Questions & Answers – June 1

by Desk Editor on Thursday, June 2, 2016 — 11:45 AM

Building and Housing, Minister—Confidence

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Building and Housing’s ability to ensure there is sufficient building supply to meet demand, given Statistics New Zealand says Auckland building consents in April were down 23 percent compared with last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do have confidence in the Minister for Building and Housing. Many different agencies, including councils, are involved in ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of housing. Actually, in the year to April the number of building consents issued in Auckland increased by 15 percent to more than 9,300. That is over twice the number of 4 years ago.

Andrew Little: Does he agree with Nick Smith’s statement on the Auckland build rate that “We need to get it up more, like 50 to 60 houses per working day, if we are going to make that material difference …”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. Nick Smith was right; we do need to build more than the 40 a day we are building. That is, obviously, a substantial increase from the 10 a day that we inherited when we came into office. I think one of the ways to do that is to follow the Productivity Commission’s view, which is to, essentially, get rid of the metropolitan urban limit. That is a policy that Labour supports but, interestingly enough, if I look to other political parties in the Parliament, they say relaxing Auckland’s urban boundary will simply lead to further unsustainable urban sprawl and further congestion on Auckland roads. That, of course, is the Green’s position. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Andrew Little: Given that answer, and also his statement to the House yesterday—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Start the question again, Mr Little.

Andrew Little: Thank you, I will do that. I would not want the members to miss out. Given that answer, and also given his statement to the House yesterday that 40 houses a day are being built, how many houses a day is he currently falling short?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I just simply do not have that number.

Andrew Little: Can he confirm that when he uses his figure of 40 houses a day he is talking about building consents, not actual houses completed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The building consent rate that converts to building houses being met is virtually 100 percent—a little less than that, but it is very high.

Andrew Little: In view of his clarification that he is now talking about 40 consents a day, just how many families are living in those consents?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is building more houses than we have seen for a very long time in Auckland, four times the rate from when we came into office, but, you know, when you have a piece of paper like a building consent it means something. It is a bit like when you have a memorandum of understanding—I suppose it means something. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! A little less interjection from both sides of the House, please. [Interruption] Order! Can we have the supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! Mr Little would assist me if he could just move to the supplementary question.

Andrew Little: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am obliged. Is it not clear to him by now, as it is to everyone else, that there will be no end to the housing crisis unless the Government plays its part by abolishing the Auckland urban growth boundary, stopping foreign speculators, and building thousands of affordable homes for Kiwis to buy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government happens to agree that the metropolitan urban limit is a significant issue, which is why we, effectively, temporarily went around that with 154 special housing areas. That is why we happen to agree that the national policy statement, which, effectively, goes around the metropolitan urban limit—

Phil Twyford: You promised it 8 years ago.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —is the right thing to do. But it does not really matter what the Opposition thinks. We should not listen to you, Phil; we just need to listen to Catherine Delahunty. She will be the next housing person who speaks for Labour and the Greens. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have been relatively patient so far, but it may not last for much longer.

Metiria Turei: Of the 700-odd homes that have been built in the special housing areas over the last 3 years, how many have people actually living in them, and how many Aucklanders overall have been housed in the special housing areas?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no idea, but the member is happy to live in one with Andrew Little. I would not want to. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Metiria Turei: How many plots of special housing area land are still vacant, despite having the special housing area status?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would have to ask the Minister for Building and Housing that question.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Prime Minister not know how much land banking is going on in the special housing areas, given that it was his Government’s grand plan to build more houses for Auckland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not the Minister for Building and Housing, but what I do know is the national policy statement that will be announced very soon will ensure that land banking becomes a very difficult thing to do.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister not understand that without a Government commitment to actually building more homes, all other policy options simply increase the risk of land banking and fuel the price growth in Auckland that now means the average price of a house in Auckland is nearly a million dollars?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member is concerned about land banking I look forward to her support for the national policy statement tomorrow. It will be quite different from the Greens’ position on housing. In the end we will have to work out whether—[Interruption] That is right. You are saying no; he is saying yes. What a mess.

