Questions and Answers - Dec 2
Questions to Ministers
1. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he aware of agents in India blatantly promoting student visas in New Zealand as a pathway to residence?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I am aware of the issue that the member raises, but this occurs within a wider context, which is worth noting for the House. New data released today from Statistics New Zealand shows that for the year ended September 2015 we enjoyed a $3.2 billion services surplus. The report pointed out that education travel services was our largest export to India, earning New Zealand almost half a billion dollars. So, yes, although there are certainly a few rogues operating—and we take that very seriously—it is a small part of what is a significant industry for New Zealand taxpayers.
Ron Mark: Why is he turning a blind eye to corrupt agents in India, who are extorting huge amounts of money from international students despite repeated warnings from the licensed immigration advisers for New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member is conflating two issues. Clearly, education agents have a role in the facilitation of international education into New Zealand. All agents working with Education New Zealand must agree to follow the Education New Zealand code of conduct. That code of conduct is based on the principles for ethical recruitment of international students. A complaints process is followed where a recognised agency does not meet standards or behaves unsatisfactorily.
Ron Mark: What does he say to Ludwina Maybin, who posted on Winston Peters’ Facebook that her daughter was—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! David Bennett, that is your last warning for interjections today. Start the question again.
Ron Mark: What does he say to Ludwina Maybin, who posted on Winston Peters’ Facebook that her daughter was dumped from her cafe job in favour of international students who accepted less than $10 an hour? Is this not just slave labour?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I would say three things. Firstly, she might want to get better Facebook friends. Secondly, some international students are entitled to work as part of their study commitments, but only about one in five does. And if anybody is being paid less than the minimum wage, the employer is in breach of employment standards and a complaint should be laid. The process is pretty simple.
Ron Mark: Why is the Minister touting a farcical export education sector that is becoming nothing more than a people-trafficker’s paradise, an extortionist’s dream, typified by fraud and corruption?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Firstly, I would tell the 27,000 people who work in the export education sector in New Zealand not to listen to the rubbish that has just been put into that question. This is a very important service export earner. I would also add that it is worth seven times more than it was when that member’s party was in power. Despite that, there are fewer Indian students going on to gain residence, which the member seems to think is a bad thing.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister recall the letter that I wrote to him in November last year about Filipino, as well as Indian, students who have been misled about their prospects of gaining residence in New Zealand; given that this is a matter that is raised repeatedly, does he not think it is actually time that he did something about it?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, I do not recall that, but I am sure he got an outstanding reply.
Better Public Services—Progress
2. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that one of the Government’s key priorities “is to deliver better public services”; if so, what steps is the Government taking to help achieve this?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes. To help achieve better public services, in 2012 the Prime Minister set 10 challenging Better Public Services targets. Since then there are more than 40,000 fewer children living in a benefit-dependent household, the proportion of 18-year-olds who achieve National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 has increased from 74 percent to 81 percent, and total crime has dropped by 17 percent, with youth crime down by almost 40 percent. Although these are good results, there is much more to do.
Jacqui Dean: How does the Government’s priority of delivering better public services interact with its other priority to responsibly manage its finances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government takes the view that we will be able to better manage our finances when we get better delivery of public services. The best way to control the Government’s finances is to have the Government do its job properly, particularly in delivering services to those who are most in need and have the most challenging lives, and delivering those services in a way that changes those lives. Often it is the cost of Government service failure that leads to future pressure on our books.
Grant Robertson: How is the goal of better public services going to be reached when he has allowed the department that he is responsible for to deliver reports that are “dopey”, “utter tripe”, and to become a political body commenting more and more on Government policy; or is the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery wrong to make those claims about Treasury?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Treasury is always open to constructive criticism, and I think that it would probably acknowledge that Minister Brownlee has been one of its more constructive critics over the years.
Jacqui Dean: What progress has the Government made on the Prime Minister’s 10 Better Public Services targets for 2017?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are still a couple of years to go, but significant progress. Participation in early childhood education has increased from 94.7 percent to 96.1 percent; the proportion of immunised 8-month-old children has increased from 84 percent to 92.9 percent; there has been a 14 percent decrease in people being hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever, which is a very significant step forward when the known costs of rheumatic fever are around about $2 million per child. The trend in the number of children and young people experiencing substantiated physical abuse has flattened, after being on an upward trajectory, but it has not yet begun to decrease, and the rate of reoffending has dropped by 9.6 percent.
