Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Minister of Finance : How is the growing economy delivering jobs for New Zealanders?• TUESDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2017
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Minister of Finance: How is the growing economy delivering jobs for New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): As this House will be aware, the growing economy is not an end in itself, but it is important for the opportunities it creates for New Zealanders. The recent household labour force survey shows that this is happening very strongly in the labour market. New Zealand now has its highest-ever employment rate of those people aged 15 years and over: 66.9 percent of people aged 15 and over are employed in this economy—that is the second highest rate in the whole developed world. As a result of that, more people have been encouraged to come into the workforce, as shown by a record-high participation rate, which, at 70.5 percent, is also now second in the whole developed world.
Maureen Pugh: What else did the survey show about the strength of the labour market?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The survey showed that over 2.5 million New Zealanders are in employment for the first time ever. It also showed that wages grew by 1.6 percent over the year, taking the average annual wage to $58,700. That was the fifth consecutive quarter where employment growth has exceeded population growth. The survey also showed strong growth in construction, and retail trade and accommodation sectors with 10,900 and 30,300 more people employed in the past year in those two sectors, respectively.
Darroch Ball: How is the so-called growing economy delivering jobs for the 91,000—or 13.6 percent of—15- to 24-year-olds who have no job, are not in school, or in any training, which is now at its highest level in 4 years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As the member will know, if he has read the survey, Statistics New Zealand itself has cast out on that number because of the timing of the number and where it has occurred in relation to tertiary education participation. It has suggested that, actually, members and people reading the report look more closely at the subsequent quarters than at that one. Having said that, the member raises a fair point in terms of the importance of encouraging opportunities for young people. I note that in the construction sector we have 10,000 construction apprentices for the first time in New Zealand’s history. In fact, across a range of sectors the numbers of opportunities in work-based training and also in tertiary education continue to grow.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, can the Minister confirm that when we look at the same quarter’s figures last year for those young people not in employment, education, or training (“neets”), it is up 19,000, or 26 percent, on the same quarter last year?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member just missed my answer to the previous question. He may recall, because he railed against it so much, that the survey was changed in the middle of last year. I remember him saying it was some sort of political activity that was occurring to make Statistics New Zealand change the survey. It was not political activity, and Statistics New Zealand notes in that survey the need to be careful with those “neets” figures in the December quarter because of the impact, potentially, of tertiary education participation. But the member will also be pleased that industries like construction, like tourism, are providing lots of opportunities for young New Zealanders.
Maureen Pugh: What impact is the building boom having on job growth in the construction industry?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member asks a good question. New Zealand is in the middle of its largest-ever building boom, with the value of nationwide building consents reaching its highest level ever of $19 billion in 2016. Residential construction is a very big part of that, reaching an all-time high of $10.6 billion in the year. The strong growth is shown by the increase in people employed in the construction sector—up 17,000 in the last quarter alone, reaching an all-time high of 242,900 people employed in construction. To help meet the ongoing demand, the Government is strongly backing employers and industry training organisations as they grow their apprenticeship and trainee numbers towards the Government’s recently announced target of 50,000 people in training and apprenticeships by 2020.
Darroch Ball: Has the Minister stopped talking about how good those rates are, due to the fact that almost 2,000 young Kiwis every month are now being added to the list of those who have no job, who are out of education, and who are out of training?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member obviously did not listen to my answer to the earlier question, which simply made the point that because the survey has changed, Statistics New Zealand has indicated you should have caution. The recorded numbers of “neets” were at some of their lowest levels since the global financial crisis. It has gone up a little bit according to this survey, but the way in which the question was asked about tertiary education may have had an impact on that.
Maureen Pugh: What impact is the boom having on Auckland construction employment?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is interesting for members to know that job growth in the Auckland construction industry has reflected the strong growth in the wider construction industry, especially in residential construction. This has seen the number of people employed in construction in Auckland reach a record high of 85,800 in the most recent quarter of the household labour force survey. It is a very big increase on 3 years ago and far surpasses the previous peak measured by the household labour force survey, which was 64,000 during the mid-2000s. So now 85,800 people are working in construction, and that is one of the reasons why it is good to see the economy growing and delivering that job growth in our largest city.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that Statistics New Zealand’s latest household expenditure survey shows that in the year to June last year, average annual housing costs rose 11 percent, whereas average annual household income rose 2 percent, and that in the average household, income, after housing, was less than $1 a day higher than it was the year before?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I note that the question was about the growing economy delivering jobs for New Zealanders. I appreciate that the member is up to his reading, where he has got to “E” in the expenditure survey, but if he could catch up and get to the household labour force survey that would be useful.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is he boasting about people being employed, when they go off the unemployment register and on to the employment register if they get just 1 hour’s work a week?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate that the member is speaking from personal experience—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister has begun every answer by challenging the listening ability of members of Parliament, and now by being scathing. At least I do not think that “manual labour” is the Prime Minister of Mexico, like he does.
