Community Scoop

Questions and Answers – August 15

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Youth JusticeProposed Military Academies 1. JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the OppositionLabour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his Government’s previous support of “evidence-based investment …ORAL QUESTIONS
Youth Justice—Proposed Military Academies
1. JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the Opposition—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his Government’s previous support of “evidence-based investment practices”; if so, does the Government intend to send young people charged with serious offences to a military camp, despite the Prime Minister’s Science Advisor saying boot camps don’t reduce reoffending?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): In answer to the first part of the question, yes. It is important that—if you want to actually achieve results with public spending, you need to know what works. In answer to the second part of the question, what we have announced is a Defence-led training academy involving 12 months of intensive wraparound support for 150 of the most challenging young people in New Zealand, as an alternative to them serving out their sentences in prison. This is a new policy. It has not been tried before. We are not prepared to sit back and allow ongoing lack of success in changing the lives of the most challenging 150 young people in the country.
Jacinda Ardern: What evidence did he take from the failed corrective training camps he has used in the past and the failed boot camps he used in 2009 to these new boot camps?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member may be pleased to know that, for quite a number of the young people in those schemes, they did work well. But it is part of our approach to take the lessons from what has been tried, to change it, improve it, and tailor our programmes to the needs of small groups, families, and individuals—in this case, 150 young people who have been convicted of the most serious crimes with sentences of up to 14 years. Labour’s approach is to roll out lightweight, branded programmes without any care as to whether they work or not, spending taxpayers’ money to show they care.
Jacinda Ardern: Did he consult the Children’s Commissioner and former Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, before implementing this policy, who says that sentencing youth offenders is “arguably the least successful sentence in the Western World.”?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, it would be inappropriate to consult the Children’s Commissioner on a party policy. Secondly, he has made the mistake of listening to the Labour Party’s description of the policy. The policy is not 6 weeks of short, sharp time living in a tent doing push-ups; the policy is 12 months intensive wraparound for young people whose sentences range up to 14 years because they have committed murder, rape, aggravated robbery—[Interruption] well, we never give up on these young people. We believe there is always hope and we can always do better than sending them to prison where they learn how to live a life of crime.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need substantially less interjection from both sides of the House, please. [Interruption] Order! I have just asked for less interjection.
Jacinda Ardern: Why does he think it is important to give young offenders practical life skills, but the idea of teaching those same skills Labour has called for as part of its school leavers’ tool kit would cause “chaos”, as he said yesterday?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would certainly be happier talking about our policy than that policy, because it sums up the difference, you see. The Labour leader raised it. The Labour policy is a typical broad brush that is loosely specified and aimed at no one in particular to try to show that its members care. Our policy is adapted and tailored to the particular group and its needs, and is designed to change lives. Our policy is about these serious young offenders; Labour’s policy is about a lightweight announcement to fill the media for a day.
Jacinda Ardern: Why is he opposing a plan supported by employers, Local Government New Zealand, and schools to give our young people the practical skills they need in adult life, like driving, like workplace skills, and like budgeting?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are not opposing a plan; we are opposing a reheated, lightweight announcement that is opposed by secondary school principals. The Government is focused on policy that is tailored to the needs of particularly our most vulnerable and most challenging. The money that that member might want to spray around to show that Labour cares—we are focusing on grappling with some of New Zealand’s most challenging social problems, and, in this case, the 150 most difficult young people in New Zealand. If we can change their lives, then we change things for this country for the next 30 years.
Jacinda Ardern: Has he seen the evidence from the AA Driver Education Foundation that shows that through things like issuing free drivers’ licences and driver training, we have the opportunity to deal more effectively with young drivers, reduce offending and fines, and reduce the burden on our courts, while supporting young people?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The difference here is that Labour wants to show that it cares; this Government actually cares. That is the difference. The member may not know that there are already a number of targeted driver’s licence programmes designed to reduce driver offending and enable employability with those young people who actually need it. The member may also not be familiar with the trend that fewer young people are getting their licences. I would have thought, as the member for an inner-city metropolitan seat, she would know that.
Jacinda Ardern: Will he join with me—[Interruption] genuine offer; genuine offer—in investing in young people using programmes that work, that will make a difference, and that will help young people to make a contribution to New Zealand, rather than investing in failed programmes that nobody else supports?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Our measure is not political support for a programme; our measure is whether we can change the lives of 150 young people, whose lives have been defined by violence, by fragmented families, by drug and alcohol addiction, by sexual abuse, and by serious criminal offending. Frankly, I do not care if there is not broad political support. We care about changing the lives of these most challenging young people.
