Questions and Answers - April 30
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Health, Minister—Statements 1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, within the context in which they were made.
Hon Annette King: Does he stand by his statement that “this Government has always made funding health its top spending priority”; if so, why has the number of people refused a first specialist appointment—particularly orthopaedic appointments—increased in some district health boards over the past 3 years under this Government?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, I do.
Hon Annette King: If health funding is a top spending priority, why has the number of people refused a first specialist assessment for orthopaedics in the Bay of Plenty increased by 396 percent over the last 3 years under this Government?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: That is not actually correct. The reality is that that data has not been collected. This Government is the first Government ever to collect that data, and that will be available sometime in mid-2016. But I can tell you, the Labour Government never paid any attention—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request I have received from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, pointing out—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. You do not need to say what it says. I am happy to put the leave on that basis. It is an Official Information Act request received from a particular district health board. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.
Hon Annette King: If health funding is a top spending priority, why has the number of people from the West Coast who have been refused a first specialist assessment for orthopaedics increased from 11 to 200 over the past 3 years?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I would like to see that document because that information has never been collected. So there is a very incomplete picture, which this Government is building up. We are the first Government ever to do it.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request from the West Coast District Health Board, pointing out the increase—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The document has been described. I will put the leave. It is an Official Information Act request obtained from the West Coast District Health Board. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is not.30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 2 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon Annette King: Does he stand by his statement that the chair of the Tairāwhiti District Health Board did not say “We have used all the fat in the system. We are really stretched. We can’t sustain this pressure”, in light of the email I have now received that confirms that the chair actually checked the report prior to its publication?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have spoken to Mr Scott today, and his point, actually—and he is very annoyed about it—is that he was quoted out of context yesterday. His words were: “Annette King is way out of line.”
Hon Annette King: Point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order from the Hon Annette King and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an email from the Gisborne Herald that points out that the chair—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! On the basis that the statement has been disputed in the answers given, I will put the leave. It will be for the House to decide whether that particular email would give further information to the House. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Annette King: “Who cares?” says the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: There was objection.
Hon Annette King: There was an objection?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask the supplementary question. There was an objection. [Interruption] Order! I heard an objection coming from my right-hand side. The easiest way forward is I will put the leave again. Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is objection. Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! Every member has a right, when leave is put, to object. It does not need to take a chorus from my left-hand side to note it.
Hon Annette King: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I will accept the supplementary question when the member’s own colleagues settle down.
Hon Annette King: Has he seen the report in the Gisborne Herald today about the Tairāwhiti District Health Board’s financial position, which is now reporting a $2.1 million deficit, which is worse than budgeted; if so, why is it having these problems if it has got sufficient funding?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have not seen that report. The report I have seen is the one from January where the chair of the board said that, actually, the funding is adequate.
Hon Annette King: Why should New Zealanders believe or trust this Minister when he told this House on 22 October last year that New Zealand had four isopods to safely transport Ebola patients to high-level isolation, when the Ministry of Health advised Barbara Stewart, Kevin Hague, and me on 30 October that it was still waiting for them to arrive in New Zealand?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What I think is very interesting about that is that the member was given a briefing in good faith and she said that she would accept it in good faith and that what happened in the briefing would stay in the briefing. She has clearly broken it. She is impugning my integrity. I think that, actually, it reflects much worse on her. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We had complaints yesterday about the level of noise coming from some on my left. I will have no choice today but to be asking a member to leave if that sort of level of interjection continues.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Vote 2. FLETCHER TABUTEAU (NZ First) to the Minister of Trade: Can he explain why he is “reasonably confident of getting the numbers in the vote” given the growth in international opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 3 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): That is not actually what the Minister said. What Minister Groser actually said was: “I assume the professional political managers [in the US] would never have introduced this legislation unless they were reasonably confident of getting the numbers in the vote.” That seems to me to be a clear statement. New Zealand welcomes the progress made on trade promotion authority in the US. Its passage will be an important step in opening the door to the endgame for the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but, of course, the passage of trade promotion authority is obviously a matter for the US Congress.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Can the Minister deny that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement foreign corporates will gain a privileged position compared with New Zealand companies, such as the right to sue outside of New Zealand law?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Successive New Zealand Governments have concluded free-trade agreements with balanced investor-State dispute settlement provisions. They protect New Zealand investors abroad while safeguarding our ability to regulate for legislative policy proposals in New Zealand. We are taking the same balanced approach with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The member should note that a fair and balanced investor-State dispute settlement provision provides certainty to New Zealand businesses that invest in other countries.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Can the Minister explain how New Zealand will cope with the multimillion-dollar and even multibillion-dollar law suits, given the growing trend by large corporates in very recent times to take advantage of these investor-State dispute settlement clauses in other free-trade agreements around the world?
