Questions & Answers – May 24
Building and Housing, Minister—Confidence
1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister for Building and Housing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Andrew Little: How can he have confidence in bumbling Nick Smith, who promised 500 hectares of new housing on Crown land in the last Budget but only found 13 hectares, and is now claiming he never made any promise at all?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Apologies—I just could not hear the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the question to be heard. It would be—[Interruption] Order! The question, as I heard it, was certainly one that was going to lead to some interjection, but, so that it is heard clearly, I do not want any interjection, particularly from my right-hand side.
Andrew Little: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am obliged. How can he have confidence in Nick Smith, who promised 500 hectares of new housing—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did not.
Andrew Little: —on Crown land in the last Budget but found only 13 hectares—he is over there—and is now claiming he never made any promise at all?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have confidence in the Minister for Building and Housing because he has undertaken a wide range of initiatives when it comes to housing. What we are seeing is a considerable increase in the number of houses that have been built. Yesterday the Minister announced that three sites in Auckland would be paving the way for 750 new homes; if combined with the Moire Road development last year, it is a total of 940 homes.
Andrew Little: Given his statement about housing, “I don’t think it’s a crisis,”, why does Statistics New Zealand data show falling homeownership rates every quarter under his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I always have to check those facts when I see them from the Labour Party, but homeownership rates around the world, actually, have been reducing. One thing we do know is that under this Government we are helping a lot of people into their first home. One example of that is the nearly 12,000 people who have been helped into their first home under the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant scheme, totalling $55.6 million.
Andrew Little: I seek leave to table information provided by the Parliamentary Library on the dwelling and household figures and ownership rates, which shows a declining—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The document has been described. Before I put the leave, it is not simply a précis of Statistics New Zealand, is it?
Andrew Little: Not at all.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, then I will put—[Interruption] Order! I will put the leave. [Interruption] Order! Leave has been sought to table the information prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. [Interruption] Order! Can I just have a little less assistance from Mr Brownlee.
• Document, by leave, laid
on the Table of the House.
Andrew Little: Is Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), right when he says “Whatever is happening now—it’s not working.” and “What we need is a massive Government-led house building programme.”, which, funnily enough, sounds a lot like Labour’s KiwiBuild programme?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: He is absolutely right when he says that whatever is happening now is not working, if he is talking about the Labour Party. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To my left, the Leader of the Opposition is asking for a supplementary question.
Andrew Little: When Kim Campbell, the Council of Trade Unions’ Richard Wagstaff, and even Paula Bennett say there is a crisis, why does he not just admit that the Government’s housing policies have failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government’s response in housing has been quite comprehensive, and that is why we are seeing 9,500 new homes being built in Auckland, the highest number in more than 11 years. That is why we are seeing more people employed in construction. That is why we are seeing people accessing KiwiSaver HomeStart to get into their first homes. This is an issue that takes quite a lot of catch-up, because of the work that is required, but I will say that this Government, and under Minister Smith, has been implementing a wide range of policies. The previous Government sat around for 9 years and did absolutely nothing.
Andrew Little: Have any of these Government policies reversed the fall in homeownership: (1) cheaper Gib board, which has now got more expensive; (2) trying to build houses on cemeteries; or (3) building less than 3 percent of the promised 39,000 houses in special housing areas?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Once again, the member wishes to make things up, and he is welcome to do that. But I will tell you what is working, and that is the fact that 24,000 houses and sections have been consented in the first 2 years of the housing accord; that there are now 154 special housing areas in Auckland; that the rules have been tightened on property investors; that more Crown land has been released; and that thousands and thousands of people—in fact 42,000, I think, additional people—are in the area of housing and construction. A great deal is happening in Auckland housing. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Brownlee!
Andrew Little: Is it not time to stop the excuses and admit that after 8 years it is the failure of his policies that means that homeownership has fallen every quarter under his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I reject the assertion from the member. Secondly, as I have pointed out already today, there are a great many initiatives that the Government has undertaken. I just look back at the 9 years under the previous Labour Government, and all we saw was interest rates going up.
