Questions & Answers – June 7

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 — 10:44 AM

Prime Minister—Housing

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on housing?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, at the time I made them.

Andrew Little: In his statement that “this Government is not prepared to turn its back on our most vulnerable citizens when they most need our help”, how is it that there are nearly 42,000 homeless people, including 4,000 sleeping rough, in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot verify the numbers that the member has just stated, and I doubt whether they are correct. The Government, as the member will have seen in the Budget, has put considerably more resources into that area, and that is just one of the examples of the actions that we have taken.

Andrew Little: Why will he not apologise to the Salvation Army and the 42,000 homeless New Zealanders for weakening the army’s ability to assist them with his false claim that the homeless do not want help?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not think that is the point that the Salvation Army was making. I think it was making the point that it does not go out with the Ministry of Social Development.

Andrew Little: Why are marae and private donors left doing the job that his out-of-touch Government is failing to do: housing, feeding, and helping dozens of homeless families?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government spends an enormous amount of resources helping New Zealanders, including the most vulnerable. It spends up to $2 billion a year on income-related rents and other support. There has always been, for a very long period of time, over successive Governments, a range of organisations that give support to those most in need.

Andrew Little: Does he accept that Paula Bennett is out of touch on homelessness after spending the last week backpedalling from her admission that homeless people face a crisis?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Andrew Little: Does he accept that Nikki Kaye is out of touch when she claims that homeless people pop into her office all the time just to tell her that they do not need any help?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but I do accept that if the member keeps going the way he is at the moment, he may well be out of a job.

Andrew Little: Does he accept that Chester Borrows is out of touch when he wants media to now conduct background checks on any homeless person who has the temerity to speak out about his Government’s hopeless policies on homelessness?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Andrew Little: Why are he and his Ministers running around blaming the homeless when it is time to get real, grow up, and take responsibility for the homelessness crisis that has exploded on his and Bill English’s watch?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are not.

David Seymour: Does this Government have a policy for people who appear homeless but are actually just renovating?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but maybe we should get one.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Robertson.

Tourism—Impact of Water Quality of Rivers and Lakes

Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 2—James Shaw.

JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green): Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is a lot of interjection. I have called for order. I have moved to the next question. I do not want more interjection continuing.

2. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Tourism: What advice has he received about the risks to the tourism sector from pollution in New Zealand’s rivers and lakes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister of Tourism): I have not received any advice from officials that our fresh water quality is a risk to the tourism industry. I am advised that New Zealand’s overall natural environment meets or exceeds the expectations of 99 percent of visitors. The Government recognises the importance of water quality to New Zealanders and tourists; that is why the Government spent $115 million on fresh water clean-ups between 2008 and 2015 and committed a further $300 million to that process. This compares with the paltry $29 million spent in the 9 years of the previous Labour Government.

James Shaw: Given that answer, why then has the Tourism Export Council called on him specifically to recognise the value of clean water to the industry and to stop rivers and lakes from being sucked dry and polluted at such an unprecedented level?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think everybody in the tourism sector would expect and value highly the environment of New Zealand. As I have said, in the survey work that is done and the advice that we have had, 99 percent of that either meets or exceeds tourists’ expectations, but it is the reason why in 2011 the Government had the first national policy statement on water. It is why the first detailed water quality standards were set out in 2014. It is why we had the independent State of the Environment monitoring in 2015. It is why we set up the Land and Water Forum, and it is why we have been doing a number of other policy initiatives, including fencing off stock for farming from waterways.

Melissa Lee: What is the current state of the New Zealand tourism sector?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Thank you very much for asking that informative question. Incredibly strong is the answer. We had a record 3.2 million tourists in 2015, with a record high level of spending directly contributing $10.6 billion into our economy and indirectly contributing a further $7.9 billion.

James Shaw: What data does he have that show that tourists prefer to wade in our rivers rather than dive in head first?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would always advise a tourist and a New Zealander to be careful diving in anywhere head first.

