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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 4 December, 2002

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 4 December, 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question Nos 1 and 7 to Minister

Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I notice that the Prime Minister is not here today. Next week she will be away, and in the last sitting week the House may be in urgency. As it could be the case that there is no opportunity to ask the Prime Minister questions before the House adjourns at the end of the year, I seek leave for both the questions I have down today to the Prime Minister to be deferred until tomorrow.

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

Associate Minister, Justice--Prime Minister's Confidence
1. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Associate Minister of Justice responsible for race relations issues, and her recommendation to Cabinet to appoint Mr Joris de Bres as the Race Relations Commissioner; if so, why?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Hon. Bill English: Will the Prime Minister sack Joris de Bres, or will she back him and therefore endorse his comments comparing the founders of this country with the Taliban?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The comments may have been somewhat unwise, but, for the information of the member, the founders of this country were Maori.

Tim Barnett: What was the purpose of the event at which Mr de Bres was speaking?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He was addressing a function to mark the United Nations Day for Cultural Heritage, which was a day declared in response to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and is seen as an opportunity to remind people around the world of the importance of cherishing our varied heritage, traditions, and cultural practices.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why would the Prime Minister persist in the appointment of one who is clearly not supported on this side of the House, when the previous incumbent was removed because, according to Margaret Wilson, "he needed to have the confidence of all political parties"; how can this Dutchman who seeks to preach to the rest of us now retain his job?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thought the member was doing quite well until the last point of the comment. The fact that Mr de Bres is of Dutch ancestry, I assume, is totally irrelevant to the comments that he made.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister support the Race Relations Commissioner in raising the issue of the impact of colonisation and the destruction of cultural heritage in this country; if so, does she support an indigenous framework for the protection of Maori cultural heritage, premised in tikanga Maori, rather than for the purposes of commercial exploitation?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under the Treaty of Waitangi there are obligations in relation to issues of cultural heritage and taonga. This Government follows a range of policies that are consistent with that. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to say that the comments made by Mr de Bres, which compared actions in the 19th century to what happened under the Taliban Government, are matters that are somewhat unwise, and I am sure he would like to think further about that.

Hon. Peter Dunne: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister, that Mr de Bres' comments were somewhat unwise, either the Prime Minister or the Associate Minister will be holding a discussion with him about the appropriate nature or otherwise of comments he may make in the future; if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure it will not be necessary for me to talk to Mr de Bres for him to be aware that his comments have caused some degree of concern in certain quarters. I have no doubt he will take cognisance of that fact. I have also no doubt he will continue to advocate for positions that are consistent with his role as Race Relations Conciliator.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Can the Minister advise the House whether he is any way surprised by the statements by Mr Joris de Bres, given that in his CV he states: "I went to the University of Berlin in 1969, i.e. East Berlin, to study Marx, Engels, and Lenin.", and, that being the case, does he not agree that his likening of white settlers to the Taliban was very imaginative, and can we look forward to further similar statements? If the Government has a ridiculous position like Race Relations Commissioner, it might as well have a man holding the position who will keep us all amused.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of members of Mr Prebble's own caucus who used to hold positions well to the far left in politics who have moved well to the far right, in the 21st century, looking towards the back of the Chamber.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect to Mr Prebble's question, which I thought was related to the Race Relations Commissioner, the answer related to one of his colleagues and no attempt whatsoever was made to address Mr Prebble's question. It may be a laughing matter to have a "loony tunes" socialist activist in the Labour Party, in the office, but it is not on this side of the House. I think the question deserves a proper answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order, the Hon. Dr Michael Cullen.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to give a further comment, Mr Speaker. The fact that a person went to university--

Mr SPEAKER: Order.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to give a further answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is happy to give a further answer. I will ask him to do so.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The fact that a person went to university in the late 1960s--some 30-odd years ago--does not necessarily reflect the views or the activities that he or she engages in today. I attended the University of Edinburgh at the same time. I have shown no interest in bagpipe-playing ever since.

Hon. Bill English: Does the Prime Minister not realise New Zealanders are sick and tired of the cringing guilt of self-appointed consciences of the nation telling us what to think; does she think that is the way ahead for New Zealand?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said before, I think the comments made by Mr de Bres could be seen as somewhat unwise, but it is also important that anybody should sometimes have guilt about past inappropriate actions.

Tertiary Education--Researcher Excellence
2. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What policies is the Government introducing to support and reward researcher excellence and excellent research in the tertiary education sector?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Government is making a major change to the way research within tertiary education institutions is funded. Over the next 5 years the allocation of over $100 million per year of funding will move from being on the basis of enrolments to being on the basis of research performance. Today I am releasing the report of the sector working party on the implementation of the Performance-Based Research Fund. The Government has accepted all the working party's recommendations.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How much additional financial support is the Government providing for research?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The introduction of the Performance-Based Research Fund takes the total of new investment in research to $207.9 million over the next 4 years. There are four components to that: $36.3 million in additional funding for the Performance-Based Research Fund; $130.2 million in capital and operating funding for the Centres of Research Excellence Fund; $25.2 million for collaborative research consortia; and a 20 percent increase in university funding, through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, from $75.8 million in 1999-2000 to $92 million in 2001-02.

Simon Power: Is he at all concerned by the fact that New Zealand's PhD graduation rate is lower than the OECD mean rate; does he believe that will impact on the development of research in New Zealand, and the advancement of the recommendations made at the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I am concerned by the decline in PhDs. If the member understands how the Performance-Based Research Fund works, which has a weighting of 0.75, meaning that--

Simon Power: A ministerial discretion fund.

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No, actually, there is no ministerial discretion. The member should not be so silly and should read the paper. The fund is weighted towards PhDs and masters degrees. It would be helpful if the member, who thinks he is the National member responsible for tertiary education, actually read the paper, instead of getting this policy off to a bad start by misunderstanding it.

