Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 18
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the performance of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yesterday, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund announced it had grown by more than $3.7 billion over the past financial year to $43.1 billion. This represents a 7 percent return after costs and before tax, beating the fund's benchmark by 67 basis points or $261 million. The super fund chair Catherine Savage said the result was satisfying for the fund which "as a long-term investor, has the ability to look through and profit from … periods of uncertainty and volatility that have impacted global markets." including trade tensions between the US and China and actions by central banks around the world.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reaction has he seen about the Superannuation Fund's annual result?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This morning, I saw reports of a radio host that I never listen to saying that the super fund was "having a reasonable old year", and that its 7 percent return was "not a bad return in these difficult and awkward times". This followed super fund CEO Matt Whineray's comments that there had been more economic volatility this year with issues like the recent Saudi Arabia oil crisis and actions by the US Federal Reserve currently occupying market attention. It has indeed been a good year for the super fund, which is now backed by a Government that restarted contributions after nine years of those contributions being suspended.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen on the Government's contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The coalition Government is helping to safeguard the future of New Zealand super. We resumed contributions to the fund in our first 100 days. This morning, super fund CEO Matt Whineray was asked on Newstalk ZB whether the resumed Government contributions had helped, to which he replied, "We received $1 billion last year. We'll get another billion and a half, and that all helps to grow this pot over time and helps us with our purpose, which is smoothing out the long-run costs of New Zealand superannuation." To which he received the response, "Good on yah, Matt." On this side of the House, we join with Mike Hosking in congratulating the super fund and, indeed, the Government on such a result during a time of global economic volatility.
• Question No.
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions regarding the cannabis referendum?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: When will the public know the question for the referendum on legalising recreational cannabis?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In due course.
Hon Paula Bennett: When will the public see the draft bill that will set out the regulated framework for legalising recreational cannabis?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Following an appropriate consultation process involving stakeholders, including that member and all her party who have agreed to be part of the cross-party group putting together the draft legislation.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is he concerned about the conflation of information in the public domain between medicinal and recreational marijuana?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I have noticed some people talking both about recreational use of marijuana and medicinal use of marijuana, but I'm equally sure that some of the material that has been put into the public arena, such as the two broadcast programmes on TV3 last week, the contribution by the Helen Clark Foundation, and the contribution by the Drug Foundation, means that it would be very clear, actually, what next year's referendum will be all about.
Hon Paula Bennett: How will he ensure that that is clear?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Through a well-run, well-organised information campaign that will be supported by the Government.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why, then, as the Minister has stated, are Helen Clark, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, and Patrick Gower all being left to fill the void of information while his Government is failing to provide that information to the public?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: For the member's information, the referendum is to be held next year in next year's general election, which, on best calculations and estimates, is likely to be in the latter part of the year. There is plenty of time to complete the development of the draft legislation and the information and the consultation with stakeholders—including that member and her party—and, therefore, to prepare material to feed into the public debate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: To help the member with respect to the dissemination of information around this referendum, will some of the information be in pictures?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We will be looking at all modes of communication, including text, pictures, colouring-in books—whatever helps.
Hon Paula Bennett: Wonderful. Which way will he be voting in the referendum to legalise recreational cannabis?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In our country, ballots are secret, and I will reserve my judgment and keep secret my vote.
DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): My question is to the Minister of Immigration, to whom I'd like to wish a very happy 40th birthday.
3. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he satisfied with the performance of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I thank the member for his birthday wishes; it's 41, not 40. I say to the member [Interruption]—and sounding every bit of it, I suspect. I say to the member that if he wants to bring his own curry, he'd be welcome to join me for celebrations during the dinner break this evening. The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) provides an important source of income for many of our Pacific neighbours and an important source of workers for our horticulture and viticulture industries. The RSE scheme has been recognised by the World Bank and others as a model for circular migration schemes. The scheme is now 12 years old and due for a refresh. This year, at my direction, Immigration New Zealand undertook an operational review that has led to process improvements. Further policy work that aims to improve outcomes for employers, RSE workers, and New Zealanders is under way; I expect to announce progress on this in due course.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a letter, dated today, sent from 12 horticultural growers to the Minister stating that they are certainly not satisfied with the performance of the RSE scheme.
SPEAKER: The member has permission from each of those signatories?
David Seymour: Yes, that's right.
SPEAKER: He does. Shall leave be granted; is there any objection?
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: Yes, it's in the public domain.
SPEAKER: It's in the public domain? It's on a website or something?
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: It is, yes. I've got it here.
SPEAKER: Now, I'm going to ask David Seymour: did he know it was on a website?
