Parliament: Questions and Answers – March 22

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No.1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Could I just say kia ora tēnā koutou katoa to the people of Parihaka, and also could I say, on behalf of the Prime Minister, yes, in their context.
Hon Paula Bennett: Wonderful. Which statement best describes her Government’s position on oil and gas exploration: is it her statement that “We’re considering everything.” when receiving a Greenpeace petition to ban exploration, or is it her deputy’s statement that “we know exactly where this is going. We will not compromise on what we’ve agreed.”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Those are two brilliant statements—both correct. First of all, only an idiot wouldn’t consider everything, or as the British say, “Only a fool tests the water with both feet.” The second thing is, we know what our policy was and what we agreed on, and we are working our way through the fulfilment of it, and you will know in a few months’ time.
Hon Paula Bennett: Funny. Is it her usual practice to say one thing to a group like Greenpeace and then backtrack a few hours later when she’s in a post-Cabinet press conference?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What is the normal practice for the Prime Minister—and invariably so—is to know what words mean and to be very careful about them. Nothing she said in front of Greenpeace or later is contradictory if interpreted the way it was said—honestly and carefully and not maliciously. Then the member will see, and so will her colleagues and those shouting fools at the back, who are down the back because they are useless—had every chance of being promoted but they’re back there, never going any further. In fact, the back is no longer back; it’s gone. Could I just say, the Prime Minister very carefully chose her words and she has been very accurate and correct about them.
Hon Paula Bennett: So, if the Prime Minister chooses her words so carefully, which statement then best reflects her Government’s position on the Air New Zealand board: is it Shane Jones’ statement calling for the sacking of the chair, her statement that Shane Jones shouldn’t have called for the sacking of the chair, Shane Jones’ later statement that he will not be muzzled, or Winston Peters, who said that Shane Jones was right?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say that the Prime Minister is correct in the sense that it is for one member of Cabinet in particular, surrounded by his 19 very wise colleagues to make this decision. In that sense, the Prime Minister is utterly correct. But as for criticising or questioning a State-owned Enterprise, or a company of that nature, that is entirely proper. In the same way, I’m certain that the Blues rugby supporters in Auckland are questioning his chairmanship of the Blues board after three years of dismal failure, celebrated by all the rest of the provinces, but not Aucklanders. And last of all, this is a very difficult refuge for me to take—it is the Dominion Post editorial today saying Jones has again inspired worthy debate. And debate inspires and invigorates a robust democracy. So, in that sense, I agree with all three comments.
Hon Paula Bennett: That’s great. Does she stand by her statement made on Morning Report that she is committed to a 100,000 reduction in the number of children living in poverty under the 50 percent of median income measure by 2020?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I could say that—I didn’t hear the Prime Minister’s comments this morning, but I would think that what she was accurately setting out was the Government’s plan, because it is most ambitious one and one that already is achieving enormous results. Not like, for example, the statement which disputed the number of a target for child poverty, which is what John Key did when he was in her portfolio as Minister.
Hon Paula Bennett: Which statement is correct: her Deputy’s statement that there is no evidence Russia was involved in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, or her statement correcting him less than a week later?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, that is false as to the correction. The reality right now is there is full-scale inquiry going on in Holland as to the perpetrator of that missile being triggered off. That’s a fact.
Hon Member: They’ve tabled the report.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We’re not going to listen to amateur backbenchers of the National Party making up the law as they go along. If we are not right about that, why is there a full-scale inquiry being conducted in Holland as we speak on that matter?
Hon Paula Bennett: Why was her statement on the Salisbury attacks changed on the Beehive website, or is this just another secret document that was shortened by changing the font?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I believe that a staff member made a mistake and corrected it.
