Economies, International—Outlook and Impact on New Zealand Economy
1. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Finance: What factors show the New Zealand economy is well placed to withstand international uncertainty?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: As the Reserve Bank reported today in its Monetary Policy Statement, the outlook for growth in New Zealand is positive. This means we are well placed to deal with any uncertainties in the world economy. The bank is forecasting economic growth in excess of 3.5 percent in each of the next 2 years. In addition, the financial statements for the first 3 months of this year show that the Government recorded an operating surplus of $222 million, which was $725 million better than forecast, largely due to higher-than-forecast tax revenues. New Zealand is one of the few developed economies in the world that is growing at more than 3 percent a year, running a fiscal surplus, enjoying strong job growth, and has relatively low levels of public debt.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What other factors demonstrate that New Zealand is well placed to deal with uncertainty?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s responsible fiscal management means we are not burdened with excessive levels of debt and we have room to manoeuvre. Government debt presently sits at 25 percent of GDP and is forecast to fall to around 20 percent by 2020. In addition, of course, we have a floating exchange rate that adjusts quickly to changes in international trading conditions, an independent monetary policy, an open economy with diversified trade opportunities, and a sustainable current account, and we are starting to see the benefits of increased investment in public infrastructure and better-quality investment in our people.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What have been some of the immediate effects of the US election result?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In economic terms, there has been some movement in the value of the New Zealand dollar and on the stock exchange, but as of midday today the dollar was trading at levels similar to the beginning of the week. The NZX50 fell in yesterday’s afternoon trading by 3.5 percent but recovered 2.3 percent of that this morning. In the US the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 1.4 percent. The Reserve Bank reports that the probability of a US federal rate hike in December has decreased. As I said, New Zealand’s monetary policy flexibility, a floating exchange rate, and strong fiscal position mean New Zealand is well placed to manage through any uncertainty, from wherever it may come.
Dr David Clark: Is it correct that despite his target for exports as a percentage of GDP being 40 percent, they are now 30 percent and lower than when his Government took office?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That target, of course, is set for 2025, so perhaps the member might prefer to return, with his question, in 2025 and then he will get an answer.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What are the next steps for the Government following the US election result?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government will continue to focus on what it can achieve to build a stronger and more resilient economy. That means continuing to invest in better public services that work for New Zealanders, maintaining and building on our fiscal surpluses, staying on track to pay down debt, and working to further improve New Zealand’s already strong, and, in fact, world-leading, business environment. As a trading nation, New Zealand will continue to press its case for expanding trade connections, including with the United States, to open up more markets for our exporters and diversify our international connections to make New Zealand further strong.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No.2—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! If the members want to have a discussion, go into the lobbies and do so.
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill—Mana Whakahono ā Rohe Agreements
2. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for the Environment: How do Mana Whakahono ā Rohe agreements strengthen iwi participation under the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): They will enable iwi to be able to better participate in resource management processes and ensure their perspective is heard and understood. Some councils already have these agreements and they have proved to work well. These proposals have been approved as a consequence of input from the Māori Party and from the iwi leaders group, and they were widely supported by councils in their submissions on the bill. The Māori Party should rightly be proud of this achievement.
Marama Fox: Does he agree with the Green member Metiria Turei that the democratic rights of New Zealanders to have their say over the environment will be undermined; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I strongly disagree. We need resource management laws that do enable people to have a say, but it is also undemocratic to have outdated plans that result in environmental problems being ignored, housing developments stalled when communities need more homes, and opportunities for employment and development held back for years because of protracted bureaucracy. I also believe that reforms like the new collaborative planning processes in the bill actually provide for a more effective way for New Zealanders to have a say and be involved in resource decision-making without the divisive, litigious, and expensive processes of the current Act.
Meka Whaitiri: What mana-enhancing gains will iwi receive given the powers of the Minister to override plans and consents, to limit right of participation, and to curtail the appeal rights of adversely affected private parties, councils, communities, and the environment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Members opposite may think that a bill that enables us to have a national rule to fence stock out of streams is somehow an overruling of councils, and all sorts of other extravagant claims. Actually, it is about making sure that we better manage our environment and have cleaner rivers and streams.
