Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 26
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Economic Development
1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he seen on New Zealand's attractiveness to the global screen industry?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister for Economic Development): Last week, I was happy to welcome Amazon's announcement that the new Lord of the Rings series will be filmed in New Zealand. The executive producers said—and I quote—"As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff." And that is exactly what New Zealand offers.
Dr Deborah Russell: What benefits is this expected to bring?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The series is expected to have a large cast and crew, with significant opportunities for New Zealanders. A production across multiple seasons, it will provide job security and career growth, particularly for Auckland-based crew. There are more than 16,000 workers in the screen industry now, generating $3.3 billion in revenue last year. This new investment will help the industry grow even more. And on top of that, I want to quote the International Visitors Survey, which showed that in the year ending June 2019, approximately 800,000 visitors to this country said that they were here for the purposes of visiting a film location. That's up from 120,000 in June 2013. I fully expect that the Lord of the Rings TV series will grow that number even more.
Dr Deborah Russell: What other reports has he seen on New Zealand's attractiveness to the global screen industry?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've also seen news that Netflix will film its new series Cowboy Bebop in Auckland. This is projected to employ 400 locals, and is another shot in the arm for the Auckland screen production industry. Our Government is proud to support our local film industry as we move to an economy that is sustainable, inclusive, and productive.
• Question No. 2—Internal
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she have confidence in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Who was at the meeting she had yesterday in regard to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The meeting was led by the acting chair, Judge Coral Shaw, and the three other commissioners.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did Paul Gibson not ask, back in May, about the type of convictions the paedophile had, when he knew that police had to know the paedophile's whereabouts three days in advance?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: One of the reasons why I do have confidence in the commissioners is because in the meeting we had, we were able to outline the time line of events that up until that point I had only had reported via the media. It was useful to understand that the commissioners did not know about the paedophile until 22 August and how they had responded after that time. It was a staff member who was informed in May. This staff member did not inform the commissioners. There is now an employment process around that staff member, so I will not say any more about that issue. Most importantly, however, they acknowledged that they need to reinstate the confidence of survivors, the public, and the Government. They acknowledged that mistakes have been made, and they spoke about what they would do to stop them happening again.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did Paul Gibson state that he did not know in May that one of the people at the meeting, supporting one of the survivors' advocacy group—I forget what they're called, sorry—had to have been notified to police when they were doing whereabouts?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It was outlined to me by the commissioners at that time that a staff member had been requested to write a letter to the police around the individual involved and their need to get permission to travel out of a certain area. That staff member did not inform the commissioners, and it came to light through another staff member on 22 August, and when they found that out, they responded.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the member of the survivor advocacy group, who is in a relationship with a convicted paedophile, stay on the group?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: That is not a question for me to answer. This is an independent royal commission of inquiry; those decisions are made by the independent royal commission of inquiry. I believe that Judge Coral Shaw gave a very good interview this morning. I would suggest the member ask Judge Coral Shaw.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did she ask Judge Coral Shaw that yesterday?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: No.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think people submitting to the royal commission can feel they are being taken seriously and given the respect they need when one of the chosen advocates is in a relationship with a paedophile?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I think survivors are going to have to make that decision for themselves, and it's interesting that I have received a lot of correspondence expressing support for the royal commission and making sure that the royal commission goes ahead. The commissioners provided me with—they have done, I think, around about just under 150 private interviews—statements, positive statements, from those who had participated in those interviews around their experience. I do want to make this comment, though. The woman that we are talking about has done nothing wrong. The woman who was part of the survivors' advisory group herself has done nothing wrong. So when asking those sorts of questions, I think we need to be careful about deciding that we're going to judge and take away the ability for this survivor to participate, because we've made a judgment about her relationships.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that anyone knowing about the business of this commission would understand that many of the people appearing before that commission have themselves got a criminal record and to deny the commission the hearing of their evidence would be to seriously limit the commission's business?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: That is one of the complexities that the commissioners are struggling with and, again, many of the one-on-one interviews that have taken place so far have been inside our prisons, because some of the individuals who have suffered horribly both at the hands of the State and at the hands of religious institutions have gone on, through that trauma, to then commit crime. The Acting Prime Minister is quite correct—to stop them from having a voice would yet again deny them what they were denied in their childhood.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept this is not about the people that are submitting and their history and past but actually about someone who is on the survivors' advocacy group who has been chosen to represent them, who is in a relationship with a paedophile, and at risk of actually extending the trauma that those very people have already had?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Again, I suggest that she puts that to the royal commission. She's asking my opinion about a person who has done nothing wrong, who has committed no crime, who is a survivor and on a survivor advisory panel, and she is asking what my opinion is about an independent royal commission of inquiry's actions. I cannot give that to her.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will she ask the commissioners to ask that person to stand down from the advocacy group?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: No, that would be political interference in an independent royal commission of inquiry.
