Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 17
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly our Government's focus on mental health. As members will be aware, that includes the focus on ensuring that there is the roll-out of primary mental health services across the country, starting with 170,000 New Zealanders; our suicide prevention strategy and action plan; the appointment of the initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, which we made last week; establishing a suicide prevention office; and, of course, a further $8.68 million for mental health services in Canterbury. That was on top of $8.5 million invested in Budget 2019 in response to 15 March. We are a Government that is finally taking mental health seriously.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she had a hint at the GDP figures due out on Thursday, and is she pretty pleased with them?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was growth running at 3.7 percent when she became Prime Minister, and is it now 2.5 percent?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, of course, the member will recognise that that is not an accurate reflection of the long-run average under his Government, which I believe was closer to 2.1 percent. Of course, New Zealand is experiencing the same changes in growth forecasts here that other countries are experiencing. In fact, I recognise that Australia in particular is seeing annual rates now, I believe, around 1.4 percent. We are performing well in comparison to others.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was that a yes or a no?
SPEAKER: No, the member knows well that he cannot require that sort of answer. He is an experienced member, and he should not ask questions that he knows are disorderly.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was growth running at 3.7 percent when she became Prime Minister, and is it now 2.5 percent?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, no. I was reflecting on the member's long-run average of 2.1 percent in my last answer, and I stand by that.
Hon Simon Bridges: You'll have to correct that.
SPEAKER: Order! Both of you.
Hon Simon Bridges: Given GDP was 3.7 percent when she took office and is now 2.5 percent, what, roughly speaking, is that 1 percent difference worth in dollar terms to the economy?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I want to reflect that annual GDP growth is at 2.7 percent.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister advise as to whether or not New Zealand's current growth rate is superior to the EU, the UK, Japan, and, indeed, our friends in Australia?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. Again, yes—absolutely. We are all in the middle of, essentially, global headwinds that have led to the IMF and others downgrading their forecasts for growth globally and Australia experiencing growth rates at 1.4 percent. Of course that is going to have an effect on New Zealand in the long run, but given our unemployment rate is at an 11-year low, our wage growth rates are good, and we are running Budget surpluses, we are in a good position to take on those global headwinds. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I just ask the Minister of Finance and the Leader of the Opposition to stop their side—[Interruption] Oh, I apologise. Well, that actually makes it worse, the fact that it is the Leader of the House that's doing that. I'm very tempted to pick up a recent comment from the Mother of Parliaments, from John Bercow there, and apply it to that member—[Interruption] The member wants to know what it was? "Be a good little boy."
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept our terms of trade as our exports are at near-record highs?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm glad the member's mentioned that. Of course, we have seen the export prices boosted by issues like African swine fever in China. That is not a structural change, though—
Hon Shane Jones: China!
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —so that does not mean that our exporters, despite getting good, solid prices, will necessarily have the confidence to make different investment decisions. So that's something that the commentators have made remarks about and is something that's clearly being experienced in New Zealand.
SPEAKER: I didn't want to interrupt the Prime Minister, but I am going to say to the Hon Shane Jones that some of his interjections are far too loud. They resound through my microphone and the Prime Minister's microphone, and we all get the feedback of it, as do viewers and listeners. If he must parrot comments, please do it at a lower volume.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is her position that exports are going well because of swine flu but our economy has lost a percent in GDP in the last couple of years simply because of global headwinds?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. Again, I repeat for the member, export prices have been affected by the significant issue caused, for example, by African swine fever in China. It means that our beef and lamb prices have been advantaged by that. The point I've made to the member is that around the export price does not mean that our exporters are looking around at the global environment and trading with as much confidence as they otherwise might. The member might reflect that he refers often to the Australian economy, and would the member like to reflect on why it is that the Australian economy is experiencing similar issues?
Hon Simon Bridges: How much responsibility does she accept for current petrol prices at the pump?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member thinks that this Government is responsible for oil prices being impacted by a drone strike in Saudi Arabia, his belief in our powers is extreme.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the 24c her Government is increasing excise tax by this term the largest reason for increases in petrol prices in the last two years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: What consumers will be experiencing at the pump right now is what consumers internationally will be, and that is that there has been an attack on global oil supplies in Saudi Arabia that has been sufficient enough to mean the US has had to make a decision to open up strategic reserves. That means the price globally has jumped, and we've seen that in New Zealand almost instantly at the pump.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the 24c her Government is increasing excise tax by this term the largest reason for increases in petrol prices in the last two years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the premise of that question.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will she deliver on her commitment to build either a second fuel pipeline or more petrol storage at Wiri?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I relish in the opportunity to comment on the report that was released today looking into what happened just before the election to security of supply. Members will remember that we of course had planes grounded by the fact that a fuel pipeline was damaged—
Hon Simon Bridges: Answer the question.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —just before the election. It's now been found—
Hon Simon Bridges: Answer the question.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —that that was done by an—
SPEAKER: No, the Prime Minister will resume her seat. I am sick of the Leader of the Opposition reflecting on my chairing of the House. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: Point of order.
