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Parliament: Questions and Answers – April 10

Press Release – Hansard

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her position last year that she “hopes her policies will not lead to higher rents”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said in this House many times before, of course we want to make sure that housing in this country is affordable. We want to make sure it’s accessible. We know that when it comes to rent, supply is the biggest issue that we face, and we have had to start not from a standing start but, because of that last Government’s inaction, we have had to try and rebuild what has been an absolute crisis situation.

Hon Simon Bridges: How can she, hand on heart, criticise the last National-led Government when, under her Government, KiwiBuild has done a sum total of 33 new houses?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Well, I dispute those numbers, but unlike that last Government, that sold State houses, that did not do enough to expand the availability of affordable housing, and that did not do enough on the issue of homelessness, we are a Government who came in and put a stop to the sale of State houses and actually started building homes.

Hon Simon Bridges: If she disputes my number of the paltry 33 houses, can she tell us, as Prime Minister of New Zealand, just how many they have actually built?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course I dispute the member’s numbers, because they are very rarely correct. We have contracted over 10,000. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! The members are more likely to hear the response if they’re quiet.

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on a capital gains tax, does she think a capital gains tax will increase rents?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not believe that that will be the case, just like that member clearly didn’t think it would be an issue when he brought in a brightline test, which was a form of capital gains tax.

Hon Simon Bridges: How can she say that, when the Tax Working Group itself stated that an extension of capital gains taxation will lead to “upward pressure on rents”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can say that because the member himself probably would not have accepted that a brightline test would, in its own right, have that impact on rent and rental prices. I am not going to stand here and claim that we do not have an issue with affordable housing in New Zealand; we do. Unlike that Government, I do not have the blinkers on. We know that we have an issue, and I agree with the Governor of the Reserve Bank that the way to deal with that issue is to make sure that we build houses.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that the proposal of a capital gains tax is already having an effect on rent inflation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, I do not. Again, the member has tried to claim that it’s everything from talk of capital gains tax, to brightline tests, to the healthy homes guarantee—which, actually, comes in in full not until 2021. Yes, we have an issue with rental prices in New Zealand. I accept that. What I do not accept is the member’s assertion that it isn’t about supply—it is, and that’s why you see increases in the areas where we have a lack of houses.

Hon Simon Bridges: Given that she doesn’t accept what I’ve said, what then does she say about the Tax Working Group’s view that any effects of a capital gains tax, such as rent rises, “Could begin before implementation”—indeed, “it is likely that some consequences of implementing a capital gains tax have already begun.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Although, of course, I add the caveat that the Government is yet to make decisions on a capital gains tax, I do point out that the entire Tax Working Group, including representatives from business, recommended a capital gains tax applied to rental properties. However, again, as I’ve pointed out, we are a Government that has not yet made decisions, but nor do we have our blinkers on when it comes to the cost associated with housing in New Zealand. We are fixing your problems.

Hon Simon Bridges: If that’s true, and given she said there was a housing crisis when the National-led Government was in power, why have rents gone up three times more each year—that is, the last 18 months—under her watch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve pointed out before, the last time I looked at the statistics they were actually not too far off the exact increases under the last Government, and that’s because it does take time to build houses. Again, I am not in denial, no one in this House is, that we are picking up the pieces of a housing crisis. Do we want rents to come down? Absolutely, but if that member thinks that not talking about a capital gains tax will make rental increases go away, that member is dreaming.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Prime Minister truly hear that last question, which suggested that rental prices had gone up three times more? That’s 300 per cent. Did she hear that, and can she answer it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely refute that, and as I’ve said in the House before, on my last check—and, in fact, it wasn’t just me; he’s had those facts checked by others who have questioned his use of the data.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t the proposed capital gains tax part of the reason why rents have risen $50 a week under her watch, and won’t the implementation of one see rents go significantly higher still?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I put this issue to the member: under his watch when he was in Government, rentals increased by a rate not too dissimilar than we are continuing to see them increase now. So either the member accepts that we have a housing crisis and a lack of supply, or he doesn’t.