Metiria Turei: Why is his Government prioritising the building of 4,500 new hotel rooms for tourists as part of “Project Palace”, when those resources could be directed to the Minister for Building and Housing in order to help build homes for the 4,500 people on the State house waiting list?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: They are different issues, of course. One is around tourism and the fact that it has become such a massive employer in New Zealand now. I would have thought that the member would want to welcome that. Regarding many of the hotels that are being built, it will ultimately be decided by the private sector whether it wants to invest in them—and they are in places like Queenstown. This might come as a shock to the member, but not every builder who lives in New Zealand wants to move to Auckland.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister not think that in the midst of a housing crisis his Government should prioritise “Project Homes for New Zealanders” and not “Project Palace” for tourists?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the member’s assertion.
Metiria Turei: Is this the Prime Minister’s new social housing policy, where he builds expensive hotel rooms so that homeless people can stay in them and rack up huge debts to Work and Income instead?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Metiria Turei: Does he genuinely think that 4,500 people on the waiting list for a State house and more than 30,000 New Zealanders in severe housing deprivation does not mean that we are in a national housing emergency, one that demands his full attention?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Like many issues that the Government faces, this does have my full attention. What you have already seen announced by the Minister for Social Development is $41 million being applied to 3,000 places, some of which are new and some of which are existing, but they allow people to access what will no longer be a loan but a grant for social housing. You have also seen the Government moving now on income-related rents for social housing providers. You have seen the Government insulate nearly 300,000 homes. You have seen the Government making sure that there are renewable tenancies, which benefit those with the greatest need. You have seen the Government working in areas like the Tāmaki redevelopment. The Government is doing a great deal—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is long enough.
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and because I do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is Auckland going to solve its housing supply problems when demand is inflated by 34,000 people coming into Auckland from overseas every year—[Interruption] When they stop, I will keep going. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is too much interjection, and there is one member, particularly, who is continuing to interject. I can name him if that would help quieten him down. Mr Peters, start the question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is Auckland going to solve its housing supply problems when demand is inflated by 34,000 people coming into Auckland from overseas every year, or is this, to quote him, and I do, “hardly some sort of crisis that we cannot cope with.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Some of those people who come in actually come in with skills that can be applied in this particular area of housing. Secondly, if you look at the construction workforce, which has grown by 40,000 in the last 2 years nationally and by 24,200 in Auckland, the reality of a fast-growing Auckland, partly because of population growth both internally and externally, has added to a great deal of economic activity and job opportunities for New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is Auckland going to solve its now massive roading infrastructure problems when half the population of New Plymouth, or 34,000, are now coming into Auckland from overseas every year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As the member should know, the Government has been investing massively in infrastructure in Auckland, spending a great deal not only on roading but also on public transport, and billions—I think $4 billion—has gone into KiwiRail in the time that we have had that, and that has included the electrification of lines in Auckland, the additional rolling stock, and the like. The Government is committed to its share of the central business district rail tunnel now. The Government has also invested in very large roading projects like the Waterview Connection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is Auckland going to solve its education and health supply problems when the demand for education and health services is inflated by 34,000 long-term arrivals from overseas going to Auckland each year, let alone those who come from the rest of the country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, many of the people who go to Auckland are returning New Zealanders who have decided to come from overseas because, like myself, they have worked in another part of the world and they have realised what a great place New Zealand is. And under a National-led Government, there are so many reasons for them to come back and be a part of Auckland and a part of New Zealand, and there are reasons to celebrate that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This is great. The member’s running an advertorial for the Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Eat your heart out, Gerry.
Hon Member: Bring back Ron.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: They have never asked you, mate.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I know the member is responding, but, on this occasion, can we have the supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the latest household economic survey reports that every income decile has declined in homeownership except for the top 10 percent, when will he start governing for all New Zealanders and not just for his rich mates?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If one looks generally at those who think the country is going in the right direction versus the wrong direction, the member will see that, substantially, the number of people who think the country is going in the right direction out numbers those who think it is going in the wrong direction. They are New Zealanders from all parts of the country and with all different economic cohorts. I think that answers the member’s question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
3. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Finance: How will Budget 2016 build on the Government’s commitment to a more productive and competitive economy while delivering responsible fiscal management?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): New Zealand has made good progress over the last 3 years. The economy is growing by 10.2 percent, with average growth of 3.4 percent per annum over those 3 years. Average weekly wages have increased by 7.7 percent, there is an average growth rate of 2.6 percent compared with average inflation of 0.7, and the unemployment rate is down—in fact, in the member’s electorate, it is about 5.1 percent compared with 3 years ago. Budget 2016 will build on this considerable progress.
