#students | #parents | Parliament: Questions and Answers – Oct 15

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
actions and policies?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime
Minister)
: Yes, particularly our Government’s $300
million investment in Taranaki Base Hospital announced last
week. The Government is investing record amounts into
infrastructure, including $1.7 billion set aside in Budget
2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health services, which,
of course, after nine years of neglect is much needed.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept her
Government’s policies are responsible for almost 1,400 more
gang members this term?

Rt Hon JACINDA
ARDERN
: No.

Hon Simon Bridges:
How many more patched gang members are there in New Zealand
since her Government took office?

Rt Hon JACINDA
ARDERN
: I’d like to ask the member how many he
takes responsibility for when he was in office. The
existence of gangs in New Zealand is not a new problem, and
it’s naive of anyone to suggest so—particularly, I would
also add, this is a Government that is bringing in more
police officers. We will reach the 1,800 goal, a significant
proportion of which are dedicated to organised crime.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of
order, Mr Speaker. I don’t get many supplementary questions
these days, and that one wasn’t answered.

SPEAKER: Yes, it was.

Rt Hon
Winston Peters
: Does the Prime Minister remember
the promise to bulldoze the gang headquarters down the day
after the election, and, if so, what happened?

Rt
Hon JACINDA ARDERN
: I absolutely accept that across
the other side of the House, there is often tough talk when
it comes close to election year.

Hon Simon
Bridges
: Has she asked for an estimate of how much
extra cost to the taxpayer gang members are having in terms
of benefit payments?

Rt Hon JACINDA
ARDERN
: A number I have asked for is the number of
full-time police that we have, and there are now 9,723—the
highest ever number of front-line police officers. If you’re
looking for a Government that takes these issues seriously,
it is this one, and we are also the Government that
increased the penalties for the manufacture of synthetic
drugs as well, because we take these issues seriously.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government
reach its 1,800 police officers target this term?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think gang
members who are on the run from the police should be able to
claim benefits?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I
note that, actually, the policies that we have now in this
regard are exactly the same as when the member was last in
office.

Hon Paula Bennett:
Supplementary.

Dr Duncan Webb: Oh!

Hon Paula Bennett: Does her
Government—

SPEAKER: Order! Who was
that? The member will withdraw and apologise.

Dr
Duncan Webb
: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does her Government
have a target for reducing the number of gang members in New
Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No one
wants to see an increase in gangs. The suggestion that
anyone would want to see that is ridiculous. But rather than
setting targets, we’re actually doing something about it
with extra front-line police officers, who are targeting
organised crime.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does
she agree with her Minister of Police, who earlier in this
term stated that they would not make the 1,800 new police
target and instead it was an aspirational
target?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The
reason, of course, that we’ve been cautious is simply to
ensure that we don’t recruit people who aren’t right for the
job. But, as I say, we have the highest number of front-line
police officers ever under this Government, and we are
making very good progress towards the 1,800.

Hon
Stuart Nash
: Has the Prime Minister seen reports of
the fact the previous Government wanted to deliver 880
police over four years and this Government has delivered
more than that number in under two?

Rt Hon JACINDA
ARDERN
: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett:
Does she stand by the answer to her question about three
questions ago, when she was asked if she would make the
1,800 target of new police this term and she answered our
leader, “Yes.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN:
Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a
point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m reflecting on that question,
which was the same question asked by the leader of the
National Party. Now, with respect, if we’re allowed to just
duplicate the very same question over and over again, this
House becomes a nonsense.

SPEAKER: Yes. I
appreciate the point that the member’s making, but I think
that if that’s the outcome that the Opposition want from
their supplementaries, then they have the right to have
it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact
that on 7 November, the Minister of Police will be
announcing the next tranche of 60 trainees to graduate,
which will take the number past 1,700 under this
administration?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN:
The member is referring to the significant increase in the
number that we have trained, and we absolutely stand by
that. Under this Government, we now have the highest ever
number of front-line police officers, and that’s something
we’re proud of.

Hon Stuart Nash: Has she
seen reports that under the last five years of the previous
Government, police numbers actually dropped by over
70?

SPEAKER: If she had, it would be
something that she has no responsibility for.

Hon
Paula Bennett
: Can we expect, in the police target
of 1,800, an announcement in the next few months the same as
KiwiBuild, where we’ll have to see a reset because they
simply can’t reach the numbers?

Rt Hon JACINDA
ARDERN
: If that member doesn’t want to see more
police officers train for the front line, that’s her
issue.

