Questions & Answers – Sept 6

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 — 1:58 PM

  • HousingDwelling Consents

    1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “we are seeing a record number of houses being built”, given the current rate of dwelling consents per 1,000 New Zealanders is less than the average under the previous Labour Government, and less than half the record level?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is relieving to see the member today with his clothes on. And the answer to that question is, yes.

    Grant Robertson: Don’t be jealous, John.

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I know! I was in awe—shock and awe.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now, we will get back to questions for oral answer.

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: According to the latest Building Activity Survey from Statistics New Zealand, the amount of residential building work in the 3 months to July was the highest since the series began back in the 1980s. That is up 6 percent on the previous record level, set in March this year. It is an increase of 50 percent since 2013 and an increase of over 90 percent since the start of 2012. As I said previously, building consents have been running at the highest level for over 11 years, and we are looking for them to increase further.

    Andrew Little: Will he take responsibility for fewer than 10,000 houses a year being built in Auckland when 13,000 are needed?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a number of reasons why house numbers have not met the level that is required. Most of those reasons have been around the metropolitan urban limit restrictions, but also the global financial crisis had a big impact on developers not being in the position to be able to fulfil building plans. The good news is that we are narrowing that gap rapidly, and, under very low interest rates and a strong economy, more and more New Zealanders are buying a home.

    Andrew Little: Are enough affordable houses being built in New Zealand today; if not, what excuse does he have after 8 long years?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a range of houses being built across New Zealand, at a range of different prices. One looks at the KiwiSaver HomeStart programme—around the regions, that is being used by a great many New Zealanders. We think it will benefit over 90,000. But even as of the recent data today, over 30 percent of all sales that took place in Auckland in the last 12 months were at $650,000 or less.

    Andrew Little: In light of information out today showing that the average house price in Auckland is now over $1 million, just how serious is he about getting more New Zealanders into an affordable home?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The honourable member answered that himself when he noted the big increase in the number of properties being built under the National-led Government. Yes, it is less than what is probably required, but we are getting very close to getting that number delivered each year. If one looks at the Government’s comprehensive plan, it is everything from releasing public land to extra people being trained in the sector. We are in the biggest building boom we have seen, and this is the largest number of people ever employed in the construction sector. There are more houses to be built, but this Government is helping to assist those houses to be built.

    Andrew Little: What excuses does he make to Aucklander JP van der Westhuizen, who says: “My wife and I have got good jobs and earn decent money, especially for our age. … It’s a vicious cycle, rent is so high that you can’t save. The whole DIY Kiwi dream is becoming more and more unachievable. It’s pretty ridiculous.”?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That would not be borne out by the number of people who are using KiwiSaver HomeStart, which is for first-home buyers. Secondly, what is happening is that, of course, you do have house prices going up in both Auckland and generally around New Zealand, but that is fuelled by extremely low interest rates and also a very buoyant economy. We have one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world, the second-highest employment rate in the world, and one of the lowest unemployment rates.

    Andrew Little: Does he accept that the reason 10,000 Kiwi kids under 15 are now homeless is that he and his Government have failed to fix the housing crisis?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not accept the premise of the member’s question.

    Andrew Little: I seek leave to table a table that shows the result of the Otago University research, showing that 10,000 children under 15 are now homeless.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just understand—the source of the document is an Otago University research document?

    Andrew Little: That is correct.

    Mr SPEAKER: And has it been publicly released by the university?

    Andrew Little: I am not aware of how it has been published, because I have got only a hard copy at this point. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would advise members in the future that they will be asked that question and I will expect them to be ready. But on the basis that it has not been checked, leave has been sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

    Andrew Little: Will any of the excuses he has offered today help a single family buy their first home or help even one homeless child into a warm, safe home tonight?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, the number of houses being built both in Auckland and around New Zealand has been dramatically increasing in the time since I have been Prime Minister, from 10 a day to well over 40 a day. Just today the Government announced that there will be an additional $24 million going to support community housing providers. There was $50 million allocated in the Budget for emergency support. This is the Government that raised benefits for the first time in 43 years. This is the Government that also allocates over $2 billion a year to accommodation supplements and the like. I think the argument saying that we are not doing anything to help less-well-off New Zealanders simply does not hold water.

