Questions & Answers Nov 4

by Desk Editor on Thursday, November 5, 2015 — 10:45 AM

1. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

James Shaw: Is it his Government’s policy to increase the number of unemployed people in New Zealand and at the same time decrease the number of jobs?


James Shaw: Is it acceptable to him and his Government that the number of unemployed people in New Zealand has increased by 11,000 this quarter, or more than the entire population of Gore?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not a surprise that the employment market is a bit softer, because in the first half of this year national income dropped by billions of dollars when the dairy prices dropped, and also the Christchurch rebuild has flattened out. That has led to an economy that is softer than people expected. That has been showing up in all the other economic numbers, and now it is showing up in the employment numbers. However, we are confident that the economy is on track for 2 to 3 percent growth over the next 12 to 18 months.

James Shaw: Given that this is the fourth quarter in a row where unemployment has risen, would he say that his Government is, as his party’s website says, “Helping families get ahead”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I certainly stand by the statement that the Government is helping families get ahead, illustrated by the fact that the quarterly figures show another real increase in wages, which I think is 4 or 5 years of progressive, real increase in incomes, of course, of those who have jobs. Of course we are concerned about those who do not, and the best that we can do about those who do not have jobs is do what we can to encourage businesses to invest the next dollar and create the next job, and that is what we do through the Business Growth Agenda.

James Shaw: Does he think that his Government is working for all New Zealanders, when Māori and Pacific people’s rates of unemployment are both more than double the overall unemployment rate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, and in fact within Government we are working very hard to overcome decades of low performance by the Government—for instance, in an education system that does not succeed in leaning against socio-economic disadvantage. It is disappointing that Opposition parties have opposed a lot of the measures the Government has taken to overcome that critical disadvantage among Māori and Pasifika young people.

James Shaw: Given that regional unemployment is getting worse, does he now anticipate that more unemployed people will be showing up at his backbenchers’ Provincial Priorities tour?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They are most welcome, because what they would hear on that tour is discussion about how to build on the strengths of some regions—only some regions—where unemployment is a bit higher and how to encourage businesses in those regions to invest another dollar and employ another person. Certainly, policies such as banning fossil fuels and creating a very expensive emissions trading system and getting rid of dairy cows, which are Green policies, are not likely to create jobs.

James Shaw: What was the unemployment rate when you took office in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot recall the figure—it was pretty low. But it is a shame that the Greens have drunk the same Kool-Aid as the Labour Party and forgotten there was a global financial crisis and a significant recession and a world economy that is struggling to grow. If the Greens want to go back—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was answered immediately.


2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Why did he say in July last year that “We think unemployment will be down to 4.5 percent in the very foreseeable future”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Because in July 2014 when the Budget forecasts were published, that is what Treasury forecast, and it was somewhat similar in the pre-election update. I would have to say that Treasury was at about the middle of the consensus for the unemployment rate. It turned out they were all wrong—unemployment is higher.

Andrew Little: What responsibility, if any, does he take for unemployment rising to 6 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course, if unemployment was a direct choice of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, there would be none of it. You would just decide to have none. But, of course, it is not. It is a product of the world economy and its low growth rates, and of particular circumstances in New Zealand where the rebuild in Christchurch has flattened out and there has been a drop in national income of billions of dollars from the decrease in dairy prices, which was always going to affect the number of jobs in New Zealand, and now it is happening. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just request a little less interjection from my immediate left. I do not want anybody having to leave the House, but the level of noise yesterday from that particular quarter was unacceptably loud. I will not tolerate it to the same extent today.

Andrew Little: What responsibility, if any, does he take for the loss of 11,000 jobs in the last quarter alone?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I just responded, of course if it was a direct choice of the Prime Minister, he of course would just choose thousands of new jobs. The Labour Party seems to have forgotten that you might be able to choose to do that in the old Russian economy, but in the modern open economy you do not have those choices. What we are doing is better, and that is backing our businesses to invest more and employ more people. Fortunately, they are proving to be pretty resilient to the poor global conditions, and the right adjustments are happening: a lower exchange rate, lower interest rates. These things will lead to a pick-up in the economy and the creation of more jobs.

