Questions and Answers – June 17

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 — 7:32 PM

Questions to Ministers

Building and Housing, Minister—Confidence

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement “what I can say about the Minister for Housing is that he is outstanding”; if so, what has been outstanding about his roll-out of the Government’s new Auckland housing policy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; the outstanding housing policies include signing housing accords with seven councils, including Auckland, in order to speed up housing development; freeing up more land for residential development, through more than 80 special housing areas; providing a $200 million loan to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company in Auckland to develop around 7,500 new houses; introducing the new Homestart package to help around 90,000 first-home buyers into houses over the next 5 years; developing land at Hobsonville Point and in other areas such as Weymouth, funded through the Social Housing Fund; investing $446 million to insulate around 240,000 homes through the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, plus around another 46,000 through the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes extension; and to ensure that we maintain this momentum, the Budget confirmed that we will consider freeing up more Crown-owned land in Auckland for housing. New house building has doubled in Auckland over the past 3 years, and investment in residential construction reached an all-time high of $2.6 billion in the year to March 2015. So the Minister is doing a good job, and the previous Labour Government did absolutely nothing—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Andrew Little : Can he advise when the first house will be completed on the newly released Crown land in Auckland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not have those details but what I know is that by October of this year the land will be identified in parts, and from there on the first house will be built by 2016. I find it really odd that the Labour Party does not think that we can build a single house on Crown-owned land, and yet the policy it took into the last election was to build, theoretically, 100,000 of them.

Andrew Little : I seek leave to table a letter published in the National Business Review online with a comment attached to it from Nick Smith pointing out—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, the member will resume his seat.

Andrew Little : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The material published online is behind a paywall, not widely available, and therefore is entirely appropriate for tabling in the House.

Mr SPEAKER : On the basis of the latter part of the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, I will put the leave and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Andrew Little : What is outstanding about the fact that his Government has built just 170 homes in Auckland special housing areas since they were announced in 2013, especially given his claims in Parliament yesterday that the Government built 8,500 houses last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : One always has to be cautious with the Labour Party’s numbers, but what I will say about the special housing areas is that there are over 90 of them in Auckland, and as everybody knows, from the designation of a special housing area, you have to go through a process, and that process includes infrastructure and everything else. The point was actually made by the Minister yesterday that Labour identified Hobsonville in 2003 and did not build a single house there.

Andrew Little : Can he confirm that Minister Nick Smith told Tainui yesterday that they do have first refusal rights over some Crown land in Auckland; if so, how does he reconcile this with Nick Smith’s impassioned denials that iwi have any rights at all over the land?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I was not party to those conversations.

Andrew Little : Given that answer, does he now confirm that this is the situation: first, the policy was leaked; second, some of the land was occupied by power substations and cemeteries; third, it turned out that 500 hectares was just a guesstimate; fourth, some of the land was not even Crown-owned and other parts of the land were just conceptual; fifth, Nick Smith said that he could sell land without giving iwi first dibs; sixth, it turned out that the Government has already given iwi first dibs on some of the land; seventh, Nick Smith admitted that he cannot sell the land without giving iwi first dibs and the whole thing is going to wind up in court; and, finally, he has admitted that no houses will be built for at least 18 months?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, and there are more points on the member’s list than people who voted for him in the election of his leadership.

Andrew Little : When will the Prime Minister finally realise that the other outstanding failure here is his own failure to put in a Minister for Building and Housing who is actually up to the job?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think that at the start of my answer to the primary question, I ran through the things that Nick Smith has done in his time as Minister for Building and Housing. What a great privilege it is, as Prime Minister, to be able to read out an extensive list that is actually making a difference to the people of Auckland—because if Helen Clark were answering this question, this blank piece of paper is exactly what the list would look like. They did absolutely nada, and that is why house prices doubled under Labour. As I said yesterday—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question has been answered.

Andrew Little : Can he confirm that Nick Smith has been sent today to a remote part of the Bay of Plenty forest in order to avoid further embarrassment to the Government; and that if Nick Smith creates a fiasco in the forest and there is no one to hear it, it is still the media’s fault?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I can confirm that he has gone to the regions, because National cares a lot about the regions.

Question No. 2 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Mr Speaker, could I raise a point of order? It is by way of seeking your advice for the future, because we put in a question asking—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order; I wish to hear it in silence.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS : I am seeking your counsel and advice in this matter because we put in a question asking whether the Prime Minister stood by his statements, and then after 11 a.m., which is quite unique in our experience, the question was switched to the Minister of Energy and Resources. My question is how you would phrase the question to avoid the outcome that we have just experienced, whereby in seeking the Prime Minister standing by his own statements we have now got the Minister of Energy and Resources saying whether he stands by the Prime Minister’s statements, which is not remotely what we were asking.

