Hansard and Journals
Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill — First Reading
Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill
DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) : I move, That the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be considered by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.
It is a great pleasure finally to be able to move this bill tonight for its first reading in the hope that it will win the support of parties in Parliament for consideration at that select committee. I am under no doubt at all that the greatest disservice that a Government has ever done to the community of Kapiti, in my electorate of Otaki, was the sale of Paraparaumu Airport in 1995. That decision was not short of a total disgrace, and it is in that shameful action that this bill finds its origin.
Indeed, I hope that in the National Party contribution tonight, before we hear any great words of eloquence, we will first of all hear an apology for what happened in 1995 when a very important community asset was ripped away from the people of that community and handed over into private hands. The contentious sale of that airport was described by a former Minister of Transport as being a privatisation more botched than the sale of the railways. Given what a total disaster that fire sale of a strategic asset was, I think that is really saying something. It really does sum up the entire way the issue of Paraparaumu Airport has had to be dealt with in the last 11 years.
An airport at Paraparaumu was achieved only after land was compulsorily acquired by the Crown between 1939 and 1949. From that time until the 1990s the aerodrome continued in use until, as part of the right-wing zealotry of the 1990s, the National Government of the time decided that the airport had to be sold simply because it was Crown-owned. That approach put ideology ahead of what was practical and totally rode roughshod over what was valued by the community. That was the approach of the National Government of the time and it has been the approach of National ever since.
When the decision was made to sell Paraparaumu Airport, the National Cabinet directive stated that the sale had to be: “subject to the Crown meeting its obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi and to former owners under the Public Works Act”. I am firmly of the view that this never happened in any just way, and that anybody who thinks that directive by the Cabinet at the time was met is vastly and hugely mistaken in terms of how Māori and former landowners have been treated. Indeed, one of the great reasons that motivates me with this bill is to try to achieve some sense of justice for those whom I believe have been very badly treated by that sale.
In fact, if members read the Auditor-General’s report into the sale process, they will find that although the National Government of the time identified who former landowners were, they never even bothered to contact them in any meaningful way to justify the directive that their own Cabinet had set out. It was an absolute litany of failure and neglect and, indeed, one could go even further in that regard.
There is no doubt that for former landowners this issue has been a very, very sorry saga indeed. It has been a very controversial issue. It came before Parliament and there was public debate on the issue. The sale itself was the subject of two court challenges, so concerned were people about the way that the privatisation was being conducted. The sales process was, for privatisation—in terms of the Auditor-General’s report and in the way that he made clear—an example of how not to do a privatisation, and that is why National members should hang their heads in shame over this decision.
One hundred and thirty hectares of prime land—of airport land—was sold for $1.6 million. I know we are talking about 1995 here, but 130 hectares was sold for $1.6 million. I will be very interested to hear tonight whether National members today would regard that as a fair price and a just price for that land. I will be very interested to hear their views on the sale and on the sale price. I will be very interested to know whether National members of Parliament here tonight, who can be said to represent that former National Government, will acknowledge the fact that shortly after that land was sold—the 130 hectares—a small portion, a tiny portion, of that land was sold for $800,000, which enabled half of the purchase price of $1.6 million to be reclaimed. That is the context in which this bill has been drafted, and what took place is an absolute disgrace.
The fear, of course, was always that an ulterior motive lay behind the sale of the airport land, in terms of turning it into residential housing and losing a key strategic asset for the people of Kapiti. I am firmly of the view that it was only the vigilant community in Kapiti, and in particular the airport users, who prevented that from happening. I have no doubt about that at all.
What brought us to this point was a petition to this Parliament by Ross Sutherland and many others, which started a select committee process. The petition was referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, chaired by my friend and colleague the Hon Mark Gosche, which recommended two legislative changes and an Auditor-General’s inquiry. The Auditor-General picked up the inquiry and came back with a report that slammed entire aspects of the sale and confirmed what many people in my electorate thought and held to be true—that this had not been a fair and just sale.
The member for Maungakiekie’s select committee recommended two changes: one to the Public Works Act and another to the Airport Authorities Act. I picked up the work on the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill. In June this year I called a public meeting in Paraparaumu to discuss the airport, which nearly 500 people attended. That might not sound like a lot of people to my city colleagues, but in terms of my electorate this was the biggest meeting in Kapiti for years and years, and reinforced to me just how important people consider our airport to be for the community.
Since that time, and while the bill has been worked on by me, the airport has been sold again. Sadly, we have never been told the purchase price of the airport in its most recent guise, but I suspect it is more than $1.6 million. I suspect it is actually a huge amount more than $1.6 million, and that, of course, just reinforces the folly of the decision to sell that airport in 1995.
I am reassured that the new owners have said publicly on many occasions that they are committed to aviation use for the site. The fact that this has happened is no justification for what National did. The fact that this has been stated by the new owners is simple luck for the people of Kapiti; luck that the people who have bought the airport have put up plans to say that they want to use it as an airport. That is why I still consider this legislation to be absolutely necessary.