James Shaw: Given that answer, what budget has he allocated to inform the 3.3 million tourists arriving here this year that they can wade but not swim in two-thirds of our monitored rivers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Our waterways are far more swimmable than that. Of course, there are always signs that advise tourists—often signs for waterways, anyway—whether there are particular times when they cannot be swum in, and if the member had wanted to know about diving in head first, I would have told him happily last week that diving in head first with Andrew Little is not going to—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Melissa Lee: What is the biggest risk to the tourism industry?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Another excellent question. Well, workforce predictions indicate that up to 36,000 additional full-time workers will be required in the tourism sector by 2025, as well as an additional 26 hotels to house tourists. Given the opposition to foreign chefs and Resource Management Act reforms, the biggest threat to the tourism industry is a Labour-Greens Government.

James Shaw: What impact do the recurring images of cattle defecating in our rivers and lakes have on the tourism industry, on our international marketability, and, ultimately, on the economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure that the member is not aware of this, but the advertisements we run as part of “100% Pure” tend to show our waterways, our mountains, and the like in beautiful condition, because many of them are most of the time. We do not show images of animals pooing in rivers, and that is why the Government is stopping that. If the member wants a lesson in effective marketing and in what images to show, he should feel free to come to my office, and I will show him all of those videos.

James Shaw: What bottom line does he have, as the Minister of Tourism, to support, for our rivers and lakes, either: wadeable or swimmable?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Obviously, my preference is swimmable, and that is why the Government is working on the initiatives that we have, which include spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars more than the previous Government, which include the national policy statement, and which include the policies stopping stock from going into waterways. Over time, that is something we would like to achieve, but it is a very long process. It took a long time to get here, and it will, in reality, take a long time to clean up all of those rivers.

David Seymour: Does the Government have any plans, or has it received any advice, on introducing a tax on entering or exiting the country as a tourist to help fund tourism infrastructure?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not recently, but what is true is that a number of industry players have come to me, as Minister of Tourism, recommending that they do some work to come to the Government on a potential charge that could be applied—there are many potential areas where it could be applied—to build a tourism fund that could be used for infrastructure. The Government is neutral to that view at this point; it would need to look at it and would need to give some consideration to it, and in the fullness of time, when we receive it, we will offer a view on it.

Budget 2016—Public Infrastructure

3. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s investment in public infrastructure in Budget 2016 helping to build a stronger, more productive economy and deliver better public services?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): In the Budget, $2.1 billion was allocated to public infrastructure. School property is a key part of the package—around $882 million—which will deliver 480 new classrooms, nine new schools, and two school expansions. This includes $168 million for the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, which is now in its third year and has completed six schools, with a further eight under construction.

Barbara Kuriger: How does the public infrastructure package support transport, particularly in the regions?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget funded previously announced transport projects to the value of $115 million in Gisborne, Marlborough, and Taranaki under the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Package. This includes funding for bypasses of Mount Messenger and the Awakino Gorge tunnel in Taranaki, which will open the region up to the rest of the upper North Island. The Government’s regional roading programme is one of our core transport priorities. This funding is the second tranche of a $212 million package announced in 2014. In addition, in respect of transport, KiwiRail will receive $190 million for the operation of the national freight network, the second part of a 2-year package to help it improve its performance.

Barbara Kuriger: What support does the public infrastructure package give to our tax administration system, which is now over 25 years old?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Budget 2016 provides a net $857 million to modernise and simplify the tax administration system to ensure it meets New Zealanders’ needs, reduces compliance costs for businesses, and helps people get their obligations and entitlements right first time. The money will fund the change in technology as well as a complete revamp of one of our largest Government departments. It will give people greater ability to manage their tax affairs online. The Inland Revenue Department’s (IRD’s) current system is 25 years old. We need to move to where businesses find that meeting tax obligations is part of the normal business processes, not a separate, specialised activity.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Arising from the original question, why was 45 percent of the Future Investment Fund not spent on schools, hospitals, and roads but, rather, diverted to slush fund – type expenditure, like $41 million on Mighty River Power share loyalty bonus schemes, the Genesis Energy public offering, $23 million to the passports memorandum account, $12 million to the RealMe account—