• Question No. 2—Finance

2.
Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn)
to the
Minister of Finance: What recent reports
has he seen on the Government’s finances?

Hon Dr
DAVID CLARK (Acting Minister of Finance)
: Last
week, the Government released the Crown accounts for the
2018-19 year, showing the books were in surplus and that net
debt came in below forecast. The healthy surplus was due to
a stronger economy but also a number of one-off factors,
including a $2.6 billion revaluation of the country’s rail
assets. The accounts show the Crown’s total net worth is
$146 billion, a net increase of $10.7 billion. These
accounts show the coalition Government has achieved strong
financial results while also making significant investments
in wellbeing and infrastructure.

Dr Deborah
Russell
: What do the Crown accounts show about the
strength of the economy?

Hon Dr DAVID
CLARK
: The accounts show the economy is performing
well. Revenue was up as a result of higher corporate
profits, growth in domestic consumption, more people in
work, and higher wages. The results show businesses are
investing, employing more workers, and paying higher wages,
while at the same time reporting stronger profits. This is a
timely reminder not to talk ourselves into a downturn just
because it suits some people’s negative narrative. It’s
important to remember that the underlying fundamentals of
the New Zealand economy are solid.

Dr Deborah
Russell
: What do the accounts show about the
Crown’s level of capital investment?

Hon Dr DAVID
CLARK
: The accounts show the coalition Government
continues to increase investment in areas that were
neglected by the previous Government. Capital
investment—including in new hospital buildings,
classrooms, roads and rail, and the super fund—was up 13.7
percent over the year. In dollar terms, capital investment
in the 2019 year was more than $6.7 billion, building on the
$5.9 billion we invested in 2018. This compares with just
$3.7 billion in 2017, before we came to office. Our high
levels of capital spending demonstrate this Government’s
commitment to investing in turning around the infrastructure
deficit we inherited after nine years of neglect.


Question No. 3—Finance

3. Hon TODD McCLAY
(National—Rotorua)
to the Minister of
Finance
: Are New Zealanders paying more tax now
than they were when the Government took
office?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Acting Minister of
Finance)
: That would depend on New Zealanders’
individual situations. I can tell the member, though, that
nominal core Crown tax revenue has increased over the past
two years, due to rising business profits, more people being
in employment, and rising wages, which are all signs that
the economy is in good shape. This is being invested in
areas that were previously neglected, like hospitals,
schools, more nurses, teachers, and
police—

SPEAKER: Order! The member
answered the question some time ago.

Hon Todd
McClay
: Does he think it’s unfair that as the
economy slows, New Zealanders are paying $6 billion more tax
over the last year; an extra $3,400 per household?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member’s
presuppositions there are ones that I would question, but
what I will say is that it just appears that he is unhappy
about the fact that wages are rising, meaning Kiwis are
taking home more money in their back pockets. From time to
time, of course, Governments look at personal income tax
rates, just as they look across the tax system at whether
the settings are appropriate, and that’s exactly what we did
with the $5.5 billion family package, which gave tax breaks
to low and middle income families through the Working for
Families tax credit scheme. It’s a matter of values, and
that was our priority. I know the member is still sore, of
course, that he didn’t get his $1,000 a year tax cut, but we
believe that the money was better targeted at the families
who needed it.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he
think New Zealanders are paying too much tax given that, on
average, an extra $3,400 was paid over the last year, per
household?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I said
previously, New Zealanders have more money in their pockets
because wages are rising. Businesses are paying, of course,
better, and they’re hiring more staff. We know that
corporate profits are up—that’s why core Crown revenue is
up. Average wages are actually rising at the fastest rate in
a decade, and so more New Zealanders are going home with
bigger pay cheques.

Hon Todd McClay:
Does he think New Zealanders are paying too much
tax?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages
are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I
said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New
Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do
have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that
wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making
sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect
that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure
neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our
schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

Hon
Todd McClay
: Why has the Government increased
petrol taxes three times and introduced a regional fuel tax
to collect an extra $1.7 billion whilst it’s also cancelled
or delayed a dozen major roading and transport projects?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the premise
of the member’s question.

Hon Todd
McClay
: Well, does he support National’s plan to
index tax thresholds to the cost of living so New Zealanders
don’t pay more tax each year than they need
to?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member,
again, appears to be unhappy about the fact that New
Zealanders have more money in their pockets because wages
are rising. Of course, as a Government we will make sure
that we look at the settings to make sure they are
appropriate, and we are making sure that New Zealanders have
more money in their pockets through the $5.5 billion
families tax package, which gave tax breaks to low and
middle income New Zealanders. He might be sour about not
getting his $1,000 tax cut with the National plan, but, on
this side of the House, we’re determined to make sure that
New Zealanders are supported across the
country.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the
Minister saying that more New Zealanders now have much more
discretionary spending in 2019 than they had two years
ago?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We know that
more New Zealanders are better off because of the wage rises
that we’re seeing across the country; the business profits
being up, investment, and so on. The member is absolutely
right.

