Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 28 July 2004
Wednesday, 28 July
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1 Foreshore and Seabed—Infrastructure Development
2 Schools—Enrolment Scheme Legislation
3 Capacity-building Grants—Policy
4 Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill—Planning Process
5 Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
6 Housing—Community and Local Government Involvement
7 Tertiary Institutions—Funding
8 Economic, Industry, and Regional Development—Promotion
9 Algerian Refugee—Refugee Status Appeals Authority Judgment
10 Lake Wânaka—Lagarosiphon Lakeweed
11 Air Force—Sale of Aermacchis and Skyhawks
12 State Housing—Allocation
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Foreshore and Seabed—Infrastructure Development
1. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Can he confirm that where customary rights recognised under the proposed foreshore and seabed legislation are in an area where a major infrastructure development is planned, for example part of the Auckland eastern corridor motorway, the development will only be allowed to proceed with the sanction of the customary rights holder?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General), on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister: No, the local authority has the final decision in such a case.
Gerry Brownlee: Do we take it then that the Government no longer backs the previous position, which Dr Cullen explained to the House, that a customary rights holder who had, say, an entitlement to take some buckets of sand would, as of right, have the opportunity to block a major infrastructure development where it was felt that that particular development would impinge upon the customary right?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, it is not my understanding that Dr Cullen has ever said that. There is a customary right in that instance to take sand, if that is the member’s example. But if someone wants to have a development where he or she is taking sand, then the normal consent process must be gone through.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The “bucket of sand” issue was not my example; it was Dr Cullen’s example. We have a bit of a problem here, in so much as we have been told quite clearly—not only by Dr Cullen but by those who are advising on these matters—that a person who has a customary right does have a right to veto such projects. Margaret Wilson, the acting Minister, has given us two answers that contradict those previous positions. I know you will say to us that we have a natural remedy in these circumstances, but surely it would be better if we had answers that are consistent.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not my job. My job is to judge whether the question is addressed, and it was.
Russell Fairbrother: Is there a right of veto for a customary rights holder?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, there is no veto because it is for the local authority to make the final decision once the process set out in the legislation has been gone through.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the local authority may well have the customary right reposed in itself, as with, for example, the Auckland regatta, which was commenced back in 1840, thereby it being an unbroken use since that time, and therefore conferring upon the local authority the right to grant special permits for that day?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: That raises some very interesting possibilities, and it may well be perfectly right.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister acknowledge that clause 93 of the bill requires the written consent of the holder of a customary right, and what does she say to Transpower, which this morning at the select committee said that a bucket of sand could effectively hold up the Cook Strait cable or the replacement of it?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I was not at the select committee, obviously, so I do not know exactly what was said. However, I would be surprised if it was put in those terms, because there is a process to be gone through. In answer to the first part of the question, certainly, if the member is referring to clause 93, then that does state that there are restrictions on the granting of resource consents, and it sets out the criteria the local authority is to take into account under those circumstances. I would be quite happy to read them out, although they are quite long. Essentially, the local authority must decide whether there is a significant adverse disadvantage if the resource consent were applied to the holder of the customary right.
Gerry Brownlee: Is she telling the House it is her belief that there is no right of veto for customary rights holders; if so, does she think Michael Cullen was wrong to spend so much time yesterday discussing the possible sale of those customary rights, or the setting aside of those customary rights, for koha payments?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: My understanding of the question yesterday was that it addressed a slightly different matter, but—
Gerry Brownlee: No, it wasn’t.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Well, that is the member’s view. All I am saying is that the way in which the question has been put, as to whether the holder of a customary right has a veto in the sense of saying: “No, that is it.”, then that is not the case.
Dail Jones: Returning to the original question, can the Minister confirm that where a major infrastructure development is planned—for example, part of the Auckland eastern corridor motorway—the development will be allowed to proceed only provided that matters of national importance under the Resource Management Act, such as, under section 6(e), “The relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga:”, as passed by the National Government, will have to be considered?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, that is precisely the situation as it stands at the moment.
Hon Ken Shirley: Is she and her Cabinet colleagues concerned that the provisions of clause 93 could well be abused, as we see in the Resource Management Act, with the powers conferred there inviting extortion as payment for consent approval?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, I have no such concerns. Of course, any holders of a property right can in fact object under the Resource Management Act if that right is to be effected in a way that is adverse to them, and then the process determines whether that is the case.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports in respect of promises to repeal legislation such as this, or any such legislation in respect of the Treaty of Waitangi, emanating from the National Party, given its present campaign? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I ask Mr Brownlee to please not interject while questions are being asked. The member holds a responsible position, and I just caution him. The question was perfectly in order. The Minister was asked about reports.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: There have been numerous contradictory reports coming from various members of the National Party, but I do think it is interesting that the leader of the National Party, Don Brash, has in fact noted in his speech that the National Party would protect customary rights. That was in his speech to the Marine Industry Association on 22 April.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports suggesting that there will be a repeal of the legislation so that the foreshore and seabed could then be in private, personal, or iwi ownership, and therefore be capable of being alienated forever to a foreigner—as advocated by the National Party?
