Questions and Answers - November 26
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
WEDNESDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2014
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Household Savings—Reports 1. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received about the latest trends in savings levels by New Zealand households?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week Statistics New Zealand issued the national accounts income and expenditure data for the year to March 2014. It shows that New Zealand’s household savings rate has now been positive for 5 consecutive years—something that has not happened since the early 1990s. In fact, before 2010 household savings had been negative in all years but one since 1995. Household savings totalled $2.8 billion in the year to March 2014, a positive rate of 2.1 percent of disposable income. This is a result of the resilience shown by households, supported by Government policy encouraging savings and reducing their dependence on debt, and more moderate consumption, therefore assisting in rebalancing the economy.
Todd Muller: Over the past 6 years, what measures has the Government taken to encourage households to save a bit more and to reduce borrowing and consumption?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, a number of measures. One of those was a comprehensive tax package in 2010, which included across-the-board reductions in tax on savings and work, and an increase in tax on consumption and property investment. In addition to that, the Government has built on the work of the previous Government in reregulating our capital and finance markets, and that is now leading to a reinvigorated capital market with more opportunities for New Zealanders to invest in owning a range of companies.
Todd Muller: What else did the latest national accounts data confirm about the savings trends in other sectors of the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It showed that the total value of the New Zealand economy is now $231 billion of GDP, up 7.3 percent from 2013. This is the largest increase in per capita growth since 2008. National savings totalled $15.5 billion. That is up $8.4 billion from the previous year and was positive for all sectors of the economy. Two notable contributors were improved net exports and higher business profits. Revised estimates show that 2013 was the first year since 2000 that all sectors had positive savings.
Todd Muller: How do the positive household savings over the past 5 consecutive years compare with the previous trends in household savings rates?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: At the moment we have improving household savings rates in a growing economy. However, when the economy was growing between 1999 and 2008, the opposite (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) occurred. In fact, household savings were negative 0.6 percent—negative 0.6 percent—by 2006. But this was hardly a surprise. At that stage Government spending had gone through the roof, the current account deficit was a record 8 percent of GDP, house prices were on track to double, and household borrowing soared by more than 150 percent in the 9 years to 2008. We do not think that any of those excesses are going to accompany this current period of economic growth.
Grant Robertson: Under the national accounts that he has just cited, in real or nominal terms are exports above or below 30 percent of GDP for the year to March 2014?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is interesting that the member should raise that issue because—[Interruption] Well, I cannot give the member—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I will decide. Certainly a question was asked, and I want to hear the answer, so for the answer to be heard, it requires less noise from my left.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot give the member that answer in detail. I cannot give the member that answer in detail, but I have to say that when you take GDP as a whole, we are in a phase where house prices have been high and the Christchurch rebuild has pushed up house prices, so resources are tending to flow to construction. We are in a phase where our largest dairy export has low prices. So it would not surprise me if exports as a percentage of GDP are not the same as they were a few years ago. But the Government’s objective is clear, and that is to raise exports as a percentage of GDP by doing things like reducing taxes and the size of the Government.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To help out the Minister of Finance, I seek leave—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If the member now wants to table a document, he rises to his feet, asks for a point of order, and then seeks leave to table that document.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that shows that the national accounts show that in the year ended March 2014, in both nominal—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That document has now been well and truly described. The document from the Parliamentary Library—leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is not; it can be tabled.
Grant Robertson: Is the fact that exports as a percentage of GDP are languishing below 30 percent in both nominal and real terms, despite his promise that they would reach 40 percent, a sign of success or failure in rebalancing the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would make a technical point first. There has been a rebasing of GDP, which I am sure—
Grant Robertson: Both of them.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, yes, I know, but the member will need to go back and see how those figures are calculated. Secondly, if the member regards the current state of the New Zealand economy as failed economic policy, I would hate to see what success looks like because, actually, this economy is growing as strongly as anywhere in the developed world. That growth is looking sustainable, households are getting higher incomes, more jobs are being created, and unemployment is dropping. We call that success, and I suspect that when the member is more familiar with his portfolio, he will regard it as success.