We have to make sure that we protect our strategic assets such as airports, and that is why my bill contains two new sections to be inserted into the principal Act, the Airport Authorities Act. The new section 3AB, to be inserted by clause 5, is the bulk of the bill and sets out the main parts of what I am trying to achieve here. Subsection (1) states that if airport land has been privatised under the Act that this bill amends and comes up for sale again, then the Crown has the first right to be able to purchase that land from the owner to make sure that it can be kept for aviation purposes. When the Minister of Transport is considering that matter, the first priority must be whether the aerodrome will continue to remain operational as a private entity—and I regard that as being absolutely important.
Subsection (4) states that if the Crown decides not to buy, then it has to make sure that the responsibilities under the Public Works Act are absolutely fulfilled, and subsection (5) states that the Minister must be consulted if an offer-back provision is made under that Act. So for the first time we have put in place provisions to ensure that justice can be done for those former landowners and, of course, there is that main part regarding Crown buy-back to ensure that none of this land can be taken and used for other purposes.
In new section 3AC, which is also to be inserted by clause 5 and which is the smallest part of this bill, I have included a backstop provision in the event of aviation viability being actively undermined while the land is in private ownership. I propose that the select committee look to tighten up this section in two important ways: firstly, to clarify that it is intended that only identified airport activities are continued on all or part of the land. Therefore, that will allow for other activities, providing—crucially—that they do not undermine such identified airport activities. Secondly, I would like the select committee to consider including in section 3AC the same definition of “identified airport activities” as that term has under the current Airport Authorities Act. I think that will make it very clear what we are trying to do here to protect aviation use.
In the particular case of Paraparaumu Airport I have been assured that the change plan yet to be submitted to the Kapiti Coast District Council by the new owners will make very specific provisions for an airport zone for identified airport activities, which obviously meets the overwhelming concern I have that Paraparaumu Airport should continue to be used for aviation purposes. The Sutherland petition asked this Parliament “to legislate to safeguard the long-term viability of Paraparaumu Airport as a fully operational facility”. I believe that the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill delivers the reassurance that the petitioners asked this House for. They deserve no less.
This asset was stolen, in effect, from the people of Kapiti by the previous National Government. This bill, in some small way, tries to make sure that this important strategic asset in my electorate will continue for many, many years to come.
NATHAN GUY (National) : It is great to take a call on this Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill. The member for Otaki has just rambled through a whole lot of historical stuff around the Paraparaumu Airport, and I think he spent about a minute near the end of his speech to actually talk about this toothless bill. So I want to talk a bit about the airport and about where we are at right now.
I think it is important to realise that this airport was built in 1956 or 1957 to supplement Wellington Airport. It was sold, rightly or wrongly, in the 1990s by the National Government because, quite simply, it was not making any money. It was sold when Mr Hughes was probably still at school in the 1990s. The reality is that aerodromes do not make money from landing fees. Members all know that aerodromes make money because they have business included around the airport functions.
I think the important thing to realise is that the airport has been sold, and now we have a second private owner. In 2006 we have the new owner Mr Noel Robinson, whom Labour members are supporting because they think it is of great significance that he got a 2006 Queen’s Birthday honour. He was awarded a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Labour people are supporting Mr Robinson because of his visionary force behind Highbrook Business Park in Auckland, where he has been able to establish an award-winning park of business, environmental, and lifestyle needs.
So it is great that Labour is supporting the new owner. When Mr Hughes put his bill in the ballot, he would have consulted with the new owner of Paraparaumu Airport Holdings. I ask Mr Hughes whether that is so.
Darren Hughes: I don’t take my riding instructions from anybody.
NATHAN GUY: I ask whether the member did not think it appropriate to consult with the new owner about this bill. I take it from his silence that that is correct. So that is the true arrogance of that member—he had a bill in the ballot relating to the airport, the bill was drawn, and he did not even consult with the new owner.
Let us talk about looking forward to Mr Robinson’s development where, over 30 years, $700 million will be invested in Paraparaumu Airport and 5,000 skilled jobs will be created. Many of those jobs, hopefully, will support iwi as well, which I think is fantastic. They will be sustainable jobs. The other significant thing is that this airport will now be a strategic linkage between the western link road and Kapiti Road—which Mr Hughes would know about if he got out into his electorate and looked around.
Darren Hughes: I beat this member.
NATHAN GUY: That is right; the member did beat me—but he lost his majority, from 7,600 down to 300. It is the most marginal seat in the country, I tell those who are listening.
The two runways and associated aviation buildings will be placed in an airport core. The fundamental thing for members of Parliament to realise is that the new owner is proposing an airport core for the two runways. In other words, that land will be locked up for future generations to enjoy. I think that it is significant that the two runways will be locked in an airport core for future generations. The new owner has actually been out and consulted with the community, has listened to their ideas, and is keeping the second runway. It will be of a shortened length, but it will still be locked in an airport core. I think the important thing for the other side of the House to realise is that this is private investment.