Prime Minister—Policies
2. JAMES SHAW (Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his policies?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes; particularly on the over $400 million the Government has spent on fresh water improvement that is lifting the quality of water in our waterways, including the $100 million improvement fund set aside in the Budget and the $44 million of projects that we announced recently, right around New Zealand, which engage communities in the project of raising the quality of their waterways that they care about. I would welcome the Greens support for such a move now that it has decided to be a green party.
James Shaw: Why did real average wages in the private sector fall by 0.5 percent in the year to June 2017 despite a growing economy?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Over the last 8 years, the average wage has risen by twice the rate of inflation. A good measure of that is to look at what has happened to national superannuation, because it is tied to the after-tax ordinary-time weekly wage—the average wage—and national superannuation has risen at twice the rate of inflation—
James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: —over the last 8 years, whatever the most recent quarterly figures.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Point of order, James Shaw.
James Shaw: The Prime Minister was not referring to the question about real average wages in the private sector, which fell by 0.5 percent; he was talking about overall wages.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that, but when I look at the generality of the primary question that has been asked—and I invite the member to look at Speaker’s rulings 191/3 and 191/4—on this occasion, because of the generality of that primary question, I think the answer given by the Prime Minister has addressed the question.
James Shaw: Why did real average wages in the private sector fall by 1.1 percent in the year to March 2017 despite a growing economy; are declining real wages the best that he can deliver after 9 years?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I pointed out, over the last 8 years, wages have risen at twice the rate of inflation, and that translates through into national superannuation. The amount of money that people take home will be significantly assisted by the Family Incomes Package, announced in the Budget and implemented on 1 April. People will see the benefits of reductions in the tax on their income, increases in the per-child payments for the children in their family, and, also, significant extra assistance with housing costs, which means that, on average, 1.3 million people will be $26 a week better off, and some will be over $100 a week better off if they have high housing costs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it one of his policies for one of his Government’s Ministers to use his department to attack, behind his back, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister at the behest of the Australian Labor Party, so much so that the Australian Foreign Minister is saying right now that if there is a change of Government in New Zealand, they would not be interested in working with them?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would have thought the member would be well informed on that, because his fellow Opposition party seems to be in a bit of a shambles about what its story is over its role in working with the Australian Labor Party. These are serious issues—to interfere in another country’s politics—and it appears there have been significant misjudgments by the member’s fellow Opposition party. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! My patience just cannot continue to be as well controlled as it has been. If members want to have a discussion with their parliamentary colleagues, go outside and do so. Do not continue to chat across the Chamber. There are one or two members I specifically have my eye on, and if they continue to interject, I may well ask them to leave.
James Shaw: Why are people’s wages going backwards when we have historically low interest rates, highly favourable terms of trade, an economic stimulus from rebuilding Christchurch and the housing shortage in Auckland, and a booming tourism sector; is this honestly the best his Government can do?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I have said over time, real wages have risen. Wages have gone up at twice the rate of inflation. I am particularly pleased with the number of jobs that this economy has been generating—180,000 over the last 2 years—which means that more older people are staying on in the workforce, thousands of people have come off benefit and into work, and school-leavers have more opportunity now to find a job than has been the case for decades. Some of those people will not be as productive as they will end up being, but they are most welcome in our workforce. If the member is suggesting there are too many jobs and that we would be more productive and have higher wages if we had fewer new jobs, then I simply disagree with him.
James Shaw: Speaking of productivity, is the real problem with wage stagnation that labour productivity growth has been zero for the last 4 years, as Treasury has found, and without labour productivity growth there can be no meaningful long-term gains for working people?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Firstly, I understand the member’s calculations are wrong. But as I said before, this is an economy producing thousands of new jobs—180,000 over the last 2 years—and that means a lot of people with lower skills and less experience now have the opportunity to join the workforce, so much so that we have the highest proportion of the adult population in work than New Zealand has ever had. More of our adult population is in work than has ever been the case. If the member believes they should all be more productive, he is welcome to turn up to the workplace and shout at them and tell them to work harder, but we welcome them coming into the workforce.