Marama Fox: How are the rights and interests of iwi and all of Aotearoa protected under the resource management proposals?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Māori Party has made strong representations around some of the provisions in the bill, which were also raised by submitters, such as the regulation-making powers under section 360 of the Resource Management Act (RMA). These provisions have been refined down to just one area from the four that were proposed, and to where councils’ RMA rules duplicate or repeat regulations under other Acts. These regulations will also be subject to full public consultation and a section 32 analysis. We have also, in response to concerns from the Māori Party, restored appeal rights to the Environment Court in respect of those consents around water takes and water discharges that were of concern to the party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly reconcile his dire warnings about being “brownmailed” on the RMA in December 2004, with his divisive, separatist, and race-based bill, which stands before the House today and will do nothing for New Zealanders and, for that matter, 99 percent of Māori apart from Marama Fox’s elite mates?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The irony of that question is that the New Zealand First Party voted, under the last Government, for changes to the RMA that increased the obligations on councils to consult iwi. What we are doing with the amendments in this bill is actually making those processes more workable and practical so there are not the costs and the delays that have frustrated average New Zealanders.
Sarah Dowie: How will the new planning standards proposed under the reform bill help reduce the complexity and bureaucracy of the current Resource Management Act?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Current council planning documents stand taller than this Chamber, at 10 metres tall, and consist of 80,000 pages of policies and rules. We have got 50 different ways across New Zealand to measure the height of a building. We have got over 200 different definitions of what you can do in a commercial zone. Environment Court decisions have got limited precedent value because they actually only apply to a single council’s plan. The new planning standards will hugely shrink this excessive and costly bureaucracy. They will all require a common format, common definitions, and standard zonings while allowing councils to make the decision as to what areas those zonings will apply in their district.
Sarah Dowie: How will the reforms reduce the number of consents that are required, noting the OECD’s conclusions that New Zealand’s system of environmental regulation makes too little use of national standards and relies on too many discretionary consents?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The bill and the associated national policies and standards will significantly reduce the number of consents that are required. For example, our national environment standards in areas like telecommunications facilities, pest control, and forestry are expected to reduce the number of consents each year by thousands and save millions of dollars in compliance costs. The bill also introduces two mechanisms to reduce the need for consents: councils will now have the discretion to waive the need for a consent for a mining activity; nor will a consent be required to, for instance, build a deck that breaches infringement boundary rules, provided that the relevant neighbour has agreed. They are the sorts of pragmatic changes that I think New Zealanders are looking for.
Hon David Parker: If this bill is so wonderful, why is it that virtually every submitter, including Todd Property Group and Fulton Hogan Ltd, as well as councils and environmental NGOs say that rather than making the Resource Management Act (RMA) simpler, the bill is going to increase its complexity, increase costs, and have worse outcomes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member grossly misrepresents the submissions that have been made to the select committee. When you have got a bill that is over 200 pages long and makes more than 40 changes, of course there will be some submitters on some parts. How many submissions opposed planning standards? How many opposed national rules for getting stock out of streams? How many opposed councils having the discretion to be able to waive need for consents? The answer on all the substantive proposals in this bill is they have very wide support.
Hon David Parker: If the Minister is so confident—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order or a supplementary question?
Hon David Parker: It is a question.
Mr SPEAKER: Then address it.
Hon David Parker: If this bill is so good and these things are so uncomplicated, why is it that his own department was unable to provide a report to the select committee, and why was the select committee unable to provide advice to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for 5 months after submissions closed?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This bill had 800 submissions that were heard through to June. The department provided its first 150-page report in August and another 500-page report last week because members on this side of the House are serious about getting resource management law right. Members opposite whinge about the RMA, but every time this Government comes to the House with a substantive reform bill to fix the problems, they oppose it.
3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement, “we are focused on results”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes. Across the hundreds of services that district health boards (DHBs) provide, it is inevitable that, from time to time, performance has to be raised in a specific service but the wider picture is that more and more New Zealanders are getting more and more access to these hundreds of services on an ongoing basis.
Hon Annette King: Is he proud of the result from the latest adverse events report released today, which sets out the effect on thousands of people waiting well beyond recommended waiting times for eye treatment that his commission said has led to deterioration of eye conditions?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, that report released today very much reinforces my opening statement there. There are some services that need attention. Ophthalmology services in three DHBs have a recovery plan in place, but the broader picture of that report is actually that the number of adverse effects is absolutely flat. The whole point of the Health Quality and Safety Commission is to highlight areas of the system where improvement can be made. In tandem with that report, they have today released the open for results report, and that actually reveals a huge number of positive results, for instance: since January 2015, 52 fewer falls resulted in a broken hip; since July 2013 there was a reduction in surgical site infection rates, from 1.3 percent to 0.9 percent—so, much better for patients; fewer children and young people dying since 2010—547 fewer deaths in children; and, of course, since January 2013, 54,000 fewer bed days, saving $42 million across the system. So it is a system that is delivering better results and making better use—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: —of the money, focusing on results.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is long enough.
