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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 5 March 2008

1. District Health Boards—Tendering Process

1. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he expect the health sector to follow the Auditor-General’s procurement guidelines that advise that a public entity should “ensure that any information given to one tenderer that could significantly affect its understanding of the procurement is also conveyed to all other tenderers”, and “treat all tenderers in a fair and equitable manner”; and is he satisfied that all tenderers were treated fairly in the community services contract at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Yes; yes, and I imagine that is a matter currently under review by the director-general’s independent governance report panel.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister yet read the email of 10 May 2005 tabled yesterday, which shows chief executive Chris Clarke instructed staff to send Mr Hausmann draft tender documents some weeks before the tender process opened and before any other party received them; and is that acceptable behaviour?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that that is a matter likely to be under review by the director-general’s independent governance review panel.

Russell Fairbrother: Is it the Minister’s view that contracts for over $100,000 should go to tender, and can he provide any examples of where that did not occur?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes; I was disturbed to be advised that the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board negotiated a contract with Royston Hospital against legal and management advice and chose to award a $600,000 contract without putting it out to tender. I was further concerned to learn that minutes were subsequently changed by the former chairman against legal advice, that a former board member who had a clear conflict of interest took part in discussions regarding this contract, and that a former board member had not properly declared his interest. I am also aware of an allegation involving the chair being involved in negotiations on a laboratory contract that was subsequently set aside by the Commerce Commission and was later awarded to another provider.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister acting to ensure that this time and money - wasting deviation from tendering guidelines cannot be repeated by any other district health board; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The purpose of acting as I have done is in part to prevent the further wastage of public money, such as that which has been spent on legal and—I understand—public relations firms in relation to the shambles at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. I imagine that all district health boards, although there is no similar situation that I am aware of, will have great cognisance of these events and will take care henceforth.

Sue Kedgley: Did the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board have in place a conflict of interest register, and were all board members required to declare any potential conflict of interest at the start of every board meeting, as other district health boards require board members to do; if so, does he believe that the alleged conflicts of interest around the tendering of contracts at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board were a result of gross negligence or some worse offence?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, it is standard practice for district health boards to maintain a conflict of interest register, and the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, in principle, did so. However, it appears that not all board members had kept their entries current and up to date, because in the case of Royston Hospital, at least one member of the board had not listed his or her interests in Royston Hospital on that register. The office of the Auditor-General was also very critical of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board for what it considered to be a lack of detail and rigour in the board’s conflict management policy.

Hon Tony Ryall: How can the Minister stand in the House and say that every tenderer was treated fairly, when the email of 24 May 2005, tabled yesterday, in which Mr Hausmann received the confidential draft documents, proposed changes to benefit his company, a preference that was offered to no other tenderer in the process; and is that what the Minister would expect of someone about to be appointed to that very district health board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Perhaps the member did not hear my earlier answer, but I have not taken a position on the question of fact to which he refers. I said “Yes” to the principle, and I referred the matter of fact to the director-general.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why did he answer a second “yes” to the primary question, referring to whether all tenderers were being treated fairly, and does that show that he has yet to read the 27 May 2005 email, tabled yesterday—recovered by forensic analysis in London—in which the chief executive agreed to alter the tender documents on the terms proposed by Mr Hausmann, at a time when no other potential bidder had that opportunity; and is that consistent with the Auditor-General’s guidelines?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: That question comes in two parts; let me deal with them separately. In respect of the question about the two “yes” answers, I note there are two issues of principle in the primary question, and the “yes” answers applied respectively to each of them. In respect of the second part of the question, that is a matter for the director-general’s review report, which I look forward to receiving now that the injunction that was sought by chairman Atkinson and his board has been lifted by the commissioner.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that in May 2005, when Mr Hausmann's appointment was going through the Cabinet process, Mr Hausmann was colluding with the chief executive, through emails, to get favourable conditions put in the tender document, and is that what the Minister agreed to as “managing any conflict of interest”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I note the member opposite is not quite so courageous about the use of words like “colluding” outside the House.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is against the Standing Orders to suggest that a member lacks courage, and I think when that is given as the answer to a supplementary question, it certainly cannot be regarded as addressing the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister would like to add to his answer in a way that is consistent with the Standing Orders.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, Madam Speaker. I think it is interesting that the member has not cared to repeat similar language outside the House.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that 9 months earlier Mr Hausmann had met with senior Ministers Cullen, King, Dyson, and Swain for a briefing on the home support sector, and, as the scale of Mr Hausmann’s involvement in the health sector would have been made clear to them, did any of those Ministers express concern about the appointment of Mr Hausmann to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board at a time when his company wanted to tender for multimillion-dollar contracts with that very same district health board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: To the best of my information, Mr Hausmann was at the time a director of one of the largest private health care providers in New Zealand. It is neither surprising nor inappropriate that Ministers would have general conversations with such a person about health care policy or provision—or is that the best that members opposite can do? I seek leave to table several Ministry of Health reports and Cabinet papers pertaining to the appointment of Mr Hausmann, in which he fully declares his potential conflict of interest and the ministry provides advice as to how it could be managed.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Points of order are heard in silence.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: —to table a transcript of a Radio New Zealand National interview this morning where former chairperson Atkinson, interestingly, confirmed that the supposedly secret emails—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? [Interruption] This is the last time I will warn members not to comment during points of order. The reason is that it is very difficult to hear what is happening if they do.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We cannot help but notice that this afternoon you have allowed Mr Cunliffe to give an extensive description of what he is attempting to table. This appears to be quite new, because we notice that when we try to table stuff, the moment we utter the words “I seek leave to table …” the motion is almost put and no explanation is able to be given. So if this is new we would like to know that, and we would certainly like to have a consistent approach applied to us.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I have warned members that long explanations, when they are tabling documents, are unnecessary. However, it is necessary to be able to identify the document, and that is what I listened for.

Hon Peter Dunne: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but we have not completed the point of order to table those documents. There was an interruption—

Hon Peter Dunne: Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Speaking to this point of order?

