Questions & Answers October 21

by Desk Editor on Thursday, October 22, 2015 — 10:35 AM

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Given his answer to Oral Question No. 2 yesterday, why doesn’t he want to see “excessive rural land sold to overseas buyers” and see New Zealanders become tenants in our own country?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is a matter of striking the appropriate balance. As I said, this Government wants New Zealand to be open to the world. We welcome investment that supports jobs and growth in New Zealand. At the same time we have protected New Zealand’s interests by allowing Ministers to consider a wide range of issues when assessing overseas investment in sensitive land and emphasising that jobs are in New Zealand’s economic interests. That is why we have seen the rate of approval for net land sales to foreign buyers fall from an average of 68,682.7 hectares per year under Labour and David Parker to 35,841.7 under this Government. We think our approach is more effective than setting up a new Chinese-sounding name inspectorate within the Overseas Investment Office.

Andrew Little : Given that in just 5 years his Government has approved the sale of land bigger than the combined area of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Hastings, Napier, Palmerston North, Tauranga, Wellington, Whangarei, Invercargill, and New Plymouth twice over, how much more land does he expect to approve for sale in the next 2 years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I suspect the Leader of the Opposition is making that up, because yesterday he came into Parliament and said that we had sold 250,000 hectares since July 2010. I suspect that is the basis of the diatribe he has just come into Parliament with, which is just plain wrong, because, by the way, it includes leases, not sales; rollover of leases; and where things are sold to a consortium including New Zealanders. The number is actually 40 percent of Mr Little’s made-up number, and it is half what Labour sold. The problem is not National—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer is now going on—

Andrew Little : Supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER : Supplementary question—Andrew Little.

Andrew Little : Given that he has been in charge for 7 years, is it not time for him to take responsibility for his own actions, rather than acting as if he is playing in the playground?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : This is a Government that on a net basis sold half of what Labour did. This is a Government that in office actually sent new directives—

Dr David Clark : 7 long years.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yeah, well, there might be more if the way you keep going is having policies twice as bad as ours. So this is a Government that directed the Overseas Investment Office with two new considerations under the benefits test, including an economic interest factor and a new mitigating factor. Every time the Leader of the Opposition comes to Parliament he comes arguing about something we are doing when the record of Labour in Government was worse. You need to find—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : At what point does he believe too much of our land has been sold? How much is too much?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : When David Parker is responsible for it and twice as much is sold.

Tim Macindoe : What reports has the Prime Minister seen supporting the role foreign investment plays in supporting growth and jobs in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have seen a couple of reports in recent months, both strongly supporting the role foreign investors play in supporting jobs and growth. The first said: “Well, I’m not anti – foreign investment. I think we’re a country that’s been built on foreign direct investment.” The second report called for—get this—more foreign investment in manufacturing and in the regions. “Either State investment—Government investment—or foreign direct investment, yeah. I mean, both should complement each other.” That was Andrew Little before he became No. 8. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Supplementary question—Andrew Little.

Andrew Little : Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Hon Paula Bennett, if she wants to remain for question time, will stop interjecting when I have asked for silence for this question.

Andrew Little : Bringing the question back to the topic of the primary question, which is on land sales, what specific evidence does he have that the land sales that have happened under his watch have created jobs, in light of the fact that the Overseas Investment Office has failed to collect any evidence of job creation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The first thing I would say is that it has taken place at half the rate it did under the previous Government. Secondly, actually, this is the Overseas Investment Office that is controlled by the Overseas Investment Act, which was actually passed by the Labour Government in 2005. Thirdly, I think it is plain for anyone to see that jobs are either created or saved, and I challenge the member to go down to the CraFarm farms and go and have a look and see whether Shanghai Pengxin has created more jobs or fewer jobs. Go and have a look.

Andrew Little : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question related to the evidence that the Prime Minister had about job creation—

Mr SPEAKER : I am going to invite the question to be asked again.

Andrew Little : Thank you. What specific evidence does he have that the land sales that have occurred under his watch have created jobs, in light of the fact that the Overseas Investment Office has failed to collect any evidence of job creation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The applications that were lodged at the time the purchases were made.

Andrew Little : If he really thinks it is bad for us to become tenants in our own land, why is his Government doing nothing to prevent these sales, or is it just more hollow words from a hollow Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : This would all be believable if the numbers were the other way round, but this is the Leader of the Opposition whose Labour Party policies sold twice as much land. That is it. You do not need to know any more than that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Why is the Prime Minister hiding behind the defence that the information is confusing or not present, and yet he opposes New Zealand First’s far-sighted Land Transfer (Foreign Ownership of Land Register) Amendment Bill, which has international precedent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We are not hiding behind any information. The information is clear: twice as much land was sold on a net basis under Labour.