Jacqui Dean: How is the work of the Government’s Rules Reduction Taskforce supporting the delivery of better public services?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Can I compliment the member on her excellent work as part of the Rules Reduction Taskforce, highlighting that there are some pretty silly rules around the place. Some steps are being taken. For example, the recently announced Resource Management Act reforms will streamline the local council planning process considerably and provide less opportunity for them to make silly rules that cause high costs for no benefit.
Economic Development, Minister—Confidence
3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister for Economic Development, given that the economy is shrinking on a per person basis?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes, because the Minister is insightful, dynamic, very focused, he is thorough, and he has achieved an awful lot through the Business Growth Agenda, which is a very thorough microeconomic policy reform programme.
Andrew Little: Is he confident that Minister Joyce is doing his job when household incomes fell in Manawatū-Whanganui, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, and the Southland region over the last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, and I am not surprised that some household incomes have taken a hit from a loss of national income, which the Opposition parties have described as billions of dollars. Of course, if there is less income coming into the country from the big drop in dairy prices, then there is bound to be an impact on incomes in our households.
Andrew Little: Does he think that Minister Joyce is focusing enough on lifting wages, given that household incomes in the South Island fell 2 percent in the last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Given the Opposition’s predilection for picking out often quarterly numbers in years when numbers actually went up, I will have to check those out. But, by and large, across New Zealand on average, wages are going up faster than inflation and that is benefiting households because it is the fruit of a growing economy.
Andrew Little: Does he think that Minister Joyce is focusing enough on creating jobs, given that unemployment in the South Island—[Interruption] Mr Joyce—has risen by a third in the past year alone?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member should go there sometime, because he would find that over the last 4 or 5 years, unemployment in the South Island has been very low, actually—very low. If he visits places like Invercargill he will find that the main problem of many employers is getting staff. So, actually, the issue is continuing to work on a better match between the jobs that are available and the skills of the people who are applying for them.
Andrew Little: How can he say Minister Joyce’s regional growth programme is working, given the West Coast has entered recession, according to the ANZ report?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, the member probably understands what is going on on the West Coast but does not want to say so, and that is that, like every other coal-producing area in the world, it is suffering significant impact from very low coal prices. But the regional growth partnerships being set up by Mr Joyce are by far the most constructive, cohesive, and comprehensive approach to growth in the regions, which allow and in fact encourage the regions to understand their own strengths and make their own decisions about their own destiny.
Andrew Little: How can he say Minister Joyce’s—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will not put up with that interjection from Mr Joyce. The supplementary question, Andrew Little.
Andrew Little: How can he say Minister Joyce’s Business Growth Agenda is working, given the economy lost 11,000 jobs in the past 3 months and there are now 150,000 New Zealanders out of work?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, those numbers reflect what was a pretty soft first half of this year—everyone knows about that—after a period of 4 or 5 years of very strong job growth. Mr Joyce is sufficiently humble that he will not try to take credit for the whole lot of that job growth, but he is certainly working hard to ensure it picks up again.
Andrew Little: Are not the 15,000 more Kiwis out of work over the past year proof that after 7 long years this Government has failed to create an economy that delivers for New Zealanders and gives them the security to live the Kiwi dream?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. What it is primarily proof of is the very strong migration flow into New Zealand. Population growth at the moment is running at around 2 percent, which is about as high as it has ever been, and we have a net inflow from Australia for the first time in 20 years. These are the problems of success, not the problems of failure.
Regional Economies—Investment, Jobs, and Growth
4. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What is the Government doing to encourage investment, jobs, and growth in regions like the West Coast?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I am pleased to have the question. A number of things. Last week, on behalf of my colleague Amy Adams, I was pleased to announce that Greymouth has become New Zealand’s 12th fully fibred town under the Government’s ultra-fast broadband programme. We are also investing in other critical infrastructure on the West Coast. There is tens of millions of dollars for regional roading projects like the Taramakau replacement bridge near Greymouth and the Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment near Arthur’s Pass. There is new tourism development: the Old Ghost Road cycleway, involving a $3 million Government investment; our $10 million commitment to create New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk, between Blackball and Punakaiki, in honour of the Pike River commemorations; and we are working with the Buller District Council in particular on a range of other projects to assist the region’s development.
