Part 1 Utilities access
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: I ask you to indulge me, Mr Chairman, just briefly, to say how nice it is to see the Hon Tau Henare in the Chamber this evening as part of the Committee. If I link it back to the Infrastructure Bill, I know he has had some changes to his own infrastructure lately, and I know he has 21st century equipment now in that respect. It is quite genuinely good to see him. On this side of the Chamber we will be ensuring his continued recovery by encouraging him not to interject quite as thoroughly and aggressively as he normally does. We will be doing that out of aroha for him, not out of any sense of trying to shut him down politically. I was concerned at various parts of his recovery when I felt that some of his Facebook status updates were getting a little too edgy politically, and I thought he should be focused on his recovery. But it is great to see him here, looking so well, so we extend that to Mr Henare tonight.
We are debating the Infrastructure Bill 2 years after the election of the National-led Government. This is a Government that came into office saying that it was determined to lead a “step change” in the New Zealand economy, and that it was determined to, in fact, “turbocharge” the New Zealand economy, and infrastructure would be one of the ways in which it sought to do that.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: That’s right. We’re doing that.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Mrs te Heuheu says that is absolutely what the Government was trying to do, but the only thing she has been able to turbocharge is the Pacific Economic Development Agency. She sure built up its infrastructure until things got a little bit difficult for her in that particular respect.
This bill has been languishing on the Order Paper. Once it is split through Supplementary Order Paper 152 later this evening, Part 1 will form the new Utilities Access Bill. The largest chunk of the Infrastructure Bill is here in Part 1. It troubles the Opposition considerably that what was meant to be a key part of the Government’s
economic programme has sat around for 2 years of this Government’s term with absolutely nothing happening about it.
The new infrastructure portfolio was created for Minister English after the election as part, no doubt, of some sort of power struggle with the Hon Steven Joyce. Mr English insisted on an extra portfolio, and that is fair enough, as he has been burnt often enough in politics to know that it is important to cover one’s bases. When the Minister for Infrastructure speaks, maybe he could tell us why this portfolio was set up. He has had to introduce only one piece of legislation as a result of picking up this portfolio. This bill is it. Two years later we are stuck in the Committee stage on this bill.
We would be very interested to hear from the Minister to what extent this bill is a priority. We are debating it on a day in which the Government has backed down on what was in just February a centrepiece of its economic policy: mining of schedule 4 lands in precious conservation areas of New Zealand. That policy was so important that it was in the Prime Minister’s annual statement to Parliament, but today, of course, it has been completely abandoned halfway through the year the statement was meant to apply to. We would like to know just how critical this is seen to be. It appears to me that that back-down was a political back-down, and not a back-down of principle or a change of decision or philosophy by the Government. I believe that it still believes those areas should be mined, but it has backed away from it on the basis of its political imperatives and the changing political environment. There does not appear to be a lot left to hang the turbocharging of the economy on. The Infrastructure Bill is stuck well into the second year of the Government’s term, and the mining proposal has been mined in the opposite direction.
To the Minister’s great credit, he always opposed the cycleway. The Minister for Infrastructure always knew the cycleway was a complete joke—he knows how to recognise such things—and he never lent any meaningful support to it. Of course, nothing in this bill covers the cycleway at all, but that should not come as a surprise to anyone.
As we open up the debate on the part by part consideration of this bill, we want to know from the Minister for Infrastructure just how important this bill is to the Government. In the 2 years it has been dithering on this bill, turning it into legislation, what significant items of infrastructure development in New Zealand have been stopped or stymied because this legislation was not present? If the Minister could tell us that, it would give us some sense of the urgency of this bill. Goodness knows, the House has been put into enough bouts of urgency since the election, but on not one occasion was the Infrastructure Bill part of those motions. That is despite, I have to say, the Labour Opposition offering to facilitate that bill through its stages in urgency.
We support this bill, with the exception of Part 4, which my colleague Moana Mackey will go through when we get to it. For Parts 1, 2, and 3 there is bipartisan support for this bill because we can see what some of the issues have been with inefficiencies and uncertainties. So we are interested to hear from the Minister why the bill has taken so long to get to this point.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: Twenty-nine smoke-free days ago there was a clog in the system. Like any infrastructure one has to get in there, put in a stent, and unclog the arteries. This is what the Infrastructure Bill does. I could not believe my luck when I looked at the notes, and I looked at the bill more seriously than I have for a long time. I saw that it was about unclogging the arteries of what can only be considered an appalling state of affairs. We have a country that wants to get ahead, just like anybody would want to get ahead. It wants to show off and it wants to go out at a rate of knots that will take this country further and faster than it has ever gone before, but it cannot because of the build-up of plaque and the build-up of a clogged system.
I consider this bill to be the economic stent taking the red corpuscles to the tissues of the nation. It is taking the red corpuscles to the tissues of the nation.
Hon Darren Hughes: Spell it.
Hon TAU HENARE: T-i-s-s-u-e-s. There we are—“tissues”. It is great to be back. It is great to be back in the fold of those who want to see the arteries of our nation unclogged so that we can get ahead.
Hon Member: Welcome home.
Hon TAU HENARE: I thank that member very much.
Let us be serious. We are a small nation. I do not want to stand here and tell the nation what happened in the last 9 years of the Labour Government.
Chris Tremain: “But I will.”!
Hon TAU HENARE: No, I will not say: “But I will.” I will say that unless we have good infrastructure, unless we have a good system whereby people can get ahead—and that is from the smallest business, the one-man operation, to the 200, 300, or 400-person operation—and unless we allow those companies and businesses to succeed, we are not going anywhere. The net effect of having a poor infrastructure can only be a poor future for our children and our grandchildren.
I know it might be funny to use the analogy of my unfortunate experience 29 smoke-free days ago, but it is a serious matter. Unless we unclog those arteries, and unless we unclog the systems that are clogging up business and the airways, I think that we will be in trouble. It is just like me. If I had not had that stent put in to open up the artery, I would have been in some serious, serious trouble. The future would not have been bright for me, my children, or my grandchildren.
I see this matter, actually, as being above all else. We can talk about the foreshore and seabed and about all sorts of things, but, clearly, if we are to move this nation forward economically, then we have to have the tools with which we can do just that and can do justice to our kids and our grandchildren. Without further ado, I say that it is essential—it is essential—that our infrastructure is there and can cope with what will hopefully come in the future: better roads, better rail, better infrastructure, and better utilities for the whole of the nation.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I add my “welcome back” to Tau Henare. It is really good that he is back in the Chamber. We did not miss him a lot, but it is kind of nice that he is here. I have to say to my whanaunga that I was very, very disappointed. I saw his note on Facebook about the 90-day probationary period bill, and being congratulated by—what is his name? From the Hospitality Association—
Hon Darren Hughes: Bruce Robertson.
DARIEN FENTON: Bruce Robertson was saying congratulations to Tau and good on him. I put a little note on saying that I hoped to see him at the protest on Sunday, but I did not see him there; he was probably inside. This is the union organiser of the 1980s, the worst union organiser that we had ever known in the whole of the country. I am being generous here tonight, but I am genuine when I say that I am pleased to see Tau Henare back.
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee dealt with this bill. I am not going to praise the chair; he has had enough of that—look at him! The select committee that considered this bill took it seriously. I thought that the great speech from the Hon Tau Henare about the infrastructure future of our country was very interesting, but it was also timely, given the considerations and things that are happening right now.
I want to take us back to reality about what this bill does. The bill has been around for a long time, and it has been languishing. It went to the select committee in July or August 2009 and we heard from a whole range of people. This bill sets up a code. It
does not build a road or a railway; it does not build anything. It does not do anything. It sets up a code.
Hon Tau Henare: Unclogs the arteries.