Andrew Little : Is it the truth that he will talk the talk but he will not walk the walk, and that he does not actually care about us becoming tenants in our own land, and that is why he continues to rubber-stamp land sales?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Here are the facts: under Labour, net sensitive lands approved for sale was 68,682.7 hectares per year. Under National it has been 35,841. So why do we have this line of questioning this week? It is hardly the biggest line. I will tell you why: it is because Labour has invested some of its leader’s budget into a new pamphlet it has put out there because the Leader of the Opposition is on 8 percent and no one—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! You are deviating a long way from the answer now.

Economy—Fiscal Approach

2. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance : Does he stand by his statement regarding the Government’s fiscal approach that “the Government will focus on what we can control and maintain prudent expenditure management—just as we’ve done to return the books to surplus”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do stand by the statement. Over the last seven Budgets the annual cost of new initiatives has averaged around $600 million. By comparison, the average cost of the last seven Budgets of the previous Government was almost $3 billion. Revenue will always fluctuate outside the control of the Government, and revenue flows are heavily influenced by international economic developments. Our focus remains on what we can control, and that is ensuring precious taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely and effectively.

Alastair Scott : What impact will the current global and domestic economic outlook have on Government revenue?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We have yet to see when Treasury updates its forecast prior to Christmas, but since the Budget forecasts in the middle of this year we have seen significantly lower dairy prices, very low inflation, and interest rates lower than were expected—and these are now expected to persist for some time—and a weaker world economic outlook, particularly in emerging markets. But because we are confident about the medium-term improvement in the Government’s finances, it is unlikely that changes in the growth forecast will change the Government’s fiscal approach. We are unlikely to cut services or income support, even if forecasts show lower tax revenue.

Alastair Scott : What steps has the Government taken to control spending?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We do not set out so much to control spending as to make sure that each dollar is spent effectively. Much of the focus of our spending is on ensuring that we invest early to assist those who are more vulnerable and need more Government services, and that requires understanding our customers much better, understanding what works to meet their needs, and adjusting services accordingly. I must say that public servants are carrying out these sorts of functions extensively across the whole range of Government services and we are starting to get better results.

Alastair Scott : What other steps is the Government taking to ensure ongoing improvements in its books?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Government debt levels are driven not just by operating deficits but also by the Government’s capital investment programme, and we are making sure that we make better use of our capital. The Government’s share offer programme has provided funding for valuable public investment without more borrowing from overseas. As at Budget 2015, investments from the Future Investment Fund include $635 million in education, $684 million in health, and $990 million in transport.

Prime Minister—Meeting with Australian Prime Minister

3. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he believe his meeting with Hon Malcolm Turnbull resulted in positive human rights outcomes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Not specifically, because human rights were not specifically discussed during my meeting with Mr Turnbull. However, as the member is aware, we did have a lengthy direct conversation about the deportation of New Zealanders and the holding of New Zealanders in Australian detention centres. I am pleased that Mr Turnbull pledged to put more resources into processing appeals, in order to accelerate them. This will help to clear the backlog of people in the pipeline for deportation. He announced also other steps to improve the situation for New Zealand.

Catherine Delahunty : Did he specifically ask Malcom Turnbull to bring New Zealand citizens being detained offshore back on to the mainland of Australia?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raised the issue of detention centres and said that I did not think it was appropriate that New Zealanders were sent there. What I got was an assurance from Mr Turnbull that they would be upping significantly the resources so that New Zealanders will not have to go to detention centres, because they will be dealt with more quickly. But as Mr Turnbull pointed out, they are all free to come home to New Zealand and have their applications dealt with here.

Catherine Delahunty : Supplementary question. Did he—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have not yet called the member. Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! Supplementary question—Catherine Delahunty.

Catherine Delahunty : Did he specifically seek an assurance from Malcom Turnbull that no more New Zealand citizens will be sent to offshore detention centres should they choose to remain in Australia while awaiting their deportation appeals?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think that is the point. If they choose to wait there, they are free to do that. I cannot make them come home, but what the law does say is that they are quite free to come home to New Zealand and have their applications processed here.

Catherine Delahunty : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a straight question asking whether he specifically sought an assurance.

Mr SPEAKER : Can I just ask the member to look at Speaker’s ruling 187(4). It will inform the member that you cannot specifically demand a yes or no answer, which is clearly what the member wanted. The question was addressed.