SPEAKER: No, he will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I stand, withdraw, and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very simple question about her commitment to build a second fuel pipeline. She hasn't answered that.
SPEAKER: That's right, and that's because she hadn't finished yet. [Interruption] Right, those members who interjected then will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Members: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.
SPEAKER: And Mr Carter.
Rt Hon David Carter: I never said a word, sir.
SPEAKER: Well, the member's mouthing appeared that he did. I apologise to him for reflecting on that.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: To conclude my answer, it's been found that that was indeed an Oravida contractor digging for swamp kauri. As a result, the inquiry has made a number of recommendations, including that the Government should consider regulation in this space, and we are currently considering the recommendations we received today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister as to whether she's received any reports preparing her for this thinly veiled attack on the member for Papakura?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: No, no, I think if it had been expressed in a different way, we might've got there, but I think that was a reflection on the Leader of the Opposition, which was unfair.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is Jacinda Ardern's promise to build either a second fuel pipeline or more petrol storage at Wiri another broken promise by this Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
• Question No.
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her answer to question No. 5 last Tuesday that "we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations.", and does she think that Grant Robertson's refusal to answer questions about what he knew and when, regarding the allegations of sexual assault by her former—
Hon Shane Jones: It's a speech!
Hon Paula Bennett: —staff member, meet the expectations of the victims?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister doesn't have ministerial responsibility for what Grant Robertson knows about a parliamentary matter.
SPEAKER: And the Prime Minister will answer the first part of the question.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: To answer the first part of the question, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had someone shout out from the Government side while I was midway through my question.
SPEAKER: I'm sorry; I was focusing very carefully on the member and her question, and it wasn't quite loud enough to register with me.
Hon Paula Bennett: In light of the fact that the complainants have gone public with their allegations, whose privacy is Grant Robertson protecting?
Hon Chris Hipkins: A point of order.
SPEAKER: The same—no, I don't need the point of order. I'm just going to rule it out.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that her "general value set and philosophy … is to take a victim-centred approach," and does she think that Kelvin Davis' speech in this House last week during the general debate—that issues that have been raised in the media and by me regarding the allegations of sexual assault by her former staff member were all based on rumour—is a good example?
SPEAKER: Order! I have read the corrected Hansard of that, with the Minister's interpretation, and that is not an accurate record of the Hansard.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it her expectation that all Ministers and ministerial staff that were aware of the sexual assault allegations involving one of her former staff members will be interviewed by those reviewing and inquiring into the allegations and process?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The latter part of that question clearly is not a matter of ministerial responsibility, and I think the first part of the question would be very marginal at best.
SPEAKER: Well, certainly, I'm going to give the deputy leader of the National Party the opportunity to rephrase the question within the Standing Orders, rather than just ruling it straight out. Can I say to the Leader of the House that it would be better on those occasions if the question could be put before the member intervenes, in order for me to make an assessment.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue that we have, I think, across the House is that where a member puts a question that is deliberately out of order and then a Minister doesn't reply to it because it is out of order, that actually creates some issues for the House, particularly where one of the parties in the House is clipping things from the House, allegations that have been made in the House by way of question, and using them online through social media.
SPEAKER: Yes. I understand the second part of it, but I'm not going to take any responsibility. If I am convinced that a member is deliberately asking questions that they know are out of order, I will regard that as disorderly and take the appropriate action.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it her expectation that all Ministers and ministerial staff that have been accused of knowing that there were allegations of sexual assault will be involved in the processes, in the investigations, as she has laid out?