DARIEN FENTON: No, it does not unclog the arteries. Well, it unclogs the arteries of the Utilities Advisory Group. This poor group set itself up years and years ago, under Labour. It has been working away on a code and hoping that the National-led Government would do something about putting it in place. It must be absolutely fed up with waiting. I congratulate the group on being so patient. Let us not get carried away about what this bill actually does. I am sure as we go on we will talk about many of the other things. I am really looking forward to talking in the Committee stage about many of our utilities. Going back to the Utilities Advisory Group, may I say that it is just well it did not have a 90-day trial period because it would have been fired some time ago.
I go back to the bill. Labour began the work on this bill. In 2006 we agreed on some policy objectives to reduce the costs and inefficiencies arising from the current statutory framework, including avoidable damage to roads and utility networks, delays and disputes, and inconsistencies between statutes and poor coordination. The work was done under Labour. This bill came together under Labour, under the wonderful Ministers we had in the previous Government. I regret, as, indeed, my colleagues do, that it has taken us so long to get to a point where we are not actually unclogging the arteries but perhaps releasing the potential of the Utilities Advisory Group, which, under this legislation, has the right to set up a code that the Minister can approve or disapprove. It is a voluntary code. They will then work together on it, and hopefully we will see some change.
Yes, let us unclog the arteries, by all means. Let us talk about what Labour did to unclog the arteries during its 9 years in Government. I am looking forward to talking about that, as well.
Hon Darren Hughes: 9 glorious years.
DARIEN FENTON: Labour had 9 glorious years in Government. I regret the fact that this has taken so long for this Government, having been through so many periods of urgency. We have seen the wonderful National Party conference that was held over the weekend. There were the wonderful announcements of a step change. The step change? Where is that? It is the stepladder—
Hon Darren Hughes: The plank.
DARIEN FENTON: It is the plank; that is what it is. It is stepping off the plank, into the sea. No one knows what the step change means, except that they see it as taking away workers’ rights and taking away their wages.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: I echo the thoughts of other members of the Committee in welcoming back Tau. It is good to see him; he made a great speech. The way that Tau outlined the analogy between his physical being and the need for the New Zealand economy to have its arteries unclogged so that it can achieve its full potential—and, in the case of Tau Henare, he can live his life—is something that this Committee should put great store by. We congratulate the Labour and National members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on their work on the Infrastructure Bill.
The Labour members are voting for this bill, apart from the last part, I presume. After listening to the previous speech one would not necessarily have picked that Labour members will actually vote for the bill. I thank the officials as well for their work at the select committee.
There are three basic things in the bill: a change to the access to corridors, which is in Parts 1 and 2; changes to the Railways Corporation, which are in Part 3; and some amendments relating to affordable housing in Part 4. We are on Part 1 now, which
relates to utility access to transport corridors. Essentially, for a layperson, that means that if we look at the links between our major cities throughout New Zealand, we see that they tend to be large infrastructure corridors. If we drive along the southern motorway going into Auckland, for example, we can see it is a wide road. There are power lines beside us. It is an infrastructure corridor; it covers a lot of infrastructure. Rail, power, and roading are normally all in very close proximity and follow a very similar line in the important infrastructure corridors of a country. We are trying to make sure that in future those infrastructure corridors are managed in a way that enables the best development of this country and that infrastructure going forward.
What can happen is that areas, companies, or infrastructure providers provide their own infrastructure, to the detriment of the provision of other infrastructure or, potentially, new infrastructure. The Government has made a commitment to the roll-out of broadband around New Zealand. That is a huge infrastructural connection that we need to make through New Zealand, so we want our core infrastructure—for example, around broadband—to be able to travel along those main arterial routes. We do not want that to necessarily be constrained by the existing infrastructure.
Basically, this bill enables the providers and those who are involved in the infrastructure to formulate codes of practice. Those codes of practice will then be taken to the Minister for approval. The Minister will approve them, subject to whatever the conditions are, and they will become regulations that guide conduct in those transport and infrastructure corridors. This is a very important role. It is safeguarding New Zealand’s future economic efficiency by providing those pathways where we can structure and transfer our major infrastructure, whether it is utilities such as electricity, or transport in the sense of roading, rail, and suchlike. That is the general concept of what is being achieved in this bill.
This has been lacking for a long time. As we look at growing a country and taking advantage of potential technology and investment, we need to secure our infrastructure. This bill rectifies an issue that had not been dealt with in the past, and that should have been dealt with. It also safeguards and provides for the future of New Zealand’s growth in infrastructure—those vital pathways. This is a forward-looking bill, just as much as it is a bill that deals with the case in point at the moment. That is why it is so crucial, and shows the Government’s long-term direction in wanting to build a stronger economy. We are providing the building blocks so that infrastructure can take advantage of structures that enable investment and delivery of key infrastructure to New Zealanders, so that we can grow our economy and achieve our purposes.
That is what this bill is about. That is why the Labour Party will support it. Labour members know it is in the best interests of New Zealand, and that is why this bill will pass through the Committee tonight.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: I too rise to speak on Part 1 of the Infrastructure Bill. But I want to make a few general comments first. Even though Tau Henare is no longer in the Chamber I would like to acknowledge him, as other members have done. It is good to see him back, and he made a very interesting analogy about the unclogging of arteries. Unfortunately, this bill will not unclog the arteries, as others have said. It is an important bill in so far as it goes, and it makes some very sensible suggestions to ensure that the people who provide utilities and those who control the transport corridors must cooperate. That is sensible, so Labour will be supporting this bill.
But infrastructure is about people, really. It is about providing services to people and those services getting to people, and it is about the movement of people on, for example, transport corridors. I think this is what we really need to focus on here. Certainly in many countries in the world infrastructure projects have been used in the current recession to the benefit of people, both in terms of investing a lot in extra
infrastructure and also providing jobs. Of course we have seen the National Government fail significantly in this area. It has shown a complete lack of leadership in the area of job creation. Unemployment in New Zealand is significantly higher than in many comparable countries, as a result of that. That issue too is about people. It means that people are struggling to make ends meet, and in many parts of New Zealand they do not have the opportunity to have a standard of living that we might think is fair and reasonable.
Going back to the bill, I point out that, as others have commented, this work was originally begun under the previous Labour Government and considered by Cabinet in 2007. I was on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, which considered this bill more recently under this Government, and it is fair to say it clearly has not been a priority for the Government. This bill, which will unclog arteries, as others have said, has clearly not been a Government priority, because it has been languishing on the Order Paper.
None the less I will talk specifically about the code provided for in Part 1. I note that it is probably a substantive part of the bill, and it ensures that both the transport corridor controllers and the utilities companies have to try to work together on the content of the code. The code has a process whereby others do get to comment on it, and ultimately it is approved by the Minister and gazetted. Quite a lot of changes were made by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee in relation to this part. I think they were all positive changes. Many of the submissions were quite technical, but they were also constructive in terms of trying to ensure that we did get this right. The officials also had to deal with quite complex matters in order to get this right. [Interruption] The chairperson of the select committee seems to be making funny gestures. I am not sure quite what that means.
Hon Darren Hughes: He’s about to join Mr Henare.
CAROL BEAUMONT: That is probably true. So this part of the bill provides a code that will, hopefully, ensure cooperation.
The code requires some changes. One change that I thought was particularly important was, as I said, coordinating the work between utilities operators. In many parts of New Zealand we as MPs—and I would say this applies across the Chamber—hear from constituents who are concerned about the lack of coordination. During the second reading of this bill I gave an example from Onehunga of some roadworks that impacted on water pipes and other services, and the complete lack of cooperation and coordination in that case.