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and $23 million for New Zealand’s contribution to the World Bank subscription?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I certainly disagree with the member’s description of the New Zealand Government meeting its international obligations to multilateral institutions and other important aspects of our capital investment. The $4.7 billion from the sale of the electricity companies meant that we did not have to borrow $4.7 billion to meet long-term, high-quality investment propositions within the Government.

Barbara Kuriger: What other steps is the Government taking to improve the tax system, particularly for the benefit of small businesses?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The revamp of the IRD system will allow us to move to a more real-time type of taxation, which means that small businesses whose workload and cash flow fluctuate will have the opportunity from 1 April 2018 to pay their tax when they have cash. The current provisional tax system often requires them to pay tax when they do not have cash. I must say, many small businesses have expressed their appreciation for the fact that the Government is investing in digitalising government and making their lives a bit easier.

Prime Minister—Statements

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; in so many ways.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statement that “immigration settings were about right, and the Auckland housing market would take care of itself.”; if so, is he satisfied with 34,000 new migrants moving to Auckland each year, adding more pressure on demand for housing, education, health, and infrastructure?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he truly does not want New Zealanders to become, in his words, “tenants in their own country”—said in the campaign, of course—then why did his Government let immigration get so out of control that so many young New Zealand families today are going to be tenants and not owners of their homes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will just assist the member. [Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, it is yellow—it is your colour.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can we just have the question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Since he announced his Government’s policy for migrants to settle outside of Auckland last year, why have more visa applications for skilled migrants gone to Auckland rather than the regions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because many of those people will be working in areas that will help what is a construction boom happening in Auckland, so they will be involved in that area. If one takes an objective look at the net migration numbers, they reflect a number of areas. They are largely the Kiwis not leaving or Kiwis coming home, they are people on working holidays, or they are students. I think most New Zealanders would see that as a pretty good thing.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has Immigration New Zealand got rid of its verification teams in respect of skilled migrant applications; why was it disbanded in April 2015 with a 20 percent performance record and 80 percent not looked at at all?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would have to ask the Minister of Immigration.

Mr SPEAKER: Question No.—[Interruption] Oh, a supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: What is it?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order. I seek leave to table an Immigration New Zealand paper to New Zealand First setting out what has gone wrong with the process—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The last part will not help. It is an Immigration New Zealand paper sent to New Zealand First. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Aged Care—Home and Community Support Sector

5. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Associate Minister of Health: What advice, if any, has he received on the financial viability of the home and community support sector for older New Zealanders?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health): I have received a range of advice, including advice that this Government, despite financial constraints, has continued to increase funding for home and community support services for older New Zealanders from $271 million in 2008 to $356 million in 2015. That is a more than 30 percent increase in funding for this sector in the past 7 years.

Hon Annette King: What is his response to the report provided to the Minister of Health from the Home and Community Health Association just before the Budget, which outlined the instability of the home-care sector, its critically challenged financial viability, workforce retention problems, and increasing demand for service?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I say to that member, as I said in the answer to the first question, funding has increased over 7 years. In fact, in the last year alone, it has gone up 4.4 percent, from $341 million to $356 million. I also add that we are conducting workshops to look at revising the Health of Older People Strategy. During those workshops a number of issues came up, addressing what the member has just spoken about, including making the system truly people-centred and making a smarter investment approach to healthy ageing, as well as reducing rigidities and increasing flexibility in service and business models.