Andrew Little: How high does he think unemployment will rise, given bank economists are warning it could get to 7 percent—back to the bad old days of the global financial crisis?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a range of bank economists’ forecasts. Two or 3 months ago they were forecasting the end of the world. That has not quite happened. Now some of them are forecasting 7 percent unemployment. Let us see. The fact is that new jobs arise from businesses that are confident enough to invest another dollar and employ another person. That is how jobs happen. So the Government is working through dozens of policy initiatives to encourage that, and protecting some of them from criticism, like the 90-day trial period, which enables people to get a foot in the door and prove themselves. Of course, the Labour Party is against that.

Andrew Little: How are Kiwis meant to get ahead and live the Kiwi dream when they are facing job losses, rising unemployment, and stagnant wages under National? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I say to the Hon Steven Joyce that he might get a chance later to answer a question, but it is not your question at the moment.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Minister has pointed out, wages have been rising surprisingly consistently ahead of inflation. Fortunately, most New Zealanders are not as miserable and angry as the Labour Party.

Andrew Little: When does he expect to finally get unemployment back down to 4.2 percent, the level he inherited?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have some confidence that in an economy that can and is likely to grow at 2 to 3 percent, despite some real challenges and some real headwinds from the world economy, we will see unemployment peak and start to drop. It would be much better, of course, if it was 4.5 percent, as was forecast in the Budget in 2014. But this is the real world that businesses and households are dealing with every day, and that is why confidence in the Government’s policies and the future of New Zealand is so important. We have that confidence. Unfortunately, our opponents do not.

Andrew Little: As he enters his eighth year in Government, when is he going to stop blaming an old Government and take responsibility for his own failure to bring unemployment down and his failure to create secure, well-paid jobs for Kiwis?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did not blame an old Government for the current unemployment. If the member asks “When is the Government going to create secure, well-paying jobs?”, well over the last 4 years there have been about 180,000 new, secure, well-paying jobs, on top of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that currently exist. The New Zealand workforce is enjoying, on average, real increases in incomes year on year and they deserve some credit for that. In the world environment that we have had to deal with, our businesses and households have proven to be remarkably resilient. That is why we have net inflows from Australia for the first time in a generation, even though our growth rates are pretty similar. People see better job prospects here than in Australia. That is a good problem to have, not a bad one.

Economy—Housing Supply

3. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s programme to improve housing supply supporting a growing economy and macroeconomic stability?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The issue of the housing market is proving to be one of the challenges for macroeconomic policy. Last week Statistics New Zealand announced 26,000 building consents were issued in the year to 20 September 2015, the highest number in 8 years and double the number issued in 2011. So the supply of housing is growing about as fast as it ever has in New Zealand, but there is much more to do. Red tape around land use can affect growth, and elevated house prices increase the risks and the costs of a house price correction, affecting economic and financial stability. We will continue to work on growing the number of consents by working with the councils that actually make the decisions.

David Bennett: What progress has the Government made in improving housing supply?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably the most important shift was passing the special housing areas legislation, and there are now over 100 special housing areas and accords signed up with eight councils. We also are now getting into growing the supply of housing on Government land—in Auckland, for instance, in Hobsonville, Tāmaki, Weymouth, and more to come. We are continuing to reform the Resource Management Act to enable councils to make changes that they now all really want to make. They were initially sceptical about such changes but now would prefer to have easier, quicker planning processes so they can accommodate growth.

David Bennett: What steps is the Government taking to support first-home buyers and ensure investors pay their fair share of tax?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because it is a challenge for first-home buyers to get into the market, earlier this year the Government rolled out the HomeStart scheme—a $420 million commitment, which will help 90,000 Kiwis into their first homes over the next 5 years. In respect of investors, on 1 October, just a month ago, the Government introduced a brightline, 2-year rule to clarify the tax treatment of gains on the sale of residential property excluding the family home. Earlier this week, on 1 November, the Reserve Bank introduced loan-to-value ratio rules for investors to reduce financial system risk. This may also help to moderate house price growth.