Hon Simon Bridges: What part of the following is incorrect in her view: rents going up $12 a week on average each year under National, and going up on an annualised basis on her watch by $33?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, there has been a breakdown of that member’s use of data, and the comparisons I have seen have questioned the way that he has used those comparisons. I can be forgiven for disputing what the member has said—

Hon Simon Bridges: Give me the real numbers.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I have acknowledged that there have been rental increases while we have been in office—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Massive.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As there were under him—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. From his seat, the Leader of the Opposition asked for numbers. They are being given to him and at the same time he is shouting, and the Hon Mr Brownlee is shouting. Either they want answers to the questions—either those properly asked or those asked by way of interjection—or they don’t, but I actually find some of the answers interesting, and I’d like to be able to hear them, and I can’t when members keep on shouting.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member, as he claims, believes that rents have gone up across the board because of a debate on the Tax Working Group, why have rents gone down in Dunedin and have experienced absolutely no change in Palmerston North? I think the member will find the areas where we have seen increases are the areas where there are not enough houses.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the question of the supply of housing, is it not a fact that her Government is the first one to have built and matched the figure of house build in 1974—that is, a 45 year record?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely. The Deputy Prime Minister is right. No Government has built as many houses as we are since the 1970s, and that includes 1,600 more households in public housing since this Government took office, and that is something that we are very proud of.

Hon Simon Bridges: How will the Government’s well-being indicators help Kiwis pay their rising rents?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Well, of course we incorporate into well-being measures, including our child poverty indicators, the cost of housing, ability for people to get into homes, homeownership rates—these are all measures of well-being that if you took a strict view around simple measures like GDP, you wouldn’t factor in. So of course housing costs matter, which is why we are investing in housing, unlike that member who sold 6,000 public houses.

Hon Simon Bridges: How will the Government measure New Zealanders’ spiritual health?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, if the member was critiquing me on something that we as a Government had endorsed as an individual indicator, I would answer that question. He’s asking me about Indicators Aotearoa and the Living Standards Framework. One is owned by Statistics and one is owned by Treasury.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why is she backing away from the well-being indicators, when just last week her Minister James Shaw wrote to me making it clear that these were coming in because of the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour Party and the Aotearoa New Zealand Green Party?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the member is somewhat confused. This is not a new experience in this House, but let me explain again. Indicators Aotearoa is a framework owned by the Department of Statistics. It is a measure set, a data set, that is for them to create, for them to gather material on, and for them to distribute how they choose. What they were asked to do by the Government was simply factor in that well-being for New Zealanders matters, that we care whether people are in homes, we care whether or not people are in poverty, we care about the suicide rate in New Zealand and domestic violence, and it would be helpful to have some indicators around that. If the member doesn’t believe that that’s a useful data set, that is his problem, not mine.

Hon Simon Bridges: I seek leave to table a letter from James Shaw to myself about Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why, when there is a Budget next month, is Treasury more focused on attending a “compassion starter culture course”, which involves playing card games on well-being and talking about each other’s sun and moon feelings?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have absolutely nothing to do with the human resource management of Treasury.

Jami-Lee Ross: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of the well-being of emotional junior staff members in her Government, or is that not a term she would use herself?

SPEAKER: Order! I’m absolutely certain the member knows that that question is out of order. He will withdraw and apologise.

Jami-Lee Ross: I withdraw and apologise.

Question No. 2—Forestry

2. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry: What recent announcements has he made regarding the One Billion Trees Programme?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): This morning, I announced the first partnerships under the $240 million one billion tree fund, $120 million of which is reserved for partnership initiative. Briefly, the first one is in Otago—

SPEAKER: That would be your first time.

