Questions and Answers - March 27
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he have confidence in his Minister of Conservation, given that the Auditor-General cited the Department of Conservation’s regional conservancy staff as the strength of the organisation, and it is these very jobs that are being targeted for elimination?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it true that various jobs in the Department of Conservation are being renamed by Nick Smith as “rangers” so that Dr Smith can give the impression that front-line staff are not being cut at the Department of Conservation, and is this the kind of spin that he expects from his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes and no are the answers to that question. I would refer the member to the statements by Al Morrison yesterday, when he said in particular: “While I acknowledge the next few months will be a period of uncertainty for DOC staff and their families, I am confident DOC will be able to maintain all its key outputs in species protection, pest control, and the provision of recreational facilities within the new streamlined organisational structure.”
Dr Russel Norman: Just to confirm: his answer was yes to my question “Is it true that various jobs in the Department of Conservation are being renamed by Nick Smith as ‘rangers’ so that Dr Smith can give the impression that front-line staff are not being cut at the Department of Conservation?”
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. As I said, yes to the first bit—they are being renamed as rangers— but, no, there is no spin involved.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that his Minister is moving the Department of Conservation to focusing more on being a business that makes money rather than a conservation-focused organisation, is this what he expects from his Minister of Conservation, and will the Prime Minister step in to rule out Department of Conservation staff having to wear corporate-sponsored uniforms and logos?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I think what is happening within the Department of Conservation is that Al Morrison, rightfully, is actually leaving the organisation to reflect the 21st century approach. If there are companies—as I think I saw in a clip last night on TV—that want to play a role in terms of conservation in New Zealand, then that could be a welcome thing. If one goes overseas—as I am sure that member has done, and as I do—you can see within national parks and things around the world that there actually are roles where corporations adopt highways, national parks, or whatever it
might be, and that money is actually used for the benefit of the people who go to those national parks. What would be so wrong about that?
Dr Russel Norman: Does he have confidence in his Minister for Climate Change Issues, given that, according to Treasury, New Zealand is now on track for a net emissions increase of up to 50 percent by 2020?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and I would point the member to the period of time when emissions really grew wildly in this country, and that was under a Labour Government, supported by the Greens.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he have confidence in his environment Minister, given that Guy Salmon, an ecologist, a former National Party candidate, co-author of the National Party’s Bluegreens vision statement, and one of the architects of the Land and Water Forum, said about his Minister: “This is the first time I have dealt with a Minister who has been wanting to lower environmental standards. This shouldn’t be happening in New Zealand.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and I would utterly reject that assertion by Mr Salmon. In fact, the Minister cares passionately about the environment and is playing an important role to make sure that we are improving, amongst other things, water quality in New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that Guy Salmon co-wrote the National Party’s Bluegreens vision statement, why is Guy Salmon now denouncing the environmental performance of the National Government—has Guy Salmon changed, or is it just that this Government’s second-term agenda is so toxic to the environment that Mr Salmon has been forced to speak out?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member wants to know what Guy Salmon thinks, the member should ring Guy Salmon.
Dr Russel Norman: Is this Government’s second-term toxic environmental agenda, whether it is in the Department of Conservation, climate change, or Resource Management Act changes, being driven by his Ministers, or will he take personal responsibility for it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would utterly reject that there is a toxic environmental review. If there is anything toxic, it is the fact that the Green Party decided to keep Brendan Horan’s—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Chris Hipkins: Why does he have confidence in the Minister of Education, given that she repeatedly denied having been consulted on Lesley Longstone’s resignation and $425,000 payout during question time yesterday, and then snuck into the House at 9.55—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Chris Hipkins: —again last night to admit that she was?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question with the piece about “snuck into” is an unnecessary— [Interruption] It is a reflection—[Interruption] Order! I am trying to help the member get a legitimate answer to his question. But to suggest that a member who is not even here to defend herself “snuck into the House” adds, I think, an unnecessary imputation to that question. I would just invite the member to ask the question again. Remove that bit, and it is a perfectly legitimate question.
