Questions and Answers – March 31

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 — 7:11 PM

Questions to Ministers

Economy—Dividends to Families

1. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Finance : What policy measures has the Government announced that will help to distribute dividends from the growing economy to New Zealand families and children?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): A number of measures will come into place on 1 April that will help families and children. Paid parental leave will increase by 2 weeks to 16 weeks and by another 2 weeks from 1 April next year. The parental tax credit will rise from $150 a week to $220 a week. The entitlement will increase from 8 weeks to 10 weeks. The Government’s HomeStart scheme will begin, and this is likely to help around 90,000 Kiwis into their first home over the next 5 years. Average ACC work levies paid by employers and the self-employed will fall from 95c to 90c per $100. And New Zealand superannuation will increase by another 2 percent, meaning that it has increased by 31 percent since April 2008, more than double the rate of inflation in that time. These things are possible because we have a stronger economy, we have resilient New Zealanders, and we have a Government that is managing its finances.

Andrew Bayly : Following the policy changes on 1 April, what other Government measures will take effect in the next few months that will benefit families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Some of these changes are just the normal changes you would expect in an economy that is going somewhere. The annual cost of living adjustment for all benefit rates and student allowances will, of course, occur. The adult minimum wage will rise from $14.25 an hour to $14.75 an hour, an increase in the last 12 months of 3.5 percent, which is not bad, given that inflation today is around zero. Further, there will be other policies coming into effect from 1 July, including children under 13 having access to free GP visits, and the ACC levy for private motor vehicles will fall by around $130 a year—a very significant decrease in the cost of registering a car. Again, these policies are possible—a 3.5 percent increase in the minimum wage—because our economy is showing it can grow in a sustainable way.

Andrew Bayly : What reports has he received about how the growing economy is further helping families to get ahead?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : There are a number of reports that confirm that we are in a phase of sustainable growth—that is, growth that generates moderate but consistent benefits for families. A number of them I have listed, but there are others. Eighty thousand new jobs have been created across New Zealand in the last 12 months, and labour market participation is at a record 69.7 percent—that is, more Kiwis have confidence in getting a job than has ever been the case before. Average weekly wages rose 2.5 percent in the calendar year 2014, during which time inflation was less than 1 percent, and mortgage interest rates are staying lower for longer, assisting families with their cash flow.

Andrew Bayly : According to the official statistics, how do latest average wage increases compare with inflation, and how does this compare with historical movements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The survey used by all Governments to set national superannuation rates shows average weekly wages rose 2.5 percent in the 12 months up to 31 December. Annual inflation in that period was 0.8 percent. In the last 5 years average wages have increased by 15 percent and they are forecast to keep rising moderately and faster than the cost of living. This is contrasted with the position that we inherited from the previous Government, where wages were barely keeping pace with consumer price inflation of 5 percent per year, at a time when first mortgage rates were over 10 percent.

Sue Moroney : I seek leave for a bill extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks to be introduced and debated next members’ day—because it would win now.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular bill. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is.

Prime Minister—Northland By-election

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that “there’s a message from Northland” for the Government; if so, will the Government take that message seriously?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; and yes.

Andrew Little : Does he accept that one of the messages Northland sent was that his Government should have invested in roads while it had the chance rather than slashing funding by $36 million and resorting to last-minute bribes worked out on the back of Steven Joyce’s envelope?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, one of the feedbacks we got in Northland was that people there were delighted we were spending almost twice as much on roads as the previous Labour Government, which completely ignored the region of Northland.

Andrew Little : Has he received the message that funding an election bribe with $70 million of taxpayers’ money, without any proper cost-benefit analysis, displayed an irresponsible attitude to the public purse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Again, one of the strong messages we got in Northland was that they do want an upgrade to their bridges, and, actually, spending an additional $69 million over 6 years makes sense, given that we are spending about $135 million to $140 million per year. But if we do want to get into the matter of the costing of election promises, I am more than happy to get Treasury to run the ruler over Labour’s policies, which were “a dog”.

