Questions & Answers – August 24

by Desk Editor on Thursday, August 25, 2016 — 10:45 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 given the falling rate of homeownership, especially among young people?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. As I have noted in the House previously, New Zealand’s homeownership rates peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so this is a long-term trend under successive Governments. It is also in line with what has happened in many other countries. The Government is taking a number of steps to help first-home buyers, including the expanded $435 million KiwiSaver HomeStart grants and getting more houses built faster.

    Andrew Little: Why is his Government allowing young families to be shut out of homeownership while speculators make millions from land banking?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I suspect speculators have always been involved in the markets and at various times have made money. The Government is not stopping young people from being involved in houses. That is what the $435 million expanded homeownership programme is about, and we know that around about, I think, 90,000 people will benefit from that.

    Andrew Little: Why, despite years of his Government promising solutions, are 328 properties currently being promoted on TradeMe as land-banking investments?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, they will be private properties that people own, and they have—

    Dr David Clark: Oh, that makes it all right!

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —made their own call—well, they have made their own call, actually, in that world, to allow them to decide what they want to do with it. But it is worth putting in a bit of perspective. Last year, in Auckland alone, nearly 32,000 properties were sold. If a small number of people think they should land bank it, well, that is their own personal choice.

    Andrew Little: Why do just one in five young families own their own home in Takanini while in the same suburb a land banker is advertising a two hectare section for $4.5 million, a $2 million increase on what they paid for it just a year ago?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There will be a variety of reasons why people do that, but the issue is not whether one or two people decide they want to hold a property and sell it to someone else; the question is whether others get an opportunity to do that. One of the ways they can do that is actually through the Government having a strong fiscal plan and managing the Government’s resources and finances well. One of the ways we have seen that is that interest rates have halved under the National Government’s leadership. They are now 5.4 percent. So for a family with a $300,000 floating mortgage rate, they are saving nearly $16,000 a year—that is a huge amount—under this Government.

    Andrew Little: Does he agree with Harry Wotton that “It’s the Kiwi dream to own your own bit of dirt … It’s almost beyond the reach of people in Auckland … It’s getting more and more difficult to buy in Tauranga and Hamilton … It’s getting beyond the ridiculous.”; if he does not agree, why?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I accept that it has had some challenges, but as I said earlier, interest rates are half what they were. So if we were under Labour, those people would be paying $16,000 more after tax. That would be an issue. I simply point out that in the last 12 months alone 37 percent of all sales in Auckland—11,842 properties—were under the rate at which KiwiSaver HomeStart provides support.

    Andrew Little: When speculators are making a fortune out of tying up land that is desperately needed for houses, is it not time to adopt Labour’s comprehensive housing plan, which includes cracking down on speculators by taxing them when they flick houses on within 5 years, abolishing Auckland’s urban growth limit, and banning offshore buyers?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and the only thing comprehensive was King Tuheitia’s view that the Labour Party is toast.

  • Prime Minister—Statements

    2. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

    Ron Mark: Does he stand by his statement that “every region of New Zealand is crucial to our growth and progress”?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, in the context I made it.

    Ron Mark: Why has the Government, then, given only $12 million over 4 years to councils for tourism infrastructure such as public toilets, when the Government took $630 million net surplus from GST on international visitor spending?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member is wrong; the number is higher than that for GST. The Government has been investing very heavily in the tourism sector. It is one of the reasons why it is such an important part of the economy, and we saw 3.3 million international tourists come to New Zealand. What the Government is doing is—for the first time—providing that sort of support for councils. They are free to put in an application, and, I think, from the feedback that I have been getting both as Prime Minister and as Minister of Tourism, a lot of them are going to do that and be grateful. But to argue that that is the only thing that we are doing in terms of supporting tourists is a bit farcical. It includes the $140 million – odd every year we put into marketing. It includes the work we have done around black spots for mobile phones, ultra-fast broadband, and tourist facilities.

    Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I specifically quoted the figure $12 million over 4 years to councils in respect of tourism infrastructure—

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

    Ron Mark: My question is that he has not answered—I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to answer the question.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, there is absolutely no doubt that the answer addressed the question that was asked.