Todd Muller: How will Budget 2016 deliver on the Government’s commitment to responsible fiscal management?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The deficit from 2011 was $18 billion, and in 2015 there was a small surplus. The Government has turned its focus to consolidating those surpluses so it can begin the process of paying down debt, which has run up fairly significantly since 2009 onwards. That would put New Zealand in a better position to deal with future recessions or natural disasters. In Budget 2016 the Government will, of course, measure its success not by how much money is spent but by how much difference the spending makes, particularly for vulnerable New Zealanders.
Todd Muller: What recent initiatives has the Government announced to support a growing economy as part of Budget 2016?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has so many initiatives to support a forward-looking, growing economy that it has announced a number of them prior to the Budget. For instance, there is $45 million for the tourism sector because it is growing so fast, to help communities build smaller scale infrastructure projects. Last week Minister Joyce announced funding for a further 5,500 apprentices by 2020. This will also support 2,500 more people into the Māori and Pasifika trade training programme, which will reach 3,400 next year—up from just 1,200 in 2014. Those are just a few examples of the Government focusing on getting better results.
Todd Muller: What reports has the Minister seen from notable—or, at least, recognisable—commentators on the indicators of a successful society?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen a recent report from one commentator listing indicators of a successful society, which include improving employment outcomes and raising incomes. By contrast, I have seen a report from another commentator, who, instead, says that what matters is the percentage of the increase in GDP each year going to income. The first one was Grant Robertson, and the second one was Andrew Little. I wish they would agree with themselves. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are coming to it now, I suspect.
4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: What is his answer to Fran O’Sullivan’s question, “Was John Key’s brain fart on the tax front an involuntary exercise or was it calculated”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I would say she got it wrong.
Grant Robertson: When he took tax cuts off the table in his pre-Budget speech, was he expecting the Prime Minister to put them back on the table 3 days later?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: What I made clear is that the fiscal conditions in this Budget had not been met for tax reductions, and of course the Opposition will just have to have a look at the numbers in the Budget this week, to see whether they think those fiscal conditions can be met in the future.
Grant Robertson: What is his response to Westpac economist Dominick Stephens, who said: “If the plan is for $3 billion of tax cuts, as the Prime Minister said, down the line, then that makes the accounts that he will deliver this week irrelevant and obsolete.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would disagree with him.
Grant Robertson: Why do you disagree with him?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Due to the hard work of the Public Service, the members of the various coalition Governments, and the New Zealand public, this Budget will indicate that New Zealand has choices out ahead of us that very few other developed countries have. They simply will not have choices because their public finances are not yet in a sustainable position—ours are.
David Seymour: When was the last time that the Government of New Zealand cut taxes with the Labour Party in power, and who was the Minister of Finance at the time?
Hon Members: There’s no responsibility for that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. It is an information question to the House. I think there is some responsibility to answer it.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This Government’s tax package in 2010 cut some taxes—that is, the taxes on things we like, like work, savings, and investment—and pushed up taxes on something we think we had too much of, which was consumption. Prior to that I think it was Dr Cullen who announced tax cuts in 2008, which could not be fulfilled because of the recession. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection now on my left-hand side is simply too high. If I want to specifically mention a couple I could do that, but I am going to have to ask for some cooperation. Otherwise, I will be dealing with it more severely.
