Parliament: Questions and Answers - June 20
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): This morning, Stats New Zealand released GDP data for the March quarter, showing that the economy continues to grow solidly in the face of global headwinds. While I would caution members from drawing too many conclusions from quarterly data, GDP grew 0.6 percent in the March quarter and 2.7 percent in the year to March, in line with Treasury and market forecasts. It's also particularly pleasing to see the contribution of the construction sector up 3.7 percent—in summary, plenty to be cheerful about.
Kiritapu Allan: How does the GDP data compare with international counterparts?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This latest GDP data shows the New Zealand economy continues to outpace many of its international peers, both in the March quarter and over the year. The New Zealand economy grew faster than Australia, Canada, the UK, the euro area, and the OECD average. Today's data demonstrates the solid fundamentals and ongoing resilience of the New Zealand economy within the slowing and uncertain global economic environment.
Kiritapu Allan: How is the Government supporting the resilience of the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In so many ways. The coalition Government has introduced a range of policies to support New Zealand's transition towards a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy, including the research and development tax credit, reforms to our skills training system, investment in our regions through the Provincial Growth Fund, and our record land transport infrastructure investment. Alongside this, the Government's books are being managed responsibly, delivering surpluses, managing debt, and keeping expenses under control so that we are in a position to respond as the global economy slows.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (National—Upper Harbour) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is reducing both the supply and demand of methamphetamine and other class A drugs a priority for the Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why, then, did Cabinet cancel $10 million a year that was going towards reducing the supply, use, and harm caused by meth in our communities?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, our priorities have been laid out clearly in front of the public and we're following them all, including having the firepower in men and women on the front line in the police to do the job, and 400 dedicated in particular to that purpose.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did she read the Cabinet paper that rescinded the $10 million a year, allocated by the previous National Government, to reduce the supply, use, and harm caused by meth?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes, but the question that was put to this Parliament by way of that questioner was that the Government has not prioritised any more the matter of defeating the meth trade, and we have.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why has her Government shelved the Methamphetamine Action Plan, which reduced adult meth use rates in New Zealand by 50 percent?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the fact is that the statement made by that member is not correct. That is why we are seeking alternative measures, including having the front-line police firepower to do the job, and 400, in particular, dedicated to that purpose.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she aware that the Methamphetamine Action Plan did in fact work and it did half the rate of adult meth use, as it was 2.1 percent in 2009 and was halved to 0.9 percent in 2015 according to the Tackling methamphetamine: Progress Report of October 2015, and has remained stable since then?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that claim is the world's best kept secret. If, on becoming the Government, the meth trade was defeated, why on earth would we devote so much time and so much money to get on top of it? And that is what the community has advised us to do.
Hon Paula Bennett: So why was the Methamphetamine Action Plan, which had a proven success rate at reducing the supply, use, and harm caused by meth in New Zealand, dropped by her Government, and we've recently seen it increasing in our communities?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the claim that it was effective is simply not true, and every answer that's been given to the subsequent question has been dedicated to saying that. If it was successful, why was everybody out in the countryside, including the police, saying the thing was totally out of hand and we needed new forces? That's why we found 400 dedicated police to do the job.
Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to table the Tackling methamphetamine: Progress Report of October 2015, which shows a 50 percent reduction over those six years.
SPEAKER: It's not already been published?
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, actually, it probably is published, but the member says he hasn't seen it.
SPEAKER: No, no—
Hon Paula Bennett: To be clear, Mr Speaker, we probably typed some words into the search bar and up it came and they think it—
SPEAKER: Order! The member knows two things. One, she should not attempt to table a document which is already published. She's an experienced member and she knows that well. Secondly, by way of subsequent point of order, she shouldn't trifle with the chair. I think we might just, sort of, leave it at that for now.