Mr SPEAKER : It is not my job to phrase the questions. My job is to judge whether they meet the Standing Orders. On this occasion, if the member looks at Speakers’ rulings 168, a number of rulings there will confirm to him that the Government has the right to determine where the question goes. So it transfers the question. Subsequent to a transfer there is often a change of wording required to make it sensible. This question has now been accepted and it will be asked today, if the member wants to, otherwise I am quite happy to move to the next question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I am aware of the ruling. What I am asking you is, if one is seeking to get a Minister to stand by that Minister’s statements, or the Prime Minister to stand by his, how would one phrase the question other than in the way I phrased it, which was: “Does he stand by all his statements regarding the electricity market; if so, why?”. If I was to avoid the outcome, how would you suggest I draft it? To be within the Standing Orders—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! As I said earlier, it is not my job to design the questions, but the member himself frequently comes in and asks the Prime Minister whether he stands by all his statements. That would have got the member past step 1 on that occasion. He could have done that. This question has been accepted. It will be asked, if the member wants to ask it. If he does not, I am very comfortable with moving immediately to question No. 3. — Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): There is no suggestion that I do not want to ask the question, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Well, then, ask it.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS : I was seeking your advice.

Mr SPEAKER : Then ask it, otherwise the member would not be—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS : Oh, so seeking counsel is not a good idea?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. I will give the member one final warning. If he wants to ask the question, he rises to his feet and asks it; if he does not, he will not be in the House to ask it in the first place. — CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I have dealt with this matter. If it a fresh point of order I am happy to hear it.

CHRIS HIPKINS : It is indeed a fresh point of order. In ruling on this issue of transfer previously, Speakers have indicated that one of the tests that they would apply in applying the Speakers’ rulings is: could somebody be expected to know what was in the head of somebody else when they made a statement? One of the issues here is, if we ask a very broad question of the Prime Minister such as: “Does he stand by all of his statements?”, you would be quite at liberty to rule that when asked a very specific supplementary question, the Prime Minister could not be expected to know about it because he would not have been given notice. So one of the things that the Opposition will try on occasion to do is give an indication of the broad nature of the topics to be debated. If that then means that the Prime Minister can automatically transfer the question to somebody else, it does create a situation where we cannot question the Prime Minister on anything specific.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : If the member wants to take the time, I will welcome—

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): It is one of those days, Mr Speaker—it is one of those days. The Speaker’s ruling that you quoted—168/2—does go on to make it clear that notwithstanding the claims made by Mr Hipkins, matters that go to “Does someone stand by” certain statements do not meet the test as to whether or not the person initially being asked the question could possibly be the only person to give the answer. When the question was seen this morning, it was reasonable to expect that it was going to be of a relatively technical nature because we know that is the general thrust of inquiry from the Rt Hon Winston Peters. We therefore felt it most appropriate that the technical information could be provided by a Minister who had that responsibility.

RON MARK (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is this a fresh point of order, which I asked Chris Hipkins to raise, or a continuation of the other—

RON MARK : Well, it pertains to comments made by the Leader of the House, and the whole discussion to this point raises another question, and I respectively ask you whether you could take some time to consider and come back and give us your views on the wider issue. It would appear to New Zealand First that if we simply asked the question: “Does he stand by his statements”, putting it to a Minister or the Prime Minister, the question would remain with that person. When we try to give some assistance by referring to what the subject of the Prime Minister’s comment was and then the Government exercised its right under the Standing Order to shift it, that could well become a tactic to avoid having the Prime Minister answer any question that he does not understand the details of.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have heard quite enough on this matter. As I said earlier, it is well accepted through Speakers’ rulings for a long period of time that the Government has the right to decide who has the responsibility and is best entitled to answer that question. On that basis the Government transferred the question. There will subsequently be an adjustment to words. What is in the Prime Minister’s head is not the essence of this question. The question at the time is about holding the Government to account for its policies. On this occasion, the Government has decided to transfer it. That is the end of the matter. A question can be asked and, indeed, will be asked by the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Electricity Market—Prime Minister’s Statements