Chris Hipkins: Why does he have confidence in the Minister of Education, given she repeatedly denied having been consulted on Lesley Longstone’s resignation and $425,000 payout during question time yesterday, and then came into the House at 9.55 p.m. last night to admit that she was?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the Minister, on reflection, decided that she did need to at least clarify her answers, so she came in to correct them. That was the first available occasion that the House could allow her to do that, and it is actually normal for people to have to correct answers. I have had to do it, other Ministers have had to do it, and the Leader of the Opposition has had to do it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact is that the Minister had considerable time to actually correct the misinformation to the House, and to describe it, at 9.55, as
“snuck into” is totally a sound use of language, and I think you cannot purely demand that people couch their questions in the framework of another’s very limited language.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite entitled to his opinion. I have a different opinion. The way the question was subsequently worded was, I felt, a far better way to word it—[Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister then subsequently answered it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister in his answer indicated that 9.55 was the first opportunity. Is it still within the Standing Orders to report progress in order to make a correction? It used to be the case to report progress from a Committee to seek leave to sit again, and to make a fulsome apology at the right time, rather than hiding in one’s office and popping down—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have no ability of knowing the—[Interruption] I do not need the Prime Minister’s assistance. I have no knowledge of the diary of the Minister of Education or whether she had time available to come down earlier than that or not. I do not even know whether she was in Wellington. So from my point of view, the only part I was objecting to was the words “snuck into”. Whether the Minister had had an opportunity to come down earlier, that is for the Minister; it is not for the Speaker to know.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The advice I have had is that the Minister came to the House before 6 o’clock, tried to actually correct the statements before 6 o’clock, and was advised by the Clerk that that was not possible and that she should come back before 10 o’clock.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I am sure you will work with your staff so that Ministers are better advised in the future.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can be absolutely assured that I will work very well with my staff.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely it would have occurred to you that if the Prime Minister is correct that the Minister was ready to make the change in her answer before 6 p.m., then why would it require 9.55 p.m. to come to this House and give her explanation?
Mr SPEAKER: The Clerk advises that the House was in Committee at that time. A personal explanation cannot be made while the House is in Committee, and the time that it came out of Committee was, obviously, at 9.55.
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I do.
David Shearer: Can—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition has a right to have his supplementary question heard.
David Shearer: Can he clarify his statement: “Mondayisation, I know, I don’t agree with that. I mean, I think in the end this is an issue which, you know, fair enough, I don’t think, you know, our—we’re opposed, but we’re not vehemently opposed.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I must admit it does not sound that fluent, and I have got to be honest, I was attempting to be a ventriloquist and pretending that I had David Shearer’s little puppet on my hand.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
David Shearer: Why is his Government opposing the Mondayisation of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think for good, longstanding reasons. If it was so blindingly obvious and something that was absolutely top of mind and something that New Zealanders absolutely wanted, there was a 9-year period when the Labour Party was in Government and it did not do it. It has
become an issue today, but it was not an issue in the 9 years when previously Labour was in office. The very good reason is this: the Government takes the view that Anzac Day in particular, if it falls on a weekend, is a day when New Zealanders will more often than not want to actually go and attend those ceremonies and remember those who have fallen and who fought for our country. The fact that that may now be Mondayised may lead to a view where more New Zealanders treat that as a 3-day weekend, rather than specific recognition of that very important day.
David Shearer: In the light of that, is he saying that people will not go and commemorate Anzac Day in a weekend because there is a Monday following that weekend?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Clearly, many, many people will go out and commemorate Anzac Day, and we would encourage them to do that, to pay their respects. But the view that we have taken has been that if there is a situation where there is a 3-day holiday, it may encourage others to just treat that as a normal 3-day weekend. We think that is a disservice to those two particular days.
David Shearer: Do you think this might start a trend that people will not celebrate Christmas or New Year if they happen to fall on a weekend as well?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: New Zealanders choose, on Christmas Day, to spend that day in a variety of ways. Some New Zealanders choose, on Christmas Day, to attend a religious service. Many do not. But that is actually quite different. We do not assemble as a nation on Christmas Day to remember those who have given their lives in the pursuit of liberty and freedom in New Zealand. It is quite different.
David Shearer: Is he aware that the Tourism Industry Association has called for cross-party support for the bill; if so, why is he refusing to back his own industry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I am aware of that, and that is exactly the point, is it not? The tourism ministry represents people who want to have a holiday, and the member is standing up, telling us they will not have a holiday—they will still go to the ceremonies. But then he is arguing that the very people who promote holidays want the thing. No wonder Helen Clark did not do it—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a sufficient answer.