James Shaw: Does he agree with business journalist Brian Fallow, who said recently that “the top decile has been pulling away … particularly swiftly on National’s watch.”?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The reference I would send the member to is what is now, I think, called the Bryan Perry report, which is produced by a Government agency every year, with many measures—many measures—of inequality. They show an equality flat to falling. The next step is, of course, the Family Incomes Package, which comes into effect on 1 April next year. According to one of the measures in that report—an international measure—that incomes package on 1 April will reduce child poverty in New Zealand by 30 percent. I think that would be a big step forward.
James Shaw: Speaking of that report, is he concerned that the benefits of New Zealand’s economic growth are not being evenly shared given that household incomes at the 90th percentile have risen 14.7 percent since 2009 while those at the 10th percentile have increased only 9.4 percent?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: This seems to rebut the numbers the member just used, saying that there was no income growth. Now he is saying that the lower decile rose by 10 percent. Well, of course, I would have to check the member’s figures, but I can tell you this: you can only spread the benefits of growth when the economy is growing, and the economy is not going to grow if it is going to be burdened with half a dozen new taxes, wasteful Government spending, and policy that does not understand how wealth is created by our businesses. That member is part of an Opposition that is campaigning to do that.
3. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the prospects for the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): I have received a number of reports that show strong prospects for growth, including last week’s Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Statement. There is also the latest Performance of Services Index data, out yesterday, which says the economy remains firmly in expansion mode, with a reading of 56 points in July. That sector’s overall activity remains above the long-term average, with the employment and new business expectations the clear standouts in July. The services sector accounts for around two-thirds of the New Zealand economy and has now been in expansion for 6 continuous years.
Nuk Korako: How is the manufacturing side of the economy faring?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Good question. Like the services sector, the manufacturing sector is also performing well, with the manufacturing index reading of 55.4 points in July. All five of the sub-indices—production, employment, new orders, finished stock, and deliveries—remained firmly in expansion in the month. The manufacturing sector has now been in expansion since October 2012, almost 6 years of continuous expansion—in fact, roughly since the Labour Party started declaring it a crisis. The momentum looks set to continue, with BNZ economist Doug Steel saying it bodes well for manufacturing GDP growth to continue outperforming its long-run average, as it has for the last 3 years.
Nuk Korako: How does New Zealand’s economic performance compare with other countries?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Both the Reserve Bank and the OECD forecast that New Zealand’s economic growth will come in around 3 percent for this year. This compares with expected growth rates for the UK of 1.6 percent—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s rubbish. Take off immigration.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —1.6 percent, Mr Peters—the US of 2.1 percent, and Australia of 2.5 percent. This is an important reminder that it is only through a growing economy that we are able to increase the number of jobs, lift after-tax wages, and, of course, pay for the Family Incomes Package, which comes into effect in April next year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Minister, if your population growth rate is 2 percent and your GDP is at 3 percent, then 1 percent does not cut it, and it is down the bottom of the OECD—why do you not tell the public the truth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member, I think, suffers from what I call the “Peters fallacy”, which is that he thinks that it is immigration that drives growth, but it is growth that drives immigration. The reason people want to work in this country instead of over in Australia, like they have been for almost his entire adult life—which is quite a long time—is that this country is growing these days. They used to export the kids to Australia; now Australia exports the kids to New Zealand.
Nuk Korako: What is underpinning the very high levels of confidence in the economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am tempted to believe that it is because most businesses do not listen to the MP for Northland. The Government’s ongoing programme of economic reform underpins the confidence the economy has seen over a number of years. Whether it is maintaining our broad-based – low-rate tax system, keeping debt down, or providing core infrastructure, our strong economic plan is giving businesses the confidence to invest, to hire more people, and to compete on the world stage. It is the intention of this Government to continue to support this confidence and not choke it off with a whole bunch of new taxes.
Finance, Minister—Statements and Labour Productivity
4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement, “the long-term problem of New Zealand productivity is yet to be solved, but we’re actually heading in the right direction”; if so, what is Treasury’s estimate of labour productivity growth in the year to March 2017 according to the July 2017 Monthly Economic Indicators report?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): Yes. Since 2009 real GDP per capita in New Zealand has grown 9 percent, which is one measure of productivity. Another measure used by the OECD is GDP per hour worked, which has increased 9.6 percent since 2008, and we are heading in the right direction by investing more in R & D, economic development, and tertiary skills training to help boost our productivity. In terms of the Treasury report, it was minus 0.4 percent for March 2017. I would like to congratulate the member on finding, once again, the one negative quarter from the last nine quarters.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Brownlee.
Grant Robertson: Why would Bernard Doyle from JBWere say that New Zealand has “been in a productivity recession since 2012?”