Hon Stuart Nash: To the acting Prime Minister, has he seen reports over the last five years of the previous Government that police numbers actually dropped by seven, and, yet, under the first 18 months of this Government, we have trained nearly 1,400 police to be sent out into our communities?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I wish to confirm that that is a fact. But here's the real point: if the methamphetamine was being successfully attacked by the previous administration, how come 500 kilograms appeared on a Ninety Mile Beach recall, and it was discovered not by the then police, because they didn't have the resources—no—but by a passer-by, and that's why, when we became the Government, we decided to act.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned that a clause in the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill alongside a reduction in funding for reducing harm caused by meth could lead to an increase in use and harm in our communities?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, and as confirmed by the Minister of Police, we are setting out with the appropriate resources to get on top of this scourge in our country—make no bones about it. So I'd invite that member to reflect on the Ninety Mile Beach and other events where nothing was happening against what is being done now by the Government and the police, in particular.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe that today's prosecution announcement will convince her Minister of Foreign Affairs that Russians were responsible for shooting down MH17?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I can answer that the Foreign Minister at the time expressed his serious desire to see the end of the inquiry in the Netherlands. That inquiry has now been completed and a prosecution is about to start. Now, unlike some people in this House, we wait to see the evidence be unveiled in court before we make up our opinion. But, of course, that is a party over there that, when Theresa May was announcing the date of an inquiry with respect to Salisbury, was shouting out that they had a guilty party already. If that was the case, why did Theresa May announce an inquiry? Get some legal training.
Hon Stuart Nash: Has she seen quotes from the eastern district police commander which state that "The new gang focus unit that's been set up in eastern is purely a result of the new recruits that this Government has put out into our communities."?
SPEAKER: No, I'm going to interrupt that. The only link of that is police, and the whole line of questioning has been—while it was a very general question, I think the member has sort of got outside of it.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the Government's decisions, statements, and actions in relation to his portfolio?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were made and undertaken.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he stand by his statement that "We are going to transition away from an economy based on population growth" when ANZ has said this morning that today's GDP numbers show population growth is in fact very clearly the driver of our economic growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Absolutely, yes, because nine years of neglect takes more than 18 months to turn around, but we've made a pretty good start.
Hon Amy Adams: Why has growth per person halved under his watch from an average of 1.6 percent a year to now just 0.8 percent a year, making us the sixth worst in the OECD for growth per person last year?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Statistics New Zealand release is actually 0.9 percent, not 0.8 percent. But, in addition to that, what I would say is that when you look at a more reasonable period of comparison, you would see the GDP per capita is forecast to be just a little bit below the five-year average and just a little bit above the ten-year average over the forecast period.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware of comments from Westpac this morning that today's GDP figures were "flattered by a 9.6 percent jump in mining that was led by a bout of exploration activity which has now been abandoned"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The mining numbers within GDP do move around a lot, but what I do note, in terms of what Westpac said, is that they said that growth to date has been steady in the face of mounting global risks, which is precisely what this Government has been saying and why our underlying economic fundamentals being strong is so important.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister of Finance, how can population growth be fuelling the economic growth, as is being claimed here, when in terms of thousands, it's gone from the 70s, under the previous administration, to the 50s now?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, indeed, and that is true that in the latter part of last year, net migration numbers settled around the 50,000 level. We've had some changes to the way that's measured, but, actually, what this Government is doing is moving towards more sustainable patterns of growth. That will take some time. But, actually, investing in the economy, in skills and infrastructure and in research and development, is what we need to do to have a more productive economy. It's just a pity it didn't happen in the decade that that Government was in office.
Hon Amy Adams: Doesn't he think he should show more concern for the underlying health of our economy when in the last quarter, the services sector—which makes up 70 percent of the economy—grew an insipid 0.2 percent?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It really is a testament around people's half-glass full or half-glass empty approach. Today, we could be celebrating that the construction sector expanded by 3.7 percent in this quarter—people with the confidence to build. But, unfortunately, there are some on the other side of the House determined to be pessimistic and to talk down the economy. It's almost like they need to fly someone in to make them cheerful.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he really think that him blaming international circumstances and refusing to take any responsibility or even acknowledge the weaknesses in our economy is going to be of any comfort to the real New Zealanders in the four sectors of our economy, including agriculture and retail, that went backwards over the last quarter?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said in my answer to an earlier question, it is important to look at these figures on an annual basis. There always is movement within particular sectors on a quarter by quarter basis, but what I do know is that on this side of the House, we actually have a plan to grow a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy, and we're very proud of that plan.