Hon Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, look, members can jeer and scoff, but honesty is our main feature. I went to find out whether there was any truth in that matter, and that’s what the Prime Minister told me, and I believe her. But it got as far as Theresa May, the Prime Minister in the UK, who contacted us to thank us profusely for it.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What does the Treasury’s 2018 Investment Statement show about the state of the Government’s balance sheet?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The 2018 Investment Statement shows that, as at 30 June 2017, the Government owned $314 billion worth of assets and owed $197 billion worth of liabilities, resulting in a net worth of $117 billion. As part of producing the Investment Statement, Treasury conducted three stress tests to show how the Government would be able to handle major adverse shocks, including a major Wellington earthquake, a widespread agricultural disease outbreak, or an international economic downturn. The results show that the Government’s balance sheet has some resilience to meet these shocks, given a commitment to careful management of the Government’s finances and net debt position.
Dr Deborah Russell: What does the Investment Statement show about the condition of the Government’s assets?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, unfortunately, the statement does not paint such a rosy picture in this regard. The statement shows that 38.6 percent of assets in the social portfolio, including schools and hospitals, have aged to a point where they are adversely impacting the ability of the Government to provide public services. Approximately 40 percent of the assets in the social housing portfolio are more than 50 years old, district health boards are reporting that 19 percent of their assets are either in poor or very poor condition, and 38 percent of school buildings are at least 50 years old. This is not good enough. This Government has inherited an infrastructure deficit, and we will do something to address that, to make sure that New Zealanders’ investments are working for everybody.
Dr Deborah Russell: How will Investment Statements evolve in the future?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The future Investment Statements will incorporate a more holistic view of the Government’s investments, as Treasury continues to develop and apply its living standards framework. I am pleased to see, in the 2018 statement, that Treasury has focused on how people value natural capital and environmental quality. Future Investment Statements will outline approaches that account for the value of New Zealand’s social and human capital as well. I look forward to seeing this work progress as we move towards having a Government that puts the well-being and living standards of all New Zealanders at the heart of everything that we do.
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: How much capital expenditure is this Government forecast to spend in the period 2018-2022 compared to the previous Government over these same years, and how much of the difference is funded by an increase in debt?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): According to the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU), this Government is forecast to invest $41.7 billion through net capital spending over the next five years. On the basis of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU), the previous Government’s final five-year plan forecast $30.5 billion of net capital spending to June 2021. The previous Government’s published forecasts do not go out to 2022.
In answer to the second part of the question, Governments have always handled capital and operating spending through a mixture of revenue and debt, and there is no breakdown of which type is used for the various operating and capital projects that we are investing in.
Hon Amy Adams: Do we take it from the Minister’s answer to the primary question that he is unaware that the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 2017, in the Fiscal Strategy Model, does show the previous Government’s planned capital spending over the period 2018 to 2022; and, in fact, that the value of that spending over the same period used by the Minister is in fact $33 billion?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I refer the member to page 34 of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU), entitled “Core Crown Capital Spending”, which shows a table that goes from 2017 to 2021, a five-year period representing $30.5 billion.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister a very straight question which referred to the PREFU Fiscal Strategy Model. Quoting some other part of the PREFU doesn’t answer that question. It was a very specific question about a very specific part of the PREFU—whether or not he was aware of it. Simply referring to something else entirely doesn’t address that.
Mr SPEAKER: If it was a primary question, I would have insisted that the Minister answer it, but when members bring relatively detailed areas from quite a general question, I don’t think there is an expectation that Ministers know every chart of a previous Government’s document.
Hon Amy Adams: In his answer to question No. 3 in the House on Tuesday, when he claimed that the previous National Government was spending $30.5 billion in capital over the next five years, why did he deliberately use different time periods to compare the spending intentions of the previous and current Governments given that this information was available to him in the PREFU 2017?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I did was compare this Government’s five-year plan to the last Government’s five-year plan. In the period for which we are responsible, we’re going to be investing the best part of $42 billion. You know, the member can find another table in the PREFU that might say $33 billion rather than $30 billion. What that makes clear is this Government is investing significantly more, whichever number she uses.
