Questions and Answers – June 4

by Desk Editor on Thursday, June 4, 2015 — 5:43 PM

Questions to Ministers

Climate Change—Costs

1. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues : Does he agree that local authorities will face greater adaptation costs and find it more expensive to protect infrastructure and property as the climate changes; if not, why not?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues): Not necessarily in all cases. Good planning manages the risks from natural hazards, including the impacts of climate change. Planning involves taking the opportunities of development as well as investing in long-term hazard mitigation. Protection is only one adaptation option.

Metiria Turei : Does the Minister agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change editor Professor Blair Fitzharris that as global warming continues, Dunedin is likely to face more extreme rainfall events, storm surges, and extreme winds, and that low-lying, densely populated areas, coastal communities, and major transport infrastructure, including Dunedin Airport, are particularly at risk?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Obviously, I would want to see that person’s comments in the context in which they were given. What is also obvious, I think, in relation to the flooding in Dunedin, for example, is that it is not possible currently to estimate how much climate change contributes to a particular event. As I think we would all agree, extreme weather events have always occurred and always will.

Metiria Turei : Does the Minister agree with Dunedin City Council’s submission on New Zealand’s climate change target, which says “More effective mitigation could significantly reduce potential future adaptation costs” and that “the Government should consider investing more in climate change mitigation”; if not, why not?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Of course, I agree that mitigation, as well as adaptation, is very important. That is why we have an emissions trading scheme, and that is why there are many measures, programmes, and research projects that we are doing. Meanwhile, I think that New Zealand will also play an important and productive role at the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris at the end of this year.

Metiria Turei : How does the Minister justify the National Government’s record on climate change, which shows a 13 percent increase in net greenhouse gas emissions, to the people of Dunedin and to the Mayor of Dunedin, Dave Cull, who said today “There may be some areas with sea level rise that we end up retreating from and not putting any more infrastructure in and actually taking the buildings out of. That is the challenge going into the future with climate change.”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : There are obviously many things in what the member has said, some of which I disagree with. I certainly accept what Dave Cull says—that, effectively, we do need to have both mitigation and adaptation projects and programmes in place. The Government is certainly willing to play its part in that.

Metiria Turei : Is the Minister taking into account increased adaptation costs for local councils when determining New Zealand’s emissions reduction target, given that the Dunedin City Council estimates that engineering options to protect private property and infrastructure in high-risk areas against a 0.3 metre rise in the sea level will cost around $10 million, and that protection against a 1.6 metre rise in the sea level will cost around $150 million?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : We are doing a lot with regard to adaptation at central government level. We are publishing climate change projections, which are very important in terms of the baseline understanding of what is happening. We are providing guidance on adaptation—effectively, the principles of planning and good process, which are essential for local councils such as Dunedin in terms of how they do things. Of course, we have got a New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, which sets out requirements that add clarity and certainty for councils. Indeed, as the member will know, we are spending $100 million over a decade on research, which, again, is incredibly important. We are committed to collaborating with local government on these important issues.

Metiria Turei : By not taking urgent leadership on climate change, has his Government not abandoned the Dunedin City Council and the people of Dunedin to pick up the cost of more extreme rainfall events like yesterday, when the city was swamped in 24 hours by 2 months’ worth of rain, causing flooding, electricity outages, sewerage overflows, the evacuation of rest homes and schools, the Otago Peninsula being cut off, and which left the side of State Highway 1 “looking like a canal”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : It would be really good if the member would take a science-based approach to these things. It is simply not possible currently to estimate how much climate change has contributed to the flooding in Dunedin.

Dr Megan Woods : Scientists do.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I am sure, actually, that all scientists would agree with me on that. What I can say is that we have a comprehensive climate change policy in New Zealand, which spans the full gamut of both mitigation and adaptation measures, and we can hold our head up well internationally on that.

Metiria Turei : Is the Minister not confirming by his dismissive attitude towards the science of climate change that someone is paying the cost of his doing nothing on this issue, and that this week that just happens to be the people of Dunedin?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : This Government takes science very seriously; we wish the Green Party would.

Rural Health Services—Reports

2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health : What recent reports has he received this year on access to rural health services?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I have received a range of reports, mostly positive, about improved access to health services in rural communities, including positive reports about the Voluntary Bonding Scheme introduced by this Government, which has seen more than 800 extra health professionals work in hard-to-staff communities. However, there always remains more that can be done.

Hon Annette King : If rural communities are getting their fair share of the health budget, why did the President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Tim Malloy, who comes from the rural chapter and has a wealth of experience, look at the Budget and say “I’m disappointed. It’s unclear what they think we do, and we have heard the rhetoric around integrated care, but the investment isn’t being made.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I talk to Dr Malloy regularly, and we both agree that district health boards are well funded and have the responsibility for distributing funds to ensure that rural communities receive the funds they require to deliver the services needed by those communities.