Security Intelligence Service—Report on Release of Documents 2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that parts of the Gwyn Report are “highly contested”; if so, which parts are contested and by whom?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. For example, in yesterday’s urgent debate Winston Peters contested the inspector-general’s decision not to interview me as part of her inquiry. Cameron Slater has also been in the media contesting the inspector’s finding in relation to him. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) Another thing that was contested yesterday—but appears not to be today—is that Phil Goff leaked the inspector-general’s report and broke his confidentiality agreement. That is not contested.
Andrew Little: What does he contest about paragraph 154 of the Gwyn report, which states that his then deputy chief of staff initiated contact with the SIS to seek information about any briefings the SIS may have given to Phil Goff?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Nothing.
Andrew Little: What does he contest about paragraph 218 of the Gwyn report, which states that his then deputy chief of staff passed a detailed description of the SIS briefing to another prime ministerial staffer, suggesting that it would make a good Official Information Act request?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Once again, I do not contest that. It may well have happened.
Andrew Little: What does he contest about paragraph 218, which states that the second staffer—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to start his question again.
Andrew Little: What does he contest about paragraph 218, which states that the second staffer provided SIS information to a blogger and that blogger then requested the information under the Official Information Act while on the phone with his staffer?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The point that is contested there is a point where Mr Slater emphasised that he had already—it says that he had decided to make the Official Information Act request himself. That point is therefore contested.
Tim Macindoe: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports about the view of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security regarding the release of her report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. I have seen a report in which the inspector-general says that the parties who received her report were “subject to express confidentiality orders” made under the New Zealand Security Intelligence Act. I also saw her report that said the premature disclosure of some details was “grossly unfair to others”—that would be me. Some of the coverage—this would also be about me—was not accurate. I want to know whether the Leader of the Opposition—he might like to answer this—condones the leaking of the report, which Mr Goff admitted to on Radio New Zealand today.
Andrew Little: Does he contest paragraph 193, which states that his then deputy chief of staff discussed with the SIS director the timing of when to release information to Cameron Slater?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but I will make it quite clear, though, from the inspector-general’s report, paragraph 225, that she “did not find any indication of collusion by or direction to NZSIS.” I know it does not fit the narrative of the Opposition, but the bad news is that there was no influence by my office. That was the absolute finding. My office was fully exonerated.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Tim Macindoe. [Interruption] Order! Every member has a right to ask a supplementary question without that sort of howling coming from a couple of members to my left.
Tim Macindoe: Is the Prime Minister aware of any issues in the report that were contested but no longer appear to be?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am. Just this morning I heard someone say on Radio New Zealand that they did not release or show the inspector-general’s report to anyone except their party leader and party whip. When that was contested by Radio New Zealand, the same person finally fessed up and admitted that he had rung journalists and given them a heads-up—that would be a briefing—about parts of the report. But there you go—having admitted that, he did, I guess, what that sort of person would do. He blamed the journalists for running it, to try to get the positive spin the day before. That person was Phil Goff.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that Cameron Slater had already leaked the findings of that report over 8 days ago?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Andrew Little: Why is he showing contempt for the report of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and undermining her integrity by denying what the whole country has seen in black and white?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the opposite. I have absolutely accepted the findings of the report, and the findings of the report, unfortunately for the Opposition, do not fit its narrative. The findings of the report are quite clear. They say in relation to any exchange or discussions between my office and Mr Slater—and I quote—that they “did not breach any obligations of confidentiality owed to the NZSIS on the part of the PMO staff member.” The information was not classified. She says in her report—and I quote—that she “did not find any indication of collusion by or direction to the NZSIS over the request.” She says in her report—and I quote—that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security found quite clearly that my involvement was limited to only one phone conversation on 22 July. What is quite clear is that the report does not say what the Opposition was desperate for it to say. That is why Phil Goff leaked it a day earlier, and Cheryl Gwyn is very unhappy about that.
Andrew Little: Why will he not admit the truth—that his office worked with his blogger to use information held by his security agency to attack his political rival, and the buck stops with him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because that is not the truth, but what I will admit is the following truths. I am not part of a political party that went out there and impersonated a researcher to go through my personal financial records. I am not part of a political party that impersonates someone to go to a National Party conference to secretly tape us. I am not part of a political party that leaked an embargoed document. “Black ops” is alive and well—in the Labour Party. That is where it is.