    Ron Mark: Why is Westpac the Government’s bank, when it is not prepared to be the people’s bank in places like Ranfurly, Fairlie, Carterton, and suburbs like Greerton in Tauranga?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government’s bank is the Reserve Bank—insomuch as we own it—or Kiwibank. Westpac is not the Government’s bank. We might bank with it, but we do not own it. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is an example of the disorder that is created if the member leads in with something before he asks a supplementary question.

    Ron Mark: If the regions are crucial to the Government, why are Nelson residents frustrated and waiting for a viable solution to the Southern Link; and what is the Government doing to revitalise the Buller district, which has lost more than 1,000 jobs in the last few years?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would really need to ask the Minister for Economic Development to get the full regional plan for those particular areas, but, rest assured, there is one. He has been actively engaged with those communities. Actually, from memory—I may be proven wrong—I think it was the Mayor of Buller, actually, who was very, very supportive of the programme that was rolled out. Yes, there have been some issues in relation to mining, but to argue that the Government is responsible for that, given the downturn in commodity prices, is a novel one. If the member thinks he has got an answer to it, he should probably go and ring Malcolm Turnbull, because they happen to be having a few problems in Australia in relation to mining.

  • Finance, Minister—Statements

    3. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “There are more jobs, and people are being better paid”; if so, why?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The latest household labour force survey shows unemployment down to just over 5 percent. It shows that in the last year 100,000 jobs have been created, and that the average annual wage has increased well above the rate of inflation over the last year, which means higher real wages for households. The Government will continue to focus on policies that underpin moderate and consistent growth that delivers more jobs and higher incomes to households.

    Matt Doocey: Given that wages are rising at the same time that inflation remains low, how is the spending power of earnings for New Zealand workers tracking?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Based on Statistics New Zealand figures, annual increases in earnings have now exceeded inflation for 19 consecutive quarters, or every quarter for nearly 5 years, starting from about the time the Labour Party said we had a cost of living crisis. This is the longest unbroken increase in real wages in the 26 years that this has been recorded.

    Matt Doocey: How do employment levels in New Zealand compare with other developed countries?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Comparisons with other countries are interesting and, in this case, positive, but it is no reason at all to be complacent, because there are still too many people who do not have work and too many people who would want to have higher incomes. But I can say that the employment rate in New Zealand—that is, the proportion of all people over 16 in work—is now the second-highest in the OECD. For every 100 people who are 16 or older, 66 have a job. That includes people who choose not to work, or retirees. In Australia, the equivalent figure is 61, in the UK it is 60, and across the OECD the average is 56 in 100 having a job.

    Matt Doocey: Does he agree with recent reports in the Dominion Post that wages have stagnated; if not, why not?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I disagree with it because it is not supported by the facts. Since this Government came into office, average annual wages are up 25 percent, and that is more than double the rate of inflation over that period. The article, which I think came from the most recent Labour Party leader, is simply wrong.

    Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that median household income has increased by 1 percent in real terms under his Government whilst it increased by 27 percent under the last Labour Government?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot.

  • Christchurch Recovery—Release of Information

    4. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said with regard to the Canterbury earthquakes, “on behalf of the Government, let me be clear that no one will be left to walk this journey alone”; if so, does he think all relevant information prepared by his Government has been made available to Cantabrians to assist them in navigating post-earthquake decisions?

    Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration): In answering those two questions, may I say, to support those answers, that the Government has invested around $17.5 billion in helping greater Christchurch rebuild after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. This includes $11.2 billion that the Earthquake Commission expects to spend in response to the earthquakes, $2.5 billion of which it spent establishing the Canterbury Home Repair Programme. It includes $1.5 billion spent purchasing red-zoned land to enable 8,000 families to move on with their lives, $1.7 billion on the programme to rebuild damaged roads, bridges, and underground services, more than a billion dollars to renew educational facilities and build some of the country’s most modern schools, and another billion rebuilding the region’s health facilities—including a new hospital at Burwood and new outpatient facilities and an acute services building on the Christchurch Hospital campus. We have invested another $1 billion in important anchor projects that will see Christchurch have some of the best civic facilities in the world, let alone the country. Then there is the establishment of Regenerate Christchurch, which will see an ongoing relationship between the Crown and the Government to ensure that ongoing investment. There are many more examples I could give in answer to the first part of the question, which is yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister; in answer to the second part of the question, yes.

    Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table an unpublished 82-page booklet, Cash settling earthquake-damaged residential properties in Canterbury, prepared by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to guide Canterbury homeowners through the cash settlement process. It is undated, but the Government failed to release it.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The last part is very unnecessary. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none.

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

    Dr Megan Woods: Does he agree with a representative of the insurance industry that if this booklet had been published 3 years ago it would have been “extremely useful—in fact, we were crying out for such a resource …”; if so, why did they wait years before beginning this resource?

    Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not agree with that insurance company representative, whoever that anonymous person might be. The book was worked on by MBIE between February and late September 2015—7 months. At the start, insurance settlements in Christchurch were at 83 percent. By the time it had finished, they had risen to 93 percent. As of where we are at the present, those insurance settlements are at 96 percent. The book itself was considered by those who reviewed it to be extremely confusing and likely to be most unhelpful. Many of those comments, in fact, came from the same insurance people whom perhaps the member is relying on. What I would point out to her is that the Government itself, in buying out the 8,000 people in the red zones, discovered over 60 different policy settings for what, on the face of it, may have seemed to be the same type of policy. The book was not published, because it was not helpful—now that I know the member has read it, that may explain some of her confusion. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need to just call the member.

    Dr Megan Woods: Thank you. So if this book was so flawed, why was a representative of the insurance industry saying if the booklet had been published 3 years ago, it would have been “extremely useful—in fact, we were crying out for such a resource at the time.”?

    Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am regularly told by the member and some of her other party members that insurance companies have acted in a disreputable manner. Why is it that when they claim that, that is the case—but when they want to say something that suits them, suddenly they are paragons? The reality here is that the settlements at the moment sit at 96.6 percent. They are continuing. The book was deemed to be confusing and, therefore, it was not published.

    Dr Megan Woods: Will he apologise to the people of Canterbury for bowing to pressure and scrapping a booklet that would have aided them to get back on their feet and get a fair deal?

    Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Given that the book took 7 months to produce and was totally useless, I am certainly not apologising for it not being published. What I am proud of is that Cantabrians working with their insurers have got to a position where there is a 96.6 percent settlement rate. What is left are difficult, difficult cases, and we are doing what we can to see them settled.

  • Prime Minister—Government Policies

    5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o āna kaupapa here Kāwanatanga katoa, nē?

    [Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

    Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister stand by his housing policies, now that 85 percent of Aucklanders think there is a housing crisis and more than half of Auckland homeowners think house prices need to come down?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

    Metiria Turei: Does he stand by his housing policies, which have seen households that have to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing go from just one in 10 a generation ago to almost one in three today?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

    Metiria Turei: How long does he think his policies can be effective, when this Government has seen wage rises at something like 1 percent, 1.5 percent a year while the median Auckland house price is going up at over 12 percent a year? How long can that continue?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member constantly demonstrates that she does not really understand what is happening. If she did, she would see that wages have gone up 25 percent in New Zealand and, as I noted earlier to the House, interest rates have halved under this Government. For someone borrowing $300,000 for their mortgage, they are paying $16,000 a year less than they were. Probably, in pre-tax terms, it is in the order of about $22,000 per year.

    Metiria Turei: Surely the Prime Minister is not trying to take credit for low interest rates, when they are happening all over the world because of weak real economic growth, both here and overseas?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the reasons why interest rates are coming down in this country is that the Government has done a good job of getting the books back in order and of managing inflation expectations. It was not so long ago that her co-leader wanted to get the printing presses out in New Zealand and start printing money. That would have had interesting economic implications, as would her desire to see the poorest New Zealanders see all of their equity evaporate in housing when she takes all of that off them. I will be reminding New Zealanders of that in the months to come.