Mr SPEAKER: Everything except the last part is in order. That is to be ignored. Just the question as stated.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I cannot recall any report in precisely those terms, but I can recall that the customary rights of Mâori would not be protected, and access for those rights to be exercised would not be protected, either. Therefore, that could be drawn as a consequence, that that foreshore and seabed could be privatised.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have encouraged us in the past, where a Minister has given answers that are unsatisfactory, to take the remedy of going through the privileges process. Given that we have not been at all successful in taking a privilege case so far, can you tell the House what sorts of criteria you would require? The Minister today has said there is no veto or effective veto, when in fact I am holding the bill in front of me and it could not be more patently clear that that is exactly what would happen. It states that a consent authority must not grant a consent without the written approval given by the holder of the customary right order. The Minister has denied that. The Minister has said that is not the case and that we have it wrong. This is the Minister’s own legislation. I want to know, if that is put in front of you, whether it would be enough to bring a privileges case against the Minister for misleading the House.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I have given numerous rulings on ministerial answers. This is debatable material that the member is raising.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification of what is a privileges matter and what is not. Is it a privileges matter where the member does not quote the section accurately?
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter. The member has made a point, but it is not in order.
Schools—Enrolment Scheme Legislation
2. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Has he received any reports on possible changes to the current school enrolment scheme legislation? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We have moved on to question No. 2. I am issuing a general warning now: questions will be heard in silence.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes, I have seen a report of one individual who has pledged to do away with enrolment scheme legislation. I have seen another report of another individual who argues that removing zoning would not solve any problems, at all. That person says there should be limitations on parental choice in areas of high population growth. The first person—the person who says that the enrolment scheme legislation should be done away with—is Don Brash. The second is Bill English. Given the fact that the capital cost of new secondary schools is around $20,000 per student, it is clear that Mr English has the most logical position.
Helen Duncan: What are the main advantages of the current school enrolment scheme legislation?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister I want to say that if he reads Speaker’s ruling 131/3 he will see it states that the Minister has no responsibility for the Opposition, and cannot answer for its policy. He can state what he has heard, but he cannot then draw those sorts of conclusions.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is one not allowed to agree with an Opposition member in the House these days?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows full well that he is trifling with me now. That was not all that he was doing. Please answer the question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Currently enrolment schemes are only put in place where schools would otherwise become overcrowded. An enrolment scheme guarantees that students have a right to attend their local school, and any extra spaces for schools are allocated according to a ballot, rather than having principals hand-select whom they want. One of the points that I have found interesting is that while a particular party and a new leader of a party want to abolish enrolment schemes, that leader is running in the very seat where they are most important.
Hon Bill English: When will the Minister make good a promise made to over 1,000 people in Invercargill that when he closed nine of their schools he would not force the remaining schools into zones?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I made no such promise.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that geographical zoning was reintroduced by the National Government, unopposed by ACT, in November 1998—
Peter Brown: Really?
Hon Brian Donnelly: —yes, by the National Government—contingent upon the public demands of National MPs such as Christine Fletcher from blue-ribbon electorates, because of the chaos the non-zoning policy was causing in their areas—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I will not have people interjecting like that to me in the second person. I am getting sick and tired of the member. He has now been officially warned. That is it. I just want to say—[Interruption]. Please be seated; I have not finished. I listened to that question carefully, and I say the Minister cannot be asked about other parties’ policies. The Minister can be asked the question as the Hon Brian Donnelly set it out, but he has to be very careful with his answer.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, the essence of what the member said is correct. The situation came to pass that people who lived next door to schools were in a position whereby they were able to be denied enrolment to those schools. People like Christine Fletcher took a leadership role within the National Party to ensure that the legislation came in in that form, and it was broadly supported within this Parliament, including by the ACT party, because then—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has gone on long enough. That is enough of an answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Shortly there will be an election in the United States, and also one in Australia. In every other self-respecting democracy, politics is a matter of record. What was sought in that last question was to put on record who did what, where, and when. It may be tedious for parties to hear about their sins of the past, but that is part and parcel of the business of politics. I think it was unfair to sit the Minister in those circumstances, particularly when he was being so accurate about his answer.
Mr SPEAKER: We have a general debate coming after question time in which that can be raised, and the member knows that full well.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister consider requiring integrated schools to accept enrolment schemes or zones to be a subterranean resurgence of last year’s failed area reviews; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are two important things that interplay with each other with regard to integrated schools. One is the question of preference, and then there is the question of how, when limits are reached for particular schools—because all integrated schools have limited numbers—the choice should be made, amongst those people of a particular religious or belief group, of who is to have access to those schools, and of who should make those choices. The enrolment scheme legislation that was introduced by the National Party applies to integrated schools, as it does to other State schools.
3. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he stand by his statement, in relation to capacity-building grants, that: “We’ve taken exactly the right approach to ensure that if we’re going to have taxpayers’ money in the hands of people who’re going to be delivering a variety of services, they’ve got the capacity to do so.”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes, I do. I stand by the statement I made in July 2001 that if we are going to have taxpayers’ money in the hands of people who are going to be delivering a variety of services, we need to ensure they have the capacity to do so. If, as we all agree, local solutions to local problems is one of the key ways forward, then we first need to develop the capacity of local groups, so that they can deliver the services efficiently and manage the money properly.