2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Energy and Resources : Does he stand by all the Prime Minister’s statements regarding the electricity market; if so, why?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes; because the Prime Minister has very good expertise on these matters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Will the Minister state with precision and clarity that he is familiar with every statement that the Prime Minister has made recently about electricity pricing—yes or no?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I am not always privileged to be in the same room with the Prime Minister, so I have not heard all the comments.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : So is he saying he is prepared to stand up for the Prime Minister as to what the Prime Minister said, even though he is not familiar with what he said on the question of electricity pricing in each and every case—yes or no?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Unlike New Zealand First, National is a values-based party, and I and the Prime Minister share the same values.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : In what way will increasing the annual per customer charge for Westpower from $1.79 to $6.76, Top Energy from $1.55 to $4.21, and Northpower from $300 to $560 benefit the economic direction of the regions?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The member is jumping to conclusions. It is far too early in the process to assume that changes to transmission pricing methodology will significantly alter electricity prices in some regions. As I say, for example, one of the options is to be prospective in effect only, and in that case there would be very minimal impact on the cost of electricity across the regions. I think, just to go one step further, this is about the Electricity Authority living up to its mandate of ensuring efficient investment decisions, and that is why it has issued this options paper.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Given customers of Auckland’s Vector will see their annual customer charge increase, on average, from $327 to $519, how on earth will that help our poorest, our elderly, or hard-working parents trying to make ends meet?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The member is quite wrong, because he says that will happen. As I have said, this is an options paper, where it is not at all clear that that will be the result. I have been very clear with the Electricity Authority that it needs to consult well and listen, and we know, as I said in one of my earlier answers, that there are many options that would not have anything like the effects that the member is talking of.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Does he believe that building corporate welfare, particularly for large industrial foreign-owned energy consumers like Rio Tinto and BlueScope Steel, which are getting 56 percent reductions or more, among others, is a hallmark of this Government, and why does he think that the people from Westport to Kaitāia should be subsidising this?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I repeat that the member is jumping to conclusions. This is not in any way, shape, or form about benefiting any particular businesses. What it is about is fairly and efficiently ensuring that power investment in infrastructure is spread appropriately and, as I say, efficiently across the regions. That said, let us be very clear: it is an options paper. It will be taken carefully and judiciously, and the member is very much welcome to make a submission.

Economic Growth—Reports

3. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he received showing that lower interest rates and a pick-up in construction activity are helping to support growth in the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the Reserve Bank released its Monetary Policy Statement for June 2015 and it cut the official cash rate to 3.25 percent—just above a 50-year low for interest rates. The bank said that the economy is growing at around 3 percent a year, supported by low interest rates, continued growth in construction activity, high net migration, and a decline in fuel prices. It noted risks, including: weaker prospects for dairy prices and higher petrol prices. It indicated that these could slow income and demand growth. Annual inflation remains near zero. The Reserve Bank’s outlook is for solid, real growth in the economy.

Sarah Dowie : What is the Reserve Bank’s outlook for growth, employment, and household savings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The forecasts for these are reasonably strong. It forecasts that economic output will increase by an average of 3 percent for each of the next 3 years. Total employment growth is expected to be 1.5 percent over the next 3 years—above recent averages—with unemployment expected to fall to 5 percent. Household savings are expected to remain positive and well above long-term averages at 2 percent to 3 percent of disposable income.

Sarah Dowie : What other reports has he received on the outlook for the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Earlier this week the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research released its consensus forecast—that is, it compiles all the economic forecasts that are done. It says that although the outlook has been pared back slightly following the fall in dairy prices, forecasters expect average annual growth of nearly 3 percent in the 3 years to 2018, and it notes particularly that the labour market is a positive aspect of the outlook. Export growth is expected to pick up over 2016, in spite of slowing activity in trading partners. These forecasts are consistent with the moderate, sustainable growth that underpins the Budget.

Sarah Dowie : What alternative reports has he seen on interest rates?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I have received two particular reports lately. The first report said that households were worse off because of high interest rates. The second report, received last week following the Reserve Bank’s cut in the official cash rate, said that lower interest rates apparently show that the economy is on a downward slide. If sustained growth of 3 percent and 150,000 more jobs by 2019 is the economy on a slide, then that is not too bad. Both of these reports came from an organisation that apparently thinks that both higher interest rates and lower interest rates are bad for the New Zealand economy. It could be only one organisation—the New Zealand Labour Party.

Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry—Expenditure

4. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s expenditure of $140,747.66 on a public information screen show it is achieving one of its principal goals of realising efficiency gains over time?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I am disappointed with both the cost of the public information screen and the outside sign, and, as I have said publicly, I have spoken to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and made clear my disappointment. He has accepted that those two items in their relocation should have cost less, and in future large building projects will have additional oversight. It is important that these two items are seen in the context of savings of $40 million over 20 years by being located in a single head office that come from a 31 percent reduction in office space. It is also important to note that the overall cost of that development came in at $2 million under budget.

Dr David Clark : Does spending $74,000 on a reception desk show good judgment?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member could run through a number of things that he and I could both have an opinion on, but, actually, overall the project has saved very significant sums of money for taxpayers—$40 million over 20 years—and it also came in under budget.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very direct and straightforward question, and it was not answered or addressed.

Mr SPEAKER : In my opinion, in listening carefully to the answer, from what I could hear it was addressed. It would help if the member could ask his own colleagues to be a little quieter, and then he might well have heard the answer more clearly as well. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark : I did hear the answer, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Then he will agree that it was addressed.

Dr David Clark : Can he confirm that his name appears on the ministerial plaque described in the release documents as requiring an additional $1,696 spending variation in the contract; if so, is he the Minister responsible to this House for the expenditure referred to in my questions today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It could be helpful to the member to point out that he is failing to make the distinction between policy-related issues, which it is right and proper that the Minister gets involved in, and operational issues, which are the responsibility of the chief executive. We have seen examples in this House of members failing to observe the differences that are appropriate in what could be known as the “Trevor Mallard – Erin Leigh effect”. If Ministers start trying to run the departments for the chief executives, that generally does not work out well.

