Questions and Answers - Oct 22
Questions to Ministers
Social Development, Minister—Statements
1. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, when taken in context.
Darroch Ball : Does she stand by her statement in relation to the army-run Limited Service Volunteer programme that “as the total number of young people on benefits drops, so too does the number of suitable clients who are likely to benefit from attending the LSV programme.”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : In relation to where it is an accurate quote from me, yes, I have said in this House that as we have seen the number of young people on benefits drop, we have refined the numbers of young people who are suitable to go into that course.
Darroch Ball : How can she guarantee that demand for Limited Service Volunteer programme places has actually reduced when she has admitted that the Ministry of Social Development does not even report on the number of applications for the course and she is just relying that “the likely number of young people at long-term risk of unemployment has reduced.”
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I rely on advice from officials who are working with these young people every day. If the need arises and the demand increases, then we will have a look at it again.
Darroch Ball : If she honestly believes in a direct, evidence-based approach, then how can she prove that only 800 out of 25,000 unemployed youth are suitable for this course?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I said, I rely on advice from the officials and, also, from those who are working with young people on a daily basis. We are conducting those courses, we are paying for those courses, and they are having a great effect on the young people involved.
Darroch Ball : Will she admit that the Wellington Limited Service Volunteer course was not shut down because of a supposed reduction in demand but because the 5-year lease on its facility ended on 1 January this year, it was put up for sale in April, then, coincidently, there was a cut to the Limited Service Volunteer programme in April, and the building was sold in June?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : All I can say is that all of that is news to me.
Darroch Ball : It should not be. Does she have any immediate plans to further reduce the number of places in the Limited Service Volunteer programme; if so, why?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Anne Tolley—either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : No. We have allocated 800 places, and we are prepared to pay for 800 places, but we continue to look at whether we have the right young people going into that course, whether it will help, and whether that will then help them to get employment when they have completed the course.
Darroch Ball : How can the answer possibly be “No.” and how can she explain the reason the Auckland-based programme is now being moved to a temporary site—a scout hall—and plans are currently under way to shut it down completely at the end of 2017?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I do not know where this member gets his information from, but what I can say is that the Ministry of Social Development is working in partnership with the Defence Force to provide this course and to support young people who are suitable for undertaking the Limited Service Volunteer course—and not all are—in order to help them to gain motivation, to gain some physical skills, and to prepare them for employment. We will continue to do that, and the funding is in the 4-year plan out beyond 2017.
Darroch Ball : There are a number of documents I am seeking leave to table.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Are they documents that—[Interruption] Order! Before I seek the leave, are they documents that are freely available to members?
Darroch Ball : No.
Mr SPEAKER : With assurance that they are not, then I will listen very briefly to the documents. If there are too many, I will deem that you are trying only to make a political point and I will then—[Interruption] Order! I am speaking. I will then decide not to put the leave. So I will invite the member to list the documents, and I will make a judgment.
Darroch Ball : The first is the Official Information Act document from the headquarters of the New Zealand Defence Force titled Downsizing the Youth Development Unit dated 14 June 2015. The second is an Official Information Act document from the headquarters of the New Zealand Defence Force titled Limited Service Volunteer Validation dated 2014. I have six Limited Service Volunteer operational group meeting minutes dated from 15 April to 19 August 2015, which state the move of the Limited Service Volunteer Auckland programme to a temporary scout hall and that considerations are under way to shut it down completely. Also, the last is the lease agreement between the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Education dated 26 June 2010 showing the expiry date of that lease being 1 January.
Mr SPEAKER : I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that quantity of documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.
2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Is it correct that according to Statistics New Zealand figures, real seasonally adjusted GDP per capita growth in the first 6 months of this year was the worst it has been since 2010?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Acting Minister of Finance): Statistics New Zealand reports that real seasonally adjusted per capita GDP, in the 3 months to June 2015, was $11,924. In December 2014 this quarterly figure was $11,964, the highest ever reading for this series. That is the smallest change for any 6-month period since 2010. However, I would note that most respected commentators use GDP per capita on an annual basis, and by that measure GDP per capita is growing. I would also point out that it is easy to grow GDP per capita when a stadium’s worth of people are leaving the country each year, as they were under the previous Labour Government in 2008.
Grant Robertson : Can the Minister confirm that the first 6 months of this year saw a 0.2 percent negative GDP per capita growth, and is this reflective of a successful economy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Yes, but annual GDP growth between June 2014 and June 2015 was actually 2.4 percent, and, as I say, most commentators would take it from an annual GDP per capita basis, and we are very confident that this actual calendar year will also see a growth.