Katherine Rich: When the Community Employment Group guidelines for capacity-building grants clearly state that salaries are not to be funded through the schemes, what is his response to a Community Employment Group worker, quoted in an official evaluation report, who described the continued flouting of this rule by saying: “… you tell the group they can’t use the grant for a salary but then you tell them you can contract someone from your group to do the work—it makes it so unclean.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My reaction is to freeze the grants process and to ensure a full review of the Community Employment Group’s operations.
Moana Mackey: What results have been achieved from capacity-building grants?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are a large number of positive reports I could give from a wide range of departments, but because the member from the National Party has raised the Community Employment Group, it is worth pointing to, for example, Mâori land development. The evaluation shows that, with very few exceptions, the reports are able to provide good, positive outcomes, with projects meeting their objectives and people now being able to move on to deliver social and economic goals. In the Pacific organisational development area, we are able to look at groups that have been enabled through capacity building to now begin to apply for money. They understand how they can operate in social and economic areas, and are now able to begin providing services directly.
Dr Muriel Newman: What responsibility does the Minister take for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars that taxpayers consider to have been wasted on misguided and race-based programmes?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: All Ministers, of course, are warranted to take full responsibility for what occurs in their departments. One of the things I would point out, as I pointed out before, however, is that—and I assume the member is referring to the Community Employment Group, as it has been raised today—there would not be a member in the House who does not have a positive and useful example over the years that he or she could point to of the work of that particular group. In my own area, for example, and in Simon Power’s area as well, over the last little while, we can certainly point to work around the floods that took place in the Manawatû and Rangitîkei that Community Employment Group workers did very well.
Katherine Rich: As the Minister has mentioned the Mâori land development grant scheme, can he respond to comments made by the Community Employment Group’s staff that information provided on that scheme was “intermittent, incomplete, late, inconsistent, and unresponsive to field adviser input”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I certainly can. Wherever I see, and I have now seen, advice like that from members of staff, it leads me to do what I have done, which is to freeze the grants process and ensure a thorough review of that organisation.
Katherine Rich: When guidelines are flouted, fieldworkers say they do not understand what a scheme is supposed to achieve, and so many projects of dubious quality have been funded, does he accept that his Government’s flagship capacity-building initiatives have flopped; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do not. The member is probably referring to the report she received recently, which was part 2 of a three-part review of capacity building within that particular organisation. But, as I mentioned before, capacity building is a broad policy running across Te Puni Kôkiri, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Housing New Zealand Corporation, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Community Employment Group. There is a wide range of those kinds of grants and, as I say, someone like Bill English has quite rightly pointed out that, from the National Party’s point of view, local solutions and local problems need people who can do those things locally. We back that view, and will carry on ensuring that people do have that capacity.
Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill—Planning Process
4. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister for the Environment: Is she satisfied that the proposed planning process in the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill is fair; if so, why?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, although the bill, as currently written, is more prescriptive than it needs to be. I hope soon to table a Supplementary Order Paper to simplify the bill to ensure a fair and open planning process in the Waitaki catchment. All those with an interest will be able to put their issues before the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board for consideration.
Larry Baldock: What specific steps, if any, has the Government taken to respond to the concerns raised by the Mackenzie basin farmers regarding the allocation of water for irrigation with particular reference to the relevant 1969 Order in Council?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Due to the particular history around the 1969 Order in Council, I have asked the Ministry for the Environment to prepare information about the issues involved for the water allocation board’s consideration. My wish is to ensure the injustices felt by those affected by the 1969 Order in Council are heard by the board, as the rights they had were not renewed and were eventually legislated out of existence by the National Government in 1993.
Lianne Dalziel: Could the Minister perhaps give members some detail as to how the guarantees of water for irrigation in the 1969 Order in Council came to be extinguished in this way?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am delighted to. In 1991, the Order in Council was replaced by water rights, and the allocation disappeared, but the order was recognised when the Resource Management Act came into force later in that year. An amendment bill in 1993 removed the section from the original Resource Management Act that gave the 1969 order virtual resource consent status, meaning it could never be renewed. That legislation was passed by National.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister received any advice as to why applications for Project Aqua, which are listed in the schedules of that bill and which she called in, have not been withdrawn, despite the March announcement; and is she expecting the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill to proceed with or without Project Aqua being a live application?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I expect that Project Aqua will be a live application, and I understand that they are leaving their applications for consent in there in order to be able to present before the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board. However, I do not believe that they are actually going to proceed with the said Project Aqua.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister give an assurance that when dealing with the Waitaki catchment issues, the Government will seek to uphold property rights and the rule of law; and has she seen any reports calling for her to act otherwise?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I can give those assurances. Yes, I have seen calls for the Waitaki bill to give water specifically to farmers in the Mackenzie basin for irrigation. The High Court is currently considering the nature of water rights in the upper catchment, so to do this would cut across that process and, depending on the court’s findings, involve a major interference in existing property rights to the water. So I was surprised to see both Don Brash and Nick Smith making those calls.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When the Minister said that Meridian Energy was leaving its applications in, in order to be able to present a submission to the board making the water plan, did she mean that people who do not have applications for consent currently in the process will not be able to make submissions to the board; if not, then why is that a valid reason for leaving the applications in?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have two points to make there. First, anyone, regardless of whether he or she has consents in, can make submissions to the water allocation board. That is about allocation, not about the granting of consent rights. Secondly, I understand, although I have not actually had a conversation with Meridian Energy, that it wants to have its consents live, if not actually used, so that those issues of hydroelectric power and irrigation, and the life of the river, may be given full consideration.