Hon TODD McCLAY: New Zealand will deal with that extremely well, but I would note that there has not been a single case like he has mentioned ever in the history of New Zealand. Of course, this is a provision that could well be negotiated in a trade agreement that is no different from other trade agreements that New Zealand has negotiated. Indeed, the process is the same with this agreement as it was with the China free-trade agreement, an agreement that was negotiated at a time that New Zealand First was propping up—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer has gone quite far enough.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Given the Minister’s assurance and confidence, would he being willing to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations in front of the whole Parliament before it is signed by a select few Government members?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, this will not be signed by a select few Government members; this will be signed by a select group of countries, who will put the interests of their citizens first. We have always been clear when it comes to negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership that it will be signed by a New Zealand Government only when it is a high-quality agreement and it is in the interests of New Zealand, firstly. Secondly, the process being followed with this is the same process that was followed with the China agreement, with one exception. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been widely consulted on; one additional time than was the case when the China agreement was being negotiated—an agreement that was negotiated by the Labour Government at the time it was being propped up by New Zealand First.
Better Public Services—Progress 3. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to deliver better public services, and how is this benefiting the Government’s books?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Three years ago the Prime Minister set 10 challenging targets for the Public Service. These included improving health and education outcomes, reducing crime, lowering welfare dependence, and increasing online connectivity. The framework has contributed to some significant improvements—for instance, there has been a 38 percent reduction in youth crime since 2011. The number of teenage solo parents on a benefit has dropped by 40 percent since 2011. The Government recently revised its workforce skills target due to better-than-expected results. We believe better 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 4 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) public services that help more people back into independence sooner helps to manage long-term costs. What works for communities works for the Government’s books.
Melissa Lee: How is the Government’s focus on getting better results for vulnerable New Zealanders changing the way it delivers public services?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we are doing is building a system that allows Governments to invest today in tailored interventions for the child, for the individual, and for the family, to track the results of that investment, and to do more of what works. We are already seeing results through the investment approach to welfare. Last year we reduced the expected cost of supporting current beneficiaries over their lifetimes by $7.5 billion, mostly by getting more sole parents back into work. The number of sole parents on benefits is the lowest it has been since 1986. This Government is willing to pay a bit more upfront to secure long-term results for New Zealanders.
Darroch Ball: Will the Minister justify the confidence in the robustness of the Better Public Services target results by having them independently scrutinised by the Office of the Auditor-General; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We do better than that; we get them scrutinised by the New Zealand public. We transparently put them out for them to be analysed by New Zealanders. We actually do more transparency-wise than anyone else does. If the member would like to get those results and have them audited in any which way he likes, then he can. We are actually more than happy for them to be analysed in any which way you like.
Melissa Lee: What alternative models of public service delivery were proposed in the draft Productivity Commission report released yesterday?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Productivity Commission’s draft report considered seven models of social services delivery. Among those were in-house delivery of public agencies, contracting out, and voucher systems. The commission noted the current widespread use of vouchers in the education sector, including in early childhood education, and their role in delivering choice to households, but the commission also made it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As I have said, we are focused on results and making things better for those New Zealanders in most need. That means more educational achievement, better health outcomes, less recidivism, and higher employment.
Melissa Lee: What reports on alternative approaches to addressing social dysfunction has the Minister seen?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Paula Bennett, as far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have seen the Salvation Army’s state of the nation report from February 2008, about 9 months before the National-led Government was elected. It noted that social spending in the 5 years to 2008 had increased 70 percent, from $23 billion to $39 billion, yet all that spending had “contributed very little to our social progress”. At that time, more of our children appeared to be at risk of harm, more of our young people were engaged in petty crime, there was more violent crime, and more people were in jail, despite billions of dollars of new spending. That is why this Government is focused on getting results for our most vulnerable people and families, not on how much is spent.