Hon Annette King: When he was told 18 months ago about the appalling waiting times for eye treatment appointments across New Zealand—not one or two DHBs—by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, what was his first action in response?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: My first action was to go and look at the facts, and the facts are actually that appointments for eye specialists have increased by 25 percent over the last 8 years, ophthalmology operations have increased by 28 percent from 18,000 to 23,000 operations per year, and specialist Avastin injections for glaucoma have doubled from 4,000 to 8,000. So, actually, it just reinforces what I was saying at the start: we are doing more and more, people are getting more and more access to services, but, of course, there is always more to do.
Hon Annette King: How significant is it to have the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists write to every member of Parliament this week including a comprehensive briefing stating they have limited resources to follow up on treatment, leading to increased health risk to patients with chronic eye disease—not first specialist assessment, but follow-up treatment that they are not getting?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I think it is always good to hear from doctors and I appreciate the engagement. I will be meeting with the college of opthamalogists to discuss how we can continue to deliver this ongoing uplift of eye services for New Zealanders.
Hon Annette King: How can GPs, mental health workers, ambulance officers, medical specialists, public health experts, and NGOs all be so wrong when they tell the Minister there are not enough resources and the Government has got its priorities wrong?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, as usual, the member is grossly exaggerating. There are many, many health workers in New Zealand—and I know because I actually go out and speak to them—who support the Government’s direction and actually appreciate that there is a far greater focus on results, unlike the times when Labour was running the health system when there was more and more money but people got fewer operations and people had to fly to Australia for cancer treatment.
Health Services—First Specialist Assessments
4. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that 10,376 extra orthopaedic First Specialist Assessments were carried out in 2015/16, compared with the 43,251 carried out in 2008/09, meaning a total 53,627 orthopaedic assessments were carried out?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, I can. Increasing access to specialist care remains a priority for this Government. As New Zealanders live longer lives, access to elective surgery becomes more important. There is always more to be done and the answer to increasing demand is to do more, which this Government is doing.
Joanne Hayes: How has doing more assessment resulted in an increase in surgical discharges or orthopaedic services?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This uplift has been accompanied by a continuing increase in the number of people receiving elective orthopaedic surgery. In 2015-16 there were 24,737 orthopaedic operations, 6,500 more than were performed in 2007-08—an increase of 35,000—and that is very significant.
Hon Member: Here we go.
Hon Annette King: Yes, how about another one? Is doing more first specialist appointments the only result he is interested in, considering that 10 district health boards have done fewer orthopaedic operations in 2015-16 compared with the year before?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, there is a wide range of results that we look at across the system, including the 6,000 extra doctors and nurses we have in the system. There is the uplift in elective surgery, the uplift in first specialist assessments, and there are more children getting access to primary care through the under-13s’ free policy—and, of course, that is taking pressure off our emergency departments, resulting in better health for children under 13 all round. So, yep, I welcome the question, because the member knows that, actually, we are delivering much better results than she was ever able to do and that is quite a legacy for her.
Emergency Housing—Community Housing Providers and Government Initiatives
5. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she agree with Monte Cecilia Housing Trust chief executive Bernie Smith that the Government lacks a cohesive emergency housing plan, and Salvation Army social policy director Ian Hutson, who says permanent accommodation is still lacking?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): No, and because, actually, I think $300 million more going into emergency housing is a comprehensive and cohesive emergency housing plan. Also, my cup is half full. I see the quote from Bernie Smith that says: “I think it’s amazing—$300 million over the next 4½ years for emergency housing.” I hear the words of Ian Hutson from the Salvation Army: “$300 million to support people in severe housing need is very welcome.”
Phil Twyford: Why did she reject the invitation to join a cross-party round table to consider the recommendations of the homelessness inquiry, given that her policy will provide only 2,200 emergency housing places at any one time when there are 41,000 Kiwis homeless and in severe housing deprivation according to Otago University?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I probably did not join because I was busy actually doing something about the problem and not just yet again reassessing it. I think it is really important to the House that it is cleared up that those 41,000 people that Otago University refers to are actually not homeless. Many of them actually do have a roof over their heads and do not require emergency housing. They may be requiring more permanent housing, of course, which we have got coming through in the pipeline, but it is not actually the emergency housing that they need.
Phil Twyford: How can she say that she is delivering already on the recommendations of the cross-party inquiry when she is delivering only half the emergency housing that is needed, she has reduced the number of State houses, there is no systemic fix to the housing crisis, no commitment to a national strategy to end homelessness, and she does not even accept the Government’s own definition of homelessness?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: If that was the case, then the member himself put out a policy in July that was actually for fewer beds than what the Government announced on Monday. So, in July, the member put out a policy saying that there would be 1,400 beds. National put out a policy on Monday, fully funded, for 1,400 places, which is very different—more than what his whole policy is about.