In Auckland we have some significant infrastructure needs. We have a fast-growing population, and there are some real deficits there. I am concerned, as an Auckland-based MP, that this Government seems to have focused far more significantly on roading than on the public transport that we require. This trap, which many countries in the world have fallen into, will mean that ultimately we will never properly meet the need to move people around Auckland until we get the necessary degree of investment in transport infrastructure, particularly public transport infrastructure. That is an important area for the Government to consider. It needs to look at improving its game not only in terms of improving transport in Auckland but also in relation to the other real risk for us, which is the super-city structure.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the Infrastructure Bill, as well. As my colleagues have said, the Labour Party supports the first three parts of this bill, but the last part, on affordable housing, which my colleague Moana Mackey will talk on later, we certainly do not support.
This bill is an important bill in terms of coordinating and safeguarding our infrastructure into the future. It is interesting to note the announcements made in the last
few weeks, and even today, by the Minister of Transport—for example, that the Newmarket Viaduct was due to open in record time, as was the Māngere Bridge crossing. It is all good news, and they were all projects put in place under a Labour Government. It is gratifying to go around, when invited as an electorate MP, to many of the railway stations that have been upgraded as a result of the Labour Government investing 15 times more in public transport infrastructure than was the case in 1999.
Infrastructure is one of this country’s economic drivers. When we look at transport, in 1999 1 percent of GDP was allocated to transport; by 2008 it was 1.6 percent. It went up under a Labour Government, which said more or less what the National Government is saying today, except that the Labour Government had 9 years to prove and show the difference it can make in infrastructure.
Part 1 introduces a code that enables a much more coordinated approach to the corridors and main infrastructure routes that affect New Zealand. When we look at some of the priorities being set aside in relation to future pieces of infrastructure, and particularly in my area in Auckland, we see that one of the roads of national significance does not even meet the grade, on a cost-benefit analysis, of a dollar for dollar benefit. The Pūhoi to Wellsford road is being pushed through as a road of national significance. It is that sort of wayward—and I would even go so far as saying irresponsible—type of infrastructure that means we are looking at a motorway that is not able to generate the returns and benefits to justify its cost, yet we are putting in $1.6 billion, possibly rising up to $2 billion, to support it. That is a colossal and utter waste of money. Most people in Auckland know that. Pretty much everybody in Auckland knows that this is a road that will really only benefit those people going to their baches in the northern part of Auckland, up in the Warkworth area, at holiday times.
It is an extraordinary waste of money—$1.6 billion. I think of what we could use $1.6 billion for, and I will give members one quick example. Right now Auckland is expanding at the rate of one Wellington City every 8 years. Basically, 180,000 people are being added to Auckland’s population every 8 years. We need to be able to think about transport infrastructure and public transport infrastructure. The railway system needs to be substantially upgraded. The key aspect of the railway system is the inner-city underground loop that runs through the inner part of Auckland. This one project, which we believe will cost about the same amount of money as the $1.6 billion for the Pūhoi to Wellsford road—
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I am happy to take a call on Part 1 of the Infrastructure Bill.
Hon Phil Heatley: We’re happy to hear from you!
MOANA MACKEY: I thank Mr Heatley. He will be hearing a lot more from me in the debate on Part 4. Part 4 marks yet another day in the sad, sad history of Phil Heatley, Minister of Housing, but we will get to that in debate on Part 4. As other members have done, I thank the submitters who came along to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee and I thank the officials who worked on the bill.
It is interesting that when the Government puts up legislation in the House that has the word “infrastructure” in the title, National MPs think they have solved all infrastructure problems. They kind of think that if they pass it, it will come. The reality is that although this is good legislation—it was drafted by the previous Labour Government—it will not solve all infrastructure problems. This bill does not change the fact that the Government’s focus and priorities in infrastructure are skewed. They do not represent the infrastructure needs, particularly in rail. Where I come from the Government is looking at closing the Gisborne to Napier rail line. We have fought for a long time to keep this rail line open. It was only under the Labour Government that that became a reality, and now the National Government wants to try to get rid of it. It wants
to turn it into a cycleway, of course, which is its answer to everything—if in doubt, build a cycleway. The reality is that rail will always be part of the long-term mix of transport in Gisborne. It could be used an awful lot more than it is currently being used; I hope that the Government will see sense on that matter.
Part 1 implements a code. The interesting thing about the code is that when National members were discussing the code at the select committee, they said how important it was that there was buy-in, and that they would go out and consult on it. They then told us that the code had, in fact, already been written and was already there in draft form. The cart was put before the horse in that respect.
It became clear at the select committee that there was an expected and, I suppose, understandable tension between rail operators and road transport operators. It seemed as if the National members on the select committee did not want to acknowledge that there was a difference between the road corridor and the rail corridor. When there is a problem, people need to be able to access infrastructure to do with power lines, gas, and water, but the difference is that when work is being done in a road corridor it is easier to divert traffic. A rail corridor has to absolutely shut down when work is being done. Those who came along and submitted from the rail perspective wanted that point to be understood. It is all very well to say that everything should be treated the same, but the rail corridor is different, and the disruption is far greater when they have to close down the entire line. It seemed as if National members did not want to acknowledge that point, which was a shame.
Darien Fenton: They don’t like railways, really.
MOANA MACKEY: They do not like rail; I think that is the point we came to. We had a little bit of insight as to why a number of infrastructure and lines companies were quite keen to turn rail lines into cycleways when that point came out. I often wondered why Eastland Infrastructure was so keen on turning our rail track into a cycleway until I started to read the submissions on the infrastructure legislation and realised that it would probably find it far easier to access its lines if they ran along a cycleway rather than a rail corridor. I think that that is where it is coming from, which is a shame, because—
Hon Darren Hughes: They haven’t seen how fast Mr Mallard would cycle down it.
MOANA MACKEY: That is right. We would have to put out a special warning if Mr Mallard was on the corridor on the cycleway.
Hon Trevor Mallard: You know that Mallard is an engine, don’t you?
MOANA MACKEY: I did not know that the Mallard was an engine. That is extremely interesting.
The other part I will speak about in this bill, which is very important, is the definitions. Labour members were very concerned about the definitions relating to waste and waste water infrastructure and about who would be considered to be the utility operators. Paragraph (d) of the definition of “utility operator” in clause 4 originally stated: “in relation to water and wastewater infrastructure, a local authority as defined in section 5 of the Local Government Act 2002”. The National members on the select committee added these words: “or any person acting on behalf of a local authority in relation to that infrastructure:”. When this amendment was flagged at the select committee, it was raised as being just a small issue so that we could have flexibility.
This issue is clearly intended to pre-empt the future privatisation of the infrastructure services in waste water and water. We accepted that Auckland has already gone part of the way, and that we need to make sure that the situation in Auckland is covered by this legislation, so we suggested alternative wording that would have captured the situation in Auckland whilst not opening up the door holus-bolus to the privatisation of waste water and water infrastructure. That suggestion was turned down by National members, which clearly indicates to us, in relation to the debate that is going on with regard to the
Auckland super-city, the National Government’s intention for the future privatisation of these services. It wants to make it as easy as possible to privatise these services.
There were other ways to word the definition, and submitters came along and suggested wording that would have captured the situation in Auckland with the council-controlled authorities that are already there, but would not have allowed the definition to open up as widely as it has. We did not really get any answers from the National members on the select committee on this matter. Clearly, they were told what they needed to do, and that is the way that they voted. But it was an issue of significant concern for a number of the submitters who came along. It seems like such a small thing, but the difference that those 10 or so words can make is enormous when it comes to our infrastructure services.