Grant Robertson : How is it a sign of success for the New Zealand economy that we have now been added to HSBC’s watch-list of nations that it has a concern about due to our overreliance on China, falling commodity prices, and the Auckland housing bubble?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : To quote from HSBC, it says “Although low risk, New Zealand may be one to watch.”, so I think that needs to be kept in the context of what it actually is. I find it ironic that, when we are about to sign a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that actually sees us extend wider than just the Chinese market, Labour does not quite know where it stands on that and is not supporting what would be a real economic growth for this country across more than just the market of China.
Hon Gerry Brownlee : Does it surprise the Minister that the Opposition spokesperson on finance ties his credibility to a report from a foreign bank?
Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is no ministerial responsibility there.
Grant Robertson : Is the Minister proud to be managing an economy that makes the global headlines that these are the economies that could run into trouble?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : What I am proud of is to actually have an economy that has had 18 straight quarters of economic growth, 11 straight quarters of job growth, with 69,000 more jobs just in the last year, and a stable outlook for moderate economic growth. What I will note is that most other OECD countries would like a Prime Minister like John Key, a finance Minister like our Minister of Finance, and an economy like ours. They would just like a stronger Opposition.
Grant Robertson : Does he think that unemployment of 6 percent, which some economists say will rise to 7 percent, is part of a successful economy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : What I would also note, though, is that the Reserve Bank Governor just recently has said that the forecasting that he was predicting 6 months ago actually has not fallen as badly, that we are seeing growth in the manufacturing sector since a crisis was called by the Labour Party. We are seeing beef increase, and we have seen 69,000 more jobs just over the last 12 months. So what we are seeing is real growth in jobs. We have also got one of the strongest labour markets in the country as far as participation is concerned and a net migration, quite frankly, that is at an all-time high.
Grant Robertson : According to the latest household labour force survey, how many New Zealanders are currently unemployed?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Sorry, I do not have that at the top of my notes here and cannot remember the exact figure, but what I would say is that, actually, one of our highest rates of labour force participation actually shows confidence in the numbers of those who are actually in the workforce and looking.
Grant Robertson : How can the Minister judge the economy a success, when we are on an international watch-list of concern, housing is the most unaffordable that it has been in 60 years, exports as a percentage of GDP are the lowest since 1997, and, to help the Minister out, 148,000 New Zealanders are unemployed?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : I know that that member is making a career out of trying to talk down our economy, and actually does not have the view that we are growing, we are sustainable. We are still looking at GDP growth of around 2 percent, which actually is considered low risk. They cannot actually get it together enough to recognise the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will grow us beyond just that Chinese market and see other sectors, apart from dairy, also growing.
Economy—Inflation and Global Outlook
3. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Finance : How is the Government’s economic plan managing the challenges presented by low inflation and the outlook for the global economy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Acting Minister of Finance): The current mix of lower dairy prices, low inflation, and a weaker global economic outlook means lower expected growth in tax revenues for the Government, despite rising real wages for New Zealand households. The Government’s plan in response to this weaker outlook for revenue growth is to focus on managing expenditure. We are working to make each dollar go further, rather than cutting spending or services.
Paul Foster-Bell : What progress has the Government made in balancing its books in the past 5 years?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : The Government has made good progress on balancing its books and getting back into surplus. In 2010-11 the Government recorded a deficit of $18.4 billion or 9 percent of GDP, on the back of the global financial crisis and, of course, the Canterbury earthquakes. In the years following the Government recorded smaller deficits each year, and last week the Government announced a $414 million surplus for the 2014-15 year. This met the target, of course, that we set in 2011. This result is due in part to the Government’s careful management of expenditure, which has fallen from 34 percent of GDP in 2011 to 30 percent of GDP in 2015.
Paul Foster-Bell : How will the Government’s prudent fiscal management help New Zealand manage future uncertainties?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Like many New Zealand households, the Government has weekly obligations that it must meet and finances to balance. By analogy, if the Government were the average New Zealand household it would have had an income last year of $90,900, expenses of $90,500, and a $400 surplus at the year end. This Government household would have debt of $76,000 and it would be paying $59 per week in interest. So we are reasonably well positioned to weather future uncertainties. What is important is that we continue to work towards paying down that debt while continuing to meet our commitments to New Zealanders.
Paul Foster-Bell : What recent reports has the Minister received on GDP per capita?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : The Minister has seen a report from one high-profile economic commentator—I think he means Grant Robertson—suggesting GDP per capita is falling. Not everybody knows that there is more than one measure of GDP or that per capita GDP is generally measured on an annual basis. Like most statistics, per capita GDP will fluctuate from quarter to quarter.
