Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 10
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. Last week, Stats NZ released data on building work put in place during the June quarter. Stats NZ said that "The total volume of building activity remains at historically high levels, and the trend has generally been increasing for the past two years." Meanwhile, the total value of building work put in place in the June 2019 quarter was $6.2 billion, an increase of 11.8 percent on the June quarter a year ago. This Government's investments, including the major hospital and school build programmes announced at Budget 2019 and our four-year State house building programme announced at Budget 2018, are providing huge support to New Zealand's building and construction industry.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen on consumer spending?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This morning's Stats NZ released electronic card transaction data, which showed seasonally adjusted retail card spending rose 1.1 percent in August, the highest monthly lift since January. Spending rose across all industries except for fuel, which saw a decline. This is great news for retail businesses and demonstrates increased confidence among consumers, which was also reflected in the August ANZ Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey, which lifted.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen on the international context for the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Oh well, last week, Australia, in its June—[Interruption] No, no. Australia; not the Chinese Communist Party, Mr Bridges—that's right. Last week, Australia released its June quarter GDP data, which rose 0.5 percent over the quarter from March, and 1.4 percent over the year—their lowest annual growth rate since 2009. This follows lower than expected June quarter GDP results across a number of other economies, including the eurozone, at 0.2 percent; Japan, at 0.3 percent; and Singapore, at 0.1 percent. Given New Zealand's exposure to the global economy, we are focused on making sure we are well placed to handle the effects of the global economic volatility that we are seeing. There is no doubt that this will impact on New Zealand, but the record investments we are making in infrastructure, alongside the $17 billion worth of transport infrastructure announced, will stand New Zealand in good stead to withstand these.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does his comment about communist China indicate a complacency about the single biggest market that keeps our economy in some ways strong?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, it doesn't. What it indicates is that I view the most extraordinary interview I think I've ever seen the leader of a National Party give, during which his praise for the Chinese Communist Party went to a level that even the most loyal members of that party would struggle with. We on this side of the House value our relationship with China immensely, but I think Mr Bridges needs to take another look at that interview, or perhaps buy a different hat.
• Question No. 2—Prime
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. In particular, I note the policies the Government has confirmed in just the last two weeks, including the beginning of the roll-out of primary mental health services across the country; a cancer action plan which sees increased investment in Pharmac, the creation of a cancer control agency, and more prevention and screening work; the launch of consultation on our plans to clean up our waterways; a child and youth wellbeing strategy, which includes a food in schools programme that will roll out food in schools to children beginning 2021; new initiatives to help more New Zealanders into homeownership; and I will add to the list continuing the work on the Christchurch Call.
Hon Simon Bridges: What is the number of confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The question is quite a direct one: the Government's statements, policies, and actions. That does not relate to any of those. The member may rephrase the question so that it fits the primary.
Hon Simon Bridges: What are her policies in relation to the number of confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand, and is she aware of how many cases there are?
SPEAKER: The member may answer one of those, or must answer one of those.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am. The latest report I received has indicated that we have—
Hon Simon Bridges: Someone's under pressure.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —1,149 cases.
Hon Simon Bridges: No, no, no. We know what that's about.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That's up 15 in Auckland, and an additional three nationally since the last report I received.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In an interjection that the Leader of the Opposition just made, he made a direct reflection on the ruling that you just made around whether or not that question was asked appropriately. It was a direct reflection that you were protecting someone.
SPEAKER: And I'm used to the direct reflections. I know that the Leader of the Opposition has both publicly, privately, and in this House reflected on me. I know that he wants to be thrown out, and I'm not going to.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it the case that between June 2009 and June 2017, vaccination rates increased from 80 percent to 93 percent, and only began decreasing after that—under her Government?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, the advice I've received from the Ministry of Health is that we've had declining rates in this area since 2014. I know the last Government had—as we share, of course—a desire to get to the World Health Organization level of immunisation that means we have herd immunity. That's 95 percent. The last Government managed to get it to 91.2 percent, and that, in the previous quarter, was 91.7 percent. So this is an area where the last Government didn't reach its own goals, either.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will she table that advice?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It's actually data on the health targets that the last National Government set.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked if she'd table it.
SPEAKER: Well, I heard the member ask the question. If the member had sought to have it tabled by way of point of order and it was official advice, then the Prime Minister could have considered tabling it. I understand that those things were published on a website, but, if the member really wants it—seeing as he is the Leader of the Opposition—well I'll ask the Prime Minister if she is prepared to table it, notwithstanding the fact that it's come from a website.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Mr Speaker, my understanding is it has come from a website. It's references to the national target of 95 percent for immunisation. I was just, simply, reading the quarterly results from what I believe is a public website. There's no problem then with that being tabled.
SPEAKER: It will be tabled.