Andrew Little : Does he agree with the National Business Review that one of the messages from the Northland by-election is that “The Government is biddable, highly biddable, and, to be blunt, a bit weak.”; and is that reflected in his dealings with Skycity, Rio Tinto, and Warner Bros?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, but what it does reflect, actually, is that this is a Government in touch with New Zealanders, because if the member is saying that—

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, we should go and have that discussion with the people of Southland and Invercargill, where Rio Tinto backs up 3,000 jobs, so under Labour, they are gone. We should speak to the people who work in the film sector in New Zealand, who actually physically went out and campaigned, who went out there and protested for this Government to clarify the definition of a contractor. The whole way through, Labour members were Hobbit-haters until the premiere came round and then they all turned up in droves.

Andrew Little : Is he aware that it is not only Northland that has seen its road funding slashed under National—in fact, Northland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, and State Highway 3, Manawatū-Whanganui, Marlborough, Nelson-Tasman, and the West Coast now get a total of $100 million a year less to maintain and improve their roads than they did when this Government came to power?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is quite incorrect. The only thing that got eroded was the Labour Party’s vote in Northland, which fell by two-thirds—the first outing under Andrew Little and he got done.

Andrew Little : In light of the result in Northland, is he aware of demands in other National-held seats that their MPs resign too, because it is the only way this Government will ever fix their roads?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I find it interesting, actually, that the Labour Party all of a sudden thinks that National does not spend enough on roads. We have had roads of national significance, roads of regional significance—there has been more money spent on roads under this Government, I am pretty sure, than under Labour over a very long period of time, which were all resisted by Labour, I might add. So, if it is a debate over roading, we win.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Emissions Reduction Target and Projected Increase

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues : Will he submit an emissions reduction target to the UN by the 31 March deadline; and does he stand by his statement that New Zealand’s net emissions are projected to increase 48 percent in the next decade?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister for Climate Change Issues : We will be submitting a target for beyond 2020 well prior to the Paris conference in December, but the member is incorrect in claiming there is a 31 March deadline. Only four of the nearly 200 parties to the climate change convention have so far submitted a target. The 48 percent increase quoted in net emissions is notional and not real because it assumes that when forests are harvested, all the carbon dioxide is released as though the wood was immediately burned. This, as the Minister pointed out at the time, is not a true figure but an accounting anomaly that we are seeking to change through better rules in the negotiations.

Dr Russel Norman : Is he disputing the projections produced by an official report from the Ministry for the Environment that show that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 48 percent over the next decade under current policy settings?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : As I said in answering the primary question, and as the Minister has pointed out, that is based on a set of rules that assume that when a tree is cut down—and New Zealand has very large areas of forest that were planted in the early 1990s that are due to be harvested in the next decade—the moment those trees are cut down the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. That is a scientific nonsense. That is not what actually happens, and that is why this member, quoting that 48 percent and implying that it results in a big increase in New Zealand’s actual emissions, is incorrect.

Dr Russel Norman : So does the Minister disagree with the Forest Owners Association president, Paul Nicholls, who said last month that the emissions trading scheme had been watered down so much that in each of the last 2 years about 10,000 hectares were deforested as a result of the Government’s policy settings?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : When this Government came to office it took a very balanced decision that the full cost of the emissions trading scheme on consumers and on business when the global financial crisis hit was too large a cost, and so implemented a more moderate emissions trading scheme. I think that was a very sensible response. It actually has New Zealand doing significantly more than most other countries, in that we are actually the only country outside of Europe to have an emissions trading scheme. My view is that our response has been balanced. I note that New Zealand’s gross emissions are less than when we became the Government, and they actually increased substantially when the Green Party supported the previous Labour administration.

Dr Russel Norman : Does the Minister accept that the weakening of the emissions trading scheme that the Minister just described has resulted in reducing the price of carbon to pretty close to zero, and that is one of the key reasons why New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent under this Government?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : No, and the member’s question shows he does not actually understand the emissions trading scheme. You see, the reason the carbon price has been so low is that New Zealand emitters have had access to very cheap international units arising from the global financial crisis. But that was only true until 1 January this year. I note that the current carbon price is about $4.50, and that current emissions emitters no longer have access to those international units. That actually means the emissions trading scheme has a far higher effective price.

