Questions & Answers – Sept 20

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 — 10:42 AM

  • Prime Minister—Statements

    1. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Prime Minister: When referring to concessions needed on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, what did he mean when he told Radio New Zealand yesterday, “I think if you did it again, you might do it a bit differently”?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): I meant what I said, but I do not intend to relitigate those negotiations. In our view all parties want to achieve the sanctuary, but we are going to take time over the coming weeks and months to work through the issues that came up during the process, and, of course, we welcome the Māori Party’s involvement in those discussions.

    Hon David Parker: You ignored them at select committee.

    Marama Fox: What steps, if any, will he take to ensure that property rights are protected?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: As one of the members pointed out, this came up in the select committee and in negotiations. Of course, it is one of the more challenging issues related to not just this sanctuary but any marine protection—in fact, conservation of land-based conservation values raises all the same sorts of issues. So it would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt those discussions, because finding a way through does involve balancing competing sets of rights.

    Marama Fox: Does he agree with the Māori Party that it is possible to achieve a sanctuary and to protect property rights that have already been secured in the fisheries settlement Act 1992?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not always agree with the Māori Party. In this case I would hope that we can get to a position where the sanctuary can be achieved and everyone is happy about it.

    Kelvin Davis: Does he accept that he erred in labelling allegations of inadequate consultation with Māori over the Kermadecs as “weak” and “mistaken” given that the supporting legislation has now been put on hold and the sanctuary is unlikely to be operational by the planned November 2016 start date?


  • MinistersConfidence

    2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes, because they are competent and hard-working.

    Andrew Little: Does he have confidence in Nick Smith’s handling of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary issue, announced with great fanfare by the Prime Minister last year, given the Minister of Finance’s admission that they rushed the consultation process and it should have been done differently?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. He does have confidence in Dr Nick Smith at all times. He was negotiating according to Cabinet direction. It turned out that those negotiations were not successful.

    Andrew Little: Does he agree with the deputy leader of the Māori Party Marama Fox, who says Nick Smith is “riding over the interests of Māori, riding right over the top of treaty rights, taking no consideration of consultation”, or does he just not care what the Māori Party thinks?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Not for the first time, no; I do not agree with the deputy leader of the Māori Party on that issue.

    Marama Fox: Deputy?

    Andrew Little: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will just correct the record. It was a reference to the co-leader of the Māori Party, not the deputy leader.

    Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is a point of order.

    Andrew Little: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Primary Industries given that that Minister did nothing while his ministry was covering up evidence of widespread fishing quota fraud?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. He does have confidence in the Minister for Primary Industries (MPI). The actions being taken by MPI, particularly the world-leading, widespread use of surveillance of fishing operations, will almost certainly lead to significantly solving problems that have been quite legitimately raised with the way our fishing system works.

    Andrew Little: Why does he have confidence in the Minister for Primary Industries when his regulations to stop fish dumping have, by his own admission, failed and thousands of tonnes of fish have been wasted?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: He does have confidence in the Minister for Primary Industries. The issues that have been raised are longstanding and challenging issues. This Minister has got stuck in to resolving those issues in a way that is fully transparent and, we believe, will be effective.

    Andrew Little: Why does he have confidence in the Minister of Police, when in May this year she signed off on the police’s strategic plan for 2016 to 2020, which showed no planned increase in police numbers, and then, 3 months later, she admitted that we need more police now?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: He does have confidence in the Minister of Police, because on that Minister’s watch, public trust and confidence in police is, I think, the highest it has ever been. In fact, one of the challenges for our justice system is that because of those high levels of confidence and trust, more crime is being reported and we are having to gear up to deal with more serious reported crime.

    Andrew Little: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Social Housing also piloting fictional flying squads when her purchase of the Cimarron Motel is forcing existing long-term tenants back into homelessness?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think that the member’s description of that is correct. Certainly, the Prime Minister does have confidence in the Minister for Social Housing. There is major change going on in how we deliver social housing, which, I think, everyone supports except the Labour Party. The current housing market is proving to be something of a challenge, but along with the providers of social housing, the Minister is doing a good job of meeting serious need in the housing market. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order!

