jobs were created over the same period and Treasury’s current forecast shows that an additional 153,000 people are expected to be in work by mid-2019. The average wage is expected to increase from $56,000 currently to $62,200 in the third quarter of 2018. The Government is playing its role by maintaining a track to surplus and debt repayment alongside an ongoing microeconomic reform programme that is encouraging more investment, more jobs, and higher wages.

Grant Robertson : In light of those answers, has he seen the report from Moody’s Analytics that describes the export sector as weak, and has he taken the Minister for Economic Development to task for his appalling performance in creating such a weak export sector?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have seen the particular report the member refers to, which he describes a little floridly. The reality is that Moody’s has a very strong and positive view of the New Zealand economy. It confirmed New Zealand’s triple A rating just in the last couple of weeks. It says: “New Zealand’s economy is growing strongly. Moody’s expects New Zealand’s real GDP to remain robust through to 2016. Compared to similarly rated countries New Zealand has a track record of faster and more stable growth. New Zealand’s strong economic profile is reinforcing Government finances.” If the member wants to quote Moody’s I am happy to do it all day.

Alfred Ngaro : What reports has he received on the outlook for continuing growth in the New Zealand economy over the next 2 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Earlier this week the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research released its consensus forecast. Growth for the year to March 2015, which will, of course, be announced in June, is expected to be around 3.3 percent. The institute expects growth to moderate somewhat to just under 3 percent in 2016 and 2.8 percent in 2017. This is in line with other forecasts and is consistent with the Government’s goal of steady and ongoing growth in the New Zealand economy. Job growth is expected to continue even though net migration continues to be strong.

Roast Busters Case—Independent Police Conduct Authority Report

4. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police : Does he have concerns with the Police’s handling of the alleged offending in the “Roast Busters” case given the release of the report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority today; if so, what are those concerns?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): Yes, I do. The report of the Independent Police Conduct Authority on the police’s handling of the alleged offending by Roast Busters makes for grim reading. The report highlights a failure by police to adequately investigate and a failure to uphold the level of policing that the New Zealand public expects. I sought and received an assurance that Commissioner Bush is taking this report and its findings very seriously.

Jacinda Ardern : Is he concerned that the authority found that the child protection team involved in the Roast Busters case did not “properly evaluate all available offences when determining the outcome of their respective investigations.”, or that, quite simply, there were options to prosecute that were not , let alone discussed, with victims?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Yes, I am. Any decision to prosecute is an operational matter for the police to make, but I do note that Operation Clover, the very comprehensive police investigation that was set up in the wake of the Roast Busters revelations, turned over every stone in respect of potential prosecution. It got the best advice from the Solicitor-General, and the decisions were made on that advice.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he consider that the authority’s report directly contradicts the findings of Operation Clover?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I do not believe that to be the case.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he agree that there would have been a better outcome for the victims in the case had the child protection teams properly pursued the lines of inquiry, accurately recorded and cross-checked information about the alleged offenders, properly evaluated all available options to prosecute, considered alternative action in dealing with the young men involved and their families, or even just communicated with each other properly, as summarised in the report?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : It is very difficult to answer that question because it relies on rewinding and replaying events in a different way, but I do accept that a more comprehensive inquiry, in particular in respect of the authority’s main criticism that those investigating individual cases did not draw the dots and see the pattern of behaviour, may have actually prevented subsequent incidents from taking place. I do accept that. I think that that is a fair finding to make, but it is very difficult to say now whether or not there would have been a different outcome in a prosecutorial sense.

Jacinda Ardern : What changes will he require of the police to address such a litany of individual failings as those contained in this report?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : As the member knows, there have been a number of changes already made by police, both in the wake of the commission of inquiry—the Bazley report—and in respect of the learnings from the Roast Busters case, including much better information gathering, a higher level of training by police, and more seniority given to the child protection teams in Waitematā. I do note that the latest Office of the Auditor-General report into progress on the Bazley report notes that “The Police are focusing more on the needs of people who have reported a sexual assault. Some of the victim support organisations we spoke to observed that the Police were more empathetic … They felt that the Police showed greater respect for victims and were focusing on what is right for the victim.”

