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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 14 March 2006

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: )

Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Human Rights—United States State Department Special Report
2. Conservation, Minister—Whangamata Marina Decision
3. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Reports
4. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Performance
5. Gangs, Youth—South Auckland
6. Transmission Gully—Funding
7. Transmission Gully—Funding
8. Elective Surgery—Discharges
9. Citizens’ Initiated Referendum—House of Representatives
10. Corrections, Department—Confidence
11. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety—Brazil Meeting
12. Dog Control—Microchipping
Question No. 10 to Minister

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Human Rights—United States State Department Special Report

1. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: He aha tâna whakautu ki te kôrero i roto i te ripoata o te Tari Matua o Amerika mô ngâ take mana tangata i Aotearoa nei i puta i tçrâ wiki mô te noho rawa kore o ngâ tângata whenua o Aotearoa nei?

[What will he do in response to the United States State Department report on human rights practices in New Zealand, which reported last week on the disproportionate societal problems for indigenous people occurring in New Zealand?]

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): Ka âhei tonu tçnei Kâwanatanga ki te tautoko i ngâ hiahia a te iwi Mâori kia whai hua ai te katoa.

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[This Government will continue to support Mâori interests to benefit all.]

Dr Pita Sharples: Kei te whakaae ia ki te kôrero a te mema Pâremata Rârangi Ingoa, arâ, te Minita Mita Ririnui, he hôhâ te mahi tautoko i te Mâori a he whakaiti kaupapa aua mahi. Ka âhei ia te whakaatu mai ki te Whare ngâ mahi whai hua, papai rânei, kei te mahia e ngâ mema Mâori o te Roopu Reipa kei te Pâremata?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Does he agree with the list member, Minister Mita Ririnui, that advocacy for Mâori is “tiresome” and part of a “negative agenda”, and can he tell the House what the Labour Mâori members are doing in Parliament that is positive?]

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Kei te tautokotia ake anô ngâ kôrero o te Hônore Mita Ririnui e môhio ake anô koe ki te kitenga i roto i te kaha rawe i roto i a tâtou hei whai kaha mô te katoa o te iwi Mâori?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[I support the statements made by Hon Mita Ririnui and the member has seen the wonderful efforts we have made to empower all of Mâoridom.]

Hon Mahara Okeroa: He aha ngâ huarahi whakamua mô Ngâi Mâori i raro i tçnei Kâwanatanga?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

What opportunities are there for Mâori going forward with this Government?]

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Kei te whâia e Ngâi Mâori i ngâ hua e puta mai ana i te ôhanga kaha. He nui kç atu i te 90 ôrau ngâ Mâori e whai mahi ana, nâwhai anô, ka puta ngâ hua ki te katoa.

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

Mâori are reaping the benefits of a strong economy.With over 90 percent of Mâori working now, there are going to be positive flow-on effects for all.]

Te Ururoa Flavell: Kei te whakaae ia ki tâ Mita Ririnui e kî ana ko te rahi, ko te tokomaha o ngâ Mâori kei runga penihana, kei rô whare herehere, kua wehe i ngâ kura kore whai tohu, kei te tatauranga mate pçpi me ngâ whare kotahi anake te matua. He kaupapa kore take noa iho rânei, kei te whakaae rânei a ia ki tâ te Pâti Mâori e kî ana, he kaupapa tino nui tçnei hei whakatutuki?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

Does he agree with Mita Ririnui that the continuing pattern of disproportionate numbers of Mâori on unemployment and welfare roles, in prison, among school dropouts, in infant mortality statistics, and among single-parent households, is part of a “woe is me” agenda, or does he agree with the Mâori that these are important issues that need to be addressed?]

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Kei te tautokotia ake anô o Mita Ririnui engari, me titiro whânui te iwi o Aotearoa me ngâ Kâwanatanga puta noa i te ao ki ngâ hua kua puta mai i ngâ papai a Mâori. Kei te whakahângai tçnei Kâwanatanga i tôna aronga ki te ekenga taumata o Ngâi Mâori, ko ngâ aronga matua, ko te rawa, ko te mâtauranga, ko te whakamana hoki.

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

I endorse what Mita Ririnui has stated but the people of New Zealand and Governments throughout the world should look at the benefits that Mâori has produced. This Government is focusing on raising Maori standards as a primary focus in terms of resources, education and leadership.]

Dr Pita Sharples: Kei te tautoko ia i a Mita Ririnui, te Mema Pâremata Rârangi Ingoa, e kî ana kua tohua e tçnei Kâwana, ko te kore mahi he tino kaupapa hei rewa ake i te tûranga â-tangata, â, kâti kei te whakaae ia ko te 7.6 ôrau Mâori e kore mahi ana. He tohu kia whakarewa ake i te tûranga â-tangata pçrâ i tôna whakaaro i roto i tâna karere i pânuihia i rô niupepa?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Does he support list member Mita Ririnui’s statement that this Government has identified unemployment as a major contributor to improving social standards, and does he consider that a 7.6 percent unemployment rate for Mâori leads to improved social standards, as his media release would imply?]