  • Prime Minister—Statements

    2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he said—and I quote him—”I think New Zealand is a far better and richer country for having migration the way that we do.”, why did he ignore the widespread immigration fraud in the Indian student market, which is now reaching into hundreds and even thousands of people?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: New Zealand is a better country for migration, and I can think of many examples. I can think of an Indian person who came to New Zealand 44 years ago, set up a business, employed 200 people, and, from time to time, made donations—forgettable or not—to political parties that they thought about. That is all as a result of migration, funnily enough, from India. [Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House on my right-hand side will settle.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: How sane is an immigrant who would offer $20,000 to have breakfast with him and—[Interruption]

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, I am asking, for a second time, for a little more respect from my right-hand corner.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: —is he aware of Operation Silver Needle by Immigration New Zealand in Mumbai in November 2014, which found that 90 percent of the applicants were not bona fide and that such organised fraud continues to tarnish our export education reputation?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, very. And in answer to the second part of the question, no.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he say that his Government is “working for all New Zealanders” when we currently have 15,000 unemployed New Zealand labourers whilst his Government approved work visas for 6,500 foreign labourers?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Most of that is because of mismatch of labour, so it is required in one part of the country and people are located in the other, or—as I said yesterday on Morning Report—people have a variety of reasons, from being unable to pass a drugs test, or a variety of other factors. So of course Work and Income does everything it can to get people in work, and one of the major changes this Government made was to re-face, if you like, the way Work and Income operates to get rid of the old dole and to replace it with job seeker support, and that has been highly effective.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is his Government working for all New Zealanders when his Government has approved dog handlers and dance teachers and over 10,000 chefs—more than the restaurants we have got in this country—as skilled migrants whilst we have 70,000 New Zealand youth not in employment, education, or training?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is nothing wrong with bringing in chefs, particularly if they are Indian. For some people, it can be very lucrative.

  • Income Tax and Support Systems—Redistribution

    3. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Finance: How is redistribution through the income tax and income support systems helping support New Zealand families?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): Tax and income support is a significant source of income redistribution in the economy, more so following tax changes made in 2010. Treasury has updated its estimates for tax collection for the 2016-17 year. It now expects households earning over $140,000—that is, the top 20 percent of household incomes—will pay 55 percent of all income tax. The top 10 percent of households are expected to pay 37.2 percent of income tax this year, which is up from 35.5 percent when this Government took office in 2008. Families in lower-income households are paying a smaller proportion of tax. The 20 percent of households with the lowest income are expected to pay just 2.8 percent of income tax this year, compared with 3.4 percent in 2008.

    Dr Shane Reti: What other evidence has he seen showing the tax and income support systems are more progressive today than in 2008?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Treasury has also undertaken an analysis of the net tax paid by households—that is income tax paid, less than the amount received in benefits, superannuation, and Working for Families. This shows the 30 percent of households with the lowest incomes will pay $1.7 billion of income tax, but this is more than offset by the $10.6 billion they are expected to receive in income support. Treasury estimates that 42 percent of households will pay no net income tax—that is, they will pay less in tax than they receive in welfare benefits, Working for Families, New Zealand superannuation, or accommodation subsidies. This compares with 39 percent in 2007-08, when this Government took office. That suggests tax and income support systems are more progressive today than they were in 2008.

    David Seymour: Has the Minister seen any reports of the National Party campaigning to make the tax and transfer system—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, that question is not in order. There is no ministerial responsibility at all for a political party.

    Dr Shane Reti: What steps has the Government taken to help New Zealand families get ahead?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The economy remains front and centre of the Government’s busy programme, which, of course, includes the Business Growth Agenda, which is helping to create more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders. We are seeing results. New Zealand currently has the second-highest employment rate in the developed world—that is the second-highest. Of every 100 people aged 16 and over, 66 are in work. That compares with 61 in Australia and Canada, 60 in the UK and the US, and 56 across the OECD as a whole. This is, in part, due to the 250,000 jobs that have been added to the economy over the last 3 years.