Industry New Zealand--Confidence in Business Assessments
3. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: Is he confident that Industry New Zealand is competent to evaluate business projects before providing taxpayer assistance, especially now that the Sovereign Yachts development that he had called the "triumph for the Jobs Machine" is threatening to leave New Zealand?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Yes, I have confidence both in the Ministry of Economic Development and in Industry New Zealand, who have worked with Sovereign Yachts. Sovereign identified the opportunities and risks of establishing a superyacht facility in Hobsonville, and decided to proceed. The Government facilitated the disposal of surplus land through the Public Works Act process. The creation of 50 jobs at the beginning of a new marine cluster is light years from the job losses that ACT's policy would result in if it ever got to implement that policy.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure the Minister has no responsibility for the economic progress that would occur under ACT's policies, as he put his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a perfectly valid point of order. Would the member please ask the supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister's confidence in Industry New Zealand, how does he square that confidence with Industry New Zealand granting Eternal Water Ltd $100,000 of taxpayers' money on 23 February this year when that company went into receivership on 30 July this year, but not before perpetrating what the Hon. Dover Samuels labelled an investment scam that has cost the Maori land incorporation, Matauri-X, $3.4 million?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: It may come as a surprise to Mr Hide, but not to other members of Parliament who understand the processes of Government and Government agencies, that Ministers do not take part in the day-to-day decisions of Government agencies, and, if they did, I am sure that Mr Hide and the ACT party would be the first to complain about that.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know you do not have responsibility for the answer, but the Minister is expected to address the question. My question was about him having confidence, and not about him dishing out the cash. He made no reference to why he would have confidence when money is given to an investment scam.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question.

Hon. Matt Robson: Has the Hobsonville development been a success? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Casual comment is all right, but noise before an answer has even commenced is rather silly. The Minister can be allowed to answer the question.

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The previous ACT-supported National Government was happy to leave much of New Zealand's resources unproductive, including all the land at Hobsonville. The land has gone from unused paddock, or, should I say, used by the odd glider, into a productive marine development. Sovereign Yachts has developed roading and other essential services, as well as building a large workshop tailor-made for superyacht construction. About 50 jobs are on the site already, and there will be more jobs in the future. Housing is now taking place in a part of west Auckland that desperately wanted that particular vacant piece of land developed by a Government with some insight and vision.

Dail Jones: Now that this minority Labour Government's policy for Hobsonville-Waitakere City has failed, will the Minister support the development of the former RNZAF land at Hobsonville as a marine-based park or reserve to enable Waitakere City's fast-increasing population to enjoy a marine-based park commemorating its important marine role in the Second World War, perhaps entitled "Sunderland Park"?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The specific development of that land, after going through due process of the Public Works Act, is a responsibility for the local authority. The Government has facilitated a marine cluster in terms of land that it was prepared to see made available through the normal processes. Land is available for marine cluster, and, as I understand it, more land will be made available. That matter is being negotiated with the Waitakere City Council and others who are interested in a marine cluster along the lines that the member has suggested.

Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 4.

Gerry Brownlee: Point of order! What about the National Party?

Mr SPEAKER: Has the National Party--

Gerry Brownlee: No, we haven't!

Mr SPEAKER: I will warn Mr Brownlee only once. I expect a little bit of courtesy and politeness. I am not perfect, and I know I am not. When I have forgotten a question a proper point of order, without being rude, is in order. If I have forgotten the National Party, then it will get a question, but I do not have to be shouted at like that. That is totally out of order in this House.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took a point of order. You asked a question, I gave you an answer. That is not discourteous.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it was, the way it was said was, and every member in the House knows it.

Hon. Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue could be best dealt with if the House had confidence that there was one rule for everybody. Mr Peters regularly challenges you personally, on your rulings, on whether he can be listened to or not listened to, and he uses points of order to extend his question time considerably. Yesterday, and at the end of the previous session, it was notable that you sat, and, in a rather relaxed way, let that happen. That is why my Leader of the House is reacting to you trying to put him in his place because Mr Peters is not dealt with in that fashion. When we believe there is one rule for everybody, and that he cannot flout Standing Orders then we will accept your authority.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will accept my authority or he will be leaving the Chamber. I am going to say this once and once only. Of course, occasionally I forget when a party has not had a question to which it is deserved. I have no worry at all; Mr Key will get his question because National did not have a question, and that is fair enough. He was on his feet. I looked, I had written down National, I had made a mistake.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not questioning your ruling but just letting you know that both of the two old parties had not had a call, and I think Mr Ross Robertson was going for a call. I know you have given the National Party a call, but I think the Labour Party is entitled to ask a question on this matter, as well. I do not think Mr Robson has yet joined the Labour Party, so you have not had the Labour Party yet.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a Standing Order that states that if you wish to raise a matter you should raise it at the time you believe an offence has occurred. For the leader of the National Party to rise in the House and then berate my behaviour of former days--exemplary as it is--is totally out of order. He should have been stopped on the simple premise that if he did not raise it at the time he cannot raise it now.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member's conduct was exemplary that is news to me. All members occasionally make mistakes and that includes even me.

John Key: Did it not set off alarm bells in Industry New Zealand when it realised that Eternal Water Ltd was owned by Eternal Investments Ltd, which was owned by Edison Materials Technology Centre Investments Ltd, which was owned by Awanui Holdings Ltd, or did they not bother to check?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The processes of Industry New Zealand in terms of making decisions on grants are rigorously processed in an internal sense and externally. All decisions made by Industry New Zealand are reported to the Audit Department. I understand that a select committee currently has the opportunity to look at the Auditor-General's report on Industry New Zealand, which, I might say, is an excellent report in all regards.