Another interesting thing about the code is the exemptions—that is, where it does not apply, as much as where it does apply. I think we will have to be very, very careful and keep a close eye on this area. It would have been far simpler for us to design a situation that ensured a total buy-in from all the parties, but that is not what we got. That work had not been done at the very basic level. The Government wanted to get this legislation through, and its overarching intention was that its focus was purely on roads and it was not very fussed about all the other types of infrastructure that this bill deals with, so we did not get to that situation. That is unfortunate. We were basically told that the code had already been drafted. Despite the fact that the legislation states that it is yet to be drafted and that there was a whole process of consultation to go through, we were told categorically that it had been drafted. Lots of people do not agree with it, and a significant number of those in the infrastructure sector do not agree with it.
Darien Fenton: Who’ve dropped out.
MOANA MACKEY: Yes, they have dropped out of being a part of it. I think that that fact really undermines the very basis of this code and the purpose of having it. The reason for having a code was that we could not get agreement on when people could access the transport corridors. This legislation is still before Parliament and has not even been passed, and already parties are dropping out and do not want to be a party to this code. I think that it speaks to the process that this Government has taken in getting the legislation to this point. We can understand people’s frustration when we hear big words and big speeches about the fantastic process that has been set up, yet the select committee was told that the code has already been drafted. We were told that the code was already there, and that we could basically take it or leave it. The Government did not see any point in going back and relitigating it with the sector. Well, that runs contrary to Part 1. As I said before, it puts the cart before the horse.
I would be interested to know from the Minister in the chair, the Minister for Infrastructure, what work he is doing to try to make sure that all the parties who should be signing up to this code will be brought on board. A code becomes somewhat redundant if all of a sudden people are dropping out all over the show. We end up in exactly the same situation that we ended up in before, which is that someone going in to do work on a transport corridor has absolutely no idea where the infrastructure is located, because that information is not being supplied. The council plans may be 2 or 3 metres out, so people may dig somewhere that they think is safe, but suddenly they hit a water main or a—
Hon Phil Heatley: It’s madness.
MOANA MACKEY: Well, Mr Heatley would know. I will take it from an expert.
Hon Darren Hughes: He knows how to dig.
MOANA MACKEY: That is right. Phil Heatley certainly knows how to dig, so I will take it from an expert in that regard.
I think all members of this Committee acknowledge that we are in an untenable position with regard to access to these corridors, but I ask whether this is the best way to go about it. I ask whether we will actually resolve anything when affected parties are basically being told to take it or leave it, that this legislation will implement a code but that the code has already been drafted by certain elements of that sector, and that if they do not like it, that is just tough. The fact is that we have been in the position of telling people to take it or leave it before, and it has not worked. That is how we have ended up where we have ended up. Part of the problem has been the Government’s refusal to acknowledge that rail is different from roading and that the implications for carrying out work in the transport corridors that involve rail are different from those for carrying out work in the transport corridors for roading. It is far easier to do work on roading and to leave the road open than it is to do work on rail and leave the rail line open.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: The Opposition is surprised that the Minister in the chair, the Minister for Infrastructure—it is the first time we have ever had that portfolio in a Government in a formal titular sense—has not seen fit to take a call during the Committee stage on this bill and explain his legislation. Many members have asked questions or have raised issues that came up at the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, and the Minister has not seen fit to speak to his bill. This is the Infrastructure Bill. It is a bill that we were told formed a critical part of the Government’s economic programme. The Minister for Infrastructure also holds the portfolio of finance, so presumably he is interested in the Government’s economic programme, and I would have thought that he would take the chance to explain to us why, after 2 years in Government, the bill is still languishing at the point where it is. He has chosen not to do that, so maybe he will answer a few questions about different clauses in Part 1 to enable the Committee to move forward.
Obviously the Opposition is supporting Parts 1, 2, and 3, but we are trying to engage in a debate that the Minister said was serious for the New Zealand economy. He said that if we could sort out infrastructure matters and remove roadblocks, or whatever the other Crosby/Textor road-tested phrases were, then we would be able to achieve nirvana in New Zealand. But such is his enthusiasm that he has been reading all manner of reports. I am surprised the Minister has not taken a call. He has probably been reading the
New Zealand Woman’s Weekly to check out the engagement of Kate Hawkesby and Mike Hosking. He is not that interested in the Infrastructure Bill. I saw him with a magazine over there before, but I am not sure what it was.
One of the points that has been raised by the Opposition tonight is in respect of the definition of “utility operator” in clause 4(d). Government members on the select committee insisted on the words “or any person acting on behalf of a local authority in respect of that infrastructure:”. My colleague Moana Mackey made that point. The commentary on the bill states that “not all water and wastewater utility operators are local authorities.” I wonder whether the Minister could speak to that and let us know the Government’s philosophy in respect of those assets. I ask whether the Government in wording the legislation in that way is signalling that part of its approach to infrastructure is that it wants to see more private provision of water and waste-water services in the community. I think that is a reasonable question. It is either something that the Government is open to and enthusiastic about, or it is something that it is closed off to, but wants to make sure that no one is not caught who is currently operating in that space.
It seems to me that if there is a Minister for Infrastructure being serviced by a National Infrastructure Unit, which is part of Treasury, then he should be able to answer my questions. Before the election, the problem was too many bureaucrats; after the election, Bill English has been able to accumulate all manner of taxpayer-funded
resources. We will not go down the particular path of what all of those have been, but he has his own National Infrastructure Unit, or NIU, which is anything but new. I would like to know from him what advice he has received on whether that is an area for further infrastructure exploration and development, and whether the Government wants to see more private provision. I think that would be a pretty straightforward issue for him to address for us.
I turn to clause 9(b), which requires operators to keep disruptions to a minimum. I wonder whether the Minister could comment on that particular phrase. It seems to me that if we are talking about big infrastructure works in New Zealand, it would be useful to know whether the Minister believes those are just words, or whether it is an achievable measure. There can be major change to infrastructure, and somehow it can be passed off that disruptions will be kept to a minimum. There can be a variety of different projects under way, and we would like to know what the Government means by that requirement. If the code is very literal about keeping disruptions to a minimum, it may extend the time frame for projects. The Government is saying that everything is so quick, and that we need to build all this infrastructure now. Of course, that has not followed through to the speed of this bill. It has been sitting around for 2 years. However, the Minister might be able to comment on clause 9.
Clause 6(3) states that operators do not have to comply with the code if it is inefficient or if it would be too costly to do so. I think the Minister really does owe it to the Committee to go through the provision in clause 6(3). It seems preposterous that we are going to all the effort to come up with a code, and the people whom the code covers can opt out of it at any stage that they like, simply by invoking an argument of inefficiency or cost. I think the Minister could very quickly address that issue for us, so that we have a sense of the Government’s thinking on that, if the main part of Part 1 is to include a code.
Clause 10(2) provides for the ability for different applications of the code, depending on geographic locations. It would be helpful if the Minister could comment on how he sees that operating in practice, because one of the things we all know as members of Parliament is that whenever each of us advocates for a case, the example in each area is “very unique”—that double saying that makes no sense. That “very unique” example is separate from everywhere else in the country. We can see that that provision could be absolutely rode roughshod over by operators who did not want to comply, by arguing for some special feature of their geographic location. I would like the Minister to offer some comment on that. He must have advice on that. His failure to engage in this debate raises a lot of questions about what advice he is getting, if he is not able to share any of it with the Committee. He has set up a whole unit to help him, so none of these are challenging questions for him.
Clause 10(1)(d) talks about the managing of conflicts of interest. We could easily see a conflict of interest happening between the various operators and the corridor managers. The clause states that the code must contain a contact, which outlines processes for how one would resolve those conflicts. It would be good to learn from the Minister where he sees the priority of where the interests should fall as those conflicts are resolved. We know that conflicts of interest are matters that are often on the mind of Government; it is just the way things are. They have to be managed. In this legislation, the Minister is writing it into a code, but it is not clear from the reading of it how that would be managed and where the priorities would fall for the different players.
