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Parliament: Questions and Answers – April 12

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Question No. 1Finance 1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (LabourNew Lynn) to the Minister of Finance : What are the proposed capital and operating allowances in the 2017 Budget Policy Statement, and how do these compare …ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What are the proposed capital and operating allowances in the 2017 Budget Policy Statement, and how do these compare to previous periods?
on GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Budget Policy Statement (BPS) released in December 2017 proposed a new capital allowance of $3.4 billion in 2018, $3.4 billion in 2019, $3.1 billion in 2020, and $2.7 billion in 2021, averaging $3.15 billion each Budget. This compares to an average capital allowance of only $1.43 billion between 2009 and 2017. The BPS proposed operating allowances of $2.6 billion in 2018 and $1.875 billion in each year from 2019 to 2021, the average new operating allowance being $2.1 billion each year. This compares to an average new operating allowance of only $953 million between 2009 and 2017. These larger allowances reflect the important investments that this Government will need to make to return our public services and infrastructure to the quality that New Zealanders expect and deserve.
Dr Deborah Russell: Are the proposed allowances for the next four Budgets larger than what had previously been set aside for this period, and why is it important that this is the case?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The operating and capital allowances provided for in the Budget Policy Statement by this Government are larger than what the previous Government had proposed to invest. For example, in Budget 2018, we are proposing a capital allowance of $3.4 billion where the previous Government had only proposed $2 billion. The Government can afford to make these investments because we reversed the previous Government’s poorly targeted tax cuts, by adopting a sensible debt reduction track, and by more fairly sharing the benefits of economic growth.
Dr Deborah Russell: Do the proposed capital and operating allowances allow the Government to meet the Budget responsibility rules?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government can deliver the necessary and important investments to deal with the social and infrastructure deficits we have inherited while remaining consistent with the Budget responsibility rules, which ensure we manage the books responsibly. These rules are important because New Zealanders need to know that we are being careful with the country’s finances and that we are prepared for future shocks—external or through natural disasters. The Government’s priorities reflect a better balance between the need to invest in critical public services and to prepare for a sustainable future.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies and actions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister for Crown/Māori Relations) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will today’s announcement of an end to offshore oil and gas exploration put at risk the 11,000 jobs which depend on that industry; if not, why?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No; our Government will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure and clean energy projects in regions that currently rely on fossil fuels, meaning that as we transition away from these fuels, regions that currently rely on them for their economy will see new jobs created.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is use of low-emission natural gas for electricity preferable to high-emission coal?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the member answers—because I couldn’t identify who it was, I won’t punish the National Party, but I’m going to warn the National members that they must be quiet when supplementary questions are being asked.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Sorry, Mr Speaker. Could she repeat the question?
Mr SPEAKER: Sure.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is use of low-emission natural gas for electricity preferable to high-emission coal?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: In the short term, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does New Zealand still rely on burning coal for security of electricity supply?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. And I can assure the member asking the question that we will have security of supply of energy, because it doesn’t affect current permits and there’s room for future exploration within the current permits.
Hon Judith Collins: Oh, that’s a lie.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Ms Collins, did you just make an unparliamentary remark?
Hon Judith Collins: Oh, I did. I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that’s a very serious warning. That’s the sort of comment that is just not acceptable here.
Hon Paula Bennett: So in light of the Prime Minister’s answer that coal is not used, was the coal-fired power station at Huntly turned on this week due to gas having to be shut down on Tuesday of this week?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The concept of security of supply is not, in fact, in jeopardy, because we have security of supply for a number of years and these permits allow us to explore into the future.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that the Prime Minister might not know the answer, and that’s what the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Paula Bennett: No. I’m not being rude, sir.