Grant Robertson: Are tax cuts a priority when New Zealanders are living in cars and garages?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we have indicated, there will not be any tax cuts in this Budget. There are other priorities to deal with, but there is a whole range of priorities. On different days the Opposition says it is elective surgery. On other days it is student debt. On other days it is budgeting services. Today it happens to be people living in cars. The Opposition does not seem to have any idea of what it thinks the priorities are. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, if New Zealanders are still living in cars and garages in 2017 will he still propose tax cuts?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is getting well ahead of himself. He can be assured that the level of public support for the Budget for 2016, I am sure, will be positive and considerable, and that will give this Government—because of its sound financial position—plenty of choices for dealing with pressures that might be there next year.
Grant Robertson: Did the Prime Minister tell the Minister of Finance that he was going to put tax cuts back on the table just 3 days after he had taken them off?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We completely disagree with the member’s characterisation of what the Prime Minister said, and the Prime Minister and I and Ministers regularly have strategic discussions.
Department of Conservation—Budget
KEVIN HAGUE (Green): My question is to the Minister of Conversation and asks: is she confident that the Department of Conservation can carry out its work considering the inflation-adjusted reduction in Vote Conservation allocation it has endured under her Government?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): That question varies from the one that was given to us. It has included inflation adjustment. I am happy to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: It is the question as it is on my sheet. I can ask the member to read it again if that would help the Minister. Can we repeat the question? It was certainly read exactly as per my sheet.
5. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Is she confident that the Department of Conservation can carry out its work considering the inflation-adjusted reduction in Vote Conservation allocation it has endured under her Government?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): I am entirely confident that the Department of Conservation (DOC) can carry out its work, but I refute the idea that DOC has endured a reduction. It has not. The core Crown revenue provided to DOC in the dying days of the Labour Government in 2007-08 was $263 million. We are forecast to provide $338 million out of an overall budget of $391 million in 2015-16. This is an increase, and, in addition to that, commercial-partnership funding has gone up over the past 7 years from about $4 million to $9.3 million—not a reduction by anybody’s mathematics, I would have thought.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table a document. It is a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library, and it analyses the differences in conservation spending from a 2008-09 baseline in real terms, demonstrating the reduction.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The last part is not necessary. Leave is sought to table that particular Parliamentary Library information. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
• Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm that 38 DOC-maintained structures are in serious or critical need of work, including 23 bridges and six viewing platforms, including a well-known viewing platform in Milford Sound?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is being a bit selective with the places that he is highlighting. I would like to just put some facts out on the table. The data shows that about 13 of 944 huts that DOC manages had some serious work that was outstanding—something as small as a missing hearth brush is enough to mean that a hut does not meet its service standards. The number needing serious work equates to just 1.3 percent of DOC’s extensive network of—often remotely located—huts. This actually serves to reinforce DOC’s inspection and maintenance programme as very thorough. DOC spent more than $18 million on hut maintenance last year, and it continues to invest—
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: —in improving its—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Point of order, Kevin Hague.
Kevin Hague: It is a long answer, but my question was actually quite straightforward—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The way forward, because I do not think the question has, at this stage, been addressed, is that I am going to invite the member to ask the question again.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm that 38 DOC-maintained structures are in need of serious or critical work, including 23 bridges and six viewing platforms, including a well-known viewing platform in Milford Sound?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: There are tasks—and these are ones that the member alludes to—that the engineers have indicated a need to have carried out within the next 6 months. About a third of the work on the list that the member is citing, and was provided with by my office, has already been completed within this past month. The department undertakes tens of thousands of individual tasks such as these every year. All structures are inspected on a 2-yearly rotation. DOC takes its responsibilities for the public’s and its staff’s safety very, very seriously, and we have scheduled work for all of the projects that the member has noted, to be concluded by November this year. We spend $45 million—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that the question was answered some time ago.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm that there are 103 DOC-maintained bridges that are either not safe to walk across or are in critical need of repair?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: No. I would go back to the answer that I gave you before. DOC takes its responsibilities very seriously. I will not, and do not, confirm that the repair that is needed is of a substantial nature. If it was dangerous—if our inspectors, who go through regularly and inspect it thoroughly, felt there was any risk to public safety—then those structures would be closed down. They are part of a work schedule that is being done, and that is being carried out with all seriousness.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. The numbers that I am using in these questions have been derived from answers that the Minister herself has provided. They relate to the—
Mr SPEAKER: Can I have the point of order?
