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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer Wed 18 Feb

Questions For Oral Answer 1Wednesday, 18 February 2004

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers 1

Seabed and Foreshore—Title 1

Unemployment Benefit—Zones 2

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights 3

Tertiary Education Organisations—Initiatives 4

International Students—Seriously Asia Website 4

Tourism—Economic Growth 4

Special Housing Action Zone Programme—Mâori 5

Fisheries—Regulations 6

Civil Defence—Defence Resources, Manawatu/Rangitikei 7

Home Detention—Reoffending 7

Refugees—Deportation, Sri Lanka 8

Transport Infrastructure—Policy 8

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Seabed and Foreshore—Title

1. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: In light of her statement that: “Our proposal is for the twin title to have the people’s title alongside the customary title, and we think that meets the interest of both people.”, is it the intention of the Government that public domain title and customary title will exist side by side over virtually the entire coastline?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Public domain title will be created over the entire coastline, subject, of course, to those few small areas that are currently in private title. Mâori will be able to seek customary title over any area covered by the public domain title if they can demonstrate ancestral connection. Customary title, of course, is not a property right.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister agree that Mâori customary title holders will have special enhanced participation rights over management of the foreshore and seabed that no other New Zealanders will have; if so, how can she see that as anything less than race-based preferment by her Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The proposal for ancestral connection - based customary title reflects the fact that Mâori, as the tangata whenua of this land, do have that ancestral connection. Unfortunately, of course, from the perspective of the opposition, that is a reality they have to deal with.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Government accept that the rights conferred on Mâori by centuries of ancestral association with the coast have never been extinguished and must be provided for in a fair resolution of the foreshore and seabed issue?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think I prefer to put it this way: those rights that have not been extinguished should be properly protected. It is clear that a significant number of customary rights have been extinguished by one means or another since 1840. The proposals in front of the public at the moment do not intend to revisit those customary rights that have been extinguished.

Stephen Franks: Why would the Government contemplate customary title existing over more than a minute fraction of our coastline when the judges of the Court of Appeal expressly cautioned that they expected it to be very rare if it was found anywhere, and where Judge Hingston of the Mâori Land Court has said that mana moana, which appears to be ancestral connection, is born of greed and ignorance?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can deal with the first point. That is not quite what the judge of the Court of Appeal said. What the judges said—and that was obiter dicta, not by any means a legal ruling—was that expectation was that the sum of customary rights that might add up to something like freehold title would not apply to more than a small number of discrete areas. They never suggested any sense that—oh, yes, the member shakes his head. I suggest that he re-reads the ruling by the Court of Appeal judges. They did not suggest in any shape or form that, somehow or other, the amount of foreshore and seabed with which Mâori had ancestral connections was limited to small and discrete areas.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Prime Minister confirm two things: firstly, that any customary title granted under this proposal will not imply any sense of exclusivity; and secondly, that where customary title is granted it will be on the basis of a reasonable continuity of connection back to 1840 and will be in a situation that means that the rights of access of all New Zealanders are protected and enhanced?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will take the last part first. Yes, the intention of the proposals is to protect and enhance the rights of access held by all New Zealanders as of right, not on a grace and favour basis for the majority of New Zealanders.

On the second point, I think that the statement about continuity is a statement that applies to customary rights, and that, of course, is merely a statement of the common law definition, in effect, of customary rights. Customary title already exists in the sense that the connection already exists unbroken since 1840. I am not aware of any iwi or hapû that has surrendered its association with the foreshore and seabed. [Interruption] I would point out that the members opposite voted for the Ngâi Tahu settlement legislation.

Hon Ken Shirley: No, we didn’t.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Except for ACT members, but then, of course, they are always different on everything to do with race. After they merge with National, no doubt they will change their history. I come to the National Party. They passed the Ngâi Tahu settlement legislation, which recognised the connection of Ngâi Tahu with the vast bulk of the foreshore and seabed in the South Island.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister trying to tell us that customary title is effectively meaningless, and that anyone who holds a customary title has no greater participation in the management of the seabed and foreshore noted in that title?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, indeed not, and, of course, that is a claim made by some, particularly some lawyers representing Mâori interests in this matter. As always, the truth seems to lie between those lawyers and the National Party. What the proposals do imply and indeed state very, very clearly is that the existence of customary title will give the opportunity for participation rights in relation to planning matters with regard to the coastal marine area, which is foreshore and seabed only—not, I have to point out to the Opposition yet again, the beaches above the high mean tide mark.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: In light of the overwhelming iwi opposition to the Government’s initial proposals at the twelve hui last year, what process has the Government adopted for further discussion and good faith negotiation with iwi to achieve an agreed outcome in the spirit of partnership?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A range of further consultations has occurred at a personal level, at a group level, and indeed at many other levels, I think it is fair to say. I do not accept that the current proposals are opposed by the vast bulk of iwi. There is a lot of noise, but there is also a lot of quiet talking going on around those proposals, which are not helped by the exaggerated representation of those by members opposite.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister of Finance understand or know what is the legal authority for regarding the seabed as land?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Apart from anything else at this point, of course, the Court of Appeal decision. That was made quite clear in the Court of Appeal decision. What the Government has said is that the Te Ture Whenua Mâori Act, passed in 1993, was not intended to allow the Mâori Land Court to grant, in effect, freehold title over the foreshore and seabed. Much as I might make many accusations against the Bolger National Government, I would never accuse them of actually intentionally planning to hand over freehold title ownership of the foreshore and seabed to Mâori.