Hon Annette King: Will district health boards be required to pass on to providers of home care sufficient funding to cover the recent minimum wage increase, in light of the said report that states that prices have not kept up with increases over the past 7 years and some organisations are now in multiple years of loss?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I reject the assertion that member made about the last 7 years. What I will say is that—as the member knows—Budget 2016 outlined the additional allocation of $400 million per year. The district health boards are working on the allocation of that funding through their district health board plans. That member knows that.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the Home and Community Health Association report, which is not publicly available, entitled Economic Instability of the HomeSupport Sector, dated April 2016.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular report of the Home and Community Health Association. Is there any objection to that report being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.

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

Hon Annette King: How much funding has been provided to district health boards in Budget 2016 to implement the second part of the in-between travel agreement for providers and carers of home care for older New Zealanders?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That member knows that the Government has agreed to pay $38 million for in-between travel, and that started in April of this year. In terms of Part B, it continues to be worked on.

Hon Annette King: When he read the report on changes to home and community support services from the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards, was he satisfied that there would be no adverse effects on the 700 older people who will be transitioned out of their home-care services in an effort to reduce costs?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Again, I challenge the veracity of that member’s assumptions around those 700 people.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a report from the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards that is not available: Home and Community Support Services. The pages I am tabling reflect what I had in my question.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular report from the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Hon Annette King: What work is currently under way in his portfolio to look at means testing as well as asset testing of older New Zealanders needing home and community support service, which is something that does not happen currently?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have already said earlier, there is work being done on the Health of Older People Strategy that does involve looking at the increasing flexibility and responsiveness of funding streams. It also looks at improving the integration and collaboration within the health sector.

Schools, Special—Announcements

6. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about special education?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I was pleased to announce as part of Budget 2016 that an additional $42.1 million of operating funding over the next 4 years will be made into services for students with special needs. Under this Government, spending on special education has increased by 29 percent. The extra funding will extend the personalised Intensive Wraparound Service for students with complex behavioural and learning needs, enable more students to access the ongoing resourcing scheme, and increase teacher-aide hours to support classroom teachers of students with high learning needs. In addition, we are investing $1.5 million of operating funding over the next 4 years in specialised equipment and technology that will help students with special education needs to better access the curriculum and to participate and learn in class.

Ian McKelvie: How will these announcements assist students with special education needs?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The $8.9 million extension to the Intensive Wraparound Service over the next 4 years will increase the number of students receiving this personalised support by 50, bringing it to 335 a year. The $16.5 million increase in ongoing resourcing scheme funding over the next 4 years means that from 2016-17 the number of students receiving this specialist help, including speech therapy, additional teacher time, and teacher-aide hours, will rise from 8,335 to more than 8,600. The extra $15.3 million for in-class teacher-aide hours over the next 4 years will enable 1,250 more students to benefit from teacher-aide support in classrooms. This investment will help some of our most disadvantaged students to get the educational qualifications they need and ensure they get the opportunity to be included with their peers and to study in their local schools.

Sea Level Rise—Fiscal Risk

7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he still believe that the fiscal risk associated with sea level rise is “a bit speculative”, given the damage surging seas inflicted on coastal properties in Australia this weekend?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes.

Eugenie Sage: Does he disagree with the head of climate monitoring at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, who said: “We know that [coastal erosion from storm surges] is progressively becoming more damaging because the sea level is rising.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not seen those comments. I am sure they were made on the basis of considerable expertise. The Government tends to see this issue as a matter of getting in place the tools for managing the risk. So, for instance, we will be issuing a document in the next few months that looks at how risks of natural disaster are shared between central government and local government, because local governments make the relevant regulatory decisions, but when a large or persistent natural disaster turns up there is a 60:40 basis for sharing the costs. I think we all agree that could probably be changed so that the risks, such as this one, are better managed.

Eugenie Sage: Can he tell the House what the estimated cost is of replacing the 160 kilometres of rail lines, 222 kilometres of State highway, and more than 2,000 kilometres of local roads at risk from sea level rise and storm surges, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency?