Sue Moroney : Given that the Minister himself informed me, by way of answers to written questions as early as November last year, of what the authority’s report confirmed today—that is, that police do not require a complaint in order to lay charges in sexual assault cases, and that consent does not exist for the sexual activity of a person who is affected by alcohol—what has he subsequently done to ensure that police implement the law and their own policies and procedures in the teenage sexual assault case investigated by today’s report?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Again, I preface my answer by reminding the House that decisions to prosecute are made by police and that it is not appropriate for there to be any interference in that decision, but the making of a complaint is one variable in a number of variables that go into a decision to lay a prosecution. I also note that the outcome of Operation Clover and the decisions made there were made on the very best of advice, including from the Solicitor-General.

Sue Moroney : Will the Minister be the person who will actually stand up for these victims, then? Will he now expect police to reconsider laying charges in these teenage sexual assault cases; if not, what measure will he offer the victims whom the police now admit they failed through the inadequacy of their investigations?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Again, that is a matter for police, but I do note that Commissioner Bush in his comments today has reminded us that there is no time limit on the laying of a complaint of sexual assault, that it is still possible, that police would welcome any complaint being laid by any existing or other victims, and that they would take those complaints extremely seriously.

Regional and Unitary Council—Representation

5. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment : Does he propose to implement the Environment Canterbury model in other regional and unitary councils by replacing nearly half the elected councillors with ministerial appointees?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Associate Minister of Local Government) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment : No. In 2010 Environment Canterbury was a dysfunctional council that had failed in 19 years to get a regional water plan in place, despite being responsible for two-thirds of the land for irrigation in New Zealand. Canterbury had faced some special challenges, and the member will be pleased to know that the Minister and the Associate Minister of Local Government have carefully considered a range of options that respond to these issues. These will also provide for Environment Canterbury’s future governance arrangements after October 2016.

Eugenie Sage : Given that the Minister said that a fully elected regional council in Canterbury carries too many risks, does he propose to implement the Environment Canterbury model in other risky democratic institutions—central government perhaps?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : No. The considerations that are in the proposal for Environment Canterbury consider the important balance of issues like strong leadership, sustainable development of economic growth and jobs, strong environmental stewardship, especially for freshwater management, and accountability and value for money for Canterbury ratepayers.

Eugenie Sage : Why has the Minister reneged on a promise he made in 2010 to the people of Canterbury that by 2013 “Environment Canterbury will be ready to return to an elected council status.”?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : The proposal that is out for consultation with the public is a sensible step for Environment Canterbury. It is really important that we maintain the progress that the Environment Canterbury commissioners have achieved in the important areas including freshwater management and the very important earthquake recovery. It provides important elected community representation, balancing the skills and expertise required but also giving Canterbury a voice.

Eugenie Sage : Why have the people of Kaipara been promised a fully elected council this year, after 3 years’ governance by commissioners, when Cantabrians still do not have—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Quite apart from the length of that question, the primary question relates to Environment Canterbury, not Kaipara.

Eugenie Sage : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I will hear from Eugenie Sage.

Eugenie Sage : The question compares the situation in Kaipara with that in Canterbury. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not need any assistance. I think strictly the Hon Gerry Brownlee is right, but the member then asked in supplementary questions whether the model in Canterbury could be replicated elsewhere. The Minister has answered that. I think in this case I am going to allow the member to re-ask the question. I think the Minister will be quite capable of answering it.

Eugenie Sage : Why have the people of Kaipara been promised a fully elected council this year, after 3 years’ governance by commissioners, when Cantabrians still do not know when a fully democratic council will be returned to them, 5 years after National removed it?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : I am answering on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, who has responsibility jointly, with the Associate Minister of Local Government, for Environment Canterbury. If you have further questions, I suggest you put those to the Minister of Local Government.

Eugenie Sage : When the Minister said yesterday that a fully elected regional council carried too many risks, did he forget that it was elected councillors who developed the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, and that it is elected councillors in Christchurch, Selwyn, and Waimakariri who are leading earthquake recovery in their communities?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : The issues that led to the Government needing to intervene in Environment Canterbury in 2010 are clearly documented. I do not intend to go over those again. The extension was put in place in 2012 because of the fragile requirements around the Canterbury rebuild. The issues and complexities associated with freshwater management are not a short-term issue for Canterbury, and that is why it is important, in this balanced model that is proposed and is out for public consultation, that a mixed model is suggested.

