Questions and Answers – June 22

Press Release – Hansard

Police, Minister—No-surprises Briefings
1. JACINDA ARDERN (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Police: Under what circumstances is she briefed by police under the long standing “no surprises” policy?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Police: Any no-surprises briefing to the Minister of Police is entirely at the commissioner’s discretion.
Jacinda Ardern: Was the Minister of Police at the time informed of the investigation into Todd Barclay on a no-surprises basis; if so, on what date?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have spoken to immediate former Minister of Police and she advises she received no briefings by Police on this subject.
Jacinda Ardern: On what date was the then Minister of Police informed or did she become aware of the investigation of her colleague Todd Barclay; and by whom?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am unable to answer the question because I do not have that information, but what I can reassure the member of is that the method was not via a no-surprises briefing by the Commissioner of Police.
Hon Judith Collins: Would the Minister be surprised to learn that the former Minister of Police would have found out about the investigation from the media?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Not at all, because that would have been the entirely appropriate way for a Minister of Police to find out whether the Commissioner of Police had determined that this was not a matter that should be raised with her. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Less interjection on this occasion from both sides of the House.
Jacinda Ardern: When did the police inform the Minister of Police that they had received an Official Information Act (OIA) request on the investigation into Todd Barclay as part of their OIA risk register?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am unable to answer the question because I do not have that information, but I am sure it could be answered if the member put that question down in writing. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Less interjection please, otherwise I will have to deal with it more severely.
Jacinda Ardern: Does the Minister seriously expect the public to believe that the Minister of Police had no idea her colleague was being investigated, that her colleague never once raised it with her, and that she was never briefed on the redacted OIA requests that the police released?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I would have every expectation that the public would want to know that the statutory independence of the New Zealand Police from ministerial interference as set out in Part 2 of the Policing Act 2008 would be rigorously pursued by the commissioner and his senior staff.
Jacinda Ardern: Is the Minister claiming that the police breached protocol when they briefed the Minister of Police on Mike Sabin?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The no-surprises discretion is entirely the Commissioner of Police’s, who decides what is appropriate to raise with a Minister of Police and what is not.
Jacinda Ardern: Has the Minister ever been told by the police that individuals who are interviewed by them are duty bound to keep that confidential to the point of lying about it, as the Prime Minister did?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The last part of that question is completely out of order, and I refer the member to Speakers’ Rulings, page 48. You cannot accuse a member in this House of lying. It is not only offensive to the member; it is offensive to the House.
Prime Minister—Actions
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his actions; if so, how?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, by stating so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he has known about the Todd Barclay matter for well over a year, did his failure to recall conversations, communications, and statements when asked by the media relate to his fear of implicating himself in an alleged crime?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is prime ministerial responsibility, the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility for the matters raised by the questioner.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note the answer and I note the comment you made before he gave the answer. The Prime Minister is on record for being responsible for what he said; that is what this question is about.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not find it easy to decipher exactly what the question was about. I just took the opportunity of saying to the honourable Minister, as he is answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, that he could answer it in so far as he detected there was prime ministerial responsibility. He has given his answer. I am not responsible for his answer. Does the member wish to continue with supplementary questions?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he has not been complicit in the cover-up following his communications with the police in April last year, why was he involved in so many communications connected with his statement to the police and the hush money settlement arrangement?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: All of that relates to the Prime Minister’s role as a member of Parliament, not as a Minister of the Crown.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was he in contact with Glenys Dickson and Stuart Davie during the duration of Glenys Dickson’s employment in Todd McClay’s office relating to the Barclay tape—[Interruption]—Todd Barclay’s office relating to the Barclay—[Interruption] You will not be smiling shortly. You will not be smiling shortly.
Mr SPEAKER: Finish the question. [Interruption] Finish the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —in Todd Barclay’s office relating to the Barclay tape matter—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Late night at the Green Parrot.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And that is a lie as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! It does not need to go any longer, because the question is out of order. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 173/2. The Prime Minister does not have responsibility, as Prime Minister, for a member of caucus. Further supplementary questions?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If there are so many of these text exchanges between himself and Glenys Dickson, why did he reply yesterday in the House, when asked about the Barclay matter, “I was absolutely no party to that, and I do not know what the dispute was or how it was settled.”, when his text message to Stuart Davie reads: “Glenys settlement large to avoid potential legal action. Had to be part paid by prime ministers budget. Everyone unhappy.”? That utterly refutes what he said in the House yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What was the question? There was no question.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a very good question. The Minister can address the question as he sees fit to interpret it.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not sure there was a question there. I think it was a series of statements that the member had been pre-determined he would say. The point remains that none of that activity took place with ministerial responsibility.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Prime Minister release his phone records to substantiate the claims he made to this House yesterday and to the media about his non-knowledge or involvement?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to answer that.