Eugenie Sage: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Transport report obtained under the Official Information Act showing the cost of replacing this infrastructure is close to a billion dollars.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Eugenie Sage: Will he reconsider his decision to ignore the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recommendation for him to examine the fiscal and economic risks associated with sea level rise?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There has been no such decision. I mean, as the member has just pointed out, someone has done an assessment that says that over the next hundred years it might cost a billion dollars to replace those assets. There are probably cheaper ways of dealing with that kind of risk. The Government is proceeding with some pretty significant work in respect of managing natural disaster risk, both through the review of the Earthquake Commission and the review of local government insurance arrangements. Over the next couple of years, as the new arrangements are put in place, both central and local government will have clearer understandings and incentives about how to manage that kind of risk, which, I must say, in New Zealand is only one of a whole lot of other risks, such as earthquakes and floods, on which we are paying out fairly large amounts of money more regularly. In Christchurch we have just tipped over $17 billion.

Eugenie Sage: Does that work in relation to the Earthquake Commission or other agencies include looking at whether homeowners should be compensated for loss of property resulting from climate-induced sea level rise; if so, when will a decision be made on that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think it addresses that issue specifically at this stage. It may arise in the future.

Finance, Minister—Statements

8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “one aspect of macro-prudential tools is that they can have unintended consequences”; if so, what does he think would be the likely unintended consequences of debt-to-income ratio restrictions for mortgage lending?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I do stand by my statement; I would not speculate on the unintended consequences of restrictions that are not in place and that the Reserve Bank is beginning to investigate.

Grant Robertson: Would a blanket debt to income ratio that limited a first-home buyer to borrowing $400,000, as per the UK model, pricing them out of the Auckland housing market, be one of the unintended consequences he is referring to?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would not want to speculate on that, simply because the Reserve Bank, as I understand it, is beginning work, and no doubt its consideration will include looking at the application of the tool to other countries.

Grant Robertson: Would he agree to a debt to income ratio applying only to investors and not to first-home buyers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is hypothetical. The Reserve Bank has yet to investigate whether the tool is workable. Then it has got to decide that it wants to include it in the memorandum of understanding about macro-prudential tools. Then it has got to go out and consult everybody and work out how to apply it.

Grant Robertson: Are there any limits to a debt to income ratio that he will rule out now?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, because it is not my role in law to do that. In law, the respective roles are that if the Reserve Bank wants to introduce another macro-prudential tool, then it negotiates with the Government to include it in the memorandum of understanding. The design and application of the tool are, as they should be, the tasks of the independent statutory regulator. Much as the member might think it is appropriate, I do not think the New Zealand Minister of Finance should break the law.

Grant Robertson: Why is he prepared to see first-home buyers priced out of the market, but he is still unprepared to crack down on speculators, including offshore ones, continuing to allow them to purchase existing homes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the last 12 months 12,000 first-home buyers have benefited from the HomeStart programme, and there is sufficient funding allocated for 90,000 first-home buyers to benefit from that policy. It is succeeding and it is helping many first-home buyers into their first home.

Education Infrastructure, Investment—Announcements

9. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has the Government made about investment in education infrastructure?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Education): In the last 10 days Minister Parata and I have announced over $500 million in projects to build new schools, build new kura, expand existing schools, and provide for new classrooms. This spending is part of a huge $882 million investment in education infrastructure, secured as part of Budget 2016. This Budget more than doubled the education infrastructure spend of last year’s Budget. I am pleased to advise the House that this Government has committed around $5 billion to school property—significantly more than the previous Government.

Andrew Bayly: What investment in schooling infrastructure is under way in Auckland?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: Last week Minister Parata and I announced at Ormiston Primary School that Budget 2016 provided $19 million for a new primary school in Hingaia South, $7.3 million to expand Ormiston Primary School, around $100 million for four new schools, and $27 million for additional classrooms. I can also confirm that since 2014, as a result of the Auckland roll growth programme, school redevelopments, new schools, and projects green-lighted under Budget 2016 the Government will be delivering more than 17,000 new student places across Auckland by 2019. I am pleased to confirm that there will be further announcements this year, delivering more redevelopments and more classrooms.