Catherine Delahunty : Did he specifically seek an assurance from Malcolm Turnbull that New Zealand citizens who would have been entitled to legal aid in Australia will continue to get access to that legal aid if they choose to come back to New Zealand while awaiting their deportation appeals?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There was no discussion about legal aid.

Catherine Delahunty : Does he support Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : You would need to direct that question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Catherine Delahunty : Why, as Prime Minister, will he not rule out supporting Australia’s bid to the United Nations Human Rights Council given that Australia has been cited for 143 violations of the very body that it is seeking election to?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In the first instance, that is a matter for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to provide advice to me and to Cabinet.

Catherine Delahunty : Does he believe Australia’s treatment of detainees—New Zealanders and others—and the forced deportations that split families up should preclude it from a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All I can say is, and it is not my job to speak for Malcolm Turnbull, the Australians do not believe that there are human right abuses taking place in their detention centres, and if there are any that New Zealanders—

Catherine Delahunty : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, Prime Minister, any member has the right to raise a point of order.

Catherine Delahunty : He is not answering the question. I did not ask what Malcolm Turnbull said—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I am trying to listen to the answer that the Prime Minister is giving. If, at the end of the answer, the member feels that the question has not been addressed, the question can be raised with me. I will then make a judgment.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is exactly my point. It is not for me to speak for the Prime Minister of Australia, but I can tell you that the position of the Australian Government is that there are no human rights issues taking place in their detention centres. But as I have said publicly and in this House before, if New Zealanders feel they have any concerns, they are free to take those up with the Foreign Affairs consular staff and we will have them investigated.

Catherine Delahunty : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a specific question: does he believe Australia’s treatment of detainees—not what does he think—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! On this occasion, I will invite the member to repeat the question, but can I just ask then that the member does not interrupt the answer, because it is very hard for me to then judge whether the answer addresses the question. We will have the supplementary question again.

Catherine Delahunty : Does he believe Australia’s treatment of detainees—New Zealanders and others—and the forced deportations that split families up should preclude it from a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council?

Hon Gerry Brownlee : That’s a different question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I say to the Hon Gerry Brownlee that the question is in order. I do not think it is substantially different. I invite the Prime Minister to answer it.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not in a position to judge the treatment by the Australian Government in relation to other people detained for deportation. When it comes to New Zealanders, the position is quite clear: if a New Zealander feels there is a breach, they should raise it with Foreign Affairs.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wanted to wait until the end of that question exchange because I did not want to interrupt the flow of the questioning. The point that I want to raise with you is that when ruling on one of the points of order from Catherine Delahunty, you indicated that you were waiting until the end of the Prime Minister’s answer to see whether he addressed the question. The point that I want you to give some further consideration to perhaps is that Ministers need, in their answers, to confine themselves to the matter that they are being questioned on. The implication of the ruling you made is that Ministers can stand up and say what they like, and that providing they eventually get to answering the question at some point, that gives them carte blanche to say whatever they like. There should be a principle that they have to restrict themselves at least to the subject area that they are being questioned on.

Mr SPEAKER : I do not need assistance from members on this occasion. I have got to judge it in relationship to the question that is being asked. When I consider the question “Does the Prime Minister believe the Australians’ treatment of detainees, etc.”, it is a question of whether there is a responsibility of the Prime Minister in that regard in the first place. I then required some time to listen to the answer, because I do not expect it is an easy one for the Prime Minister to answer when he is commenting on another country’s treatment of detainees. So the judgment I will make will depend very much on the question that is asked. I appreciate that the member is raising a point generally, but I need to judge the length of an answer according to the complexity of the question—I guess that is the way I should put it.


4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Has GDP per capita growth declined over the last two quarters, and what reports has he seen that this trend will continue for the next two quarters?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, and none.

Grant Robertson : Is it, in fact, correct that for the first 6 months of this financial year GDP per capita growth was minus 0.2 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, it would be of some assistance to the House if the member could tell us whether he is talking about nominal GDP per capita or real GDP per capita, because they both fluctuate. They fluctuate because inflation fluctuates, and also, currently, because the population is growing so fast.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question about the first 6 months of this year. I gave him a figure—[Interruption] Well, you can answer either way, Bill, but you still have to answer.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! And the answer addressed the question, certainly, by asking for the question to be more specific. So I suggest that the member now proceed with a specific supplementary question.

Grant Robertson : Is it, in fact, correct that Treasury is forecasting growth dropping below 2 percent, and with immigration continuing at high levels, the economy will continue to fail to keep up, which will mean continuing negative per capita economic growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : It is quite possible that the economy could by the end of this year be growing at an annual rate a bit under 2 percent. The indicators are that next year it will pick up a bit, if you believe the services and manufacturing indices. In respect of population growth, it is surprisingly strong—there is no doubt about that. There has been a big turn-round in the number of people who want to stay home under this Government compared with the number who left under the last Government, and it would not be surprising if per capita incomes were flat to falling for a while.

