Questions & Answers – Sept 22

by Desk Editor on Friday, September 23, 2016 — 10:02 AM

  • Electricity Industry—Performance of Mixed-Ownership Companies

    1. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the performance of mixed-ownership electricity companies since their partial sale?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Treasuryadvises me that in the 5 years before the Government sold a minority stake in three State-owned electricity companies—Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, and Genesis—the combined dividends averaged $365 million a year. In the 3 years since, the average is $442 million a year. In other words, the Crown has received more in dividends, owning 49 percent of the companies, than it did when it owned 100 percent of the companies.

    Ian McKelvie: What other benefits has the partial sale of State-owned electricity companies delivered for New Zealanders?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: The part sale raised $4.3 billion. This money has been invested in schools, hospitals, the Canterbury rebuild, delivering better education, healthcare, and transport infrastructure. Because we have been able to finance those things out of the proceeds of the sale, we have been able to reduce New Zealand’s indebtedness.

    Ian McKelvie: Has the part sale of State-owned electricity companies led to an escalation in power prices?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a very good question. At the time, there were assertions that the sale of the companies would drive prices up. In fact, since the first company was listed, in May 2013, the energy component of electricity prices has increased by less than the rate of inflation—that is, the prices increased by 2 percent when inflation was 2.5 percent. In fact, in the year to March the average cost of electricity paid by consumers fell for the first time—fell for the first time—in 15 years. That is in sharp contrast to the situation under the previous Government, when prices rose around 70 percent.

    Ian McKelvie: What safeguards are in place to protect the public interest in power companies?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: The conditions on which the sale were made were set in order to protect the public interest, and they are that the Government maintain a majority shareholding, that New Zealand investors would be at the front of the queue for buying shares, and that the capital freed up would be used to fund new public assets and enable the Government to build infrastructure without increasing debt. Those conditions have been met.

  • Economy—Real Disposable Income and Economic Growth

    2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Is it correct that real disposable income per capita grew by 0.5 percent on average in the last year according to the latest Statistics NZ data, and does he think this represents working New Zealanders getting a fair share of economic growth?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer to the second part of the question is that that does not measure whether workers are getting a fair share of economic growth. Real disposable income includes returns on capital, international transfers, and is subject to changes in the terms of trade. What is more important for workers is a different measure, and that is wages—it is called wages. On these measures, families are getting a fair share of economic growth. In the last year wages increased 2 percent, compared with inflation of just 0.4 percent. In fact, under this Government, real take-home pay for workers is increasing at four times the rate that it did under the previous Government.

    Grant Robertson: How can it be fair on working New Zealanders, if economic growth really is tracking along at about 3 percent, that average wage rises have in fact been between 1.5 and 2 percent over the last year?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: GDP is measuring something different from wages, and wages are just a component of what makes up economic growth. In fact, real wages have been rising. I know that the member finds that hard to believe, but even coming out of a recession in 2009-10, New Zealand households have enjoyed the benefits of moderate but consistent increases in their real incomes.

    Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, can he confirm that low wage rises are in fact a trend, with average wage rises in New Zealand below 2 percent for the last 4 years?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course, the question is: low relative to what? In fact, relative to inflation, wage increases now are higher than when inflation was 5 percent under the previous Government. Wages were going up at 5 percent then, and so was inflation. So, in fact, there were zero real wage increases, and now real wages are going up somewhere between 1 and 2 percent.

    Tim Macindoe: What trends can the Minister report on on increasing wages earned by workers, and by how much are wages increasing ahead of inflation?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said earlier, wages are a pretty good measure—in fact, they are a better measure of what wages households are getting than per-capita real national disposable income. Since the Government was elected in 2008 wages have increased 25 percent. Inflation over that period has been just 12 percent. Wages are set to continue rising, with Treasury forecasting a further 8 percent increase over the next 4 years and for the average wage to go to around $63,000. An economy that is growing around 2.5 to 3 percent with relatively low inflation will continue to deliver real wage increases.

    Grant Robertson: Why does he continue to deny the reality for many New Zealanders, which is that they have had very modest wage increases alongside massively increased housing costs, today described by the Reserve Bank Governor as excessive, and a New Zealand Income Survey that shows that 28 percent of New Zealanders—the highest percentage ever—are paying more than a third of their income in housing costs?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a debate to be had about the proportion of household incomes that are now spent on housing. It stands to reason that if house prices are going up and some households are borrowing heavily, then the proportion that they spend on housing is rising. I might point out two things: on average, servicing costs for household debt are pretty similar, if not a bit lower, than they were 4 or 5 years ago, and, somewhat surprisingly, recent data about rents in Auckland say that rents in Auckland are not rising.