Hon Amy Adams: Are the specific financial years he used to compare the previous Government spending and the current Government spending the same?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I just answered that in the last question. I used the five years that we are responsible for and the five years that the previous Government were responsible for. I’m surprised the member thinks that this is the big hit of her first week as Opposition spokesperson.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Amy Adams: Given that on a direct comparison of time periods, the number the Minister gave to this House on Tuesday was out by more than $2.8 billion, why should New Zealand have any confidence in him as the Minister of Finance?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: New Zealanders will have confidence in me as the Minister of Finance, and in this Government, because we are going to make the investments in our hospitals and schools to make sure that they are not run down and aged, and that previous Government should take a look at itself in the mirror and ask itself: why did those things happen? Because they failed to invest in the capital needs of New Zealand.
Hon Amy Adams: Why does he keep claiming he is simply paying down debt more slowly when he is in fact increasing New Zealand’s debt by $10 billion in just three years, from $59 billion last year to $69 billion by 2020?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I am claiming is that we will reduce net debt as a percentage of GDP to 20 percent within five years of taking office, the same measure that the previous Government used; the measure of percentage of GDP. The previous Government never used the cash measure. What we are saying is, yes, there may be a little more borrowing in the short term so we build some houses and actually repair our schools and hospitals.
Question No. 4—Economic Development
4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does this Government have a broad economic development strategy; if so, what is it?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Economic Development): Yes, and I thank the member for the patsy question. The new Government wants equality of opportunity and more equal outcomes, no matter your circumstance at birth or where you live. We aim to diversify our export base and move from volume to value. We want to change the investment signal so more capital goes towards the productive economy rather than unproductive speculation. This is in contrast to the Opposition’s growth model of weak per capita growth, housing speculation, poorly targeted immigration, and a fake surplus achieved by not paying the bills for infrastructure or maintenance, leaving our cities clogged and our regions hollowed out. The productive economy under the last—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I think that’s probably more than enough, actually.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why doesn’t creating the conditions for continued private sector investment feature in his strategy, given that that investment ultimately drives development?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’ve now got a problem because I stopped the Minister part-way through his strategy. I’ll let the Minister answer it, but I now apologise because I didn’t realise where the member was going.
Hon DAVID PARKER: We’re not. Indeed, we’re going to fix that problem in New Zealand because under the past Government the productive economy was languishing. Exports dropped from 30 percent to 27 percent of GDP after nine years of the last Government aiming to lift them to 40 percent of GDP. Like the member for Northcote, New Zealanders have said goodbye to this mess. Under this Government we’re going to be more prosperous and a fairer country.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister accept that business confidence levels have an impact on private sector investment?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, the trend does. The latest ANZ business survey shows business confidence on the rise. The other point I would make is that I was at a recent presentation by one of the most senior bank economists who showed that business confidence surveys have a selection bias because the respondents predominantly lean towards National. New Zealand’s economic growth, which is the best indicator of economic performance, has on average been higher under Labour than under National Governments—an average that goes back all the way to World War II.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he believe that personal attacks on business leaders, such as we’ve seen from his colleague Mr Jones, will help arrest falling business confidence levels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The editorial that the Deputy Prime Minister referred to answers that question as to whether that’s appropriate, but I would further note that I’ve seen reports from another MP last week describing Air New Zealand’s decisions as shocking, short-sighted, hypocritical, and saying the company is guilty of deception. That MP was his front-bench mate, the Hon Nathan Guy.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister think ceasing all oil and gas exploration would help New Zealand’s economic development?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The last block offer resulted in one successful bid. Decisions on future block offers have not yet been taken, but it’s clear that even if they were to slow down or stop, the previously opened block offers remain open for development and, as the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change said yesterday, that transition takes decades. He should listen to his own leader, who says that we need that transition to start.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister think the Government’s proposed overseas investment rules will increase foreign investment in New Zealand and thereby help New Zealand’s economic development?