Dr David Clark : It will be an epitaph, not a plaque. Does spending taxpayer money on the installation of hair straighteners show good judgment—

Hon Steven Joyce : Well, not for you.

Dr David Clark : —well, not for you or me—if so, is the forward rental contract flexible enough to allow the Government installation of hair curlers as and when Wellington’s fashions change?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility in this particular case.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

Government’s Youth Service—Reports

5. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister for Social Development : What reports has she received on the Government’s Youth Service?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The Youth Service is helping at-risk young people aged 16 and 17 build their skills and prepare them for employment. At the end of March, 86.5 percent of young people enrolled in the Youth Service were engaged in education, training, or workplace learning. That is a 10.4 percent increase and is more than 1,000 clients more than at the same time last year. Youth Service providers have told us that the percentage achieving National Certificate in Educational Achievement level 2 or equivalent has more than doubled compared with last year, from less than 10 percent to nearly 25 percent, which means that nearly 1,500 more young people are achieving that qualification. This is just one of the ways that we are helping support young people into work.

Jono Naylor : What else is the Government doing to support young people off welfare and into work?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The Government is running a number of programmes to help support young people into work. We are putting $15.4 million over the next 4 years into our Limited Service Volunteer scheme as part of Budget 2015. This programme provides educational, motivational, and job options to unemployed young people. This will result in 800 placements a year. We are funding an extension of our 3K to Christchurch scheme, which has already seen 1,300 people granted a one-off payment to relocate and take up a job offer in other parts of the country. Of these, 465 grants were made to clients aged 16 to 14. So this Government is focused on providing a range of options to improve the employment prospects of young people in New Zealand.

State Housing—Effects on Health

6. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for HNZC : Does he stand by his statement that “I can commit to all public services involved with these families taking the steps that they ought to take to prevent as tragic an outcome as a death”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister responsible for HNZC): Yes.

Metiria Turei : Will the Minister instruct Housing New Zealand to provide every State house built before 2000 with thermal-quality curtains and carpeted floors as a step to prevent as tragic an outcome as a death?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : As I understand it—and I will have to check the detailed information—since Housing New Zealand has insulated all State houses that can be insulated, unlike under previous Governments, it does now supply heating to those houses that cannot be insulated. There will be a question, of course, as to whether that goes as far as a particular grade of thermal drapes or carpet. We would expect it to be of a reasonable standard.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very clear question asking the Minister as to whether he—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am going to, on this occasion, allow the repeat of the question. I suspect it has been addressed. It was not a very clear question in my mind, but it was a supplementary question that was accepted. I invite the member to ask it again for the benefit of myself and of the Minister.

Metiria Turei : Will the Minister instruct Housing New Zealand to provide every State house built before 2000 with thermal-quality curtains and carpeted floors as a step to prevent as tragic an outcome as a death?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : There is no need to instruct Housing New Zealand. It has a standard to which it maintains its houses. Fortunately, it is the highest standard it has ever been. The member needs to keep in mind the original comments for which she asked the primary question, and that is that where there are families for whom there are real health risks, there are almost certainly a range of other issues involved—other health issues, long-term welfare dependence, lack of access to work or education. The approach this Government takes through social investment is to try and deal with the range of issues from the point of view of the family, not just one such as the heating in the house, although of course that is important.

Metiria Turei : Will the Minister instruct Housing New Zealand to provide every State house built before 2000 that has unlined block walls with lining as a step to prevent as tragic an outcome as a death?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Housing New Zealand, in the light of this case, will certainly be considering what its maintenance standards are. The requirement of them will be to reach a reasonable standard. That is a bit different from, you know, guarantees about exactly what happens with each family in each house.

Jami-Lee Ross : What steps is the Government taking to support vulnerable families by delivering more warm, dry homes where they are most needed?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : There are a number in train. We have been spending more than $300 million every year maintaining these homes to, of course, standards relevant today rather than when they were built, which was far too many of them, back in the 1950s and 1960s. We will continue with an insulation programme that has insulated 280,000 old, cold, damp homes through the Warm Up New Zealand programme. We have spent around $30 million to provide heating in about 2,000 homes where that is important, and thermal curtains have been installed in around 17,000 homes since February 2013. That is in addition to investing over the next 3 years, through the Housing New Zealand asset management strategy, $2.9 billion to build and upgrade State housing, still overcoming a legacy of 50 years of policy that was not that sensible in between National Governments by incompetent Labour Governments that took State housing for granted.