Mr SPEAKER: That was not a helpful point of order. Now we will return to the Minister, if he wishes to continue his answer to the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member should go and have a look at the survey because it actually lays out the number of people in full-time employment and the number of people in part-time employment. So, for example, if you look at New Zealand, compared with Australia, we have much higher rates of full-time employment than Australia does, which is one of the reasons why we get so many Kiwis returning home to New Zealand. If the member wants to put down a question in writing, I will be more than happy to take him through the numbers, but I can tell him that these are real jobs, and it is not a matter of boasting; it is a matter of focusing on the important thing to Kiwis, which is about getting jobs so they can bring up their families.
• Housing—Public Debate
2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his refusal last week to debate with me in public in Mt Albert on the housing crisis?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes, I do. In fact, after listening to Radio New Zealand this morning, I can see now that there is no need for a debate because the member agrees with me that “We’ve got to build houses … That’s the critical thing. It’s about building the houses; not worrying about prices, which, frankly, are beyond a Government’s control.” I agree that building houses is the main issue, and I do not expect there would be any debate about that.
Andrew Little: If he will not front up for a public debate, will he at least visit the Fa’avale family, who lost their home after the father suffered a workplace injury, and explain to their 4-year-old son why he is now living under a tarpaulin?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: If it is the case that a 4-year-old is living under a tarpaulin, he can be assured, as his family can, that we have the resource to house those people properly. We do not need a debate in Mt Albert in order to solve that problem. In fact, there is more agreement between myself and the Leader of the Opposition about the housing challenges than there is within the Labour Party about selecting candidates.
Andrew Little: Why was one State house tenant forced to wait for 6 months for Housing New Zealand to fix his cockroach-infested home when Bill English was the responsible Minister?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no knowledge of the facts of that case; I would be surprised if it is the way the member represents it. But Housing New Zealand, I am sure, will be finding that the standards set by some of the new providers for looking after their customers are going to be challenging for Housing New Zealand to meet.
Andrew Little: Why, in the middle of a massive housing shortage, have more than 250 State houses sat empty for over a year as he tries to flog them off?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It may be news to the member to know that Housing New Zealand, as I understand it, has around 68,000 houses. There is quite a number of those that people in serious housing need will not move into, because of the quality of those houses. You would expect that when Housing New Zealand owns one in every 16 houses in New Zealand, it should be selling some of them at any given time, so that it can renew its stock.
Andrew Little: How on earth does he justify selling State houses in the middle of a housing crisis, when Kiwi kids are homeless and living under tarpaulins?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member should study the policy, because we are no longer limited by the number of State houses when it comes to meeting serious housing need. We now have hundreds—in fact, shortly, thousands—of houses supplied by people other than Housing New Zealand, and the number of social housing places is increasing steadily.
Andrew Little: Why, when we have the worst housing shortage in New Zealand history, does he have nothing to say about it but vague numbers—no plan and no commitment? Just what kind of leadership is that?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are more houses now being built in New Zealand on an annual basis than in a very long time, and it is going to keep on increasing.
Andrew Little: The population is growing faster.
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member is right. This is a challenge of success—4 years ago, 5 years ago, 40,000 New Zealanders left for Australia, which emptied out a whole lot of houses that other people could move into. Last year net zero left, so those 40,000 New Zealanders, each year, are still here. Over 2 years that is 80,000 people who did not leave, and that is a great problem to try to solve.
Andrew Little: So is not the situation now this: he does not turn up to Waitangi, he turns up to the Big Gay Out but will not speak to New Zealanders, he won’t debate me on housing in Auckland and defend his Government’s track record—or lack of it—and he will not commit to any plan at all for housing? When are we going to see real leadership? When are we going to see any leadership?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: When I was looking for examples of leadership, I did not look at the Leader of the Opposition, who went all the way to Waitangi to tell them why he was not coming. And we do not need a debate about housing, because the Leader of the Opposition and I agree that the big challenge is getting more houses built. More houses are being built now, at a rate we have not seen for decades in New Zealand.