Larry Baldock: What representations has the Minister received that advocate to ensure that Mackenzie basin farmers receive a fair deal under the proposed Waitaki catchment planning processes?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have received strong representations from the farmers themselves in January, when I met them down in Tekapô. The local member and Minister of Agriculture, Jim Sutton, has also met the farmers and constantly passes on their concerns to me. Larry Baldock has also been a strong advocate for their issues. But not once have National Party members directly approached me. As usual, they prefer to fly in with a tame news crew rather than to offer considered solutions.
Larry Baldock: Given the Minister’s answer to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ question earlier, can she understand the uncertainty and concern in the Kurow community concerning Meridian Energy’s intentions, and will she work with that community to allay its fears throughout this process?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: We will continue to work with that community.
Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the Department of Corrections report on Iwi Consultation and Other Matters Related to the Spring Hill Corrections Facility dated 14 April 2004; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally, yes. The Department of Corrections provided a frank report covering the issues well, given the time frame I set. I note the Environment Court in its judgment on Spring Hill praised the department for its consultation with Mâori.
Rodney Hide: Does it concern the Minister that the Department of Corrections, in its frank report, never advised him that it had deducted, but then reimbursed, a double payment to the same consultants of $18,928 from a contract with the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust, which the Tainui people themselves discovered in their own forensic report, and will the department seek reimbursement for these duplicate payments made; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there and two can be answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The department was extremely aware of the fact that double-dipping might occur and it advised me that it went out of its way to ensure that this did not happen and deducted amounts billed separately before making payment to Tainui. The internal audit of Tainui’s finances is a matter for Tainui to deal with. If the auditors have concerns, I am certain they will raise them.
Rodney Hide: Here it is.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Is this a leadership bid?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. If the auditors have concerns, I expect they would raise them with the department.
Martin Gallagher: With reference to the Environment Court hearing about Spring Hill, what did the court have to say about the consultation process regarding the Spring Hill Corrections Facility?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Environment Court decided in favour of the proposed Spring Hill Corrections Facility proceeding. In its judgment the court said that the Government “went beyond the call of duty to make sure that such problems of mandate within the various groups consulted did not emerge,” and went further by saying that the Government had “met its obligations of consultation with Mâori in a very full and complete way.”
Hon Tony Ryall: Which Department of Corrections staff, contractors, or ministerial staff were hosted by Tainui at a corporate box at Wellington stadium while they were conducting consultation on the new prison, and is he satisfied that these arrangements are appropriate?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware, nor have I been advised, of any such arrangements.
Tariana Turia: Who else did the department pay consultant fees to in regard to Spring Hill Corrections Facility, for what purposes were they paid, and how much were their fees?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The amounts and the consultation process were detailed in a report mentioned in the primary question from Mr Hide. I am happy to make a copy of that report available to the member. I have tabled it before, but I am happy to give her a copy after question time.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why did the Department of Corrections pay Mr Ngakete $11,735 for work in October, November, and December of 2002 when he was, at the same time, employed as a corrections employee with the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust and received $16,875 for corrections work during that same period?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The whole issue of iwi consultation and who got paid for what, when, is detailed in the report. I am keen for the member to have a look at that report and to read it carefully.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The whole point is that it is not detailed in the report. If Mr Swain cannot answer the question, then he should say so. To point to a report where that is not detailed, and it has been pointed out in a forensic report by the Tainui people, it seems to be a hopeless situation for a Minister to say: “Oh, it’s in this report.”, when it demonstrably is not.
Mr SPEAKER: There is nothing wrong with the Minister answering by referring to a report. One hopes that the Minister is accurate. If he is not, there will be appropriate action for him to take.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister noted the disproportionate amount of attention being paid to the inappropriateness of the use of certain Mâori consultants and contractors to that of the appropriateness of the decision to give preferential contractual consideration to Jagcon and Mr John Hamilton; if so, could the Minister venture an opinion as to why that would be the situation, given that Jagcon’s involvement was first questioned in this House by Brian Neeson MP in June 2001?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is a fair point, and it was detailed in the report. The member may be interested to know that when Jagcon’s contract was due for renewal it was put out to tender.
