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Parliament: Questions and Answers – June 19

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Question No. 1Finance 1. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance : What feedback has the Government received on the Families Package? Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) : The Government …ORAL QUESTIONS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What feedback has the Government received on the Families Package?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Government is already receiving supportive feedback from New Zealanders in anticipation of the full impact of the Families Package coming into effect on 1 July. Writing to the Prime Minister, one mother said, “Seeing the Families Package and everything else that you have done and my family actually benefiting from it, I feel so much lighter. We both work hard, but we felt like we were just working to pay the bills, with no money left for other necessities—e.g., clothing and medical.” The correspondent goes on, “I no longer feel like a failure, although in my kids’ eyes I know I’m not. So thank you, again, for making it better for us parents to help keep our children healthy, safe, fed, warm, and happy. With a tear in my eye, I just can’t thank you enough.” I’m proud of this Government for assisting Kiwi families who found it tough just to get on for far too long.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m just going to warn the Minister that supplementary replies are going to be succinct, given the extreme length of the initial answer.
Kiritapu Allan: What feedback has the Government received on the winter energy payment?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We’ve heard from Kiwis who have found themselves in tough circumstances as a result of not being able to pay the power bills. As one correspondent said, “Thank you so much, for the extra money for power. What an amazing surprise and relief that is. As a sickness beneficiary trying to balance unwellness, finances, and life on the bare minimum, which can be challenging, the extra money will make such a difference.”
Kiritapu Allan: In what other ways could New Zealanders such as these be better off through the Families Package?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Families Package will assist middle and low income New Zealanders in a number of ways beyond the winter energy payment: the accommodation supplement increases that are already in place, increasing Working For Families tax credits and raising the abatement threshold, introducing the Best Start payment to assist families during the critical early years of a child’s life, increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks, and reinstating the independent earner tax credit. I am proud to be part of a Government that is willing to tackle issues such as child poverty head on, and, with our Families Package, we’re doing exactly that.
Hon Amy Adams: How many New Zealand families, either by number or proportion, will in fact be worse off as a consequence of the decisions in the mini-Budget and the imposition of new and additional petrol taxes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don’t have all of that information with me, but what I can say is that 384,000 families will be better off by $75 per week, on average, when this package is fully rolled out.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and policies?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that her Government has implemented and proposed policies that will significantly increase the cost of living for hard-working New Zealanders and their families?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The basis of that question is unadulterated nonsense.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, in light of that kind of answer, is she aware that her Government’s decision to increase fuel excise tax and create a new Auckland regional fuel tax will increase costs for an average family by up to $700 a year?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, that is unadulterated rubbish. But, more importantly, in the read-out from the Speaker, that was the Minister that was talking about extra roads all the way to Whangarei, all the way from Hamilton, from the Waikato. Mr Bridges, if you’re going to ask questions, back it up with some consistency.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she really contesting that the regional fuel tax and the excise tax will increase costs in Auckland for families by hundreds and hundreds of dollars from 1 July?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I don’t know about the Prime Minister, but every sound economist is contesting what that member just said.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the Deputy Prime Minister, in answering for the Prime Minister, to answer the question again in the Prime Minister’s voice.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, not only am I contesting that but so is every sane, sound economist.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many more councils are now lining up for the regional fuel tax?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This regional fuel tax from the Minister of Finance was for Auckland specifically—
Hon Amy Adams: No, no.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Hang on! It was for Auckland specifically, and we are waiting to see that unfold.
Hon Grant Robertson: Can I ask the Prime Minister which would have the greatest effect: a regional fuel tax on Auckland, or increasing GST across the board when you said you wouldn’t do it?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There’s no responsibility for the second part of that question, and it was also an invitation to the Prime Minister to make an out-of-order reply, and I won’t allow it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, in light of her answer to my very last supplementary question, why then is her Government actually today legislating for the regional fuel tax to be able to be applied throughout any region in New Zealand, all regions in this country?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, there is sound polling evidence that suggests that the people of Auckland understand that they need to pay for extra development. They’re happy to pay for a fuel tax, and those same people would prefer that immensely over whacking GST up, having not promised it in the first place.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister, answering for the Prime Minister, can’t hear the question, but it was around a clarification of his comment and a question about why there was now legislation that would enable the regional fuel tax across New Zealand, not just Auckland.