Mr SPEAKER: No. If the member has a point of order, she will raise it. She will not attempt to make political points as she does it, or she will not be allowed to continue.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not making a political point. What I meant was—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume here seat. She did attempt to make a political point. I have ruled that that is the case. She has argued with me. She is now on a final warning.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite specific and, as a consequence of that, I accept it can be difficult to give an answer if you don’t know and when my primary was quite broad, but there was no attempt whatsoever to answer my question.
Mr SPEAKER: When I stand up, the member resumes her seat. Do you have a further supplementary?
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, my point of order is—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Does the member have a further supplementary?
Hon Paula Bennett: Yes, I do.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, get on with it if you want to continue.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was the coal-fired power station at Huntly turned on this week because gas was unable to be produced enough to actually do the 300,000 households and businesses that need it?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: My understanding is that Huntly is still being used but there is security of energy supply into the future.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will New Zealand need to burn high-emission dirty coal more regularly or begin importing expensive foreign gas because New Zealand’s natural gas sector was today issued a death sentence by that Government?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.
Question No. 3—Seniors
3. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Seniors: What announcements has she made recently regarding a new Positive Ageing Strategy for New Zealand?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister for Seniors): Last Friday, I attended the annual Positive Ageing Expo in Nelson to announce this Government’s commitment to a new positive ageing strategy. Currently, there are around 750,000 people aged over 65. In 18 years, there will be 1.2 million—a quarter of our population. While it’s great news that more of us are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, it also means that there are challenges and changes to services and community that we have to consider and plan for as a nation. New Zealand needs to have a strategy and plan to help our older people live well. It needs to fit who we are, how we live now, which is closely connected to where we live, and what is likely to happen to ensure we’re in a good position to deal with the predicted demographic shifts.
Darroch Ball: What are the particular areas of focus for the revised strategy?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: That will be determined by our public consultation, but there are three obvious areas we need to look at. One is supporting seniors in the workforce and how business can better recruit, retain, and possibly re-train older citizens. We certainly don’t want people over 65 to be forced to work, but many of them want to and a growing number need to due to personal circumstances. Secondly, we need to ensure appropriate housing options, and, thirdly, I think we need to talk about what is the means to keep connections through our lives to stop people being isolated or lonely as they age.
Darroch Ball: How will the strategy be developed?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: In the first instance, by talking directly to New Zealanders to see what they want and what they expect from their Government, councils, and communities to have a positive and fulfilling life in their senior years. We also need to reach out to the next generation of seniors—those currently in their 40s and 50s right now—because we want this to endure. Getting this strategy is right. This strategy was originally put in place in 2001 and expired in 2010. Therefore, for the last eight years, the country has been running blind, knowing that we are running into an ageing population, where they will outnumber 15-year-olds by the time we get to 2036.
Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his statements in the House and to the media?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, in the context they were given and where they have been accurately reported.
Hon Judith Collins: When he told Parliament last week, in relation to the size of the KiwiBuild dwellings at Unitec, “Well, I would note that the Unitary Plan, approved by Auckland Council in mid-2016, set minimum floor sizes of 30 square metres for studio dwellings and 45 square metres for one or more bedroom dwellings.”, was he just “making fun”, as he told media afterwards?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I was quoting the former Minister of Finance, the Hon Bill English. I was not saying what we would do.
Hon Judith Collins: If, as he told media last week, he was just “making fun”, why did he also tell media that he was in discussion with banks around changing lending criteria for dwellings of that size?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I told media that I was in discussions with banks about lending for prefabricated housing and for multi-dwelling apartments because I am.
Hon Judith Collins: Which banks has he been talking to around changing the lending criteria to suit his KiwiBuild programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put down a written question to me about which meetings I’m having, when, and with whom, I’ll consider answering them then.
Hon Judith Collins: When he told Parliament last week that the KiwiBuild dwellings at Unitec could be 30 square metres, did he realise that that is smaller than the standard double-sized garage, which is 36 square metres?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I wasn’t saying that would be the size of KiwiBuild dwellings. I was quoting the former Deputy Prime Minister under the National Government, because he was advocating apartments of that size. I wasn’t.