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Mihi ake anô wau i tôku koroua nei e matatau i te reo. I want to mihi to my fellow Mâori colleague, who is expert in the language, but I want to be quite clear that the message gets across in relation to what we are on about with Mâori.

Phil Heatley: What are you on about?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: We are on about Mâori moving from dependency to development, and New Zealanders and foreign Governments need to be more focused on the contributions being made by Mâori in this country at this stage. This Government is moving forward to focus on Mâori potential. Our key focus is our rawa, about our resources. Remember, we are big shareholders in Fonterra, we are the biggest fish-owners in the Pacific, and we export the biggest bulk of sheep and cattle, which Mr Smith knows about; mâtauranga—that is about knowledge and skills—and whakamana, which is about leadership, which is lacking over there.

Conservation, Minister—Whangamata Marina Decision

2. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Why did he overrule the decision by Environment Waikato, the agreement with the Department of Conservation, and the decision of the Principal Environment Court Judge in respect of the Whangamata marina?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Under section 119 of the Resource Management Act, passed in 1991, I am required to be the final decision maker on significant coastal developments such as the Whangamata marina proposal. Having looked at all the issues and the Environment Court evidence, I am not satisfied that turning an area of high ecological values into a car-park and dredging a canal through shellfish beds used by local people is appropriate.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by his statements last year to the local government conference: “We have created a legal environment in which local people make local decisions.”, and “Labour believes in communities making their own decisions.”, or was that just cynical pre-election rhetoric so he could carry on with his dictates over local communities, councils, and the courts?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I do stand by that decision, in the same way that I am sure the member, when he was the Minister of Conservation, and the Rt Hon Simon Upton, when he was the Minister for the Environment, in their 3 years in office worked through this process and although they had the chance to change it, did not do so. They supported it, just as I do.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the Owen McShane 1998 national review of the Resource Management Act, recommending the removal of the ministerial veto, and also the amendments in 2001 and 2003 to do just that.

Leave granted.

Steve Chadwick: What process did the Minister follow to reach his decision to decline the consents needed to build the Whangamata marina?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I considered only those matters that I am permitted to consider under the Resource Management Act. To aid my understanding I also visited the site and met in Whangamata with the Whangamata Marina Society, Environment Waikato, and the local iwi, among others. I was required to disregard those meetings when making my final decision, which was made only on those matters that the law enables me to consider.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister accept that he now has a responsibility to explain his decision to the country; if so, when will he do that?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have been doing a great many interviews on this decision since I made it a week ago. I would be happy to brief the member personally, and, if the opportunity comes to discuss it in the House, I would be delighted to do so.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen this statement made by the Hon Nick Smith: “The foreshore should not be privatised by stealth. It should be protected and managed for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”; and who does he think should be the guardian of New Zealand and iwi values under the law when they are threatened by a minority that wishes to establish ecologically damaging, exclusive private ownership of the foreshore?

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that questions are heard in silence.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It would be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say, perhaps, but the question itself is clearly out of order. The Minister has no responsibility for National Party policy—thank God—or for the articulation of it, and any opportunity to do so given to him in the House is completely inappropriate.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister was asked whether he was aware of a statement—and he certainly has ministerial responsibility for that—and who he considered should be responsible for the issues raised by the member Jeanette Fitzsimons. He certainly is responsible for those issues.

Madam SPEAKER: It is certainly true that the Minister is not responsible for the National Party, but the question is in order and the Minister will please address it.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I have seen that statement, and I agree with every word of it.

Gordon Copeland: Does he intend, in the light of the fact that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has been ordered to pay $40,000 towards costs incurred by the new member for Tauranga, Bob Clarkson, to repay the Whangamata Marina Society the $1.3 million it has cost to successfully pursue its case through the Resource Management Act process and the Environment Court; if not, why not?


Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I deliberately framed that question so the Minister could actually tell us why his answer was no, and I do not believe he addressed that part of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. He does not have to explain that, but he did actually address the question.

Sandra Goudie: What evidence does the Minister have to back up his claim on Breakfast on TV, and on radio, that people in Whangamata oppose the marina, when a survey of every household by the Waikato Times showed residents supported the marina by over 3 to 1?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will shortly seek leave to table all the emails I have received since making my decision 1 week ago. I have received 141 emails—127 in favour, and just 14 opposed. In response to the member’s particular point, I would like to quote very briefly from one written by a National Party member to his local member, Mr John Key. It states: “Attached is an email to my MP”—that is, John Key—“pointing out that the National Party needs to think a little more in this case. I do not believe that they have considered what can be lost in the name of progress in Whangamata. I have a holiday home there, and I am totally opposed to the marina.”