Barbara Stewart : What is the total amount of new money allocated to rural health services from Budget 2015 so that, as previously stated by the Minister, “all New Zealanders and their families have access to timely quality healthcare, no matter where they live”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : There is $403 million of new money in the Budget, and $320 million of that goes to district health boards. It is up to those district health boards to make decisions about how they distribute those funds to the communities they serve.

Hon Annette King : If rural communities are receiving their fair share of the health budget and are having their health needs met, why have 1,700 people in the small towns of Wānaka, Cromwell, and Alexandra attended meetings unprecedented since the late 1990s to express their anger at the Government’s lack of funding for rural health?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I do not think that those meetings are about a lack of funding; they are about ensuring that the right services are provided to those communities. I can tell you that the population-based funding formula is the same formula that previous Governments have used to distribute funding across the country.

Hon Annette King : What was his response to the letter he received from representatives at the meeting in Alexandra, which said “We have resolved a vote of no confidence in yourself as Minister of Health. The funding of health services is ultimately your responsibility. You decide, with your Cabinet colleagues, on priorities. Quite clearly, $26 million on the New Zealand flag is far more important than using it for rural health services.”, and, by the way—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : My response was I got straight on the phone to the gentleman who proposed that notice of no confidence. I told him I was not going to resign. He laughed. We talked through some of the issues, and he accepted that there are some real challenges there that the Government is committed to facing up to and solving.

Hon Annette King : Has he been told that the Southern District Health Board intends to push ahead with its cuts of 5 percent across the small rural health centres, according to its latest board minutes, which will lead to 50 percent of inpatient beds being closed, the closure of the high-dependency unit at Dunstan, and the loss of nearby cardiac acute care at Wānaka?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I have got very clear expectations of the Southern District Health Board, and it knows that it has to provide the services required by those communities within the budget that has been allocated to it.

Hon Annette King : Is it not rather pathetic for him and the local member to blame the district health board for mismanagement when taxpayers have been paying for intensive monitoring by the Government-appointed Crown monitor since 2010, for 5 years of intensive monitoring; when do you stop blaming the board and take responsibility?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : What I think is rather pathetic is that we have got the former Minister from 10 years ago, who was very much involved in the problems that occurred in Southland and Otago, and who provoked a response from 45 general practitioners writing to the board in 2007 expressing their dismay at the Labour Government’s abysmal performance, and, quite frankly, we are still left picking up the pieces that Annette King left behind.

Hon Annette King : I seek leave to table a Jonathan Coleman speech in the estimates debate in 2007—

Mr SPEAKER : No, the member will resume her seat immediately. That is not—

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is this a fresh point of order?

Hon Annette King : Yes, Mr Speaker. I notice that in the answer you allowed the Minister to raise when I was Minister in 2007—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat, and I remind her to have a look at the question she asked, which led off by saying “Is it not rather pathetic”. That gave the Minister a very wide avenue to respond. He took it. [Interruption] Order! The member then is using a point of order to table from Hansard a speech that was made. That is freely available to all members if they want to bother to look it up. Some might; I doubt whether many will.

Budget 2015—Regional Economies

3. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Finance : As part of the Government’s wider economic plan, how will Budget 2015 help families and businesses in New Zealand’s regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Budget 2015 will help families and businesses in the regions by building on an economic plan that is working for regional New Zealand. Some Budget measures are specific to the regions, and some will deliver benefits right across New Zealand. For example, in science and innovation there is $25 million over 3 years for new regional research institutes, which will support regional innovation. In addition, there is an $80 million boost over 4 years to research and development growth grants, which will support innovative businesses around New Zealand carrying out research and development.

Andrew Bayly : What measures were included in the Budget to support the construction of modern infrastructure in regional New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Much more good news. As part of a $244 million school building package, new schools will be built in Whakatāne, Gisborne, Hastings, Rolleston, and Hamilton. There will be significant school expansions in Papamoa and Queenstown. The Budget provides a $360 million boost for world-class internet connectivity in the regions. This includes $100 million to expand fast, reliable rural broadband and $210 million for the next stage of extending ultra-fast broadband to smaller towns and to reach 80 percent of New Zealanders. There is $52 million for a new wharf on the Chatham Islands, and the Government has signed housing accords with local councils in Tauranga, Western Bay of Plenty, Queenstown Lakes, and Tasman, and negotiations for further accords in areas such as Nelson are under way.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, that was an extraordinarily long answer, and frankly—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will immediately resume his seat. As I have pointed out to the House, I judge the length of answers, and what does determine that, to some extent, is the level of interjection that a Minister may be getting. Since we have started question time there has been an unacceptable level of interjection coming particularly from some members on my left. I am the one who deals with complaints from the public that the amount of cross chatter in this House is meaning that people who want to view Parliament and watch the proceedings are unable to understand the answers because of the level of interjection. A reasonable amount of interjection I fully accept, but when it is a constant barrage from one or two members particularly, then I will have no choice but to deal with it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I have dealt with the first of order. If it is a fresh one, I will hear it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : It is a new point of order. Am I to understand, therefore, that if there is what you would call untoward behaviour on one side of the House, then all the rules about terseness of an answer are out the window?