• Earthquake, Kaikura—Recovery and Government Initiatives
3. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Civil Defence: What has the Government been doing to ensure timely recovery for people and property following the Kaikōura earthquake?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Civil Defence): Three months on from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on 14 November last year, encouraging recovery progress is being made in affected South Island and North Island communities. The Government, local authorities, and others are working alongside not-for-profit organisations and businesses on a multipronged recovery effort. People’s well-being and livelihoods are the top priority, which is why the Government has provided financial assistance for temporary accommodation, psychosocial support, and services including health and education in those communities. Specifically, the Government has committed $17.5 million, to date, in business support to Kaikōura, Wellington, and the Hurunui districts; $5 million in primary sector support; $3.7 million to boost health services in Kaikōura and Marlborough; $5 million to repair and upgrade the Kaikōura Harbour; a $3 million fund to subsidise reinforced masonry and façades; and a $500,000 temporary accommodation allowance. The Government’s response to Kaikōura and its troubles during this earthquake event has been swift and comprehensive, and it will continue.
Stuart Smith: What is the Government doing to open and repair transport links to the Kaikōura district?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Through the Minister of Transport, the Government has committed $2 billion to reinstate the entire coastal highway route and the rail corridor to Kaikōura. We always believed that a concerted effort to plan and to engineer a response in a proper way and in a timely fashion would see a significant reduction in the early estimates of how long it might take. We hope this is proved right. We have passed an Order in Council, thanks to the good grace of this House, that will allow that work to go ahead with a consent. Machinery is arriving on site, and clearance of those slips will begin very early next week. We have also made significant progress on other parts of the roading network. Before Christmas, access to Kaikōura via State Highway 1 to the south of Kaikōura was restored. The inland route is now open to unrestricted travel, and we have announced the opening of two temporary bridges on the alternative State Highway 7 route between Picton and Christchurch, which will improve safety and reduce travel times as State Highway 1 is repaired. The New Zealand Transport Agency is continuing to repair and maintain the alternative State highway route for vehicles travelling through the Springs Junction-Lewis Pass route while the reinstatement work on State Highway 1 progresses.
Stuart Smith: How has the Defence Force supported the rebuild and repair in response to the Kaikōura event?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The New Zealand Defence Force mobilised 815 personnel, 11 aircraft, and four ships to support the disaster relief operation in Kaikōura. It did a superb job, right across the spectrum, of the initial response, from evacuation to welfare to physical works. It was, of course, assisted by their confrères in the Australian Defence Force, the US defence force, and the Canadian defence force. Right now the Defence Force has eight hydrographers operating out of Kaikōura, surveying the seafloor and mapping the shifts caused by the earthquake. The result of the hydrographic survey will be used by Land Information to update the nautical charts for the Kaikōura Peninsula. The actual depths are now significantly shallower in parts, and nautical charts no longer accurately allow safe navigation through the region, but that will soon be remedied.
• Health, Minister—Statements
4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement that the New Zealand mental health system is “high quality”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, but we have to continue progress in increasing access to services. It is clear that demand is rising, and this is in line with international trends. Responding to this and staying ahead is a key priority for the Government, and that is why we have increased total mental health spending by $300 million and why we are seeing and treating 28,000, or 20 percent more, people per year than 5 years ago. The main reason I am confident that our services are of high quality is that 9,500 doctors, nurses, allied health, and other support workers are delivering mental health services in our district health boards (DHBs) and NGOs. They are doing a terrific and very difficult job.
Hon Annette King: Is it a high-quality system when a recent review of mental health services at Capital and Coast, Wairarapa, and Hutt Valley DHBs highlighted “chilling missteps” with a “tragic failure of technology” leading to one of five murders in 15 months “involving acutely unwell mental health patients”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There was an independent review of mental health services in the region following that group of suicides, and what it concluded amongst its eight recommendations—the major one—was that we need to develop a single medical record for mental health clients. And the Director of Mental Health is accepting that recommendation and acting on it.
Hon Annette King: Is there high-quality resourcing for mental health patients when 19 staff in the community mental health service team at Capital and Coast District Health Board are trying to manage 400 to 500 mental health referrals a month in the Wellington region alone?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: When you are talking about resourcing at Capital and Coast, that has gone up considerably. It has gone up by 22 percent over the last 8 years, from $80 million per year to $98 million. It would be interesting to know the detail of what the member is alleging there, but what I can say is that there is more money going in and more people are being seen and they are being seen more quickly than ever. But there is no question that there is more to do.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To assist the Minister, I seek leave to table the review of the care and treatment provided to five people who attended the mental health services, health, addiction, and intellectual disability services, at Capital and Coast mental health where they raised the issue—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need the qualification—[Interruption] Is the report freely available on the internet?