• Question No. 4—Housing

4.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura)
to the
Minister of Housing: Were any of the 859
houses that have received a KiwiBuild underwrite but have
not yet been announced “in places where there was little
first-home buyer demand”?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS
(Minister of Housing)
: The 859 houses are spread
across multiple developments around New Zealand. These
houses are in developments contracted via relationship and
option agreements. They remain commercially sensitive
because they are still in the early stages of planning and
some decisions are yet to be made. Therefore, I do not
believe it is in the public interest to provide further
details at this time. However, I can tell the Minister that
none of the houses are in the three areas identified in the
KiwiBuild reset as having little first-home buyer
demand.

Hon Judith Collins:
Well, when will the Government release the details of these
contracts to the public?

Hon Dr MEGAN
WOODS
: When it is no longer commercially
sensitive.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she
agree the 470 KiwiBuild houses contracted for in Wānaka, Te
Kauwhata, and Canterbury were built in places where there is
“little first-home buyer demand”, and why were they built
there?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I certainly
agree—I think, in fact, I said it in my press statement at
about the time of the KiwiBuild reset, and this is the
reason why we have removed them from the KiwiBuild houses
and are selling them on the open market. We freely admit we
didn’t get it right the first time, and we’re making the
changes to put KiwiBuild right. But I am pleased to tell
that member that in the less than six weeks since the reset,
132 KiwiBuild houses have been sold, another 126 KiwBuild
houses have been contracted, 23 additional houses have been
completed, and 27 additional houses are now under
construction.

Hon Judith Collins: If she
agrees with me that they should not have been built there,
why were they?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: We
have been through this quite thoroughly. In fact, I think I
did a 58-minute press conference spelling out what went
wrong with the KiwiBuild reset—that one of the issues that
was driving this, actually, was perversely having a target,
and was forming us to look at numbers over getting the right
house in the right place. We are a Government that is
committed to getting affordable houses for New Zealanders.
We will not give up on it like the previous Government did.
They committed to build over 39,000 houses while they were
in Government; they delivered 100 affordable houses over
nine years. We have done more than double
that.

Hon Judith Collins: Can she confirm
that no studio or one-bedroom homes that have received the
KiwiBuild underwrite have yet had their sales
settled?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The member
will have to put that question in writing to me, and I’ll
get her a detailed answer.

Hon Judith
Collins
: I seek leave to table an attachment for
parliamentary written question No. 34124 (2019), which has
not yet been officially released; it’s simply available to
me at the moment. It’s a table
showing—

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

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

• Question No. 5—Transport

5.
PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai)
to the
Minister of Transport: What announcements
has he made about ensuring New Zealanders’ safety on our
roads?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of
Transport)
: Fakaalofa lahi atu, Mr Speaker. Last
week, I announced that the Government is acting swiftly to
strengthen the New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA’s)
regulatory role to make sure that New Zealanders are as safe
as possible on our roads, following a review into the New
Zealand Transport Agency. We are enacting all of the
recommendations of the review, including creating a
statutory director of land transport who’s responsible for
carrying out NZTA’s regulatory functions; getting the NZTA
board to develop a new regulatory strategy; instructing the
Ministry of Transport to update the NZTA’s regulatory
objectives, functions, and powers; and injecting up to $45
million into NZTA’s regulatory work.

Paul
Eagle
: What were the findings of the review into
the Transport Agency?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD:
The independent review has found that NZTA failed to
properly regulate the transport sector under the previous
Government, NZTA was failing in its duty to properly check
the companies that certify vehicles as safe for the road and
other services, and when problems with these companies were
identified there was often no follow-up. This was
exacerbated in 2014, when the agency lost staff from its
heavy vehicle compliance team and the number of
investigations halved. The report found that previous
transport Ministers had directed the transport agency to
“focus on”—and I quote—”building
roads”—

Chris Bishop: That’s not what
the report says. Stop making that up!

Hon Gerry
Brownlee
: That’s not true.

Hon PHIL
TWYFORD
: —”at the expense of keeping people
safe.” Safety is our Government’s top transport priority,
and we’re getting the transport agency back on
track—

SPEAKER: Order! Who interjected,
“That is not true.”?