David Shearer: So why will he not—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The level of noise and barraging is unacceptable. We have some very distinguished guests within our gallery. At least show them—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Do something about it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member asks me to do something about it. I am not the one barracking. It is from both sides of the House. I ask for a bit of respect for the Leader of the Opposition to ask his supplementary question.
David Shearer: Why will he not vote for a bill that most hard-working New Zealanders want, that most businesses want, that his own tourism industry, for which he is the tourism Minister, wants, and that he himself says is “fair enough”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For the very simple reasons that were given consistently through this bill, which are that we believe that those two particular days should be marked on the day that they fall and it makes logical sense. All I can say to Opposition members is that if they really think this is the issue of the day—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a sufficient answer.
Savings—Initiatives to Increase
3. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: What measures is the Government taking to help increase national savings?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government has taken a number of measures to increase genuine savings and reduce New Zealand’s vulnerability to overseas lenders. We have set a path back to Budget surplus by 2014-15, when we can start repaying debt. We have reduced taxes on savings and work, and increased taxes on consumption and housing speculation, and we have embarked on a share offer programme in
energy companies that will give everyday New Zealanders another option for their increased savings. Around 440,000 New Zealanders have pre-registered their interest in buying shares in Mighty River Power.
Maggie Barry: Why is it important that New Zealand increases national savings?
Hon PETER DUNNE: It is important to do that because it actually helps reduce our longstanding and heavy reliance on overseas lenders, which is New Zealand’s largest single vulnerability. Our net international liabilities at 31 December last year were $150 billion, or 71.7 percent of GDP. Most of this is private sector debt built up over many years. The Government’s share is relatively small, but it has increased significantly as we have run deficits. Although our international liabilities have improved from a peak of 85 percent of GDP in 2009, they remain high by world standards, and that is why the Government is focused on policies that are genuinely designed to lift national savings.
Maggie Barry: What changes has the Government made to KiwiSaver as part of its wider programme to increase savings?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The Government announced a number of changes to KiwiSaver in Budget 2011. These were designed to encourage a higher level of savings amongst New Zealanders, build a larger pool of local capital, and make the KiwiSaver scheme more financially sustainable into the future. They included increasing the minimum employee contribution rate from 2 percent to 3 percent, and, at the same time, increasing the compulsory employer contribution rate from 2 percent to 3 percent. Both of those changes take effect from 1 April.
Maggie Barry: What impact are the higher employee and employer contributions expected to have on KiwiSaver savings?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The changes are designed to ensure that KiwiSaver remains an attractive savings option for a growing number of New Zealanders and also to ensure that the scheme is financially sustainable into the future, without the Government having to borrow heavily for subsidies and tax breaks. Overall, KiwiSaver membership and total funds continue to grow strongly. We now have almost 2.1 million New Zealanders accumulating $15.4 billion in KiwiSaver funds, and the funds are forecast to grow further to around $25 billion by 2015, and to almost $60 billion by 2021.