Eugenie Sage : What is the risk for the Minister in committing to a date on which democracy and a fully elected regional council will be restored in Canterbury?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : This proposal, which is out for public consultation, is a requirement from the 2012 Act for the Environment Canterbury commissioners. The suggested model that is out for public consultation has a mixed model that includes elected representatives from the community in Canterbury but also the very important balance of skills and the expertise to navigate the very complex and long-term issues that the people of Canterbury face.

Eugenie Sage : Does not the fact that the Minister will not commit to the restoration of democracy and a fully elected council show that the Government’s hand-picked commissioners have failed to progress the issues they were supposed to in the last 5 years?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : I think the fact that Environment Canterbury in its time under the commissioners has achieved significantly—if you look at the one example of the processing of resource consents, over 70 percent of them were outside the statutory time frames; that is now down to about 5 percent—shows the high performance that has been brought to the people of Canterbury while the commissioners have been in place. We recognise the importance of the community’s voice, and that is why a mixed model is proposed, and I welcome the members of the public and their submissions, which close on 1 May.

Dr Megan Woods : Which specific aspects of democracy does he find too risky?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : I think I have answered this quite fully in respect of the challenges that the people of Canterbury face: the fact that we want to move away from the commissioners that we have in place now to give the people of Canterbury a say in their regional council, but the importance of actually making sure that these very complex issues are addressed, and that the people of Canterbury have confidence in the strong relationships that are currently in place with the mayors across the district, across the 10 districts in Canterbury. This is why a mixed model is proposed.

Dr Megan Woods : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very direct—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member is going to raise an issue about whether the question has been addressed, I invite the member to have a look at the answer. There is no doubt in my mind—[Interruption] Order!

Mental Health Services—Improvements

6. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Health : What steps is the Government taking to improve mental health services for New Zealand families?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): As part of the Prime Minister’s youth mental health project, the Government is focused on expanding the availability of youth mental health services delivered by GPs and primary health care providers. By last July all district health boards had expanded primary health care services provided to 12 to 19-year-olds, which has meant an additional 3,071 young people have been seen by primary health care providers and a further 1,328 have received alcohol intervention.

Jacqui Dean : What specific services are being provided?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : The Government’s $62 million investment over the last 4 years has delivered extended access to GPs and practice nurse consultants. Young people can access expanded counselling, group therapy, and addiction services. District health boards have also developed youth drop-in services and specific support for Māori and Pasifika youth. This expansion of services for young people comes on top of investments in mental health care for all New Zealanders, and has seen significant decreases in waiting times and improvements in patient satisfaction.

Cyclone Pam—Assistance for Affected Countries

7. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement in relation to Cyclone Pam “We will continue to do all we can to help our Pacific neighbours”?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the Prime Minister : Yes.

Ron Mark : Why is Garden City Helicopters installing extra fuel tanks to fly from Christchurch to Vanuatu when multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury, capable of embarking two NH90 helicopters and which has hospital facilities, is currently alongside in Devonport?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : This afternoon the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have announced that the HMNZS Canterbury is being deployed to Vanuatu. It will be carrying Seasprite helicopters; HN90s purchased by a previous Government are unsuitable for the work required in Vanuatu. HMNZS Canterburywill have quite a considerable amount of facilities on it that will be useful. I point out to the House that we are working with the Vanuatu Government and responding to its requests. This will not be something that is over in a short period of time. There will be ongoing requirements for us to help it.

Ron Mark : Why, given that this is only the second category 5 cyclone to make landfall in modern times, has our urban search and rescue team, which received international accreditation with distinction last week, not been deployed?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : We of course are responding to the requirements, or the requests, of the Vanuatu Government. The Minister of Defence spoke, in fact, to the President of Vanuatu last Saturday and assured him that we would be there to help them, indicated the cash sums that the Government was making available, and invited him to make requests of us, which we are answering as they are made.