Finally, clause 11(2)(a) talks about consultation with utility operators and corridor managers who are likely to be affected by the code. But it is silent on the matter of consultation with local government. That issue may well have been explored at the select committee, but I was not a member of the select committee, so I am not sure
whether that was covered off there. But there are different references to local government, and I quoted a clause earlier relating to additional parties being added because there was a recognition that not everyone involved in certain services were local authorities. But it seems to me that if the code has to be written once, and it has been consulted on with utility operators and corridor managers, then where is the role for the local authority in respect of where that access for utilities services is needed? If the Minister could comment on those things he could prove to the country just how important it is to have a stand-alone Minister for Infrastructure, rather than one who is giving all the appearances of being mute on these very important macroeconomic reforms to the New Zealand economy. But I have failed entirely to even attract the Minister’s eye throughout the Opposition debate, as he has worried himself away on other topics, and I wonder whether he might be able to show some courtesy in respect of this crucial legislation. He picked up on Amy Adams’ voice because it is very distinctive, and I can see how it could interrupt the inner peace of the meditation that the Minister, up until that point, was ensconced in. The piercing tones of the member at the back of the Chamber cut right through.
Amy Adams: That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me in weeks!
Hon DARREN HUGHES: I have said many nice things to the member. In fact, I have said lots of nice things about the member behind her back, and that is very rare in politics. That is a very useful observation for her to have.
If the Minister could be minded to answer some of the points that have been raised, I think that would be useful, especially seeing as he is enjoying some pretty broad support across the Committee for his bill.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 115 in the name of the Hon Bill English to Part 1 be agreed to.
- Part 1 as amended agreed to.
Part 2 Amendments relating to utility access to transport corridors
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: I expect this consideration of Part 2 will be much shorter. At the select committee there was a great degree of agreement, from what I can read in the commentary on the bill. The only issue I wanted to raise with the Minister in the chair, the Hon Bill English, for all the good it appears to be doing, is what his policy objectives were in respect of amenity value, and the restrictions on local government in setting that amenity value—the debate between improvement and keeping the amenity value consistent. That may be an area where local government may well feel that the bill is written in a way that could be taken as being against them and against the work that they are doing in their communities. So it would be of some use to get the Minister’s comment on that. Whether that is a big thing, I am quite genuinely not sure. He could shed some light on that.
Just in case he chooses not to, maybe I should do part of his job for him and say what Part 2 does. For the people who are viewing Parliament TV this evening and need to know exactly what we are debating, this is Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill. It is a bill that was a centrepiece of the National - ACT - Māori Party Government. Sometimes it is the Māori Party - National - ACT Government, but on this occasion it is the National - ACT - Māori Party Government. This is a bill that was central to reforms to the economy that would “unlock growth”—and the other phrases, clichés, and slogans that seem to fall by the wayside as things get so tough for the Government in politics. This bill remains stuck here, in the Committee of the whole House, 2 years into Government. Part 2 amends the Telecommunications Act, the Electricity Act, the Gas Act, and the
Local Government Act 1974 to provide consistency around reasonable access to corridors, allocation of costs when utility operators are required to move assets, and time periods for notification and response. It also amends the Railways Act 2005 and the Government Roading Powers Act 1989 to provide timeframes for responding to requests for access to rail corridors and motorways, and requires controlling authorities to publish criteria on which they will base their decisions to grant access.
Those are all matters in the bill that the Labour Opposition is in agreement with. As Darien Fenton commented earlier, a lot of this work had been commenced under the previous Labour Government. That work was taking place. We believe that those changes will be of use. As I said at the beginning of my contribution, there is the issue in clause 21 of setting reasonable conditions, which we have made some comment on, but there is also this issue of the amenity value. We would like to hear from the Minister in the chair on that. We respect the fact that he is obviously a very busy man; it is obviously a very taxing and challenging portfolio for him.
Hon Bill English: Very busy.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: We have an interjection out of him. That is a great thing! The good news is he is alive and at least he will now appear in the
Hansard record as making a contribution on his own legislation, which at one point, a couple of Speeches from the Throne and Prime Minister’s statements ago, was one of the turbocharging pieces of legislation. Goodness knows what the next 6 months of the year will be about, given that so many of the initiatives in the first half of the year appear to have gone west.
Moana Mackey: They’re turbocharging moving forward.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Are they turbocharging the move forward? If there is one thing—
Hon Bill English: That’s Julia Gillard; that’s Australian Labor.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Mr English knows all about that. He knows all about being the loyal deputy who stabs the leader in the back. He did that when he was deputy himself, then the full political circle came around and it happened to him. He would be able to tell us quite a few stories about that.
Hon Bill English: That’s all going to happen in your party.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: The politics of personality always get him going. One of the only ways to get him to contribute at all is to get into that nasty little side, where it is all about the machinations of politics and who has sold out whom, and for what reason.
The phrase that Bill English would secretly like this Government to be known by is the “crunching of the gears” Government, as it goes from fifth gear to reverse in very, very quick order as policies and priorities change. Thankfully, the Infrastructure Bill will not be one of those, because it has the support of the Labour Party—the Minister’s best efforts notwithstanding.
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National)
: I am very happy to take a quick call on Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill, particularly on the issues that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee discussed in Part 2. I want to touch a bit on the rewrite of history that Moana Mackey went through in terms of getting the cart before the horse—the drafting of the code before the bill was drafted—and the fact that some of the corridor providers have dropped out. In fact, that is why the bill has come into existence.
The goal of having a voluntary code between corridor managers and utility providers has been the target for a long time now. After many years of trying, utility operators and corridor managers have failed to agree on a voluntary code. That puts us in a bit of an interesting situation because we are being asked to legislate for that which the industry could not come up with by itself. I think the select committee members would agree that
when we heard submissions, there was a kind of Mexican stand-off going on between the corridor managers and the utilities providers. I think the Local Government New Zealand submission was the most revealing about how difficult that had been.
Local Government New Zealand did a couple of things. It described some of the authorities around the country that have come up with their own voluntary codes and have achieved agreement with utilities providers. But that becomes very difficult for utilities providers that are nationwide—telecommunications providers and so on. They are forced to try to comply with a plethora of voluntary codes, and that has become very difficult. I think the gold standard, the goal, within a regulatory framework, is to come up with a code that everybody can sign up to. Once this bill is passed, the Minister will have the legislative power to bang heads together to make the code work. But, as we know, that will be very difficult unless those organisations come willingly. I hope that that is the case.
It was also evident in Local Government New Zealand’s submission that it wanted us to keep everything it agreed with in the code, but put things that became quite tense into law. That would have become very messy and it was not the select committee’s recommendation. As-built drawings were one of the examples it came up with. It has had constant problems trying to get as-built drawings out of utilities operators, but the code, as it is drafted, makes it very clear that coming up with accurate as-built drawings is a requirement that cannot be contracted out of. It is not just utilities providers; anybody who has been in the construction industry or has been a client of a building project knows that as-built drawings take forever to come and are often the last thing that gets ticked off in any construction project.
There was quite a bit of discussion about the issue of amenity values and the causer-pays principle. For the benefit of the Labour spokesperson on transport, the real issue was a belief by utilities providers that as a condition of access to the corridors, local councils often burden them with the cost of maintaining or improving the amenity, and that that is disproportionate to the disruption being caused. The bill clarifies that it is causer pays as long as there is no expectation by the local council to improve the amenity or to somehow make a better visual amenity—for example, taking away cabinets or putting lines that were previously overhead underground. Having considered hither and to the issues around amenities values, the select committee was quite comfortable that the bill as it was drafted, with a couple of amendments, covered the issue of access and amenity values pretty well.
We also considered the issue of lining up the notice periods, which were different in the respective Acts—the Telecommunications Act and the Gas Act. We now have a bill that will be quite consistent in terms of the expectations to provide notice of access. I think that was a really good improvement to Part 2, as well.