• Question No. 4—Courts
4. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister for Courts: What recent announcements has he made about settling long-standing insurance disputes following the Canterbury earthquakes?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister for Courts): On Monday, along with the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, the Hon Megan Woods, I launched the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal, to be chaired by former District Court judge Chris Somerville. That tribunal will give Canterbury homeowners a fair, flexible, and cost-effective way to resolve their outstanding insurance claims relating to the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, including claims with Southern Response and the Earthquake Commission. This is great news for the tired and frustrated Canterbury homeowners, many of whom are still waiting for a resolution to the insurance claims from those earthquakes.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What effect will the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal have on outstanding claimants?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The tribunal will be homeowner-led and will be able to tailor its approach to the needs of each case. Referral to an independent, funded mediation service will be one of the options available for resolving claims without the need for a formal hearing, but the tribunal will also have the ability to do arbitral decisions and to award general damages and costs. There will be no fees for access to the tribunal, and homeowners will not need a lawyer. The tribunal will be a circuit-breaker for those disputes that have dragged on for too long and will provide homeowners with closure and the opportunity to move on with their lives.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will this benefit Cantabrians?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There are still over 500 active earthquake list cases in the High Court and over 250 of those were lodged in just the last year alone, so we know that these issues are still affecting Cantabrians. The delay to resolve residential insurance claims has had a significant effect on Cantabrians' wellbeing. They need another option to help them reach an outcome. The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal will go a long way to meeting this need.
• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is the KiwiBuild programme delivering good value for money for New Zealand taxpayers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, it is. The 10,356 contracts are being committed. Affordable homes that KiwiBuild has or will enable are worth approximately $3.5 billion. In terms of costs, primarily, the Crown has bought $196 million of land to build homes on, including at the Unitec campus in Auckland and the Wakatipu High School site in Queenstown.
Hon Judith Collins: Is he aware that Budget documents show that, in total, over the three years of this Government, $48 million will be spent on the KiwiBuild Unit and KiwiBuild operations at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'm aware that the estimates show $21 million will have been spent on administration of the KiwiBuild programme from the time that the Government took office through to 30 June 2019. That's primarily spent on due diligence for land acquisition and commercial negotiations. For example, engineers being contracted to assess whether housing can be built on Crown land, infrastructure and planning assessments, legal advice on development agreements, planning and Resource Management Act advice, and applications.
SPEAKER: No. The Minister will have another crack at actually answering the question that was asked. Does the member want it repeated?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Sure.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Is he aware that Budget documents show that, in total, over the three years of this Government, $48 million will be spent on the KiwiBuild Unit and KiwiBuild operations at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I am aware of that, but I'm also aware that the estimates show that in the period to date, $21 million has been spent on administration of the programme—primarily on due diligence for development and construction work.
Hon Judith Collins: Is he also aware that if he is able to deliver the 1,600 houses he has forecast by July next year, that will equate to a spend on overheads for bureaucrats of $30,000 per house delivered?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, based on the member's premises, the maths might be correct, but it's also true to say that KiwiBuild has enabled over $150 worth of affordable homes for every dollar spent so far on the administration of the programme. A 150:1 benefit-cost ratio at the beginning of a 10-year programme is pretty darn good.
Paul Eagle: How does the value of the homes enabled by KiwiBuild compare to the administration costs of the programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. KiwiBuild has enabled more than $150 worth of affordable homes for every dollar spent so far on the administration of the programme. We've acknowledged that KiwiBuild hasn't ramped up as fast as we'd planned, and that the fixed costs of the programme will be higher because of this. But the early results do show that the model has the potential to enable a great number of affordable homes for a relatively modest investment.
Hon Judith Collins: If it is ramping up, then how many houses per year does the KiwiBuild policy aim to deliver?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I've made it very clear to the member that we're not setting any interim targets. But I will say this to the member: no matter how far short we might fall from our early targets for that programme, we will have done a lot more than the previous Government even attempted to do.
Paul Eagle: What sites has the Crown purchased in the programme so far?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the $196 million has been invested in acquiring land for housing across New Zealand, dozens of different projects—the largest of which are Unitec, where more than 3,000 State, KiwiBuild—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: We announced that.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —and market homes will be built in Auckland; and 300 homes—many of them affordable—at the Wakatipu site in Queenstown.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: We announced that too.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: But you did nothing about it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: We sure did.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Dr Smith, can we let the Hon Mrs Collins ask the question? Thank you.