Document laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say to Tauranga mother Jessica Barnes, who has been turned away from GPs more than eight times from getting measles immunisations for her child last week?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I had a conversation with the director-general about the issue of rolling out a national immunisation catch-up campaign. I believe this is something that for some time the Ministry of Health has been interested in—well before this outbreak; a number of years, I would say to the last Government. This is something, clearly, that's needed. We should have everyone who wants to be immunised and needs to be immunised able to be immunised. However, I'm also advised by the Ministry of Health that there is not a shortage of vaccinations. They are ensuring, however, at this point, that vaccinations are focused on the outbreak areas whilst also ensuring that they order in additional vaccinations on top of the 50,000 we expect coming in this week.
Hon Simon Bridges: If there isn't a shortage, is it remotely good enough that across the western Bay of Plenty 650 measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are needed across the 15 practices but there are only 100 in stock?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I was advised yesterday by the Director-General of Health that there isn't a shortage of vaccines. However, they put a pause on orders yesterday while they made sure that they were prioritising those areas where there are outbreaks.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Willie Jackson, who is tired of anti-vax parents being labelled "nutters and maniacs"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There were statements made, particularly last week, that I don't think correctly reflected the fact that we have a percentage of New Zealanders who will have what's called "vaccine hesitancy". It's not enough access and not enough information and advice. We need to overcome that to get that immunity up to 95 percent so that we can protect New Zealanders. A 300-percent increase in measles cases worldwide. This is a global programme that we have to tackle in New Zealand as well.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it true that the number of confirmed measles cases in the United States, with a population of 327 million people is 1,241, compared to New Zealand's 1,149?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is the United States, and, I believe the UK, have lost their measles-free status through the cases that they've experienced. We too, obviously, have an outbreak in Counties Manukau and we previously had one in Canterbury. Canterbury was brought under control, and we must do the same with Counties Manukau. That is the absolute focus of the ministry.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it true that the measles epidemic faced in New Zealand right now is worse per capita than anywhere in the world—the developed world, certainly?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The outbreak in Counties Manukau is something that the ministry is putting every effort into making sure that we vaccinate particularly 15 to 29s, that we ensure that those at 12 months are also prioritised, and that we get that outbreak under control. It's exactly why I've been in direct conversations with both Ministers and the Director-General of Health. It is a priority.
Hon Dr David Clark: Is the Prime Minister aware that there are outbreaks in Hong Kong, the Philippines, in Europe, in Australia, and also in the United States, and that around the world there has been a 300-percent increase in measles cases and that countries around the world are grappling with the challenge of—
SPEAKER: That's a very good question and a very long question, and none of it is the Prime Minister's responsibility.
David Seymour: Is the Prime Minister concerned that her Minister of Health appears to be finding the world's worst examples to follow?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, what the Minister of Health is pointing out is that the large majority of cases that have come into New Zealand have been traced to overseas. Of course, now, with the outbreak in Auckland, containment—of course, the spread is within the population. That's obviously what an outbreak is and that's what the Ministry of Health must get under control.
David Seymour: Can the Prime Minister promise that New Zealand will not lose its measles-free status, as she recently referred to the US and UK having lost their status?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, with a 300-percent increase globally, we are seeing countries that have previously been declared measles free losing that status. Our focus has to be getting this outbreak under control and getting people vaccinated. Of course we want to retain that status, but we also, actually, want to take care of people's health and wellbeing.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that a significant part of the reason for the increase in measles is her Government doing away with any health targets and accountabilities upon becoming Government?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I said in my earlier answer, the last member set a target that the last member did not reach. We've actually had an issue for a number of years with immunisations. We know that we have to get that rate up to 95 percent. This has been experienced in the 1990s before, and we have managed to turn those numbers around. Right now we have to use this as the beginning of a national catch-up campaign for those people who are unsure of their status or who aren't fully immunised to make sure they do so.
Hon Simon Bridges: Having done away with health targets and an immunisation target, will her Government come up with new ones; and, if so, when?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I want to reflect on the fact that that last member set a target which they then consistently did not achieve. It has to be about more than setting a target. We need to make sure that we have better access; that we have more nurses, for instance, in our schools able to issue these immunisations to the target groups; that we make sure that if there is any perception of access or any hesitancy over education issues around the benefit of immunisation, that we address that. We have not had decent immunisation rates in New Zealand for a number of years, and we have to turn it around.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is her position still as it was as Prime Minister not so long ago that "What gets measured, gets done"; and isn't it therefore an incredibly significant problem that there are no immunisation targets?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm going to read out: "Quarter three 2017, immunisation rate 91.7 percent; quarter four, 91.2 percent; quarter one when we came in, 91.4 percent. The member's goal was 95; he didn't hit it. You've got to do more than set a target. You have to be proactive; that is what we are doing. I ask the member that there should not be politics in immunisation. We all need to send these clear messages.
• Question No. 3—Prime
3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, including our proactive work to fix the housing crisis. That includes our focus on banning foreign buyers; delivering more than 2,000 public housing places; stopping the sale of State houses; implementing healthy homes, so no matter where you live you have a warm, dry home; banning letting fees; and I'm pleased that we've seen an increase from 18 percent to 24 percent of first-home buyers in our housing market.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many KiwiBuild houses will this Government build?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We've made a commitment that we'll keep using KiwiBuild as long as we need it to fix the housing crisis. That includes using it as leverage, because we as a Government can build at scale and we can address where there have been failures. It's not always across the country, but in hotspots, and that's where we're focused.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many KiwiBuild houses will this Government build?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the Minister has said, as many as we can, as fast as we can, which is more than that member did when he was in office.
