Questions and Answers – August 10

Press Release – Hansard

Immigration, MinisterStatements 1. RON MARK (Deputy LeaderNZ First) to the Minister of Immigration : Does he stand by all his statements on immigration fraud? Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration) : Yes. In particular, I stand by …ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Immigration, Minister—Statements
1. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by all his statements on immigration fraud?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Yes. In particular, I stand by my statement in the House on Tuesday that this Government takes any type of visa or immigration fraud very seriously. We have invested heavily in verification and risk resources to stamp it out. We have also passed legislation that makes residence class visa holders liable for deportation, were it established that any of the information provided on their application was false, fraudulent, or misleading.
Ron Mark: How can he expect New Zealanders to believe that he has taken immigration fraud seriously in the student market, when the labour inspectorate in New Zealand employs only 54 officers for the entire country at a time when the Government-promoted work visa approvals have gone through the roof, reaching 226,000 in the 2016-17 financial year?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The size of the labour inspectorate is not driven by the number of work visas issued, but I should note that the number of staff working in that area has increased by two-thirds in the last 2 years. I have asked them to work more closely with the immigration compliance team, which has also got more resources, and they have created what I think is something of a synergy, resulting in greater prevention, detection, and prosecution of visa irregularities.
Ron Mark: If the Minister is so pleased with the work of Immigration New Zealand in its overseas offices, why then did his offshore staff, between 1 May 2016 and 19 May 2017, approve the entry of 261 Indian students, only to have them deported by his onshore staff after they detected fraud in the documentation?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, it would be nice to think that because this Parliament passed rules and laws, nobody broke them, but I am afraid it is a reality of human nature that where there are rules, people bend and break them. That number has to be set against the more than 100,000 students who studied in New Zealand during that same period, and I think that is not a bad hit rate.
Ron Mark: Is the fact that fraud updates from March 2017 in Manila, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong identified fraudulent document concerns regarding 224 applications in the Philippines and 73 applications in China not evidence that he has not been taking immigration fraud seriously over the past 9 years?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, it is not, because what the member asking the question has not told the House is that they were prima facie questions about whether or not fraud might have occurred. In over 170, I think—178 of those examples, none was detected.
Ron Mark: How can he possibly say he has been taking “immigration fraud very seriously” over the past 9 years when a Chinese national gained a student visa despite being rejected by US authorities on numerous occasions and flagged by Australian immigration and border protection, yet his department did not know anything until it received an intelligence notification about a national security concern? How did that guy get in?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I do not have the details of that particular example, but it is a single example of one of over 800,000 people who came here after having successfully applied for a visa. Again, I do not think anybody should take from that anecdote that there are widespread problems.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a series of answers to Official Information Act (OIA) requests from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, dated 31 July 2017, regarding fraud updates by each Immigration New Zealand office.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that OIA release. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Economic Outlook—Reports
2. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the outlook for New Zealand’s economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): This morning the Reserve Bank released its official cash rate (OCR) decision and the latest Monetary Policy Statement (MPS). The bank’s MPS highlights New Zealand’s strong growth prospects, stating that “Annual GDP growth is expected to average 3.4 percent over the next two years.” In addition, the bank forecasts unemployment to fall to 4.5 percent, while wages continue to rise faster than inflation. This picture of steadily improving economic performance is a testament to the hard work of New Zealanders over recent years and the confidence businesses have to grow and expand.
Melissa Lee: How does the Reserve Bank’s OCR decision today affect homeowners and families?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: By leaving the interest rate unchanged, the OCR unchanged, at 1.75 percent, homeowners’ mortgage rates will remain lower for longer. The Government’s fiscal constraint and sensible economic management is a key contributor to keeping homeowners’ and families’ costs under control. I have to say, what you would not want to do at this stage of the cycle is impose extra taxes on the economy that increase the cost of their daily essentials, like petrol, fruit, or vegetables. That would have the potential to stall economic growth and push up not only interest rates but also the cost of living.
