Questions and Answers - July 23
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Prime Minister—Statements on Regional Development 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.
Prime Minister—Government Policy 2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his Government’s economic strategy to focus on expanding simple commodity exports such as milk powder, raw logs, and minerals—a pollution-based economy—rather than investing in research, science, and development to create a smarter, greener economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is really away with the fairies if that is what he believes, because in every single Budget since 2009 this Government has increased its expenditure on science. This year alone we are spending $1.5 billion in that area. In fact, the science and high-tech
area is growing rapidly under a National-led Government. So if the member thinks we are solely a commodity-based economy, he needs to get his head out of the clouds and look at what is actually happening around New Zealand. What I do know is when he goes around New Zealand and implements the sorts of policies he would like to do, he will be sending most New Zealand workers to the dole queue. I will be pointing that out to them over the course of the next 60 days.
Dr Russel Norman: Why is his Government planning to cut Government spending in science and research by over 10 percent in real terms over the next 3 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is making it up.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Prime Minister actually read theDraft National Statement of Science Investment—which the Government just issued, for the Prime Minister’s benefit—which says that Government investment will be dropping from $1.4 billion in 2014/15 to $1.35 billion in 2017/18 in nominal terms, which in real terms is a cut of 10 percent in 3 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is misinterpreting the data. The correct data represents what I have been saying, which is that the Government has been increasing expenditure in science and technology every year. Even in the worst of the financial conditions we have been doing that. That is why you are seeing some of the stellar results that are being delivered around the country.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library showing Government investment in science to drop by 10 percent in real terms over 3 years, and 21 percent—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has now been satisfactorily described. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that—[Interruption] Does the member want to speak to the point of order?
Hon Steven Joyce: I am just interested to know what that data is from. He said data from the library, but—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has described it. It is now over to the House. It was information prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Russel Norman: Does New Zealand’s prosperity lie in selling more milk powder and polluting more rivers, or does prosperity lie in investing in people and smart, green innovation—something that the Government is cutting, according to its own documents?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last point, the member is wrong, and he knows he is wrong. In relation to the earlier points, in fact, New Zealand’s prosperity lies in doing a combination of lots of things. There will be an increasing demand, I suspect, around the world, particularly from Asian nations, for continued commodities from New Zealand, but there is equally, as we can see, a rapid move up the value curve. We are seeing that with UHT milks and the like. We are seeing it with nutraceuticals. In the information and communications technology sector, generally we are seeing quite a significant expansion. We have had had the manufacturing sector expanding month after month after month. The member lives in a world where he wants to believe a few things. Unfortunately, the reality does not actually fit with the narrative that he, in his own little mind, wants to believe is true. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will be reluctant to ask a member to leave the House, but if the member continues to interject with that barrage, then I will be doing so.
Dr Russel Norman: With regard to manufactured exports, is he proud of his Government’s record of simplifying our export economy, given the 19 percent fall in real terms of the value of manufactured exports since the National Government took office? Real statistics, real facts—just try dealing with them, Mr Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: OK, well, we will deal with the facts. Fifty billion dollars’ worth of goods was exported over the last 12 months out of New Zealand. I will tell you the way to kill those exports markets. That is, one, to stop signing free-trade agreements—oh, yes: that is the Green Party policy. Two—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not necessary for the member to be commenting on another party’s policy.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to the answer, it is actually germane if the member is going to ask a question about a specific point about our strategy for growing the economy. It is quite fair and right, actually, to contrast—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough from the Prime Minister. On many of the questions we have had so far, members themselves have asked for comment on policies of the Labour Party and the Green Party, and in that case I will be perfectly accepting of an answer that makes comment on those particular policies. But on this particular occasion, the question did not raise any other political party’s policy. On that basis, I am not accepting the answer.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the best way to add value to our exports to simply produce more and to pollute more, or is investing in manufacturing, information and communications technology, and innovation a smarter, greener alternative; if so, why is the Government cutting spending on research and development and science, according to the Government’s own predictions as confirmed by the Parliamentary Library document that his members stopped me tabling?
Mr SPEAKER: The Rt Hon Prime Minister—either of those questions.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member’s question was quite instructive, actually, because his argument was that to produce more, you have to pollute more. On this side of the House, we actually totally and utterly disagree with that, but it does show what the member is thinking, and that is, of course, if you want to pollute less—which is something we accept the Green Party wants to do—you have to produce less, and boy will the Greens be producing less if they ever assume the Treasury benches.