Budget 2016—Jobs and Wage Rates

2. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: How is the economy helping to deliver more jobs and higher wages for New Zealand families, particularly given Budget 2016’s focus on supporting a growing economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The outlook for the economy is positive. Businesses are hiring more people, and wages are increasing. More than 200,000 more people are in work now than 3 years ago, and a further 170,000 jobs are expected by 2020. The average annual wage is now almost $58,000—up 14.1 percent in the last 5 years, during which time inflation was just 4.7 percent. The annual wage is expected to continue to rise, to $63,000 a year by 2020. Obviously, these are just Treasury forecasts, but they are driven by the National-led Government’s economic policy that supports investment, innovation, and growth.

David Bennett: What steps did the Government take in Budget 2016 to support the growing economy, more jobs, and higher wages?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Budget 2016 continues this Government’s programme of sensible economic management. Our responsible approach to managing the books is helping inflation and interest rates to stay lower for longer, which supports businesses wanting to invest, households with a mortgage, and means that wage increases go further. Budget 2016 also includes the $761 million investment in Innovative New Zealand for science, skills, and regional development. A key part of this package is supporting people to develop the skills they need for an increasingly digital and diversified 21st century economy.

David Bennett: How will Budget 2016 develop the skilled workforce needed to support a growing economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: An amount of $256 million over 4 years is budgeted in the Innovative New Zealand package for the tertiary education sector to deliver the skills New Zealand needs to support our growing economy. Over 4 years that package includes $86 million to better match tuition subsidies with the costs of provision and to remove any remaining disincentives for degree providers to provide places in core areas like science and technology. There is $37 million to increase tuition subsidies for sub-degree provision at level 3 and above, $14 million to fund 5,500 more apprentices by 2020, and $9.6 million for 2,500 young Māori and Pasifika to participate in trades training. We have a constantly evolving economy, and this package will help to ensure those people have the skills to stay ahead of change.

David Bennett: Why are STEM subjects and key trades a priority for Budget 2016?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The availability of highly skilled people in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering, and maths, plus of course agriculture and the key trades, is crucially important to growing a high-value, diversified economy that encourages businesses to invest. As with previous Budgets, we have continued to make STEM subjects a priority, to make up for historical underfunding and boost interest in careers like engineering. Graduates from these subjects make a substantial contribution to productivity and help meet the skill needs of New Zealand businesses.

Mental Health Services—Cost Pressures

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Will funding for mental health services in 2016/17 meet all demand-driven cost pressures?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): It has over the past 7 years, but of course, we will only know the actual inflation rate for the coming year retrospectively. Budget 2016 provides an extra $568 million of new money, the highest increase for health in 7 years. Although the 2016-2017 mental health ring-fence will not be known until district health board (DHB) annual plans are finalised, there is plenty of money within that $568 million for DHBs to allocate to mental health services.

Hon Annette King: Will community mental health funding receive a significant increase from the 2.5 percent yearly average increase the Government has provided in the last three Budgets, in light of increasing demand and the spate of reviews of mental health service failure?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As I said the DHBs are free to allocate part of that $568 million as they see fit, but the key thing is that across the mental health system, we are seeing more people more quickly and with more resources than ever before.

Barbara Kuriger: Can the Minister confirm that over the last 7 years, through difficult global financial times—[Interruption]—this Government provided sufficient funding to meet all population growth and inflationary pressures in Vote Health?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I could not hear it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is saying he did not hear it, so I am going to invite [Interruption] Order! I am going to invite the member to repeat the question, but there is a portion in that question that is not necessary to the question. It is to be excluded; it only creates disorder.

Barbara Kuriger: Can the Minister confirm over the last 7 years that this Government has provided sufficient funding to meet all population growth and inflationary pressure in Vote Health?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, I can. Critics are wrong to claim that health funding under this Government has not kept up with population and inflationary pressures. [Interruption] Just listen—this is really important, OK? An analysis of Vote Health over the previous seven Budgets shows that the total injection of new money has been higher than population and cost pressures for the same period.

Hon Annette King: Will the funding provided for mental health services in the Budget be sufficient—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry; I am having trouble hearing the question itself because of the level of interjection. I ask for it to cease. If it is not going to cease, I am going to have to deal with it more severely. Would the member start the question again.

