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Questions and Answers - Nov 9

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Government—Measurable Targets
1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What will the specific measurable targets be, if any, that she will use to hold her Government to account?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Acting Prime Minister): As Prime Minister, I will hold my Ministers to account for improving the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I'm just going to start right now. Who is the member who interjected then? Right, there's an additional question to the Opposition.
Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure we should follow to monitor progress on KiwiBuild where the Government has committed to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: So does that mean that the current expression of the Government's commitment, which is "to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years" does not necessarily mean what most people would take it to mean?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Government stand by—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The chief Government whip, I think, interjected, or someone around her did. There is a further supplementary to the Opposition.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her Government's commitment to "build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years"?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: Why did the Government commit to "build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years" if it is now not willing to re-express that commitment in this House?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Because the previous Government didn't build houses.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is it possible that the Government is revising this commitment because of public statements made by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, that the commitment may involve not building houses but buying existing houses?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.
Rt Hon Bill English: What other reason could there possibly be for not being willing to restate a commitment made by all its members right though the election campaign to "build 100,000 houses"? What other reason could there be not to make that commitment here today?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are not revising targets. We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: So is the commitment to build 100,000 houses an appropriate target, or one that is subject to revision or further decisions, or is it one that we should take at its word?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The member will find out in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: My question to the Prime Minister is this, then: are there other commitments that were made during the election campaign and in the Speech from the Throne that are now open to revision and later decisions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are committed to implementing what the Governor-General has said in the Speech from the Throne.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify: it's been the practice in the House for some time that a member answering on behalf of another member should clearly identify that. I didn't want to interrupt the question, but can you clarify whether that is still the case?
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question.
Housing—Shortfall, Estimate
2. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What is the latest estimate of shortfall in housing and how has he responded to it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): We've inherited a crisis. The official figures show a shortfall of 71,000 homes, with a shortage of 45,000 homes in Auckland—far worse than the previous Government let on. Our Government has a comprehensive plan to tackle the housing crisis by building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years, stopping the sell-off of State houses and building thousands more, and an ambition programme of large-scale urban development projects.
Tamati Coffey: What is his response to the comments of the Reserve Bank Governor regarding KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The governor's been very clear that he's made some assumptions about KiwiBuild. Our view is that the numbers of new affordable homes built under the KiwiBuild programme will be additional—over and above what the private market is already delivering—due to massive increases in the construction workforce, the Housing Commission delivering large-scale new urban development projects that otherwise would not be happening, and our policy commitments to free up the planning rules and deliver a pipeline of infrastructure-ready finance. These are measures that will directly tackle the capacity constraints that the governor spoke of.
Tamati Coffey: Was he surprised to receive this advice on the housing shortfall?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we knew there was a crisis in housing for the last few years, but I had no idea how bad things really were. The fact that there's about 45,000 houses short in Auckland alone is one of the main reasons that house prices doubled in the last 9 years, to an average of $1 million per house. It's the reason why we have the worst homelessness and overcrowding in living memory, and this Government is upfront: we are going to release data about that. The near-decade of spin and denial on housing is over.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Were the estimates quoted by the Minister of a 71,000 housing shortfall and 45,000 in Auckland provided to him in the briefing to the incoming Minister provided by his officials?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that answer, I require the Minister to table that document under Standing Order 376.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has no ability to require the tabling of a document unless it's been quoted from in the House, and the Minister was clearly not quoting from it at that stage.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I've ruled, Mr Woodhouse.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: It is a clarification, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, if the member has a fresh point of order that goes to a different point, I'll hear him, but if he doesn't, I won't.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, it is a general point of clarification. I just want to clarify—
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Woodhouse, you've been a member for some time, I think you've been a whip for some time, and I think the member does know that, despite some pretence otherwise, there is no such thing as a point of clarification.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Who is correct: the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, who says that there is a fixed commitment to build 100,000 extra houses, or the Prime Minister, who says such a target has not yet been set?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have reiterated our policy, which is to build 100,000 affordable homes to restore affordable homeownership to this country.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier on, you awarded additional supplementary questions to the Opposition for Government interjection during their questions. Just a point of clarification on your earlier—well, actually, no, a question: does that apply when interjections are made by members of the same party during questions, as we had just before?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it does, but I think, as the Minister is aware, I am slightly deaf in my left ear, so I didn't hear any interjections.
