Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

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Date:
5 April 2012
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6. Transport Funding—Value for Money

[Sitting date: 05 April 2012. Volume:679;Page:1732. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

6. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Did the Government compare the costs and benefits of the Roads of National Significance against those of other transport projects before announcing them to ensure that it is getting best value for public money; if not, why not?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : Yes. I think it is worth pointing out to the member that the roads of national significance were identified by the regions as being good for them. If the local roads, etc., were adequate, we would not have had to bring up this project.

Julie Anne Genter: How did the Government weigh up the costs and benefits of the roads of national significance programme before announcing it, when the benefit and cost analyses on many of the roads of national significance were not undertaken until 9 months after the programme was announced?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not think the member should get too hung up on the benefit-cost analysis on projects. Clearly, she does not, because the Green Party keeps pushing the Auckland central business district rail loop, which, of course, has an appalling benefit-cost ratio, but it does not stop the Green Party members saying it is a great thing. We have made our decisions and our determinations, and put the programme in place, by taking on board the requests of regions.

Julie Anne Genter: Is he saying that it is this Government’s policy to commit billions of dollars to projects before knowing whether they will be of benefit to the country?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, but I was pointing out that her party’s policy does exactly that.

Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was trying to clarify his answer to find out whether it was Government policy to commit billions of dollars on projects before knowing whether they were of benefit to the country. I was not inviting comment—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister answered that very clearly; he said no.

Julie Anne Genter: Has he read the Ministry of Economic Development’s latest petrol price forecast, which has prices trending 20 percent to 30 percent higher than the prices assumed in the roads of national significance benefit-cost analyses, and will he be reassessing the prioritisation of the roads of national significance in light of the long-term upward trend in petrol prices?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have read those trends for a number of years. They do fluctuate, and if they were to be the determinant of roading projects then we would never have built any roads in this country at all.

Julie Anne Genter: So is the Minister saying that it is better to make a bad decision quickly and stick to it, rather than to review a decision in light of evidence?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. Let us be clear: there has not been a bad decision here, and the public has endorsed our programme.

Julie Anne Genter: What assurance can he give the public that the Government is making the best possible use of the taxes we pay for transport when his Government has decided to prioritise the roads of national significance without comparing them with other transport projects, when there are many other projects that are significantly more cost-effective than the roads of national significance, and when the business cases for the roads of national significance are now hopelessly out of date according to the Government’s own petrol price projections?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: None of that is correct.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table a document. It is from the New Zealand Transport Agency. It is the Pūhoi to Wellsford project summary statement, published in January 2010, which shows that the Pūhoi to Wellsford project has a benefit-cost ratio of 0.8.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is available online.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, members can refuse. I have put the leave. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is objection because it is available online.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is you who has set the rules for what can be tabled in this House. It is inappropriate to put members back on the spot, turning those sorts of things down. That document is available online to anyone who wants to get it. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Some order will come back to the House. I will take the point of order first from Gareth Hughes.

Gareth Hughes: If you applied that rule as strictly as the Leader of the House is implying, 99 percent of documents, from the OECD to Government departments to university reports, would be ruled out of order for tabling in this House, to the detriment of members in this House.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think this matter can be dealt with, with a little sense. There are some documents for which I obviously do not put leave to the House, because I want to discourage the practice of members seeking leave for them. However, the Speaker does have to be careful not to take that too far, because the decision on whether or not leave is granted is ultimately the members’. I am very conscious of that, and that is why I do not want to take my ruling too far, as Gareth Hughes pointed out. It might not have escaped the attention of some members that the Speaker once, perhaps, had a conflict of interest with respect to this document, and, therefore, did not want to be seen to be ruling it out from being tabled in the House. I wanted to make sure that the House had the chance to make a decision on that.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table the Ministry of Economic Development’s Energy Outlook 2011: Reference Scenario and Sensitivity Analysis, which was published in January 2012, and which shows petrol prices trending 20 to 30 percent higher than they were in 2009.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

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