Questions & Answers - 11 October 2016
• ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; and eloquently.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statement on 17 August regarding the total number of approved visa applicants who subsequently applied for refugee or protection status once in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would have to look at the particular statement that the member is meaning.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he say on 16 August: "But what I do know, on the advice of the Minister of Immigration, is that the numbers are considerably less under this Government than when that member was a Minister."?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I believed it to be correct—I think it is correct—but I should have added the word "proportionally", as I said and corrected the next day.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that an urgent request was sent to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials at 8.35 a.m. on 17 August for figures on refugee and asylum claim numbers "as far back as they go", despite his assertion on 16 August that he had been advised on that by the Minister of Immigration?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and the reason for that is that we knew the member was challenging it, and so we were making sure the facts were correct. But I was advised in the House, before I answered the question, by the Minister of Immigration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that when he arrived in the House on 17 August seeking to clarify a statement he made 24 hours earlier, that information was not available until 3 hours before question time on 17 August, and that the information did not exist on 16 August—which is hardly "eloquent"?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. The member needs to go and pull the tape. Go and have a look at the visuals, and the member will see the Minister of Immigration being over here advising me before I answer the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. Caught out, son.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Go and look at the video. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Question No. 2—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In my enjoyment I forgot to seek leave to table a document, which is an Official Information Act answer from MBIE, dated 4 October 2016.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that Official Information Act response. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Weekly Earnings—Reports
2. CHRIS BISHOP (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on weekly earnings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Statistics New Zealand reports that in the year to June, median weekly earnings, as defined at the broadest definition of it, increased by $44 to $924 per week. That is an increase of 5 percent in median weekly earnings, the biggest annual increase since 2007. First, people are working more hours each week. Average hours of work increased. Average hours of all part-time and full-time work have increased by 1 hour to 37 hours a week, and workers are being paid more for each hour they work. Median hourly earnings for wage and salary earners increased by 3 percent in the year to June, to $23.49.
Chris Bishop: What do the labour market statistics say about wage and salary movements during the year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: To track changes in the weekly median earnings, Statistics New Zealand monitors the incomes of wage and salary earners and the self-employed. In the year to June, median weekly earnings from wages and salaries increased by $55, or 6.2 percent, a week to $937. This is the biggest annual increase since the series began in 1998 and shows that workers are getting ahead.
Chris Bishop: How does the growth in median weekly incomes in New Zealand compare with trends elsewhere?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Comparisons are difficult because of the different ways that countries collect statistics, but it is possible to compare trends in New Zealand with trends in the US. In the United States the real value of household incomes has not risen since 1998. Over the same period in New Zealand, household incomes have improved by 43 percent as opposed to zero in the United States. Incomes in New Zealand are still considerably lower than in the US, but we are making progress in closing the gap. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member can have a supplementary question if he wants one later.
Chris Bishop: What other reports has he received on wage growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: OECD reports show that New Zealand has, since 2008, had the fourth-highest level of real wage growth in the developed world. Our average annual rate of real wage increase has been 1.4 percent, which is almost twice that of Australia and the US, and is considerably better than in the United Kingdom, which has seen real wages fall by 5 percent.
• Government Targets—Progress
3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does the Government intend to meet all the targets it has set; if so, why does it think setting those targets was important?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): We tend to make good progress towards those targets, because they are focused on addressing some of New Zealand's biggest challenges. For example, we have set practical targets in the areas that contribute to material hardship and poverty. These include increasing infant immunisation rates, reducing rheumatic fever, increasing early childhood education participation, and reducing the number of assaults on children.
Andrew Little: Given the importance he places on targets, why does he oppose Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft's target of reducing the number of children living in material deprivation by 10 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is certainly not opposed to the individual components of what Judge Becroft was talking about. Actually, the Government has been doing a great deal in terms of working on those, including increasing benefits, increasing Working for Families payments, and increasing childcare assistance, just as an example. But it is important to understand that my advice is that Judge Becroft's target actually comes off a survey, or a poll, which is then factored up, so I do not think that would actually be a terribly good measure.
Andrew Little: Oh, so he doesn't know what he's talking about?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, he does not, actually.