Heather Roy: Why did the Department of Corrections pay for Haydn Solomon and Tahi Ngakete to travel to Perth and Melbourne on 21 to 27 May 2002, while employed by the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust, under contract to the Department of Corrections, and what did that travel achieve?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot answer that. Presumably, that is a matter for Tainui to resolve.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister saying to the House he is unaware that Department of Corrections staff or contractors were hosted by Tainui at the Wellington stadium, and if he is saying that, how then can he stand by his comments in light of reports that such comments were referred to him and he declined to comment?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No comments were referred to me about that matter. They were to do with the issue of the internal audit of Tainui. I rightly said that that internal audit of Tainui’s financial matters was not only funded by Tainui but was an internal matter for Tainui, and that is where the matter should lie.
Rodney Hide: Now that Tainui’s own forensic accountants have shown his Department of Corrections report to be a whitewash and a cover-up, is the Minister prepared to call in the Auditor-General to determine just where each of the $1.5 million given in what that report shows to be soft contracts, fake time sheets, and double payments to those consultants; if not, is it a fact that he is just covering up for a department that has wasted money?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have not read the report, but I am certain that it states no such thing. The answer to the second question is no.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the Minister is not the brightest one on the front bench.
Mr SPEAKER: That sort of comment is out of order, and the member knows it. Please come to the point of order.
Rodney Hide: It is just a logical inconsistency in the Minister’s answer when he said that he has not read the report, but that the report states no such thing. I have the report. I can assure the Minister that it says exactly that.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a debatable point.
Housing—Community and Local Government Involvement
6. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: How is the Government working with the community and local government to increase the range of housing available?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): The Government has established a $63 million housing innovation fund to help third sector community groups and local government to provide rental housing and home ownership opportunities for low-income families and people with special needs. Over the break the first six projects have been approved, providing housing in Auckland, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Hamilton, and Palmerston North. Another 31 projects involving local councils and community-based organisations are currently being considered for approval, and, hopefully, they will go ahead this year.
Georgina Beyer: Why is the Government supporting community groups and local authorities to develop social housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The real value of working in partnership with like-minded community-based organisations is that we can combine our capital resources and expertise in projects that otherwise would not be able to go ahead. Community groups, churches, and local government have long played a role in the provision of social housing, and with the new funding they are now able to take on that role on a number of occasions when they would not otherwise do so. I should also point out that it will take some time to replace the 13,000 houses sold by the National Government during the 1990s, and those groups will help us to replace them.
Sue Bradford: Has the Government carried out any assessment recently as to the level of true housing need in Te Tai Tokerau, and what is the Government doing, if anything, to urgently increase the community-based, local government, and State housing stock in Northland, given the desperate circumstances in which so many people are living?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will mention two pieces of work that members of the House may like to keep their eyes on. The first is the housing strategy that has just been consulted on right throughout the country. The second is work being undertaken through the Department of Statistics, working with Housing New Zealand Corporation, where we are undertaking a survey right across the country of what actually constitutes a baseline for adequate housing and adequate building. I will just mention to the member that she said that in Northland there are some difficulties in relation to housing. We have been chasing those stories over the last little while, and in the first case I was told of a woman living in a van for 4 months with two daughters aged 14 and 7. I am informed that the emergency housing provider does not believe that person has yet applied for a house from Housing New Zealand Corporation. In other words, if we are in a position here of talking about that case, Housing New Zealand Corporation, which is accused of not dealing with it, has had no approach from anybody to deal with it yet, and will deal with it as soon as it can contact the person.
7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): How will budgeted spending cuts of $144 million be applied at individual tertiary institutions over the next 3 years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The system for allocating community education funding was designed following extensive consultation with a sector working-group. Funding will be allocated by the Tertiary Education Commission through profiles, using the following five priorities for adult and community education: targeting previously unsuccessful learners, foundation skills, strengthening communities, lifelong learning, and social cohesion. If an institution’s programme fits with the priorities, the Tertiary Education Commission can fund it up to what is called its notional allocation. An institution will be able to receive more than that allocation only through a small additional allocation for priority areas. This ensures that total community education provision remains within a capped amount.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that all of that process he has described covers up the fact that polytechs like the Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua will have their funding cut by over $1 million even though they did not abuse the community education funding, at all?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is worth advising the member that these—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Well, I am answering the question, if Mr Smith would like to shut up for a little while.
Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the answer.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If I can say to—
Hon Bill English: Just say it’s a cut.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Is that member going to shut up, as well? Mr English should watch his blood pressure. I will just advise the member that these are not historical funding levels; these are set on the 2004 funding levels, and therefore there is no cut against this year’s funding. Just like the member opposite, however, we have other areas we want to spend the money on. We have the tools to do it. In the 1990s he could not have done it; he ran a market-based demand system that students drove.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What alternative approaches to allocating community education funding has he been advised of?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am advised that an alternative approach to the one we came up with in consultation with the sector working-group would be to tightly target so-called “bad” institutions. These institutions would have all, or almost all, of their community education funding stripped away from them, and the Minister would be given the power to sack council members whether or not they were ministerial appointees. “Bad” institutions would be identified, not based on the scale of their educational provision or on any other measure, but on the personal opinion of the approach’s sponsor, Mr Bill English.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the chief executive of the Waiariki Institute of Technology, who says: “Those that blew the budget are now to be rewarded for doing so. From Waiariki’s perspective it’s grossly unfair.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do not. This formula has been worked out, as I said, on funding during 2004. Those organisations that have been acting responsibly, therefore, will move forward in much the same environment as they had before; others that have been behaving in a way that they should not will have to scale back to fit within that cap.