Canterbury, Recovery—Reports on Fraud Allegations
4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: What reports has he received about the extent of fraud allegations in the Christchurch rebuild?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): There have been a number of reports and allegations of fraud and we take these claims very seriously. All agencies are working collaboratively to investigate and prosecute where cases can be proven. For example, I am aware that the Serious Fraud Office is working on two cases at the present time that meet the test for its involvement. There have been some 730 other allegations that have been investigated by various groups. The Canterbury earthquake fraud committee, if you like—the group that is coming together—will involve all those agencies and it is actively pursuing any allegation and, in addition to that, is looking for ways in which fraud could occur.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he agree with KPMG forensic services lead partner Stephen Bell that the extent of fraud in Christchurch could reach $1.5 billion or even 10 percent of the $30 billion rebuild; if so, what systems did he put in place from the outset to prevent such fraud?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is the estimate that comes from an analysis of projects of this size that have been undertaken in any other parts of the world. What I can tell the member is that the Canterbury Recovery Fraud Prevention Interagency Group has been established, and was established early, and it involves the New Zealand Police and the Serious Fraud Office and all of the other groups that are involved in the recovery where there is public money involved.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many companies lost their contractor accreditation as a result of fraud in Christchurch, evidence of which has been available on a daily basis, and what is his explanation as Minister for his answer?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What has been available on a routine basis has been a number of allegations made through the 0800 number that the Earthquake Commission set up. There have been over 730 claims investigated. To date the allegation line has received 448 calls. Twenty cases have been handed over to the police for prosecution. Four have been successfully prosecuted by the Earthquake Commission, and there are more in the pipeline. It is estimated that $4 million has been saved through those fraud investigations. There are the two big cases being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office at the present time. And there is a file of numerous other cases where there are discrepancies in invoicing. Where that discrepancy has been agreed by the invoicer, the overinvoicing has not been paid. Then there is a process that the Fletcher EQR office uses to weed out contractors who are operating in the wrong space. There are currently two very big investigations going on in that regard at the present time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked how many companies have lost their contractor accreditation and for an explanation as to his answer as Minister. So it is how many companies—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! And I will ask—[Interruption] Order! And I will ask the Minister whether he can address that part of the question. The difficulty was there were two phases to the supplementary question. The second part was very adequately addressed, but if the Minister has that information, could he give that to the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If he did not give an answer as to the number that have lost accreditation, how could he possibly have given an adequate answer to the second part of the question?
Mr SPEAKER: He gave a very adequate answer to the second part, but we are asking him now whether he can address the first part of the member’s question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are a number of companies that have been taken out of the system by the EQR office. I do not have those details and I cannot give the member that number at the moment, but I will certainly go and have a look at it. The point I make is that there are numerous activities going on to prevent fraud at the present time. If people have allegations of fraud, they can make them through the 0800 number. They are treated seriously. Bigger issues are referred to the police. In fact, one has been referred to the police today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen a police complaint acknowledgment against a contractor accredited by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, Southern Demolition and Salvage Ltd, regarding the falsification of time sheets?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, that would be an operational matter, and he knows that Ministers do not engage in operational matters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister has got no idea as to what is going on because he does not want to know what is going on—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —he should say so. But I do not know that Ministers are not aware of those sorts of facts, not if you were being responsible in the case of fraud. So how—
Mr SPEAKER: The member adequately addressed the question that you asked.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, anything goes now, of course—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. If he is going to question a ruling like that, where he asked whether the Minister was aware of a particular allegation and the Minister stood and said no—he has addressed that question quite satisfactorily. If the member is going to continue to chip at that, then I will not allow him any more supplementary questions. I will give him one more chance.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will take all the chances I am entitled to, I think.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will stand and withdraw and apologise for that remark.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Banks—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not an option. The member will stand and withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw what I said to Mr Banks.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection from Mr Banks. I heard it from the member. I have asked him to withdraw. If he does, he can continue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw what I said to Mr Banks.
Mr SPEAKER: Then the member can now continue with his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. If companies such as Southern Demolition and Salvage Ltd are found to have committed fraud, will they be removed from the list of accredited contractors on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority website; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a complaint to New Zealand Police by Bruce Herbert Williamson regarding the falsification of time sheets by Southern Demolition and Salvage Ltd, a subcontractor to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, which challenge the Minister put to me last week if I had evidence.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is definitely no objection. The document can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Health Care—"Better, Sooner, More Convenient" Policy
5. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: Is he confident that the Government’s initiative to provide “Better, Sooner, More Convenient” health care, is meeting his expectations; if not, why not?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, but there is always room for improvement. I am also confident that the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has made a very good decision to confirm 24/7 acute services at Wairau Hospital, especially when you think that the Government has invested an extra $48 million in that district health board over the last few years.
Hon Annette King: Well, in light of that answer, have general practitioners been advised by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board that there are over 500 outstanding referrals for surgery that need to be seen by the end of June, which is well in excess of its capability, and with its current capability, it will be able to deal with only malignancies and not much else?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, I did read that story in the Nelson Mail or the Marlborough Express last week, and I did look into it. I have been assured by the chief executive of the district health board that those 500 people who are waiting for an FSA, a first specialist assessment, will be seen by a specialist. They will not be culled from a waiting list like the 30,000—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: Have general practitioners in the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board been advised that surgeons will not be able to see conditions that are less than urgent, and some referrals will be returned without even being seen?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, that was in a newspaper article last week, which referred to a letter sent out by someone from the hospital. I have been assured by the district health board that that does not reflect what will happen in that area. What I can in fact tell you is that in the whole of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, they are doing far more specialist assessments than they ever did, and, in fact, I have been advised that the only time there was a significant reduction in the
access to seeing a specialist at the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board was when there was a 10 percent cut when that member was the Minister of Health.