  • Economic Growth—Sector

    3. CHRIS BISHOP (National) to the Minister of Finance: Which sector can he report is mostly driving growth, in view of last week’s GDP figures, which showed the New Zealand economy is the third-fastest growing in the OECD?

    Chris Hipkins: What a patsy!

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Thank you for that insightful question. The figures for GDP last week show that it is the private sector driving the majority of growth, with GDP expanding 4 percent in the year to June on an expenditure basis. By comparison, public sector GDP expanded by 1.7 percent. This is quite a turnaround from 7 or 8 years ago, under the previous Government, where, for instance, in the year to 2008 public sector GDP expanded by 4.6 percent and private sector GDP fell by 0.1 percent—and the economy had been in recession for all of that year. Part of the Government’s focus in economic management is to have a thriving private sector and an effective and stable public sector.

    Chris Bishop: What reports has he received showing that the growing economy is delivering more jobs for New Zealand households and families?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the measures of economic progress is whether people can see that there are more jobs and better job opportunities. ANZ reports that job ads increased for the seventh consecutive month, and are now 12 percent higher than a year ago. ANZ says: “That’s [the] sign of a strong labour market.” Auckland job ads are up 14 percent; Wellington job ads are up 11 percent. The regions are enjoying even stronger growth in job ads: Waikato job ads are up 21 percent, Hawke’s Bay job ads are up 21 percent, Manawatū ads are up 16 percent, and Otago ads are up 15 percent. All are higher than Auckland and Wellington.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has the Minister shirked from admitting what every economist recognises as the biggest driver of our current GDP, mass immigration?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because, as so often with that member’s assertions on economics, he is simply not right.

    Chris Bishop: How is the growing economy being supported by growth in manufacturing?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have paid some attention to the manufacturing figures, because it has been a wee while since the Labour Party declared the manufacturing crisis. In fact, since it declared that crisis, manufacturing has grown pretty much every quarter, and the so-called crisis continues. The recent BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index shows a reading of 55.1, with readings above 50 percent indicating growth. The sector has remained in solid expansion in nearly all months since 2012.

    Chris Bishop: How is the growing economy driving an increase in consumer and business confidence?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Consumer sentiment, according to the ANZ, lifted in September—the fourth consecutive increase and the highest reading since January. It reports a particularly strong lift in the outlook for future economic conditions, with a net 31 percent believing they will be better off in 12 months’ time. I would have thought that with the new positive strategy the Labour Party is following, it would be pleased about that rather than critical.

  • Aquatic Environment Protection—Environmental Standards

    4. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by his predecessor’s statement that “Protecting our aquatic environment by setting environmental standards and fostering good fishing practices results in sustainable fisheries”?

    Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes, I do. I believe that the fundamental principles of the quota management system (QMS) are sound. This is evidenced by the fact that 96 percent of fish stocks of known value are at or above sustainable levels. However, the Heron report released last Friday clearly shows that the Ministry of Primary Industries’ (MPI) decision not to prosecute in the case of Operation Achilles was flawed. This was disappointing and should never have happened. The Heron report notes that MPI’s processes are generally robust and its people experienced and professional. I will ensure that MPI makes whatever changes are necessary to ensure that improvements are made. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not mind—[Interruption] Order! I do not mind some interjection, but the level coming from one member to my left is now too regular.

    Eugenie Sage: Is fish dumping a good practice that results in sustainable fisheries; if not, why have he and his ministry failed to outlaw it?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: No, it is not a good practice. Countries around the world have been dealing and grappling with this issue, and it is mentioned in the Heron report, right back from the Ministry of Fisheries through to MPI. We have the operational review The Future of our Fisheries under way. We have had one round of public consultation; we will be moving to the next round. I am sure there will need to be policy changes and regulatory changes made. The member may also be aware that I have asked my officials to crack on with electronic monitoring, which is going to be very important, and extra compliance.

    Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister disagree with the statement by the Director of Fisheries Management that “discarding is a systemic failure of the current system and something we have not been able to get on top of from day 1 of the QMS.”?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: If the member was listening, I addressed that question when I answered it previously. Dumping and discarding is an issue that successive Governments have been trying to deal with and grapple with over a period of time. The QMS is now 30 years old. We have the operational review under way, and I am sure that through that process the necessary changes will be made.

    Eugenie Sage: Is his current operational review still just a pulse check and a high-level review, as he has described it, or will it address the big and longstanding systemic problems like fish dumping?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: The operational review The Future of our Fisheries is under way. We have had our first round of consultation. We are aiming to have a public discussion document out by the end of the year. This is a very broad review. We will need to deal with the fundamentals of policy and regulatory changes, and I am of the view that I will need to come into the House to ensure that the electronic monitoring—GPS, electronic monitoring, and cameras on vessels will need a law change. But in saying that, we have learnt from the Operation Achilles report. The Snapper 1 cameras are on board those vessels now. We have a legally binding memorandum of understanding so that all that footage can be used for prosecution purposes.

    Eugenie Sage: How can the public have any confidence that cameras and video monitoring will help when MPI had extensive video footage of fish dumping in Operation Achilles and senior managers blocked prosecution based on that video footage?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: As QC Heron states, MPI’s prosecution processes are generally robust, with high-quality and experienced people. However, a flawed process was followed that was not well-documented and that led MPI to decide not to prosecute in the case of Achilles, and I find that very disappointing.

    Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister still think the quota management system is world leading when fish dumping means the ministry has inaccurate information about fish stocks and catch limits?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: I answered that in the primary answer, where I said that it is evidenced by the fact that 96 percent of our fish stocks of known value are at or above sustainable levels. We do a huge amount of science, and all of the plenary scientific information is publicly available. The member should be well aware that twice a year, for the 1 April and 1 October fishing seasons, there is a huge amount of scientific evidence that is made available, that is consulted on, and that, ultimately, the Minister decides on to ensure that our fishing system is sustainable for everyone to enjoy in the long term.

    Eugenie Sage: Rather than his pulse-check review, will the Minister now commission an independent review of the operation of the quota management system, given the Simmons report, which showed that commercial fishers were dumping more than twice the amount of fish they caught between 1986 and 2010, and now the Heron report, which shows that MPI fails to prosecute such dumping?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: What is really interesting—in the part of that question to do with the Simmons report—is that MPI is trying to get a hold of all of the data sets to analyse that information. Because that report is so politically charged, MPI has been unable to get its hands on all of that information. I find that very disappointing. Instead of that report and those authors choosing to work constructively with MPI and share their information so that we can ensure the sustainability of our long-term fisheries here in New Zealand, that information has, unfortunately, been blocked.

  • Emergency Housing—Announcements

    5. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Social Housing: What announcements has she made about how the Government is supporting those in need of emergency housing?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Today I announced that $33 million that was allocated in Budget 2016 to emergency housing will fund a total of 3,032 new and existing emergency housing places around the country per year. These places will make a huge difference to people in extreme housing need, and the targeted funding—the first of its kind, I would like to say, by any Government—means that providers can now focus on the work that they do, instead of the funding that they need. Of those places, 350 will be new, and they will be available throughout the country.

    Andrew Bayly: Which regions will benefit from the new funding?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Over a third of the places—1,260—will be in Auckland, where there is the most need. Funding is also being given to 30 providers nationwide. For example, the Bay of Plenty is getting 112 places a year, 44 of which are new; and Northland is getting 364, 172 of which are new. In addition, the new Special Needs Grants, which people do not have to pay back, have become available since July to those who cannot access a place with an emergency housing provider.