Crown Expenses—Fiscal Plan
3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm it is his intention as Minister of Finance to ensure core Crown expenses do not exceed $81.9 billion in 2017/18, $86.1 billion in 2018/19, $88.2 billion in 2019/20, $91.8 billion in 2020/21, and $96.1 billion in 2021/22, as specified in the Labour Party's pre-election Fiscal Plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that it is my intention for core Crown expenditure as a percentage of GDP to be within the recent historical range. As to the exact figures in the member's question, I cannot confirm those as, of course, they are subject to detailed Budget decisions and revenue forecasts that are yet to be finalised.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that he stands by his statement from 4 September this year, and I quote, "Labour's Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that the Budget that this Government is putting together will be robust and it will deliver on a commitment that this Government has made to ensure that all New Zealanders share in prosperity.
Michael Wood: What else, in addition to managing core Crown expenditure, will guide the Government's approach to responsible fiscal management?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will observe the Budget responsibility rules as indicated in the Speech from the Throne: namely, delivering a sustainable operating balance before gains and losses; reducing net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within 5 years; and ensuring a fair and balanced progressive taxation system. We will also never forget that the purpose of a strong economy is to give every New Zealander the chance to share in prosperity, and we will never be satisfied while children live in poverty or families sleep in cars.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he stand by his statement also on 4 September, and I quote, that "Our operating expenses are above the line and are clearly stated."?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Budget that this Government will prepare will be clear about what we are spending and where the revenue for that is coming from.
Hon Steven Joyce: So that's a no. Can I also ask: does he stand by his statement, and I quote, "We have quite clearly put in the spending requirements to meet the promises we have made. Our fiscal plan adds up. We are absolutely clear that we have the money to meet the commitments that we've made.", also on 4 September?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will prepare a Budget that shows how we will pay for the important commitments that we have made to ensure that every New Zealander benefits from economic prosperity.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can the Minister of Finance then confirm that it is not his intention to necessarily ensure core Crown expenditure does not exceed $81.9 billion this current financial year, $86.1 billion in the next financial year, $88.2 billion in 2019-20, $91.8 billion in 2020-21, and $96.1 billion in 2021-22? Can he confirm that's not his intention, even though it was specified in the Labour Party's pre-election fiscal plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that we will keep Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP in line with the historical range.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn't at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party's fiscal plan prior to the election?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process.
Hon Steven Joyce: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker, but just to be clear, the Minister released a fiscal plan prior to the election—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will sit the member down now and ask him to ask a question. Speaker Hunt used to have an old saying that questions start with a question word, rather than something else.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: It's a fresh, genuine point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Hon Simon Bridges: It's simply this. The question was straight, really: whether he stood by the numbers they had pre-election. There really wasn't any attempt to answer that specific question.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I'm not going to take any further comments on that. Both the asker of the question and I thought that there was a very clear response.
Hon Steven Joyce: Is he saying that the actual numbers written on the Labour Party's fiscal plan prior to this election, which he and his colleagues defended vigorously during the election campaign, are no longer relevant? The comments he has made suggest that he will put whatever numbers he likes in front of the public in due course in the next Budget.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have been absolutely clear that the commitment that we have made is that Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP will remain in line with the long-run historical trend. Members on the other side of the House well know that we will now be looking at new revenue forecasts and, indeed, new growth forecasts. They will determine the exact numbers that are presented. But we are very clear on this side of the House: our number add up.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order—the Hon Steven Bridges.
Hon Simon Bridges: It's Simon Bridges, but I understand, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry.
Hon Simon Bridges: It's all right. The point of order is this: the question really was about the relevancy of the Labour fiscal plan. He didn't even address whether that fiscal plan is still relevant. I didn't see any addressing of that question.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I'm going to deal with it again. I'm almost going to say "ibid" for my response to the member's previous point of order. I think both the asker of the question and I have understood the answers.
Hon Tracey Martin: In the 51st Parliament, the last Speaker made it very clear that the Government was not responsible for the manifesto or the policies of a political party. Can I ask for a ruling on that, please?
Mr SPEAKER: I'm happy to answer that. I think the member has been quite careful in the way that he has phrased his questions, asking whether the member was standing by the figures or still agreed with the figures. I think that is something that is acceptable. They're a set of figures—it doesn't really matter where they come from, and it's a question of whether those figures portray the current position of the Government. If that was not the case, I would have ruled out the original question.