Hon Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statements on the Christchurch Call, and how does she believe everyday New Zealanders feel about those statements?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely stand by the responsibility that we have to make sure that the harm that was done as a result of the attack in Christchurch, and the promotion of that attack, never happens again, and I stand by that.
Hon Simon Bridges: What will happen to the Government's $2 billion waiting to be spent on KiwiBuild, given she does not even know how many houses will be built under the programme?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We'll spend it on building houses.
Hon Dr Megan Woods: Is the Prime Minister aware that this Government, in two years, has built more affordable houses through KiwiBuild than the previous Government did under the special housing areas?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, that's my understanding. I believe they set a target of something like 37,000 houses and never achieved it.
Hon Simon Bridges: How does she then define "affordable"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, we've set that with the KiwiBuild price caps. We know that one of the issues for first-home buyers is, for instance, the percentage—
SPEAKER: Order! If the members want to ask a question, they should listen to the answer, not yell.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: With the deposits, in particular, we've learnt through KiwiBuild that that was an area we needed to do more on. Ten percent was too much of a barrier for too many, so we decreased it to five because, regardless of the price cap, that was a hurdle that we're addressing.
Hon Simon Bridges: What Government targets remain for that $2 billion allocated to the KiwiBuild programme?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: To continue to build as many houses as are needed to fix the crisis in the housing market. The member will also know that we have a target of building 6,400 public housing spaces and, currently, we are exceeding that target.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why wasn't she involved in the KiwiBuild reset announcement?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm not involved in every announcement every Minister makes.
• Question No. 4—Health
4. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has the Government made around improving mental health support for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): On Sunday, the Prime Minister and I had the privilege of travelling to Local Doctors Dawson in Flat Bush, Auckland, to announce funding for 22 medical practices across New Zealand, and a kaupapa Māori provider in Tairāwhiti to provide mental health support for patients via their local doctors clinic. New Zealanders told us through He Ara Oranga, the mental health and addiction inquiry, that we need to provide more support to the so-called "missing middle"—those with mild to moderate needs. Providing expert mental health support for New Zealanders quickly and easily via their family doctor is a very good way to prevent little problems becoming big ones.
Dr Liz Craig: How does this align with the Government's mental health policy?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government committed $1.9 billion over five years in this year's Wellbeing Budget to address the mental health crisis that we inherited. The $6 million in funding we confirmed on Sunday will mean doctors practices currently providing integrated mental health services will, for the first time, receive dedicated funding from the Government for this task. They are providing a sound model for other practices and organisations who are developing services of their own where there are none. Shortly, we will be allocating a further $30 million in funding to roll out new frontline services in communities throughout New Zealand from the start of next year.
Dr Liz Craig: So how much will it cost for New Zealanders to access these services?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: These services are absolutely free, although normal charges will apply for the initial doctor's consultation, which is yet another reason why it is great that this Government has made doctor visits much more affordable for almost 600,000 New Zealanders. This Government is making healthcare more affordable, accessible, and effective. In the area of mental health alone, we have put mental health funding in to support primary and intermediate schools in Canterbury and Kaikōura through the Mana Ake programme, which has helped 2,000 children in its first year alone. We've extended the nurses in schools programme. We've set up the Piki programme providing mental health support for 18 to 25 year-olds in Wellington and the Wairarapa. We've begun investing—
SPEAKER: Order! I think it's fair to say that the member has answered the question.
• Question No. 5—Prime
5. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that "On … the difficult issues, the hard issues, we will be there, we are there in those conversations"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. I stand by my full statement which was: "On issues like Ihumātao, the difficult issues, the hard issues, we will be there, we are there in those conversations". I went on to describe the importance, in this situation, of trying to find a by Māori for Māori solution to the issue.
Hon Paula Bennett: What is her response to the open letter sent to her as Prime Minister by Labour Party members regarding the allegations of repeated sexual assaults, harassment, and predatory behaviour by one of her staff?
SPEAKER: Order! There are a number of reasons I think I could rule that question out, part of which is ministerial responsibility—but it must relate to the original question. Taking a partial quote on another issue and suggesting that it relates to a secondary issue is not an acceptable way of working.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A couple of things, Mr Speaker, then, if I can just clarify: so the open letter is blatantly to the Prime Minister—
Hon Paula Bennett: —and so it certainly is, in that respect. And as far as a quote around hard issues, then I think it is a direct quote. And this is certainly one of those hard issues that I would imagine the Prime Minister would have comment on.