Melissa Lee: How do New Zealand’s economic growth prospects stack up against the other developed countries?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand continues to have one of the fastest-growing economies in the OECD. The OECD’s June economic summary for New Zealand forecasts economic growth of around 3 percent this year, because: “A strong recovery in business investment, ongoing strength in tourism and the recent increase in dairy prices should support growth.” This compares with the expected lower growth rates in the UK of 1.6 percent, the US of 2.1 percent, and Australia of 2.5 percent. New Zealand’s performance, of course, is no accident; it is all about a strong economic plan that delivers jobs, higher wages, and lower cost-of-living increases for New Zealanders.
Melissa Lee: What reports has he received on the risk of rising costs of living for New Zealand households?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As ever, the Reserve Bank remains vigilant for the risks of potential inflationary pressures. I have seen a number of reports just in the last day or so that have identified a number of risks that the cost of living could increase quite dramatically with policy change. For example, there is one from Horticulture New Zealand, which says: “Extra costs on growers of fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables will make healthy food more expensive. This seems incongruous with policies around alleviating poverty … “. There is another one from Federated Farmers, which worries about a substantial extra tax on electricity, food, and exports. Of course, if these worries came to pass, that would push up inflation and, of course, require the Reserve Bank to push up interest rates to reduce inflation.
Grant Robertson: Has he seen reports of the Reserve Bank Governor saying that the most important thing for the New Zealand economy is for our productivity to grow, and how has that played out in the last year given that output per hour worked has fallen even by the revised figures of Treasury and Statistics New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member may not be aware, but I think almost any economist would tell him not to look at 1 year’s productivity figures, because it is truly a case of—how could we describe it—trainspotting. But, in terms of productivity, it is a long-term challenge for New Zealand. That is why the Government invests significantly in innovation through business R & D in Callaghan Innovation, which has lifted our R & D performance by something like $350 million over the last 2 years—that is, $350 million annually—and also by giving businesses the confidence to invest in the sort of equipment that allows them to increase their productivity, and not slapping them with ridiculous taxes every 5 minutes, as is the practice of the Labour Party.
Transport, Auckland—Funding
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū): My question is for the Minister of Transport: does he think Aucklanders should have the opportunity to contribute to the cost of the city’s transport projects—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I invite the member to start his question again. [Interruption] Order! I have asked for cooperation from my right. I now not only ask it; I am expecting it.
3. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport: Does he think Aucklanders should have the opportunity to contribute to the cost of the city’s transport projects, or does he think taxpayers throughout New Zealand should pay all the costs of Auckland’s growth?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): The member may be interested to know that they do have the “opportunity to contribute”. It is called petrol taxes and road user charges, where they contribute [Interruption] No! Uh-uh, where they already contribute some $1.2 billion per annum. I do not think, though, that it is right to double down on that and put something like a more than $10c—actually probably much more, given it is over $100 million a kilometre for Phil’s “tram plan”. It will be prone to cost overruns. Just keep taxing and spending. On this side of the House, we think that we can, with a strongly growing economy and with carefully managed budgets, deliver large, record-breaking projects in Auckland, and all around New Zealand, without more taxing and spending and taxing and taxing.
Phil Twyford: Will he confirm that the Auckland Transport Alignment Project report, due out later this month, estimates an additional $2.9 billion is needed in the first decade because of faster than expected population growth?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is a confidential report I am sure the member has not seen, but what I can say is that we are really confident that with the strong growth in Auckland, with strong economic growth in Auckland and around New Zealand, we can continue to see petrol excise and road-user charges revenue go up. We have got a strong Budget process—we have seen that in unprecedented new capital over the next 4 years. We can carefully manage that and continue to deliver and deliver without a whole lot of new taxes—I think two or maybe three in the last week, and we would love to see how many more there will be from Labour before election time.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave to table the Auckland Transport Alignment Project’s yet-to-be-released report, which details the blowout in transport spending.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that yet-to-be-released report. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is.