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I suggest that the member puts that question to him. I would say this, though: I note in his report he said that he was saying to his investors that they should not invest in New Zealand because of this so-called productivity recession. So presumably, he is not proposing that they invest in Canada, or Europe, or in Great Britain, or in the US, or indeed the G7, or indeed the whole OECD, because New Zealand’s productivity performance over the last 8 years is better than all of those other places.
Grant Robertson: So is he saying that Bernard Doyle from JBWere is wrong, when he says, “For the past five years, all of our economic growth has relied on more people working more hours.”—in other words, not on growing productivity?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think I demonstrated clearly in my answer to the last question, I do disagree with him that New Zealand’s productivity is not growing, because, quite patently, over the last 8 years it has grown faster than all these other places: Canada, Europe, Great Britain, the US, the G7, and indeed the average of the whole OECD. That is according to the OECD. That is not according to JBWere, or to me; that is according to the OECD. But it would not be a surprise that the number of hours worked for New Zealanders has grown since 2012, because that was the aftermath of the global financial crisis and, since that time, the amount of work done by New Zealanders in terms of hours worked, and the fact that more people are working, has grown substantially since 2012.
Grant Robertson: So if JBWere is wrong, is Treasury also wrong when it said, on page 9 of the Monthly Economic Indicators, that average productivity growth over the past 4 March years was essentially flat, minus 0.03 percent?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate, given the member’s nickname of “Trainspotter”, he would have to go through and look for that. All I can do is show him that the performance of New Zealand over an 8-year period in productivity—and productivity should be taken over a longer period; over 8 years—is 9.6 percent on GDP per hour worked. Interestingly, the 8 years prior to that, it was just 5 percent. So it was 9.6 percent for the last 8 years, with the 8 years prior to that, just 5 percent. I am for the life of me trying to work out what changed in 2008.
Grant Robertson: Are Treasury, JBWere, and Brian Fallow all wrong when they say that there has been virtually zero productivity growth in New Zealand for the last 4 years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am saying the member is wrong, because the reality is that the whole world’s productivity growth over the last 8 years has not been that strong, but New Zealand has been stronger than most. For the 8 years prior to that, the world was a bit stronger, and New Zealand was weaker than most. So what we are now seeing is that New Zealand’s productivity performance is improving relative to the countries that we compare ourselves with, which improves our long-term incomes, which is why we are growing faster than those countries.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The final question I asked had a list of people and when I asked whether they were wrong, it was specifically over the number for the last 4 years and the Minister did not address that.
Mr SPEAKER: I have already thought of a way forward on this. I think the question has been addressed, but the way forward is I am going to allow the member an additional supplementary question.
Grant Robertson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does he agree with the recent OECD analysis that states: “In the long run, raising productivity is the only way—”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I allowed the member an additional supplementary question so, by nature, we would all hope that it would be a completely different question.
Grant Robertson: Indeed, I know. Well, I gave up on the last one. Does he agree with recent OECD analysis that states: “In the long run, raising productivity is the only way to raise living standards.”; if so, what does 4 years of falling productivity in New Zealand tell us about what has happened to New Zealand’s living standards?
Mr SPEAKER: I gave the member one additional question, not two.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I agree with the OECD, which is why it is so good that New Zealand’s productivity over the last 8 years has improved, and I say this for the member again, because the member is not listening: it has improved faster than Canada, faster than Europe, faster than Great Britain, faster than the USA, faster than the average across the whole OECD, and faster than the G7.
Grant Robertson: Four years, Steven.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Look, I appreciate the member wants to train spot about a smaller part of that, and that is his way, but, actually, if you look at what the OECD is saying about the importance of long-run productivity—and I showed the member long-run productivity—you would think he would be happy for New Zealand.