Hon Judith Collins: How many houses will the $48 million spent on the operation of the KiwiBuild programme deliver?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the $21 million that has been spent so far, out of the projected $48 million for the three-year period, has enabled 10,356 affordable KiwiBuild homes to be built—worth approximately $3.5 billion.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he agree with Phil Twyford MP, who has previously said that "people can't live in a pipeline"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: But people can live in homes that are contracted and committed and will be built.
• Question No. 6—Transport
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes, in the context they were said and done.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement this morning in select committee that New Zealand had over-invested in roads and motorways for decades.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, actually, because, particularly in the last decade, the former Government spent 40 percent of the transport budget on a handful of urban State highway projects that carried only 4 percent of vehicle journeys.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So does he think people crawling along a winding and dangerous single-lane road—from Katikati to Tauranga, for example; a rapidly growing part of the country and a primary route between Auckland and Tauranga—will agree that we've over-invested in roads?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There's no such single-lane road between Katikati and Tauranga.
SPEAKER: Order! I'm not familiar with the area, and I'm absolutely certain that the member is, but I think that is the level of detail of question which, if that member is correct, the Minister will be absolutely capable of refuting as part of his answer.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Like so many people in communities all up and down this country who saw their family and friends dying on rural and neglected roads, they will feel frustrated that for nine years the former Government poured money into a handful of urban motorway projects and did nothing to improve roads like the one that the member raises.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he really think somebody crawling along Auckland's Southern Motorway on sections two lanes wide each way, as they have been since the 1960s, will agree with him that we've over-invested in motorways?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think most Aucklanders—except for that member—understand that Auckland's long-term congestion problems can only be solved by building integrated modern transport systems that include not only motorways and roads but rapid transit, public transport, and walking and cycling, and that is the policy of this Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that public transport will work for some people for some of the trips they need to make but the vast majority of people still want to use cars on roads—
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: —for a host of good reasons.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! We've got a slight sort of problem, in that the bit at the end was not part of the question at all. We will go back to the Minister and ask the bit other than the addition which he interrupted.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, but as the incredibly successful Northern Busway shows, when you provide modern, affordable, convenient, and reliable public transport for people, even a small percentage of people will choose to leave the car at home at peak hour and take the rapid transit bus or the train, and that allows the roads to move more freely for everybody else who has to drive.
Jami-Lee Ross: How can Aucklanders have confidence in the Auckland rail network when KiwiRail consistently fails Aucklanders with multiple rail shutdowns, and what's he doing about it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would point out to the member that yesterday's shutdown, which happened during the morning peak, was, I'm advised, caused by a contractor who snipped a cable, inadvertently causing a signalling failure. I've spoken with the chief executive of KiwiRail and said that the Government expects KiwiRail will do everything possible to ensure trouble-free and reliable service on the Auckland public transport system. But what these two days show—the interruptions of travel during peak hour—is that no city, particularly Auckland, can function properly at peak hour without a reliable public transport system that allows thousands and thousands of people to get to and from work without having to clog up the motorways.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: If he believes we've over-invested in roads is that why he and Julie Anne Genter are determined to build no new ones?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are the party of a balanced transport policy. We believe in both roads and motorways, public transport, walking, and cycling. Cities all over the world are pursuing these policies, except for the National Party who are stuck in the 1950s and believe that everybody can drive their car to work and no one needs to take public transport. I say to the member: those days are gone—move on.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that the previous National Government invested considerable sums in public transport, such as through the city rail loop in Auckland and many other examples, as well as investing in roads, and it's possible to do both?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I note that the former Government delayed the Auckland City Rail Link by six years before they were finally embarrassed into supporting the project. I challenge the member to name one other single bit of public transport infrastructure in Auckland during those nine years.
Hon Grant Robertson: In light of that question about the City Rail Link, can the Minister confirm that the original costings done under the previous Government for the City Rail Link had no ability to take account of cost escalation and that's now having to be dealt with by this Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I'll say to the member that one of the big allocations, or appropriations, in Budget 2019 was making up for the fact that the former Government did not provide sufficient contingency or inflation-proofing for the biggest transport infrastructure project this country's ever seen.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table some information obtained from the City Rail Link Ltd (CRLL), which shows the Government is blocking the breakdown of the cost blowout of CRLL.