    Metiria Turei: How many poor people on 60 percent or less of the median household income are buying million-dollar homes in Auckland?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I suspect very few, and they probably have not for the last 30 or 40 years. The reality, though, is that for very low-income New Zealanders there is assistance from the Government. KiwiSaver HomeStart, for instance, has both income caps and other caps, and we are seeing around the country quite a lot of New Zealanders—in fact very low-income New Zealanders—accessing that. The Government is also providing additional support for them, with income-related rents into social housing—something we have never seen before. This Government, as we know, was the first Government in decades to raise benefits in this country. We have spent over $10 billion, actually, providing support to very low-income and low-income New Zealanders, in a vast variety of ways. The member gets up as if the Government is not out there supporting the most at-risk New Zealanders; in fact we are, every single day.

    Metiria Turei: Will the Prime Minister accompany me to the Park Up for Homes in Parnell tomorrow night to talk directly to homeless people about his plans to ensure that they are homed in the future; if not, why not?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member should not take it personally, but I do not want to accompany her anywhere. If she wants to know why, it is because I really do not want to hang with her. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order!

    Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table the UMR Research housing poll results, as yet unpublished, provided to me on 22 August 2016.

    Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that I am assured it is unpublished and not therefore available to members, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular UMR Research poll. 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.

  • Education—Announcements

    6. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about expanding 21st century learning options for parents and whānau?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the introduction of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill was announced in this House. It is the biggest update to education in 27 years and will provide flexibility for parents and whānau, and for children and young people at the centre of learning. One of the proposals is the establishment of communities of online learning that will enable online learning in whole or in part as a supplement to classroom learning or a complement to what their schools offer. Digital fluency is the universal language of the 21st century. In the future a provider, including our mainstream schools, tertiary providers, or private providers will be able to apply to become a community of online learning. This will give students, parents, and whānau the benefit of a digital option, grow their digital fluency, and ensure they can be global citizens in an increasingly connected 21st century world.

    Dr Jian Yang: What measures will she put in place to ensure the quality of education is maintained for the young people who choose this option?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: To become a community of online learning, a provider will be required to meet a very high threshold. They will be required to undergo an accreditation regime to ensure that students will have access to a great New Zealand education. They will also be subject to monitoring and an intervention regime, just like all our schools. Providers will also have to provide evidence of their capacity to provide pastoral care and to meet the well-being needs of students. They will be subject to an accountability regime, including reporting against agreed student achievement outcomes, financial reporting requirements, and Education Review Office reviews. We also propose to set strict enrolment criteria—for example, a restriction on the enrolment of students for whom there is a high risk of disengagement in an online environment. We welcome the submissions of parents, families and whānau, and the education sector to the select committee.

  • Education—Communities of Online Learning

    7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: How will her Communities of Online Learning (CoOL) proposal differ from online charter schools in the United States, given a study partially funded by a private pro-charter foundation found students attending those schools lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading, and 180 days of learning in maths during the course of a 180-day school year?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Significantly. As I set out in the answer to the previous question, before a provider could become a community of online learning, it must undergo an accreditation regime, be subject to an intervention regime, provide evidence of its capacity to provide pastoral care, be subject to an accountability regime, and demonstrate that it meets strict enrolment criteria—for example, a restriction on the enrolment of students for whom there is a high risk of disengagement in an online environment. We have put these checks and balances in place because, like the Labour Party members in their Future of Work document, we agree that—and I quote from Labour’s Future of Work document—”… people can obtain entire qualifications online with the same quality of direct learning and engagement as if they were on site.”

    Chris Hipkins: Does her own regulatory impact statement state “Historically, academic achievement for New Zealand correspondence school students is lower than that of students in face-to-face education. Engagement can also be low.”; if so, what New Zealand evidence does she have that fully online learning that is allowed for in this proposal will result in better educational achievement?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is damning 23,000 students, which is the roll of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura)—the biggest school in New Zealand—and of course it has problems and challenges. [Interruption] Absolutely, and the regulatory impact statement outlines that, so I am glad the member has taken advantage of it. But like all schools in New Zealand that do face difficulties with engagement and achievement, so too does Te Kura, and it does a significantly good job with those kids who have been disengaged from other schools. As Dame Karen Sewell, the chair of Te Kura, has already publicly said, she welcomes this new approach and looks forward to Te Kura becoming a community of online learning.