Phil Twyford: Why are thousands of emergency housing beds needed when the Prime Minister says there are not thousands of “real homeless people”, and, as he said, the homeless people do not want help?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think, as I clearly stated, of that big number of 41,000 that the member bandies around, those are people who may be living in some unsatisfactory conditions, but they are actually not truly homeless under the definition as most people would see it. This side of the House has a comprehensive housing plan, one that is actually fully funded—so $300 million for those 1,400 places, as opposed to the $15 million that included no services, no tenancy management, and no actual building of new supply, which that member tried to do.
Phil Twyford: Does she not see that it will be expensive and ultimately fruitless to just take a welfare approach, through the provision of emergency housing, to a market failure that has left 41,000 Kiwis homeless and in severe housing deprivation, and would it not make more sense to also massively increase the supply of affordable and State housing, as Labour promises to do?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, I have another bit of good news for the member himself. As I have repeatedly said, social housing is increasing by more than 3,000 new houses over the next few years alone, we have put another $120 million into supporting community housing providers to build their supply, and we are now making sure that we have it in the emergency housing area as well. No one, not even that member, can argue that we do not have a comprehensive social housing programme all under way.
Roads of National Significance, Canterbury—Progress
6. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made with its Roads of National Significance Programme in Canterbury?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Fantastic progress. Last week, the Prime Minister and I marked the start of two final Christchurch motorway projects to be built under the Government’s roads of national significance programme. The first is the new $240 million Christchurch Northern Corridor project, which includes a new 8-kilometre, four-lane motorway, starting at the Waimakariri River and finishing on Cranford Street in the city. The second project is a $195 million extension to the Christchurch Southern Motorway, which will halve travel time between Rolleston and the city. All up, the construction of these two projects will see nearly half a billion dollars injected into Canterbury, providing hundreds of jobs directly and indirectly. They also reflect the Government’s commitment to seeing the South Island’s largest cities supported by a roading network that will support the cities’ future economic and social growth.
Maureen Pugh: What roading projects is the Government delivering to support an increase in economic growth on the West Coast?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: This week I was really pleased to welcome the news that the New Zealand Transport Agency has awarded the construction contract for the new $25 million Taramakau Bridge between Greymouth and Kūmara Junction on the West Coast. Work is set to get under way before Christmas, and, once finished, this new two-lane bridge will mean local business operators and residents will no longer have to wait at each end on their daily commutes. The new bridge will also support the growing tourism opportunities developing in this region, like the West Coast Wilderness Trail for cyclists and walkers, by providing a safer and more reliable bridge. The new bridge is an important part of the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Package programme, so I am pleased we are delivering on this commitment to bring this road forward.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking about roads of national significance—the Pūhoi to Warkworth one—after 8 years, how many metres, exactly, have been built?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, I am glad the member asks. He will well know that we have made fantastic—about $11 billion worth of progress on our roads of national—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have waited 8 years and, with exactitude, I just want to know—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member has asked the question. Show some respect, and we will wait for the answer. We will deal with the answer afterwards if it is not satisfactory.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As I was about to say, the member, I am sure, will well know we have now procured for the project, Pūhoi to Warkworth, over $700 million, and very soon that member may well see spades in the ground.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked him—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What I am going to do—[Interruption] Order! I am going to invite the member to ask the question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Speaking about the roads of national significance—in this case, Pūhoi to Warkworth—after 8 long years, Minister, exactly how many metres have been built?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, as I made abundantly clear in my answer to the right honourable member, spades have not yet gone into the ground. But, if he waits, very soon that will be happening on this project—the last of the roads of national significance that we are starting.
Matt Doocey: What other roading projects is the Government delivering in the South Island to support and increase economic growth?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, in amongst the unprecedented investment all across the country in roading, last week I was in Queenstown to get work under way on the new $22 million eastern access road. Once completed, at the end of next year, the new road will allow traffic not needing to travel into central Queenstown to bypass the busy BP roundabout at the junction of State Highway 6 and State Highway 6A. The new road will be a key part of the growing arterial network in the area, and it will bring real relief for motorists by easing congestion in the area. The new road is just one in a range of high-quality transport projects the Government is delivering to support the very strong growth in the Queenstown Lakes District area.
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill—Commentary
7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer that the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill contains “at least three significant and dangerous trends” including “Greater Ministerial control and centralised decision-making” and “Reduced opportunities for public participation”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I agree that the reform is significant, but his criticisms reflect his defensive view of his original Resource Management Act (RMA) design, which has proved to be excessively bureaucratic—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —litigious and costly. The fact that Parliament under both National and Labour Governments keeps having to pass special laws to address significant resource issues like water allocation in the Waitaki or a new unitary plan for Auckland reinforces the fact that the RMA is too slow and bureaucratic. There is a fundamental shift from Sir Geoffrey’s model in these reforms in having stronger national direction and consistency. This makes common sense because for a country of our size, having 86 different approaches and 80,000 pages of different rules and policies across New Zealand does not make sense.