Hon Annette King: Will the funding provided for mental health services in the Budget be sufficient to reduce emergency department presentations by mental health patients, which have grown by 69 percent for the month of June, for the past 5 years, and across 18 DHBs?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I totally dispute that figure, but what I can say is indisputable is that out of that $568 million the DHBs are free to allocate money to mental health as they see fit. There are some very specific initiatives in the Budget to take pressure off mental health. There is $12 million for mental health responses at an early stage. That is to support primary care with the triage system—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN:—and to create a liaison service between primary care and secondary care psychiatrists. There is also, of course, the $20 million for Canterbury mental health. There is another $12 million to help pregnant women with alcohol and drug problems. That is on the back of the Prime Minister’s $64 million youth mental health programme. I could go on and on, but there is plenty there.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, if Canterbury DHB does have sufficient funding as he keeps claiming, why do its recent board minutes state the increase in mental health funding “will not address the challenges faced by the DHB.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What I can tell you is that it has an extra $20 million—[Interruption] Just listen to this—it has an extra $20 million, which we announced a couple of weeks ago. There is also an extra $44 million in this Budget for Canterbury. There is actually plenty of money there, and the feedback I get from the chair of the DHB and the chief executive is actually that they are very happy with the injection of funds. So please stop making it up, it is not very helpful for anyone.

Hon Annette King: Has sufficient funding been provided for mental health services to assist district health boards like Waikato, Capital and Coast, and MidCentral, where reports have suggested there are serious funding issues, staff recruitment problems, and services in significant debt?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, reports have not suggested serious funding issues. The only serious funding is actually the $568 million extra going in—the biggest increase in 7 years. I can tell you that funding is ahead of population and cost pressures—that is a fact. You need to stop telling people otherwise. You should take down that silly website.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister cannot bring me into the debate, but, equally, there is not much point in asking a question if the member is then not going to bother to listen to the answer.

Hon Annette King: Oh, I could hear it.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member can hear it, then she can allow me to hear it without her interjections.

Marama Fox: What does the Minister say to the many members of the public who turn up to the emergency department suffering depression and making threats of committing suicide, and who are turned away?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have not had any reports of anyone being turned away, but what I can say is that we are putting in more resources. We are seeing more people more quickly on an ongoing basis. Mental health services have never done more than they are doing now. But, actually, we have got to keep on doing more and more.

Building, Auckland and Christchurch—Reports

4. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What reports has he received on the building boom spreading beyond Auckland and Christchurch?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Yesterday’s building consent figures show total annual consents nationally topped 28,000, an all-time record of $17.6 billion worth of building work. Growth in Auckland remains strong, with now 4 years of 20 percent growth, which is why we now have a house-build rate of 40 new homes each working day. The surprise in yesterday’s data was that two-thirds of the national growth was outside of Auckland and Christchurch. Centres like Hamilton and Tauranga are now experiencing growth of 26 percent in the rate of housebuilding.

Dr Shane Reti: What increases in building activity were there in Northland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Northland had one of the strongest growth rates, with increases in annual consents of 53 percent in Whangarei for the year, 54 percent in the far north, and 31 percent in Kaipara. Across Northland, consents were up from 660 to nearly 1,000, showing how successfully this Government’s policies are working for the community of Northland.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Todd Barclay. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The primary questions were from the Government, and now you have taken the next one when I was on my feet at the same time—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member needs to understand the Standing Orders. It is the Speaker’s discretion as to where he takes the call. I have taken it from Todd Barclay.

Todd Barclay: Is the building growth confined to regions in close proximity to Auckland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the growth was strong all over the country. Manawatū was up 66 percent, Palmerston North was up 57 percent, Wanganui was up 60 percent, and Rotorua was up 96 percent. I note that in Queenstown Lakes District, in the member’s own electorate, the number was up 40 percent. In my own area of Tasman, it was up 35 percent. I acknowledge the unique housing issues in Queenstown, and I would particularly commend that member for his initiative around the old Wakatipu High School site, which the Government is exploring as a place where it can further grow housing supply.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the whole history of humanity, in this country or in the whole wide world, has the Minister ever seen someone living in a consent?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What I know is that Governments have always used building consent data as the best measure of the way in which housebuilding occurs, and that it matches, within 1 percent, the census data on new homes that are constructed.

Phil Twyford: Does he believe that regional centres like Queenstown and Tauranga, both now rated as severely unaffordable and with high levels of homelessness, are victims of their own success, or is this what passes for regional development under his Government?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is true that the regions of New Zealand are strongly growing, and that is a good thing. The irony is that 3 years ago, when I announced housing accords with both the Tauranga and the Queenstown councils, this was the member who said I was wasting my time and should be focused only on Auckland. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Simon O’Connor: Are there any risks to the strong building boom in Auckland continuing?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The historical root cause of Auckland’s housing woes has been that the old regional council was very opposed to urban sprawl and did not want to greenfield growth, while the territorial councils were very opposed to infill housing. As a consequence, Auckland was not able to grow anywhere. The irony is that although National and Labour now agree that metropolitan urban limits are at the core of the problem, the new-found love-fest between Labour and the Greens exposes opposite policies on the metropolitan urban limit.