Hon Peter Dunne: The issue I want to raise is that I heard the Minister say that he was seeking to table an interesting—and then the hubbub ensued, and I do not know what the interest was about—

Madam SPEAKER: Precisely!

Hon Peter Dunne: Could you ask him to seek the leave again, so we can give a considered decision?

Madam SPEAKER: Concisely, please.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a Radio New Zealand National transcript that confirms that chairperson Atkinson confirmed—

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that the Minister also said that he was seeking leave to table some Cabinet documents.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, he did that. He has already done that. [Interruption] I am sorry; please be seated. That was the first point of order. That was when I said that if people constantly interrupt, they run the risk of not hearing what is said. There were two points of order. The first, as I understood it, sought to table Cabinet documents, and the second a transcript. The first had no objection; for the second there was objection.

Hon Tony Ryall: So is the Minister saying, in his last comment, that as Mr Hausmann and Mr Clarke communicated about confidential tender documents before the date that Mr Hausmann’s appointment to the board became effective, that excuses the behaviour of Chris Clarke, the chief executive, in making those documents available for one tenderer 2 months before the tender was out?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No, and I wish the member better luck with his listening skills on further questions. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: No, sorry. Would the Minister please withdraw that final comment. That is exactly what creates disorder. Just address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I withdraw that comment.

2. Wage Growth—Australia - New Zealand

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on patterns of wage growth in Australia and New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : I have seen a report from John Key stating that the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand has “blown out” during the term of this Government. This is not correct. The blowout was between 1990 and 1999 when the gap increased from 18.9 percent to 28.4 percent. Those are the official figures. Since then it has barely moved. Under the last National Government, average real weekly earnings increased by a total of $1.31 a week in 1990 dollars, over a 9-year period. Under the 8 years of a Labour-led Government, the rate of increase has been 30 times that level.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen any other reports on the merits of pursuing higher wages for New Zealand workers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a report from Mr Key saying “We would love to see wages drop.” I have seen subsequent reports trying to explain away the comment as, firstly, light-hearted, then he tried to say it was Australian wages he wanted to reduce, and later he tried to say it did not count as it was said only in a cafe. When none of those efforts worked, efforts were also made to bully the editor into sacking the reporter. I seek leave to table a transcript that says “Look, I’ve spoken to the editor.”

 Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the newspaper concerned is going to publish a retraction, and can the Minister answer this question: if he was right, and there is no wage gap between New Zealand and Australia, can he confirm that New Zealanders are leaving in record numbers because of a self-absorbed Labour Government that cannot manage any political issues and does not care about the future of the country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That question shows why he should have been Leader of the Opposition, and not Mr Key. He is not as slippery as Mr Key. No, I cannot. What I can confirm is that I did not say—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I feel that Dr Cullen may well have been slipping into “Cunliffian” language at the start of his reply. Perhaps he too, like Mr Cunliffe, should be required to withdraw that remark he made about the National Party leader. It was inappropriate, and it is most unparliamentary.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the word “slippery” is now to be unparliamentary, I think we should publish a very short dictionary of about five pages long, for use by members of Parliament.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on that matter, I say that we do run the difficulty of having a very short and small vocabulary if we are not careful, as a result of taking objection on all matters. What I would prefer to do on this occasion is ask members to be careful when they are asking and answering questions, that in fact they stick to the point they are making, rather than rule that that was unparliamentary.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Not to adopt the language of my colleague, but clearly the member who asked the question did not hear my answer to the first question. I never said there was no wage gap. What I said was that Mr Key was completely wrong in saying that that wage gap grew between the years 1999 and 2008. The big growth was between 1990 and 1999, under a National Government that Mr English, Mr Ryall, Dr Lockwood Smith, Mr McCully, and Mr Williamson were all part of.

R Doug Woolerton: What impact does selling New Zealand assets to overseas investors and the resulting outflow of profits offshore have on wages in New Zealand, and would he agree that the sell-off of more than 30 major State assets by Labour and National Governments between 1984 and 1996 was a major factor in the very low wage growth over the same period?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly some asset sales and some matters that relate to overseas investment can help the growth of the New Zealand economy. I think what is very clear is that a number of asset sales, under both Governments, of strategic assets did not aid the development of this economy, particularly when the interests of overseas owners of institutions like Telecom and Tranz Rail did not align with the interests of the New Zealand economy or New Zealand as a whole, and this Government has had to take both regulatory remedial action and repurchasing action to address some of those matters.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is it of concern to the Minister that around 30 percent of New Zealanders living overseas are earning salaries in excess of NZ$100,000, compared with only 3 percent of New Zealanders resident in this country; if it is of concern to him, what plans does he have to boost middle incomes by world standards in this country, thus to increase prosperity and opportunity for the wide range of New Zealanders?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, very clearly, this Government does not believe wages should drop—unlike Mr Key, who has said so on a number of occasions. Secondly, we believe very firmly that it is only by improvements in productivity growth—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear. We will have this answer in silence.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is clear that it is only by improvements in productivity growth that we will see stronger long-term income growth in New Zealand. I note that the National Party voted against improving depreciation for business, the National Party voted against tax credits for research and development, and the National Party voted against a corporate tax rate cut for New Zealand—all of which are likely to improve the rate of productivity growth in this country.

3. Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—Community Services Joint Venture

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Was the Minister of Health briefed on a proposed community services joint venture between the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and Healthcare New Zealand before the 2005 election; if so, when?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Yes. I am advised that Mr Hausmann clearly disclosed potential conflict of interest regarding the tendering of community services. I am further advised that the board was given advice by the Ministry of Health as to how it could manage any conflict of interest. This information was provided to the Minister and to Cabinet, and was publicly released to the National Party and to the Dominion Post.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister assuring Parliament that although Mrs King has now stated that she and Mr Hausmann had a number of meetings on health issues and that she visited his family corporate box at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on a number of occasions, she was never briefed on and never discussed the proposed community services contract with Mr Hausmann?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No.