Andrew Little: Is the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child correct that there is an "enduring high prevalence of poverty among children" in New Zealand; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Some children and some families have been in poverty for a very, very long time in New Zealand's history. I will say that the United Nations report does not cover the point at which this Government was the first Government in 43 years to raise benefits for families with children. This Government is extremely focused on the needs of those youngsters, and that is why it has individual targets on an individualised basis for a great many of them. We do not believe in, and the official advice does not support, one single target for poverty.
Andrew Little: Why are there more children living below the poverty line, more homeless children, more children in material deprivation, and more working families turning to food banks under his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not sure I wholly accept the member's proposition, but some of those factors have been a result of the recession. The good news is that we now have one of the fastest growth rates in the OECD. As the Minister of Finance pointed out in the last question, we have had one of the fastest income growth rates in the last 8 years. That is the very reason why the Government did things like not only support Working for Families in the most difficult times but actually extend it. It is why we have free GP visits. It is why this was the first Government in 43 years to raise benefits.
Andrew Little: What does he say to Ebony Andrews of Auckland, who, despite stringent budgeting and working as a learning support teacher, is forced to rely on charity for basics like food, clothing, and shoes for her children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I simply do not know her circumstances.
Andrew Little: Why does he think that it is possible to kill every rat, stoat, and possum across New Zealand, but that it is impossible to ensure that all our kids have a warm house to live in, good clothes to wear, and food to eat?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Actually, this Government has been more focused than probably any other Government on making sure that youngsters are in a warm house. That is why it has insulated 300,000 homes, which is multiples more than the previous Government did. That is why this Government increased benefits for the first time in 43 years. That is why this Government has been part of a programme with Fonterra and Sanitarium, for instance, for 7 million breakfasts. The official advice does not support one single definition of poverty, and, actually, interestingly enough, one of the reasons that you might not want to do that is that the Opposition itself says that as soon as you put a label on a child—let us say it is now going to be—
Mr SPEAKER: Bring the answer to a conclusion.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —the Ministry for Vulnerable Children—[Interruption] The member does not like it, but he wants—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is now drifting on for too long. [Interruption] Order!
Andrew Little: In light of that answer and in light of Judge Andrew Becroft's statement that the $25 a-week benefit lift has not made a material difference to many families, why does he not cut the crap, accept that there is a credible measure to be had, and measure his Government's performance on child poverty against it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I know the member is running out of staff at a great rate of knots, but he really needs to get some new and better lines and stop proving to the country that he is "Angry Andrew"—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
• Housing Plan—Reports
Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National): My question is to the Minister of Social Housing. Has she received any reports supporting the Government's housing plan? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just going to ask the member to repeat that question. There was a little too much interjection coming from one particular quarter.
4. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Social Housing: Has she received any reports supporting the Government's housing plan?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes, I have. The cross-party report on homelessness released yesterday strongly endorsed the work this Government has been doing over the last couple of years to address the problem of homelessness. For example, the very first recommendation of the group was to roll out Housing First as a primary response to chronic homelessness, and I announced that roll-out to three Auckland locations in July—a full month before the cross-party group even got kicked off. So while the Opposition has still been going out there trying to find the problem, the Government has been working to fund and source more emergency housing places, to secure new short-term housing options, and, of course, to help people find those suitable, long-term, permanent options.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: How much funding has the Government put into emergency housing?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Government has put more than $50 million into funding emergency housing places and support products, both to support existing providers that have never ever had support before and to add new beds to the supply. The fact that this is the first time any Government has directed funding directly to emergency housing providers shows its commitment to this issue. There are more social houses being secured all the time, we have got new builds going on, we have got modular homes happening, and we have got permanent new social housing, but we are, equally, also doing something around emergency places, as well.
• Prime Minister—Statements
5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o āna kōrero katoa?
[Does he stand by all his statements?]
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially this comment: "This is a government that's been very focused on the most at-risk kids. We want to do better for them."
Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister said that his Government is "absolutely happy to commit to doing the best that we can to reduce the number of children that are in poverty or are struggling", why does his best exclude a child poverty reduction target?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the official advice is that there are a great many ways of measuring children who may or may not be in poverty, and one of the problems with having an individual target is you would then spend your time, I think, (a) potentially stigmatising a lot of kids, (b) not giving the money to areas that you actually need to—like rheumatic fever—and, thirdly, disagreeing with it. The member's definition of poor children is 360,000. The Government's is 60,000. There you go—we do not agree.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Ministry of Social Development's technical measure that there are 230,000 New Zealand children living in households with incomes at 60 percent of the after-housing costs anchored line?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure, if the member is doing justice to the report and reading it out correctly, that will be correct. That will be the report commissioned by Bryan Perry, which is the most definitive guide to measuring hardship in New Zealand, and I quote it where the report says "There is no evidence of increased poverty. Rates of material hardship in children have fallen in recent years."
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister accept the Ministry of Social Development's official advice that there are 85,000 New Zealand children living in severe material hardship?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and that is why the Government has been saying for some time—when the member has been going out there inflating the number of children in extreme poverty—that the Government's best calculation is between 60,000 and 100,000. At that point we were saying that we did not have Bryan Perry's most recent report, but the indications were that it would be around the midpoint and, indeed, it proved to be that.
Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister tell the House what is wrong with these internationally accepted official measures used by the Ministry of Social Development and why they are not an appropriate measure of child poverty against which he can set targets for reduction?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is absolutely nothing wrong with them, and that is what the Government does: it uses exactly that data and then it sets individual targets for things like immunisation and for areas like participation in early childhood education. It looks at income issues for families most at risk—that is the whole point. The Government goes out there—and this Government has done more than any other Government to do exactly that in terms of insulating homes, in terms of maintaining Working for Families and extending it, and in terms of making sure there are free doctors visits and putting significant resources into rheumatic fever. That is the point: the Government uses the data and then assesses individual targets.
Metiria Turei: If the Prime Minister accepts these official measures and he has set targets in at least 32 other policy areas, why will he not establish these measures as official measures and set child poverty reduction targets as a result?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has chosen to set individual targets on an individualised component, part of what might be defined as poverty. We think that is a better and more effective way of making sure we are delivering for these kids. These kids are the top priority of the Government. That is why we have been putting so much money into areas like rheumatic fever, and insulating 300,000 homes and making sure that is the top priority for those homes now—in fact actually, those that are occupied by the least well-off New Zealanders. The member is saying that there is one definition of poverty. There is not. The moment that you do that, the member will then come back and say that she is, effectively, stigmatising a whole bunch of kids.
Metiria Turei: At the very least, will the Prime Minister commit to reducing the number of children living in severe deprivation—a measure that he has publicly accepted as accurate—by, at least, 10 percent by the end of next year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I will not set a particular reduction target, but what I will do is continue to do what the Government has been doing, which is focusing absolutely on those children and that is one of the reasons why the Government has been saying that the number of those children who are in that group is between 60,000 and 100,000. It is why we are the first Government in 43 years to raise benefits. But I will raise one issue for the House—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have not called the member. Point of order.
Metiria Turei: The Prime Minister has answered the question quite fully. If he has other issues to raise, I suggest he does that in other questions.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. I think it is a valid point, but it is not a point of order. It is for me to decide when an answer will come to a conclusion.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a point of order?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I want to carry on with my answer.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I, actually, on this point—[Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. No. On this occasion, although it was not a point of order, I said I actually accepted that it was a reasonable point. The answer was given very clearly at the start of the answer, and I was about to rise to my feet to bring the Prime Minister to a conclusion. I do not have to any more.
• Finance, Minister—Statements
6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Is his reported statement from May this year correct that "Bill English says if he and John Key disagree on what to do with next year's expected surplus – pay down debt or cut taxes – what the Prime Minister wants, the Prime Minister gets"?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, the statement is not correct.
Grant Robertson: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's statement when asked how much was needed for a meaningful tax cut: "$3 billion, I reckon."?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That certainly would be meaningful, but, really, only a National-led Government can contemplate that, because we focus on controlling expenditure and making sure it gets results, and that is why we have got surpluses, so we have got some choices.