Metiria Turei : Will the Minister instruct Housing New Zealand to, as a matter of urgency, move every family whose doctors say they are at serious risk of a life-threatening respiratory illness from their cold, damp State house to a warm, dry, and safe State house?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Where I think there may be some common ground here is that I think—and this has not been instructed—that where there are indications of significant health issues such as the admission of a child to hospital, that should be picked up by a range of social services and acted on, as it is now for rheumatic fever. Such a straightforward notification process and appropriate sharing of information, which too many people are still unwilling to do, could lead to a benefit for families who are experiencing health problems. But in respect of moving every one of these families to another warm, dry house, that would be a lot easier if our city planning was not distorted by Green-type policies that prevent the building of affordable, reasonable-standard houses on the scale that we need. Housing New Zealand has the same issues as everyone else in Auckland—there is a shortage of houses because of 20 years of Green-type policies that stop them being built.

Metiria Turei : Is it not a fact that Emma-Lita Bourne’s family was identified as being at risk because of the illness of those children and was not moved from their cold, damp house until after she was dead?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I would have to look back into the details of the case, but if the member is raising the issue that across State agencies there is not enough information shared about the risks to some of these families, then she would be correct. Too often the professionals involved, and sometimes the agencies involved, think it is inappropriate to share information that would allow better servicing of those families. Right now we are looking at addressing a large number of information-sharing agreements to try to resolve that problem because we believe that information that is held, which could help avoid this kind of tragic outcome, is probably not the best way to deal with it.

Metiria Turei : Has the Minister received any advice on the cost of carpets and curtains and wall linings for those State houses without them versus the benefit of saving tenants’ lives; if so, what is his cost-per-life ratio?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, not specifically in that form, although I would have to say that that view of the expenditure is completely consistent with our social investment framework—that is, where it is clear there are benefits that exceed the cost, then we are willing to spend more money. Often it is as simple as knowing which families are at risk, which agencies knew that, and what information has been provided to people who can make decisions to make that kind of expenditure.

Metiria Turei : Is the Minister therefore confirming that he is making an assessment as to the risk of death of infants like Emma-Lita Bourne or of young fathers like Soesa Tovo against the cost of providing carpet and curtains and wall linings for the cold, damp State homes that they are living in—is that what he just told us?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, certainly not in those terms, if only because the cases the member is referring to have their own complexities and circumstances that are not amenable to simple economic calculations of that nature. I am simply making the point, a general point, that long-term dependency and poor levels of housing do flow through to longer-term costs. We all understand that, and I would have thought that the member, instead of opposing the Social Housing Reform Programme, might now see these couple of high-profile deaths as a catalyst to supporting reform in the State housing programme so that we can achieve some of the things she wants to achieve.

Transport, Auckland—Transport Strategy and Funding

7. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Transport : Why has he rejected Auckland City’s transport strategy and its proposals to fund that strategy?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): It is tremendous to see His Worship out of the starting blocks—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just answer the question.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I wish him well. We do not believe that Auckland Council’s current transport strategy is good enough for Aucklanders. It will deliver only very modest improvements in areas that matter most to Aucklanders—namely, tackling congestion and greater public transport use. That is why the Minister of Finance and I have written to the mayor to initiate an engagement process to do better for Aucklanders and to improve alignment between central government and the council. I confirm that we will be OK working with His Worship Phil Goff if that comes to pass.

Hon Phil Goff : Why did he wait until after Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, and his own agency, the New Zealand Transport Agency, had worked together over a long period to reach consensus on a transport strategy, only then to reject it, instead of working collaboratively with those groups on the problem right from the outset?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I was very clear right from the get-go that that was the time line we were working to and when we would seek to formally engage. I think it is an exaggeration to say that there is consensus between those parties.

Hon Phil Goff : Why is he holding up the implementation of this strategy to tackle Auckland’s urgent transport problems by asking for yet another report, which will take at least another year, when Aucklanders have been widely consulted on this strategy and when a Colmar Brunton survey of 5,000 Aucklanders has shown that they strongly support this strategy?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Well, I reject nearly all of that. Let us be very clear: in the face of decelerating investment in transport by Auckland, this Government continues to put the lion’s share of funding into Auckland transport. We are getting on with the job while also engaging. We can actually do two things at once, Mr Goff. Whether it is the Victoria Park Tunnel, whether it is the Waterview Connection, whether it is the electrification of rail in Auckland, or whether it is the announcement today of a preferred route for the east-west connection, we are making the biggest difference to transport in Auckland in a very long time. We want to engage with the council to do an even better job.

Hon Phil Goff : Why has he ruled out road pricing when the OECD last week, Auckland Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the national infrastructure unit within Treasury, and tomorrow the Productivity Commission have all recommended it; or are they all wrong and less informed about resolving Auckland’s transport problems than he is?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Tolling is not our preferred strategy—that is very clear. What is also clear is that funding should follow good strategy. We are trying hard to get alignment on these things in Auckland. I would note that many of the stakeholders that His Worship refers to actually think the plan is fundamentally flawed and are praising the Government for getting involved to try to get it back on track.

