Questions and Answers - August 17
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2017—Social Services
1. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Finance: How is Budget 2017 helping support social services over the next 4 years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): Budget 2017 is making a big contribution to the investment in social and public services over the next 4 years. The Government in Budget 2017 announced an investment of $3.9 billion over 4 years in the health sector, $1.1 billion in schools and early childhood centres—that is in operational funding—and $1.2 billion in law and order, taking the total additional investment in public services to $7 billion over the next 4 years. As well as making those additional investments, we of course want to ensure they go further, which is why the Productivity Commission's current inquiry is to look at how to get better value for money again out of all the Government's expenditure.
Brett Hudson: How does this investment help the most vulnerable in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The theme of Budget 2017 was delivering for New Zealanders, and that includes helping the most vulnerable in our society to improve their circumstances—for example, through the Family Incomes Package. That is also why, as part of the Budget, the Government is investing $321 million over the next 4 years in specific social investment initiatives, which include 14 initiatives to tackle some of our most challenging social issues. Key to this is helping vulnerable children and their families, with $68 million being invested to deliver more tailored support for children in need.
Brett Hudson: What are the Government's future intentions for investing in public services?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Budget 2017 laid out the operating allowances over the forecast period. For example, the annual operating allowance over the next 4 years is $1.8 billion, meaning Ministers have allocated $7.2 billion over the 4 years. The operating allowance is at $1.7 billion in 2018, $1.7 billion in 2019, and $1.77 billion in 2020. Taken together, this means the Government is committed to $17.5 billion in additional expenditure over the next 4 years.
Grant Robertson: Why did Budget 2017 prioritise $400 million of tax cuts a year for the top 10 percent of earners rather than funding health to meet the actual cost pressures identified by the Ministry of Health or funding early childhood education to make up for the $110 per child cut on his Government's watch?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is finishing the session with as much fabrication as he started it, I see. The simple facts are that the health budget additions in this Budget are the highest in 11 years—highest in 11 years—and the education budget is funding all roll growth in both schools and early childhood centres. In regard to the member's reference to tax reductions, I know he hates the idea of increasing the amount of income available to middle-income families, people on $48,000 or $52,000 a year, but I notice he is in favour of $3,000 baby bonuses for people on $250,000 a year.
Brett Hudson: How is the Government able to fund these commitments?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, we are not paying baby bonuses to people on $250,000 a year, for a start. The Government is able to improve public services, pay down debt, invest in infrastructure, and lift family incomes, because of the strong economy. It is important to highlight the link between the economy and the Government's decisions. The New Zealand economy has grown in 24 out of the last 25 quarters, and this along with spending control means the Government's books are in surplus—almost unique in the Western World. Sticking with the Government's economic plan will ensure we are in a strong position to make further investments in public services in the future.
• Mental Health Services, Canterbury—Availability in Schools
2. JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that "a great country is one where children with a tough start will be supported so they can live good lives"; if so, will he back Labour's plan to invest in mental health workers in Canterbury schools to help children affected by the earthquakes and their aftermath?
Mr SPEAKER: In calling the Hon Steven Joyce on behalf of the Prime Minister, my office has been advised that this answer may be longer than normal.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Prime Minister: In response to the first part of the question, yes, and in response to the second part of her question, I would say no. We prefer to back National's plan to support vulnerable children, and that is a real investment that this Government has been making. Firstly, to help the well-being of Cantabrians since the earthquakes, the Government has provided the Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) with an extra $106 million to meet additional costs of recovery since the earthquakes, including $20 million following the Valentine's Day earthquake in 2016, an extra 27 full-time equivalent primary care community-based mental health workers, and further funding for successful programmes such as telehealth and workforce well-being support. On top of that, just this week the Government announced details of a $100 million social investment fund in mental health, including $23 million for school-based initiatives.
Jacinda Ardern: How many DHB staff currently work in schools specifically to help primary- and intermediate-age children with their mental health needs—how many?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have not got the exact number of mental health workers, but there are also public health nurses, there are also social workers in schools, there are also guidance counsellors in schools, and this week the Government has announced a $100 million social investment fund, including significant investment into schools around the country, including Christchurch schools.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he aware that two-thirds of children in Canterbury who need help wait more than 3 weeks for their first appointment with mental health services and that 92 percent of children referred are waiting more than 2 months for their second appointment; is that acceptable?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would have to check those numbers for the member, but can I say to the member that, actually, the social investment programme that we have just announced includes the ability to invest in better screening across all schoolchildren, because one of the challenges we have as a society is making sure of early detection of mental health issues. If the member would like to go and have a look at the fund and at the details of all the initiatives of the fund, she might find some of the answers to the questions she is raising.