• Question No.
3. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, in the context they were given, made, and undertaken. Particularly, I stand by my statements, policies, and actions following the IMF and Moody's reports in the past week, which highlighted New Zealand's fiscal strength, solid growth, low unemployment, and affirmed the policy direction of this Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement, "Despite some who will take a half-glass empty approach, under this Government's solid economic management we're doing well"?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and in respect of farmers in particular, there was a survey out from Rabobank in the last day and, unsurprisingly, given that farm exports are up, as interest rates are at their lowest level ever, trade access is improving under this Government, and many farms are paying debt, around 80 percent of farmers remain positive that the future remains as good as or better than the current positive experiences they already have.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he think per person annual growth of just 0.5 percent is doing well?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I've got good news for the member there as well. According to the OECD, when this Government took office, New Zealand was in the 34th position in the OECD in terms of GDP per capita growth. This now has improved to 32nd; an improvement which has been brought about by the good governance of the current administration.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham is taking a half glass—no, a glass, half glass—
SPEAKER: Glass half empty.
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: —glass half-empty approach when he said, "Economic management"—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! I shouldn't have interjected, nor should anyone else, but I think there was a bit of an invitation.
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: —when he said, "New Zealand was a rockstar economy…but since … things have slowed down … we are sort of thinking the rockstar term might have run its course. You seem to have lost your mojo."?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the gladdest respect, listening to that question, it was absolutely, totally incoherent, and no Minister could answer the question.
SPEAKER: No, it's all right. I think even the member would accept it was slightly muddled mid-question, but I think the acting Minister of Finance is capable of divining a question out of there and answering it.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am, and indeed, I would say that the problem under the last Government was that the roadies weren't getting a fair share of the ticket. Under this Government, we've got inclusive policies which are seeing wage growth for ordinary New Zealanders, who are better off as a consequence—
Dan Bidois: What's a roadie?
Hon DAVID PARKER: —compared with under the last Government where everything went to the top 1 percent.
SPEAKER: Order! Someone should—Mr Bishop, can you just turn to your left and explain to the member what a roadie is.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does 0.5 percent growth enable us to invest in world-leading healthcare for New Zealanders?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, the ability of this Government to invest in world-leading healthcare is illustrated by the more than $1.5 billion extra being committed to the health sector to deal with mental health problems, addiction, and violence. I think that will be one of the lasting legacies of the Minister of Finance's Budget, which shows how well the economy is being managed, that we can afford that generosity of contribution to mental health.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So given the historic high terms of trade, shouldn't we be doing much better than 0.5 percent per person growth?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Export growth has been very strong in the last year, in no small part because the exchange rate has settled to a more realistic level, which is helping the real economy expand rather than the speculative economy, which was pumped up by the last Government in reliance upon house price inflation and high rates of migration.
Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just wanted to check who you wanted me to explain what the endangered species of a roadie is?
SPEAKER: The member on your left, and you don't need to do it publicly. He interjected at least four times "What's a roadie?", and I thought that the member has some knowledge of these matters and could explain it to him. I will say to the member: I've been one.
• Question No. 4—Trade and Export
4. Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: How will the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability announced today use trade rules to tackle climate change and environmental issues?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): Tackling climate change is a long-term issue that this Government is committed to. This requires action at both home and abroad. I'm pleased to inform the House that we believe that trade rules and trade relationships can play a more substantive role in overcoming the climate challenge, and now's the time to use them. The Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability will eliminate tariffs on environmental goods and make new commitments on environmental services. It will establish concrete commitments to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and develop guidelines for eco-labouring programmes and mechanisms. We believe trade rules can be part of the solution by removing trade barriers to green products and services, and eliminating subsidies that incentivise the production and consumption of damaging fossil fuels.