Eugenie Sage: Did he consider not proceeding with the bill after so many submitters from Fonterra to Forest and Bird, and not just Sir Geoffrey, criticised the substantial increase in ministerial powers, the limits on public participation, and the bill’s emphasis on quick decision-making rather than quality decision-making?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, if I just take the submission from Fonterra—yes. Out of the 40 proposals in the bill, there were two areas that they wanted changed. Big deal! That is why we are making some adjustments, as all major bills get, through this Parliament. What I find remarkable is that every member of this House knows, after report after report, that if we are serious about addressing issues like housing we need to provide more land for that by reforming the RMA. But members opposite whine all the time and then oppose the very reforms that will make a material difference.
Nuk Korako: What substantive reports has he received that give a different view to that of Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s opposition to RMA reform?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The OECD report last year was very critical of the RMA, saying that its lack of responsiveness to growing housing demand has exacerbated house price increases and that New Zealand has very high environmental compliance costs as compared with other OECD countries. Secondly, the independent Productivity Commission has produced two substantive reports that recommend substantive change to the RMA, which is included in this bill. Thirdly, Local Government New Zealand’s 2015 report on public satisfaction with council services said that the RMA rated as the single greatest area of public concern in making councils more effective. It is these substantive reports that have influenced the Government’s determination to ensure that that Act is reformed.
Eugenie Sage: Can he guarantee that the bill will bring down house prices without limiting the rights of neighbours and local residents to have a say on developments and subdivisions affecting them and their neighbourhoods?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: If you look at examples like Three Kings, if you look at the debate that has occurred over the Auckland Unitary Plan and new areas of greenfield development, the truth is that we do need to reduce the number of appeals and the years that it takes to bring new housing supply on stream if we are going to actually have more homes for Kiwi families. That is why this reform is actually at the root of actual long-term solutions to New Zealand housing affordability and supply.
Eugenie Sage: Can he guarantee that under his bill New Zealanders will have the same rights that they have now under the RMA to have a say on council plans that influence their neighbourhoods and the places that they love?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This bill unapologetically reduces some of the appeals that see a project like Three Kings, which would provide 1,400 homes in the Mt Roskill electorate at a time when there is high demand, take more than 5 years to build. Can we honestly say in this Parliament that we are serious about building houses when we allow that sort of delay in new home construction?
Eugenie Sage: Does he agree with the New Zealand Law Society that “There are potential costs in the lack of public participation, including loss of public confidence in the consent process and a reduction in the quality of decision-making.”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is true that lawyers will make less money out of the RMA as a consequence of the reform bill. New Zealanders want better environmental improvement, they want more houses being built, and they want our economy to be able to grow and provide jobs. They are the values that we on this side of the House stand for.
Eugenie Sage: Is it correct that ministerial regulation-making powers in the bill include him being able to stop communities like Northland and Hawke’s Bay from being able to decide for themselves whether genetically modified crops should be planted in their areas?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is already a question in law that is being challenged around whether it makes sense for councils to be able to separately regulate GM. How many members of this House really believe that the Auckland Council should stop a GM liver treatment, approved by the Environmental Protection Authority, from being able to treat patients in Auckland? It is our view that genetic modification should be regulated on a national level through the Environmental Protection Authority and under the hazardous substances law.
Resource Legislation Amendment Bill—Referral to Select Committee
8. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister for the Environment: Why did he announce yesterday that he is going to seek the approval of Parliament to refer the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill back to select committee given that so many councils, environmental groups, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and the Law Society have criticised the bill?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Because reform is pivotal to improving New Zealand’s environment, to being able to build more houses, and to supporting economic growth and jobs, which members on this side of the House support. I will give you a practical example. The bill will enable national regulations so that stock will not be in our rivers and lakes. The bill provides for more houses being built by requiring councils to release land. The bill will prevent billion-dollar stuff-ups, like what occurred at Bexley when natural hazards were not properly considered when that subdivision was approved. It is inevitable with a bill of this size that it will require refinement at select committee. The Local Government and Environment Committee only received the 500 page report last week, and I am at a loss why members opposite will not let the committee considered that report.
Dr Megan Woods: Does he agree with the Department of Conservation, which says that the bill will undermine its work and have significant adverse effects on important conservation values, such as impacts on threatened species?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I do not agree with that view. If we are serious about improving our planning processes, this reform is required. What I find so ironic about the Labour Party members is that they repeatedly accept that the Resource Management Act (RMA) as part of the housing problem and then every time we go to amend it they oppose it.
