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Volume 663, Week 44 - Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Chamber, Lobbies, and Galleries—Audio System, Technical Review
Mr SPEAKER: Honourable members, following concerns expressed by a number of you a technical review of the Chamber audio system is under way. The designers of the system will be here from Wednesday, 2 June, and preparatory work using local expertise has commenced already. Technicians need to experience the performance of the audio system firsthand. I have therefore authorised two technicians to come into the Chamber today, under the supervision of the Serjeant-at-Arms, to observe and to listen to the proceedings of the House during question time. They will use the benches to the left and the right of the Chair. The technicians may use sound meters, but any equipment will be kept to a minimum and will be such that it does not in any way disrupt the proceedings of the House. Consideration will also be given to technicians occupying empty seats at the back of the House later on in the week. I am determined to get the sound system to perform better for members.
Samoan Language Week—Recognition
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO: O Talaleomalie o le Alo o le Tui Atua, aua ua ii le Manu ae logo i le vateatea, aua le vaiaso Faapitoa o le Gagana Samoa.
Talofa lava i Lau Afioga i le Fofoga Fetalai, faapea afioga i sui mamalu o le Maota Fono o le Palemene o Niu Sila, le mamalu o le tapuaiga o Samoa o loo fa‘afofoga mai. Malo le soifua, malo le lagi e mama.
I move, That this House take note that Samoan Language Week runs from 30 May to 5 June. This is a significant day for the more than 130,000 Samoans living in New Zealand, as well as those Samoans living in Samoa, Australia, America, and throughout the globe. This House will manifest its support and acknowledgment of this special week through members from across all the political parties using Samoan words and phrases as a way to promote le gagana Samoa, which is the third most spoken language in New Zealand next to English and te reo Māori, and by so doing, encourage greater understanding of the Samoan language and culture and therewith send a strong message that New Zealanders at the highest level of decision making embrace this diversity of language as a strength of our nation, going forward.
- Motion agreed to.
Fa‘afetai ma ia faamanuia mai le Atua i lenei taumafaiga.
Questions to Ministers
1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that his proposed cycleway would cost $50 million and “will create just under 4000 jobs when it’s being built”; if so, how many jobs have been created so far?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes, those were the initial thoughts of officials and others looking at the idea on the day of the Job Summit. If the member wants to narrowly define construction, the numbers employed directly look like being about 500, of which 70 are already working. However, I am confident, because of the hive of activity and excitement around local communities, councils, and tourism operators, that we will see 4,000 jobs in the long term as a result of this project.
Hon Phil Goff: If the cycleway was the big idea to come out of the Job Summit, why have only 70 jobs—70 jobs—been created in the 16 months since the summit was held?
Hon JOHN KEY: I would say that the big success of the Job Summit was the fact that we got employers, unions, and the Government on the same page, and what a stunning success it has been, with unemployment falling from 7.1 percent to 6 percent.
Hon Phil Goff: Were the summit and its initiatives designed to deal with the immediate unemployment problems arising out of the global financial crisis; if so, how does he rate the achievement of his flagship initiative in creating just 70 jobs, nearly a year and half since the summit was held?
Hon JOHN KEY: It is not for me to rate it. We can look at the commentators who said that the unemployment rate would be 11 percent; it has fallen from 7.1 percent to 6 percent—a job well done, I would have thought.
Hon Phil Goff: How does he define the term “quick start”, when a year after he announced seven Quick Start cycle trails, three have not even got off the drawing board?
Hon JOHN KEY: I would not define “quick start” as the influence that Phil Goff is having on the country as Leader of the Opposition.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very clear, straightforward question, and that answer in no way addressed it, and you know it.
Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma I have is that I could not even hear the question of the Leader of the Opposition because of loud interjections coming from both sides of the House. It is very difficult for me to rule in those circumstances. I think the only fair thing in the circumstances is to let the Leader of the Opposition repeat his question.
Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We do not need the question again. I can paraphrase exactly for the Leader of the Opposition. He said—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Phil Goff: My supplementary question was this: how does he define the term “quick start”, when a year after he announced seven Quick Start cycle trails, three have not even got off the drawing board?
Hon JOHN KEY: I say again that I define “quick start” as making more of an impression than the Leader of the Opposition is.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a serious—
Mr SPEAKER: Forgive me, but I ask the member to resume his seat. I invited the member to repeat his question, and it asked the Prime Minister how he defines “quick start”. The Prime Minister defined it. That is the dilemma with that kind of question.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the words “quick start” are used in relation to the cycle trails, they are used in a particular context and have a definition. That answer did not even come near to it.
Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma is in the construction of the question. It is a bit dangerous to ask a Minister how he or she defines something, because it gives the Minister a bit of licence to define things in a way that the member may not expect. I allowed the member to repeat the question because I wanted to hear it clearly, and I did hear it clearly the second time. There is the opportunity to ask further questions.
Hon Phil Goff: Is it correct, as reported, that to date only 10 kilometres of new cycleway, rather than upgraded track, have been created—only 10 kilometres—representing a mere 150 metres of cycle trail a week since he announced the policy?
Hon JOHN KEY: No, it is not correct.
Hon Phil Goff: Actually, it is. If the cycleway was such a good idea, as the Prime Minister said, why has he slashed the funding in the 2010 Budget for urban cycleways and walkways to half the level that it was in the 2008 Budget?
Hon JOHN KEY: To the best of my knowledge, we have not. As I have said so often in this House, if Phil Goff wants to go into the 2011 election campaigning on ripping up the cycleway, I say bring it on; I will see him at the debate.
2. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received showing signs that the economy is rebalancing towards exports and investment and away from borrowing, consumption, and property speculation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : This rebalancing of the economy is one of the main goals of Budget 2010. There are some encouraging statistics, but we need to keep in mind that any rebalancing of the New Zealand economy is a long-term goal, not necessarily able to be achieved easily in the short term. Last week Statistics New Zealand reported that New Zealand posted an annual trade surplus of $161 million in the year to April—the first trade surplus recorded since July 2002. The trade surplus for the month of April alone was $656 million, or 16.5 percent of the value of New Zealand’s exports. This compares with an average April trade deficit of 0.6 percent of exports for the previous 10 years. However, as I said, the figures for 1 month, or even 1 year, will not deal with the long-run problem of imbalance in the New Zealand economy.
Craig Foss: Why is it important that the economic recovery is built around exporting and investment rather than consumption, debt, and excessive Government spending?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is very important, because that is how we will undo the damage done by the previous Government, with its 10 years of mismanagement and a squandered decade in which it could have put—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you have given many rulings on these sorts of things. This question comes from the Government itself, so therefore the Minister must have had notice of it. It is inexplicable that he would start off with his answer being entirely about the previous Government. We have had an election, National is in charge now, and it should answer on the basis of its policies.
Mr SPEAKER: There will be silence while I consider this point of order. The dilemma I have, I say to the member, is that the Minister was asked why the claimed rebalancing of the economy was important. It is difficult for me to rule the Minister out of order in referring to how he sees things that have gone on in respect of the New Zealand economy. What he must not do is to make any allegations about what the Labour Party’s current policy may be, and then criticise that. He must not do that, but I think the Minister is within his rights to comment as he sees fit on the recent economic situation in New Zealand.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to your ruling on that and in view of Speaker’s ruling 145/7, which holds that “The Government can answer only for its own intentions and has no responsibility for the Opposition.”, would your ruling still hold it to be true that the matters to which the Minister referred were wrong in fact as well as not being within his own purview?
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that the member is raising a genuine point. If the Opposition believes that anything that the Minister says is wrong, Opposition members can question him on the answer that he gives. The idea of supplementary questions is to test the accuracy and validity of a Minister’s answer. So, when the Minister—it appears that he might do this—comments on what has happened in the past, that gives Opposition members free opportunity to question him on anything he says in that answer.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is important to rebalance the economy because of the damage done by the mismanagement of the previous Government, which left behind an economy where the tradable sector had shrunk by 15 percent and the non-tradable sector had grown by 10 percent. Jobs that are based on borrowing, imports, housing speculation, and poor management of Government finances are not sustainable, as many New Zealanders have found out. We want to create sustainable jobs and higher family incomes.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In reference to the previous point of order, the matter does get somewhat more complicated. If one listened to that answer, one heard that it was not simply a recitation of matters that the Minister believes are important, but that he was giving his own view of, or his own spin on, what he thinks of those issues. In view of the Speaker’s ruling that says he has responsibility only for the Government and not the Opposition, it is not possible for Opposition members to question the Minister about Opposition affairs. We can question him only about Government responsibility, which means that we cannot ask him, in logic, a supplementary question about matters for which he is not responsible.