Kevin Hague: What I am not sure about is whether it is possible for me to table her answers to my questions for written answer.
Mr SPEAKER: No, it is certainly not, and the member knows that. The question was answered immediately. The member asked whether the Minister could confirm, and then went on and listed 103 bridges etc. being safe or in need of critical repair. The Minister immediately said no, she was not in a position to confirm that. The question was addressed.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm her answer to written question No. 4765 that a quarter of huts do not meet DOC’s own service standard, including, for example, Whariwharangi Hut on the Abel Tasman Coast Track Great Walk?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is misrepresenting the information that he was provided with. The data actually shows that just 13 of the 944 huts that DOC manages had serious work outstanding. Something as small, as I said, as a missing hearth brush—those are the things that count. So the number needing serious work is just 1.3 percent, and we are working on it. We spent more than $18 million on hut maintenance last year.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about whether or not a quarter of the huts met the service standard, and the Minister is answering about critical repairs. That was not the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was whether the Minister would confirm an answer she had given to a written question that she had answered from her office, and she immediately took the approach that the member was misrepresenting and misinterpreting the answer that has been given. That is a right that the Minister has. The member can take it further with supplementary questions, but that question has been addressed.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm her answer to written question No. 4766 that nearly half of tracks administered by DOC are not up to the department’s own standard, including 60 percent of Great Walk tracks?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: When we look at the tracks, 50 tracks have been closed since 2008 on our watch. That has often been due to unavoidable natural hazards, but more than 400 tracks and more than 1,000 extra kilometres have been added to DOC’s network over the same period. As with its hut network, DOC is constantly reviewing and upgrading its network of more than 14,000 kilometres of track. If it would help the member, to go back over to the hut question, the loose bricks that he identified in the chimney of that hut in the Abel Tasman have meant that the chimney has been demolished. The hut is still open for about 20 people to use, and it is safe. It is fully functioning, but the fire and the chimney have been cordoned off. These are the staged repairs that DOC does in an effort to keep tracks and huts, and the people who visit our tracks and huts, absolutely safe.
Kevin Hague: Does the Minister stand by her answer to written question No. 4757 that indicated that there were some 168 structures administered by DOC that had failed their load capacity assessments and 709 that had yet to be assessed?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: I think the details that the member is going into are all very well. The general responses that I have given need to be applied, which is that when something goes wrong with a DOC structure, whether it is a bridge, a platform, a hut, or a track, we are on to it right away. We have various stages of importance that we address when we are looking at the stages of work and their priorities. DOC does that with the utmost integrity, and with health and safety as our paramount concern.
Kevin Hague: In this week’s Budget, will the Government increase conservation funding to enable the Department of Conservation to ensure that the 142 species that have become closer to extinction do not become extinct, that people do not put their lives at risk on DOC viewing platforms or bridges, and that our huts and tracks—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.
Kevin Hague: —meet the expectations that New Zealanders have for them?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: There are not 143 species that are at risk. The member is definitely being disingenuous. As a result of further information and classification, you boil that figure down, and there are 14, and they are very detailed and we are working on them very hard. When it comes to additional funding, every department in every Government would always say they would like more. DOC is adequately funded at the moment. We have had $20 million given for Battle for our Birds, and more than $11 million last year for the kiwis. New Zealand species protection is a very important part of what DOC does, and we take it very seriously.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table a list of the 142 species, derived from the Minister’s answers to written questions—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need to know the source of the list.
Kevin Hague: It is a list compiled by my office from her answers.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 165/1. Information must come from a source like the Parliamentary Library, which I would consider, but if it is prepared by the member’s own office, I am not prepared to put the leave.
Housing, Auckland—Supply and Affordability
6. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What steps has the Government taken to dismantle Auckland Urban Limits that were identified by the Productivity Commission report in 2012 as a key problem for the city’s housing supply and affordability?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The first step was creating special housing areas in 2013. This enables new housing estates to be approved beyond the urban limit, and, to date, this has provided capacity for 27,000 homes in Auckland beyond the old urban limit. The second step was fast-tracking a new unitary plan to replace those urban limits permanently, and that process has only weeks to run. The third step is the Resource Management Act Reform Bill before Parliament, which puts a specific new requirement on councils to provide for land supply. And the fourth step is a new national policy statement that would not allow councils to reinvent metropolitan urban limits in the future.