Paul Foster-Bell: When did his ministry provide departmental reports to the select committee, and what are the substantive issues addressed in those reports?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The bill attracted over 800 submissions that were heard through May and June, and on which the ministry carefully conceded in its departmental report. This was provided in two volumes: 150 pages in August, and a further 500-page report last week. This timetable is not unreasonable given the size, complexity, and number of submissions. It would be impossible for the select committee members to give proper consideration to those reports when they only had 1 day. That is why the committee sought a reasonable extension, and that is why this afternoon this Government will refer the bill back to the select committee to do the job properly.
Eugenie Sage: Why should New Zealanders believe that this Government cares about hearing their views on anything when National members of the select committee would not even allow the select committee to report back and would not allow the members of the Opposition to have their report-backs reported?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The idea that the select committee would be able to report back on a bill when it received a 500 page report and only had 1 day’s consideration—actually, it is members on this side of the House who are saying the bill should be referred back to the select committee so that it can do its job properly. It is our side of the House that is showing proper respect for those submissions.
Dr Megan Woods: Was the reason the department did not provided the departmental report for 5 months after the submissions were heard because it was awaiting his approval, or is the incompetent delay someone else’s fault?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is plain wrong. Submissions were finished in June. The first departmental report was provided in August. By my calculation that is 2 months.
Dr Megan Woods: Why is he ignoring the submission of councils, developers, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that further changes to already complex notification rules and adding hundreds of extra clauses to the RMA will further complicate the RMA—the opposite of his stated aims?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That just shows the member has not bothered to read the departmental report, because one of the most significant areas of changes that is proposed in the departmental report is around the proposals of notification.
Dr Megan Woods: Why does he not just admit that the shambolic process and widespread opposition to the bill shows he has got it wrong yet again—another Nick Smith special?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government set out on two-phase reform programme for the RMA and whether it be Transmission Gully in Wellington, or the Pūhoi-Tūhoe roading project, or whether it be the Waterview Connection—all of those projects were only able to be approved because of this Government’s RMA reform bill. It is rich for members opposite to make the connections—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! A point of order has been called. It needs to be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I was listening very acutely to that answer, and in the noise I thought I heard him talking about the Pūhoi-Tūhoe road, and I know he might have lost it.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. [Interruption] Order! The level of interjection has been relatively loud throughout. I am now going to have to get tougher with one or two members if I do not get any cooperation, and I think those members know who I am talking about.
9. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Tourism: What announcements has the Government made about supporting tourism in regional New Zealand?
Ron Mark: Who cares?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: Well, actually, the people in the regions care, Mr Mark. This week the Government announced even more support for tourism growth and infrastructure in regional New Zealand. The Prime Minister announced this week that two new exciting regional projects that will attract more international visitors are receiving funding from the Tourism Growth Partnership (TGP). They are a new international astronomy centre in Lake Tekapō, which is a partnership with Ngāi Tahu, and a suite of luxury glass cabins at remote locations throughout New Zealand. Since 2013 the TGP has awarded $21.2 million to 29 projects.
Tracey Martin: Got any toilets?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are toilets coming.
Scott Simpson: What kinds of infrastructure projects have received funding?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Fourteen tourism infrastructure projects have also received funding in the first round of the new Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund, which is designed to help smaller communities respond to increasing visitor numbers. A range of projects have been funded, including a lot of new toilet facilities, the House will be pleased to know, and the member who asked the question will be particularly interested in innovative rubbish removal compactors that we are funding in the Coromandel. Many of the facilities will be up and running this summer.
David Clendon: How many applications to the regional mid-sized facilities fund did not receive any funding in this year’s round?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Of those that were eligible, 11 did not.
David Clendon: What was the shortfall in this funding round between the total amount of financial assistance requested or asked for by regions and the amount of funding that the Government distributed?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am sorry; I do not have that number exactly to hand. If it helps the member, we are looking at doing a new round earlier next year, and looking at whether or not we can bring funding forward and what we can do.
Scott Simpson: How will this funding help the tourism sector grow in areas such as the beautiful Coromandel?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: International tourists spent $14.5 billion in New Zealand in the last year, and the industry employs more than 188,000 people. To maintain the growth, we need to ensure visitors have a high-quality experience and see as many regions of New Zealand, including the beautiful Coromandel, as possible. This Government is committed to providing funding to ensure we continue to provide new and innovative things to attract new international visitors and ensure that their experience is of a high quality.