SPEAKER: No, that's out of order, and I just warn the member: I think she should know that.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has the Prime Minister had any Minister or members of her staff come to her at any time in the last six weeks and admit that they actually did know that there were allegations of sexual assault?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am going to reflect on the comments that I have made in the public domain, repeatedly, on this point but particularly in the last 48 hours. The criticism that can rightly be laid at the feet of the Labour Party is that there has not been an appropriate investigation into the complaints brought. If we listened to victim advocates like Louise Nicholas, she would point out that we need to be victim focused. We've created a pathway now for those complaints to be rightly heard, and that is where I am going to make sure that all of the focus lies. The ongoing litigation within a parliamentary debating chamber of sensitive complaints is not victim centred, and I think the member knows that.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe that it's victim centred for Ministers that may have known there was a sexual assault, or senior staff in her office, not to participate in the investigation?
SPEAKER: The member absolutely knows that's out of order. No further questions.
• Question No.
3. Hon JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Why is the Government proposing to look at water-quality measures beyond those of physical and chemical water quality to also look at aquatic life, habitat, water quantity, and ecological processes?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Because the scientific advisory group, Kāhui Wai Māori, and the Freshwater Leaders Group advised that these measures are necessary to stop our freshwater quality from degrading. In many of our waterways, sediment continues to pile up, choking our estuaries and smothering our shellfish beds. Nitrate levels are still on the increase in many rivers and aquifers, including in Canterbury. Twice as many rivers have declining macroinvertebrate populations as have them improving—a clear indication that these rivers are in decline. We want to fix this because we agree New Zealanders should be able to swim in their local river without the risk of falling ill. We believe that this is in the interests of all New Zealanders, including farmers and exporters, because if we let it get worse, it costs more, takes longer, and is harder to fix.
Hon James Shaw: How is this holistic approach an improvement to the existing regime?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The existing regime allowed problems to get worse. The deadline to start giving effect to the 2017 national policy statement (NPS) was allowed to slip out to 2030, and the bottom lines, according to all advisory groups, did not adequately protect our waterways. New Zealanders want this Government to stop this getting worse, and, when we do, to then allow it to be fixed up over a generation, which is what we are proposing.
Hon James Shaw: And how does this change in approach in measuring water quality reflect mātauranga Māori principles of water management, like recognising the innate value of water?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It's fair to acknowledge the last Government for already giving expression to Te Mana o te Wai in the current NPS, which was introduced by the prior Government. We're giving clarity to the principles of Te Mana o Te Wai, which are, first, to meet the needs of the river; second, human uses; and, third, commercial uses. It's a concept reflecting the values of all New Zealanders, and we're also giving effect to it further by a proposed "mahinga kai" attribute, which provides for the health of eels, kōura, and whitebait.
Hon James Shaw: Why are the proposed changes to water-quality bottom lines needed, and what difference will that make to improve the health of our waterways and ecosystems?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The new bottom lines will improve the health of our freshwater ecosystems. The changes being consulted on to achieve this include stopping further loss of wetlands and streams; controls on further intensification; and new nitrogen attributes. The new nitrogen attributes have been included for consultation because the scientific and technical advisory group considers the current NPS is insufficient for soft-bottomed rivers. The proposals take a phased approach to addressing water quality to stop degradation of our rivers and lakes, to achieve a noticeable improvement within five years, and to restore our waterways within a generation.
Hon James Shaw: What has the Minister done to ensure that his proposals are supported by those with expertise in freshwater management and ensure that communities are involved in the changes?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Government brought together advisory groups to advise and make recommendations on the proposed changes, encompassing scientific, farming, Māori, and environmental experts. There was unanimous consensus across the scientific advisory group, Kāhui Wai Māori, and Freshwater Leaders Group that further action is necessary to halt the decline in freshwater quality. In addition to that, prior consultation included a decade of work by the Land and Water Forum—and in addition to that, of course, we're consulting with the public for them to have their say on the proposals as well.
• Question No.
4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were given, delivered, and taken. In particular, I stand by the Government's economic policies following the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research consensus forecasts released yesterday, showing that economists expect stronger employment and wage growth over the next three years than previously, and the unemployment rate to remain down at around 4 percent as the economy continues to grow.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Which of his Government's policies have contributed most to the slowdown in the New Zealand economy, from averaging 1.7 percent growth per person for the last five years of the National Government to around 0.7 percent now?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I know the members opposite believe I have great powers, but I don't think that the US-China trade dispute is something that I will take responsibility for in this House.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he aware that New Zealand's growth rate, once we strip out population growth, has fallen from 11th in the OECD, for the last five years under National, to 25th this year?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I prefer not to strip certain things out of the way in which growth rates are worked out. What I do know is that if we look around the world, New Zealand continues to outperform other countries like Australia, like Canada, like Japan, and I do worry for the member that he's going to have to explain himself to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg for why he is so down on the Australian economy, given his criticisms of the New Zealand one.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Going from the last question, when did he first hear reports of the need to strip out population growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, it certainly wouldn't have been during the last Government, given that that was what was propping up the growth.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement last Thursday, agreeing that he would expect senior Ministers in any industry to react promptly if they were aware of claims of serious misconduct?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think it right that a Government which holds New Zealanders that it regulates to certain standards should also hold itself to those same standards, or indeed to higher standards?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government holds itself to high standards, as the public would expect.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he sure that he and his Government have attained the exemplary standards of conduct that he said on Thursday he expects from executives in regulated industries?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes.