The Labour Government loves to run around giving out major regional initiatives. Recently $1.9 million was given out to the apparel and textile industry in Ōtaki. Here we have $700 million being invested over 30 years in Paraparaumu Airport, and this Government, I feel, is not even supporting the present development plan from Paraparaumu Airport Holdings. Government members are running around and Trevor Mallard is having photo opportunities and giving a couple of million here and there, and here we have the biggest example of economic transformation—that is a key phrase from the Prime Minister—right under the nose of this Government, yet it seems not to be supporting it.
I am presuming that Mr Hughes gave a letter of support from the present owner when he put his case forward to the Kapiti Coast District Council, although I guess there will be silence when I ask that question. There is silence, so I presume not.
The important thing to realise about this bill is that it will hurt not only Paraparaumu Airport but also nationwide airports. Airports all around the country are concerned about that. So the next speakers need to be aware that this bill, if it goes to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, is not affecting just the airport out at Kapiti; it will have a major impact on other airports, as well.
I ask members to look at new section 3AB, “Sale of airport land must be offered to the Crown first”, to be inserted into the Airport Authorities Act by clause 5 of the bill. Here we have the Government being the first cab of the rank. It is effectively saying that the Government will have the first mortgage, and any previous owners who feel they have a claim will be like the holders of the second mortgage. So I cannot really understand that myself.
Darren Hughes: I cannot believe my luck, at this speech!
NATHAN GUY: I ask Mr Hughes to look at new section 3AC, also to be inserted by clause 5, which restricts land use to aerodrome purposes—what the member said was a “backstop” position. This is socialism at its best, is it not?
Here is the Government saying that it knows what is best. Someone like Minister Carter can come in and be able to veto any project around any sort of airport development. It was interesting that Nick Smith’s bill to do away with a veto was locked up at 60 all. So half of the House supports getting rid of the veto, and the biggest concern I have about new section 3AC is that a Minister of Transport—it could be Chris Carter, in the future—could veto any developments on any airport. I think that that is absolutely ridiculous.
The other key thing to realise concerns the article I recently saw in the National Business Review, dated 13 October. The article’s headline is “Airports get government permission to privatise”. Is that not surprising? Well, well, well! The article states that the Government is endorsing the corporatisation of airports. The two particular airports it has let go of, so to speak, are those of Hawke’s Bay and New Plymouth. It is important to realise that the Mayor of New Plymouth District, Peter Tennent, states in this article that corporatisation will enable development plans to be freely funded. So here we have the Government on the one hand wanting to privatise airports, but on the other hand wanting to have more control. So time has moved on from this bill.
The public support now around the developments of the Paraparaumu Airport is huge. I was in Coastlands when people were coming in and engaging, looking at display boards, and seeing the plan. About 500 people came in over 2½ days, and only about 12 people were opposed to the developments. So I say to Mr Hughes that time has moved on. The community is now supporting Mr Robinson’s programme of development, and I urge the member to get in behind this development, because it is an example of economic transformation. It is the sort of major regional initiative that his Government trumpets all around the place.
Let us be mindful that this is private enterprise doing what it does well. We would not see the Government stepping in, investing $750 million and creating 5,000 jobs over the next three decades, would we? For that reason National opposes this bill. The bill is illogical, it is flawed, it does not seem to have had any legal input, and I think the select committee—if the bill gets that far—will have to do a hell of a job to get it into some sort of practical state. I believe that a dark cloud will hang over the developments of Paraparaumu Airport for the next year or two if this bill gets bogged down in the select committee.
GORDON COPELAND (United Future) : I must say that on a night like this it is rather pleasant to be in a centre party. I have already voted tonight for two National bills, and now I intend to vote for a Labour bill. Should it happen later tonight that an ACT bill comes before the House, I will vote for that bill, as well. It is nice to be able to evaluate each bill on its own merits as it comes along, and not to be driven by an ideology of the right or the left. That is where I feel comfortable.
First, I congratulate Darren Hughes on having the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill drawn from the ballot. It is always very good for members, when they put a bill in, to strike the jackpot. I am pleased that this bill has come before the House. I have listened to Nathan Guy’s speech, and I must say that some of the things he said reassure me, to some degree, about what is proposed at Paraparaumu. I must also say that I will always think of Paraparaumu Airport as an airport. I made my first flight when I was 8—I remember being as nervous as a kitten. I flew from Nelson into Paraparaumu Airport. Then I got on the bus and went down to Customhouse Quay in Wellington, where we got off at the National Airways Corporation depot. For many, many years, when I made the return trip back to Nelson, I did that in reverse. So I flew out of that airport many times before we had an airport at Rongotai.