Ron Mark : Does he believe we are organised and equipped well enough to respond swiftly to natural disasters here and abroad when 40 percent of our tactical airlifters suffered equipment failures, when our new NH90 helicopters are not equipped with automated folding blades, when the Canterbury is still tied up in Devonport, and when urban search and rescue teams are still awaiting an order to deploy, having been sat on standby for days now?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : We are working with the Vanuatu Government and responding to the requests that it makes. The mere fact that we have those facilities and capabilities on standby indicates our willingness to participate. Vanuatu is a sovereign Government and has every right to make the call on us in its own time. What I would say with regard to the military equipment is yes, I do have concerns about the state of the air transport capability, but I notice there is only one standout party in Parliament that is opposed to us even looking at replacements at the present time.

Schools, Canterbury—Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Plan

8. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Education : What recent announcements has she made about progress on the Government’s $1.137 billion Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Plan?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): On Thursday I was delighted to announce, together with Associate Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye, that $138 million is to be spent on the next wave of schools to be repaired and rebuilt in Christchurch as part of our 10-year $1.137 billion commitment. Five schools in the Christchurch area will benefit in this wave: Hornby High School, Kaiapoi High School, Banks Avenue School, Linwood College, and Cashmere High School.

Nuk Korako : When will work begin on rebuilding and repairing schools?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Work at Hornby High School will begin in September and the remaining work will begin on the other four schools early next year. In particular, this is great news for Cashmere High School, which was originally scheduled to enter the programme in 2018 but has been included in this wave because of a number of severe issues like leaky buildings. This decision will be more cost-effective and reduce disruption to the school over the long term. This work is, of course, in addition to the already considerable work that is under way on 20 major rebuilds of Christchurch schools.


9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does he agree with Moody’s Analytics that “New Zealand has a ‘two-speed’ economy as strong domestic demand cushions a weaker export sector”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): No, I do not agree that New Zealand has a two-speed economy. The latest growth figures out this morning confirm that economic growth is broad-based across a range of sectors. However, as I said earlier this afternoon, I do agree with the comments from Moody’s when it confirmed New Zealand’s top Aaa rating in the past 2 weeks: “New Zealand’s economy is growing strongly … Moody’s expects New Zealand’s real GDP … to remain robust through 2016 … [and] compared to similarly rated [countries] … New Zealand has a track record of faster and more stable growth,” in recent years.

Dr David Clark : Noting the effects of a two-speed economy, does he agree with Radio Live’s Duncan Garner that 150 real forestry jobs lost in Northland with the collapse of HarvestPro is big news, or is this just more good news for the booming Northland economy under National?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : What we do know about the Northland regional economy is that there was an increase of 7,500 jobs last year, of which 6,600 were full-time jobs. But the member raises a question in regard to forestry, and, actually, it is important to look at the forestry sector as a whole. Earlier this week I happened to be visiting two companies, a forestry mill just outside the Bay of Islands and a forestry rural contracting service just outside Kaitāia. Both of those were growing and hiring people as the forestry sector in Northland continues to expand.

Dr David Clark : Does he agree with Jacob Kajavala of Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu, who says: “HarvestPro is a very large firm, but there are a number of smaller contracting firms that hire up to a dozen people that are sailing very close to the wind, and this is a very large example of that failure.”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Of course, in every industry there is a range of firms and some of them are successful, some of them are moderately successful, and some of them struggle. I think the member needs to understand that, actually, just taking one firm’s situation and making it apply to the whole forestry sector is a little simplistic. The actual situation with the forestry sector is that it has had a very strong run and there is some consolidation occurring at the moment, but we are seeing continued investment and continued job growth in the sector.

Dr David Clark : Given that answer, and given that the facts say that exports of manufactured wood products have fallen by 3 percent under his Government, although exports of raw logs have tripled, is he surprised that the wood industry is increasingly vulnerable to downturns in demand for logs, and that the industry has lost nearly 4,000 jobs net since 2008 as a result?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would have to check the veracity of the member’s statements, but the reality of the New Zealand forestry sector is it has had significant growth. There is significant investment going on in the sector around New Zealand. I appreciate that the member likes to talk down different sectors of the economy. Perhaps he should declare a forestry crisis, because that worked for manufacturing, it worked for exports, and it worked for housing.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At what point do the ad hominem attacks replacing an actual argument constitute an irrelevant answer, because that is exactly what we keep hearing from the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER : Can I just invite the member, when he returns to his office, to have a very careful look at his question, which was a lengthy question. It talked about various parts of the forestry industry declining, some failing, and a company sailing close to the wind. That gave the Minister a lot of latitude in his answer. The Minister took the latitude that was given.