Hon Gerry Brownlee:
I did.

Chris Bishop: I
did.

SPEAKER: The members will both
withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry
Brownlee
: I withdraw and apologise. Point of
order.

Chris Bishop: I withdraw and
apologise

SPEAKER: I will deal with Mr
Bishop. I will have Mr Bishop withdraw and apologise
first.

Chris Bishop: I said it. I
withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry
Brownlee
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If
the Minister was quoting from a document, then it would be,
I think, appropriate that he tabled it to verify the
statement that he’s just made.

SPEAKER:
Was the member quoting from a document?
[Interruption] Further supplementary—Paul
Eagle.

Paul Eagle: What steps has the
Transport Agency taken to strengthen its regulatory
function?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: NZTA has made
good progress in the last year. They have cleared the
backlog of 850 regulatory compliance files that had been
left open and unattended under the former Government. In
April this year, a new role, general manager of regulatory
compliance, was created. The Transport Agency is also in the
process of recruiting up to 100 new positions across the
regulatory services group over the next 18 months. Our
Government is fixing the difficult long-term issues and
addressing years of neglect of the Transport Agency’s safety
role.

• Question No.
6—Immigration

SPEAKER: It’s come to
my attention that the person who is the subject of question
No. 6 is a protected person under the Immigration Act 2009.
Section 151 of that Act requires that confidentiality be
maintained in respect of protected persons and may require
confidentially to be maintained as to the existence of a
claim or case if disclosure of its fact or existence would
tend to identify the person concerned or be likely to
endanger the safety of the person. It is a criminal offence
to breach this confidentiality. Members have absolute
privilege in the House and cannot be held liable in relation
to statements they make in the House. However, this
privilege is not a licence to break the laws of the country:
Speaker’s ruling 35/1. I caution members against identifying
the person concerned or disclosing information about the
case in questions that would identify the person. I will
listen carefully to the answers and to the supplementary
questions.

6. Hon MARK MITCHELL
(National—Rodney)
to the Minister of
Immigration
: Does he stand by his decision to grant
residency to a person with six convictions for driving with
excess breath alcohol and two convictions for driving
without a licence?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY
(Minister of Immigration)
: Yes, this case involves
a protected person. Deportation of this person would be a
breach of the convention against torture. They cannot be
deported by law.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why
did the Minister grant residency to a recidivist drunk
driver? [Interruption]

SPEAKER:
Order!

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because
the person cannot be deported.

Hon Mark
Mitchell
: Were there other options available to him
other than granting a New Zealand residency to a drunk
driver?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, and
I’m aware that previous Ministers in the National Government
issued revolving temporary visas to this person. That,
essentially, has the same effect. The person is in the
country. They are here in the country, but, of course, it
does come with the unnecessary bureaucracy of continually
having to reissue a visa to someone who cannot be
deported.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why did the
Minister not grant a temporary work visa and instead grant a
New Zealand residency visa that comes with all the
privileges associated with it?

Hon IAIN
LEES-GALLOWAY
: Because the person has been in the
country for the better part of 20 years now and continually
reissuing a temporary visa has, essentially, the same effect
as issuing a residency visa, except for the fact that it
comes with the additional bureaucracy of having to process
those applications every three years.

Hon Mark
Mitchell
: Was public safety a consideration when he
granted a recidivist drunk driver a New Zealand
residency?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well,
I do not condone drunk-driving, and anybody who drinks and
drives—whether they were born here in New Zealand, whether
they’re here on a temporary visa or they’re here on a
residency visa—should be prepared to face the full force
of the law if they do, and this person did.

Rt Hon
Winston Peters
: Who was in the Government when he
was first allowed to come to this country?

Hon
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY
: It goes back some time. As I
say, the individual’s been in the country for close to 20
years now.

• Question No.
7—Education

7. JO LUXTON (Labour)
to the Minister of Education: What action,
if any, is the Government taking to improve the welfare and
pastoral care of students living in halls of residence and
other tertiary accommodation?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS
(Minister of Education)
: Yesterday, the Government
introduced legislation—well, today, actually, the
Government introduced legislation to change the Education
Act to create a new mandatory code of practice that will set
out the duty of pastoral care that tertiary education
providers have for their students. Recent tragic events have
highlighted that a lack of minimum standards for domestic
students in tertiary accommodation exists. Students and
their families pay a premium for a package of accommodation,
which includes a legitimate expectation that the provider
will include a level of pastoral care and support. Our
changes are designed to ensure that they get what they pay
for.