Finance, Minister—Average Wages

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in question time yesterday with respect to average wages, “we do not promise some specific level of income”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance)on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes.

Grant Robertson: Why, then, did he produce a policy in 2014 that specifically claimed that the average wage would reach $62,000 in 2018?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I happen to have my own copy of that policy at hand, and I appreciate the member’s interest. It clearly says: “The Treasury forecasts average wages to grow by around $6,600 to $62,000 by mid-2018, and expects around 150,000 new jobs to be created in that time.”

Grant Robertson: Referring to that same document, can he confirm that it says “National’s economic plan will make those forecasts a reality.”; and if that is not a promise, what is?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes I can, and the good news for the member is that we are making very good progress. The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update said that it expected the average weekly wage to be $1,114 while the actual figure is $1,111, which is just $3 per week behind at this point. The point remains that they are Treasury predictions, but it is only this Government’s economic policies that deliver economic results for New Zealanders, which they test every 3 years.

Grant Robertson: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The only safe man in Opposition.

Grant Robertson: It’s a job you’ll never have, Gerry.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I know the member was responding to an interjection, which was unhelpful, but can we have the supplementary question?

Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that on the basis of the same calculation that he used to say that there would be a $62,000 average wage in 2018, that will now actually be a $59,400 average wage; and whom should working people go to see to find the $2,600 a year that is missing from what he promised them?

Mr SPEAKER: Either of those two supplementary questions, the Hon Steven Joyce.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is wrong. The latest forecast is actually an average wage of $60,000 in mid-2018, but as the Minister of Finance constantly stresses to Mr Robertson, those are predictions that move around. We are confident that when the time comes in late 2017, when the National-led Government is up against Labour and the Greens, New Zealanders will see that their wages have grown much faster than inflation under this Government, and under the previous Government, wages were growing slower than inflation.

Dr David Clark: It’s just not true.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is true.

Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, can he confirm that Budget 2016 says that average real wages will not go up in the next 2 financial years under his Government?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member cannot have it both ways. He cannot at one point say that the Government is not bound by the Treasury figures, and then say the Government is bound by the Treasury figures. The reality is that every 6 months Treasury comes up with predictions. The reality is that Treasury expects real wages to continue rising over time and, importantly, the experience for New Zealanders is that over the last 5 years the average annual wage has risen 14.1 percent, compared with inflation of only 4.7 percent. That is what Kiwis are actually experiencing, and we will see where they are at next year.

Health, Associate Minister—Confidence

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Associate Minister of Health, the Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is “Iiga”, not “Liga”, but anyway, yes, because he has worked hard to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in the Associate Minister of Health, who in this House claimed yesterday that the intangible cost of smoking is some $11 billion or 61 percent of the health budget?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The point the Minister was making yesterday is that the cost of smoking on society is enormous. But all of that is outweighed by the cost on the individual, and by the end of this question time one further New Zealander will have died of a smoking-related illness. Personally, I think the Government should stand up and try to protect those New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question. Well, if—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have not called you. I am just waiting for a bit of silence. Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, if that is true, Prime Minister, and smoking is as bad as he and the Associate Minister of Health said yesterday, then why does he not get some guts and ban it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think history has shown that for very addictive substances, banning is an extremely difficult thing to do. In fact, most of the addiction services will tell you that, ultimately, for someone to stop doing something, they themselves have to want to do it. So, yes, of course the Government is doing the right thing, I think, in terms of, for instance, raising prices, and we know that that has the biggest single effect. There is about a 4 percent to 5 percent reduction per year for every 10 percent increase in price. In the end, 5,000 New Zealanders die every year from smoking-related illnesses, and maybe that member should get some guts and try to help those people.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in the Minister if that Minister’s intention is, on the one hand, to reduce the harm from cigarettes, targeting $1.8 billion in taxes on smokers; and if, on the other hand, he is guesstimating total Crown revenue in 2020 as being $2 billion from these taxes but he cannot guesstimate the number of people who are going to give up smoking?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The evidence we have over the last 5 years of price increases in smoking is that it has reduced by about 4 percent to 5 percent a year, so it is about a 25 percent reduction. We know that the biggest impact that it has is on young people. We know from our data that disproportionately larger groups of Māori and Pacific people smoke, particularly Māori people, and, in our view, by taking all of the steps that we are, we are trying desperately hard to encourage people to stop so that they can live a longer life. I saw my mother-in-law die at a very, very young age from smoking. She was 53. She did not get to see our kids growing up. Personally, I know that when she was 53 and on her deathbed, she would have given everything to have made an earlier decision not to smoke. I think there are a lot of New Zealanders in that category.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, why will the Government not forgo billions in taxes into its coffers—the smoking taxes—and get some guts and ban it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said earlier, bans are a nice idea, but history has shown that bans do not work terribly well. The Government is taking steps where it can, but in the end, ultimately, for people to give up smoking—like any addiction—people have to want to do that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a library analysis of the massive billions in smoking taxes—an analysis of page 104 of this Budget document.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. The Budget document has been tabled. Are you saying—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no, it is a library document I am tabling.