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to ask the Prime Minister to answer it again, but he was clarifying her comments, just to make it clear.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The members of the Opposition should full well know, and their leaders should know, that other councils cannot do this until 2021, so any statement of the kind that the Leader of the Opposition is making is demonstrably false. And I see Mr Lee-Ross telling him right now that he was wrong, so get up and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think her Government’s policies such as banning foreign investment, increasing compliance costs, red tape, and putting additional taxes on landlords will increase or decrease the cost of rents for New Zealanders?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister’s concern and the Cabinet’s concern is the dysfunctionalism between supply and demand, which grew massive under the former Government of the last nine years, and we are setting out to correct it, which will result in lower rents and lower house prices, and, indeed, lower personal indebtedness.
Hon Simon Bridges: So, to confirm, does the Prime Minister think rents are decreasing and will continue to decrease—is that what she’s just told me?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The rate of rapid increase, that was a past experience of New Zealanders, is going to change, and the affordability—the gap between people’s annualised wages and the cost of housing—will get far closer than the 12 to 13 times that that member and his colleagues had left in this country.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, has she seen reports by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that show rent has increased by $23 a week since she’s taken office?
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, is she concerned by such reports of an increased cost for renters?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, the Prime Minister has been—and so are all her colleagues—concerned about the appalling house price escalations in this country caused by the previous Government doing nothing about it and claiming that there was no crisis at all—until the day after they failed to be in Government. Then all of a sudden, a bit like Columbus discovered America, they discovered it by accident.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, will the brightline test, ring-fencing losses, the foreign investment ban, and healthy homes legislation not have an effect on rents the way the pundits and the commentators all predict?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: These are marvellous policies designed to see decent construction in this country and designed to see the prices come down, to make housing and rentals far more affordable. We do not want whole generations on the scrap heap where home aspirational ownership is concerned.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she seen reports by Otago University that the cost of a weekly supermarket shop has gone up by $21 a week under her Government?
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she seen reports in the New Zealand Herald this week that the cost of fruit and vegetables is set to rise because of higher fuel prices, increases to the minimum wage, and the increased cost of rent?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, but some of those forecasts are not correct.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that GDP forecasts in Budget 2018 were revised down by an average of 0.5 percent per year over the next two years, meaning $500 less in the back pocket of every single New Zealander?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I’m just confirming that he would agree with me that it’s poppycock.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, what impact would lower GDP growth have on the ability of the average New Zealander to meet their daily living costs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say we don’t deal in hypotheticals; we deal in facts. And this Government is constructing a very sound growth plan for this country. It is a growth plan that sees a series of surpluses, because we are a responsible Government; we believe in fiscal rectitude. We know that there may in the future come a rainy day and we won’t be doing what that former Government did: borrow six times the debt that they inherited.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she expect GDP to be higher or lower than the already revised-down forecasts, when the numbers are released this Thursday?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say it’s axiomatic that GDP will be higher, regardless of how he assembled that question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it correct that her Government has cancelled $40 a week in tax cuts, overseen $15 per week in extra fuel taxes, $23 per week—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s about three questions now.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What about the list we got from Grant Robertson?
Mr SPEAKER: He’s answering the question, Mr Brownlee. There’s a difference.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I’ll answer the first question by making it very clear, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that the so-called tax cuts which the Government inherited came with a massive infrastructural and social neglect cost.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Prime Minister confirm, in light of all of the question she’s answered today, that in fact New Zealanders are around $108 a week worse off since her Government took office?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Definitely no, and, more importantly, in a recent trust survey this Government went up dramatically from the lousy 48 percent we inherited to now 65 percent, and possibly rising. That demonstrates that the public out there simply does not believe the Leader of the Opposition.
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the statements and policies of this Government regarding New Zealand’s economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in their appropriate context.
Hon Amy Adams: If he stands by his commitment to grow prosperity in New Zealand, then how is an economy that is losing momentum, business confidence that is still falling, and a Government that is loading more costs and taxes on to New Zealanders going to help grow our prosperity?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is not doing virtually any of the things that the member has suggested. I point her to yesterday’s New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) consensus forecasts, which show growth in the economy averaging around 3 percent, exactly what’s forecast in the Budget. This Government is actually making progress in shifting us from an economy based on housing speculation and population growth to one that’s based on productivity and sustainability. It might take a bit of time to undo what the previous Government did, but we’re getting on with the job.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with Westpac’s analysis last week that the New Zealand economy will continue to underperform its peers for the next few years, or ASB’s analysis this week that the post-election slump in business confidence has lasted longer than we initially expected, in particular measures of businesses’ expectations for their own activity, and that New Zealand could be entering a danger zone due to uncertainty and low business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I don’t. What I look to is what’s actually happening in the economy. For instance, yesterday we saw the services index, which shows that it’s growing. We’ve seen the BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index staying positive. We saw the Truckometer last week. What the member needs to appreciate is that it will take some time to shift the economy to a more productive, more sustainable basis, away from the previous Government’s speculative approach, but we’re getting on with doing the job.