Hon Annette King: Has the head of the department of general surgery in the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board apologised to general practitioners for the sorry state of affairs at the district health board, and told them that the board must comply with the ministry directives or face financial penalty?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think that was reported in the newspaper last week about what the general surgeon said, but I have to say that in fact what I know is happening in the Nelson- Marlborough area is that they are actually providing more operations, more specialist services, more support for the people of Nelson-Marlborough, and you would expect that when you put an extra $48 million into that district health board over the last 4 years.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a letter from the head of the department of general surgery, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, to all the general practitioners in the board’s area, outlining the issues exactly as I have raised them in the House today.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the letter from the head of department. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Business Growth Agenda—Investment
6. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Economic Development: What progress is being made in encouraging firms to invest in New Zealand through the Business Growth Agenda?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): The National Government is implementing a wide array of initiatives to encourage firms to invest in New Zealand, to support jobs, and to further grow the economy. For example, we are encouraging oil and gas exploration. In Taranaki, last week the Prime Minister opened the Todd Corporation’s 100 megawatt gas-fired McKee power plant, and Methanex has recently committed to restarting methanol production at Waitara. In Hawke’s Bay we are working with the local council on the Ruataniwha Water Storage project, aimed at providing more reliable water resources in the highly productive Ruataniwha Basin. In Auckland we are constructing the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection, the biggest transport construction project in New Zealand’s history, which is the key to reducing congestion across Auckland’s motorway network and encouraging economic growth in our largest city.
Mark Mitchell: What is the Government doing to encourage more investment in innovation in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is working hard across the country to encourage more firms to invest in research and development and innovation. We are currently investing $115 million a year in research and development co-funding, and on 1 February this year we launched Callaghan Innovation, which will play an important role in encouraging more business innovation in high-value manufacturing and services. Just today we have seen encouraging data from Statistics New Zealand, which shows spending on research and development by Kiwi businesses went up to $1.2 billion last year. That is up 25 percent since 2010, and it is achieving a far better result than the previous Government achieved with its abortive research and development tax credits.
Mark Mitchell: What reports has he seen about support for the Government’s Business Growth Agenda initiatives?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen a number of what could be described only as varying reports. I have seen comments relating to development of our natural resources saying that “… undeveloped coal reserves should be left in the ground.” and that “The oil and gas isn’t going anywhere so what’s the rush?”. I have seen comments describing our programme for major irrigation projects as “ill-considered”. I have seen comments relating to key infrastructure
development, like the Waterview Connection, saying that “We would revisit it … only if that was still possible and it was not too advanced.” These comments came from MPs Maryan Street, Moana Mackey, David Parker, and someone called David Shearer, who are all opposed to development.
7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Phil Twyford: Was he intentionally misleading the public to cover up his Government’s failure in housing when he said: “the Auckland Council … wants the Government to … enact the unitary plan straight away, with no input and no opportunity for Aucklanders to express a view …”, given that right now thousands of Aucklanders are having their say on the draft plan, and once it is notified in September, even if his Government allows the plan to have legal weight then, the public can do it all again with the Government-appointed board of inquiry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I think there is without doubt some consultation that has taken place. A fair bit of it is in relation to the spatial plan, which in terms of concepts and vision is the very fine detail and I actually do think it needs input from Aucklanders.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave of the House to table a note from Auckland Council detailing all the public engagement that has so far taken place on the Auckland Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a note that is available easily to other members?
Phil Twyford: It is not publicly available.
Mr SPEAKER: Then leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave of the House to table the provisions in law that guarantee the public rights of appeal even after the plan is given legal weight.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member is attempting to table legislation, a law, an Act, that is not—
Phil Twyford: Yes, because, clearly, the Prime Minister has not read—
Mr SPEAKER: No, that—[Interruption] Order! That will not be put.