State and Social Housing—Sale of Housing Stock 4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Does he stand by his statement: “The Government owns 1 in 16 houses in Auckland and we need to do a better job with them for the sake of tenants and aspiring homeowners, as well as for the neighbourhoods they live in and the wider city”; if so, what experience does the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company have that will allow them to do a better job for tenants than Housing New Zealand?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing) on behalf of the Minister responsible for HNZC: Yes, we need to address the 1 in 16 homes owned by the Government in 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 5 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) Auckland, particularly those close to the city, where the homes are old and cold, the wrong size, and on big sections that can be better utilised. The job at Tāmaki can be better done by the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company for three reasons. Firstly, the company is in partnership with Auckland Council, and the redevelopment involves changes to roads, to reserves, to recreational facilities, and to infrastructure. Secondly, it is better connected to the Tāmaki community through extensive consultation over the last 2 years. Thirdly, the tenancies of existing houses need to be carefully managed during the redevelopment, and it makes sense to have one agency doing the whole job. The people leading the company, like Brian Donnelly and John Holyoake, have the extensive experience to deliver the goods.
Phil Twyford: How will forcing the fledgling Tāmaki Redevelopment Company, which has no experience of being a landlord, to become one of the biggest landlords in the country help it to deliver on a large and complex urban renewal project to get aspiring homeowners into their first home?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I think anybody in this House who has met Brian Donnelly, the chair of the New Zealand Housing Foundation, would have huge confidence in him, his board, and its new chief executive, John Holyoake, who has extensive housing development experience. But here is the real point: does it make sense to have one organisation doing the redevelopment and another managing the tenancies in a complex project involving the redevelopment of existing houses? The key driver for the Government is that you need to have one agency both doing the redevelopment and managing the tenants as they move from those older houses into the newer, warmer, drier, and more intensive housing that we are building.
Phil Twyford: What is the market value of the 2,800 Housing New Zealand properties he is transferring to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company, and does he think it is risky to hand over a massive taxpayer-owned asset like this to an embryonic organisation with a budget of $4 million and fewer than 20 staff?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Dr Nick Smith can answer either of those questions.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The book value of the assets is $1.2 billion. The member in his comments this morning was out by more than twofold. Do we have confidence in people like Brian Donnelly and the board to be able to manage those assets? Absolutely we do, and I would challenge the member on this: what happened to the houses, these same houses in Tāmaki, for the 9 years of the last Labour Government? They were left uninsulated, unmaintained, and in a disgrace, and I have got far more confidence in the Brian Donnellys and the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company to look after these houses properly and to redevelop them.
Joanne Hayes: What is the latest data on housing in Auckland, particularly the new build data, and how does it compare with when National first became Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The building consent data for March, which has come out today, shows new consents for Auckland of 756 homes, the best for the month of March in 10 years. This is more than treble the number of 209 that were issued in Auckland in the last month of the previous Government. The annual data is equally positive, with 7,940 homes consented in Auckland in the last year compared with 4,400 before we had the Auckland accord. The national data shows that over 25,000 new homes being built, the best data in 8 years, showing the progress this Government is making.
Phil Twyford: Does he agree with the Minister for Building and Housing that today’s building consent figures—7,900 in Auckland in the last year—are encouraging, given that Auckland needs 13,000 per year just to keep up with population growth as well as the 20,000 shortfall built up under his watch?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would remind the member that during the course of the previous Government new house builds in Auckland dropped to just 200 a month—just 200 a month—and the figures for the last month are not 200 but 756 homes in the last month. Since we have had the housing accord, building consents in Auckland have gone from 4,000 a year to 8,000 a year. It is 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 6 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) true that with the vast numbers of New Zealanders not leaving for Aussie we need still more, and that is why we have announced initiatives like Tāmaki, which, like every other positive initiative, members opposite oppose.
Phil Twyford: Is he aware that BNZ economist Tony Alexander calculates that if the level of household overcrowding in Auckland is to be reduced to the level found in the rest of the country, the city would need to build an additional 76,000 houses on top of the 13,000 needed just to keep up with population growth, when the current build rate on the Minister’s 6-year watch is only a pathetic 7,900 a year; and how many of his 100,000 homes shortfall will his latest scheme in Tāmaki provide?
Mr SPEAKER: Again, any one of those numerous questions—the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I do not accept the analysis. Let me tell you very simply why. We have quite low occupancy of houses in, for instance, some parts of provincial New Zealand, like Invercargill and like the West Coast. That is because house prices in those areas are quite low and people have quite low numbers of occupancy of bedrooms. That is perfectly logical in those areas. What Mr Alexander does is say that if we have the same occupancy rate as those areas, then you need those massive numbers.