Mr SPEAKER: Explain the library document. If it is just—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a library document, an analysis, into Crown revenues and the 80 percent tax on a packet of cigarettes—its analysis of that Budget document. It is a library document that I want to table.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Members can decipher whether they want the information or not. Leave is sought to table a library document. I presume it is the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

Budget 2016—Support for Young Vulnerable New Zealanders

7. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Social Development: How will Budget 2016 support the care and protection of young vulnerable New Zealanders?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Budget 2016 will see over $347 million invested to support the current and future care and protection of our most vulnerable children and young people. This will ensure that the services and supports are in place to help our most vulnerable when they need it, both now and into the future. The size of this investment, coupled with a 24 percent increase in the total Child, Youth and Family budget since 2008-09, shows how seriously this Government is taking the welfare and protection afforded to our vulnerable children and young people.

Matt Doocey: What funding has been announced to support the overhaul of Child, Youth and Family?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This overhaul will see the child placed squarely at its heart. Their voice will be heard, as we are guided by what is best for them now and into adulthood. Budget 2016 has invested $200 million into the development and implementation of this new model. Among other things, this will establish a single point of accountability by March of next year, a youth advocacy service, the age of care rising to their 18th birthday, greater support for caregivers, and national care standards introduced. In fact, today the first bill has just been introduced into the House that starts these reforms. This Government is determined to make a difference in the lives of young people who come into contact with State care, and this Budget starts delivering on that.

Burglaries—Resolution Rate

8. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe that the 9.3 percent resolution rate for burglaries last year is acceptable and meets the expectations of the community?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): No.

Stuart Nash: Well, in light of that, how can New Zealanders have confidence that police will be able to solve more crime when her own post-Budget press release clearly states that 94 percent of extra money is going towards overdue wage increases and outlines nothing new for fighting crime?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course, there was nothing about overdue wage increases. Police have been very well paid under this Government—I have to say, much better than they ever were under the previous Government. In fact, the police budget has grown from $1.26 billion a year in 2008 to $1.6 billion a year now, which equates to a 28 percent increase.

Stuart Nash: In light of her answer to the first question, if she is expecting police to solve more property crime in 2015-16, what figure will meet her expectation?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: A substantial improvement.

Stuart Nash: Is something not wrong when the Mayor of Hastings has to spend up to a million dollars per year on private security companies keeping his constituents safe, due to a lack of police presence in his local community?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No, because there has always been a partnership between local government and central government around keeping communities safe. In fact, there always has been, particularly when there was the previous Government in place, when we had to spend quite a lot of money in the Papakura district around safety.

Darroch Ball: Did she or her office provide the Minister of Finance the data contained in his Budget speech stating that crime had reduced by 16 percent; if so, does she stand by that advice?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course.

Darroch Ball: Did she mention to the Minister of Finance the fact that the number of incidents that police attend each year has, in fact, increased from 420,000 in 2008 to over 525,000 in 2015?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Not all instances are, in fact, evidence of a crime.

Darroch Ball: Did she mention to the Minister of Finance that the number of cautions and other non-arrest outcomes every year has jumped from 340,000 in 2008 to over 450,000 in 2015, and how on earth is that a 16 percent reduction in crime?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The member may not be aware that those are actually actions taken by police. They are not evidence of a crime; they are actions taken in resolution of an issue.

Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015—Announcements

9. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Justice: What recent announcements has she made relating to the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Yesterday I announced that internet safety organisation NetSafe has been appointed as the approved agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. The approved agency plays a key role in reducing the devastating impact of harmful digital communications by providing a timely and effective service for victims to get help from an independent body. Budget 2016 included $16.4 million to support the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which includes funding for the new approved agency and for the technical advisers provided for in the Act.

Brett Hudson: How will the approved agency help reduce the impact on organisations and individuals of cyber bullying?

Hon AMY ADAMS: The approved agency’s role includes advising on steps people can take to resolve a problem, investigating and attempting to resolve complaints where harm has been caused, and providing education and advice about online safety and conduct. NetSafe brings a strong body of knowledge and experience in this area, with its established relationships with companies and schools across New Zealand and overseas, and I am confident that it will do an excellent job to help remove or stop the spread of harmful content.

Cook Strait Whale Survey—Funding

10. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: How will the Department of Conservation fund the annual Cook Strait whale survey this year, now that its contract with OMV has ended?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): This survey was never intended to be an indefinite project, and it has achieved what it set out to do, which is to give accurate trend figures of the humpback whales. Surveys done over the past 12 years have shown a significant improvement in the whale population, from 25 back in 2004 to 137 last year. So we now have 12 years of field work and biopsies. We will analyse those, review, and reframe, and, although we have finished the boat-based work—that phase is complete—there is also a land-based component; a dedicated group of retired whalers and the Department of Conservation (DOC) will assist them to continue in their work.

Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm that the project that has been cut is the one that DOC has described as “A great piece of work and a really exciting research project”, and, indeed, used as a flagship for the department’s partnership programme in presentations up and down the country?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The particular Cook Strait project has finished what it needed to do and we are analysing it. Not all projects last for all time. It has been very successful; it has given us a lot of information, and, at the risk of repeating the information that I gave in my last answer, I think it is important for the Greens to understand that the data that has been gathered is very useful but it has now come to an end as far as the boat-based part is concerned. We may review that once we analyse the statistics, but at the moment we are very satisfied with it.

Kevin Hague: What work with native species has DOC had to cut to fill the gap in kākāpō recovery and research that was left when corporate sponsorship for that species recently ended?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: Mr Speaker, that question is a long way from the primary question.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that, but the mention was around corporate sponsorship. On that basis, I have allowed the question.

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: We have had a bumper breeding season for the kākāpō. While one sponsor has finished, there are many others queuing up to take its place. In a couple of weeks’ time I will be in a position to announce another sponsor. Kiwibank and other banks are no longer involved in Kiwis for Kiwi, but you will note that from last year we had $11.2 million of new money that has gone into kiwi recovery, which has proved very successful. The ongoing programmes are matched by Crown funding and they are matched by volunteer and community groups. They are very successful and not dependent on corporate sponsorship, but it is a very nice-to-have element of it.

Kevin Hague: How many species of snail or weta or ground beetle, which have had their threat status slide closer to extinction under National’s watch, have had corporate sponsorship money found for them by the Department of Conservation?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: What the member is failing to join up the dots on is that when we get corporate sponsorship it enables DOC to do work that is, perhaps, less attractive to corporate sponsors. So, instead of taking away from our capacity, it enhances it. All of our species are very important. We protect ecosystems in a way that no previous Labour Government had the courage to do. We deal with landscape predator control and ecosystem protection, and that is at the heart of species protection in New Zealand.

Kevin Hague: What did OMV, New Zealand’s largest producer in the oil industry—an industry that threatens whale habitat—get in return for sponsoring the annual whale survey?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: I think that it probably has the satisfaction of knowing that it was participating in something that was very helpful. The Cook Strait whale survey was needed at the time of the aftermath of Japanese whaling, to ensure that the trend was accurately measured as to the humpback whale numbers going through the Cook Strait. That is a responsible corporate response, and I think if the member wants to know any more, he could contact them and find out further detail.

Te Puea Marae—Funding

11. PEENI HENARE (Labour—Tāmaki Makaurau) to the Minister for Social Housing: How much financial assistance, if any, has the Ministry of Social Development given to Te Puea Marae to house the homeless?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing) on behalf of the Minister for Social Housing: Today the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) opened for proposals the $41 million emergency housing initiative that includes funding for community organisations to provide emergency housing. Officials have been in discussion with the marae on accessing funding but no contract has yet been signed. MSD has also been dealing with each of the individuals using the marae who are in high housing need, to find longer-term solutions for the families.