Grant Robertson : In light of that answer, how then can he be satisfied with an economy that cannot generate the jobs or activity to match population increase?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, I do not think the Government has indicated it is satisfied at all. In fact, part of the key to this Government is its relentless dissatisfaction about what can be achieved in New Zealand. That is how we achieve a brighter future—by keeping at it. But it is good news that more people stay in New Zealand, and that we have had now the sixth month of a net inflow from Australia—something that has not happened since we have been measuring it.

Grant Robertson : How can it be good news for New Zealanders that unemployment is still up around 6 percent and that high levels of immigration are not being matched by economic growth, and, in fact, what they are leading to is higher housing prices in Auckland?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, both of those things that the member has pointed out are correct; that is, the measured unemployment rate is not dropping as fast as we would like—in fact, it may well be rising at the moment—because the number of people showing up to the labour market is growing faster than ever, and despite the fact that this economy is producing tens of thousands of new jobs a year, it needs to produce even more than it currently is if we are going to drop unemployment.

Grant Robertson : Will he do anything differently in the face of a slowing economy, or is he simply prepared to outsource to the Reserve Bank in responding to what is now a sluggish economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, the thing is, as I have pointed out to the Minister—to the member—previously, and to Ministers, actually, the Government cannot chase quarterly or monthly economic figures. In fact, it cannot really influence 6-monthly figures. We focus on the longer term, as you would expect a Government with vision to do, and that is by funding the research and development and support for business that backs innovation, getting the levels of educational achievement up, particularly among those with the lowest levels of achievement so that they can be long-term contributors to the economy, and negotiating the kinds of free-trade agreements that Labour opposes, which will open decades of opportunities for our businesses.

Environment—Environment Aotearoa 2015 Report

5. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister for the Environment : How will the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report released today strengthen the integrity of New Zealand’s clean, green brand?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Independent reporting of how clean our air is, what the state of our waterways is, and the progress we are making in areas like marine protection is, in my view, actually really important to New Zealand living up to its “clean, green” brand. Actually, we were the only country in the OECD not to have a system of statutory environment reporting, and I think today’s report is a really important benchmark in terms of this being a country that does not want just to market itself but that is prepared to be open about areas where we are doing well and areas where we need to lift our game.

Nuk Korako : What was the origin of the new system, and how does it progress from today’s published report?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The policy of having regular independent statutory reporting was part of National’s blue-green agenda, which we developed in Opposition. In 2010 we went out with a Government discussion document to refine the model. Today’s report is a dry run of that new Act, which Parliament passed last month. We do want feedback on it in developing the regulations to support the new reporting systems. From there, there will be 6-monthly reports on each of the key areas like fresh water, marine, atmosphere, climate change, air, and land, and then once every 3 years, there will be a comprehensive report like the one published today.

Nuk Korako : What areas of the report point to improvements in the state of our environment, and what areas are identified as requiring greater attention?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The report does note that we have made very substantial progress in the area of air quality, with a lot fewer New Zealanders dying as a consequence of particulate pollution, and, in fact, we have some of the cleanest air in the world. That has come about because we have tightened fuel standards. We have set a tougher mark in terms of vehicles in New Zealand, and there has also been a real programme of converting people’s heating systems, as well as this Government’s very aggressive programme around home insulation. If you take an area like the ocean area, it shows that New Zealand has made very good progress in reducing the number of our fishing stocks that are overfished—for instance, we have reduced by about 40 percent the number of seabirds that are killed in the fishing industry. The areas where—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer is miles too long.