SPEAKER: How did the member get it; what's the source? Is it from a website—
Hon Nikki Kaye: It's from the Official Information Act, so it's not public information.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the information of CRLL being tabled without all the other extra bits added on? Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none. It may be tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that the Melling Interchange project "ticks all the boxes" and, if so, why has funding for the project been delayed until 2028 or later?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the premise of the member's question that it's been delayed. Under the former Government, the Melling project wasn't due to happen for another decade. Our Government has looked at it closely; the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has approved the project. It's said that it's got a detailed business case under way and all that's required is for funding to be made available, and the NZTA is talking directly with the council about making that happen.
SPEAKER: The Hon Chris Hipkins, because I think it's probably related.
Hon Chris Hipkins: It is indeed, Mr Speaker. So can he confirm that despite any pre-election promises that were made, no funding was allocated to the Melling Interchange project and it was not going to be allocated for at least another 10 years?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, that is, in fact, a correct telling of the history of the Melling project.
Chris Bishop: You know that's not true. Nice try.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It was one of a number of unfunded election campaign promises, and that's all they were.
SPEAKER: Now, before I go to any supplementaries or any points of order I want to ask Mr Bishop whether he then made an unparliamentary interjection.
Chris Bishop: I don't think so, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, if the member indicated that the Minister making a comment was saying something he knew was untrue, it is exceptionally unparliamentary.
Chris Bishop: Well, yes, I did make an inadvertent—
SPEAKER: Well, the member will withdraw and apologise.
Chris Bishop: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: I'll warn the member, if he does that again—he has been around here for a long time, he knows what the rules are, and to pretend that he did not know what he said was out of order just doesn't wash with me.
Hon James Shaw: Would the Minister agree that if we were to do as the Opposition is proposing and double the number of lanes every few decades—for example, from two each way in Auckland to four each way—then a few decades from now we would be doubling them from four each way to eight each way, then from eight each way to 16 each way, then from 16 each way to 32 each way. In that scenario, what would happen to land prices?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the member asks a very good question. The sheer amount of land that would be wasted adding more and more lanes to the motorway network doesn't even bear thinking about.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that with respect to the Pūhoi to Warkworth highway, which has taken 12 years, on that basis the so-called promised but unfunded Warkworth to Whangarei highway would take another 68 years?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think the member's calculations are absolutely right. What's more, that stretch of highway that the National Party promised in the last election, between Warkworth and Whangarei, would cost $5 billion. At the time, before the last election, the then transport Minister Simon Bridges was advised that those promises would've required an extra 8c a litre fuel excise duty.
• Question No. 7—Police
7. GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: What recent announcements has he made about the firearms buy-back scheme?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Today I announced the details of the Government's compensation scheme for the buy-back of prohibited firearms. The buy-back scheme starts today and runs for six months to 20 December. The buy-back and amnesty has one objective: to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al Noor and Linwood mosques on 15 March. The buy-back scheme recognises licensed firearms owners are now in possession of prohibited items through no fault of their own but because a law was passed by almost the entire Parliament. I believe we have struck a fair balance, and I would like to thank the New Zealand Police for their valuable and significant policy and operational work to get this historical scheme under way and managed safely over the next six months. My hope is that other members will also be supportive of the police's efforts in their communities.
Ginny Andersen: What are the key elements of the buy-back scheme?
Hon STUART NASH: The key elements of the buy-back scheme include: the price will reflect the brand, make, and model of the prohibited firearm, at either 95 percent, 70 percent, or 25 percent of its base price depending upon the condition of the firearm; the compensation for prohibited parts and magazines will either be 70 or 25 percent of its base price depending upon their condition; dealers will be compensated for stock, and approved dealers will help police with the collection and buy-back process. Owners of some prohibited firearms will also have the option to have them modified by approved gunsmiths to make them lawful, with costs up to $300 to be met by the Crown, and police will also have the ability to determine the amount of compensation for unique or rare prohibited items. Police want to work closely with owners of prohibited items to help them comply with the law, and they have detailed plans in place for the collection of firearms from the community.
Ginny Andersen: Will there be sufficient funding for the buy-back scheme under Vote Police?
Hon STUART NASH: One of the underlying issues we have been dealing with in relation to the buy-back scheme is the uncertainty around the number of prohibited firearms in our country. The Budget set aside $168 million for the buy-back scheme on 30 May. The fund has also been increased by an additional $40 million through a contribution from ACC. The total set aside for the scheme is now over $200 million. We will get a clearer picture as the buy-back scheme gets under way, but, as the Minister of Finance said on Budget night, if we need to top up the funding, we will.