Hon Amy Adams: Why are virtually all independent commentators pointing to his Government’s new policies as major contributors to the coming economic slowdown, and yet he stands here denying and deflecting any accountability at all?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the assertions in that member’s question, and I point her to yesterday’s consensus forecast, brought together by NZIER, which shows that the economy’s growth continues to be solid. We have a big job to do to rebuild infrastructure and make sure that our social services are in a decent state. We’re getting on with the job, but we can’t correct nine years of failure in nine months.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with his colleague David Parker’s assessment that the ANZ business confidence survey is junk, or is this just another example of this Government’s arrogant and dismissive attitude to any advice it doesn’t like?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I would say is that I agree with Cameron Bagrie, who said “those surveys are very poor barometers” and that they should be thrown out. We have to look at a range of measures to assess the success of the New Zealand economy.
Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is the Government progressing work towards the targets of 1,000 KiwiBuild homes built in 2018/19, 5,000 in 2019/20, and 10,000 in 2020/21; if so, how?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. In the first years, houses will be built on Housing New Zealand land that has been left vacant for years, such as the first KiwiBuild homes in Papakura; through the Land for Housing programme; and through Buying off the Plans in private developments that otherwise would not progress or would be built more slowly. Large-scale developments like that at the Unitec block will take longer to get under way but will add large numbers of KiwiBuild homes over time. We have set ambitious targets because we are a Government that wants families to have a fair shot at owning a place of their own. We’re going to do our best to meet those targets.
Paul Eagle: What will be the mix of Buying off the Plans, Housing New Zealand, and the Land for Housing programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m advised that a large number of stalled developments are ready to go. This Government will back them to build homes for Kiwi families. We expect that Buying off the Plans will build 700 to 800 homes in the first year. Housing New Zealand and Land for Housing will build at least 200 to 300 homes this coming year. This mix of sources for KiwiBuild homes means we can build them on both Crown land and privately owned land, and get more homes—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You promised 10,000 a year.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —built faster.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Dr Smith—
Paul Eagle: Supplementary—
Mr SPEAKER: No, sorry. Before you go, Mr Eagle, Dr Smith, can you at least get your interjections accurate.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: They promised 10,000 a year.
Mr SPEAKER: That’s much better.
Paul Eagle: Who will be eligible to buy a KiwiBuild home?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, even people who have good jobs—for example, teachers, tradies, office workers—have found themselves locked out of buying their first home by the national housing crisis. KiwiBuild has always been about restoring the Kiwi Dream for our families. Cabinet will soon consider the final details of the eligibility criteria, and I look forward to announcing them soon after.
Question No. 5—Health
5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statements after the revised DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement offer was strongly rejected by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation members yesterday that “We have gone as far as we can in terms of extra Government money” and “I hope cool heads will prevail and industrial action can be avoided”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that “It’s no good fighting with a megaphone and negotiating through the media.”, and if so, why did he do just that yesterday by stating through the media that there was nothing more to offer?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As the member knows, these negotiations are between the district health boards (DHBs) and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. The Minister of Health is not party to the negotiations. I am, however, encouraged that both sides are still committed to trying to avoid industrial action and are talking about urgent mediation and facilitation. What I would note, though, is that the Government has already put an extra quarter of a billion dollars into the package to double the initial package offered to nurses, but, sadly, we can’t turn around nine years of neglect in one pay round.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he accept that a material cause of the situation the Government faces is down to the massively inflated wage expectations raised by him and his Government that—despite his involvement in November and the Prime Minister’s in February—were not met by the latest offer?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No. The demand from nurses for better pay and conditions was not created in the last eight months. It was created over the last nine years of underfunding and neglect under that Government.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. What is the Minister’s response to nurses’ concerns that DHBs have failed to properly implement safe staffing measures?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Government shares those concerns, and that’s why we’re committed to funding an extra 500 nurses and the proper implementation of safe staffing measures. That is something that the previous Government spectacularly failed to do, despite having nine years to do so.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: In light of his answer to my previous supplementary, is he disagreeing with the Deputy Prime Minister, who stated this morning, “perhaps the expectations … we’ve given them are too high.”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Expectations, as I said, have not been created in the last eight months. Those expectations were created over the last nine years of underfunding and neglect by that former Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Minister be surprised to learn that at the end of that comment this morning was the added statement that we can’t fix up all these problems in just one Budget?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that. That is wise indeed. We cannot fix nine years of underfunding in one pay round.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: On how many occasions between November 2008 and October 2017 did nurses take strike action?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don’t have responsibility for that period of Government, but I do know, of course, that the nurses became incredibly frustrated with the fact that the health system was underfunded, that they were increasingly stretched, and that frustration has now come to the surface.