    Phil Twyford: When she admits that only 350 of the places are new, how can she claim that is any kind of adequate response to the 42,000 Kiwis living in severe housing deprivation?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is 350 places that we did not have before we did it, and we are now looking at all of those gaps. As you have seen just this week, we have announced the new motel that we are purchasing, which the member has been criticising, and we have got a whole lot of other new places that are coming through.

    Andrew Bayly: What else is the Government doing to increase the supply of both emergency and social housing?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Funding more than 3,000 places a year that have not been funded before is a good place in this work programme. But we have got a much wider comprehensive work programme going on to get even more. I am looking at how else we can increase supply for emergency housing, such as purchasing motels, which is a model that we have used in Christchurch for some time. We are also, of course, ramping up the supply of permanent housing, and seeing at least 15 new come on every week.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister had any idea as to what she was doing, why has it taken over 4 months since the Budget to announce these sporadic measures in the hope that the massive problem that she has created will go away?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Quite frankly, we made announcements for the first 16 providers within weeks of the Budget, and now we have been working through those, many of which have never been funded by the Government. So, as I am sure the member would appreciate—he would want to make sure that we are spending taxpayers’ money wisely, and that is why we go through a comprehensive programme to ensure it. But that member might like to congratulate Kaitāia, which has had a whole lot of new supply come in—35 places funded through this funding, making a difference for those who really need it.

    Mr SPEAKER: Question number 6—[Interruption] Order! I might have to be asking one particular member to cease his interjections; they are now continuous.

  • Housing, Auckland —Affordability

    6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she stand by her statement that buying a South Auckland motel is a “step forward” when the motel’s existing long-stay residents have received eviction notices and say they fear being made homeless?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes I do, and I am absolutely assured by Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development, and I note the comments from the current owner themselves that no residents will be moved out unless they have somewhere more permanent to go. I am sure the House does not miss the irony of your previous question and now to this one about new supply coming through.

    Phil Twyford: Can she confirm that her latest policy, throwing people out into the street in order to free up their accommodation for homeless people, came from the same logic as her other genius idea of paying people to move to Auckland and then paying them to leave Auckland?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can understand that the member does not want to listen to the answer because he does not like it, but the reality is that no one is being moved out unless they have somewhere more permanent to go. Unlike the member, I do not want to see families permanently living in motels. It should be a temporary emergency measure as we move them to more permanent, stable housing, which we are doing. So let me be really clear—listen up, Mr Twyford: no one—[Interruption] Well, he is struggling with it. No one is being moved out unless they have somewhere more permanent to go that is better for them. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Both sides now—[Interruption] Order!

    Phil Twyford: Why has Housing New Zealand not contacted these residents, why have they just been sent eviction notices, and what does she say to the current motel residents, who say in the paper today that they fear being made destitute and that they will end up sleeping on other people’s couches?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: I imagine that those residents, unlike the member, can understand very clearly that they will not be moved out unless they have somewhere else to go, and even according to the previous owner, Mr Kamal Matta, there is no hard and fast rule about when they are going—they have several months. There is no pressure on anyone to find a new place. So we will continue to work with those residents to ensure that they actually have a permanent, safe—and I quite frankly stand here now and say that, unlike the member, we do not see an answer for them to be permanently in a motel, like they currently are.

    Phil Twyford: Does this not just say it all about her Mickey Mouse housing policy, kicking out vulnerable people as a way of somehow helping the homeless, and why has the Government been selling off State houses instead of building thousands more?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: I shall try again: those people are not being kicked out. We are going to work with them to ensure that they have permanent and safe housing that is better suited to their needs. I am absolutely thrilled that, yet again, I have to tell the member about the 3,000 new Housing New Zealand homes that are coming on board. Northcote itself—just an announcement last Friday, which, obviously is a great one as well—is seeing more houses coming on there. On average, every single week there are 15 new places that are coming on board, just via Housing New Zealand.