Mr SPEAKER : The member is raising exactly the same point of order, but for his benefit, I will explain. When an answer is being given by a Minister and there is a constant level of interjection, many Ministers take the opportunity of responding to that interjection. I think that it is fair enough to then allow the answer to be longer. But as I said at the start of my ruling on the first point of order the member raised, I am here to judge when an answer has become too long, and I will make that judgment. I do not need assistance from any member in that regard.

Grant Robertson : In light of that answer around the rebuilding of schools, will he guarantee today the rebuilding of Northland College?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : That is actually a matter for the Minister of Education. But this Government is investing massive amounts into the Ministry of Education’s School Building Programme. As well as investing the money that is already in the Budget, we are investing $1 billion—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! On this occasion the Minister did answer immediately.

Andrew Bayly : How did Budget 2015 provide further assistance and support for transport and tourism in our regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Budget allocated $97 million as the first instalment into the Government’s $212 million additional regional roads programme. This allocation will focus on improving five regional highways in Northland, the East Coast, Taranaki, the West Coast, and Queenstown. In terms of tourism, national cycle trails around the country are supporting tourism and local jobs across the regions, and Budget 2015 provided another $3 million to help complete Northland’s Twin Coast Cycle Trail.

Andrew Bayly : How does growth in the regions contribute to New Zealand’s international trade in goods and services?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The regions are making a very important contribution to New Zealand’s international trading position. Statistics New Zealand yesterday issued its first analysis combining New Zealand’s trade in both goods and services. This comprehensive figure of our international trade showed that New Zealand earned $2.8 billion more from exports than we spent on imports in the year to March 2015. These included such things as dairy exports to China; a big growth in kiwifruit; forestry, of course is a big contributor; and the meat sector. Of course, these are very much products of regional New Zealand. Of course, spending by visitors from Australia and the European Union also contributed, and that is a big regional contribution as well.

Māori Development, Minister—Statement

4. PITA PARAONE (NZ First) to the Minister for Māori Development : Does he stand by his statement, “Ngāti Whātua has offered up a number of options to the Crown and we expect the Crown to deal with them in good faith”?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Māori Development): Ā, tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, kia ora tātau, ki te mema i tuku i te pātai, tēnā koe. Kai te whakaae atu au ki tāku i kōrero ai i nanahi nei, ka tahi. Ka rua, me pēnei rawa te whakamārama, i kōrerohia tērā kōrero i raro i te korowai o taku tū ā-kaiārahi o te Pāti Māori. Ka toru, i tōna mutunga kai te whakaae atu au mēnā ka hainatia tētahi kirimana i waenganui i te Karauna me ngā iwi, he mana tērā me whakamana i tōna tinanatanga. [My thanks to you, Mr Speaker, to us, and to the member who asked the question. Firstly, I agree to my statement yesterday. Secondly, I should explain that I made that under my co-leadership cloak of the Māori Party. Thirdly, I will approve it eventually if an agreement is signed between the Crown and the tribes that is binding and must be put to effect upon its implementation.]

Pita Paraone : Was he aware of the meeting between the Minister for Building and Housing and the Tāmaki Collective a month before the Budget, and was he invited; if not, does he believe he should have been invited to attend?

Hon Dr Nick Smith : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was no meeting with the Minister—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is not a point of order at all. [Interruption] Order! The question has been asked. It was a legitimate question. I am not ruling it out of order. It is over to the Minister to respond.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Kāore au i mōhio mō tērā hui. [I am not aware of that meeting.]

Pita Paraone : Does he believe that Ngāti Whātua would be justified if they were to take court action against the Government for being denied the right of first refusal regarding Crown land?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Mā Ngāti Whātua, mā tētahi iwi rānei rātau e kōrero. [Ngāti Whātua or some other tribe will represent them.]

Pita Paraone : Does he as Minister for Māori Development believe that Ngāti Whātua and other tangata whenua would be better off economically and socially if the Crown land in question were to be offered to Māori first, rather than being sold to foreign owners?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Mā ngā iwi tērā take e kōkiri, nō rātau te whakaaro, kai a rātau ngā kirimana, tōna mutunga kai a rātau te kupu whakamutunga. [The tribes will lead that matter. The viewpoint is theirs, they have the agreements, and they will have the final say eventually.]