    David Seymour: Is the Minister aware that the study referred to in the primary question was popularised earlier this week in the American show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; if indeed that is how the member researched his primary question, would that be an example of online learning?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: To answer that question in reverse order, yes, it would be an example of that; in answer to the first part, unlike the Opposition, who use overseas comedy writers as the font of their knowledge, we do not.

    Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister find it very odd when she constantly gets to read reports from people who claim that they want children in New Zealand to get a better education, especially the least well-off New Zealanders, but never want to do anything other than just back up their union mates?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is terribly disappointing for New Zealand parents, who are very focused on how they get the best education for their kids and are constantly obstructed by naysayers.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! A little less interjection from my immediate right.

    Chris Hipkins: Is she seriously suggesting that a primary school child sitting at home in their bedroom in front of a laptop or a tablet is going to get an education at least as good as a child sitting in a classroom, surrounded by their peers, and with a fully trained and qualified teacher guiding their learning?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: Unlike the Opposition, I do not propose to prescribe for every child in this country or hypothetically—

    Hon Annette King: Yes, you do.

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: No, I do not, and that is why the bill is full of enabling provisions. We actually trust New Zealanders to make choices for themselves rather than have them prescribed to them by all-knowing other people.

    Rt Hon John Key: Is the Minister aware that on Stewart Island the school there has 28 pupils and those 28 pupils are all learning Mandarin, the entire school, and they are learning online, and is that not a great thing—that young kids on Stewart Island are learning Chinese?

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The first part of the question is in order. Supplementary questions should have only one leg to them.

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am aware of that. I am equally aware that Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria is teaching physics and chemistry in Te Reo Māori to other parts of the country. The members of the Opposition seem confused about this policy—because in my answer I made it clear that mainstream schools can be incorporated in this policy as providers of online learning.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! We now have a discussion between two front-benchers, which will cease.

    Chris Hipkins: Can she confirm that all of the students mentioned in her answer and in the Prime Minister’s question were attending a school, and what evidence does she have that they will get an equally good education if they are at home by themselves without a teacher?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: Again the member falls victim to his own prejudices. In the policy that we have laid out we have said there is a full range of options of what these communities of online learning could be like. It includes provision by existing mainstream schools. It includes provision by existing tertiary institutions, and it includes provision for provision by private providers. We are not saying yet what proposals will be acceptable.

    Chris Hipkins: Does she at least accept the irony that while she is talking about opening up more flexibility and choice she is massively reducing the flexibility and autonomy offered to existing public schools and subjecting them in the same bill to even more compliance and red tape?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not, because this Government has invested over $700 million into those exact same schools to ensure that they can have digital technology—24/7 ultra-fast, good-quality broadband data, at no cost to them—and we have incorporated as of a month ago digital technology as a core part of the curriculum. This is a next step because this Government is future focused, living now in the present, and providing for our young people to be internationally connected. [Interruption] Yes, very disappointing for those still living in the past; I understand that.

    Chris Hipkins: When her bulk funding proposal results in schools reducing the number of subjects on offer, is she going to suggest to those students who can no longer take the subjects in school that they want to that they can enrol online rather than have the teacher in front of them as they have had previously?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: First of all, I have no proposal around bulk funding. Second of all, in the funding review we are still in the middle of a consultation process. The third thing to know is that schools already offer blended learning and they do offer it outside the boundaries of their own school, and, fourthly, our Government is absolutely supportive of that kind of collaboration.

    Rt Hon John Key: Has the Minister of Education seen a press release by the Labour Party from Jenny Salesa saying that when it comes to Pacific population and bilingualism in New Zealand, the associate education spokesperson for Labour said this is a crucial—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is absolutely no—[Interruption] Order! I do not need help from Mr Chris Bishop. There is, firstly, no ministerial responsibility, and, secondly, it is a question that I perceive is designed to attack the Opposition party, which is in breach of Speakers’ rulings.

    Rt Hon John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

    Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not interested in arguing about it. If it is another matter, I will happily hear it.

    Rt Hon John Key: Yes. I seek leave to table the press release, then.

    Mr SPEAKER: No, and I am not prepared to put the leave.