Immigration, Minister—Confidence
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister of Immigration; if so, why?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes; he is a hard-working and competent Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When economists such as Michael Reddell, former Reserve Bank of New Zealand adviser, and Dr Ganesh Nana, chief economist at Business and Economic Research, both agree with New Zealand First that—[Interruption] No, it is no use trying to shout me down—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just have the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: To quote them: “Mass immigration is undermining the ability of our economy to achieve productivity growth” and, further, “setting ourselves up for some significant negative costs over the longer term.”—why has this Minister been asleep at the wheel all these years?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: He has not. In fact, the Minister has delivered on what is good government for New Zealand and the economy, and that is the ability to get the skills into New Zealand for the thousands of jobs that are available. For instance, the forecast is that we will build 200,000 houses over the next 6 years—that is four times the size of Hamilton—plus the infrastructure, so we need the people who are going to be able to build the houses, because they have to be built.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in his Minister of Immigration when fraud and corruption are widespread in the office of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in Mumbai, where it uncovered 265 education agents submitting false information, 338 applications used by imposters, 340 applications with fraudulent funds, and countless other forged documents—all this in just May of this year?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that proves that the immigration department is on the job, because the reason the member can quote those numbers is that the people got caught. Of course, you have to be vigilant in any immigration system, because New Zealand has become such an attractive country that people are willing to break the law to get here. They are willing to break the law to get here, but we will not let that happen. The immigration department caught those fraudsters and they will face the consequences.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in a Minister who did not learn the lessons of 2012—for example, when there were countless investigations, found to be merited, into fraudulent visas, and when INZ staff were accepting fraudulent applications from family members; was it because that accountant makes him look exciting?
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, in 2012 I think the fact that people got caught then proves that they were on the job. But the most successful part of the immigration policy has been the Kiwis staying home. In the last 5 years, 150,000 people who were predicted to leave New Zealand actually stayed here, and that is success.
Mental Health Services—Funding
6. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm the details of the $100 million social investment fund for mental health, and how will it help provide earlier intervention and improve services for New Zealanders suffering from mental health issues?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): In line with international trends, the demand for mental health services has increased significantly in recent times. Yesterday the Government announced a package of 17 new initiatives designed to improve access to effective and responsive mental health services while, at the same time, starting to shift our focus towards prevention, early intervention, and resilience building. The new approach includes improving mental health across the life course by helping to build resilience in children and young people and by addressing known risk factors, including trauma, early on in life. This $100 million package is part of the $224 million boost for mental health services delivered in Budget 2017.
Barbara Kuriger: What areas will the $100 million package focus on?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The package divides into four groupings: firstly, a $23 million schools-based package focused on building student resilience and increasing access to appropriate services. Secondly, there is $50 million across a range of primary and community mental health care initiatives, including $5 million for suicide support and $8 million to further improve support for people experiencing acute and emergency mental health needs. Thirdly, there is $10 million for a distance and e-therapy package, which will play a significant role in delivering accessible care. Finally, there is $20 million for adapting, trialling, and evaluating successful overseas programmes so they can be applied here in New Zealand. While there is further work to be done to transform our approach to mental health, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, does he think it is acceptable that right before an election, after the policies had to be rewritten outside his department, the Government re-announces mental health funding that it has not even appropriated yet?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member is totally incorrect. There was $100 million as part of that $224 million package during Budget 2017. That was appropriated, and yesterday we announced the detail of that package. I think the member would be asking further questions if we had not announced the detail. So he wants to have it both ways.
Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table documents showing that the national mental health service appropriation in Budget 2017 is $22 million less than in Budget 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: I just want the source of the document.
Dr David Clark: It is a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library today and delivered to my office.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave and the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular Parliamentary Library information. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Social Housing, Minister—Commentary
7. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she agree with the Salvation Army that the Government needs to increase the number of social houses it builds by 20 times to meet demand?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Social Housing): No.
Carmel Sepuloni: Why did she only allocate $36 million a year for the next 4 years for social housing, which, at a maximum, will provide only 90 additional houses a year?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The member is wrong, both in terms of the amount of money available and the number of houses we are providing for.
Carmel Sepuloni: Why does the Government not have comprehensive build programmes for high – growth demand areas outside of Auckland, like Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Marlborough, and Nelson?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, again, the member is wrong. The Government has comprehensive purchasing intentions right across the areas of high demand, and, in fact, the Government is the one that has already committed to building more than 2,000 social houses a year, which is what the Salvation Army said is necessary, and the only group that has come out committing to build only half of what the Sallies wanted is the Labour Party.
Carmel Sepuloni: Is she proud of the fact that under the current Government the social housing stock has now fallen to fewer than 5 percent of the total housing stock?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, what I am proud of is that this is a Government that has got a comprehensive plan to deliver social housing across New Zealand and that this is a Government that is committed to building 2,000 new social houses a year—more than double what Labour has said it will build.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does she accept we would not need so many additional houses if her Government had not sold off 5,000 State houses, which, even when you factor in the increase in community housing, is a total reduction, resulting in a total reduction of 3,000 houses?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The House might be interested to know that, actually, in the time that we have been in Government, the number of income-related rent subsidies has increased under this Government from what was in place. If you look at the Salvation Army report that the member’s primary question talked about, the Salvation Army was the one that made it very clear that it does not matter who owns the houses; what matters is that we are getting the right houses available to the right people and the right support, and that is exactly what our social housing reform programme does.