Future Investment Fund—Education and Health Spending

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Did he promise to spend $1 billion on education and $1 billion on health from the Future Investment Fund; if so, is there enough money not yet committed in the Future Investment Fund to keep his promise?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : I am delighted that the member now recognises the benefits of the Government’s share offer programme, which he and his colleagues previously opposed—with quite negative consequences for New Zealand taxpayers. Yes, we said we would invest those amounts, and we will. In terms of final allocations from the Future Investment Fund, they will be determined alongside decisions about recycling capital from other areas. The member can rest assured that there will be sufficient money for health and education.

Grant Robertson : Does he stand by the statement that he made in the House earlier this week that he will borrow money in order to ensure that those funding promises are met?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not in a position to verify that exact statement right at this moment, but I can say that there are a number of options for the Government always to meet its capital commitments. One, for example, is recycling other capital. Two is spending money and growing debt. Three, we have the Future Investment Fund, and it is a thrill to see Grant Robertson now supporting the share offer sale that he so vehemently opposed.

Grant Robertson : Why has the Minister said, as he did in the House this week, that he would borrow money to fund the shortfall in the Future Investment Fund, when it was specifically set up by him so that he could “fund these things without borrowing from overseas lenders”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am really enjoying this line of questioning—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Government has done exactly that. It has avoided borrowing $4.7 billion, because we did not listen to the Opposition and refuse the Government’s share offer programme. That is a good success for this country, for the education sector, and for the health sector.

Grant Robertson : Is it not the case that this is actually just one more broken promise, to go with the broken promise that wages would go up by $6,000 by 2017, the broken promise of the surplus this year, and the broken promise of no new taxes? Is his Government really on the brink of something special, or is it just teetering on the brink with no plan at all?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member can keep trying those lines if he likes, but New Zealanders know that New Zealand is running a strong economy relative to the rest of the developed world, that we are not, in fact, introducing new taxes, that we are, in fact, running the country responsibly and its fiscal position is steadily improving despite the challenges of the world economy; and that there is not a snowball’s chance in the proverbial that they will turn to Grant Robertson any time soon.

Budget 2015—Better Public Services Targets

6. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Social Development : How will Budget 2015 help the Government meet its Better Public Services target to reduce the number of people on benefits?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Budget 2015 provides extra support to help more people into work, and supports the Government’s Better Public Services target of a 25 percent reduction in the number of people receiving main benefits. We are committing $32.5 million in additional operating funding for a number of programmes and initiatives to ensure this. These are designed to remove barriers preventing people from working, and to help them get off welfare and to thrive.

Matt Doocey : What specific initiatives or programmes will receive this funding in 2015-16?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Budget 2015 commits to funding 10,000 extra places for intensive case management, particularly for those with health conditions and disabilities who are at a high risk of long-term dependence. It also extends the 3K to Christchurch to other parts of the country. So far we have had 1,300 people receive the payment to relocate to Christchurch since we introduced the scheme in 2014. We are funding 800 placements each year for the Limited Service Volunteer scheme to prepare young people for work and we are investing $8.6 million in new funding over the next 4 years for the out-of-school care and recreational subsidy to help families with the costs of before and after school care, particularly for parents with work commitments.

Matt Doocey : How does Budget 2015 build on the Government’s welfare reforms to support people off welfare and into work?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : We are making very good progress in reducing the number of people on benefits, which is down by 38,000 compared with 3 years ago. I think more important is that the number of children in benefit-dependent households has fallen by almost 42,000 over the same period. Our welfare reforms have significantly reduced the number of people on sole parent support by almost 5,500 in the last year, the lowest number since 1988. The number of those on sole parent support aged 18 to 24 reduced by nearly 2,000. That is 10 percent. Getting off a benefit and into employment or study reduces long-term welfare dependence and allows individuals and families to thrive.

Immigration—Refugee Quota

7. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister of Immigration : Will he increase New Zealand’s annual refugee quota from the current 750; if not, why not?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Acting Minister of Immigration): The Government reviews the refugee quota programme every 3 years. That is coming up again early next year, at which time the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Immigration will make a recommendation to Cabinet. We are firmly focused on improving the settlement outcomes for those refugees who do come to New Zealand. New Zealand is one of only 26 countries that resettles refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and our programme is recognise by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a model of best international practice.

Denise Roche : Is the Minister embarrassed that New Zealand is 87th in the world per capita for refugee intake and that this Government has accepted less than 5,000 refugees in total from all the refugee categories since National came to power 6 years ago?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : No. In fact, I am proud that our programme is recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as one of the best in practice internationally.