Dr Russel Norman: How does the Prime Minister expect New Zealand to move towards a smarter economy when New Zealand’s investment in research and development has barely lifted as a proportion of GDP during National’s Government, and languishes at only 54 percent of the OECD average, and according to Government predictions is going to drop even further?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is wrong. I am not surprised that the member is using dodgy numbers, because most of his policies are backed up by dodgy numbers—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Answer the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: But this is the way to grow the New Zealand economy, and that is to follow the prescription that the National Government has been following in the last 6 years we have been here. Have a tax system that actually encourages investment—something that this Government has been doing. Sign free-trade agreements so that we have better access to international markets—something that this Government has been doing. Invest in science and innovation—something that this Government has been doing. Invest in skills—something that this Government has been doing. Invest in infrastructure—something that this Government has been doing. Make sure our businesses face less regulation and less red tape—something that this Government has been doing. Make sure that our businesses face a fair carbon tax, not something that is disproportionate to what is happening around the world—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer now is quite long enough.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If any of what he has just said in his answers this afternoon is correct, how does he explain two things—[Interruption]—and, “Big Ears”, you can help out as well—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, how does he explain two things, if any of that is true: one, the growing nervousness of the National Party backbench, and, two, the internal polls of the National Party showing him that it is well behind where it was this far out from the 2011 election? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a particular interest in listening to the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member genuinely believes that the National backbench is demonstrating nervousness, then what I think the member should do is look left, because out there they are terrified, buddy.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members will resume their seats. I am on my feet. Now I gather there is a point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters. It will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Look, I cannot let a misnomer like that start running, and the Prime Minister must not call someone “buddy” in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member now will resume his seat because that is not a point of order.
Economic Programme—Reports 3. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received supporting the Government’s economic programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Earlier this month the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings confirmed that it had revised New Zealand’s AA credit rating outlook from stable to positive. This indicates the credit rating’s likely direction over the next year or two. Fitch Ratings said that the Government’s fiscal consolidation and track to surplus in 2014-15 are increasing the resilience of New Zealand’s sovereign credit profile, and it noted that the Government has a credible plan to lift fiscal surpluses in the years ahead and to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP by 2020. Fitch Ratings also said that New Zealand’s economic policy framework, business environment, and standards of governance ranked among the world’s strongest from a credit perspective and warranted high-grade sovereign ratings.
John Hayes: In confirming the positive outlook for New Zealand’s credit rating, what did Fitch Ratings say about New Zealand’s current and future economic growth prospects?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It noted that New Zealand’s macroeconomic record and prospects are supporting its credit rating. It said that real GDP grew by 2.7 percent in 2013 and is expected to increase to 3.8 percent in 2014. This will be supported by, among other factors, reconstruction in Canterbury; dairy prices, which have moderated but are still at elevated levels; and a house-building catch-up. Fitch Ratings noted that although New Zealand’s average GDP growth over the past 5 years, at 1.6 percent, is lower than the median among AA rated countries, it was less volatile and was higher than the 1.2 percent median growth rate among AAA rated countries.
John Hayes: What other factors did Fitch Ratings note in respect of its positive ratings outlook for New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the factors Fitch Ratings noted was New Zealand’s historical vulnerability around high net external debt and persistent current account deficits. I am pleased to report that both of these indicators have improved significantly in recent years. For example, the unadjusted current account balance in the March quarter was a surplus of $1.4 billion—the largest dollar surplus ever recorded—and the annual 2.8 percent deficit is well under half the deficits of around 7 percent of GDP in the 3 years to 2008. So our net international liability position has improved. It was 65 percent of GDP in March this year, well down from a recent peak of 85 percent of GDP in early 2009.
John Hayes: And for my last question, what other reports has he received about the state of the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen one report claiming that Government debt is larger as a percentage of GDP than New Zealand had during World War II. This is completely false. Gross Government debt is currently around 35 percent of GDP. At the end of World War II it was around 150 percent of GDP. David Cunliffe has again completely misled New Zealanders.
Regional Economies—Economic and Social Inequality 4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree that there are growing gaps among the regions of New Zealand, making the economy and society increasingly unbalanced; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, I do not agree with that. A variety of data suggests the regions have led New Zealand’s recovery. Statistics New Zealand regional GDP data shows that Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes’s Bay, Nelson-Tasman, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, of course, all grew faster than the national average in the 5 years to 2013. The most recent ANZ Regional Trends survey shows rural regions growing faster than urban areas, and just last week I received reports from Queenstown, in my own electorate, of a significant boost from a long holiday by the Leader of the Opposition. But if the member wants to talk down the regions, then I hope he declares a crisis, because on recent established history every time Labour declares a crisis, things come right pretty quickly.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree that when the top few percent own most of the wealth the squeezed do not have enough to spend and invest and the economy will not perform to its fullest potential until the imbalance is fixed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. In fact, in respect of the distribution of benefits of growth I can tell the member that the number of people on working-age benefits in Greymouth dropped 5 percent in the last year. In Blenheim it dropped 9 percent. In Napier it dropped 8 percent in the last year, and in Wanganui the number of people on working-age benefits also dropped 5 percent. Those people are now enjoying the benefits of more jobs and a stronger economy.