Hon Judith Collins: If he was just “making fun” to an answer to a serious question in Parliament, then was he making fun when he promised to build 16,000 houses in three years, and he hasn’t built one yet?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No. I was deadly serious, unlike the former Government, who did nothing to build affordable houses in nine years and allowed a housing crisis to spin out of control, and they think it’s a joke.
Question No. 5—Transport
5. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: How much is funding increasing by, in dollar terms, for the Local Road Maintenance activity class for the first three years of the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport; and when added to his answers yesterday for Local Road Improvements and Regional Improvements funding increases of $310 million and $260 million respectively, what is the total combined increase, in dollar terms, for these three activity classes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Taking the average of the first three years of the last Government’s Government policy statement on land transport issued in 2015 and the average of the first three years of the draft Government policy statement issued last week, local road improvements increased by $310 million and regional improvements funding increases by $260 million. The total for the three activity classes the member mentions is $890 million. I should note for the member that the $1.2 billion he cited yesterday includes the nearly 20 percent increase in State highway maintenance.
Jami-Lee Ross: Was the Prime Minister correct when she said in question time on Tuesday that over the three-year period “regional and local road improvements [increased by] $1.2 billion”, which yesterday he confirmed included three activity classes—those being local road maintenance, local road improvements, and regional improvements—which he says today adds up to $890 million?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The reason the Prime Minister made that statement was to point out that, despite Opposition scaremongering, there are increases in other categories of road funding in the first three years that outweigh the reduction in State highway improvements in the first three years.
Jami-Lee Ross: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked if the Prime Minister was correct—
Mr SPEAKER: And I couldn’t hear all of the answer, whether it was correct or not, because Paula Bennett was interjecting. So I’m not going to make him do it again.
Jami-Lee Ross: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You couldn’t hear the answer. I couldn’t hear the answer. If I’m asking—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if you can’t hear the answer because your colleague is interjecting, I’m not going to protect you.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I can be helpful. The member said that the Prime Minister made a $300 million mistake.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m going to give the member one opportunity to withdraw that comment and apologise for its inaccuracy, or I will punish the Opposition.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: And I do want to warn members, if they make statements like that on points of order in the future, there is a very real chance that they’ll face the Privileges Committee, because the member knew it was not true when he made it.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he tell the House yesterday that the Prime Minister’s figure of $1.2 billion was made up of the three categories asked in my primary question, and then today he tells the House that the Prime Minister’s $1.2 billion includes an additional category he didn’t tell us about yesterday? Why the inconsistency?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The statement I made to the House wasn’t exclusive of the fact that it includes State highway maintenance. I said that it includes local roads, local road maintenance, and regional roads. But I would point out to the member [Interruption]—actually, I’ll leave it.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why does he keep changing the way in which he justifies the Prime Minister’s $1.2 billion figure, which I’ve proven is inaccurate, to cover up what is a mistake that his Prime Minister has made?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the premise of the member’s question.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why do we keep getting inconsistent answers from this Government on matters of transport, where the Prime Minister says one figure, he justifies it one way yesterday, justifies it a different way today—the same inconsistency we saw when it came to the building of the Ōtaki Expressway?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I suggest that the member focuses on asking clear, intelligible questions that can be validly answered, unlike the last two questions he’s asked in the last two days.
Jami-Lee Ross: Is $890 million the same as $1.2 billion, or is there a $310 million gap between him and his Prime Minister?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: When you add State highway maintenance to local roads improvements, local road maintenance, and regional road improvements, you get $1.2 billion. For the member’s benefit, State highways, like local roads, are often in the regions. The Prime Minister’s comments refer to the total increase in funding available to be spent in the regions, not the total increase of the narrow activity classes that the member is pretending.