Hon James Shaw: What difference will removing tariffs on environmental goods and services make to the accessibility and cost of things like renewables such as solar and wind technology?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It'll change the relative economics of going clean. Transforming our economies to a low-carbon future requires innovation and access to low-carbon technologies. We know that trade and investment can help drive this. The elimination of tariffs on environmental goods and services provides more certainty for investments, and it will support the decarbonisation that we need to combat climate change.
Hon James Shaw: How will the provisions of the agreement be legally enforceable to ensure that countries are bound by their commitments to tackling environmental issues?
Hon DAVID PARKER: New Zealand, together with Norway, Iceland, Costa Rica, and Fiji, are proposing to use legally enforceable trade rules to turn these commitments into action. Our vision is an enforceable trade agreement which has treaty status. The exact legal structure is still to be determined, but I can say that the legal form will support an outcome that has real impact. At the moment, the multilateral rules in this respect are inadequate and they're stuck, and we think that this will be a pathfinder agreement that will apply initially to those countries but will expand over time.
Hon James Shaw: Does the Minister intend to bring other countries into the agreement, including New Zealand's major trading partners?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes. That is the outcome that we hope over time. By negotiating initially with a group of like-minded countries, we'll be able to achieve a high-quality agreement that hasn't been able to be achieved through the multilateral Word Trade Organization process. We will design this in a way which is open to newcomers. We call it open plurilateralism, and we hope that this pathfinder agreement will be adopted by a greater number of countries, including our major trading partners. It's noticeable that, of course, the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which was started by the last Labour Government, which led to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is an example of how these things can work out in practice.
Hon James Shaw: What actions has New Zealand taken to support international efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies?
Hon DAVID PARKER: As part of this agreement, we propose to have legal commitments on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. It is absolutely absurd that the relative economics of clean renewables suffer by comparison to the more than US$500 billion per annum that go into fossil fuel subsidies. If we can help eliminate those fossil fuel subsidies, then we will have a better climate outcome for the world.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will the Government continue to pursue trade agreements with countries even if they do subsidise fossil fuels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: While our preference is to deal with countries that aren't, unfortunately the countries of the world have not been able to agree in environmental agreements on enforceable mechanisms to reduce climate change emissions. They have ambitions stated, but there are no enforceability mechanisms. We want, through this agreement, to have an agreement with a growing suite of countries with enforceability mechanisms. We hope that that in time will grow to all countries in the world, but we're not proposing to cease trading with countries who are not yet in the agreement.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does that then mean that the Government will suspend negotiations with the US, the UK, the EU, the enhancement of the China agreement, and India, all on the basis that they are subsidisers of fossil fuels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it doesn't, and, in fact, I just said that it doesn't, but what it does mean is that we will be working with like-minded countries to show the benefits of not having subsidies on fossil fuels.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Lip-service!
Hon DAVID PARKER: Lip-service, he says. Well, why did the former Prime Minister from the National Party also support the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura): Hello. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Hello. Welcome home.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I know you missed me.
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing: What risk descriptions, if any, have a risk rating of "High" in the most recent KiwiBuild strategic risk register, and how often is the risk register updated?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Associate Minister of Housing) on behalf of the Minister of Housing: On behalf of the Minister, as was stated to the member yesterday, the risk register is reviewed annually, and the last review occurred in February of this year. Following the transfer of KiwiBuild functions to Kāinga Ora, there will be regular reviews of risks associated with KiwiBuild, which is standard practice for significant Government initiatives. It's important to emphasise again to the member that the document referred to includes potential risks and a plan to mitigate them should they occur, not risks that have eventuated and are being actively managed. People manage risks, not pieces of paper. We do propose to detail those individual risk descriptors. Those descriptors are resourcing; health, safety, and wellbeing; stakeholder expectations; communications; quality of investment decisions; procurement; information; realisation of benefits; dependency on third parties; integrated commercial decision-making; sector workforce capability; and building system capability—again, all potential but not all actual risks.
Hon Judith Collins: Why has the KiwiBuild risk register not been updated since February, when Treasury's Gateway review process states that the risk registers should be "regularly reviewed, updated and acted upon"?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: As I mentioned to the member before, it is an annual review that usually takes place. As I also mentioned, within a week the functions of KiwiBuild will move to Kāinga Ora, and as that will become part of Kāinga Ora, there will be a new risk register.