Lesley Soper: In this light, has former chair Kevin Atkinson explained how the supposedly secret emails that were mysteriously obtained by Mr Ryall and tabled in the House yesterday arose?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. I am advised that former chairman Atkinson commented on Radio New Zealand National today that the emails related to events preceded Mr Hausmann’s appointment to the board, and I quote: “Interviewer: ‘When he was appointed to the board, did any inappropriate communication continue then?’ Atkinson: ‘With regard to the RFP process, up until the board’s decision in December, no.’”

Hon Tony Ryall:Is the Minister aware of this internal Healthcare New Zealand document, written by Mr Hausmann, which states that the Minister supports the proposal, and does this not indicate that Mrs King was, in fact, briefed about this joint venture well before she appointed Mr Hausmann?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member wishes to trawl through an extensive history of documents and focus on one, it would be as well of him to name it in the primary question.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister saying that Annette King was aware of Mr Hausmann’s intention to tender for the multimillion-dollar contracts—indeed, that she was briefed by Mr Hausmann—that Mr Hausmann did declare this in his declaration in May, and that Annette King told Cabinet he intended to be a tenderer for a multimillion-dollar contract at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, yet they still appointed such a man with such a conflict of interest?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member is saying: “He told her, she told Cabinet, and the Ministry of Health told all of them that it could be managed.”, then I would concur, but I fail to see the scandal in all of the above.

Hon Tony Ryall: So is this Minister saying it is OK for the chief executive of a district health board to collude with a tenderer, to provide him the documents before any other tenderer, to allow him to make changes that favour his company, and to accept all those changes in total—this Minister says that is not a scandal?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I believe there are two separate issues in discussion here. The first is whether Mr Hausmann made a declaration of conflict of interest to the Minister and therefore to the ministry and Cabinet in the process of appointment, and the answer to that is yes. The second is whether any of the prior contact between Mr Hausmann and Mr Clarke at the request for proposal stage of the process was inappropriate. As I have already answered, that is a matter that I imagine is the subject, inter alia, of the governance review, and now that Mr Atkinson’s injunction has been lifted we might all get to hear the answer.

4. Goats—Arapawa Island

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

4. GORDON COPELAND (Independent) to the Minister of Conservation: Is the Department of Conservation still proposing to proceed with a cull to control the goats on Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds; if so, when and how?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Minister of Conservation) : Yes. The regular operation to control the goats that were introduced to Arapawa Island will happen later this month. We do this to protect rare native forest and threatened plant species in a scenic reserve on that island.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The principal question also asked how the cull was to be carried out. The Minister did not address that part of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Minister wish to add to her answer?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Certainly. The cull will be carried out by operators who will be contracted by the Department of Conservation to work the island on foot.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that DNA testing shows that the Arapawa goats are a genetically distinct breed, that they are descendants of goats left on the island by James Cook in, probably, 1773, and that they are almost certainly Old English Goats, which became extinct in England in 1954; if so, does she accept that we have a solemn obligation—[Interruption] I would appreciate members listening to the question. I know that Old English Goats might be humorous in some sense, but we are actually talking about quite a serious issue here. Can I start that one—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. Members, please refrain from discussing or commenting on the question until we have heard it in total.Please start again.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that DNA testing shows that the Arapawa goats are a genetically distinct breed, that they are descendants of goats left on the island by James Cook in, probably, 1773, and that they are almost certainly Old English Goats, which became extinct in England in 1954; if so, does she accept that we have a solemn obligation in terms of the guardianship, the kaitiaki, of these beautiful and unique animals for all future generations?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have been advised that that has not been proven in New Zealand yet, and this breed is not threatened in this country.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that 1,215 concerned citizens of the international community have signed a petition, which has been presented to Parliament today, opposing the shooting of the Arapawa goats; that shooting them is opposed by Bob Kerridge of the SPCA, Betty Rowe, who is a long-time resident of the island, the Deerstalkers Association, the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand, and many others; and that the cull is in breech of the Rio Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources; and will she therefore commit now to put away the guns and, instead, adopt a preservation plan for this unique and wonderful species?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I repeat that this species is not threatened in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation works actively with the community on Arapawa Island on the annual operation to cull the goats. And I am aware of the petition presented today.

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a document containing an extract from the journal of James Cook in which he says he left a male goat and a female goat at Arapawa.

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

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from the chairman of the Anglo-European Livestock Association.

 Leave granted.

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from Betty Rowe, setting out the entire background of this whole matter.

 Leave granted.

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a letter written to the Prime Minister from the chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK.

 Leave granted.


5. District Health Boards—Governance Arrangements

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: What is the threshold that he sets himself for intervening in the governance arrangements of a district health board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : The thresholds for intervention in the governance arrangements of the district health boards are provided for in relevant legislation. For example, the relevant statutory threshold for intervening to remove the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board from office was section 31(1) of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act. I removed the board because I was seriously dissatisfied with the board’s performance.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why did the Minister intervene in Hawke’s’ Bay but not in the Waitemata District Health Board, although senior doctors there have written a letter of no confidence in the board, sick elderly patients lie on trolleys in hospital corridors for 24-hour periods, and North Shore people have less chance of being killed on the roads of North Shore City than of dying from a sentinel event at the hospital? How can the public actually believe him when he says he gives health services priority?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Inter alia, because I am aware that the Waitemata District Health Board has 78 new beds coming on stream by August, and some 200 new beds coming on stream by the end of the current building programme.

Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister assure us that in future he will be supervising district health boards adequately, in order to avoid drastic measures such as sacking boards and appointing commissioners—actions that deflect attention from patient care priorities— if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I thank the member for her question, because, yes, patient care is and should be at the heart of all these matters. I further agree with the supposition of the question that the adequate use of proper processes early on will ensure that such serious powers do not have to be used in future. I can confirm that there currently is no equivalent situation of which I am aware at any other district health board in the country.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can it be credible for the Minister to say that a key reason for sacking the Hawke’s Bay board was that two doctors were critical of it, when 13 senior doctors of the Waitemata District Health Board directly blame the board for severe bed and staff shortages, treatment delays, and postponed operations, yet the Minister shows no sign of doing anything at all about it?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am sure the member would not want to risk his reputation on the supposition that only two doctors complained to me about the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why would the Minister sack the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board because of a so-called dysfunctional relationship between management and the board, but turn a blind eye to the Waitemata District Health Board, where there is an obvious dysfunctional relationship between senior doctors and the board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that the matter raised by some senior doctors of the Waitemata District Health Board was adequately addressed in the press conference held by the board later the same day.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why would not the Minister intervene in the Waitemata District Health Board, where senior doctors say unacceptable conditions delay operations until they become emergencies, whereas Hawke’s Bay patients are getting the treatment they need yet he goes ahead and sacks the board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In reply, I would simply invite the member to confer with his colleague Mr Ryall. The member seems to be indicating I am taking rather too gentle an approach with the district health board, whereas Mr Ryall thinks I am rather too harsh.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why will the Minister not admit that the real reason he sacked the Hawke’s Bay board but not the Waitematā board is that in Hawke’s Bay the cronies are actually in senior management, while in Waitematā the cronies are on the board, and under this Government the rule is cronies first, patients second?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am surprised the member would risk what was left of his reputation with a question like that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister certainly stood up and spoke, but did he address the question? A pontifical statement like that is interesting and somewhat typical, but hardly enlightening in relation to the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Maybe the Minister would like to add to his answer.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: To rephrase the answer more fully, I do not have information available to me as to which board the member concerned thinks he may have cronies on, or which management team he may have cronies in. To refer to the preceding question from the member Mrs Stewart, I can only repeat that my overriding motivation in adopting this serious measure was concern for the people of Hawke’s Bay and the sustainable delivery of their health services.

6. Ngāti Whāoa—Terms of Agreement

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

6. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: He aha tā Ngāti Whāoa i roto i te Tikanga Whakaaetanga i hainatia i ngā wiki e rua kua hipa i waenganui i te Karauna me ngā kāhui māngai, e mōhiotia nei, ko te Kotahitanga ā-iwi i Te Puku o Te Ika-a-Māui?

[What involvement has Ngāti Whāoa had in the terms of agreement signed 2 weeks ago between the Crown and representatives of the iwi group known as the Central North Island Collective?]

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) : Ngāti Whāoa has been included in the Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa settlement and Te Pūmautanga itself is not a part of the central North Island iwi collective, although it retains a watching brief on the work of the collective. The issue of whether Ngāti Whāoa is part of the Te Pūmautanga collective moving forward is in dispute at the present time, and further work is proceeding on that. The Crown supports participation being as wide as possible in the Central North Island Collective, which is why the agreement includes provision for expanding the membership of the collective in the future.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Would the Minister accept that the forest interests of Ngāti Whāoa, because of the signing of the Central North Island Collective agreement, may be compromised, and how will he move to rectify the situation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I certainly do not at this point. What those interests are, and how they interrelate with other interests, are matters to be explored as part of this process. At this point nobody’s interests, I think, can be said to have been compromised. I note that the deputy chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal has ruled within the last couple of days on an application for interference in this process. To quote: “This initiative can only be applauded, and the tribunal would most reluctant to do anything obstructive to achieving the outcome. It is clear that the vast majority of claimant groups in the central North Island are now pursuing this objective.”

Hon Mark Burton: What reports has he received on plans to settle historical Treaty claims?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I saw reports on television this morning where Mr Key announced that he was abandoning a firm deadline for settling historical Treaty claims. He claimed that National had never had a firm deadline for settling with claimants. That is simply incorrect. The policy was to settle historical Treaty claims within 5 years of taking office. This is yet another example of National slipping and sliding around.

Hon Mark Burton: What recent progress has been made in settling historical Treaty claims?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Very good progress has been made, building on the work of my predecessors Mark Burton and the Hon Margaret Wilson. In addition to signing terms of agreement with the Central North Island Collective, last month we also signed terms of negotiation with Ngāti Mākino and Waitaha. That builds on the end of the year, with the Waikato Tainui heads of agreement in terms of the Waikato River claim and with the Port Nicholson Block Claims Team—[Interruption] that was a slip of the tongue; I am sure the member never makes a slip of his tongue anywhere—to settle all outstanding historical claims of Taranaki Whānui.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What concerns is he aware of about the process that committed Ngāti Whāoa into the membership of the collective known as Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa by being coupled with Ngāti Tahu; and what action will he take to address those concerns?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of a dispute, and it is with representatives of Ngāti Whāoa, principally Peter Staite and Walter Rika, who played an active part of the Te Arawa group, which is not part of the Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa grouping. At the moment we are engaged in trying to sort what the facts are in that respect. The Crown facilitator is engaged in a variety of actions, and I expect to receive further recommendations for consideration. My preference, of course, is for people to put aside whatever other differences they may have had and to participate in the Central North Island Collective process at this point, because that is likely to achieve, at the end of the day, the most effective long-term outcome for all central North Island iwi and hapū by maximising the commercial value of any settlement process.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that at a hui held at Ōhaaki marae, Reporoa, on 17 July 2003, a hui at which the Crown purports to have obtained a mandate from Ngāti Whāoa, 68 members of Ngāti Whāoa walked out of the hui; and would he not consider that such a unilateral walk-out hardly constitutes a fair and just process?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not for me to comment on whether people should have walked out of a particular hui or not. If they had stayed within the room the outcome might have been different, of course, at that particular point. As I say, I am seeking further advice at this stage, but it would be a great tragedy if, at the end of the day, an attempt to put together an entire collective agreement around the central North Island forest was derailed by an extremely small group of people. I hope people can be kept inside the tent. Every effort is being made by Wira Gardiner and others to get people inside that tent, because I think it would be awful if, in 20 years’ time, we were still talking about the attempt to put together a central North Island forest settlement.