Hon Steven Joyce: Has he noted how often the Reserve Bank mentioned policy uncertainty in their Monetary Policy Statement this morning, and has he considered how his statements in the House this afternoon and his responses to questions will not help with that policy uncertainty when the Reserve Bank was obviously placing some credence on his previous statements about Government expenditure and now he is not even standing by those?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Reserve Bank Governor noted today that his thinking was preliminary, and, just like the member opposite, when the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget Policy Statement are released before the end of the year, there will be significant certainty about our spending plans. If the member can't wait, I'll make up a special advent calendar for him so that he can count down to the half yearly update.
Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund—Benefits
4. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What advice has he received on the benefits of the Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Given the significance of creating a billion-dollar fund, the advice is voluminous. Indeed, I've even had advice from members on the other side of House as to projects that the fund could be directed to in the future.
Darroch Ball: What are some examples of regions that are needing urgent attention?
Hon SHANE JONES: We have been made aware of a number of regions that were written off as zombie areas—zombie towns—over the last nine years: Manawatū, Whanganui, Tai Rāwhiti, Tai Tokerau. A number of those civic leaders—and, indeed, certain list and constituency members from the other side of the House—are already drawing up proposals for such regions.
Partnership Schools—Legislation
5. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Will he be repealing the legislation that covers partnership schools within the next six months and how many schools does he expect to close or be converted to another type of school?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): In answer to the first part of the question: no, not within the first six months. In answer to the second part of the question: it's too early to make those decisions.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Did he say to a Fairfax journalist, as reported on 4 November, that four schools due to open in 2019 would likely not go ahead?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I was awaiting advice from the Ministry of Education about charter schools at the time that I did make that statement.
Hon Kris Faafoi: Have any charter schools been closed previously and, if so, what are the lessons learnt from that?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. One of the first charter schools was, in fact, closed within the first year of its operation. It cost the Crown over $5 million, none of which has been recovered, and there were several dozen students who needed to be re-accommodated in what was inevitably a very messy process. We are very keen to avoid that happening again in the future.
Hon Nikki Kaye: In light of his previous answer, has he received any advice, communications, or correspondence from officials or any other party on the potential legal or financial consequences of his reported comments on partnership schools?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The advice that I have received thus far indicates that the contracts that were due to be signed in October for those new charter schools were signed in September, prior to the election. I have not received any advice on any particular legal risks around that.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he guarantee that no partnership school will have their contract terminated without a comprehensive review, whereby all of the schools will have the opportunity to make their case rather than finding out through the media?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have been clear that we will negotiate in good faith on a case by case basis with all of the existing charter schools.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Given the Prime Minister's comments yesterday, that all people are entitled to care and compassion, will he guarantee that he will personally visit all of these partnership schools or the sponsors of the proposed schools prior to making any decisions about the future of some of our most disadvantaged children?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have been clear that we will deal with all of the issues around charter schools on a case by case basis and in good faith. The negotiations around potential changes to the contracts or arrangements will be conducted by the Ministry of Education and not by Ministers.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a very simple yes or no—will he visit the schools of these most disadvantaged children—and he didn't answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: In a way, similar, I think, to—[Gown slips from shoulders] Sorry about this. I'll get this right eventually. [Interruption] Pull it up? Thank you for your advice, Mr Bridges. Similar to the advice that I gave to the Hon Steven Joyce earlier, I think, by omission the answer was actually clear.
David Seymour: When the Minister told Newstalk ZB that one of his reasons for closing charter schools is that they were funded at a higher level than State schools, was he quoting any advice he had received in his capacity as a Minister?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I was drawing on the information that we obtained from the previous Government when I was an Opposition spokesperson.
David Seymour: Supplementary?
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member's having a good go. He gets two in a week, but not in a week that's only got one question day. So you can't transfer your question from Tuesday, because Tuesday wasn't a question day.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. Surely this week the House has sat three times and all members on this side of the House have been disappointed to have only one question time, but if we can at least use our allocated questions we will be OK.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm sure that that argument would be supported by the Green Party and New Zealand First, but it's not going to happen. You're not going to get all your questions for a week in the one day. I think I've been pretty generous with the member as to the arrangements that he's got, and I wouldn't push it if I was him. You might be able to, over time, negotiate with some friends.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know the general practice is to notify you of question transfers before they happen. Can I indicate that I would be happy to offer one of the Labour Party's supplementary questions to Mr Seymour.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member like one of the Labour Party's supplementaries?