  • HousingRedevelopment Project

    7. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Building and Housing: How many new homes will be built from the $750 million Northcote housing redevelopment project being led by the Hobsonville Land Company, and when will the first homes be completed?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Twelve hundred homes will replace the existing 300, so there is a net increase of 900 homes. The first new homes will be completed in 9 months, by June next year, but the complete redevelopment will take until 2021.

    Mark Mitchell: How will the new Auckland Unitary Plan assist redevelopments like Northcote to provide an additional supply of housing in Auckland?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The new plan makes a huge difference to the development for Housing New Zealand (HNZ) land. Currently there are 28,000 HNZ homes in Auckland, but that could be increased by only 10 percent under the existing planning rules. Under the new plan, those 28,000 homes can be developed out to 60,000 homes. The Northcote project is one of a number of opportunities Housing New Zealand can now take. It actually illustrates how important the new unitary plan is to resolving Auckland’s housing issues.

    Mark Mitchell: How does the Northcote project contribute to the Government’s objectives of providing better quality and an improved mix of housing?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Northcote project positively contributes to Auckland’s housing in four ways. Firstly, it adds 900 new homes; secondly, it provides improved quality by replacing older damp housing with warmer, drier, and healthier homes; and, thirdly, it provides a better mix. We are wanting to move away from old-style, concentrated State housing estates to communities with a mix of social, affordable, and open-market housing. The redevelopment also has a better mix of house sizes, in that there is a greater number of smaller one- and two-bedroom homes, which better meets demand. The fourth contribution that the Northcote project makes is moving to more intensive housing. That is actually an important part of the change that Auckland needs to make.

    Phil Twyford: Why is he selling two-thirds of the publicly owned land into private ownership, while adding only another 100 State houses?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: For two good reasons. The first is actually we want to tag—just as we have at Hobsonville—homes for homeownership because we on this side of the House believe in homeownership and want to provide more families the opportunity to be able to own a home, and I find it ironic that Mr Twyford would criticise that. The second feature is that we do not believe that old-style concentrated State housing areas work for our communities. We want to move to mixed estates where there is a mix of social, affordable, and market housing, which is exactly what we are doing in places like Tāmaki and Northcote, and it makes damn good sense.

  • Primary Industries, Minister—Statements

    8. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by his statement on 18 May 2016 regarding investigations into illegal fish dumping that “There’s been no cover-up here. These are internal, draft investigations, part of which has been unfortunately leaked”; if so, does he now also think it is unfortunate that a report by Michael Heron QC released last week found MPI’s decision not to prosecute was flawed?

    Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): In relation to the first part of the question, yes; in relation to the second part of the question, no.

    Hon David Parker: If there was no cover-up, why did it take a leak, which he called “unfortunate”, to trigger the review of the flawed decision not to prosecute and the release of the Achilles report, which had been suppressed for years?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: I stand by my statement: the way in which the draft internal investigation was released was indeed unfortunate. These reports often contain confidential internal information, such as investigative techniques and the details of the fishers involved. These details are normally treated as private and confidential until the subjects are able to defend themselves through the court process.

    Hon David Parker: Was the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) planning to launch a review prior to the unfortunate leak; if not, how can he claim that there was not a cover-up?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: The member is clearly confused, because, from memory, I announced the operational review last August, and that process has been under way. As a result of the Achilles report, MPI has learnt a valuable lesson in regard to cameras and electronic monitoring on the Snapper 1 fishing fleet, because there is a legally binding memorandum of understanding to ensure that that footage can be used in the court process.

    Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the ministry’s Deputy Director-General, who said in May: “To be honest, we’re disappointed that we didn’t have enough evidence to do the prosecution.”; if so, how can he have confidence in his department when the Heron report states that the investigator and the compliance personnel were correct to determine that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute, and that it was senior managers who overruled it?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: If you read the Heron report, it does say that a flawed process was followed—that there was unclear communication back to the fishers, and that there was unclear communication between the fisheries management team and the compliance team. That, unfortunately, is regrettable—

    Hon David Parker: You covered that up for years—for years.