It remains, to my mind, of strategic importance, not only to the capital city but also to the nation, that Paraparaumu Airport remains an airport. If that is what the developers have in mind—to maintain it as an operational airport—then I think they have nothing whatever to fear from this bill. However, if it becomes clear that there is a different agenda at work there, which would mean bringing to an end the airport operating as an airport, then it seems to me that they have broken, if you like, a moral obligation to make sure that that airport does stay operational going forward.
One can think of a lot of scenarios about Rongotai airport. For example, we have a massive fault line in Wellington. The airport would probably escape the ravages of global warming, but it is not very far above sea level. So for a whole lot of reasons, and given the fact that we are the capital city, it is very important that we have an alternative airport to Rongotai and maintain that position going forward. So I think the select committee should give its consideration to the issue. I see this bill as a fall-back position, which has the intent of keeping the new owners of Paraparaumu Airport honest. I fully support economic transformation, and I fully support the role of private enterprise as being irreplaceable in bringing about that transformation. I do not want to impede that process, but I hope that in this particular case we can have our cake and eat it as well. I think this matter needs to be debated.
We look forward, therefore, to seeing the bill be referred to the relevant select committee, and in due course to seeing the result of its deliberation when the bill comes back to Parliament for, hopefully, its second reading. We will be supporting the bill.
In preparing to speak on this bill, I did a little bit of research, and I came across a letter to the Queen of England. I will share parts of this letter with the House, because they have a genuine relevance to the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill that we are considering today. The letter included the following statements: “I am declaring my Tribe’s Independent State in Whaingaroa, Aotearoa … on the 12 February 1996. The signing will take place on the 63 acres of land which was confiscated for an aerodrome during World War 2. Our village was demolished and our people made homeless by our forced contribution to the war effort. The government gave the land to the local County Council after the War, who leased it to a golf club. … over the years these lands have been taken by unjust laws passed by successive governments. We were arrested on the 12 February 1978”—I am proud to say that my mother was one of those people arrested—“during a sacred service on the burial grounds of our ancestors. Finally in 1984 some of the land, our original village site, was returned. … I can no longer sit and do nothing. … Like my ancestors, I am willing to die for my people’s freedom. It is time that we determine our own future in our own land.” The letter was signed by Tuaiwa Hautai Kereopa, who is known to this House as Eva Rickard.
Whether it is Whāingaroa, Kaitāia—our airport land was appropriated in 1941—or Paraparaumu, we have been down this road before. The land taken under the Public Works Act for Paraparaumu Airport should have been offered back to the owners rather than on-sold to developers, just as the land at Whāingaroa should have been offered back to Tainui Āwhiro rather than given to the local council for the Raglan golf course. This bill is different though, because it does at least acknowledge and involve te whānau o te ngārara, representing the interests of the former Māori owners of Paraparaumu Airport land, as well as other interested parties—both Māori and Pākehā—all of whom lost land taken under the Public Works Act for the airport.
So we are pleased to support a bill that recognises the need to look to mana whenua when dealing with land that is surplus to airport needs. But it is also important to define exactly what an airport is, so that everyone is clear about when land is no longer required for an airport, because at this very moment it seems that Paraparaumu Airport Ltd is looking to develop land for purposes that are not airport-related, which means that the rights of the local tangata whenua and other landowners, both Māori and Pākehā, are likely to be eroded even further.
The issue is still outstanding—and we cannot ignore it—in regard to the lack of protection for Māori land interests under the Public Works Act of 1981, so it is good to see that this bill may allow for a review of the sale process back in 1995. Again, the Māori Party congratulates te whānau o te ngārara for bringing attention to the need to review the airport’s ownership of the land in question. They lodged a claim with the tribunal in 1996, they occupied the airport in 1999, and they have consistently put this issue before the House. Indeed, Cabinet papers show that the Government knew of the possibility of a Treaty claim on the Paraparaumu Airport land from at least 1991.
Whether it is 16 years or 60 years, tangata whenua should not have to wait for the Government to develop a clear policy on Treaty implications for the sale of Crown-owned land. A longstanding injustice created by the original sale into private ownership is, at long last, being aired in Parliament today, but—and it is a big but—the Crown still needs to address the wrongs committed under the Public Works Act. We urge the select committee to properly review the shameful history of this case, whereby the last National Government shifted the airport land into a limited liability company, and then sold the company and its land to a private individual
Finally, the Māori Party acknowledges the support of the airport coalition, for working with te whānau o te ngārara to oppose the Crown-sponsored confiscation of their lands. In moving forward together to address this injustice they have become beacons to us all, and we will support their efforts to take this bill forward. Kia ora, Madam Assistant Speaker.
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) : On behalf of New Zealand First I rise to speak to the first reading of the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill. New Zealand First will be supporting this bill going to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, so that the public can have input into this particular issue.
We believe that this issue is very important. We know for a fact that the original sale of the airport in 1995 by the last National Government was another example of a sale of a strategic asset. It was sold off very cheaply, for $1.6 million, despite the community’s opposition. Of course, it was another totally unjust fire sale on the part of that National Government, and the negative reports from the Auditor-General have emphasised that point.