Jacinda Ardern: On his announcement, then, how many new front-line staff is he committing to addressing the mental health needs of children within schools in Canterbury?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That depends on the level of need. I would imagine that Canterbury would probably get a greater proportion, given the identified level of need around the country. Again, the member can seek to deny it, but the Government has just invested another $124 million in core mental health services in district health boards around the country, including in the Canterbury District Health Board as well, and that just started on 1 July of this year. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A little less chat between two friendly Christchurch MPs, please.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he believe the $3.75 per student for front-line mental health services he announced will be enough, given the increasing need amongst our children and young people?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member, in taking that approach, is of course ignoring all the investment that is already taking place, which I know is traditional with the Labour Party. But, actually, the Government invests very, very significantly in mental health services. It has added significantly to that investment over the last 8 years, and announced an additional investment in, most importantly, new services and different ways of conducting the services, in the announcement made earlier this week. That is important because if you look at all the scientific advice, of which there is a lot, it suggests that new approaches must be taken, and it is not a good idea to just heap the old way of doing things on top of the old way of doing things.
Jacinda Ardern: If he has made the significant investment in mental health that he claims, why is one Christchurch school funding its own counsellor because the Ministry of Health and his Government have not; is that what he would expect?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The schools have the independence, under a thing called Tomorrow's Schools, to use their operational grant in the manner they think best fits the times they are in and the issues they are experiencing. It is actually OK for schools to be able to do that, but for the member to suggest that that means the Government is not investing in mental health services in Canterbury is patently—patently—incorrect.
Jacinda Ardern: Will he consider joining with Labour to hire 80 new front-line workers specifically for primary and intermediate schools in Canterbury, given the need is so great?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I actually answered that question in response to the member's primary question when I said no, that the preference is for the Government's package. Actually, perhaps the member might like to go and have a look at the mental health package announced on Monday. She might find some things in there that are going to work, and work well, with the best scientific advice backing them. We are committed to assisting not just the schoolchildren of Christchurch and Canterbury, who are important, but also schoolchildren around the country.
Jacinda Ardern: If he wants this to be a truly great country for children, as we can be, will he commit the resources needed to help kids and give them a chance for a better future? Because if he will not, I will.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The answer to the member is that we are doing exactly that. The way we are doing exactly that is by having a strong economy so that we can afford to provide the services. If the member wants to get into Government and tax the heck out of the productive economy, then she will find she has a lot fewer services she can fund, compared with today.
Question time interrupted.
3. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Trade: What recent announcements has the Government made on trade?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister of Trade): The Government has approved a negotiating mandate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 (TPP11). New Zealand is pushing for as minimal change as possible to the original agreement, something that the remaining TPP countries have agreed on. We also are seeking significant benefits for all New Zealanders. TPP11 Ministers have committed to moving forward with the agreement as quickly as possible.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why is TPP11 important to New Zealand?
Hon TODD McCLAY: It will ensure New Zealand remains competitive in overseas markets; it will create tens of thousands of jobs and billions for our economy. The most likely scenario now is that TPP11 will go ahead and there will be a decision for leaders to make in November. If other parties want to turn their back on the TPP, they need to front up and tell Kiwis why we should miss out on significant opportunities in trade.
Jami-Lee Ross: What benefits will New Zealanders miss out on if we are not part of TPP?
Hon TODD McCLAY: TPP11 will be our first free-trade agreement with four new countries, including Japan, the world's third-largest consumer market. If other countries gain access to these markets ahead of us, our key industries will suffer—620,000 jobs in New Zealand depend on trade. If we do not continue to show leadership on international trade, our ability to negotiate new free-trade agreements with other important markets will be put at risk—something that Clayton Cosgrove, Phil Goff, David Shearer, and Helen Clark all clearly understand.