Joanne Hayes: What is the Government doing to develop further opportunities for growth on the West Coast?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: To maintain this momentum I announced last week that the Government will undertake a comprehensive regional economic growth and investment study for the West Coast. [Interruption] The West Coast is blessed with fertile land, stunning scenery, and a proud population, with a strong commitment to their region. Interestingly, for members of the Opposition, the West Coast sought this programme. The regional leaders asked for us to come in and do this programme. I am keen to see that potential turn into dividends for Coasters and the rest of New Zealand through innovative ideas for new and existing industries. Although mining and dairy have been the traditional industries, and tourism continues to grow, diversification and new opportunities are the key for the West Coast. This study will help identify more opportunities for competitive new industries and help remove the roadblocks that may prevent them from developing. The West Coast is the fifth region to join the Government’s regional economic growth programme, joining Northland, the East Coast, Manawatū, Whanganui, and the Bay of Plenty.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How does the employment of a Wellington consultant to write a report on the West Coast offset the 1,000 jobs lost when the National Government destroyed Solid Energy through incompetent oversight?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Perhaps the best answer to that is from the Mayor of Buller, Garry Howard, who salutes the approach and says there is a real commitment to it: “I have read about one of these projects and spoken to the mayor involved and they are getting things happening. What they are doing is developing an action plan. It will be a 12-month process but things will continue to happen in the meantime.” That is the mayor, Garry Howard, who says, yes, in the past, with other Governments and other representatives from other MPs, there has been lots of talk, but, actually, this time he is seeing action on the Coast for the first time. So if I was the member, I would be worried. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection is unacceptably loud between both Mr Brownlee and Damien O’Connor. If they want to have a conversation, they are welcome to take it outside into the lobbies if they so wish.
Joanne Hayes: What are some of the wider benefits we are seeing of this joined-up approach from the Government’s regional growth programme?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, we are seeing a number of benefits already—for example, in the Bay of Plenty with the Ōpōtiki Harbour project. But I also wanted to raise particularly Northland, where we have launched a similar regional growth programme and seen the recent announcement that the Queenstown Resort College will open a Tai Tokerau Resort College early next year. This will be based in Paihia. It is training young people to work in the hospitality industry. It is a collaboration from the private sector, the region, and central government and will predominantly train young Māori and capitalise on the growing tourism industry. It is a great project, and I was pleased to see that the local MP was able to raise himself to come along and also be welcoming of it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, if the new college in Paihia is going to be so good for the Māori of Northland, where the part-owner is undisclosed until that date—Shanghai CRED Real Estate—and kept away from the audience until the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I have the question please.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask why were Mr Flavell’s comments not included in the document put out by him as Minister and by the other Minister who turned up; in short, Mr Flavell was—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The general debate will start shortly.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There was a lot in that question, but perhaps if I could draw one thing out, certainly this Government welcomes investment into the north. If the member wants to say that Shanghai CRED Real Estate or whatever company it is should not be investing in the north, well, he just has to say so, and I am sure the Northland people will mark him accordingly.
Question No. 1 to Minister—Amended Answer
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I seek leave to make a personal explanation to correct an answer I gave to oral question No. 1.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is none.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In answer to a supplementary question, I indicated that fewer Indian nationals were gaining residence within 5 years of their first student visa. I intended to say that a lower percentage of Indian nationals were gaining residence.
5. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has he received on access to affordable pharmaceuticals for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I have received a number of reports, including that this Government has increased pharmaceutical funding by an extra $150 million, that we are now offering free prescriptions for children under the age of 13, that Pharmac’s budget stands at a record $800 million, and that an extra 70,000 New Zealanders benefited from new and improved access to medicines last year. I have also had reports that we have completed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement at minimal cost to Pharmac—an achievement that the member opposite claimed would cost $1 billion.
Hon Annette King: Was the Cancer Society wrong in its comments last week that New Zealand does not have similar access to cancer medicines compared with Australia, as claimed by Pharmac in its recent report, because Pharmac counted only the number of drugs funded and not the number of conditions that the drugs can treat, with Australia providing far wider access to its people who are suffering from cancer?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I would have to go and check the Cancer Society’s statement, but in terms of the 22 cancer drugs funded in Australia but not New Zealand, the fact is that only one of those has been found to have a significant clinical benefit. I am advised that Pharmac is having a look at that at the moment.