Hon SHANE JONES: I shall take that as a source of motivation. QEII Ngā Kākano Whakahau seedling trial, a Hawke’s Bay right tree, right place regional study, and a New Zealand Plant Producers industrial national native nursery strategy will enable the nursery sector—that is a big employer, a large earner—to prepare for the full roll-out of the billion trees strategy.

Jenny Marcroft: What are the benefits of supporting these initiatives?

Hon SHANE JONES: Naturally, the value of these initiatives will grow as the forests and the trees grow. If I could alert the House to invaluable stats: the nursery sector to New Zealand has a value of $600 million—the fifth-largest horticulture sector by value, grossly neglected over the last nine years. There are 595 nursery businesses. They have about 5,000 hectares of seedlings planted, and 3,400 people are employed in this sector. This sector, as a consequence of this partnership grant, will grow into a fit state to cope with the demands of a highly successful billion trees strategy.

Jenny Marcroft: How else is the Government progressing the one billion trees strategy?

Hon SHANE JONES: Last Friday, I made one of my infrequent announcements in Northland. We were invited into the Hokianga Harbour. We were—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to require the member to rephrase that. Irony is not allowed, either in questions or answers.

Hon SHANE JONES: Recently, I went back to the broad tūrangawaewae that a number of us MPs on this side of the House have a connection with: Hokianga Whakapau Karakia. Whilst we were there, we announced a 4 million tree planting strategy. It involves whenua located in the Kaipara Harbour. It also involves whenua called Tapuwae, where there is over 4,000 hectares—about 4 million trees, as I’ve said. Given that we are now working with young men coming out of the Ngawha Prison, through those trees being planted the devil will find less time for their idle hands.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does Stan Semenoff have any connection to Tapuwae Inc. or its associated companies?

SPEAKER: Order! That’s not a matter that the Minister has responsibility for.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He just referred to an announcement that he made on Friday about giving funding to Tapuwae Inc., and was talking about all this progress that he’s making, and I’m asking him if there is a connection between a particular individual and that company.

SPEAKER: Yes, and what I’ve said is that the details of the connections of that organisation are not something that the Minister has responsibility for.

Question No. 3—Prime Minister

3. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: When will the cannabis referendum bill be introduced to the House?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve outlined before, where legislation is certainly required is around the parameters for a referendum at the next election. We’ve already stated there will be a referendum on the legalisation of recreational cannabis. The question as to whether or not there would be a bill more broadly, that’s something that will be announced once Cabinet has finalised its decisions.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm, then, that any cannabis referendum legislation must be passed before the referendum and contain the enacting provisions for any regulations for the sale and supply of marijuana in order for it to be binding, as we have been advised by the Office of the Clerk?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I have said in this House many times before, once Cabinet has finalised its decisions, we will be making announcements to the degree of detail that the member has asked. Happy birthday, by the way.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister clarify, then—because there is, in my mind, some confusion between her first answer and her second. The first was quite clear that there does need to be legislation around what the referendum might look like, and I am clearly stating that there also needs to be legislation that lays out the regulations and everything else for how legalising marijuana will be implemented into New Zealand if it’s to be a binding referendum.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, what I’m giving the member certainty over, of course, is that for the purposes of having a referendum, there’s a requirement to be clear in the law. That’s where I’m giving the member certainty. On the wider questions, as I’ve said before, I’m not making any announcements until Cabinet finalises its decisions around the nature of the referendum itself, the content of the question. Those details will be advised as soon as Cabinet has finalised its decisions.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does the Prime Minister accept that it’s not actually a decision for Cabinet as to whether or not there has to be legislation, which there does if it is to be a binding referendum, as they have told the public it will be?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the member is putting to me definitional questions that she’s had from the Clerk of the House. What I’m saying is that until the Government has finalised its decisions, I am not going to pre-empt that with statements here in this House. Once the Cabinet has finalised its decisions, we will be releasing all of the details in that regard.