Grant Robertson: Does he think now is the right time to offer a $3 billion tax cut, when there are people living in cars and garages and when he himself has identified "intractable social problems" that need to be addressed after 8 years of government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has been seeking to address intractable social problems from the day it took office in 2008, and has made considerable progress on changing the way the Government does its job so that we are not just shovelling money out—the way Labour always says we should—but focusing on getting better results for people, not bigger budgets for agencies.
Grant Robertson: Does he believe now is the right time for a $3 billion tax cut?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will just have to wait and see. We have got annual accounts coming out on Thursday, a half-year update before Christmas, and then, by Budget 2017, the member might just find out what the Government thinks about that.
Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister of Finance think that he might have choices on how to spend the Government's resources, when the economy grows at 3.6 percent and has one of the fastest wage growths in the last 8 years, when the Government's books are back in surplus, with the unemployment rates—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question has been asked; it does not need to be a speech.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As often happens as a result of our discussions, I can say to the Prime Minister, yes, yes, and yes.
Grant Robertson: Is paying down debt and investing in infrastructure a greater priority for him than tax cuts?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It has been up to now, that is for sure. The Government's infrastructure programme, ranging from revamping our social housing stock, through to rebuilding our old schools, through to roads, through to digitalising government, has grown very considerably in recent years, and that has clearly been a higher priority than tax reductions.
Grant Robertson: How much actual debt has he paid down?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think debt as a proportion of GDP is beginning to shrink, and the member can be reassured that with rising surpluses, actual nominal debt will start reducing.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I require substantially less interjection from my immediate left.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The finance Minister was asked how much debt he has paid off. He did not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: And I agree, he certainly did not answer in actual numbers; that is true. He answered proportionately. The member who asked the question at the time did not object to it. If he had, I would have—[Interruption] Order! The member may well object, but he did not ask the question, and it is certainly out of time now, but I would have expected—[Interruption] Order! If Mr Robertson had immediately stood to his feet, I might well have given him that opportunity.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At what point in time have you issued a ruling about the immediacy of that? There was no time at all between when you asked members on this side to be quiet and when Mr Peters stood up to make a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: There certainly was time. I have not made such a ruling. I was busy dealing with one of the member's colleagues, who was interjecting quite loudly at the time. For the benefit of the member, if he wants to ask the question, specifically, again, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Grant Robertson: How much, in dollar terms, has he paid down debt?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: None yet, and if I took that member's advice, none ever.
• HomeStart Grants—Homeownership
7. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Building and Housing: How many New Zealanders have been helped into homeownership with the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant scheme since it was introduced, and what increases have there been in the grants and withdrawals under the scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): There has been huge growth in the number of people using KiwiSaver and HomeStart to purchase their first home, following the Government's changes last year. The number of people accessing KiwiSaver for purchasing a first home has more than doubled, from 15,000 to over 31,000, and the contribution towards a deposit has grown from $214 million last year to $486 million this year. The number of people accessing a HomeStart grant has increased rapidly from 5,000 per year up to nearly 14,000 per year, and $65 million has been paid out in grants for a first-home deposit. So in total, from both KiwiSaver and HomeStart, over $550 million has gone towards home deposits in the last year.
Simon O'Connor: What changes has the Government made that have enabled more New Zealanders to get support in buying a first home?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: We have made four changes: firstly, we enabled people to be able to access more of their KiwiSaver funds to buy a first home; secondly, we increased the income and house price caps to a more realistic level to improve access; thirdly, we provided double the HomeStart grants for new builds, as compared with existing homes, and provided for higher caps; and, fourthly, we changed the rules to make the scheme more accessible for people buying townhouses and apartments. All these changes have proved successful, as seen by the more than doubling of the number of people using those schemes.
Phil Twyford: When the average renter in Auckland is $160,000 short of the deposit they need for the average home, how does he expect a $10,000 or $20,000 grant to make any kind of meaningful difference?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I dispute the member's figures, but under KiwiSaver the average Kiwi family in KiwiSaver for a period of 5 years, plus the Government HomeStart scheme, is able to secure $80,000 towards the deposit of a home. This Government is giving more support for homeowners being able to get their first home than any Government in a generation.