Question No. 6—Health
6. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements, actions, and voicemails in relation to the Counties Manukau DHB?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.
Mr SPEAKER: One of you sit down.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he ignore pleas from Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) acting chair Rabin Rabindran, who, in phone calls and text messages, repeatedly asked him to stop making statements that were false and damaging to Mr Rabindran’s reputation?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the assertion. What I will say is that Mr Rabindran did indicate to me that he was concerned about his reputation, and that is why I was keen to offer him the potential for other roles in order to give him a gracious exit.
Jami-Lee Ross: If he rejects the assertion of my previous question, did he read the text message to him on 24 April where Mr Rabindran said, and I quote, “I need to draw your attention to your comment to the media, that is being continuously quoted, that I apologised for not telling you about the state of the other buildings, which is not correct.”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: My concern that I expressed to the media was that the state of other buildings was not raised with me when we met face to face. There are across New Zealand more than a hundred buildings that are not up to scratch, but when I visit DHBs, as they did with the Scott building, I expect those issues to be brought my attention face to face, not buried in a report.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he allow his office to put pressure on the CEO of the Counties Manukau DHB not to release documents that would’ve contradicted his own public statements that he wasn’t briefed on the visit on 13 March, a situation the CEO describes as expecting her to “suck it up”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the premise of that question.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has he seen or received a copy of the chief executive’s email to district health board members, which is now public and which says, “Unfortunately we are under some pressure from the Minister’s office about what we can and can’t say.” and also says—I quote—”[they] want us esp me to ‘suck it up’.”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have subsequently seen a copy of the email. I would note that the DHB commented frequently in the media on all of these issues.
Jami-Lee Ross: Did he meet the Cabinet Manual standard of acting lawfully and to the highest ethical standards when his voicemail message on 18 April tried to stop Mr Rabindran from speaking publicly by offering to appoint him to future positions?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the member’s assertion.
Question No. 7—State Services
7. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of State Services: What action is he taking to lift the wages for the lowest-paid workers in our public services?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services): Last week, I announced that the lowest-paid workers in the core Public Service will receive at least the 2018 living wage of $20.55 an hour from 1 September. This will lift the wages of 2,000 workers, across 13 Government departments, including some clerical workers, administration workers, welfare workers, and contact centre workers.
Virginia Andersen: What else is the Government doing to lift wages and conditions for workers on low incomes?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has also set new, clear expectations for employment relations in the State sector: that employers will work to narrow the gap between the highest and lowest earners in their organisations. We’re also progressing pay equity claims and initiatives to close the gender pay gap. Of note, of those who will benefit from the living wage announcement, 70 percent are women. For the lowest-paid workers in New Zealand, this Government is raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 1 April 2021, and 384,000 families and children will be better off by an average of $75 per week from the Families Package when it’s fully rolled out.
Question No. 8—Justice
8. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his statements and actions regarding his Government’s justice policies?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes, in the context in which they were made or conducted. I particularly stand by my statement regarding the Judith Collins 2014 Family Court changes that “What we are seeing now is incredible delays in the Family Court and particularly where children are concerned, that’s not fair.”