• Question No. 8—Health
8. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: How is the wellbeing of cancer patients in New Zealand affected by the Government's policies and actions in health?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): The Wellbeing Budget will help New Zealanders avoid, treat, live with, or recover from cancer in many, many ways. We are extending the National Bowel Screening Programme across another four district health boards (DHBs)—an investment of $36 million in detecting an all-too-common cancer. The $2.8 billion uplift in funding for our DHBs will sustain the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and cancer treatment services that New Zealanders deserve. We're moving to make those services better and more consistent through our new cancer action plan. In Budget 2019, we also set aside $1.7 billion in capital spending, possibly the largest allocation in health capital ever, some of which will support better and more advanced cancer treatment. Let's not forget the terrible toll that a cancer diagnosis can have on people and families. The Wellbeing Budget recognises this reality through a massive expansion in access to primary mental health services. Of course, there are many other ways in which this Government is working to better support cancer care, but that is a good start for the member's benefit.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Speaking of families, has he seen a report of cancer patient Susie Wall-Cade telling the Health Committee of her self-funding Kadcyla: "There goes my Kiwi saver, ... there goes my retirement. Sorry my husband, ... sorry my family, no holiday ... sorry my friends, we cannot afford to come out to dinner with you.", and what is his assessment of her wellbeing?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Of course, it is impossible not to have deep empathy for people facing a difficult diagnosis with cancer, and my heart goes out to those families. The prior Government, obviously, did not progress any work on early access schemes for those drugs. It is a complex policy area, but this Government is determined to look more closely there. The Prime Minister has asked me to accelerate work on early access, and that is exactly what is happening. I'd also note that we have put aside further money in the current Budget to ensure that Pharmac has more money across the drug-buying spectrum, and is now close to a record billion dollars.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen a report of cancer patient Claudine Johnstone saying, "The wellbeing Budget came out on the day that I had my first treatment in Australia. So on the day that Australia was giving this Kiwi a chance to live longer, New Zealand was saying people like me don't matter," and what is his assessment of her wellbeing?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I know something of this situation. I've met Claudine Johnstone, and I know these things are very, very difficult. We also, in this Budget, I would note, have put aside $4 billion for heath. A lot of what we are tackling in health is the result of years and years and years of underfunding in the health system. This Government is committed to improving the health services available to New Zealanders.
Hon Shane Jones: Leaky hospitals!
Hon Andrew Little: We're just trying to catch up!
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Unfortunately, it will take more than one or two Budgets to address those nine long years of neglect under the previous Government.
SPEAKER: Order! Before I ask the member to go on, this is a serious matter and, I think, has generally been—while people will have discussions about the style of questions, I think that, when the Minister is answering, he doesn't need support of the sort that he is getting from my right at the moment. I think let's just take this issue seriously.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen a report of Mrs Johnstone's eight-year-old daughter Lucy telling her Australian classmates, "My dad talked to a man called David Clark. He promised that if he was in Government, he would make cancer care in Aotearoa better, but he lied", and what is his assessment of Lucy's wellbeing?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: These are incredibly difficult and sensitive matters that affect and disrupt families who are facing the death of a loved one, and, I am, of course, deeply concerned to hear about Lucy's wellbeing, but we on this side of the House are taking it seriously. We are taking steps that the previous Government did not, and I think they should have a good long hard look at themselves on that side of the House.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Whose wellbeing is more important? The Johnstone family's or the Minister's, who was reported to have had his feelings hurt by the Johnstones speaking out?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I do regret that member trying to trivialise this issue. This is a serious issue for a family that is facing devastating consequences, including failures under his Government's watch.
• Question No. 9—Whnau Ora
9. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: What recent announcements has he made about Whānau Ora?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister for Whānau Ora): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. On 30 June 2019, I announced a total funding package for Whānau Ora of $116 million. This includes funding of $80 million to expand the coverage and impact of Whānau Ora, $35 million to introduce the Whānau Ora approach in the corrections system—supporting Māori under 30 and their whānau before, during, and after incarceration—and $1 million to research the success of applying a whānau-centred approach to primary healthcare.