Jami-Lee Ross: What comments and reports has he seen of the adverse consequences of removing Auckland’s urban limits?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have read reports that the 2012 Productivity Commission report recommending an end to urban limits was an ideological burp from dinosaurs of the extreme right and was best ignored. I have also read a statement saying that Dr Smith’s threat to get rid of Auckland’s metropolitan urban limit is total nonsense and that it will allow massive urban sprawl and completely unsustainable urban development. I have another statement, which says that wholesale destruction of the city limits is the last thing that Aucklanders want to see. It will allow suburban sprawl to rip across the countryside from Whangarei to—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. That answer is not going to help.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a reasonable question. [Interruption] Well, it was. Although the Minister might have taken too long to read some of the extremely strong quotes that were offered by some, it would be nice for the House to know exactly who said those things.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. It was an unreasonable answer. It went on for far too long, and I listened very, very carefully. I was left in little doubt that it was going to then be in breach of Speaker’s ruling 174/4, and I am sure that I am right. Point of order, Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, no. I would need to deal with the point of order first, I suspect.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was not necessary to identify the source of the comments—
Mr SPEAKER: This had better be a point of order, Mr Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —because his face was quite red.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I did not quite hear what the point of order was, but my question is: who was the genius personality who made those comments?
Mr SPEAKER: No, there is no ministerial responsibility for that.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does the Minister recall any reports of dozens of hoardings being erected in Auckland in 2013 with his mugshot on them that decried his policy of overriding the urban limits and advocated a compact city; if so, has he subsequently heard from the authors of those hoardings of any change in position?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I will deal with that point of order in a minute. As I call the Minister to answer that question, if it in any way breaches Speaker’s ruling 174/4 and is simply an answer designed to attack the Opposition, I will deal with it very, very severely. There is a point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am very reluctant to do this, but no backbencher should describe a Minister as being a mug, no matter how appropriate the description might be.
Mr SPEAKER: That is hardly going to help the order of the House. Does the Minister wish to answer the question? I suspect it is very unwise to.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I do recall those hoardings, although it was not my best side. There probably is not a best side in my case. In respect of Labour’s change in position, actually I welcome it, because we can now have a far more intelligent discussion about what will make a difference on housing to Auckland families.
Building and Housing, Minister—Statements
7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he stand by his statement when asked about the housing crisis, that “the idea that suddenly happened in May 2016 is a figment of some people’s imagination”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): I stand by my full statement, which was preceded by this: “I have been a member of Parliament for 26 years, dealing with constituency cases every single year involving families in desperate situations around housing, including people living in caravans and people living in garages, as well as cars. This is not new.”
Phil Twyford: What is the Government’s position on the housing crisis: Paula Bennett admits there is a crisis, John Key says “crisis” is an emotive word, and he says it is a figment of someone’s imagination?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Every one of those claims by the member were typical half-quotes. There is no question that New Zealand is doing well. Our population has grown by 70,000 over the last year and, particularly, our housing issues have become a real challenge in Auckland. I would also have to say that in Christchurch, where rents have dropped by 5 percent, the Government’s measures to address the housing shortages over the earthquakes has seen a drop in the number of people facing acute housing need.
Phil Twyford: When he accused the media this morning of inventing promises, was he denying that in last year’s Budget, he pledged 500 hectares of Crown land for housing but has delivered only 13 hectares, or was it just a figment of the media’s imagination?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I challenge the member to go back and read the press release from last year’s Budget, in which $52 million was committed to the Crown land programme. All of that money has been spent on purchasing land, and that land is going to be providing houses—940 houses for Aucklanders—which I assume members opposite would welcome.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Has the Minister seen today’s housing affordability data from interest.co.nz, and what does it say about homeownership costs as compared to a year ago and when National came into office?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This independent index of affordability was previously named the Roost index, and it measures the proportion of a single person on the median wage to serve an 80 percent mortgage on a median-priced house. The index today stands at 58 percent nationally; it has improved over the last year from 62 percent, and it is about 20 percent better than what it was in 2008. The index in Auckland is currently 93 percent, down from 96 percent at the same time last year, and 101 percent of where it was at its very worst under the last Labour Government. This index shows, actually, that housing affordability, both nationally and in Auckland, has improved over the last year and is significantly better than at the time when Labour was in Government.