    Tim Macindoe: How does New Zealand’s growth in real disposable income per capita compare with Australia’s?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: In so far as real disposable income is a measure that shows us what is happening in an economy, growth in New Zealand’s real disposable income has exceeded that of Australia since 2012. If we look at growth in real disposable incomes, we can see the effects of Australia’s mining boom between 2010 and 2013 and New Zealand’s dairy boom between 2012 and 2015. But, in fact, on average, New Zealand’s has risen faster.

    Grant Robertson: Will he listen to the economic commentator who said: “Strong GDP growth will make little difference to average earners.” and get on with addressing the housing costs that New Zealanders are facing and review the immigration settings, which are holding down wage growth, or has he stopped listening to himself?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: It would certainly be more intellectually uplifting than listening to the member. Occasionally, I do have to listen to myself because sometimes other people do not always agree. But the fact is that underlying the member’s anxiety is the data that consistently shows New Zealand has an economy growing at 2.5 to 3 percent—in fact, currently it is at 3.5 percent. That puts it in the top two or three of the developed world for growth rates right now. Although the member is worried that that is not enough, the Government is certainly not complacent, and we have a programme of ongoing microeconomic reform to underpin further growth.

    Grant Robertson: Does he not get it that the problem here is that working New Zealanders are not getting a fair share of that growth, especially when they are facing the kinds of housing cost increases that they are and when debt-to-income ratios in households are the highest that they have ever been, and why will he not get on the side of working New Zealanders and help lift their wages?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: Where I agree with the member is that among any number of measures of economic growth, what actually happens to household wages is a very important one. The fact is, by historical standards, our households are seeing moderate and consistent increases. There is no data the member has referred to today that even measures whether it is the distribution of income across the economy or whether it is fair. The member is just randomly picking statistics and trying to tell us that that tells us what is happening to workers.

    Tim Macindoe: How does New Zealand’s growth in GDP per capita under this Government compare with growth in other OECD countries?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: This is yet another measure, along with measures of real wages, that shows progress in the economy. The OECD data shows that since 2008, growth in New Zealand’s GDP per capita is the seventh fastest among 35 countries. That is higher than GDP per capita growth in Australia, the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, and the OECD average. By comparison—just to pick a random period—from 1999 to 2008, instead of being seventh fastest among 35 OECD countries, New Zealand over that period was 20th fastest.

  • Climate Change—Government Measures to Address

    3. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: How is the Government helping New Zealanders better understand what action New Zealand is taking to tackle climate change?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Today I released this snapshot—New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change— outlining all the action New Zealand is taking to tackle climate change. It highlights the significant work going on across central and local government, as well as in the private sector. For example, we have programmes in place to encourage foresters to plant 17 million trees by 2020 and to double the number of electric vehicles each year. Last year we invested $31 million into understanding climate change and its impacts. New Zealanders should be proud of what we have done and confident that we are up to the challenges ahead.

    Barbara Kuriger: What is New Zealand contributing to the efforts to reduce emissions from agriculture?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Emissions from agriculture are a challenge for New Zealand, but that also means we have a fantastic opportunity to be world leaders in finding a scientific solution. We are a key player in the 46-country-strong Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which is leading research about how to increase food production without growing emissions. Our farmers are already changing, and without some of the efficiency improvements that they have made, our agricultural emissions would have increased by 40 percent since 1990.

    Barbara Kuriger: What are the next steps for our action on climate change?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I have said, we have got a lot to be proud of, but, equally, I think we have got a lot of work to do. In the next few weeks we will ratify the Paris Agreement with the agreement of the House, locking in our ambitious targets for 2030. We are also working internationally to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which could cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent and which are known to be really dangerous to the environment. Domestically, we have established, or are about to establish, technical advisory groups on adaptation forestry and agricultural emissions. New Zealand is up for the challenge.

    James Shaw: Why does the pamphlet entitled New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change fail to mention that New Zealand’s emissions have increased 19 percent on her Government’s watch?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I clearly said in my answer to other questions, we have got challenges ahead and we want to see ourselves reducing those emissions. On per head of population measure, of course, that has reduced, and it would have gone up a lot higher if we had not been making the changes that we have.