Jo Luxton: What did initial
investigations by the Government uncover around the pastoral
care of students living in halls of residence and other
tertiary accommodation?

Hon CHRIS
HIPKINS
: A couple of weeks ago, following media
publicity around a tragic death, I asked the Tertiary
Education Commission to contact all tertiary education
providers that operate student accommodation, and I asked
that they check on all of their students in halls of
residence, and I asked for initial information to be
gathered on the processes and systems that they have in
place to ensure the welfare of students living in
accommodation provided by them or on their behalf. It
revealed significant inconsistency in the pastoral care
that’s provided across the country, and some concerning gaps
in the delivery of pastoral care. I also found that the
voluntary code of practice for tertiary accommodation that
was developed by providers and stakeholders back in 2004
had, effectively, fallen into abeyance. The Government is
prepared to act to ensure that every student is provided
with a high quality of pastoral care wherever they are in
New Zealand.

Jo Luxton: Why is the
Government moving so quickly to put in place a code of
practice for tertiary students?

Hon CHRIS
HIPKINS
: Right now, today, there are thousands of
students living in tertiary education provider – provided
accommodation throughout the country, and parents and
students will be making decisions for next year about where
young people will go and where they might stay during that
time. The Government wants to ensure that every one of those
families, as they make that decision, can be confident that
if a student is enrolled in a hall of residence provided by
a tertiary education institution, they will receive an
adequate standard of pastoral care, and that their safety
and welfare will be paramount.

• Question No.
8—State Owned Enterprises

8. MARK PATTERSON
(NZ First)
to the Minister for State Owned
Enterprises
: What actions, if any, is KiwiRail
taking to maintain and improve the North Auckland
Line?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister for State
Owned Enterprises)
: The member should be commended
for his question because the answer has positive and
profound implications for the good people of Northland. As
part of the $94.8 million to be invested in that line this
week, we saw remediation on tunnel two reach 90 percent
completion and it will be completed by the end of this
month. The investment in railways is one new source of
employment for locals, and KiwiRail has briefed Northland
firms to discuss planned work and is aiming towards design
contracts in early December, using local people and local
resources wherever possible.

Mark
Patterson
: What economic benefits will these
actions have?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To
use a biblical term: the economic benefits will be legion.
The maintenance of the line will allow many of the speed
restrictions to be lifted. Our railways in Northland will be
faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective. It will
make freight services more timely and reliable, setting the
conditions to make rail more competitive and allow KiwiRail
to grow its freight business. Use it they will, if they
don’t have interfering nobodies trying to stop the service.
And interfering nobodies are no longer representing
Northland in that respect. This will enhance Northland’s
productivity—

Chris Bishop: Who’s the
MP for Northland?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS:
—free up space on the roads. Trucks have congested
Northland’s roads and highways because, for decades, the
investment in rail has been neglected. And as to who is
Northland’s MP, well, he’s the person being threatened by
Paula Bennett. You got that? He’s the person that’s being
threatened by Paula Bennett.

Mark
Patterson
: How will KiwiRail’s actions specifically
help Northland?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS:
Very good question. Northland stands not only to gain from
the improved infrastructure that this investment brings but
greater economic benefits that will flow to local people and
business.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is he
feeling threatened by it?

Rt Hon WINSTON
PETERS
: KiwiRail has promised that whenever
possible—no, I don’t feel threatened; I’ve never felt so
good in my life. I mean, if I was in a party that is going
to be polling at 47 percent and the best I can do is 9
percent, I’d give up. Whenever possible, KiwiRail will be
sourcing materials within Northland, and, consequently,
Government investment—[Interruption]. Don’t worry,
you’ll be trying to get on my side very shortly. It always
happens. Consequently, Government investment will be flowing
directly into the region. For too long our regional centres
have missed out while investment has been poured into a few
big city centres. It’s going to be a long journey back for
rail in Northland, but we’ve started that journey and intend
to complete it.

Hon Paula Bennett: I
raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, I didn’t want to
interrupt the member while he was speaking, but I couldn’t
understand him before and I was wondering if he could repeat
it because he was—

SPEAKER: Well,
certainly—the member will resume her seat—any point of
order that starts off with “I don’t understand” in relation
to an answer—

Hon Paula Bennett: I
couldn’t hear him is what I
said.

SPEAKER: Well, I’m not going to ask
the member to repeat it, but I am going to warn Mr King that
he should not use in this House the sort of gestures which
the All Blacks, when the Wainuiōmata boy Piri Weepu was
leading the haka, use, with regard either to myself or the
member on his feet.