Phil Twyford: When he promised in his 2014 Budget initiative that he would knock $3,500 off the cost of a new home, was that a figment of our imagination, given that plasterboard costs alone have gone up by more than the total saving that he promised?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I absolutely stand by the initiative taken in Budget 2014 to take tariffs off building materials. The advice I have had from the ministry is that the reduction in those tariffs is within 10 percent of the estimates that I gave at that time. I totally dispute the member’s claim that the cost of plasterboard has gone up by 50 percent.
Phil Twyford: Is it not actually the Minister who has the overactive imagination, given that he dreams that houses can magically appear on cemeteries and exploding substations?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would focus on the facts. The facts are that when Labour left Government, only 10 houses per working day were being built. The latest figures show that, in fact, 40 houses per working day are being built, and I suggest that that is where the answer lies.
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; and by saying so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, if it is by saying so, how does he reconcile his statement of 6 April, “the entitlements for the SuperGold card are not changing.”, when over 650,000 senior citizens must spend $15 if they want to use public transport in Auckland after 1 July this year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because my statement was correct on the advice that I had.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a supplementary question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know it should be a point of order, but it is a supplementary question. Why is the Prime Minister insisting upon his word, given only last month, when there is already a travel card that can be used by retirees all over New Zealand—and Auckland—and it is called the SuperGold card?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: These can continue to be used, and will be.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Prime Minister saying that the SuperGold card can continue to be used in Auckland when this document here from Auckland Transport, coming out on Friday, says the very opposite?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member did not specifically ask me about Auckland.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the subterfuge of a needlessly expensive, gold-coloured HOP card going to replace the free SuperGold card retirees have been happily using for years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The advice I have had is that there are long-term benefits of using the HOP card.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the evidence, to go in behind these questions today, that is from the Auckland Transport release to be made this Friday, which totally gainsays what the Prime Minister said.
Mr SPEAKER: I just need the source. Were they—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Auckland Transport. This is the issue that is going out to every retired person—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is the stuff available on the website?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it is not.
Mr SPEAKER: No? Then I will put the leave. [Interruption] Order! Leave is sought to table this particular information. Is there any objection? There is.
Roading, Auckland—Western Ring Route Motorway
9. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Transport: What recent progress has been made on construction of the Government’s Western Ring Route motorway in Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Construction of the Government’s $2.4 billion western ring route has serious momentum. As part of the project, I had the pleasure of opening the $210 million Te Atatū and Lincoln Road interchanges alongside my colleague Alfred Ngaro. West Auckland is experiencing high population growth but many need to travel for work in the central business district, at the airport, and to South Auckland. The new interchanges will support this growth by freeing up traffic flow on the north-western motorway while the extended bus shoulders will improve bus journey times during peak periods. All up, the two projects will mean that traffic and bus services will be able to get to and from west Auckland more quickly and reliably.
Alfred Ngaro: How will the Government’s western ring route improve roading connections for those travelling in and around Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Once completed, the western ring route will be a game-changer in terms of the way people and freight move about Auckland, by providing an alternative 48-kilometre north-south route to use instead of State Highway 1. The new motorway will support the fast-growing western suburbs of Auckland and provide more reliable access to and from the city and Auckland Airport. It will also improve public transport and ease pressure on local roads. The western ring route is the biggest infrastructure project in New Zealand. It has been 60 years in the making, and I am proud to say that I am part of the Government of infrastructure that is delivering this game-changing motorway for Auckland.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What about Northland—10 bridges?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has had his series of supplementaries today.
10. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the Police have sufficient funding to meet the expectations of the public?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Yes.