Sandra Goudie: Does the Minister recall the statement made by the Prime Minister, in respect of prisoner compensation, that Ministers had to respect decisions of the court; if so, can he explain why under Labour criminals get the benefit of court independence and decisions, but the law-abiding citizens of Whangamata do not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I followed the legal process under the Resource Management Act—something that member should remember, as someone who was recently involved in an illegal Resource Management Act activity in Coromandel.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister not use his powers under section 119 of the Act to refer to matter back to the Environment Court or, alternatively, to appeal the issues through to the High Court if he was genuinely concerned about the quality of the decision in the Environment Court—or are his reasons to overrule 27 days of hearings in the Environment Court so minimal as a few emails to his office?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I remind the member of my primary answer, which was that I followed due process. I would like to conclude my answer with another email from Nelson, which states: “Well done on your decision. Many New Zealanders share your view. It’s embarrassing to have my local MP Nick Smith espousing National Party policy.”

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has, under the Act, very specific appeal powers. My question to him asked why he did not use those; he did not address that question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question by explaining the process he, in fact, followed.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House—given the Minister’s note that he made the decision on the basis of emails—to table an email sent 3 days prior to his decision by Bob Harvey, ex-president of the Labour Party, urging fellow surfers to email the Minister so he could make the very decision he did.

Leave granted.

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the poll survey in the Waikato Times on 11 March, which clearly showed the majority in favour of the Whangamata marina.

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the Hauraki Herald of Friday 10 March, where Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Philippa Barriball stated that the decision was a stab in the back for the peninsula and if offered an opportunity—

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the Mapp report of 10 March, Whangamata Marina: Why the Minister is Wrong.

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

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a document from the Department of Conservation dated 5 February 1997 relating to the Whangamata application. It states in paragraph 2 : The Department is opposed to the application. The proposed marina is in an area of salt marsh, which would be destroyed.” Written above it in the writing, I believe, of the Minister of that time, Nick Smith, is “Says who?” I note objection is in the name of the Minister of Conservation—

Leave granted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the contractual agreement between the Department of Conservation and the Whangamata Marina Society that resolved the issues that they were concerned with.

Leave granted.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a further document from the Department of Conservation that finishes off by being signed by the then Minister, the Hon Nick Smith, who states: “Unhappy on Whangamata issue. Need department intervention again.” Again it indicates Nick Smith’s intervention in this process.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How many days did the Minister spend considering evidence and submissions on this matter; if it was less than the 27 days of hearings in the Environment Court, why is he so arrogant as to assume that that court got it wrong, rather than him?

Madam SPEAKER: Is that a supplementary question?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes.

Madam SPEAKER: Normally the documents are tabled at the end of the question. That is of some assistance.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I spent a considerable amount of time considering the evidence on this case; in fact, I approached the marina company to ask for an extension of time in order to consider it longer. I believe I followed the process correctly.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: As is consistent with the Standing Orders, I seek leave for the Resource Management (Restricted Coastal Activities) Amendment Bill in my name, which is lodged with the Clerk’s Office, to be able to take priority in the ballot and so be introduced and considered on the next members’ day after tomorrow.

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

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Reports

3. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Has the Minister received any reports about ongoing improvements to the NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Following a successful exam round in 2005—thanks, in particular, to the hard work of thousands of teachers—the Ministry of Education has begun work on further improvements for 2006. As part of that work, today a survey is being sent to 20,000 teachers on the achievement standards and methods of assessment for over 30 subjects. That will result in improvements in achievement standards for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and performance standards for scholarship. Since the beginning of the implementation of NCEA teachers have been involved in its design, and they will continue to be so involved.

Moana Mackey: What further professional development will be occurring around NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s school relationship managers are holding regional seminars in the coming months for teachers to discuss the exam season just past and what improvements can be made. Any teacher who wishes to attend those seminars can do so, including any person who has sent an anonymous email to an Opposition MP. What will not be happening is the seminar proposed in this House on 15 February for Mr Bill English—

Hon Bill English: By you.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY:—by myself. Immediately following that suggestion, Mr English continued to misrepresent and spread misinformation about NCEA. In particular, he said that results were being scaled and massaged, and he continued to attack the integrity of the staff of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Mr McCully, in his own newsletter, said he would also continue his attacks on the personal integrity of the acting chief executive, Karen Sewell. That is bad faith, that is not a fair hearing, that is prejudice—no seminar.

Allan Peachey: How does the percentage of level 1 NCEA candidates achieving the minimum standards of literacy and numeracy, as a result of the 2005 assessments, compare to the percentage of candidates achieving such minimum standards in previous years?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not have the figures here with me, but I can get them for the member. I can say to members of the House that for the first time NCEA is offering New Zealanders standards in literacy and numeracy that were not there historically. We are now able to measure progress in that area, and we all should applaud that.