David Clendon: Given the $97 million shortfall between what the industry estimates is required for tourism infrastructure and the amount that this Government appears willing to spend, will the Minister now adopt the Green Party’s proposal for a border levy, which would generate up to $20 million a year available for tourism infrastructure?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have made it clear that we are interested in looking at options. Certainly, at the moment we are expecting the McKinsey & Company report, I think before Christmas, where we have had businesses—including led by the chief executive of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon, and what some of those options might be around levies and funding. I do think that in the first round of this mid-size facilities grant, I actually expected more applications and more spend, so I think we do need to make sure that we are putting the infrastructure in to ensure those high-quality experiences. There is a range of options for how we might fund that in the future.
Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership—Auditor-General’s Report and Findings
10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he agree with the Auditor-General’s finding regarding the Saudi sheep deal that his Cabinet paper had significant shortcomings and Cabinet was provided a “lack of robust analysis”; if so, does he accept responsibility for failing to provide Cabinet with a robust analysis and quality information?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: I agree with all the findings of the Auditor-General’s report, particularly the finding that “The arrangements entered into were a lawful use of public resources, and public money was spent with appropriate financial authorities in place.”
Hon David Parker: Did the Minister of Foreign Affairs seek advice from the Attorney-General on whether there was any realistic prospect of any legal claim by Al Ali Khalaf succeeding before paying him $4 million cash and paying $6 million for a farm in the desert?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (MFAT) legal division provided advice on the issue relating to the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership. I cannot say more about the content of that advice; to do so would waive legal privilege, which is not the Government’s practice. However, what Ministers have said previously is that MFAT officials advised that Mr Al Ali Khalaf had received advice suggesting he could pursue a claim of between $20 million and $30 million. This advice was reflected in the February 2013 Cabinet paper. This is also acknowledged in the Auditor-General’s report, on page 8, where the Auditor-General found it was a matter of fact—
Hon David Parker: Answer the question. It was a very specific question.
Hon TODD McCLAY: —that the Al-Khalaf Group “indicated that it considered it should be paid compensation of $24 million.”
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: We have got two courses of action. I can just explain that the question was whether the Minister sought advice from the Attorney-General. The answer was very interesting, but it certainly has not in any way tackled the question.
Hon TODD McCLAY: Thank you. I do not have all of that information before me, but what may assist the member is that the Government did not fully scope the risk associated with litigation or a compensation negotiation because we had, from the outset, ruled out this option. The Cabinet paper did not analyse the consequences of a process that had been expressly ruled out.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question?
Hon David Parker: There is just no point asking more supplementary questions without the Minister here.
11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was, in his words, “definitely possible” less than 2 weeks ago, will he now admit how sad it is that so much that he has endorsed lately—from the flag referendum to the “Stay” campaign in the UK to the Clinton campaign—keeps turning to custard?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: What was the question?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I could not gather the question either, so can we have a repeat, please. [Interruption] Order! I will give the member one more go at trying to get a question in.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the TPP agreement was, in his words, “definitely possible” less than 2 weeks ago, and close to zero this morning, will he now admit how sad it is that so much that he has endorsed lately—from the flag referendum to the “Stay” campaign in the UK to the Clinton campaign—keeps turning to custard?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The things the Prime Minister cares about are the fact that New Zealand is growing at 3.5 percent a year, the fact that we have added, as a country, 35,000 jobs in the last quarter alone, and 350,000 jobs since the height of the global financial crisis, and the fact that in the last year wages grew, on average, at 1.9 percent while inflation grew only at 0.4 percent. The member may like to revel in his ability as a prognosticator, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Hon David Parker: Does he stand by his statements that the TPP is critically important to the future of the New Zealand economy, and, given that that is not now proceeding, does he admit that there is a major hole in his economic plan for the country?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In terms of trade, generally, yes, this Government is in favour—it remains in favour—of TPP—
Dr David Clark: Answer the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I will answer the question for you, you clown—clown over there; “Mr Clown”. The reality of it is—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We got that response because of the interjection, which in itself is not helpful to the order of the House. Now the answer is being given, so the members should listen to the answer without the boorish behaviour.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was saying, yes, this Government remains in favour of free trade, because of the benefit it brings New Zealand exporters in giving them the opportunity to sell their goods to countries around the world.