7. Violent Crime—Increase

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

7. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Can she confirm that violent crime has increased by 32 percent since 1999-2000; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Violent crime in New Zealand, as in other countries, has been increasing year on year for a number of years. Since 1999-2000 the increase in recorded violent offences per head of population has been around 2.7 percent on average each year. However, the rate of the most violent offence of murder has remained relatively constant, although I do note that in 2006 there were 49 murders, and this compares very favourably with 1997 when there were 66 murders. A large driver of recorded violence has been the increased recording of domestic violent offences. For example, between 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 domestic violent offences increased by 11.2 percent while non-domestic violent offences increased by 0.6 percent.

Simon Power: Does she agree that gangs are a major source of violent crime; if so, why has she not produced the organised crime strategy that the Prime Minister said last May would be completed ahead of schedule following the drive-by gang shooting of Wanganui toddler Jhia Te Tua?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is well known that gangs and organised crime in New Zealand are a large cause of violence in our country. I ask the member to hold his horses. Not only will there be a strategy but the Organised Crime Agency and the work that has been done on that is very near to completion.

Martin Gallagher: Does the Government expect to see an increase in violent offence statistics in future years?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government does expect to see an increase in recorded violent offences, and that is because of the strong drive we have to ensure that as many people who are victims of domestic violence report those crimes. What we have seen in the last decade has been a doubling of the number of reported domestic violence crimes. That has to be applauded and welcomed if we are ever to get to the bottom of a dreadful crime that is carried out in a person’s own home.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that her predecessor Mark Burton stated on 2 July 2007 that the organised crime strategy was “to be completed in the last quarter of 2007”, and that the Prime Minister stated on 6 August 2007 that the strategy would be released “in the not too distant future”, and can she confirm her own statement on 11 September 2007 that the strategy was due to be completed in October 2007?

Hon ANNETTE KING: What the Government has decided to do is to release all the decisions around organised crime—including the Organised Crime Agency, the power that that agency will have, the strategy, and the legislation—at the same time.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the statement made by the Prime Minister on 7 May with regard to the Government’s policy on combating gangs: “No one has been idle here; people have been very proactive”, and how does she reconcile this with a 2004 document from her office that states: “The crime reduction joint ministers’ group have agreed that a new organised crime strategy is a priority for 2004.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I can confirm that nobody has been idle. A lot of work has been done, not just on a strategy and an Organised Crime Agency but actually out on the street. Let us start with the additional police resource that has been put into the New Zealand community because of the agreement between New Zealand First and the Labour-led Government. That has led to, and will lead to, at the end of the day, 1,250 additional police staff out there working against crime in New Zealand. It is not just a matter of writing a strategy; it is a matter of making sure it works and putting the resources behind it. The National Party had 9 years to do it, but it never did it and never recognised it. I am pleased that this Government has done so.

Simon Power: Why should the public believe that the Government takes gangs and violent crime seriously when the most recent report on this issue prior to the tragic shooting of Jhia Te Tua in May last year was a document from March 2005, before the last election, titled A Stocktake on What is Known About Organised Crime in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The people of New Zealand will take what this Government does seriously because one thing we are not is slippery on the topic. We do not say one thing one day and change it the next, and members of the public will see the work that has been done in relation to organised crime. They also see the results on the street. In terms of the work that has been done there are more police on the street and more people working in a coordinated way on crime reduction. When we look at the overall crime rate in New Zealand, we see that it is actually decreasing, not increasing as the National Party would have New Zealand believe.

Simon Power: Does the Minister concede that her failure to produce more details in October last year, as promised on 11 September, regarding the new Organised Crime Agency she has mentioned today has created a 5-month hiatus that is sucking the confidence out of the Serious Fraud Office, as experienced staff leave in droves; and is it not the truth that the announcement of the Organised Crime Agency in a half-baked state was to distract attention from the return on the same day of the then Minister of Corrections from his rugby trip?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No and no.

Ron Mark: Why does the Government not accept New Zealand First’s view—a view now clearly shared by Australians, with legislation now enacted in Australia—that gangs are domestic terrorists and that, just like terrorists, they ought to be banned; and does the Government not understand that by not accepting that fact it is sending the message to the community that its condonation—its acceptance of the existence of gangs and its allowing them to exist—it is in fact condoning their existence; and is that not one of the things contributing to increases in crime and violent crime in this country?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Government does not condone organised crime and gangs in New Zealand. But we know that just banning something does not mean it will not exist in some other form. We have to have an approach that deals with it in many different fronts, and that is what this Government is doing. I have already outlined some of those in the House today.

8. Emissions Trading Scheme—Permits

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

8. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Does he agree with Dr Hugh Saddler and Dr Richard Denniss in their Greenpeace report New Zealand’s Expanding Carbon Footprint that under the Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme New Zealand will need to import $3.1 billion worth of emission permits; if not, what does he believe the figure to be?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: No; even the report’s authors say that that is an extreme scenario. The figure Treasury currently has on its books is $962 million, based on a liability of 45.5 million tonnes. As I have said, the emissions trading scheme is likely to halve that figure if it proceeds in its current form.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister agree with the report that New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme will not deliver significant emission reductions; if he does not accept that, does he think the report is wrong, and how much does he believe the reductions will be from the emissions trading scheme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The trading scheme is a way of pricing the emissions. The reductions come from the behavioural change that follows. But I must say that I welcome the member’s interest in this area, given that when the bill was introduced to this House his party voted against it, and he said that we should adapt to rising seas.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it not time the Government conceded that carbon neutrality is a pipedream and a cynical Helen Clark slogan, when the Government’s 8-year record is one of huge deforestation and rapidly growing emissions, and when we have organisations as diverse as the New Zealand Institute and Greenpeace all saying that, under current Government policy, emissions will continue to grow for at least the next decade?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That member has been complaining about the growth of this economy ever since he has been in Opposition. It has grown, it will continue to grow, and we must have a trading scheme that works with that growth to reduce the growth in emissions. The member knows that, and playing around the way he does with the facts does not change the situation for anyone. Even Greenpeace knows that Nick Smith has no sway in his caucus, even if he believes something himself to start with.