Mark Patterson: Is
Northland the only region to benefit from KiwiRail’s
maintenance improvements of its lines?

Rt Hon
WINSTON PETERS
: Happily, Northland is far from the
only region to benefit from KiwiRail’s good work getting New
Zealand railways back on track. [Interruption] Name
one? I’ll name just three for a start: $331 million
investment in existing facilities, $375 million towards
replacing 50-year-old South Island locomotives and container
wagons, and $35 million to progress procurement of two new
rail-enabled ferries to improve connection between the North
Island and South Island. That’s part of an over $1 billion
investment—just to name three.

• Question No.
9—Health

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE
(National)
to the Minister of
Health
: Is it his expectation that district health
boards operate within the fiscal appropriation provided to
them by the Government?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK
(Minister of Health)
: My primary expectation is
that district health boards will deliver the high-quality
health services their local population need and deserve.
That’s why this Government is investing a record amount in
our DHBs, including an extra $2.8 billion of operating
funding in Budget 2019, and it’s why we’ve hired 1,500 more
nurses, nearly 600 more doctors, and over 500 more allied
health workers since coming to office. I do expect DHBs to
demonstrate sound financial management and map out a path to
financial sustainability, but after years of underfunding,
it’s not realistic to expect all DHBs to run surpluses,
particularly when they have one-off historic costs such as
compliance with the Holidays Act to address.

Hon
Michael Woodhouse
: Is he satisfied with a combined
deficit that has ballooned from $90 million to nearly $1.1
billion in just two years?

Hon Dr DAVID
CLARK
: I don’t accept the member’s characterisation
of that, and as the member knows, well over half of the
total DHB deficit is a result of one-off costs, including
more than half a billion relating to Holidays Act compliance
dating back as far as 2010. In fact, one-off costs total
$666 million in the deficit—$666 million—all historic
legacies of the previous Government. The member, with the
number 666 in front of him, should be careful of the
questions he asks, because the devil is in the
detail.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given that
answer, has he seen reports that DHBs repeatedly told the
previous Government that they had been “quite diligent about
making sure their payroll systems are compliant and can
confidently say that all DHBs are compliant with the
legislation.”?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I
accept that the previous Government failed to notice the
problem that working people were being underpaid for years
and years and years, and I accept that on this side of the
House, we have inherited a lot of challenges left to us by
the previous Government: neglect of our buildings, neglect
of the health system as a whole, and, in this instance, the
Holidays Act mess to clean up and fund so that workers get
paid a fair amount for the work that they did, even under
the previous Government’s watch.

Hon Michael
Woodhouse
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Very interesting answer—that did not address a clear
question of “had he seen reports with those quotes in
them?”.

SPEAKER: Well, I thought it was
implied in the—I at least inferred it from the answer that
he had seen reports about it.

Hon Dr DAVID
CLARK
: If I may add further, I’ve seen the member’s
press release to that effect.

SPEAKER: I
wouldn’t really regard that as a report, but the Hon Michael
Woodhouse.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he
believe he has increased DHB funding in the manner committed
to by Dr David Clark in 2017?

Hon Dr DAVID
CLARK
: This Government has invested a record amount
in DHBs: $2.8 billion in the Wellbeing Budget; $2.3 billion
the year before. We’ve said that in our first four years of
Government, we wanted to invest $8 billion in the health
system over the forecast period, and we’re well on track to
do that.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: In that
case, why does he continue to blame the previous Government
when he believes he has put in sufficient funding to make
DHBs viable?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I’ve
said many times before, it will take more than two Budgets
to make up for nine long years of neglect. They ran the
health system into the ground, and it will take us a wee
while to put that right.

Hon Michael
Woodhouse
: When is he going to take responsibility
for the clinical and financial performance of the health
sector on his watch rather than blame the previous
Government?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ll take
responsibility when I’ve finished cleaning up that
Government’s mess.

• Question No.
10—Transport

10. CHRIS BISHOP
(National—Hutt South)
to the Minister of
Transport
: Does he stand by his statement of 16 May
2019 when announcing the Let’s Get Wellington Moving
transport package, “What we have said in terms of the Mt
Victoria tunnel, and we considered this very carefully,
where we have landed on this is that the work on an
additional Mt Victoria tunnel would happen towards the end
of the first decade”, and is this still the case following
the Wellington City Council election results?