    Hon NATHAN GUY: —and as a result—no, that is not correct. As a result, the Director-General has said there are going to be changes made within MPI, and I support those.

    Hon David Parker: When a fisherman is quoted as saying “I am not denying it, I have been a criminal all my life, you just haven’t caught me.”, how can the Minister expect the public to come to any conclusion that he is responsible for a ministry that is incompetently putting both New Zealand’s fishery and our reputation at risk?

    Hon NATHAN GUY: It is interesting—if the member wants to have a look at 4.112 on page 11 of the report, it says that “the MPI prosecution process is generally robust, thorough, professional, and independent. The people involved are high quality, experienced, and professional public servants who are making complex and difficult decisions in good faith.”

    Hon David Cunliffe: And they give lots of money to the National Party, don’t they?

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Hon David Cunliffe—I do not want any further interjection from that member for the balance of question time.

  • Mental Heath Services—Announcements

    9. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made regarding supporting people with mental health conditions into work?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Our new trial for beneficiaries with diagnosed mental health conditions, called Work to Wellness, has started this month and will see providers working with clients to support them into employment. Just over half the people receiving a main benefit have a health condition, injury, or disability, and we know that a lot of them would like to work but may just need a little bit of extra help or support. Work to Wellness providers will work alongside about a thousand people a year to identify their individual needs and any barriers they face in gaining employment. This may include referring them to services such as counselling, additional GP visits, or skills training. This Government is committed to helping people who want to work and achieve greater independence to do so.

    Sarah Dowie: Who will be eligible for the Work to Wellness trial?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: People receiving a main benefit who have a diagnosed mental health condition will be eligible to participate in this trial. The 2-year trial will be available in the Auckland, Waikato, Central, Canterbury, and Southern regions. Beneficiaries will be able to opt in through Work and Income, a referral from their GP, or by self-referring directly to the provider. Delivery of this service has commenced with 102 people currently enrolled, and I would encourage anyone who may be interested in participating in the trial to talk to their case manager or GP about taking part.

    Sarah Dowie: What are some other initiatives the Government has to help people into work?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: It is recognised globally that work is generally good for people’s health and well-being, and that the longer people stay on a benefit, the less likely they are to return to work. This Government is committed to breaking the cycle of long-term welfare dependency, and helping people into employment. We have a range of assistance designed to do this, including intensive work-focused case management, the Youth Service for teen beneficiaries, Project 300, and the EmployAbility programme, as well as skills training and in-work support. The latest figures show that the Government’s approach is working, with the number of people receiving a main benefit continuing to fall year on year, and currently at its lowest for any June quarter since 2008.