David Bennett: What other steps are being taken to improve housing affordability?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably one of the more important steps for the Government has been to take part in the formation of the new Auckland Unitary Plan. Although the unified Auckland Council has been in place for some years, it is still technically working off the plans of the previous seven or eight councils. The Government has been a significant submitter to the independent hearings panel, and we will be taking a close look at its plan when it reports back, to ensure that the plan allows for the kind of growth that is forecast for Auckland.

Schools, Funding—Student Achievement

4. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her reported statement that student achievement would “absolutely” be a factor in a review of the school funding system?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, in the context of the statement in which it was given, which was: “We’re very much at the beginning of this process so no decisions at all have been made as to which variables and in what way they’ll be used but will student achievement and learning be one of them? Absolutely.” I emphasise for the member that this is a review and that no decisions have yet been made.

Chris Hipkins: Will she rule out imposing financial penalties on schools that do not meet student achievement targets; if not, why not?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I said in my answer to the primary question, we are in a review. We are at the very beginning of the process and I am not ruling anything in or out.

Chris Hipkins: Why did she categorically rule out considering a greater role for national standards and National Certificate of Educational Achievement data in school funding and teacher-pay decisions in March last year only to then say that those things would absolutely be part of the funding system?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is confusing industrial relations with funding for student achievement.

Chris Hipkins: When she was asked about the use of national standards data in November last year and said “What we always planned to use it for and what we are now using it for is to help target resources to where they are most needed.”, did she mean that the data would be used as a component to determine how much funding schools receive?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: What she meant was that we will use it to inform teaching practice in schools, and I am pleased to tell you that more and more of that is occurring.

Chris Hipkins: Did the tender process for the new $100 million funding system state that the objective was “to manage the investment in the education system by linking enrolment, attendance, achievement, and funding”; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is confusing a review of resourcing—

Hon Member: Answer the question.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am trying to do that. The member is confusing a review of resourcing and an ICT system that is being designed to support the current and future systems.

Chris Hipkins: Will she now rule out the linking of student achievement information to school funding decisions; if not, why not?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I say again that we are at the beginning of the review process. We are neither ruling in nor ruling out a full discussion about what a new funding system should comprise of, except that it should focus on how well kids are learning and achieving, which is, after all, the core business of education.

Chris Hipkins: So it’s still a no.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not a discussion that we are having at the moment.

Conservation, Minister—Question No. 12, 3 November

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: Does she stand by all her statements made in the House yesterday in answer to oral question No. 12; if so, why?

Hon NICKY WAGNER (Associate Minister of Conservation) on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: Yes; because the only good possum is a dead one.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister explain—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I apologise for interrupting the member, but I need to hear the supplementary question. That requires, certainly, less noise from my immediate right.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister of Conservation explain why she disagrees with this statement: “Taskforce Green has been expanded recently to employ long-term unemployed people in possum control in areas of high priority.”?

Hon NICKY WAGNER: Unfortunately, trapping has not proved to be very effective, and it is particularly ineffective in places like Northland, which has very palatable vegetation and rugged areas. Evidence says the combination of both of those means that the attracting of possums to traps is very difficult. So we can use 1080, because it is distributed right across the terrain and also during the time of year when there are very low amounts of food, so possum kill is maximised. Actually, at the Warawara Forest local iwi have agreed that they need to use 1080. It is particularly suitable for their forest because it is so steep and has such difficult terrain.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Are the Department of Conservation, her own ministry, and former National Ministers deluded, as she said yesterday, for supporting “the fur recovery industry by providing access to some areas of conservation land to trap possums, especially where there are conservation benefits.”; if not, why not?

Hon NICKY WAGNER: No; because not many trappers have pursued trapping in Northland, and that is for two reasons: the smaller size of possums, and the particularly rugged country in that area. The commercial trapping that has been done there has not resolved the decline of the forest’s health.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister climb off her high horse and apologise to the Northland Regional Council and the 350 mainly young Northlanders who, since 2011, under National—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just finish the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —have earned National Certificate of Educational Achievement, level 2, and three credits and potential jobs by way of its possum project; if not, why not?