Dr David Clark : If the Minister does not agree with Moody’s market commentators, does not agree with Duncan Garner and the media, does not agree with industry representatives, and disputes the relevance of Statistics New Zealand data and the veracity thereof, does the Minister still believe he is the only person driving in the right direction on the motorway?

Mr SPEAKER : Before I call the Minister, I will say that is exactly the type of question that is asked that gives a lot of latitude to a Minister.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not sure that even Duncan Garner would speak of himself in the same breath as Moody’s, but perhaps he would; I do not know. I am also not quite sure what the member means about leaping from forestry to motorways, but can I tell the member this: the New Zealand economy is growing strongly. I know the member does not like it. There has been 3.5 percent growth in the last year, which is better than most of the countries in the OECD. That is not to say everything is always perfect, but I think most people in the developed world would like the New Zealand economic numbers rather than the numbers in their own country. Actually, the member should stop trying to talk down the New Zealand economy when, actually, New Zealand businesses are performing very well.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table data showing 4,000 jobs have gone out of the forestry sector since 2008—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! All I need is the source of the document.

Dr David Clark : Statistics New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER : That is available to all members.

Small Businesses—Online Tools

10. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister for Small Business : What online tools has the Government provided to help small businesses make informed decisions?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): There are a number of online tools to assist small businesses to make informed decisions. is a website dedicated to small and medium enterprises, bringing together information and resources from across the Government, making it easier for businesses to find and understand their obligations and possible opportunities for assistance. In addition, has several other channels, including a monthly e-newsletter that goes out to about 50,000 small businesses, with current updates and information on legislative changes and other topics of interest to business. These examples all contribute to making New Zealand one of the best places in the world to be in business.

Kris Faafoi : More!

Todd Barclay : What are some of the online tools available for small businesses through

Hon CRAIG FOSS : They called for more; I am about to give them more., the site for small businesses, has a range of tools. It draws together information from across the Government—resources such as feasibility assessments, cash-flow forecasting, business structures, and intellectual property and business plan templates. There is also an employee cost calculator, giving businesses an accurate understanding of the cost of employing new staff and to give small to medium sized enterprises certainty as they choose to hire more Kiwis.

Todd Barclay : What are some of the inputs into the employee cost calculator?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Small businesses using the employee cost calculator can input and calculate the cost of wages for their employees. For example, a small business with 10 full-time employees on the minimum wage can calculate that if the minimum wage was to increase to $16.25, it would cost that business an additional $45,000 per annum to what it is now. Additional costs such as that are costs that small businesses cannot bear and would suffer under Labour.

University Councils—Elections

11. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment : Does he believe students and staff at every university should have the right to participate in the election of university councils?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): I believe that universities are large, complex organisations full of intelligent people who are more than capable of determining their governance arrangements within reasonable guidelines. I am confident that they will make the best decisions to represent their stakeholders and direct their universities.

Hon David Cunliffe : In light of that answer, why is there no consistent approach to democratic university council representation around New Zealand; and what has he got against democratically elected university staff and students?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have nothing against the latter.

Hon David Cunliffe : Does he agree that the three core functions of any university are teaching, research, and a contribution as critic and conscience of society; if so, how are those three purposes served by the removal of representation on university councils?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am just trying to think whether those three things, which I agree are very important, are determined by the nature of the governance arrangements of an institution. In fact, they are very important to institutions but I think Mr Cunliffe takes a rather amazing leap in logic to suggest that they are definitely linked.

Tim Macindoe : Harvard.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : But, of course, perhaps in Harvard that is the situation.

Hon David Cunliffe : Instead of stifling democracy, why will he not seek a proper funding increase for the tertiary sector rather than telling universities they should raise fees to the maximum and then make up the shortfall by lifting overseas student numbers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have missed this hyperbole. The simple reality of the situation is that this Government has dramatically, actually—in the context of the global financial crisis—increased the investment in the university sector. And, in fact, if the member goes and has a look, there have been—over the period that I have been the Minister—significant double-digit increases in funding. But also there are, of course, limits to that funding. And I know that the member does not appreciate this, but actually the Government is also very keen to get back into surplus and to ensure that the tertiary education system is well funded—but the Government also is responsible in its allocation of finances.