Hon David Parker: Will he instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to at least seek to renegotiate the TPP so as to allow a future New Zealand Government to ban the sale of New Zealand homes to foreign buyers from TPP countries, given that Australia has retained the right to ban overseas buyers of its homes under the very same TPP?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Well, there you have it—the same old Labour Party. Nothing in the TPP stops a future Government from introducing discriminatory tax settings on non-resident property purchasers. Labour has tried scaremongering on foreigners buying houses before. The evidence is that it is not having a major impact and Labour has not come up with any evidence that will change this under the TPP. In fact, the housing market in Auckland is levelling off, and it is a weak, red herring that Labour wants to use instead of fronting up and telling New Zealand workers that their jobs are not important, that their businesses and industries are not important, and that it does not support free-trade agreements.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very long answer, but it did not answer or address my question as to whether he will instruct MFAT to—
Hon Member: The member does this every time.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no.
Hon David Parker: Well, I still have not got an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No; as I interpreted the answer it has certainly been addressed.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If this is all so good for New Zealanders, why are New Zealand's chief negotiators for the TPP agreement meeting between 20 and 30 August—that is next week—in Sydney, scheming to present the next New Zealand Government with a fait accompli for the APEC meeting in Vietnam in November without consultation with this Parliament whatsoever?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is because whilst New Zealand has an election, trade will continue and the world moves on—and that is the exact difficulty challenge that we have. The challenge is that if we want our exporters to do well in overseas markets we need to be out fighting on their behalf. But there is an opportunity for every leader in this House to front up and tell New Zealanders whether they support trade and whether they support Kiwi jobs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If we are not to have a bunch of globalist bureaucrats running our country rather than parliamentarians, where is the national interest analysis (NIA) on either of the two options—which he can confirm today—that are the subject of these negotiations in Sydney from 20 to 30 August; and when was he going to share those with the Parliament of this country and its people?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Well, as the member knows from following the TPP12 process, NIAs are presented once an agreement is reached, and there will be an opportunity with the TPP11 for that also to happen. But, clearly, trade is important for New Zealanders, and I think all members of this House believe that. What we need them to do is front up to Kiwis and tell them whether they are going to back Kiwi jobs and give better access to markets overseas so New Zealand can remain competitive.
• Prime Minister—Statements
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Getting totally carried away—supplementary question. Oh, sorry—primary question, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members: Wake up.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This question is to the Prime Minister—oh, look, I have seen the polls, and you can wake up.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not want to have to discipline the member in any way, because we are looking forward to an adjournment debate and it would be very sad if he did not entertain the House with a contribution later. So can I ask him now to cooperate, rise to his feet, and ask question No. 4?
4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how can he do that credibly?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes; by standing here and saying so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he promised a brighter future for all New Zealanders 9 years ago, did he anticipate hard-working Kiwis being pushed out of the housing market due to his Government's inaction on curbing foreign investors from buying up our houses and land and refusing to call it what it is—a crisis?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Mr Peters' argument there falls at the first hurdle because all the evidence from Land Information New Zealand shows that he is completely wrong and foreign-based buyers are not buying up New Zealand houses and pushing up the prices.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is he working—[Interruption]. Is this your valedictory speech, is it?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I cannot hear myself over here—they are shouting out down there.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would be grateful if members to the right at the rear of the Chamber did not interject on the member while he is asking his next supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is he working for all New Zealanders when the latest migration statistics in the year—June 2017—show a net gain of over 73,000 immigrants, a net loss of 1,300 Kiwis, and 226,000 foreign work visas whilst we have over 72,000 youth not in employment, education, or training, and they are New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Once again, the member is misunderstanding the situation. The fact of the matter is that when he was last in Government people were leaving at the rate of 30,000 or 40,000 people a year. And he is trying to get us excited about a net loss of around 1,200, which is roughly 1/30th of what he had when he was in Government. The reality is that it is the economy's strength that is driving migration, and under this Government there are more jobs in New Zealand, there are more opportunities for young New Zealanders. So instead of exporting young New Zealanders to New South Wales and Queensland, the way we used to when Mr Peters ran the show, they are coming here to work. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just have the supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If GDP growth is 3 percent, alongside population growth of 2.1 percent, then is GDP not really, in real terms, actually 0.9 percent; if so, how is the economy performing well when the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research states that the Government spending in critical areas is "projected to fall behind inflation and population growth."
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The good news for the member is that real GDP growth is 3 percent, and that means that the GDP growth is real at 3 percent. No matter which way he tries to spin that and tries to count that, it is 3 percent a year. It is also true that New Zealand was the fifth - fastest growing economy in the whole of the developed world last year. I know that the member hates to know that because he likes to run his country down for his own political gain, but that is the reality.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister have any advice from his finance Minister as to the real per capita GDP growth in this country, and how is he working for all New Zealanders when his Government has given, in 5 years, control of this country's infant formula business and its biggest meat company to China—all in the space of 5 years flat?