Stephen Franks: Would the Deputy Prime Minister like to again answer the question I first asked, which in essence was: where is the legal requirement in the Court of Appeal judgment or from the Mâori Land Court to regard ancestral connection as any authority for issue of customary title or customary right of any kind?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What the Court of Appeal decision did was to leave us with a situation where Mâori—and many have done so—may apply to the Mâori Land Court for customary land status over foreshore and seabed.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, it doesn’t.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not know what the member thinks the Court of Appeal said, but the Court of Appeal said that the Mâori Land Court has jurisdiction to determine whether the foreshore and seabed is customary land. That is the actual, precise, statement of what the Court of Appeal decided, and, therefore, left unattended, that decision means that potentially significant parts of foreshore and seabed could become customary land. That is a matter for the Mâori Land Court to determine.

The Court of Appeal may express its view about what the Mâori Land Court would do, but that does not mean to say that that is what the Mâori Land Court would do in that circumstance. That customary land status can easily be turned into freehold title. If members opposite are stating that they wish now that that should be left in that position, that is not what their leader has said.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Government’s proposal is to put a significant amount of New Zealand’s coastline into customary title, or into public domain, which of the two types of title will have pre-eminence when it comes to issues relating to the management of that area, and if the customary title does have a certain amount of pre-eminence over the public domain title, does not that create a racial preference?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The proposal is that the public domain title expresses the full ownership of the seabed and foreshore. Customary title sits alongside that ownership.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Customary title is a mess.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not a mess, at all. It may be a little bit intellectually difficult, but that does not make it a mess. The next part of that is that the exercise of those participation rights for Mâori through customary title are within the context of the Resource Management Act and other legislation. It is called one law for all.

Unemployment Benefit—Zones

2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is he still planning to create so-called “no go” zones for recipients of the unemployment benefit; if so, when will the Government be announcing the location of these zones?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): No, despite some media usage of that phrase, it has never been Government policy to create no-go zones.

Sue Bradford: In what way is saying “You can’t live here and get a benefit.” not creating a no-go zone?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: What the policy says is that a person must be able to meet the terms of the work test. That is the essence of the policy.

Katherine Rich: When, in an answer to me to a written question, the Minister cannot point to even one Work and Income New Zealand client in the last 5 years who has failed any work-test requirement by moving to a remote area, where is the “evidence-based research” that he says underpins the Jobs Jolt?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the same way that the National Party, when it was in Government, had a remote areas policy, I imagine that it also gained the same evidence that we do; that is, when we circulated policies to front-line staff, one of the things they indicated was that quite often when they lived in a town such as Nelson and a person was shifting to a small town in the far north that they had no idea of, the front-line staff had no way of being alerted as to whether there were jobs there. This policy is aimed at giving front-line staff that kind of alert list.

Georgina Beyer: How will the Government’s limited employment locations policy assist unemployed people seeking work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The policy is designed to encourage people to seek work in locations where there are good job opportunities, discourage people from moving to locations where few opportunities exist for them, and to ensure local people already seeking work in locations where there are limited opportunities are not further disadvantaged by job seekers moving in. In other words, we have a very low rate of unemployment in this country, and we are seeking to ensure everybody gets a job. I can tell from the National Party spokesperson that that is not their interest, but it is ours.

Bill Gudgeon: When the no-go zones for recipients of the unemployment benefit are identified, as proposed, how will these areas be policed, and what form of identification will be used, if any, and is the Minister proposing to use identification cards?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: They are not no-go zones. I remind the member that that has already been cleared up in a previous question. The system works simply on the basis of people being able to comply with the work test. As I have just explained, people who tell a case manager that they want to shift somewhere else will now have a question asked of them on the basis of information that the case manager has as to how they will meet the work test when this particular area has, say, jobs only in agriculture and the persons want to work in retailing, or there are no jobs at the current time in that area because basically there is no work. That is the essence of the question.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister stand by his statement in the Christchurch Press on 18 August 2003 on Jobs Jolt that Mâori beneficiaries, “living in their ‘ancestral papakainga district’ will not be subject to the policy”; if so, how on earth can he possibly claim that the Labour Government does not have race-based laws?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The policy is not retrospective—in other words, whether people are Mâori, Pacific Island, Chinese, or any other basic ethnicity, the policy does not apply backwards. Wherever people live at the present time, we are not applying the policy. As I just pointed out, it is for people who are moving, so the current policy would apply to them. Yes, I stand by the policy that people will be, whatever their ethnicity, in a particular place at this time, and they will stay there. However, people who choose to shift in the future, whether they are Mâori, Pacific Island, Chinese, or of European extraction, this policy will apply to them—one rule for all.

Judy Turner: In light of the focus in the Jobs Jolt package on discouraging unemployed people from moving into regions with few available jobs, what specific initiatives have been considered to make it easier for those already living in such areas to be made aware of jobs in other regions with labour shortages, such as reclassifying Work and Income’s job bank to list vacancies by the skills required rather than geographical location, as I suggested last year?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is a good idea, and Work and Income is ensuring that its job bank is available across the country and provides a wider range of information. I should point to new policies such as the mobile employment services. People now living in a remote area will be able to access those services through a case manager who will be in their region by dint of a van that will carry computers and information, and he or she will be able to take it right to the doorstep of those people.

Sue Bradford: In the light of the Minister’s answer to Muriel Newman’s question, will Mâori people returning to their papakâinga or home rohe be subject to the new provisions of the remote areas policy or whatever it is to be called?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I said, going into the future, whether people are Mâori, Pacific Island, Chinese, or European extraction, the policy will apply to them. So if people have indicated that they are returning to Mâori land, then they will still be subjected to the same test—that is, whether they can comply with the work test. I should also point out that Work and Income case managers do take into account such cases as a person saying: “Returning because my children are in that area. I have access rights to them. I would like to be able to visit them.” Those kinds of individual circumstances are taken into account, but, I repeat, because I can tell the ACT people who seem to have antennae for anything of this nature, one rule will apply to all people.