David Seymour: Oh, yes, I would. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Kris Faafoi: Where's your friends, David?
David Seymour: Well, you find friends in the most unexpected places.
Mr SPEAKER: Was that you, Mr Faafoi?
Hon Kris Faafoi: Yes, it was.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, Mr Seymour gets an extra supplementary.
David Seymour: How can the Minister say to the media on one day that he is able to say with some certainty, as quoted, that he will be able to cancel the contracts of partnership schools set to open in 2019, and then say, only two days later to a different media outlet, that he is urgently seeking advice?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In the comments I made to the journalist, I also made it clear that I had sought advice on that matter.
David Seymour: Has the Minister considered that by attempting to procure an end to the contracts through the press, he has actually violated the contracts on behalf of the Crown?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The position of the parties that form up the Government has been clear for a long period of time, from the point that the charter schools policy was first introduced.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was with respect to the Minister's responsibilities and the legal implications of his statement as a Minister. His previous political positions, surely, are not relevant and he has made no attempt to address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: And it's a pretty long-standing position in the House that Ministers have discretion about whether they answer questions that involve legal opinions. I think that the Minister probably went further than he had to.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We'll just have to go back and check the Hansard, but the original question that I asked—he was very careful, as I see it. The Minister did not confirm that he received legal advice. He said "financial" advice. So the way that I read it, but we'll check the Hansard in the future, is that he hasn't received legal advice, so I think Mr Seymour is entitled—
Mr SPEAKER: No, and the point that I was making to Mr Seymour was that Mr Seymour was asking a question about the legal position of the Crown, and that would be inviting a legal opinion from Chris Hipkins, and he certainly does not have to give one.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I perhaps assist by asking that the Minister be given an opportunity to explain whether he avoided the question for legal reasons or just didn't want to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member, I think, is now just beginning to trifle with the Chair, and while he's not in a position to lose any supplementary questions this week, he could lose half of those from next week pretty quickly.
East-West Link Road of National Significance—Draft Decision, Board of Inquiry
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Transport: On what date is the Board of Inquiry due to deliver its draft decision on the East-West Link Road of National Significance?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Mr Speaker, I do not have responsibility for the Environmental Protection Authority's board of inquiry. With respect to the road of national significance part of the member's question, I am advised that the description of the East-West Link, as such, was simply an announcement by the National Party in its election campaign press release. With respect to the other part of the member's question, I'm advised that the decision of the board of inquiry is due to be released on 14 November.
Hon Judith Collins: On what date, given that he now knows the date of the draft decision, is the final decision of this board into the East-West Link road of national significance due, since submissions closed eight months ago in March?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That's a matter for the board of inquiry, and I suggest that the member puts down a question to the Minister responsible.
Hon Judith Collins: What is the cost in monetary terms for the process to date, including the cost to the Crown, the submitters, and the New Zealand Transport Agency?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Approximately $50 million of taxpayers' money has been spent so far on the East-West Link, but I want to reassure the member that that money will not be put to waste. The work done currently totals about $10 million worth. It includes construction of stage 1 improvements to Onehunga, coming to $10 million. It includes the widening of State Highway 20 between Neilson Street and Queenstown Road, and replacing the old Neilson Street rail bridge. The balance of about $40 million is for project investigations that will be very helpful in informing the Government on other aspects that may well be included in the newer high-value, lower-cost option that our Government is considering.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he agree with the statement of Phil Twyford on 20 June 2013 that the need for the East-West Link has long been obvious to New Zealanders?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I generally agree with that person. But I will say this: this Government agrees with Ken Shirley of the Road Transport Forum, who said, "The East-West Link in its last iteration was very expensive and we probably need to look at something with lesser expense". He also said that the Road Transport Forum—
Mr SPEAKER: No; I think that's enough. I probably was being a bit kind to the member letting him go on after his first clause.