Denise Roche : I seek leave to table a document prepared by my office today that shows the number of refugees accepted by New Zealand split into categories between 2009 and 2014. The information originally came from the Parliamentary Library.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! It is probably of marginal value but the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Was that an objective view of somebody’s sincere submission to the House?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member is going to test my patience, he will get the opportunity to be leaving the place early. [Interruption] Order! Let me explain again for the benefit of the member. The purpose of tabling a document is not to make a political point; it is to further inform the members. On that occasion, I think I would have been wiser not to have put the leave in the first place. It was an attempt by the member to reinforce a point she had made in the question that she had asked. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, when the leave is put, it is over to the House as to whether it accepts that particular document. On this occasion, no one saw to object. It has been tabled.

Denise Roche : Are Amnesty International, the Human Rights Commission, the New Zealand Red Cross, and the Refugee Council wrong when they call for the Government to do more and increase our refugee quota, which has not increased in 28 years?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Yes, I do note that it has not changed for quite some time across many Governments, some supported by that particular party. I do respect the views of those various organisations, but, once again, I refer to New Zealand’s programme as being recognised as an example of best practice. I also note that, yes, the numbers are very important, but what is also important is the quality of resettlement in our country and the activity and work that many agencies and NGOs are doing to make sure that refugees are able to move in and be part of the New Zealand community as much as possible with some of the challenges many of them face.

Denise Roche : Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s comments this week that not being able to help all 50 million refugees around the world is an excuse not to increase our quota, which would make an enormous difference to the lives of those individuals we allow to settle here?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : As I noted in my substantive answer, the quota—the nominal number of 750—is up for review next year. I do note, in fact, that if we add in asylum seekers and families, then actually that number is around 1,100 in recent years. I do agree with the Prime Minister on behalf of the Minister.

Roading, Auckland—Pūhoi to Wellsford Route

8. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Transport : What update can he give on the Government’s Pūhoi to Wellsford road of national significance?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Construction of the Pūhoi to Warkworth highway has moved, I am pleased to say—very pleased to say—a step closer with the announcement by the New Zealand Transport Agency that it will finance, design, and build the project as a public-private partnership. The Pūhoi to Warkworth project is the first section of the Pūhoi to Wellsford road of national significance. This critical link will provide opportunities for economic and social development in Northland, providing a better connection with Auckland for freight, tourism, and motorists.

Mark Mitchell : What update can he provide on the Warkworth to Wellsford section of the Pūhoi to Wellsford road of national significance?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The Government is committed to completing the Pūhoi to Wellsford road of national significance. Options to progress the second section, the stage from Warkworth to Wellsford, are currently being considered as part of a wider strategy to identify a long-term programme of improvements to the entire State Highway 1 between Auckland and Northland. The Government expects to receive advice on the Warkworth to Wellsford section later this year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Before we celebrate this magnificent news, how does the Minister explain that the New Zealand Transport Agency website confirms that for the Warkworth to Wellsford section there is no start date for consultation, no start date for construction, and that it does not have a recognised viable route past Warkworth through the Dome Valley?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Let me reassure the member that we are committed to completing the full Pūhoi to Wellsford road of national significance. As I say, we expect to receive advice on that second portion later this year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : If any of that pledge with respect to Warkworth to Wellsford is true, why would it be that the New Zealand Transport Agency website has, as we speak, confirmation that there is no start date for consultation, no start date for construction, and that it has no viable route through Dome Valley?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Because I like to surprise the right honourable member.

State and Social Housing—Redesignation of Land

9. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing : Can he confirm he intends to redesignate land held for transport and education as “land that is held for state housing purposes” so that under section 136 of the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014 he can circumvent the right of iwi to first right of refusal under treaty settlements?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): No, we will be following the longstanding process that has been followed by multiple Governments—that is, where an agency no longer requires land, it is first offered to other public entities. This process has always preceded either offers back to former owners or right of first refusal. I draw to the member’s attention that under this process, land has been acquired for housing at Hobsonville, from the Defence Force at McLennan Park in Papakura, from the Ministry of Social Development at Weymouth, and last year from the New Zealand Transport Agency at Awatea Road in Christchurch. We will be following exactly the same process with the Government’s latest new initiative on housing.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta : Did he seek Crown Law advice as to whether or not the right of first refusal – provisions are prejudicially affected without following the process set out in the property redress provisions of the Tāmaki Collective deed?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Yes, I have sought legal advice to use the Housing Act 1955 to acquire land in areas such as Hobsonville—in the same way that the previous Government used exactly the same provisions. That was done by those members. They did the same at McLennan Park. They also may be interested to know that they used exactly the same provision at Weymouth. The double standard opposite is that when they use the process, sometimes they think it is helping. When we use it, somehow—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Nanaia Mahuta : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was specific in that I asked whether Crown Law advice had been sought—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was answered immediately.