    Dr Shane Reti: What steps has the Government taken to support lower-income families?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: On 1 April this year the Government increased benefits for families with children by $25 a week. It is the first real increase since 1972. We also increased Working for Families payments to very low-income working families by $24.50 a week and to other working families by up to $12.50 a week, and we increased childcare assistance for low-income working families. On top of this, the Government has introduced free GP visits and prescriptions for under-13s, breakfasts in all schools that want it, social workers in all low-decile primary schools, the Youth Service for young teen beneficiaries, insulation in every State house that can be insulated, rheumatic fever prevention, Whānau Ora, and now the establishment of a new ministry to support vulnerable children.

    Grant Robertson: Which of the following achievements of his Government is helping to support New Zealand families the most: homelessness being the worst in living memory, according to the Salvation Army; 10 percent of New Zealanders owning 60 percent of the wealth, according to Statistics New Zealand, up from 55 percent; or his own admission that incomes are dropping despite GDP growth?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would contest at least two of the member’s statements there, if not all three. But in terms of the things this Government is most proud of, it is creating the climate, the job opportunities, and investment in job growth throughout New Zealand that is lifting employment—something like 325,000 jobs now since the global financial crisis—which is bringing Kiwis into work, which is raising their wages ahead of inflation, which means that more and more New Zealanders want to return home from other parts of the world, where they fled during the previous Government.

    Grant Robertson: In light of his answers to the primary and first supplementary questions, expressing confidence in the progressivity of the tax system, is he ruling out tax cuts being proposed by his Government before the next election?

    Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am not ruling anything out today, but I can tell the member that if the Government was in a position to improve the position of income taxes for New Zealanders, we would be looking to do it for all hard-working New Zealanders.

  • HomelessnessHousing Demand and Supply

    4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she stand by her statement in relation to homelessness that “we’ve got a demand and supply problem which we’ve been tackling for the last two years”?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes.

    Phil Twyford: How well is that going when the average Auckland house price has now reached $1 million, average Auckland rents have gone up $3,500 in the last 2 years, and social agencies say that they have never seen homelessness this bad?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, what we have got is a comprehensive work plan where we saw more than $40 million of new money going into emergency housing providers alone; another $3 million that we have made announcements on in respect of the Housing First policy, which will be rolled out in west, central, and south Auckland; and another $9 million that is going into Better Housing Outcomes , where we are seeing tenants who are in both private rentals and Housing New Zealand, in particular, who are being evicted—and so we are trying to get in earlier to ensure that they are not. There is the Housing New Zealand supply pipeline, where we see more Housing New Zealand homes in Auckland than we have had in the last 9 years—we have seen the number in Auckland increase. We are also seeing the announcement—like today, where we are seeing that community housing provider also increasing the supply that it has got.

    Phil Twyford: Does she agree with the Salvation Army, which says that the Government has deliberately left thousands of State houses empty to justify selling them off?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I do not—not at all. What we are seeing is a massive rebuild programme that is going on, not just in Auckland but throughout the country, where you can see examples of three Housing New Zealand houses being knocked down and then 13 being built on that same site. So we are seeing more houses being built. We are also doing a complete analysis of the pending sales throughout New Zealand, alongside the housing register that is going up in different places. So anywhere with over 100 applicants on the waiting list, or an increase of up to 40 to 50 percent, then we are looking at it to make sure that we have got the right synergies there as far as getting houses to the people who need them.

    Dr Parmjeet Parmar: How will the $24.4 million in new funding for community housing providers that she announced today help to increase the supply of social housing in Auckland?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: Growing the role of community providers is a vital part of that comprehensive plan for social housing in particular. We have had the Social Housing Fund, which was very successful; the shoe fund; and today we announced another $24.4 million on top of the $120 million that was in this year’s Budget. That means that we will be able to give a grant of up to 50 percent for new builds and, also, an additional 50 percent on top of the market rent for those who might be leasing. It will make a huge difference in getting some of those deals over the line.

    Phil Twyford: Why is she wasting time quibbling with her own Government’s official definition of homelessness, which was developed by the Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand, and Statistics New Zealand and has now been adopted internationally—or are they all wrong and only she is right?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: To be frank, I do not spend a lot of time on that. Every day I am focused on getting more beds available for the New Zealanders who need them. That has been the key focus of this Government. We can see that supply coming through. We can see an increase in the number of emergency housing beds. In fact, right now we have got a deal out there in purchasing a motel for more emergency beds in Auckland as well as another whole lot of initiatives, including looking at community group houses. We are actually making sure that we are going to be looking at putting others into that as well.