Hon Judith Collins: Has he advised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that her publicly pre-empting the decision of the board of inquiry—by doing that she has opened up the Crown to potentially massive claims?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I am sure that the considerable legal expertise of the member would allow her to understand that the board of inquiry is a Resource Management Act process designed to make decisions on the resource consent for the project. The board of inquiry has nothing to say about the economic merits or economic value of the project, and is not a substitute for a decision by the Government on whether to go ahead with the project or not.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was pretty clear: has he given this advice to the Prime Minister? He either has or he hasn't. Can he please answer it?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: And I think, for the third time today, I am going to say that both the asker of the question and I know what the answer is.
Raymond Huo: What will the Government use any savings from the East-West Link for?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The savings from a low-cost, high-value option, which this Government is exploring, are expected to free up hundreds of millions of dollars, which will be an additional contribution to the 10-year, $15 billion programme of investments in Auckland's transport system that will deliver a congestion-free alternative to Aucklanders and get the roads moving once and for all.
Tertiary Students—Fees, Living Costs
7. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to reduce the cost of fees and provide more assistance with living costs for tertiary students?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Government will be providing one year of fees-free tertiary education from 2018 for those entering tertiary education and training for the first time, and a $50 a week boost to allowances and loan entitlements, which will kick in on 1 January 2018.
Jo Luxton: Will these changes benefit students taking trades and other vocational courses outside of universities; and if so, how?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. It's important to remember that only around a third of students go from school into university study. The other two-thirds move into vocational programmes or forms of employment, including on-job training. They will also be able to benefit from having one year's free, and many of them will also be accessing the additional student support the Government will be making available.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Will Australians have access to free fees in 2018?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Any Australians, as with any other residents from a different country, will need to meet the three-year residence requirement. If they do that, then yes, they will be able to access it.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why is providing Australia with free fees a priority for limited New Zealand education resources?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The policy is being applied or implemented on exactly the same basis that every other policy regarding tertiary education student support is being applied.
Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund—Success
8. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: How successful will his new $1 billion annual Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund be?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Obviously, the success will depend on the soundness of the proposals and the robustness of the criteria, which is being developed at the moment. But I can assure the member the success will surpass the 10 bridges in Northland that he promised.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can he confirm the fund and its $1 billion allocated every year will all be new funding rather than from existing funding?
Hon SHANE JONES: The full structure and character of the fund—
Hon Steven Joyce: Ha, ha!
Hon SHANE JONES: Mr Speaker, can you tell "Slim Shady" with the bald head to keep quiet?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the member now to withdraw and apologise. And the member probably shouldn't use that expression, with the member in front of him and with me.
Hon SHANE JONES: For any offence caused to the music industry—
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon SHANE JONES: —or to the member, I apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon SHANE JONES: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Has the member finished his answer?
Hon SHANE JONES: Ah, hmm. The full character and structure of the fund will be worked through and be made available when the Budget Policy Statement is announced.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'm simply asking a straightforward question about whether it's new funding. I mean, I don't even think that has been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to let the member have another go.
Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you, sir. Can he confirm the fund and its $1 billion allocated every year will all be new funding, rather than from existing funding?
Hon SHANE JONES: I can confirm that the full structure, content, and character of the fund will be released as a part of the Budget Policy Statement. I can, however, confirm in addition that funds such as the "neets" programme, which he established six months ago—on which not a brass razoo has been spent—will probably be in the mix.
Hon Simon Bridges: So can he confirm then that it's a mix of existing funding reprioritised but also a Budget bid coming through Budget 2018?
Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again that the full content, structure and character of the fund will be dealt with conclusively in the Budget policy process. Just taihoa.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can he give me any detail at all about where the money's coming from—is it existing money or new?
Hon SHANE JONES: I can confirm that I am picking up unfinished work by the former Minister and I can confirm that there are substantial amounts of funds that were not dedicated yet promised, but the full extent of the provincial growth fund will be tidied up in the Budget Policy Statement announcement.
Hon Simon Bridges: As an annual fund, can he confirm that $3 billion will be spent over this term of Government?
Hon SHANE JONES: It is a per annum fund, and I can assure the member that it is our intention to dedicate and expend such an amount of money, and, based on the large number of proposals coming in to me already from civic leaders, regional leaders, EDS, and a few of his own colleagues, I think we'll chew through that amount of dough.
Hon Simon Bridges: Of all the specific initiatives that are going to happen under this fund other than those specifically mentioned in the coalition agreement, are there any specific ones he already has in mind as real possibilities and can tell us about what they are today?