Phil Twyford: So it’s OK for Auckland to be overcrowded? That’s OK?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, actually, the truth shows that there are a large number of vacant bedrooms in many of those communities and that is quite reasonable in those communities. If the member opposite is saying that he thinks there is a deficit of that size, I simply think his analysis is flawed.
Phil Twyford: Why is he transferring 2,800 houses to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company when it never asked for them and has not expressed any desire to become a landlord in its annual report, its constitution, any of its documents on its website, or when it appeared before the Local Government and Environment Committee last month; and is he concerned that being one of the country’s largest landlords will distract it from the challenging task of leading the Tāmaki redevelopment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is absolutely professional for the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company to not disclose at the select committee or in other documents the Government’s announcement today. That is how we do it on this side of the House. We do it professionally. We do it as a team. The team at the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company is excited about the fact that it is very difficult for it to do the redevelopment when it does not ask for the property.
Phil Twyford: They never asked for it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, I simply challenge—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough of the answer, and I would be grateful if we did not have the level of interjection.
Transport, Auckland—Transport System 5. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement that “Auckland must have a transport system that meets the demands of its growing population and we are committed to working with the Auckland Council to help make sure Auckland succeeds”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Yes.
Denise Roche: Why will he not invest in a congestion-free network in Auckland, one that costs less than his current plan and one that will save Aucklanders from rate and levy hikes?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I would love to see such a plan.
Denise Roche: Does he agree that if the Government adjusted its transport-funding priorities in Auckland, the new transport levies on households and businesses announced today would not be necessary?30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 7 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I am not responsible for the transport levies. I think what is important from the Government’s perspective is that Auckland has a strong transport strategy in place, and that is certainly the case before we can start to think about how we will fund that.
Denise Roche: Why is he proposing to wait two more elections before committing to build the City Rail Link, the most critical missing piece of Auckland’s transport infrastructure?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: In fact, we have brought that project forward by a decade—2020. We have committed to a business case of it in 2017 and then to getting on with preparation and planning for making it happen. I think it is worth noting that we spend $1 billion a year on transport in Auckland. We have spent $1.6 billion on the metropolitan rail and the electrification of that. That is $1.6 billion more spent on public transport than the Green Party ever has. We have done a host of projects in Auckland because we back that city. We will continue to do so.
Denise Roche: Will he commit to providing new funding in this year’s Budget to build the City Rail Link, given the latest rail patronage statistics showing growth so strong that it will reach his own patronage target 3 years ahead of schedule in 2017?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is not for me to preannounce the Budget and decisions in that. What I certainly can say is that we are always interested in ways to reduce congestion in Auckland and ways to improve public transport. In fact, what we have seen so far in terms of Mayor Brown’s preferred plan in Auckland does not do that sufficiently in the 2030s and 2040s. We want to work with him, with the council, and with Auckland to make a better, more optimal plan that does deal better with congestion and public transport.
Denise Roche: Does it make sense to fast track the expensive Pūhoito Wellsford motorway, a motorway with declining traffic volumes, at the cost of not investing in Auckland rail when nearly twice as many people use Auckland’s rail network as use the State highway between Pūhoi and Wellsford last year?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: These things are not either/or. In fact, that highway is and will be a very significant and important economic game-changer for the Northland region. It is important that it is a connected area to Auckland. I think it will also be good for Aucklanders to have that. I think we can do that and we can also fund excellent public transport. As I say, I am committed to working with Auckland to make sure that happens.
Denise Roche: Will he support the Green Party plan for Auckland transport that could meet the city’s transport needs without new levies simply by redirecting its transport budget away from wasteful spending on motorways towards a congestion-free network?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Given that the National Government has spent more on public transport in terms of electrification of rail and metropolitan rail than the Green Party ever has, and given that we have the most transformative urban cycleway package ever in the history of this country, I think it is highly unlikely that we would back a Green Party plan.