    James Shaw: Why does the pamphlet entitled New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change fail to mention that the most recent Ministry for the Environment projection of our future emissions is that they will increase 96 percent if her Government’s policies remain unchanged?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is because, as the pamphlet’s back page clearly says, we are going to change. We need to do more, we are up for the challenge, and we are going to bend that curve.

  • Primary Industries, Minister—Statements

    4. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by his statement that there is no “hard evidence” to support the Director of Fisheries Management’s claim that fish discarding is a systemic failure of the current system?

    Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries: What the Minister actually said in the House earlier this week regarding that comment by the Director of Fisheries Management is that “Dumping and discarding is an issue that successive Governments have been trying to deal with and grapple with over a period of time.” He added that—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! This is a question that is on notice. It is an important issue, and I do not want a continual barrage coming from the Hon David Cunliffe.

    Hon JO GOODHEW: He added: “The [quota management system] 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.”

    James Shaw: Were Ministers aware of the extent and seriousness of fish dumping before the Simmons report, which showed that more than double the amount of fish caught are dumped at sea; if not, why not?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: What I can say is that an independent review was commissioned into three fisheries compliance investigations, because of concerns. The Heron report has given us a pathway forward, and I am unable to speculate as to what was known or not.

    James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether Ministers were aware of the extent of fish dumping before the Simmons report, and that is quite a specific question. The Minister did not answer that.

    Mr SPEAKER: Then, I might add, the member went on and added something else to his question, so he actually asked two supplementary questions. But forgiving him for a minute on that, the Minister has then answered that there were three reports that were made available, so they knew of the issue. She then went on to say that she was unable to specifically answer the question you have asked, and, I think, on an occasion when we acknowledge it is a Minister acting on behalf of another Minister, that is satisfactory.

    Richard Prosser: When will the Government act on a commission of inquiry into fisheries management, which was called for by New Zealand First 3 months ago?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: I am able to report that back in August last year The Future of our Fisheries review was undertaken, and we know that that will address many issues in relation to this and the quota management system.

    Richard Prosser: How can he trust a fisheries monitoring agency that is owned by commercial fishing companies to monitor itself?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: There is currently a contract out for just 15 vessels under Snapper 1, and, in fact, the fisheries compliance people look at the evidence taken from the cameras on those vessels.

    James Shaw: How does the Minister think that the preliminary Operation Achilles report in July 2013 “found its way into the hands of industry”, and how many other investigation reports have found their way into the hands of industry?

    Mr SPEAKER: Again, there are two supplementary questions. The Minister can address either one.

    Hon JO GOODHEW: I personally have no knowledge of the answer to the first question, and therefore cannot answer that.

    James Shaw: Will the Minister commit to an independent review of the quota management system in light of the recommendations of the revelations made in the Heron report?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: I think it is important that we understand that what we have within the Mike Heron QC report, which was an independent report, was a look at some compliance investigations to determine whether the processes were heading in the right direction. In fact, this report showed that in some cases they were flawed. The Ministry for Primary Industries Director-General, Martyn Dunne, has said that changes will be happening. It is regrettable that they were flawed, but changes will be happening. At the same time, our quota management system is now 30 years old. It is time for a review, and we will be doing that review in good faith.

  • Youth Guarantee Policy—Prime Minister’s Statements

    5. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Does he agree with John Key, who said when announcing the Youth Guarantees policy that “the bottom line is this—the days of 16- and-17-year-olds being able to leave school and drift along aimlessly while being financially supported by the Government are at an end?”.

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Absolutely yes. The Youth Guarantee scheme was introduced, commencing in 2010, to address the problem of young people leaving school with low achievement and destined to be “neet” and in receipt of a benefit from age 18. It was significantly expanded in 2012, when the ineffective Youth Training programme was absorbed into the scheme. The purpose of that change was to give the Youth Training students a stronger focus on educational achievement, as well. It has been very effective in improving educational achievement at National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2. It is also, along with other programmes, improving employment outcomes. More young people are achieving NCEA level 2 than ever before, while young people aged 15 to 19 and not in education, employment, or training are at the lowest levels on record. “Neets” overall are back to pre – global financial crisis levels.

    Darroch Ball: Not pre-2008 levels.

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes—September 2008, actually.