Sue Bradford: Whatever the name of the scheme, is there actually a new policy about to be implemented by the Government in this area, and can the Minister advise when the delineation of these areas will be announced?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member will be aware, over the summer period we have consulted mayors and regions around the country. I intend to announce an update on all of what were called mutual obligations parts of Jobs Jolt within the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights

3. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does she agree that the holders of customary title under the Government’s seabed and foreshore proposal can apply for customary rights which, in the words of the Solicitor-General, have “real power”, including the “right to stop activities”; if not, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes, they can. Whether they get any rights will depend on whether their application meets all the criteria that will be in the legislation. A customary right is the same as any other property right.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister has already stated that the customary title carries with it the right to be involved in decision making, will the proposed legislation incorporate only existing provisions of the Resource Management Act, or will it in fact provide additional provisions of consultation?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The provisions in the legislation will provide for adequate and appropriate opportunities for people to be involved in decisions that affect them.

Tim Barnett: Will the holders of a customary right be able to prevent a development on the seabed or foreshore from taking place, where that activity does not have a significant impact on the customary right?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, it will not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister recall the very successful 2002 campaign slogan of “fixing three things in 3 years”, in particular the burgeoning Treaty of Waitangi industry, and why did she ignore that and ignore the public’s view on it, to the peril of her political party?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I try to be all things to all people, but—

Mr SPEAKER: That question was very, very wide of the original question asked, but because it is Wednesday afternoon I will give the member another chance to ask it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the member was campaigning in Tauranga and across the country, does she recall the very successful slogan in the 2002 campaign about “fixing three things in 3 years”, including the burgeoning Treaty of Waitangi industry, and why did she personally ignore all of that, as Minister, and carry on misadvising her party, to its political peril?

Mr SPEAKER: In so far as the Minister’s ministerial responsibilities are concerned, she may answer.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I have no recollection of saying I would fix all the provisions in the Treaty of Waitangi grievances in 3 years. But it is demonstrably clear from the Government’s records, the number of settlements that have been effected, and the fact that at this stage we are engaging with over 25 claimant groups that we are certainly making progress in that area.

Metiria Turei: When will the Government stop wasting its time debating Pâkehâ semantics with Pâkehâ, and engage instead in a round-table dialogue with Mâori to develop an agreed foreshore and seabed solution that recognises kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga while meeting the needs of all New Zealanders? Mr Speaker, are there any members who would like a translation of the te reo?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Now the member is going too far.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to have the member’s translation of “rangatiratanga” in this context.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to give the explanation of that, she can.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to know who these “Murri” people are.

Metiria Turei: I would like to know what he said, sorry.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has been asked a specific question. She will give a specific answer. Then the question will be answered.

Metiria Turei: Mr Speaker, would you like to give me a translation of “rangatiratanga” in this context?

Mr SPEAKER: We have been asked if you would.

Metiria Turei: Certainly. The translation of “rangatiratanga”, as used in this context, is the chiefly authority held by the whânau, hapû, and iwi in a particular rohe, or area, that is exercised by the person who holds the chiefly position.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think we have just seen a very good example of how this House can talk in many tongues and have some understanding of each! Certainly, the Government is, in fact, engaging in extensive discussions and consultation with Mâori.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Going back to the Minister’s answer to my first supplementary question, given that customary title is intended to confer powers of consultation, will she agree that those powers are additional to those that any other New Zealander has?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: All New Zealanders have a right to be consulted when applications are made for consents under the Resource Management Act. The various ways in which that consultation takes place are specific to the particular events. It is no more and no less. It is what is appropriate and effective communication.

Dr Wayne Mapp: If it is the case that the Mâori customary title confers the same right of consultation on Mâori as any other citizen in the country has, why on earth is the Government overturning 130 years of long-established precedent that established Crown title over the foreshore and seabed—the very title that this Minister, last June in Parliament, said she would confirm?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: With respect, I find that question incomprehensible. It muddles so many different notions. What we are talking about here has been clearly stated. I will not repeat what has already been clearly stated by the Deputy Prime Minister in answer to a question to the Prime Minister. What we are doing here is ensure that the methods of communication that are already provided for in the Resource Management Act can take place in a more efficient and appropriate way—no more and no less.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can she confirm that the current law states that the Crown owns the foreshore and seabed; if that is so, what would be the effect on the Court of Appeal decision of simply passing another law that said no more than that the Crown owns the foreshore and seabed?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Very little.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that answer is allowed to stand, that is an insult to this Parliament. Parliament can surely do as it chooses. Dr Mapp asked a legitimate question—a very uncomfortable question for the Government—and it was answered on the basis of “We don’t really understand it, but we’ll just chuck out some abuse around that question, anyway.” The two Ministers then colluded—very unusual of course, but perhaps not so for this Government—to get an answer that, effectively, insults Parliament. I suggest that the Minister does owe this Parliament a greater explanation than “Very little.”

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked for an opinion and she gave it. It can be debated and objected to, but she gave an opinion.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister gave an opinion, could she repeat it? All I heard and, I think, all this House heard was her saying that she did not propose to answer the question, with the spurious allegation that the Deputy Prime Minister had previously made it clear. All that he had done was babble mud.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That member’s point of order relates to an entirely different question and an entirely different answer. The answer to the question I asked was “Very little.” That is because it is the law already, so if we say it again, it does not change it.