Tamati Coffey: What is his vision for Whānau Ora?
Hon PEENI HENARE: Our vision for Whānau Ora is that Whānau Ora is the whānau-centred approach to be integrated into Government policies, programmes, and services across Government to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This includes ensuring Whānau Ora is adequately resourced to support whānau to achieve their aspirations, is appropriately supported across Government agencies, and whānau are able to play a key role in decision making for their aspirations.
Tamati Coffey: How is he planning to grow Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches across Government?
Hon PEENI HENARE: A key challenge set for this team is to work across agencies with senior leaders to look beyond existing strategic, policy, and financial constraints to explore new ways of designing and delivering services in a whānau-centred way. To date, there has been considerable interest in the development of whānau-centred policy across Government and how it can support the Government's priority areas. We will continue to work closely with ministerial colleagues to promote collective investment in Whānau Ora and the broader adoption of whānau-centred practices in Government agencies.
• Question No. 10—Internal Affairs
10. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What recent announcement has she made regarding recognition of Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteers?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): On Monday I announced a $4 million a year package to recognise the contribution made by Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteers to their communities across New Zealand. These volunteers get out of bed in all weather, put down their knives and forks at the family dinner table and leave their paid employment in order to serve their community. The package recognises not only their contributions but the support given to them by their families and employers. The package includes an annual contribution to out of pocket expenses of $300 and a whānau support payment of $50 per night for when they have to travel away from home for formal training.
Mark Patterson: What other announcements has she made to support our volunteer firefighters?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On 8 June I was in Southland to open the new Thornbury volunteer fire station. This new station is a prototype station that will be tested to assess whether it can be used as a design in other communities. In order to keep our communities safe, volunteer firefighters in smaller rural fire stations like this one need to have the right facilities, tools, and technology. This is especially the case for communities like Thornbury, where it is the only 24 hour emergency service.
Mark Patterson: Why is it important to recognise fire and emergency volunteers?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Volunteers play a crucial role in keeping people safe. Fire and Emergency New Zealand has 11,800 volunteers. They make up around 80 percent of the organisation. Volunteers attend thousands of incidents each year—not just fires but motor vehicle accidents and medical emergencies. They save lives, our communities are stronger because of them, and we thank them.
• Question No. 11—Education
11. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: How many of the 600 learning support coordinators she promised does she estimate will be working in schools by the beginning of term 1 of the 2020 school year?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): I expect to announce the allocation of the first tranche of approximately 600 full-time learning support coordinator roles to schools and kura by August, in time for those schools to include the new role in their staffing orders. Schools and kura receiving a learning support coordinator through the first tranche can then begin recruitment processes as coordinators will be employed by schools. Our goal is to have as many as possible of the 600 full-time teaching equivalent learning support coordinator roles in place by term 1 of the 2020 school year.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will she absolutely guarantee that there will be 600 new learning support coordinators in schools by term 1 of 2020?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: What I can absolutely guarantee is that the funding is available for 600, and it could actually be over 600 depending on the final pay scale that that role will be at. So that funding will be available for those people to be employed by the first term of 2020. It will be up to the boards of trustees of the schools that receive the allocation to go about employing those people.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When she said, in November 2018, "Today's announcement is designed to allow schools as much time as possible to prepare for the new role.", did she anticipate that eight months later, schools would have no final decisions about the role?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Yes, actually. Part of the reason to make the announcement when we did was also to make sure that the Learning Support Delivery Model, that needed to be intricately part of what is the Learning Support Coordinators, to change and deliver learning support as quickly and as close to the ground for our students, needed to also be rolled out by the Ministry of Education. That is what has been going on parallel to the development of the job description and the allocation process for schools. We've also had five peak bodies, and at least 20 schools have been part of the development of the job description. So the months that the member is talking about have not been sitting idle. We've been working with the sector to make sure we get this right as fast as possible.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Can she confirm that one of the biggest constraints to recruiting and employing Learning Support Coordinators is the critical shortage of teachers that this Government inherited when we took office?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Yes, I can confirm that that is expected to be one of the restraints. However, conversations that I have had with principals and members of the sector and teachers who've actually left the sector—there are those among that workforce who may have left the classroom due to the pressures of the last nine years who are still passionate about working with young people and children with learning needs, and this may be one of those roles that bring them back inside our schools to support those young people.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How many children with complex needs are helped when she blames National and fails to recognise she's had 18 months with the ministerial warrant?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Obviously, nobody is supported when this House decides to bicker over what are the learning support needs that should be delivered for our children. So in the times that I'm not here answering questions from that member, I spend it working to make sure we can deliver for children.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So we might know what the resource situation is, how long does it take to train a teacher?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Depending on whether it is a primary or a secondary teacher, it can take between three to four years.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How can she defend the fact that, eight months later, after promises from the Prime Minister and herself, there's no job description, there's real concerns about filling the role, there's no clarity on what schools—
SPEAKER: Order! Question.