Phil Twyford: How can his statement be true that Auckland Council is saying that it is going to intensify and pretty much go within the current metropolitan urban limits and just go straight up, and “We are saying you need to go up and out”; how can that be true when the Auckland Plan says that up to 40 percent of new dwellings will be built on greenfield land?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I think it does characterise, if there is a difference in view, the one where the Government’s belief is that there should be more greenfield sites available. And Auckland Council is largely of the view that it is intensification.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave to table the section of the Auckland Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan—
Mr SPEAKER: No. Again, that is something that is—[Interruption] Order! That is something that is available to any member.
Phil Twyford: The Prime Minister clearly hasn’t read it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a necessary part of putting leave to table a document.
Phil Twyford: Should Aucklanders conclude that his housing Minister has lost the plot, given Nick Smith’s statement on Sunday that he and Len Brown are in the same paddock, when just days earlier he was accusing Len Brown of killing the dreams of Aucklanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I know this will come as a great disappointment to the member but, actually, the Government and Auckland Council are working very collaboratively on the issues in relation to Auckland. I know it will come as a great disappointment that we want to allow
Aucklanders to have input into their plan. And I know this will come as a great shock, but I am confident we will make great progress on both the issues of housing in Auckland and ensuring that we have a unitary plan that Aucklanders have an opportunity to express their views on.
Phil Twyford: Does he agree with Kim Campbell of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, who says: “The government’s proposal not to ratify Auckland’s Unitary Plan until 2016/17 will load big costs on to Auckland’s ratepayers, and hold back Auckland’s growth,”, and how is it that this Government has got so offside with such a big cross-section of Aucklanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and I think the member should go and look at a few of the polls.
8. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What recent announcements has he made on transport safety?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Associate Minister of Transport): Today I had the pleasure of launching the Safer Journeys Action Plan 2013-2015. The plan addresses some of the tougher and more complex road safety problems, and represents a transformative approach to the goal of a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury. The economic cost of injury is significant, estimated to be more than $3 billion a year, and the human cost is immeasurable. Since 2010 the Government has introduced significant improvements to safety, and it is reassuring to see a reduction of around 20 percent in the number of people—
Hon Members: Speech! Speech!
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: You see, they do not seem to think—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just complete the answer.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: —in the number of people killed and injured on our roads, but, although progress has been made, more still needs to be done.
David Bennett: What are some of the milestones highlighted in the action plan?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The milestones in the plan include a high-risk intersection programme, a vehicle fleet programme looking at the exit of older, less safe vehicles from our roads, options for blood-alcohol concentration limits for various classes of drivers, and a speedmanagement programme focusing on appropriate travel speeds. Safer Journeys builds on the great work achieved from the first action plan, and can I take this opportunity—
Hon Members: No!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I think the answer has been quite sufficient. I thank the Minister.
Canterbury, Recovery—Red Zone Land Offer
9. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: Will he extend the deadline for residential red zone property owners who have been offered only 50 percent of rating valuation for their land?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): No.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is he aware that this offer is now being investigated by the Human Rights Commission, the Auditor-General, and the Ombudsman, that there are court proceedings already filed by some owners and another major action about to be filed, and that the Finance and Expenditure Committee is hearing a petition on this matter, and are not they reason enough to extend the deadline?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. These are voluntary offers that are made to people who are in difficult circumstances and they have a choice as to whether or not they accept them. Further, the numbers that the member is talking about are relatively small—we estimate about 110 households. The deadline will not be extended.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is he aware that some of these ratepayers have had as little as 12 weeks from the date they received the formal offer from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority,
and given that some of them are facing financial ruin for heartbreaking reasons, could he extend the deadline so their circumstances can be addressed?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The amount of time they have had for settlement will depend on the date on which they sent their consent to receive a settlement offer. So I say again that we are not extending the deadline.
Denis O’Rourke: Why is 50 percent of the 2007 rating value the fair and correct figure to offer, when there is no independent advice or relevant criteria to support that?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because the estimated market valuation of those properties is on average $2,600, and the offer of 50 percent of the 2007 valuation is many, many times greater than that.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How does he respond to Bryan Ellis who has owned the Bexley Garage for 47 years, which is still operating, and who faces a loss of $265,000 on his land rating valuation with the 50 percent offer?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are thousands of New Zealanders who have made investments that they could not insure who have suffered equal losses, but they are not coming to the Government to make good those losses.