Hon Annette King: Well, if people can find it, yes, it is. But it is a review report. The Minister has not seen it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. If it is freely available, and the member is acknowledging it is, then members can source it themselves if they want it.
Hon Annette King: If mental health resourcing is adequate why have mental health staff written an open letter to him, pleading for help to fix “a broken system that is in crisis”, and will he now concede that mental health is underfunded and needs an urgent review?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, of course, the member is referring to those strong supporters of the National Government, the New Zealand Public Service Association, which wrote that open letter. What they do know is that mental health funding has gone up from $1.1 billion per year to $1.4 billion per year—a rise of $300 million. But on top of that we are actually treating—
Hon Annette King: Praise the staff and then criticise them.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: —listen to this—an extra 28,000 people per year, a 20 percent uplift in the number of patients. So we are doing more, we are putting more in, but of course there is always more to do and we will continue to do that.
Hon Annette King: If the Government is providing enough resources for a high-quality system, why was National MP Nicky Wagner forced to apologise for the state of mental health facilities at Princess Margaret Hospital and the people of Canterbury told: “We either continue to use the substandard facilities … or we stop delivering the services.”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, of course, as the member will be aware, there is a $1 billion capital investment programme going into health services in Canterbury. On top of that the operational funding has increased by 25 percent over 8 years, and we are determined that we are going to continue to provide very high-quality services in mental health in Canterbury. That is why we had that $20 million package last year, and that is why, of course, we are partnering with Christchurch City Council. And we will be down there on Friday announcing that $1 million contribution from the Government to partner with Christchurch City Council to continue to provide the services that are needed. The problem, though, for the Labour Opposition members is that they think the measure of success is just purely about the dollars. They should focus on the results. They might do a bit better.
Hon Annette King: All you’ve talked about is money.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: That’s your problem.
• Climate Change Issues, Minister—Commentary
5. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does she stand by the opinion piece she wrote on 11 October titled “We’re on the right track on tackling climate change”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes, I stand by it, because this Government has ratified the Paris Agreement, strengthened the emissions trading scheme (ETS) and will strengthen it more as we are in stage two of the review, is investing $20 million a year in agricultural greenhouse gas research, and is spending a record $1.2 billion on public transport.
James Shaw: How much have New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions come down since her Government came into office?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because our population and our economy have gone up, so have emissions in real terms.
James Shaw: Given that officials told her in May that “Under our current policy settings we are not on track to reduce emissions.”, what updated advice has she received from officials between May and October suggesting that her Government is now on track?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Many, actually, from officials, that we are now on the right track, and that is because we have begun phasing down the two-for-one transitional measure in the ETS. Transport—we have a target of doubling the number of electric vehicles, and we are investing a record $1.2 billion in public transport and more than $300 million on urban cycleways. Agriculture has invested $65 million in the Global Research Alliance on agriculture. In energy, more than 80 percent of electricity is renewable, and we are setting targets and are on track for that to keep increasing. As the member knows, we have also got a number of working groups that are working across forestry adaptation and others, which means that we are on track to get that right.
James Shaw: Is she prepared to table the advice from officials that reverses their advice last May and suggests that New Zealand now is on track?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, I think what the member is still getting mixed up is that the report that we had last year was quite clear that if nothing changed, we would not reach our target—yes? So then what we have been doing every week—not just at that time, but previous to it, as well—is working towards changing so that we can actually reach and actually start bending our emissions and seeing them going down. So I have not got the report—because I actually get them on almost a weekly basis—on the ongoing work programme of this Government, which is working towards our achieving that goal.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The questioner asked whether she was prepared to table those reports, and she still has not answered it.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I do not think—well, I did not actually hear the Minister respond to that part. The question was: amongst other things, is she prepared to table such reports. I heard her comment that there are a lot of reports received. If we could have that information, it would be helpful.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No.