David Seymour: Will any of this new classroom capacity be added to schools in central Auckland; if so, to which schools?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I am pleased the member has asked that question. We have already had significant announcements, both in the Epsom electorate and the Auckland Central electorate. There is $80 million for redevelopment for Western Springs College, and a range of other classrooms are coming.

Joanne Hayes: What investment is being made in education infrastructure in Canterbury?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: More than $276 million is being invested in Canterbury school infrastructure, as part of Budget 2016. The total investment package is made up of around $168 million towards the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, at least $100 million to build two new schools and deliver two relocatable and rebuilt schools, around $8 million for new roll growth classrooms, and $6 million for the seismic strengthening fund for integrated schools. The new classrooms demonstrate a strong commitment to areas like Lincoln and Methven, and show a commitment to the many different communities of Canterbury.

Tim Macindoe: What investment is being made in education infrastructure in other regions of New Zealand?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: Over the last week the Government has announced significant investment in other parts of New Zealand, including: $4 million to provide new classrooms in the Greater Wellington region; $53.5 million in school property in Tauranga, Hamilton, and Hawke’s Bay; a $90 million investment to provide schools with new classrooms, and a new site and buildings for a kura. I am particularly pleased to advise the House of the new school planned and funded for Tauranga. There is $18 million for a new school in the Pyes Pā area, and in Hamilton around $25 million has been provided for Sylvester Primary School. The investment in Budget 2016 is all about ensuring that students across New Zealand have good quality school infrastructure. The good news is that on top of the announcements made across New Zealand in the last 10 days, there is lots more good news to come.

Housing, Availability—Visits by Salvation Army

10. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Was she responsible for the advice to the Prime Minister that Ministry of Social Development officials accompanied the Salvation Army to visit homeless people in South Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Park?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes. I told the Prime Minister that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) was working in conjunction with NGOs, including the Salvation Army, to reach out to homeless people to see if they could offer assistance. I was not sufficiently clear that MSD was coordinating the activities and making staff available after hours to deal with any issues as they arose. He was 100 percent correct that the Salvation Army reported to MSD, after the first night, that of all the people they engaged, none wanted MSD’s help.

Phil Twyford: Why has she not apologised for misusing the good name of the Salvation Army to try to blame homeless people for their plight and her failed housing policy?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, the mistake that was made was certainly me not being clear enough that MSD was not actively with the Salvation Army. But, actually, we have had a number of NGOs that were out last week, including MSD, which was at the Auckland City Mission. The purpose of these visits was to engage homeless people as have been identified and make sure that they were connected to the support that they can get. What we did find from those visits was that most people did not actually want to engage. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Can the House settle, to give Mr Twyford a fair go at asking his supplementary question.

Phil Twyford: How many people have accepted the Government’s $3,000 offer to move to Auckland to get a job, and have now applied to take up her $5,000 offer to move out of Auckland to get a house?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: None, because that would not be possible under the policy settings. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Carmel Sepuloni, that is your last warning for today.

Alfred Ngaro: Why is MSD organising the mobile team activities?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I asked MSD to coordinate with experienced NGOs to talk with homeless people to gauge their social housing needs, to look at whether we can give them assistance with food grants, and also to make sure that they are on the social housing register and, if they are there, whether they have the right priority rating. This has come about because we saw the need that was there and wanted to actively engage with them.

Alfred Ngaro: What else is the Government doing to help vulnerable people with housing needs?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We spend around $34 million every week to subsidise more than 470,000 New Zealanders in social housing, private rentals, and even those on low incomes with some of their mortgage payments. That is around $2 billion every year, up 53 percent from $1.3 billion when we took office. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If you want further warnings dished out, I can do that, but for the Minister who has been asked a question—it is an in-order question, so I want to hear the answer.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We place, on average, 134 tenants and their families into social housing every week. In a first for New Zealand, we are spending over $41 million on 3,000 emergency housing places around the country. We are also freeing up places—

Andrew Little: You’re making that up. Why can’t you be honest?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Little.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Look, get a supplementary question if you really want one—plus we are freeing up social housing through tenancy reviews to make sure that those who are in real need can get those houses.