H V Ross Robertson: Should Sovereign Yachts decide to pull up anchor and leave New Zealand, will that mean that Hobsonville will be left unproductive?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Thanks to the processes the Government has put in place, this land is now being used for productive purposes. The Government's decision on the next block of Hobsonville land means that part will be used for housing, and the remainder will be used for the availability of new industries, specifically a marine precinct to be established. If Sovereign Yachts disposes of its land and facilities at Hobsonville--I say if because I have no evidence that it will--it seems most likely that another marine company would want to use them immediately.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table two documents, the first of which is a newspaper article where the Hon. Dover Samuels labels the deal a scam.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document, is there any objection? There is objection.

Rodney Hide: Secondly, I seek leave to table the court records, available publicly, where the dealings of Eternal Water Investments with Matauri X Incorporation are set out.

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

John Key: I seek leave to table the convoluted ownership structure of Eternal Water Ltd.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Notwithstanding the plea made to you by Mr Prebble about giving Mr Robertson an opportunity to ask a question, on that last question the Government took what would be, effectively, three supplementaries. To my knowledge, Mr Robson is part of the Government. In that event, considering some of the fairness that we are trying to work out on questions, it gets a little out of kilter.

Mr SPEAKER: No, Mr Robson gets one question a day, and he took it then. He can take his question when he likes, and that is his lot. Mr Robertson got one question, and another member of the Government got a question.

Secondary School Teachers--Recruitment
4. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour--Otago) to the Minister of Education: What initiatives have been put in place to assist secondary schools to recruit teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The most recent initiatives aim to attract more experienced New Zealand teachers back from overseas and to attract teachers to Auckland. The first initiative involves three agencies, all with links to experienced New Zealand secondary teachers currently working in the UK, being contracted by the Ministry of Education to actively encourage New Zealand teachers working in the UK to return to take up jobs at the beginning of next year. The second initiative aims to match up graduates from secondary teacher education programmes in Dunedin, Christchurch, and Wellington, who do not yet have teaching jobs for next year, with Auckland schools that have positions available. These initiatives supplement the 1,765 teacher trainees currently in training--up 120 from 2001, and an amazing number from the time of the previous Government.

David Parker: What other initiatives are in place to assist with recruitment?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: This Government is spending around $37 million over 3 years on secondary teacher recruitment initiatives including: teaching scholarships to get more people into training; training allowances for priority subjects; recruitment incentives to go to hard-to-staff areas; retraining for former secondary teachers; retraining for primary teachers with degrees; returning teacher allowances; and relocation grants, both nationally and overseas. These initiatives, along with the availability of non-contact time for the first 2 years of teaching, and substantially increased salary rates, will all help recruitment.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Why has the Minister taken these belated weak steps to address the serious problems of recruitment and retention of teachers in our secondary schools, when earlier this year when this issue was raised by the Opposition, he dismissed it as a beat-up and said that it was not required, and do these belated steps indicate that New Zealand students will face the same sort of crisis they had at the beginning of this year with hundreds of classes starting the year without teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: This Government was faced with a very serious issue around whether to increase teacher numbers that we would support in secondary schools from the beginning of next year. There was a dilemma. We know it will be hard to staff schools, but to convince teachers that their workload will reduce we had to show good faith and make progress. Therefore we put in 373 extra positions. That will exacerbate some of the problems in the short term, but help a lot in the long term.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is the Minister satisfied that the ministry system for assessing potential teacher shortages is adequate, and why are schools not systematically surveyed so that information relating to the frequency that they are having to scrape the bottom of the applicant barrow to fill places is included in the assessment?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The systems are improving, and they have certainly improved during this year following some experiences at the beginning of the year, when the predictions were, I think, unacceptably out. A lot of that involves, especially with our new system of funding--our system of banking staffing--ministry predictions, which are not now nearly as important. We are tending more often to accept schools' estimates of their own roles, thereby giving them a feeling that they can staff up in a way that they were not able to under the previous Government's system.

Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister assure the House that secondary teachers recruited from the United Kingdom are given additional training to help them adapt to the New Zealand education system, in the light of reports that one such teacher gave a lesson on the Treaty of Wanganui?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I think that I would have to have a briefing on that issue from my colleague Tariana Turia.

Race Relations Commissioner--Statement on Colonial History
5. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Is she concerned that the reported comments of the Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, that likened New Zealand's colonial history to Taleban vandalism, could lead to serious racial discord in New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No, but I think the reported comments were unwise.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Well, why would the Prime Minister tick off Tariana Turia for her Holocaust comments, yet not likewise chastise Joris de Bres--other than just to say his comments were unwise--or is it not the plain fact that the Maori MPs in the Labour Party plainly do not mind being muzzled?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that if any of her colleagues were called "unwise" by the Prime Minister, they would know they had been ticked off.

Martin Gallagher: In the light of the concern expressed by some members in this House today, what action, if any, does the Government intend to take following the comments by the Race Relations Commissioner?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: None. The commissioner holds an independent position. I am sure he will have noted the reaction to his comments, and will consider whether provoking such a reaction is helpful in performing his tasks.

Hon. Bill English: Will the Prime Minister answer the previous question, which asked why she made Tariana Turia apologise for her comments referring to the Holocaust, but appeared to back the comments by the Human Rights Commissioner related to the Taliban?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister certainly backs the commissioner's comments that the Taliban engaged in cultural vandalism. Tariana Turia, of course, is a member of the executive; Mr de Bres is not a member of the executive.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I wonder whether the Prime Minister could elaborate--when she says that the new Race Relations Commissioner's statements are "unwise", is that because he is unwise to say that white settlers were like the Taliban, or is she saying that that statement is untrue?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are no doubt a number of things that Mr de Bres says that are literally correct, for example, the fact that the use of the Maori language was discouraged, the fact that Maori leaders were held in jail, and the fact that Maori culture was belittled for much of the 19th century and, indeed, well into the 20th century. But to place those comments and that history in the context of the recent experience of the Taliban in Afghanistan, seems to the Prime Minister to be unwise and unnecessarily provocative to many New Zealanders.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister believe that a parliamentary race relations commissioner is needed to help eliminate the serious racial discord in this House, demonstrated by the recent racist comments made by members of this House?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member was in order for the first part of the question but the second part was out of order. It is perfectly all right to ask whether the Prime Minister considers there should be a particular appointment made, but not for the reason given by the member, which is out of order. The Hon. Dr Cullen may comment on the first part of the question.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear from Speakers' Rulings that to use the word "racist" against a member of this House, or a party, is out of order, but my colleague was using a description about comments made. I am seeking your clarification that that rule still applies.