Moana Mackey: What support has the Minister seen expressed for NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There has been unanimous support from across the education sector for NCEA. The one remaining critic is Bill English, who constantly undermines the confidence of NCEA, to the point that Stuart Middleton, writing in the New Zealand Education Review, wrote the following: “Poor Bill only knows the negative, and even though he could offer commentary that contributed to discussion and to the progress of ideas, he prefers to be the face of the decline-ologists and those who are negative.” Mr Middleton also said that we have a world-class education sector. What we need to do is debate how to make it better, not try to drag it down, as Mr English constantly does. I seek leave to table two documents. The first is my letter to Mr English that explains why his bad faith, prejudice, and prejudgment of those matters—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member has every right to seek leave to table his silly letter, but he is not allowed to use epithets in the course of doing so.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The second document, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: No, sorry, would you please just withdraw. The member has taken objection.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. Leave is sought to table that letter.

Leave granted.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I seek leave to table a second document. The document is from—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: It is a point of order; it is heard in silence.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The document is from the New Zealand Education Review. It is an article by Stuart Middleton, in which he explains that Mr English is the sole remaining critic: “He is a person who is negative and should get on and be constructive.”

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Again, the member has a right to ask Parliament to table that material, but the article does not state what Mr Maharey says, and, in any case, he is not allowed to read out what it states. He is only allowed to ask to table the document.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that contribution. I hope all members take note of it, and that when they are tabling documents, they do it very briefly. I shall take that in future as permission to cut people short.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point here is that the member misrepresented what is in that document, and, surely, you will not allow that under any circumstances. What Mr Maharey said the document reads is actually not correct, and he should not be allowed to misrepresent the contents of the document.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can, if the member would like me to, read out the part so that we are very clear about the criticisms made of the negativity of Mr English.

Madam SPEAKER: I suggest we just table the document, then we can all read it and make up our own minds—if the House agrees.

Leave granted.

Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Performance

4. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by her evidence to the Social Services Committee, on 23 June 2005, that Child, Youth and Family Services is “moving into a phase of what I describe as performance excellence, and that is not a term I would use lightly”; if so, why?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Yes; because Child, Youth and Family Services has shown significant improvements in performance in an environment of greatly increased workload and a deliberately created atmosphere of mistrust—created deliberately by the National Party at the expense of hard-working social workers.

Judith Collins: Which is correct: that Child, Youth and Family Services has a “culture of excellence”, as described in its 2005-06 statement of intent, or that it has a “culture of ‘resistance’ ”, as described in a Cabinet paper released last week—which one is it?

Hon RUTH DYSON: From the perspective of the authors, both.

Georgina Beyer: Would—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Questions are to be heard in silence.

Georgina Beyer: Would the Minister outline Child, Youth and Family Services’ key performance achievements?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The department has reduced the number of unallocated cases dramatically, despite a significant increase in notifications. Children are seen more quickly, and determinations of abuse and neglect are made more quickly. The number of Child, Youth and Family Services social workers has increased significantly under the Labour-led Government, and increasing numbers are being registered.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister plan to continue with the differential intake model; if so, why has it sat on the legislative agenda for the past 2 years, does that indicate the true feelings of the Government towards vulnerable children in New Zealand, and where is the commitment?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In answer to the first part, “Yes”, and the pilots are proceeding. There is no need for legislation in order for that to be rolled out.

Anne Tolley: Does she stand by her statement made before the election that the “productivity, the timeliness, and the service quality improvements are quite extraordinary”, in light of the recent State Services Commission’s damning report, which states: “Despite the change programmes initiated from the reviews, CYF still faces a number of problems including a lack of a system wide approach to managing business process, poor management and performance information; weak youth justice capability; insufficient policy co-ordination.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Absolutely. In my view the points that the member raises are an inevitable consequence of the National Party’s obsession with policy and operational separation.

Anne Tolley: What responsibility will she shoulder for the continued failures of Child, Youth and Family Services, in light of the statement she made to the select committee last year: “So, as Minister, I have ensured that the department has very clear expectations of the outcomes and functions that Government requires it to perform.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I certainly do retain my accountability for the actions of the department. That is why, if the member was concentrating at the select committee meeting to which she referred, she would recall that, for the first time, every performance indicator had been met by the department.

Judith Collins: How many Child, Youth and Family Services staff will be eligible for redundancy payments with the merger scheme, or does this Minister not know?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As many as are made redundant and have redundancy provisions in their employment agreement.

Judith Collins: How much will her failed tenure as the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF) cost New Zealand’s most vulnerable children while she sits there trying to blame someone else for her mess?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In my view I do not have a failed tenure. Nor do I misrepresent the facts of the situation at the expense of departmental staff, as that member did when she took an answer that I had given her about tortious claims against departmental staff and misrepresented it in a press statement as being about the torture of children. That is how lazy and misrepresenting that member is.

Judith Collins: I seek the leave of the House to table the report that Ruth Dyson released last week about the appalling situation in Child, Youth and Family Services under her tenure.