Hon NICKY WAGNER: No; because we think there are better ways to increase economic action in Northland. And I would like to note that the data released this week from the household labour force survey from Statistics New Zealand shows unemployment in Northland has decreased by 0.5 percent in the last quarter, it has decreased by 1.5 percent over the last 2 years, and 4,300 more people are living in Northland. If the member visited Northland—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer has gone on quite long enough.

Students—Factors for Success at School

6. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with Massey University education professor John O’Neill that students’ home background, including factors like transience, dysfunction, and a lack of resources were responsible for up to 80 percent of a child’s school success?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I do not agree with Professor O’Neill. What I do agree with is the OECD study in 2012 involving over half a million 15-year-olds from 65 countries, of which one was New Zealand. In fact, 5,000 students from 177 schools in our country participated. That OECD study found that 18 percent—18 percent—of the difference in student achievement can be accounted for by socio-economic factors. That means that 82 percent of student achievement is not statistically explained by socio-economic factors. The other factors that collectively had a much greater impact on student achievement included the quality of teaching, performance expectations, school leadership, and positive relationships between parents and teachers that focus on learning. That is why, as a Government, we have focused on those factors.

Catherine Delahunty: Does the Minister agree with the OECD experts that what a child brings to school is more than just their parents’ income, but also access to books and a warm, healthy home in which their family is secure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: By definition, without the assistance of the OECD, kids bring to school their background.

Catherine Delahunty: If her review of the Education Act is focusing on rewarding those schools already doing well, what does she say to low-decile schools whose students routinely turn up hungry and sick and not in the best state for learning?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is just wrong. There are schools that are in different deciles that do very well, and there are schools in those same deciles that are not doing well. What I am proposing in the Act is that for those schools that are not doing well, whatever decile they are in, we have tools to intervene early so we can help them to be turned around and to be successful for every child.

Catherine Delahunty: Does she really think that a child who is hungry all day at school and who has no books at home has the same chance of doing well as a child with plentiful books at home and a lunch box full of food?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is why this Government introduced, for the first time in 43 years, an increase in benefits for those families living in hardship worth $790 million. That is why we have invested in breakfasts in schools for every school that wishes to take advantage of it. That is why we are targeting resources to those who need it most. This Government has a very strong social investment approach, and we are using it to target those most at risk.

Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the Minister’s answer, but my question was—

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

Catherine Delahunty: —has the same the chance of—she did not answer that question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just invite the member to study the Standing Orders and the Speakers’ rulings. If she has the time to do so, would she look at Speakers’ ruling 195(7), which states that when the member seeks an opinion, as she did in that question, which was “Does she really think etc. …”, then it invites a very wide type of answer, which definitely addressed the question. It may not be an answer that the member is happy with, but it addressed the question as the question was asked. If the member wants to sharpen up her questions, and get sharp, straight questions, then I can assist, but when the question that was just asked was delivered in that way, then the answer given certainly satisfies the Speakers’ rulings.

Chris Hipkins: How can she claim that a student’s socio-economic background does not impact on the educational chances when the vast bulk of support that students with special needs received for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement exams is going to students with the wealthiest parents, and after 4 years as Minister of Education she still has not done anything to fix the problem?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member clearly did not understand the answer that I gave. I did not say that socio-economic status does not have an impact; I disagreed with the 80 percent that that member alleged, and referenced an OECD report that said it was 18 percent. So, yes, it certainly does have an impact. It is one of the variables that is targeted, but it is not the only one. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the two members wish to carry on the conversation, they are welcome but would they do it in the lobby.


7. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Trade: What recent steps has the Government taken to further New Zealand’s trading relationship with Europe?

Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): Last week the Prime Minister, together with the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council president, Donald Tusk, agreed to start discussions on a comprehensive free-trade agreement. This is obviously a very significant step forward. It would take, no doubt, a fair bit of time to bring to completion, but it is a huge, new, and additional opportunity for New Zealand.

Jonathan Young: How important as a trading partner is Europe to New Zealand, given our position in the Asia-Pacific region?

Hon TIM GROSER: In spite of the tremendous success that New Zealand has had over the past 30 to 40 years in diversifying away from one European country, Europe collectively still is of vital interest to New Zealand. It is our third-largest export destination, in services it is our second-largest, and it is our second-largest source and destination of overseas investment. So this will be a very significant step, assuming we can bring this to a successful conclusion.