Hon David Parker: Then why is it that after 6 years, aside from Canterbury, the unemployment rate is higher in every region of New Zealand than it was when he took office?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, on “Planet Labour” there was no global financial crisis—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just answer the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —and the member should take that into account when he uses those measures. Of course, in the real world, which is not where the Labour Party is, there was a major recession and unemployment did rise rapidly. Fortunately, it is now dropping consistently.
Tim Macindoe: Which regions have seen the strongest increases in economic activity?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most recent regional trend survey shows that the strongest growth in economic activity in the March quarter was—in order—Northland, the highest, at 3.4 percent, followed by Bay of Plenty, then Waikato, then Nelson-Marlborough, then Otago, then the West Coast, and then Canterbury. ANZ reports that Northland was also the fastest growing region in the year to March at 7.4 percent. Business confidence is at a 9-year high in the survey and the top two areas for business confidence are Otago, despite the complaints of its civic leadership, and the Waikato. As I said, the evidence tends to suggest that the regions have led the recovery not lagged it.
Hon David Parker: Is his selective use of statistics because the latest Statistics New Zealand figures on per capita GDP show that per capita GDP in the last year has gone backwards, not just in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatū, Wanganui, Marlborough, and on the West Coast but also in his own province of Southland?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with that. But what I do agree with is the proposition that a significant carbon tax, a capital gains tax, and water rules that mean that every river has to be absolutely pure, will have dramatic economic effects on the regions and they will all be negative. That is why the regions are turning up to meetings all over the country, to tell us how determined they are to stop the Greens and Labour taking over Government.
Hon David Parker: How can he say that regional growth is not in balance when according to the 2013 census the gap between median household incomes in Northland and Wellington has grown to around $30,000 a year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not seen those figures, but that is a bit rich coming from the party that complains because the Government put constraint on Public Service salaries.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table the per capita GDP figures from Statistics New Zealand for the regions for the year ended 2013.
Mr SPEAKER: If they are published by Statistics New Zealand, they are available to be referenced.
Local Government Regulations—Rules Reduction Taskforce 5. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Local Government: What recent announcements has she made about reducing red tape for property owners?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government): Our new Rules Reduction Task force will weed out pedantic and loopy rules that frustrate homeowners. I constantly hear complaints from homeowners about rules brought in over years by both central and local government that are confusing, onerous, and costly, even if they are well intentioned. This task force will give New Zealanders an opportunity to submit their ideas about which rules need axing. The group will then look at what should stay and what should go, so that people can get on with the job of building and renovating, without having to wade through unnecessary bureaucracy.
Maggie Barry: What suggestions has she already seen about pedantic red tape?
Hon Member: Is that the red scarf?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, she did not say red scarf. She said red tape. The country has got more important things to worry about. In just a few hours yesterday more than 400 comments had been made on the Stuff website by people frustrated by loopy rules. I have heard everything, from people being told where they can put their shower curtain, to someone being told their pool fence was not compliant, because a jasmine plant was growing up the side of it. I have even heard of a person being told that they had to put windows in to let the light in, even though they had just installed a ranchslider, but, of course, it was considered a door. There is no doubt that every time someone has to comply with one of these rules, it holds back what should be common sense for a property owner to be able to do.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the normal way, if the Minister has been reading from official advice, I would like her to table that, please, and in particular confirm—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Was the Minister quoting from an official document?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I was quoting from a website.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I hope it is a point of order.
Hon David Cunliffe: Further to the last point of order, and I thank you for allowing us to proceed, to get to the bottom of the Minister’s assertion—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the member come to his point of order.
Hon David Cunliffe: Could the Minister please table the source regulation that she was referring to, perhaps about the shower curtain?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order.
Maggie Barry: What is the skill set that you are looking for for the people in the task force?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have been thinking about people who might be of value on this task force—people who know that they should not stand up and apologise for being a man, for example—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: They are people who no longer think about red scarfs actually being what is holding them back from getting their message across. Those kinds of loopy—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer will not help the order of the House.