    Phil Twyford: Does she believe that 69-year-old Lynette Haines of Tauranga, who is renting a temporary cabin in a motor camp because she cannot find any affordable housing, should be regarded as homeless, or does she think that you are homeless only if people are stepping over you in the street?

    Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not know those circumstances for that particular woman and, as such, where it would be. It is irrelevant. What she actually needs is a permanent home where she can get that kind of access. That is what I am concentrating on, and that is what we are making progress on, on this side.

  • Safer Roads and Roadsides Programme—Progress

    5. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Transport: What update can he provide on the Government’s recently announced $600 million Safer Roads and Roadsides Programme?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Alongside the local member of Parliament Barbara Kuriger, it was my pleasure recently to open the first of the Government’s $600 million of Safer Roads and Roadsides projects. Changes to the high-risk section of State Highway 37 in Waitomo include side barriers to stop drivers running off the road, improved signage and road markings, and sections of the highway have been widened so that drivers who do lose control on corners have more time to recover. These improvements will make it a road more forgiving of human error, helping to reduce the amount of crashes in the first place and limiting the severity of the impact if they do occur.

    Barbara Kuriger: What other projects can road users expect to see the Government deliver in Taranaki – King Country as part of the Government’s $600 million Safer Roads and Roadsides programme?

    Hon SIMON BRIDGES: All up, the Government is investing $23 million in six safety projects on rural State Highways 3, 23, and 37 in the Taranaki – King Country area in an effort to reduce serious injury and fatal accidents. The range of improvements to some of the country’s most dangerous stretches of rural road will be a mix of roadside and median barriers, widening centre lines, road widening, improved signage, road markings, and rumble strips. All of these actions will reduce the risk of head-on and run-off-road crashes in Taranaki – King Country and are an important part of the Government’s significant step up in road safety investment to reduce death and serious-injury crashes on New Zealand’s rural roads.

  • Prime Minister—Government Policies

    6. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all of his Government’s policies?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

    James Shaw: Does he still feel that his Government’s policies are giving all New Zealanders a brighter future when even his own Minister for Social Housing yesterday admitted that homelessness had got worse on its watch?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For the most part, yes.

    James Shaw: What proportion of the 42,000 people living in severe housing deprivation will be housed as a result of the $24.4 million package announced today?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would need to direct that question to the Minister for Social Housing.

    James Shaw: Is he honestly saying that on the day that the Government announced $24.4 million worth of expenditure, he has no idea what the specific outcomes of that expenditure are going to be?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I am saying is that I do not wing things, because if I do the member will put in a breach of privilege claim, and if he wants an answer to a detailed question like that he should direct it to the appropriate Minister.

    James Shaw: Does he stand by all of his Government’s policies, when sociologist Kay Saville-Smith said at the homelessness inquiry yesterday that in the 30 years that she has worked in homelessness in New Zealand she has “never seen a situation like this.”?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think she will take confidence, then, in the announcement made by Minister today.

    James Shaw: When does his Government believe that the number of people living on the streets and in cars and in garages will actually start to decrease?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot give the member an exact date, but with the work programme I have seen from the Minister I am confident that will be the case.

    James Shaw: Just to clarify, is he really saying that he cannot tell New Zealanders when his so-called comprehensive plan on housing will actually start to work?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It has already started to work, and that is witnessed by the fact that we are in the biggest construction boom that we have seen.

  • Police, Minister—Statements

    7. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by all her statements?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Yes, and I particularly stand by my statement that the New Zealand Police are the finest in the world, and I am so proud of them.

    Ron Mark: Does she stand by her statement in 2010 that her Government “has continued to invest in staff and equipment that reflect international best practice”, with reference to the proposed roll-out of new digital radios?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It was an awfully long time ago, but I am sure I do.

    Ron Mark: Why, then, if the police secure digital radio network reflects “best practice”, are regions outside of the main metropolitan centres still relying on the unencrypted analogue radio network that is being monitored and listened into by criminals?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: There have been a few developments in those 6 years. One of them is that the police now have iPhones. There is cellular network work that is going on with Vodafone to make sure that they are able to be accessed all round the country, and so there is some work going on there.