Hon Phil Goff : Will he bring forward funding for the City Rail Link, given that projections show that Auckland is now on track, well before 2020, to meet the Government-imposed requirements of 20 million rail passenger trips a year and thousands of new jobs in the central business district, or will he accept responsibility for Britomart having to turn away passengers after 2018 because it will have reached full capacity in the evening peak period?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : If the member wants to be mayor, he will have to have a better transport policy than that. But be very clear that when he talks about bringing it forward, this is the Government that is providing the lion’s share of transport funding in Auckland—some $1 billion a year. In terms of the City Rail Link, we have been very clear that we support a business case in 2017. There are set criteria that will see it come forward, although they look unlikely to be met. In 2020 construction will start.

Budget 2015—Biosecurity

8. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Primary Industries : What announcements has he made in Budget 2015 that will future-proof New Zealand’s biosecurity system?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): As part of Budget 2015, I announced that biosecurity funding will be boosted by $24.9 million over 4 years, in addition to $2 million of capital funding. This funding will be used for a range of new biosecurity initiatives, including: more biosecurity detector dogs, more X-ray machines, improving New Zealand’s import health standards, and greater auditing of other countries. In the Budget, we also announced a new levy on overseas travellers to help protect our border, which means that travellers will pay for customs and biosecurity services, rather than the taxpayer. This is good news.

Ian McKelvie : How can the New Zealand public contribute to the futureproofing of our biosecurity system?

Hon NATHAN GUY : Biosecurity is important to all New Zealanders, regardless of whether they are a food producer, a tourism operator, or even just someone who enjoys our unique biodiversity. The public can have their say on how they see the biosecurity system functioning now, and also on how the system may operate to protect our interests into the future, in the next 10 years. Participation in the Biosecurity 2025 strategy has already started, and the public can register their interest by emailing biosecurity.

Primary Industries, Minister—Export of Swamp Kauri

9. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for Primary Industries : Does he stand by his statement in regard to the export of swamp kauri, that “we manage it very, very closely”?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes. The Ministry for Primary Industries takes its legal responsibilities very seriously and works closely with the Customs Service on the export of indigenous products. There is a 100 percent inspection rate of notified exported kauri products by the ministry or by AsureQuality, to make sure that these products are permitted under the Forests Act. In the last 18 months 80 consignments have been physically inspected, and six were not approved. Yesterday I requested further advice from the ministry on improvements that can be made in managing the milling and exporting of swamp kauri.

Eugenie Sage : If he and his ministry take their legal responsibilities very seriously, why was important information missing from 81 percent of the “intention to export” notices submitted to the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2013?

Hon NATHAN GUY : I am unaware of those allegations. What I am aware of is that the Ministry for Primary Industries takes a real focus on this issue. It complies with the Forests Act.

Eugenie Sage : I seek leave to table a 2014 spreadsheet from the Northland Environmental Protection Society of “intention to export” notices submitted to the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2013—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document has been described. I will put the leave to the House, and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Eugenie Sage : If his ministry is managing this issue very, very closely, why is this log for sale online on a global wholesale trade platform, when the Forests Act prohibits the export of kauri logs?

Hon NATHAN GUY : The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating that particular issue, and the early information that I have had about that photo is in fact that that log is likely to be sitting here in New Zealand.

Eugenie Sage : I seek leave to table a screenshot taken today from the Alibaba website—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That information is available if members want to go and look it up.

Eugenie Sage : What action will the Minister take to tighten loopholes that have seen the illegal export of ancient swamp kauri logs and the plunder of Northland wetlands, and that have made a mockery of the Forests Act’s protection of a scarce and valuable resource?

Hon NATHAN GUY : I refute a lot of those allegations made by that member. There is already a 100 percent inspection rate of notified export swamp kauri products. Indeed, if the member had listened to my primary answer she would have heard me say that I have requested further information from my officials to do with the milling and exporting of swamp kauri.

Māori Development, Minister—Meeting with Chief Executive of Māori Television

10. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Māori Development : When he met with the Chief Executive of Māori Television in May, did he or his office discuss the planned Native Affairs debate on Whānau Ora?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Māori Development): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. In answer to the question: no. I met with the chief executive officer of Māori Television once in May 2015. The meeting itself had been confirmed in my diary since February 2015, when I believe I had my first meeting with him. I did not discuss, and do not discuss, planned news items or editorial decisions, as those are matters for the staff of Māori Television to consider.

Clare Curran : Did his press secretary question the format and offer alternative suggestions for a proposed Native Affairs debate regarding Whānau Ora, which was to have occurred on Māori Television on 1 June 2015?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I am advised that my media secretary had communications with the associate producer of Māori Television to clarify the purpose of the panel and, having been told by Māori Television that it was to discuss Whānau Ora and its details, she questioned whether a panel of MPs, including MPs from New Zealand First—who have clearly never understood in any detail what it is all about—would achieve the stated purpose.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is well known that a Minister cannot seek to answer and lay out the policy of another political party, particularly when it is so demonstrably false.