New Zealand First is totally opposed to the sale of strategic assets. We believe that airports and aerodromes are a key strategic asset, and that public ownership is the very best way of giving such infrastructure a future. This bill will give the Government the first option to purchase the privatised airport land once it is put up for sale, thus allowing the Government to return privatised regional airports to public ownership. In fact, the only way we can give certainty to provincial and rural aerodromes is to ensure that they continue to have an aviation use.
I recall that there was fog in Wellington on one occasion, and I had to land at Paraparaumu Airport and be bussed to Wellington. So it is a very useful asset for Air New Zealand to have access to, and for it to be able to land flights there. We in New Zealand First believe that legal safeguards are absolutely essential in order to ensure that airports fall under the Airport Authorities Act. Again, we also believe that we need to protect our strategic assets. In many cases, once those strategic assets have been sold and are gone, we can never ever get them back. Sometimes it is to New Zealand’s detriment that we never have the use of those strategic assets again. So New Zealand First will be supporting this bill going to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : The Green Party is very pleased to support the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill, and congratulates Darren Hughes on this simple but important bill and on having it selected. The bill is common sense, but it is also really important that we should seek to retain the ownership of key strategic transport assets like airports. I mean, what a lunatic idea it was to sell off an airport, and what short-term thinking that was. Nathan Guy said the airport was sold off “quite justifiably” in the 1990s because it was not making money. What an extraordinary comment that was! By the same logic, should we sell off every road, every part of the rail network, and everything in the country that is not immediately making money? And then, when we need an airport at some point in the future and there is no land available for it, I wonder what Nathan Guy would suggest that we do then. It is the ultimate in tragic, short-term thinking.
It is almost bizarre to think that Paraparaumu Airport was sold to a private owner 10 years ago for $1.6 million, and then the private owner promptly sold enough of it to build 12 houses for $800,000. I mean, what a joke that was! Well, it is not actually a joke; it is terrible. How could we have let that happen? It was the ultimate in short-term thinking. At some time down the track, suddenly, we will turn around and say we really need an airport at Paraparaumu or wherever else it may be needed, and there will not be any land left. It is quite extraordinary not only that the last National Government allowed that key strategic asset to be sold for $1.6 million—for peanuts—but also that National members still support that short-sighted policy. Surely, the National Party would recognise that there are such things as key transport assets, and that airports would be amongst them. Surely, if we are talking about strategic assets, we have to think long term, and not think short term about whether we could sell a bit of land for 12 houses today and have no land for a key transport asset in another decade. That sort of short-term thinking has created most of the problems that we are confronting today, from climate change downwards. It is a short-term, let-us-sell-everything mentality that would sell off the family silver for a few thousand dollars, in this case.
So I thank God that Darren Hughes has had the good sense to come up with this simple but important bill, which seeks to keep airport land for aviation purposes. The bill will require airport companies that wish to sell land to first offer that land back to the Crown. We congratulate him on doing this, and we congratulate the Labour Government on having the good sense to consider airports to be key, long-term strategic assets. I can remember being on the Wellington City Council when it tried to flog off Wellington Airport—to sell our ownership in the airport. Of course, Infratil and other companies are dying to buy our airports, because not only are they key transport strategic assets but also they are highly profitable ones. All around the world, companies are dying to buy up airports and maximise their shareholder return. But surely it is more important that we consider the long-term interests of New Zealand and of our transport infrastructure, and that we seek to retain assets like airports in public ownership. Thank you.
Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) : I am looking forward to the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill coming to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. I congratulate Darren Hughes on his excellent work as a local member of Parliament who is prepared to listen to his community and act on its desires and wishes. Many people have worked very hard, over many long years, seeking to get some sort of justice from a situation that everybody knows was unjust. In the last term the select committee put in a very thorough piece of work. The committee was aided by some very, very good legal brains and by people with expertise who were advisers to the committee.
This bill seeks to do something that I think National Party members should support rather than coming here tonight to say they are opposed to it. I would like National members to explain what they are opposed to in new section 3AB, “Sale of airport land must be offered to the Crown first”, inserted by clause 5. I would like the National Party to explain to the New Zealand public why that should not be the case, because this land was taken under the Public Works Act in the first place—from both Māori and Pākehā owners. The expectation of those owners was that should the land not be needed for that purpose again, it would be returned to them under the Public Works Act, or at least the offer to buy it back would be made to them.
But the device that the National Party came up with was to form companies and then pass legislation to allow them to get the land—or in the case of Paraparaumu Airport, sell it for half of what it was worth on the basis that it did not have to keep going as an airport. Can members imagine anything more crooked? I cannot, in terms of the Government doing that sort of thing.
Hon Member: Don’t talk about crooked.