Crime Statistics—2012 Figures
10. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Justice: What recent report has she received showing that crime is falling under this Government?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yesterday the latest conviction and youth prosecution statistics were published on the Statistics New Zealand website. These show crime is continuing to fall and New Zealand is becoming an even safer place to live in. The number of adults charged in court last year decreased by 7 percent from the previous year and the total number of charges laid reduced by 5 percent. Since this Government has been in office the numbers of people charged and charges laid have reduced by 19 percent and 18 percent.
Scott Simpson: What do the statistics show for other users in the criminal justice system?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am delighted to confirm that the number of children and young people appearing in our criminal courts last year was down to 3,018. That is a reduction of 500 on the previous year and the lowest number since 1992. The number of people charged with violent offences has decreased in the past 4 years by 17 percent. At the same time conviction rates have increased to 74 percent, showing our criminal prosecutions are more effective. Reducing crime is of huge benefit for all New Zealanders.
Schools—Proposed Closure of Nelson and Christchurch Schools
11. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Education: Will she wait until the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation of the Ministry of Education’s processes on school closures is complete before making a final decision on the Salisbury and Christchurch school closures?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Minister of Education: No.
Metiria Turei: What advice has the Minister received on the possibility that Christchurch schools could launch a judicial review of her decisions to close them because the consultation with them has been a façade, like with Salisbury School?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The consultation with Christchurch schools has been comprehensive, as was evidenced by the changes that were made when the final decisions were put before them, and there is still a further consultation period to go.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked what advice the Minister had received about a potential judicial review, and that question was not answered.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member afterwards to have a look at the question. She then talked about consultation being a charade, and the Minister chose that part of the question and challenged whether, in fact, the consultation had been a charade.
Metiria Turei: How can the Minister make a properly considered decision on which Christchurch schools are to close, when at least five of those schools cannot make an informed submission because they are still waiting on vital geotechnical and population information from her ministry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is a process that is used to close schools. That process is being followed as per usual.
Metiria Turei: Why has Salisbury School been denied access to almost all of its 5-year funding since she decided to close the school? Is it because she is trying to close the school by stealth following the High Court ruling that her previous attempt was unlawful?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. Salisbury School continues to be funded. It is funded at the rate as if it had 40 residents; it currently has 20.
Metiria Turei: How can New Zealand students and parents trust her to make decisions on their schools’ future when her decisions have been ruled unlawful by the courts and her processes are now being investigated by the Chief Ombudsman?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: People who have a view and an opportunity to challenge it are free to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Te Ururoa Flavell. [Interruption] Order! I have called Te Ururoa Flavell’s supplementary question.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Would the Minister consider spending the estimated $6 million that has been associated with kura kaupapa Māori relocation costs to set up a new kura kaupapa Māori or a satellite of another kura, rather than forcing one to uproot to another community?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not in a position to give a comprehensive answer to that question.
Government Security Communications Bureau—February 2012 Briefings
12. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister responsible for the
GCSB: Did GCSB Director Ian Fletcher attend the three briefings he received from GCSB in February 2012; if not, which, if any, of the briefings did Ian Fletcher attend?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister responsible for the GCSB): I am advised that Ian Fletcher was present on the three occasions I met with the Government Communications Security Bureau in February 2012.
Grant Robertson: Noting his previous statements that he is not briefed on operational matters by the Government Communications Security Bureau, was he briefed on the outcomes of Government Communications Security Bureau operations at his 24 February meeting?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not on the advice I have of the notes of that meeting.
Grant Robertson: Given that answer, what are the meetings he has with the Government Communications Security Bureau about?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not my normal practice to answer those details, but, because the member is so prone to conspiracy theories, the director came to me to sign a warrant and I signed it on the 24th.
Grant Robertson: Given that the Government Communications Security Bureau received an email from police on 22 February 2012 that indicated that the three targets of the Dotcom surveillance were New Zealand residents and therefore the surveillance was in breach of the Government Communications Security Bureau rules, does he not think that Ian Fletcher should have informed him of that at his meeting 2 days later?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the correct process was that the situation in terms of the legality of the actions that the Government Communications Security Bureau had undertaken in relation to Operation Debut needed to be clarified. The bureau went to its chief legal adviser. The chief legal adviser advised the bureau that it was legal. As we all know, that was actually wrong.