    Chris Hipkins: Did the latest monitoring report of the policy find that participants in the Fees-free scheme are more likely to end up on benefits after completing the programme; if so, does he think that the days referred to by the Prime Minister over 8 years ago are now at an end?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. In terms of the Fees-free side there has not been a big increase in terms of employment of that 2012 cohort, but it is important to note that that report was done in 2014 and only takes into account the employment considerations for the 2012 cohort, which was the first year that it was transferred from Youth Training to Youth Guarantee. In terms of the educational achievement, we have seen a significant lift in that. In terms of the employment achievement, it is probably a little bit early, but we also want to see that lift over time.

    Chris Hipkins: Did the evaluation find that the young people participating in the programme were more—or less—likely to end up on a benefit as a result of participating in the programme?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I understand that it was about the same.

    Chris Hipkins: Has he read the line in the report that states that “any difference in outcomes between these groups can be attributed to the programme”; if so, does he think that an additional 2,020 young people receiving benefits, 869 more “neets”, and 440 fewer people in full employment are good outcomes?

    Mr SPEAKER: Again, there are two supplementary questions there—the Minister can address either.

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: What I know about that report is that it actually underlines the increase in educational achievement at NCEA level 2. The member can try to ignore that if he wishes, but that is the primary aspiration of that scheme—to lift NCEA level 2 achievement—because we all know that if you get at least NCEA level 2, you can do better in the future. In terms of employment, frankly, the member is way too early, because it relates only to the first year of Youth Training. He should wait and see how it goes—and anyway, “neets” are now at their lowest level for 15- to 19-year-olds that they have ever been.

    Dr Jian Yang: What new steps is the Government taking to ensure more young people—[Interruption] Sorry, I will start again.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Every member has a right to ask a question.

    Dr Jian Yang: What new steps is the Government taking to ensure more young people are engaged in education and training?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, as indicated in the primary answer to this question, the Government is making good progress in reducing the number of disengaged young people, with more young people achieving NCEA level 2 than ever before, and “neet” rates, particularly of 15- to 19-year-olds, at the lowest percentage levels that we have ever had—right back to 1989. So we now see an opportunity to do more, and this week education Minister Hekia Parata and I announced a new Youth Guarantee programme, a secondary-tertiary programme called DualPathways, alongside the other programmes. This will allow students to be enrolled part-time both in secondary school at years 12 and 13, and part-time in either tertiary education or industry training. That will allow more young people to fully explore career options while they are still enrolled at school and get a head start on the skills employers are looking for. It is the latest in a number of programmes that are serving to bring “neet” levels to record lows.

    Chris Hipkins: So is the Minister seriously arguing that if participation in the Fees-free scheme increases a young person’s likelihood of achieving NCEA level 2 but also increases their likelihood of ending up on a benefit, that is a successful outcome?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, again, for the member’s benefit let me take him through the cohorts that are measured in that report. Those cohorts relate to 2010, 2011, and 2012. The 2012 cohort for the first time picked up the failing Youth Training programme, which was not even delivering educational outcomes; it was delivering nothing. That programme came into Youth Guarantee in 2012. We now have the educational achievement to show for it and we are also, through the “neet” numbers, seeing the lowest numbers of 15- to 19-year-old “neets” that we have ever seen since the series began in 1989.

    Chris Hipkins: So is he seriously arguing that students are better off having participated in a programme—being forced to participate in a programme by the Government—that makes them more likely to end up on a benefit at the end of it?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Firstly, nobody is forced to participate in the scheme. They are not forced to participate.

    Hon Members: They are!

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Nobody is forced to participate in Youth Guarantee’s Fees-free programme, but they are achieving educational outcomes at NCEA level 2 that will last their entire lives. I think that is an excellent outcome for those young people. The member can pooh-pooh it if he likes, but I know young people who are very proud of achieving level 2 NCEA when they dropped out of school at 14, turned up at Fees-free Youth Guarantee, and now have their NCEA level 2. To me that is worth a lot for those students.