Justice, Minister—Confidence

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he have confidence in his Minister of Justice; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. The Minister of Justice is doing a great job of making our communities safer. The Better Public Services results show that total crime has fallen by 17.6 percent since June 2011, youth crime has fallen by a remarkable 37.3 percent, and violent offending has fallen by 9.1 percent. I am particularly pleased with the achievements of the justice sector in Northland. This area has seen a 30 percent drop in the number of people appearing in court in the last 4 years. I have great confidence in the justice Minister delivering for the people of Northland and for the rest of the New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : How can he possibly have confidence in the Minister of Justice, who has failed to act in support of sexual assault victims Anne-Marie Forsyth and Karen Beaumont, who have had their own name suppression orders lifted in an attempt to reveal their attacker’s identity?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : My understanding is that that was a matter for the judge.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Is he aware that name suppression was granted to the paedophile who assaulted Ms Forsyth and Ms Beaumont only to protect the victims’ identities and not the offender’s, and that as both Ms Forsyth and Ms Beaumont have had their own name suppression orders lifted, their attacker should no longer be allowed to hide behind a cloak of legal secrecy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The matter of whether name suppression is granted or not is a matter for judges. This Government, however, has tightened up the conditions under which people can apply for name suppression.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : What is more important to him as Prime Minister, the rights of victims or the rights of paedophiles, and if it is the rights of victims, does he believe that the victims of paedophiles should have the right for name suppression orders in favour of paedophiles removed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Clearly, the rights of victims, but that is a matter, on a case by case basis, for judges to determine. And, often in these cases, for a variety of reasons, they continue to allow to grant name suppression—for instance, if it would have a more detrimental impact on the victim, because of the closeness, potentially, of the relationship between the person who has been convicted and the victim themselves.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Given that the Minister of Justice has known about this and has failed to act, will he as Prime Minister support New Zealand First’s bill to give justice to the victims of paedophiles and have the Criminal Procedure (Removing Paedophile Name Suppression) Amendment Bill pulled from the ballot, to be read for the first time immediately after question time today?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In answer to the last part, no. But if the member is really serious about this issue, he is always welcome to make an appointment and go and see the Minister of Justice and talk to her about it.


7. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Justice : What recent evidence has she received on trends in the New Zealand crime rate?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Several recent statistics all paint a clear picture that under the National-led Government, crime in New Zealand is falling. Among the recent results were the conviction and sentencing figures released by Statistics New Zealand last year. [Interruption] Listen up—you might learn something. These show encouraging trends, with the number of the adults—[Interruption] When they are ready. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The level of interjection is unacceptably loud. I will have to look for somebody to expel from the Chamber as a means of trying to get some cooperation. I hope that it is not—

Chris Hipkins : It won’t be me.

Mr SPEAKER : I appreciate the assurance from Chris Hipkins. Amy Adams, continue with the answer.

Hon AMY ADAMS : The Statistics New Zealand statistics show encouraging trends, with the number of adults who appeared in court now down 36 percent since its peak in 2009-10 and the number of young people down 61 percent since 2007-08. Reductions are seen across all genders, ethnicities, and age groups and show the real improvements in safety that this Government’s focus on reducing crime is producing. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is the last warning I will give to Sue Moroney in this question time.

Sarah Dowie : How do these results align with the Government’s Better Public Services targets?

Hon AMY ADAMS : Our Better Public Services targets track statistics different from the Statistics New Zealand figures, yet they also show a consistent result of falling crime. Our latest Better Public Services results, released in September, show that since June 2011 we have achieved a 17 percent reduction in total crime, a 39 percent reduction in youth offending, and a 10 percent reduction in violent offending. What this means is that under National, fewer New Zealanders are ending up as victims of crime.

Sarah Dowie : What gives her confidence that these figures truly represent a drop in crime rather than changes in reporting or recording practices?

Hon AMY ADAMS : These positive results are confirmed by yet a third source, the New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey. This survey looks at the way people experience all crime, not just crime that is reported to the formal justice system. It shows a similar trend to other statistics, estimating a 30 percent drop in crime, or up to 800,000 fewer crimes each year, since the survey was last undertaken in 2008. These figures once more reinforce that this Government is delivering on its promise to create a safer New Zealander.

Jacinda Ardern : Does she think it is acceptable that, overall, the crime resolution rates have declined since 2008, including sexual assault resolution rates, which have dropped from 64 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2014?

Hon AMY ADAMS : Of course we would want all cases to be resolved, and as the member knows, we have made—and I have made—it a priority to ensure that the treatment of sexual assault cases and domestic violence cases is improved considerably in the court system. The fundamental and final decisions are made between the Crown prosecution service and the judiciary, and I am not going to engage in settling or trying to resolve any cases—that would be constitutionally quite inappropriate.


8. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Communications : Does she agree with the current Mayor of Waitaki, Gary Kircher, who recently said that in his region, “Internet speed in these areas is woefully inadequate with most connections being five megabits per second. This situation is a barrier to economic growth and creates an irrational digital divide between our central business district and productive rural area”?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): What the mayor actually said was that in four small communities within Waitaki most connections were around five megabits per second. Actually, the majority of residents in Waitaki are able to access speeds of 100 megabits per second, thanks to our ultra-fast broadband programme. I do not consider—

Grant Robertson : Oh, he’s only the mayor! What would he know?