Su'a William Sio: Will her task force help to get rid of loopy, bureaucratic rules like councils being required to individually identify every tree they want to protect in their council area by street
address or legal description in their council plans, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to ratepayers, which her Government introduced? [Interruption]
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Oh, brilliant! Thank you. Lovely.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, members will be interested to know the answer.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I am sure they will. Actually, it is their decision. It is not a rule that has been put in place. It is how the councils are actually administrating it. This is the kind of thing that we can cut through. We accept that Labour likes layers upon layers of rules that do not actually mean that a community can get on and do what a property owner should be able to do on their own land. The people like this—it is this that they will—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Sio referred to a specific rule that the local bodies have to comply with. That is the one I want to hear about. That is what he asked about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member would resume his seat, he might recall the question was whether the task force would help to get rid of such a rule. If we could have a bit more quiet on this side of the House, we could hear the answer. Does the honourable Minister wish to complete—
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am done.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that Mr Sio asked a specific question and there has not been any attempt to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not agree with the member. I was listening through a barrage of noise, but from the answer I heard, the Minister was saying that that is exactly the type of thing she hopes the task force will be able to get rid of.
Housing, Minister—Statements on Homeownership 6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by his statement “My ambition in housing is to make the dream of home ownership a reality for more New Zealanders”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): Absolutely, and that is why this Government has put so much work into advancing the reforms recommended by the Productivity Commission on freeing up land supply, constraining development contributions, and reducing tariffs and duties on building materials, as well as our sound economic policies, which are keeping interest rates low for longer.
Phil Twyford: Does he think that the dream of homeownership is becoming a reality for more New Zealanders on his watch when the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows that it now takes 50 years to pay off a home in Auckland, which means that people in their 30s will be paying off a mortgage in their 70s and 80s, or is that affordable housing under his Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Homeownership peaked in about 1986 and has been in decline for the best part of the 28 years since. The worst decline in homeownership occurred between 2000 and 2008, when house prices doubled and interest rates went from 5 percent to 11 percent. Such long-term trends take time to work through. We are making good progress.
Phil Twyford: How can he boast, as he does frequently, that his Auckland Housing Accord is making a difference, when his own Cabinet papers show that Auckland Council last year was forecasting that only 7,000 new dwellings would be consented this year, and that consents are now, according to the Auckland Council chief economist, running at less than that rate under the Minister’s accord, which is about half of what Auckland needs just to stand still; and is he surprised to learn that not a single new house has been built in his special housing areas since he announced them 14 months ago?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What I can advise the member is that the rate of building consents both nationally and in Auckland is the fastest rate in 7 years, and that we are on target to meet those accord targets of an additional 9,000 houses this year, 13,000 next year, and 17,000 the year after. I
can also confirm that more residential land has been zoned by us this year than has been zoned in the last 10 years.
Jami-Lee Ross: How does the rate of new house builds and housing affordability today compare with that when National first became Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The new house build rate collapsed in 2008 to just 1,000 per month nationally and to only 200 houses per month in Auckland. The current rate is 2,000 houses per month nationally and 600 per month in Auckland. That is, we are building twice as many houses every month nationally than when we became the Government, and three times as many houses per month than were being built in Auckland. On housing affordability data, what the Roost index shows is that housing affordability nationally has improved by 26 percent since we became the Government and 17 percent in Auckland, or if you want to use the Massey University Home Affordability Report, things have improved 35 percent nationally and 25 percent in Auckland.
Phil Twyford: Will he concede that, as shown in his Cabinet paper, for 5 years straight, under his Government, the number of building consents for new dwellings has been lower than for any year in the previous two decades, and even if he meets his Auckland Housing Accord target, he will never catch up with the shortfall?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The record on building consents is very clear. They completely collapsed in 2008. They collapsed to the point that in November 2008 fewer houses were built than in any year in 15 years, and we are now building three times as many houses per month as when we became the Government, and I am proud of that record.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave of the House to table this Cabinet paper, which shows that for 5 years straight—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member’s use—[Interruption] Order! The member is describing the paper. It has been well described in his supplementary question. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Cabinet paper. Is there any objection?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am putting the leave first for this. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table Statistics New Zealand’s housing building consent figures—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member can resume his seat. New Zealand statistics are available to all members easily.
Phil Twyford: Is he aware that new figures show that property investors with multiple houses make up 43 percent of house sales, showing that property speculation is out of control, particularly in Auckland, and does he agree with Westpac that a capital gains tax would reduce the value of rental properties for speculators by 23 percent, which would make his failing housing policy fairer, and help more New Zealanders into their own homes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: All of the advice that I have seen about a capital gains tax is that it will make any difference to the housing market only if you include the two-thirds of homes that are owned by ordinary families. I do not know any political parties that are endorsing that view, but I would never doubt the capacity of members opposite to want to tax more hard-working New Zealanders.
Canterbury, Recovery—Lincoln University Rebuild 7. Hon KATE WILKINSON (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What investment is the Government making in the recovery of Lincoln University?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Last week I announced that the Government has approved in principle to provide up to $107.5 million in additional capital funding towards the rebuilding of Lincoln University’s science facilities
destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes. Lincoln suffered very significant damage in the earthquakes, losing 40 percent of its academic floor space, including much of its facilities for science, teaching, and research. The Government funding of up to $107.5 million is almost one-third of the projected cost of the total campus rebuild, and will involve demolishing the badly damaged Hilgendorf and Burns buildings, and replacing them with modern new facilities.