Phil Twyford: Simon, it’s here. You can have it, mate.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave was sought; leave was denied. That is the end of the matter. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Bridges and Mr Joyce are here to answer questions, not to interject when the questions are asked.
Phil Twyford: How does he intend to pay for the funding gap this Auckland Transport Alignment Project now estimates at $5.9 billion for the first decade, given that his Government has rejected every proposal from Auckland Council for additional funding sources?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I note that this is a report that has had extensive independent work from Auckland and Government officials, without Ministers or the Mayor and the council involved, and I think that is probably why it says that light rail to the airport is not needed in the first decade. Unlike what Phil Twyford says, I am very confident that we can do the job that is required. We have already got strong revenue—
Phil Twyford: How? How? Where is the money?
Grant Robertson: Show us the money, Simon. Show us the money?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, I am telling you; I am telling you if you want to hear it—strong revenue from petrol taxes and the road-user charges, more than we thought and more coming in the forecast. We have got strong Budget growth and we also, of course, will expect to see the council contribute more.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! There is no point in carrying on when the Opposition does not want to hear the answer to its own questions.
Phil Twyford: Why did he not tell the public, when he announced last week that he was bringing forward $2.6 billion worth of projects, how he plans to fund that, or is it just another unfunded election promise?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! To one or two, this is the last warning.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Coming from the party that will not even tell the people of New Zealand how much a water tax is going to be, this is a bit rich. But let me explain very simply—very simply, very simply. Last week, for example, $260 million from the Crown and future Budgets and capital already announced make it quite clear we have got the confidence to close the gap. To go through, the petrol taxes—
Phil Twyford: You’re paying with confidence.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, no. The petrol taxes, the road-user charges, which already see revenue growth much stronger than anticipated and more to come, and also, of course, through the Budget—we are very confident now about our plans. We do not need a whole lot of new taxes—two or three already in this week—to do a good job.
Phil Twyford: Given that Labour has offered a regional fuel tax, targeted rates to capture value uplift, infrastructure bonds, and paying our fair share through the National Land Transport Fund, why will he not be honest with New Zealanders and tell them where he is going to find the money to bridge a $5.9 billion funding gap? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I, as I always am, want to be incredibly honest to the Opposition and the people of New Zealand. Under that party over there, there will be compulsory opportunities to contribute by Aucklanders all over the show. We have already seen two taxes from them this week, possibly a capital gains tax as well. It is tax and spend, and tax some more. On this side we manage our budgets responsibly, and we do not need all the new taxes that we know Aucklanders and New Zealanders do not want or need.
Mining, Marine—South Taranaki Bight
4. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he support the mining of 50 million tonnes of seabed in the South Taranaki Bight where blue whales feed?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister for Economic Development): I do not think it is a question of support, but we respect the independent decision of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). We have seen it make decisions against this company and other mining companies before and we have respected those, and this decision we will respect as well. What I would say, though, to the member is that is not as if the EPA is a soft touch on environmental matters. As I say, it has declined it, and here we have seen 109 very stringent environmental conditions, including 2 years of environmental research that is required by the successful applicant before it can even consider mining. I would also note the very strong economic benefits that come from this project for the people of Taranaki.
James Shaw: Is the Minister comfortable with the fact that untried and untested seabed mining has been given go-ahead by a divided decision-making committee, where the committee chair had to use his casting vote in order to grant the application?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Oh, I do not accept that at all. I think that it has seen these sorts of things happen around the world. I think it is a very rigorous process where the EPA is weighing the environmental effects and the economic benefits, and I think the conditions imposed here show it has done that very carefully indeed.
James Shaw: What is the Minister’s response to submitters’ and NGOs’ concerns that today’s approval does not have a full understanding of the exact impact that seabed mining will have on the South Taranaki Bight?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think that it has been through a very strong process. Of course, we are in an appeal period now. I have already seen reports that there will be appeals, so let us sort of see that. But I would say to the member that I appreciate that he is trying to get his Green brand back after thoroughly trashing it over the last couple—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not the answer that will help the order of this House.