James Shaw: So why should New Zealanders believe that we are on track, if the last publicly available official advice that we have been able to see said that we are not on track and we are going to miss our target by 85 percent?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, because of the work that I have already outlined today in the answers to some of my previous questions, and also the fact that we have working groups on agricultural emissions, forestry adaptation, as well as, I think, some of the work that we might see coming out from Vivid Economics. I have not seen it, but we are all pretty hopeful that that has something as well that will give it—[Interruption] Well, it is not my work, so it is not my job to have seen that work. But, as you can see, there is a whole lot of work that is going on, and we are working towards that.
James Shaw: So has she received an assurance at all from any officials that all of these plans and work programmes and working groups and so on will actually reverse 8 years of rising climate pollution and put New Zealand on track to meet its 2030 climate target?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think it is right to be really clear that the economy is growing faster than emissions in New Zealand, and, in fact, we are actually becoming more carbon-efficient here. But, yes, I believe that if all of those things come together, then we will see our emissions reduced.
• Earthquake, Kaikura—Health Services and Support
6. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: What health support and assistance has the Government made available for those affected by last year’s Kaikōura earthquake?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The Government is committed to ensuring that the people of Kaikōura and Marlborough receive the support that they need. On 9 December last year I announced a $3.76 million support package, following the November earthquakes. Just over 3,500 residents in Kaikōura and Hurunui have so far accessed the free general practice visits made available after the quake. Four hundred people in other communities, including Marlborough, Ward, Seddon, and Kekerengu, have received free GP visits, many of which have been accessed through 19 outreach clinics that have been held throughout the region.
Dr Shane Reti: What additional mental health services have been provided following the earthquake, and what has been the uptake of these programmes?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We know from the Canterbury earthquakes that people can feel stressed and anxious for a long time after the event. That is why the $3.76 million package that was announced provides for a range of extra mental health clinical staff. So far, Canterbury District Health Board specialist mental health teams have made just over 300 appointments, including visits with children and families, and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has delivered over 145 free mental health care packages, which include extended GP visits and counselling sessions. Finally, work continues on expanding the successful All Right? campaign, which was developed in response to the Canterbury earthquakes, into the Marlborough region.
• Housing, Auckland—Reports and Supply
7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Construction: My question is for the Minister of housing. Does he agree with his Auckland Housing Accord that there was a shortfall of 20,000 to 30,000 houses in Auckland in 2013; if so, how much is it getting worse by each year?
Mr SPEAKER: This question is to the Minister for Building and Construction.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Construction): The Auckland Housing Accord was about jump-starting new-home construction, which had languished at about 4,000 homes per year for 5 years, and it projected long term that Auckland needed about 13,000 additional homes per year. No one claimed that this more than trebling would occur overnight. We have achieved the accord targets and the longest and strongest growth in residential construction in Auckland’s history. I am sceptical of shortfall estimates; officials have advised me that, depending on what assumptions are made, they may vary by as much as 50,000 homes. For instance, whether you assume an average of 2.8 or 2.9 people per house actually makes a difference of 20,000 in the number of homes. The most reliable indicator of supply and demand being in balance is stable prices. I am encouraged by the fact that over the last 6 months in Auckland, house prices have actually dropped by 2.4 percent.
Phil Twyford: Is it not strange, in a Government that professes to be interested in evidence-based policy making, that the Minister whose job it is to increase the supply of affordable housing does not even want to know how much the shortage of houses is after 8 years in Government and 4 years as the housing Minister?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The best indicator of the degree of supply and demand is prices. In the Christchurch market, it is very clear that we have supply and demand in balance, and that is reflected in prices. The progress that we have made in Auckland, where we have increased the number of homes being constructed from the 4,000 a year that Labour left us with to now over 10,000 a year, shows the progress the Government is making.
Phil Twyford: Why is it that if the best indicator of the scale of shortage is the price of housing, Auckland has housing that is now ranked as the fourth most unaffordable in the world and has a median multiple of 10:1; is that not a sign of the total and utter failure of his housing policy?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No. The difference is that house prices doubled under the previous Labour Government, and it did nothing. This Government has a wide reform programme that is seeing the rate of house build grow from 13,000 per year to over 30,000 per year. In fact, last year residential investment in Auckland grew by 27 percent in one year. This is the longest and strongest period of residential housebuilding growth in Auckland, and we are going to need more of it, given the success of the country and the strong migration that is occurring because Kiwis want to stay here.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister, who has quoted consent numbers in this House for years, tell the taxpayers of Northland and provincial New Zealand why they are having to pay for the hash made of Auckland’s housing, when in the 5 years to 31 October 2016, 13,676 fewer dwellings were built in Auckland than were consented to?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member’s figures are garbage. If you compare the number of consents that were issued between the last two censuses and the census data on the number of new houses that are completed, they are within 1 percent. The only way that member’s figures would be correct is if he were to argue that census data cannot be relied upon.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table documents obtained from the Auckland Council under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, relating to code compliance certificates issued for completed residential dwellings in 2016 to 31 October, which are dated 27 January 2017. That is my evidence.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It does not need any more—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Minister to comment before I put the leave.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Oh, no, put the leave. I am sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular information from the Auckland Council. Is there any objection? There is none.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I seek leave of the House to table the analysis by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that compares consent numbers with census numbers on the number of homes, which shows that those two figures are within 1 percent of each other over the last 25 years. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just check with the Minister—is that information freely available to members?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, it is a specific report.