Hon Kate Wilkinson: Why is the Government investing in new science facilities for Lincoln University?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Canterbury earthquakes did cause, as I said, very significant damage to the university. It has been using temporary facilities since the earthquakes. And, of course, since the earthquakes, it has had a drop in student numbers, as has Canterbury University. This funding will help the university with its rebuild programme and get it back fully on its feet. Of course, the agricultural sector, which is Lincoln’s area of speciality, earns New Zealand $36 billion in exports each year, and the university is a leading player in the sector’s teaching and research, helping to ensure increasing amounts of innovation in that sector. The new facilities will be a huge asset to Lincoln, significantly assisting its recovery and student numbers, and, of course, also providing opportunities for those export earnings to continue to increase as productivity increases.
Hon Kate Wilkinson: How does the Government’s investment in Lincoln University assist the development of the Lincoln Hub?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Lincoln Hub is a partnership between the university, Dairy New Zealand, and a number of Crown research institutes. It will be an incubator for research, innovation, and wealth creation in the agricultural sector, with one of the highest concentrations of agricultural and environmental scientists in the southern hemisphere working together to bring new ideas to market and develop new export opportunities. Part of the Government’s agreement with Lincoln for this new funding is the integration of its new facilities with the other major partners in the hub. The rebuild of the university, together with the existing campus development plans of the research institutes located at Lincoln, mean we have a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity to combine the physical operations of all these entities in one integrated campus serving 900 scientists, students, and industry.
Education, National Standards—Student Achievement Data 8. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that national standards data provides an accurate reflection of real student achievement; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe e te Mana Whakawā. Yes, I am satisfied that the reported data provides an accurate reflection of where teachers assess their students to be against the national standards at this time. This is because I back the professional judgments of teachers. National standards is in the third year of reporting, which has been remarkably consistent given the very early stages of implementation. The reporting is also far more comprehensive and systematic than anything we have had in the past. It is helpful to schools, which can now identify early and precisely who needs what kind of assistance. It is helpful to parents, who tell me they appreciate the plain English reporting and knowing what they can do to support their children to achieve. It is helpful to teachers, who tell me it has enriched their understanding of New Zealand’s brilliant curriculum. It is helpful to principals, who tell me it helps them to know how their schools are doing as a whole. It is helpful to kids, who tell me they are enjoying knowing their next learning steps. With this information, schools can now turn numbers into names into needs so that five out of five can succeed.
Chris Hipkins: What confidence can parents have that national standards data represents an accurate picture of student achievement when the Ministry of Education is advising schools in writing to arbitrarily adjust their results from below standard to above standard in order to make their schools data add up?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is absolute rubbish. That is not what is happening. What is happening is that the Ministry of Education is checking totals with schools, is checking whether the data would disclose privacy issues, and is reporting exactly what schools are telling it with those results.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table an email from the Ministry of Education to Valley School in Pukekohe, advising it to manipulate its data. It is dated 9 May. I have removed the name of the official who sent it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Chris Hipkins: Why should parents have confidence in the national standards data when the principal involved has stated “What they are suggesting I do is in fact manipulate my data to make it fit. In this case it would make my data look better, as I would now have no Asian students in the ‘below’ category and three more Asian students in the ‘above’ category.”, and that principal further went on to say “I feel sorry for all parents and communities who look at the 2013 national standards data and make assumptions about school performance based on manipulated data, and I am appalled at the thought that schools will be judged and ranked based on such data.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The answer to the member’s question is in the very quote he read out. He is talking about four Asian students. In a school they would be identifiable if those numbers were used.
Chris Hipkins: Does it paint an accurate picture of a school’s student achievement if the Ministry of Education is advising schools to adjust the results of students that the school has ranked as being below the standard to be above the standard?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It seems that the member is unable to process the answers I have been giving him. There is—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I agree. I agree that it is extremely funny. The conflict here is the balance of managing the privacy of students where the numbers are so low in a school that the students would be recognised. The member’s own evidence was that we were talking—
Chris Hipkins: Make the numbers up.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps the member would like to listen. We were talking about four students—four students of a particular ethnicity being disclosed. That is not manipulation. That is in accordance with the 1993 Privacy Act.