Hon Mark Mitchell: In light of his statements on the weekend regarding low-level offenders in prison, what is a low-level offender?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There are offenders going through our criminal justice system who, according to the sentences available to courts to impose on those offenders, are regarded as at the low-level offending end of the spectrum. Some of those offenders are repeat offenders and some wind up in prison. The challenge that we all face is whether we continue the previous Government’s promotion of an American-style criminal justice system or whether we actually do something to fix the problem.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Are non-violent class A drug dealers low-level offenders?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: As I said in the interview which I think the member was alluding to previously, it is simply not possible to make a generalisation about such a statement. Where the class A drug offending entails stand-over tactics and violence, then prison is the right place for that offender.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Are prisoners who commit indecent assault low-level offenders?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The member is alluding to the offender I referred to in a question last week, relating to the pinching of a prison officer’s bottom. The issue there is however insidious, unwelcome, and unacceptable that nature of offending is, seven years in prison without parole is not the right sanction for it.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Are prisoners who commit indecent assault low-level offenders?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I think I’ve answered that question previously.
Question No. 9—Tourism
9. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to the Tourism portfolio?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Tourism): Yes, in the context they were given.
Hon Jacqui Dean: What percentage of the $57 million to $80 million raised from the international visitor levy will be used up in collection, administration, and distribution?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The money that’s going to be collected through the international visitor levy will be divided between tourism and conservation. We’ve got a consultation document out, and we are expecting to hear from the sector as to what they think the split should be.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is he really saying that he doesn’t know how much the Government is proposing to spend on collection, administration, and distribution costs?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. What I said is that we’re consulting with the sector on what the split should be.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is now the fourth time that the Leader of the Opposition has improperly interjected. He is the senior member of the Opposition, and I think he should show a bit of leadership around obeying the rules.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does he agree with the recent report from Deloitte that says international visitors contributed $3.2 billion, or 3 percent, of the general tax taken in 2017 and which concludes that tourism visitors are already making a proportionate tax contribution to New Zealand?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Tourists are making a decent contribution, but also, just in terms of the international visitor levy, I believe that the impact on it is going to be 0.84 percent. In other words, the international visitor levy isn’t going to make any difference, and GST is just one way that tourists contribute.
Tamati Coffey: What support has the Minister received on the implementation of an international tourist and conservation levy?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I have received reports from businesses, local government, and industry supporting the levy—comments like: “It is clear that people living in a booming place with infrastructure challenges need some sort of tourism tax.”, “It’s very hard to believe small charges would have any great impact on visitor numbers.”, and “Doing nothing is not option.” Those comments were from the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, and the former Minister of Tourism John Key. I thank them for their support.
Question No. 10—Regional Economic Development
10. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made regarding regional economic development?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): A bountiful supply of good news. Last week, on behalf of the Government, I announced a $10 million loan for the high-speed gondola on the Whakapapa ski field. This will enable people whose ambulance isn’t what it should be to enjoy that vista. It is very friendly towards senior citizens who also will have the opportunity to go up the mountain and enjoy that part of New Zealand’s natural landscape. The development of the gondola will create up to 150 jobs, and it is speculated that nigh on 400 jobs, additionally, will be created.
Jenny Marcroft: What recent reports has he seen regarding regional development?
Hon SHANE JONES: Today I have received a report from Te Tai Poutini – the West Coast. They are confident that now they have been identified as a surge region, they are no longer lost with a small, paltry promise of less than $11 million, which was never delivered over the last nine years. I have encouraged them to bring an expansive, broad set of proposals forward, and I am sure that that report will turn into genuine economic growth to diversify the revenue bases of the West Coast.
Jenny Marcroft: How is the Provincial Growth Fund structured to ensure all regions benefit from it?
Hon SHANE JONES: There have been some tawdry and unkind things said about the breadth of the fund. The fund has the services of a highly respected New Zealand businessman Mr Rodger Finlay. That particular panel is ensuring that the opportunities that are originated and promoted come from the four winds, and that we are disposed of these unkind, cruel things said about Northland and those former National MPs who had to turn to Matua Shane Jones in order for their dreams to be achieved.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether it’s a fact that this regional development fund is, per capita, the biggest in the OECD by far?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, I have been informed by a whole host of economic development experts that nowhere in the OECD per capita, based on our regional population, is there a fund that approaches anywhere near the strength, the reach, and the power of this fund. And it’s with great humility that my hand is on the tiller.
Question No. 11—Land Information
11. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister for Land Information: Does she stand by all her actions and statements in regard to the Creswell NZ Ltd application?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister for Land Information): Yes, in their appropriate context.
Hon David Bennett: Will the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill make any changes to the tests that were applied to determine the Creswell NZ application?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I first of all want to receive an assurance that the introduction of that bill is the responsibility of this Minister. [Interruption] No. David Bennett—further supplementary.