Mr SPEAKER: There are at least a couple of questions there.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reality is that GDP growth has been strong. GDP per capita is, I think, about 1 percent at the moment, and, actually, again, if you look at New Zealand's performance compared with most other countries in the developed world—New Zealanders know this; Mr Peters does not, although he might have learnt a bit because he has gone round regional New Zealand and learnt how well they are growing in regional New Zealand. But the reality of it is that New Zealanders know that New Zealand is growing better than most parts of the world. It has added 180,000 jobs over the last 2 years and is expected to add another couple of hundred thousand over the next few years.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister talked to his finance Minister; if so, does he recall the promises made in March 2015, during the Northland by-election, of 10 two-lane bridges, the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway, and the ultra - ultra-fast broadband and complete cell tower coverage, and why have all these promises seen so little progress, if not no progress at all?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three supplementary questions there. The Hon Steven Joyce, on behalf of the Prime Minister, can address one.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member really does need to go and visit his electorate, because there is a lot happening up there, and he is obviously not aware of it—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I need to be able to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear whether it—it could be—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the last time he will be doing that job, but he had better do it properly.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member asked the question. He must now take the answer that is about to be given.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member could do his job properly and visit his electorate, where he would learn that the Matakohe bridges are under way and where he would learn that the Pūhoi to Warkworth section of the motorway is being built as we speak. He would not even have to go to Northland to learn that; he could just go halfway. He could also go there and learn that the broadband is under way right across his electorate, as well. So if the member was doing his job, then maybe he would learn something.
• Flooding, Bay of Plenty—Government Support
5. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister for Social Development: What update can she provide on the Government's support for those affected by the flooding in Edgecumbe and the Bay of Plenty?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): After the cyclones and flooding in Edgecumbe in the Bay of Plenty, the Government classified a medium-scale adverse event, and we have been working with councils, businesses, NGOs, and iwi to restore and enhance the affected communities. Together, central government and local government have invested nearly $15 million to support the recovery effort, including $1 million for enhanced Taskforce Green teams to clear debris from properties, parks, and reserves in Edgecumbe, Whakatāne, Tāneatua, Ruātoki, and other affected areas. The Ministry of Social Development has made around 3,000 civil defence payments, totalling over $850,000, to help people with food, clothing, and bedding. We are committed to making sure that the Bay of Plenty - Whakatane district and Edgecumbe community have the support they need to recover.
Todd Muller: What other support is the Government offering to the people of Edgecumbe who have been displaced as a result of the flooding?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We are offering psychological support to people affected by the flood, and wraparound services to help them cope with the challenges they face. Along with the Minister for Building and Construction, Dr Nick Smith, I announced that the Government was activating a temporary accommodation service to assist Edgecumbe residents. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is managing requests for temporary accommodation and is providing porta-cabins and temporary homes, and Te Puni Kōkiri and MBIE are working with iwi on a new Māori housing development that will provide five two-bedroom houses and infrastructure for 41 housing sites at Kokohinau Marae.
Todd Muller: Has the Government announced any other relief measures for the people and businesses affected?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Along with the revenue Minister, Judith Collins, the decision was made that Inland Revenue will waive late payment fees and penalties when the flooding has prevented people from paying on time. We have contributed close to $1.2 million in support for farmers, growers, and businesses affected by the flooding through funds such as the rural assistance payment, the rural support trust, and a disaster relief fund. Earlier this month Minister Guy and I announced a further $100,000 for the primary industries flood recovery fund for farmers, to help with clean-up and recovery. This is a Government that is there to help farmers, not hurt them, and recognises their valuable contribution to the New Zealand economy.
• Māori Development Initiatives—Funding
6. KELVIN DAVIS (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Māori Development: Has he received all the funding he has requested for Māori Development initiatives from the Minister of Finance to improve the lives of Māori, during his time as Minister?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Māori Development): Hai whakautu i tērā pātai, kai te mōhio tonu te mema ko te āhuatanga o tēnei mea o te pūtea, ka tukuna ki tēnā, ki tēnā o ngā Minita he mea wānanga ki waenganui i Te Minita, me Te Minita mō ngā Take Pūtea. I ngā tau e toru, i te wā i a au, kua tata eke ki te whā rau miriona taara kua purua ki taku pūkoro, otirā, hei tohatoha ki Te Iwi Māori, kā mutu, i roto i ngā tau take ahurea Māori, ngā take mātauranga, ngā take whare, ngā take whenua, ka mutu, ngā take whakawhanake. Kia whakamōhio atu au ki te mema, i ngā tau kua hipa ake e rima, kua piki haere te tatauranga mō Te Puni Kōkiri mā te 60 paihēneti.