Mr SPEAKER: My ruling is quite specific. It is out of order to make comments about members generally in that way, and has been so ruled.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept your ruling 100 percent, but I do not think it goes far enough. The allegation of racism against members of this House was general, and I think the member should be asked to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled the comment out. The member is a new member. However, I would ask her if she could apologise for that description of members, of a general nature.

Metiria Turei: I withdraw and apologise for that particular comment, and I seek leave to rephrase the question.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have already said the first part of the question was perfectly adequate. The Deputy Prime Minister can comment.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that if we tried to appoint a commissioner to remove discord from this Chamber, we might have difficulty finding a suitable appointment amongst nearly 3.9 million people.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If, as was said, any of the Prime Minister's colleagues would know that being told they were unwise would mean they were being ticked off, are we to assume that she is therefore ticking off the Race Relations Commissioner, and, more important, why will she not remove from office someone in whom this side of the House has no confidence?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On that basis, clearly the Prime Minister would have to remove the Leader of the Opposition, but that would be impossible.

Welcome Bay, Tauranga--Wahi Tapu
6. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What progress, if any, has been made on resolving the wahi tapu dispute in Welcome Bay, Tauranga?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): The registration of the land at Kopukairoa as wahi tapu has been completed, and is not in dispute. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is, however, working with relevant parties to facilitate a better understanding of the objectives, processes, and effects of wahi tapu registration under the Historic Places Act.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that it is unfair that private property owners can end up having personally to bear financial consequences as a result wahi tapu registrations, which can cover much larger areas of land than regular Historic Places Trust registrations, and are, after all, related to the Crown's treaty obligations; if so, will the Crown consider applications for compensation from these private property owners?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: The registration of wahi tapu under the Historic Places Act is not a treaty issue. It is not related to the treaty, and the treaty is not mentioned in that Act. The registration of wahi tapu of historic places, of historic areas, and wahi tapu areas, under the Historic Places Act, requires district councils to take notice of that registration and to consider incorporating it in their district scheme. It does not have any effect on landowners, and there is no provision under the Historic Places Act for compensation to any private landowner where land is registered or places are registered.

David Cunliffe: What has the Historic Places Trust done to improve understanding by relevant parties in Kopukairoa of the wahi tapu registration process?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: The New Zealand Historic Places Trust attended a public meeting with local community representatives at Welcome Bay on Thursday, 29 November 2002. The trust is promoting a further local meeting to continue discussion of the issues with iwi representatives, landowners, and the Western Bay of Plenty local authority. All of them are involved in any decision. This is a local decision.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister tell the House that this wahi tapu is not in dispute, when Opotiki's most senior elder, Mr Jack Steadman, who has authored seven books on the history of Maori in the Bay of Plenty, has said that this wahi tapu is "a load of nonsense", "a huge injustice", "a mischievous use of the Historic Places Trust", and that "wahi tapu is being misused as a political tool to gain control over private landowners.", and why will this Minister not show some leadership and have this wahi tapu reviewed?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: The provisions for registration of wahi tapu are covered under the Historic Places Act, as passed by a National Government, for the protection of wahi tapu, wahi tapu places, historic places, and historic areas. There is a process under that Act for appeals and reviews, but the registration of wahi tapu areas has effect only where local councils implement that under the Resource Management Act, which was also passed by a National Government. There are many people who will disagree with wahi tapu designations, as there are many who disagree with historic places designations. However, under that Act, it is considered to be a good idea to notify people of issues that are of historic concern to Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER: That answer was far too long.

Hon. Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As the local member, I must say that the Minister's answer was most interesting. I seek an extension of time for the Minister to continue her answer.

Mr SPEAKER: No. That is up to the Minister, and she has already sat down.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why does this Minister think that a man like Jack Steadman, who has been quoted in the Bay of Plenty Times, and who has been widely supported by the local people there as a senior kaumatua--

Mita Ririnui: Rubbish!

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: That is what that member is, but I am talking about Jack Steadman, the kaumatua, who is 89 years of age, and who might know more than the member.

Mita Ririnui: You don't even know him.

Mr SPEAKER: I warn Mr Ririnui that he must not interject again in this question time. That is the end of it.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that the most senior elder of the local iwi, Jack Steadman--who is a widely-published expert on things Maori--regards this wahi tapu as nonsense, why will the Minister not actually do something for the first time in her ministerial career?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: Under the Historic Places Act, I do not have power as Minister to require the Historic Places Trust to remove a wahi tapu designation. I point out to the House that of the over 6,000 registered sites on the register of historic places, historic areas, wahi tapu, and wahi tapu areas, only 63 are wahi tapu or wahi tapu areas. This is a very moderate registration. There are always divided opinions in any community about what is of historic or other significance to people. It is important that we recognise that this register is just that--it is a register of areas of interest or significance. It does not affect property rights.

Hon. Ken Shirley: How can the rights of private property owners be protected when the Historic Places Act defines wahi tapu as "sites and places sacred to Maori people in a traditional, religious, ritual, or mythological sense", and states that: "Wahi tapu can be tangible or intangible, and each iwi, hapu, or whanau will determine what wahi tapu is to them, with a specific location and nature of wahi tapu not given in order to ensure a level of confidentiality."; how can any property owner feel secure with that sort of nonsense on our statute book, and will the Minister move to amend the law?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: Property rights are protected under the Resource Management Act, because any wahi tapu is required--[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have had enough. The Minister is trying to give a serious answer to those questions. I want to hear the answer. The Minister has had enough interjections. I want to hear her answer.