Rodney Hide: Can the Minister tell the House what the emissions trading scheme will cost the country in its first 5 years of operation, and by how much it will reduce carbon emissions; if he cannot tell the House that, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I tried to explain to the member before, that it is the behavioural change that comes from the trading scheme and from a big range of other measures that the Government is undertaking in the environmental area—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: They have all failed.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member might have failed, but many, many projects are under way, in New Zealand and internationally, to make a difference to emissions. The member has to realise that it is a matter of behavioural change, and could I just say to the member that a bit less hot air would probably help.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree with the key point made by both the Greenpeace report and the New Zealand Institute report Actions Speak Louder than Words that New Zealand’s competitive advantage in future, and our reputation, will depend on our progress towards a low carbon emissions economy in this country?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he then agree with those two reports that relying on purchasing most credits from overseas, rather than making substantial reductions at home, will damage both our economic competitiveness in the future and our environmental quality at home?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I do not, because setting up the scheme this way minimises the cost to New Zealand firms of reducing emissions, and therefore it is good for the economy, and also it maximises the amount of global emission reductions that are achieved for a given level of New Zealand investment. Therefore, it is best for the environment. I remind the member that we are talking about global warming, and what we want to do is to reduce emissions globally by the maximum amount, not just in New Zealand.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is he concerned that a number of reports, including in the Financial Times of London, have shown that overseas emission reduction credits are poorly verified, and often fraudulent, and that a number of our trading partners are looking at the emission reductions we make at home, rather than just how much we offset them by paying for somebody else to do it, and will he consider a New Zealand target for emission reductions, or is it just going to be more cows, more coal, and more cars?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We do have, already, some sectoral targets in electricity and stationary energy, and in transport. I think that at some stage we might get to the point of having a New Zealand target, overall. My view is that that would be something that is appropriate to develop, after the next round of the negotiations, internationally. As to the question of the value of international credits, we signed up to the Kyoto Protocol; so did a number of other countries. Given—

Hon Member: Not that many.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Actually, a lot of other countries have signed up—

Hon Members: Who said that?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Who said “not many”? Would the member put up a hand toshow his or her stupidity? No one will plead guilty.

Madam SPEAKER: That is unnecessary. Would the Minister just address the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: My understanding is that it was all but two countries in the Western World, and we are now down to one. Is that right? [Interruption] Was that Anne Tolley or Heather Roy? Just to finish the question, as far as Kyoto is concerned we signed up to something; so did a number of countries that are not Western countries. We did a deal with them. To back out of that deal at the moment, in my view, would be to back out of Kyoto, and Kyoto is something we are relying on.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the report by Dr Saddler.

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

9. Weathertight Homes Tribunal—Performance

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Is the Weathertight Homes Tribunal, established in 2002, transferred in 2004, and amended in 2006 and 2007, working well?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) : Yes. Claimants are getting a speedier, less costly, and more effective resolution service.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can it be working well, when leaky home owner Mr Tim Scott of Christchurch lodged a claim in 2005, the service determined that his claim was valid, he sold his house at a much discounted price because he was under such extreme financial pressure, only to then find that due to a flaw in the wording of the legislation his claim could not now be pursued against the builder or the developer? Does the Minister think that is fair and just?

Hon SHANE JONES: Over 5,000 claims under the legislation have been through various stages of the process. I invite the member to send me the actual details he refers to. At the end of the day, the decisions taken by homeowners—the pace at which they seek relief, or the point at which they sell their properties—are actually their decisions.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What increased value are claimants under the new system getting from the Weathertight Homes Tribunal?

Hon SHANE JONES: I point out to the House that under the new system claimants are able to get an accurate assessment of the nature of their problems that otherwise would cost $9,000. It is costing them $500, and it is very useful in determining at what point they should go into arbitration, mediation, or some other course of action. Value is being delivered.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that the leaky homes issue, which the Weathertight Homes Tribunal was set up to address, was the result of the previous National Government’s decision to radically liberalise the building sector, and to allow shonky property developers and speculators to rip off investors and homeowners through the use of shoddy materials and building practices?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have two points. The first is that the Minister does not have responsibility for the previous National Government. Furthermore, Mr George Hawkins said at the time of the passing of the 1991 Building Act that National could not claim credit for it, that it was all Labour’s work.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please repeat his question in silence, so that I can hear it.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister confirm that the leaky homes issue, which the Weathertight Homes Tribunal was set up to address, was the result of the previous National Government’s decision to radically liberalise the building sector, and to allow shonky property developers and speculators to rip off investors and homeowners through the use of shoddy materials and building practices?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for National Party policy, but he may respond generally around the issue at that time.

Hon SHANE JONES: It is well known that during the 1990s apprenticeships were derailed. A more liberal approach was taken as to how consents were issued and monitored, and we have had to introduce this raft of reforms to address—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Amongst that noise there was a most unparliamentary remark from Mr Gerry Brownlee. I ask that he withdraw and apologise for it.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw and apologise. I did not hear the comment; the noise was too great.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, Madam Speaker, I need to be enlightened as to which comment was unparliamentary.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, that will require—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker, the member made the comment; he knows the comment that he made. Repeating an unparliamentary comment in the House, especially one as gross as that, is something that I will not do. He knows what he said.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The correct process is that I ask the member whether he made that comment, and if he says he did not, then his word must be accepted in the House. Did you make an unparliamentary comment?

Gerry Brownlee: Well, Madam Speaker, I do not consider that it was unparliamentary. Perhaps the member would like to tell me which comment it was. Was it the comment that the member should ask for his money back for his anger management courses, or was it the comment that Labour lies? If either of those is offensive, I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: I think we know the rulings on allegations about lying, so from that point of view I would ask the member to please withdraw and apologise for that particular comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In defence of my colleague, I want to say that he was responding to provocation from someone sitting over the back there who claimed that the apprenticeship system had been dismantled. That member may not be aware that Labour voted for the Industry Training Act, which updated apprenticeships, and those members used to claim that it was very successful.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. We are all provoked in this House, but we respond in a parliamentary way that is consistent with the Standing Orders.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the system be working well when leaky home owner Helen Osborne of Auckland lodged a claim with the service, was advised that the claim was valid, and got an assessment, only to have her claim later dismissed because a wording fault in the Weathertight Homes Tribunal legislation, whereby the definition of the 10-year statutory limitation is different from that applying to the general courts, means that her claim is now out of time, and she cannot pursue the $360,000 required to fix her home; how is that either fair or just?