Hon MARK GOSCHE: The Hansard of that member’s speech will be kindly supplied to all the people in the electorate via the good member here, Darren Hughes. Those people will see that that National member actually supports that sort of crooked behaviour and that the National Party has not learnt a thing. We went through this thoroughly, and there are all sorts of things that the National members should be ashamed of. They have a chance tonight to redeem themselves by supporting this bill.
Under the former National Government, Paraparaumu Airport was sold for a lesser value than what it would have sold for if it had been required to continue to be run as an airport. If it was not required that it continue to be run as an airport, the taxpayer would have got twice as much money back. What happened when the owners got it? The first thing they decided was that they did not need a particular bit of land, so they sold a small part of it for $800,000. The National Party thinks that is OK. Well, let us make sure that the word gets out all around New Zealand, too.
I looked at some of the Cabinet papers on Ardmore Airport and I saw that one of the National members had to be told to back off in that sale process because he was acting in a very strange way—to put it politely. National has all sorts of dirt all over its hands on this whole issue, and I cannot understand why National members would oppose the land going back to the original owners if it is no longer needed. That is what everybody understands the Public Works Act to be. I am looking forward to some convoluted explanation from the next speaker for the National Party as to why that is wrong.
Darren Hughes: You will get it!
Hon MARK GOSCHE: I will get it, because National members are used to getting highly paid lawyers to try to get them off the hook when they behave badly. They are doing it this week, they did it then, and they will keep on doing it if they ever get the chance to be in Government again. It is disgraceful.
There is an open and shut case of injustice here, and we are trying to remove that injustice. It is not as though the current owner has to give it back. The current owner can continue to do what he says he will do, and run an airport, and nobody will interfere with that. It is only if the land is no longer needed for the airport that we would look at giving some justice back to those people who lost their land. They had to go through court cases. They had to go through petitions. They had to go through occupations. They still got no justice out of the National Party. The National Party could not even spell the word, let alone understand it.
I look forward to this bill coming back to the select committee, where we can look at tidying it up. This legislation is long overdue. I give Darren Hughes another word of congratulations on being a good member of Parliament. He is prepared to take up the fight against injustice for all his constituents and stand up to the National Party, which is interested only in looking after vested interests.
CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) : It is not good enough for us as legislators to come down to this House and give warm-feeling speeches. Our responsibility is to look at the legislation and the consequences of it. When we do that, we see that this legislation is a dud. The purpose as set out in clause 4 is to: “ensure that vital aerodromes remain operational.”, but it has some serious unintended consequences. I ask members to consider these hypothetical situations.
Consider first Auckland International Airport, which is just down the road from the previous speaker Mark Gosche’s address. That was privatised some years ago and it is an extremely profitable organisation. It owns a lot of land around Māngere and employs about 10,000 people. It needs to provide ancillary services for those people. For example, at Auckland Airport there are supermarkets and banks. Let us look at the proposed section 3AB, inserted by clause 5. It provides that where any land is no longer required for use as an aerodrome, the airport company must offer to sell the land to the Crown. But the term “aerodrome” is not defined in the Airport Authorities Act; it is defined in the Civil Aviation Act. Under the Airport Authorities Act, an airport means: “any defined area of land or water intended or designed to be used either wholly or partly for the landing, departure, movement or servicing of aircraft;”.
I ask members to now consider this hypothetical: Auckland Airport decides to sell land to a bank or a hotel so that the bank can build a branch or the hotel company can build a hotel. Neither operation will be either wholly or partly for the movement of aircraft, nor can it be said that any such buildings will be used in connection with the airport or its administration. Is it intended that this land must be offered back to the Crown under the proposed provision? That land is certainly not an aerodrome, yet it is very important to the efficient running of the airport operation, and Mr Hughes’s bill will necessitate that it go back. [Interruption]
It is amazing. Labour members want answers to questions. They ask for answers to questions, and in their typical trade union, yobbo way, they try to drown me out. Well, let us look at proposed section 3AC, inserted by clause 5, which provides that the Minister is able to restrict land for aerodrome purposes. Again, Mr Hughes’ sloppy drafting is apparent for all to see. The heading of the section refers to aerodrome purposes, although paragraph (1) refers to aviation purposes. But what are aviation purposes? They are not defined in the Act, nor is any definition proposed in the bill.
Let us take this hypothetical. Let us consider a small regional airport that has surplus land. In order to ensure the long-term viability of the airport, it decides to lease the surplus land to commercial entities to try to obtain a return. Getting better use of the land in that way is critical to the viability of the airport. Is it seriously being suggested that the Minister could say that the airport could not do that? The land is not being used for aviation purposes but rather is leased to tenants who are using it for other than aviation purposes, yet the effect of Mr Hughes’ bill will be that the Minister will be able to put a restriction on the title deed. Why should the Minister have the power to restrict land use in those circumstances? It is simply ridiculous and could result in an airport being closed.