Mr SPEAKER: That, in fact, was the point made.

Tertiary Education Organisations—Initiatives

4. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): How is the Government supporting innovative initiatives by tertiary education organisations?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): In December the Tertiary Education Commission announced it was investing up to $20 million for nine projects from its Innovation and Development Fund, and those contracts are now being signed. The Innovation and Development Fund aims to lift the capacity of tertiary organisations, so that they can take on new roles consistent with the tertiary education strategy.

Lynne Pillay: What sorts of initiatives will the funding support?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We give three examples: funding for the nationwide roll-out of Manukau Institute of Technology’s project to better align secondary schools with polytechnics; a centre for designers and manufacturers to research and develop new ideas in collaboration with students, based at the Wellington Institute of Technology, and a project to support industry training organisations in taking a leadership role in identifying and addressing the skill needs of their industries.

Hon Bill English: What did the Minister mean when he said in a letter of 11 November 2003: “The Government considers that the treaty relationship with Mâori is central to the tertiary education reforms.”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Consistent with section 181(b) of the Education Act 1989, which was passed in 1990, and was in place for 9 years during the National Government, it is the duty of councils of institutions to acknowledge the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. In the context of that letter, I was also—

Hon Bill English: What did you mean?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am finishing, and I would like the member to just be quiet for a little while. What I was doing in the letter was reminding people of that, and reminding them that the tertiary education strategy has identified that Pacific Island and Mâori populations are very young, and we want to see them, as a central part of the policy, brought into tertiary institutions, retained, and gaining qualifications.

International Students—Seriously Asia Website

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Has she received any reports regarding the content of the Seriously Asia website as it relates to international students in New Zealand; if so, does she have any plans to address the issues it raises?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister think it is acceptable to create an environment where students say this about this country: “Gambling and prostitution are legal. There is no pressure from parents, teachers, and society. International students perceive that there is a very small chance to be caught without a licence when police are rarely seen on the street.”, and, further quoting them: “and if you have a low attendance rate, you can also pay an immigration company or lawyer to get your visa extended. As long as you have money, you can buy almost anything, including university assessments.” Is that a satisfactory picture to have painted about this country in terms of the people she is bringing in?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the answer is no, pray tell me, what is the Minister doing about it?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Government—and it was not my ministerial responsibility as Minister of Immigration, but the Minister of Education—introduced a code of pastoral care for international students in order to address a number of those issues. We have increased significantly, from an immigration perspective, the fraud capacity of the New Zealand Immigration Service. If the member has particular examples that he brings to our attention, he now knows that we follow them up.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table three documents. The first one is an article where the Race Relations Commissioner says to Aucklanders: “Smile and you’ll come to like it.”

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second document states: “Shoddy course and the students running amok”. It is an article from the New Zealand Herald, 22 December.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The third one is an article written out of Hong Kong, which states that: “The Kiwis are just a walkover”, which is a representation to that country.

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

Tourism—Economic Growth

6. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Tourism: What recent reports has he received on tourism’s contribution to economic growth?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Tourism): The year 2003 was another record year for tourism. Statistics New Zealand figures released just today show a 3 percent increase over 2002’s all-time high of over 2 million visitors. International visitor expenditure represents 15.7 percent of export earnings—second only to dairy. Overall, the sector comprises 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product—over $15 billion per annum. The latest accommodation figures show that tourism continues to drive growth in our regions, with nine out of 12 showing an increase in guest nights. In a year marked by international conflict, by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), and by other challenges to the industry, I think the New Zealand tourism sector has to be congratulated for still showing world-beating growth potential.

David Parker: Has the Minister received any forecasts regarding tourism’s future value to the economy?

Hon MARK BURTON: The Tourism Research Council forecasts show that international visitor numbers are forecast to grow by 5.7 percent annually through to 2009. But better than that, expenditure will increase at nearly double that rate—nearly 10 percent. That does not happen by accident. From day one this Government has worked in partnership with the sector to build a sustainable, yield-driven industry. Together we put in place the strategy, and—clearly—the results are outstanding.

Brent Catchpole: Given the glowing tourism figures the Minister has just given to the House, does he agree that the opportunity for stronger growth in tourism was missed when he failed to agree with New Zealand First’s view that tourism should be recognised for its export potential during the formation of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: Not only as a Minister, but as a member of the Government, I think this Government has demonstrated the value of getting alongside and working with this key industry. We see the benefit of that work, built out of the rubble left behind by the McCully years.

Mr SPEAKER: The last phrase can be withdrawn.

Hon MARK BURTON: I withdraw.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of proving who might have created New Zealand—not the Labour Government—I seek leave to table the book of Genesis.

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

Special Housing Action Zone Programme—Mâori

7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Given the Prime Minister’s reported statement that the Government does not fund on race but on need, is the Special Housing Action Zone programme that “provides funding and services for Mâori communities” to be changed?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing), on behalf of the Minister of Maori Affairs: The special action housing zones are part of the Rural Housing Programme to assist disadvantaged people in rural areas living in dangerous, unhealthy, or inadequate housing. The assistance is based on housing need, and goes to Mâori and non-Mâori on the basis of need. The member may have forgotten that the children who burnt to death in inadequate houses lit only by candles, highlighted in 1999 by the Social Services Committee report on substandard housing—and Gerry Brownlee was the deputy chair of that committee—led to this particular policy, which was implemented by the new Labour-led Government. We put in place the Rural Housing Programme and special housing action zones in response to that—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: —and they are available to all people; even to you, Dr Smith, if you have a low income. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is an interjection in the second person, for a start. It is out of order. The member should know that. He has been here a long time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can raise a point of order, but not in relation to that.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question by the member was quite specific in respect of the issue of need or race and the Prime Minister’s statement. The Minister made absolutely no attempt to answer that question. Instead, we just got a lecture about a whole lot of other issues that were not relevant. If members of this House—and it is not the first time today—are not to get any attempt by Ministers to answer the question, we can expect nothing less than disorder.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I rule on that matter, I will not have threats like that. I will not have comments like that made. The member properly raised a point of order, but then went on to make a silly threat that will result in members being asked to leave the Chamber.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister gave a long answer, in which he made it very clear on a number of occasions that the programme is based on need.