Hon Judith Collins: So why has she said that the KiwiBuild risk register is an annual document that isn't due to be updated until next February, when the State Services Commission has advised the agency should "ensure that risk management does not become a pro-forma, compliance exercise in the agency but rather an everyday, working tool to make the best possible steering decisions"?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I'm not sure if the Minister did say that, but the document is a living document and has had a regular review on an annual basis.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that updating the risk register every day is a silly suggestion?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Thank you for the question. Potentially, but I would note to the member who asked the question and the member that asked the primary question that there seems to be a misunderstanding around what the risk register is, so if it's helpful, I might use a hypothetical example. If a manager believed he or his actions might be challenged, he might use the risk register to assess the potential risk of that. Now, the likelihood could be high, but the impact could also be high. Also, the likelihood could be low but the impact high. In this scenario, it would be wise to use the register. Now, the risk might stay high and have little movement, but that does not mean that nothing is being done; it could just be that the risk of the manager—let's call him Simon—of being challenged has not changed.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Minister knows that the final part of that answer was out of order. He will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Kris Faafoi: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would we be able to play that whole answer if we didn't edit it?
SPEAKER: The answer is that the entire question, starting with Ms Collins' primary, going right through to the end of her final supplementary, can be linked and played.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. So why did the Minister say that she wasn't sure that she made the statement I referred to in my previous supplementary, when she said yesterday to the House in answer to a similar question, "Because the risk register has not been reviewed. It is an annual document that is due to be reviewed again by February 2020."
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Because the Minister is right.
Hon Judith Collins: Which Minister is right: the one who said yesterday that it is an annual document not due to be reviewed until February 2020, or the Minister who today said that it is a living document?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: We're both right.
Hon Judith Collins: If these are hypothetical risks as opposed to actual risks, then why has KiwiBuild committed to 52 further improvements as listed in its risk register?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Because, as I said to the member in her primary question, it is a mixture of potential and potentially actual risks.
Hon Judith Collins: What is the difference between an actual or a potential risk?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Well, if something actually happens, it happens. If something potentially doesn't happen, it might not happen.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What would the risk assessment be if a KiwiBuild house was built over the pipeline at Marsden Point?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I don't believe that's on the register.
• Question No.
6. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: What was discussed with Patrick Reynolds at his 25 July meeting with Hon Julie Anne Genter, and was the Associate Minister of Transport Hon Shane Jones invited to the meeting?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Given that we were having dinner, we discussed a range of food options and also some transport issues; and, no.
Chris Bishop: Did he and the Hon Julie Anne Genter discuss the board of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) at his meeting with Mr Reynolds on 25 July at Ortega Fish Shack just seven weeks ago?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
Chris Bishop: On what date did the appointment process to refresh the board of the New Zealand Transport Agency commence?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put that question down in writing, I'm happy to supply it, but it was some considerable time before the meeting in question.
Chris Bishop: Did he take a paper to Cabinet's appointment and honours committee regarding the appointment of Mr Reynolds to the NZTA board; if so, when was that paper discussed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I did, and I'd be happy to get the date for that member subsequent to this question.
Chris Bishop: Who paid for the meal at Ortega Fish Shack, and if it was him—
SPEAKER: Order! The member does not need to give the detail of or advertisements for particular restaurants.
Chris Bishop: Oh, well—
SPEAKER: It is unnecessary for the question.
Chris Bishop: Well, Mr Speaker, the—
SPEAKER: No. We're not having an argument. The member will ask the question properly or he won't ask it at all.
Chris Bishop: Who paid for the meal on 25 July; and if it was him, did he use his ministerial credit card?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don't have a ministerial credit card, and we all paid for ourselves. [Interruption]
Chris Bishop: Has he seen the comments by Patrick Reynolds about "decolonising the transport system by giving people freedom from forced and crippling multi-car ownership for every household", and was that discussed at his 25 July meeting with Mr Reynolds?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, and no.
• Question No.
7. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What actions is the Government taking so that young people have the core skills and knowledge they need for when they leave school?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yesterday, I launched the first phase of the School Leavers' Toolkit. The toolkit reflects our Government's commitment to make sure that school-leavers have the skills and knowledge that they need to get on in life and avoid the common mistakes that can set them back early on. Students are able to access information on the student-facing toolkit website, which is a one-stop shop for the key resources that they'll need, and we've also developed a site for the teachers so that they'll have access to the tools they need to integrate the toolkit into their curriculum.