Mr SPEAKER : I just want to rule on the point made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, because he is right on this occasion. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! When answering a question, it just does not help the order of the House to take the opportunity to criticise in any way another political party.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : The questioner asked about discussions that might have occurred with my press secretary—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister will now resume his seat. I have no problem with that part of the answer. The part that caused a little disruption in the House was the reference to whether or not another political party understood the purposes of Whānau Ora. That was not helpful and is not actually in accordance with the Standing Orders.

Hon David Cunliffe : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is this is a fresh point of order?

Hon David Cunliffe : Yes, it is a completely separate point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : I will hear it.

Hon David Cunliffe : There was a degree of to and fro across the across benches, which made it difficult for members here to hear the Minister’s initial reply. I wonder if it would be possible for the Minister to repeat his reply to the previous supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER : If the member is saying that he did not hear that—I heard most of the answer without any difficulty—I have got to accept the member’s word. Would the Minister please re-give his answer without the part that caused some difficulty in the last answer.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I will do my best. In answer to the question: I am advised that my media secretary had communications with the associate producer of Māori Television in order to clarify what the purpose of the panel was, and, having been told by Māori Television that it was to discuss in detail what Whānau Ora was about, she questioned whether a panel of MPs, including New Zealand First—for those are the statements—would achieve the stated purpose. The note continues in the same discussion thread with Māori Television. My media secretary confirmed also that I was happy to be interviewed on the Whānau Ora story, and that is because I do not shirk my responsibilities and I would have no difficulty in answering questions about the value of Whānau Ora, because it has benefited so many families’ lives throughout the country.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table emails dated 14 May 2015 and 19 May 2015 between the Minister’s press secretary and a Māori Television associate producer, which offer alternative suggestions for the format and which question the need for New Zealand First to appear in the proposed Native Affairs debate regarding Whānau Ora that was to occur—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I think the document has now been described more than adequately. Leave is sought to table this particular email. Is there any objection? There is.

Clare Curran : When he told the Māori Affairs Committee this morning that neither he nor his office expressed a view about what should be screened or who should be approached to comment on Māori Television, why did he not admit then that his own press secretary had indeed engaged in an email discussion with a Native Affairs producer about what should be screened and who should be approached to comment?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : It is pretty simple: I did not believe that the communications between my press secretary and, indeed, Māori Television did what the member has just said.

Clare Curran : Is it correct that on the afternoon of 20 May 2015, just after he met with the chief executive officer of Māori Television, Paora Maxwell, the planned debate regarding Whānau Ora was cancelled?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : That is very insightful. Yes, it was cancelled. We were notified on that date, having also told Māori Television on the 14th that I was prepared to appear on that programme.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table an email dated 20 May 2015 at 3.13 p.m. from the producer of Native Affairs stating that the proposed debate on Whānau Ora had been—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. The email has been described adequately. I am putting the leave. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table an email from Paora Maxwell dated 22 May 2015 showing that he met with the Minister for Māori Development on Wednesday 20 May.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! If the member wants to ask a supplementary question, get on with it.

Clare Curran : Can he assure this House unequivocally that he has complied with section 10 of the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act, which states that a “Minister, or any person acting by or on behalf of or at the direction of any Minister … must not direct the Service … in respect of … the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes”?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Absolutely.

Clare Curran : Did he post a tweet on 8 June in response to Graham Cameron that he had never been invited to talk to the Native Affairs programme about the Whānau Ora programme?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I am not sure, but I think I did post a tweet and confirm that I had not been invited. The communication that the member has talked about was through my press secretary. It had not arrived to me, and I stand by what I said.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table a copy of the 8 June tweet by the Minister in response to Graham Cameron.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! A member on this side is trying to ask a supplementary question.

Clare Curran : Is he concerned about the claims of continued editorial interference with the Native Affairsprogramme, including stories on Whānau Ora and Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust; and if he is concerned and is not a party to this editorial interference, as he claims, why has he not investigated these allegations or raised them with the chief executive officer and chair of Māori Television?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Te Ururoa Flavell—any of those three supplementary questions.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Those issues are matters for both the board and the chief executive; they are not the prerogative of the Minister.


11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police : Does he believe that the Police are allowed to carry out their duties in a professional manner, and are able to deal with all New Zealanders equally?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): Yes.

Ron Mark : Why, then, have police commanders in Counties Manukau issued instructions to front-line police officers telling them that all Māori drivers detected driving without licences or in breach of licence conditions should not be ticketed but should be referred to community-based driver licence training?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : For several years police have had a compliance policy that enables all New Zealanders to have discretion applied in respect of transport offences, and for the last 5 years there has been a pre-charge warning process. But I do not condone any policy that has the effect, or the appearance, of treating one group of people differently from another. Following media reports last night, I expressed that concern regarding the policy to the police commissioner. I received an assurance from him that this was not the intent of the policy and that the policy will be amended to make that clear.