Economy—Infrastructure Investment
3. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Finance: How is this Government’s $32.5 billion investment in infrastructure helping New Zealand’s economy?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: New Zealand’s economy has grown in 24 of the last 25 quarters. This growth is no accident, and our strong economic plan is backed up by Budget 2017’s increase of $11 billion for new infrastructure spending. Our infrastructure spending will boost productivity and help provide the public services we need for a growing country—for example, the Waterview tunnel will open to traffic shortly, and will provide additional capacity for people travelling between south and west Auckland, as well as helping people get to and from the airport.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What other transport infrastructure investments is the Government making to improve productivity?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: There are significant transport projects under way right across New Zealand—for example, the northern and southern corridor improvements in Auckland, the Huntly and Hamilton sections of the Waikato Expressway, and the corridors into and around Christchurch. There are also many other provincial projects, including the Whirokino bridge replacement in Manawatū-Whanganui, the Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger corridor in Taranaki, and the Mōtū Bridge replacement in Gisborne. This Government expects to open 540 new-lane kilometres of State highways over the next 4 years.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: How is the Government supporting service employers and exporters through new infrastructure?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: This Government has revolutionised broadband connectivity in New Zealand. More than three-quarters of the phase one ultra-fast broadband roll-out is complete. More than 1.1 million households and businesses now have access to fibre across 22 cities and towns around New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand now ranks alongside other global connectivity leaders such as Japan and South Korea. The vast majority of New Zealand’s commercial services exports are traded over the internet, so our investment is providing them with a massive boost.
Prime Minister—Conduct
4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in the House yesterday, “the statements made to me regarding this were reported to the relevant party official—that is on the record—and then to the police. It is a weird world when the Labour Party says that reporting a matter to the police is a cover-up”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, although the Prime Minister should have been more precise in his response to the supplementary question and said “making a statement to the police”, rather than “reporting a matter”.
Grant Robertson: Is it not in fact correct that he did not report the matter to the police about Todd Barclay recording his staff, but rather that they asked to interview him because they had found out about his text confirming this during their investigation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I hear the calls from across the House that this is a cover-up. Let me be very clear: the only cover-up in this country today is the immigration scam by the Labour Party for its campaign purposes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is not necessary to this particular question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It should be very apparent that he was asked a specific question, to which he provided no answer at all but rather sought to attack the questioner on another matter. That is out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: And if the member had watched me, as soon as the Minister transgressed into an area that had nothing to do with him, I rose to my feet and stopped the answer immediately. [Interruption] Order! I would be grateful if the interjections from both the Rt Hon Winston Peters and Ron Mark would cease. They have not stopped since question time started at 2 o’clock.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a question. Your stopping him does not answer the request from us to know what the answer to the question was.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member spent less time interjecting and listened to the answer, he would have realised that in fact the question was well addressed by the Minister before he diverted to another issue.
Grant Robertson: Is it not in fact correct that the only reason he spoke to police about Todd Barclay recording his staff was because the police requested that?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Of course, because the complaint was not made by Mr English and all of his dealings in this matter were made in his private capacity.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, why did the Prime Minister try to present yesterday that he had reported the matter to the police?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: If the member had heard the response to the primary question, then it would have been made clear to him, and he would be clear that there was imprecise language used.
Grant Robertson: Why did his office not authorise the release of his statement to the police when they released the file of their work on the Todd Barclay investigation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility for that course of action.
Grant Robertson: Who made the decision in his office—his prime ministerial office—not to authorise the release of his statement to the police?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It was not a matter for his prime ministerial office; it was a matter for him as an individual. He did not have that—[Interruption] Well, all I can say at this point is that there was no ministerial responsibility in this case, and there is no ministerial responsibility in this case.