• Question No.
5. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I have seen a number of bank economists' reports ahead of Thursday's GDP release from Statistics New Zealand, detailing how they expect the economy to keep growing in the face of global headwinds. A Bloomberg poll of economists showed a medium growth expectation of 0.4 percent in the June quarter from March, with an annual quarter-on-quarter growth of 2 percent and an expected annual average growth rate of 2.4 percent. New Zealand's GDP growth rate began falling at the end of 2016, which is why this Government is focused on turning that around. It will take time to shift the economy to a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth footing. Our initiatives, including R & D incentives, record infrastructure investment, skills training, and revitalising the regions, are significant parts of turning this around.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen about the international context for the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have seen a report from Westpac economists this week, where they said the global backdrop was a key contributor to slightly slower growth in the New Zealand economy. The Westpac economists said, "Economic activity in many of our major trading partner countries has been slowing as the US-China trade war drags on, while events such as Brexit have added to the downside risk for global growth.", and, indeed, just this month, the Australian economy recorded GDP growth of 1.4 percent in the year to June, as activity in their manufacturing, agriculture, and construction industries contracted. The fundamentals of the New Zealand economy are strong, and we are well placed to withstand these headwinds, but we have to acknowledge we will not be unaffected.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen on future economic activity?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yesterday, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) released their consensus forecasts, polling economists on their picks for the next three years. NZIER warned about the impact of the volatile international situation, saying there is heightened uncertainty about how the trade war between the US and China will play out. Despite this, the forecasts showed economists expect GDP growth to rise to 2.3 percent in the year to March 2020, and then to 2.7 percent in the year to March 2021. They also forecast stronger employment and wage growth over the next three years than they had previously expected, and the unemployment rate to remain down around 4 percent as the New Zealand economy continues to grow. So, in short, economists are expecting businesses to employ more staff and pay higher wages, meaning that more working New Zealanders will be benefiting from economic growth under this Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: If the international context is all to blame for the slow-down in the New Zealand economy, why has New Zealand fallen from 11th, under the National Party's last five years, to 25th fastest growing in the OECD?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I would have to check the member's figures before I responded to the detail in there, but what I do know is, on this side of the House, we're committed to an economic programme that increases productivity, improves sustainability, and increases inclusion. We're not prepared to sit on the sidelines and hope that a housing boom and population growth will actually grow the economy. We want it to be more sustainable than that.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Rather than blaming international factors, isn't it more sensible to look at home and consider the impact that this Government's added cost to businesses, its increased uncertainty, and demonstrated incompetence through KiwiBuild have all combined to undermine business confidence, and that is the main reason why the economy has slowed down?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. If actually the member takes a look at the economists who are making their forecasts about what they expect to happen in the June quarter, every single one of them refers, at the beginning, to the global environment that we are in at the moment. On this side of the House, we're committed to actually growing an economy where New Zealanders get higher wages, which they are, where unemployment is coming down, which it is, where we're investing in infrastructure, which we are, where we're supporting research and development, which we're doing—all of the things that the previous Government gave up because it was just a bit too hard.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can he name one genuinely new infrastructure transport project they've started?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I certainly can. There are a range of projects, which I will hand over to the member at the end of the question time today. We have invested, I believe—the Minister of Transport will tell me—how much? How much have we invested—$3 billion?
Hon Phil Twyford: $3 billion.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Three billion dollars in the first part of the transport plan—the same amount of money that the member's party had done in the first part of their transport plan.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from that Minister that whilst all of the Opposition leader's colleagues have been going to infrastructure openings, you've never invited him?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed, and the $41 billion that this Government is putting into infrastructure over the next five years—$10 billion more than the previous Government had forecast for the same period—is understood right across New Zealand.
• Question No.
6. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: What reports, if any, has he seen on the economic cost of the proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, and do any of these reports estimate the total cost to the New Zealand economy of the proposals?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): The most recent report I have seen was one from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), which was released yesterday, on economic impacts, and it concludes: "the impacts of the government reforms are unlikely to be major at the national level, and not felt for many years due to the long lead in times proposed." I also agree with their comments that effects will vary regionally, which is why the consultation document proposes a range of options to take this into account.
Hon Scott Simpson: Is the regulatory impact statement correct to state that the changes required to meet his proposed sediment bottom lines are expected to cost between $5 billion and $7 billion?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I'd have to check the context in which that is said, but if that figure is there, it will be over many, many decades. I would also note that the same NZIER report that I just referred to says this: "Experience here and overseas with environmental regulation is that often unimagined innovations result, reducing the costs and increasing the effectiveness of those regulations. … innovation is bigger than big inventions or new technology. At the farm level, it includes adopting advanced management practices already used on the best farms."
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree that the social costs to the changes, including permanent afforestation of over a million hectares, are not well captured by the modelling?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The supports that the Government has to bring forward forestry have subsidies in respect of indigenous planting on erosion-prone land. Contrary to some assertions out there, we are not subsidising pine plantations. The effect of that improved planting of indigenous species on erosion-prone land will be both to address our climate change obligations and to improve water quality.
Hon Scott Simpson: Is the Minister concerned by the finding that under his proposed sediment bottom line, 17 percent of current Otago pastureland is expected to be converted to permanent forestry, including the whole of the Clutha catchment?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The idea that we would put out a proposal that requires the Clutha catchment to be forested is nonsensical and not correct.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he believe that the social costs of planting the entire Clutha catchment in permanent forestry—which will create no long-term local jobs—are an acceptable outcome of his freshwater policy?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Despite the last answer from the Minister, this question has got up and repeated the allegation without any factual basis whatsoever, and he should be stopped or asked to provide some evidence for the question's basis—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —in the first place.
SPEAKER: No, no. Order! Order! There's not a requirement to be consistent in the asking of questions. In light of the previous answer, I think the question might be regarded as one which is hypothetical, which used not to be allowed, but has in recent years been within the Speakers' rulings. So I'll allow the member to repeat his question.
Hon Scott Simpson: Well, sir, may I quote from the document?
SPEAKER: No, the member will repeat the question he asked.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he believe that the social costs of planting the entire Clutha catchment in permanent forestry, which will create no long-term local jobs, are an acceptable outcome of his freshwater policy?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That's a ridiculous suggestion and we're not proposing that.
Hon Member: Scaremongering.
Hon DAVID PARKER: It's scaremongering. Last week the National Party said water quality was getting better, not worse. Then they falsely claimed—and it appears they're doing it again today—that we want pristine water, pre-farming or cities, which is not true; we want swimmable rivers. Then they said that this was going to be a hammer blow to the pastoral farming. Then they said it would devastate the economy to the point where we couldn't afford education or healthcare. What National's really saying—because none of those allegations are true—is that they want us to do nothing and let our rivers continue to deteriorate.
• Question No. 7
7. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What action is the Government taking to ensure that large school rebuilds are delivered for their communities?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Heaps. This Government is providing additional funding into existing large school redevelopments to get them on track and completed so that staff, students, and communities can finally use and enjoy them. A total of $52 million of additional funding is being invested into just four legacy school rebuilds, for example, that were announced back in 2015. These are Western Springs College, Cashmere High School, Aotea College, and Wellington East Girls' College.
Jan Tinetti: Why did the Government have to put further investment into these four school rebuilds that were announced nearly four years ago?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: On becoming Government, it became clear that the budgets set aside for a significant number of school redevelopment projects were insufficient. There was a fiscal hole—if you could describe it as that—in the budgets that had been set aside for those schools. So we have now increased the budgets so that those school rebuild projects can be completed.
Jan Tinetti: How many other school rebuilds announced over two years ago has the Government approved additional funding for because their budgets were previously set too low to absorb additional costs?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There were a further eight school redevelopments agreed to by Cabinet prior to October 2017 that required more than $123 million in additional funding. This represented a number of schools that had been in the redevelopment pipeline for some time. These projects simply did not have large enough budgets to complete the work that the previous Government had approved.
Jan Tinetti: What other changes is this Government making to improve its ability to deliver school rebuilds?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Heaps. The Government's introduced a multi-year appropriation and a longer-term redevelopment pipeline. That will mean that the ministry can establish a much longer-term relationship with the market and with the contractors to provide certainty for the construction sector. The ministry's now publishing its capital works forward pipeline on a quarterly basis, which provides much greater transparency to the suppliers and to the wider building and construction industry. This means that suppliers are made aware much earlier of forthcoming tender opportunities and they can resource and gear up appropriately.
• Question No.
8. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: Is the Government considering reallocating money from the rapid transit activity class in the National Land Transport Programme to the State highway improvement activity class; if so, why?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) continually monitors spending profiles against the activity class ranges set out in the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport. I received some papers on this topic and have met with officials to be briefed on the issue. However, any decisions on reallocation are for the NZTA board.
Chris Bishop: Has he received advice on the amount of money that could reasonably be reallocated from the rapid transit activity class to the State highway improvement activity class, and, if so, what is the range of money provided by officials?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The amount of money that officials have suggested can be reallocated away from the rapid transit activity class is $313 million.
Chris Bishop: Have officials provided advice on what projects could be brought forward if money was reallocated from the rapid transit activity class to the State highway improvement activity class, and, if so, what are those projects?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Chris Bishop: What are those projects?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don't have the list of projects in front of me. In fact—actually, let me clarify that: the officials recommended a number of different activity classes rather than projects.
Chris Bishop: Has he received any correspondence on ministerial letterhead or Green Party letterhead or otherwise from the Associate Minister of Transport related to the possibility of reallocating money from the rapid transit activity class to the State highway improvement class?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
• Question No. 9—Energy and
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What reports has she seen about damage to the fuel pipeline from Marsden Point to Auckland in September 2017?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): I have received the report on the Government's inquiry into the Auckland fuel supply disruption. This is an excellent report that not only covers the how and when of damage to the pipeline in 2014 but lays out a detailed series of 21 proposals as to how we can better protect our fuel security in the future.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What reports has she seen of attempts to cover up the damage done to the pipeline?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: According to the inquiry report, the pipeline was damaged by a digger of a contractor looking for swamp kauri. Paragraph 4.26 of the report found that the contractor had put some soil back over the pipeline to cover up the fact he had hit it. It is disturbing, obviously, that such a vital piece of infrastructure could be damaged and steps taken to hide that damage.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In 2014, at the time the pipeline was damaged, who owned the digger in question?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: According to paragraph 4.15 of the report, Oravida Kauri Ltd, or Kauri Ruakaka Ltd (KRL), owned the digger and arranged for and paid for its transport.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that Kauri Ruakaka Ltd, which owned the digger, changed its name from Oravida Kauri Ltd in April 2015, after the damage was done?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes. I refer the member to footnote 38 of the document: "KRL is the current name of the company. It was previously called Oravida Kauri Ltd but its name was formally changed in April 2015. Documents show that both names were being used in 2014."
Rt Hon Winston Peters: A supplementary question to the primary question today from the Leader of the Opposition: which member of Parliament was associated with this company?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speakers' ruling 159/5 says, "It is not reasonable to use questions from the governing party or its support parties to attack other members of the House." I think it's clear that what the Deputy Prime Minister is doing is deliberately targeting a member of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: I'll hear from the Deputy Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That protest might sound meritorious were it not for the fact that the very leader of his own party raised that question during a supplementary in the first question today.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm not convinced that team-tag would make something like this appropriate. My view on this—and it's a very strict view—is that attacks, especially on the families of members of Parliament, are generally inappropriate. I think that the question was an invitation to attack a family member of a member of this Parliament, and on that basis I'm not going to allow it to proceed.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I'll go and stand outside then.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking to the point of order.
SPEAKER: No, not speaking to the point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, can I raise a point of order?
SPEAKER: No, the member will resume his seat. I regard that as a reflection—and I think the member probably does himself—or at least a comment on my ruling, which he knows is out of order. He will withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This last ruling of yours appears to be awfully stringent not only in this Parliament's past but also in the Parliaments of most of the British Commonwealth, for that matter. What has been said now is that if somebody in Parliament happens to be associated with a company that has done wrong, then that person's name is impervious to being disclosed in the House. That surely cannot be the ruling. We've got an open and transparent democracy, and when I made the comment—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: All right. Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Bishop will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Chris Bishop: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Can I just remind members of the Opposition—I mean, I think people can probably tell that I'm finding this point of order to be slightly testing, myself, but having interruptions doesn't help. Now, I'd like the Deputy Prime Minister to come to the point.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point is that I would suggest that such a ruling is so stringent that it has changed the very character and shape of our democracy when it comes to transparency. The point I was seeking to make was not by way of retort to you, but if somebody's prepared to walk out the House and say, "I'm going to say this and take whatever the consequences are.", it perhaps suggests that they've got the courage of their convictions and the facts to back up what they're saying. That's all I'm saying.