Hon Bill English: Given that the Minister has tried hard to create the impression that there will be no cuts—that everyone is, in fact, moving forward with a new allocation—what is the House to make of the statement made in the Budget that he plans to save $144 million in the next 3 years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I sometimes struggle to understand what the member’s point is, because, like the Government, he is now an adherent to the view that we need to spend our money wisely across the tertiary education system. Going forward, we intend to make sure that community education occupies a smaller part of our Budget, and we will, therefore, ensure that other areas of the system have money available, such as Modern Apprenticeships.
Economic, Industry, and Regional Development—Promotion
8. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Economic Development: What measures has the Labour Progressive Government announced during the recent adjournment to promote economic, industry and regional development?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): There have been too many coalition Government initiatives during July to possibly recount them all here today. However, to mention just a small sample of initiatives for the benefit of members, it was announced yesterday that Electronic Data Systems—EDS New Zealand Ltd—has already created over 200 jobs under its Best Shore programme, thereby achieving the first target of a $1.5 million grant scheme it entered into with Investment New Zealand and its strategic investment fund. Last week projects as diverse as new funding of $1.765 million to close skill gaps in the information and communications technology industries in Canterbury, and $40,000 to assist the impact study of proposals to develop all-weather access to commercial boat facilities for the Ôpôtiki harbour were announced.
Hon Matt Robson: Why were these initiatives funded, and what evidence is there that they are benefiting all New Zealanders?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The coalition Government is actively involved in supporting industry and regional development because we know that intelligent partnerships between the public and private sectors are assisting the whole economy to leverage more out of New Zealand’s considerable natural advantages. Earlier this month I attended a happy farewell function at the rapidly expanding Government-supported incubator in Christchurch where the well-known company, DataCol NZ Ltd, which started with four staff and $1.5 million turnover, now has 22 staff, 140 contract workers, and a clear path to increase its revenue to $20 million.
John Key: Why does the Minister think that the recent survey by Statistics New Zealand on innovation in New Zealand found that “if Government assistance was received”, the majority of businesses found it to be of “no value”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Minister for Economic Development is following up that Statistics New Zealand report, and I will be happy to advise the Minister of the facts. Of the member is wondering why New Zealand has not followed an innovative, constructive, creative path in recent years, he should look in the mirror at the 9 years of the National Party administration.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House whether he has seen any alternative reports or proposals for New Zealand’s economic and social development, released during the recent adjournment?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, one that grabbed my attention was a proposal from the leader of the National Party to build a lot more prisons. I understand this desire to build prisons around the regions of New Zealand is the National Party’s idea of regional development, but I would note—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for that.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is it the Minister’s intention that economic, industry, and regional development should proceed, regardless of environmental and social damage, as indicated by the list published yesterday by his department of 65 proposed hydro projects that divert rivers out of national parks, require the lifting of water conservation orders, and ignore the values of biodiversity and recreation?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: This is a study of the potential for hydroelectricity development, a renewable resource development in New Zealand, led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry for the Environment. The information is on the website of the Ministry of Economic Development so that all New Zealanders can access it. If the Green Party is so opposed to renewable energy, such as hydroelectric stations, I look forward to their proposals to close all the ones we have now and open a nuclear plant.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister intend to announce an expansion of the regional immigration initiative that was successfully piloted in Wellington and Clutha-Southland to help overcome skill shortages in other regions, and is he giving active consideration to any proposals to better facilitate internal migration to achieve the same means for regional development?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I will answer the question in two parts. The Ministry of Economic Development and the New Zealand Immigration Service are working very proactively with all ministries, particularly those associated with economic and industry development in New Zealand, to make sure that those migrants who can add value to the New Zealand economy are given every encouragement to come to this country. The whole world is in a race for skill and talent, and New Zealand is no exception. In terms of the second part of the question, the regional development success, where every region in New Zealand is in positive growth mode and has been now for 16 consecutive quarters, is the best effort I know in recent history of any Government to assist New Zealanders to stay in their own regions, develop their opportunities there, and not have everyone shift to downtown Auckland or Sydney to get a job.
9. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Why did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade set mid-January 2004 as a deadline for obtaining comments from the Belgian, French, and Swiss Governments on the Refugee Status Appeals Authority judgment on Ahmed Zaoui?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): The ministry referred copies of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision on Mr Zaoui to those Governments whose judicial actions were commented upon in that decision. Responses were sought by mid-January because the review of the security risk certificate by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was expected to start early in the new year. I am advised that these responses were sought to assist the inspector-general in relation to whether the criticisms contained in that decision were valid or otherwise.
Keith Locke: What precedent or principle was the Government operating under when it repeatedly hounded those three foreign Governments for information to undermine the well-considered judgment of the quasi-judicial body the Refugee Status Appeals Authority?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member has made a number of assumptions in his question that I reject. Firstly, the action was not designed to undermine any decision of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority; nor did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to the best of my knowledge, “hound” other embassies. What it indicated was that if the review of the security certificate was to take place early in the year, it was important to have that information by that date if it was to be used for the purpose for which it was requested.