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Kelvin Davis: Since the Minister mentioned housing, does a falling homeownership rate for Māori and Māori being five times more likely to be homeless represent Māori housing initiatives getting enough money under this Government?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: He take whānui tonu tērā, kua oti kē i au te kī atu ki tērā mema, ko ngā take whare e pā ana ki te katoa o te motu, he wāhanga ki tēnā Minita, ki tēnā Minita, ki tērā Minita, he wāhi kē anō hoki. Kua kite ia i te painga o ngā take whare i roto i te pūtea o Te Puni Kōkiri, hei tohatoha ki roto i Te Tai Tokerau tonu, nō reirā, kei te kaha tonu mātou ki te tuku i tētahi wāhanga āwhina mō Te Ao Māori i roto i ngā take whare.
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Kelvin Davis: Does the Minister believe removing the Māori health plans from district health boards' annual plans represents respect for Māori health concerns in the mainstream system from this Government?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Me tuku tērā pātai ki Te Minita mō ngā Take Hauora, māna tēnā e whakautu.
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Kelvin Davis: Is the wage gap between Māori and Pākehā now sitting at $213 a week a symptom of Māori being sidelined by his Government?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Kāre au i te whakaae ki tāna e kōrero nei, kei te kite tēnei taha o Te Whare, otirā, ahau i ngā painga o ngā huarahi ki te mātauranga, pēnei i te partnership schools, he painga anō rā o te partnership school i roto i ngā tau mō te mātauranga—
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Kelvin Davis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked about the wage gap, and he is now talking about charter schools.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The question also included whether Māori are being sidelined by the Government. The question was answered right at the start, though, with the very first comments. So I do not think we do need any more additional answer to that question.
Kelvin Davis: Does the Minister agree with his colleague that the National members of this Government have not given him a "fair enough go" in terms of policy and funding; if so, why does he continue to support them?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: He hoa haere mātau o Te Kāwanatanga i tēnei wā, i mua o taku haerenga ki roto i te kuaha o Te Minita mō ngā Take Pūtea, inā kē te nui o ngā moemoeā ēngari, a, nā runga i te āhua o te wānanga, ka eke ki te taumata i kōrerohia, e 4 rau miriona taara i whakaaetia mai ai kia tukuna ki Te Ao Māori. Ka ako ia i tērā āhuatanga inā, ka noho ia hai Minita, ā te wā!
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
• Prime Minister—Policies
7. JAMES SHAW (Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his policies?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes—as I said yesterday, particularly our policy of not having a collection of expensive new taxes in the coming 3 years, such as a water tax, a capital gains tax, a land tax, a wealth and asset tax, or a higher income tax. We know that would slow down the New Zealand economy, reduce job growth, and reduce the incomes of hard-working New Zealanders.
James Shaw: Can he confirm that it will cost anywhere between $4 billion and $8 billion to clean up Waikato's waterways to make them safe for swimming and fishing again?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I cannot do that for the member today. What the member may be aware of is that all these waterways are quite complex ecosystems. It is hard to put an exact number on the various clean-up programmes, but I can tell the member that the Government is very active right throughout the catchments in the Waikato - Bay of Plenty. I think in particular of examples like the Rotorua lakes clean-up but also the work that is being done on the Waikato River in reversing decades of environmental degradation. It is going to take a period of time, but there is progress being made.
James Shaw: Why has his Government encouraged the conversion of Waikato forests to intensive dairying when, in order to make the Waikato River swimmable again, much of it will have to be converted back?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure that the member's characterisation of history is correct in that matter, as is often the case. I think, perhaps, he would be better to put those sorts of questions to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises. But, from memory, the particular intensification he has been talking about has been going on for a very long time, including before this Government came into office.
James Shaw: Is he committed to cleaning up Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora to a swimmable standard again?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is committed to cleaning up all of New Zealand's lakes and waterways and rivers, particularly those that are swimmable. We will not be doing it by actually taxing the commercial users of water to make them poorer so that they cannot afford to change their land management systems in order to improve the waterways. That would be done only by a party that did not understand the way the horticultural sector, the agricultural sector, and the wine-making sector work.