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

Gangs, Youth—South Auckland

5. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Police: What actions have police taken to address the problem of youth gangs in the South Auckland area?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): In the last few months the police have been working closely with the South Auckland community, other Government agencies—especially the Ministry of Social Development—and non-governmental organisations on strategies focused on enforcement, community engagement, and prevention. There has been a reduction in all forms of youth gang activity across the region, with no notable incidents being recorded since this process was put in place.

H V Ross Robertson: What meetings has the Minister held recently to discuss gang issues?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Last week I held meetings with the Wanganui police and Wanganui Mayor, Michael Laws, to discuss a recent gang issue in that city. Mr Laws is very supportive of the rapid response of police to the recent problems, and he is also very keen to work with the police and the Government to prevent future problems from arising. He realises that the police cannot do it all on their own. To quote Mr Laws: “With more police, tougher by-laws, and the strengthened Proceeds of Crime Act, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ron Mark: Does the Minister agree with New Zealand First when it says that the Government should pass legislation to outlaw gangs; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, because I do not believe it is feasible or possible to outlaw them. What we can do is ensure that they have the least possible impact on the community by good policing, community involvement, and the sorts of strategies that have been put in place. But to say that if we outlaw them by law, that will happen, is, I think, dreaming.

Transmission Gully—Funding

6. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Transport: What is the Government’s assessment of the findings of the Greater Wellington Regional Council/Transit New Zealand Hearing Sub-committee in favour of Transmission Gully, and will he make the funding available to ensure that Transmission Gully will be built?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Transport): In addition to more than doubling the annual funding for State highway construction since 1999, the Government has committed to making an extra $405 million available for the western ring route once the Wellington region has decided on its preferred option. I welcome the subcommittee’s report as a significant step forward in resolving this important regional issue.

John Key: What impact will the $685 million shortfall already identified in Transit’s 10-year plan have on the Government’s commitment to building Transmission Gully?

Hon DAVID PARKER: None, because, as the Minister of Finance has already indicated, the Government intends to make good that shortfall.

Darren Hughes: What are the next steps in making a final decision about Transmission Gully?

Hon DAVID PARKER: It is now for the regional land transport committee to consider the proposed western corridor plan and the impact it may have on other projects. This will then be considered by the Wellington Regional Council and, as appropriate, be incorporated into its regional land transport strategy.

Nathan Guy: Does the Minister agree with Transit saying that it has obtained the necessary designation and purchased most of the land to build Transmission Gully and that therefore Transmission Gully is an easier build than Centennial Highway; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am considering the proposed plan, including the alternatives that are traversed into it, and I have asked the Ministry of Transport to provide me with advice on its implications, including the matters that the member raised.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister believe that the proposed western corridor plan, which commits 92 percent of funding to roading over the next 20 years and a pitiful 8 percent to public transport, and which will increase congestion, carbon emissions, urban sprawl, and our dependence on oil, is consistent with the New Zealand Transport Strategy; if so, why?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am sure that issues such as those will be the subject of advice to me from the ministry, but I would note that in addition to the $405 million that the Government has made available for the western ring route, the Government has committed an additional $480 million in addition to the increases in baseline spending on State highway construction and public transport, and a considerable portion of the $480 million extra funding for the Wellington region can go towards public transport initiatives.

Mark Blumsky: Does the Minister agree with the Hon Marian Hobbs when she was reporting on behalf of the Wellington Labour caucus last week that the talking should stop and the construction begin; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I do agree that we need to get to finality as to which option is chosen, be it the coastal route or Transmission Gully. The Government has already done its bit by promising that it will make $415 million available to the option that is chosen by the region.

Nathan Guy: Will the Minister commit funding to the construction of the entire route of Transmission Gully that 90 percent of Kapiti and Horowhenua written submissions support; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said in earlier answers, in addition to doubling the amount of money made available for State highway construction, in addition to $480 million for roading and public transport, the Government has already promised to make an extra $405 million available to the region for the construction of the western corridor.

Mark Blumsky: Does the Minister also agree with the Minister of Local Government, who said last year at the local government conference that: “Labour believes the people in New Zealand like to make their own decisions about their local community,” and does this mean that he will more than take into account the views of the 82 percent of the 6,000-plus submitters who were in support of Transmission Gully?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I have already said, we do welcome the completion of the latest stage of the decision as to where the route should run. But I repeat that the Government, in addition to doubling State highway funding and in addition to commiting $480 million over and above that for local highways and local public transport, has promised $405 million as its contribution to the cost of the western corridor link.

Transmission Gully—Funding

7. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm that, in accordance with the provisions of the confidence and supply agreement between United Future and the Labour-led Government, and following the unequivocal recommendation in the recently released report of the Greater Wellington Regional Council/Transit New Zealand Hearing Subcommittee to proceed with the construction of a full four-laned Transmission Gully motorway instead of the proposed Coastal Expressway, central Government funding, which is available for the Wellington regional roading programme, will be able to be used to fund the Transmission Gully motorway option?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister agree that the consultation process undertaken by the hearing subcommittee, which resulted in: “an unprecedented community response of 6,017 submissions”—96 percent of which opposed the proposed coastal route and 82 percent of which supported the Transmission Gully motorway option—was so comprehensively thorough that it would be inconceivable for local and central government authorities to ignore the overwhelming public call for the funding and construction of the Transmission Gully motorway?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that it would be difficult for any government—central or local—to ignore the weight of public opinion that supported the proposed route.