David Shearer : Do you know what you’re saying?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : You will learn something. On an annual basis, GDP per capita is growing, despite record high net migration. In the year to June per capita GDP at current prices grew 2.1 percent. In real terms it grew 0.4 percent. That commentator will also be assured by the—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That question is a marginal question. I suspect it was designed to attack the Opposition.
Social Housing—Community Housing Providers
4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing : Does she believe that community housing providers will have to be commercial in order to be sustainable?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes. It kind of makes sense that to be financially sustainable into the future, as they are growing their portfolios, they may need to be commercial in their outlook as well.
Phil Twyford : Are chirping birds in the neighbours’ trees a truly representative reason some people are turning down State houses, or is the real reason that cold, damp, mouldy houses are making their children sick?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : We have a number of declines—about 3,500 in any one year—and about 12 percent of them are not for good and sufficient reasons. So one would say that the other over 3,000 of them are, and some of them might be those reasons. We take that into consideration to make sure that we are keeping people in the types of houses they need to be in and that they are still connected to jobs and schools. But there are some who are turning down houses who should not be. In the meantime, we have people in dire need who actually need those houses, and they should have access to them.
Phil Twyford : Why does she constantly engage in snide attacks on the most vulnerable citizens when the reality is that under her Government there are more Kiwis than ever before living in campgrounds and garages while she leaves 2,000 State houses vacant?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, I just say: “Look in the mirror, ‘Mr Snide’.”
Phil Twyford : Is she surprised that community housing providers are cynical about her approach, given that she started off saying the State house sell-off was all about building up local community groups, and now the Government is courting property developers, merchant bankers, and Australian companies?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, we have always thought it would take a consortium to help actually grow the community housing providers so that we can have a range of skills that are needed. As I said this morning to Community Housing Aotearoa, it is very good with people, and that is its strength, and its tenancy management. What it may need to do is to go into a consortium with banks so that it can actually see that portfolio grow, and that makes perfect sense. In fact, I have quotes from the member where last year in his speech he said: “Your members have shown you can build good-quality homes at a very affordable price. You can leverage private sector investment.” And that was Phil Twyford.
Phil Twyford : Why should the public believe her spin about improving the lives of tenants when the Government has taken half a billion dollars out of Housing New Zealand, leaving 2,000 houses vacant while Kiwi families are living in campgrounds, and has cut the number of State houses by a thousand, in net, since it came—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question is quite long enough.
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, we are housing more people in better-quality homes, and that is why the wait list is going down. We are spending $600,000 to date on housing support products that help people into the private market. Just this year alone we have seen actually the amount that we are spending on the income-related rent go up by $75 million, and that is making an absolute difference for those people. I know that the member would like it all to stay the same, and he thinks that the status quo is good enough. But it is actually not good enough for the people who need our help. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Phil Twyford will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that remark, then he will leave the Chamber. Phil Twyford withdrew from the Chamber.
Housing—Productivity Commission Report
5. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Building and Housing : How does the Productivity Commission report support the direction of the Government’s reforms to improve the affordability of housing?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The key message from the report is that the critical issue of land supply is undermining housing affordability. It notes that land prices have increased by fivefold in the past 20 years and that this is largely due to regulatory failure. It argues that councils have imposed planning rules on both greenfield and brownfield developments without properly considering the flow-on costs. The housing accords and special housing areas legislation was a short-term fix that has enabled 129 areas to be approved for housing outside the normal planning rules. This report will feed into the longer-term reforms, including a national policy statement on urban development and changes to the Resource Management Act.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar : What is the Minister’s response to the planning argument that tools like metropolitan urban limits are needed environmentally so as to ensure that not too much of New Zealand’s land area is used for urban purposes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The Government considers these arguments are very weak. The environment report out yesterday shows that only 0.8 percent of New Zealand land is used for urban purposes, despite it accommodating 80 percent of the population. That area of land is growing at a rate such that even by 2050 only 1 percent of New Zealand land would be urban land. The idea that we must constrain our cities because we would use up all the land is a nonsense. There are some valid arguments over infrastructure as to why we want a mix of both greenfield and brownfield growth, but artificial metropolitan urban limits that just drive up house prices—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answers from the Minister are consistently far too long.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar : Does the Minister agree that councils’ plans need to take into account economics and price signals, as recommended by the Productivity Commission?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Yes. The Productivity Commission’s report recommends that where land prices are artificially high due to planning constraints there should be a requirement for councils to open up new land. This is a radical shift from the current planning ethos, but one that needs considering in response to the substantive report.