Phil Twyford: How can she maintain that her “get out of town” announcement was not a media-driven stunt, when she said: “in the last few days I think we just, certainly from the media putting the attention on it and you are seeing people that are living in those sort of circumstances, I just want to do whatever we can and I think this is a way for me to get the message out to them that there is help available,”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That sounds like a fantastic statement—that there actually is help available and we want to make sure that we are getting to them. Since that statement on relocating out of Auckland, which we have been working on for over 5 months, actually, we have had 130 people who have made inquiries about it, with whom we are working closely.

Phil Twyford: Will she admit that solving homelessness is just not her priority, given that her “get out of town” policy was clearly a last-minute gimmick, and that she made up a story involving the Salvation Army to blame homeless people for their own plight?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I refute both of those statements. Actually, we are working with the Salvation Army, which does a great job. Addressing housing needs for vulnerable people in New Zealand is a priority, and the member can get up and postulate all he likes, but we are going to actually do something.

Phil Twyford: Will she apologise to the Salvation Army?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have nothing to apologise for. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Twyford. I am calling for order from both front benches.

Environmental Projects—Clean-up of Contaminated Sites

11. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Minister for the Environment: What progress is the Government making on cleaning up contaminated sites and what new projects have been announced since Budget 2016?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The Government is systematically cleaning up New Zealand’s most contaminated sites. We currently have eight projects under way. These projects are difficult, as we note from the experience at Māpua, and require careful project management and the flexibility to adapt as new contamination is found. Last Friday I announced the latest project, involving a Government contribution of $4.2 million for addressing tributyltin and copper contamination in Nelson Haven. This is a project with the Nelson City Council and Port Nelson. This project will not only prevent this contamination from gradually spreading throughout the haven but also help secure the future of the boat maintenance facility and jobs. A condition of the funding is that there is the proper environmental regulation to ensure no future pollution. Another is that the local community shares in the cost of the clean-up.

Whitireia Community Polytechnic—International Students

12. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What reports has he seen on the pass rates for international students at Whitireia Community Polytechnic?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice)on behalf of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: I have received no reports specifically on the pass rates for international students at Whitireia Community Polytechnic. I am aware of allegations made by a former staff member of Whitireia Community Polytechnic to a large number of agencies and members of Parliament relating to a particular paper at the institution. Whitireia Community Polytechnic had the concerns independently investigated, and while the review found some concerns with the paper, education agencies consider there was no evidence of serious concerns that required further investigation.

Tracey Martin: Is the Minister comfortable with his department responding to these allegations in writing by saying: “Whitireia informed us of malpractice, and we accept that this will not be repeated.”, thereby ceasing any investigation?

Hon AMY ADAMS: What I am aware of is that the independent investigation by Mr Peter Sherwin found that although there were procedural shortcomings it had not led to an unfair or noticeably perverse outcome. Based on those findings, and the findings that the organisation handled the matter appropriately in reviewing it, it is appropriate that it is left there.

Tracey Martin: Is the Minister saying that it is standard practice by his officials to make no requests for further information or proof regarding these sorts of allegations from the official complainant?

Hon AMY ADAMS: What I understand the Minister to be saying is that when an independent review finds that the matter has been thoroughly investigated, that where lessons have needed to be learnt they have been learnt, and that it has been handled appropriately, he is happy to take it at that.

Tracey Martin: Does the Minister acknowledge that it is best practice, when scaling exam or assignment marks, to scale the complete cohort involved, not hand pick certain students, and will he instruct a full, independent inquiry from his office on these allegations?

Hon AMY ADAMS: My understanding is that the Minister is satisfied that it has been properly investigated.

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