Simon O'Connor: What has been the impact of the changes made on 1 July 2016 to the rules around access to KiwiSaver for second-chance homeowners?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The significant change we made on 1 July was removing the income caps for people wanting to access their KiwiSaver for buying a home when they had previously owned one but lost it through a separation, a business failure, or some other reason. The removal of the income cap has seen the numbers double. Previously, about half of those applications were declined. The scheme is now helping 500 families a month, or 6,000 a year, get into homeownership.
• Prime Minister—Statements
8. FLETCHER TABUTEAU (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Does he stand by his statement: "In principle, what they're trying to do the Government agrees with."? This is with regard to the Electricity Authority's decision to change electricity distribution charges across New Zealand.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do stand by that statement, which really just reflects what the Electricity Authority's mandate is to do.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Can he then "in principle" agree with former National Minister John Carter, who said: "Economically [these changes] would be a disaster. We seriously can't let it happen."?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it would be better if I did not comment, because ultimately the decision is the preliminary decision, as I understand it, from the Electricity Authority. It is independent in making that decision. It is highly likely that once it goes through its review process there will then be further input, and, potentially, litigation, that involves this area. So it is not something the Government directly influences; the Electricity Authority is independent in making those decisions.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Is he prepared to front up to the people of Northland and the people of Kawerau and the Bay of Plenty and tell them their job losses make sense "in principle", as big business shuts up shop in our regions because of these huge price hikes?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said earlier, it is important, I think, to understand that, firstly, the Electricity Authority is independent in terms of making these decisions. It obviously tries to have a degree of equity in terms of its decision making. Secondly, these things are going through a process, as I understand it, where there is a review. Thirdly, they may well be subject to litigation. Clearly, the country needs an electricity system that works well and is appropriately funded, and the Electricity Authority has that responsibility.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Does he think his apathy and lack of intervention on these price hikes are good for New Zealand business decision makers and long-term investment, or does he think changing core fundamentals like this willy-nilly is just fine "in principle"?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I accept that the member is part of a caucus where they do everything that Winston tells them to do, but we live in a political party—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister cannot answer like that. I have seen the latest National Party polls and I know he is panicking, but he cannot behave like that. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is half right. It is not helpful to answer the question that way, Prime Minister.
• Homelessness Inquiry—Report
9. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Has she read the final report of the Cross-Party Inquiry on Homelessness "Ending Homelessness in New Zealand"; if so, will she implement its recommendations?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes, I have read the report; and, of course, I have already implemented most of its recommendations.
Phil Twyford: Does she agree with the Prime Minister that people sleeping on their cousin's couch are not homeless, and, if so, how can she possibly consider that a family trying to send its kids to school from a different family member's lounge each week has a home?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Prime Minister would have been referring to the definition that used to be the true homelessness one, which is "rough sleepers"—so those sleeping on the streets—and that is the argument. Obviously, we are concerned about people who are couch surfing. We want them to have permanent homes. That is something that we are delivering on and it is something that we are focused on.
Phil Twyford: Has she seen the estimate by Nevil Pierse of Otago University that keeping someone on the street costs around $65,000 per person per year, which, with 4,200 people currently without shelter, means that the cost of inaction is over $250 million a year? If so, would this not justify spending a lot more than the approximately $9 million she is currently spending on emergency housing?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have had a look at the submission. Officials were unable to tell me how he has come up with that figure, so there is no actual data behind it that I have seen. My point would be that, actually, to house them, I think in the first instance—in the first 2 or 3 years—it would actually cost more. I think that is an investment worth making, and it is one that we are actually doing.
Phil Twyford: How many people will her $3 million of funding for Housing First house each year, and will she consider a full roll-out of the Housing First approach to cover the 4,200 homeless people without shelter?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Sorry, I cannot quite remember how many people it was that the $3 million for Housing First would cover. I do not want to make the number up now. I cannot remember the exact number, but it is hundreds. I have got a feeling it is up to 2,000, but I would like to check that figure for the member. There is a lot involved in implementing it, and it is, of course, about more than just what Housing First is doing; it is all of the services around it. So it is making sure that we have got the mental health services there and the addiction services, and making sure that we are able to have longer-term solutions for those who are inside the houses. I think the three, on top of the Housing First that is in Hamilton, are really good ways. It is going to be quite different doing it in Auckland than it was in Hamilton because of some of the special challenges that are there. We are open to rolling it out further when we see the results coming through.