Question No. 4—Finance

4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Is the Government focused on policies that will help grow the New Zealand economy and provide more opportunities for New Zealanders?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Acting Minister of Finance): On behalf of the Minister, yes.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that jobs, higher incomes, and opportunities mainly flow from someone somewhere making an investment?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, they do, and that’s why I’m pleased to note that GDP figures show that business investment rose 4.3 percent in 2018, when annual average GDP growth was 2.8 percent, so business investment is holding up.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Interesting. Does he accept that the uncertainty around fundamental tax policy and many areas of regulation may at least partially explain the results in the latest New Zealand Institute of Economic Research survey on investment intentions, which showed investment intentions in plant and machinery fell negative for the first time since 2012?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: In terms of tax policy, the Government is carefully considering the independent Tax Working Group report, and our response will be released this month.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is it the Government’s plan to blame the zero growth per person in the past six months on international events?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No. The member does need, though, to look at the New Zealand economy in the global context. The IMF overnight released revised forecasts for global growth, and the IMF forecasts for advanced economies to grow 1.8 percent in 2019 and 1.7 percent in 2020. In contrast, the IMF forecasts New Zealand’s economy to grow 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2.9 percent in 2020. The New Zealand economy is forecast to grow faster than Australia, faster than the US, faster than the euro area, faster than Japan, faster than Singapore, faster than the UK—

SPEAKER: Order! Thank you.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he think the capital gains tax will help grow investment in New Zealand?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Government is carefully considering the independent Tax Working Group’s report, and our response will be released this month.

Question No. 5—Social Development

5. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has the Government made to improve driver licensing for young people?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Today, the Prime Minister, along with the Associate Minister of Transport, Julie Anne Genter, and myself, announced a $5 million investment to support young people on youth benefits or in care to meet the costs of getting a driver’s licence. This investment will support approximately 2,500 young people to get their licence. We know that having a licence is important for accessing a range of different opportunities, including work and study. This Government is committed to supporting all that are able to be earning, learning, caring, or volunteering. Under this initiative, we’ll make it easier for young people to access these opportunities.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan: How will the scheme work?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Ministry of Social Development’s Youth Service will deliver the scheme in partnership with community providers around the country for young people receiving the youth payment or young parent payment, or who are in Oranga Tamariki care. We know many of these young people might not have a car to learn in, they might not have suitable identification, or they might not have a family member or friend to help them learn to drive. The scheme will help cover costs like obtaining a birth certificate for identification where required, professional driving lessons, and test fees. It’s a small investment we are confident will take these young people a long way.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Why is this important?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Over the last five years, young drivers who have never held a driver’s licence were involved in 165 fatal or serious injury crashes. Last year, 3,520 people were convicted for driving without a licence, and 1,509 of these people were aged under 25. Of these, 59 percent were Māori and 16 percent were Pacific peoples. For many, this was their first ever conviction. Helping this group of drivers through the restrictive driving-licensing process will make the roads safer for everyone and will enable these young people to take up opportunities to work and train.

Question No. 6—Education

6. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he have confidence in the entire process of the review of Tomorrow’s Schools, and how many submissions have the taskforce received on their report?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes. I am advised that as of 11 o’clock this morning, the task force secretariat has received 3,330 online surveys—including eight surveys completed by hand and provided by the honourable member—2,025 written submissions, 32 oral submissions via the 0800 number, and a petition with 618 signatures. They’ve also attended a number of meetings that they organised around the country and a number of meetings organised by the member.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he admit that his deadline for the Tomorrow’s Schools task force to report back to him within 3½ weeks of consultation closing was unreasonable?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The task force asked for additional time to consider the volume of submissions that they received. I indicated fairly early on in the piece that I thought that was very reasonable, and I’m happy to tell the member that the Cabinet committee—the Cabinet appointments and honours committee, who are responsible for appointing the task force, or who are approving the appointment of the task force—signed off that extension this morning.