Mr SPEAKER: The question was addressed adequately in terms of the Standing Orders.

Dr Muriel Newman: With regard to this Labour Government programme that provides non-repayable, taxpayer-funded grants of up to $50,000 to private homeowners who have allowed their houses to fall into disrepair, can the Minister clarify whether poor white families can access this scheme; if so, when exactly did this policy—which was part of the closing the gaps strategy—change?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Leaving aside such epithets as people letting their houses fall into disrepair, the answer is yes. People from all backgrounds have access to this policy, and its genesis, as I explained earlier, followed the select committee report in 1999. The policy was introduced by the new Labour Government at that time.

Dave Hereora: Why were the rural housing and Special Housing Action Zone programmes initiated?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Because children and old people were being put at risk by living in unsafe and unhealthy housing. Most people in this country were, and are, horrified by stories of children dying in fires, often because of the use of candles for lighting. Most people were horrified to learn that people were not able to use, for example, sanitary toilets. It does not matter whether people are Pâkehâ, Mâori, Pacific Islander, Chinese, Scottish, or whatever—they just have to be New Zealand residents or permanent residents to have access to the particular policies we are talking about here.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting that the 6-monthly implementation report on the reducing inequalities initiative—which covers the period from January to June 2003, and was released by Minister Maharey on 5 February this year—states that special housing action zones have target groups of Mâori and Pacific Island peoples, and that the programme’s main purpose is to provide bridging finance for papakâinga and other rural developments, can the Minister tell us how many non-Mâori property owners have been helped by this scheme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: With regard to the last question, not everybody recorded an answer in the box asking about ethnicity, so we cannot answer the question. Unlike Mr Brownlee, not everybody wants to answer the question about ethnicity. Of the people who did answer it, Mâori and Mâori-Pâkehâ families comprise about 95 percent of the people who have those loans. Other families of different ethnic origins comprise about 4.7 percent. As I said, that is not the whole 100 percent. The papakâinga programme is one whereby multiple-owned land—which cannot be used as equity—does attracts support so that we can try to build houses on that land. That policy has been in place for quite some time.

Deborah Coddington: In light of the Minister’s answer that the Special Housing Action Zone programme is for Mâori and non-Mâori based on need, and given that the Te Puni Kôkiri website states the Special Housing Action Zone programme “... provides funding and services for Mâori communities to repair existing houses or build new houses. It is principally for Mâori communities occupying their papakâinga ... or living on Mâori land in multiple ownership.”, can he confirm that the Government has just done a U-turn; if not, what is he trying to say?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would not be surprised if Te Puni Kôkiri—which is the Mâori ministry, and relates to Mâori people—states that this money is available for Mâori as part of the programme. I refer the member back to the policy, which states unequivocally in its eligibility criteria that the only qualifier in terms of applicants is that they are New Zealand residents or permanent residents. That means everybody has access to the programme, but Te Puni Kôkiri would be talking to Mâori about it. There are 11 policies as part of this programme, and one is aimed at Mâori land. It was introduced by Mr Goff, and has been administered by those people for 9 years.

Hon Richard Prebble: Would the Minister confirm to the House that not one poor white family has, in fact, got a grant under that scheme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I will not confirm that. I will go back to the answer I gave to Gerry Brownleee—that is, we do not know the ethnicity of everybody who got money under this programme, because not everybody replies. However, of the people we do know about, Mâori and Mâori-Pâkehâ—that is, Mâori and non-Mâori families, and I want to say to Mr Prebble that means they are of Scottish and Irish types of origin—got loans, and 4.7 percent of the loans were to non-Mâori families altogether. So the answer is, no, I cannot confirm that. It is only people like you who want to create—

Mr SPEAKER: That brings me into the debate, Mr Maharey. The member will withdraw that comment.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table Labour’s 2000 election manifesto policy on Mâori health, which states it will provide access to—

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

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a standard for the Minister to treat the House properly, and I draw it to your attention that he has told the House that the ministry does not record the race of the people who apply, but he is quite prepared to tell us that Mâori-Pâkehâ families have applied. How on earth does he know that?

Mr SPEAKER: He did not quite say that. I heard what the Minister said, and I thought he addressed the particular issue.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a document that sets out the eligibility criteria for the issue at hand in the House as being, in the first bullet point on page 2, that the individual must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.

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

Fisheries—Regulations

8. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Fisheries: Does he agree that clearly articulated and strictly enforced fisheries regulations are crucial to the survival and sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries resources; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Fisheries): Yes.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that customary fishing rights under regulation 27 of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986, which allows for seafood to be caught specifically for a hui or tangi, are subject to the same size regulations as other amateur or recreational fishermen, as specified in regulation 6; and if so, how does he explain the case shown on a recent episode of the TV show Coastwatch, where some customary fishermen, despite being caught with a catch of 88 undersized crayfish, seemed to escape prosecution?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Following the Coastwatch programme last Monday, many people—including many Mâori—have expressed their concern to me or to my parliamentary colleagues. That particular case will not be able to happen again, because last October the Government tightened the regulations so that customary fishers must carry their permits on them from when they go fishing until the fish is delivered to its destination.