This bill is about reducing red tape, but it is actually about orange tape. It is the orange tape and the orange cones that the public see every day with transport infrastructure changes that seem to be constant. Local Government New Zealand said that there were 8,000 separate applications for access to corridors in the Auckland area alone and not all of them were well coordinated, so I hope that that improves.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I will speak to Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill. It is good to see that members opposite have had some further unclogging of their arteries and that the Minister in the chair, the Minister for Infrastructure, has stirred himself, as has a member of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. It is good to have a contribution from them.
I will go through Part 2. My colleague Darren Hughes has talked about the purpose of Part 2, which is stated in clause 19(1) to be: “to amend a variety of Acts relating to
utility operators’ access to transport corridors in order to achieve greater certainty and consistency in the rights and obligations of utility operators and corridor managers.”
Starting with the amendments to the Telecommunications Act 2001, I cannot help but note the irony in having this bill go through its Committee stage today, when other things are happening that apply to every single worker in the country. Before I get on to that, though, I recall that in the first reading of this bill, Clare Curran, Labour’s spokesperson on communications, was talking about the situation in the telecommunications industry with regard to the Visionstream workers who were contracted out by Telecom and who went from being “employed” to being “self-employed”, and the consequences of that on the telecommunications industry. I think Clare Curran is very, very good in constantly calling the Government to account on its broadband strategy and on how that is rolling out, although it seems to be stalling somewhat appallingly at the moment.
I turn to clause 21, “Criteria for setting reasonable conditions”. I would ask the Minister in the chair, the Hon Bill English, whether he could define the word “reasonable”. The reason I want him to do so is that I know that the Minister of Labour currently has a proposal to remove the access of workers to their union unless their employer agrees to that access, and that agreement cannot be “unreasonably” withheld. There is a whole lot of real difficulties around what is meant by “reasonable” and “unreasonable”. I would like some answers, because that might help us when it comes to considering what the Minister of Labour is proposing.
I also note the irony of clause 22, “Notice requirement”. The previous speaker, Michael Woodhouse, talked about lining up the notice requirements for the various utility operators, which other speakers have also spoken about. We support that. We think it is reasonable that utility operators should be given notice, just as we think it is reasonable that workers who are to lose their jobs should be given notice. But, indeed, under the Government’s proposals for the 90-day Act, workers will not be given notice. It is not required. In terms of clauses 22 to 25, I would like the Minister to tell us what he thinks the words “notice” and “reasonable notice” mean.
New section 147A, “Local authority, etc, may require lines, etc, to be moved”, which is to be inserted in the Telecommunications Act by clause 28, did not come up in the debate on Part 1, but there was a long debate in the select committee about the definitions of “local authority”, “wastewater”, and “water requirements”. A great deal of concern was expressed, and I think that concern is still there, given that the Minister of Local Government has a bill coming forward that would enable the contracting out of water for 35 years. That issue has been discussed up and down the country, and it was certainly discussed in Auckland, where I come from. Although I think we reached an agreement in the select committee on new section 147A, I would like to have an assurance from the Minister in the chair that the proposal from Rodney Hide will not affect that new section. We worked hard in the select committee to try to clarify that issue, and, in fact, the Greens were very, very keen on that. We reached an agreement on it, and I know that Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was on the committee at the time, was very, very keen that we certainly had that sorted out.
I also note that we have amendments to the Electricity Act. We had a very interesting debate in the House earlier tonight during the second reading of the Electricity Industry Bill about electricity generation. There are a lot of questions around that issue.
Clause 30 inserts new section 24A, “Criteria for setting reasonable conditions”, in the Electricity Act, where again we go back to the word “reasonable”. Again, I ask the Minister in the chair to tell us what he considers “reasonable” to mean. There is some detail in the bill about that, but we are considering a very, very important question,
given that we seem to have one rule for utility operators on the one hand and another rule for workers in other legislation on the other hand.
If I may—and without getting on to the Gas Act—I would like to talk about the amendments being made to the Railways Act. Again, it was a very interesting discussion during the select committee process, because there was quite a lot of conflict between railway corridor operators and utility operators. The utility operators seemed to believe that KiwiRail and ONTRACK were deliberately blocking access to their land.
I thought that a very, very important point came through to do with safety issues in rail and to do with workers’ safety, and particularly to do with the safety of the public. I had a lot of conversations, although I cannot remember whether the railway union came and talked to us. The previous speaker may remember. Certainly, people from KiwiRail came and talked about the importance of workers’ safety.
I have to put on record my concern about railways workers’ safety under the 90-day fire-at-will bill. I ask which workers on the railways would raise a safety issue under the provisions that they have, because their jobs would be on the line. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The amendments to the Railways Act 2005 are important, and I am absolutely pleased about those.
Paul Quinn: Darien, what bill are we on?
DARIEN FENTON: I am talking about clause 38 in Part 2, if the member would like to get out his copy of the bill and read it. It talks about the amendments being made to the Railways Act. In fact, if that member had been on the select committee, then he would know that safety was one of the very, very important considerations that we talked about, but he probably still would not have listened or taken any notice. I am raising an issue of deep concern to members on this side of the Chamber about the safety not only of the public but also of workers under these provisions and under other proposed provisions of this Government. Thank you.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: Likewise, I rise to speak on Part 2. The thing that is very interesting about this part—and I am sure that people have been riveted so far on this discussion on the Infrastructure Bill—is that Part 2 amends a number of different Acts. During the course of the considerations of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee it was very interesting to analyse the differences between the Acts concerned, which are, of course, the Telecommunications Act 2001, the Electricity Act 1992, the Gas Act 1992, and the Local Government Act 1974.
The consistency we were looking at was around reasonable access to transport corridors. I have to say I did not know a great deal about this issue at the start, but it became very clear just how important those corridors are in terms of ensuring we can install the suitable services—gas, electricity, broadband—we will need to grow the economy and serve the people of this country. So consistency around reasonable access to transport corridors is important.
Consistency and clarification around allocations of costs are important when utility operators are required to move assets, which, of course, they can be required to do in these circumstances. Also, consistency around issues like time periods for notification and response is important. In addition, as the previous speaker, my colleague Darien Fenton, has just said, Part 2 amends the Railways Act 2005. The Government Roading Powers Act 1989 is also mentioned, again in terms of providing time frames for responding to requests for access to rail corridors and motorways, and requiring controlling authorities to publish criteria on which they will base their decisions to grant access.
So Part 2 contains a series of provisions around each of those Acts, looking at issues like the criteria for setting reasonable conditions. Mr Hughes referred to the issue about whether the operator will be required to increase the amenity values rather than merely
maintain them. One thing that was quite interesting in the select committee was a debate around the term “fittings” and whether we would use that term. Members will be interested to know that the committee decided not to go with the term “fittings” and replaced it with “lines, cabinets, other appliances, and associated equipment”.
The question that Ms Fenton raised about health and safety is important, and in relation to the rail corridor the select committee had a very interesting conversation. One cannot move trains around a bit of work that is going on to ensure that they are out of the way while work is being undertaken, whereas with a road one can use detours and those sorts of things. We had a good, robust conversation about the health and safety component.
In that respect, I would be lax if I did not also refer to a number of the changes that are going on, led by the Prime Minister, in the workplace area. We are under real threat through the sort of negative, cost-cutting approach that this Government is taking, where workers’ rights are being undermined. There is a real risk that health and safety will be compromised for workers in this country. Let me give members an example of how that might be the case. With the extension of the 90-day “no rights at work” trial to all workplaces, people will be unwilling to even raise questions of health and safety for fear that they may be sacked.