Question No. 6—Energy and Resources
6. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What announcement has she made about Block Offer 2018?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Today, I announced the next step in the block offer process, which is the mechanism for allocating new oil and gas exploration permits. This announcement signals the start of consultation with iwi and hapū and the local community on the proposed Block Offer 2018 released area for onshore petroleum exploration permits. The proposed released area is restricted to the onshore Taranaki Basin and covers a 1,703 square kilometre area.
Tamati Coffey: What other announcements has the Government made today?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question is not related enough. That’s one use of a supplementary; have another go.
Tamati Coffey: What other announcement has the Minister made about her portfolio today?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I have announced only the 2018 Block Offer, but I have been supporting the Prime Minister in a further energy-related announcement that she has been making today, where she announced that no new offshore petroleum exploration permits would be granted. This is a significant—
Mr SPEAKER: That’s enough, thank you.
Tamati Coffey: What commitment has the Government made to existing permit holders?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: We have committed to protecting existing exploration and mining rights and the ability for discoveries to be developed. Let me be very clear: we are not preventing any existing permit holders from undertaking the exploration that their permits entitle them to. One of the main priorities is protecting the livelihoods of those who work in our extractive industries. I want to acknowledge New Zealand First on this and also acknowledge that this is a Government made up of three parties with different views who have all come together to make the responsible decision for New Zealand’s long-term future. I look forward to the National Party joining us.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister, on a scale of one to 10, one being zen-like calm and 10 being furious rage, tell us how she reacted to learning this week that a shortage of gas supply meant that the Huntly coal-fired station had to be turned on?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The reason why the Huntly station needed to be turned on was because of an extreme weather event that stopped the gas going through. It was not because of a shortage of supply. If that member thinks that there is a shortage of supply, he should look to his time as the Minister of Energy and Resources.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Alongside amendments that she may place on the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill that’s coming before the House when the House returns in two weeks’ time, will she have a clause to prevent extreme weather getting in the road of energy supply?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: No, that’s called a climate action plan. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just to remind people it might be very close to the school holidays, but they haven’t started yet—
Hon Ron Mark: Ooh!
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 7, the Hon Paul Goldsmith. That includes you, Mr Mark.
Question No. 7—Regional Economic Development
7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: How are the Government’s policies advancing economic development in the regions?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): The advancement of the Government’s policies in terms of economic development in the regions is best described as a pragmatic, far-sighted approach.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What does he say to the Mayor of New Plymouth, who said that his Government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration is a “kick in the guts for the region”?
Hon SHANE JONES: The gentleman in question met with me last week, and I fear that he’s not in full possession of the facts. The reality, as he will soon learn, is that not a single right currently enjoyed by that sector will be changed, weakened, or summarily dismissed, and when he is in full possession of the facts, I think that he will change his tune.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that offering $150,000 for exploration of clean energy options in the Taranaki makes up for the premature extinction of a multibillion-dollar industry that sustains thousands of jobs in that region?
Hon SHANE JONES: The member is quite correct. There are a huge number of jobs in the Taranaki region through black gold and white gold, and the allocation of funding which the member refers to is but the small first step. It was greeted with acclamation because many of the industry of Taranaki realise that there’s great disruptiveness facing them and they want to work with the Government to open up new opportunities for engineering and energy solutions.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was he consulted on stopping oil and gas exploration, and in what way did he champion the region?
Hon SHANE JONES: Thank you very much for that question. The actual outcome that the Prime Minister announced today was to reassure the current stakeholders in the industry and the owners of the rights granted under statute to them that they remain unchanged. But the Prime Minister also has reflected, on which I was consulted about, a set of far distant changes—but because of the transition we have to go through as a consequence of the last regime committing us to international obligations we can’t walk away from.
Andrew Falloon: Will his billion-dollar provincial growth fund create 3,100 jobs in South Canterbury and North Otago and $32 billion in royalties and taxes which would have been created by the Barque gas development?
