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PQ 1. Prime Minister—Statements on Regional Development

PQ 1. Prime Minister—Statements on Regional Development
[Sitting date: 23 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]
1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements on regional development; if so, is the real median weekly income for all people in the Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay region, according to the New Zealand Income Survey, higher or lower now than when he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes , and to the second part of the question, I am advised that there is no official series that matches what the member is asking for, but I can tell him from the New Zealand Income Survey that median weekly income from all sources in the Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay region went from $500 in 2009 to $506 in 2013. For people in paid employment, median weekly earnings in that region went from $720 in 2009 to $756 in 2013.
Hon David Cunliffe : Can the Prime Minister confirm the New Zealand Income Survey statistics that the Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay pre-tax real median weekly incomes have fallen $61 a week—$61 a week—that over 2,000 more people are unemployed, and that 843 people have left Gisborne since he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, we do not accept that.
Hon David Cunliffe : After the Prime Minister has checked the Statistics New Zealand website and found that those figures are correct, will he be prepared to consider restoring the Gisborne to Napier rail line to encourage regional growth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I do not think that is likely. I think it is worth remembering with the Gisborne to Napier rail line that it accounted for 2 to 3 percent of freight in the East Coast. Even if revenue picked up, the service was expected to run at an annual loss of between $5 million and $8 million a year—but we all know that the Labour Party runs at a loss in so many areas.
Hon David Cunliffe : What does the Prime Minister say to the Waikato region and, in particular, the 114 workers who have lost their jobs at Canpac in Te Rapa today, or is he now a little bit sorry that he has got a so-called rock star economy where the bottom has fallen out of the dairy market by one-third in just 6 months?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Once again, the member is wrong. The second thing I would say is that 14,000 people have not lost their jobs. The second thing I would say is that 14,000 more people have jobs in the Waikato region. Fewer people are unemployed and the unemployment rate has dropped by 1.6 percent. The second thing is that Fonterra employs around 2,000 people in the Waikato region. Although not every job can be guaranteed, I know they will be working hard to find jobs for other people as best they can. Thirdly, what I would say to the people of the Waikato is that if you want to keep your job, vote National; if you want to lose it, vote Labour.
Hon David Cunliffe : If the Prime Minister will not give a straight answer today to those 114 workers whose jobs are on the line in Te Rapa, will he confirm today, as he refused to do yesterday, whether he is happy with the current situation where half the families in Kawerau live on less than $40,000 a year and a third of the town depends on a benefit, but in other areas over half the families earn over $100,000 and less than 10 percent are on a benefit? Is that fair, Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I suspect the position in Kawerau has been one that has been in that kind of condition for quite a long period of time. Secondly, one of the ways to assist the people of Kawerau is to do what the Government is doing actually—that is both in terms of the infrastructure we are developing around the country, making sure we do not overtax our businesses with a capital gains tax as that member would, and making sure we actually have a welfare system that readies people for work and expects them actually to move into work, along with the other welfare reforms. If the member really thinks that a $200 million slush fund spent over 4 years is going to do anything, then he needs to go and review all of his other policies. When he is finished with all that, he needs to look—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That answer is quite sufficient.
Hon David Cunliffe : Why is he so negative about the regional development fund—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order!
Hon David Cunliffe : Why is he so negative about the regional development fund when people actually involved in local government such as Lawrence Yule, president of Local Government New Zealand, say that Labour’s regional development fund is a step in the right direction?
Mr SPEAKER : I call the right honourable Prime Minister, insofar as there is prime ministerial responsibility.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not negative. If the member wants to see negative, he should see the comments that his caucus colleagues make behind his back about the member.
Hon David Cunliffe : Will the Prime Minister say to the people of the Bay of Plenty that he is prepared to support Labour’s forestry package, which has led Red Stag Timber to commit to a 70 percent expansion of production, taking it to 1.2 million cubic metres a year, or is he happy to export raw logs and close down timber mills across the North Island and import our own timber back from China to rebuild Christchurch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : A number of things: firstly, Red Stag Timber is a company that has actually been expanding quite successfully over the course of the last 6 or 7 years without some random policy. The second point I would make is if the member cares so much about forestry—does he? Does the member care about forestry and about logs?
Mr SPEAKER : Just answer the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : OK, here is an idea: let us go and pick up the thousands of them lying on the West Coast and mill them. Oh, that is right—they do not want to do that with wind-blown timber, but they want some dodgy policy for Red Stag Timber. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Question No. 2, Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Order! The member Dr Russel Norman has every right to ask a question.

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