Hon Annette King: Why has the advisory committee to Pharmac given the latest melanoma drug Keytruda a low recommendation for funding on the basis of inconclusive data when the United Kingdom and Australia have found the data compelling enough to fund the drug?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Clearly, the member is questioning the scientific evidence that Pharmac bases its decisions on, but in the end Pharmac is a body that makes its decisions at arm’s length from the Government. It looks at the data and makes the decision accordingly.
Hon Annette King: Is he prepared to set up an early access to medicine scheme, similar to that of the United Kingdom, which could provide interim funding for ground-breaking cancer drugs like Keytruda, to ensure that New Zealanders get the opportunity to extend or save their lives; if not, why not?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I do not know whether the member is proposing that the Labour Party would change the Pharmac model, but we are very committed to it. It provides the medicines that the public need. It has greatly increased the number of funded medicines: 41 medicines over the last year, and 70,000 more New Zealanders than the year before getting access to a medicine. But if Mrs King wants to say she is going to change the model, she is welcome to do it. We are not.
Hon Annette King: If the Government found it possible to fund the extension of Herceptin during an election campaign, why can it not fund Pharmac to make the drug Keytruda a priority for melanoma sufferers, because cancer specialists in New Zealand say there is no other meaningful option?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As the member knows, Pharmac has to make decisions in the best interests of all New Zealanders. It gets funded to the tune of $800 million a year, an extra $150 million more than what it got when we became the Government, and it is managing that pharmaceutical budget in a way that provides the treatments that everyone across New Zealand needs and will receive on an as-needs basis.
Emissions—Reductions and Subsidies
6. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “It makes no sense to be calling for emissions reductions on one hand, while subsidising emissions on the other”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.
Metiria Turei: What is the cost to the taxpayer of all financial support his Government provides for fossil fuel exploration and extraction?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The answer to that question depends on whether you follow the World Wildlife Fund definition, which says there are some subsidies, or whether you follow the APEC definition and other international bodies, who estimate the cost at zero—that is that New Zealand has no subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not say the word “subsidy” at all. I asked for the cost to the taxpayer of all financial support provided by the Government. That is a different thing.
Mr SPEAKER: And if you listened carefully to the answer, the Minister explained that it depends on the way in which the subsidy is then described.
Metiria Turei: How much has the Government spent on the two-for-one deal under the emissions trading scheme, which does subsidise greenhouse gas polluting industries by up to 50 percent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have those figures to hand, but it would not be much because the carbon price has been so low. And I know the Greens liked the emissions trading scheme until the carbon price went down, when it decided there was not enough pain being inflicted on the population at large, so now it has changed to a carbon tax. And I suppose that would earn us quite a lot of revenue.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is simply moving into a criticism of a Green Party position. That is not appropriate for an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: And I agree with that comment. I probably should have pulled—[Interruption] Order! I am just ruling. I should have pulled up the Minister earlier. The question was answered right at the start by saying he did not have that information with him.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Prime Minister aware that the last time fossil fuel electricity generation was subsidised in New Zealand was when the Whirinaki power station was built with Government subsidies, and when the Government provided a guarantee for the new gas-fired power station at Huntly, an initiative that was taken by the previous Government and supported by the Greens?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have become aware of that, and was very surprised, given the tone of the questions that we have been answering. And, actually, as the member may know, since the electricity market has become more effective, it is now likely that the carbon-producing generation at Huntly—well, it has been reduced and could be reduced further.
Metiria Turei: Is the granting of $9.6 million this year to help multibillion-dollar companies like Anadarko and Exxon Mobil search for more oil in New Zealand not an example of the taxpayer subsidising the fossil fuel industry?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, and if the member cannot tell the difference between the Government paying subsidies for petrol at the pump and the Government providing public funding to a research vessel to go and explore the ocean, then I do not think we can have a sensible discussion. Surely, the Greens are not suggesting we should now wilfully cultivate ignorance of our ocean just in case some petroleum company decides to use the information.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister saying that it is not OK to subsidise the public’s consumption of fossil fuels but that it is perfectly OK for the Government to use taxpayer money to subsidise foreign companies to extract more fossil fuels from around New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, New Zealand has led an international effort, which is gaining momentum, to encourage Governments to remove their direct subsidies at the pump on fossil fuels, because all the work shows that could reduce carbon emissions by up to 12 percent simply by charging the market price. A number of Governments have been moving in that direction, many of their own volition, but certainly with encouragement from the international community. I can only repeat again, for the member’s benefit, that although we could have a detailed discussion about the tax treatment of activity around the petroleum industry, there are no subsidies to the industry; there are a series of tax treatments that have been put in place to achieve consistency and equity in our tax system.