Chris Hipkins: How does it accurately represent student achievement at a school when a school is being advised by the Ministry of Education to change data so that students whom the school has assessed as being below the standard are now reflected in the school’s data as being above the standard?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I absolutely reject the assertion that the ministry is adjusting its reporting. The ministry is certainly working in terms of protecting privacy. The information that is provided by schools is what is reported. Therefore parents, the public, and everyone can look at that information, and it will be available to them. Actually, it provides a systematic report to parents about what is happening, unlike Labour, which is promising to replace—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That answer is now sufficient.
Fisheries—Policy 9. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Is he satisfied with all aspects of fisheries policy, including progress relating to the ongoing use of Foreign Charter Vessels?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes. The member will be aware that the foreign charter vessels bill is currently awaiting the Committee of the whole House stage. This is another key piece of work that will protect our international reputation and trade access and will
maximise the economic return to New Zealand from our fisheries resources. Through this piece of legislation the Government is sending a clear message that New Zealand is serious about the fair treatment of fishing crews, the safety of vessels, and its international reputation for ethical and sustainable fishing practices. With only a few days left of House time this bill is highly unlikely to pass under this Parliament, but I am very confident that the bill will proceed under the new Parliament, given its broad support.
Richard Prosser: Given that answer, will he also adopt New Zealand First’s policy of excluding all trawlers from the inshore fishery inside the 12-mile limit, in order to assist in the regeneration of fish stocks and to ensure that recreational fishers have access to satisfactory catches?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I have not studied New Zealand First policy, but what I will say is that it sounds better than Labour’s policy, which is to bring in a recreational fishing licence for all recreational fishers.
Richard Prosser: Can he give the House a commitment that he will adopt New Zealand First’s policy—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That misrepresentation of Labour Party policy by the Minister was out of order and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member has been here a long time. He knows the rules. If he feels that there has been a misrepresentation, a false statement, then he knows to use Standing Order 355.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought that was the reason we had a Standing Order that said it was out of order for a Minister to represent what other parties’ policies were—because they have no responsibility for them.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member is making, which is that it was not helpful for the Minister to comment on Labour Party policy. The difficulty we have had—[Interruption] Order! The difficulty was that when the question was raised, it was raised by a New Zealand First member of Parliament, asking for particular comment on New Zealand First policy. The Minister—unhelpfully to the House, I accept—then commented on that and equally on another party’s policy.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Rather than going through a pile of points of order this afternoon over whether or not the Minister should have said it, it would be very easy for the Labour Opposition to seek the opportunity to make a personal statement clearing up its intention to introduce recreational fishing licences.
Mr SPEAKER: That is for a member—if a member is offended by it and wants to take that course of action, we will consider it.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify, before I deal with this matter, whether it is a completely fresh point of order. I have dealt with the other matter. [Interruption] Order! If the member wants clarification, I invite him to come and see me afterwards. If the member wants to raise a fresh point of order, I will hear about it, but I am not having matters relitigated on the floor of this House.
Hon David Parker: I cannot understand how a question from New Zealand First that results in misrepresentation of Labour Party policy can be an answer that is within the Standing Orders. I seek clarification as to whether you were making—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. I have advised the member, if he feels there has been a case of misrepresentation, to refer to the Standing Orders and to use Standing Order 355.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table a record of the meeting at which the Labour candidate for Marlborough said that they would introduce a fishing licence.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify whether it is a media article.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, it is a statement from a member of the public who was at the meeting. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is easily resolved. It is for the House to make a decision.
Hon David Parker: Does the document exist?
Mr SPEAKER: The document clearly exists, because the member is seeking to table it. [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. When I am on my feet—[Interruption] Order! You are very close to being asked to leave the Chamber, Mr Parker. When I am on my feet, all members will be quiet. There is clearly a document because the Hon Dr Smith has said he wishes to table it. It is a very serious offence in this House if he seeks to table a document that does not exist. I will therefore put the leave and the House will decide whether it wants to accept that document. Leave is sought to table this particular statement. Is there any objection?
Hon David Cunliffe: Is it a media article?
Mr SPEAKER: We have clarified for the sake of the—[Interruption] Order! For the benefit of the Hon David Cunliffe, I have already clarified from the Hon Dr Nick Smith that it is not a media article; it is a statement that was written by an attendee at the meeting. [Interruption] Order! I say to the Hon David Parker. Leave is now sought to table that document. It is in the hands of the House. If any member objects, it will not be tabled. I put the leave. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to draw to your attention Standing Orders 354 and 355, which go to personal explanations and misrepresentations of members. I think we were invited to take a point of order under one of those if we felt we had been misrepresented. My submission to you is that neither of those can be used where someone is trying to correct a matter to do with a party’s policy, as opposed to a member’s personal situation or a comment that a member made.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need assistance from the member. I am going to offer the member a further avenue for correcting this matter. In the not too distant future, when we finish question time, there will be a general debate. That will be an opportunity if the members want to do so.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It may be helpful for you to offer Opposition members the opportunity to use some of their General Debate time to clear this matter up—and I am sure they will want to—but the premise that is put by Mr Mallard is wrong. A member over the other side can easily say “I do not support our Marlborough candidate with his recreational”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not think that point of order is going to help the order of the House. I have resolved the matter.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a separate matter. I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library that shows that the increase in percentage terms of gross sovereign debt during World War II was less than the proportionate increase in gross sovereign debt under the current National Government.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. The document has been prepared for the member by the Parliamentary Library. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Richard Prosser: Can he give the House a commitment that he will adopt a policy of setting consistent minimum size catch limits for both recreational and commercial fishers; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The member will be aware that there are already provisions that have been made under Snapper 1, where we are really focused on ensuring that we have more reporting coming through. We have got cameras under trial, we have got vessel monitoring systems coming in in October this year, there are move-on rules, and there are observers currently operating on foreign charter vessels.
Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very good answer, but, in fairness, the question was actually whether he would make a commitment to consistent sizes, and that was not addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the member—I suspect it probably was answered, to be honest, but I will give the member the benefit of the doubt and I will invite him to ask the question again.
Richard Prosser: Can he give the House a commitment that he will adopt a policy of setting consistent minimum size catch limits for both recreational and commercial fishers; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: We already have that in place. We have a world-leading quota management system. We have sustainability fishing rounds, where we work through those fishing stocks. It is also important to note that our quota management system is one of the best in the world.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Is he able to give the House any idea of how many people in New Zealand might be impeded in their desire to go and catch a fish if they had to have a recreational licence for salt-water fishing, as proposed by the Labour Party?
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question is well outside of the Standing Orders because it includes matters for which the Minister is not responsible, and Mr Brownlee is also making it up, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to allow the question as asked, but I am going to invite the member to re-ask the question without the last bit. If he wants to know how many recreational fishers might be affected by such a policy, that is acceptable, but do not attribute it to any political party in this House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If a recreational fishing licence was required for salt-water fishing, is he able to estimate how many New Zealanders may be denied the opportunity to catch fish on the seashore or on their boat on the ocean?
Hon NATHAN GUY: My understanding is hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders really enjoy recreational fishing. I cannot believe that anyone would be proposing bringing in a recreational licence scheme. That would go down like a cup of sick with all of our Kiwi mum and dad fishers who really enjoy taking their children out and catching fish.
Richard Prosser: Why has the Government not taken effective action over the past 6 years to end the dumping of fish at sea by commercial fishers?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Well, if the member followed the progress that we are making with the Primary Growth Partnership, he would be aware of the fact that there is a fantastic, innovative net design that is currently being trialled. It allows for fish to be caught alive, for fish to come on board the vessel alive, and for potentially new export markets to open up where fish are transported alive into high-value premium markets. This is a very exciting, innovative idea, backed by the industry, backed by the Government, and even supported by the Labour Party leader, David Cunliffe—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Richard Prosser: Will he commit to securing the best possible economic return to New Zealand from our fisheries resource by adopting a policy of requiring all fish caught by commercial fishers in New Zealand waters to be landed in New Zealand and processed in New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The member will be aware, I am sure, that fish caught in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone have to be landed in New Zealand. The majority of fresh fish bought by Kiwi mums and dads is indeed processed in New Zealand. I have just outlined initiatives where we are going to continue to add value to our fish, with the Primary Growth Partnership. It is also worth mentioning to the member that we have three fishing stocks that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is fantastic, and the industry is working on getting more of those certified. This is a gold-plated system where we get endorsements about high quality and high value from a sustainable fishing source.
Better Public Services Targets—Reduction in Crime and Reoffending 10. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: Is she confident in the progress of the Better Public Services target for the justice sector to reduce overall crime by 15 percent by June 2017?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Andrew Little: How can she be confident that crime is reducing when according to the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, family violence investigations increased from 86,800 in 2010 to 95,100 last year, and yet her crime figures show a drop?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Actually, we have confidence in the New Zealand police, unlike the Labour Party. In addition to that, it is a good thing that more people are now reporting family violence. It is certainly something that when many people in this House were growing up no one spoke about and today people have confidence to come forward.
Andrew Little: How can she be confident that crime is reducing when there are reports such as the one in the Taranaki Daily News on 10 July this year in which a Crown solicitor confirmed that a police prosecuting sergeant had instructed another officer that he should not have laid as many charges in a particular case, because of the need to reduce crime by a certain percentage?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Obviously the Taranaki Daily News is something that we all should be reading. Having said that, of course, the recorded crime rate is not on the number of prosecutions; it is actually on the reported crime. I am sure that that member, if he has a look at his notes, would find that I am correct and he is wrong.