Denise Roche: Is it fair to say that his Government is out of touch with the vast majority of Aucklanders who consistently say they want alternatives to motorways to escape congestion, while he consistently spends the vast majority of their taxes on motorways; how long will he leave Aucklanders waiting for the train?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Simon Bridges—either of those two questions.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think the member has a very simplistic view of life. This is a Government that, yes, does spend money on roads, because that is still where 99 percent of commuters commute from. But we also have spent more than any other Government on metropolitan rail in our largest centres—indeed, the same is true in relation to urban cycleways. We are delivering a game-changing package in that for Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Denise Roche: I seek leave to table a Generation Zero report, Fix Our City, which shows that you cannot fix Auckland’s—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a Generation Zero report. What is the date of it, and then I will put the leave?30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 8 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Denise Roche: March 2015.
Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that it may not be easy for members to get I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any particular objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
David Seymour: Has the Minister seen any modelling within the Congestion Free Network by Generation Zero, and adopted by the Green Party, of the effects it would have on trip times for trips that Aucklanders actually make in everyday life?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, but I think we know the answer to that, though. Indeed, the same can be said of the mayor’s preferred plan that, despite the investment in public transport, it does not really make any difference in terms of congestion into the 2020s, 30s, and 40s. That is why I am committed to working with the mayor and the council to see a better plan that does deal with congestion and that does see a mode shift to public transport in a sensible, orderly, and value-for-money way.
David Seymour: Will the Minister consider allowing Auckland Council to use time-sensitive congestion pricing on the motorway network to help raise revenue and ease congestion there?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think they are all interesting issues—demand management and pricing, broadly. They are not ones for today and, indeed, I think that a primary reason for that is we do not yet have a strategy with the right projects and the projects prioritised in the right way to justify such funding tools.
State and Social Housing—Sale of Housing Stock 6. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Building and Housing: How will today’s announcement of transferring 2,800 Housing New Zealand properties to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company and a $200 million loan facility contribute to increasing the supply and quality of housing in Auckland?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The Tāmaki redevelopment will increase Auckland’s housing supply by 5,000 homes, by redeveloping 2,500 older properties on large sections. The new homes will be more intensive, better sized for demand, drier and healthier, and will involve a mix of social housing as well as privately owned homes. The key change today is that it is very difficult for the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company to redevelop those homes when it does not actually own them. By transferring the ownership, we are able to facilitate the tenancy arrangements and the redevelopment of those properties to be able to move this project forward faster.
Simon O'Connor: What reassurance is the Government able to give to social housing tenants in Tāmaki that they will be able to stay living in the area when their home is subject to redevelopment and intensification?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government and the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company are reassuring tenants in Tāmaki that they will retain all of the same conditions as their current tenancy, including the important income-related rent subsidies. The project is also underpinned by the Tāmaki commitment that all eligible social housing tenants will have the opportunity to stay in Tāmaki, if that is their wish. We are also intending to transfer Housing New Zealand’s local tenancy management staff over to the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company to ensure that the people-to-people contacts are also maintained.
Simon O'Connor: What complimentary facilities and community improvements has the Government made with the Auckland Council for improving the Tāmaki area?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: An important part of the Tāmaki redevelopment is that it is more than just housing. The Tāmaki Redevelopment Company has facilitated its opening of a new early-childhood centre that opened last week and now has 27 children engaged in education, of which at least 80 percent were not previously engaged in any education. The project has also involved the redevelopment of the old Department of Conservation – owned scout hall as a community facility, 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 9 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) and that is an added asset for the community. There has also been the linkage of high school students interested in doing apprenticeships actually being involved in this work, and I think that too is important for the employment nature of Tāmaki. It is actually this integrated approach to New Zealand’s largest urban redevelopment project that will be essential to its success.
Partnership Schools—Prime Minister’s Statements 7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “If those partnership schools don’t succeed the Government will be just as quick to close them down as we have been to establish them”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes.
Chris Hipkins: Does she stand by her own statement of December last year with regard to the Whangaruru charter school that “Whangaruru had challenges, which were not unexpected” and “the readiness review indicated that they were dealing with those challenges”; if so, on what basis did she make the claim that those challenges were being addressed?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: On the basis of reporting from Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and analysis by the Ministry of Education.
Chris Hipkins: Did the readiness review that she released in February, upon which she gave Whangaruru a formal performance notice, identify concerns with the quality of teaching and learning, quality of school management, disengaged students, and the recruitment of suitable staff; if so, was that the same report that she had earlier claimed found that Whangaruru was “dealing with those challenges”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: By definition they were not the same reports, and the performance notice that I issued was about engagement and truancy.