    Marama Fox: In addition to digital technologies being made a core curriculum subject, will the Minister consider Te Reo Māori and the New Zealand Land Wars also being made a core curriculum subject?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: Te Reo Māori has exactly the same status in our curriculum as digital technology. It is available in any school where parents wish it to be available—

    Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s not true.

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: —and it is resourced accordingly—it is true. In terms of the—

    Hon Trevor Mallard: Not true.

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: Argh! So from the past! In terms of ngā whawhai nui o Aotearoa, because the Māori Party has made strong advocacy to beef up the resources around Māori history, we have developed a significant website. I thank the Māori Party for that constructive advocacy.

  • Freshwater Management—Water Quality of Rivers and Lakes

    8. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Will he commit to a regulatory regime that includes swimmable rivers in light of the comment from a Havelock North café owner who said that, “we’d trade all the compensation in the world if it would spur the Government into tidying up or cleaning up the waterways”?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The Government is already committed to a programme of improving the swimmability of rivers. Specific river clean-up programmes that the Government is funding include the Waikato, the Manawatū, the Whanganui, the Waitangi, the Buller, the Rangitaiki, and the Maraetōtara. In the 7 years that we have been in Government, we have spent more than seven times what the previous Government spent in the preceding 7 years. We are also the first Government to initiate a national policy statement (NPS) on fresh water, which includes requirements for improving water quality and which we are currently strengthening.

    Catherine Delahunty: Will he ask the Attorney-General to specify that land use across the country be investigated in the Havelock North inquiry so that the role of agriculture and other sectors and the health of waterways can be looked at objectively?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The terms of reference for the inquiry into the Havelock North incident are very wide. What the Government does not want to do is inject into those terms of reference some prejudice as to what occurred. In my view, that inquiry needs to be able to have all the powers it needs, but without the Government, the Green Party, or anybody else predetermining what the cause of that awful incident was.

    Sarah Dowie: What is the standard requirement for water to be swimmable, and how does it compare with the drinking-water standard?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The drinking-water standard is 500 times tougher than the swimming guideline; i.e., for water to be swimmable, you need to have an E. coli count of fewer than 500, and for water to be drinkable, it needs to be less than one E. coli. That is, even if every single waterway in New Zealand met the swimmable standard, we would still need to have councils selecting and protecting drinking-water standards to ensure that they were safe.

    Catherine Delahunty: Will he reject the warnings of Dr Russell Death, as the Prime Minister has done, who says that even if we chlorinate all our water supplies, people are still going to get sick from water-borne pathogens associated with an intensified dairy sector?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The bit where I differ with the member is that you cannot have modern agriculture and also for this country to have high standards of water in its water bodies. If we have good management practice, if we have the technical efficiency standards, and if we implement the national fencing requirements that our Government has proposed, and if we implement the NPS that we have proposed, this country can have a strong, vibrant agricultural sector earning this country a living, as well as have the very best lifestyle and a high standard of water quality.

    Catherine Delahunty: Does he think that 10 million cows cause serious harm to our clean rivers and drinking water, or is he sticking with his theory that native bird populations and volcanic ash are the real reasons that he cannot commit to swimmable rivers?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are water bodies that are unswimmable because of birds; there are others that are unswimmable because of volcanic activity. Where I would challenge the Green Party is to make the link between the Havelock North community—actually, Havelock North has a very low level of dairying. If the Green Party wants to maintain its story that intensive dairying is the cause of the Havelock North problem—perhaps that might run true if it was an area like Canterbury or if it was an area like Southland or if it was an area of the Waikato that has had very expansive growth in the dairy industry. I just urge that member: let the inquiry do its job. Members of Parliament should not draw conclusions as to what was the cause in Havelock North until that inquiry has been completed.