Hon
PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport)
: After years
of stagnation, Let’s Get Wellington Moving is a
groundbreaking opportunity to give Wellington rapid transit
to ease the gridlock and tackle climate change. It was
supported unanimously by all the councils in the region. The
public feedback on Let’s Get Wellington Moving noted that
the majority of people believe that Wellington cannot add to
private vehicle infrastructure provision and expect reduced
congestion. More roads will result in more cars. Alternative
approaches are sought. We are taking a balanced approach and
integrating the roads and the motorways with public
transport, walking and cycling, and rapid transit, which is
the only lasting solution to congestion. So to both parts of
the question, yes.

Chris Bishop: Will he
discuss re-sequencing the Let’s Get Wellington Moving.
transport projects with Mayor elect Andy Foster in light of
the defeat of Labour mayor Justin Lester, who he agreed the
transport package with in the first place?

Hon
PHIL TWYFORD
: Well, once the Wellington City
Council has met and discussed its position on this, once the
Greater Wellington Regional Council has met and elected a
chair and discussed their position on this, I’ll be more
than happy to meet representatives from both councils to
discuss a way forward on Let’s Get Wellington
Moving.

Chris Bishop: Why is the second
Mount Victoria tunnel scheduled to be built after 2029 and
after mass transit has been delivered when officials
recommended the opposite?

Hon PHIL
TWYFORD
: Well, the member will know from the
voluminous documents that were proactively released on Let’s
Get Wellington Moving that the decision was made to
prioritise rapid transit, public transport improvements, and
walking and cycling because that’s what’s needed to ensure
that this city gets a 21st century transport system that
tackles climate change and encourages people out of
single-occupant vehicles and into other modes of transport.
That’s why we’ve prioritised those things over adding
additional roading capacity, but I will remind the member
that, actually, sorting out the Basin Reserve intersection
and building a second Mount Victoria tunnel are funded
components of the plan.

Chris Bishop: Did
Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter’s letter to him of 26
March 2019 prompt him to get further advice from officials
about the sequencing of the second Mount Vic tunnel and mass
transit?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the
letter was certainly part of an ongoing discussion about the
priorities and the sequencing of the Let’s Get Wellington
Moving project, but it shouldn’t surprise anybody in this
House that the member Julie Anne Genter argues for public
transport, better walking and cycling infrastructure, and
modern rapid transit, and on all of those issues she’s
correct.

Chris Bishop: When will he
release the 26 March letter from Associate Minister Julie
Anne Genter?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m
waiting for the decision of the Ombudsman on this, because
the question of whether or not parties under an MMP
Government or Ministers should be able to have free and
frank exchange of views while they prepare a paper for
Cabinet—that is a very important issue.

Chris
Bishop
: What does he have to say to the 63 percent
of respondents living outside Wellington City and the 61
percent of respondents living in Wellington City who
supported a second Mt Victoria tunnel during the Let’s Get
Wellington Moving feedback process?

Hon PHIL
TWYFORD
: I say to those people: thank you for the
support that you have given through your elected mayors and
councillors, who unanimously supported the project because
they understand, actually, that Wellington City’s transport
networks are a critically important asset for the entire
region, that access to the airport and the hospital are
absolutely essential for people who live throughout the
region, and that’s why they supported Let’s Get Wellington
Moving.

Chris Bishop: If the Greater
Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council
ask him formally to bring forward the second Mt Victoria
tunnel ahead of mass transit, as was recommended by the
officials in the first place, will he undertake to consider
that request in good faith?

Hon PHIL
TWYFORD
: I’ve said that I’m more than happy to sit
down with both the regional council and Wellington City
Council, when they’ve had time to get their feet under the
desk, to elect a new chair of the regional council, and to
discuss their position on these matters, and I’ve signalled
that I’m very happy to discuss questions about business case
processes, and sequencing of projects when we have that
conversation.

• Question No. 11—Building and
Construction

11. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI
(Labour)
to the Minister for Building and
Construction
: What recent announcements has she
made about delivering more warm, dry, safe houses to New
Zealanders?

Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for
Building and Construction)
: Faakalofa atu ki a
mutolu oti. Happy Niue Language Week. Last Friday, I
announced the first tranche of changes to the Building Act
2004 that will make high-quality large-scale manufacture of
warm, dry prefab houses a reality. Offsite manufacturing and
modern methods of construction are the future of
construction. These modern methods of construction can mean
reductions in cost, up to a 60 percent reduction in
construction time, and up to a 77 percent reduction in
construction waste. By introducing a nationwide end-to-end
manufacturer certification for off-site manufacturing, we’re
able to cut the red tape on a number of building consent
inspections that are required, while continuing to ensure
high-quality durable homes are built.