So it is not enough for Mr Hughes to stand up here and give one of his warm-feeling speeches. He has to drill down into the detail of the legislation. He has to read what has been drafted for him. Unfortunately that member—God help us if he is ever a Minister—has not addressed that. So there are wider implications of what appears to be a misguided effort by Mr Hughes to try to hold on to his 300-vote majority. His proposal will adversely impact on activities in the Kapiti region and have very serious economic consequences. That is why National is voting against this bill. When I consider this latest effort of Mr Hughes, I think of the old saying: “Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.”
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Minister for Transport Safety) : It is a privilege to speak in this debate. History is a wonderful thing, is it not—especially when one looks back? I think that was a landmark speech from the National member. It is one that we will take great delight in digging out from the Hansard in years to come, to quote back to him.
I say to the member, who was not in Parliament at the time, that I was approached by my very good friend and colleague Judy Keall MP, who was very concerned about the proposed sale of Paraparaumu Airport. I think that was in 1995, although it may have been in 1994. Roger Sowry was the National MP in the area at the time, and the Hon Maurice Williamson was the then Minister of Transport, responsible for the ownership of Government-owned airports such as the one at Paraparaumu. I have not flown into Paraparaumu very often, only once or twice on diversions in bad weather. The airport was largely used for training purposes and private aviation. It had a huge training workload.
The aeroclub was based at the airport. I remember three of the people involved quite distinctly. Mr Kevin Henderson, Mr Ross Sutherland, and Dr Chris Sutcliffe, who were all very active members of the aeroclub. They came to see me with regard to what they saw as the development of an absolutely unfair situation. In the then National Government’s ideology of the time—with privatisation being the sole reason for being, I think—it was decided that the airport should be privatised. It had been discovered that a prospectus had been quietly issued, advertising huge profits for the investors, and I was told by the aeroclub people of proposals with quotes that up to $40 million of land would be made available. That land was to be sold on the basis that the airport, which at that time had a full cross-runway and a main runway, was able to have its aviation area reduced. The proposal to make money out of this sale was to shorten dramatically the cross-runway and to allow the non-use for aviation purposes of a whole lot of land associated with it, which, of course, because it was in a very desirable area, could be subdivided and built on.
That prospectus, equally quietly, disappeared. Raj Thompson, who was either a reporter for or the editor of a newspaper called the Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle, based, I think, in Paraparaumu, interviewed me and others several times about this issue. At that time we could not find a rationale as to why the National Government of the day was selling the airport and why it had made the decision to sell land valued at $8 million for only $1.6 million—an absolute bargain to the buyer. Of course, if one is the owner of an airport and one decides not to maintain the cross-runway, so that it falls into disrepair and cannot be used, and one does not maintain, for example, the runway landing lights, then obviously the Civil Aviation Authority will eventually say the airport is unsafe for use.
Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A basic rule of the Standings Orders is that the debate has to be relevant. This is a first reading speech on the Airport Authorities (Sale to the Crown) Amendment Bill, and we cannot have a general excursus on civil aviation and the Minister’s experience of it. We really have to focus on the purpose of the bill and the mechanisms it contains for the particular purposes advanced by the member for Otaki.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): I will rule on the point of order. The member was addressing the bill.
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: If I can help the member, I say it is useful to provide some background for the benefit of new members, so that they actually understand what happened in the period leading up to this bill. The Airports Authorities Amendment Act of 1996 was designed exactly in order to prevent this sort of nonsense from going ahead again. Ever since, we have had fights about whether an airport is an essential piece of infrastructure and about whether the land held for aviation purposes at this particular airport should have been allowed to shrink so as to liberate a whole lot of land for residential development.
The bill itself says it is absolutely clear that a number of deficiencies were not addressed. The land for Paraparaumu Airport was originally taken under the Public Works Act. It was not offered back to its original owners, who were highly aggrieved about the sale process. The local council was influenced to change its designation over industrial land in order to free it up for real estate purposes, which made an enormous amount of extra money for the investors in the airport. The investors in the airport, according to Mr Williamson’s actual requirements for sale, had to have aviation interests. We later found that one of the aviation interests was a baker who kept bread in a hangar at the airport. Another of the aviation interests of the investors was a helicopter based at Lindale Tourist and Agricultural Centre that was sometimes refuelled at the airport—not a close connection. Yet the aeroclub, which was actually able to demonstrate a quite clear aviation interest, was ruled out of the bidding process. Worse than that, the successful bidders put in a bid at that stage, saying they would bid up to $100,000 above the next-highest bidder. In other words, it was an open tender up to a certain amount, with a premium of $100,000. What sort of a shonky process was that?
I commend the member for the bill and recommend it to the House.
DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) : I thank members for their contributions, particularly Gordon Copeland, Hone Harawira, Barbara Stewart, and Sue Kedgley. Their contributions show that the House is well informed on the issues surrounding Paraparaumu Airport, and I thank them for their support. I am also grateful for the comments made by my friends and colleagues Mr Gosche and Mr Duynhoven, who gave a whole lot of history about what went on in respect of this airport. That history was probably news to a lot of National Party members, who do not seem to pay a lot of attention to what their Government was responsible for, but then get all pious about what we are trying to do to fix the issues. So I am very pleased that my colleagues were able to provide some context.