James Shaw: Why is he spending $6 million of public money to help clean up Lake Ellesmere while at the same time spending even more public money on a new irrigation project that Environment Canterbury estimates will increase nitrogen loading by 50 percent?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate that the Greens think all irrigation schemes are bad—in fact, they actually think all economic activity in the regions is bad, but that is another story. In terms of irrigation schemes, many of them—in fact, all of them—generally improve the quality of fresh water. In fact, that is the way they are designed, so that they can pass the rigorous Resource Management Act processes. I appreciate that the member does not want to understand that or, particularly, does not want to agree with that, but that is the reality.
James Shaw: Is he comfortable with the evidence presented to the Havelock North water inquiry that shows there are still 759,000 New Zealanders getting water out of taps that may not be safe to drink?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think there is some concern about some municipal water supplies. But I do not think it was actually that helpful for people to pop up, in fact, before that inquiry was conducted, and condemn dirty dairying as the cause of that particular Havelock North issue because they do not like cows—even though, apparently, there were not that many cows in the vicinity at the time. That was the member and his friends. But, actually, there are some issues around the need to improve municipal water supplies, which is why the Government is focusing on co-investing in infrastructure with councils through the new Crown Infrastructure Partners programme: because it is actually going to be a big challenge for New Zealand in the years ahead to make sure that that infrastructure has the investment that helps that quality to be improved.
James Shaw: Why is it the taxpayers, rather than the polluters themselves, who are paying to clean up the damage that has been done to our rivers, our lakes, and our drinking water?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The last time I looked, those people in those regions are taxpayers. In fact, they are not only taxpayers but they tend to create the jobs that mean that other people can pay taxes, GST, and so on. The member, I know, thinks that all of our regions should be frozen in time and that, actually, all activity should stop because the regions look pretty when the odd Green member of Parliament wanders past and does not do anything. But, actually, we know that you have to improve environmental outcomes by investing, and that investment comes from the economic outcomes in the regions as well. [Interruption]
• Health Services—Performance
Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North): My question is to the Minister of Health—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just wait for a bit of silence. Now the member can start his question again.
8. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: After 9 years of a National Government, is he satisfied with a health system where 533,000 people can't afford to see their GP, nearly 60,000 don't get recommended specialist appointments, mental health system failings are regularly in the news, and health sector leaders complain about the performance of his health ministry?
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member here?
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Yes, I am here.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, stand and call.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: You have not called me yet.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not; you stand first.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: OK.
Grant Robertson: New member! He's been here 9 years!
Mr SPEAKER: I am very patient, even with members who have been here a while. In calling the Minister, my office has been advised that the answer may be slightly younger than normal.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): See, you had not finished what you were going to say. Anyway, in the Government's constant quest for excellence, we are never satisfied, but I can say with confidence that almost all of the 100 key health services have significantly improved under this Government. I have a few examples, which I believe the member would benefit from hearing. First specialist assessments (FSAs) were down 2,000 under Labour; under this Government, they are up 148,000. Elective surgery rates went backwards under Labour; under this Government, the annual increase has trebled, with 172,000 carried out. Emergency departments were slow and clogged under Labour; under this Government, 93 percent of people are now seen within 6 hours. Immunisation rates under Labour were that of a Third World nation; under this Government, 93 percent of 8-month-olds are now immunised. Under this Government, all under-13s now receive free GP visits and prescriptions. Cancer care under Labour saw patients sent to Australia for basic services, but under this Government, 82 percent of patients are seen within 62 days right here in New Zealand. Not only that, but under Labour, nothing was invested into bowel cancer screening, and under this Government, we are rolling out a national bowel-screening programme. Almost all 100 key health services improved under this Government. You would be hard pressed to find many that have not.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, will he finally admit that New Zealand Orthopaedic Association (NZOA) president, Richard Keddell, is right: that the current approach to planning for future demand for surgery is arbitrary and disconnected and will mean "New Zealanders needing joint replacements and other orthopaedic surgery will have to live in pain because they can't get the surgery they need."?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I welcome the NZOA contribution to the debate, but it acknowledged that orthopaedic surgeries have increased, on average, by about 30 percent. FSAs have increased dramatically. And, of course, that is on top of 50,000 extra electives per year and 148,000 extra first specialist assessments.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, will he today apologise to the staff he has insulted, the sector leaders he has not met with, and the hard-working health professionals, doctors, nurses, and those in the allied work force whom he has stretched to breaking point as Minister of an underfunded health system with dysfunctional leadership?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I believe that the only person I have insulted is the member, and it has been thoroughly deserved. But apart from that, the money that has gone into health has increased by $5 billion. There are an extra 6,900 doctors and nurses. As I said before, there are 50,000 more operations, 148,000 more first specialist assessments—I could go on and on. But I can tell you that the biggest danger for New Zealand is that Labour gets to run the health system again.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, will he finally stand up to the current leader of his party and join with Labour in rejecting election year tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy and commit today to $8 billion more than is currently planned for health funding over the next 4 years?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: When it comes to funding, Labour cannot do its sums properly. Its pledge of $856 million next year is actually less than our $888 million this year. So not only can it not provide the services, it cannot count, either.