    Ron Mark: In response to that answer, accepting that cellphone coverage is still not throughout rural New Zealand, why did police Minister Anne Tolley, in 2013, scrap plans to extend the secure digital radio network for police into rural and provincial New Zealand, reversing your commitment—yours, the Minister’s—in November 2010 that that would happen?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: As much as I would like to be responsible for all the things that everyone has ever done, the fact is that I cannot be responsible for what a Minister has done, two Ministers back.

    Ron Mark: On behalf of her Government, could she tell the House how front-line police in provincial New Zealand are supposed to improve burglary resolution rates and prevent crime, while criminals using cheap scanners are able to listen to their unencrypted analogue radio network, allowing them to plan and execute crimes and then make good their escapes before the police arrive?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I explained to the member that police are working with their partner Vodafone on actually dealing with this issue around cellphone coverage in rural New Zealand, and there is a plan that is operating at the moment.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I let it go at the time, but the Minister got up and said that she is not responsible for previous Ministers. Well, as part of her administration, frankly, there have been Speakers’ rulings that she is.

    Mr SPEAKER: I think when you consider the question, which was why did a particular Minister scrap a programme, etc., and considering the very nature of the primary question that was asked, the question that was then answered is in accordance with the Standing Orders.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I have some clarification, then. Are you saying, then, that a statement from the Minister that she is not responsible for previous Ministers is, in fact, now a change in the order of this House?

    Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not saying that at all. I am saying that when I considered the question that was asked and then the answer that was given, particularly in light of Speaker’s rulings 191/3 and 191/4, the answer that was given was completely in line with the Standing Orders.

  • Communities of Learning—Announcements

    8. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding Communities of Learning?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I was pleased to announce this morning that more than half of New Zealand schools are now working together in 148 communities of learning (COL). This means that to date, more than 1,260 schools and 18 early learning services have now formed communities of learning, supporting more than 410,000 kids. Twenty-six COLs have set their education achievement challenges, and 30 new community of learning leaders have now been appointed. In addition, almost 400 teachers have been appointed to new roles within their communities. I want to acknowledge all the schools and early learning services that have committed to work together to lift the achievement of all their students.

    Stuart Smith: How do communities of learning support achievement for our young people?

    Hon HEKIA PARATA: Research and the direct experience of parents show that within schools, the quality of teaching has the biggest influence on whether students will be successful. The communities of learning, resourced through the Government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative, received additional resources to enable teachers and principals to systematically share their expertise to raise all student achievement.

  • Foreign Affairs, Minister—Statements

    Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): Can I seek leave, please, to hold this question over until a day when the Minister is present?

    Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave, and then the House will decide. Leave is sought to hold question No. 9 over to another day. Is there any objection? There is objection.

    9. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he stand by his statements in this House regarding a $4 million payment to a Saudi Arabian businessman that “the New Zealand Government was also exposed to a legal claim for up to $30 million” and, when asked for an example of a similar payment, “I cannot point to any such example”?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes, when the quotes in the member’s question are considered as part of a full response that was provided.

    Hon David Parker: When he said the Government was exposed to a legal claim, had he been provided any legal advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to that effect or to the effect that a legitimate course of action existed?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Minister would have had access to an analysis of legal risk—because that is what we are talking about: a legal risk, not a claim that had been formulated. And when one is dealing with legal risk, one has to take into account a number of factors.

    Hon David Parker: Why has the Minister resisted, for over a year, disclosing whether any relevant legal advice did in fact exist?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Ultimately, I would have thought that the fact of legal advice and its contents were matters for the Attorney-General to determine.

    Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took that to be a claim that legal professional privilege questions are for the Attorney-General. That is not what is at issue here. It is not what the advice was; it is whether any advice existed. I think the Minister should be asked to answer that question.

    Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I think that on this occasion the Minister has answered it—clearly, not to the member’s satisfaction. But the essence of the question, as to why the Minister resisted disclosure—the Minister certainly answered that.

    Hon David Parker: Did any such legal advice exist?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have not actually seen any legal advice, because I am holding the fort, as it were. But the point is that there was an assessment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade dealing with a range of matters, and, ultimately, it was a risk assessment that needed to be determined.