Education, Minister—Statements
8. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made that will enable more young people to succeed in the education system?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister of Education): On Friday I was pleased to announce that thousands more children and young people will benefit from a new approach that is making it easier for children to access additional learning support services. We are rolling out a pilot that has been trialled in three Bay of Plenty communities of learning to up to another 30 communities of learning and schools across the country. This will see the pilot expand out to another 70,000 children and young people in early learning services and schools. This is part of our ambitious work programme, which has seen funding for learning support increase by over 30 percent since 2008. Budget 2017 alone provided an additional $63 million over the next 4 years to support more young people.
Sarah Dowie: How does this announcement fit into wider education system changes that ensure our young people succeed?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Over this term of Government, we have made significant changes to ensure that our education system is delivering for young people. The learning support announcement is part of a wider plan to improve the lives of young people. This involves our funding system review, the scrapping of the decile system, the increasing of Vote Education from $8 billion to $11 billion, implementing significant change in terms of a $360 million investment in communities of learning, modernising our school infrastructure—a $5 billion investment—and the implementation of digital technologies. In comparison, I note the report that recently said a low level of thinking is not helpful, which was from the secondary school principals’ association regarding Labour’s policy.
Sarah Dowie: What are some of the results that she has seen that demonstrate more young people are being successful in the education system?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: The most significant thing that the Government has done for our young people is ensure that they have the qualifications needed to go on to employment and further studies. In 2016, approximately 85 percent of 18-year-olds had NCEA level 2—a 17 percent lift on 2008. Additionally, we have increased participation in early learning to nearly 97 percent. That means thousands more children in early learning. We also have more than half a million children now in communities of learning, which is a significant achievement in terms of collaboration of schools.
Chris Hipkins: Does she stand by her predecessor’s promise that entry into communities of learning would be voluntary for schools; if so, why should children attending schools that are not part of a community of learning be denied access to the additional learning support?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I welcome the question from this member. I just want to check that this question is not actually from the Australian Labor Party.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will stand and answer that question properly, or else she will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] Order! I am giving the Minister one more chance to address the question as asked.
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Communities of learning are voluntary.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The second part of that question was why students should be denied access—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No; the member also knows the rules. If he goes back and looks at his question, it was actually two questions, and the Minister has addressed one—eventually.
Education, Minister—Commentary
9. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by all her comments on education affordability; if so, how?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister of Education): Yes, in the context in which they were made. This financial year our investment in education amounts to over $11 billion, the highest ever investment in public education. Funding for schools has gone up by 35 percent since 2008-09, and operational grant funding has increased by 37 percent. In fact, no other OECD country spends a higher percentage of public funding on education.
Tracey Martin: As the overarching education Minister, what reports has she seen regarding the Government’s reduction in the post-secondary education budget from 2.9 percent of GDP in 2009-10 to only 1.67 percent of GDP according to Treasury’s Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2016?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I have not seen those direct reports, but, as I have said before, there is a range of different measures out there that show what we are doing in terms of increasing investment, from the overall increase from $8 billion to more than $11 billion to other areas of Vote Education, such as the affordability studies in terms of early learning, which show it is a third more affordable since 2007. There is a range of other measures that are out there that show that we are improving affordability of education.
Tracey Martin: As the overarching education Minister, does she stand by her statement that “We are … incredibly focused on ensuring that we have reform of our tertiary education system.”?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I would have to check where those comments were made, but if I talk to my colleague the Hon Paul Goldsmith, there is a range of different policies that are being looked at, including the fact that we have done more than ever to ensure that young people are either in vocational training or in places like Youth Guarantee, which is a core hallmark of this Government to help more disadvantaged young people.
Tracey Martin: Why are she and her Government continuing to deny that fully funded post-secondary education is affordable, as shown by New Zealand First’s upfront investment policy, which replaces the burden of financial student debt with a skill debt to New Zealand?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I do not think we at all are denying that education is affordable. In fact, as I said before, there is a range of different measures that are showing that it is more affordable. If you look at early learning, it is a third more affordable than in 2007. In terms of school donations, I think they are about 1.8 percent of overall funding. In terms of the overall Vote Education, it has gone from $8 billion to $11 billion. So it just depends on the different measure that you use.