  • ImmigrationWork Visas

    9. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Immigration: How many of the 209,000 work visas issued last year were for occupations on one of the Essential Skills in Demand lists?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I interpreted the primary question with reference to lists to mean the Immediate Skill Shortage List, the Long Term Skill Shortage List, and the Canterbury Skill Shortage List. It is impossible to get an exact number of visas issued under those lists, because of differences in the timing between the period of the number of work visas and the changes to the lists in that time. However, the best estimate officials have provided me in the time available is that between 15,000 and 16,000 work visas were issued for occupations on those lists.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Do “cafe manager”, “retail manager”, “winery cellar hand” or “deckhand” appear on an essential skills and demand list; if not, why are so many visas being issued for those occupations?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Not having the lists with me, I would have to check. If the member is implying by his question that they do not, it is important to bear in mind that a visa can be issued under the essential skills category even though occupations may not be on those lists, but the employer would first need to demonstrate that there is not a New Zealander available to do the job. I reassure the member that that is an onerous test.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: If visas are being issued for occupations that are not on the skills shortage list because of labour shortages, why does he not allow wages to increase for occupations in which there is a labour shortage, rather than using immigration to suppress wages?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I reject the inference in the question. Wages are growing ahead of inflation, and jobs are growing right across the country. If that member got out of his ivory tower and went to the regions and talked with employers in those regions, the No. 1 thing they are saying is that they cannot find the labour we need.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: How can he claim that immigration is not being used to suppress wages, when Westpac says wage growth is missing in action, and Capital Economics say wage growth is likely to remain low until at least 2018, and that both of those reputable organisations say the blame lies squarely with overly high numbers of immigration?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of the last part of that question, I draw the member’s attention to certain data on how many essential skills work visas were issued for the first time in the year 2007-08. That year there were 16,118, according to the official information—the estimates I have been given. Last year there were half of those numbers: 8,329. If the member is concluding from those numbers—from that information—that wage growth is being suppressed because of extra demand for labour, that is completely the opposite of the data.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Why will he not listen to Westpac, to Capital Economics, to the Reserve Bank, the BNZ, the Auckland chamber of commerce, Treasury, his own immigration officials, and the New Zealand public, and carry out a comprehensive review of immigration settings?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Two things: we listened to a number of stakeholders in this, including them—including my own officials, who are estimating that essential skills visas, both first-time granted and total, are going down by between 40 and 50 percent. I am also going to listen to the employers in those regions, who are crying out for the sorts of people whom they need to prevent fruit from rotting on the vine and to allow cows to be milked, and elderly to be looked after in our aged-care sector. I would love it if every single one of those jobs was filled by a New Zealander; that is not the reality now, and it was not when they were in office.

    Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House again: why is this Government allowing thousands of overseas students to come here to be exploited and extorted by other immigrants of their own ethnicity?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The question has nothing to do with the primary question, but I will address it nevertheless. This is a very important industry and one that is held in high regard globally. It earns $3 billion a year and employs nearly 26,000 people. There are, no doubt, problems in the student market, and particularly in the subcontinent, which is why more than half of the visas presently applied for from that part of the world are being declined. I am satisfied that we are on top of the issue and being diligent about it.

    Ron Mark: How would he reply to a young foreign student when she asked why an Auckland cafe owner demanded that she pay $30,000 to get the job she was applying for?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I would reassure that student that the Government takes that form of exploitative practice very seriously, which is why last year we significantly increased the sanctions—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Carry on.

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: —for exploitation of people lawfully entitled to be here. The punishments are now 7 years in jail, up to a maximum of a $100,000 fine, and if they themselves are recent residents, they can be liable for deportation.

  • PoliceFamily Violence

    10. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister of Police: What is the Police doing to assist potential victims of family violence?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Quite contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said, in addition to attending more than 100,000 family violence call outs a year, the new police Family Violence Information Disclosure Scheme is providing victims and potential victims with the information they need to leave potentially dangerous situations. The scheme allows potential victims of family violence or concerned relatives or friends to request information relating to the violence history of a new partner. This is an idea that I brought back to New Zealand after a visit to the UK in 2013, modelled on “Clare’s Law”. To date a total of 55 cases have been referred to the scheme since it was launched in December 2015.

    Jono Naylor: In what other ways is the scheme used to prevent potential victimisation?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Police can also proactively release family violence information if they believe someone is at risk from their partner. Police have done this 31 times since the scheme was launched. This is just another example of the excellent preventative work that New Zealand police do every day. Additionally, a number of the requests have been made in relation to sex offenders living in the home of a new partner and children. This was not the original intention of the scheme, which was aimed at intimate partners and their children. However, these requests have been accepted and, after consideration, disclosures have been provided to reduce the risk of sexual assault on children.