Darren Hughes: Can the Minister confirm that no legal reason exists to stop the Transmission Gully motorway being funded over 20 years and that no law change would be required to achieve that, even though the motorway could be built substantially within the next 8 years?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that no legal obstacles exist to stop the funding of Transmission Gully.

John Key: Does the Minister intend to treat equally the confidence and supply arrangements with both United Future and New Zealand First, given that both have implied roading commitments; if so, does the progression of the Tauranga Harbour Bridge under the confidence and supply arrangement with New Zealand First mean that now that Transmission Gully has been endorsed as the preferred option, it will also get the green light?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The subcommittee has made that recommendation, and the Wellington Regional Council and others have yet to make their final decision.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any advice from officials or elsewhere as to why it is that, contrary to public opinion in the region and contrary to the findings of both the hearing subcommittee and yesterday’s meeting of the regional land transport committee, the Mayor of Wellington seems determined to go out on a course of one and oppose what 82 percent of people in the region support?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I have received no advice on that. But clearly there is still room for discussion and controversy surrounding the issue, particularly given that although the route is now supported widely and has been modified in terms of the cross-connections, there are still issues around supposed access to Wellington, which is not improved by Transmission Gully itself. One still has come through the Ngauranga Gorge.

Christopher Finlayson: Would the Government support the reintroduction of the Hon Peter Dunne’s 2001 Construction of Transmission Gully Highway Bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I do not believe in special-purpose legislation of that sort. I am confident that this Government will deliver significant improvements in the western corridor proposals, unlike the previous Government, which, when it left office, was building one-tenth of the roads in Auckland that we are building at the present time. We are ahead of target in respect of State Highway 20 and the Albany to Pûhoi realignment.

Elective Surgery—Discharges

8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What is the number of individuals discharged from elective surgery in the 2001 calendar year, and how many individuals were discharged from elective surgery in the 2005 calendar year?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): In 2001 about 98,000 people were discharged, and in 2005 about 96,000 people were discharged. If the member, however, had asked about case-weighted discharges, the answer would have shown a 9 percent increase.

Hon Tony Ryall: If fewer New Zealanders are getting elective surgery, and the surgery they are getting is more serious, does that not reveal how much sicker people in this country have to be to get elective surgery?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, it does not. I remind the member that the best way to measure the unmet need would be to look at those people who cross the treatment threshold but do not receive surgery—and that figure is falling very quickly.

Maryan Street: Why is the Minister confident that the overall number of elective procedures has increased under this Government?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Because we know that many thousands of elective procedures are now carried out in out-patient settings. If we collected data on out-patient surgery, it would be clear that more people are getting the operations they need compared with 6 years ago. The Ministry of Health will begin that national collection of data from 1 July.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister stand by his reported statement that imperfect data is behind the drop in elective surgery; and is the data imperfect because his ministry has reduced the number of exit categories in the national booking reporting system from 10 to four, so that the numbers of people dying while on waiting lists can be hidden—another good measure of how sick our public health system has become under Labour?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can confirm that the change to the categories—from memory, the number has gone from nine to four or five—

Heather Roy: 10 to four.

Hon PETE HODGSON: —10 to four—is absolutely unrelated to the very substantial societal shift that is going on whereby more and more people have surgical procedures as out-patients or, indeed, in primary health-care settings. The out-patients data will be collected nationally from 1 July.

Hon Tony Ryall: If everything is fine with elective surgery, why did the Government write to the district health boards last year to say that it was concerned about, and disappointed in, their performance in elective surgery, and that it was calling in the ministry to deal with the problem?

Hon PETE HODGSON: This Government is not satisfied with elective services; it is just that they are nowhere near as bad as the member—who wishes to keep playing with numbers—would have us believe.

Hon Tony Ryall: What mark out of 10 would the Minister give elective services in this country—would it be the 5½ he gave earlier on?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The number of 5½ is always the right number to give most questions on the health system. The reason is this: this health system deserves a pass mark. It is not a system that should get zero, as National would give it when it is in Opposition, or 10, as National would give it when it is in Government. The reason it should not be more than 5½ is that this Government does not believe that our health system could ever be considered ideal or good enough. We are continually seeking improvement; we never lack ambition.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why did the Minister of Health tell New Zealand Doctor magazine on 8 February that the health portfolio is “a very big sandpit, and I haven’t worked out where the quicksands are just yet. I don’t want to say I’m revelling in it, because I’m not. I’m still anxious about my level of knowledge and expertise not being up to scratch.”; and was that an admission that he is not really up to solving the waiting list crisis?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, it was an admission that when taking on one of the largest portfolios in Government, one should take some time before asserting that one knows what one is talking about. That is, unfortunately, not the behaviour of certain National Party spokespeople on health.