Janet Mackey: When were the Mâori customary fishing regulations negotiated, and when were they promulgated?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Mâori customary fisheries legislation is Tory legislation through and through.[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member could mention the National Party or previous Governments. I would prefer him to do that in his answer.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Very good, Mr Speaker. The legislation, which does allow for kaitiaki to issue a permit to take undersized fish, is the result of National Party regulations that were negotiated from 1993.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not the National Party. The National Party does not govern in this country. Certainly the National Government does, and come the next election, it will, but it is not the National Party. The member must get his answers correct.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is now going a little too far. Everyone knows that the member was referring to the National Government. He meant the National Party in Government, and should have said so. If we are going to call up for every single little comment like that, we will never get anywhere. The Minister may continue briefly.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The National Government, the National Cabinet in fact; there was a negotiation—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What year?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Between 1993 and when it concluded, finally, with promulgation in 1998. Those regulations did not go through this Parliament; they went through a National Cabinet. If anyone is distressed about the use of regulations in the Mâori customary fisheries arena allowing the taking of undersized fish, they know its origin.

Mr SPEAKER: As is often the case when it is windy outside, it does affect what happens inside. There is no exception today. I just ask for a little more order. It is private members’ day and the members are in their own time, but we will carry on.

Phil Heatley: Given the Minister’s statement that Mâori customary fishers are allowed to catch smaller fish than commercial and other recreational fishers, and his parking of the blame with the National Party, do the changes he passed last year when he was in Government fix this problem; or does he plan to bring in regulatory changes that will fix this problem now that he is the responsible Minister?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is probably not aware that these regulations are tied from beginning and end to a Treaty of Waitangi fisheries deal negotiated by a National Government as a full and final settlement in respect of Mâori issues and fishing. This Government, and I hope every future Government, will uphold that full and final deal, whatever they think of it. That is the issue.

Pita Paraone: Given that effective fisheries law enforcement is imperative if the decimation of our fish resources is to be arrested, what initiatives are in place to ensure that there are enough trained and sufficiently resourced staff to achieve that?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The quality and quantity of fisheries compliance in this country is rising, and will continue to rise. I am not sure that we will ever reach the day when we all agree that it is enough. I am not sure that there is such a thing as enough effort, any more than there is such a thing as enough police, or enough nurses, or enough teachers. But I will say this: when the National Government was negotiating, it got some bits right. Customary fishers are required to have quite tight regulatory requirements on their permit—tighter than exist for recreational fishers. Although kaitiaki are allowed to issue a permit to take undersized fish—so the Ministry advises me—they rarely allow that to happen. In other words, although the National Government might have mucked it up, Mâori have not.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister’s answer was too long.

Gerrard Eckhoff: I apologise for being deaf, but most of my faculties are here, unlike the Government’s. As the Minister has now given us a history, will he now—

Mr SPEAKER: The member made a silly comment at the start. He will now ask the question. Please ask the question.

Gerrard Eckhoff: As the Minister has given us a history, will he now move to assure New Zealanders that he will ensure that customary Mâori take will be subject to the same conservation measures of size and number, and that race will not be an excuse for the rape of our coastline and coastal waters.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member has failed to acknowledge that this is part of a full and final treaty settlement reached between the National Government and representatives of New Zealand Mâori, so that part of the deal remains unalterable. Insofar as we can improve administration, we have done so in respect of regulations passed last October, so that the case we saw last Monday cannot happen again. The more important point is that a week ago the leader of the ACT party said that he was putting questions to me. He has not yet done so, and the reason is that he has realised that his mates, the National Party, were the origin of this problem.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table press reports of 3 October 1992, and the relevant Hansard, which demonstrate that the only person who opposed the deal was the MP for Tauranga, who was expelled from his caucus the next day.

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

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

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister clarify for us that the part of the deal he is referring to, that is enshrined in legislation, relates to the rights to take customary fish for hui and tangi, and not undersized fish, and that that part of the problem can be fixed by current regulations?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Customary fishers are required to adhere to permit conditions that must include the dates on which fishing is to occur, who will be taking the fish, the quantity and size limit of each species to be caught, the fishing method for each species, the area where the fishing is to occur, the purpose and venue for which the fish is needed, and other matters as the kaitiaki sees fit.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree with his colleague Dover Samuels, when he told the New Zealand Herald on 12 February: “The protection and sustainable management of kai moana is at the very heart of tikanga and Mâori custom, but if we keep abusing and depleting our fisheries, there will be nothing left for Mâori to have customary rights over.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I warmly endorse those comments.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that current regulations require a national database of kaitiaki reports that would, as the Minister has said earlier, require data to be kept about the species being taken, the quantity harvested, and so on; and is that database currently being kept nationwide?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The negotiations led to customary fishing being implemented by more than one method. The first method, called the section 27 method, does not require those records to be kept; the second method, a kaitiaki appointment under the customary regulations, does require them. We are rolling out the second method year by year.

Gerrard Eckhoff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to point out that just prior to your calling me, you obviously did call my name. Many in this House know that I am significantly deaf. Despite wonderful advances in the microphones, it is extremely difficult to hear at the back if a lot of banter or whatever is going on. My retort was as a result of the Government members muttering some comment, which, thankfully, I did not hear in the first place. I wish to draw to the attention of the House that I am extremely deaf. I note that a number of people have the same problem that I do, but perhaps do not wish to announce it.