  • Children, State Care—Announcements

    6. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made regarding support for children and young people in care or at risk of going into care?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): This morning I announced that legislation will be introduced to Parliament by the end of the year that will propose new and amended principles to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 in the critical areas of intensive intervention and care support services. These new principles will ensure better support for children and young people in care or at risk of going into care, and will also increase support for families and caregivers. The current care and protection system is not meeting the needs of vulnerable children, and this new legislation will underpin two important aspects of the new operating model of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

    Matt Doocey: How do these new principles differ from the current principles in the Act?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We know that the current principles do not place enough focus on intervening early with the right level and type of response to address the impact of harm on a child, and the future risk of harm, so the new principles support an early intervention response, with a focus on safe, stable, and loving care. It will also ensure that decisions made about the child or young person should reflect their views and input. The new principles will make it clear that where a child is removed and cannot be returned to their immediate family, decisions should be centred around the child’s or young person’s best interests, understanding their views and needs. These changes to the fundamental principles of the Act are an integral part of the biggest overhaul of care and protection that this country has ever seen.

    Jacinda Ardern: If Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, has no responsibility for reducing child poverty, does she genuinely believe it is instead the role of Work and Income, as she stated in her press statement last night?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have made it very clear for over a year and a half now—I do not know where that member has been; maybe under a rock somewhere—that the role of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, is to focus on the care and protection of those children who either are in State care or are at risk of going into State care. The hardship and difficulties faced by many other New Zealand children are the responsibility of all of Government.

    Matt Doocey: How were these new principles developed?

    Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, will be completely child-centred, and this has been reflected in the development of these principles. The revised principles reflect and incorporate feedback from the Youth Advisory Panel. This panel worked closely with the Expert Advisory Panel on its report and business case last year, and I want to acknowledge the valuable contribution of these young people. These amended principles also largely reflect feedback from the Children’s Commissioner. The youth panel told me, and told Parliament, that we need to stop experimenting with their lives and, wherever possible, we need to get it right first time. This Government is committed to seeing this happen.

  • Transport, Minister—Statements

    7. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement that “there will come a point of time where you can’t just keep adding lanes to the motorway”; and does he think that time has come for Auckland?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Yes; and no.

    Julie Anne Genter: Given that 50 years of motorway building has not fixed congestion in Auckland, why is his Government still proposing to spend another $6.5 billion adding more lanes to Auckland motorways in the next 10 years, rather than building the rapid transit network that Aucklanders would like?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, I think the member will find it was not me; in fact, it was officials from across both central government and local government and people with independent expertise who determined that, indicatively, these are the sorts of projects that will really get Auckland moving.

    Julie Anne Genter: So can he confirm whether a detailed business case was completed for the $1.85 billion East-West Link motorway when he announced it would be fast tracked in January last year?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, well, that is a project that the Government feels strongly needs to be done, and the reason for that is that that is a message we are getting consistently from across the spectrum in Auckland as a project that will really get Auckland moving and, in particular, freight and industry moving in the biggest, busiest industrial area within New Zealand.

    Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was pretty straight. It asked whether he could confirm whether a detailed business case was completed for this project.

    Mr SPEAKER: No. It then went on to mention the fact that the project was “fast tracked”—they were the words that the member used—so I could accept that the member has addressed that. I think when I consider the first part of your question, “Was there a detailed business case?”, the Minister has not addressed that. I will allow the member to repeat the question.

    Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To assist the order of the House, I think if you look at the Hansard, the Minister’s first word was “Yes”, so he did answer that question.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need that sort of help from Mr Prosser.

    Julie Anne Genter: Can the Minister confirm whether a detailed business case was completed for the East-West Link motorway when he announced it would be fast tracked?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, as I think the member knows, because she has sent in about 50,000 Official Information Act requests on this issue. We have done very detailed investigations on this issue. We have gone through a range of options in great detail, and we feel very confident we have come out with the best long-term project here.

    Julie Anne Genter: Given that a detailed business case has not been completed for the East-West Link, is the Government now admitting that it is not using objective expertise to inform which projects are going to be prioritised in the next 10 years in Auckland?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think the member has missed the tenor of my last answer. As I say, the New Zealand Transport Agency has done very detailed investigations in relation to the East-West Link project, and we feel very confident that it is the right project—it is a project that Auckland wants. I will also make quite clear that we have many other plans in place to keep Auckland moving.

    Julie Anne Genter: Does the Minister understand that there is an opportunity cost to spending billions of dollars on additional motorway lanes, and that if that money was used on high-capacity busways and railways first, it would actually help more Aucklanders get around, not only on public transport but on the roads that already exist?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think the member is exactly right. That is why we have set up the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, so that in an evidence-based way we are going through and determining the projects that represent the best value for money to deal with congestion. That includes a wide range of projects in public transport, but also in arterial roads, motorways, and the like, because they all, combined, represent the best value to deal with Auckland’s transport issues.