Grant Robertson: What role, if any, did he play in recommending the appointment of Ian Fletcher as Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: His appointment was made by the State Services Commissioner, but if the member is trying to make some other allegation, then yes, I knew Ian Fletcher. I went to school with his brother. His brother was way brighter than Grant Robertson—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And that answer does not assist the order of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point of order will be heard in silence.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please make—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister for making comments that were out of order—at least. Earlier when the Rt Hon Winston Peters made an out of order comment he was required to withdraw. You have never done that to the Prime Minister, and I just want to know whether it is going to be even both ways.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be expected to withdraw that Grant Robertson is not as bright as Alistair Fletcher. He is not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister addressed the question and then added a remark that was not helpful to the order of the House. I moved immediately to stop him. I have now moved on. Does the member—[Interruption] Order! Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you going to now deal with the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with—[Interruption] Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: You did not deal with the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with the matter. I have dealt—[Interruption] Order! The member will stand and withdraw that comment.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled that the Prime Minister’s comment was out of order. He then used the point of order process to repeat it, clearly in breach of your ruling and trying to overturn your authority here. You must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that comment, because otherwise he is completely in breach of your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that point. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that comment, but I am not addressing any further the issue of his earlier answer. Would the Prime Minister withdraw?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I withdraw.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is.
Mr SPEAKER: Good. We will hear a fresh point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a suggestion that in future you listen to a point of order. You would have heard exactly the one that Russel Norman made.
Mr SPEAKER: I listen very intently to points of order. I listen—[Interruption] Order! I remind members that the gallery is here watching the proceedings of this Parliament. [Interruption] Order! I listen very intently. I do not always hear the points of order accurately because of the level of background noise in this Chamber. Does the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You saw fit earlier today to threaten not to allow any more questions from me today. The Prime Minister for the seventh time in 2 days repeated his offence. I heard no such threat from you in respect of his ability to take part in this House in terms of question time, and I want to know why he did not receive a similar threat.
Mr SPEAKER: Because I would have thought it was extremely obvious to the member that if other members want to ask the Prime Minister any question, they expect an answer. Has the member—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. We are not doing further points of order on this.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it, but if it is a continuation of the other, then I will be asking the member to leave the Chamber. So if it is a fresh point of order—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, it is an absolutely fresh point of order. The point of order is whether you have rewritten the Standing Orders—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now—[Interruption] Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: Sit down until I am finished. For goodness’ sake!
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber. The member will leave the Chamber. Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you could clarify for the House what the point of order Trevor Mallard was going to raise was, because we have not heard it.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I had determined very quickly that it was a relitigation of the matters that have been raised. [Interruption] I have so ruled. Does the member have further supplementary questions?
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?
Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it. Otherwise I will deal with the—
Chris Hipkins: I am now going to raise with you the point of order that Mr Mallard was going to raise, which—
Mr SPEAKER: No. That is now relitigating—
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber. Chris Hipkins withdrew from the Chamber.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave for the Labour Party to be given a chance for its point of order in the name of Mr Mallard to be put.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I do not know whether it is appropriate for the member to seek leave on behalf of another party, but to clear the matter up we will put the leave that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has put. Is there any objection? There is. Has the member got further supplementary questions?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to rule on the question of referring to members of the gallery in debate or in the House, because that is what you did as Speaker. You referred to who was in the gallery. That is not something that we are allowed to do as members of the House, because it is against the Standing Orders to refer to the gallery and that influencing behaviour in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that point that the member is making. She is quite right. It is not appropriate for members to refer to people in the gallery, but the member might like to note my opening remarks at the start of Parliament, when I specifically referred to people in the gallery and invited the House to greet them.
Grant Robertson: In light of the Prime Minister’s answer to the last supplementary question, when he introduced the nature of his relationship with Ian Fletcher, can he enlighten the House as to whether he has had further contact with Mr Fletcher since their school days, perhaps in London?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I cannot recall particular occasions; I am sure I may well have done so. What I can say, if the member wants to know, is that my mother was best friends with Ian Fletcher’s mother. If that makes a conspiracy, fair enough.