Mr SPEAKER: Interjecting is something that always leads to problems. I think the member has made a valid point.

Civil Defence—Defence Resources, Manawatu/Rangitikei

9. Hon DAVID CARTER (National), on behalf of SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei), to the Minister of Civil Defence: What defence resources are available to civil defence authorities organising relief efforts in the Manawatu/Rangitikei region, particularly Air Force Iroquois helicopters?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture), on behalf of the Minister of Civil Defence: Under the National Civil Defence Plan, and depending on the circumstances, the full resources of the Defence Force are potentially available. In this latest situation, the worst since cyclone Bola, 200 personnel, 40 vehicles, and 3 Iroquois helicopters have been involved in civil defence, and accommodation was made available at Linton Camp and Ohakea air force base. A defence command post was established at Linton early on Monday morning. Liaison officers are deployed to all district councils and the regional civil defence headquarters.

Hon David Carter: Will the Minister confirm to the House today that following the Government’s winding down of the Air Force, there are only three Iroquois helicopters available and operational, because the rest of the New Zealand fleet is grounded and unable to fly?

Hon JIM SUTTON: No, I cannot confirm that.

Darren Hughes: In addition to the defence resources that have been made available to the Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Rangitikei areas, what other Government resources are available to help in these flood-stricken areas?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Mr Speaker, if I am to give an adequate answer, it will be a little longer than usual.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked, and I think that, in the circumstances concerned, I will allow a longer answer.

Hon JIM SUTTON: Civil defence was activated in a timely manner, with defence and police involvement. Ministers today signed off a package of assistance, including Government agencies, including health, Work and Income, agriculture and forestry, housing, and Te Puni Kôkiri coordinating their activities with civil defence and emergency management groups’ regional recovery activities in problem areas; and the activation of an enhanced Task Force Green scheme to provide clean-up support where needed. This will be supplemented by volunteers and the military if required and as available. There has been the appointment by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of up to six agricultural coordinators; the provision by the ministry of technical and consulting assistance, in the form of advice to farmers, for the rural sector where appropriate; activation of the ministry’s rural sector assistance special needs grants; and Rural Support Trust counselling for farmers and their families, where required. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working to assess the extent of problems in the rural areas and the resources needed to achieve full recovery. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management will coordinate that information with information from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management’s groups and utilities. Task Force Green workers have been successfully utilised many times to help with clean-ups after civil defence emergencies, as well as help restore public assets and external farm fences. Local council costs in dealing with displaced people are fully reimbursed.

Hon David Carter: Now that the Government has finally realised the seriousness of this disaster and that its response requires far more than the initial response of $20,000, what does the Government estimate will be the total cost of the package that the Prime Minister announced 2 hours ago?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The total cost obviously will not be known until the total size of the problem is known. I think it ill behoves the member to try to make cheap political capital out of peoples’ suffering.

Home Detention—Reoffending

10. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Are there any individuals, other than Kevin Moana Jarden, who might also be described as predatory paedophiles, who have been convicted, later given home detention and/or parole, and who have subsequently reoffended; if so, what are the circumstances?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Undoubtedly, there are other individuals who fit the category that the member has described. If the member could be more specific about a time period, geographic location, any specific cases he has in mind, and whether the reoffending occurred while on home detention or parole, or afterwards, I would be happy to get the answers for him. Unfortunately, the reality is that some offenders will reoffend despite the efforts of the justice system. What I can say is that when the Department of Corrections becomes aware that a child sex offender on parole or home detention is not complying with his or her sentence, its jobs is to take appropriate enforcement action immediately.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister not accept that failures by the Parole Board and the probation service, such as in the Jarden case, the William Bell case, the McIntosh case, the Carroll case, and other cases in the pipeline, pose a serious risk not only to the community but also to the integrity of the justice system, and expose the Crown to punitive litigation by the victims and their families, as we are already seeing in the case of William Bell?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The first, obvious point is that the system is not perfect. Of course, it is up to someone to make the decision about parole, and we give that decision to the Parole Board. In a number of the cases the member has mentioned—for example, McIntosh—independent inquiries show that the cases were well managed by the Department of Corrections. In the case of Bell, which the member mentioned, there were obvious shortcomings, and the Government has put considerable money into the parole service in order to overcome those shortcomings.

Martin Gallagher: What is the Government doing to ensure child sex offenders can be monitored more intensively in the community?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government has introduced legislation that provides for an extended supervision regime for child sex offenders. The bill would give New Zealand one of the toughest regimes for child sex offenders in the world, with the ability to monitor certain offenders for up to 10 years after their sentences have ended. The bill is currently before the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that the Government’s own research shows that 86 percent of the people released on parole reoffend within 5 years, does the Government want to continue with parole?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. Parole is part of the post - prison sentence regime. The member will know that reoffending rates internationally for people who leave prison are traditionally pretty high. They were high under the previous National Government. But we can try to manage it better, and that is something the department and I are working on currently.

Ron Mark: Noting the fact that 86 percent of offenders who are paroled reoffend, and the recent revelations about serious offending by people on home detention, why does the Minister not accept that placing serious offenders on home detention is wrong, was wrong, and was never the intention of this House, and when will he do what New Zealand First has been asking him to do for over a year now, and that is change the law to prevent these people from getting home detention?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The first point, of course, is that home detention was introduced by the previous National Government, which that member supported. As far as front-end home detention is concerned, it is for sentences of fewer than 2 years.