Hon DAVID PARKER: They will ensure that New Zealand homes and farms are owned by New Zealanders, so that we are not tenants in our own country. In respect of other areas of non-housing non-farm expenditure, announcements will be coming next week which will show that we will be facilitating further foreign direct investment in the forest industry. Growth rates under this Government, like under prior Labour-led Governments, this time in coalition with New Zealand First with the support of the Greens—we will beat the record of our predecessors.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister think uncertainty about whether the Government intends to implement campaign promises on reducing immigration is helping to increase investment in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID PARKER: One of the criticisms that the incoming Government has made of the last Government is that they had a model of growth that was built on greater population, rather than greater productivity. New Zealand has an appalling rate of productivity growth. That is caused by misallocation of capital, including into speculative asset classes rather than growing the points of comparative advantage we need. Where we need immigration, we will have it. It will be targeted, but we won’t have the low rates of per capita growth that the member seemed to be satisfied with when last in Government.
Question No.1 to Minister
SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki): Thank you, Mr Speaker. In an answer to question one, the Minister speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister talked about MH17 and Russia, talked about Holland and a report. So I’d seek the leave of the House to table two reports—final reports—from the Government of Holland: a technical report on the downing of MH17 on 13 October 2015 and a criminal report on 20 September 2016.
Mr SPEAKER: Source?
SIMON O’CONNOR: They’re on the internet and available, but I thought it would be useful for the member to have read them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member knows that he cannot table those documents and, because of the long precedent, he is trifling with the Chair and that results in the loss of two questions to the National Party.
Hon Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And they just got them back as a result of the commentary from the right.
Question No. 5—Earthquake Commission
5. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission: What announcements has the Government made about changes to how the Earthquake Commission operates?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission): This week, I announced that Cabinet has approved a range of changes to the Earthquake Commission (EQC), which will improve how the Act functions and enable the scheme to work more effectively for claimants in future natural disasters. The changes are increasing the cap limit on EQC’s residential building cover to $150,000 plus GST, enabling EQC to accept claim notifications for up to two years after a natural disaster rather than the current three-month time limit for such notifications, removing EQC insurance cover for contents, and clarifying EQC’s authority to share information to support the implementation of the EQC Act and settlement of insurance claims where it is in the public interest and safety. This, of course, was a recommendation of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission.
Dr Duncan Webb: What will the impact of these changes be?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: These changes simplify and speed up the claims process and resolve issues with the EQC Act that have been previously identified by the Ombudsman and the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission. They will mean EQC is better placed to resolve claims in the event of future disasters.
Dr Duncan Webb: Why are these changes being made now and not following the Government’s already-indicated independent inquiry into EQC?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: These are widely agreed and common-sense changes that have been discussed with EQC, private insurers, and Government officials. I’ve chosen to bring these forward so that if the worst did happen and we had a major event before the conclusion of the inquiry, and changes can be made following that, we would have made these immediate changes which we know will make a difference. There are the more complex and substantial issues that are appropriate for the independent inquiry to look at, and it is my intention that changes following that inquiry will be made in the future.
Question No. 6—Corrections
6. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his statement on the Marae programme that “the problem right now is that corrections doesn’t have any flexibility…we’re in a real bind”?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): Yes, in the context that statement was made.
Hon David Bennett: Why is the Government not making a decision regarding Waikeria Prison, when there are approximately only 300 Department of Corrections beds left in the system and this presents a risk to public safety?
Hon Grant Robertson: Whose fault might that be, David?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I probably need to paraphrase the words of my colleague right next to me: the reason we are in this bind is because of the mismanagement of the previous Government not only in corrections, in justice, but also the social policies.
Hon Members: Do your job!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will do my job quite soon and it will involve substantial punishment for about five members.
Hon David Bennett: When the Minister said in the Marae interview, “Corrections cannot turn people away. The courts say, ‘Hey, you have to go to prison.’, then you have to go to prison.”, who does the Minister think should not be in prison?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The statement that I made was entirely correct, because corrections does not have any flexibility to turn people away. So, exactly as I said, if someone is sent to prison, then corrections is not able to turn them away. So we’re looking at a range of options to reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years, in contrast to that previous Government’s policy to build more beds and bars in prisons.