Chris Hipkins: Did she claim, in answers to oral questions in December last year, that the Education Review Office readiness review identified that Whangaruru was “dealing with those challenges”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not recall making claims, and I do not have in front of me the specific answer to the specific question that the member is pressing on.
Chris Hipkins: The answer’s yes.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, the member is telling me what my answer is. If he knows the answer, then he need not have wasted the House’s time asking the question.
Chris Hipkins: Has she received an indication that Whangaruru has met the performance criteria she set for it, given it is now over 2 months since she gave it 1 month to shape up; if not, when does she expect to receive that assurance?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The process that was set in train by the issuing of the performance notice was that the school would have 28 days to identify whether or not it could deal with the challenges, and that I would commission a specialist audit, which was done and has been carried out by Deloitte and by the Education Review Office. That report would be provided to the Ministry of Education. It would analyse the report and work through the governance, legal, and contractual matters—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can’t the Minister read?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: —I am sorry that I am boring the Opposition with the facts of due process—and then I would receive the analysis, upon which time I would discuss it with the trust. Then I would be in a position to make a final decision.
Chris Hipkins: What has been the total cost to the taxpayer of the Whangaruru charter school, including all of the funding that it was given for its establishment and all of the subsequent expenditure on remediation of the problems that it has encountered?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I cannot give a total cost because we are not at the end of the process. But what I can tell the Opposition is that—and this is publicly available, and all of the partnership papers are on the website, so the member is free—30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 10 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Tracey Martin: The report’s not there.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Actually, it is. The members are free to look it up for themselves. So the answer is that the establishment grant was $1.7 million through 2013, and the operational funding for 2014 was $1.5 million. I cannot tell the member what the cost incurred for this period of 2015 is, because we have not yet got the final outcome of the audit because it has only just been completed earlier this week.
Spring Hill Corrections Facility—Management
Tracey Martin: I’m not calling you names, Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask Tracey Martin, please, to show some respect to her own colleague, when I have called him for his question. 8. MAHESH BINDRA (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with all aspects of the running of Spring Hill Corrections Facility?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): Yes. As that member will know, as a former employee of the Department of Corrections, prisons are difficult environments with some of the most challenging individuals in society. Our corrections staff do an important and critical role in changing the lives of offenders and in protecting the public of New Zealand.
Mahesh Bindra: Is the Minister convinced that the staffing levels are adequate at the Spring Hill Corrections Facility?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Yes. I am advised that at Spring Hill Corrections Facility the staffing levels are adequate. In fact, corrections officer turnover is currently at 9.2 percent. The Public Service turnover rate for staff in 2013 was 10.5 percent.
Mahesh Bindra: Is the Minister aware that at Spring Hill Corrections Facility prisoners are being locked in their cells for 19 hours a day, creating a volatile environment?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, I am not aware of that, and that is patently untrue. I have been advised that prisoners are given their normal hours of being unlocked and being locked within Spring Hill Corrections Facility. So I refute the claim made by that member.
Mahesh Bindra: I seek leave to table a copy of a letter that I received yesterday, which is signed by a group of prisoners from Spring Hill Corrections Facility. It expresses their concern—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! You do not need to read out the letter. The difficulty the member will have is that if I allow the leave to be put and the letter is tabled—and it is signed by these prisoners—that could potentially be breaching their privacy. The member needs to think of that before he asks me to put the leave. Does the member still wish for me to put the leave?
Mahesh Bindra: It is a letter that has come through the Howard League and I am not aware of whether those prisoners are or are not willing to—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has got a right to seek leave, but I think he would be ill-advised to proceed to ask for that leave if he has not had the courtesy of asking those prisoners whether they are happy for their letter to become public information.
Mahesh Bindra: In that case I will withhold it now.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Mahesh Bindra: Yes. Given the Minister’s answers and his confidence in the management of Spring Hill Corrections Facility, will he resign if there is a riot within the next 5 weeks?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, because I do not know what is going to happen in the next 5 weeks and nor does that member.
Early Childhood Education—Māori and Pasifika Children 9. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Education: How is the Government ensuring that Māori and Pasifika children are engaged in education from an early age?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): This morning I was pleased to announce an increase in the proportion of Māori and Pasifika children participating in early childhood education 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 11 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) before starting school. In the 3 years to March 2015, Māori participation increased by 3.5 percentage points and Pasifika by 4.8 percentage points. So that means that the Māori participation rate now stands at 93.8 percent and the Pasifika rate at 91 percent. Although we know there is more to do, this means that more of our earliest learners are getting a stronger start on educational success.