Dr Russel Norman : Will the Minister commit to matching the recently announced European climate target of 28 countries—part of the European Union—that they will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : There are a number of significant differences with Europe. The first is that its economies have done very poorly, and unlike New Zealand are not growing. We on this side of the House are actually for growing the economy and for growing jobs. That is not occurring in Europe, and we do not want to match its example. The second is that the population in Europe is in decline, and because New Zealand is now so popular—is doing so well—we actually have our population increasing, and that makes us different. The third element that makes us different is that New Zealand has a phenomenally high level of renewables. In fact, it has increased from 65 percent to 80 percent, unlike Europe, which has about 15 percent. And so because we have a far higher proportion of renewables, and our biggest portion of emissions is actually from agriculture, we are in a very different position to those European countries. We do intend to pose a target. It will be a responsible target, but one that does not ruin the New Zealand economy.

Dr Russel Norman : Does the Minister accept the basic economic logic that a lower price on carbon will result in higher net greenhouse gas emissions, and, hence, the Government’s policy of having a lower price on carbon is the reason why our net greenhouse gas emissions have increased so dramatically?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Let us get the facts clear. Current gross emissions—gross emissions, not including the forestry—have come down by 3 percent since this party has been in Government. Let me compare that with the previous Labour administration, when greenhouse gas emissions grew by 8 percent. So, actually, emissions have come down. The member is absolutely true—that is, the higher the price of carbon, the greater incentive there is to reduce emissions. There is an honest trade-off to have between the cost of living and the cost of the economy and how much we want to reduce emissions. We are of a view on this side of the House, post the global financial crisis, that we need to take a cautious view on putting further New Zealanders out of work and putting extra costs on New Zealand households.

Dr Russel Norman : So does he accept that the reason the Government has struggled so far to come up with an emissions reduction target is because the Government spent 6 years implementing policy that has resulted in increased net greenhouse gas emissions of 20 percent so far, and a further 48 percent under the Government’s own projections?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : We came into Government with a commitment that we would meet our Kyoto Protocol obligations. That member said we never would. We have, and we have done some. This Government set a target of a 5 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. Advice from the Ministry for the Environment officials is that we are on target to achieve that. The member keeps confusing net emissions with gross emissions, and Kyoto rules with the Framework Convention on Climate Change rules, to try to paint New Zealand in the worst possible picture. I invite him to actually look at results—look at results—like the fact that the level of renewable electricity in New Zealand has never been as high for 20 years, with figures last week showing it has reached 80 percent.

Roading, Northland—Bridges

4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport : What are the construction start and end dates for each of the 10 bridges the Government has announced it will upgrade in Northland?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Transport : The Government has committed to investing between $32 million and $69 million to replace 10 single-lane bridges with modern two-lane bridges on Northland’s twin coast highway over the next 6 years. The first of these bridges likely to be modernised are Kaeō, Taipā, and Matakohe bridges. Preliminary work on these will begin and construction will start once all design and consenting issues are completed. I would expect the balance of the projects to follow a similar process, which could be sped up if the member’s party supported our Resource Management Act changes.

Phil Twyford : When will the last of the bridges be completed: 2030, 2040, or 2050?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : We are far more ambitious than the Labour Opposition. Our intention is that they will be completed in the 6-year period as stated.

Phil Twyford : How does he intend to pay for the bridges, given that the New Zealand Transport Agency says that the bridges will not even be considered for funding until the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme and that they will need to pass the benefit-cost test like any other project?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : The member needs to upgrade his contacts inside the New Zealand Transport Agency to get to a better level so he gets better information. Four of the bridges are already in the regional land transport plan, and the balance will be considered as we move along. Might I say that this Government has a very proud and strong track record of making funding available for regional projects outside of the National Land Transport Fund.

Phil Twyford : Does he stand by the statement of the Minister for Economic Development that “the Northland people were very, very enthusiastic about these projects.”; if so, how does he square that with the fact that 74 percent of people in Northland said they thought it was a bribe?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : The member cannot come into the House and give just half a story around a TV3 poll, because an overwhelming majority of people in that poll, although they may have expressed that view, said that they thought it was a good idea.

Phil Twyford : When he knocked back funding for the proposed Wellington Airport runway extension this morning because of the lack of a comprehensive business case, was he advised that doing so would make him look foolish, having approved 10 new bridges without one?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : It may come as a surprise to Mr Twyford that an airport runway is not a road.