  • Māori Development—Performance of Ministers

    KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau): I seek leave to hold my question over until the Minister for Māori Development is available to answer.

    Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

    8. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister for Māori Development: Does he believe that the lives of Māori have improved during his time as Minister for Māori Development?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): on behalf of the Minister for Māori Development: Yes.

    Kelvin Davis: How have Māori lives improved, with the Māori homeownership rate plummeting to just 28 percent under his watch, and with Māori facing a rate of homelessness more than five times greater than the European population?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Māori Housing Network provides funding of approximately $17.6 million per annum for housing projects aimed at improving the quality and affordability of homes, as well as increasing the number of whare available. The Māori Housing Network is supporting 87 projects around the motu. These projects include helping to repair 243 whānau homes, building 42 new affordable homes, supporting provision of emergency housing facilities, and providing infrastructure for 116 houses. This is making a difference, and that is what the focus is on.

    Kelvin Davis: Why has his Kāinga Whenua Loan Scheme failed so dramatically to build houses, given fewer than five loans have been given out each year?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: They are currently running projects throughout the country and going around and speaking at different events to make sure that they are talking to people about how they might be working. We will be seeing that number increase.

    Kelvin Davis: Does he think his Māori Housing Network is really going to help Māori into homes, when it organised more workshops last year than it built houses?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: The whole idea is to be talking to people and making sure that the projects do fit with what they want locally and what they need. The answer to that question is a definite yes.

    Kelvin Davis: Does he accept that he has overseen some of the worst declines for Māori homeownership, that there are children living in cars, and that he is a Minister in a Government that his co-leader called a “slum lord”?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that the Minister for Māori Development is making huge inroads when it comes to Māori housing and how that can be done, from Te Ture Whenua Māori land to how they are actually pulling that together, to the loans that are available to making sure that our young people do have access. I think it is making progress.

    Darroch Ball: How have the lives of Māori improved if Te Puni Kōkiri and Whānau Ora commissioning agencies—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will require substantially less interference from my right-hand side. The member can start his question again.

    Darroch Ball: How have the lives of Māori improved if Te Puni Kōkiri and Whānau Ora commissioning agencies have exited almost 30 of the 50 contracts nationwide that were transferred from the Ministry of Social Development, while he keeps the funding and enjoys a slush fund of almost $3 million?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: That member has made his views pretty clear in this House many times on how he sees Whānau Ora operating. The reality is that it has showed that more than 11,500 whānau are being supported to improve and achieve things across their lives. This is about working alongside Māori in their homes, in their communities, and seeing them be aspirational and working towards success, not about actually holding funds close to them and not making a difference.

  • Pacific Peoples—Pacific Employment Support Services Launch

    9. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Pacific Peoples: What recent announcement has he made about supporting young Pacific people into sustainable employment, education, and training?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister for Pacific Peoples): Last Friday I relaunched the Pacific Employment Support Services scheme in Manukau. This scheme focuses on getting young Pacific people into employment, education, and training. I am delighted that a further $4.6 million has been allocated to run the programme for the next 4 years. Four providers will work together across Auckland and Hamilton, and the programme expects to provide essential support to get 2,000 young Pacific people into work or training over the next 4 years.

    Alfred Ngaro: What evidence is there that the scheme is truly making a difference?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The evaluation of the pilot programme showed that over 1,400 young Pacific people have already benefited from the scheme since it began as a pilot. Of those, over 81 percent were placed into work or training schemes. It was clearly evident from speakers last Friday that this programme makes a real difference to these young Pacific people and their families. It does this by motivating, matching, and training young people to give them the support and the confidence that they need to succeed in the workplace and in their training programmes.

    Su’a William Sio: Are Pacific parents correct that his Government promised a brighter future, but instead what they got was high youth unemployment and that “Almost a quarter of Pacific students reported that their parents worry about not having enough food, and 36 percent said someone at home sleeps in a room not designated for sleeping (e.g., a garage or living room),”, as highlighted in the health and well-being of Pacific youth report released today?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The report by Auckland UniServices showed that Pacific young people are actually making good progress. Recent results show that they have improved family and school relationships, significant reductions in substance abuse, and improved educational goals.

  • Local Government, Minister—Statements

    10. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he stand by all his statements?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Local Government): Yes, in the context in which they were made.