Hon Nikki Kaye: What is the date of the report back, given that they have extended it as of today?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: They’ve been given until the end of June.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he received any advice on the cost of the reforms, or is he aware of any estimates provided by any officials in Treasury, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or across Government; if so, what are those estimates?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We haven’t yet made any decisions on the task force’s final recommendations because they haven’t yet presented those to us. So I have not received any advice on the potential costs of those, because it’s difficult to finalise costs on something if you don’t know what it is. I’m not sure of what costing information the task force has accessed. My understanding is that the Ministry of Education has not provided them with detailed costing information. They may have got costing information from another source, but my understanding is that the Ministry of Education has not provided that to them.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Just to be absolutely clear: he is not aware of any Minister of any Government agency getting potential estimates on the cost of Tomorrow’s Schools, given that many principals and teachers have turned up and said they want to weigh up the benefits of potentially front-line education services, rather than investing in officials?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I haven’t. In answer to the first part of the question, I can confirm that I haven’t received any of those costs, and I’m not aware of any Government department providing them, because at this point it’s unclear what the final proposals actually are, and you can’t provide costings on something if you don’t know what it is.

Question No. 7—Commerce and Consumer Affairs

7. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What progress has been made with the Government’s competition law reform programme?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): Last week, we made significant progress with changes to the Commerce Act which criminalised cartel behaviour passing its third reading. This bill is an important element of the Government’s reform package to strengthen New Zealand’s competition law in line with some of our major trading partners. Cartel conduct involves agreements being made between competitors to fix prices, restrict output, and allocate markets, and such conduct can cause significant harm to consumers and businesses who are operating honestly. The criminalising of cartel behaviour is the second legislative step that the Government has taken since coming to office, with the first being the introduction of the market studies power, and the third will be the result of the review into section 36 of the Commerce Act.

Jo Luxton: Will criminalising cartel behaviour have a chilling effect on business?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: No, nothing in this bill extends what is currently unlawful. It evens out the playing field to encourage competition while, at the same time, allowing for reasonable collaborative business activities. Honest business should not be concerned. I’m confident that the introduction of criminalising cartels has sufficient provisions to ensure legitimate business practices won’t be penalised while, at the same time, sending a strong disincentive for cartel conduct.

Jo Luxton: Why are these reforms necessary?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: This Government supports honest business, and we’re committed to growing an economy that works for all New Zealanders. The criminalisation of cartels delivers on that by introducing a new criminal offence for serious cartel conduct that harms New Zealand business, consumers, and the productivity of the economy. It was necessary for the future integrity of the economy to bring back the criminal offence for cartel behaviour that was dropped by the previous Government.

Question No. 8—Regional Economic Development

8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Āe.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that his conversation with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) CEO was about the decisions and the methods of the prosecutor in the Semenoff logging case?

Hon SHANE JONES: No.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Can he explain to the House how talking to the CEO about an element of how a case was put together is not inserting himself as a member of the executive into the case?

Hon SHANE JONES: As I understand, the decision made by NZTA to announce that they were going to revoke a decision was on 15 March. A court case, I think, might have been 22 March. I had a brief discussion 10 days after that independent authority made its decision, and I most certainly reject the assertion that talking about where Meredith Connell derived their authority from to offer to overseas Filipino migrant workers the opportunity to spy—no, I don’t think the two are connected at all.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So can I confirm—just checking my maths—that the Minister is saying that his conversation with the CEO of NZTA was 10 days after 22 March?

Hon SHANE JONES: No, I identified that on 15 March—in my answer I’ve just given—an announcement was made about a licence. I had a brief discussion, when I returned from Hong Kong and Singapore, with Mr Ratcliffe related to where he thought the authority was coming from—under what legislation—to do this to migrant workers who are employed all over New Zealand.