Jonathan Young: How does a free-trade agreement with Europe fit with the Government’s wider programme for economic growth?

Hon TIM GROSER: Of the six work streams building international connectivity and building export markets, it is clearly one of the key elements of the Government’s plan. This is an absolutely vital issue for New Zealand to improve its export performance, and opening up opportunities across the board is part of that deal. What this does, of course, is further diversify our opportunities—or the opportunities of New Zealanders running the businesses that provide income for us—and avoids too much dependence on any one market, a lesson we have learnt to our great cost 30 or 40 years ago.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister honestly believe that New Zealanders will buy this pixie dust of huge benefits in respect to the European Union free-trade deal, when between 2014 and 2020 the European Union will spend €408 billion, or $672 billion, supporting its farmers?

Hon TIM GROSER: Considering that the situation is that it is already our third-largest export market, any liberalisation will be a darn sight more than just pixie dust.

Employment Standards Legislation Bill—Zero-hour Contracts

8. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Is he satisfied that the Employment Standards Legislation Bill will end zero-hour contracts?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Yes, the Employment Standards Legislation Bill will support families by extending eligibility for paid parental leave, it will help protect hard-working New Zealanders by strengthening the enforcement of employment standards, and it will address unfair practices such as zero-hour contracts. While the term “zero-hour contracts” does not have a legal definition, it generally refers to agreements that require an employee to be on call and available for work without providing a guarantee of hours or payment in exchange for that availability. The Government has made it clear there is no place for these types of employment relationships in New Zealand’s labour market. The precise detail of the legislation is currently being considered at the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee and I look forward to its recommendations in due course.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he acknowledge that zero-hour contracts do not currently exist in law but will if his bill passes as it stands?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I acknowledge the first part of that question. I think it is a matter of debate on the second part, and that is being discussed at the select committee currently.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Well, then, does he agree with Human Rights Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue, who said that the bill “leaves too much room for zero-hour contracts as there is still no provision for minimum hours to be offered in individual employment contracts.”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not think that Jackie Blue is the Human Rights Commissioner.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that is a fine point. I may have slightly got the name wrong—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Indeed, that may well be the case, but that is hardly a point of order.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister really expect the public to believe that everything is going to be just fine, when the last time he did this he ripped the right to health and safety reps off tens of thousands of Kiwis and broke his boss’s promise to the Pike River families?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: He is simply incorrect, as he was in the previous supplementary question. The Government is working very hard to ensure that this matter is properly addressed, and I am sure the member, in his quieter moments, is contributing at the select committee.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Is this not just more of the same from a Government that is making life less and less secure for working Kiwis, just like when it took away New Zealanders’ meal breaks, weakened their health and safety on farms, cut negotiating rights—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.

Iain Lees-Galloway: —let employers walk away from the bargaining table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question must be delivered in line with the Standing Orders. That one is not. I warned the member to bring it to a conclusion. I will give him one chance to ask a question that is in line. If he cannot manage to do so, we are moving on immediately.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Well, is this not just another example of him ripping away rights from Kiwi workers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. I appreciate that the member is probably auditioning for the Labour Party conference this weekend, but the reality of it is that this Government takes a sensible and measured approach to these matters, and the new workplace safety and health legislation is a very big step forward on the past law.

Wine Industry—Promotion and Protection

9. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What steps is the Government taking to promote and protect the reputation of New Zealand wine?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): This Government is committed to supporting the wines and spirits industry to promote and protect the premium value of our marvellous wines. Yesterday I was pleased to introduce the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill to the House. The bill amends the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act, which was passed in 2006 but never brought into force. It will establish a geographical indications registration regime for wines and spirits, similar to the trademark registration regime. It will also amend the Act to ensure that the process for registering geographical indications runs smoothly.

Stuart Smith: How will a geographical indications registration regime benefit New Zealand’s wine industry?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Being able to register regional names for our wines and spirits, such as Marlborough or Martinborough, will reinforce the qualities and reputations of those products. Enabling firms to register geographical indications for wines and spirits will make it easier for our winemakers to enforce their rights in New Zealand. A geographical indications register will also make it easier for our exporters to promote and protect their wines and spirits products internationally. We know New Zealand wines are amongst some of the best in the world, and this National Government is committed to guarding and enhancing the reputation of our products and, ultimately, helping to grow our wine exports.