    Hon David Parker: Has anyone in MFAT, including the Minister, been provided with any part of the Auditor-General’s draft report on her inquiry, over a year long, into the Saudi sheep deal?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The member in his question seems to be suggesting that the Auditor-General is taking an unduly lengthy period of time to determine this matter. The member should know, because he is an experienced member in this House, that the Auditor-General is an independent officer. She will conduct an inquiry, and then a draft report will be given to those who are affected, to enable them to comment so that natural justice questions are determined.

    Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The essence of that question—and there were not two parts to it—was whether anyone in the ministry had been provided with a draft of the Auditor-General’s report. I do not see why the Minister cannot address that.

    Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty is that the question then included a comment from the questioner that the Auditor-General had commenced this inquiry “over a year ago”—I think were the words the member used. [Interruption] Order! The Minister took the opportunity to respond to that part of the question. If I can have more concise questions, I think it helps the House deliver the answer. On this occasion I will allow the member an additional question.

    Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has not answered the question I asked or even addressed it. The point as to the length of the report was not a question about whether it was a year long; it is an undisputed fact that it is. The question was—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member would only refer to Standing Order 380, it states that supplementary questions need to be concise. The member himself put in a qualification about the length of time taken for the report. That gave the Minister the opportunity to then latch on to that part of the question. If it was not there, it would not have been able to be mentioned. To advance the cause, I have given the member an extra question. I would advise him to use it, otherwise we will move on.

    Hon David Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I had not heard that when I took that point of order, I am sorry. Has anyone in MFAT, including the Minister, been provided with any part of the Auditor-General’s draft report on her inquiry into the Saudi sheep deal?

    Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I do not know. However, in order to try to be helpful to the member, I did outline the standard procedure that would be undertaken by the Auditor-General making an inquiry along these lines.

    Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to consider whether that is an acceptable answer, given that when Ministers are answering on behalf of other Ministers they are expected to be able to answer reasonable questions from the Opposition. I think that in the context of this controversy, that is the sort of question I would expect the Minister should have prepared for.

    Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.

    Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think that when you do consider this, as I am sure you will, you will reflect on the comment made previously by the Minister answering the question that did outline the process, which makes it abundantly clear that the Minister answering the question today could not know that answer.

    Mr SPEAKER: I think the important thing is that the Minister is acting on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was asked whether the draft report had been presented to MFAT and/or to the Minister. The Minister, acting on behalf, took the position that was clearly his honest view: he does not know. That is an answer given. I would certainly prefer that answer to one that then led to a discussion later about whether we had had somebody misleading the House.

    Question No. 7 to Minister

    RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Without wanting to question your previous ruling on the matter of ministerial responsibility—and you reference Speaker’s rulings 191/3 and 191/4, which relate to—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can we just have this a bit more clearly—speak into the microphone. Perhaps if we have the Speaker’s rulings the member wants to refer to.

    Richard Prosser: They are Speaker’s rulings 191/3 and 191/4, which you referenced in response to the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ point of order regarding ministerial responsibility and the questioning between Ron Mark and the Minister of Police. Those points do relate to a Minister not necessarily having knowledge of what went on prior to their taking up that office, which is fair enough. But I believe that the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ point of order was to do with responsibility itself, and Speaker’s ruling 170/5 by Speaker Smith says “Just because a Minister may not have been present at the time does not relieve a Minister of being answerable for what took place.”, referencing that a Minister was asked about a decision that occurred in his portfolio before he became a Minister. I am curious—even given the circumstances, the fact that the Minister may not have had knowledge does not relieve her of that responsibility.

    Mr SPEAKER: I will have a look at the points the member has raised, and, if necessary, I will come back to him, if I decide to.

    Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Defence): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been reluctant to raise it because I always worry that someone is going to say that it is just me who cannot hear things, but it does appear that the sound system in here is rather quiet today. Certainly it was earlier, when members were asking questions over there, and when you spoke just a few seconds ago it was also very, very quiet.

    Mr SPEAKER: I will certainly make sure that we have a look at the sound system immediately, and I thank the member.