Question No. 9—Prime Minister

9. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in relation to gun law changes that “It is in the national interest and it is about safety”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

David Seymour: Does the Prime Minister believe that a gun buy-back in relation to these changes will be more successful than those in Australia, which are estimated to have brought back only 40 to 80 percent of the semi-automatic weapons in circulation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It would be very hard to assess the percentage of military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles that we will be able to bring in as a result of the buy-back, because, of course, our gun laws as they are mean it is very hard for us to quantify just how many of those weapons precisely are in circulation.

David Seymour: Is the Prime Minister, then, conceding that one of the impacts of her gun law changes may be a larger black market of dangerous semi-automatic weapons outside any regulatory cordon whatsoever, and she just doesn’t know how many there are?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, what I’m pointing out is that our gun laws, historically, have been far too relaxed. Am I to take it from the member’s question that he’s implying that he would rather have us do nothing than do what we are doing today?

Hon Stuart Nash: Is it true, Prime Minister, that if someone is caught in possession of an illegal weapon they face a jail term of five years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely. Not only are we removing military-style semi-automatics from circulation in terms of the legal trade of them—which, up until now, has occurred—and assault rifles, we are also increasing the penalties for those who are in possession of these guns after the amnesty and buy-back has been in place.

Question No. 10—Pacific Peoples

10. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Pacific Peoples: What is the Government doing, if anything, to support Pacific peoples in the regions?

Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO (Minister for Pacific Peoples): The coalition Government announced—as part of the $82.4 million Te Ara Mahi employment skills initiative—that the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $8.85 million to expand the Ministry for Pacific People’s employment programme to regional New Zealand. The programme aims to reduce the number of Pacific NEETs who are most at risk of long-term unemployment by supporting them into employment or training. With the support of the Prime Minister and the Hon Shane Jones, “First Citizen of the Regions”, the PGF funding will see this programme expand into the surge regions of the Greater Waikato, Manawatū, Whangarei, Otago, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, and Murihiku – Southland.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Why is there a focus on the regions for this expansion?

Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: The Pacific population is growing throughout regional New Zealand. Despite their positive contribution to New Zealand’s economy, there are high numbers of young people struggling with inequities and barriers in the areas of employment, education, and training. The regions themselves have challenges with unemployment and family socio-economic well-being. That is why we included Pacific people aged up to 39 years old, so that we can get more people into employment, education, and training. The PGF funding will enable the programme to support more Pacific people towards success, growing opportunities to lift skills and incomes.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What outcomes have been delivered by the Ministry for Pacific People’s employment programme in urban areas?

Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: Since inception, the programme has seen success in urban areas with over 2,200 participants, and has achieved over a thousand people placed in employment. In addition, more than 700 have gained training placements, and over 200 people have been in continuous employment for over 12 months. Others have pursued further tertiary education. With the new investment, the expansion will aim to grow opportunities to lift skills and income for Pacific peoples in regional New Zealand.

Question No. 11—Education

11. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions regarding the tertiary sector and reform of vocational education?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes.

Dr Shane Reti: What does he say to vulnerable rural communities when St John says that, under the reforms, “St John would not be able to deliver emergency ambulance services in rural communities.”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I say, with all due respect to St John, they’re wrong and that those communities have nothing to worry about.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he absolutely refute that there will be 1,000 job losses due to the reforms after telling Newshub Nation on the weekend that the sector could have “significant job losses”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’ll repeat what I said to the member last time he asked me that question: we have never put a number on job losses. At this point, when the proposals have not yet been finalised, it would irresponsible to do so.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he stand by his answer to written questions confirming that neither Kelvin Davis, Willie Jackson, Jenny Salesa, nor anyone in the Labour Māori caucus has expressed concerns around the implications of the reforms for Māori or Pasifika?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, I stand by the full answer I gave, which made it clear that the Ministers have engaged in discussion as part of the regular Cabinet process.