Grant Robertson: Can he not see that a person who knows for more than a year that there has been taping of a staff member in an MP’s office, who discloses that to police only when questioned, who lies to the media about what he knew, and who prevents the release of his statement to the police is involved in a cover-up?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, that question is completely out of order. To suggest that a member lies deliberately is out of order, and, again, I refer members to a number of Speakers’ rulings on page 48.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify for me—there have been previous rulings. You are correct—you are not allowed to say that a member has lied in this House—but there have been previous rulings about whether or not a member has lied in another setting. I said in my question that he had lied to the media. I did not accuse him of lying in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: I will look further into the matter, but at this stage I have ruled that question out, as a question that, effectively, accuses another member of lying.
Roading, Auckland—East-West Link
5. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: On what date was the most recent cost-benefit analysis for the East-West Link project published and what were the project’s total estimated costs and total estimated benefits in that analysis?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): The most recent cost-benefit analysis for the East-West Link project was published in December 2015 as part of the detailed business case for the project. The expected capital cost for the project in 2015 dollars was $1.05 billion, and the benefits of the project in net present value are $1.764 billion. The project’s estimated costs and benefits are as reported in the detailed business case, which is available on the Transport Agency’s website. The commonly referred to cost figure of $1.25 billion is an escalated capital cost figure, which is equivalent to the $1.05 billion unescalated capital cost figure referenced in the detailed business case. Escalated capital cost is used for funding applications for subsequent phases to account for inflation. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am just waiting for a bit of silence.
Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that the estimated cost of the East-West Link project has increased by almost $1 billion since that analysis was completed, from $918 million—or $1.05 billion, as he said, in net present value—to $1.9 billion, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency?
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table a memo obtained from the New Zealand Transport Agency under the Official Information Act (OIA), showing the estimated cost of this project is now $1.9 billion.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that in 2015 his Transport Agency estimated the benefits of the East-West Link project to be $1.7 billion, so if the cost of the project is now $1.9 billion, this means the project will actually lose the country money?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. I think the member is wrong. I appreciate that she is New Zealand’s foremost transport economist, but on this occasion she is wrong. The benefit-cost ratio, the best estimate, is $1.9 billion. This is a very strong project that will make a really strong difference, not just to Auckland but to New Zealand, in transportation terms.
Julie Anne Genter: Is it not strange that now the costs outweigh the benefits of the project, the Transport Agency’s own economist gave evidence last week that said: “I have not prepared a quantitative assessment of the economic costs of the Project. Neither have I quantified the benefits.”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I am not sure what the member is asking me to say. I appreciate she hates roads, but this will be a great one.
Julie Anne Genter: Will the Minister admit that it is a double standard for his Government to fast track a $2 billion highway project with costs that outweigh the benefits, and at the same time tell Aucklanders that they have to wait 30 years for rail to the airport, and that we do not have the money to pay for critical rail freight projects—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.
Julie Anne Genter: —like the third main line in Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, not at all. This is a Government that is strong across infrastructure across the board, whether it is road, rail, public transport, or cycleways. I think the double standard is to use roads when you hate them.
Julie Anne Genter: Does the Minister understand that unlike the East-West Link project, rail to the airport and the third main rail freight line will actually make it easier for far more people and far more freight to travel through Auckland, and that for both these projects the benefits far outweigh the costs? Why is that not his priority?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I probably do not understand as much as New Zealand’s foremost transport economist sitting across the road, and that is a big acknowledgment from me, but what I can say is that we like and we support projects across the board, whether it is road, rail, public transport, or cycleways. What is true about the third main project that she keeps referring to is that it is simply at an earlier stage in its investment process.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why is this Minister allowed four insults in four answers, whilst he mangles the English language syllable by syllable?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Just ruling on the matter raised by the Hon Winston Peters, my job is to see the question is addressed. It is then for this House and the public to judge the quality of the answer.
Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not take offence at the insults. I know it is because the Minister does not have a good argument.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order.
Julie Anne Genter: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, will this be a point of order? I hope so.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table a memo from the New Zealand Transport Agency obtained under the Official Information Act that shows rail to the airport costs $1 billion and the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document, sourced under the OIA. Is there any objection? There is none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table the business case for the third main rail line, which states the forecast benefits significantly exceed the expected costs.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify that that is not publicly available?
Julie Anne Genter: I am concerned the Minister might try to obstruct—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No—[Interruption] Order! I have said on many occasions that if you seek to table something, it is your duty to have found out whether it is publicly available. If you cannot give me that assurance, I am not putting the leave.