SPEAKER: I can understand where the member is coming from. The area that the member is referring to is an area of my responsibility. The fact that someone else has been written to about it does not make it their responsibility. The member might want to try rephrasing her question to get it within the Prime Minister's responsibility.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order, while I appreciate you correctly saying that it may well be in your area of responsibility, I think it is also reasonable that we believe the public statements of the Prime Minister. One of those statements, in an interview with Mr Hosking, was that she is the employer in this case. I don't think, therefore, it's reasonable to have the Prime Minister making that claim in the public arena and then not being able to answer questions, having said that, in this very public arena also.
SPEAKER: The member will be absolutely aware that in this particular case the Prime Minister is not the employer. The fact that she may have said that she was, she was wrong. The member trying to use that as a way of getting a question for which I have responsibility—there is not ministerial responsibility for this—is not appropriate.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So the Prime Minister can go out and categorically make a statement that she is the employer, and because you then judge that that is incorrect after the fact, she then no longer has to make—so can she make statements about anything, be wrong, and you then make that judgment?
SPEAKER: If the member had asked a question about the Prime Minister's statement—which happened to be incorrect—then I could well have allowed it. But the fact that the Prime Minister has made a statement in a particular area does not bring an otherwise out of order supplementary question into order.
Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you. My supplementary question is: when the Prime Minister is addressing difficult issues, does she include that in regards to allegations of repeated sexual assaults, harassment, and predatory behaviour that are alleged to have been done by one of her staff?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. I will be clear, of course: convention in this House, of course, requires me to respond to those things that I have ministerial responsibility for. But I will answer in general terms. The member will have seen that I have conducted a number of interviews this morning, and will continue to answer those questions from my capacity as a Prime Minister. Of course, we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations. There are things that need to be dealt with here, and I will continue to work to ensure that they are addressed, whilst also taking very seriously my responsibility as leader of New Zealand to create a justice system where people feel confident going through. We have seen an example—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Now, the Prime Minister will sit down, and I will hear the rest of this in silence. Some of us have been dealing with this issue for some time, and having the points of view of survivors of alleged abuse shouted down when they are put to the House is just not acceptable in the 21st century.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: So I do take very seriously the systemic issues we need to address in our justice system so that we have an environment where people feel, and victims feel, comfortable using that system. We have seen clear examples in the public domain currently where that has not been the case, and I take that very seriously.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she seen reports in the public domain where victims were told not to go to the police but keep their complaints internal?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can speak for the area where I have responsibility. I would never, ever, ever encourage someone not to take a complaint to the proper authorities. The member, if she reflects back on my statements in this House—I have conveyed that time and time again. What we have to accept is that some do not feel comfortable doing that. We have to improve our system. That is the place where we're most able to take these issues forward—through our criminal justice system—and we have a lot of work to do to fix that.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it correct that her Minister of Finance, the Hon Grant Robertson, has known about the allegations made about a staff member in her office for some time, and does she expect us to believe that she hasn't spoken with him about it?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I've answered many questions on this issue in the public domain, but what I will stick to in this House is convention, which is answering where people have ministerial responsibility.
Hon Paula Bennett: How many of her Ministers know about these allegations concerning one of her staff members?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I refer to the previous answer. Again, this is an area where I absolutely accept the public interest, and I'm responding to that, but when I'm in this House I will maintain the conventions of this House.
• Question No.
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he have a clear idea of the costs of major Government policies and is he confident New Zealanders are getting good value for money from major Government spending initiatives?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. On 30 May this year, I tabled a very detailed set of documents called the Budget and the Estimates of Appropriations, which I encourage the member to read—well, he didn't read them. These documents detail the costs of major Government policies like our record investment in mental health, and investments to fix mouldy hospitals, build new schools, and grow our regions. Given that these policies are fixing many problems we inherited, I am confident that New Zealanders are indeed getting good value for money from these major Government spending initiatives.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What is the best estimate of the potential cost to the New Zealand economy of the proposed national environment standards for water, announced last week?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Those standards are out for consultation at this stage. Any costings in that regard would be entirely hypothetical, at this point.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is his Government acting competently when it is proposing measures impacting 60 percent of our export goods, armed only with a draft regulatory impact statement relating to a critical piece of that saying, "The modelling to date of the economic impacts on farms has been very limited"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This is a really important area for New Zealand to get right, because for too long, Governments have ignored the decline in our water quality, which in turn leads to health issues, which in turn, actually, leads to damage to the very thing that we trade off in the world, which is our clean, green image and reputation. So on this side of the House, we are taking meaningful steps to help improve water quality in New Zealand, working alongside the agricultural sector to do that. So at this stage in the process, those comments are the ones that you would expect to see. As we get more detail and as the consultation continues, there'll be more work done.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Doesn't he think Kiwis expect the Government to care about the state of our water and how we make a living in this world, and in order to make sensible decisions, any Government needs to make reasonable inquiries into the economic consequences of its decisions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In answer to the first part of the question, absolutely yes, and what surprises me is why the member opposite didn't realise that when he was in Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he surprised that business confidence is at low levels, when his Government first made the oil and gas decision having sought no analysis of its economic impact, and now is proposing a very significant decision on water standards on the basis of very limited analysis?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I've said many times in this House, the business confidence levels that we see reflect businesses who are in an international environment where they are facing significant headwinds, and also reflect a historical trend whereby those confidence levels do, unfortunately, reflect some of the views already held by those who fill them out, as opposed to the economic conditions they're in.