Mr SPEAKER: On that basis, the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular report from MBIE. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Twyford: Can he confirm that the Government has no actual plan to build 69,000 additional homes in Auckland and that, in fact, all Bill English is saying is that it is possible to replace 27,000 State houses, but there is no commitment that any of the new homes that are built will be affordable?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The point that the Prime Minister made yesterday was absolutely accurate, and it was this: yesterday the High Court confirmed the Government’s position on the Auckland Unitary Plan. Under the existing planning rules, Housing New Zealand could only increase its stock on its landholdings from 27,000 homes to 30,000 homes. With the new unitary plan, that can be expanded to 69,000 homes, reinforcing how important yesterday’s court decision was. I would be happy to take the member to Hobsonville, to Tāmaki, to Northcote, and to the record number of homes that have been built by the Government. Last year Government agencies built more homes than in 25 years.
Phil Twyford: When the Prime Minister promised yesterday to build 69,000 new homes on Crown land in Auckland over 10 years, did the Minister tell him that Housing New Zealand officials told a select committee last week that it would take up to 50 years to do that; who does he think is not telling the truth: the Prime Minister, the Minister, or—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear the point of order.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member cannot assert that the Prime Minister is not telling the truth.
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of the question was certainly unhelpful. I will review it later, but I do not think he actually did accuse the Prime Minister of not telling the truth. He asked whether the Prime Minister, in saying yesterday that 69,000 houses can be built in 10 years, was correct or not.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would be happy to table the transcript of exactly what the Prime Minister said. He made reference to the High Court decision yesterday that reaffirmed the unitary plan changes that provided the potential for Housing New Zealand to expand its existing housing stock from 27,000 to 69,000. I would also point out to the member, if he has not noticed, that the Auckland Unitary Plan is a plan over 30 years. Last year the Government built more houses than any other year, including the 9 years when house prices doubled during the last Labour Government.
• Earthquake, Recovery—Primary Industries Earthquake Relief Fund
8. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent announcements has he made about Government support to help with recovery on earthquake-affected farms?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Recently I announced that farmers and growers who need an extra hand on their farms as a result of November’s earthquake and aftershocks in the South Island can call 0800 FARMING and have their needs matched with skilled workers and volunteers. Many farmers have suffered damage to key infrastructure such as fences and water reticulation systems and require experienced labour to get them back up and running. The 0800 FARMING line has compiled a comprehensive database of both farmer needs and offers of help. All skilled workers deployed will be appropriately remunerated, and volunteers can have some costs reimbursed.
Matt Doocey: What other announcements has he made regarding initiatives for the earthquake-affected primary sector?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Good question. The $4 million Earthquake Relief Fund for uninsurable infrastructure repairs is progressing well. However, a number of locals have told me they need more time to gather the important information. Therefore, we have extended the deadline for this fund until 31 March this year to make sure that everyone is eligible for this and has the opportunity to apply. Other recent announcements, such as the one by Minister Nick Smith to relocate surplus temporary housing from Christchurch to affected farmers, have been warmly received.