Peeni Henare: How will her $41.1 million fix the problem when most of it covers only existing places, and yet Te Puea Marae had to open its doors because there is a huge increase in demand that is not covered by existing providers?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The $41 million that the Minister for Social Housing has secured in this year’s Budget is the most generous support the Government has ever provided for emergency housing. There certainly will be portions of that that are for new emergency housing, as well as supporting the sustainability of community organisations that provide existing emergency housing.

Marama Davidson: Given that Te Puea Marae is responding to the housing crisis by putting a roof over the heads of homeless New Zealanders, why has the Minister not been out to Te Puea Marae to see what is happening there?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government provides social housing support for over 150,000 New Zealanders. We commend the marae on its initiative. MSD staff have been to the marae in the last week, contracts have been available only from today, and the Minister has brought forward the timetable for those contracts that were not due to come into effect until September, taking into account the need.

Peeni Henare: Can she confirm the only financial help the Government has given Te Puea Marae to help house the homeless is $10,000 through Te Puni Kōkiri, and will she commit to an ongoing weekly contribution to assist Te Puea in filling the gaps in this Government’s failed emergency housing policy?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The way this Government goes about funding community organisations is to respond to need, but to do so in a professional way. The specific need of this marae only arrived last week. There are discussions—[Interruption]. Well, the marae started its programme just last week, and the ministry is in discussion with it about a funding contract.

Peeni Henare: In light of that answer, how has she let homelessness get so bad that a 15-day-old premature baby has been forced to live at an Auckland marae because Housing New Zealand would not house her family in Whakatāne?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The specific circumstances of that case are that the person did not provide the information of them having an infant child because they were concerned that the child may be removed from them if they declared it. That is unfortunate. I think the circumstances are understandable, and the lesson from that is for MSD to be able to reassure families that providing their full information will ensure we can meet their housing need.

Peeni Henare: When the public is moved to action by the reality of so many New Zealand families living in cars and garages, why will she not commit to matching that demand with actual beds?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The number of people in high housing need, which is being monitored by Housing New Zealand, is not significantly different across the country from the number that existed when we came to Government in 2008. It may be news to members opposite but in every single year in my 26 years as a parliamentarian I have dealt with constituency cases of people in high need. It is true that the need in Auckland is greater. In exactly the same way as we have successfully resolved those issues in Christchurch, we will resolve them in Auckland.

Tobacco, Standardised Packaging—Announcements

12. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Associate Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made on standardised packaging of tobacco?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health): Yesterday we marked World Smokefree Day by announcing the next steps to bring about standardised tobacco products and packaging in New Zealand. We released for consultation a draft set of regulations with detailed proposals for standardising tobacco products and packaging. The draft regulations propose similar standardised packaging, as has been in use in Australia since 2012. Tobacco products are harmful and highly addictive. Standardised packaging is another important step in the Government’s programme to help smokers to quit smoking and to dissuade people, especially our young people, from taking it up.

Paul Foster-Bell: What evidence has he seen that standardised packaging reduces smoking?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The Australians have had standardised packaging since 2012. Over that time research has shown that standardised packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products, especially to young people. It also increases the impact of health warnings and the recorded attempts by smokers to quit. Earlier this year the Australian Government published its post-implementation review on tobacco plain packaging. The review shows that 25 percent of the increased drop in smoking prevalence was directly attributable to standardised packaging. I seek leave to table the Australian Government post-implementation review, page 35, which shows this effect.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it available on the internet for members if they want it?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Not that I am aware of, but I will table it.

Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that the member is unsure of its public availability, I will put the leave, and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Paul Foster-Bell: What steps is the Government taking to reduce Māori and Pacific smoking rates?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: This Government is focused on reducing harm to all New Zealanders from tobacco products. We have recently reviewed all the face-to-face smoking cessation contracts to ensure that they target the most at-risk groups, and these include Māori, Pacific, and pregnant women. Quitline has been merged into the new telehealth service and is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to support those trying to quit smoking. The theme of the Government’s smoking cessation programmes is “It’s all about whānau.” This Government is determined to reduce smoking rates among these high-risk groups.

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