Hon David Bennett: Who would the Minister want to turn away?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Anybody who is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison has to be there. It is the corrections’ job to actually accommodate them. So those people need to be there because the courts have said so. I don’t want to turn anyone away that needs to be there, but we’re in a situation that has been created by the poor policies of the previous Government.
Hon David Bennett: What’s more important to the Minister: deciding who should be in the prison system or keeping the public safe from those who have been sentenced to prison?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Not only do I want the public to be safe, I want the public to feel safe.
Question No. 7—Environment
7. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: Does she agree with the statements in the Annual Report of the Environmental Protection Authority, “we have our share of science deniers, who oppose fluoride, 1080, vaccinations, glyphosate, genetic modification, and much more” and “our Chief Scientist is prominent in emphasising the evidence, data, and science that underpins EPA decision making”; if so, why?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Associate Minister for the Environment): Yes, I agree with the first statement by the chair of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board, Kerry Prendergast, when she indicated that New Zealand was not immune to scepticism about science. I also agree that the chief scientist for the EPA has a role in highlighting the science which informs the EPA’s decisions.
Hon Scott Simpson: Did the Minister have any discussions with the EPA chief executive specifically about the EPA chief scientist?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I advised the EPA chief executive that my office had received correspondence expressing some concerns about media comments by the chief scientist. I was told that the matter was in hand. There was no substantive discussion.
Hon Scott Simpson: Yesterday, in a report on Radio New Zealand, the Minister confirmed that she had met with the EPA chief executive. Does she expect the House now to accept that no meeting took place?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That was raised in a normal status meeting.
Hon Scott Simpson: Has the Minister had any discussions with the chief executive in terms of the scientific independence of the organisation and its role in how it expresses its view?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: It is important that the public has confidence in the EPA as an organisation which uses robust science in its decisions. It would not be appropriate for me, as Minister, to have any discussions with the chief executive about an employee of the authority. I did not do that.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does she agree with the statement made last August that the EPA are incompetent chemical cowboys by her then Green Party colleague Steffan Browning?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The problem has been that the EPA was not resourced by the last Government to do all of the investigations that it needs to do.
Hon Scott Simpson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m not sure that the Minister even attempted to address that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, she certainly—well, I don’t know if she attempted to, but she did.
Question No. 8—Regional Economic Development
JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Regional Economic Development and asks: what recent announcements has he made pertaining to the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It’s obvious to everybody in the House—and I know I’m breaching the Standing Orders by doing this—but the Minister for Regional Economic Development is not in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: He’s gone to catch a plane, has he?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I would seek leave of the House for this question to be delayed until such a time as Mr Jones is in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Right? No, it’s been denied. The Rt Hon Winston Peters, on behalf of Hon Shane Jones.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Could I hear the question again, please?
8. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made pertaining to the Provincial Growth Fund?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The most recent announcements were threefold. They were to do with the Bay of Islands airport and the building expansion, well into the future to take the—
Hon Paula Bennett: We want Shane.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I know you want Shane, but you only get me. [Interruption] Don’t worry—I’ll blow on you. The second was the Paihia wharf extension and also the Russell wharf extension and the Ōpua wharf expansion as well. These are four critical infrastructural measures that did have the overwhelming support and gratitude of former National Party members John Carter, Mayor, and Murray McCully.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he announced in an interview with the National Business Review yesterday that Air New Zealand should work, quote, “more professionally and constructively with small airline firms”, did he think of the irony of his words?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no link to the original question in that.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The original question was what announcements had he made, and I—
Mr SPEAKER: Regional growth—provincial growth fund.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Yeah, and I’m asking—
Mr SPEAKER: And the member made no link to that whatsoever. Is the member going to dispute me now and lose some supplementary or not?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Certainly not, Mr Speaker.
Question No. 9—Justice
9. SIMEON BROWN (National—Pakuranga) to the Minister of Justice: Should maximum legislated sentences reflect the seriousness of the crime committed?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Acting Minister): On behalf of the Minister of Justice, yes.