• Prime Minister—Statements
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When talking about New Zealand businesses last December, does he stand by this statement, and I quote him: “I believe that by supporting businesses, the Government can do a better job of changing lives.”; if so, why does Government approve our New Zealand taxpayer-funded, cross-agency travel contract with Australia’s Jetstar, instead of our national carrier, Air New Zealand?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: You would need to talk to either the officials or the Minister who is overseeing the procurement process. The Government runs a process that gets the best value for the hard-pushed taxpayers of New Zealand, many of whom I know are worried about that member’s extravagant promises about what he would do with their money.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he does believe in local business, as he claimed, then why would he allow a cross-agency contract with Australia’s owned and operated Jetstar, which has a horrible track record of flight cancellations and delays, such as leaving passengers stranded at Dunedin Airport for 13 hours just yesterday?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I understand that they are there along with a number of airlines. If they provide the service that the Government users find acceptable, they will do better; and if they do not, they will not.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What will the New Zealand taxpayers get when Jetstar does not fly the routes Air New Zealand does, does not register or maintain its aircraft in New Zealand, and provides such an erratic service that neither he nor the Hon Steven Joyce flew with Jetstar for the 20-month period January 2015 to the last recorded time, August 2016—never flew the airline once?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Clearly, the member is spending a lot of time in the Koru lounge—a lot more than in his electorate. I mean, it—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, there comes the Prime Minister with a simple line, belying the fact that he is not known as the “double dipper from Dipton”—he does not live there, for 20 years.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. If he wants to—[Interruption] Order! Now, does the Prime Minister wish to continue his answer, or is he—
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I invite that member to go to one of his meetings where he talks about supporting the regions of New Zealand, and tell the regions where Jetstar flies to that he does not want it to be doing that, and just see how the locals react to that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a summary of ministerial under-secretary flights by month and by airline between 1 January 2015 and 31 August 2016.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular summary. Is there any objection to it being tabled? [Interruption] Order! Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document , by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it, with the Australian-owned banks, Australian retail chains, Australian ownership of our media, and now this Jetstar deal, that trans-Tasman integration seems so one-sided under the National Government, and when will he finally start to put New Zealand first?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think in the previous question the member was accusing myself and Mr Joyce of being too patriotic by supporting only the New Zealand airlines, so I am now a bit confused. But I do not think there is much doubt that there are Australian businesses that many New Zealanders use. Whether it is furniture stores or banks, they must provide a reasonable service. We are not going to stop New Zealand households using services that they think meet their needs.
• Police, Minister—Statements
10. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Police): Yes. In particular, I stand by my statement regarding this Government’s $503 million Safer Communities package that by focusing on specific areas we will deliver a more responsive police service, prevent crime and victimisation, resolve more crimes, and more effectively target criminal gangs and organised crime.
Stuart Nash: Why do only 15 percent—or 140 of the new police officers promised—end up in the eight provincial districts that cover 95 percent of the country?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member misinterprets. Of the 500 that are going to be front line, they will also be dispersed throughout New Zealand; then there is another 140 on top of that who will be particularly for rural districts. But, of the 500 officers, a percentage of them will also be spread throughout New Zealand.
Stuart Nash: I seek leave to table an op-ed from the Hawke’s Bay Today, which is not widely read—it probably is widely read, but not widely available. It states—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is freely available on the internet if members want to bother looking at it.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: How will the Government’s Safer Communities package help communities like Oxford?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I said in my column in the Hawke’s Bay Today—which I think will be widely read—the Commissioner of Police has identified the Eastern Police District, which includes Hawke’s Bay, as a priority area for new police. The Safer Communities package specifically targets the types of crime that are of concern to Hawke’s Bay residents, like burglaries and methamphetamine. It comes with challenging targets so we can actually get results.
Stuart Nash: What does she say to former police officer Chester Borrows, who said in December that rural staffing levels were dropping and police “have a bigger area to cover with less numbers”, and does this not just show that her announcement is playing catch-up with years of understaffing and staffing cuts?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Chester Borrows is one member who has been incredibly supportive of this $503 million package of more than 1,100 police staff coming on board, and particularly of the rural officers, which, as the member quite rightly identifies, will see, of course, an increase of stations that will now be 24/7 stations—so going from just business hours to a 24/7 police capability right throughout those districts. One of the targets is that 95 percent of New Zealanders will live within 25 kilometres of a police presence. These are all great things and ones that are well and truly celebrated by my colleague Chester Borrows.
Stuart Nash: Does she think a phone number, which will be directed to an area outside of a caller’s city or town, will make up for the fact that over 300 police stations are not open to the public?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I said to the member, what we will see is an increase of between 15 and 20 police stations that will go from our current business hours to a 24/7 police presence. The member actually quite rightly says that there are 300 different numbers at the moment, and that it is confusing for the public. They do not know when to ring 111. They do not know when to get hold of their local police station. Actually, you are really barking up the wrong tree on this one. The non-emergency number has been really welcomed by the public, who are really looking forward to it.