Julie Anne Genter : Will he act on the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to remove the council regulations that require an oversupply of car-parking, given that they are a major driver of increased housing costs as well as traffic congestion and pollution?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The Productivity Commission report makes good points about things like parking requirements, about balcony requirements, and about adding extra requirements over and above the Building Act. What we need to understand is that every time we put those sorts of rules in place they undermine affordability, and that is why this report rightly recommends reform. I look forward to the Green Party’s support for the reforms backing up the recommendations from the Productivity Commission.
Julie Anne Genter : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he will act on the recommendations.
Mr SPEAKER : The difficulty I had was actually understanding the question. I invite the member to ask the question again.
Julie Anne Genter : Will he act on the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to remove onerous council regulations requiring an oversupply of car-parking, given that they drive up the cost of housing and create traffic congestion and pollution?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : It is more complex than the member presents because, of course, the parking requirements are not in the Resource Management Act; they are in the district plans that are put in place by councils. So what the Government is planning to do—through both a national policy statement on urban development as well as reforms to the Resource Management Act—is to get the incentives right for councils to better take into account the cost that these sorts of regulatory impositions put back on to homeowners.
Julie Anne Genter : Why did he not act on this issue earlier, given that experts in the field and the Green Party have been raising these costly rules with the Government since 2009 because they have been standing in the way of affordable medium-density housing around good bus and train routes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Quite the opposite. I have repeatedly seen the Green Party support metropolitan urban limits, which, according to the Productivity Commission report, have actually been at the core of the problem around housing affordability. In respect of the parking requirements and in respect of brownfield developments, the special housing areas legislation is enabling us to bypass some of those stupid requirements. I note the Green Party vigorously opposed the special housing areas legislation.
Julie Anne Genter : Can he confirm that according to the recent report on housing by Auckland city’s chief economist removing the planning barriers to high-quality, medium-density housing development in the inner suburbs around bus and train routes, as the Green Party has been advocating for years—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just complete the question.
Julie Anne Genter : —is the most effective way to create more affordable housing in Auckland, not removing urban limits?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : This Government is of a view that good quality intensification of housing is part of the answer, but the Green Party cannot have it both ways. Take the heritage provisions that are blanketly applied in Auckland. They actually apply to many of the areas where there is the potential for greater apartment development. I note that that party has been opposing changes to those heritage requirements that actually get in the way of new and more affordable houses.
Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave to table a graph from this report that shows that removing urban boundaries is—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The report, I presume, is easily available to members if they want to source it. Yes, they can, so I will not be putting the leave.
Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave to table a letter from myself and other traffic economists from 30 October 2009 to Minister Nick Smith, raising the costly issue of minimum parking requirements.
Mr SPEAKER : It may be of interest to members. I will put the leave, as members may be interested. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave to table a letter from 12 August 2009 from the Hon Steven Joyce to myself, denying that councils require—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Environment—Environment Aotearoa 2015 Report
6. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment : What new policy initiatives, if any, will he be making in response to the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report released yesterday in the areas of fresh water, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): It is early days, and the Ministers and policy officials received the report only yesterday, but we have a very active programme in all three key areas. On fresh water, we are planning regulatory changes around the microvertebrate index, the fencing of waterways, and a new clean-up fund. The Land and Water Forum is finalising recommendations on these. On biodiversity, we are ramping up efforts with programmes like Battle for our Birds and the War on Weeds. The new Threatened Species Ambassador will also help this work. On climate change, we are working on new initiatives around electric cars and strengthening the emissions trading scheme. Obviously, on this issue, the Paris negotiations are crucial, and New Zealand will be taking a very active part.
Eugenie Sage : Among those regulatory changes, will the Minister improve the national policy statement objective A1 for water quality from a secondary contact standard, “suitable for boating and wading”, to “unsuitable for swimming”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : No, and I will tell the member why. Even before human beings arrived in New Zealand, not every single body of water in New Zealand was swimmable. It is impractical to suggest that somehow we can override even nature. It is also true that during significant storm events, when there is a large amount of pollution introduced to the system, there are times when it is not practical to be able to have every body of water as swimmable. What we are committed to is an improvement in water standards, and I am concerned about that member’s repeated exaggeration about the areas in which it is unsafe to swim in New Zealand, because in the vast bulk of areas, it is perfectly safe.