James Shaw: You cannot blame him for being a bit defensive. Is the Minister not concerned that the views of experts and over 13,000 submitters were ignored in approving this seabed mining application even though the full and long-term impacts are not known?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Look, I think, you know, my position is very clear. There has been a very thorough, lengthy process here that has involved—as the member is saying, quite rightly—a huge number of submissions. Those have been weighed very carefully. It is a 351-page decision that has been made. You know, I think that to try to argue that the environmental concerns—which are real—have not been accounted for and weighed carefully is wrong when you consider, as I say, the 109 conditions that have been imposed here, including 2 years of environmental research before the project can even begin.
James Shaw: Should the job of the Environmental Protection Agency not be to protect the environment, rather than the interests of a mining company?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think that the environment is, obviously—as we know—incredibly important, and we must protect it. But what is also true is that we are always having to—if we go to do anything in our physical elements—weigh these things. What we have here, I am told—and I believe that the submission process has borne it out—is some $300 million a year in exports and 1,000 jobs, with most of them in Taranaki. I am sure—indeed, I know, and I have been advised by officials—that that is being weighed very carefully against the environmental effects, and strong conditions have been put in place to safeguard the environment.
James Shaw: What is the Minister’s response to the fact that a South Taranaki research project this year won an Green Ribbon environmental award for its work on a previously unknown reef that now lies in the path of waste contamination from this seabed mining venture?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I am sure that the EPA has weighed up all of the evidence in relation to the physical environmental throughout its very thorough process.
Education—Support
5. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that after 9 years of a National Government all children and young people are receiving all the support that they need to succeed in education?
Hon TIM MACINDOE (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: I am satisfied that this National-led Government has made a significant investment in the education of our children and young people. This financial year our investment in education amounts to over $11 billion, the highest ever investment in public education. However, we recognise that there is always room for improvement, and we continuously explore options to achieve that.
Chris Hipkins: Why does he believe that schools are getting all the support that they need to offer the best education for every New Zealand child, when so-called voluntary donations from parents have increased by 50 percent since National came into office?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: The Government funds State-integrated schools to provide a good public education, and since 2008, when that member’s party left office, Vote Education has increased by around 41 percent to a record $11.6 million dollars. When it comes to donations, parents have always been able to contribute to their schools, but no parent should feel compelled to pay a donation; it is voluntary.
Chris Hipkins: Why does he believe that early childhood education (ECE) providers are getting all the support they need to offer the best education to every New Zealand child, when 70 percent of early childhood education providers have increased fees to parents by an average of 29 percent over the last 5 years?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: That member has made similar claims in the past, and I am happy to assure the House that ECE funding has increased every year for the last 10 years. There has been no cut in funding, as he is implying; funding has more than doubled in the period since the 2007-08 financial year. Per child ECE funding in New Zealand is among the top third in the OECD. We are very proud of that, and, as a result, we have the highest level of participation in early childhood education in this country’s history.
Chris Hipkins: Does he accept that the increase in early childhood education costs that parents face is down to the fact that per child funding for early childhood education has been cut, in real terms, every single year the National Government has been in office?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: I entirely refute the member’s assertion. I point out to him that early childhood education providers are receiving an additional $350 million of operational funding over the next 4 years in this year’s Budget. That will provide a further 31,000 early-learning places over the next 4 years. The number of children coming into early childhood education is increasing. The number of providers is increasing. This is a need that is seeing more children than ever before being prepared to enter their primary education years, and it is a great success story for the education system.
Chris Hipkins: If all of that is true, why do the Government’s Budget documents show that affordability for early childhood education in New Zealand has declined by 6.6 percent, as revealed in this year’s Budget documents?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: All of that was true.
Freshwater Management—Policy
6. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister for the Environment: How will the Government’s changes to the national policy statement on fresh water, to be gazetted today, improve the recreational and ecological health of our lakes, rivers, and aquifers?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): For the first time in New Zealand we have a requirement on councils to improve river and lake water quality for swimming, and a requirement for councils to set regional targets and to report to their communities on progress so that we can achieve that 90 percent goal by 2040. Secondly, the new national policy statement (NPS) strengthens the requirement on councils to control nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, and specifically how they must set limits to prevent harmful algae. Thirdly, the NPS introduces new ecological health requirements, with councils being required to take specific actions if the macroinvertebrate community index drops below 80.