Jo Luxton: What skills does the School Leavers' toolkit provide?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The toolkit will support students to learn key workplace competencies, including financial literacy, how to maintain their personal wellbeing, and civics, both before they leave school and during their first steps into adult life. The student-facing website will enable young people to access information, including basic things like how to set up a bank account, learning about compound interest rates and debt, how to prepare their CV, how to prepare for a job interview, options for enrolling in future study and the support that's available for that, their rights when they go flatting and their obligations when it comes to tenancy agreements, and, of course, things like civics education.
Jo Luxton: Who has been involved in developing the resources for the School Leavers' Toolkit so that it meets the needs of the students?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Very importantly, we engaged with a wide range of students, who told us what they wanted to see in the toolkit, which is why we also added the information around personal wellbeing. To develop the resources, we've worked with the Bankers' Association, the Commission for Financial Capability, WorkSafe, the New Zealand Electoral Commission, and the Drug Foundation. Students were able to road-test the information and provide feedback so that we could get the content right and make it useful for them. It provides all schools and kura with the resources aligned to the New Zealand Curriculum so that it supports teachers to include things like financial literacy and civics education into their classes.
Jo Luxton: What are the next steps for the School Leavers' Toolkit?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The next steps are developing the resources further, particularly further resources in Te Reo Māori. And, of course, we're taking further steps to ensure that drivers' education is more widely available. As well as this, work is under way for students to be able to show on their records of learning some of the skills that might not be captured by their qualifications, so that future employers can see clearly what they have learned in these fundamental skill areas.
• Question No.
8. Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for ACC: Is he confident ACC levies will not increase in light of yesterday's announcement of an $8.7 billion deficit at ACC?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for ACC): What I am confident of is that this Government will not be using an accounting deficit as an excuse to cut entitlements, overcharge working Kiwis and businesses, and generate large, unnecessary surpluses, which was the course of action taken by the Hon Nick Smith when he was a Minister in a National Party Government facing the same situation.
SPEAKER: Answer the question, please.
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: There's no immediate need to lift levies. We will consider levies, as we normally do, next year and take into consideration all the relevant matters.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Has the Minister seen reports that when ACC reported deficits of just over half this year's amount 10 years ago, levies for the average wage earner increased by $150, and does he believe that is a proxy for what will occur next year?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, I have. And, of course, what we saw when Nick Smith generated those huge levy increases was that two years later, he was having to do a U-turn because he'd been dramatically overcharging everyday Kiwis and businesses and workers. I will not be using Nick Smith s example. Nick Smith panicked; I won't.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Does the Minister accept that, notwithstanding the drop in interest rates, a material contributor to the current deficit is the marked reduction in rehabilitation performance and claim exit rates?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Given that the deficit is $8.7 billion and the interest rates alone contributed over $10 billion of that, actually, ACC's performance is astounding. They've generated $5.1 billion on their investments, they had a cash surplus of $570 million, and they invested a record $75 million in injury prevention programmes, which generate $1.81 of cost savings for every dollar invested. I have confidence in ACC. Unlike Nick Smith, no one on this side of the House is panicking.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Was the Minister even aware that entitlement claims have increased 19 percent and long-term weekly compensation claims have increased 12 percent on his watch?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, and this is a function of a strong economy when more people are at work. And when more people are working, more people get injured at work and more people need compensation for loss of income, because they're earning more at work. This is all a good thing, and it demonstrates that, under this Government's watch, more people are working and they're earning more.
Hon Tim Macindoe: So what does the Minister say to New Zealanders, who will rightly be worried about the prospect of increased ACC levies, due in large part to increases in serious injury and a drop in rehabilitation rates under this Government?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I can say don't worry; no one in this Government is going to overreact—Nick Smith's not in charge any more.
• Question No. 9—Health
9. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions regarding vaccine supply for the measles outbreak, including her statement, "100,000 are going to be arriving presently"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Associate Minister of Health: Yes, in their full context.
Dr Shane Reti: On what date will the 100,000 additional measles vaccines she has spoken about arrive in New Zealand?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Pharmac and the Ministry of Health are currently working to confirm the delivery date of the 100,000 vaccines, which will be within a matter of weeks.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she commit, then, to all of the 100,000 measles vaccines she has spoken about arriving in New Zealand before the end of the year?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I said, they're working to confirm the delivery date of the 100,000 vaccines, which is expected to be within a matter of weeks.