Eugenie Sage : Is the Minister, effectively, saying that having rivers that are fit only for wading and boating, and not for swimming, will allow the dairy industry room to expand further?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : No. What I am saying is that the member’s proposition that Parliament can somehow pass a rule and magically make every body of water in New Zealand safe to swim in is false. Even before human beings arrived in this country, there were bodies of water that were not safe to swim in, and this Government is not going to impose regulations and laws that are impractical, as the Green Party would attempt to do.
Eugenie Sage : Does he stand by the Prime Minister’s statement that the environment could handle more dairy farming, even though the Environment Aotearoa2015 report says at page 10 that nitrogen levels are high enough to trigger algal blooms in 49 percent of monitored river sites?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : That is where the member does not understand the variation across New Zealand. In an area like Taupō, where there needs to be limits on nitrogen, we are actually 3 years ahead of schedule, and it is not possible for new dairy farms in that catchment. There are other catchments where nitrogen limits are not needed and where there is expansion for dairying, and that is where the Green Party policy of a blanket ban on any more dairy farms in New Zealand does not make sense.
Scott Simpson : How does the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report released yesterday match up with the Government’s ambition of being a world leader in responsible management of our oceans?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The report is very encouraging and shows a decline in the number of fish stocks that are subject to overfishing, from 25 percent to 14 percent in the past 5 years. The global average is 28 percent of stocks, indicating that our fisheries are some of the best-managed in the world. The report also notes that seabird bycatch over the past 5 years has almost halved, and since then, we have subsequently announced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, which will be the largest no-take area anywhere in the world, showing how this Government is stepping up environmentally to the challenge of better ocean management.
Eugenie Sage : Will the Minister push to strengthen New Zealand’s emissions reduction target when the report also says that ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions “poses the greatest threat to our marine habitats”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : New Zealand’s climate change ambition of a 30 percent reduction by 2030 is a big ask. What this Government will not do is what the previous Labour Government did with big, bold targets of carbon neutrality at a time when emissions were going through the roof. Actually, there has been less growth in greenhouse gas emissions under this Government than under any Government, and the emissions trading scheme and other measures such as, for instance, the announcement to close down New Zealand’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the Huntly power station, show the progress that we are making.
Eugenie Sage : Why has he allowed the proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity to languish since mid-2011 when the report says that the extinction risk for 42 land species worsened in the 6 years from 2005 to 2011?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : What the report identifies is that the biggest risk to New Zealand’s native plants and birds is actually pests, and that is why this Government has launched the biggest pest control programme ever. Rather than 50,000 hectares per year being controlled with poisons like 1080, it will see that growing to 500,000 hectares—a huge lift. My question to the Green Party is: why do they oppose poisons rather than actually back the tools that will ensure that our species survive?
Eugenie Sage : Given that the biggest threat is pests, will he support a real increase in funding for the Department of Conservation in Budget 2016, rather than another cut, given that 81 percent of our land birds, 72 percent of our freshwater fish, 27 percent of our marine—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.
Eugenie Sage : —mammals, and all of our frogs face extinction?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Budget measures will be resolved when the Budget is read next year. But I would say that with the amount of actual practical work that is being done, with the initiative that Maggie Barry took with the programme for Kiwis this year, the new Endangered Species Foundation Ambassadors, and the huge lift in the amount of pest control work that is being delivered, this Government is more interested in terms of the things that will work than just spending money willy-nilly, as is the practice of that party.
Meka Whaitiri : When will he accept that the decision to ignore Judge Sheppard’s national policy statement on water quality is a primary reason why, under his watch, water quality continues to get worse?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The member is misinformed. Judge Sheppard never had a national policy statement. What I would point out to that member is that Labour promised a national policy statement on fresh water for 9 years straight and did nothing, and it was a National Government that put in place such a policy statement.
Primary Industries—Biocontainment Laboratory
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National) to the Minister for Primary Industries : What recent announcements has he made regarding the new biocontainment laboratory at Wallaceville?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Today I was proud to turn the first sod to mark the start of construction on the new Ministry for Primary Industries biocontainment laboratory at Wallaceville in Upper Hutt. This $87 million investment will play a major role in protecting both our economy and our environment. It will be a state-of-the-art laboratory providing diagnostic support for animal disease investigations, and information confirming New Zealand’s freedom from diseases.
Chris Bishop : Why is this new laboratory so important for our primary industries?
Hon NATHAN GUY : That is a very good question. The laboratory will be crucial for informing consumers and our trading partners and in helping to ensure market access for our exporters. It will also have better capacity to deal with a large-scale emergency, in the unlikely event that one should occur. Animal products make up around $20 billion of our exports a year. This facility, and the report released by the Auditor-General yesterday that highlighted the strong progress that the Ministry for Primary Industries has made on biosecurity preparedness and response, shows that we are well placed to manage these biosecurity risks.