Hon Member: Blah, blah, blah!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Opposition members may say “Blah, blah, blah”, and every time they say that, their vote decreases in regional New Zealand.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not believe that the Minister addressed the question, and that was what was causing the disturbance. It was a very specific—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need any more assistance. Go back and look at the Hansard, when it comes out later on. There is absolutely no doubt that the Minister addressed what he thought was critical to New Zealand’s trade opportunity. If the member took less time clapping and more time listening, he might have heard the answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Prime Minister said this morning that, in his words, the “$5 billion Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement”, referred to by Trump as a “horrible trade agreement”, was not going ahead in the short term, why did the Government spent well over $5 million of taxpayers’ money on the TPP agreement to achieve a metaphor for his Government—absolutely nothing?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am intrigued as to why the member does not back New Zealand exporters. I am intrigued as to why he comes here, supposedly from the Northland electorate, and does not back Northland exporters. Actually, it is in New Zealand’s interest to develop trade deals, and, actually, not everybody agrees with us, internationally, all the time, but you would think that the member would actually be in favour of New Zealand exporters and in favour of hard-working Kiwi mums and dads, and not against them—but, then, he is a 40-year political insider. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Does the member have further supplementary questions?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I most certainly—
Mr SPEAKER: Then we will have them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When exports are down 12 percent—
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, they’re not—wrong.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —yes, they are—and when manufacturing is down under 30 percent, heading towards 26 percent, under National, and New Zealand First said earlier this year that he was acting like a card shark, believing he has all the aces—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need a supplementary question—I need a question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, there is so much noise that I cannot hear myself talk.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the problem might be that we have got a very long lead-in to a supplementary question. They must be more concise. So if the member stands and delivers a question—[Interruption] Order! The interjections coming from my right are not helpful. Can we have a supplementary question, please.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With exports down and manufacturing down, and the TPP agreement having him acting like a card shark—thinking that he has got all the aces, and he does not, and that is what we said at the beginning of the year—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —can I ask him, seeing as you want the question, why did you not listen to us?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: He is wrong about exports; they are up. He is wrong about manufacturing; that is up. The Prime Minister is more than willing to back exporters, so exports are up. Manufacturing is up. This Government backs exporters, and that is probably why we do not listen to the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In light of the TPP agreement collapsing and Washington being more likely to seek a rapprochement with Russia now, when will his Government resume from its self-imposed exile and talk about the New Zealand – Russia free-trade agreement (FTA), which would really boost our dairy and meat exports—and Mr Bennett, being in love with the Russians, would love it as well?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This Government has shown, through trade agreements such as the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement, through the Korean FTA, and through the way that we have bedded in and ensured the benefits of the China FTA, that we have worked on trade agreements around the world. This Government is very much pro – free trade. It is the member opposite who has the approach of being the shark, of being the person who does not actually back trade agreements, and, of course, also the badger.
Hon David Parker: In respect of the free-trade agreements he says he wants to pursue in the place of the TPP, will he undertake to protect the right of future Governments to ban overseas buyers of our farmland and houses—a right that he sold down the drain, under the TPP?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I know that Mr Parker is angry, but actually his supposition in his question is wrong.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If Ambassador Tim Groser, a Finlayson-like self-appointed expert, has been the leading architect of the disaster that is the TPP agreement and is to face a hostile White House, what on earth is he doing still parked up there?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would say the biggest self-appointed expert in this Parliament is Mr Peters.
Pest Control—Wilding Conifers
12. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Conservation: What announcements has she made on tackling the problem of wilding conifers?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Budget 2016 allocated an additional $16 million over 4 years to the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation (DOC), and Land Information New Zealand to aid efforts to control the spread of wilding conifers, which are the most challenging and destructive weed problem this country faces. Last week I announced a $730,000 boost for wilding control across half a million hectares in Marlborough and North Canterbury at Molesworth and Āmuri. This will enable a significant expansion of work, funded by the Crown and local and regional councils, to tackle this awful problem of containing the spread of new trees, removing those already established, and replanting where necessary.
Stuart Smith: What further funding will be announced?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: My colleagues the Hon Nathan Guy, the Hon Louise Upston, and the Hon Nicky Wagner are all making separate announcements over the coming weeks. In total, more than $5 million of new funding will be put into wilding control this year in Canterbury, Marlborough, Central Otago, northern Southland, and Kaimanawa. Wildings are enemy No. 1 in the annual Dirty Dozen of DOC’s ongoing War on Weeds programme. That is to focus attention on the suffocation of our native forests or eco-invaders and garden escapees that do not belong here and are doing irreparable damage.
Stuart Smith: Why are wildings so damaging to New Zealand’s environment and primary industries?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: Wildings grow rapidly and destroy habitat for native plants and animals. They take over entire landscapes and, if left unchecked, would cover 25 percent of our country by 2040. They also destroy farmland and take away large amounts of water from the catchments. Once established, they are extremely difficult and expensive to eradicate, with the cost rising dramatically. Removing young seedlings before they start producing seeds costs less than $10 per hectare, but removing mature trees can cost $10,000 per hectare—money spent at any good price to get rid of some of the Opposition wildings, who are also out of place in this landscape.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We were enjoying that so much. Could you give the member another question, please?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I cannot.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I assume that question time has expired.
Mr SPEAKER: I am about to announce that, but if the member has got a point of order, then I will hear it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it will have to follow your announcement.