  • ImmigrationSystem

    10. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Immigration: Is the immigration system working in the best interests of New Zealand and of migrants?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Overall, yes. Sound immigration policy results in improvements to New Zealand, both economically, socially, and culturally. For migrants, the immigration system supports a great visitor or tourist experience, work, or business start-up, and for those staying longer or permanently, our settlement support framework is recognised as world leading.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Given that answer, why is Hyderabad-based immigration agency Kiwi Overseas Services allowed to continue advising people who wish to study in New Zealand, given that Immigration New Zealand has identified it and several other immigration agents that are still operating as having committed “significant, organised financial document fraud”?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member draws a nexus between two things that cannot yet be drawn. Firstly, immigration advisers offshore were, as a consequence of the legal framework the previous Government put in place, not subject to the immigration advisers licensing regime. I make no criticism of that—part of the reason for that was it is very difficult to police—but, secondly, I am aware that Immigration New Zealand is following up lines of inquiry in respect of that organisation, and where it is appropriate to take action I know it will do.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the immigration system is working so well, why has the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) received 143 complaints this year about dodgy education agents based in India giving advice about New Zealand immigration unlawfully?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I do not have the data to back up the comments in the member’s question. They may well be right, but what that would say to me is that people have confidence in speaking up when they see breaches of the licensing regime, and I would expect the IAA to follow up on them.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: To help my colleague, I seek leave to table the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) Official Information Act (OIA) report to us of 5 August, dealing with exactly that number relating to my question.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular OIA. Is there any objection? There is none—[Interruption] Is there objection? There is objection.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Why did the Immigration Advisers Authority, which is a department of MBIE, accredit Vinod Kumar Sharma of Kiwi Studies Private Ltd as a licensed immigration agent able to advise people seeking work visas and all other New Zealand visas, when Immigration New Zealand, another department of MBIE, had previously identified him as being involved in “significant, organised document fraud” relating to student visas?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of the application, I am advised that the person referred to in the member’s question has been given a provisional licence. Secondly, I do not have the information about the specific details, but I would expect that the Immigration Advisers Authority believed that that applicant met all of the criteria for admission. In respect of the accusations the member makes, they are subject to an investigation, and I am watching it closely.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Is New Zealand seen as a land of possibility for foreign students because they can get permanent residency easily, given that 40 percent of skilled migrant visas are issued to former students, and half of those go to people with sub – degree level qualifications?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not surprised that New Zealand is seen as a land of opportunity, and in a growing economy with a confident nation there are a number of people who want to come here, including to come and study to get a world-class education. The member plays with the numbers in respect of those with sub-degree qualifications going on to gain residence. What he does not tell you is that since this Government came into office, the number of visas for residence granted has dropped considerably during that time, and it does skew the proportions of those with degree and sub-degree qualifications.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: I intend to seek leave to table a document. It is a document published on a website, but it is a Bangladeshi website, so it is difficult for members in the House to access it.

    Mr SPEAKER: Can you describe the document.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: I seek leave to table a document—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: Is the member all right? I seek leave to table a document dated 7 September 2016, titled “Opportunities for Bangladeshi Students in New Zealand”, which contains the quote: “New Zealand has become a land of possibility for the Bangladeshi students. They can get permanent residency”—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need that full description. A brief description will do. [Interruption] No, I just need to put some leave first. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

    Iain Lees-Galloway: How can the immigration system possibly be working in the best interests of New Zealand and migrants when it allows fraudsters to slip people through the back door into residency, into low-skill, low-wage jobs, and into the hands of the next person who is waiting to exploit them?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I reject all of the prefacing comments in that member’s question. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order!

    Denise Roche: Does he intend to deport any of the Indian international students who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous immigration advisers?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of that cohort, each case will be judged on its merits and individual decisions will be made in respect of them. This is not a blanket decision. I would reiterate that any visa application is the responsibility of the applicants to verify the veracity of the data contained in it.

    Denise Roche: Given that the Government did the right thing and intervened in the case of the Filipino dairy workers who faced deportation in similar circumstances, will he intervene to keep Indian students here who were also the victims of unscrupulous immigration advisers?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I would repeat the answer I gave to the previous question, but I think it is also worth pointing out that the circumstances around the Filipino farm workers are quite different from those of the Indian students. The Filipino farm workers—some of them—were found to have embellished their CVs, but it was also subsequently found that even if they had not done that, they would likely have been approved a visa anyway. The Indian students, on the other hand, have provided false documentations to support the level of English language that they, frankly, cannot speak and the level of financial means that they do not have. That latter thing leads to the vulnerability—to the form of migrant exploitation—in employment that that member, I am sure, will agree is not appropriate.

    Denise Roche: Given that these students have paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of studying here, will he at least advocate that they get a refund on their course fees if he goes through with the heartless decision to deport them?

    Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, the contract that has been entered into is between the student and the tertiary education provider—usually it is a tertiary education provider—but I repeat that each case will be judged on its merits.

  • Justice, Minister—Statements

    11. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by all her statements?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Yes, in the context in which they were given.