  • PoliceResourcing

    11. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe that the Police have enough resources to implement their part of the Prime Minister’s 2009 promise to use the full force of the Government’s arsenal to “confront the P problem” given that P is cheaper, and as easy as it was to get in 2008?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): As the member well knows, I am supporting the police to get the resources they need going into the future, because I always support our New Zealand Police, unlike that member. In terms of meth, although there is always more to be done, this Government has made excellent progress tackling the problem, including just today with the announcement of the seizure of an estimated $3-4 million worth of methamphetamine being manufactured in rural Kaukapakapa following a month-long investigation. So, actually, I would like to take this excellent opportunity to congratulate the police on keeping a further substantial amount of methamphetamine off the streets. Well done, the police.

    Stuart Nash: Does she believe that P being cheaper now than in 2008 means that the war on meth has failed; if not, was the Prime Minister wrong when he said that the mark of success would be the price of P going up?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have always found that the Prime Minister is never wrong, and that is a good piece of advice to give to that member. I would also say that there are two issues when it comes to the price of a product like methamphetamine, or any price of any product, and that is both demand and supply. According to the New Zealand Health Survey, the demand for P has gone down from 2.2 percent of New Zealanders to 0.9 percent.

    Stuart Nash: I seek leave to table a National Drug Intelligence Bureau document dated 11 July 2006, which shows that the price of methamphetamine has actually dropped since 2008.

    Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that document. It is relatively old. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

    Stuart Nash: Who is right: the Police Commissioner, who said that he was “very concerned about the availability of methamphetamine.”, or the Minister, who said to One News recently that she is not concerned?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Obviously, we are both right. But I would have thought that my comment would have been about any comments that that member has said, and that would be right.

    Stuart Nash: How can she expect the police to turn around the increase in meth when the police 4-year strategic plan, signed off by both the commissioner and her less than 3 months ago, forecasts no increase in police numbers?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Quite easily. As I have told that member many times—including members of the media—we are working on a plan for future resources.

    Darroch Ball: Why under this Government do we have 208 ghost stations where not even one officer on duty could be achieved over four consecutive Fridays and Saturdays?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not aware of any ghost stations. I am certainly aware of some people who do not turn up with their full quota in Parliament, but certainly not in the police stations.

    Darroch Ball: Why under this Government, in the first 6 months of 2016, did 73 police locations have no rostered officers in townships like Carterton and Kawakawa?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Police actually allocate their resources according to demand. Certainly, Carterton, ever since the wonderful member Mr Ron Mark was the mayor, has always been a very good town with a very low crime rate.

    Darroch Ball: I seek leave to table two documents from the police, both under the Official Information Act, dated 24 June 2016. The first document has the total number of police officers by location at 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. in December 2015 and January 2016. The second document is the total number of police rostered stations used in the last 6 months.

    Mr SPEAKER: Those two documents are sourced under the Official Information Act. I will therefore put the leave. Leave is sought to table them. Is there any objection? There is objection.

  • Wine Industry, ExportsReports

    12. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent reports has he received on growth in wine exports?

    Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): A recent report from New Zealand Winegrowers shows that New Zealand’s wine industry is on track to reach its target of $2 billion of exports by 2020. Wine exports have risen by 10 percent in the last year to just under $1.6 billion. This is the 21st consecutive year the industry has experienced significant growth. I congratulate the industry, which is meeting at the Romeo Bragato Conference in Blenheim today.

    Paul Foster-Bell: In what ways is the Government supporting this growth in wine exports?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: The Government will continue supporting the industry through market access, research and development, biosecurity, and through supporting legislation. For example, the $17 million Lifestyle Wines Primary Growth Partnership programme has already eclipsed its domestic sales target. Industry members have also given strong support today for joining in a Government-Industry agreement on biosecurity, which is great news. Finally, the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill will help give international consumers confidence in New Zealand’s wine, as well as reassuring them of its value for money.


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