Stuart Nash: Does she think that the closing of the Papatoetoe Police Station, in order to “reduce property costs,” has contributed to the solving of only 70 of the 1,020 burglaries in Papatoetoe in 2015?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No.
Stuart Nash: Does she think that solving just 53 of the 1,013 burglaries in Glen Innes last year is meeting the expectations of the Glen Innes residents?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am sure it is not.
Stuart Nash: Does she think that solving none of the nearly 100 burglaries in the tourist spots of Russell national park, Arthur’s Pass, Lake Tekapō, and Te Ānau in 2015 is a result of underfunding of the police in these areas?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Definitely not. In fact, I would suggest to that member that if he considers that burglaries in those particular spots often occur in homes that are vacant—in other words, they are holiday homes—it is very difficult to get burglars when it is announced to the police and reported 6 weeks after the event.
Stuart Nash: Is the lack of funding the reason that, according to the New Zealand Police’s own annual report, “The Police employee to population ratio in New Zealand is low in comparison to most similar overseas jurisdictions.”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Not at all. In fact, I would suggest that that member remember that this Government put 600 extra police on the beat—600 more than his Government ever did.
11. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister for Communications: What recent announcements has the Government made to improve New Zealand’s response to cyber security incidents?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced that $22.2 million of funding would be provided in Budget 2016 for a new national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to combat cyber-attacks and cyber-crime. New Zealand’s CERT will receive and triage cyber reports, track incidents or attacks, and provide advice and alerts to its customers on how to respond and prevent further attacks. It will also be key to our international cooperation on cyber-security. Cyber-security is a growing issue for New Zealand businesses, and cost our economy an estimated $257 million last year. Our new national CERT will be a key piece of our cyber-security architecture, and the central place to go for help and information.
Todd Barclay: What are the next steps in setting up the CERT?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The CERT will initially be set up as a branded business unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to ensure that the CERT can be stood up without delay. It is also in keeping with our emphasis on the economic benefits of improved cyber-security and making the most of our digital economy. To ensure strong public-private partnership, we are establishing a CERT advisory board to advise us on the set-up and operation of the CERT, and nominations for this board close tomorrow. It is our intention to have the CERT up and running by March next year, while we consider what the best long-term structure should be for the CERT.
Child Protection—Appeals Process
12. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for Social Development: In the revamp of CYF, will she be strengthening the appeals process for the review of decisions that may prevent incidences such as the death of Moko Rangitoheriri; if so, how?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The death of Moko was a despicable crime, and we must continue to raise awareness of child abuse so that it does not happen again. I am confident that the coroner will conduct a full investigation into this awful tragedy. Unfortunately, no one raised safety concerns with Child, Youth and Family (CYF) around the care arrangements that were in place for poor wee Moko prior to his tragic death. If we are going to ensure that this does not happen again, we all need to realise our part and do everything that we can to protect the children and mokopuna in our communities. We must pick up the phone if we have concerns about the safety of a child. The design of the new system, including complaints and reviews, will be strengthened to ensure that the voice of the child is at the heart of everything that we do and that decisions are made in the long-term best interest of those children.
Marama Fox: Does the Minister then agree with her officials that more could have been done to prevent the death of Moko Rangitoheriri; and, if so, what is she doing about it?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: My congratulations to all of those who stood up in the weekend abhorring violence and saying that it is not OK. But as I announced in the overhaul of the Child, Youth and Family system, we are going to move from a system that is focused on crisis to one that begins with prevention and includes intensive intervention, care support, youth justice, and transition into adulthood and independence. I am confident that that system will go some way to preventing such tragedies, but, at the end of it, we all have a responsibility to pick up the telephone when we have concerns for the safety of a child.
Marama Fox: How can she ensure that information that is sent to her and her officials about the vulnerability of children in CYF care, such as information sent to the Lower Hutt CYF office, is not lost and does not ultimately disadvantage children and their whānau?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I certainly take all information that is provided to my office seriously, and I am always willing to investigate if people have specific concerns, but I have to balance that with being conscious that with Family Court proceedings and with investigations that are under way, including the complaints process, it is sometimes hard to intervene.