Dr Shane Reti: I seek leave to table written parliamentary questions—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member can’t table parliamentary question answers. Is the member saying that they haven’t been published?

Dr Shane Reti: Correct.

SPEAKER: Right. I was premature. I thought the member was being—carry on.

Dr Shane Reti: I seek leave to table written parliamentary question 12868, sequential questions 12876 to 12880, and sequential questions 12883 to 12887. They’re not available on the parliamentary website.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the early publication of those documents? There appears to be none.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Jan Tinetti: What feedback has the Minister seen in regards to the Government’s actions on vocational education reform?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There’s been a lot of feedback on the Government’s reforms. Yesterday, for example, I saw the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce’s statement, who have taken the time to survey their local businesses and show that their businesses are struggling to get the skilled work-ready employees that they need. Weltec, alongside the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce, said, “This is a once in a generation opportunity to reboot our vocational education system [to] ensure it is flexible, relevant, and future focused.”

Question No. 12—Building and Construction

12. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Should there be two technical seismic guidelines covering pre-cast flooring systems, such as concrete hollowcore, operating at the same time; and, if so, why is this necessary?

Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): There is only one mandatory technical guideline for the assessment of buildings with pre-cast concrete floors: this is the 2017 engineering assessment guidelines, known as the “Red Book”. The proposed technical revision issued in November 2018, referred to as the “Yellow Book”, reflects what engineers have learnt from the investigation into the partial collapse of Statistics House following the Kaikōura earthquake. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) requires evidence before it considers a change to the engineering assessment guidelines. MBIE is testing the revised engineering guidelines, and that information will inform an assessment about whether it’s appropriate to change the earthquake-prone building (EPB) regime. MBIE is working with Engineering New Zealand on this.

Andrew Bayly: How can it be reasonable for her ministry to take up to two years to complete an impact assessment report on comparing the two technical seismic guidelines?

Hon JENNY SALESA: The engineering guidelines that we have right now are robust. It took several years to have it confirmed and to have it enshrined in our legislation. MBIE is currently working in partnership with Engineering New Zealand and the sector on the yellow guidelines, and it is to inform us as to whether or not we should update the current guidelines that we have. The public consultation began on the assessment in March of 2012. Policy decisions were made in August of 2013. The legislation, including the assessment, was introduced to the House in December of 2013, enacted in May 2016, and came into force in July of 2017. That was a five-year process. What I’m saying at the moment is MBIE is working on these yellow guidelines—two years—because we must have evidence before we come through with new technical guidelines.

Andrew Bayly: Does she believe it’s fair on owners of buildings to be in a situation where there are two technical guidelines with conflicting requirements and they must somehow navigate how they meet both requirements?

Hon JENNY SALESA: There is only one mandatory guideline: the “Red Book” assessment guidelines that we have. The yellow guidelines are currently being tested by Engineering New Zealand and MBIE. There are no two guidelines; there is one mandatory, which is enshrined in our law, and we’re currently working on possible updates to that.

Andrew Bayly: Why has she not instructed MBIE to use some of the $43 million surplus sitting in the memorandum account, funded by the building levy, to fast track this impact assessment?

Hon JENNY SALESA: The member should probably read the details of the Building Act 2004. When he does, he will get to see that there are only certain things that the levy fund could be utilised in. We are about to come through and have public discussions, including the building levy. The member is most welcome to give us his opinion then.

Kieran McAnulty: Why weren’t pre-cast or hollowcore flooring incorporated into the EPB regime?

Hon JENNY SALESA: When the earthquake-prone building regime was developed, it was focused on those buildings and parts of the buildings that posed the greatest risk to public safety in a moderate earthquake event. The regime has a particular focus on, first, unreinforced masonry buildings—URM buildings—second; certain pre-1935 buildings; and, third, other pre-1976 multi-storey concrete buildings. Pre-cast concrete floors were not included by the last Government when the law was passed in 2016. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If people want a supplementary, they stand up.

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