Hon David Bennett: What independent economic advice did the Minister receive to determine that there was a substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand from the Creswell NZ application?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I and the Associate Minister of Finance, the Hon David Clark, received advice from the Overseas Investment Office, as we do with other applications. There was information about the increased number of jobs, 60; the increased investment, $42.5 million; the increased export receipts.
Hon David Bennett: Why didn’t she follow the precedent of other Ministers, such as in the Lochinver Station and Auckland Airport decisions, in declining those applications where the Overseas Investment Office had recommended approving the decision?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Because the criteria in sections 16 and 17 of the Overseas Investment Act refer to “substantial and identifiable” benefits, and the information provided showed that the application satisfied those criteria. So I made the decision under the law.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just with regard to your ruling out that first supplementary, the Minister may not be responsible for the bill that’s currently before the House, but is surely responsible for advice that would have been provided in the formation of that bill. The question was about the advice that would have been provided by way of asking, “Is it a provision?”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, Mr Brownlee can’t belatedly raise that issue. He has to raise his point of order at the time. He didn’t.
Mr SPEAKER: That is accurate.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order, that is accurate, but we’re still on that question, and while—I’m only working at a slightly faster pace than the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We now have, I think, four Ministers who have interjected while Mr Brownlee has been on his feet for a point of order. I think it’s fair to say that there is some basis for the reply to the point of order on the part of the Deputy Prime Minister. I think it’s around Speakers’ ruling 20/3, which is the immediacy—it is important to raise things immediately. It is also a question of remedy. We’re now well past that supplementary question. I asked whether the member had responsibility for the area she was being asked questions about. She indicated that she did not, and I just accepted that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, just to clear this up, because I have viewed the House today running in a fairly smooth sort of way in which you’ve desired, and I thought it was inappropriate to interrupt the flow of the questions until we got to the end of it. But I think it’s a really interesting point that if there is a bill before the House which a Minister clearly should have an input into, on the basis that their name is not on the bill they don’t have to answer any questions about that input. I think that would be very bad for the House’s scrutiny of the executive. And—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If I may, while I’m on my feet?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Given that there were four interjections and we’re slightly short of supplementaries for the next question, how do you feel about that?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, on the fact that the sides couple up and, unfortunately, some of the members who were supporting him also were involved in the exercise, I think we’ll leave that there. What I am going to do is ask David Bennett to ask the question exactly as he did ask it. It gives me the opportunity to review my decision, because we’re going quite well on time and I’m feeling generous.
Hon David Bennett: Will the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill make any changes to the tests that were applied to determine the Creswell NZ application?
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry; as I ruled earlier, unlike, as was indicated to me, it being a question of advice, there was no suggestion of advice in there. It was a factual question around a bill for which the Minister has no responsibility, and I reiterate my decision to rule it out. Any further supplementaries, Mr Bennett?
Hon David Bennett: Did we get an extra supplementary question, or—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, you’re not getting that one. Having it again doesn’t count, but you’re not getting an extra one for getting it wrong.
Hon David Bennett: No, no—for the others.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Question No. 12—Local Government
12. DENISE LEE (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Local Government: Is she satisfied with the current Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local Government): It’s not a matter of whether or not I’m satisfied; the Act sets out the basis on which the availability of local government information can be accessed by the public. While I’m aware some issues arise from time to time, there is a process for councils to address concerns internally or through the Office of the Ombudsmen.
Denise Lee: Do the current tensions at Auckland Council, with nine councillors signing a letter of complaint to the mayor for the withholding of official information, not highlight that there is an urgent need for reform of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) 1987?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I expect local authorities to meet their obligations under core legislation such as LGOIMA and the Local Government Act 2002. Local authorities are required to release requested information unless they consider there is a good reason for not doing so in accordance with the grounds specified in the LGOIMA. If a person is not satisfied with the outcome, they can see a review—
Denise Lee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can’t—the member’s answering.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA:—through the Ombudsman, and this is the case in the matter that that member’s referring to.
Mr SPEAKER: All right; a point of order, Denise Lee.
Denise Lee: The Minister was not answering my question in regards to: do the current tensions not highlight an urgent need for a review of the LGOIMA?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I took from the Minister’s answer that, in fact, that’s exactly what she was saying—that it did not.
Denise Lee: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member’s had all her supplementaries.

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