Julie Anne Genter: Is the real reason Aucklanders are stuck sitting in traffic not that rail to the airport, or rail to the North Shore, or a third main rail line are too expensive, but that his Government is wasting money and wasting our time on uneconomic billion-dollar motorway projects like the East-West Link?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, it is because there is a lot of growth in Auckland. If you take the East-West Link project, this is a project that is significant, that Auckland Council has prioritised, and that Auckland business has prioritised, not just over a few years but over a very long time. When it is built, it will make a really significant difference in congestion terms, as I say, not just, actually, to Auckland, but across New Zealand, given its national significance.
Budget 2017—International Education
6. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: How does Budget 2017 investment in international education support economic growth?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Budget 2017 invests $6.8 million in funding over 4 years to support sustainable growth in the international education sector, to strengthen the net benefit to New Zealand and its value to our regions. This investment supports programmes that have proven effective in meeting growth in demand across the international sector, including increasing the share of international students studying in regions throughout New Zealand, building the New Zealand international education brand as an international education destination, supporting positive experiences for international students, and it is our fourth-largest export industry, worth more than $4.5 billion to our economy. This Government remains focused on supporting the international education sector, which can provide a net benefit for New Zealand.
Sarah Dowie: In what other ways is the Government supporting international students coming to our shores?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: The National-led Government backs the international education export industry and the thousands of Kiwis employed in it. Our approach is to work with the industry to steadily improve outcomes, rather than threatening large parts of it. In an effort to increase the support offered to international students I was pleased to launch the International Student Wellbeing Strategy in Christchurch last week. The strategy is designed to protect and enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and welcoming study destination, ensuring international students enjoy a quality education and are valued for their contribution to New Zealand. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just having trouble hearing the answers because of the excitement to my left.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does he have any concerns about a reported educational programme that featured lecturers Mr Little, Ms Ardern, and Mr—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee will resume his seat. That question is completely out of order. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 173/5—questions can be asked of the Government’s intentions, but the Government has no responsibility for the Opposition.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not challenging your ruling. I think it was absolutely correct. But what I am pointing out is that the question asked whether he was concerned about a tertiary—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume—[Interruption] Order! Mr Brownlee, if you want the same treatment that a former front-bench and very senior member got, you will be leaving the Chamber. When I ask you to resume your seat, you resume your seat.
Marama Fox: Is he concerned about New Zealand’s international education reputation, when recent reports identified the potential exploitation of 85 overseas university students, lured to participate in a fellowship programme offered by the Labour Party, and what is he doing to investigate the claims—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, that question is completely out of order. If the member had been listening to me giving Speaker’s ruling 173/5 to the House she would have known that before she started her question. So she has wasted one of her opportunities today.
Sarah Dowie: What reports has he seen on recent proposals—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to start again. Simply, with the yelling and the excitement on my immediate left, I cannot hear the question, and then I will not be able to hear the answer, and then I will be subject to questions about whether the answer has been correct. So I do need some assistance.
Sarah Dowie: What reports has he seen on recent proposals to cut international student numbers?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Paul Goldsmith.
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I have taken a careful look at a recent policy announcement that targets international students and our international education sector. The basic premise is that the Government should stop issuing student visas for courses below a Bachelor’s degree that are not independently assessed by the Tertiary Education Commission and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to be of high quality. Last year just about 72,000 international student visas for tertiary institutions were granted in New Zealand. Based on the figures in that report, which target a reduction of 15,000 to 22,000 international students, that could put about 25 percent of the sector at risk, which translates to as much as $1 billion a year and thousands of jobs. I have seen that policy, and it is from the Labour Party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want silence for this point of order—the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You ruled earlier that the Minister or Ministers are not responsible for another party’s policy. He spent his whole answer doing just that, and you thought it was fine.
Mr SPEAKER: No. No, that is not true. [Interruption] Sorry? That is not true. The Minister was asked whether he had seen any reports. He then went through quite detailed reports. At that stage, I was unaware of what reports he was referring to. Only at the very end did he attempt to align those reports with the policy of another party, and I immediately shut him down.
Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry—Housing Affordability Measure Reliability
7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Why did his ministry release the Housing Affordability Measure two days after the Reserve Bank advised that it was based on the wrong mortgage interest rate?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Construction: The Minister had no involvement in the development of the Housing Affordability Measure (HAM). Officials advised that there were sound reasons for choosing the interest rate utilised in the measure, and that they are satisfied with the quality of the series.