Ron Mark : Good answer. Would the Minister—[Interruption] Well, it was a good answer. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I am looking at members on my right-hand side.

Ron Mark : Would the Minister not agree with the New Zealand First view, then, that the carrot-and-stick approach to policing is a smart approach, but that it should apply to all New Zealanders, regardless of their race?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I would agree with both of those things, and I am sure the member and his party would join me in agreeing that it is simply not acceptable to be doing nothing in the face of very, very high statistics in respect of Māori offending and reoffending. It is very important that the police’s strategy of prevention-first is applied to those people most at risk of offending. In this case it could be Māori, or any other group in New Zealand. What is important is that those policies are based on need, not ethnicity.

Ron Mark : But bearing all that in mind, Minister, is it not the truth that this race-based policing policy is another inappropriate and separatist initiative, this time foisted upon the police through the National Government’s Whānau Ora programme?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : No, it is not, and I do not even think that member believes that. It was clearly a question written for him by the leader in front of him.

Ron Mark : I seek the leave of the House to table the document from Whānau Ora called Crime and Crash Prevention Strategy—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. It is not information that is difficult for a member to get.

Kelvin Davis : Is it correct that the police budget has been cut by $15 million in this year’s Budget; if so, how can New Zealanders have confidence that police will be there when they need them the most?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : In answer to the first question, no.

Kelvin Davis : How can victims of high-volume crime such as burglaries and car crime be assured their complaints will be resolved, given resolution rates of these crimes are only about 10 percent?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : That is a very good question, and one that the Law and Order Committee asked me at the estimates review this morning. I am very satisfied that the police are concerned about the relatively low resolution rates for what could be described as minor crime—although if one is a victim of that, it is certainly not considered to be minor. I will be working with the police to ensure that those rates improve.

Senior Citizens—Elder Abuse

12. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Senior Citizens : What steps is the Government taking to combat elder abuse?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister for Senior Citizens): This is World Elder Abuse Awareness Week. One in 10 seniors has suffered some form of abuse or neglect, and that is simply unacceptable. [Interruption] It may not be to the braying Opposition, but most right-minded people would be concerned about that. Last year Age Concern received more than 2,000 referrals for older people who suffered some form of physical, financial, or psychological abuse. Annually this Government distributes $1.7 million across 27 elder abuse and neglect prevention services around New Zealand to provide free and confidential support. On Friday I am releasing a video explaining why enduring power of attorney is so important for vulnerable seniors. A new umbrella initiative called Connects, which we are rolling out across several communities, will bring together agencies that will connect older New Zealanders to each other and will help prevent social isolation and elder abuse.

Scott Simpson : What support is available for those who care for our elderly?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : There are more than 430,000 carers in New Zealand, which means that around one in 10 of us helps to care for a family member or a friend with everyday life. That is very hard for carers to balance in their lives, so this afternoon, when we celebrate 10 years of the Carers Alliance, we are launching a new set of resources, including five new online programmes, to make it easier for those who care for our seniors to look after their own needs and access information to help seniors. One such programme is to provide webinars, a web-based service that will enable seniors to engage with professionals about specific issues for seniors.

Questions to Members

Health and Safety Reform Bill—Submissions

1. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee : Does he intend to call for further submissions on the Health and Safety Reform Bill before it is reported back to the House?

JONATHAN YOUNG (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): As the member knows, Standing Order 195(1) allows for a chairperson to request any person to attend and give evidence before the committee. He also knows that this action is most often taken in circumstances where there is a shortened report-back date on the bill and the committee is not due to meet for some time, so the chair will call publicly for submissions under this Standing Order. Any such action taken by the chair is also on behalf of the committee, so it is, in effect, subject to the committee’s approval. However, in most other cases, the decision to call for submissions is a decision that the committee would make.

Iain Lees-Galloway : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Yes—listen, I can understand the point of order. I am going to invite the member to ask the question again because I do not believe that it has been answered.

Iain Lees-Galloway : My question, which was on notice, is to the chairman of the—

Mr SPEAKER : The member will just ask the question.

Iain Lees-Galloway : —Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: does he intend to call for further submissions on the Health and Safety Reform Bill before it is reported back to the House?

JONATHAN YOUNG : To call for a submission is a decision that the committee would make.

Iain Lees-Galloway : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : We have had a second go at it; we are moving forward. Could the member could ask his supplementary question.

Iain Lees-Galloway : All right, then. What is the purpose of the 2-month extension for reporting back the Health and Safety Reform Bill, which he sought leave of the committee to request from the Business Committee?

JONATHAN YOUNG : As that member will understand from discussions in the committee, it is an opportunity for the caucus committee to review and to commit—[Interruption] But, as that member knows, any decisions about the bill, until the bill is reported to the House, are for the committee to decide.


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