Simeon Brown: Why should the illegal supply of synthetic psychoactive substances carry shorter maximum sentences than the supply of cannabis?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Justice, the evidence is clear: locking up more people who are suffering from addictions does not fix drug addiction, and it does not fix mental health issues. This Government will increasingly treat drug and addiction issues as health issues, not justice issues. That’s why we are prioritising and investing $8 billion over four years in health and are making mental health and addiction a priority.
Simeon Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was: why should the illegal supply of synthetics psychoactive substances carry shorter maximum sentences? I don’t believe the Minister addressed that.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the Minister certainly addressed it. I’m not actually sure, in the end, that the Minister is responsible for that. But the Minister, in her answer, addressed that question substantially.
Simeon Brown: How does he support the current sentences for those who sell synthetic drugs despite the targeting of poor and homeless by such dealers?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I’m answering on behalf of the Minister of Justice. As I said in my answer to the previous question, the evidence is very clear about how we are going to fundamentally address this problem and bring about the change that is needed. This is a Government that will increasingly treat these issues as health issues and not justice issues.
Simeon Brown: Does he agree that the current supply of synthetic drugs poses an intolerable risk to the vulnerable in our society, which should be reflected in the sentences?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In answer to the first part of this question—do I agree that the availability of synthetic drugs to people poses a risk?—yes. Do I think that needs to be reflected in the sentences? I have addressed that in my previous answers. We actually want to get to the root of addiction issues and treat this as a health not a justice issue, increasingly.
Simeon Brown: Does he agree that it is common sense to target the suppliers and dealers holding them to account, as so eloquently stated in the House last night by Darroch Ball MP?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: What we want to do is make sure that we actually address these issues in a way that works. The previous Government’s so called “war on drugs” clearly did not work. We want to invest in ways that will make a meaningful difference.
Question No. 10—Greater Christchurch Regeneration
10. Hon NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration: Does she stand by all her answers to written questions?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration): Yes.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Does the Minister stand by her answer to written question No. 3542 when she said, “The timing and availability of the $300 million capital acceleration facility is subject to Budget 2018 decisions.”?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Does the Minister agree with Jacinda Ardern when she promised, in a statement on 27 August 2017, that this fund would be available and would be “providing certainty for investment and choice for where Christchurch wants to invest”; if so, why is the Minister now uncertain about whether this funding will even be available?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: There are no inconsistencies in those statements. Clearly, the previous Government did not prioritise the spending on Canterbury and certainly did not leave us $300 million spare in funding that we could just reprioritise in Canterbury. The Prime Minister was outlining a policy. It is obviously going to be the subject of a Budget bid.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Can the Minister provide certainty to the House and, more importantly, to the Christchurch City Council that this funding will be in the Budget, as Ms Ardern said—”Labour is putting $300 million on the table, ready to be accessed for projects”—so that this funding can be included in the council’s long-term plan currently being drafted?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: There is a Budget process. I would have thought the member asking the question, herself being a former Minister, would have her head around that detail.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think the Minister has answered it enough. She’s heading in the wrong direction.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Can the Minister clarify for the House that she is now saying that they are not, as Ms Ardern promised, “putting $300 million on the table, ready to be accessed”?
Mr SPEAKER: And that one is ruled out because it’s not a matter of ministerial responsibility. There is no responsibility for a promise made by a party before the election. Previously, the member managed to just get them in.
Question No. 11—Environment
11. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: What does he think New Zealanders have to celebrate on World Water Day?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): World Water Day is a time to celebrate the efforts of the many thousands of New Zealanders taking action to improve water quality and to restore our streams, lakes, and estuaries. I was glad to join the students and staff of Koraunui School today, and I congratulate Liz, Dave, and Di on their excellent efforts over the past five years to improve the state of Stokes Valley Stream. It reminded me that the most important river or stream to most of us is the one that we live the closest to and which we and our communities use.
Angie Warren-Clark: What does Auckland have to celebrate on World Water Day?