Metiria Turei: Is the Government spending $8 million through New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals to map oil reserves in Nelson, Otago, and Southland yet another example of the taxpayer subsidising the fossil fuel industry?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, it is a matter of whether we believe that the Government and New Zealand should be wilfully ignorant of its oceans. We think it is worth knowing. I mean, we pay hundreds of millions of dollars for research in our oceans to understand what goes on out there—the ecosystems, and, in this case, mineral potential. Of course, that information could be used by international oil companies, but we think it is worth having the knowledge and taking the risk that they may use it, which we do not regard as a risk.
Metiria Turei: Will the Prime Minister now guarantee to the New Zealand public that no company that is engaged in fossil fuel extraction, exploration, or mining will have any access to any of the information that the Government subsidises in looking for oil or mineral reserves—that there will be no subsidisation of that information?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am rather taken aback by this 20th century form of Luddism—or is it Ludditism? We are in fact the Government that has the opposite approach—which is why we will not agree with the member—and that is open data. We believe that everything the Government knows that is not breaching privacy and confidentiality should be available to the public, even if they are members of the Green Party or multinational oil corporations. We are certainly not going to start hiding publicly funded data for politically motivated reasons.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Has the Government made any estimate of the percentage reduction required in our emissions in order for New Zealand to have its fair share of the global carbon budget consistent with 2 degrees?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I suspect that calculation may well have been done, but I do not have the numbers to hand. The Government is satisfied that the targets we are talking about at the conference in Paris represent an adequate balance of our contribution to reducing both climate change and temperature increase with the fact that for New Zealand the cost of reducing another tonne of carbon emissions is higher than for any other developed country.
Dr Kennedy Graham: What are the principles of fairness that his Government has used when it decided on its self-described “fair reduction target” of 11 percent of 1990 levels?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Pretty much what I have just said and that is carrying our share of the burden of reducing carbon emissions across the globe on the one hand, and on the other hand balancing it up with recognising that it costs New Zealand more than pretty much every other developed country to reduce carbon emissions by another tonne because of the unique mix of carbon emissions that New Zealand produces.
Dr Kennedy Graham: With full regard to that unique mix, would he agree that if one takes account of New Zealand’s per capita emissions, our relative wealth, and our historical emissions, our target would be at least 40 percent below 1990 levels, not 11 percent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: All those things have, I am sure, been taken into account, and some of them may be at a detailed level, but, just by way of an example, a very high proportion of our energy is from renewable sources already. I note that other countries that are, on the face of it, promoting more aggressive targets than New Zealand are at the same time, for instance, shutting down low-carbon-emitting energy sources such as nuclear energy and expanding their coal energy, and it is going to be pretty difficult for them to reconcile those kinds of conflicting objectives.
7. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements have been made regarding the Government’s investment in education infrastructure?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Education): In the last 6 weeks our Government has announced close to a quarter of a billion dollars in school property investments. These investments cover six of our most complex school redevelopment sites across New Zealand. These include $79 million for Western Springs College—the largest ever redevelopment in New Zealand’s history—$39 million for Wellington East Girls’ College, $26 million for Takapuna Grammar School, $24 million for Aotea College, $24 million for Balmoral Intermediate School, and, of course, $63 million for the two schools in Marlborough, for which I understand the Minister of Education received a rapturous applause at her announcement. This Government is investing more to ensure young New Zealanders access modern 21st century facilities.
Melissa Lee: What investment has the Government made over the last 7 years in school property?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: This Government has invested more than $4 billion in school property since we came to office. This is more than 30 percent more than the previous 7 years of the last Labour Government. Back then, we inherited huge numbers of leaky schools, schools that needed earthquake strengthening, a system that did not adequately plan for growth, and a system where we did not have a condition assessment of all New Zealand schools. Since then, we have spent more than $375 million repairing leaky buildings, we have completed condition assessments for all New Zealand schools, and there are huge numbers of redevelopments that have happened. We have also put $350 million in to accelerate growth in Auckland and we have invested $700 million in ICT infrastructure to ensure New Zealand schools have access to uncapped, fast connections. We have done more than ever for young New Zealanders. We are very proud of this.