Barbara Kuriger: What parallel measures is the Government introducing alongside the NPS to help councils achieve improved fresh water quality?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government’s national regulations on issues like stock exclusion and forestry will help contribute to the national policy requirements for better water quality. The stock exclusion regulations will require 56,000 kilometres of fencing, and will progressively apply to dairy, pig, beef, and deer farms, depending on their topography, but will also ensure that it is practical so that we are not making farmers fence in areas where it is impractical. The new forestry regulations that were gazetted this week support better environmental management of the 1.7 million hectares of plantation forestry, and cover activities like ground preparation, thinning, earthworks, and river crossings. The Government is also supporting councils with these targets by investing a further $44 million in river and lake clean-ups this week.
Barbara Kuriger: What is the estimated cost of meeting the 90 percent by 2040 swimming targets, and on whom will this cost fall?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The target is going to require that a thousand kilometres of waterway be improved to a higher recreational grade each year. Our clean-up projects that we have done to date indicate a cost of about $70,000 per kilometre. That means that this policy will cost $2 billion over 23 years. The cost will fall on farmers, councils, as well as the Government. The stock exclusion regulations are estimated to cost a bit over $300 million. The requirement on councils to upgrade their waste-water treatment systems will also contribute. The Government to date has committed over $400 million to support councils and communities in this work.
Transport, Auckland—Prime Minister’s Statements
8. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s reported statement that there is no need for a fuel tax to pay for Auckland’s transport?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Yes, I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that we do not need a regional fuel tax. We do not need that additional opportunity to contribute. That is because this Government has shown that with a growing economy, if we manage the country’s finances well, we can do large projects across the country—not just in Auckland—without new taxes and certainly without cancelling projects like the new East-West Link State highway project, which would be a disaster for congestion in Auckland.
Julie Anne Genter: So in that case—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, we just need “supplementary question”.
Julie Anne Genter: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—Julie Anne Genter.
Julie Anne Genter: So in that case, how is he going to pay for the extra $2.6 billion in accelerated transport projects for Auckland: is he going to scrap existing projects, or is he going to raise fuel taxes; where is the money going to come from?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think there are a couple of things to say. Firstly, it is not, of course, all up to us. The council also has to contribute—
Grant Robertson: Yeah, but you’re stopping them doing that.
Phil Twyford: They want to.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: —and it has got a variety of options there that it can do, which do not require the big new taxes that Phil and Grant love so much. Secondly, I think that if you look at our books and the situation we are in, we have got a strongly growing economy. That means much more fuel tax and road-user charges coming in, and there are forecasts for much more as well. On top of that, of course, because we have managed the Government’s books so well over 9 years, we have strong capital, as indicated in this Budget—some $32.5 billion, actually, over the next 4 years, with $12 billion of that in transport alone. There is headroom there to do a really effective job—to continue doing the big projects but also good management of a strong economy.
Julie Anne Genter: So which budget is it going to come from, the National Land Transport Fund or general taxation?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think what you have already seen from this Government is a mixture of these things. But I would repeat what I have said: the land transport system is delivering very strong revenues that allow us real headroom to get in and deal with the growth that we are seeing, not just in Auckland but all over New Zealand. But also, as you saw from that rail announcement we made on the weekend, there is $267 million, I think it is, from the Crown. Look, that is not at all difficult to digest—those kinds of significant rail projects—when you have got a strongly growing economy, when you balance your books, and when you manage the finances well. We do that on this side of the House.
Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that if the extra $2.6 billion for Auckland comes from the transport budget, it will require at least a 5c per litre increase in fuel tax right across the country?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not think that that is necessarily true. As I say, I think that from a variety of sources, both here and in Wellington, and the petrol taxes and the land transport system across New Zealand, we have got real headroom in this growing economy to do big projects. We are already doing it with the City Rail Link, with East-West, and with the Waterview Connection, and, as the Auckland Transport Alignment Project programme makes clear, there is more to come.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table a Treasury and Ministry of Transport (MOT) report that shows that in order to raise just $50 million extra per year for the transport budget, a 1c per litre increase is needed nationwide on fuel tax. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to check—is that report that the member is seeking to table readily available on the net?
Julie Anne Genter: It says it is “in confidence”. I think we received it under the Official Information Act.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave, and the House will sort it out. Leave is sought to table that particular Treasury-MOT document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Julie Anne Genter: Given National is already facing a $4 billion shortfall to pay for Auckland transport projects, does he seriously expect us to believe that he can fund an extra $2.6 billion worth of projects without new taxes?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not accept that at all. If you look at, it is, what, $24 billion, possibly more, that is required. We are already $20 billion of the way there. Two-thirds of that is coming from central government, and, yes, we have got headroom to do a bit more. But, of course, we will also need to see the council find some opportunities to contribute, because I think it is important that it is a team effort, and I think the council understands that.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table the yet-to-be-released Auckland Transport Alignment Project report, which says the additional revenue from a fuel tax is not enough to plug the gap—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Horticulture Industry—Economic Contribution and Reports
10. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What reports has he received on horticulture’s contribution to New Zealand’s economic and social well-being?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): I have received a report showing that horticulture is a significant contributor to New Zealand’s economic and social well-being. It is a $5.6 billion industry—5,500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers farm about 127,000 hectares and provide 60,000 jobs. Successful intergenerational family businesses provide safe, healthy food for everybody. They use sustainable production practices that look after the land for future generations.
Andrew Bayly: What is the outlook for vegetable growers in the Franklin area of the Hunua electorate, and what potential challenges do they face?
Hon NATHAN GUY: A good proportion of our vegetable sector is located on the fertile soils around Franklin. Much of this sector supplies New Zealand’s domestic market with both fresh and processed products, and is valued at approximately $2 billion. Onions, in particular, have grown to be worth around $112 million. However, today I have received a report that shows that a charge of 10c per litre could double the price of onions. This would have a massive implication for consumers up and down the country.
Maureen Pugh: What is the outlook for growers in the West Coast-Tasman electorate, and what potential challenges do they face?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The outlook for growers in this electorate is very strong under a National-led Government. The wine industry, for example, is on track to reach $2 billion of exports by 2020. Arable horticulture and viticulture account for around a quarter of all land that is irrigated in New Zealand. Of course, 1 litre of wine requires about 900 litres of water to produce, on average. A charge of 10c per litre of water would mean $75 per bottle extra, on average. A water tax is basically a tax on food and on consumers.
Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Progress
12. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister for Communications: What progress can he report on the roll-out of the Ultrafast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiatives?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Today I have released the latest quarterly broadband update, which shows that deployment for phase one of the ultra-fast broadband (UFB) programme is close to 80 percent complete and phase one of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is complete. This means that almost 1.2 million New Zealand households and businesses now have access to ultra-fast and rural broadband nationwide. Today’s update also shows that the UFB build is now fully completed in 22 cities and towns across New Zealand, and as the roll-out gathers pace, many more Kiwis will soon have access to this world-class fibre.
Brett Hudson: How are the broadband programmes tracking against the Government’s targets?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: We are fast approaching our target, which is for 1.5 million households and businesses to be able to connect to UFB by 2019 and for 85 percent of New Zealanders to be able to connect by 2024. The update also shows New Zealanders’ strong demand for USB, with the number of households, businesses, schools, and hospitals connected to UFB increasing by 12 percent in the past 3 months alone. The first phase of RBI delivered faster broadband over 300,000 rural households, businesses, schools, and hospitals outside of UFB areas. I look forward to making announcements soon about the areas that will receive coverage under the second phase of RBI and the Mobile Black Spot Fund.

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