Police—Crime Resolution Rate
8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police : By what percentage has the crime resolution rate decreased overall since 2008?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the Minister of Police : Between 2008 and 2014 resolution rates fell from 46.7 percent in 2008 to 41.5 percent in 2014. Earlier this year the police Minister expressed his concern about that drop in resolution rates to the Commissioner of Police, and they are working to develop strategies to improve them. The way that resolution rates are recorded has changed in the last year. A range of measures are now included to give a more complete picture of crime resolution for different types of crime. I would also point out to the member that over the same period we have seen a 27 percent reduction in the crime rate, which is a testament to the New Zealand Police’s Prevention First strategy and its focus on preventing crime before it occurs, rather than reacting after a crime has been committed.
Jacinda Ardern : Does he believe that police are adequately resourced when at least 90 percent of burglaries in Auckland went unresolved?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I am sure that he believes that they are adequately resourced, as they gained an extra $41.5 million in the last Budget. However, the lowest resolution rate is in the category of unlawful entry with intent for burglary—to break and enter—and the 2014 resolution rate for that offence category was 12.1 percent, down from 13.8 percent in the previous financial year.
Jacinda Ardern : Can he confirm that, according to the numbers provided to us by the New Zealand Police, general duty constable numbers—that is those who are on the front line responding to call-outs and resolving crimes—have decreased by almost 18 percent since 2009; and has that contributed to the decreasing resolution rate?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I do not have those figures in front of me, and I doubt that that is the case. However, what I would say is I would repeat that we have seen a decrease in crime over the last few years, and that certainly has been as a result of hard work by our front-line police.
Jacinda Ardern : Does he believe that a decrease in resolution rates had anything to do with the fact that the Southern Police District has 75 fewer front-line police, the Wellington Police District has 115 fewer, the Waikato Police District has 58 fewer, the Waitematā Police District has 68 fewer, the Northland Police District has 27 fewer, and Southland has 45 fewer—has that got anything to do—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question has been asked.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : We would have to identify whether those figures are accurate, but, in fact, the police numbers have been maintained at 8,907 right through the term of this National Government, and, in fact, we have provided them with technology that we know has enabled more front-line hours to be spent. So it would have nothing to do with those resolution rates, and I point out to the member that, internationally, resolution rates for those types of property crimes are at a very low rate, simply because they are often—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Bring the answer to a conclusion.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : —presented later, and the people have gone.
Jacinda Ardern : I seek leave to table the Official Information Act response from the New Zealand Police confirming the figures I have used in this answer.
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Order! I am putting the leave. There is no objection. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jacinda Ardern : Does he agree with the Police Association president when he pointed to the decrease in front-line staff as one of the things that will inevitably lead to “service failures”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I am sure he does not agree, given the 23 percent reduction in crime, which is a huge testament to the work that the police have done. How could anyone agree with that statement from the Police Association president?
Children—Driveway Deaths and Injuries
9. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for ACC : What recent announcements have been made to help reduce New Zealand’s high rate of children’s driveway deaths and injuries?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for ACC): Yesterday I launched a campaign with Safekids Aotearoa and ACC to reduce injuries to children caused in driveways. I am really pleased that ACC will invest $300,000 in the Safekids driveway safety campaign. Most driveway incidents involve children under the age of 3. This campaign is about making sure people know where their little ones are before they drive in or drive out of a driveway. This partnership between ACC and Safekids is an important step towards turning round the unacceptable rate of child driveway deaths and injuries in our country. I want to acknowledge the mums whose children have died due to driveway injuries and who have had the courage to be part of the new campaign, called Check For Me Before You Turn the Key.
Andrew Bayly : What else is ACC doing to work with other agencies to reduce deaths and injuries in New Zealand?
Hon NIKKI KAYE : The driveway safety campaign is a good example of ACC partnering with other agencies and organisations. It is my expectation that ACC will be forming more partnerships with a range of organisations and agencies as it ramps up its injury prevention work. Now that this National Government has ensured that the ACC scheme is fully funded and is on a secure financial footing, it is my expectation that ACC will give even more focus to injury prevention. I am pleased to tell the House that the ACC board has confirmed an increase in its injury prevention budget from $30 million to $50 million this year.
Sue Moroney : What research or evidence does the Minister have that spending $300,000 on giving a key ring to parents so that they can put their child’s photo in it will stop any child from being run over on a driveway?