Andrew Little: Why does he not cut the crap and just apologise to New Zealand for running a smear machine out of his office? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked. I will hear the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is going to be a very interesting 3 years, and I cannot wait for the debates, because if we are starting there, we are going to end up here. It is pretty simple. The report from Cheryl Gwyn makes it clear: the SIS made its own decisions, and there was no indication of collusion or direction. I will say it one more time: if this report was so damning and if it so much backed up what the Labour Party had said weeks before the 2014 election, Phil Goff would have let it run. But he ran right over the top of his own leader, he bumped him off the news—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is sufficient.
Christchurch Recovery—Housing New Zealand Properties 3. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister for Social Housing: What progress is Housing New Zealand making on rebuilding and repairing properties damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Housing New Zealand is making great progress in repairing or rebuilding the 95 percent of its homes that were damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes. It is ahead of schedule on the repair of 5,000 earthquake-damaged homes by the end of 2015, with more than half of the repairs completed already; $67.2 million has been invested in the repair programme so far; and the target of building 700 new homes by the end of 2015 is also well on track.
Nuk Korako: Kia ora. How is the rebuild programme getting more tenants into homes that better suit their needs?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What Housing New Zealand has been able to do is think about a programme of sensible intensification that is able to get far more Christchurch people housed in the right-sized homes in the right place. So, for example, nearly three-quarters of people on the social housing register in Christchurch need a one or two-bedroom home, and many existing homes are simply too big. Just last week I visited a site in Spreydon, where Housing New Zealand is building five modern two-bedroom homes on a site where there was only one three-bedroom home. On (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) another site in Riccarton it is replacing three old homes with 19 two-bedroom homes. That will make a huge difference for the people there.
Judith Collins—Statements on Blogger 4. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour - Wigram) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with Judith Collins that Cameron Slater “manufactured a story and he wanted to believe it” and the findings of the Chisholm Inquiry that Cameron Slater is “prone to exaggeration”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I am not in a position to give the member a yes or no answer because I was not a party to the discussions between Cameron Slater and Judith Collins. My role as Prime Minister was to establish the Chisholm inquiry, which Ms Collins had requested that I set up. I accept the findings of the inquiry and I am delighted that it has cleared Ms Collins.
Dr Megan Woods: Why does he believe Cameron Slater’s recollection of events regarding the Gwyn inquiry but does not believe Cameron Slater regarding the Chisholm inquiry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not believe all of them, but what I do know is that where Mr Slater has said that it was his idea to put in an Official Information Act request in relation to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s report, one of the reasons why I think it is highly likely that he made that call was that a lot of other media decided to do exactly the same thing. It was based on the public comments that Mr Goff and I had made.
Dr Megan Woods: Which findings, if any, of the Chisholm inquiry does he contest?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The document is 110 pages long, so I do not have it with me. I am sure there would be things that would be contested by others, but I would say this, though: I do not contest—
Iain Lees-Galloway: Haven’t you read it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I actually read the whole thing. I do not contest paragraph 3, where it says there is no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine MrFeeley, and that the implication that she was so involved is untenable.
Dr Megan Woods: Did his office have communications with Cameron Slater between 23 and 25 November regarding the Chisholm inquiry or the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s inquiry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not think so. I am not aware of that, no.
Dr Megan Woods: Did he have communications with Cameron Slater between 23 and 25 November regarding the Chisholm inquiry or the inspector-general’s inquiry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the Prime Minister please repeat his answer? [Interruption] Order! I was calling the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister actually gave the answer, so I did not hear it. I am calling the Rt Hon Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Health Targets—Progress 5. BARBARA KURIGER (National - Taranaki - King Country) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on progress on the National Health Targets?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The National Health Targets first quarter results have been released and are very strong. District health boards across the country provided 42,343 elective surgery discharges from July to September, 2,120 more than planned. Emergency departments also had the strongest winter performance since health targets were introduced, with 93 percent of all emergency department patients admitted, discharged, or transferred within 6 hours.