Hon SHANE JONES: I’m presuming that the member is referring to the rights that already exist in law off the coast of Te Wai Pounamu. None of those rights are changed as a consequence of today’s announcement. The owners of those rights have an opportunity under the law to fully exploit them. They must strike a balance between raising the capital, actually finding the geological resource—and stop listening to scaremongering, irrelevant backbench MPs.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Can the Minister tell the House what was running through his mind when this picture was taken?
Hon SHANE JONES: I don’t think I should be judged as a consequence of that photo, but I have, from time to time, been known to use such facial expressions when looking across the House. I think it’s fair to say that I’m known as an expressive politician, and in that particular case I obviously need a facial massage. Thank you very much.
Question No. 8—Climate Change
8. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister for Climate Change: What impact will stopping offshore oil and gas exploration have on New Zealand’s emissions?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): Discontinuing new offshore oil and gas exploration will prevent any new emissions from that drilling, above and beyond the emissions that are already occurring from existing oil and gas extraction, which is projected to continue for most of the next three decades. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Before Mr Muller takes a supplementary, I’m going to ask his colleague who is sitting next to him and who continued to interject to stop.
Todd Muller: Does the Minister acknowledge that natural gas has a huge part to play in global energy supply; if so, why should New Zealand turn our back on assisting the globe in reducing their emissions, and the economic opportunity that offers us domestically?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The premise of that question is that New Zealand can start exporting significant amounts of gas to countries that are moving from coal to renewables. Actually, the balance of evidence is that they are passing directly from coal to renewables without passing through gas first. Many of the numbers that I’ve seen that have been chucked around this morning have been somewhat over-optimistic given that every country in the world, bar one, is signed up to the Paris Agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to get to net zero emissions by the year 2050. The existing operations in New Zealand are due to continue for the next three decades. That takes us out to about the year 2050, which is about the point that most of the rest of the world will have made the switch towards renewable energy. If we want to make money from exporting energy, we would be much better to invest that money in renewable energy than in gas.
Todd Muller: So does the Minister disagree then with the international panel on climate change, who in their last report stated that the use of natural gas would increase prior to 2050 due to its use as a bridging fuel in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Not in New Zealand.
Todd Muller: How many tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum can be avoided if use of coal for industrial heat is substituted by natural gases?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I said in my answer to the primary question, New Zealand’s existing operations will continue for much of the next three decades. If we stop exploring today, what that means is we won’t be adding any new emissions to that which is already projected to occur over the course of those decades. So this is about not adding to the problem.
Todd Muller: Given the Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to climate change in a manner that does not threaten food production, how does the Minister see nine billion people being fed without nitrogen fertiliser, which is produced by using natural gas?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Nitrogen oxide is actually one of the worst greenhouse gas emissions out there. It’s many, many more times damaging in terms of climate change than methane or even than carbon dioxide. So what we need to do is move to sustainable forms of agriculture as well where our emissions from nitrous oxide are netted out. [Interruption] And if his colleagues don’t want to hear the answer, I won’t continue.
Todd Muller: Does the Minister have confidence that our large coal-fired industries will invest in gas when there is no future offshore oil and gas exploration available; and, if so, on what basis?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I think that the member is referring primarily to Fonterra and other large users of coal in their drying operations to turn milk into milk powder and then export it over to places like China and so on, where the water is added back in. Actually, there are others ways of providing that industrial heat, and I know that Fonterra are actually working very hard on alternatives to coal. I know that they’ve been exploring gas, but they’re also exploring electrification, woodchip, and other ways of providing that energy. We aim to assist with that transition. Fonterra itself actually has committed to becoming net zero carbon dioxide by the year 2050 and committing to building no new coal-fired stations after the year 2030. My response to that is, “That’s a good start. How can we help to bring that forward and make it more ambitious?”.