I go back to the criteria for setting reasonable conditions. The sorts of factors that are included in those reasonable conditions in Part 2 are around the safe and efficient flow of traffic, the health and safety of the people likely to be affected directly by the work, the need to lessen damage, and compensation that may be payable. An important measure in new section 24A(1)(e), in clause 30, is the criteria around the need to lessen disruption to local communities, including businesses. It is really important when we are looking at this kind of work and upgrading our infrastructure that we do it in a way that minimises disruption to the community.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I ask that the level of discussion on my right be kept at a lower level. It is quite distracting.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: I will take a quick call on Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill, which we are discussing tonight. Part 2, as others have said, amends a number of different Acts and makes those Acts able to coordinate in a much more consistent way so that our infrastructure can move forward and develop much more effectively. The bill amends the Telecommunications Act 2001, the Electricity Act 1992, the Gas Act 1992, and the Local Government Act 1974. The idea is to try to provide some consistency around reasonable access to the corridors and the allocation of costs when utility operators are required to move assets. It will also address the time notification and response that those operators will need to provide to make their operations much smoother and more coordinated.
I think we have all been in the situation—and I know many definitely have been in the Auckland area—where we have seen roads dug up and inadequately put back together again by, for example, various utility operators This bill will enable us to ensure that we are well notified about disruptions, that work goes ahead in full coordination with many of the other operators, as well, and that we have the minimum amount of disruption, particularly in the Auckland environment where there is so much pressure on roads and so much pressure on the ability of services as Auckland expands. Auckland is expanding at the rate of one Wellington city every 8 years. It is an extraordinarily quick and fast expansion. I think this bill will address many of the arising from Auckland’s expansion to be more effective and more efficient. There is another example that this part speaks to. Contractors who were laying pipes in Auckland City found that they had different dimensions when they went out to connect up with pipes from Waitakere City. This legislation will be helped by the fact that
Waitakere City and Auckland City will be one super-city, and, certainly, I hope that some of those things will be remedied. This bill will go a long way to try to restore some of those efficiencies we need.
It is worth mentioning, as others have, that work on this bill started in 2007. It has been quite a long time coming—more than 3 years. It was started under the previous Labour Government, which recognised the need for this legislation and began working on it. Given the fact that this Government has made so much of the need for improved, more efficient, and more effective infrastructure, it is surprising that here we are, 2 years into this Government’s term, and only now are we in the Committee of the whole House stage of this legislation. As I said, the work began under the previous Labour Government. Utility operators such as electricity, telecommunications, sewerage, drains, and gas say that there has been an inconsistent application of reasonable conditions when seeking to exercise their right to access roads in particular, because that is where most of our services tend to run. On the local authorities’ side, they are concerned and, I am sure, are under pressure from residents and ratepayers about the poor quality of reinstatement of roads by utility operators. There is also concern about the inconsistencies between statutes. Therefore, some operators are able to afford some advantages over others. This legislation, particularly Part 2, will go a long way in terms of ensuring that all of those utility operators are operating under a standard format. Thank you.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I am happy to stand and speak to Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill. I think it is important to reiterate that this work started under the Labour Government. We are 2 years into the National Government’s term and still passing Labour legislation. That is all right, we prefer to pass more Labour legislation and a little bit less National legislation, if possible, so we will not complain about that.
Part 2 is incredibly important because access to the transport corridor varies so greatly. It varies greatly across different local government jurisdictions. It varies greatly across all the different statutes, and, of course, as time has gone on we have ended up in a situation whereby communities that were previously not connected to reticulated water and waste water are now connected, so that infrastructure has stretched out further and further. It is affecting more and more communities. Once upon a time, electricity infrastructure was the only infrastructure that went out to a lot of these communities; now there is so much more. We have broadband infrastructure apparently, according to the Government. We do not know whether we will see it. When we do see it, it will probably go only to people’s streets, not to their houses. That seems to be a waste of infrastructure. I certainly hope that that will not be the case. But if we are going to extend and add more and more infrastructure, it makes sense to start to regulate and try to bring together in a coherent way access to that infrastructure.
One of the big issues has been the difference in treatment for different utility operators. That has created a large amount of tension. It is not tension that is necessarily going to be legislated away by this bill, although I do think that this legislation will be a good start in trying to bring some consistency to that. But the fact is that when we have so many different local authorities all doing different things, for a single organisation, for example, that has to work with every single local authority across every single statute that relates to infrastructure, we can imagine how difficult that becomes.
I will mention, because no one has mentioned this yet, the impact on the public of this legislation. One of the things that really annoys the public is when they drive down a road that is being dug up because something like a water main is being replaced, and 6 weeks later they drive down exactly the same piece of road and it is being dug up for something completely different.
David Bennett: That doesn’t happen now. It only happened under you.
MOANA MACKEY: Oh, David Bennett and his usual excellent contribution to the House! I will not bother to even repeat it; it is not worth it. If he was listening to what I was saying, he would know that I was pointing out that one of the things that I hope this legislation will result in is a far more coherent approach to when this work is being done. If all infrastructure operators know that a certain piece of road or rail corridor is going to be open for work, that traffic will be diverted, and that the road will be dug up, then they know that if they have maintenance work that needs to be done on electricity or broadband infrastructure it makes sense and it is cheaper to do it at exactly the same time. That reduces the amount of time when the public is being inconvenienced by major works being carried out.
This seems relatively simple, but of course none of this has been brought together before because none of these organisations were able to work with each other effectively in this way; because of a lack of coherence, that has not been happening. I think that sometimes when we deal with legislation that is very technical, like this bill, we forget the public in that process. When it comes to the development and the maintenance of infrastructure, the public are an incredibly important part of that. Part of the reason we have ended up in a situation where local authorities are resistant to allowing access to a corridor is because they come under enormous public pressure from their voters, who say to them that they are sick and tired of their roads constantly being dug up for no reason. So they start to put more stringent requirements on those utility operators.
Utility operators have to be able to get in. They have to be able to do the maintenance work, because if they do not do that it is far more expensive in the long term. But when they are constantly up against a city council that is having to try to pull together all of these groups, that has to try to deal with utility operators that are working in a huge number of different local government areas and under a huge number of different rules and regulations, that is where the public start to be left out of the equation. It is where we start to see the public being disadvantaged far more than they need to be. That issue is not something that many people have talked about, but resolving it would be a very good outcome from this legislation—a very, very good outcome.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: I will make just a very brief contribution to finish off the points that Labour members have made on Part 2 of the Infrastructure Bill. My comments are in relation to clause 38 of the bill in Part 2, the amendments that we are making tonight to the Railways Act 2005. The next part that we are moving on to concerns matters about rail as well, which we are very keen to explore in the Committee of the whole House this evening. It is an example where common sense has prevailed with respect to the definition of those who were captured by the provision of this clause. The bill as it was originally introduced to the House by the Minister for Infrastructure required that all licensed access providers had to publish criteria for access to their corridors on a publicly available website. If we go to clause 38 of the bill, we see that it sets out there how it was originally worded: “Every licensed access provider and every railway premises owner … must…” and on it goes in new subsection (1A). But that has since been altered by the select committee. The recommendation of the select committee was picked up by the Government in quite a helpful way so that the Minister will declare by notice in the
Gazette which of those railway premises owners or licensed access providers are required to be the ones who publish their criteria for access on a publicly available website. That is pretty important.
As the select committee report notes, there are 80 such rail providers. They range in size from very small voluntary organisations that we all have in our community, right through to some of those industrial rail operators, and then to KiwiRail itself, or the
New Zealand Railways Corporation, as it is known from a legislative point of view. What probably surprises me most about that is that there are only 80 of them. In New Zealand there are a lot of railway enthusiasts, who take their great love of trains and of rail to try to provide in their own communities some form of service or tourist attraction or even fun rides for children, either on a regular weekend basis or for fairs, fetes, galas, and so on and so forth like that.