Hon Tony Ryall: In admitting that the Government does not know how much elective surgery is provided in this country, what confidence can he have in the system; despite the Government shovelling hundreds of millions of extra dollars into the health system, fewer New Zealanders are getting the elective surgery they need?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I reject the assertion in the last part of the member’s question. I am happy to remind the member of what has been achieved in the last 6 years: new public hospitals have been built, from Kaitâia to Invercargill; we are lowering the costs of doctors’ visits for all New Zealanders; we have delivered fair pay for district health board nurses; and we have put communities back in charge of how health money is spent in their towns and cities. These are the sorts of things that can be done only by a Government that does not put reckless tax cuts ahead of the well-being of New Zealand families.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a couple of documents. The first is a letter from the Minister of Health for the last 6 years, to district health board chairmen, berating them for their performance in elective surgery.

Leave granted.

Hon Tony Ryall: The second document I seek to table shows that fewer New Zealanders receive elective surgery today than was the case 5 years ago.

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

Dr Jonathan Coleman: I seek leave to table the article in which Mr Hodgson expresses doubts about his suitability for the health portfolio.

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

Citizens’ Initiated Referendum—House of Representatives

9. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: What has been the Government’s response to the result of the 1999 Citizens’ Initiated Referendum regarding the size of the House of Representatives?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): The Government referred this issue to the MMP Review Committee that was established in April 2000 to undertake a review of MMP.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that fewer than 54 percent of electors in 1993 voted for a change of the electoral system, whereas in 1999 over 81 percent voted to reduce the number of MPs, and will the Government support my member’s bill to a select committee to find out whether public opinion on this matter is as clear as it was in 1999?

Hon MARK BURTON: I think the member compares apples with pears—a binding referendum with a non-binding referendum—and draws a lot of assumptions from those pieces of information. But I regret to inform the member that no, the Government will not be supporting the member’s bill.

Barbara Stewart: Will his Government consider holding another referendum on this issue if it is consigned to the fact that it will not allow my bill to reach a select committee so that the public can actually have their say on this?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We need to be a bit clear here. As you have said in the past, people wear different hats at different times. In asking whether Mr Burton’s Government will be supporting the member’s bill, as the member has, is she inferring in some way that she has nothing to do with this Government? We know, in fact, that, of course, New Zealand First is very much a part of the Government.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: It is a fair question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry, that is not a point of order. Does the member wish to make another point of order?

Gerry Brownlee: Well, I think you should ask the question to be put in a clearer fashion, because to infer that New Zealand First has nothing to do with the Government is quite wrong.

Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have to make the point to the member who raised the point of order that Barbara Stewart, the member who asked the question, is not a member of the Government.

Madam SPEAKER: That is correct.

Hon MARK BURTON: I can tell the member that there is no such proposal on the Government’s current work programme.

Corrections, Department—Confidence

10. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections): Yes, although there is always room for improvement.

Simon Power: How is it that, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on designers and architects, according to the final business case for the regional prison build it only occurred to the Department of Corrections when asking for yet more money that: “It is now evident that prison developments are atypical, and, for example, use far more steel fabrication than a similar commercial building.”, and how could they get it so wrong?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: These issues will be addressed by the independent reviews being undertaken by the State Services Commission and Treasury.

Simon Power: Is he concerned that his department did not realise that a prison used more steel fabrication than other commercial buildings, as mentioned in the business case; if not, what exactly does it take for this Minister to be concerned about the goings-on in his own department?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I said, we have these reviews under way. The construction of prisons has been like many other projects around the country—because of a very buoyant economy, there have been many pressures on the costs of such things as steel, concrete, and tradespeople.

Simon Power: Was he surprised, then, to learn that his department had blown its building budget and that one of the reasons for this, contained in the document just mentioned, was that legislation enacted by his own Government raised costs in areas such as the building code and the Holidays Act?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I was not surprised. However, quantification of these issues will no doubt be identified by the reviews.

Simon Power: Which is correct, the statement in the report to the Cabinet Business Committee that: “The department is confident that no further requests for funding will be required.”, or the final business case report, which states: “Until such time as the CWAs are established, the department will not have the ability to cap the forecast completion costs.”?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The community work agencies are now in place, and I have been given an assurance that there will be no further requirement for money to complete these projects.

Ron Mark: Madam Speaker, could I just point out to you that my supplementary question is in line with the primary question, although when you first listen to it, it is definitely not in line with the line of questioning being pursued by Mr Power. How many foreign students and foreign visitors are currently serving sentences for drug smuggling, drug dealing, murder, extortion, fraud, theft, and forgery, and does he have confidence in the Department of Corrections’ future forecasts in terms of increased numbers in the foreign inmate category?