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: Wahi tapu are registered to indicate that people have concern in the areas outlined by Mr Shirley--as is outlined in the Act--that then need consideration if the local council will put that in the district scheme to affect property owners' rights. Property owners' rights are affected by many areas under the Resource Management Act. This is one minor one.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister concerned that only 10 percent of sites registered with the Historic Places Trust are wahi tapu, given the cultural significance of the history of that land recently discussed, and would she consider strengthening the provisions to enable greater protection of wahi tapu in Aotearoa?

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: Sadly, the member's mathematics are not very good. In fact, it is 1 percent, and not 10 percent. I do consider it a matter of some concern that New Zealand does not have a good register of historically and culturally significant sites. I am making a Budget bid for the Historic Places Trust to have more money to do that job better and to consult better. I get more complaints about sites of historic significance not being protected than I get with this sort of nonsense.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the resolution of over 300 people at a meeting called by the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the Welcome Bay wahi tapu.

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

Hon. JUDITH TIZARD: I seek leave to table a document on House of Representative paper that states: "Nick, we need to wind them up about how the HPT can lift the current designation." It is unsigned.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the report in the Bay of Plenty Times in which Mr Jack Steadman, the most senior elder of Nga Potiki, says that wahi tapu is a load of rubbish.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.

Building Standards--Prime Minister's Statement
7. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she accept the criticism of her comments on the true extent of the leaky homes crisis by building consultant Steve Alexander who said "It's a huge problem and I think the Prime Minister was very, very unwise to make [her] statement. In terms of saying this is a beat-up and it's not nearly as big as has been claimed, [she] is just simply wrong . . . Just when we think we've seen the worst of it, we see something worse again."; if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No. As I said yesterday, it was the magnitude of the problem that was being debated into which my comments were addressed. The Government knows the seriousness of the problem, which is why the special disputes resolution procedure has been set up, and why the whole legislative and administrative framework covering this area is under urgent review.

Hon. Bill English: Does the Prime Minister know that according to public information, near her own home there are three multi-unit blocks consisting of 250 homeowners who are affected, and another three multi-unit blocks that could amount to almost the same number of homeowners again who could be affected; has she visited them; have they made any inquiries of her; and what did she say to them, apart from the fact that it was not a substantial issue and she wished the media would stop banging on about it?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have the information to answer the last series of questions, but clearly the problem is particularly acute in multi-unit developments in Auckland, where indeed the great majority of the cases described seem to be occurring. It might be helpful perhaps if more attention was paid to, particularly, the builders of some of these blocks as the people primarily responsible for the problem.

Brent Catchpole: Were her comments, repeated in the New Zealand Herald last week, in which she suggested the leaky house problem was merely a media beat-up, intended to inflame or diminish this serious crisis of confidence among homeowners; if neither of these, why then did she make such a foolish, inaccurate statement?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister was referring to the scale of the problem. The Hunn report, from my memory, estimates the cost for the 10 years to date at some $120 to $240 million, with a proportionate amount per year yet to flow through, obviously, from buildings over recent years. That contrasts with the kinds of figures that the New Zealand Herald was reporting as being accurate, which ranged up to $5 billion.

Murray Smith: Would the Prime Minister have taken a different view of the issue had she been aware that a Building Industry Authority - commissioned survey published in December 2000 revealed that nearly 40 percent of all buildings built between 1990 and 1999 suffered from moisture entry defects; if so, what would her view then have been?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think her view would have been one of even more surprise that the Building Industry Authority had not brought that information to the attention of its Minister.

Hon. Bill English: Has the Prime Minister explained to her caucus how she managed to make George Hawkins look caring and competent on this issue?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister always looks caring and competent in comparison with that member.

Low-income Families--Effects of Income-related Rents
8. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour--Waitakere) to the Minister of Housing: What reports has he received on the impact of income related rents for low-income State house tenants?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE (Minister of Housing): On the second anniversary of this policy, there are 53,153 low-income State house tenants paying an income-related rent. We estimate they are saving, on average, $35 per week. In some areas of Auckland they are saving $50 to $60 a week. With savings of this magnitude, there is no doubt that income-related rents are making a positive difference to the lives of many families.

Lynne Pillay: What is the Government doing to ensure that more low-income people have access to decent, affordable housing?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: By the end of this month the Government will have added about 1,600 extra State houses in our first 3 years to meet growing housing need. In addition, we are planning to add another 3,000 over the next 4 years, including community group houses. I can also confirm that with the Government purchase of Auckland City Council housing, a further 1,700 tenants will benefit from an income-related rent.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Minister aware that the Government has now effectively set up a two-tiered system of housing for low-income New Zealanders, resulting in a waiting list of over 11,000 people, an increase of 13.7 percent in just one year, and surely the money could be better spent by going across every low-income earner in New Zealand, including helping those people to buy their own homes?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Could I perhaps point out to the member that around $743 million is being spent by way of the accommodation supplement, in addition to the assistance given through income-related rents. We have a policy, unlike the National Party, which cannot make up its mind on what it should do.

Dail Jones: Will the Minister of Housing have a discussion with the member who asked this question, the member for Waitakere, Lynne Pillay, and explain to her that the waiting lists in west Auckland and Waitakere City, which she represents, are amongst the highest in New Zealand; that the people who are at the top of the waiting lists are immigrants; that State houses are being made available in Waitakere City, first, to immigrants; and that more State houses are having to be built in Waitakere City because of the waiting list and that they will be occupied, first, by immigrants?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I have no doubt that a great many people are wanting to live in Waitakere City. It is represented by three wonderful Labour MPs. It is no wonder they want to live there. It will be useful for that member not to make up stories about immigrants. He should check his facts out, which is something that New Zealand First never does.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to use the words "make up", when I am relying on stated facts in the Western Leader and in the Ministry of Housing's own information?