• Small Businesses—Reports
9. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Small Business: What recent reports has she received showing Government support for small business?
Hon JACQUI DEAN (Minister for Small Business): I have received a report that shows that there were 190,000 visits to Business.govt.nz in July 2017. This is an 8 percent increase from July 2016 and continues the strong growth and use of the online portal. Business.govt.nz is small businesses' first stop for new and small businesses wanting to find Government information and support.
Paul Foster-Bell: What is the trend of small businesses exporting, and how does the Government support small businesses to export?
Hon JACQUI DEAN: In 2010, 12 percent of small businesses were exporters. In 2016 this number had risen to 23 percent. However, we cannot get rich selling to ourselves, which is why the Government offers a range of support and advice through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Business.govt.nz to help small businesses navigate the world of exporting. Examples of support include workshops, mentoring and advice, and, in some cases, funding to help businesses internationalise their ideas and their products.
Paul Foster-Bell: How is the Government supporting small businesses to be innovators?
Hon JACQUI DEAN: Such an excellent question from an excellent member, who will be missed. Business.govt.nz has a new "How to grow" section, which is of interest to the Government if not the Opposition. It supports businesses to navigate the help and funding out there for businesses wanting to commercialise their good ideas and innovations. Through programmes such as Callaghan Innovation vouchers and regional business partners, we are teaming with small businesses that want to invest in innovation, with the skills, knowledge, and potential funding to help them.
• Dairy Farming—Effluent Compliance Rates
10. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with the Waikato Regional Council that dairy farm effluent compliance rates are "heading in the right direction" when less than a quarter of dairy farms it monitors comply with their resource consent conditions?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): National levels of compliance by dairy farms have consistently improved every year since 2010. Non-compliance has dropped from 16 percent to 5 percent, so yes, things are headed in the right direction. The Ministry for the Environment and regional councils agree that the key measure is significant non-compliance, covering issues like inadequate effluent storage, mechanical failure, or inadequately trained staff. In the Waikato, significant non-compliance was 9 percent, and was improved over the past year. The member misrepresents the situation in the Waikato by including minor non-compliance issues like some records not being adequate or failure to send sufficient samples.
Eugenie Sage: Does he agree with the Environmental Defence Society that "MfE has been lax in providing appropriate oversight and leadership for [compliance, monitoring, and enforcement] under the RMA.", and if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I do not. The first thing is our Government increased the fines for those who have been non-compliant. Secondly, the fact that we have seen substantial improvement around the significant issues that relate to water quality is a real credit to the programme that the Ministry for the Environment has led.
Stuart Smith: What new limits has this Government introduced to improve New Zealand's water quality?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There were no national standards on water quality when National came into Government. The new national policy statement, which has been gazetted with extra additions last week, now includes standards for phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia, E. coli, ecological health, dissolved oxygen, and algae. Furthermore, councils are progressively setting limits, catchment by catchment. We now have 20 percent of catchments where there are limits on nitrates, up from zero when we became Government. We have over 80 percent of catchments now with minimum flow set, up from 20 percent when we became Government. The next step we are finalising is national regulations on stock exclusion.
Eugenie Sage: How much confidence should New Zealanders have in those charged with protecting the environment from pollution, when large regional councils like Waikato failed to ensure that the majority of dairy farmers comply with basic consent conditions?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Basic consent requirements are being met. In fact, 91 percent of compliance issues in the Waikato in the last year—and overall, nationally, the level of compliance has improved every year in the last 5 years. But no, we are not going to be a Government that is going to be overwhelmed by a minor issue in respect of paperwork or other issues that do not relate directly to water quality, which this Government is so keen to improve.