Hon NIKKI KAYE : Firstly, she got her numbers wrong. Although ACC is spending $300,000, the total campaign is a million dollars. The campaign is broader than key rings. It is actually about public meetings. It is about television advertising. In terms of research, what she can note is there is quite a lot of research around the ability to affect behaviour from using a variety of multimedia channels and things like public meetings to get into the community.
Sue Moroney : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very direct—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The question has been addressed. Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to stay for the balance of the day, I suggest that she accepts that ruling.
Andrew Bayly : What are ACC’s priority areas for reducing deaths and injuries?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Nikki Kaye—[Interruption] Order! Unless I get some more cooperation from three or four people to my immediate left, I will be asking them to leave the Chamber.
Hon NIKKI KAYE : I am very pleased that the ACC board has put in place a new approach for injury prevention. It has now increased investment and a strategy that has clear priorities to drive reductions in the incidence and severity of injuries in the areas of violence, sport, community, falls, road, treatment injury, and workplace. In terms of the driveway safety campaign, can I also acknowledge that this is a partnership between Starship—Plunket has been very supportive—and ACC, and I am very surprised that the Opposition is criticising an organisation like Safekids Aotearoa and organisations like Starship.
Sue Moroney : I seek leave to table a document dated March 2014 showing the effectiveness of rear-view cameras in preventing driveway deaths.
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection? There is none; it can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
10. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Communications : Is she confident that her Government’s $300 million investment in the rural broadband scheme has been spent appropriately and effectively?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): Yes, I am, because it is on time and on budget, it has seen a twentyfold increase in internet speeds for many rural users, it is part of improving broadband for 97.8 percent of New Zealanders, and it is delivering significantly better cellphone coverage across rural and provincial New Zealand. There is more to do, but the Rural Broadband Initiative represents an incredibly big improvement from the appallingly low base we inherited in 2008.
Clare Curran : Does she think that having a 55-kilometre fibre cable from Wairoa to Tūai that has one connection is delivering more connectivity to rural and regional New Zealand?
Hon AMY ADAMS : The fibre funded under the Rural Broadband Initiative is funded to provide backhaul to subsites. The Rural Broadband Initiative coverage is provided through fibring towers, which then provide fixed wireless services, and then the Rural Broadband Initiative fibres cabinets that then provide enhanced ADSL. If that member understood her spokesmanship portfolio, she—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order!
Clare Curran : Why should Genesis Energy get a 55-kilometre cable for its own purpose when nearby Tūai school cannot even get a connection to broadband?
Hon AMY ADAMS : I can tell that member that all New Zealand schools are going to receive fibre broadband—except for our most remote, which have a different sort of broadband programme. All our schools will receive broadband coverage. Otherwise, the rural broadband programme comprises two components: enhancing copper coverage, and fixed wireless componentry to schools, businesses, hospitals, households, and libraries across rural New Zealand. It is a huge step forward from what we inherited in 2008, when the average connection was 0.2 megabits a second.
Jami-Lee Ross : What reports has the Minister seen that demonstrate the success of the Rural Broadband Initiative programme?
Hon AMY ADAMS : I have seen the latest TrueNet testing report, which shows that Rural Broadband Initiative broadband is 57 percent faster than standard ADSL and that Rural Broadband Initiative fixed wireless is more than 53 percent faster. Also, I have seen OECD reports that New Zealand has gone from being below the OECD average for broadband in 2008 to now being more than 12 percent above. I have seen reports that tell us that under Labour 41 percent of connections in rural areas were getting speeds of less than 0.2 megabits. That is now going up to 90 percent of rural connections having 5 megabits or more. It is a tremendous step forward from what we inherited.
Clare Curran : What is the point of a 55-kilometre fibre cable to nowhere when the local mayor, whose farm is just 75 metres from the cable, was told that it would cost him $18,000 just to connect to his gate?
Hon AMY ADAMS : The Rural Broadband Initiative programme has never been designed to provide a Fibre to the Home service. That is the ultra-fast broadband programme. Fibre under the Rural Broadband Initiative is large-scale backhaul, which funds subsites. That member clearly does not understand the role of fibre under the Rural Broadband Initiative.
Clare Curran : If she is satisfied with the management of the Rural Broadband Initiative, why has she sacked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from managing rural connectivity after 5 years?
Hon AMY ADAMS : If that member had ever been in Government, she would know that Ministers do not sack ministries, actually. I can tell the member that it was the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that suggested that for the next phase it makes sense, as we move into the less-populated areas of New Zealand and as the fibre programme is going to rural New Zealand, to have a coordinated programme across the UFB2 and the Rural Broadband Initiative 2, to have one set of relationships with the telecommunications companies, and to best use our contracting experience.