Melissa Lee: What recent announcements have been made about addressing demand as a result of population growth?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: On top of the 51 projects that I confirmed several months ago for Auckland, we have roll-growth classrooms being added right across New Zealand, in areas like Queenstown, Hamilton, and in New Plymouth, where I was with Jonathan Young. Today I also announced an extra $6.8 million will be invested in the Waterview Primary School redevelopment, taking the total value of this project to $17 million, and an extra $5 million will be invested in the Freemans Bay School redevelopment, taking the total value of this project to $18 million. This additional investment is part of this Government’s comprehensive plan to get ahead of growth in parts of New Zealand.
Christchurch Recovery—Anchor Projects
8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Does he agree with the Treasury assessment of the anchor projects in Christchurch that “it is highly likely that additional funding will be needed to finish the programme” and that “this means increasing funding would require significant compromise of other investment initiatives”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): Not necessarily, and not necessarily.
Grant Robertson: Can he guarantee that no other investment initiatives will be significantly compromised as a result of additional funding being required for the anchor projects—in particular, the convention centre?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Given that we are in commercial negotiations at the present time and that the actual cost of the convention centre is not known at this point, I cannot make that comparison.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson: I was thinking that this might be a point of order, but we will make it a supplementary question. Can he confirm the statement of Tim Hunter, chief executive officer of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, that the Prime Minister said in August that the Government was struggling to get value for money for the convention centre proposal?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have got no responsibility for anything Mr Hunter has ever said.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, what does he say to Tim Hunter, the head of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, who said that the Government was in total disarray on this project and that after 3 years of failing to deliver, it was time for the Minister to stand aside?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Good luck.
Grant Robertson: If the Treasury report into the Christchurch City rebuild that described it as likely to be unachievable was “dopey”, does that make him “Grumpy” and Bill English “Sleepy”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, but given the member’s performance in his portfolio, it certainly makes him “Dozy”.
Police—Use of Technology
9. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Police: How is the Police using new technology to help victims of family violence in New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): Yesterday the Police launched a 4-month pilot in Palmerston North to record victim video statements at the scene of certain family violence incidents, using recently rolled-out iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. The video statements will be actively used to help investigate and prosecute family violence incidents and are expected to result in earlier guilty pleas and to reduce court time. The pilot will help provide a better service to family violence victims and aligns with initiatives that this Government already has under way to improve the way that we address family violence.
Ian McKelvie: How has this technology become available, and what are the impacts on police?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In 2014 the Government rolled out all-mobile technology to 6,500 front-line police officers, resulting in significantly reduced time spent on administration, and freeing up the equivalent of more than 350 extra officers. A considerable 41 percent of all police officers’ front-line time is spent dealing with family violence, so it is great to see the Police coming up with innovative ways to use this technology in a way that is better for victims and more efficient for police—[Interruption] Those members do not like good news, do they?—the justice system, and the taxpayer.