Mr SPEAKER: The words "making it up" do imply that the member is deliberately making statistics up. To that extent, they are out of order. I ask the Minister of Housing to withdraw and apologise for that comment.

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I withdraw and apologise.

Dr Muriel Newman: What is fair about a policy that has caused a 39 percent increase in the waiting list for people in critical housing need, with 14 percent of them waiting for over 6 months, while a family paying $58 a week has lived for 32 years in a State house that is now worth $697,000?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Obviously, the family paying $58 a week has a need. It would not be paying $58 a week if it were not eligible for income-related rent. If that member is suggesting we should throw people out on the street when they do have a need, then it is no wonder ACT is so low in the opinion polls.

Sue Bradford: Given the extraordinary amount of taxpayer money now being expended through the accommodation supplement, and given the growing crisis in the lack of affordable housing, especially in the Auckland area, has the Government given consideration to accelerating its provision of State housing in Auckland beyond what the Minister has already talked about?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The vast majority of the new housing that this Government has added, and will add in the next 4 years, will go to the areas of highest demand, which is Auckland. One of the reasons we have made sure that the Auckland City Council housing has not disappeared for people who need it is to meet the demand the member talks about. Obviously, the accommodation supplement is an issue that members of the Government have to work through to see whether, with all that amount of money being spent, it is being well targeted.

Paul Adams: Considering the current rental housing shortage, particularly in Auckland, has the Minister considered providing income-related loan funds, or deposits, to low-income families, to encourage private homeownership, as proposed by Housing New Zealand briefing papers, that would act as a form of compulsory savings for these low-income families?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: This Government has considered, and will continue to consider, options for homeownership. The sad and awful truth is that the National Government sold not only 11,000 houses, which has created this problem, but all the mortgages, as well.

Industry New Zealand--Confidence in Business Assessments
9. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: Has he any concerns about the manner in which Industry New Zealand is handling applications for grants; if not, why not?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): No. I am concerned, however, that the ACT party seems determined to attack business growth, economic development, cultural success, and enterprise on every possible occasion.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We regularly get that type of answer, particularly from this Minister. While we, of course, accept your previous statements to the House that you are not responsible for the answers, I turn you to Speaker's ruling 128/3, which does require that a Minister gives an answer that is relevant. A Minister does not have to answer a question--he or she can sit there and not answer it--but the answer does have to be relevant. Attacking a member who asks a question on a basis of policy, for which the Minister has no responsibility, is not relevant.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion half the member's point of order is actually valid. In the first part, however, the Minister was asked if he had any concerns, and he said "No." That, to me, perfectly addresses the question. He then went on with material that was extraneous to that answer, which he should not have done.

Deborah Coddington: Why is the Minister not concerned that the directors of Industry New Zealand, in just 12 months, have given millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to companies and trusts that they have an interest in, namely Connections Ltd, Far North Development Trust, Competitive Auckland Ltd, Auckland Uniservices Ltd, The Ice House Ltd, and the National Centre of Excellence in Wood Processing, Rotorua, and that have not been fully declared in the 2002 annual report?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I must say it is somewhat distasteful for me, as a member of Parliament, to find that another member of Parliament is casting aspersions on people who offer themselves to serve on Government-appointed bodies to do the work that the Government asks of them. If that kind of attack continues we will find it very difficult to get people at all. I will say that in the cases that have been mentioned, I am assured that due process was followed that ensured that all board members, or any board members with a conflict of interest, did not take part in decisions that might benefit them, or organisations they work with. That is standard practice on all Government-appointed boards. I would have thought the member knew that.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but he has just been warned on the previous question, and then he proceeds to do it again. He ought to read Standing Order 372--in particular (2)(b)--which states that members cannot make discreditable references to the House or members of Parliament. Here is a member of Parliament asking him a perfectly legitimate question about why has taxpayers' money gone to organisations associated with the people handing it out, and why have they not declared it in the annual report. Instead, he takes that opportunity to make an attack on the member.

Mr SPEAKER: All I want to say is that the second part of the answer was perfectly adequate in addressing the question. But I agree with the member, the first part of the answer made unnecessary comments, which did not add to the question that was being asked.

John Carter: Given the fact that the shadow Leader of the House raised a similar issue in regard to the first answer given by the Minister, would it not then have been appropriate, given the Minister was repeating the same issue, for you to have intervened and stopped the thing so that we would not have had the points of order that we have since had.

Mr SPEAKER: Absolutely. I was just about to do so when the Minister became relevant. The first part of the answer was definitely out of order. I agree with the member's point of order.

Mark Peck: Including Ice House, which is an extremely good incubator company starting up New Zealand hi-tech value-added companies, can the Minister tell the House how many other businesses have received assistance from Industry New Zealand?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I tell the House that 58,602 business people have attended business training courses by BIZ New Zealand, 201 business grants totalling $14.5 million have been awarded, Industry New Zealand has given 641 enterprise awards totalling $5.5 million--I will be announcing more towards Christmas, and ACT might be disappointed--and $29 million worth of new private sector investment have been facilitated by Industry New Zealand and 26 regional partnership plans have been developed, four have been implemented, and the rest are well on their way. Eat your heart out, ACT party!

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member then finished up his statement by saying that other members should eat their heart out. That is out of order, as well. I think most of the Minister's answer is out of order. It has nothing to do with the manner in which it is given. Saying how many people he has handed out slush money to was not part of the question. But this particular member uses question time to make personal abusive statements across the House, and he then makes public statements saying how upset he is about Parliament being a bear pit, and he wants to retire.