HomeStart Programme—Families Effected and Eligibility

5. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Building and Housing : How many families is the Government budgeting to benefit from the new HomeStart programme and how will prospective homeowners be able to find out their eligibility?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The Government has budgeted $435 million for HomeStart grants over the next 5 years, in which we expect 90,000 first-home buyers to access the extra support of up to $20,000 to buy a new home. The grant entitlement rules do vary according to a person’s income, the house price by region, and the number of years that they have contributed to KiwiSaver. Housing New Zealand tomorrow will be launching a new website and information campaign to highlight the scheme and to encourage uptake.

Alfred Ngaro : What deposit would an average family earning the average wage, with no other savings, be able to access in a higher-cost housing market like Auckland, and what other support does the Government have available to help them secure a mortgage?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The new HomeStart would mean that a typical Auckland couple each earning $50,000 per year, and who have been in KiwiSaver for 5 years would be able to withdraw $35,000. This is a greater amount because of the legislation we passed last week that enables them to withdraw their Government contribution, the employer contribution, as well as their own savings. They will also be eligible tomorrow for a new HomeStart grant of $20,000 for a new home, giving them a total deposit of $55,000 with no other savings. Tomorrow we are also changing the eligibility rules for the Welcome Home Loan, so this same couple will be able to purchase a home with a 10 percent deposit and a Government guarantee on a house up to a value of $550,000.

Phil Twyford : Is he aware that his own figures show that only an additional 40,000 people will be eligible, and that the $212 million budget that he is gloating about means a miserable $2,000, on average, for each prospective homeowner under this policy, and with Auckland house prices rising at $1,700 a week, what is he going to do when 8 days of house price inflation wipes out his policy and he is back at square one?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Firstly, I would note that house price inflation under this Government has been significantly lower than what it was under Labour. During 1999 to 2008 house prices more than doubled. They went up by more than 28 percent in a single year. What we know is that the Government does not control house prices. What it can do is help young families pool together a deposit for a home, and, as a consequence of our policy, tomorrow there will be up to 90,000 families over the next 5 years who get a grant of up to $20,000, and I think that is great news.

Marama Fox : What changes has the Government made to the scheme in response to concerns from the Māori Party that access to KiwiSaver savings and Government support has not been available to homes on Māori land?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The KiwiSaver Act 2006 did discriminate against access to KiwiSaver funds and grants if a person was buying a house on multiple-owned Māori land. This issue was raised by the Māori Party with the Government during the policy development of Homestart. We believe it was an error by the previous Government and should be corrected. That is why we, with the Māori Party, passed a change in the law last week that will enable young Māori families to access both the withdrawal and the Homestart grants for multiple-owned Māori land in the same way that every other New Zealander has access to these schemes.

Resource Management Act Reforms—Components of Reform

6. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for the Environment : Does he still believe that affordable housing, natural hazards, infrastructure development, economic growth, jobs and exports needed recognition in the Resource Management Act 1991?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yes, but politics is the art of the possible. Ministers and officials have been working on detailed options for reforms. Discussions with the Government’s support parties will determine the final Resource Management Amendment Bill that the Government is proposing.

Dr Megan Woods : Does he agree with the ACT Party’s Northland candidate, Robin Grieve, that the Resource Management Act needs to be reformed because of Māori zealots using the Resource Management Act and voodoo wāhi tapu to delay repairs to a major slip on State Highway 1 in Northland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Yes, this Government does believe that the Resource Management Act does need change and that there are houses—for instance, the Resource Management Act is the principal law by which we can get sections. I am not familiar with the specific example that the member quotes in Northland, but I would welcome the support of that member and of all parties for sensible reform of the Resource Management Act.

Dr Megan Woods : I seek leave to table the transcript of a tweet from earlier today—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, that information is freely available to members.

Accident Compensation Corporation—Levies

7. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister for ACC : What changes to ACC levies come into effect on 1 April, and what impact will these changes have on New Zealand businesses and families?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for ACC): Tomorrow the first of a series of Government ACC levy cuts will happen, returning an estimated $480 million to the New Zealand economy. From 1 April 2015—tomorrow—the work account levy paid by businesses will decrease by an average of 5 percent. This will return money to hard-working businesses and self-employed people. All up, New Zealanders will be better off by around $480 million through ACC levy cuts in 2015-16. This will mean around $1.5 billion in ACC levy cuts will have been returned to New Zealanders since 2012.