Alfred Ngaro: How does this increase in early childhood education participation rates help young New Zealanders achieve educational success?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is clear that those children who start behind too often stay behind. That is why our Government has set a Better Public Services target that 98 percent of children starting school in 2016 will have participated in quality early childhood education. Regular participation in quality early childhood education significantly increases a child’s chance of future educational success, particularly for children from vulnerable families. Since 2007-08, this Government’s spending on early childhood education has almost doubled to $1.6 billion. We know that there is still more work to be done, and we will continue to do it, especially with vulnerable communities, to ensure that their children get the best start in life.
Catherine Delahunty: Will she guarantee that as a result of her attendance targets no Māori or Pasifika child from a “vulnerable community” will be recruited for a low-quality early childhood education service?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As the member may know, the Government’s role in the provision of early childhood education resources is to license centres and to provide the subsidy to parents. Parents then have the option of taking their children to a teacher-led, centre-based or home-led, parent-based early childhood education provider. Māori and Pasifika parents should not be denied the opportunity of that choice either.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act response from December 2014 by Ministry of Education officials, warning that 36,000—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. The document has been described. There is no need to then read out the contents of the document. I will put the leave. It is the answer to an Official Information Act request. Is there any objection to it being tabled?
Catherine Delahunty: Supplementary—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no objection. It can be tabled.
Catherine Delahunty: Given concerns raised by her ministry, the Education Review Office, and two task forces that low-quality early childhood education is more harmful than good for vulnerable children, will she stop targeting children from vulnerable communities until she is certain that services are up to scratch?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member makes an assumption that there are low-quality services all around New Zealand. In the 2 years to February 2015, the Education Review Office conducted, I think, 1,539 reviews of early childhood centres, of which it found just 12 not meeting the requirement—less than 1 percent—and for every one of those 12, the ministry has intervened.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request showing that officials believe that vulnerable—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am not even prepared to put the leave. I have just corrected the member, telling her that she describes the document and to not start to read out the content.
Exports—Percentage of GDP by 2025 10. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development: Is he still committed to the Government’s goal of lifting exports from 30 percent to 40 percent of GDP by 2025?30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 12 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: If the House would bear with me, it is quite a detailed answer, which I think is important. The Government is committed to lifting the performance of the export sector. The target of lifting the ratio of real exports to real GDP from 30 percent to 40 percent by 2025 was set in 2012, when the GDP figures were on the 1996 year. In December 2014 Statistics New Zealand made an unusually large number of historical revisions to some of our national accounts data as a result of adopting new international standards and updating the base year for GDP calculations. This meant a significant revision of the New Zealand ratio of real exports to GDP and a reduction to the order of 3 to 4 percent each and every year since 1998, affecting all the years that Labour was in office as well as the current National Government. To conclude—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer now is quite long enough.
Hon TODD McCLAY: Well, the last bit was the best bit—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer was long enough.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a question on notice and asked a very simple question: “Is he committed to the Government’s goal?”. The answer I think he was about to give—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I am comfortable that that question has been addressed. Does the member have a supplementary question?
Dr David Clark: Certainly. Will he rule out lowering the target?
Hon TODD McCLAY: We are, therefore, currently evaluating whether to make a technical adjustment to the target to reflect the revised Statistics New Zealand change in historical series. Any change would be no more than a level of the adjustment to the actual figures by Statistics New Zealand.
Dr David Clark: He is not prepared to rule it out. Can the Minister confirm that an export growth rate of between 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent is now required to meet the Government’s goal of exports reaching 40 percent of GDP by 2025—more than twice the rate of growth expected in the wider economy?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Given the answer to the primary question, the member would need to go and check those figures. However, what I would say is that since 2008 we have seen strong growth. New Zealand’s goods exports have increased by 21 percent—14 percent for goods and services—and are now valued at more than $51 billion. When services like tourism, film production, which would not be possible if the members opposite—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I cannot see that we are getting anywhere near close to answering the question. I am going to invite Dr Clark to ask that question again.