Anahila
Kanongata’a-Suisuiki
: How will the proposed changes
speed up building consents?

Hon JENNY
SALESA
: In addition to the changes for off-site
manufacturing, we heard a lot from industry and from the
public that one of the main reasons for delays in councils
issuing building consents is a lack of information about the
building products they are using. We know building consents
are placed on hold by an average of up to 21 working days
due to councils issuing requests for information on the
building products, and it costs around a thousand dollars
for each week of delay. That’s why we’re introducing minimum
information requirements for manufacturers and suppliers of
products. This will speed up consenting by ensuring
councils, builders, tradies, and DIYers have the information
that they need about the building products that they’re
using.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What
other announcements will help deliver better homes and
buildings?

Hon JENNY SALESA: We’re also
making changes to lower the building levy, which will reduce
the cost of building consents while allowing the Ministry of
Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to maintain a
high-performing building regulatory system. We’re also
increasing the maximum financial penalties in the Building
Act to make sure that builders, engineers, and tradies are
complying with the law and helping to drive out the
cowboys.

Andrew Bayly: When will the
Minister actually deal with the real issue of traditional
consenting and make sure that that process is sped up and
made more flexible and quicker so we can build a lot more
houses?

SPEAKER: Order! That’s not an
area of responsibility for this Minister.

Andrew
Bayly
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry,
I thought the building and
construction—

SPEAKER: Oh, sorry. I
thought the Minister wasn’t the Minister responsible. I
thought the local government Minister was. Am I wrong? I am
wrong. I’m sorry. The Minister will answer the question.

Hon JENNY SALESA: The amendments to the
Building Act 2004 that I announced on Friday are one of the
things that we’re doing as Government. We’re bringing
through—and I’ll be announcing it soon—the other areas
of work. We have a whole lot of work that we’re doing in
building and construction. There are a whole lot of issues
that were left to us, but in terms of building consent, that
is one of the reasons why we have announced that we will go
through with off-site manufacturing. It will ensure that
consents are much more efficient.

• Question No.
12—Local Government

12. Hon JACQUI DEAN
(National—Waitaki)
to the Minister of
Local Government
: Does she stand by all her actions
and policies?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local
Government)
: Fakaalofa lahi atu—Happy Niuean
Language Week. Yes.

Hon Jacqui Dean: Is
it her expectation that the proposed wellbeing work will be
undertaken by councils at the same time as they work on the
three waters programme and the planned changes that will be
required under the action plan for freshwater?

Hon
NANAIA MAHUTA
: Yes, and I’m pleased to say that one
of the early representations that I had as Minister for
Local Government from the sector was to insert the
wellbeings because it sits alongside environmental outcomes,
outcomes for better urban planning and urban design, and
outcomes for better places to live, and I’m pleased to be
able to support the sector by including the wellbeings back
into legislation.

Hon Jacqui Dean: How
will communities set “specific objective and subjective
priorities for intergenerational wellbeing” under the
wellbeing framework?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA:
I’m pleased to say that this is a matter that the sector
themselves have led out. The Society of Local Government
Managers have actually launched for some time now a live
document on wellbeing indicators. They have discussed the
matter thoroughly within the sector, to determine the types
of indicators that councils can use and apply to achieve a
number of outcomes in the environmental area, social
wellbeing area, and physical and built environment, and I
think we should support them.

Hon Jacqui
Dean
: How much will all this cost?

Hon
NANAIA MAHUTA
: The cost will be determined in
accordance to the priorities of those councils, and this is
well-established. And, more importantly, this enables
councils to engage with their communities to set the types
of priorities that look across environmental wellbeings,
social wellbeings, the types of cities and communities that
people want to live in, and, most importantly, so that their
children can thrive and grow in a prosperous region.

Hon Jacqui Dean: How much does she
expect rates to rise, in order for councils to fund all of
the work she has just described?

Hon NANAIA
MAHUTA
: That’s a matter that I can’t be entirely
responsible for. The setting of rates is a matter for local
councils to determine, and they are mindful that, in
balancing the impact on ratepayers with the priority that
their people have within their communities, they must
balance the books based on what the revenue is that they get
from rates. But can I say this: when we came into
Government, it was very clear that the local government
sector had been left to languish for nine years and the
issues of affordability on councils had been neglected.
That’s why we embarked on a Productivity Commission report
that is looking to provide some solutions, and we’re
considering that report and will respond in due course to
the cost pressures facing councils.

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