David Seymour: No, Mr Speaker. It was sent to some media outlets at 1 p.m. It was, of course, conceivable they could have—but I hadn't detected any publication before I came to question time.
David Seymour: How can the Minister be satisfied with the performance of the RSE scheme when feedback he's receiving from people in the sector is: "We can only assume that you are unaware that your failure to announce the [number of RSE places this year] will result in the horticulture businesses that harvest in October and November having to leave a large proportion of their crops rotting in the ground again, as happened last year when you were late in announcing the cap [on the number of RSE workers]."?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, I'd say that's the view of a small minority of employers in the sector, but I would also point out to the member that it is now September, and, in the entire history of the RSE scheme, I can only detect one year when the cap increase was announced earlier than September.
David Seymour: Does the Minister doubt that failing to get the number of RSE workers announced before the harvest starts leaves growers with a labour shortage, unable to harvest their crops, and their crops rotting in the ground, as happened last year?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: People can source labour from all sorts of different areas. The RSE scheme only provides about 20 percent of the workforce for the horticulture and viticulture industries. If some employers are struggling to find workers, I suggest they look at things like the use of casual contracts, the use of piece rates, and the way they advertise those jobs to make sure that those jobs are more attractive—especially those who are located in South Auckland, where there is a large number of people available to do seasonal work.
Marja Lubeck: What are the Minister's expectations of RSE employers?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Last year, I laid down a number of challenges to RSE employers, encouraging them to work with the Government to provide more worker accommodation, to look at better use of automation, and to look at the wages and conditions that they provide across their sector to make their jobs more attractive. I have to say, many of those employers are responding to those challenges, but there is certainly a lot more work that needs to be done.
David Seymour: Is the Minister saying that even when employers have had all of their accommodation inspected, when they have met all of the conditions for being a recognised seasonal employer, when the Ministry of Social Development has produced an opinion that their labour needs cannot be satisfied within the local labour market, they still cannot access enough Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers to get their crops harvested before they rot?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I am aware that some employers have raised issues with the way in which the workers who come to New Zealand under the RSE scheme—those numbers—are allocated from employer to employer. That is certainly something that I intend to consider as part of the refresh and policy work that is currently under way.
David Seymour: Does the Minister recognise that fruits need to be harvested when they are ripe, not when the bureaucracy of Government is ready to approve visas for workers to come and harvest them; and, in light of that, will—?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That's two legs already.
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, which is why last year we increased the cap by 1,750, which is around 16 percent, and the year before we increased the cap by 600, which was around 6 percent. I compare that with the period of time between 2008 and 2014, when the previous Government didn't raise it at all.
Stuart Smith: Is the Minister going to raise the RSE cap; and, if so, by how much?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The member will just have to wait a few more sleeps. That decision will be out soon.
Stuart Smith: When is the Minister going to announce the RSE cap?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Soon.
• Question No.
4. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Education: What action is the Government taking to make sure that New Zealand history is taught in schools and kura?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last week, the Government announced that New Zealand history will become a core part of the New Zealand Curriculum. Up until now, it's been up to schools and kura to decide how New Zealand history is covered in their schools, which, quite frankly, has been leaving far too much to chance. We've heard the call from all over the country that New Zealanders want to see our history taught in all of our schools and kura, and I want to particularly acknowledge the advocacy from the students from Ōtorohanga College and the New Zealand History Teachers' Association, who have been raising and campaigning for this for some time.
Tamati Coffey: What happens next to make these changes to the New Zealand Curriculum?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The next step is that the Ministry of Education will be working with historical and curriculum experts, iwi, mana whenua, Pacific communities, students, parents, whānau, and everybody with an interest in New Zealand history. The changes are intended to ensure that learners are aware of key aspects of New Zealand history and how it has influenced and shaped our nation. There are going to be different viewpoints on the teaching of New Zealand history, and it's important to note that this is not about indoctrination or trying to rewrite history; this is about giving learners the opportunity to undertake historical inquiry, to study multiple perspectives and different experiences of key events in our history. It's about giving voice to our many rich stories in history that form part of our overall history, whether that be good, bad, or otherwise.
Tamati Coffey: Which year levels will be expected to learn New Zealand history from the changes that will be made to the national curriculum?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The changes will cover the entire breadth of the national curriculum, so that will include the learning areas in the curriculum which are compulsory from years 1 to 10. From year 11, students will be able to choose from a range of subjects that they take for the NCEA, and the review of the NCEA is providing further opportunities for students to learn more about New Zealand history.
Tamati Coffey: When will these changes to the national curriculum take effect?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Next year, we'll be developing the changes to the curriculum in collaboration with all of the interested parties. I will then be issuing an update to the curriculum in the New Zealand Gazette. We'll then give schools and kura a year to prepare to deliver the changes to the curriculum, and they'll be ready to go at the beginning of 2022.
• Question No.
5. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were given and undertaken, including the actions to support the film and television industry, that supports productions such as Amazon's Lord of the Rings, that will bring many direct jobs and spin-off benefits to New Zealand and to the Auckland region in particular.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement in this House that he neither requested nor received any advice on the fiscal risks to the Government and current taxpayers if full and final Treaty settlements were to be reopened?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes, I do.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, in the absence of such advice, how can the Government make a decision in response to news reports today that mana whenua want the private land at Ihumātao returned, even though the area has been the subject of a full and final settlement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member made reference to a question that I had previously answered, and while I have great powers, I wasn't able to see into the future for today's statement.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, has he asked for such advice?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Will his Government rule out reopening full and final settlements right now?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This Government has absolutely no intention of reopening full and final settlements. We're getting on with the process of dealing with the Treaty settlements that are in front of us.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What policies has he put in place to restore confidence to private landowners and other investors following the experience of Fletcher's, who have faced months of delays to their plans to build houses on their land—a delay extended by the Prime Minister?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I think all parties involved in this situation were grateful for the intervention of the Prime Minister to provide space to be able to come up with a resolution that all parties could accept. On this side of the House, we're about building constructive relationships, not attempting to divide people against each other.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Has he had a chance to think of one major transport project that the Government has started?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I welcome the opportunity to do this. I could have picked the Awakino tunnel bypass, I could have picked Dome Valley, I could have picked the Kaeō bridge, I could have picked Loop Road, I could have picked Ōpōnoni, I could have picked State Highway 1 Papakura to Bombay, I could have picked Waipapa through the Provincial Growth Fund, I could have picked State Highway 10 and Tākaka Hill, and many others.
• Question No. 6—Economic
6. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he consider a strong manufacturing sector to be an important indicator of a strong economy: if so, is he concerned that manufacturing has contracted two months in a row for the first time since 2012?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister for Economic Development): Yes, manufacturing is crucial to New Zealand moving from volume to value. On the second part of the question, yes, manufacturing is our most trade-exposed sector of the economy, accounting for more than half of our exports. We are monitoring the effect that global uncertainty is having on manufacturing, but it's important to note that New Zealand has strong economic fundamentals: unemployment near record low, 3.9 percent; stable GDP growth at 2.7 percent; low inflation, 1.7 percent; rising wages; and books in surplus. We also have a number of programmes in place to support manufacturers to innovate and to grow: the R & D tax credit, commercialisation funds, and our skills and training programmes. We're also opening up new trade opportunities so that our manufacturers can diversify their export products and destinations.
Hon Todd McClay: Is he aware that employment in manufacturing has gone backwards for four consecutive months under his Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, what the member is seeing—and it's recorded in the performance of manufacturing index—is the effect that international uncertainty is having, and the change in the index for new orders underlines that. By international standards, our manufacturing sector is highly exposed to international markets, and BNZ economists said recently that there's no doubt the manufacturing sector is under stress, much like it is elsewhere in the world at present.
Hon Todd McClay: Well, is he aware that New Zealand exporters are receiving some of the highest prices they have in a decade, and, if so, how does he explain new orders in manufacturing now being at their lowest point in a decade?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, export prices are high, but that may well be because of other factors, and as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we've seen very high export prices for beef and lamb, boosted by issues like swine fever in China. The point is that global uncertainty is feeding through into investment decisions that businesses are making. They are seeing global uncertainty and therefore not investing as much now to generate future activity. Given how trade exposed our manufacturing is, the change in the index for new orders shows, without a doubt, the effect that that uncertainty is having on our manufacturers.
Hon Todd McClay: Well, is he honestly saying that the reason that manufacturing is going backwards and the economy is slowing is because of African swine flu in China, and doesn't it have more to do with the anti-growth policies and considerable uncertainty that his Government has created over the last two years?
SPEAKER: Order! The member will rephrase the question to make it in order.
Hon Todd McClay: Is he honestly saying that it is African swine flu in China that is the reason for the slowdown, and isn't it actually the case that it's his Government's policies and uncertainty that are delivering concern to the manufacturing sector in New Zealand?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No. Swine flu is one reason why export prices are currently so high in relation to lamb and beef. But, look, I need to point out to the member that manufacturing sectors have been contracting in most other advanced economies, including Germany, the UK, Japan, and the eurozone, while in the US and China we're seeing very, very slight expansion. This Government inherited a failure to invest in the workforce for manufacturing, and that is the thing that's holding our manufacturers back right now. That's what the—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I know it's not a Government question, but the member was going on too long.
Hon Todd McClay: What impact does uncertainty caused by his Government having no economic plan and their hundreds of working groups have on the confidence and growth of the manufacturing sector?
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to rephrase the question so it's within order.
Hon Todd McClay: What impact does uncertainty caused by a lack of a plan by this Government and their hundreds of working groups have on confidence and growth of the manufacturing sector?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I completely reject the premise of that question. We've inherited a failure to invest in the workforce. We're faced with global uncertainty. Actually, compared to all of the other comparators internationally, our manufacturing sector and our economy are performing extremely well at the moment. We are working with manufacturers, actually, to raise productivity and reorient the economy away from the reliance on population growth and property speculation that was the hallmark of economic policy under the former Government.
Hon Todd McClay: Well, is he aware that his Government is having the same impact on manufacturing confidence as the global financial crisis, with confidence levels falling 73 points since they came to Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the reason business sentiment is in that position is because of the global headwinds. It's because of the—
Hon David Bennett: You're an idiot.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —global uncertainty that's being experienced by all of our major trading—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. David Bennett will withdraw and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: He's on his last warning.
• Question No.7—Immigration
7. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has the Minister made this week regarding changes to the temporary work visa system?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yesterday, I announced our new single temporary work visa system, that will make it easier for good employers to get the workers they need to fill skills shortages while ensuring New Zealanders get opportunities and training and migrant workers are not exploited. Over 25,000 businesses and 55,000 workers will benefit from these changes. This work complements changes to the vocational training system to fix the skills shortage we inherited from the previous Government.
Kiritapu Allan: What does this new system involve?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Our new, streamlined system for temporary work visas involves introducing a new employer-led framework that will drive the visa application process, introducing compulsory accreditation for all employers seeking to employ foreign workers, introducing sector agreements, reinstating the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand, replacing the existing skill bands with a simple remuneration threshold aligned to the median wage, strengthening the labour market test for lower-paid workers, and including skills shortage lists in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
Kiritapu Allan: As a birthday present to you, how has the business community reacted to this new, streamlined visa system?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I have heard it said that some were "levitating with happiness" with the good news. The Meat Industry Association and Federated Farmers welcomed it, saying, "We … acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach [to] reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders." The Tourism Industry Association said, "These work visa changes support New Zealand tourism employers." The Canterbury chamber of commerce, Horticulture New Zealand, Business Central, and Dairy New Zealand all put out supportive press releases. I don't think I've captured them all—I couldn't keep up.
• Question No. 8—Agriculture
8. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by his statement in the House on 27 August that, in stating the cost to farmers of meeting the Government's proposed new water policies would be 1 to 2 percent, "My estimate was based on my personal experience and talking with farmers. It was a guesstimate." and, if so, has he received any official advice that has changed his "guesstimate"?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Yes, I stand by my estimate, and nothing has changed it. The freshwater document includes some 14 pages of modelling. We're going to build on that as part of consultation as we hear more from farmers. There are many farmers who are doing great work to protect waterways and boost their profitability. For example, Southland farmer Mark Anderson is using different methods to slow down the water cycle so that the land filters the water. He says, "It's going to clean up our rivers and it's a healthier way to farm." Anderson told Stuff that he wishes he had made the changes 15 years ago.
Todd Muller: How does he square his guesstimate with the Landcare report Modelling the impact of freshwater mitigation scenarios: results for the Ruamahanga catchment, which estimates that total farm revenue will fall between 7 and 46 percent when the impact of the multiple proposals are combined?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am very aware that different catchments around the country will have to use different methods to reduce their nitrate output. We are determined to have good quality water in this country—in rivers, in lakes, and on the beaches. I think most New Zealanders deserve that. The modelling that some people have done is accurate, but some of the scaremongering by the National Party is completely unhelpful, and all it's doing is scaring good farmers who want to get on and do the right thing.
Todd Muller: How does he square his 1 to 2 percent guesstimate with the AgFirst report Modelling of mitigation strategies on farm profitability, released by the Ministry for the Environment, that states that the cost of shifting to a five-metre fencing set back on a representative Waikato - Bay of Plenty dairy farm will be 40 percent of earnings before interest and taxes over a 10-year period?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: What we have is a discussion document, with a number of proposals that we are putting out in front of farmers. I know there are many organisations going out there and doing their estimates. Can I say, Mr Speaker—[Interruption] Can I say, Mr Speaker, in my view—
SPEAKER: The member can say, and some of us would like to hear.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Thank you. In my view, the cost to the average farmer in this country, when we've finally come up with the proposals, will be far less than the annual bonus he got from Fonterra as a senior executive.
Todd Muller: Pathetic. How does he square his 1 to 2 percent guesstimate with reports by Local Government New Zealand and Landcare that show that over half of the Waikato-Waipā catchment, and close to 100 percent of the Clutha catchment, would need to be afforested to achieve nitrogen and sediment bottom lines?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We haven't made decisions on these issues. That's why we have a discussion document out there. If that member continues to go round the country, and paint the worst possible scenario, when, in fact, the vast majority of farmers in this country are trying to do their very best, the changes they will have to make will be far less than anything he or his mates project. Can I say that many, many farmers welcome this move, and when I go round and talk to catchment groups, they say, "We're getting on and investing. We are tidying up our waterways, but there are some laggards in the system, and we want Government assistance to make sure that those laggards get on and do the right thing." That member is supporting the laggards.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is Fonterra supporting his initiatives, despite having to recover from appalling mismanagement economically in the past?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: In spite of some disastrous decision-making by both governance and senior management over the years, Fonterra understands the need to have clean water in New Zealand to back up its international image around the world as a country of producers of the finest food, from the best environmental management in the world. Fonterra sent out a letter supporting our moves to clean up the waterways, and I'm thankful for a new level of governance and management in that company—a company that was let down by previous management disasters.
Todd Muller: That letter that went to the Fonterra shareholders that you just quoted—was that the same letter that said, "Fonterra utterly rejects the Government's dissolved-in-water nitrogen levels as totally unpractical"?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Absolutely, I—[Interruption] Can I say, Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I say especially for the member who's generally better behaved than he is now: when he asks a question, he should not lead the group of people who are stopping the answer being heard.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Can I say that it would be unusual if Fonterra agreed with every single thing that the Government put up, but can I say that Fonterra absolutely supports the improvement of waterways in our country where they are degraded, and they're not degraded everywhere. That's one of the issues that we're happy to have a discussion about with Fonterra and any other farmer around this country. That's why we're out there listening to their views. It's a shame the previous Government didn't.
Todd Muller: Will he listen to farmer leaders who are asking the Government for 12 weeks to submit on 2,000 pages of supporting documentation for the freshwater policies, because they need a fair time to actually read and respond, or will he say, as he said last week, "No; six weeks is enough—maybe a two-week extension if you're lucky. This has all largely been signed off"?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I explained to farmers last night at a meeting in Greymouth, we have extended the submission time. We do understand it's a busy time of the year, but the standard period for consultation is about six weeks. This is a discussion document, and most of the farmers that I speak to are intelligent, they are forward-thinking, and they can put in a submission within the six-week period. Maybe he's talking to the wrong people.
• Question No.
9. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: Has he received a copy of the August 2019 Landcare Research report, "Impact testing of a proposed suspended sediment attribute: identifying erosion and sediment control mitigations to meet proposed sediment attribute bottom lines and the costs and benefits of those mitigations" and, if so, does the report state, "The Clutha catchment has the largest reduction in level of nitrogen leaching, because its entire area is afforested to meet the sediment reduction target"?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Yes and yes, but the member misrepresents the report. He makes two fundamental mistakes. The first is that the report is about highly erodible areas, not whole catchments, as the member suggested. The second is that although the theoretical, desktop nationwide model he quotes was prepared, it was not applied to this catchment in particular. This theoretical model does not account for glacial river flour, or ground-up rock. Fortunately, the member will be pleased to learn that the proposed national policy statement specifically provides for the exclusion of rivers carrying glacial flour—which is what the Clutha does—and I refer him to pages 23 and 40, where it says that the attribute on suspended fine sediment does not apply to glacial flour - affected streams and rivers like the Clutha.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does the same report, on page vii, state, "Among the selected catchments, the Clutha requires the largest area of afforestation (375,300 ha)."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: You know, I was born on the banks of the Clutha, in Roxburgh. I've lived up further in the catchment, in Queenstown. I've walked the Dart, the Rees, the Routeburn, the Rockburn, the Greenstone, the Caples, the Matukituki, the Wilkin, and the Young rivers in the Clutha catchment. I still camp, most years, on the Manuherikia, another major tributary of the Clutha. I've rafted the Clutha from Wānaka to Clyde, before it was dammed by the National Party, and I can assure that member that outside of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring national parks, the land is mainly tussock land and rolling, open hill country. Indeed, ever since the woody scrublands were burnt in pre-European times by Māori chasing moa, it has been that way. It has never been predominantly forest, and it never will be.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just to get it clear: is the Clutha a glacial river since yesterday, or has it been that way for tens and tens of thousands of years?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It has, sir, and it will be for many, many years, unless the National Party get their way on climate change policy, in which case those glaciers will melt pretty fast.
Hon Scott Simpson: Then, what is his response to the conclusion, at page 61 from the report, which says, "these are substantial costs incurred by farmers … These high costs may drive some farmers to change their land use or even shift their employment to non-agricultural work."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It appears that the member still does not understand. Regulatory impact statements are informed by reports like that, but that was not a report into the national policy statement that is proposed, which, as I have said, excludes from the fine suspended sediment attribute rivers that are carrying glacial flour.
Hon Scott Simpson: Why then, given that answer, is the report linked on the Ministry for the Environment web page that relates to consultation on his freshwater package?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Because the regulatory impact statement is a requirement of the underlying legislation in New Zealand. It's prepared independently by the ministry and it referenced the report for the reasons that I've explained.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he still believe that when it comes to water policy, New Zealanders can simply trust him because he knows what he's doing?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On this occasion, I think that member has displayed who's right and who's wrong.
Kieran McAnulty: Are there problems with soil sediment, not glacial flour from ground up rocks, in some lower South Island rivers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Most certainly there are. Just two weeks ago, I had a meeting with the Otago rock lobster industry, who provided me with these recent photographs of the Taieri, which does have a problem with suspended soil sediment after high rain events. That's a photo of the sediment coming out of the Taieri River. This is a photograph of how far that plume spreads up the coast, and these are photographs of what the rock lobster industry says is the effect on the decline of the Otago kelp beds, which used to be in the areas that are shown in yellow and have declined to the areas shown in red. These are serious issues, and we are determined to address them.
Kieran McAnulty: What are high soil sediment levels doing to estuaries in the area?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We've also got problems in our estuaries. This photograph is of a river just south of the Clutha, the Ōreti, that discharges into the New River Estuary, which is immediately behind Invercargill. These are recent—
Hon Jacqui Dean: Why does Labour hate farmers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: —sediments. These are the cockle—oh, I see. I hate farmers, Jacqui Dean says. You know, these are the cockle beds—why does she hate cockles? These are the cockle beds that have been destroyed as a consequence. This is the status quo that the National Party is trying to protect.
Kieran McAnulty: What are high soil sediment levels doing to streams in the area?
Hon DAVID PARKER: A tributary of the Ōreti River that ends in that estuary is the Otapiri Stream. It is one of the most studied streams in northern Southland or in Southland, because it's got records that go back to the 1960s. There has just been a peer-reviewed study by Cawthron Institute and Fish & Game members in the latest New Zealand Natural Sciences magazine. It's based on this data set and photographs that aren't in it. This is a photograph of the stream. The data that they have, which goes back to 1964, shows that in the riffles, where the stream is moving quickly, more than 90 percent of the macroinvertebrates are now dead, and in the pools, where the water is moving slower, more than 99 percent of them are dead. There are actually no fish to catch in that river now as a consequence, because they've got nothing to eat either. This is the sort of practice that we need to improve in New Zealand, whereas that is the status quo that the National Party is determined to protect.
• Question No.
10. CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: What does Conservation Week – Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Turoa, with its theme "Nature needs us", aim to achieve?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): This week, we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week in New Zealand. It's a time to reflect on how far we've come with conservation and how much further there is to go. Conservation Week was started in 1969 by the scouting association, who recognised the importance of giving nature a helping hand. Despite the work that so many are doing to try and protect and restore our indigenous species' habitats and ecosystems, indigenous nature in our country is in crisis. We have almost 4,000 species threatened or at risk of extinction, including 90 percent of our seabirds, 84 percent of our reptiles, 74 percent of terrestrial birds, 76 percent of freshwater fish, and 46 percent of vascular plants. So nature needs more of us to provide a helping hand and to take action, whether it's replanting stream banks, taking children into nature, monitoring species, reducing fishing bycatch, or controlling pests and predators, so that our indigenous plants and wildlife can thrive.
Chlöe Swarbrick: What have been some of the significant conservation achievements in recent years?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Fifty years ago the Chatham Islands black robin, the tīeke or saddleback, and the kākāpō were on the verge of extinction, with dangerously low numbers. Intensive conservation work and dedicated people have brought these precious birds back from the brink. This Government has funded the largest ever landscape-scale predator control of possums, rats, and stoats to cope with a big mast event to keep our native forests, birds, and wildlife safe. Takahē, which were once thought close to extinction, are now increasing in numbers to several hundred birds. We've got 45 islands in the Hauraki Gulf which are predator free. We've got the biggest addition to a national park in New Zealand's history; under this Government with 64,000 hectares of land in the Mōkihinui catchment being added to Kahurangi National Park, and I'm proud that this Government is investing in conservation, with the two biggest increases in conservation funding in Budget 2018 and Budget 2019.
Chlöe Swarbrick: What recent announcements have been made regarding Kākāpō Recovery?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I'm delighted that thanks to the dedicated work of everyone involved in the Kākāpō Recovery Programme, yesterday the adult population reached 213 birds—the biggest number of kākāpō in New Zealand in 70 years. That's a great milestone, and I pay tribute to the dedicated work of everyone involved, including Tane Davis and Ngāi Tahu, Dr Andrew Digby and Deirdre Vercoe, Daryl Eason and other Department of Conservation staff, and the department's partners, like Auckland Zoo and Dunedin's wildlife hospital, and the many volunteers who are assisting them. Decades of work by many people have gone into achieving those 213 birds.
Chlöe Swarbrick: What projects are likely to create significant conservation gains over the next 50 years?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: One is that more people recognise that nature is the heart of our success as a country and of our wellbeing and that they get involved in giving nature a hand. It's the projects we've seen with the last Government's Predator Free 2050 initiative. We have built on that. Now there are hundreds of New Zealanders all around the country involved in backyard trapping, trapping on private land. It's ensuring that whānau, hapū, and iwi are able to practise kaitiakitanga on public conservation land in their use of natural and cultural resources. It's action in the marine environment to reduce the bycatch of sea birds, of marine mammals, and of seals and dolphins, and it is establishing a represented network of marine protected areas, given that less than 0.5 percent of our marine environment is currently protected in no-take reserves.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for not doing this at the end of my question, but I seek leave to table those three sets of documents, mainly photographs: the first relating the Taieri River and the effect on kelp beds, the second relating to the Ōreti estuary or the New River Estuary and related cockle beds, and the third being the Otapiri Stream records.
SPEAKER: As long as the member gives me an assurance they're not otherwise available on websites.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I can give that assurance.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, I can categorically give it in respect of the Taieri ones. In respect of these other ones, so far as I'm aware, and I'm pretty sure I'm right.
SPEAKER: Right. Let's put the Taieri ones first. Is there any objection to those being tabled? There appears to be none.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
SPEAKER: We'll put the other four. Is there any objection to those being tabled? There appears to be none.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given Conservation Week and the Minister's enthusiasm for marine protection, I seek leave of the House for my member's bill, the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to be introduced and set down for first reading on the next members' sitting day.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be objection.
• Question No. 11—Health
11. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by her statements in relation to the measles outbreak, "There is no shortage of vaccines" and "there's no issue with supply"?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were given.
Matt Doocey: When the Minister said there is no shortage of vaccines, is she confident the latest order of 52,000 measles vaccines will be sufficient to last until the end of January, when the next lot of vaccines is due to arrive, given that 54,000 measles vaccines have been given out so far this month?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The member may not have seen a Ministry of Health statement that has just been released, saying that approximately 100,000 additional measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines have been secured and will be arriving in the coming weeks. So I would also let him know that 175,000 vaccines have been delivered this year—that's an 86 percent increase on the same period last year, in which 94,000 were delivered. We have the additional 52,000 which have arrived and are being distributed this week. And just today, the ministry has announced 100,000 additional vaccines have been secured.
Matt Doocey: In light of that answer of the new 100,000 vaccines, why have 1.3 million New Zealanders aged between 30 and 50 no longer been prioritised to receive the measles vaccine?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The member will be aware that children under the age of two are the most likely to be hospitalised when they get measles. During a significant outbreak, children must be the priority for vaccines, for this reason.
Matt Doocey: In light of the answer of the new 100,000 vaccines, why are there over 1 million New Zealanders aged between 15 and 29 who are no longer being prioritised to receive the measles vaccine as of Monday?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: As I said to that member, children under the age of two are the most likely to be hospitalised. Children must be the priority for vaccines. The guidelines issued by the ministry were subject to additional supply being available. So once the 100,000 are in the country, there will be changes to the prioritisation.
SPEAKER: Can I just ask for a little bit more good taste to be applied by way of interjection during this question. This is a matter that a lot of parents take very seriously.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The first objection that I have is that I don't believe there are a million New Zealanders between the ages of 15 and 25, which is what the member asserted in this House.
SPEAKER: Well, I apologise for not being quick enough to pick the member up. I should have ruled the question out, if that's—
Matt Doocey: Responding to that point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: No, no. It's well gone. Sit!