Barbara Kuriger: What changes are being made to the National Health Targets to deliver faster treatment for cancer patients? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This quarter all 20 district health boards ensured that all patients ready for treatment received their radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment within 4 weeks. From 1 October the Government introduced and will be reporting against a new faster cancer treatment target. Our goal is to ensure that by June 2017, 90 percent of patients will receive their first treatment within 62 days of seeing their general practitioner. That is the international gold standard for cancer treatment.
Prime Minister—Statements 6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Why did he say that the inspector-general’s finding was contested, specifically the finding that “Information which he received from the NZSIS was used by Jason Ede, a senior adviser within PMO, to assist Mr Slater in making the OIA request.”? Why did he say that that finding was contested?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because parts of it, at least if you read the fuller part of it, Mr Slater contests.
Dr Russel Norman: So to be clear, is the Prime Minister saying that he contests that finding by the inspector-general on the basis of Mr Slater’s evidence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot fully answer that, because I do not know the answer to that question. There have been a number of discussions. But what I can say is that Mr Slater makes it clear in the report that he contests the view that the Official Information Act request was driven by my office. He himself says that he was putting in the Official Information Act requests. It is not contested that my office and Mr Slater had a discussion, but of course the main point there is that is of no relevance because, as the inspector-general says, it did not breach any obligations of confidentiality owed by the SIS on the part of the staff member. The information passed was not classified. They were free to have that conversation.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister contest the finding in the inspector-general’s report that Jason Ede assisted Mr Slater in making the Official Information Act request?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be sure of that. I do not contest that they had a discussion. They obviously had that, and they had a number of discussions, I suspect. But what I do hold the view of is that when Mr Slater said he was putting in an Official Information Act request, I believe that to be right. That would have been based on the back of the public comments that were made. The reason I know that is that other media did exactly the same thing.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister accept the inspector-general’s finding that Mr Jason Ede, a senior adviser within the Prime Minister’s office, assisted Mr Slater in making the Official Information Act request?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be sure of that because I do not know, but I certainly am strongly of the view that Mr Slater came up with the idea of an Official Information Act request. I certainly accept the view that Mr Ede and Mr Slater had a discussion. But I go back to the main point that that was in breach of no protocol and he was quite free to do that. Actually, it is quite standard, I think, for members—I certainly am aware of journalists who have told me that they have rung political staffers and rung Ministers and asked them for direction in putting in an Official Information Act request.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister accept the findings of the inspector-general’s report that Mr Jason Ede, working for him in his office, assisted Mr Cameron Slater to prepare the Official Information Act request?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I accept the findings of the overall report. I was not party to the conversation that Mr Ede and Mr Slater had. I am not contesting that they had a conversation.
Dr Russel Norman: So the Prime Minister does not believe the inspector-general? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that is not what I have said. What I have said is it is clear that there was a conversation between the two, and it is clear from the inspector-general’s report that that was no breach—he was quite free to do that. But I tend to accept the view of Cameron Slater that he came up with the idea of putting in an Official Information Act request. That is what he said, and I tend to accept that view.
Dr Russel Norman: So, Prime Minister, just to be clear, are you telling this House that you accept the word of Mr Cameron Slater ahead of the word of the inspector-general and her report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is not what I said.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister believe it is purely coincidence that while Mr Ede was on the phone to Mr Slater, the Official Information Act request was put in to the SIS by Mr Slater? Was it just a coincidence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would not want to offer the House a view on that. I do not have a view.
Dr Russel Norman: What is it about Cameron Slater, a man who celebrated the death of a car-crash victim, whose hate blog has generated death threats for public servants, that inspires the Prime Minister to back a reprobate like that over the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a very marginal question. I will leave the Prime Minister to answer it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not. I accept the findings of the report. I accept that there was a discussion between Mr Ede and Mr Slater. I also accept the findings of the report, which said there was no breach in doing that and there was no reason for them to do that. What I do know is that the very strong claims made by the Green Party and made by Labour and Phil Goff prior to the 2014 election, that the Official Information Act process was tampered with through my office politicising the SIS, are absolutely proven incorrect, and everybody who reads that knows that. Unfortunately, it just was not payday for Russel Norman.