Land and Water Forum—Fish and Game

10. MEKA WHAITIRI (Labour—Ikaroa-Rāwhiti) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he stand by his statement that the Land and Water Forum represents a “very constructive process”; if so, can he explain why Fish and Game felt compelled to resign due to restrictions on their ability to speak out?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Yes, I do indeed stand by my statement. The Land and Water Forum has been the most comprehensive, collaborative process of its kind, with contributions from over 70 different organisations. Although it is disappointing that Fish and Game has decided to withdraw at this late stage, the Land and Water Forum is still due to deliver its fourth report to the Government in the very near future. The allegation that Land and Water Forum participants are being muzzled over speaking is not correct. Participation is a collaborative process, and it requires commitment in good faith towards other participants.

Meka Whaitiri: Is he concerned that any other members of the Land and Water Forum may resign; if not, why not?


Meka Whaitiri: How can the public trust in his Government’s commitment to water quality when, after 7 years of this Government and 5 years of the Land and Water Forum, our rivers and streams continue to become more polluted?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I am afraid that the member has got her facts completely wrong. This Government has done more to deal with freshwater issues in the time that we have held the Treasury benches, in comparison with those members sitting over on that side of the House. What we have done is introduce the first National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. We have also increased by five times the funding for dealing with freshwater clean-ups, and we have done more to support, and make sure that we have, the frameworks in place to allow everyone to get on board with the plans that we have to ensure that we are enhancing our freshwater policies. Actually, these are intergenerational issues; they cannot be fixed overnight. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will call the member when we get a bit of—[Interruption] Thank you. Meka Whaitiri—supplementary question.

Meka Whaitiri: What faith can the public of New Zealand have in the work of the Land and Water Forum when Kiwi children will not be able to swim in most of our rivers and streams, because of high pollution?

Hon NATHAN GUY: The member needs to understand that there are something like 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams and 4,000 lakes in New Zealand; not every one of those is able to be in a swimmable state. What we have done is introduce minimum standards. What we have done is bring in national bottom lines at wadable levels. What we have done is allow it to be up to regional councils and their communities to make changes if they so wish, while bearing in mind that there are economic considerations as well as protecting and enhancing the environment, and we believe both of those can indeed—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is little point in carrying on with the answer when the Opposition is not listening to the answer.

Meka Whaitiri: Why should the public have confidence in the work of the Land and Water Forum when his Government has used it to silence environmental voices, to the benefit of farmers?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I refute those comments. What we have done for the first time in the history of the Government is pull together 70 different organisations to come together to work on the importance of maintaining and enhancing fresh water. Seventy organisations have come forward together. Yes, there will always be tension in the room, but, importantly, they are working on their fourth report. We are looking forward to receiving it, and we will continue to make progress in this area, unlike the previous Labour-led Government, which did nothing.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Human Rights Commission. It is a list of human rights commissioners, including one Dr Jackie Blue.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. It will be up to the House to decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Cycling—Urban Cycleways Programme

11. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Transport: What recent progress has been made on the Government’s commitment to build the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive urban cycleway in Auckland?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): I was delighted to recently turn the first sod on the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive urban cycleway, which is the biggest urban cycleway to ever start construction to date in New Zealand. The $40 million cycleway is a key project in the Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme. When completed in 2018, it will allow people to walk, run, or cycle from the east of our biggest city to the harbour and city centre. Can I just also acknowledge the collaboration and great work by the Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency in starting this transformative project.

Simon O’Connor: What benefits will the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive urban cycleway provide for the people of Auckland?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: The Government’s goal is to make cycling a safer and more attractive transport choice. We recognise the rapid growth that Auckland is experiencing. That is why we are investing $200 million in cycling across the city over the next 3 years to make cycling a safer, easier, and more enjoyable transport option. The Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive urban cycleway will be another significant step towards joining cycleway routes across Auckland. It will ensure that cycling will be an integral part of Auckland’s future transport network, contributing to healthier and more environmentally friendly communities.