Sarah Dowie : What other levy reductions come into effect this year?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : From 1 July 2015 the motor vehicle levy paid by people who renew their registration will go down by an average of 41 percent, saving the average car owner around $130 a year. Specific amounts will be determined by a new risk rating applied to different types of vehicles. That is about recognising that some vehicles are safer than others. On top of that, the petrol levy Kiwis pay at the pump will also go down by 3c per litre on 1 July. This National-led Government’s good fiscal management means more Kiwis will be getting levy reductions.

Sarah Dowie : What reports has the Minister seen about the impacts of these levy reductions on small businesses?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : I have seen a report from ACC that shows an example of a small-business owner who earns $67,000 a year, employs three staff, and owns two vehicles, and who could be paying about $350 less in levies this year. I am pleased that ACC’s strong financial performance means that Kiwis will now see around $480 million in levy reductions flowing back into the New Zealand economy this year.

Sue Moroney : Why is there no cut to ACC levies for workers tomorrow, given the account they pay into reached 130 percent of full funding in December last year, and why is the levy for businesses substantially higher than the levy decrease recommended by ACC, given that the account they pay into reached 140 percent of full funding required in December last year?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : With regard to the second part of that question, the member constantly gets her figures wrong. As I have said, if you look at the report that was produced, it does not take into account gradual process. So the 140 percent that she is quoting does not take into account gradual process, and that brings the solvency of the accounts down massively.

Regional Economies—Northland

8. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does he agree with the Prime Minister when he says of the people of Northland: “They want more. They want to go faster”; if so, does he believe that this view on economic growth is unique to the people of Northland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I do agree with the Prime Minister. In fact, I told Q+A on the weekend that “There’s an impatience in Northland to do more and, frankly, I share that impatience.” Although we have had some positive economic growth and employment growth in the Northland region in recent times, we recognise there is much more to be done, and that is why we are fast-tracking critical infrastructure like regional roading projects, the roads of national significance, and ultra-fast broadband and rural broadband. That is why we are working with other parties to reform the Resource Management Act to cut red tape and encourage investment in the region.

Dr David Clark : Did he use the same calculator to work out the benefits of bridges that he used to calculate the Skycity deal, the Chorus bailout, and the likelihood of electoral success in Northland; if so, will he be returning it to the Crosby/Textor concept—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That question is not in order.

Dr David Clark : In terms of going faster, then, how much time will the double-laning of bridges save the average Northlander on their way to the polling booth in 2017?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member can make light of that if he wishes, but, actually, there is a number of reasons why those projects were a good idea. One is the longstanding safety issues. Secondly, one of the key industries in Northland is tourism. Another one is forestry and another one is the dairy industry, and those single-lane bridges do cause both safety risks and resilience risks. I think this Government is very proud that we are making investments in roading in Northland.

Dr David Clark : Is he planning to take his successful “everyone gets a bridge” policy nationwide, since it seems to be his only idea for growing regional economies?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Unfortunately for Dr Clark, who is obviously not paying attention, we are actually delivering the double-laning of bridges nationwide. In fact, I recall soon after we came into office doing the Kōpū Bridge to the Coromandel. We have done the Kurow bridges in Otago. We are doing bridges on the West Coast of the South Island. We are doing bridges all over the country as well as roads of national significance. Actually, this Government has invested more in New Zealand’s roading network than virtually any other Government.

Rt Hon John Key : Has the Minister seen any reports of falling numbers—numbers that would indicate in 2008 they may be 38 percent, in 2011 they may be about 28 percent, in—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is no ministerial responsibility there.

Dr David Clark : Does he expect that his attempts in recent weeks to address several years of economic neglect in Northland will lead to improved employment outcomes, especially given recent reports that at least one well-paid job as National Party’s campaign manager is now up for grabs?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, there is no ministerial responsibility for that.