Hon DAVID PARKER: In response to public pressure, and showing great leadership, Auckland Council intends to bring forward $856 million of investment over the next 10 years to reduce storm weather overflows into the sewerage system. This is expected to reduce sewage flows to city beaches by between 80 and 90 percent, and I congratulate Auckland City. This coalition Government believes that in summer, New Zealanders should be able to put their heads under the water at their local swimming spot without getting crook, and this is an important step in that direction.
Angie Warren-Clark: What do the regions have to celebrate on World Water Day?
Hon DAVID PARKER: In many of the regions, the greater challenge is rivers in rural areas. We’re working with stakeholders like environmental NGOs, farm groups, and the Land and Water Forum on key issues, including nutrient load allocation, how landowners in a catchment can best share responsibility for reducing nutrient discharges within environmental limits, how to manage sediment, and what can be done to prevent further damage to our estuaries. The many voluntary actions in partnerships in cities and regions also make a difference, and now that New Zealanders have a coalition Government that supports their actions, we can make significance progress in improving water quality.
Question No. 12—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she stand by all her Government’s policies and actions in the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media portfolio?
Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Yes.
Melissa Lee: In the portfolio, how many advisory groups, working groups, committees, or advisory groups to investigate the establishment of more working groups has she set up?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: Golly, that’s a good question from somebody who has achieved nothing in the last nine years she was in Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, she’s just achieved another two supplementary questions. Address the question.
Hon CLARE CURRAN: A ministerial advisory group in broadcasting and a digital advisory group in communications and digital services.
Nuk Korako: Why are there no Māori on her public media advisory funding group?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: This Government is focused, unlike the previous Government, on how we can do better things for Māori right across the broadcasting sector. Myself and the Minister for Māori broadcasting are working closely together—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon CLARE CURRAN: —on ensuring that we will deliver diversity, unlike the previous Government, which froze funding to the whole media sector, including Māori Television, for nine years, compromised its editorial independence, and forced out a lot of quality journalists from that organisation.
Nuk Korako: Which Māori or Māori organisations did the Minister consult with about her public media funding advisory group?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: The ministerial advisory group is currently undertaking consultation right across the sector. It has already met with at least two, possibly three, Māori media organisations.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now address the question that was asked.
Hon CLARE CURRAN: A range of organisations were consulted with around the preparation for that ministerial advisory group.
Nuk Korako: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was clear, I believe. I asked which Māori or Māori organisations the Minister consulted. The question, I believe, hasn’t been answered.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it certainly hasn’t been answered. I’m trying to decide whether it’s been addressed, and I’m going to ask the member, without penalty, to ask it again.
Nuk Korako: Which Māori or Māori organisations did the Minister consult with about her public media funding advisory group?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: First of all, it’s a ministerial advisory group and it’s a temporary interim organisation. A range of organisations were consulted with. I don’t have the details of that. I’m happy to provide information to the member if he puts it in writing.
Nuk Korako: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: As long as the member’s not having another go at the same one, because it has been addressed now.
Nuk Korako: Supplementary: did the Minister consult with her Māori caucus members on the make-up of the public media funding advisory group members prior to announcing the membership of that group?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: Yes.
Jami-Lee Ross: When she made her statements on Tuesday defending the inquiries and investigations that were highlighted by the media, including those in her own portfolio, did she actually mean the Government had depth and breadth, or were they just lacking their own ideas? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: As long as the question’s not disorderly, can the member repeat it, because I think a number of us—[Interruption] Well, if it was disorderly, he better not, but if it was in order he might want to repeat it.
Jami-Lee Ross: When the Minister made her statements on Tuesday night, at about 11.30 p.m., defending the Government’s record on the number of inquiries and groups set up, including those in her portfolio, did she actually mean that the Government was showing depth and breadth or that they just didn’t have their own ideas?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: This Government has shown more depth and breadth in the short time that it has been in Government than that party showed for the whole nine years that it was in Government.
Jami-Lee Ross: How often should the House expect the Minister to be making statements in her portfolio on Twitter at 11.37 p.m. at night?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, actually, she has no responsibility for what the House should expect.

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