Todd Muller: So why does the Minister have such confidence in alternative energy solutions such as woodchip biomass when if Fonterra’s South Island dryers got transformed for that energy source, it would need a forest the size of Belgium to run them?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I didn’t say that Fonterra were switching over to woodchip. I said that that was one of the options that they are exploring. They are exploring others as well. Obviously, electrification would be the best, and that can be run off renewable forms of electricity generation. This Government is committed to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by the year 2035, which should provide all the power that Fonterra needs.
Question No. 9—Corrections
9. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Corrections: When he said “So we are looking at a range of options to reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years”, what options is he considering?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): All of them.
Hon David Bennett: If he is considering reducing the prison population, has the Minister suspended any plans for the new build or extensions at Waikeria Prison, given that a decision was due by the middle of April, as reported by Andrew Little?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: This is a decision that’s a very serious decision and one that we don’t take lightly, but we won’t be rushed into making that decision, despite the time frame we’d been given before, because we are looking at all the options.
Hon David Bennett: If he is considering reducing the prison population, would the Minister consider having discussions with the Minister of Police on elevating police criminal prosecution thresholds?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We’ll look at all options, but that’s not to say that we’ll implement all options. So if that’s an option, yeah, we’ll look at it.
Hon David Bennett: Has the Minister had discussions with the Minister of Justice around changing bail laws for violent and serious offenders to reduce the prison population?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Again, we are looking at all the options. That’s not to say that we’ll implement all of the options, but we’ll discuss them, and the bail laws is one that we have discussed, we have looked at. That’s not to say that we’ll make any changes, but it would be remiss of us not to explore all these options fully.
Question No. 10—Health
10. LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa) to the Minister of Health: What examples of capital pressures has he seen while visiting DHBs?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): I have now visited almost all of our district health boards (DHBs) and, on many occasions, the state of facilities has been raised directly with me. I’ve seen buildings at or near their use-by date, I’ve seen buildings that have suffered from years of deferred maintenance, I’ve heard stories of patients being treated in corridors, but, most importantly, I have seen staff delivering quality care despite all these challenges.
Louisa Wall: What examples has he seen at Nelson Hospital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Nelson Hospital has well-documented seismic issues. Its main buildings are 50 years old and will need to be replaced in time, but perhaps most shocking to me was to see nurses working in corridors and using card tables as makeshift workstations. Both the staff and the patients of Nelson Hospital deserve much better.
Louisa Wall: What pressures is he aware of at Capital and Coast DHB?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Well, even Wellington Hospital—one of our most modern hospitals, built under the outstanding fifth Labour Government—has its problems. Wellington Hospital has kilometre after kilometre of copper pipes, and between January 2015 and October last year, there were 276 leaks in those pipes, and another eight leaks in January. We have a plan to fund health more sustainably. That will be evident in the upcoming Budget, although we won’t be able to fix all the problems we have inherited in one Budget.
Question No. 11—Building and Construction
11. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Why did she wait four months between receiving expert fire engineer Dr Tony Enright’s report on concerns with aluminium composite panel cladding on 19 November and commissioning a peer review on 6 March?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): I’m advised that during the four-month period, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) consulted the relevant accreditation bodies, the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand and CertMark International, for feedback on the report, as well as seeking supporting evidence from Dr Enright. MBIE then started the process for engaging an engineer in February, who began the peer review in March. As the member will appreciate, when MBIE are assessing whether building materials are to be suspended, that process must be appropriate, it must be fair and robust, and that takes time.
Andrew Bayly: Why did she wait for four months when Australian building authorities have already accepted the findings of Dr Enright’s reports, and one banned their cladding product in February?
Hon JENNY SALESA: I want to point out to the member that the state of Victoria has only banned certain aluminium composite panel (ACP). Also, the state of Victoria originally identified more than 1,300 buildings as most likely having ACP cladding. But here in Aotearoa New Zealand, interim preliminary results provided by most councils indicate that there is not a prevalence of combustible ACPs installed in high-rise buildings in New Zealand. Banning a product is a very serious imposition and has only been done once before, under the Building Act of 2004. I am very confident that the appropriate regulatory process is currently being followed. Suspending code mark certificates without robust evidence is something MBIE does not do lightly.