Hon SHANE JONES: I'm glad that he has enabled me to talk about the tree planting programme. The full details will be rolled out at a later date, but I direct his attention to the Governor-General's speech, the Prime Minister's speech, and my colleague the Hon Ron Mark, on behalf of our leader—that speech. It identified a billion trees and it is related to the billion-dollar fund.
Hon Simon Bridges: Other than in the coalition agreement, in terms of new things that the public and certainly I wouldn't have heard about, has he mentioned any specific initiatives to officials, and what are they?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I'm going to rule that question out, because the Minister has no responsibility for what that member has heard about.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I rephrase it, then, if I've put it inelegantly?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, you can have another go, but can I just say it won't generally be a practice for senior members to let them have a second crack at asking a question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has he mentioned any specific initiatives that he hasn't spoken about publicly to officials, and what are they?
Hon SHANE JONES: The matters that are being debated and discussed within the precincts of the offices of the Government departments and myself and my office at this stage are not privy to the member.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If he's saying that in the public interest he won't answer my question—
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, is this a point of order?
Hon Simon Bridges: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, Simon Bridges.
Hon Simon Bridges: Effectively, I haven't had an answer. All I have asked him is about specific initiatives that he's mentioned. He has, effectively, said he's not going to tell me. If that's in the public interest, that's valid; otherwise, my submission to you would be that he needs to tell me if he's made specific initiatives clear to the—
Mr SPEAKER: I think what the member—I mean, I don't want to over-interpret what the member was saying. But I think what he was saying is he's not yet in a position to make public those discussions, and that is something that has been the right and, in fact, the responsibility of Ministers for all the time that I have been in this Parliament.
Department of Conservation—Advocacy Role
9. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: What action is she taking to restore the Department of Conservation's advocacy role to protect our wildlife and its habitats, and why
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): I will be instructing the Department of Conservation (DOC) to implement its statutory responsibilities to advocate for nature and to develop a robust advocacy strategy, which includes better communication with stakeholders.
Jan Logie: How did the previous National Government undermine DOC's role as nature's primary defender?
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, can the member repeat the question, just so I can—?
Jan Logie: What evidence has the Minister seen that shows DOC's role as nature's primary—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Part of the problem I have is that Amy Adams twice interjected: once the first time, and then the second time. What I'm going to do is ask the member to ask the question as she originally asked it, so I will then make a judgment as to whether it's within the Standing Orders or not.
Jan Logie: How did the previous National Government undermine DOC's role as nature's primary defender?
Mr SPEAKER: My view is that that is something that the Minister has no responsibility for.
Jan Logie: May I rephrase that?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Jan Logie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I guess I have a question of consistency and leniency to the Opposition on a previous, similar issue.
Mr SPEAKER: It might seem a little bit unfair, and I can understand the member's point of view there, but I think the difference is that in this particular case, members who are supporting the Government have quite a lot more resources and quite a lot more opportunity to be properly prepared. The member herself has had much more experience in recent years asking supplementary questions than Mr Bridges has, and therefore I was treating him a little more like I would a newer member.
Jan Logie: What evidence has the Minister seen that shows DOC's role as nature's primary defender has been undermined?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Political pressure and funding cuts by the last National Government significantly undermined DOC's role. We have seen a major reduction—
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer was simply, from the very start, descending into political attack, and I don't think that should be allowed.
Mr SPEAKER: My view is that it was a pretty gentle comment, and I just ask the member not to be quite so sensitive. Eugenie Sage—[Interruption] Order!
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: May I finish answering the question?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I think you were part-way through when you were interrupted.
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Yes, thank you. National's funding cuts reduced the number of planning staff by 40 percent. National virtually halved the amount of funding. That meant that the department didn't submit on a number of applications, such as the Ruataniwha Dam, despite the significant number of threatened species that were affected by that dam.
Jan Logie: Why is restoring DOC's advocacy role so important?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: We know that when DOC invests fully in the Resource Management Act process, there are better outcomes for both conservation and the environment. An example of that is Project Mokihinui, where the department made strong submissions and appealed to the Environment Court. Meridian withdrew its dam proposal, and that land is now being investigated for addition to Kahurangi National Park.