Hon AMY ADAMS : No, no—well, if the member quoted it properly, she would have got that. I do not, however, consider that five megabits is woefully inadequate, as it enables most uses—like high-definition streaming, and use of software as a service, like Xero—and it represents a twentyfold increase on what those residents were experiencing under Labour. But like the mayor I do aspire to better connectivity for all New Zealanders, which is why we have allocated a further $360 million in this year’s Budget to continue to improve connectivity, which I note that that member opposed.

Clare Curran : Is Jacqui Dean, the member for Waitaki, correct—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Every member has a right to ask a supplementary question, which now has been asked. I will allow, in this case, the member to ask the balance of the question, which will, effectively, rate as a second supplementary question.

Clare Curran : Is Jacqui Dean, the member for Waitaki, correct to say recently about broadband in her electorate: “Some rural schools have little to no access via modern communication systems. If they climb a platform, stand on one leg, and hold their mobile high enough, they may, just may, receive a level 1 signal.”?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Amy Adams—[Interruption] Order! Having listened to a very lengthy question, I now want to hear the answer.

Grant Robertson : Well, we all do.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, then, be quiet, Mr Robertson.

Hon AMY ADAMS : I tell that member that Jacqui Dean is a passionate advocate for her community, and, like most MPs, she is keen to see better rural broadband. It is unfortunate that Labour opposed it. What that member is talking about is around mobile connectivity, which is different to fixed broadband connectivity, and this Government is improving it—something that Labour continues to oppose.

Clare Curran : Is it correct that the Government Rural Broadband Initiative is a huge success, when 72 percent of people in Western Bay of Plenty say that their internet is unreliable or too slow for their current needs, or when just 14 percent of people in Northland are satisfied with their current connection, which is so slow it will not load the New Zealand Herald website and where almost half—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Bring the question to a conclusion. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The question is miles too long. The first part can be addressed—the Hon Amy Adams.

Hon AMY ADAMS : Given that before the Rural Broadband Initiative programme 41 percent of rural connections were no better than dial-up, and now 90 percent of rural connections will be 5 megabits a second, given that we have tripled internet speeds, and given that we have moved from below the OECD average under Labour to now well above it—yes, I would say it is a tremendous success.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Before I call the member, I do hope this question is in line with the Standing Orders.

Clare Curran : Is Fonterra correct to say that “Slow internet connections lead to lost time, increased costs, cause significant farmer frustration, increase isolation, and are an impediment to attracting skilled staff to their areas.”? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The conversation between two members down in the far left and right of the House will cease immediately. If they wish to carry it on, I can assist by inviting both those members to go outside to continue their conversation.

Hon AMY ADAMS : Actually, yes, they are correct, which is why this Government has prioritised putting $2 billion into improving it. I hope that Fonterra is aware that Labour consistently voted against improving rural broadband.

Clare Curran : Is it correct that the rural broadband scheme is a huge success for those in the Rangitīkei area, in which just 63 percent have the internet and it takes 10 minutes to download the MetService, or for those in Ruapehu, where during winter holidays and weekends the eftpos that runs the shops fails completely and makes it impossible to sell anything, and where 50 percent—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question is long enough. It can be answered.

Hon AMY ADAMS : For all the reasons that I outlined earlier, yes I do think it has been a considerable improvement on where we started, because, as we know, under Labour, 41 percent of rural connections could not get more than bare dial-up service; now 90 percent of rural households will be getting 5 megabits a second, and this Government wants to go further—all of which Labour opposed.

Clare Curran : Given that her predecessor Steven Joyce said in 2011 that the Rural Broadband Initiative was “the best deal for creating a step change in broadband services for rural New Zealand”, and in August last year—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I have the question please.

Clare Curran : —that member herself said that the Rural Broadband Initiative—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat. I will give her one brief opportunity to ask a supplementary question in line with the Standing Orders. If the member does not succeed in doing so, we are moving immediately to the next question.

Clare Curran : Does she accept that it is her bungling in the 3 years since she became Minister that has resulted in inadequate and snail-like broadband outside urban centres; and if it is not her fault, is she saying that it is Steven Joyce’s?

Mr SPEAKER : Either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon AMY ADAMS : I do not accept any of the member’s histrionics—they are about as accurate as her last press release.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I seek leave to table an email from the ITM Fishing Show based out of Kerikeri, saying that the service is so abysmal that it will have to relocate. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Mr Brownlee! It is a marginal call as to whether I will put the leave, because the point of it is to make a political point, but on this occasion I will favour the member and will put the leave. It will be over to the House to decide. Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? [Interruption] There is. [Interruption] Order! I have now risen to my feet far too many times asking for some cooperation. I had complaints yesterday that all I am doing is threatening members. I am reluctant to show members out, but with that sort of behaviour continuing, the next one who continues to interject when I rise to my feet will certainly be leaving the Chamber.