Refugees—Deportation, Sri Lanka

11. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Immigration: How did she obtain potentially legally privileged notes relating to the 16-year-old Sri Lankan girl recently deported from New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I understand that the lawyer’s office made the information available to the Mt Albert electorate office some months ago, when they were seeking support for the individual. One the electorate agents faxed it through to my office last week. It was not brought to my attention at that time, and it was re-faxed on Monday, which was the first time I had seen it. The Prime Minister was not aware of either the fact that the electorate office had the information, or that it had sent it to me, until I advised her of that this morning.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister know who took an envelope containing the written communication between the young girl and her lawyer, and left it on the TV3 desk in Parliament; if so, was that person a member of her staff, her department’s staff, the Prime Minister’s staff, or did she do it herself?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I did not personally give the document to TV3, but I can confirm that a staff member of mine did.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister stand by her statement on TV3 on 16 February that this sexually abused and raped girl deserved “not one jot of sympathy” from the New Zealand public; if she does, does she still accept the view of the Hon Damien O’Connor when he described rape of this child as “not being very kind”?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I answered that question in the House the other day by reference to the fact that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority accepted that sexual abuse had occurred in respect of two uncles. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority also accepted the grandmother’s word that the daughter was not at risk of any abuse from one of those uncles, and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority—the independent authority—determined that in fact she had nothing to fear from the other uncle.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has made no attempt to answer my question. I asked her whether she stood by her statement that this girl deserved not one jot of sympathy, and she has not answered.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have said that the circumstances do not deserve one jot of sympathy. I do have sympathy for a young woman who was brought to this country deliberately to make a false claim for refugee status. I am absolutely amazed that members of the National Party think that it is acceptable to make a false claim for refugee status to cover up the true state of affairs.

Judith Collins: Who was the member of the Minister’s staff who took those notes to the TV3 office at Parliament?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The name of my staff member is Juli Clausen.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Herald article that reports Ms Dalziel as saying “the 16-year-old girl and her grandmother did not deserve ‘one jot of public sympathy’ ”.

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the transcript of the Minister’s answers on today’s Radio New Zealand Morning Report.

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the transcript of the Minister’s answers on today’s Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon.

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

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I seek leave to table the letter from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority to Marshall Burdon Curtis that contains the handwritten notes that we have referred to today.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer given by the Minister to the first supplementary question asked by Miss Collins leads to a potentially serious issue. I ask that the Hansard of this question time, and in particular this question, be made available a little bit sooner than is usually the case so we can determine just how serious the situation has now become.

Mr SPEAKER: I can assure the member that under our new technology all questions go on the net as soon as they are processed, and that is very, very quickly.

Transport Infrastructure—Policy

12. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What is the Government doing to improve New Zealand’s transport infrastructure?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): The Government is investing considerable resources in the transport infrastructure following decades of under-investment. As part of a multi-modal transport strategy, Air New Zealand and the rail-track have been purchased, more money is being spent on road construction and maintenance than ever before, and funding for passenger transport has doubled since 2002. This Government sees transport infrastructure as critical to New Zealander’s economic performance.

Hon Mark Gosche: What impact will the recent transport announcements have on transport infrastructure in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In consultation with the very good Minister of Finance, in December 2003 the Government announced a significant new package of transport measures to address infrastructure constraints across the country. It will mean approximately $1.6 billion for Auckland on top of planned transport spending, and approximately $1.35 billion extra for other regions over the next 10 years. The acceptance of the package yesterday by Auckland local government leaders means that we are now in a position to make real progress. It will have a huge impact on upgrading the transport infrastructure, and that is important if we are to ensure long-term, sustainable economic growth.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister regard New Zealand shipping as part of our transport infrastructure, and is he aware that it is in dire straits; if he is, will he tell the House what he intends to do about assisting it, and when?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, yes, and shortly.

Keith Locke: As a fellow participant with the Minister and other MPs in this morning’s “bike to work” event, could the Minister explain how the Government’s walking and cycling plan announced last year will help to improve transport infrastructure in New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The initial document released last year has received a number of submissions. It will released towards the middle of the year. The reality is that New Zealand is way behind other countries in having a proactive walking and cycling strategy. If we get more people off the roads and walking and cycling—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: On your bike!

Hon PAUL SWAIN: —yes, that was the name of the strategy, actually—it will help to reduce some of the congestion on our main roads at the moment, particularly as far as young children going back and forth to school are concerned.

Larry Baldock: In light of the Government’s commitment to improve the New Zealand transport infrastructure, can the Minister confirm that he has received a letter from the mayors of Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty, and the chairman of Environment BOP, requesting assistance for that area on the same basis as Auckland’s special package, and pointing out that very similar circumstances exist in that area, such as rapid growth, and the importance of the port to the country’s economic improvement; and what does the Government plan to do in response to that request from the mayors of that area?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I can confirm that, and I intend to have meetings with representatives in the not too distant future.

Keith Locke: Just to follow up the Minister’s comment on children going back and forth, given that 40 percent of Auckland’s peak traffic is education related, how will plans such as those of North Shore City to get more children walking and cycling to school affect our transport infrastructure? I am talking about such things as new pedestrian crossings, safe cycle paths, secure bike parking and lockers at schools, and walking buses.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the member points out, a lot of the congestion in Auckland at peak time is education related. If we can get more schoolchildren walking to and from school, particularly in walking buses—and the North Shore City Council is one of the leaders in New Zealand in that respect, and should be congratulated on it—then that will have a net effect of reducing congestion on the roads, and making it easier for other people to get around and go about their business.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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