Joanne Hayes : When was the decision made to acquire from other agencies, under the Housing Act 1955, land for housing at Hobsonville, Weymouth, and Papakura, and what progress was made on constructing houses in these areas, and in what time frame?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The decision to use the Housing Act 1955 to designate land for housing purposes was made in 2001 by Cabinet—

Hon David Parker : That’s before the settlement.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : —and former Prime Minister Helen Clark turned the first sod in 2002. The practice at that time, for the benefit of members opposite, was that it was land banked if there was not a Treaty settlement in the area, but that was not done either. The project became completely moribund, and absolutely no houses had been built by 2008. What has changed is that, yes, they used the Housing Act powers to designate a whole lot of areas for housing, like at Weymouth, Hobsonville, and McLennan Park. The only problem was that they did not build a single house.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta : Was the meeting that took place on 23 April to outline the proposed Auckland Crown-land housing programme and to identify the sites that were under consideration considered to be a notice to the limited partnership; if so, why?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The meeting that was held about a month before the Budget was with the chair of the Tāmaki Collective and outlined the Government’s intentions for the programme. It was a preliminary heads-up, because, actually, Cabinet had not made the decision at that point to make the Budget provision—it was about a couple of weeks before the Budget figures were finalised. I would also note that since that time there has been an exchange of letters and further meetings with the Tāmaki Collective.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta : Does the provision of State housing on surplus Crown land in Auckland require all homes to be owned by the State and not available for private property interests?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I draw the member’s attention to the definition of “State housing purposes” under the Housing Act. It says: “State housing purposes means the erection, acquisition, or holding of dwellings … for disposal by way of sale, lease, or tenancy; and includes … schemes of development and subdivision into sites for dwellings:” The Act is very clear that it includes the provision of housing for sale.

Phil Twyford : Why has he deliberately undermined the good-faith approach taken by his colleague the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations when negotiating settlements with the same Auckland iwi that he is now trying to rort with his panicked land-deal stunt?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : A simple question that I have got for members opposite is: why did they vote for the Tāmaki Collective legislation last year, which specifically provided for an exemption to the right of first refusal when the land was to be used for housing purposes, and why was it not a “rort”, which the member now calls it, when Labour used exactly the same provision at Hobsonville, exactly the same provision at Weymouth, and exactly the same provision at McLennan Park?

Phil Twyford : Does he regret that his smart-alecky manipulation of the law is likely to provoke legal action that could deny Aucklanders thousands of houses that they are desperate to have?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : When a specific section of the law and the longstanding practice of Government has been that when land is no longer required by an agency like the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Transport, or the Ministry of Education, it is to be made available, first, for housing—something that the previous Government did repeatedly; something that was specifically included in the Tāmaki Collective legislation—I just see how desperate the Opposition has become.

Phil Twyford : What advice has he sought or received regarding possible countersuit litigation from disgruntled property developers after the sweeping promises he is said to have made to them last Friday, and what contingency has been made for any resulting compensation payouts?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I know the member is jealous that last week we had a very constructive meeting of 250 developers who want to partner with the Government for housing. What I find difficult with this member is that he spends half his time arguing that the Government needs to do more on housing and then the other half criticising this initiative, criticising HomeStart, and criticising special housing areas. The fact is that this Government is making great progress, as seen by the fact that we have doubled the rate of new house builds in Auckland.

Phil Twyford : Why did he rush out his half-baked Budget announcement, resulting in plans to build family homes on substations and cemeteries, then slash his promised 500 hectares to only 30 hectares, and now, facing the likelihood that it will all end up in court, try to blame everybody else for yet another self-inflicted housing fiasco?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I remind the House that 18 months ago we signed the Auckland Housing Accord, and the member opposite said that there was no way the Government would meet the targets. Actually, we are running about a thousand ahead of those targets. What I find bizarre as well is that the member is all in favour of a more intensive Auckland, except that he is opposed to houses being next to substations, he is opposed to houses being next to railway lines, he is opposed to houses being next to motorways—he is opposed to houses anywhere, but somehow he still wants them.

Internal Affairs, Minister—Statements

10. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs : Does he stand by all his statements regarding the Fire Service?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes.

Clayton Mitchell : Will he consider including voluntary organisations like Surf Life Saving New Zealand in an umbrella organisation for all emergency service providers to ensure that they receive adequate funding for the important role that they play in New Zealanders’ lives?

Hon PETER DUNNE : We are currently reviewing the activities of the New Zealand Fire Service in respect of its responsibilities. I am not quite sure where Surf Life Saving fits into that particular area, but if the member wants to make a submission on the Fire Service inquiry he is perfectly welcome to.


11. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Education : What recent appointments has she made that will support quality teaching and leadership to deliver high-quality education for New Zealand children?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): After a public nominations process, I am delighted to announce that I have appointed nine exceptional teachers and educational leaders to the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. I have every confidence that Barbara Ala’alatoa, as the chair, Anthony Mackay, Claire Amos, Simon Heath, Ripeka Lessels, Iva Ropati, Lynda Stuart, Professor Helen Timperley, and Clare Wells will excel in their new roles of lifting the quality of teaching for Kiwi kids. I am particularly proud of the mix of experience, expertise, and voices we have on this council, from early childhood education all the way through to tertiary education, north and south, male and female, and Māori, Pasifika, and Pākehā, all of whom are going to be involved in raising the quality of teaching for all of our kids. Six members hold current practising certificates. The law requires that only five hold such certificates.

Melissa Lee : How will the Education Council ensure that we are delivering the best-quality education New Zealand has to offer Kiwi kids?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : While continuing to establish and maintain teacher registration criteria and disciplinary matters, the council will also be the thought and practice leader in relation to quality teaching from early childhood education to senior secondary education, and it will be setting standards, ensuring a robust appraisal system, commissioning research, and championing informed debate. The Education Council will be all about the quality of our education profession.

Primary Industries—Customs Export Prohibition Orders

12. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for Primary Industries : Is the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order 2013 still in force and how does it differ, other than as to dates, from the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order 2010 and the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order 2007?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries : Yes, the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order 2013 is still in force. Other than the dates and clarification of the definition of “Director-General”, which was updated in 2013 after the Ministry for Primary Industries was formed, it is no different from the order from 2010 and the order from 2007.

Hon David Parker : Was the primary reason for the original restrictions on the export of live sheep for slaughter the death and distress of many sheep while being shipped to the other side of the world?

Hon JO GOODHEW : I am aware that there was certainly consternation about the deaths of the sheep, which happened back in 2003.

Hon David Parker : Did the reasons for subsequent extensions of the prohibition extend to the welfare of the sheep upon arrival, including concerns that the method of slaughter would not meet the New Zealand animal welfare standards that apply to the slaughter of sheep in New Zealand?

Hon JO GOODHEW : The welfare of animals leaving New Zealand has always been of paramountcy. In fact, the prohibition order was extended by subsequent Governments after this issue arose under the term of the previous Government. Animal welfare legislation has subsequently been amended, which will make the requirements even more certain in the future for any stock that are exported from New Zealand.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question sought to clarify whether the extension was because of this rising concern about the welfare of sheep upon arrival because—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I heard the question. I listened very carefully. I listened to the answer. I suspect, actually, that the answer has addressed the question, but for the benefit of this issue—it has been the focus of a lot of questions over recent weeks—I am going to allow the question to be repeated.

Hon David Parker : Did the reasons for subsequent extensions of the prohibition extend to the welfare of the sheep upon arrival, including concerns that the method of slaughter would not meet the New Zealand animal welfare standards that apply to the slaughter of sheep in New Zealand?

Hon JO GOODHEW : Although I do not believe that I have in front of me the exact answer to the question the member has raised, what I believe is that there was a continuation of concern about animals being exported for slaughter, and the prohibition order was continued for that reason.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am about to seek leave to table some documents, but I think I need to raise the context first. The rules surrounding the release of Cabinet papers entitle former members of Cabinet to access those Cabinet papers but they do not entitle us to release those documents, and that has to be determined by the Government under the Official Information Act. Yesterday the Prime Minister referred to two Cabinet papers, in attacking the Opposition, and did not release them, and it is now my intention to seek leave to table those two documents, but I want to alert you to this issue so that you can consider whether it is within the power of Parliament to order the release of those documents—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is an important point of order and I wish to hear it.

Hon David Parker : You might want to take other contributions from the House before you determine that, but it is an important point, I think, which needs to be determined before I seek that leave.

Mr SPEAKER : Can I just clarify with the member raising the point of order that he is saying to me that by convention he has no rights as a former Minister to table that—can I just have that clarified by the member.

Hon David Parker : No, I am not saying that. My understanding is that Parliament is in control of its own destiny. The difficulty the Opposition has is that we were attacked with these papers and we have not got the right to release them. I would like them to be released; I do not think there is any public interest that is served by their not being released. But because it is slightly unusual, I want to seek some confirmation that Parliament is indeed in charge of its own destiny here.

Hon Simon Bridges : I think there are two points, at least, on this relatively complex matter. I think that the first is the precedent effect. It would create, I think, a very bad precedent where suddenly any member could table, or at least seek to table, Cabinet papers of former Governments. I think, actually, as much for the Opposition as for the Government, that would be truly unfortunate. Secondly, I think there is a very proper process to go through on these papers, outside of this place, that needs to be gone through.

Mr SPEAKER : Before I make a ruling on this, can I just clarify—is the member going to seek leave to table the papers now, or is the member intending to ask—

Hon David Parker : Yes, I have the papers here and I intend to seek leave to table them. The Government can, of course, refuse leave but I think I am entitled to seek it.