Hon SHANE JONES: The number of claimants using the service is growing exponentially. Secondly, it is a pity that the member did not put down those details in written form, so that a considered and very accurate answer could be given to his description, which does not necessarily reflect the whole story; rather, it reflects his whakapaka with the Arapawa goats!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister say that the service is working well when, after 10 Ministers and three legislative attempts, the law is still riddled with problems; when fewer than one in five claims has been resolved; when the bureaucratic cost of the service is $107,000 per claim; and when the average settlement is less than $80,000 per claim?

Hon SHANE JONES: Naturally, I thoroughly dispute the member’s numbers, and, secondly, I repeat that the number of those using the service is growing, more people are becoming aware of the service, and no less a person than John Gray from the Leaky Homes Action Group has congratulated the officials on their work in this regard.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Which particular number does he dispute: the fact that this Government has had 10 Ministers responsible for building and construction in its 8 years in office, the fact that there have been three bills to try to address this issue, the fact that the average administrative cost of each claim is $107,000, or the fact that the average settlement is just less than $80,000—which number does he dispute?

Hon SHANE JONES: A claimant pays $400 to go through the remedy service and $500 for an appraisal form. That does not equal $26,000, $70,000, or whatever Arapawa goat number the member is coming up with.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by the Government’s statement in 2002 that the Government would implement all of the recommendations of the Hunn report; if so, why, 6 years later, has the Government still not completed the stocktake of how many leaky homes there are and what the cost is of repairing them?

Hon SHANE JONES: The Don Hunn report referred to a systemic failure. Not only have local councils been required to go through an accreditation process, but an occupational licensing regime has been established, a weathertight homes remedial service has been created, and product certification is well and truly under development. A great deal has happened.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was quite specific. A recommendation in the Hunn report said that the Government should provide a comprehensive report on the scale of the leaky homes problem—both numbers and cost. My question to the Minister asked why the Government has not done that. The Minister did not address that question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer.

Hon SHANE JONES: I have addressed the question. The way in which the various claimants’ concerns are being addressed is through a broad raft of measures. There is a wide range of numbers. Some have been promoted by mayors from Wellington and Auckland as being accurate figures. Obviously, officials are in regular contact with those claimants. The claimants themselves have to stand up and be counted, and move forward to seek resolution, rather than relying on the inaccurate figures of the member opposite.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I have in my hand the Hunn report, which makes that specific recommendation. I seek leave to table it.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I have in my hand the tribunal decision dismissing the claim of Tim Scott of Christchurch. I seek leave to table that document.

 Leave granted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I have in my hand a letter from Helen Osborne of Auckland, to the Minister. If he read his correspondence he might know what is going on.

 Leave granted.


10. Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—Governance

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

10. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on governance issues at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board?

Madam SPEAKER: I understand that this answer will be longer than normal.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I have received a range of reports and other information that relate to governance problems at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. For example, when I made my decision to remove the board, over the last couple of months I had been aware of a consistent pattern of public commentary, by the board, that is at odds with established convention and practice, including: 10 December 2007, former chairman Atkinson in Hawke’s Bay Today, noting that his views on governance appear to differ from those of the Ministry of Health’s independent review panel; 18 December 2007, Kevin Atkinson in Hawke’s Bay Today, quoted in an editorial, “Mr Atkinson yesterday told the board the health of Hawke’s Bay people was being jeopardised by the ministry’s delay” in the governance review, which he then subsequently sought an injunction to further delay; 10 February 2008, in Hawke’s Bay Today, National MPs Craig Foss and Chris Tremain claim the sale of the Napier Hospital site will be used to fund deficits, just days after meeting Mr Atkinson, who reportedly refused to allow the chief executive officer to attend the meeting, contrary to Ministry of Health policy and ministerial directive; Thursday 14 February, Dr David Davidson, board member, on Checkpoint, a Radio New Zealand National programme, described the lack of permanent appointments to the board as very destabilising, notwithstanding the delay to the governance report that his own board was a party to; Wednesday 13 February, Kevin Atkinson, commenting in the Dominion Post, talking about the year-end deficit: “It was never a realistic goal to cut $5 million from the board’s costs, but it had factored that expectation into its budget simply to get sign-off from the health Minister.”; Thursday 21 February, Kevin Atkinson attacked Dr Richard Tustin, who was critical of the board in Hawke’s Bay Today, saying he “never got on with his colleagues and was leaving the organisation in a week.” I am advised that Dr Tustin is now suing the former chair for defamation. I was concerned about the chair’s public statements that he had written to me five times and not received a reply, when I had received one letter that had already been duly responded to.

Russell Fairbrother: What new information has come to light since the Minister made his decision?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: A great deal of further information has since come to light. I will mention some of it. I have now seen the full management report on the district health board, as issued by Audit New Zealand. I have had an opportunity to review two early board governance reports that made many recommendations, and I understand that most of those recommendations were not implemented. I have also seen further details on the Royston elective services contract. As previously stated, the members of the board’s finance and audit committee that agreed the contract for the district health board did so against the advice of management and lawyers and notwithstanding a number of actual and potential conflicts on the part of those making the decisions that were not fully declared, and this was followed by the chairman’s substituting management’s official minutes of the decision with his own.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister received any information from the chief executive of Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to explain why he has colluded with Peter Hausmann to provide him with an advance copy of a tender document to allow Mr Hausmann to make the changes that favoured his company and that Mr Chris Clarke accepted, and has the Minister found out what the pay-off was?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Those matters are likely to be the subject of the independent governance report that is being conducted by the Director-General of Health, but I would invite the member to repeat the imputation outside the House.