Phil Twyford: Is it not the truth that he allowed his officials to deliberately release information that the Reserve Bank had said was inappropriate, based on the mortgage interest rate, because he was so desperate to make out that housing is more affordable than it actually is?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Putting aside the slight on Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials, actually, that is not what the Reserve Bank said. It did not say the measure was wrong, and it did not say that it was the only one that could be used. There was an interesting exchange where upon the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment staff set out their reasons for using that rate in very clear terms, and I think that is smart thinking.
Phil Twyford: Can the Minister confirm that since the Reserve Bank publicly confirmed its advice 2 days before the measure was released, it was an inappropriate interest rate to be used and that MBIE officials subsequently acknowledged it was the wrong interest rate, said it was an experimental series, and that it would change the interest rate for the next lot of information that was released under the measure?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, I cannot confirm that. Officials advised me there was no error in the HAM interest rates, so the HAM shows reliable results. There were two main reasons why the effective rate was used: firstly, that rate series goes back further than the new rate series does, and it also takes into account a mix of floating and fixed rates, which provides a more reliable and predictable measure.
Phil Twyford: It’s not the rate that mortgage customers face when they walk into the bank.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: That is, well—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! No; the member will resume his seat. Question time is not an opportunity to have a conversation. If you want to have that conversation—if collegiality has descended to that level—go to the lobbies and have a yarn any time you like.
Phil Twyford: How did he manage to stuff up a project that was 5 years in the making by using the wrong interest rate, data that was 2 years out of date, and by downplaying the difficulty of saving a deposit when house prices are so high on his watch?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: He did no such thing. The series was developed by MBIE. It is an experimental series that it stands by very strongly.
Phil Twyford: When he uses the correct interest rate recommended by the Reserve Bank, which is, typically, 1 percent more than the rate he used in the Housing Affordability Measure, does he think it will make the 80 percent of renters who cannot afford mortgage payments on a new home in their area without falling into financial hardship more or less happy?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member is incorrect in his assessment of the difference between the effective rate and the new fixed and floating rates. In June 2015, there was a 0.3 percentage point difference between the 5-year rate and a 0.6 percent difference between the new floating rate; not the 1 percent that that member says.
8. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Ron Mark: How can he have confidence in his Minister of Health when the chief executive officer of the Tararua Health Group and the Mayor of Tararua are having to “cobble together” funds to support suffering cancer patients in the far-flung regions of the Tararua District because of health funding cuts, especially given that the vital road link between Dannevirke and Palmerston North has been cut and they still do not have cellphone coverage out at Pongaroa?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would simply say that the health Minister has done an excellent job in recent years. He has done a marvellous job of getting extra money out of the Budget—an extra $439 million going into district health boards. I think those people out there—it is unfortunate that they do not have better representation.
Fletcher Tabuteau: To the Prime Minister—[Interruption] I might wait.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Substantial—[Interruption] Jono Naylor, no more interjections from you, otherwise you will be leaving the Chamber for this question.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in his Minister of Energy and Resources, who keeps allowing the Electricity Authority to delay its new pricing methodology, which has led business leaders to say publicly that the uncertainty is stopping them from investing in our regions and—for the benefit of Mr Bridges—if finally implemented, the methodology will be so harmful as to make any investment from that Government in the regions absolutely nonsensical?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes. She is an excellent energy Minister, carrying on the good work of previous energy Ministers. I would also, on behalf of the energy Minister, thank Mr Fletcher Tabuteau for his congratulations to her on the delay in the commission’s work.
9. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has he made following Budget 2017 on school property?
Hon TIM MACINDOE (Associate Minister of Education): My colleague the Hon Nikki Kaye and I have recently announced how some of the $392.4 million of capital funding from Budget 2017 for education infrastructure will be spent. We are investing $30 million in Bay of Plenty schools, and, so far, have announced over $8.5 million in roll-growth classrooms for the Canterbury, Waikato, and Wellington regions. In that vein, we have many more announcements to come.
Alastair Scott: How will this investment benefit the Bay of Plenty region?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: The $30 million investment in the Bay of Plenty region will boost capacity to help accommodate growing rolls in the area, by providing for a new school in Papamoa, expanding Golden Sands School, and building nine new classrooms at Pillans Point School. The physical environment in which children learn plays a significant role in their educational outcomes. These new learning environments will provide a modern, innovative, and inspiring environment, which I am confident will support educational success for many Bay of Plenty children.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want a clarification from you. You have ruled, in a number of questions so far, that people are not allowed to use Government questions to represent or misrepresent Opposition policies. If someone were to do that after you had ruled, would you regard that as trifling with you as the Chair?