Mr SPEAKER : I think the best way forward is exactly that. The member is attempting to, in fact, break what has been a Cabinet convention for a long period of time, which serves both the purposes of Ministers who are in Government and the purposes of former Ministers who are now in Opposition and may potentially be back in Government. I think the best way forward for me is that I will be asked to put the leave, I intend to put the leave, and it would not be a surprise to me if the current Government did object to it. But that would be a choice for Parliament.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify the point around the convention, the important element in the convention is that former Ministers are given the opportunity to look at those papers and decide whether or not they can be given out. What Mr Parker is saying is that on this side of the House, we, representing those former Ministers, are happy for the papers to be released. So that is the element of the convention. The second part of it is then what the Government chooses to do, and that is what we will then be testing through the House. So the convention is met by what is being done here.

Hon Simon Bridges : In order to be helpful, what also occurs, in my second point as to the process outside of this place, is that there is a Cabinet Manual process, and in terms of comity or respect between the executive and this Parliament the leave should not be put, and I would put that to you. I think, to propose a helpful alternative to that, we would certainly be happy as the Government to see the Opposition seek to expedite the proper process on this so that the papers, in a proper way, can be released, but I do not think that it is for this place to be doing that when there is a Cabinet Manual with rules that do need to be followed through. But they could, and we could, foreseeably, be seeing that in the next day or two in terms of the process outside of this place.

Mr SPEAKER : I accept what the Minister is saying, and members may have a chance to exercise the right shortly.

Hon Phil Goff : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Cabinet convention is that there is confidentiality surrounding documents that are released to former Ministers. They have been released to me. My name and the name of the Hon Jim Anderton appear on them. Both of us are happy for these papers—

Hon Steven Joyce : Well, then, follow the process.

Hon Phil Goff : I am sorry—this is a point of order; can I be heard in silence, please. Both of the Ministers concerned are happy for these papers to be released in full without deletions, and the only procedure that normally follows is that the Government then formally does that under the Official Information Act. So we are not actually breaking the convention if the Government agrees to the release in the House now.

Hon Steven Joyce : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : This is the final point, because I do not think I need further help.

Hon Steven Joyce : I think that the House—and the House, of course, is in charge of its own destiny—needs to think through that there is a clear process in the Cabinet Manual for this. I think it is excellent that the former Ministers have made the call that they are prepared to have those papers released, but an appropriate approach would be to respond to the executive and say they are happy for those papers to be released, and for that to actually occur. Then we do not have any risk of upsetting the process of the Cabinet Manual or existing convention. I would suggest that that is the correct approach for the Opposition members to take, rather than the approach they are seeking to take, which is to circumvent that process.

Hon David Parker : I seek leave firstly to table the paper Livestock Exports for Slaughter and Arrangements for Live Sheep Exports for Slaughter to Saudi Arabia, dated 3 August 2007—paper ERD0714.

Mr SPEAKER : On the basis that I am satisfied that the convention has been fulfilled by the points made by the Opposition former Ministers, who have said they are happy with it, I am going to put the leave, and it is over for the House to decide. The House is the master of its own destiny in this case. Leave is sought to table that particular Cabinet paper. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon David Parker : I seek leave to table the paper ERD0727, which is dated 16 October 2007 and is titled New Zealand’s Requirements for Livestock Exported for Slaughter.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon Steven Joyce : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just by way of clarification, can we now confirm that the Opposition has consented to that release and the executive can proceed without any further correspondence from the Opposition?

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have already heard that from Mr Goff.

Mr SPEAKER : What the executive decides to now do with this matter is its business. Are there further supplementary questions? That concludes questions for oral answer. I call on Government Order of the Day—

Hon David Parker : I am sorry; I had further supplementary questions.

Mr SPEAKER : I thought there may have been some further supplementary questions; that is why I called for them. On this occasion we will step back 20 seconds.

Hon David Parker : When the Minister renewed the prohibition on live sheep for slaughter exports in 2013, did he advise Cabinet that this would breach the rights of the Al Khalaf group or the Saudi Government?

Hon JO GOODHEW : I have no information in order to answer that question.

Hon David Parker : Has his ministry ever advised him in writing that New Zealand faced a credible claim of $20 million to $30 million from the Al Khalaf group?

Hon JO GOODHEW : I do not believe that that question is addressed to the correct Minister, and I certainly do not have any information to answer it.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not asking about Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice; I was asking about—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! But the question was still addressed. The Minister, in answering, said she did not have that information.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you noted in one of your rulings, this has been a matter in front of the House for some time now—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just have the point of order, please.

Grant Robertson : —with a range of questions. The Minister coming to the House and saying she does not have the information is, I think, not treating question time with the respect it deserves.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, I disagree. When a Minister is answering on behalf of another Minister and does not have the information, I would far prefer to see the Minister take that approach than attempt to guess the answer and be found to be incorrect.


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