Tim Barnett: What is the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of the Zaoui case?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The ministry has a rather limited role, as the matter is predominately the responsibility of the New Zealand Immigration Service. It has helped, where its advice has been sought, on the requirements of international conventions, and also when contact has been needed with other Governments. It is interesting that one of the things the ministry did was to approach the Belgian authorities last year, at the request of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, in order to get a copy of the Belgian judgment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Have three First World economies, with First World judicial systems, adjudged this man to be a terrorist; if so, and as what he has cost the New Zealand taxpayer has now passed $900,000, why does the Government not just throw him out and send the bill to his chief apologist in this House, Mr Locke?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two questions there. Firstly, yes, the judicial systems in Switzerland, France, and Belgium—all countries actually known for their respect for human rights—all reached a similar conclusion about Mr Zaoui. Why does the Government not just throw him out? The reason is that this Government believes in the rule of law, in obeying the law passed by this Parliament and the requirements on the Government, and, of course, in being consistent with international law, including the requirements of the United Nations convention on refugees.
Keith Locke: If the ministry was just gathering information, did it also gather information from the distinguished French critics of the French judicial system in counter-terrorism cases; if not, was it just obtaining information that it thought the SIS might be able to use against the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, a judicial body whose independence the Government should respect?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I would have thought that the role of approaching any critics of the French judicial system was that of the defence counsel for Ahmed Zaoui, and I am sure they do their job very thoroughly. It is important, however, if the Government and the inspector-general are to rely on information that is before the Refugee Status Appeal Authority, to know whether the criticisms made by that authority in terms of the trial process of Zaoui in three Western countries were valid or not valid, and that was why the information was sought. I would have thought that that member, as well as everybody else, would be interested in the answer to that question.
Keith Locke: Was it not true that the information was gained for the SIS in its case against Mr Zaoui, and not, as the Minister said, for the inspector-general, given that the information was requested urgently on the first working-day following the High Court decision, which required the SIS to provide a summary of allegations to Mr Zaoui?
Hon PHIL GOFF: This was a decision made by officials. It had no political overtone, at all. In fact, it was not done in conjunction with Ministers. But I advise the member to read the document that was released under the Official Information Act. I will quote the relevant sentence: “Their responses will be relevant to the inspector-general’s review of the security risk certificate.” That was the reason the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade gave, in contacting its embassies in those three countries, as to why it needed that information. And it needed that information by the time the review was thought to take place; otherwise, it would not have been material for that purpose. I would have thought that was self-evident.
Keith Locke: Why did New Zealand’s deputy head of mission in France, Simon Gimson, selectively leak information about the French note to the New Zealand Herald journalist Catherine Field, apparently without telling her that it had been solicited by repeated and renewed requests to France by the New Zealand Government, and that the French had not felt it necessary to give any information until those requests, ever since the 1 August decision of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member makes the allegation that a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official leaked material to Catherine Field. I understand that Catherine Field herself has said she got that information, in fact, from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not from a leak from Simon Gimson.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an article from the Listener dated 31 July, which quotes a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade document stating that Mr Gunson did tell Catherine Field.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Lake Wânaka—Lagarosiphon Lakeweed
10. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister for Land Information: What is the Government doing to save Lake Wânaka from the infestation of lagarosiphon lakeweed?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Land Information): David Parker, the MP for Otago, has recently been instrumental in brokering an agreement for a new lakeweed control programme in Lake Wânaka. The arrangement involves Land Information New Zealand—the department responsible for the administration of the lake bed—Queenstown Lakes District Council, Otago Regional Council, and the Guardians of Lake Wânaka. The work programme will include diving, suction, dredging and spraying. Land Information New Zealand has agreed to more than double its funding for Wânaka, to $120,000 per annum. The vast majority of the cost of that work will be covered accordingly.
David Parker: Why has Land Information New Zealand not contributed as much money as that to solving this problem before now?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: From 1999 to the end of June 2004, Land Information New Zealand has spent $315,000 on the control of Wânaka lakeweed. Recently Land Information New Zealand has been granted in this Budget an additional $1.7 million over 4 years on top of existing funding for the control of weeds and pests on Crown-administered land. This Government is committed to addressing the problems of lakeweed and water quality in iconic lakes.
Air Force—Sale of Aermacchis and Skyhawks
11. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Defence: —[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt, Mr Power. There are too many conversations going on. If people want to have those, they are not out of order; they are just disrupting and make it hard for me to hear. Please have those conversations in the lobby. The Hon Ruth Dyson cannot stand like that; only the whips can.
SIMON POWER: Will the Aermacchis and Skyhawks be sold in the 2004-05 financial year; if so, what advice has he received from Government officials or Ernst and Young that supports this?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): They will be sold when negotiations are satisfactorily concluded. Negotiations for both fleets are well advanced.