• Question No.
7—Regional Economic Development
7. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent Provincial Growth Fund announcements have been made?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Last Friday in Helensville, on the side of the Northland line, the train whistle blew. The caps of all business representatives were doffed as I announced the $94.8 million injection on behalf of the Government, from the Provincial Growth Fund, to bring the Northland line out of managed decline. Not only is this the first segment of the $300 million Provincial Growth Fund allocation, which was announced by the Minister of Finance in the Budget, but it reflects overdue work which will cover 154 kilometres of the 181 kilometre track, and it is a recharge for the economy of the Northland area.
Jenny Marcroft: Why is this work necessary?
Hon SHANE JONES: This work, sadly, is necessary because of historical neglect. There was a long period of political animus towards KiwiRail, and, in particular, an unmitigated set of events directed negatively towards Northland by the last regime. Had this investment not been proceeded with within 12 months, we are advised that the Northland rail line would've been closed, and that would've been a very dim and dark chapter for Northland to live through.
Jenny Marcroft: What has been the reaction to this announcement?
Hon SHANE JONES: It was not unlike a firework display: it was colourful, it was loud, and it was positive. Not only senior business figures in the form of Don Braid from Mainfreight congratulated the Government on moving in this direction, not only the district's local government leaders such as Deputy Mayor Peter Wethey from the Kaipara area, who saw great things happening at Maungatūroto—there was one discordant note, however. The sitting member from Northland described it as a white elephant rather than me picking a white rabbit out of the hat.
Jenny Marcroft: What other Provincial Growth Fund announcements have been made recently?
Hon SHANE JONES: Just to show that the fiscal love is being spread around the various provinces, the Sarjeant Gallery, located in Whanganui, has been tottering as a consequence of the former regime doing not one thing to help that landmark, that iconic feature of the Whanganui economy, to be rejuvenated. A substantial amount of money, along with money from the ministry of arts and culture, was announced, and full marks to my colleague Mr Fletcher Tabuteau, who announced it sans fireworks.
• Question No.
KIERAN McANULTY (Labour): Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. He pātai tāku ki te Minita o te Taiao. [Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have a question for the Minister for the Environment.] What are the main proposals in the Essential Freshwater announcement, and were there a consensus among the advisory groups advising the Government?
SPEAKER: OK, have another go.
8. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: Right-oh. What are the main proposals in the Essential Freshwater announcement, and was there a consensus amongst the advisory groups advising the Government?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Firstly, the e-coli criteria is to be tightened for swimming spots used by Kiwi families in summer to better match the Ministry of Health safe swimming guidelines. Secondly, strict controls will be introduced to stop an increase in the quantity of risky practices, which we know cause water quality to get worse; the most obvious example being some winter grazing practices. Thirdly, the best practices already used by many farmers will be required to be used by all farmers so as to improve the effects from land-use practices. Fourthly, an upgraded national policy statement (NPS) will include wider measures of ecosystem health, and it will be put into effect by a new planning process by 2025, which is based on that used by the last Government for the Auckland Council amalgamation. And in answer to the second part of the question, there was unanimous consensus across the Scientific Advisory Group, Kāhui Wai Māori, and the freshwater leaders group that such measures are necessary to halt the decline in freshwater quality.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: He aha ngā pātahi i tau mai ki te hunga i noho kei ngā tāonga e pā ana ki te wai?
[How are the proposals going to affect urban populations in regard to fresh water?]
Hon DAVID PARKER: As a result of the Three Waters review, we're proposing mandatory environmental management plans for waste water and storm water operators, and regulated standards for waste and water treatment plants. There are also new reporting requirements for waste water and storm water operators, and urban design requirements to better protect wetland and stream habitats will also help. Everyone in New Zealand needs to do our bit, so it's pleasing to see that Auckland City is bringing forward $900 million of expenditure to better separate storm water from sewage. This is expected to result in a 90 percent reduction in the contamination of Auckland beaches by sewage within 10 years.
Kiritapu Allan: Why did the advisory groups support these proposals?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The advisory groups, which were a Māori reference group, Kāhui Wai, the Freshwater Leaders Group, which is led by two dairy industry leaders and the Scientific Advisory Group are all clear that significant change is required, and required rapidly, to halt the decline in our waterways and return them to the state that all New Zealanders support. The regional council working group is pleased with the new plan-making process, because under the current plan-making process, almost half of New Zealand's regional councils will take until 2030 to implement the last Government's 2017 NPS. That's 13 years, by which time children born in 2017 will be teenagers.