Oil and Gas Exploration—West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary

9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources : Can he rule out exploration for oil and gas in the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Minister of Energy and Resources : There are two large exploration permits in the marine mammal sanctuary on the west coast of the North Island. These permits were granted in 2002 and 2007 by the previous Government, supported by the Green Party. In addition, the giant Pohokura gasfield, which provides 40 percent of New Zealand’s natural gas, is in the sanctuary. The activities coexist with the inhabitants of the sanctuary and there is no evidence to the contrary. So no, I cannot.

Gareth Hughes : Why did the Minister just yesterday offer block 17E38 in Taranaki for oil and gas exploration where a Māui’s dolphin was literally sighted and the sighting was confirmed, knowing that the potential for an oil spill in a seismic survey and test can have devastating impacts on the last 55 Māui’s dolphins?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : The Government commissioned in 2002 a report from experts looking at the issues that might exist between Māui’s dolphins and the oil and gas development of this area. What it concluded is that the oil and gas exploration creates a very, very small possibility of damage to a Māui’s dolphin. Their greatest threat comes from the set-netting, and that is why the Government increased the area inside the sanctuary that is free of set nets to about 100,000 square kilometres per Māui’s dolphin.

Gareth Hughes : When the Minister signed off oil blocks in water deeper than 3.8 kilometres, was he aware of data from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that shows the deeper you drill, the greater the risks of a spill?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : Of course we keep up with data provided by other areas of exploration, but we also, of course, have our own environmental standards, and we have been progressively making those standards part of the application that people have to make when they bid for a block that is up for offer.

Gareth Hughes : I seek leave to table a summary of spills of 50 barrels and greater from platforms and rigs from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which shows that one in 19 wells—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document has been described. On the basis that it might not be easy for members to source, I will put the leave. It is a summary document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Gareth Hughes : Why was the public given no opportunity to be consulted on block offer 2015, and was it because the Minister knew that Kiwis would not support drilling in the Māui sanctuary, would not support drilling in the albatross and blue-eyed penguin sanctuary, or in the pristine Victoria Forest Park?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : I think the member is being a little disingenuous by making such a bold claim. The reality is that he appears to be saying that if Labour and the Greens do it, it is OK; if National does it, it is not. The reality is that it was the National Party that put in place the Environmental Protection Authority. It was the National Party that brought in the exclusive economic zone legislation. It was the National Party that brought in the standards around the requirements for anybody who is prospecting to meet environmental standards. So we are very, very confident that our record is a strong one. In the end, this is a huge export earner for New Zealand—our fourth biggest—and it brings in royalties of some $700 million a year. If the Green Party wants to do away with all of that and also shut down the Pohokura gasfield, which provides 40 percent of all the gas used in New Zealand for home heating and for jobs, factories etc., then good luck.

Resource Management Act Reforms—Impact of Northland By-election Result

10. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister for the Environment : Does he agree with the Prime Minister regarding Government proposals to amend sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act 1991 that “there’s just no question that you’ve got to rip up what we’ve got now”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yes. The Māori Party and United Future have made plain they do not support the Government’s 2014 proposals for changes to sections 6 and 7. I have been working with Ministers and officials on possible alternatives. Cabinet has made no decisions, and will not do so until we have properly consulted with the Government’s support parties.

Dr Megan Woods : How do his proposed amendments that the Prime Minister is going to rip up differ from the radical reforms of the former Minister, which the Prime Minister ripped up in 2014?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The member will have to wait and see. As I said in my previous answer, we have got discussions to have with the Māori Party, with the ACT Party, and with United Future. When we have an agreement about a bill to introduce to the House, I will welcome the member’s input and support.

Dr Megan Woods : Will he finally back down from gutting the core principles of the Resource Management Act, given the Property Council’s Chief Executive, Connal Townsend, has today said that the council does not see these changes as critical?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The Government has never proposed gutting the Resource Management Act. That is the sort of rhetoric that we get from Labour. I have a simple challenge for the member. Is it not time Labour stated what its policy is on the Resource Management Act, so that we might be able to have an intelligent discussion?