District Health Boards—Funding
10. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Does he agree with the New Zealand Medical Association’s president that “district health boards were grossly underfunded” and that “there’s just not enough money in the system, no matter how you cut your cloth, you just can’t do what’s required of you when there is not enough money going in”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): No, but it is election time, and a range of views start coming to the surface.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, will he listen to orthopaedic surgeons, who are saying that one-third of patients at Dunedin Hospital are not receiving the surgery that they need to cope with chronic hip, knee, and other joint pain?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Obviously, there have been issues at Southern District Health Board (DHB), which have been addressed and are in the process of being addressed. I mean, for instance, in orthopaedics there has been a 40 percent rise in specialist appointments over the last 9 years; that is a considerable increase. In terms of elective surgery at Southern DHB, that has increased by 33 percent over the last 9 years. So there is a huge increase in operations and appointments, way ahead of the population growth. The member needs to cheer up and stop talking down the hospital on a continual basis.
Dr David Clark: What does he say to Dunedin man Stuart Neill who observed an understaffed and under-resourced Dunedin Hospital last week when he was called in for urgent surgery for advanced bladder cancer, after his file had been misplaced for months following a prostate examination?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am not familiar with Stuart’s case, but what I would say is that it is imperative that Southern DHB continues to lift its game. Obviously, there have been issues there over time. That is why we had to sack the board in 2015. The commissioner has got a task ahead of her, which she is getting into, and she is turning the place around, but it is no easy task; not helped by the member.
Dr David Clark: Does he still stand by his answer in the House last Thursday that there were no financial penalties for Southern DHB for not achieving surgical targets when one of his commissioner team has now admitted that, due to this failure, $1 million is being withheld from the DHB by the Ministry of Health?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Obviously, as with everything this member puts up, I would have to go back and check the transcript, but the fact is that Southern District Health Board is not being punished financially.
Dr David Clark: After 9 years, does he think it is acceptable that last year nearly 60,000 New Zealanders did not receive the specialist appointment at the hospital that their GP recommended?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: At which hospital?
Dr David Clark: Hospitals in New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, what the member actually knows is that in total only 5 percent of people were turned away from a hospital appointment. Eighty-seven percent of GP referrals went straight to the specialist appointment; another 8 percent were inappropriately referred, perhaps to the wrong department; 5 percent did not get their appointment. But the bigger picture is that there has been a 150,000 increase in specialist appointments across the country and a 50,000 increase in elective surgeries, so the member really needs to get on board and cheer up. It is a lot better than he is saying.
Waimea Community Dam—Reports
11. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What reports has he received on the economic and environmental benefits of the Waimea Community Dam?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): I have received a report that shows that the Waimea Community Dam near Nelson would deliver major economic and environmental benefits. The dam would enable unirrigated pasture to be converted to higher value crops like apples, and improve the overall water quality. The report shows that building a dam would more than double the average annual catchment profit. Converting from pasture to apples means that nitrogen leaching would be lower. Of course, this is only achievable with a reliable source of water. A dam would also safeguard minimum flows in the Waimea River, recharge aquifers, provide water for municipal supplies, and improve water quality for recreational use.
Alastair Scott: What potential challenges does the Waimea Community Dam face in getting up and running?
Hon NATHAN GUY: That is a very good question. Two potential scenarios would impact the viability of this scheme. The first would be the removal of Crown support for the scheme. Like many other community projects with wide-ranging benefits, there is a role for Government support to help these schemes get up and running. The second scenario would be a water tax for the scheme. This scenario, of course, raises many questions—questions like whether residents would have to pay the charge, given that their water would come from a water storage project—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was hoping this question would find some answer that was relevant, but now it is speculation, and seeing as it is in the Tasman electorate and not the Wairarapa, it is also compounded by going on for far too long.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. It is a legitimate question; I ruled it in order, and the Minister can continue his answer.
Hon NATHAN GUY: A couple of other questions: would this scheme even be viable with an additional tax—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister’s job is to answer questions, not to ask questions. If he has something to continue to answer the question, that is fine. Is there a further supplementary question? I will give the member the chance to wrap up.
Hon NATHAN GUY: I would like to carry on. Another important point to conclude this question is that a recent report estimated that the economic cost to the Nelson-Tasman region of not building a dam would be more than $1 billion over 25 years.