  • Building and Construction, Auckland—Growth

    10. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Can he confirm reports that building activity in Auckland grew by 32 percent in the last year to $6.9 billion and how does this compare historically in inflation-adjusted terms with previous highs in construction?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Yes. Statistics New Zealand reported that annual building activity in Auckland grew by 32 percent in the year to July and is now at the highest level ever. This is the fifth straight year of growth. Residential construction activity in Auckland has been growing at 25 percent compound since 2012, and activity is now more than three times that when National came to Government. The current $6.9 billion per year compares with $3.8 billion at the last peak back in 2004. In inflation-adjusted terms the current level of activity is 43 percent higher—43 percent higher—than the highest level in the last 25 years.

    Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: How does the current boom in building activity compare with that in 2004?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first difference I noted is that it is 40 percent higher in real-value terms. The second difference in today’s building boom is much broader. It is not just residential activity; it includes record levels of commercial, industrial, and public infrastructure buildings like schools and hospitals. The third difference is that the number of dwellings built in 2004 was boosted by 5,000 apartments, many of which were as small as 30 square metres and in the next year were banned. [Interruption] The final difference, even if I use the numbers in 1974 or the numbers in 2004, is that it was only a boom for a year or two. We have had 5 straight years of growth of over 25 percent and are projected to achieve over 13,000 homes per year in the next 3 years.

    Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What proportion of new building consents were in special housing areas in each of the last 3 years, and what impact would it have had on growth if they had not existed?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The number of building consents in special housing areas made up 6 percent of consents in 2013, 9 percent in 2014, and 14 percent in the last year. This growing pipeline reflects the time it takes from an area being zoned residential to getting the resource consents, getting the infrastructure built, and then getting the houses consented. The Auckland Council projects that over the next 10 years, 50 percent, or 45,000 homes, will be in those special housing areas.

  • Rivers and Groundwater—Water Quality

    11. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Is he satisfied that the Resource Management Act 1991 is protecting rivers and groundwater from pollution; if so, why?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): As I said in my Lincoln University lecture last week, the Resource Management Act (RMA) is generally working well in cleaning up point-source pollution—the likes of town sewerage systems, dairy sheds, and factories—but is not working well enough in the area of dealing with diffuse pollution, such as runoff from farms, as well as in urban environments. That is why the focus of the Government’s freshwater reforms, including the national policy statement, the stock exclusion rules, the clean-up funds, and the implementing of good management practice are very much focused on that new challenge around diffuse pollution.

    Eugenie Sage: Is it acceptable that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council allows intensive feedlots like this, with no need for a resource consent and no monitoring, given the amount of pollution that rain can flush into the Tukituki River and groundwater from land uses like this, in this style of farming?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would caution the member against connecting the difficulties in Havelock North directly with intensive farming, in that, actually, that area has a far lower level of intensive farming as compared with other areas—

    Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —and, secondly, I would note the data from GNS Science—

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise.

    Eugenie Sage: I was not attempting to link Havelock North, and the gastric outbreak there, with this activity. I was simply asking a straight question.

    Mr SPEAKER: But that is then a debatable matter. The Minister is choosing to answer it. I will allow the Minister to complete the answer.

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note, in respect of the serious issues around the water supply in Havelock North, that the GNS Science analysis showed that the contaminated water was only 1 year old and was likely to be surface water, in that the aquifer water in that area is 50 years old. That would suggest it is an issue of the integrity of that well, rather than something for the Green Party to try to use as an issue, without evidence, to blame on farmers in the area.

    Eugenie Sage: Will the Minister’s proposed changes to the national policy statement for fresh water require regional councils to properly control intensive stock farming like those feedlots, or will he let intensive agriculture off the hook yet again?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: We are the first Government to have a national policy statement putting requirements on regional councils. When we came to Government, there was not a single catchment anywhere in New Zealand in which there were any restrictions on intensive farming—not one. There are now at least eight where intensive farming is not allowed, and there are a further 15 catchments as a consequence of our national policy statement where they are limiting nutrients from intensive agriculture.

    Eugenie Sage: Does his Government’s failure to have strong and effective national policy under the RMA, which regulates land uses like this, allow those who benefit from these land uses to shift the costs on to the community through dirty water, dirty rivers, and dirty groundwater?

    Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would ask where that member was when she was on Environment Canterbury and it did nothing? Where was the last Labour Government, which did nothing for 9 years? I would point to the fact that at least we have a national policy statement on freshwater management, and we have a further programme with the national regulations around stock exclusion and the tighter rules around nutrients, where we are actually setting national requirements to improve the quality of our fresh water.