Moana Mackey: Fete?
Hon DARREN HUGHES: The member says “Fete?” but at St Josephs School in Levin our gala was called a fete, and that is a very good thing to know. It is a very cosmopolitan primary school. At St Josephs in Levin we had our own fete—very European. That was before they were popular; this was before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were really quite avant-garde at St Josephs School in that respect.
Carol Beaumont: Great fashions at country prices.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: They certainly do. So we have limited that right down so that it will be only the big players who will be required to do that. I think that is important. I had an opportunity during the parliamentary recess to visit Kawakawa with my colleague Kelvin Davis, the Labour spokesperson for tourism, who took me to see the—
Paul Quinn: Looking for a new electorate?
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Paul Quinn should be the last member of Parliament to talk about looking for new electorates. That man would be defeated in any seat he stood in. They could put him up in a blue ribbon seat—he would lose Taranaki - King Country! There would be a socialist flag elected to the Taranaki - King Country seat if Paul Quinn were the National Party candidate there. There is a reason why there is a big whip-round amongst National MPs and Labour MPs to ensure that he stands against Trevor Mallard in Hutt South, and it is that at least there is a bit of a laugh involved in that. There are so many times when that man should resist the temptation to speak out loud, but probably in that sense all I am doing is echoing generations of schoolteachers who wrote that in his school reports. I suspect he was a bit too busy with the candyfloss at the fete in that respect.
Kelvin Davis took me to see the vintage railway people there at Kawakawa who are trying to develop a jigger service to go through the town. They are having some difficulties getting that past KiwiRail and the New Zealand Transport Agency, but it was a reminder to me that there are many local groups who access parts of the rail network that are still able to be used but no longer have either commercial passenger or freight services running on them. It would be preposterous for the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust to have to publish on a publicly available website the criteria for accessing their piece of rail, so I support that provision in the bill. I think that is a good idea, and I am sure Bill English was responsible for it.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 115 in the name of the Hon Bill English to Part 2 be agreed to.
- Part 2 as amended agreed to.
Part 3 Amendments relating to New Zealand Railways Corporation
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: Thank you, Mr Chair.
Chris Tremain: He’s keen tonight.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: I am very keen, I say to the chief Government whip. The Infrastructure Bill is an excellent bill. The Opposition feels as though it not only has to explain its difficulties with the bill but also has to explain what the bill actually does to
the people who have been tuning in for the last 2 weeks to Parliament TV, only to see a green screen and music playing, with a message saying we would be back on 20 July. People have tuned in tonight, and they would not know from the Government what this bill is about, even though just a few months ago Bill English, the Minister in the chair, said this was an important bill for the Government’s economic programme.
But we know, on this day of all days, how quickly the Government is keen to abandon its long-held principles, as it did today on the mining of schedule 4 land, an issue that trickled and trickled right the way through.
Hon Bill English: That upset you.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Mr English says that upset us, but we agree with the decision not to mine that land, because our principles had not changed on that issue. The only thing that is galling about it is that there is a back-down purely for political reasons, yet it is dressed up as being something to do with a letter from a mayor in Northland, who has asked the Government to look around there to see what it can find. That has then become the basis for a shift in the entire Government economic policy. But those issues are outside Part 3, so I turn to the issues that are in it.
So far we have debated and passed Part 1 with amendments, and we have done the same with Part 2. Here we are in Part 3, on which there will be agreement as well. It must be a very long time since Mr English has united so many people around him. I would have thought that he would be up every 5 minutes to speak about it and bask in that sort of glory, but obviously the penance he is still doing for his transgressions of earlier times is weighing too heavily on him to allow him to get out of the chair tonight.
The changes made in this part to the New Zealand Railways Corporation are reasonably minor, but I want to make a couple of points to the Minister. This is really a drafting issue, I suspect, but the Minister may be able to correct me. Clause 43(2) amends the New Zealand Railways Corporation Act by omitting the words “Minister of Railways” and substituting in each case “Minister”. The reason for that amendment is pretty obvious: there was a time when New Zealand Governments always had a Minister of Railways. I suspect that the last Minister to have a portfolio with that name might have been the Hon Richard Prebble. But that is enough of that, as my colleagues look at me askance. The amendment changes that wording so it is just a generic reference to the Minister. It does not say “Minister of Transport”; it just says “Minister”. That Minister will presumably be whichever Minister is designated by the Prime Minister to have responsibility for rail matters. That is all fine.
We then come to clause 44(2), which substitutes for the existing section 4(6) of the Act the following: “The Minister and the Minister of Finance may jointly, at any time and entirely at their discretion,”—that is slightly dangerous—“remove any director from office.” I am not sure whether that amendment was specifically put in as a form of utu so that Mr English could seek revenge on the Rt Hon Jim Bolger. We all know about Mr English’s famous temper; he was not at all pleased when Mr Bolger decided to serve New Zealand as chair of KiwiRail. That amendment could be there entirely for that reason. But that is not the point I wanted to raise, which is to ask why that amendment specifically names the Minister of Finance. If the bill is trying to get away from naming a portfolio Minister in clause 43(2) and (3), why in clause 44(2) does it specify a portfolio Minister?
This is not an esoteric point. It is an important point, because we went through a period in New Zealand when we had both a Minister of Finance and a Treasurer. The senior portfolio Minister in the economic area was called the Treasurer. That was another old Tory deal in order to get power, but, again, most of the Government members will not know about that.
David Bennett: You carried it on, though.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: No, that is not true.
David Bennett: Yes, you did.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: That is not correct.
David Bennett: You did so.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: When was that?
David Bennett: When Winston was there.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: He was not the Treasurer.
David Bennett: No, but you gave him a deal, though.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Poor old David Bennett! I should not have even responded to his interjection. As always, it turned out to have been about absolutely nothing.
Hon Bill English: You got Owen Glenn to make a donation to him.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Sorry? The Minister of Finance spoke, and I am keen to know what he said. He has changed his mind now. He was using the open mike, which was very, very bad of him. But I do not mind; that is at least one way of eliciting information. When National went for New Zealand First and had the position of Treasurer, that became the senior portfolio in the economic area. In fact, this Minister—
Amy Adams: Is this going anywhere at all?
Hon DARREN HUGHES: I am referring to clause 44 in Part 3, if Mr Tremain had deigned to read it. Mr English knows about this himself, because he has been both the Minister of Finance and Treasurer at a time when both portfolios existed. In fact, he was the Minister of Finance the last time that superannuation was cut in New Zealand—and I have no doubt that, given a chance, he would do that again.
I would like to know why the portfolio is named in clause 44(2). If there is a coalition deal in the future—this may easily happen—and the portfolio of Treasurer is created again, would that require new legislation to amend this legislation? If the whole bill, which the Minister was formerly very proud of, is such an important thing to bring together because there had been confusion, why does he allow that confusion to take place? Why does the bill not say the “Minister and the shareholding Minister”, for example? That could be a way of getting around it. Perhaps the Minister for Infrastructure could take up that point, because it seems to me that it could be easily addressed. He could change that, so that we do not hold ourselves up.
The other point concerns what is not in Part 3. There are clauses in respect of rail that should be in Part 3, given that this is an infrastructure bill. The Government has had the opportunity, within KiwiRail, to substantially build locomotives in New Zealand within the $500 million budget that the Government has set aside for the Auckland rolling stock. The Government put up $500 million, just as the previous Government did, and the economic study said those things could be built using New Zealand infrastructure— New Zealand producing and manufacturing infrastructure—in a way that would have actually assisted our country and kept the money put aside for that in our country, to be spent at the workshops at Woburn in the Hutt Valley, and at Hillside in Dunedin.