Stuart Nash: When will she do the police force and provincial New Zealand a favour and hand back the police portfolio to the former Minister, Judith Collins, who actually knew what she was doing by requesting significantly more officers for provincial New Zealand?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Unlike the member, there are 20 Ministers inside Cabinet who all celebrate this announcement and what it will mean for New Zealand—more than 59 members of Parliament for National who are all part of this, all believe in it, and are backing New Zealanders and the police, unlike the member.
• Building and Construction Industry—Consents
11. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Can he confirm reports that the $19 billion of construction work consented to in 2016 is the highest ever?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Construction): Yes. It is more than double the level 5 years ago, and in real inflation terms it is more than 30 percent higher than the last building boom. Two-thirds of the $19 billion is residential, and it has grown in the last year by 19 percent nationally and 27 percent in Auckland.
Phil Twyford: But it’s half what it was in 1974.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This is practically about—no, I just remind the member that this building boom is 30 percent stronger than the boom back in 2004 in inflation-adjusted terms. This is about as fast as you can grow a complex sector like construction. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What growth has there been in the number of homes built on Government land in the last year, and how does this compare historically?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Last year the Government built more homes than any Government in 25 years. A thousand homes were completed by Housing New Zealand through the Crown Land Development Programme and initiatives like we have at Tāmaki and Hobsonville. Agencies have a further 10,000 homes on Government land in the pipeline over the next 4 years.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What new announcements has the Government made to enable continued growth in housing supply?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Today the Government has released a discussion document on new legislation to enable urban development authorities (UDAs), in line with the recommendations from the Productivity Commission. UDAs would enable us to progress major redevelopments like Tāmaki and Hobsonville 3-5 years more quickly. We can see in cities like London, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, and Singapore how UDAs can deliver scale housing developments, stronger urban economies, and approved amenity, and that is why we are adding this to our tool box of housing supply measures. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Question—[Interruption] Order! Mr Twyford.
• Justice, Minister—Previous Prime Minister’s Statements
12. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Does she agree with the previous Prime Minister, who said about family violence, “It’s easy to think this is someone else’s problem. But it is not someone else’s problem if you are a New Zealander who cares”?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Yes, I do, absolutely, and that is why I have made family violence a core priority for me as justice Minister, and that is why, together with Minister Tolley, we have put together the ministerial work programme on family and sexual violence, involving Ministers from 16 portfolios working together in an unprecedented way to put victims and their safety at the heart of Government.
Jan Logie: Has the Minister seen any reports supporting workplace protections, such as domestic violence leave, as a pathway to safety for victims of domestic violence, which could save or change lives?
Hon AMY ADAMS: What I can tell the member is that I undertook, and the ministry undertook, an extensive consultation with the sector about what reforms were needed to improve the family violence situation. We received more than 500 submissions from across the sector and organisations and representative groups. Only six of those mentioned increased workplace protections, three of which were from the Green Party and the unions. And so the conclusion we reached was that it was not the most pressing issue that the sector was talking to us about as part of that consultation.
Jan Logie: What evidence has she seen to support her colleague’s view that domestic violence leave would cost more than the $368 million a year that it is currently costing New Zealand businesses?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The member is referring to information that I assume my colleague the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety may have on his desk. It is certainly not something that I have seen, and she would need to direct that question to him.
Jan Logie: Does the Minister know how many workers currently have access to domestic violence leave, and how long it will take for all New Zealanders to get this support; if not, how can the Government suggest that businesses have already got this covered?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Once more, I would remind the member that questions relating to workplace health and safety relations really need to be directed to my colleague the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety. But what I would say is that as a Government we are very aware of a number of organisations in the public and private sectors that are absolutely stepping up and looking at what they can do to support their staff members who are in need, and absolutely this is a Government that for the first time has shown real tangible commitment, real tangible action, towards reducing the impact and the cost of family violence.
Jan Logie: Why does the Government not support discussion of my member’s bill at the select committee, when community leaders such as Women’s Refuge, the National Council of Women, the Māori Women’s Welfare League, the Human Rights Commission, the trade unions, the Auckland chamber of commerce, Business New Zealand, and even the ACT Party all believe it is an important conversation?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Once more, issues of workplace laws are better directed to that Minister, but what I will say to the member is that the advice that I have seen suggests that the member’s bill would actually provide less flexibility for domestic violence victims than the amendments that this Government put in place in 2014. Unlike the member, I do not want to see the situation get worse for victims.