[Sitting date: 23 August 2012. Volume:683;Page:4707. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te
Atatū) to the
Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he have confidence in the board of KiwiRail?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House)
on behalf of the
Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Yes.
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that from 2014 onwards the rail asset will decline and disruption risk will grow, that when spending gets back to current levels it will take many years to pull back from the decline, that virtually all rail routes will run down in some way, and that by 2015 KiwiRail will be doing 50 percent less track renewal work; if so, how can he still have confidence in the board?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not know where the member got those statistics from. What I would urge him to do is to identify where he got them from and whom he got them from. What I suspect is that this is an internal document in which KiwiRail has scoped risks to its network and made it clear that it needed to make investment in its network. So, if I might say, rather than those things happening, we expect over the next few years $750 million to be invested in upgrading the network, and that will include up to $80 million a year in maintenance. That is quite a different picture from the one the member is trying to paint.
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that the amount to be spent on timber bridges will be cut substantially, projects on the main trunk line will be cancelled or deferred, the overall condition of railway sleepers will decline, and KiwiRail will have to accept a higher level of unplanned disruptions such as slips and erosion?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, once again, the member is trying to speak as if he has some document that he can authoritatively quote from without giving any context of it. My answer is that, no, it has not advised me of that.
Phil Twyford: Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that the coal routes between Lyttelton and the West Coast and the route known as the golden triangle of forestry, which runs between Hamilton, Murupara, and Kawerau, have been coded by KiwiRail as TM4, which means their track metrics are unacceptable and pose a safety risk and are prejudicial to the customer base; if so, how can he still have confidence in the board?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I assume that the member is indicating that KiwiRail has itself identified a number of risks to the network that will require investment. I can confirm that in 2012 the capital investment is $216 million, in 2013 it will be $163 million, in 2014 it will be $133 million, in 2015 it will be $174 million, and in 2016 it will be $175 million. In 2005, when his Government bought the thing, it spent $53 million.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The supplementary question contained two questions. The first one was whether the Minister had been advised and the second one was, if so, how he still has confidence in KiwiRail. It would be helpful if either of those questions were answered and if the Minister could indicate to the House whether he had been advised of these matters. It would appear from his answer he had not, but it would be helpful to know, or whether he still has confidence in the board, because those were the two questions asked. I call the Hon Gerry Brownlee—because the Minister did not answer—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I was unaware that you were asking questions, Mr Speaker, but the answer simply is that I have confidence in the board of KiwiRail because it identifies risks to the network and then comes along with a capital programme that would be needed to mitigate those risks. That is a good thing.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought one of the rules, when electronic devices were allowed in here, was that answers from Ministers were not to be supplied by way of them, the way that one was through Mr Joyce’s device then.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. How members use their electronic devices, so long as they do not interfere in the proceedings of the House, is up to them.
Andrew Williams: Given the numerous instances of rail track defects and neglect, will he immediately review the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan and direct the KiwiRail board to stop the planned redundancies of around 200 maintenance staff; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, one of the ways in which you can measure the quality and condition of a rail track is by looking at the incidence of derailment. Derailment may be just one wheel or it may be a whole train. In New Zealand seldom is it a whole train. But what I can report to the House is that the incidence of derailment in the last couple of years has fallen dramatically—fallen dramatically—because track maintenance has been a priority for KiwiRail since it took over the very distressed asset, paid for at a record amount. In fact, it was paid for at what you would say was a bonanza price for the then owners by the New Zealand First - Labour Government.
Clare Curran: Does he agree with the statement—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that there was never any New Zealand First - Labour Government, so why was he allowed to say so?
Mr SPEAKER: I really think that if the Speaker was to interfere in every one of those little comments, it would be too much interference. I think the matter should be allowed to pass.
Clare Curran: Does he agree with the statement of the Associate Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, on 14 August that “The Turnaround Plan that KiwiRail is instituting is about business sustainability and putting precious funds to their best possible uses, but in no way, shape, or form is this compromising safety.”; if so, has he been informed by the KiwiRail board of an engineer losing his sight from flying shards when tightening a nut while repairing one of the faulty China North Rail locomotives?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I do agree with the comments made by the Hon Simon Bridges.
Clare Curran: I seek leave to table an email informing me of this incident where the engineer lost his sight.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Clare Curran: Has he been informed by the chair of the board of KiwiRail of the appointment of Leon Bennett, the former private secretary for Wayne Mapp, who is not a chartered professional engineer, to the most senior mechanical engineering position in KiwiRail; if so, what action did he take when he was informed?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. That is an operational matter, and Ministers do not interfere in those operational matters.
Phil Twyford: Will he ask the chair of the board to tell KiwiRail management to call off the cuts to network maintenance because of the risk they pose to the organisation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Once again, the member is presuming to speak from an authoritative document that he has not named and that he has not tabled, and that therefore has, I think, very little authority. What I can say is that the chairman of KiwiRail has been overseeing a Turnaround Plan that will see KiwiRail invest $750 million over the next few years in the network. That is a good thing.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was direct and quite simple, and I do not believe that the Minister even addressed the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the member to repeat his question, because when I repeated the question for the member last time, I was accused of asking questions on behalf of members. So the member may repeat his question.
Phil Twyford: Your assistance is always appreciated. Will he ask the chair of the board to tell KiwiRail management to call off the cuts to network maintenance because of the risk they pose to the organisation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, I do not accept the hypothetical behind the question.
Phil Twyford: Will he acknowledge not only that KiwiRail cannot meet the financial targets of the Turnaround Plan, as the Minister did in this House last week, but also that the Turnaround Plan is unrealistic and is driving KiwiRail to make decisions like sacking 181 workers and deferring $200 million of network maintenance?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Once again, a supposition is put to the House as if it is authoritative. It is not. What I can say is that KiwiRail is doing its very best to effect the Turnaround Plan. It will put $750 million into the network in the next few years. That will make the operation safer. All the member is doing is pointing out to the whole world what a huge dog this thing was when his Government bought it.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Phil Twyford—[Interruption] Order! I want to hear Phil
Twyford’s supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! That is sufficient. I want to hear Phil
Twyford’s supplementary question.
Phil Twyford: Is he satisfied that the board of KiwiRail acted appropriately in trying to cover up information on the cuts to network maintenance by taking out an injunction against the news media publishing the contents of this report?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, absolutely, because the media outlet that wanted to publish an opinion about that document was going to do so in a most irresponsible way.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table the infrastructure and engineering business plan 2013-15 of KiwiRail.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can object.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, Mr Speaker, you cannot ask the House to grant leave to circumvent a court injunction.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon—I beg your pardon. Let me seek advice on this.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to make it absolutely clear, my understanding is that there is not a general injunction against the publication of this document. It applies to only one radio station. It does not apply to me and it does not apply to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: The interesting point that is being made was the last point—that such an injunction probably does not apply to this House. But members, in deciding whether or not they will grant leave for the document to be tabled, may well bear in mind the issue that there are injunctions around the document, or court orders around the document. That is a matter that members may well consider in deciding whether or not to grant leave for it to be tabled. But it is my feeling that it would be inappropriate for me to refuse the House the opportunity to decide whether or not it wishes to grant leave for the document. So I will put it to the House. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the invitation of the Leader of the House, the acting Minister for State Owned Enterprises, to provide documentation that backed up my colleague’s questions, I seek leave to table the executive summary and outcomes section of the infrastructure and engineering business plan.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table just the executive summary and outcomes from the report as a document. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! Any member of the House has the right to refuse leave for a document to be tabled.