We had a lot of huffing and puffing from Mr Finlayson, who said in his maiden speech that he was not going to be into personal attacks. Nevertheless, he managed to tell members they were stupid, yobbos, and all sorts of things. But I guess a year is a long time ago, and that was when he talked in his maiden speech about his high principles—and I forgive the member for that. The member asked what on earth aviation activity was. The learned person he puts himself about this Chamber as being obviously was not listening when I specifically said I wanted the select committee to amend my bill to include the term “identified airport activity”. So it is very clear from the Airport Authorities Act what I am talking about. I hope that explanation assists the member.
I hope the explanation assists the formerly well-paid lawyer who also spent a lot of time talking about Auckland International Airport tonight. That airport was established under its own Act of Parliament, as was Wellington International Airport. Those two airports fall outside the scope of this bill because they have their own Acts of Parliament. I can only assume that the member knew that fact and was temporarily misguided in his contribution tonight. He can go out to the lobbies and check the law. So that was Mr Finlayson’s great legal contribution.
I come to Nathan Guy. What a fantastic speech he made! From my own perspective, I am very grateful to him for the comments he made. I have never heard anybody celebrating the loss of an electorate as much as that member. In a year when National won nearly every other rural seat in the country, the great farmer—the great rural man—could not even win a rural seat in the Horowhenua and Kapiti region. Most of his speech was about his almost winning the seat. Well, I have bad news for him: he lost. He is a list member. But that is all right; he still has a contribution to make, and I am glad he made a contribution, because his comments tonight were his first public comments—certainly that I am aware of—on the Paraparaumu Airport. Nathan Guy sits and waits for the wind to blow, meets all the public relations companies, gets all the arguments, and weighs everything up. I heard a lot of lines from him tonight that I have heard in other places around the traps from other companies. So it was very interesting to hear what that member had to say.
Of course, Nathan Guy did not address two of the things I asked the National Party to address. As the lead National Party speaker on the bill, I thought he would do that. He never told us whether he thought a fair price was paid in 1995 for Paraparaumu Airport. There was silence on that, so I assume he thinks it was a fair price. Secondly, he failed to tell us whether former landowners had been treated justly and fairly. There was silence on that, as well. My bill aims to give former landowners a sense of justice. It also seeks to ensure that such airports can be kept for aviation purposes.
My luck has improved even further. Maurice Williamson, the Minister at the time who was responsible for privatising Paraparaumu Airport, has just walked into the Chamber. So we have had an apologist speech from Nathan Guy tonight. It ran all the lines about the airport but did not say what he would try to do to assist aviation and give justice to former landowners. We have had a speech from Chris Finlayson, who brings two legislative books to the House for every speech he gives. But it is clear from the mistakes he made that he consulted neither of those books. Then the architect of the privatisation, who flogged off the airport for a song—$1.6 million—came into the House.
I say finally that one of the reasons I have introduced this bill is that as members of Parliament we have a responsibility to be watchdogs for the public interest. I am not prepared to simply accept assurances, based on the fact there was a stand at a shopping mall somewhere that seemed to have wowed Mr Guy so much, that there needs to be no mechanism for former landowners. I cannot do that. I have to make sure there is a proper process there, in terms of the legislation, that builds on the work of the select committee, on the observations of the Auditor-General, and on the wants, needs, and desires of the people of Kapiti to see that airport protected. That is what this bill sets out to do.
I think that airport users and the people around Kapiti will tell me what they have been telling me all along—that this bill is needed because they know something went down that was not right. If National members want to keep apologising for their 11-year mistake, they can bring it on. I will be very happy for them; I could not be happier. I promise National that I will distribute far and wide the speeches its members have given in the Chamber tonight, because those members were absolute apologists. They tried to back up what National had done in the 1990s. They did not address the key questions. They clearly have not read the bill that I have read and, indeed, written, so I tell Mr Finlayson that I know what I am talking about in that regard.
I look forward to the bill going to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. National members will then see how strongly people support this whole approach of keeping strategic assets, and making sure that our community can use them, enjoy them, and keep them there for future use. I thank members for their comments. I am glad the bill will receive strong support in this House tonight.
This debate just sums up National’s approach to me—ripping off the taxpayer, having no concern for Māori or former landowners, and having no concern for the community’s sense of future. National can keep that approach for as long as it possibly can—I am delighted by its approach here tonight.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
|Ayes 70||New Zealand Labour 50; New Zealand First 7; Green Party 6; Māori Party 3; United Future 3; Progressive 1.|
|Noes 50||New Zealand National 48; ACT New Zealand 2.|
|Bill read a first time.|
- Bill referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.referred to Transport and Industrial Relations Committee