Rt Hon John Key : I seek leave to table a picture of the fish I caught on the ITM Fishing Show, which I understand is larger—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I will not be putting the leave. I do not think that will help.

Clare Curran : Point of order. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am dealing with a point of order, Mr Peters.

Clare Curran : I seek leave to table three documents. The first is the letter from the Mayor for Waitaki, Garry Kircher, which is part of a registration of response form—

Mr SPEAKER : Can you describe the second document.

Clare Curran : —which was a document included to the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation.

Mr SPEAKER : Is the information—

Clare Curran : No, it is not readily available.

Mr SPEAKER : OK. Can you name the other two documents quickly.

Clare Curran : The second is a letter from the member for Waitaki, Jacqui Dean, which was part of the same document, and the third document is a letter from Fonterra, which was part of the Clutha—

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table those three letters—one from the mayor, one from the local member, and one from Fonterra. Is there any objection? There is no objection. They can be tabled.

  • Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Social Development, Minister—Statements

9. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she stand by all her statements?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, when taken in context.

Darroch Ball : Does she stand by her reply to my written questions requesting the readmission rates and number of reported assaults on young people at Korowai Manaaki Youth Justice North facility, stating after 11 days that she “could not provide the information in the required time frame”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Yes, I do. The member has asked for some quite detailed information that has to come from its records, and we will get it as soon as possible.

Darroch Ball : How can she state that “The ministry is investigating the allegations regarding Korowai Manaaki and any concerns are being addressed.”, when she is still clearly unable to provide important, basic statistics, which an investigating ministry would be expected to have readily available?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I have said to the member, the allegations that he made in September in the House about Korowai Manaaki are actually being investigated. That is what is happening, and I will continue to make sure that they are investigated.

Darroch Ball : What important data does the Minister actually have readily available on our youth justice facilities, or is the answer actually none, showing a blatant lack of oversight allowing these current issues to occur in the first place?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The member has asked me in written questions for some quite detailed information about a number of our youth justice residences, and I have asked for that information. It has not come in time to answer a written question, so I have given him an interim answer to say that I will get that information for him as soon as possible, and I will do that.

Resource Management Act Reforms—Environmental Protection

10. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment : Will proposed changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 safeguard the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems as the Act requires; if so, how?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yes, because it is National’s longstanding policy not to change section 5, which specifically refers to “safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems;”.

Eugenie Sage : Will his changes to the Resource Management Act improve water quality, given the results in today’sEnvironment Aotearoa 2015 report, which show total nitrogen levels have increased at 60 percent of the monitored river sites?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The first thing I would point out is the figure that the member uses is not accurate. It was not accepted by the Government Statistician because the data around swimming water quality is not of that standard, and that party repeatedly misuses data that both the Government Statistician and the Secretary for the Environment say does not match up. This Government does view water quality as a serious issue. That is why we introduced the first national policy statement under the Resource Management Act requiring improvements in fresh water quality. In the changes that we are proposing, we are also intending to implement National’s policy of requiring all cattle stock to be fenced off from waterways.

Eugenie Sage : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about total nitrogen, not about E. coli levels.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was adequately addressed. It also started earlier than that, with “Will the changes to the Resource Management Act improve water quality?”. The question was addressed.

Eugenie Sage : Can he assure the House that the forthcoming Resource Management Act changes will not harm the environment when previous changes have resulted in the loss of landmark trees in Auckland such as the giant pōhutukawa in this picture, which has become this picture?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The Government’s changes to the Resource Management Act will streamline and simplify it for the very reasons that are covered in the Productivity Commission report published today, which points out how that Act is actually undermining the capacity for average Kiwi families to be able to access an affordable home. In terms of issues around specific trees, I would point out that it is up to councils—for instance, in the case of some of the specific tree issues in Auckland—to make decisions about what trees have the status of being protected trees and what trees they may decide to allow to be removed.

David Seymour : Does the Minister anticipate the reforms will increase the supply elasticity of housing and therefore help alleviate child poverty?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Absolutely. If we look at the Productivity Commission report today it shows that the price of land in Auckland has increased fivefold. If any member of this House is serious about the issues of family poverty and about increasing the affordability of houses, then we have to deal with the very high cost of land that is driving up housing costs.