10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yes, particularly my statement that parties that are genuinely concerned about jobs, about housing, and about regional development in areas like Northland will support the Government’s resource management reforms.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he particularly stand by the statement he made in regard to the proposed changes to the Resource Management Act and the involvement of iwi in water management that “I actually think there are advantages for all New Zealanders in these changes,”; if so, why?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I support involving iwi properly in the consultation and development of water plans and improving New Zealand’s water management—and I would say, for instance, that I think the member supports it as well. I noted that on 11 December—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking him about his comments, not about mine, or New Zealand First policy. I just want to know, as the public does, what his comments mean.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. You asked whether the Minister stood by his comments; he has answered that he does, and he was giving an explanation. If the member does not want—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am happy to give the member a further—
Mr SPEAKER: No. If the member does not want to hear the explanation, we will move on with further supplementary questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is OK, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] The joke will be on you, baldy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Kris Faafoi, I am on my feet. Would the member just proceed to ask his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister where the advantage for all New Zealanders is in having the statutory responsibility for the allocation and control of fresh water transferred from councils to unelected private interests based on racial entitlement?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That certainly is not in the bill; it is certainly not in the Government proposals. But I would note that changes were made to the Resource Management Act providing for iwi joint management agreements that also cover water. That legislation was introduced to the House on 16 December 2004, and voted in favour of by both the member and his party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need some silence from my right-hand side.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I have a read-out of the proposed law 11 years later—for example, like 2015—rather than something reciting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have no idea what point of order the member is making.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can this Minister tell the House what iwi or hapū values are, and how developing a range of mechanisms to give effect to them will improve water quality, given that that is the proposed objective in a document from the iwi leaders group that Cabinet received in July of this year—2015?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government does believe that iwi and Māori need to have an effective say in the way in which this country manages its freshwater resources. I would note that that member’s party also agreed with that view—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have asked this Minister whether he can tell the House what iwi and hapū values are. That is all that was in this question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, it was not. The member then went on and added about a memorandum that had come from the iwi leaders group in July—[Interruption] No—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to remain in the House to ask his questions, he—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. If the member had simply asked that, I could have helped, but that was not the question the member asked. He then added substantially more, which gives a very wide ambit for the Minister in answering the question. If the member wants a short, sharp answer, he needs to ask a short, sharp supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to specifically refer to what I asked for, which was iwi and hapū values, given that they are in the proposed objective document—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The way forward—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to stay to ask another supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! The member will stand, and withdraw and apologise for that interjection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will now resume his seat. I have ruled that the question that was asked was very elaborate and gave the Minister quite a wide ambit in answering it. That is my final decision on that. If the member wants to ask further supplementary questions, he can do so; otherwise, I am very happy to move to the next question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that I asked the Minister to tell us what iwi and hapū—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A short, sharp supplementary question, please.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, Mr Speaker, I had hardly got out the first five words when you made that criticism.
Mr SPEAKER: And the member should read Speakers’ rulings and understand that you are not actually meant to ask questions starting with the words “Given that”. If we can now have further supplementary questions that are in order, we will have them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will he advise what iwi and hapū values are, as referred to in a document that Cabinet received, and will he give credence or support to the following demands made in this document: one, that ownership of all Crown-owned lake and riverbeds be transferred to iwi; two, that ownership of freshwater be transferred to iwi; three, that all marae receive freshwater infrastructure; and four, that iwi receive—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question is too long. It can be answered—[Interruption] Order! There are three questions there that I deciphered.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What I can be very clear about is the Government’s policy with respect to freshwater, and that is that no one owns the water, that we need to work the issues through on a catchment-by-catchment basis, and that the final decisions on all water plans across New Zealand will be made by elected councils.
Marama Fox: Can the Minister enlighten us as to whether the Wairarapa Moana will be part of the settlement in which the member Ron Mark negotiated on behalf of Wairarapa iwi to return to Ngāti Kahungunu?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a right to raise a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that you have been at pains to make sure that the Opposition asks certain specific questions, except that you are allowing Ministers to deviate, having been led on by supplementary questions from the Government side. First of all—number one, this is a confidential matter. It cannot be disclosed in this Parliament. That is a breach of confidentiality—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am unaware of whether it is a confidential matter. I have got an interjection coming from my side, which should not be coming through a point of order, that it is in the public arena. So I cannot make a comment—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. The question that was asked is certainly in order. It was a longer question than I would have liked, but it is definitely in order.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that it is probably not possible for you to make a ruling right now, but could I ask you, in consultation with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, to look at the obligations of the Crown in its negotiations to keep confidential all matters relating to ongoing negotiations. That is a clear breach of the confidentiality agreement between the Crown and the negotiators of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki Nui-ā-Rua.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: You might want to expand that investigation or consideration a little bit further, because if, in fact, the question from Marama Fox was a breach of confidentiality, then we would be in a position of New Zealand First in fact arguing that no other iwi should get the secret provisions that it has been able to negotiate for a particular iwi. That itself would be a breach of the confidentiality.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! No, I need no further assistance. [Interruption] Order! Mr Mark has asked me to look further into this matter and acknowledges I am not in a position to make a decision as to whether this is in the public arena at this stage. I will look into the matter. In the meantime I am going to invite the Minister to answer the question. I would expect him, if it is a matter of confidentiality, to state that in his answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have been briefed by the Ministry for the Environment on the proposed agreement dealing with the Wairarapa Moana change of ownerships in respect of the longstanding relationship that local iwi has. I would commend the member, the mayor, for his involvement in what I think is a constructive way forward for that water body.