Corrections Department—Management of Phillip Smith’s Case 7. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department’s management of Phillip Smith?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): I have confidence in the department, but mistakes have been made in the Smith case, and I am not happy that they were made. The recent review into this incident has given us 13 recommendations to improve temporary releases, and the department is adopting all of them. As Minister I will be keeping a close eye on their implementation.
Kelvin Davis: How did the Department of Corrections allow a prisoner out for 74 hours without electronic monitoring when the Parole Board had found a year earlier that “prisoner Smith remains at high risk of posing a serious danger to the community.” ?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The review shows that Mr Smith’s release plan was misinformed, and that, as a result, monitoring was inadequate. As a result of the review it is now the default position for GPS to be used for all prisoners on temporary release.
Kelvin Davis: How can he continue to have confidence in the Department of Corrections when it allowed Phillip Smith, while incarcerated, to obtain a passport in his original name, which was used in his escape?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The retrieval of the passport was a legitimate request by Mr Smith. It will be covered in the inter-agency inquiry that has been announced by Minister Bennett.
Kelvin Davis: How can the Minister say that the passport was a legitimate request?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I am not responsible for the processing of passports, but—[Interruption] It is not my responsibility.
Kelvin Davis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was referring to the previous response that the Minister had made.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that the member was, and he certainly made those comments in the earlier answer when the member asked how he could have confidence when this particular (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) gentleman was able to get a passport through the process. The Minister’s response was that he had got it through a legitimate process, or words to that effect. You have then taken the opportunity to raise a legitimate supplementary question, which the Minister has chosen to answer by saying he is not responsible for the processing of passports. That is a satisfactory answer to the question. I invite the member to continue with his supplementary questions.
Kelvin Davis: Does the Minister believe that inter-departmental communications relating to prisoner release visits is adequate; if not, why has the Department of Corrections failed to put forward any recommendations to correct that?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The review was to determine what happened when Phillip Smith absconded from the country on temporary release. The review did not cover the matter that the member is asking about.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question had nothing to do with the review.
Mr SPEAKER: I can make fast progress on this by asking Mr Davis to repeat his question for the benefit of the Minister.
Kelvin Davis: Does the Minister believe that interdepartmental communications relating to prisoner release visits is adequate; if not, why has the Department of Corrections failed to put forward any recommendations to correct that?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The issue of cross-agency cooperation is being covered by the ministerial inquiry that was commissioned by Minister Bennett.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was a very clear question to the Minister as to whether he regarded it as sufficient. He could say that he is awaiting the outcome, but simply saying that it is being covered by a review is not an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: There have now been two answers to the question. Effectively, what the Minister is saying is that the review will sort it out. The Minister is responsible for his answer, not me. I have got to decide whether he has addressed the question. On this occasion, I think he has. I clearly accept that it is not to satisfaction of members to my left.
Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Progress 8. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Communications: What recent reports has she received on the number of end users able to connect to the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiative?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): Last week I was pleased to announce that at the end of September 536,000 end users were able to connect, meaning that the ultra-fast broadband build is now 40 percent complete. We have seen a 39 percent increase in connections, taking connections across New Zealand to now more than 10 percent ahead of projections at this stage. A further 2,259 schools are fully fibred and ready for service. Te Awamutu recently became our second fully fibred town after Whangarei. For the rural programme, the build is now 70 percent complete, with 282 towers having been upgraded, 98 new towers having been built, 213,000 premises able to receive fixed wireless broadband, and an additional 75,000 fixed lines having been upgraded.
Simon O'Connor: What additional benefits has the upgrade to rural broadband services brought for New Zealanders?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Over the past 3 months alone we know that on just one mobile network more than 1.2 million unique users used the new Rural Broadband Initiative towers to make mobile calls, showing the versatility of the programme in providing a range of connectivity benefits. Improving mobile connectivity is key to driving productivity, which is why during the election campaign we announced that a further $50 million would be committed to a mobile black spot fund, part of this Government’s nearly $2 billion investment in telecommunications infrastructure. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Agricultural Land Use—OVERSEER Nutrient Management Tool 9. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries: How much will it cost to make the nutrient management tool OVERSEER fully fit for purpose across all agricultural land users in New Zealand?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): That depends on your definition of “fully fit for purpose”. Increasing funding to cover every soil type and every variation of every farming system is not economically feasible or required by stakeholders. However, we are confident that we can find ways of using OVERSEER and other tools to create an enduring framework for nutrient management that drives change and behaviours to achieve better environmental performance.