Phil Twyford: Does she accept that the only way to ultimately house the 41,000 homeless people is to provide permanent affordable housing for them; and, if so, will she commit to increasing the State and community housing stock by the 15,000 to 25,000 houses needed and to implementing a nationwide strategy to end homelessness?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: That strategy is already in place. We have got a comprehensive plan. We are rolling it out literally every single day, and it is making a huge difference. We are housing 160 people in social housing each week, when we used to house 140, for example. Another good example is just the massive rebuild programme that is going on. The Minister for Building and Housing has recently announced Northcote, where you can see more State houses coming on board. The other is the recent announcement with community housing providers, where we are now giving them access to up to 150 percent of the income-related rent—50 percent that they can use as part of that deposit and 100 percent income-related rent, which we have opened up to them. There are literally thousands more permanent homes coming on board over the next 2 or 3 years.
Marama Davidson: Does the Minister support providing New Zealanders who rent with some security about their tenancies so they can put down roots in their communities and have a secure home?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is not work that we are currently looking at.
Marama Davidson: In response to Phil Twyford's question earlier, and for clarity, how many actual people, if any, have been housed as a result of the $3 million invested in the Housing First initiative?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have just chosen the providers for that, and it is being rolled out.
Marama Davidson: Given that Māori are overrepresented in homelessness, will the Minister provide more and ongoing support for the services that are proven to have effect for our people, such as those run from Te Puea and Manurewa Marae?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes.
• Wild Kiwi Recovery—Announcements
10. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Conservation: What announcements has she made on wild kiwi recovery?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Last week I released the draft 10-year Kiwi Recovery Plan for consultation. The plan sets out how we intend to turn a 2 percent annual decline into a 2 percent increase with $11.2 million from last year's Budget. Our goal is to have 100,000 kiwi in the wild by 2030—that is up from 70,000 kiwis. A 2 percent increase is, indeed, achievable. Rowi and Haast tokoeka populations, which once numbered fewer than 200 each, have now more than doubled to more than 400 birds each, thanks to intensive pest management.
Sarah Dowie: What are some of the challenges identified by the plan?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Rats and stoats.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The usual suspects. That member was correct—rats and stoats; he is surrounded by them. They are the main killers of kiwi, which is why this Government has invested in Battle for our Birds, New Zealand's largest predator-control operation—800,000 hectares—as well as Predator Free 2050, one of the most ambitious conservation projects in the world. The Department of Conversation trials in Tongariro show that aerial 1080 drops are very successful in protecting kiwi. Before these operations, kiwi chicks had a 25 percent chance of surviving to 6 months of age; following the operations, kiwi chick survival was twice as high. Maintaining genetic diversity is absolutely crucial. Preventing dog predation is also crucial, which is why we have programmes for dog aversion around kiwi. All of these things are challenges, but we will overcome them.
Sarah Dowie: How will the plans support community groups working with kiwi?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: More than 80 groups are already working specifically with kiwi recovery. We are investing $3.5 million over 4 years through Kiwis for Kiwi. For example, Rainbow Springs' Kiwi Encounter hatched 101 kiwis last season, celebrating its 1,500th chick overall. Kiwis for Kiwi supported 38 projects last year—including community conservation groups, iwi, research, and captive institutions—with over $500,000 in funding. Strategies planned specifically to make Wellington, Picton, and other parts of New Zealand predator-free will be formulated. Advice, self-resetting traps, and other things will also be available through funding.
11. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections: Does she still believe that Serco should be operating Auckland South Corrections Facility; if so, how, given she described them as failures in their management of Mt Eden?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections): Yes; because I have sought and received assurances from the Department of Corrections chief executive, Ray Smith, that the Auckland South Corrections Facility is running well.
Kelvin Davis: Were Labour and the Corrections Association of New Zealand right in 2013 when they raised concerns about Serco's mismanagement of Mt Eden prison, or does she stand by her predecessor's statement, that both Labour and the Corrections Association of New Zealand were "making things up."?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I obviously do not have the detail of any allegations made at that time, but I can tell that member that I have often found him "making things up".