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot rule on hypothetical situations like that, as I am sure the member would appreciate. I deal with matters as they occur, and it depends on the circumstances and the decorum of the House at the time.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does the school property investment in Budget 2017 include funding for marae-based accommodation for international students?
Hon TIM MACINDOE: No, it does not. But I have seen reports that one other party—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. We are not going there.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Is this a point of order from Ron Mark?
Ron Mark: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: This is a point of order that will be heard in silence.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to grant Alastair Scott an opportunity to ask a question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He has been here long enough to know that he cannot seek leave on behalf of another member.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need to deal with this. Is this a new, fresh point of order, not in any way relitigating—
Ron Mark: Not relitigating.
Mr SPEAKER: Right. If it is a fresh point of order, I will hear it. If the member is continuing in the same vein, I will take the matter very, very seriously—I am warning him.
Ron Mark: I will try my best, Mr Speaker. Your ruling that if a member seeks leave, that is the leave of the House and the House will determine its own future—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now trifling with the Chair. The member cannot seek leave on behalf of another member for another member to do something. I cannot make—[Interruption] The member wants to talk over me, wave his hands around, but he will not get me to change my mind.
Pike River Mine Disaster—Prime Minister’s Statements
10. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast – Tasman) to the Prime Minister: Has he spoken to the responsible Ministers to ensure that no information regarding the Pike River tragedy is being withheld from families?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, recognising that police do have their own independence, but noting that they have released very extensive video footage to the families.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Can the Prime Minister confirm that there is an image taken from borehole 47, which has not been officially released to the families, that shows an intact body?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. That would be in footage that would have been released to the families by the police, and some media outlets have that footage, I understand, but have chosen not to use it because the families have asked for a period of time to consider the videos. But there are many, many hours of video, and I think it is appropriate to respect that for them. I would also point out that the whole of the Pike River incident—the great tragedy that it has been—was the subject of a royal commission of inquiry and that the representation for the families was provided by extremely high-quality legal advice, paid for by the Crown. There has been no attempt, in my view, for the families not to have information. Indeed, as the Prime Minister, he has made it clear that they should have that information.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Why has the Government denied the families’ request for new, high-definition footage from the boreholes as part of the re-entry programme, given the existence of images from these boreholes showing bodies?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I said before, this has been one of New Zealand’s worst tragedies, and the suggestion that the member makes at the end is one that is subject to some difference of opinion. But there is no holding back of information—no desire to do that. The families have got hours and hours of video footage. They are working through it, and I respect the New Zealand media for giving them the time to consider their position on that before there is any further release for public discussion. Remember, though, that this is video that was all made available to the royal commission some time back.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Is the Prime Minister confirming that images from borehole 47 and others that appear to show intact bodies have all been released to the families of the Pike River victims?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is the information that I have been provided. It is not footage that the Government itself holds; it is footage that I understand is held by the New Zealand Police that has been released to some media agencies and is available to others—
Grant Robertson: To the families?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: —but also released to the families, Mr Robertson, so that they can have a period of time to view all of that footage and come to their own position on that before there is any wider disclosure. But I would also make it clear that all of that footage was available to the royal commission when it undertook its work some time ago.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Will the Prime Minister ask the Police, his Ministers, and all officials to provide any information available to the families of the 29 victims at Pike River mine?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is the intention that all Ministers who have a responsibility that they are directly engaged with would do so. Secondly, I would make it clear that police do have independent arrangements around these matters, but, as I said and observed at the start, they have released video to the families—hours and hours and hours of video—and the families are taking their time to look through that before there is any further public discussion. But, I state again that all of this has been made available to the royal commission, which considered all of these matters quite some time ago.
Waste Management—Waste Minimisation Fund
11. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: What recent announcements has he made about the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (Associate Minister for the Environment): The Waste Minimisation Fund is funded from a levy introduced by the National-led Government in 2009. It charges on waste disposed of at landfills, to discourage waste and to fund recycling initiatives. Recently, I have made several announcements, including over $5.1 million of investment into four projects to reduce litter. This includes the installation of combined litter and smart recycling bins, supporting Keep New Zealand Beautiful to undertake a national litter survey as well, and as recently as this morning my colleague Dr Nick Smith has announced grants of $19 million for investments into solutions for New Zealand’s end-of-life tyres.