Andrew Little: Does she accept that, as Minister of Justice, when she first discovered there had been a misreporting of crime statistics in Counties Manukau, she should have passed the information on and done something with the information to see how it would affect her justice sector targets, rather than ignoring it because she was no longer police Minister?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, absolutely not. This Government does not deal in rumour and gossip. If, of course, we did, then I might start talking about that member talking to the Sunday Star-Times—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not think the answer is going to assist the order.
Andrew Little: Will she accept that the combination of arbitrary targets and bonus payments to senior police officers is leading to manipulation and utter deceptive conduct in relation to the recording of crime figures, and that New Zealanders can have no confidence that crime is reducing, as the Government claims?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No, that is an outrageous suggestion to make—that the New Zealand police would ever, as a body, engage in that sort of behaviour. The New Zealand police are the finest police in the world, and I am proud to be part of a Government that supports the police and gives them the tools to do what they need to do. They are fantastic. I am ashamed that that member would say it. He should be saying sorry just like his leader always does.
Freshwater Management, National Policy Statement—Water Quality of Rivers 11. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management require the 61 percent of monitored recreational river sites that are graded “poor” or “very poor” to be safe for swimming?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): The national policy statement requires all fresh water to be at a level that experts tell us will protect aquatic species and human health. Beyond that, it does not set requirements on a river-by-river basis. They are national standards, and above the bottom lines, it is for each community to decide what goal will be set in each case.
Eugenie Sage: Does she think it acceptable that these sites, chosen because they are popular for swimming, are actually too polluted to safely swim at and that her weak bottom lines will not make a difference?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, the member is quite wrong in her assertion. First of all, what we are talking about here is 94 sites out of a total of 425,000 kilometres of waterways, and even fewer than that actually measuring as potentially at risk, and even those are generally safe for swimming most of the time.
Eugenie Sage: When the Minister said that we need to manage popular lake and river swimming spots for swimming, did that include the Waikirikiri Selwyn River on her doorstep, which has
multiple sites that are unsafe for swimming, and which her national bottom line—that rivers have to be fit only for wading and not for swimming—will not clean up?
Hon AMY ADAMS: What we have said consistently is that we trust local communities to know which sites they want to protect for swimming and to take the necessary steps to do that. I back my community to make decisions about what it wants to protect for swimming, and I am not going to impose costs on every community, every business, and every household in New Zealand because the Greens want every drainage ditch to be managed as if it was a swimming pool. It is ludicrous.
Eugenie Sage: What advice has the Minister had on the cost to local authorities of multiple regional plan processes and court litigation that result from her decision to leave it to councils to determine whether rivers should be clean and safe for swimming, rather than having a national bottom line?
Hon AMY ADAMS: What I can tell that member is that, of course, at the moment—and the situation that that member’s party was quite happy with when it was in a position to do something about it—these decisions are entirely for councils, the difference being that at the moment the Government provides no assistance, no national consistency, and no standardised science. That is what we have done and that will significantly reduce the time and the cost on each community in making those decisions. I am just surprised that member does not back local communities.
Eugenie Sage: Can the Minister confirm that she is abandoning annual reporting on recreational river quality in the suitability for swimming indicator report because the National Government is trying to hide the bad news?
Hon AMY ADAMS: That member well knows that we are moving to the most comprehensive system of environmental reporting that this country has ever had, under which water quality will be reported twice in every 18 months—a system, by the way, that did not exist in 2007 when the Greens were propping up a Labour Government that picked and chose what information it wanted to give to the public.
Conservation—Aotea Conservation Park 12. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Conservation: When will the new Aotea Conservation Park in Auckland announced on Sunday be formally gazetted and opened?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): I have made the decision to proceed with the Aotea Conservation Park proposed by local MP Nikki Kaye last October, but the formal gazettal and opening has been delayed by the recent storm damage to tracks and facilities on the island. The decision to proceed with the new park enables the tracks and facilities to be rebuilt to the higher standard and to recognise the new Aotea Conservation Park. This is expected to cost $2.5 million and will be completed over summer. The Department of Conservation’s intention is to open the new park early next year.
Simon O'Connor: How does this new park compare to others in Auckland, and were any changes made during the process of consultation?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The new park is 12,109 hectares, and it will be the largest Department of Conservation park in Auckland. It will be similar in size to the two regional parks in the Hunua and Waitakere ranges. The significance of this park is that it is the largest forest that is possum and stoat - free anywhere in New Zealand. It is particularly rich in trees like pōhutukawa, kauri, and tree daisy and birds like kākā and brown teal, and it has the largest population of black petrel anywhere in New Zealand. There were 2,800 submissions on the proposal. On the basis of representations from the Auckland Council, I decided to exclude a small area that it required for a small cemetery.