Kiritapu Allan: Are critics who say this is unnecessary, because freshwater quality is already improving, correct?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No. Indeed, all of the reference groups agree that if we let it get worse, it costs more and takes longer, and is harder to fix. Presently, sediment is continuing to pile up, choking our estuaries and smothering our shellfish beds, and in the north it is the cause of the rampant growth of mangroves. Nitrate levels are still on the increase in many rivers and aquifers. Some rivers—in fact, many rivers—have lost over 90 percent of their macro-invertebrates, and twice as many monitored rivers still have declining macro-invertebrate populations rather than improving macro-invertebrate populations, and this is a clear indication that these rivers are in decline.
Kiritapu Allan: Why do the new rules include strict controls on wetland loss and cover urban streams?
Hon DAVID PARKER: New Zealand lost about 90 percent of our wetlands a century ago, when land was cleared for our towns and for farming. Sadly, in the decade prior to the latest Environment Aotearoa report, we lost a 20th of those remaining. No wonder our whitebait are dying, and we need these new rules to better protect our remaining wetlands.
Kiritapu Allan: Why is improving New Zealand's freshwater quality also important economically?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Staying ahead of the game in our export and tourism markets is critical to our economic interests as well, and it's clear that consumers in the most valuable high-end markets are increasingly concerned about environmental integrity. As Chris Allen from Federated Farmers said just last night, and I quote, "Whether it be to Europe or China, they want to know they can trust me and the food we're producing. We've got good environmental integrity and we're involved in good farming practices all right from the beginning." I couldn't have said it better myself.
• Question No.
9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: What proportion of the increased funding for medicines announced at the launch of the interim cancer action plan will be used to purchase cancer drugs?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Funding for medicines is just one element of the Government's comprehensive approach to cancer care and control. As a result of the extra funding announced on 1 September, Pharmac has begun consultation on three new cancer medicines for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and leukaemia. It has also issued a request for proposal for a further advanced breast cancer drug, either Ibrance or Kadcyla. As the member knows, Pharmac operates independently and decides which drugs are publicly funded based on expert advice from clinicians. As a result, at this time, it is not possible to say precisely what portion of the $60 million of extra funding will go into cancer medicines.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his statement on 2 September, in respect of that funding, "We heard yesterday from Steve Maharey that some of the money will go into contraceptives."?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Some of the money is going into long-acting contraceptives from the additional moneys we've put forward, we're told, and also some of the money is going into the meningococcal vaccine. Sixty thousand New Zealanders will benefit from medicines that are being funded, including, of course, those who will benefit from the additional cancer medicines that are being funded out of that extra money. Four out of the six, I'll note, so far, of the drugs proposed to be funded, are cancer drugs, and Steve Maharey also said that there would be more drugs yet to come out of that money that's been put aside—more drugs for more New Zealanders.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why did he announce funding for Pharmac on the day of the launch of the interim cancer plan if the funding was not to be committed to the funding of cancer medicines?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We had been advised under the "no surprises" policy that some of the money that we would spend would go to cancer medicines. That was great news, because we've certainly heard New Zealanders seeking to have more cancer medicines funded. Pharmac said they had some that were available to be funded. Indeed, before we made that announcement, in the weeks prior, Pharmac announced more cancer medicines would be funded out of money we'd put aside in the Budget earlier in the year. It is the case that the Pharmac model gets better value than other models around the world and means that, constantly, new drugs are being funded when Governments put new money in.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will he concede that the public may have had an expectation that the announcement coinciding with the launch of the cancer plan on funding was for cancer drugs, not contraceptives, and that that announcement may have been misleading to some?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No, I think most New Zealanders are pretty smart. They do understand that the Pharmac model ensures that Pharmac and expert clinicians make the decisions about which drugs get funded when new money is put in. I think people understand that.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Would he agree that if the extra funding is spent in proportion to the current cancer drug spend, the new funding on cancer drugs will be just $4.4 million this year, and how far will that go in funding the plethora of currently unfunded cancer medicines?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: What I do know is that those decisions are made at arm's length and that each funding decision made by the funding agency has different ingredients to it. The only year I'm aware of where cancer medicine funding actually went down was in 2014, when the then Government put no money at all into Pharmac whatsoever. It's the only time in history that I can find when the funding for cancer medicines went down—it was 2014, when they put no money into Pharmac. We're addressing years of neglect in the health system; this is one more incidence. But in our cancer action plan, we've looked at prevention, we've looked at screening, we've looked at treatment, palliative care. We have a comprehensive cancer action plan, recognising that our health system has been neglected and it's lacked leadership for a long time. We're making a difference, and we're very proud of that.
• Question No. 10—Māori
10. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Māori Development: He aha ngā whainga a te Kāwanatanga e pā ana ki te Reo Māori?
[What are the Government's goals for Māori language?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): E toru ngā whāinga rongomaioro a tā te Kāwanatanga rautaki Maihi Karauna. Ko ēnei: i mua i te tau e 2040, kua 85 ōrau, kua neke atu rānei, ngā tāngata e kaingākau ana ki te reo Māori hei wāhanga matua mō te tuakiri ā-motu; i mua i te tau e 2040, kua kotahi miriona, kua neke atu rānei, te tokomaha e kaha ana, e māia ana ki te kōrero e pā ana ki ngā take tūāpapa i te reo Māori; i mua i te tau e 2040, kua 150,000 ngā Māori kua 15 tau, kua pakeke ake rānei e kaha ana ki te whakamahi i te reo Māori pērā i tō rātou kaha ki te whakamahi i te reo Pākehā.