Kelvin Davis: Why is she hiding responsibility for the mess at Mt Eden, when the Prime Minister recently said of her decision to give Serco the contract in 2010 that "clearly they were the wrong choice."?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I actually lost track, listening to that very long question. Could he start it again?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please repeat the question.
Kelvin Davis: Why is she hiding responsibility for the mess at Mt Eden, when the Prime Minister said of her decision to give Serco the contract in 2010 that "clearly they were the wrong choice."?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not.
Kelvin Davis: Does she have a responsibility to know what is going on in her own department, or is she going to keep blaming her officials for withholding the reports on Serco?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I would have thought the member must know that the report has, in fact, been released.
Kelvin Davis: Would a weak Minister choose to blame the unions, the prison monitors, the prison inspectorate, the chief executive officer Ray Smith—everyone but herself—for the mess at Mt Eden, or will she front up and admit she made a mistake?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I certainly would not know, because I do not know any weak Ministers.
• Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Act—Advice
12. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: Has he received any advice regarding regulatory uncertainty around peer-to-peer platforms and the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Act 2014?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): Yes.
David Seymour: Does the Minister support the Financial Markets Authority's (FMA's) interpretation that peer-to-peer lending platforms such as Harmoney provide an intermediary service and are not a creditor?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Look, I would just say at the outset that the member will be aware that the Commerce Commission had civil proceedings to clarify whether one peer-to-peer lender platform fee constitutes a credit fee under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, and so I do not want to go into the specific details of that. In terms of the broader question—yes, I have had advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the FMA, and the Commerce Commission, and I am considering them all as to whether the overall settings are right. I will be working with officials and considering that carefully over the next few weeks.
David Seymour: Why does the Minister think that MBIE and the Commerce Commission are concerned about a practice that is the norm for peer-to-peer platforms in the US, the UK, and Australia with, for example, in the UK, Zopa with £1.6 billion of loans and Funding Circle with £1.4 billion of loans, and Lending Club in the US with US$27 billion of loans—all of which charge borrowers origination fees, which are the subject of the Commerce Commission's investigation?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: It is because, I think, the laws relating to credit contracts are slightly different in New Zealand, and we have to deal with the situation that we have in this country, and make sure that the laws work effectively. We do certainly want to see peer-to-peer lending work effectively in New Zealand, and I am carefully considering the options to make sure that that works in practice.
David Seymour: How is New Zealand really different from the UK, the US, and Australia, and is this a case of New Zealand companies falling behind because of poor, slow, and not fit for purpose regulation killing entrepreneurship in our financial technology sector?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I think the member could reflect on some of the ease of doing business in terms of regulation in this country, where we score very highly. The member and his caucus may prefer no regulations, but we have seen throughout the history of the financial markets in New Zealand and globally that they can create problems, and we are working through this carefully and sensibly.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not actually address the question about this particular area of regulating peer-to-peer lending at all; he merely referred to peripheral issues.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty was that it was not a very clear question the way it was asked—"How is New Zealand different from the UK, US, and Australia?". It was a difficult question and I think, on this occasion, the Minister addressed it.
David Seymour: Does the Minister find it odd that his Government spends so much time trying to pump up economic diversification, and as soon as the private sector gives us some diversification, his regulatory regime kills it—as it is doing at Harmoney in Parnell with 45 employees right now?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do agree with the member that the regulatory framework for peer-to-peer lending does need to be clear, and we do want to support innovation and competition in credit markets. That is why we are giving this very careful consideration.
David Seymour: In light of that, will he consider clarifying the law by making a small amendment to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Act, or will he let this overzealous regulator harm nascent financial technology in New Zealand?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not sure whether the member is implying that, as a Minister, I should be interfering with the independent regulator in terms of the Commerce Commission, which I certainly would not want to be doing. But we are giving thought to the broader policy issues.
Iain Lees-Galloway: How much did those questions cost, David?
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a robust debate, but for Iain Lees-Galloway to imply that those questions were paid for by somebody outside the House is completely out of order. It brings disrepute to the House, and he should stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the comment. I did not actually identify who said it. Now that the person has been identified I do require him to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I withdraw and apologise.