Dr Megan Woods : Is his willingness to abandon his radical changes to sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act evidence that the so-called reforms were never about housing, but are a smokescreen to gut the core environmental protections of the Resource Management Act?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Any analysis of housing prices shows that the biggest increase in cost has been in the price of a section. It is the Resource Management Act that governs the creation of sections. So if any member of this House is serious about improving affordability of housing, they will support this Government in wanting to reform the Resource Management Act so that we can have more affordable housing.

Prime Minister—Northland By-election

11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements regarding the Northland by-election?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, in the context they were given.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Is Tracy Watkins’ Dominion Post comment correct: “At a kiwifruit picking plant in Kerikeri, Key admitted the campaign team decided against rolling out further spending promises, after the initial reaction to its announcement on one-way bridges.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : If, as he said, the Government would unveil these promises after the by-election, will he now categorise precisely what these promises are, now that the by-election—thank heavens—is over?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member should know Northland well enough to know what the priorities are that the Government is going to announce.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question did not concern priorities; it concerned the promises. An entirely different word.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! My difficulty, and I am going to give the member a chance to rephrase his question, is that there was quite a lot of lead-up to the question. If I can have a simple question, then I will try to assist the member to get an answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : As Tracy Watkins referred to, spending promises—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just have the supplementary question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Yeah, you’ll get it. Don’t worry.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. I am trying to assist the member to get an answer. To assist me to help the member get an answer, I need a short, sharp supplementary question that is in line with the Standing Orders. Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : For your benefit, Mr Speaker, if, as he said, the Government would unveil these promises after the by-election, will he now categorise precisely what these promises are, now that the by-election is—thank heavens—over?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In the fullness of time the Government will have more announcements to make in Northland.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Did the Government put into these further intended promises the same amount of policy planning, analysis, and costing as it put into—

Hon Steven Joyce : You’re already arguing against the roads.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Oh, I would not have thought you would be speaking here.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just carry on with the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : —the 10 one-lane bridges and faster broadband for Northland roll-out announcements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The announcements made during the course of the campaign, and in earlier times, actually, are for the benefit of the people of Northland. I am surprised that the member, now that he has won the right to represent them, does not actually want to be advocating for more two-lane bridges, does not want to advocate for more ultra-fast broadband—

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Point of order—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : You sit down; I am not finished.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Point of order. Sit down.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : You sit down.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : There is a good lad. Sit down. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking precisely—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member is going to raise a point of order arguing now that the question has not been addressed, then I am saying that it has been. Again, I advise the member, if he wants to make progress—[Interruption] Would the member please resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. If the member wants to make progress, he is better to tighten his supplementary questions.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had not finished my answer. I would like the opportunity to finish it. That was not a point of order, and he interrupted me.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was precisely—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have dealt with that. If it is a fresh point of order, I will hear it, but if the member is going to trifle with the Chair—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! I have a very good mind to ask the member to leave the Chamber now. When I stand to my feet, the member resumes his seat. I have addressed the point of order as to whether that answer addressed the question. That is the end of that matter. I invite the member, if has got a fresh point of order, to raise it, but if he is simply going to relitigate a ruling I have made, that will lead to disorder.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A point of clarification, then. When an answer comes back that the member for Northland does not support the policy promises, how can that possibly be the answer?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Speaking to the point of order, I did not say that. I said that if the member does not support these priorities, and was going through the list of things that actually are required in Northland, which I would have thought the member wanted to advocate for, I am more than happy to talk about the Government’s agenda in Northland—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Now this is no longer a point of order. Does the member have further supplementary questions?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Yes, surprisingly, I do. Did the Government put in the same amount of policy planning, analysis, and costing behind the further intended promises as it put into the Government-financed cell tower installation and the Pūhoi to Wellsford superhighway promise?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If one looks, firstly, at Pūhoi to Wellsford, it was already well and truly announced. Again, I am surprised that the member, given that he has taken a month off to be in Northland, does not actually recognise how important that arterial route is. If the member is serious about being the member for Northland, then the member will have to get to a point where he actually understands what he is going to need to work on. He clearly does not understand that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : How will the people of Northland, in his words, “go faster” and be better served in respect of either business or tourism when Air New Zealand closes next month the Auckland to Kaitāia service as well as the direct Whangarei to Wellington service?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In the case of Kaitāia, obviously it is disappointing, but what Air New Zealand is doing is actually replacing that service with 50-seat aircraft that will fly into Kerikeri far more regularly. The member probably knows the number of flights that Air New Zealand has from Auckland to Kerikeri every day. If he does not, I am more than happy to give him a briefing on that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : What, with precision, are the costings for, first, the 10 bridges; second, the Warkworth to Wellsford superhighway extension; third, the faster broadband roll-out in Northland; and, fourth, the taxpayer-funded cell tower installations in Northland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am sorry, I did not hear the first part of the question.