[The Crown's Maihi Karauna strategy has three important goals. These are: by the year 2040, 85 percent or more of the population will be positively disposed towards the Māori language as a part of the national identity; by the year 2040, one million or more will be confident to speak often about basic topics in the Māori language; by the year 2040, 150,000 Māori aged 15 years or older will use the Māori language as much as they use English.]
Rino Tirikatene: He pātai tāpiri: he aha ngā kaupapa hou i whakarewatia e te Kāwanatanga kia tāpiri atu ki te rautaki?
[A supplementary question: what new initiatives has the Government launched to add to the strategy?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Tuatahi me mihi atu rā ki te Pirīmia nāna i whakarewatia te Maihi Karauna i te tīmatatanga o tēnei tau. Mehemea ka whakatakoto ētehi o ngā kaupapa, ko ēnei: tētehi hui taumata mō te reo Māori mā te rangatahi kia hono ki tō UNESCO Tau o Ngā Reo Taketake o tēnei tau; he awheawhe ā-rohe e aro ana ki ngā huarahi auaha hei whakarauora i te reo Māori; he kokiritanga whakaawe hapori hei whakatairanga i te uara o te reo Māori i waenga i te rangatahi Māori mā tauiwi mā; me Te Reo Rarawe, he rārangi akoranga i te reo Māori e hangareka ana, e wātea ana ki ngā momo paepāho.
[Firstly, we should acknowledge the Prime Minister, who launched the Maihi Karauna at the beginning of this year. If I were to mention other initiatives, they would be these: a summit meeting about the Māori language for youth to connect with UNESCO's Indigenous Languages Year this year; a community engagement initiative to enhance the value of the Māori language among Māori and non-Māori youth; and Te Reo Rarawe, a series of lessons in the Māori language that are engaging, and available to the various social media platforms.]
Rino Tirikatene: He aha te hua o te rautaki mā te hunga e ngākaunui ana ki te reo Māori?
[What have been the benefits of the strategy for those that value the Māori language?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Tuatahi kia rere tō tātou nei reo. Atu i tērā, ka tika me mihi atu ki a Hōnore Davis me te maha o ngā kaupapa i puta i waenganui i tana mahi kei Te Tāhuhu Mātauranga Māori. Nō reira ko tātou e whakamanatia te kōrero a te kuia, "whiua ki te ao, whiua ki te rangi, whiua ki ngā iwi katoa". Kia rere tō tātou nei reo.
[Firstly, that our language is being used. Apart from that, it is only right to acknowledge the Hon Kelvin Davis and the many initiatives that came out of his work at Te Tāhuhu Mātauranga Māori. So we are all validating the statement of the matriarch, "throw it to the world, throw it to the sky, share it with all peoples."]
• Question No.
11.Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he stand by all of his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Yes, in particular my statement that New Zealanders need to work together to stop the quality of our fresh water degrading, because if we let it get worse, it costs more, takes longer, and is harder to fix.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the December 2018 National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) report titled Water quality state and trends in New Zealand rivers that, for water clarity, phosphorous, and turbidity, "in each case the trend direction indicated improving conditions."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have the table of the results from the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa reports. For me, the most disturbing of those results is in respect of the macroinvertebrates—these are the little critters that rely upon water quality to live—and it shows that roughly twice as many of the 673 monitoring sites were getting worse as were getting better. That's a clear indicator that we still have declining freshwater quality in our rivers.
Hon Scott Simpson: Point of order, Mr—
SPEAKER: Yes, I'm going to ask the member to ask his question again.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the December 2018 NIWA report titled Water quality state and trends in New Zealand rivers that, for water clarity, phosphorous, and turbidity, "in each case the trend direction indicated improving conditions."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have the table, which I think is referred to in the statement that the member just referred to, and all of the areas that are shown in red and orange on that bar graph are rivers that are getting worse. We have a considerable number of our rivers getting worse, and, according to the macroinvertebrate indices, more of them are getting worse. In fact, twice as many are getting worse as are improving. In respect of clarity, it is not as bad a problem as macroinvertebrates, but other indicators are sure as hell not yet fixed.
Hon Scott Simpson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Twice in a row I've made it clear in my questioning that I was referring to a NIWA report, and twice in a row—
SPEAKER: And the Minister indicated in his second answer, if the member had listened, that he was referring to a graph from the same report.
Hon Scott Simpson: With respect, sir, I don't think he did.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm going to ask the Minister whether in his intersession, in the middle of it, he did or not.