Mr SPEAKER: The last four or five words were a comment that should not have been made. If I was to rule out every single comment like that I would be ruling out quite a lot of comments from all sides of the House. However, I take the point the member has raised. I call Mr Ryall to ask the next supplementary question, and this time the Minister will give a simple and direct answer.

Hon. Tony Ryall: What is the Minister's reaction to the comments of the Snowy Peak managing director, a Ms Peri Drysdale, that she never approached Industry New Zealand for money, and that she would prefer that the Government cut company taxes and let New Zealand businesses decide how to spend their own money?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: No Industry New Zealand funding is given unless an application is fully documented and processed. Therefore, I am surprised that the chief executive of Snowy Peak did not seem to understand that she had made an application.

Sue Bradford: Does Industry New Zealand have any general obligation to ensure that the concerns of local communities, rather than just local government and industry, are taken into account when Industry New Zealand makes decisions; if not, why not?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I believe that the way in which Industry New Zealand, local government, central Government, and the Ministry of Economic Development have interrelated and worked closely together as partners is indicative of the question the member asked about whether communities are taken into account. They are.

Deborah Coddington: Is the Minister comfortable with the fact that Industry New Zealand gave itself $700,000 of taxpayers' money for a pavilion at the America's Cup village; can he please explain to the House what critical task that corporate box is doing for the "jobs machine", or is it now just "jobs for the boys"?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: If the member, and the party she represents, do not understand the incredible economic--[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now address the question

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: If the member does not see the opportunity for New Zealand to lever economic activity off the America's Cup, there is nothing I can do to help her.

Regional Transport Plans--Rural Areas, Northland-Tairawhiti
10. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: Did Industry New Zealand address the possible impact of transport projects on the survival of rural communities when it was facilitating the development of Regional Transport Plans for Northland and Tairawhiti; if so, how?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Regional development transport plans aim to meet the economic development needs of key industries in regions like Tairawhiti and Northland. For example, the development of the wood-processing industry is instrumental to the survival of many small communities in those two regions. In Northland and Tairawhiti, as forests mature and harvesting takes place, there will be significant additional jobs in the processing of our wood, including the development of new processing facilities in both those regions. I anticipate that many of those jobs will be taken up by residents in the small towns in those regions, enhancing the survival of those communities.

Sue Bradford: Why did Industry New Zealand not ensure that the township of Rawene was involved in developing plans for transporting logs across the Hokianga; and what is his response to local concerns that replacing the ferry with the proposed bridge will be disastrous for the township of Rawene and its associated health service, Hauora Hokianga?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Neither Industry New Zealand nor the Government supports any specific roading or bridge proposal. Those are decisions for the local authorities, the local communities, and Transfund New Zealand. It is up to the local authorities to identify their priorities after consultation with local communities. However, improving road access to and within the Northland region is a key component of the economic development strategy developed under the Regional Partnerships Programme. Roading improvement on tourism routes will also have a direct flow-on effect for many small Northland communities involved in the tourism industry.

Hon. Dover Samuels: Has the Minister received any reports about how the regional development assistance provided by this Labour-Progressive Government has benefited the Northland region and the people of Northland?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Yes. They are too numerous to read out to the House, but I will read one. It is from the Mayor of the Far North: "Credit where credit is due. After more than 2 decades of systematic stripping of Government services and assets in rural districts such as the Far North, finally, this district has been offered an amazing partnership present. The investment by the Government in a major upgrade of forestry roading routes will have huge implications for our district, the forestry industry, and tourism. It must be the first time in the last 100 years that any Government has committed 100 percent funding to the Far North, funding without which significant adverse implications for the ratepayers of the district . . .".

John Carter: Can the Minister confirm that the hopes and aspirations of the proponents of the Hokianga bridges have been falsely raised, because no money has been allocated for the bridges--the only reference to the funding is on the regional development reserve list; is that just another instance of the Minister misconstruing the facts, or is he just being downright dishonest?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot say that. Please withdraw and apologise.

John Carter: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Everything up until that last part may be commented on briefly.

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The Government has made available significant funding for regional development roading infrastructure in two priority regions as a beginning: Northland and Tairawhiti. That money was made available to priorities set by the local regions themselves after significant regional roading strategies. The final decisions are made by Transfund New Zealand as to how those priorities will be met. That is the way the Government works, and it is the only way it can work.

Sue Bradford: Has Industry New Zealand or the Ministry of Economic Development done any calculations weighing up the number of jobs that will be lost through the loss of the Rawene township if the bridge across the narrows goes ahead, against how many jobs may or may not be created by the logging industry?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: No, I think the permutations of that are quite complicated. Not only is there a proposal for one bridge, there is also a proposal for two bridges. There is also a proposal to have no bridges, and a proposal to have one bridge and the ferry service. All of those combinations are part of the mix. I know they are the subject of considerable debate in the local communities, and the local authorities and Transfund New Zealand will no doubt take that into account.

John Carter: I seek leave to table papers showing that the funding for Hokianga bridges is on the regional development reserve list, totalling $40 million and unlikely to be handed out.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is not.

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

Police--Staff Shortages, Auckland
11. Hon. TONY RYALL (NZ National--Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Has he been formally advised of a police staffing crisis in Auckland; if so, by whom?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The Police Commissioner's office provides me with regular reports on police staff and resource issues. At 30 November there were 7,302 sworn officers and 2,077 non-sworn officers--that is, a total of 9,379 police staff nationwide. On the same date there were 2,014 sworn officers and 563 non-sworn officers--that is, a total of 2,577--based in the Auckland districts. In addition, 85 police officers from outside Auckland are currently serving in the area.

Hon. Tony Ryall: How can the Minister stand by his answer when parliamentary questions from the police advise that by the end of December this year there will be 621 sworn officers in Auckland City--

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How many?