SPEAKER: Right. Well, I think all of us understand what the member was saying; the question is whether he should have said it or not. I have indicated that he should not. I will draw people's attention to Speakers' ruling 40/7.
• Question No.
10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions regarding vaccination and the measles outbreak?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes, in the context they were given.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm there have been measles outbreaks in eight DHB regions this year, and, if so, which?
SPEAKER: Order! I think we had this last week—and that is the requirement to link a supplementary question to the primary question; the member did not do that. I'm going to give the member another shot without penalising the supplementary.
Dr Shane Reti: Where the Minister has declared an outbreak in Auckland, are there eight other DHB regions that have had measles outbreaks this year?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: If the member would like to put that question down in writing, I'd be happy to answer it.
Dr Shane Reti: Was Institute of Environmental Science and Research reporting of two measles outbreaks in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty in January this year an early-warning red flag that was missed?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I didn't have the delegation for population health in January of this year, so I'd have to go and look at the data to answer that question. I've been very focused on responding to the current outbreak in Auckland.
Dr Shane Reti: How is there no issue with supply when last Thursday Waikato DHB offered only 10 single measles vaccines each to Thames and Waihī?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: In the past few weeks, an unprecedented number of vaccines have been delivered—about 32,000 across the country. Just today, 52,000 additional vaccines arrived in the country; they will quickly be distributed around the country. I'd like to thank the general practices, the primary health organisations, the regional public health service, the Ministry of Health, and Pharmac, who've all been involved in delivering this extraordinary delivery of vaccines.
Dr Shane Reti: Will she take responsibility if New Zealand loses its World Health Organization measles-free status because of the mismanagement of this Government; if not, why not?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm sure that member would like to congratulate the general practices and the Ministry of Health, who've been working so hard to deliver tens of thousands of vaccines over the past few weeks and to respond to the current outbreak in Auckland. The member will also be aware that the United Kingdom and the United States have already lost their measles-free status and that globally there's been a 300 percent increase in the number of measles cases. It's my absolute priority to make sure that we ensure that the most vulnerable people are able to be vaccinated—and that is children under the age of five—over the coming weeks. I'm very proud of the response so far.
• Question No.
11. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made about suicide prevention?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Every member of this House knows our rate of suicide is too high and it is a long-term national tragedy. Last week, I joined the Prime Minister in releasing Every Life Matters, the suicide prevention strategy and action plan. The plan has three main focus areas: promoting wellbeing, responding to suicidal distress and behaviour, and supporting individuals' whānau and communities after a suicide. At the same time as we released the plan, we also announced the establishment of a suicide prevention office, which will provide strong leadership and monitor our progress delivering on the plan. There are no quick fixes here, but the range of actions we are taking will mean better support for people in distress.
Angie Warren-Clark: What other actions is the Government taking to prevent suicide?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Suicide prevention requires a range of community-led and Government responses. We've invested a record $1.9 billion into mental health in this year's Budget, and just last week we began the roll-out of new front-line services in places like GP clinics. We're also doing more to support people in crisis. We're increasing suicide prevention services in DHBs. We're supporting Māori and Pacific suicide prevention initiatives. We're funding improved support for the 15,000 people each year who arrive at hospital emergency departments experiencing a mental health crisis or at risk of suicide. We know that not all of the answers will be found in Wellington, so we're continuing to work with local communities and people with lived experience as we develop further initiatives and services.
Angie Warren-Clark: What is the Government doing to better support people who are bereaved by suicide?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: For too long, we've left families that have been bereaved by suicide without support, and we know people who have lost someone to suicide can be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts themselves. That's why we are funding free bereavement counselling for 2,500 family members per year. On average, it's expected that four sessions of counselling will be provided per person. That will make a huge and long-overdue difference to families struggling with grief.
• Question No.
12. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Housing: How much funding, if any, will each household receive in her progressive home ownership proposal that is expected to help 2,500 to 4,000 households with a budget allocation of $400 million?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Housing): As I explained to that member last week, we are currently designing the $400 million progressive homeownership scheme. Work on this scheme is under way, and I will take a detailed design to Cabinet later this year. There are a number of options for this scheme that we need to consider and analyse, and uptake in amounts per household will vary depending on design features and variables, such as house prices, how much equity the Government provides, and whether an equity share or a rent-to-own scheme is in the final mix. The 2,500 to 4,000 households is an initial estimate based on varying numbers of factors such as the amount of shared equity and the cost and location of a house.
Andrew Bayly: Does she agree that if $400 million is allocated to help 2,500 to 4,000 households, the approximate average amount each household would receive must be between $100,000 and $160,000?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The member is getting ahead of himself. As I explained on numerous occasions, we are currently working through the detailed design features. This will have a huge impact on the amount that each household receives. The estimates that we are using are based on a 15 to 25 percent shared equity for a lower quartile house in Auckland. That equates to about $97,500 to $162,500 per household. But if we were to move that down to Christchurch, for example, where there are lower house prices and a lower equity taken, that could be as low as $75,000. The member needs to wait for the final design features.
Andrew Bayly: When she stated last week in the House that under a shared equity scheme, a loan would be repaid back over time, would this payment include an interest component?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: What the member and I talked about last week was a variety of products that fall under the broader heading of progressive homeownership. When there is a shared equity scheme, a portion of the home is owned by the homeowner and another portion of equity is owned by a third party, usually by a community housing provider in this country at the moment, because we have yet to have a Government that has been active in this space—unlike this Government, that is committed to helping more New Zealanders into the opportunity of homeownership. That is a commercial mortgage, with interest payments. However, as I explained to the member last week, if it is a rent-to-buy scheme, which also falls under the progressive homeownership banner, that can be a cashing out of the amount of equity built up through rent over a period of time, such as through Habitat for Humanity—typically around nine years.
Andrew Bayly: Where a first-home buyer defaults on their mortgage, will the Crown be first in the queue to receive its money back if the property has to be sold?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I think that member should wait for the Opposition spokesperson for housing to get home, because the week we announced this, of course, the Hon Judith Collins said, "I've always been a big fan of those. I think it's a great way of getting people into homes they can own and that they can leave for their children." We are proud we are committed to expanding homeownership opportunities for New Zealanders. We have a number of these schemes operating in New Zealand successfully now. We, on this side of this House, are committed to making sure that we can help more New Zealanders into the opportunity of homeownership.
SPEAKER: That was a very extensive answer which didn't address the question. I'll ask the member to repeat the question.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would have thought that my primary answer and most of the answer to my supplementary question that said we are working through the detail—
SPEAKER: No, no. Order! One can't back-date one's answers. I'll ask the member—if she remembers the question, I'll just get her to at least address it.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker, as I have explained to that member in the answer to my primary question and I think every supplementary question that he has asked me, we are currently working through the design detail, and we will have those. We are proud that in our first term of Government, we are expanding homeownership opportunities for New Zealanders.
Andrew Bayly: Why, after seven delays of a KiwiBuild recalibration, two years in office, a Cabinet paper seeking an allocation of $400 million—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will now ask a question.
ANDREW BAYLY: —can she not provide the House with the most basic detail of her progressive homeownership scheme?
SPEAKER: Oh, right. Well, I can understand what the member was getting at, but she'd better address it.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: OK. We are committed to expanding homeownership opportunities for New Zealanders, and that is what we are delivering. We stand by our record that in our first term in Government, we have allocated $400 million and will be delivering a progressive homeownership scheme. That party, when in Government, promised 39,000 houses through the special housing areas; they delivered 3,100, only 100 of which were affordable. I'll take our record over theirs any day of the week.
Hon Chris Hipkins: What indications of support for progressive homeownership has the Minister seen?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I was very pleased to see, on the day that we announced it, such glowing admiration for the scheme from the Opposition spokesperson for housing, the Hon Judith Collins—and I think that member should probably talk to her about this when she gets home from her trip—"I've always been a bit of fan of those. I think it's a great way of getting people into homes that they can own and they can leave to their children."
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who said that?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The Hon Judith Collins.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The ruling you gave earlier is an important ruling because it affects the rights of members of families and the decorum of the House. But, sir, given that the person in question has a reputation and has already spoken about these issues in this House and around these precincts publicly over the three or four years, surely your ruling is both too restrictive and it denies members of the House to bring colour and character back to this Chamber.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm just going to deal with this one very, very easily and refer the member to Speakers' ruling 20/3.