Land Information—Policies
10. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister for Land Information: Does she stand by all of the Government's policies in relation to her portfolio?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Land Information): Yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will the Government's proposed changes to the Overseas Investment Act (OIA) cause consequential changes to other New Zealand laws; if so, which?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The details of that proposal are still being developed, and legislation has yet to be introduced to the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will the proposed changes prevent trust constructions that allow property ownership by New Zealand - domiciled trustee companies who invest in residential property, and then extend licences to occupy to beneficiaries of the trust, who may also be settlors of the trust?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The details of that proposal are still being developed and will be in legislation to be introduced to the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will foreigners still be able to register trusts in New Zealand once the OIA is amended, and will they have the ability to have New Zealand - domiciled trustees invest on their behalf?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The details of the proposal are still being developed and will be in legislation to be introduced to the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister tell us how far on the proposals are to have a foreign-buyer ban, and what will be the time line for its introduction to the House, and, if it's shortly, then how soon can we get the answer to these questions?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I think there are a number of questions in there. That commitment to have a ban on foreign buyers is part of the Government's 100-day programme. The 100 days expires on 3 February, so there will be significant developments before then.
Teina Pora—Compensation
11. RAYMOND HUO (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What announcement has he made recently on Teina Pora's compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yesterday, I announced that Cabinet has agreed to inflation adjust Teina Pora's compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. This means that Mr Pora will receive an additional $988,099 and this brings his total compensation package to just over $3.5 million.
Raymond Huo: Why did Cabinet decide to make the inflation adjustment to Teina Pora's compensation?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Teina Pora was the victim of one of New Zealand's worst miscarriages of justice. Mr Pora was wrongly imprisoned for nearly two decades. Those are decades he will never get back. It's only fair that what Mr Pora receives should reflect the magnitude of the injustice that he suffered. Cabinet agreed that inflation adjustment was the right thing to do.
Raymond Huo: Why did he have to make this decision to inflation adjust Teina Pora's compensation now?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The assessor appointed by the previous Government to consider the issue of compensation recommended that the previous Government make an inflation adjustment but that Government declined to do so. The High Court subsequently confirmed that it was within the discretion of Cabinet to make an inflation adjustment, and invited the Government, or the Cabinet, to make that adjustment. The new Cabinet considered it and made the inflation adjustment.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister choose the particular inflation calculation methodology that he did from the range of valid options that were available to him?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In considering the inflation adjustment formula, I, as Minister, took advice from Ministry of Justice officials and also from Treasury, and their advice led to the inflation adjustment at the level that was subsequently agreed upon.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked very carefully and very directly around why one option was chosen over another. What I got from the Minister was who he took advice from, but I have yet to hear from him any rationale or reasoning as to why this particular one he felt was the right one to take.
Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the member to ask the question again. I invite the Minister to maybe differentiate a bit about the advice.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister choose the particular inflation calculation methodology that he did from the range of valid options that were available to him?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The range of options included a measure of Consumers Price Index (CPI), less the value of alcohol and tobacco. I'm not quite sure why that was included in the range of options. The High Court was very clear that an inflation adjustment should reflect the change in purchasing power as between dollar amounts set in the year 2000 and the value of those dollar amounts in the year 2017. The only accurate measure or adjustment to make in that regard was CPI—the headline inflation figure—and that was the basis of the adjustment.
Primary Sector—Policies
12. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all of his Government's policies in relation to the primary sector?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: What advice has he received on the cost of creating separate entities for forestry, fisheries, biosecurity, and food safety?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have yet to receive advice on the cost of breaking up the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), but I can assure the Minister that a greater focus on biosecurity will deliver better border protection. A greater focus on forestry will deliver greater amounts of planting of trees. A greater focus on fisheries will ensure better protection of what is one of New Zealand's greatest resources.
Hon Nathan Guy: What advice does he give to exporters who are now very concerned about the uncertainty and the nervousness within MPI's 2,500 staff, who will now be focused more on themselves and their future than supporting the most productive part of the New Zealand economy—and that is, indeed, our exporters?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Exporters at the moment are celebrating the lower dollar. I can assure that Minister—that member, pardon the pun—that there will be a very strong focus through an independently focused biosecurity and food safety regime to protect the interests of those exporters—unlike the previous regime, which delivered insufficient focus. We had a numerous number of incursions through biosecurity and food safety issues, such as WPC80, which is still costing this country hundreds of millions of dollars.

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