Maureen Pugh: Is the Waimea Community Dam unique compared with other proposed schemes across the country?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not consider that it is too dissimilar to many other schemes, particularly when you bear in mind that it is about economics, it is about the environmental gains, and it is about the social gains as well, with water being supplied to town municipal supplies. I would say that agreeing to support one scheme in the fine print of a policy but not other schemes would be a major inconsistency based on very flimsy principles. This kind of position would really highlight a policy for what it is. It is ill-thought-out, ill-conceived, and a blatant attack on farmers who, ultimately, may transfer to growing apples. I seek leave to table a detailed policy, which has not publicly been released yet, that confirms that the Waimea Community Dam will proceed under a Labour Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, there is no need for me to put that leave to the House.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a report on the Waimea dam that shows that it will cost 59c per cubic metre of water.
Mr SPEAKER: I just need to know the source of that document.
Hon Damien O’Connor: The document is a commerce report.
Hon Damien O’Connor: By a Peter Fraser.
Mr SPEAKER: And is it already in the public arena?
Hon Damien O’Connor: It has been commissioned for an individual. It is in the public arena, but—
Mr SPEAKER: Then I do not need to put the leave. [Interruption] Order! I realise it is getting very close to election time, but I need a bit more order, please.
Social Housing—Numbers
12. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green) to the Minister for Social Housing: Why has Housing New Zealand built only 125 more houses than it has demolished across New Zealand since June 2009?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Social Housing): Housing New Zealand houses are demolished for a number of reasons—for example, being earthquake prone, fire damage, significant meth contamination, or for redevelopment. In many parts of New Zealand the increase in demand is relatively recent and did not previously warrant large increases in supply. Looking at the figures nationally does not take into account local demand and variation. It is also worth noting that significant increases to stock in areas of high demand like Auckland were not possible until plan changes under the Auckland Unitary Plan took place. Since that has been confirmed the Government has signed off on a multibillion-dollar programme to build 13,500 new social houses in Auckland alone, as well as large build programmes in areas like Christchurch, Wellington, and the Hutt Valley.
Marama Davidson: Why has it taken children living in carparks and caravan parks for the Minister to commit to acquiring at least 2,000 more social houses each year, as today’s Salvation Army Taking Stock report has suggested as a necessary minimum?
Hon AMY ADAMS: As I mentioned in an earlier answer to the House, the Government committed to that level of building in the purchasing intentions announced last year. As to the issue of people living in cars and not in secure houses, that is an issue that has plagued New Zealand since well through the last Labour-Greens Government. At least we are dealing with it.
Marama Davidson: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that pensioners, beneficiaries, and other low-income New Zealanders may be paying up to 75 percent of their income in rent due to the shortage of safe housing caused by the Government’s failure to build enough State houses?
Hon AMY ADAMS: There are two things I would say in response to that. The first is that in terms of the population of New Zealand, the per capita rate of people waiting for social housing has gone down under this Government. The second thing I would say is that this Government, in Budget 2017, put up the accommodation supplement rates. We thank the Greens for supporting that; it is a pity Labour did not. And last year, this Government became the first Government in 43 years to put up benefit payments to help people in need.
Marama Davidson: Does the Minister concede that decreasing State housing stock has caused the highest level of homelessness in the OECD and put undue strain on low-income renters?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Again, referring to an answer I gave earlier in question time, there are actually more income-related rent subsidy (IRRS) places available now than there were under the Labour-Greens Government. I do not accept the number that the member refers to from the Yale report. If New Zealand measured its homelessness the way countries like Japan do, we would be one of the very best in the world. Even that report said you cannot use it to compare countries.

Drinking-water Contamination—North Dunedin
1. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: What steps has he taken to ensure the mistakes in Havelock North are not repeated in the latest water contamination scare in North Dunedin?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The Report of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry: Stage 1 stated that “Responses to the August 2016 outbreak were generally well handled, particularly by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board”. As regards North Dunedin, the Ministry of Health is aware of the situation and is being kept informed, but it is important to note that this situation is currently being managed by the city council. I am advised that the cause of contamination is not yet known, and that no associated illness has been reported at this stage.
Dr David Clark: Has the Minister requested a notice in every mailbox or a knock on every door to avoid a repetition of Havelock North, where some residents did not learn of the risk for days?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The situation is being handled by the city council. The ministry was advised at 11 o’clock this morning, and I am getting further briefings—
Dr David Clark: Stay in Rio; leave them to it.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: —but I do not think that is actually going to be necessary in this particular situation. It appears to be quite different from Havelock North, and I would encourage the member, once again, to try to be constructive.

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