Hon DAVID PARKER: What I said, sir, was that I understood that this table of results was what lay behind the NIWA reporting.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the same report that stated, for nitrate and ammonia, a majority of sites in New Zealand showed improving conditions?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Again, referring to this table, members will be able to see that in respect of nitrate levels, roughly the same number of rivers are getting worse as are getting better. These figures undoubtedly show that many, many rivers in New Zealand have got declining water clarity and worsening nitrate levels, and, as I said previously, probably the best indicator of overall ecosystem health is whether the macroinvertebrates live, and twice as many of those monitored sites have declining macroinvertebrate populations as are increasing.
Hon Scott Simpson: Has the Minister read the December 2018 NIWA report titled Water quality state and trends in New Zealand rivers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Not today, but I'm sure I've read it in the past.
Hon Scott Simpson: Why does he insist on telling a narrative on water quality crisis in New Zealand when Government data for river water quality shows eight out of nine key water metrics actually had more sites improving than getting worse—
SPEAKER: Order! The member's finished the question. He's had two legs.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Because the freshwater Science and Technical Advisory Group report to me. The report of the Freshwater Leaders Group, chaired by the former chief executive of Synlait, and the Kahui Wai Māori group, chaired by the current chairman of Miraka—another dairy company—all agree with what I have said, or, in fact, they've made recommendations which we are adopting.
• Question No.
12. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by his statement in regard to the Government's proposed new water policy, that it will cost "One to two percent … of gross revenue, in my estimation"; if so, has he seen any economic analysis that confirms or rejects this estimate?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Minister of Agriculture): On behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, yes. This is confirmed by the economic analysis in our Essential Freshwater proposals to stop water quality getting worse. There are a range of costs depending on the type of farm and the actions required to reduce pollutants getting into our waterways. For many farmers, the costs of meeting that best practice will be very low because they're close to it and therefore their costs will be low. An overall figure for all farms across New Zealand is in the ballpark of 1 or 2 per cent of gross revenue. I've also seen other economic analysis describing the economic effects on the agriculture sector as a "hammer blow", and that type of ridiculous hyperbole is not going to get the rivers clean.
Todd Muller: Do you agree with the Interim Regulatory Impact Analysis for Consultation: Essential Freshwater when it states, "The modelling to date of the economic impacts on farms has been very limited,"?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The part of the discussion document that deals with cost starts at page 84 of the discussion document and goes to page 97. It is true that you can't completely quantify the costs until you reach final decisions as to what is proposed.
Todd Muller: How many farms won't be viable if this proposal is enacted?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member seems to think that we have to choose between profitability and good environmental outcomes. I deny that. I have before me a publication from Dairy NZ, celebrating the example of the Balls. This is in respect of Adrian and Pauline Ball who won the Ballance farm awards this year. They've reduced their nitrate leaching by 62 per cent in the last 10 years, they've halved their greenhouse gas emissions, and, I quote: "We haven't lost profit."
Todd Muller: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very explicit, direct question: how many farms would be viable? He made no attempt to answer the direct nature of that question.
SPEAKER: I think it's fair to say he addressed the question.
Hon Shane Jones: In regard to the Government's proposed new water policy, can he confirm it is a consultation document but is backed by Fonterra?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that it's a consultation document. I wouldn't want to say that Fonterra irrevocably backed every detail of it, but what they were clear on was that they think that they need a regulatory underpinning for farm environment plans that sets environmental baselines which are then achieved through farm environment plans, and that's what this does.
Hon Ron Mark: Can the Minister comment on whether or not there's any similarity to this discussion document and the proposals put there to what occurred under the last Government through Horizons One Plan—
SPEAKER: No, no. The member's got straight into an area that is not his responsibility.
Hon Shane Jones: Supplementary—
Hon Ron Mark: Can I rephrase it?
SPEAKER: No. A further supplementary, Shane Jones. No?
Todd Muller: To the Minister: why did you put your signature to the proposal when you had little to no sense of the impacts of it on 23,000 farming families?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! We had, I think, in the last week or the week before of the Parliament quite a clear Speaker's ruling in that area, and the member, I think, went over it four times.
Todd Muller: To the Minister: why did the Minister put his signature to the proposal when he had little to no sense of the impacts of it on 23,000 farming families?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member is quite incorrect. Those pages that I've already referred to describe the impact of the proposals on a range of different farming types. In general terms, it's expected that the proposals would cost the average dairy farmer about 1 percent of revenue, and in respect of beef farmers, around 3 percent. Sheep farmers have very little effect from these proposals at all because the proposals don't impact upon their farming systems.
Todd Muller: Is he telling the farmers and the sector contributing to 60 percent of our exports to simply trust him—he knows what he's doing?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I think the member's making a reference to something that I said on The Nation the other day, and it seems to me that the member is so rigid that he can't comprehend humour. In my full statement—and he'll have seen a transcript—I then praised the quality of the work from the scientific advisory group, the freshwater leaders group, and Kāhui Wai Māori, and I said "I think we're landing it." I would also add that these same proposals have been around for almost a decade through the Land and Water Forum, and it's time to stop kicking the can down the road and stop our freshwater quality getting worse.