    Darroch Ball: Does he stand by his statement to the Local Government Commission in March this year that “What you’re going to get is models that are appropriate for the individual regions, we’re not going to impose this from Wellington, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ …”?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Yes, I do.

    Darroch Ball: If that is the case, will he now amend the Local Government Act 2002 to reflect the race-based appointments incorporated into the Taranaki Iwi Claims Settlement Bill, which will force the Taranaki Regional Council to include six unelected iwi representatives?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I have not made any announcements on that bill, nor am I responsible for that bill.

    Darroch Ball: Would he agree that it is fair and democratic to force a council that was democratically elected to include six members based on race who hold the same status and remuneration and expenses; if so, why?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That is a hypothetical question. That is a hypothetical question; I do not have to answer.

    Darroch Ball: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is hardly—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot hear the point of order.

    Darroch Ball: This is hardly a hypothetical question. I can ask—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has interpreted it as a hypothetical question. It was a difficult question—[Interruption]. The member will resume his seat. It was a difficult question for me to write down because it was a fairly lengthy question, but that is the answer the Minister has given, and when I consider the generality of the primary question, we will move forward.

    Darroch Ball: Why is the Government ignoring a referendum in the New Plymouth area last May, when 83 percent opposed race-based appointments to local government, by now ramming six non-elected appointments down Taranakians’ throats?

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I would note that we are not ignoring that referendum held last year. That is not true.

    Darroch Ball: You are.

    Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, we are not.

  • Small Businesses—Business Surveys

    11. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Small Business: How will small businesses benefit from this Government’s move to reduce the time it takes to complete business surveys?

    Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): Under this Government Statistics New Zealand has taken yet another step towards being digital by default and open by default by moving three more business surveys online. Small businesses will now save time by completing four surveys—the Agricultural Production Survey, the Economic Survey of Manufacturing, the quarterly Wholesale Trade Survey, and the Quarterly Business Survey—online. An additional 15 business surveys will be available to be completed online by mid-2017, and our aim is to have all business surveys online in 2018. Small businesses will continue to benefit from the reduced time taken to fill out these surveys while also contributing their data to create more information for more informed markets across New Zealand.

    Dr Parmjeet Parmar: As well as making it easier to complete business surveys, what steps is the Government taking to reduce the number of small businesses that have to complete a business survey?

    Hon CRAIG FOSS: The number of businesses surveyed over recent years has reduced from 268,000 businesses to 72,000 businesses. The biggest reductions have been amongst small businesses. This has been made possible as Statistics New Zealand has made better use of administrative data collected by other organisations across Government. I expect Statistics New Zealand to look for further opportunities for further reductions. This is great news for many small business owners across New Zealand, and for operators, who, of course, can now spend less time on administration and more time on their business.

  • Primary Industries, Minister—Statements

    12. Hon DAMIEN OCONNOR (Labour—West Coast – Tasman) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by all his statements?

    Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries: Yes, in the context they were given. In particular, the Minister stands by his statement that yesterday’s announcement was “great news for dairy farmers”, with Fonterra raising its forecast payout to well above break even for most farmers. The Minister notes that this statement contrasts with the statements of some members, who have previously expressed more dire forecasts for that industry.

    Hon Damien OConnor: Does he stand by his statement that the tender process for monitoring commercial fishing was a “very open and transparent process”; if so, what is open or transparent about letting the commercial fishing industry, which is about to be monitored, veto any firm it did not like?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: The Minister stands by his statement on that issue.

    Hon Damien OConnor: Who does the Minister think is more likely to get vetoed by the commercial fishing industry—(a) a company owned by the commercial fishing industry, or (b) the firm that discovered systemic fish dumping by commercial fishing companies?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: If you are asking the Minister to second-guess something the commercial fishing industry would do, why does the member not ask him himself.

    Hon Damien OConnor: Why did the Minister’s officials try to stitch up the tender process so the commercial fishing industry would be monitoring itself?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: I reject the assertion in the member’s question.

    Hon Damien OConnor: Does the Minister think New Zealand’s international export reputation is at risk when the integrity of the Ministry for Primary Industries and the fishing industry is under question?

    Hon JO GOODHEW: Quite the contrary. I think what the international industry will see is that we have had an independent inquiry into our fisheries compliance investigations, that we have taken on the chin that in the case of one of them it was flawed, that we have said we have a total commitment to changing the internal processes that have brought this about, and that in fact we are not hiding the fact that there have been mistakes made.


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