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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –28 August

Today's questions of the day concerned: Gold Mine (Sandra Lee) – Regional Employment – Gold Mine (PM) – Sri-Lankan Dairy Export Glitch – Gold Mine (Lee) – New Principals – Gold Mine (Anderton) – ACC Levies – Defence Policy – People’s Bank Promotion Row – Defence Dinner Discussion – Mark Burton And The FEC.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 28 August 2001

The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised till some days after the event.


Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: How does she explain her rejection of GRD Macraes Limited mining expansion near Reefton when neither she nor her department appealed the resource consents that were granted after an extensive process of hearings and negotiation?

A: The DOC did oppose the consent applications on numerous grounds. It did not appeal the consents as there was a considerable amount of new information presented, and there was insufficient time to prepare an appeal.

Q: Does her 11th hour veto and the loss of 200 jobs, after $35 million has been invested, give weight to the comments of the West Coast MP who has described her actions as gutless and dumb?

A: I happily accept that my intellectual capacity and that of the West Coast MP will never be the same.

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Q: Grant Gillon (Alliance): What is the difference between the RMA and her responsibilities under the Crown Minerals Act?

A: The fundamental difference is that under the CMA and the Conservation Act there is an obligation to protect the environment. The two processes are entirely separate and may I point out that these provisions were provided for by the National Government.

Q: Nick Smith (National):Why does the government avoid the Environment Court? Is it because it’s decisions are flaky and bogus?

A: There is a certain irony in that member complaining both when DOC appeals to the Environment Court and when it doesn’t. Even the opposition who created these laws seems to be confused by them.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why should we believe that with all her resources she could not get an appeal together in time?

A: That is the advice I have received from by department. However the Crown Minerals Act procedure would have had to be followed in any event. It is up to the applicant to decide whether to address the CMA process or the RMA process first.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future NZ): Is she prepared to consider amending the process to provide a better climate for investment?

A: I did not say I believed they were contradictory processes. What I said was that there was a dual process. In the first process the impacts are assessed at a local authority level. In the second instance, under the CMA, what has to be addressed is the reason the land is held by the crown.

(Nick Smith – leave sought for notice of motion in his name to be co-sponsored by the member for the West Coast – refused.)

Question 2.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on regional labour markets?

A: The government continues to experience solid and hopefully sustainable employment growth. There are regional variances. The unemployment rate for the Tasman West Coast area is the lowest in NZ, and the rate in Northland is the highest.

Q: What are the prospects for mature job seekers?

A: I am advised that there are some problems coming up for middle aged men. I have instructed officials to assist members from the Opposition, under a programme called Benefits for Older Aged Men or BOAG for short, whose jobs may be in danger.

(Richard Prebble – the Minister should not be making stuff up.

Speaker – I am sorry, but occasionally there is humour in this Parliament, technically however the member is correct and I will be watching this carefully in the future.)

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): What about discrepancies in dole numbers?

A: The member has access to an explanation for these differences from a former minister in her office. I have offered her briefings on this too. Overall long term unemployment is now declining. In some areas of the country there are reasons for this not happening.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First): What about casualised employment?

A: Changes in the labour market are resulting in more casualised labour.

Question 3.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is the Minister of Conservation's decision to decline access to the GRD Macraes mine consistent with her statement to the Catching Knowledge Wave conference "Our broad vision is to see our nation back in the top half of the OECD over time."; if so, how?

A: Yes I am satisfied that upholding our clean green image is consistent with achieving high growth rates?

Q: How is this consistent with Paul Swain’s supportive comments of the mining industry?

A: Obviously my statement did not exclude mining. What it means is that we will follow first world environmental standards, not third world like the National Government. The National Party changed the very legislation under which this matter was considered.

Q: Does she support her Minister’s decision?

A: The company already has permission to create a 174 hectare mine and create jobs for the coast.

Q: Does she agree with Brian Gaynor in the Herald that most of the money from the proposed mine would have gone to Australia?

A: This country will never be in the top half of the OECD unless it has first world environmental standards.

Q: Since when have we been so rich that we cannot afford to mine our gold?

A: I refer the member to legislation passed by her Government that says that consent of the landowner is required for a mine to proceed. I realise the member may soon be weeded out by Michelle, so she will have to do better.

(Rod Donald - leave to table an article from the NZ Herald - granted.