Richard Prosser: What steps has he personally taken as Minister since 2012-13 to ensure that OVERSEER is fit for purpose whenAgResearch’s annual report stated: “With the requirement for Regional Councils to apply nutrient limits, Overseer is playing an important role in Regional Plans, Environment Court hearings related to nutrient limit setting and compliance monitoring, and it will need significant development to be fit for these intended uses.”?
Hon NATHAN GUY: There are about three questions in one there. What is happening is a huge amount of work in science. That science is feeding in to OVERSEER. The member needs to understand that OVERSEER has been around for 20 years. It is evolving, it is going to be very important into the future, and science is playing a big part in that.
Richard Prosser: What confidence can farmers have that this is not going to become a gravy train, given thatCountry-Wide magazine reported earlier this year that it took Ravensdown Fertiliser Cooperative consultant Charlotte Glass, who is an experienced OVERSEER operator, 22 hours to carry out just 1 year’s nutrient budget at a potential charge to the farmer of somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000?
Hon NATHAN GUY: That is just anecdotal. What I will say is that farmers realise that there is a challenge, as do all of the professionals who are providing a valuable service in the primary sector. They all realise that their nutrient performance and how they are managing their nutrients inside the farm gate and elsewhere in primary sector systems are going to have to improve. OVERSEER will play an important role in that.
Richard Prosser: I seek leave to table a document showing that the cost to a farmer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the document.
Richard Prosser: It is from a farming paper that is not widely available.
Mr SPEAKER: I will accept the member’s word that it is not widely available, and therefore I will put the leave and the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular publication. Is there any objection? There is not. It can be tabled.
Anzac Day Centenary—Commemorations at Gallipoli 10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: What progress is being made in preparation for Gallipoli 2015 commemorations?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Veterans' Affairs): Good progress has been made on the 100th anniversary Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli next year. After the first tranche of the ballot, 632 double passes were accepted. The second tranche of the Gallipoli 2015 ballot is now under way, with just over 300 double passes to next year’s Anzac Day commemorations being reallocated this month. Australian and New Zealand officials are in constant communication with each other about preparations for the event. Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with trans-Tasman officials taking part in the Gallipoli bilateral meeting, and I recently discussed the preparations during a bilateral meeting with the Turkish foreign Minister. I am very encouraged to see that all effort is being made to ensure that this will be a fitting reflection of the huge sacrifice made nearly a century ago. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Dr Shane Reti: How long do applicants have to accept the tickets they were offered in the second tranche of the ballot?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: New offers of tickets were made to the next group on the waiting list earlier this month. Those people allocated passes have until 7 December to complete their details—[Interruption] You might want to show some respect for this topic, members opposite. Those people allocated passes have until 7 December to complete their details and details of their accompanying persons. It is essential that those who have been offered passes in the second tranche of the ballot act quickly and make arrangements if they want to be part of what will be a significant commemoration to honour New Zealanders who took part in the Gallipoli campaign.
State Services Commissioner—Press Conference for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Chief Executive 11. KRIS FAAFOI (Labour - Mana) to the Minister of State Services: Has she discussed with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie why he organised a press conference to announce the departure of the CERA Chief Executive Roger Sutton; if so, what was his response?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of State Services): Yes; his response was that he held the press conference because he believed it would be a high-profile resignation.
Kris Faafoi: Does she think Iain Rennie made the correct judgment in allowing Mr Sutton to present his case at that press conference?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No.
Kris Faafoi: Does she believe that Iain Rennie has treated the complainant at the centre of the State Services Commission investigation with professionalism and compassion by allowing Mr Sutton to present his case at that press conference?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I believe that throughout the investigation I have had assurances from him numerous times that he did, but I do not believe that Monday’s press conference was right in any way, shape, or form, and it was not fair to the complainant.