    Eugenie Sage: I seek leave to table rule 6.3.2 from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Resource Management Plan dated 1 October 2015, which allows the use of land as a permitted activity for feedlots and feed pads.

    Mr SPEAKER: I will accept that it may be more difficult than normal for members to obtain that, and, therefore, I will put the leave and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is not. It can be tabled.

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

  • Police Resources—Burglaries

    STUART NASH (Labour—Napier): To the Minister of Police, how many additional staff hours will it take for Police to attend every reported burglary?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): The additional staff hours required will, of course, depend on the circumstances of each reported dwelling burglary, which, of course, is what the member should have referred to.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! As Mr Brownlee pointed out earlier, we have clearly got a problem with the microphones. The question that was just asked has not been heard well. It is certainly through no fault of the Minister, I assure you; it is the level of chatter that is occurring in some parts of the Chamber that is not helping. I am going to invite the member to ask the primary question again.

    12. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: How many additional staff hours will it take for Police to attend every reported burglary?

    Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister—the Rt Hon Winston Peters, I have asked for quiet and I would be grateful if you could also cooperate.

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): The additional staff hours required will, of course, depend on the circumstances of each reported dwelling burglary, which, of course, is what the member should have referred to, rather than every reported burglary.

    STUART NASH: Is she really telling the House that she has instigated a major policy requiring the police to undertake significantly more work, and yet she has no idea of the implications for the hard-working police officer on the front line?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, of course not. That member may have missed the excellent press release released by the Commissioner of Police on 27 June 2016, when he noted that it was his policy that dwelling burglaries would now be considered a priority offence and not a volume crime as was acceptable under the previous Labour Government.

    Stuart Nash: What does she have to say to the police officer who said to the New Zealand Herald “we’re expected to keep crime [rates] down, burglaries down [when] there’s way more people, way more crime”, considering that she has now required this officer to do more work without any more resources?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Given that the police commissioner is the person who set in place the policy—and, by the way, I fully agree with that decision of his—I would say to that police officer that he or she should be very pleased that they have a Minister, a Government, and a commissioner that support them, as opposed to that member, who attacks the police quite personally at almost every opportunity he has.

    Stuart Nash: In response to that, when 60 percent of police say they do not have enough training, almost 60 percent say they cannot deliver on the promises they make to the public, and almost 60 percent say they have too much stress in their job, how can she load them with so much more work without an increase in police numbers?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, so many questions, and the answer is actually quite easy, really: the police are backed 100 percent by this Government. We have put on 600 extra police and there is also $400 million extra from the Budget than the police ever had under a previous Government.

    Stuart Nash: When she announced this policy, was she actually aware that burglaries in our communities have increased by around 8,600, or 14 percent, over the last 12 months, to over 70,000 burglaries per year?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not know how many times I have to tell that member, but the policy decision was actually announced by the Commissioner of Police on Monday, 27 June 2016, at 4.04 p.m. I am happy to provide that member with a link so he knows where the police website is. But, having said that, I can also tell him that, on average, in the 12 policing districts there are eight dwelling burglaries a day. Police already attend 70 percent of those, on average, and, actually, I think dwelling burglaries are very important. They are a home invasion, and people should expect a response.

    Stuart Nash: So if the police attend 70 percent of burglaries at the moment, they are going to have to attend another 30 percent—where are they going to find the resources to undertake this?

    Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The commissioner has assured me that they can, and I am sure they will.


    Recorded Burglary Victimisations—Increase in Number

    Mr SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Stuart Nash seeking to debate under Standing Order 389 the increase in the number of recorded burglary victimisations by 14 percent in the last 12 months. The urgent debate is a way of holding the Government accountable for an action for which it is responsible and it must relate to a particular case of recent occurrence. The urgent debate procedure is not intended to address a continuing problem such as burglary statistics—[Interruption] Order!—which do not constitute a particular case of recent occurrence, and I refer members to Speakers’ ruling 210/5 and Speaker’s ruling 210/6. On this basis, the case raised does not meet the test for me to set aside the business of the House today. The application is, therefore, declined.


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