Hon Nikki Kaye: —schools will get them?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I have no problem at all defending it, because in the eight months that we have been working on this, we have been working with the sector. Probably one of the failings of the previous Government was they decided they knew best and they never spoke to the sector. We have designed the job description with five peak bodies, at least 20 schools. We have been running models of the Learning Support Delivery Model across the country to make sure that when we do do something, it actually works.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Education document, New Learning Support Delivery Model. It's not public.
SPEAKER: It's not public?
Hon Nikki Kaye: It's been provided to some individual schools, but the whole point of this question is a whole lot of schools don't know what's happening with the role.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Speaking to the point of order.
SPEAKER: Well, it's not really a—it's a new point of order while I'm considering whether it can be tabled. We'll go that way, shall we?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Just for your information, Mr Speaker, the Learning Support Delivery Model has been a topic of a video that has been up on Facebook explaining to every piece of the sector how it works, and to the public of New Zealand. The drawing of the delivery model is also available in many places.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: If the member is going to tell me that that is not true and she has a document which is not generally available, then I will put the question, but in doing so, I want to give her a warning that if she is not accurate in that description, that will be a serious misleading of the House.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table an email from the Ministry of Education that has these documents attached but has additional information which is not in the public domain widely around the ratio of schools that will have access to these roles.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 12—Revenue
12. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Revenue: What concerns, if any, does he have regarding the operation of the latest phased roll-out of the IRD Business Transformation Programme, especially in relation to KiwiSaver PIE tax arrangements?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): None.
Andrew Bayly: How much money is owed to people who have overpaid portfolio investment entity (PIE) tax on their KiwiSaver and other investment income, and will this be repaid?
Hon STUART NASH: No money is owed. The PIE rate is the final rate of taxation.
Andrew Bayly: Is the new IRD system capable of making refunds to those people who have paid too much tax on their investment incomes?
Hon STUART NASH: The new IRD system will be capable of making refunds to those people who have overpaid or underpaid their tax.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen about how the new IRD system is working following the latest roll-out of the Business Transformation programme?
Hon STUART NASH: Good news. I can inform the House that, as of 18 June, over $313 million has been automatically refunded to taxpayers, with an average refund of $432. Recent reports also indicate that the compliance cost savings for small to medium sized enterprises as a result of the changes continue to track ahead of predictions. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research noted that research and feedback "seems to suggest IRD has made significant inroads into reducing tax-related compliance costs". Inland Revenue continues to work with tax agents to resolve some of the issues that have arisen as a result of the huge roll-out.
Andrew Bayly: How can it be that 950,000 people who have overpaid tax on their investment income will not receive a refund when the new system is capable of making such payments?
Hon STUART NASH: In answer to that member, at the Finance and Expenditure Committee (FEC) the commissioner advised that due to the significant amount of operational resource, she made the decision that it is better to move forward and help people get this right moving forward.
Hon Shane Jones: Point of order—
SPEAKER: I want to thank the Minister for my 75c.
Hon Shane Jones: Point of order—
SPEAKER: Is the member finished?
Andrew Bayly: No. I have a further question.
SPEAKER: Sorry, no, it's not a question; it's a point of order. So the member has finished his supplementaries?
Andrew Bayly: No, I've got more supplementaries.
SPEAKER: Well, away you go. Ask it now, please.
Andrew Bayly: Why did he not change the tax legislation when he had the opportunity to do so this week in the House to enable the IRD to make these refunds?
NASH: I'll just reiterate: in answer to that
member, at FEC the commissioner, who is responsible for the
operational management of the IRD, advised that due to a
significant amount of operational resource, she made the
decision that it is better to move forward and help people
get this right moving into the