Dr Shane Reti: How many of the 52,000 measles vaccines she has spoken about are left, given reports 82,500 vaccines have been distributed so far in September?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Director-General of Health has assured me there will be sufficient supply. I can't give the member the exact answer to that question without—if he'd like to put it in writing, I'm very, very happy to get back to him.
Dr Shane Reti: When she says there is no shortage of vaccine supply, are some Auckland DHBs communicating that due to vaccine shortages, there will be no measles vaccines for adults until 2020?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Oh, if that has been communicated at all, that would be an error. The prioritisation group is, of course, children under five. It's incredibly important that children and the most vulnerable are prioritised to receive their vaccine since they are the ones that are most at risk. The director-general has assured me there will be sufficient vaccine. We will be prioritising, though, those children who have not had an immunisation.
• Question No.
10. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent reports has he seen on the state of New Zealand's waterways?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): I've seen the latest Land, Air, Water Aotearoa—the LAWA—river quality trends results, which were published this week. It shows that there are more sites with degrading rather than improving trends for five out of the nine parameters tested. A major concern is that about twice as many sites are getting worse than are getting better on the Macroinvertebrate Community Index measure—that's macroinvertebrates, those little critters that are normally the best measure of the health of a waterway. It's also important to remember that the data only shows trends. Rivers that are in a degraded but stable state do not show up. The data unambiguously shows more work is needed to be done by all of us to protect our rivers. The problems are not fixed, and defenders of the status quo are wrong.
Dr Duncan Webb: What has the Government done to address the swimmability of our rivers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Government believes local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in in summer, to put their heads under without the risk of getting crook, and healthy enough for us to gather fish and kai. Under the proposals we released earlier this month, we're lifting the bar on freshwater health at the places people swim or want to swim. Regional councils will be required to identify and monitor these sites. It won't be sufficient just to put up a sign saying the water's not suitable for swimming. The national policy statement will require the councils to target the activities that are causing the water to be unswimmable and to improve it to a level where the health risk is very low. Right now, regional councils monitor 292 sites for E. coli during summer. For the sites with sufficient data to assess quality, about half are below safe swimming levels some of the time. It's not good enough, which is why we're taking action.
Dr Duncan Webb: Do we also have a problem with wetlands declining in both quality and quantity?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Sadly, we do. New Zealand lost 90 percent of our wetlands long ago when land was cleared for cities and farms, but, sadly, in recent years we've continued to lose them. Under our proposals, for natural wetlands over 500 square metres, no further loss is permitted and any activities that contribute to the loss or degradation are deemed non-complying. Regional councils are also directed to identify wetlands to avoid their loss or degradation and to monitor their health and restorations. Filling in of streams is also going to be restricted. I think that this has actually had almost universal acclaim. I think New Zealanders are at the point where they want very strong protection for their remaining wetlands, in no small part because they know that they are an important habitat for whitebait.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen any other reports on attitudes towards the state of New Zealand wetlands?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, yes, I have. I mean, it's obvious that there are some extraction activities, for example extracting kauri logs from wetlands, and this doesn't help the state of wetlands. Neither does it help when people who are questioned about this say things like "I don't [care about] wetlands—they're swamps … Go and find someone who actually cares about this, because I don't." That is a quote from the Hon Judith Collins, when in Government in 2014, about these important ecological areas. We have a different view on this side of the House, and we're going to do our utmost to protect our remaining wetlands.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was looking for some intervention, because that was clearly a set-up question designed to attack a member of the Opposition. I know the Government's under a bit of pressure, but they've spent a good part of question time—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: —simply attacking Opposition members.
SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat when I stand up. He didn't. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Right, and I'm not going to rule on his point of order because he gave it away in the second half.
• Question No. 11—Housing
11. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing): Can he confirm the number of applicants waiting for a State house has doubled to over 12,000 since the 2017 election, and that the median time an applicant waits for a State house is around 125 days?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Associate Minister of Housing): As at 31 July 2019, the number of applicants on the housing register for public housing is 12,644, which is unacceptably high, as is the wait time the member has mentioned. This Government recognises the scale and urgency around the lack of public housing, which we have been left to fix. This Government is building public housing at the highest rate in the past two decades. It will take us some time to catch up after the neglect of the previous Government, but we are committed to ensuring we deliver safe, warm, stable accommodation to everyone who needs it.