Madam SPEAKER: It is a long bow, but if the Minister would like to attempt to address it—

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Too many. I must acknowledge the member’s question. It is a very reasonable one, and I commit to him to find the answer. Should he put it down on paper, I will get the complete and accurate answer to him.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table the Department of Corrections’ final business case, dated 15 December 2005, where it became evident that prison developments were atypical and used far more steel fabrication than similar commercial buildings.

Leave granted.

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety—Brazil Meeting

11. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will New Zealand support the right of States to have full information about any genetically engineered organisms traded across their boundaries, at the third meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol taking place in Brazil this week?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): New Zealand supports meaningful and informative labelling of GMOs. We think it is important to have simple, practical, workable, and implementable documentation requirements.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister saying, then, that New Zealand is now moving away from its former position that living, genetically engineered organisms being traded for use in food, feed, or processing should be labelled with the words “may contain GMOs”, which was against the wishes of the majority of parties to the convention, which desired that the labels would state “does contain GMOs”, and can we take it that New Zealand will no longer block consensus on that issue?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, we are not changing our position.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Why will New Zealand not support the inclusion of adventitious presence as a trigger for documentation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because that would mean that all normal or conventional agricultural shipments, even of organics, would have to be labelled “may contain living, modified organisms” because of the remote possibility they might have come into contact with living, modified organisms. That clearly would also be a potential non-tariff barrier for food-importing countries to use.

Nandor Tanczos: How does the Minister justify New Zealand’s position of requiring full disclosure of GE crops at our own borders while denying developing countries, which may not have the financial or human resources to test for themselves, the protection of an international disclosure regime?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government does not deny countries that kind of access to a regime. We are fully in support of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. What we do not accept is that that protocol means what some people claim it means.

Nandor Tanczos: Will he refute the allegation made by other parties to the convention that New Zealand is acting as a stalking horse for the United States—which is not a party to the convention—by doing what his officials have so far refused to do and telling this House, and the New Zealand public, now the reason for our position that GMOs traded across the border do not need to be labelled to state that they do contain GMOs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This Government does not act as a stalking horse for the United States in any matter at all.

Dog Control—Microchipping

12. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Associate Minister of Local Government: Does she stand by her comments reported in the Timaru Herald on 17 February 2006 that the Government will not budge on section 36 of the Dog Control Act 1996 which will require newly registered dogs to be microchipped from July 1?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Associate Minister of Local Government): I stand by my statement reported in the Timaru Herald: “Responsible dog ownership is where we want to get to and the success of microchipping as a nationwide system for dog identification and control depends on ensuring as many dogs as possible are microchipped.”

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware that, on the very same day, the Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, was reported in the Manawatu Standard as being “sympathetic” to exempting farm working dogs, and which Minister are farmers expected to believe?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Minister of Agriculture is a conscientious Minister. We are in the early phases of implementing the microchipping system. I look forward to discussing with the Minister any issues that he may have.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Is the Minister aware of any other views on microchipping?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Yes, I am. I am aware that both the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals publicly support the introduction of microchipping.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware of the “practical and pragmatic solution” that the Minister of Agriculture is apparently working on, as quoted in the Manawatu Standard on 7 March this year?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Colleagues will be concerned in terms of ensuring that there is positive implementation of microchipping, and we want to achieve one law for all dogs. We need to ensure that the balance of interest in making this decision is between responsible dog ownership and public safety. I say again: one law for all dogs.

Nathan Guy: Has she or the Minister of Local Government received any notification from councils that they will not comply with compulsory microchipping; if so, which councils have made such representation?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I, like the member, have seen reports in a number of newspaper articles, but I would be very concerned if any member in this Parliament supported a number of calls for civil disobedience, because that would send a very bad signal to, and set a bad precedent for, a number of New Zealanders.

Hon Jim Anderton: Is the Minister aware that the Tararua District Council announced that it hoped the Government would not notice that it would not comply with the dog microchipping regulations, and then, in order to make sure we did not notice, put the point it was making in the local newspaper so that we could read it?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Yes, and all I can say is one law for all dogs.

Nathan Guy: What reports has the Government received on the financial impact on rural New Zealand of the microchipping of dogs?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Again, like the member, I have seen a number of reports and comments in newspaper articles. But if we aggregate the total cost of microchipping across the lifetime of a farm dog, and balance it up with the cost of feeding a farm dog, I think we would see that the cost is simply minuscule by comparison.

Hon David Carter: I seek leave to table the Timaru Herald article of 17 February that quotes Nanaia Mahuta’s comments.

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

Hon David Carter: I seek leave to table the Manawatu Standard article of 17 February, in which Jim Anderton talks about practical solutions.

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

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I seek leave to table my press statement from which the Timaru Herald articles quoted, which clarifies the statements I actually made.

Leave granted.

Question No. 10 to Minister

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to clarify a technical point in relation to my answer to question No. 10 to Simon Power. I answered that the community work agencies’ collaborative working arrangements were in place. They are in place, but they have not been finally signed off.

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: )

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