    Darroch Ball: Why is this Government even considering raising the Youth Court age to include 17-year-olds, as she stated clearly on Q+A on Sunday when she said: “We’ve got this issue. We’re looking around whether jurisdiction should be included to 17-year-olds.”?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, that was a recommendation that was made to the Minister for Social Development as part of the Child, Youth and Family reforms. Cabinet has asked the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Social Development to investigate that and report back to it.

    Darroch Ball: Is she aware of the comment of the current Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections in regard to a bill in 2008 wanting to increase the Youth Court age in 2008 that “These people would just laugh at this bill and think we are a bunch of wusses.”?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have no responsibility for another member’s comments. However, what I would say is that New Zealand’s youth justice system is recognised worldwide.

    Hon Member: Who says that?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have just been to the UN and it has said that. What is more, under this Government youth crime is down 38 percent since 2011.

    Darroch Ball: Is she also aware of the comment of the current Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections that “What we should not be doing is trying to say that a 17-year-old who smashes up someone is just a child and is not responsible for his or her actions. We believe that that person is.”, and even the Hon Chester Borrows’ comment that “National believes that if someone is between 17 and 18 years of age, then that person should be treated for the adult that he or she is.”? [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order!

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, what I can tell that member is that the National caucus is a broad church and we have good discussions on a variety of issues. However, the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Social Development are investigating the issue and will take a paper through to Cabinet. No decisions have been made.

    Darroch Ball: Is she aware that despite all the politicking around our obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, when New Zealand signed that convention we did so with reservations, and specifically that “the Government of New Zealand reserves the right not to apply article 37(c)”?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am sure that the Minister of Justice is well aware of that reservation given that this Government has just appeared in front of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

  • Customs Department—Overseas Partner Agencies

    12. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Customs: What reports has she received on Customs’ collaboration with overseas partner agencies to intercept drugs destined for New Zealand?

    Hon NICKY WAGNER (Minister of Customs): Customs works with law enforcement agencies around the world to identify drug-smuggling activity and trends, to disrupt the supply chain early, and to stop the flow of drugs to New Zealand. In the last financial year, our work with overseas partners has prevented illicit drugs worth over $204 million, in terms of potential social and economic harm, from reaching New Zealand.

    Jami-Lee Ross: How does the New Zealand Customs Service support other countries to stop the importation of drugs, and why?

    Hon NICKY WAGNER: By helping to protect other countries’ borders, we protect our own. New Zealand Customs works with overseas partners to insist on the stopping of importation of drugs, and in doing so we develop relationships that benefit everyone. For example, last month Australian authorities boarded a cruise liner when it arrived in Sydney from Auckland, and they seized 95 kilograms of cocaine and arrested three Canadians. New Zealand Customs has worked with the Australian Border Force and other agencies in this operation, which led to the seizure and the arrests.

    Mahesh Bindra: Does she understand that much more than $204 million worth of drug-related harm could be stropped if her department were to physically inspect or X-ray more than the current, pitiful 5 to 10 percent of goods arriving in containers?

    Hon NICKY WAGNER: Obviously, we cannot be confident that we stop everything at the border, but when we look at the cases of methamphetamine, we find that Customs is seizing more meth, that the number of meth users is going down—it used to be about 2.2 percent; it is down to 1 percent, and meth users tend to be older—and, what is more, the price of methamphetamine tends to be stable and very high.

    Jami-Lee Ross: How much potential harm has been prevented by the interception of illicit drugs at the border?

    Hon NICKY WAGNER: Over the last 3 financial years, our overseas partners have made 30 interceptions of illicit drugs, mainly methamphetamine, on their way to New Zealand. In the 2015-16 financial year, over $875 million worth of potential harm was avoided by interceptions at the border. Combined with that $204 million—outside—that means we have seized drugs destined for New Zealand of over $1 billion worth of potential social and economic harm.


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