Nick Smith – leave to table a Paul Swain speech – granted)

Question 4.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: Why was the New Zealand Dairy Board forced to withdraw several cartons of processed cheese it was exporting to Sri Lanka, a country with which New Zealand has a significant dairy trade?

A: Earlier this year Sri-Lanka changed regulations on GE ingredients. I understand that some dairy products made with an GE emulsifier were impounded. Since then the Dairy Board has had no difficulty in meeting requirements.

Q: Does he agree that more countries are following Sri-Lanka’s lead in banning GM ingredients?

A: To the best of my knowledge NZ does not produce any GM foods. While no GM foods are produced here a range of products derived from GMOs are approved for use here.

Q: Did the RCGM find any evidence that GM DNA has an affect on the food chain?

A: The member will have to read the report for himself. We will announce our response to the report by October 31st.

Q: Can he confirm that Green Party scare-mongering will lead to either, a diversion of attention away from exports by the Dairy Board?

A: I am not responsible for Green Party scare-mongering.

Question 5.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: Does she agree with Mr Rhys Buckingham, the author of the wildlife report to her, that the proposed Globe Hill mining area had relatively low faunal value and that as long as compensatory conditions were adequate the net conservation gains of the scheme would have outweighed the environmental costs?

A: The scope of the mine would have affected 260 hectares of Conservation land. There was no clear picture of other aspects of the scheme. It is the oldest trick in the book to paraphrase selectively from a comprehensive report.

Q: Why then did the West Coast Conservation Board and Mr Buckingham come to exactly the opposite conclusion?

A: I am advised that the board is very divided on this matter. The chair of the board is entitled to have his own opinion. However he is not responsible for this decision, I am.

Q: Will she confirm that a change into Crown Ownership of an existing forest is not a net conservation gain when another forest is destroyed?

A: I weighed up the evidence and decided that the plan was contrary to the purposes for which the land was held.

Q: Why did she announce her decision late on a Friday night?

A: I was never naïve enough to assume that this decision would avoid Parliamentary debate. I made the announcement on Friday because that was when I wrote to GRD McRaes with the decision, and I wanted the decision to be announced after the Australian stock market closed. My press officer was also very ill and came back to Parliament that night to make the material available.

Question 6.

NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What assistance is currently provided to ensure that first time principals are equipped to fulfil their new roles?

A: There is little in the way of support for new principals. There is nothing specifically in operations grants for first principals at present. Principals have asked for more support in their first year and I agree. We have here a woeful inheritance from the National Party.

Q: What is he doing about it?

A: From the beginning of next year all first time principals will have access to induction training. We expect around 180 principals will receive this, but it will be voluntary.

Q: What will he do for a principal in Waipukarau whose electricity bill has ballooned from $450 to more than $2000.

A: I will give the principal Mr Bradford’s address.

Question 7.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Was the decision of Hon Sandra Lee to deny access to the GRD Macraes mine in Reefton consistent with his promise on 26 October 1999 of a partnership plan for the West Coast's economic development of working co-operatively with the West Coast people and communities to provide 1,200 new jobs during the next three years; if so, how?

A: (With a frog in his throat) The Alliance’s statement said that the Alliance believed that environmental sustainability was a key to NZ’s future. The promise made to the West Coast has been delivered through a $120 million grant to the West Coast. This is exactly $120 million more than the National Government ever gave to the West Coast.

Q What did he mean when he told the mining industry they should contact him if they had problems?

A: My contacts with the West Coast people have been a lot more positive than those of the opposition. Balance means getting the unemployment rate on the West Coast down, and we have. I have also to advise that the 1200 jobs I promised for the West Coast have not been created yet, there have only been 1100 jobs created.

Q: Has he seen any announced policy that mining should not proceed on conservation land?

A: Yes I do have a report form 1990 quoting the National Party saying part of their policy was a ban on mining in National Parks. In 1996 the National Party signed a coalition agreement with NZ First that committed the National Party to the principle that mining should not proceed on conservation land. Is that good enough for you!

Q: Has he seen any opposition to regional development on the West Coast?

A: Yes. The National Party have opposed every regional development initiative we have taken. To my knowledge there are around 112 mines on the West Coast at present.

Q: Is the minister aware that Waihi a former gold mining town has the highest economic deprivation index of any town in the Coromandel?

A: I have not yet visited Waihi. But I will do so. I am very proud of Sandra Lee both as a person and as a Minister. I have already accepted an invitation to meet with a West Coast delegation today. I will be meeting with mayors tomorrow. This government has never ducked the people from the West Coast.