Mr SPEAKER : I will invite the member to ask the question again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : What, with precision, are the costings for, first, the 10 bridges; second, the Warkworth to Wellsford superhighway extension; third, the faster broadband roll-out in Northland; and, fourth, the taxpayer-funded cell tower installations in Northland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, some of those tenders are not in, but it does sound like a busy list of things here from the Government. But I am sure that it is cheaper than what it cost to stay at the Eagles Nest.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Will he, as Prime Minister, support me, as the member for Northland, to address responses to one of the most serious and most abhorrent issues facing Northland—that of sexual violence?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Actually, the member makes an excellent point—an excellent point—which is that he wants to work constructively on issues that will support Northland. If that is what the member is saying to me today, well, I can say as Prime Minister that I am more than happy to work with him on those. I look forward to him supporting the Ngāpuhi settlement and the legislation that will go through there. I look forward to the member working constructively in areas like Resource Management Act reform so we can see more investment going into Auckland. I look forward to the member’s party voting for the Korea – New Zealand free trade agreement—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, the answer is now getting too long.

Business Growth Agenda—Benefits for Small Businesses

12. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister for Small Business : How are small businesses benefiting from the export markets initiatives in the Business Growth Agenda?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): Small and medium businesses that are export focused are benefiting from the Business Growth Agenda, which is helping to create a more competitive and productive economic environment. The export market strand in the Business Growth Agenda is assisting small businesses in a number of ways, such as improving access to international markets through free-trade agreements, such as the recently signed Korea – New Zealand free-trade agreement, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is helping internationally-focused small businesses succeed in overseas markets. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise works hard with 3,500 companies, focusing intensively on 700 of those. These initiatives and many others show how this Government is supporting and growing export markets and opportunities for New Zealand small businesses.

Joanne Hayes : What reports has the Minister seen on export growth for small and medium businesses?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : I have seen a number of reports that show that exporting opportunities for small and medium businesses are continuing to grow. The 2014 Statistics New Zealand Business Operations Survey released this month shows that the number of small businesses engaged in export sales has increased—

Dr David Clark : Why are there fewer small businesses under National?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : —listen carefully to this—from 13 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2014. For medium-sized businesses engaged in export sales, this has increased from 21 percent in 2007 to over 28 percent in 2014. This export growth of our small and medium sized enterprises is leading to more revenue, higher profits, growth, and more jobs for New Zealanders.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he stand by the statement made on the business.govt website that “No business should pay more than it needs to for insurance cover,”; if so, why does he not accept the advice from ACC itself that currently businesses are paying too much for their insurance cover?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : I welcome the member’s patsy once again—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Just rise and answer the question.

Hon CRAIG FOSS : A pleasure. Small and medium sized businesses are already benefiting or are about to benefit from a locked in $1.5 billion reduction in ACC levies, as we have heard from me in response to many questions—17 questions on this matter, I believe—from the Opposition, as well as in what the Minister for ACC just recently said. Cash flow considerations for small and medium enterprises such as insurance and taxation are essential, and the last thing that they need is complex new taxes that will negatively impact upon their cash flows.

Joanne Hayes : What would negatively impact export growth among small and medium businesses?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Small and medium businesses are experiencing increased export growth. They need certainty as they look to grow further and grow their export opportunities. Small and medium sized businesses do not want uncertainty on whether existing free-trade agreements or new free-trade agreements are supported or not. They do not want uncertainty as to whether new and complex new taxes would be thrown on to them. They do not want uncertainty, as they look to explore export growth, as to whether they can employ new Kiwis and more workers under the 90-day trial as they look to expand export growth. The statistics that I mentioned earlier show that the trade policies of this Government are very good for New Zealand’s small businesses.


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