Hon. TONY RYALL: There will be 621 sworn officers in Auckland City--that is, the exact same number there was at the beginning of this month, which means that despite all his promises there will not be one extra police officer on the streets of Auckland this year?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Police are going through the Police College, and an additional 2,003 officers will join Auckland police districts next year in the first 6 months. Up to 80 officers from the UK will join the police in Auckland. Cadets will start training next year. Altogether the Government is putting in the resource, whereas that questioner's party was more interested in funding a computer rather than police.

Mahara Okeroa: What factors have contributed to problems in police resourcing over the recent years?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government has provided funds for Auckland to be fully staffed and provided money for 60 more support staff, the funding of 80 more staff from the UK, plus 203 new recruits to be based in Auckland in the first 6 months of 2003, and plus the cadets. This was necessary because the Martin review wanted to get rid of up to 540 police. The National Government was more interested in the INCIS computer rather than policing.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister agree with the editorial in the New Zealand Herald on 3 December that, in commenting on the unprecedented turn out of over 1,000 very angry police officers at a meeting in Auckland, stated: "Demonstrated there, as surely as even the most myopic police Minister could see, was faltering morale, the by-product of crippling staff shortages in Auckland's three police districts", and, further, does he not agree that he contributed to that by cancelling three police intakes in 2001 and by cutting the police Budget by $55 million in the same year?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I do not agree with much in the New Zealand Herald. However, I would say that the facts are that Bill English told this House in 1999 that he would cut police funding by over $20 million. This Government has provided over $160 million extra for policing since we became the Government.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made absolutely no attempt to answer the quite legitimate question from Mr Mark about the cancellation of police colleges. He instead gave us a lecture about 1999 when he was not the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question in the totality of his answer.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister count as formal advice a press release issued by George Hawkins, Labour spokesperson on police, on 22 February 1997 calling for an Auckland allowance for police to cover the higher cost of living in that city, or was this a piece of advice that he signed but did not read, issued but did not make, made but did not say, said but did not hear, or all of the above, and if so, does he still have confidence in himself; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I certainly remember that. The Police Association will negotiate that as part of the upcoming wage round when it meets with the Commissioner of Police.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that the equivalent of 30 full-time police officers' hours were spent on cannabis offences in the Auckland area in the last year, and how far would 30 extra full-time police officers go in dealing with staff shortages for investigating serious offences like assault, burglary, and theft?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on this. In asking a question like that should a member declare a personal interest?

Mr SPEAKER: The member is just trying to be altogether too coy on this.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: While there are offences on the books, I do not accept the member's argument.

Marc Alexander: By what criteria is the Minister assessing the level of reported staff shortages in Auckland if he includes an assessment of the skill and experienced level of that shortfall, and can he tell us what impact the staff shortages are having on recorded offences?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The staff shortages are recorded in the monthly HR score card for October 2002, which sees North Shore-Waitakere at 27 short, Auckland City at 11 short, and Counties Manakau at six short. Of course, that means that those police are working under some pressure, but staff from around the country are assisting.

Hon. Tony Ryall: Is the Minister now prepared to admit that his decision to cancel the recruitment of 240 police officers in early 2001 is the reason we have a staffing crisis in Auckland, or is he just going to adopt his standard Sergeant Schultz approach of "I know nothing"?

Mr SPEAKER: Up until that last part the question was in order, and only that first part will be answered.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give an assurance that public money being spent on the recruitment and retraining of British police personnel would not be better spent by directly addressing the staff shortages and morale problems in Auckland; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The best way to approach the morale question is to make sure that New Zealand police in the Auckland area are fully staffed, and, of course, having people come from the UK with experience will help.

Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a document that shows that the number of police in Auckland will not increase between now and 31 December.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In order to verify the comments in my question I seek leave to table Trends in Vote Police, Summary of Appropriations and Crown Revenue, that shows that in the year 2001 the budget was cut by--

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a second document, which is a New Zealand Herald report that pointed out that even a myopic Minister should be able to see the problems--

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Police--Staff Shortages, Auckland
12. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he concerned that reported crippling staff shortages in Auckland's three police districts are leading to faltering morale; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I was informed by the President of the New Zealand Police Association yesterday that a one-off payment of $2,500 per officer would restore any lack of police morale in Auckland. However, I believe that the initiatives the Government is currently undertaking to boost police numbers will restore morale.

Ron Mark: Why was the Minister so vehement in his criticism in 1995 of the then Minister of Police for being 80 police short in Auckland when we now see Auckland understaffed by almost twice that number; and why does he continue to display such an apologetic, weak-kneed, limp-wristed approach to resolving the issues--

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the last part of that answer is out of order. The first part was perfectly in order and can be answered.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: If the member cared to look at the human resources scorecard for October 2002 it would show that North Shore-Waitakere are 27 short, Auckland 11 short, and Counties Manukau six short, which does not add up to 80.

Taito Phillip Field: What initiatives have been taken by this Government to improve policing in Auckland?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, at nearly $1 billion funding this financial year the Police have never had so much money, plus there are now more than 2,000 police in Auckland, 77 will be added between October and Christmas, $1 million has been spent on advertising for new recruits, 60 more non-sworn staff have been supplied to Auckland and an Assistant Commissioner was sent to Auckland on a long-term basis, a second radio channel was provided, there are more staff in the communication centres, we are starting the modern cadet scheme, and, of course, 85 extra staff are in Auckland at the moment working alongside Auckland police.

Hon. Tony Ryall: Was he formally advised by the Police Association vice-president Richard Middleton's comments about police staffing levels in Auckland that: "We have had a staffing crisis for the last couple of years. The people who have been left behind have to work much harder just to tread water, and with the latest crime statistics we are not treading water any more, we are sinking into the mire."; if not, does he not consider that advice?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police in Auckland are doing the best they can with the numbers they have. However, this Government has, for some time, realised that there was a problem and we have been putting in resources, in contrast to the National Party, which wanted to invest in the INCIS computer system.

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

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