Housing Affordability—Prime Minister’s Statements

12. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Finance : Does he agree with the Prime Minister that “There is not a housing crisis” in New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : I thank the member for his question, and note for his benefit that the GDP figure was 3.5 percent—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I do agree with the Prime Minister. There is certainly a shortage of housing supply in one part of New Zealand, which, of course, is Auckland, which is why we are agreeing a range of things with Auckland and encouraging the increase in consenting of houses and apartments, and so on, over 3 years. But I point out to the member that for the rest of New Zealand, taken as a whole, there has actually been no increase in the median house price over the last year, and, in addition, mortgage interest rates are very low. So we have a localised challenge in Auckland around house and land supply. For the rest of the country, actually, there is not a housing crisis at all, and to describe New Zealanders being in housing crisis for Auckland is, I think, a little hyperbolical.

Kevin Hague : Does the Minister accept that an average median house sale price in Auckland last year of $621,800 and an average median household income for Aucklanders aged 20 to 34 of just $48,600 mean that it is almost impossible for most young Aucklanders to buy a house now, and will be even more so in the future, given the way house prices are rising?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I do not think it is a fair comparison to compare the price of houses for the whole of a city and then look at a small subset of the buying population and suggest that those two are directly comparable. But, nevertheless, we know there are challenges in the housing market in Auckland. But I can report to the member the good news, which is that there has been a very significant increase in consents granted and construction commenced in Auckland. I myself was flying over Auckland just the other day. I look at projects like Millwater, which is being built for 10,000 people. I look at the big apartment complexes being built in Albany and in the central city. I look at the Whenuapai and Hobsonville projects. I look at what is happening in Tāmaki. Actually there is very, very big investment, and that is only one part of Auckland and its growth.

Kevin Hague : When will he tell the 82.8 percent of Aucklanders aged 20 to 34 who did not own their own homes at the last census that it is unlikely that they ever will?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : With the greatest respect, I do not know that you can actually suggest that would happen at all. Somebody who is at the age of 20 is not necessarily as likely as someone who is significantly older to own their own home. And the key about actually increasing homeownership in Auckland is to provide more options for people to start out in their first homes. I have mentioned some for the member: Millwater, Hobsonville, Whenuapai, Albany, Long Bay, Grafton, Māngere, Tāmaki, Weymouth. There is a lot of investment being made—

Kevin Hague : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is repeating the same speech he gave in answer to the previous supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER : That is for me as the Speaker to decide, when the Minister has—

Kevin Hague : That is my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, the response to that, I am saying to the member—I will determine when I have decided the answer has gone on for too long. It is not the prerogative of the member.

Kevin Hague : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : A further point of order, or are we relitigating?

Kevin Hague : Requesting clarification of your ruling. Are you ruling that in fact members may not raise a point of order to point out that a Minister is in fact giving a speech?

Mr SPEAKER : I am suggesting to the member that such a point of order will lead to disorder. It is my job to adjudicate the question time in this House. I will determine when an answer is going on for too long. Towards the end of that answer we were listing a whole of suburbs that had been listed. That is a fair point. But the first part of the answer, I thought, was a genuine attempt by the Minister to address the question that was asked by the member.

Kevin Hague : If in his opinion there is not a housing crisis, despite the lowest homeownership rates nationally since 1951 and plummeting house affordability in our largest city, what specific signs should New Zealanders look for to know that we might be in a housing crisis in the future?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : For better or worse, we have had declining homeownership in New Zealand, as the member points out, for a very, very, very long time, which suggests that there is actually a change in the approach that some people are taking to house—

Hon Members : How long?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Something like 60 years. And there are definitely opportunities, and definitely challenges, in Auckland in housing. But to suddenly call it a crisis when you have seen something happening over 65 years—or thereabouts—sounds, at the least, politically convenient. The real challenge in Auckland is to boost supply of new housing in that city, and, as I have said a number of times for the member this afternoon—and I would be happy to list them again, but I suspect the Speaker does not need to hear them again—there are significant developments right across Auckland, and very high and growing levels of consents and construction.


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