11. Housing New Zealand Corporation—Confidence

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

11. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Does the Minister have confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation; if so, why?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : Yes; because it works hard to house some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people.

Phil Heatley: Can she confirm that an arrest warrant has finally been issued for the tenant who sublet his State house while owning a Bay of Islands bach, but now no one can find him; and given that it took 16 months for the corporation to act, why should we be surprised that he has now done a runner?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I cannot confirm that information. What I can do is say that a review of investigation processes was carried out last year, and better processes are used now; that the majority of the referrals to the investigations unit relate to undeclared partners or undeclared income; that less than 1 percent of referrals relate to subletting; and that fraud is not tolerated.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has the Minister seen on the Government’s approach to affordable housing?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have seen a report entitled “Ignore house issue at peril”, which states that the Government is on the right track with its housing affordability policies, and that National should rethink its current stance, which is described as risible. These comments come from Fran O’Sullivan, who is not known to be uncritical of this Government.

Phil Heatley: Can she explain how this bach owner, Sean Sullivan, a professional sportsman, got a State house in the first place, and is his being given a 2-year head start through the corporation’s bungling the reason that someone so well-known can disappear owing $32,650?

Hon MARYAN STREET: What I can say is what I have said before: fraud is not tolerated. Subletting constitutes a very, very small proportion of the investigations carried out by the Housing New Zealand Corporation—in fact, less than 1 percent. Tenants who sublet their properties are in breach of a tenancy agreement, and in such cases the corporation seeks remedy in the tenancy tribunal.

Pita Paraone: Does the Minister have confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation’s ability to address the needs of the 10,000 or so people on the State house waiting list; and can she advise the House as to when the corporation will introduce a low-tolerance or no-tolerance policy for those who abuse State housing, to ensure that tenants who continue to abuse their State houses are booted out to make way for more deserving families who are currently languishing on the waiting list?

Hon MARYAN STREET: In answer to all parts of that question, first of all, yes, I do have confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation’s ability to address the needs of those people over time. However, it should be pointed out that a quarter of those who are on that waiting list are already in a Housing New Zealand Corporation house, but are simply awaiting transfer to another one. On the second point, the corporation does have a no-tolerance policy for those who abuse State housing. The corporation does not tolerate abuse or damage of State housing. It should be noted that only a small number of Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants actually damage their homes. When they do, in most cases the cost is recovered from them.

Phil Heatley: Have cases like this bach-owning scam led to the latest public sector trust and confidence poll reporting “a relatively low level of trust and confidence” by the New Zealand public in the Housing New Zealand Corporation?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Trust and confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation is something that is constantly under review, and that the corporation is at pains constantly to improve.

Phil Heatley: Is the case of this bach-owning tenant not being investigated for 6 months, the eventual investigation report lying around on a corporation desk for a further 10 months, the report not being sent to the Crown solicitor until questions were asked in this House, then, on an arrest warrant being issued, the police not finding the tenant because he had done a runner, the sort of bungling that undermines public confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation?

Hon MARYAN STREET: In the first instance, I do not concede that confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation is undermined on the kind of scale that that member is trying to imply. Secondly, those are matters that are operational, which I in my position must leave to the chief executive.

Phil Heatley: Has the Minister taken any interest in this case, or has her interest dipped to the point where she does not know whether anyone has checked whether this tenant is actually living at his bach?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have no knowledge of that. If the member would like to put that question down in writing so that I can ask the chief executive officer, I would be happy to find an answer for the member.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Public Sector Trust and Confidence Poll that reports low levels of trust in the Housing New Zealand Corporation.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the select committee update on the arrest warrant and unsuccessful—

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

Hon MARYAN STREET: I seek leave of the House to table the article from the New Zealand Herald called “Ignore house issue at peril”.

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

12. Vehicle Noise—Reports

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

12. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has she received on the Government’s recent announcement on vehicle noise?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : I have seen a report from the Motor Trade Association stating that it is fully behind the efforts of Minister Harry Duynhoven to push the objective noise testing of vehicles that have modified exhaust systems. I have also seen a report from the Automobile Association supporting the 90-decibel limit being applied to newly imported vehicles but not to the existing vehicle fleet.

H V Ross Robertson: What additional reports has the Minister seen on the Government’s recent announcement on vehicle noise?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen reports from National Party member of Parliament Nicky Wagner stating that the 90-decibel limit should be applied to all cars. The Government considered this but found that between 50,000 and 150,000 ordinary Kiwi mums and dads would be seriously disadvantaged by having to pay up to $500 to fit a new exhaust system to their cars. These Kiwi mums and dads need to know what National wants to do to them. Perhaps the National has not figured out that the Government’s new measures will eventually reduce the noise level of the whole fleet within New Zealand without imposing punitive measures on ordinary Kiwi car owners.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that many of the people who operate excessively noisy cars literally thumb their noses at the law and often accumulate thousands of dollars in fines; if so, will she take any action to address the problem?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I need to assure the member that a lot of action is being taken. This measure is part of it, but there is also very strong police enforcement. Anybody who has been out with boy racers in Christchurch—as his colleague Mr Mark has; Mr Mark and I were out at the same time, in fact—will know that the police, along with the bailiffs, can remove cars from the road if their owners have not paid their fines. So I can assure the member that plenty is happening.


ENDS


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As a desperate Turnbull government tries to treat the Barnaby Joyce affair as a Pauline Hanson fever dream – blame it on the foreigners! We’re the victims of the dastardly New Zealand Labour Party! – our own government has chosen to further that narrative, and make itself an accomplice. More>>

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Rail: Greens Back Tauranga – Hamilton – Auckland Service

The Green Party today announced that it will trial a passenger rail service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga starting in 2019, when it is in government. More>>

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Housing: Voluntary Rental Warrant Of Fitness For Wellington

Wellington City Council is partnering with the University of Otago, Wellington, to launch a voluntary Rental Warrant of Fitness for minimum housing standards in Wellington, Mayor Justin Lester has announced. More>>

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