Dr David Clark: Can the Minister confirm that an export growth rate of between 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent is now required to meet the Government’s goal of exports reaching 40 percent of GDP by 2025—more than twice the rate of growth expected in the wider economy?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No. Based upon the answer to the primary question, those statistics or figures would need to be checked. But what I can confirm, however, is that New Zealand exports stand at $68 billion today—a significant growth since 2008, when we—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are not getting any further. I will allow—[Interruption] Order! Would the member like to continue with his supplementary questions, and he now has an extra supplementary question.
Dr David Clark: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Why is shifting the official measure of the Government’s export failure from value to volume in New Zealand’s long-term interests?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The Business Growth Agenda export markets work stream has always referred to the ratio of real exports to real GDP. The Minister is currently evaluating whether to make a technical adjustment to the target to reflect the revised Statistics New Zealand figures, as the original target was set based on the previously high series. Any change would be no more than a 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 13 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) level of adjustment to the actual figures by Statistics New Zealand. No other change to the target would be planned.
Dr David Clark: Not achieving the target but moving goalposts.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask the supplementary question.
Dr David Clark: Is the Government’s plan to turn the economy round the same Business Growth Agenda that has seen exports actually decrease as a percentage of GDP?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, that is an extremely misleading comment. In 2008, when we came to Government, there was $59 billion worth of exports. In 2014 there was $67 billion worth of exports. Businesses up and down New Zealand that have been involved in this increase in exports and the people they employ are grateful for the hard work the Government has put into the importance of exporting for New Zealand.
Dr David Clark: Is the Minister concerned that figures released yesterday show that in the year to March 2015 his Government has overseen the largest annual trade deficit since the recession ended in 2009; if so, when will he admit that his tired Government is out of ideas and has failed to deliver on its promises?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The member needs to be careful not to read too much into short-term fluctuations in statistics. Indeed, the change in trade volumes that was announced yesterday reflects changes in downward pressure of some commodity prices and that the economic cycle for Australia and China are in a different place. I repeat an answer to an earlier question. We have seen strong growth in exports since 2008 in both goods and services. Last year $68 billion worth was exported. In 2008 there was only $51 billion. That is an increase of $17 billion over that period of time.
Point of Order—Seeking of Leave to Table
Cycling—Urban Cycleways Programme 11. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has he received recently on the Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Earlier this week I was delighted to announce that applications have been flooding in for the $90 million remaining in the Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme. Fifty-nine new applications have been received from almost all of the main urban areas across the country, and I expect to announce the successful applicants by the middle of the year. This strong response shows that cycling is becoming a clear priority for urban councils, and that the Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme has successfully incentivised local councils to accelerate their own urban cycleway plans.
Jonathan Young: So what progress has been made on the Urban Cycleways Programme?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: A lot of progress has been made. Design and construction is well under way on the first set of 13 projects that I announced earlier this year. Construction is progressing well in Palmerston North, with the Longburn cycle path due to be complete in June. Construction has also begun on the Nelson Street off-ramp bridge in the Central Park Drive cycleway in Auckland, the Lincoln to Rolleston cycleway in Christchurch, and the Wainuiōmata summit ridge in Wellington. Work is set to start on further projects in Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Auckland later this year. This is the beginning of a programme that will change the face of urban cycleways in New Zealand.
Civil Defence, Disaster Preparedness—ShakeOut Exercise 12. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Civil Defence: What plans has the Government put in place to ensure as many New Zealanders as possible participate in the national earthquake drill ShakeOut?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister of Civil Defence): This week I launched the New Zealand ShakeOut campaign. ShakeOut is our national earthquake-preparedness drill that encourages everyone in New Zealand to practise the right actions to take during an earthquake. This year New 30 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 14 of 14 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) Zealand ShakeOut will be held at 9.15 a.m. on 15 October. The campaign involves the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management working closely with organisations such as local authorities, Government agencies, businesses, and, very importantly, New Zealand schools. This year our aim is to have 1.5 million Kiwis taking part. ShakeOut will be promoted through a number of communication channels, including TV, radio, social media, and local events.
Brett Hudson: What reports has she seen of how New Zealand rates against other countries in participating in this national earthquake drill?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I have seen several positive reports about New Zealand’s participation in ShakeOut. ShakeOut started in the United States but has now spread to other countries such as Canada, Japan, and New Zealand. I am pleased to inform the House that New Zealand leads the world with the highest participation rate in 2012, with 1.34 million New Zealanders taking part. This year we will aim to beat that, with a goal of 1.5 million Kiwis taking part.