Simon Power: Will the sale of the Aermacchis and Skyhawks proceed this financial year, given that Official Information Act information shows in November 2002 Ernst and Young were confident that a contract for both the Aermacchis and Skyhawks would be “forthcoming before Christmas”, and again in December 2003 Ernst and Young believed that a sale was expected for the Aermacchis, yet here we are in July 2004 and there is no contract for either set of planes?
Hon MARK BURTON: As I said in answer to the principal question, the aircraft will be sold when the negotiations are satisfactorily concluded. The Opposition member may be satisfied to sell them for scrap; I am not.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise whether the time frame of the sale has meant it has not been possible to deliver on any other acquisitions projects?
Hon MARK BURTON: It will certainly not. We have delivered on rather a lot in terms of the Air Force, Army, and Navy. In terms of the Air Force, we have two Boeing 757s to extend the strategic airlift capability. We have well-advanced work on the C130 and P3 Orion upgrades and helicopter replacements. Great progress is being made.
Ron Mark: When the Government chose to disband No. 75 Squadron RNZAF, what consideration did it give to the families of such people as Sergeant Norman Edward Whiting,
a 27-year-old rear gunner in that squadron who was killed on 16 May 1942 when he was shot down over Germany; and in the light of the Government’s inability to sell the Skyhawks, may one option be to erect all of them on pedestals around the country as memorials to the 500 brave New Zealanders who died defending our freedom and guaranteeing us the lifestyles we currently enjoy?
Hon MARK BURTON: I can tell the member that not a day goes past when I do not consider the contribution Defence Force members, present and past, make and have made to the service of this country. But the sale of those aircraft will contribute to the work that goes on with our Defence Force now.
Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister been advised that Pratt and Whitney will no longer service the engines of the A4 Skyhawks after 2007; and if he has received that advice, can he indicate to the House what impact that has on the saleability of those aircraft?
Hon MARK BURTON: No, and the negotiations, which are well advanced, are not in any way being hindered by the question the member asked.
Simon Power: Does the Minister admit that the sale of the Aermacchis and Skyhawks for scrap is an option that has been considered by the Government; if so, does he admit that, despite confident assurances from Ernst and Young, the chances of this country’s disbanded combat Air Force aircraft finding themselves in an airplane scrapheap are growing higher by the minute?
Hon MARK BURTON: As the member knows, the issue of scrap was simply included in a Cabinet paper—
Simon Power: The whole thing is a shambles.
Hon MARK BURTON: Does the member want to hear the answer or not? It was included in a Cabinet paper as a highly unlikely last-case scenario. It is absolutely not my expectation that that will be the case. I expect that a satisfactory conclusion will be reached and a reasonable return for taxpayers will be made.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table, sometime later this week, a photograph of a Harvard in the Pahiatua playground with a slide sticking out of its mouth, as one option that the Government may like to consider for the Skyhawks, should it not be able to conclude the sales.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Simon Power: I seek leave to table official information documents obtained from the New Zealand Defence Force, showing that selling the aircraft for scrap is one option currently before the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.
12. BRENT CATCHPOLE (NZ First) to the Minister of Housing: Is he satisfied with the current State housing allocation system used by Housing New Zealand Corporation; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): Yes. It is a good policy, designed and delivered by an innovative Government committed to repairing the damage done to State housing by the last National-led Government.
Brent Catchpole: Is the Minister concerned about reports from the Auckland City Council requesting a review of housing allocation, after residents complained that too many high-needs families are being placed in the many State houses in their area; and is he concerned that his policy could create ghettos around New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am always concerned when I hear people raise issues. Housing New Zealand has already been in touch with that city council and they are talking through those issues.
Lynne Pillay: What progress has the Government made in restoring social housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Since December 1999 the Labour-led Government has introduced income-related rents for more than 56,000 families—that is 168,000 people; increased the State and community stock by 4,516 houses, with another 3,000 homes slated to be added over the next 3 years; invested millions of dollars in modernisation and healthier housing; put the Rural Housing Programme in place to address substandard housing, and over this year the programme provides $180 million to improve housing; supported homeownership; and established a $63 million housing innovation fund. I know, Mr Speaker, that you want me to sit down, but there is much more good news, so I will come back again if people want to hear that.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In light of all those facts, can the Minister explain why there are 12,317 people on the Housing New Zealand waiting list, and why there are a further 1,055 people scheduled for a needs assessment so that they can actually get on to the waiting list?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The main reason is that the National Party sold 13,000 houses, and Labour is busy making up that particular deficit. [Interruption] I would be ashamed if I were a National member, and no doubt that is why they are calling out.
Brent Catchpole: Can the Minister demonstrate how the 10,565 State housing tenants, for whom he could not give me their ethnicity in a written answer, are in greater need than the 12,205 tenants on Housing New Zealand’s waiting list as of 31 January 2004?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Ethnicity is not a qualification for need, in terms of getting into the social allocation housing process. What we want to do is to make sure that we are getting people who are in serious housing situations and that they move through the four tiers of that social allocation housing system. We are now making major inroads into the people who are worse off. That is how they get into the system. That is how we house people. For the benefit of Dr Smith, that is what social housing is.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )