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TRANSCRIPT: PM John Key interviewed on Breakfast

Monday 7th March, 2011

TRANSCRIPT: Prime Minister, John Key interviewed on TV ONE’s Breakfast at 7:20am this morning.

The full length video interview can also be seen on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/Breakfast

JOHN KEY interviewed by CORIN DANN

Corin: We heard from Mayor Bob Parker earlier this morning that the earthquake recovery is very much a partnership between local and central government, but is that the view of the bigger partner. Here to discuss the ongoing quake recovery is Prime Minister John Key. Good morning Prime Minister.

John: Good morning Corin.

Corin: There's been some controversy around the role that Council and government will take in this recovery, who will lead?

John: Bob Parker's actually right, it will be a partnership between the Council and central government. What is a bit different this time to last time is after the first earthquake we set up a thing call the Earthquake Recovery Commission, and that was appropriate actually for the scale and breadth of the damage from the first earthquake. What is apparent as a result of the second one is that the extent of the damage the extent of the work that’s required will require a different if you like bureaucratic response from the government to support the minister in charge of that.

Corin: What would that look like?

John: Yeah so the question is how many different agencies feed in? Can they potentially go straight to the minister responsible which is Gerry Brownlee, and how will that work with the Council as they go, and roll out what's gonna be hundreds of cases with local roads, fixing schools, sewerage, and the like. So it's very much gonna be hand in glove with Christchurch City, but we do need a different response and we've asked them …

Corin: Will they have new powers, will there be new powers?

John: I don’t think there’ll be so much new powers but it's what the bureaucrat structure looks like that supports the Minister and how that works with the Council, so look my understanding is the Chief Executive of the Christchurch City Council was actually in Wellington on Friday talking to our officials to make sure that he's happy with the way that structure will work, and that it will give the right balance to the partnership. So look I'm not concerned at all.

Corin: The national emergency powers that are in place at the moment, they're due to end shortly, I think midnight tonight is it, will you extend those?

John: They will. By law they last for seven days or a shorter period of time, and so every seven days you have to reaffirm them and they’ll certainly be reaffirmed tonight.

Corin: So that underlies the scale of this problem still doesn’t it? We're not ready to move out of that phase.

John: No, I think they’ll be there for quite some time actually, and that just indicates again you know what we're dealing with, which is a huge number of homes have been affected, the central CBD decimated, extensive damage still to infrastructure. Well we've managed to get pretty much power up, water and sewerage are increasingly starting to come back, but look it's in its infancy given the scale of what we're doing.

Corin: Do you have any concerns about your Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee, I mean there are some people in Christchurch who feel he's being maybe a little heavy handed with some of his comments about bowling over old dunga buildings and things like that?

John: I haven’t directly seen his comments but I suspect that again they're taken a bit out of context. I mean his main point is that the CBD, those buildings have suffered substantial damage and there's no doubt that quite a number of those will need to come down. Saying he doesn’t care or to imply that he doesn’t care about heritage buildings, that’s actually not true. Gerry actually chaired the Riccarton House Heritage Committee. He's not arguing that there's not a place for the Cathedral, the Basilica, or you know Provincial Chambers or the Riccarton House. What he is saying is that in that central CBD there's some old buildings of the vintage that was around you know PGC and CTV and the likes and there's substantial damage they're gonna have to come down.

Corin: On the cost, 15 billion dollars now Treasury is saying, and 1.5% of GDP, does that make a cut in the official cash rate, some help for monetary policy, pretty much essential this week?

John: Well that’s a matter for the Reserve Bank Governor, and it's for him to decide and him alone to decide what happens on Thursday, but certainly the markets have factored in a likely cut in the official cash rate, and you’ve gotta say lower interest rates probably help the country, but that ultimately is a matter for the Governor.

Corin: There was some criticism that you perhaps shouldn’t have talked about that. Was that unfair?

John: Well again it's just a statement of fact, it's a matter for the Governor, it's exactly what I said but you know in the end the question was would it be helpful, well lower interest rates help.

Corin: On another issue there's been some coverage to some comments you made about the process of identifying bodies, I think you used the word 'farcical'. Let's just have a look, we've got a clip here of the Coroner responding to that, or just expressing how they felt about that.

"Film clip: A big process, what's your reaction then when you hear the Prime Minister John Key saying the length of time this is taking is farcical?

Sue Johnson – Christchurch Coroner: The people that are actually working in the mortuary are going as fast as they can.

Does it hurt when they hear that?

Yes it does, they were pretty distressed when they heard that.

What did they say to you?

They'd like John Key to come and see for himself. I deal with people who are dead every day, but on this scale now, it's not normal. Not usual, so of course it's affected us all."

Corin: Your response to that.

John: Yeah so if that was the statement I'd said, if that was factually correct I'd be with Sue, I'd be offended actually cos those people are working really really hard. That wasn't the question that was put to me and honestly Sunday know that, cos they’ve seen the transcript. So the question that was put to me was about the length of time it's taken to release the names of the missing by the Police, and I said yeah the issue's been raised with me several times, I've raised it with the Police Commissioner. So a member of the media said to me at my press conference, what about the situation where a family member knows that the person has been a fatality, that there they’ve passed themselves their names of the loved one to the media and the media are releasing it but it's not being released actually on the Missing Person List, and I said will that’s a bit farcical. That is a vastly different proposition from saying the length of time it's taking to process a person going through the DVI process is too long, and look those people are doing an amazing job. I actually have asked the Police Commissioner via the Coroner on a number of occasions, do you have enough people, the answer's been yes they have. I asked for a report on that, the report's come back and said look they're doing a very good job they’ve got a world class operation, we're sending another team of people from Korea to support them. So they have my 100% support and actually if I was Sue and the people in Christchurch I'd be mortally offended, but I did not say that, and actually Sunday know that.

Corin: Another issue is of course those suburbs in Christchurch, some complaints coming through yesterday too from people on the ground there about the response have they been underestimated the level of damage out in those suburbs?

John: I don’t think so. But again I think the thing here is say, look if you're living in a house with no power, no water and sewerage, your anxiety levels would rise. I mean any natural person would, and yes we're providing alternative for them in terms of welfare centres or alternative accommodation, but most people want to stay in their homes and it's really tough for them. So I actually don’t blame them saying look I think it's a bit hopeless I don’t have a toilet or whatever. But again we've brought in about 30,000 chemical toilets, we've brought in portaloos. Again I asked the Civil Defence Head and I've got a report I'm happy to release it about are you actually distributing them under some sort of right wing conspiracy to better off people and not to not as well off people, and the answer is that’s not true, they constantly assess where those go. There's too much demand for the supply, but we have literally brought in portaloos from Australia, the United States, and everyone around New Zealand we can get, we've brought in 30,000 chemical toilets and they're being distributed quickly. But there's just the extent of the damage for the amount of resource we have makes that marrying up process not possible to achieve for everyone. Now we're gonna get there, but we just have to ask people to have a little patience with us because of what we're dealing with.

Corin: Just very quickly. Oil prices have gone through the roof again, how worried are you about that because that could really hurt if they go to record highs again?

John: Yeah I do worry about that, because for consumers that’s a big part of their weekly budget when they fill up the car and I worry about it in terms of the impact on other prices as other goods get produced. Unfortunately there's very little we can do about it. We've had a stronger New Zealand dollar that’s actually helped offset that, but in recent times slightly more weakness because of the earthquake. So it's tough on household consumers. We've been here before, and it's difficult for us to control, but it's not a great thing.

Corin: Thank you very much Prime Minister, John Key.


ENDS

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