Kris Faafoi: Can the Minister rule out the complainant at the centre of the inquiry being awarded further compensation because Iain Rennie allowed Mr Sutton to speak at that press conference?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have no control over what either party does.
Kris Faafoi: What justification does she give for Iain Rennie staying in his role as commissioner, one of our most senior civil servants, given her answers?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because he made an error of judgment. He has accepted responsibility for that, and has given me an absolute assurance that nothing like it will ever happen again.
Earthquake, Christchurch—CTV Building Collapse 12. DENIS O'ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he agree with Nigel Hampton QC, who acted for several of the victims of the collapse of the CTV building, who said “One is forced to the conclusion that in New Zealand, the ability to determine responsibility and accountability in any search and rescue response is directly related to the political will and motivation at cabinet and governmental level.”; if not, why not?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Internal Affairs): Although I have great sympathy for the families who lost loved ones in the CTV Building collapse, I do not agree with Mr Hampton’s comments, for the simple reason that that particular earthquake was an event that would have stretched any emergency service in the world on that day. The coroner’s report that was released in March was a full account of the challenges and the complexities that were faced during the rescue from the CTV Building, and it noted that none of the actions taken by Fire Service personnel would have in any way contributed to the deaths of any of the people who lost their lives there. Subsequently, the Fire Service has carried out two reviews of search and rescue operations on the (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) day, including one independent review. It has made a number of changes as a result of those reviews, which address the issues raised. I have also just recently announced a wider review of the Fire Service in terms of its ongoing role in emergency management services.
Denis O'Rourke: In addition to what the Minister has just said, what else has the Government done to ensure that in future urban disaster rescue operations the loss of life caused by command and communication ineptitude at the CTV Building will never be repeated?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I am not the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery so I can speak only with regard to those matters that come within my portfolio. What I can say is that there has been full input into the coordinated incident management systems review that was carried out by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. I have already indicated that all of the changes recommended by the coroner in his report are in the process of being implemented by the New Zealand Fire Service. I think it is fair to say that one of the big learnings out of that horrific event was that there is a need for much greater on-the-ground coordination and communication during an incident, and that lesson has been learnt in a very sad and hard way.
Denis O'Rourke: Is the Minister satisfied that the Government has done enough to ensure that responsibility and accountability for the inept rescue response immediately following the collapse of the CTV Building has been precisely identified and published; if so, why?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Absolutely. I have indicated in my answers already the steps that have been taken in response to the coroner’s review. Can I say to the member that had he had the privilege that I did a few months ago of attending the awards ceremony in Christchurch, where those firefighters who fought so gallantly on that day to carry out those rescues at a time when they did not know the status of their own families in the earthquake, and when they did not know the status of their own properties or jobs, he would have the hugest respect—
Denis O'Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister. [Interruption] Order! This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Denis O'Rourke: Although I am interested in what the Minister has to say, he was actually asked—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. I heard the question. I heard the answer. The Minister was answering a question with a lot of compassion, and the member should do the House a service by allowing the Minister to complete his answer.
Denis O'Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You did not hear my point of order, and that was not the subject—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. If he wants to raise a new point of order, a fresh point of order, I will hear it. If it is an irrelevant point of order or it contests my ruling, I will ask the member to immediately leave the Chamber.
Denis O'Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fresh point of order is this. The Minister has been talking about the firefighters who attended the CTV Building collapse. The question was, as you will see, about the Government being satisfied concerning responsibility and accountability for the whole operation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough. The member needs to look at his original question, which was about the responsibility and accountability of the rescue response. Subsequent questions have then asked of the Minister something that is not his responsibility, and the Minister has told the member that. That is the end of the matter.
Denis O'Rourke: Is the Minister satisfied that those who are responsible have been appropriately held to account; if so, why, and, if not, what will he do about it?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Peter Dunne.
Hon PETER DUNNE: With regard to the search and rescue services, particularly those provided by the Fire Service, I am satisfied that every lesson to be learnt from that event has been (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) learnt, that the recommendations from the coroner will be implemented, and that, in the unlikely and unfortunate repetition of such an event, we will deliver a high-quality service.