(Bill English – leave to table an Anderton speech – granted.)

Question 8.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Has the Minister received reports of proposals to adjust the levies applicable to the ACC employers', self-employed work and motor vehicle accounts; if so, what is her response?

A: Yes. ACC advertised last week the beginning of a consultation process that it is required to undertake. No response from me is required at this stage as ACC is yet to make any formal recommendations to me. As a result of the consultation process ACC may well change its recommendations. I urge the public to make submissions to the ACC.

Q: Does the Government have to accept the ACC recommendations?

A: No. It is up to the Government to make the decisions on levies.

Q: Shane Ardern (National): How does the suggestion that a 25% increase in levy square off with comments of Michael Cullen to farmers that there would be no levy increases?

A: I should refer the member to the law which says that I have to first consider recommendations from ACC before I make any decisions.

Q: What about ILO standards?

A: I am well aware of obligations under convention 17. I am committed to working towards compliance with this. I understand that the CTU would like to use the submissions process to make this point.

Question 9.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of her reported statement that she would rewrite Labour's defence policy to make land forces the highest priority for defence spending, is she now satisfied that she was not manipulated by senior Army officers who were involved in a battle for control of defence policy?

A: Yes. I have seen a report in the Dominion this morning. I have advice that the report refers to a personal letter written by a member of the Army. I also note that the Army has denied that it has undertaken a campaign. I believe our armed forces are people of integrity, and I accept the word of the Army spokesman. The government evaluates the advice it is given and it makes decisions.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is she prepared to deny that as leader of the Opposition she met with senior Army officers?

A: Many people meet with many interests. Of course they do. There would not be a party in Government or opposition that has not held meetings with lobby groups. I have spoken with officers, had coffee with and breakfast with officers. It is normal for politicians to mix with such people. I regret that that member (Ron Mark) continues to make ad hominum allegations against senior officers. I can advise the member that Major General Peirs Reeve did not write the Labour Party defence policy. The Labour Party wrote it. I once had dinner with Major General Dodson to discuss a wide range of matters. Yes. And I reserve my right to have dinner lunch or breakfast with whomever I wish to discuss whatever I want.

Question 10.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister for Information Technology Paul Swain:

Q: What progress has been made in promoting the use of e-commerce in the regions?

A: One of the suggestions that arose out of the E-Commerce summit last year was to hold regional events. We have held these events and 800 people have attended. This is another example of the government working in partnership with regions for regional development.

Q: What follow-up is available and how successful have the meetings been?

A: Over 8000 copies of the MED’s guide to e-business have been distributed. The website receives around 3000 hits a month and a mailing list has been established.

Q: What about broadband?

A: This is obviously an important issue. We are currently considering a proposal in which we might work with local communities to aggregate demand and make infrastructure building more attractive for telecomms providers.

Question 11.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What assurances can the Government give the House that the names and addresses on the electoral roll are being protected from commercial exploitation?

A: The Electoral Act provides that information obtained under the Act may only be used for the purposes authorised under the Act.

Q: How can he reconcile that when I have in my hand a letter promoting a dodgy bankingscheme which states that the addresses and names were obtained from the Electoral Role?

A: The Act also provides that information can be provided to candidates for party political purposes. If the member has concerns I presume he has lodged a complaint.

Q: If NZ Post had used the electoral role to solicit bank customers, that would have been illegal. So how come this isn’t?

A: The Act makes it clear that a party or a candidate can use the electoral role, but a commercial organisation can’t.

Question 12.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: Did he attend a dinner with a number of senior army officers at the Wellington Club on or about 15 February 2000 at 7.30pm; if so, what was discussed?

A: I most certainly did. The dinner was one of those early “get to know you” invitations received immediately following my appointment.

Q: Can he confirm that those attending the dinner included several Brigadiers and Colonels, listed, and that the CDF knew nothing about the dinner?

A: That was the list of who attended yes. I expect the CDF would have known about it as he has access to my diary. I understand I am not as regular a participant on the defence cocktail circuit as my predecessor was.

Q: Did the Chief of Defence Force and Air Marshal Carey Adamson attend, yes or no?

A: No, not on that occasion.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck:

Q: Does the agenda for the committee this week provide for a briefing from the Minister for State Owned Enterprises; if so, what is the purpose of the briefing?

A: No.

Q: Does the Select Committee have the powers, and has it considered calling the Minister back?

A: That is a matter for the committee.


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