Social Development, Minister—Statements

12. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements; if so, why?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, when taken in context; because I believe them to be true and accurate, based on the advice I received at the time.

Darroch Ball: Does she stand by her statement in the House, when justifying her decision to cut funding to the youth Limited Service Volunteer programme to just 800 places, that “I rely on advice from my officials who are working with these young people every day”?


Darroch Ball: How can that be the case, when she directly ignored her officials’ advice that specifically recommended to actually increase funding for the programme; for the number of places to be at 1,200, and not 800; that a Budget bid be prepared for such recommendations to Cabinet; and that the New Zealand Defence Force would be informed of those plans?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Because that is only one part of the advice that I received. Another part of the advice was that in the September quarter, figures showed the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on a main benefit had fallen by 24 percent since 2010. I repeat: the idea of the Limited Service Volunteer scheme is to make available a work-ready programme for young people who are on a benefit. The numbers are now at 800, and I am confident that we have the right number of young people going into that course.

Darroch Ball: How can her justification to reduce places to 800 be because “the number of young people on benefit has fallen as the economy has recovered”, when her own officials advised her that their recommendation for 1,200 places was based on “employment climate for young people” and “reflects the current economic situation” and the demand of the “target cohort”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am not sure what document that member is quoting from, but what I can tell him is that, in fact, the September quarter figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on a main benefit has fallen by 24 percent. Accordingly, because we were having difficulty filling the full number of places with suitable candidates who had a good chance of completing the course, we have reduced the numbers to 800—remembering, of course, that we increased the numbers as a response to the global financial crisis.

Darroch Ball: Can she explain why her officials have stated in the Ministry of Social Development’s own strategic plan document, dated June 2015, that the Ministry will be “investing more” into the Limited Service Volunteer employment scheme, and yet, at the same time, she is actually reducing places and funding?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, I can explain it, because this Government has a number of initiatives aimed at young people and helping them into work. So the Youth Services Strategy has been produced, which provides wraparound services for young people, and that runs alongside the Limited Service Volunteer employment scheme. In addition to that we are continuing to trial new methods of working with young people to help them into work, because we know that the chances for them to lead a successful life depend on our getting them into work before they turn 20.

Darroch Ball: I seek leave to table the advice given to the Minister, obtained through the Official Information Act, dated December 2014, which does state all—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need to know more information. [Interruption] Order! The member needs to behave himself. I will put the leave. The paper has been described adequately. I will put the leave. It will be for the House to decide. Leave is sought to table that particular information from an Official Information Act application process. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Darroch Ball: I would like to seek leave to table the strategic intentions document from the Ministry of Social Development—

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

Carmel Sepuloni: Does she stand by her statement: “moving off a benefit and into work is good for the whole family [as] it puts more money in the pockets of parents”; if so, why then will she not support my Social Security (Pathway to Work) Amendment Bill, which incentivises part-time work so those same parents can earn a little more without being penalised?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Certainly, this Government is encouraging people to come off benefits and into work, because we know that that gives them and their families better lifetime outcomes. However, the member’s proposal in her member’s bill has the opposite effect on people at the other end of the scale, where they are able to work up to 30 hours a week and still remain on benefit. So it actually reduces the incentive for people to come off a benefit and go into full-time work.

Point of Order—Content of Answers

CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 200/4, which states that Ministers who make incorrect statements must correct those in the House at the earliest available opportunity. I want to seek your guidance as to whether that applies in a situation where a Minister refuses to answer a question on the basis that they claim that there is an incorrect assertion in the question, as was the case with Mr Joyce earlier today, and whether, once the information has been presented to demonstrate that in fact that was correct, he needs to correct that.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I think on this—[Interruption] I do not need any assistance, thank you. The question the member is referring to was asked in that particular question. A suggestion was made, which the Minister disputed. That is a legitimate answer to that question. If subsequently information becomes available, then it is for the Minister, when he becomes aware of that information, if he considers it relevant and important enough, to come to the House and correct it. I presume the Minister will do so, if he sees it relevant.

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