Sexual Assault Crimes—Resolutions Rate
11. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does he think that a 47.6 percent resolution rate for reported sexual assault crimes is acceptable; if so, why?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): I would not use the term “acceptable” for any unresolved sexual offence. This is a priority area for the Government, and we are taking it very seriously. Part of addressing the issue of sexual violence is encouraging a culture where people have trust and confidence in police to come forward and report offences. Reported offences have increased markedly in recent years. As a Government we are working to improve the safety of victims, to improve services, and to change longstanding behaviours and attitudes.
Stuart Nash: If the Minister is taking this seriously, how can the public have any faith in his Government’s approach to resolving sexual offences when the resolution rate for sexual crime has dropped under National from 64.1 percent in 2008 to 47.6 percent, and what message is this sending to victims?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: At the risk of relitigating a question asked a fortnight ago—
Hon Annette King: Just answer it then.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I will. Although there were 230,000 unresolved offences in 2008, there are only 205,000 now. In other words, there are 11 percent fewer unresolved crimes this year—
Stuart Nash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very clear—it was around sexual offences, as opposed to general offences. It is a very clear category—
Mr SPEAKER: The question, as I recall it, was: how can the Minister be taken seriously? He is allowed to give an explanation to that. He is obviously saying that it is not a matter of percentages; it is more a matter of numbers. That addresses the question that was asked. If the member then wants to take it further, he can do so with his supplementary questions. Does the Minister wish to complete his answer?
Stuart Nash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point was not the percentage; it was actually the category, which is sexual offences, which is a specific category in police crime figures.
Mr SPEAKER: The way forward is I will give the member an additional supplementary question. I suspect he is unlikely to get it, but we will move forward.
Stuart Nash: Does he think that the 5,472 Kiwis who reported a sexual assault over the past 3 years but had no resolution can have confidence in the police to deliver on their promise of safer communities together?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Absolutely, because that is what the community is saying to us. What I believe that data is telling us is that people are having more confidence to speak up and report sexual offending. But what we also know is that many of those are of long standing—recent reports of crimes committed many, many years ago. That makes them much harder to resolve, but police are determined to do so.
Poto Williams: Does he believe that the low rate of resolution of sexual assault complaints is in any way responsible for the nine out of 10 victims of sexual assault being unwilling to report the assault to police?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No. There are many reasons why that may be the case, and we need to deal with them as a community, but I do not think that is one of them.
Stuart Nash: Has the resolution of sexual assault crime under National dropped from 64.1 percent in 2008 to 47.6 percent in 2014?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have no reason to doubt that the member has got the data from reported crime statistics, but I remind the House that under this Government not only are you less likely to be a victim of crime, you are less likely to be the victim of an unresolved crime.
Stuart Nash: Does he think that it is an appropriate use of police resources to fly two police officers from Auckland to Wellington to search a journalist’s house for a simple handwriting sample, while sexual assault, burglary, property, and car theft resolution rates are in free fall?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: That is a judgment call, but it is a call that police make, not politicians. And the member, who aspires to be the Minister of Police, should be very aware that under the Policing Act 2008 the Commissioner of Police is not responsible to, and must act independently of, any Minister of the Crown. I am obliged to follow the law. No one is above the law—no MP, no truck driver, no journalist.
Roading, Queenstown—Kawarau Falls Bridge
12. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made on its commitment to replace the Kawarau Falls Bridge in Queenstown?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Oh, great progress. Yesterday, alongside the good member, it was my pleasure to mark the start of construction on the new $22 million Kawarau Falls Bridge in Queenstown. The new two-way bridge will replace the existing and historic 90-year-old single-lane bridge and will be the biggest roading infrastructure project seen in Queenstown in many a year.
Todd Barclay: How will the new $22 million Kawarau Falls Bridge support and benefit the Queenstown area?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Motorists can look forward to the traffic flowing much more freely and more predictable travel times when the new bridge opens in 2017. The new bridge will support the strong growth in the area and provide a safer, faster, and more resilient link to Frankton, Queenstown Airport, the Queenstown central business district, and developments south of the Kawarau River. I am excited that the Government has been able to accelerate this important roading project sooner than was originally planned, because of our Accelerated Regional Roading Package.