Mr SPEAKER : Bring the answer to a conclusion.
Hon AMY ADAMS : It makes only sense.
Clare Curran : I seek leave to table two documents. The first is dated September 2015. It is the Wairoa District Council’s digital enablement plan—two pages.
Mr SPEAKER : And the second document?
Clare Curran : The second document is a speech delivered yesterday by the Minister, which is not online—
Mr SPEAKER : Order!
Clare Curran : It is not available online; it is not available anywhere.
Mr SPEAKER : I will put the leave, accepting the word of—[Interruption] I will accept the member’s word. Leave is sought to table a Wairoa District Council document and a speech delivered by the Minister. Is there any objection to those two documents being tabled in this House? There is none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Tracey Martin : Kia ora. How can the Minister say that she is confident when Northlanders such as Matt Watson of the ITM Fishing Show are struggling to run their award-winning New Zealand businesses from towns such as Kerikeri, where there is snails-pace, slow, unreliable rural broadband that has dropped to speeds of 0.07 megabits per second?
Hon AMY ADAMS : I can give that member two aspects of that. The first is that Kerikeri is one of the towns that are in line to get a Fibre to the Home programme under this Government, under the next tranche. Having rolled it out to 75 percent of New Zealand, we want to go further. The second is that if that is the speed that the member quotes that that business is receiving, they should absolutely advise us, because that will not be a speed delivered under the Rural Broadband Initiative programme. I can assure them of that, and I am sure that we can provide them with a better alternative.
11. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Justice : Is she aware of data showing a 60 percent reduction in the recidivism rate for violent offences, from 3.8 percent to 1.5 percent, in the 5 years following the introduction of the Three Strikes law, compared with the 5 years prior?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Yes, I am aware of the very encouraging trends in serious violent offending that we are seeing following the enactment of the three-strikes law advanced by the ACT Party. The data the member refers to indicate a significant drop in the number of serious violent offences committed and an even bigger drop in the number of violent offenders who are committing multiple offences following the introduction of the law. The three-strikes law was designed to deter violent offenders from reoffending, and the information the member cites is an encouraging sign that the three-strikes law is having its desired effect.
David Seymour : Is the Minister aware that, ceteris parabis, if the recidivism rate for violent offending had remained at the pre-2010 level, then at least 123 New Zealand citizens would have been the victim of a violent offence, and does she agree that it is astonishing that some political parties continue to oppose the three-strikes law—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The first question is in order; the second question is not in order.
Hon AMY ADAMS : The information certainly does indicate that if serious violent reoffending had continued at the same rate as prior to the introduction of three strikes there are likely to have been 123 more serious violent offences over the last 5 years. I do agree with the member that in light of this information it seems clear that three strikes is helping to deter and prevent serious violent offenders from committing crimes.
David Seymour : In the Minister’s view have some of the concerns raised at the time the law was introduced that it would lead to California-style mass imprisonment borne true, or has it proved to be a modest and sensible three-strikes law by international standards?
Hon AMY ADAMS : In my view the evidence now shows us that the three-strikes law is having an impact in assisting with the deterrence of reoffending of serious violent crimes, despite some of the scaremongering at the time. And I think that the House and this country is a better place the further that the serious violent reoffending rate drops.
Women—Representation in Science and Mathematics
12. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister for Women : What statistics has she received about women’s representation in science and mathematics?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Minister for Women): I have been very greatly encouraged by the recent Statistics New Zealand report Women at Work: 1991-2013. It shows that in 2013 women were almost equally represented amongst maths and statistics professionals—47 percent were women. In 2013 women were just as likely as men to have qualifications in the area of natural and physical sciences, and women working in life sciences doubled, from 22 percent in 1991 to 44 percent in 2013—that has doubled.
Sarah Dowie : What Government initiatives are under way to further increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON : The Government is encouraging more women to study and work in science and maths as well as in engineering and technology industries to meet the growing demand for skills in these industries. Government initiatives under way to encourage more women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects include the ICT graduate schools, the Women in Engineering initiatives, A Nation of Curious Minds, and a number of great initiatives that reach girls in our schools, such as the Skills Organisation’s Bright Sparks programme, code clubs, the High Tech Youth Network, Kiwibots, OMGTech!, and Gather Workshops. The Ministry for Women is also working with others on initiatives to attract, train, and retain more women in occupations with high growth, high demand, and high wages.