Dr David Clark : So why have you done nothing in 7 years?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : To the member who asks across the House what we have done about it, we have done the special housing areas as a short-term measure—opposed by that member—and when that legislation expires next October we need to follow it on with further Resource Management Act reforms.

Eugenie Sage : Will the next set of Resource Management Act changes increase the protection for our indigenous habitats and wildlife when his proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry allows indigenous vegetation and habitats to be cleared and replaced with pine?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I do not accept the member’s assertions around the national environment standard that is proposed for forestry. It does not make sense for that industry to have different rules in every part of the country. Forestry is an important industry for New Zealand, and I am satisfied that that proposed national environment standard will both improve the environmental standards—in some areas it involves a substantive step up on the environmental rules—as well as reduce the compliance costs from the hundreds of consents that are currently required for the forestry industry.

Eugenie Sage : I seek leave to table a report from the Ministry for the Environment and the Government Statistician showing that total nitrogen—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That information will be very available to members.

David Seymour : Does the Minister believe that conservation should be based on robust science; if so, what is the scientific basis for retaining paragraphs such as “the ethic of stewardship:”, “the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:”, and “intrinsic values of ecosystems:” in sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Dr Nick Smith—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The Government has made plain that it does not wish to make any changes to section 5, in the original primary question. It is the Government’s view that there are significant improvements that can be made to section 6 and section 7. There are a range of views across different parties in this Parliament; my hope is to be able to secure a majority so that we can make sensible changes to those sections that will both protect the environment and also enable New Zealand to grow and to prosper.


11. JOANNE HAYES (National) on behalf of MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery : What recent announcements have been made on the development of key anchor projects in Christchurch?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): This morning I announced that interest is being sought from contractors wanting to be involved in the planning and building of the Metro Sports Facility in Christchurch. This follows last month’s release of tenders for architectural and engineering design services. The Government has also increased the funding available for the facility, to ensure that it is a first-class asset for Christchurch. Proposals are readily coming in from prospective designers. There is now real momentum in this development. It is a key anchor project that will cater for everything from recreational to elite sport.

Joanne Hayes : How is the Government working with Christchurch City Council on the Metro Sports Facility project?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE : The Government is working extremely well with the Christchurch City Council on a number of areas. Particularly we point to this project, where it is a shared responsibility. We have also worked with the council particularly on agreeing a funding mechanism, which has meant that the Government has provided a little more funding than initially proposed. The tender released today is a step forward to the development of that facility, which will be a great asset for Christchurch.

Overseas Investment—Overseas Investment Office

12. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister for Land Information : When did the Overseas Investment Office last produce a document that collated the benefits of overseas investment in New Zealand farmland in terms of employment created by the 716 successful consent applicants over the past 10 years who promised to create new job opportunities?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Minister for Land Information): Individual applications have a threshold to pass in terms of benefit to New Zealand, one of which is new job opportunities. If an application is granted with a condition attached to it, it is then monitored. The Overseas Investment Office does not aggregate data on the dollar value or benefits that successful individual applications will have for New Zealand. This Government is focused on quality not quantity. That is why, on this side of the House, the amount of net land sold, over our side, has halved.

Stuart Nash : In light of this, does she agree with the Minister of Finance, who told Parliament last Thursday that collating this information was “part of its function under the Overseas Investment Act”?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : As I said, individual applications are considered on their merit and that is why there are conditions attached, and we assess and measure those benefits. An example for the House that may be useful is the commitment of 93 jobs in the Crafar sale. Actually, in 2015 that was delivering 105 jobs, which is additional benefit.

Stuart Nash : Is she suggesting that the Minister of Finance, who has ultimate responsibility for signing off on consents by foreign investors, does not know the law as per the Overseas Investment Act?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : The Minister of Finance, as we are very clear about on this side of the House, actually was concerned about the amount of land sold by the former Government and that is why in 2010 we introduced additional matters to protect New Zealanders’ interests, to stop significant vertical integration, and to ensure that New Zealanders’ economic benefits were preserved.

Stuart Nash : Will she issue an instruction to the Overseas Investment Office to start collating this information, or does she not think that knowing the value added by overseas investment is important?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : That very question from that member illustrates he does not understand or know the legislation of the Overseas Investment Act. First and foremost, it states it is a privilege for foreign owners to purchase land and assets. That is why we have significant tests that ensure the benefits must be substantial and identifiable for New Zealanders.

Stuart Nash : Does the Minister not think it is important that New Zealanders understand the overall benefits of foreign investment to this country?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON : Absolutely, and that is why I very proudly, in every individual application that is before Ministers, consider the benefits to New Zealand and whether they are significant or identifiable. If they are not, that application will not be approved.

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