Andrew Bayly: Has she met with Dr Enright; and, if not, why not?
Hon JENNY SALESA: Dr Enright, as far as I’m informed, lives in Australia. The issue of dealing with Dr Enright is something that my officials do. MBIE are currently ensuring that the report that Dr Enright provided is being peer reviewed. We are waiting for the peer review of that process, and we will get the peer review in the next few weeks.
Marja Lubeck: What steps is the Minister undertaking to review the products regime, which includes products such as ACP?
Hon JENNY SALESA: I am undertaking a review of products. We know that reviewing products here in Aotearoa New Zealand is something that has not been done for many years. We know that there are issues with some products and we are doing a first-line review. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is undergoing a review right now, and that is something that we are very glad as a Government that we will be doing very soon.
Andrew Bayly: Why didn’t she simply suspend the use of the product rather than allowing her ministry to waste four months consulting only with those agencies responsible for issuing the disputed cladding certification?
Hon JENNY SALESA: I refer the member to the answer I gave just before. Banning a product—suspending a product—is something that has only ever been done in New Zealand once before, under the Building Act 2004. We are going through the right process right now to ensure that the right decision is made. We are going through a peer review process, and we will have that report from MBIE very soon.
Question No. 12—Statistics
12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he have confidence in his Department?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): I do.
Dr Jian Yang: How can he have confidence in his department, when there are New Zealanders who had still not received access codes or papers for the 2018 census more than a month after census night, despite contacting the helpline, and others who completed the census online but have been sent census documents afterwards because there is no record of them having completed the census?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Census response rates are running close to target, and Statistics New Zealand has been investigating ways in which they might boost response rates in the final field operation period, which we’re actually still in at the moment. Statistics New Zealand has met its target for online and self-completion rates and is on track to meet the remaining targets. The self-response target was 70 percent, and it’s running at about that. The online target was 70 percent, and it has exceeded that target. Currently we’re tracking at about 90 percent completion for the South Island and lower North Island, and what that does is it enables us to put resources into the areas of greatest need. All indications are that the census will be completed in line with targets.
Dr Jian Yang: How will these many problems affect the integrity and accuracy of the 2018 census?
Hon JAMES SHAW: They won’t. We’re actually on track to deliver the census exactly according to the plan that was put in place by a previous Minister of Statistics, Craig Foss. So all of the decisions and plans that Minister Foss put in place are actually being delivered on in accordance with all of those targets. It’s important to note that this is the first census that we’ve actually been able to track progress on a daily basis. In previous censuses, we had to wait until the end of the census period before we could start enumerating, and at that point we would find out how we were tracking. Now, because of the shift to census online, we’re actually able to track every day, and that enables us to shift resources into the areas where there are lower response rates.
Dr Jian Yang: What can he say to people in remote regions who are worried about missing out on Government funding for essential services because of the problems in their regions with the 2018 census?
Hon JAMES SHAW: This has always been true in the census. Obviously there are some areas which have lower response rates than others. That’s why the current way of doing the census enables us to shift resources to those areas. There are some places where we’re doing up to six doorknocks per household, in order to make sure that those people can be included. There are places where we’ve actually hand-delivered papers to every single household that hadn’t received them yet. That process is still continuing, and from all indications we’re on track to meet the census numbers, as with any previous census. Census completion rates are never 100 percent; it’s in the high 90s, and it looks like this census will be on track as with historical trends.
Dr Jian Yang: What is his response to The Northland Age editor, Peter Jackson, who said, “This census shows all the hallmarks of being a shambles.”?
Hon JAMES SHAW: What I would say is that this census looks to be more successful than previous censuses, that we’re meeting all of our targets, and that that person, whoever wrote that article, should stop believing everything that he sees on Twitter.

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