Matt Doocey: It was the Parliamentary Library that gave us that. Could the Minister tell the House today that, now with the 100,000 extra vaccines that will appear, there will no longer be the reprioritisation of the age groups mentioned in previous supplementary questions?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I will do no such thing. We are going to follow expert advice on how we're going to protect the most vulnerable New Zealanders during a measles outbreak. I don't think this is a time to be creating a panic for the purpose of politics. New Zealanders have to have confidence in our public health system. I have confidence in the clinicians who are carrying out tens of thousands of vaccinations, and I thank them for their work protecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders.
Melissa Lee: If there are no supply issues with the measles vaccine, and if children are in fact the priority, what does the Minister say to the parents of Malaysian Chinese children who were turned away from their GP yesterday because they were not Māori or Pasifika?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The ministry and DHBs are actively managing the distribution throughout the country to ensure it is going to where it is needed most—that's all children. Primary care has been issued with advice to contact a nominated DHB stock manager about vaccine distribution. Fifty-two-thousand additional vaccines have arrived in the country and have yet to be distributed. There will be another additional 100,000. But we need to focus on the most vulnerable and at-risk people if we are to respond to this outbreak responsibly. I would ask the Opposition to be a little more responsible.
• Question No.
12. LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Transport: Does he expect the Civil Aviation Authority to act in an open and transparent manner?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes. My primary expectation of the Civil Aviation Authority is that it is a high performing, risk-based regulator focused on the civil aviation system. As part of being a good regulator, it should be as open and transparent as it can be, given its role.
Lawrence Yule: Does he think it open and transparent that the Civil Aviation Authority is withholding information from individuals requesting it when that information is about the individual, and the Privacy Commissioner has ruled there is no proper basis for doing so?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's very difficult for me to venture any kind of opinion—sensible opinion—on that very vague, hypothetical question from the member. If the member wants to be more specific or follow the convention in this House—and that is, following a very broad primary, to not ask a very specific supplementary and expect a detailed answer—if the member wants to put it down in writing or in a primary, I'll be very happy to respond fulsomely.
Lawrence Yule: Does the Minister have any concerns that the Civil Aviation Authority would be withholding information when the agencies charged with ensuring transparency and fairness in New Zealand are being blocked?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I expect the Civil Aviation Authority to follow the law and to deliver on its role and my expectation that it does a good job as an aviation safety regulator, and like all modern public service organisations it respects the Privacy Act and it acts in an open and transparent manner, that it treats people with respect and dignity. As I said in my answer to the previous question, if the member's got a particular case he wants to put to me, give me the details and I will respond.
Lawrence Yule: Has the Minister been briefed by the Civil Aviation Authority CEO Graeme Harris on the reasons why personal and private information is being held from requesters where it has been found that there was no proper basis for doing so?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'll say again to the member: if he wants to provide the details of an actual case, I will respond fulsomely, rather than repeatedly asking hypothetical, generic questions.
Lawrence Yule: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was: have you been briefed on that issue?
SPEAKER: Well, I certainly haven't been, but I think he means "Has the Minister been briefed?"
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I haven't been briefed on a matter that lines up with the way the member described it, but I will repeat: that is the most generic and abstract kind of question. If the member gives me a proper, substantive question, I will answer it.
• Question No. 9 to Minister—Amended
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): I seek leave to correct an answer.
Hon Members: Oh!
SPEAKER: Right, those members that made a noise during a point of order from my left—stand. You will in unison withdraw and apologise.
Hon Members: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I think in the reference to the decline in the populations in the Southland stream I said the decline had been 99 percent. I'm just reading the article in more detail—it's 98 percent in the pools and 84 percent in the riffles.
• Question No. 11 to
MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri): I seek leave to table a Parliamentary Library request that shows there's over 1 million 15- to 29-year-olds in New Zealand.
SPEAKER: I think you probably seek leave to table an answer rather than a request—is that right? Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: No, no—I say to the Acting Prime Minister that at the moment, we have a leave request for the tabling of a document from the Parliamentary Library. That is not a matter which is to be debated. Members, if they don't want to have that document tabled have a very clear course of action. Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is objection.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Acting Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that there are probably just over 600,000 people of that age description, not the figure he pretends to put to this House, and he would have been in serious trouble if he had successfully got the motion forward. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: No, I'm not having any more. Frankly, that was not helpful, Acting Prime Minister. That was not helpful. We had a matter, it was dealt with; the Acting Prime Minister attempted to take a point of order which I ruled was outside what should be done, and after the matter had been dealt with, we had another point of order which was not a point of order; it was a debating point. The member may well be right, and he will have an opportunity, if he wishes, to take a call during the general debate and to make a debating point, and that is the right time to do it.