Barbara Kuriger: How is the Government using the Waste Minimisation Fund to help local community groups to move towards zero waste?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: The organisation Para Kore has a vision for all marae around New Zealand to be zero waste by 2020. So far there are 171 marae taking part in the programme, and they have diverted a massive 178 tonnes of waste from landfill. Last week, in Raglan, in the member’s own beautiful electorate, I announced funding of nearly a further $800,000 to extend that programme, and a further $150,000 to allow the Waikato District Council to implement food waste collection diversion and composting services in Raglan.
Denise Roche: Why is he taking nearly $20 million from the Waste Minimisation Fund and not spending it on community groups that are working to reduce waste, and subsidising those that do not really need it?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: The Government has provided grants of almost $19 million to nine tyre-related projects, including $13.6 million towards new equipment at Golden Bay Cement in the Northland electorate. That will totally dispose of 3.1 million shredded tyres per year. This technology is globally one of the most common and economically viable solutions to waste tyres. The high-temperature incineration minimises pollutants, the steel in the tyres contributes to the iron requirements of cement, and the rubber provides a fuel to substitute for coal. So this is a very good way of disposing of end-of-life tyres that have been causing enormous problems around the country.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Golden Bay retread complex he talks about is in the Whangarei electorate and not the Northland electorate.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order.
Denise Roche: Why has he rejected putting an advance disposal fee on tyres, as the industry itself has asked for, when $5 on each tyre would create about $25 million a year, which would cover recycling costs and more?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: It is because on this side of the House we take a pragmatic blue-green approach to environmental matters, and we are not the party of heavy-handed and expensive regulation.
Denise Roche: I seek leave to table an email to the Hon Nick Smith dated 22 September 2015 from Mark Gilbert—from the industry itself; the chair of the Tyrewise working group—expressing disappointment—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the document has been described. It does not need further description. Leave is sought to table that particular email to the Hon Dr Nick Smith. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is no objection. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Denise Roche: When will he stop coming up with half-measures that subsidise ongoing pollution for things like tyres and plastic bags, and instead introduce mandatory product stewardship schemes that actually work to reduce waste?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: The issue of plastic bags is a current one, and I have recently received advice from the Ministry for the Environment on a range of options to tackle plastic bags, which I am now considering. Additionally, I am meeting with stakeholders in the sector, mayors, and officials regarding the issue and the disposal of them.
Melissa Lee: How is the Waste Minimisation Fund helping to repurpose waste that otherwise would have gone to landfill?
Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: Last month I announced that the Government is supporting the collection and recycling of Tauranga’s untreated wood waste with a grant of $359,000. This grant helped purchase a wood chipping machine, which means that a very large amount—some 44 tonnes of kiwifruit boxes and pallets per week that used to go to landfill—is now being chipped and used in gardens as mulch and also as a protective layer for children’s playgrounds. The member will be pleased to know that I will be making further announcements in the future.
Regional Economic Development—East Coast
12. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for Infrastructure: How much of the $11 billion infrastructure fund announced in Budget 2017 will go towards improving infrastructure on the East Coast?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Infrastructure: This Government has allocated $23 million in capital to the Tairāwhiti District Health Board and other projects to upgrade medical facilities in the region. A further release of $6.5 million in capital has been allocated for transport upgrades in the region, including the construction of the Panikau Hill and Wallis Hill slow vehicle bays, and the Mōtū Bridge replacement. This is on top of a number of infrastructure projects that were allocated capital in previous Budgets. Indeed, given the very large capital investment coming over the next 4 years, there may be additional investments made in the East Coast.
Marama Fox: What is he doing to support an improvement in infrastructure on the East Coast to support landowners with harvestable forestry holdings who are considering burning down their trees because there is no way to move them due to poorly maintained and impassable roads?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: The Minister for Primary Industries and the Associate Minister are probably better placed to answer that, but I am broadly aware that we have afforestation programmes at work at the moment on the East Coast, and I also know that throughout Tairāwhiti regional economic action plan, there are specific measures in relation to both forestation and also in relation to wood processing, to ensure viable economic and environmental measures in the area the member speaks of.

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