Simon O'Connor: Can the Minister confirm that over 3,000 families are living in motels as emergency housing and that this is a significant increase since Labour became Government?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Yes. Again, that is an unacceptably high number, and we are working on making sure that people can get affordable, warm housing.
Simon O'Connor: What word would the Minister use to describe over 12,000 Kiwis waiting for a State house, particularly when he considers Labour MPs calling a waiting list of 5,000 a crisis?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I've already used a word, and that's "unacceptable". Back in 2013, a Massey University study found that there were 41,000 New Zealanders homeless, and that Government at that time did nothing about it. In fact, it demolished and sold off State homes. We have planned to build 6,400 homes—1,600 on average—and at this stage we are overshooting that mark, because we are committed to making sure that there are affordable homes available for all Kiwis who need it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact, Minister, that thousands of those families could've been housed right now had public housing not been sold by the previous Government?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: That is correct. If the previous Government had built public housing at the level at which we are building it now, there would be no waiting list. Instead, they demolished and sold off homes, and I'm quite happy to invite the member to some of the Housing New Zealand land sites which lay dormant under that Government but are getting houses built on them now.
Paul Eagle: How many public houses is the Government building per year?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I can confirm that the Government is building over 1,600 public houses each year, and that if the previous Government, again, built at that rate, there would be no waiting list at all.
Paul Eagle: What is the initial projection of public houses to be delivered in 2019-20?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Initial projections are that for 2019-20, we will deliver 2,628 additional public houses, which shows our commitment to ensure that everyone who needs a warm, safe, affordable home can get one.
Simon O'Connor: Does the Minister stand by statements of his officials in answers to written questions that most of the State houses currently built were started by the National Government?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Not necessarily, but I do stand by my statement that if the previous Government had built at the rate that we had, we would have no waiting lists at all. They're quite happy to criticise for making the mess, but you made it and we are fixing it.
SPEAKER: Order! I didn't.
Simon O'Connor: How is social housing going in this year of delivery, particularly in light of the Prime Minister's statement that "There is no reason why there should be homelessness in a country like New Zealand."?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: It's going like 3,163 additional public housing spaces since this Government came to power.
Simon O'Connor: Does he consider it a success in the year of delivery that the Government has only delivered larger waiting lists for State houses, more people in motels, and higher—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! You're only allowed two legs, all right? The member had three. The Minister only has to answer one.
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I consider it success that when we aim to build 1,600 homes per annum, we overshot that mark by 600 in the past year, and in terms of delivery, we were delivered a crisis and we are fixing it.
• Question No.
12. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has he made today regarding the Recognised Seasonal Employer programme?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Thank you, Mr Speaker. More good news. Today, I announced that the Government will lift the cap on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme by 1,550 to 14,400 in 2019-20, and a conditional increase of 1,600 to 16,000 in 2020-21. These are, respectively, the fourth- and third-largest cap increases in the history of the scheme. This is the second-earliest cap increase announcement, and the first to cover two years. These increases will allow our horticulture and viticulture industries to plan and build for the future.
Marja Lubeck: What are the benefits of the Recognised Seasonal Employer programme?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The RSE scheme is recognised as one of the world's most successful circular migration schemes. It provides more than $50 million in economic contributions to our Pacific neighbours. It has also enabled our horticulture industry to go from strength to strength. New Zealand's horticulture export revenue jumped by 13.7 percent to $6.1 billion in the year to 30 June 2019, and it's expected to grow by another 3.8 percent to $6.3 billion in the current financial year.
Marja Lubeck: What challenges has the Minister set RSE employers?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Last year, I set out four challenges to the industry and employers to take a more cohesive and planned approach to growth, by paying workers more, employing more New Zealanders, building new accommodation for RSE workers, and taking responsibility for supply chains. The industry has made reasonable progress on these challenges, but I believe more can be done. This year's cap increase will prioritise those employers who are building new accommodation for RSE workers rather than adding to existing housing pressures. Next year's cap increase is conditional on serious progress towards these challenges.
Stuart Smith: Supplementary.
SPEAKER: No, the member doesn't have any supplementaries left. That concludes oral questions. I will say to Mr Lees-Galloway, as I have said to him once before, it would be very good if he took the recess to have some lozenges and to get rid of the germs which he has been spreading for most of the winter.