Eugenie Sage: How can the public have confidence in the safety of the water they want to swim in and the safety of the water they drink, when he considers that compliance by less than a quarter of farms is progress?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I again draw attention to the difference between a significant non-compliance that relates to the quality of water, where that level is now down to just 5 percent—it was 15 percent when we came into Government, a substantial improvement—and issues of minor non-compliance. Furthermore, I would draw the member's attention to the new Environmental Reporting Act and the new national policy statement that for the very first time in New Zealand sets clear expectations, and the measurements to back them up, to improve water quality.
11. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: What recent announcements has he made to better protect New Zealand's natural environment?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (Associate Minister for the Environment): Microbeads are nasty little plastic beads that get washed down drains and sinks and find their way into our marine environment. That is, of course, a bad thing. We called for public submissions back in January on the banning of microbeads, and a staggering 16,000 submissions were received, every single one of them in favour of a ban. So, today, I announced that microbeads will be banned in May of next year, and that is earlier than previously signalled. Further, we have also widened the scope of the ban to include all wash-off products.
Maureen Pugh: How is the Government's Waste Minimisation Fund supporting plastic recycling?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: A $4 million grant means that more than 200 million plastic bottles can be recycled into high-grade, food-safe packaging each year. Over a thousand tonnes of bulk fertiliser bags will be recycled into new products such as irrigation tubing and rope thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the fund, and the Plasback scheme has recycled more than 6,500 tonnes of plastic from farms. We are also supporting the recycling of soft plastics across New Zealand.
• Emergency Housing—Value for Money
12. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she think her Government is getting value for money for the emergency and transitional motel accommodation they are paying for to house homeless New Zealanders?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Social Housing): The Government assesses value in terms of the benefit that our programmes provide for those in need of housing support, and in that regard we consider that both the emergency housing special-needs grants and the transitional housing programmes are money well spent.
Carmel Sepuloni: Given that the four motels bought by the Government were purchased for more than double their recent valuations, how can she say they are getting value for money?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I am afraid that the member is simply wrong. We had registered valuations on all the sites before we bought them, which had a total registered valuation of $7.4 million, and the properties were purchased for a little over that, at $8.5 million in a competitive environment. Her numbers are simply wrong.
Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table a document that has compiled all the recent valuations of the four motels that the Government has bought—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the document.
Carmel Sepuloni: All the information is from the different council websites, compiled by the Labour research team.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I am unable to put the leave for that. It must be something that is sourced from the Parliamentary Library or a source like that, rather than something that is prepared by a research unit.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does she think that it is good value for money to spend $290 per night putting up a woman and her three children in emergency accommodation at a Papatoetoe motel, particularly when motel stays were anticipated to be between $175 and $240 per night and it would actually be cheaper to stay at the Langham, the Heritage, or the Copthorne Hotel?
Hon AMY ADAMS: We pay emergency housing special-needs grants because this side of the House believes that putting people somewhere warm and dry is better than leaving them in cars or on park benches, as Labour was quite happy to do for all its time in Government, when it completely turned its back on this issue.
Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table a letter to our housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, from a social worker who took a woman and her three children to Work and Income New Zealand and had to take them to inadequate motel accommodation that cost $290 per night.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been well described. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? No; it can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Carmel Sepuloni: What does she think has represented better value for money: selling State houses and forcing people on to the street, purchasing motels to house the homeless after realising its mistake, or the refusal to do anything about the wider housing crisis that has led to the sorry situation in the first place?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I completely refute the allegations and insinuations in that member's question. This is a Government that has addressed the underlying shortage of land supply for houses, which Labour failed to deal with. This is a Government that has provided for emergency and transitional housing, which Labour failed to deal with. This is a Government that has—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. If that is going to continue, there is no point in taking any further supplementary questions from the member. So I want an assurance that there will be some better behaviour and control from Labour members. Now I invite the Minister to complete her answer.
Hon AMY ADAMS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I was saying, this is a Government that has prioritised looking after people in need of housing. This is a Government that has ensured that there is somewhere warm and dry to stay. This is a Government that has invested in improving the quality of the social housing stock, which Labour left in an appalling state of affairs. And this is a Government that has a social housing reform programme that is delivering real results for those in need in New Zealand.
Carmel Sepuloni: Will she join with Labour at this election and adopt our comprehensive housing plan to end homelessness and built thousands of affordable houses, given her Government's 9 years of failed attempts?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I will back this Government's record on housing and social housing over the appalling record of that party.