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member needs to be aware that the Opposition is no longer in Government. The Minister was commenting on the economic environment that he inherited as the Minister. That is no longer the property of the current Opposition; Labour was in Government then. The Minister did not make any comment on the Opposition’s current policies. I listened carefully; he made no comment on the Opposition’s current policies. But I believe the Minister is responsible for dealing with the economic situation that the Government inherited as he, on the Government’s behalf, sees it. He gave some facts in his answer—what he claimed to be facts; I heard some information about the tradable versus non-tradable sectors of the economy—but if he was wrong, then members of the Opposition can question him on the accuracy of that answer. Supplementary questions are there to test a Minister’s answer. I listened carefully, and the Minister made no comment about the Opposition’s current policies. But in respect of the activities of the previous Government, which the Minister has had to confront as the Minister in this Government, I believe it is legitimate for the Minister to make comment on those, although he can be tested on the accuracy of what he says.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is important to get some clarity for the Opposition on this matter. Are you ruling that we can use our supplementary questions to ask Ministers in this Government about the effect of policies of the previous Government, of which they were not members, and for which they had no responsibility?
Mr SPEAKER: It is very simple. Where a Minister, in his or her answer, covers issues that relate to the previous Government, Opposition members are perfectly at liberty to question the Minister about any aspect of his or her answer—in this case, his answer. That is absolutely within the Standing Orders. The idea of supplementary questions is to test the answer that a Minister has given. Often, Opposition members will not be happy, necessarily, with the answers that they are given, and the idea of having supplementary questions available to members is that if they believe a Minister has said something incorrect in an answer, everything that the Minister included in his or her answer is available for further questioning, even if the matter relates to the previous administration.
Craig Foss: What steps were taken in Budget 2010 to help the economy to grow faster and ensure that more of the growth comes from all the right places?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget took several measures to boost growth in the productive parts of the economy. They included reforming the taxation system in order to put the right incentives into the economy and help to keep skilled Kiwis in New Zealand; investing in New Zealand’s future through a significant boost in science and innovation, and in infrastructure; continuing to get debt and deficits under control; and investing record sums in priority front-line public services.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not about the sound system; this is about the constant heckling from the deputy leader of the Labour Party and Trevor Mallard, who just set up a wail across the House. You are closer than me to the Minister who is giving the answer, so you can probably hear him, but I can assure you that it was a struggle for me to hear the answer. I believe that all members of Parliament deserve to hear the answer and to not be subjected to a constant stream of barracking across the front benches.
Hon Darren Hughes: The answer that the Minister seeks in his point of order is in the hands of the Government: if Ministers give answers that attack a political party and are provocative, then of course it is just natural that there will be a response from Opposition members. If the Minister of Finance was able to get up, explain his own policies, and give succinct answers based on what he is doing right now, not on what happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago, there would be a much quieter reception. We are interested in his policies.
Mr SPEAKER: I will not take more of the time of the House on this matter. The Hon Rodney Hide’s point of order is a fair point of order; it was very difficult to hear because of the level of interjection. I say to the Hon Darren Hughes that I accept that the Opposition is not happy with the answer that was given. I absolutely accept that; there is no question about that. But to counter that by way of just excessive interjection is not the best way of countering it. The best way is to attack the Minister with sharp questions that test whether he has misrepresented, in the member’s view, the achievements of the previous Government. If he has done that, then members should question him in a way that shows that he is misrepresenting the achievements of the previous Government, rather than just interjecting on the Minister. I am sure that the Hon David Cunliffe will do that.
Hon David Cunliffe: In view of the zero net debt, the record low unemployment, and the longest post-war period of economic expansion that his Government inherited from the previous Government, is he satisfied with Treasury’s assessment of the growth impact of his Budget, which cost $15 billion in tax rebates and fails to scrape up over 7 years as much as 1 percent of additional economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: When Labour Opposition members understand the damage that they did to the economy in the last 5 years that they were in Government, then we will bother to have an economic debate with them.
Craig Foss: What policy approaches would put the growth in exports and investments at risk and mortgage the future of New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The kinds of approaches that would put that growth at risk would be increasing personal income taxes, and, in particular, getting back on the treadmill of making endless promises to anyone who asks for money, and thereby running up large external debts. New Zealand already owes the world $170 billion. Every policy that I hear from members on the other side of the House would make that significantly worse.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it his opinion that the decade of incompetence included incompetence in allowing him to take half a million dollars by pretending to live in Dipton?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but I tell that member that I spend many hours of my day on cleaning up behind his incompetence.
Question No. 1 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?
Hon Phil Goff: The source of the document is a summary of Budget 2008 and Budget 2010 as they apply to cycleways and walkways.
Mr SPEAKER: Who prepared it?
Hon Phil Goff: It was prepared by my office.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought, but the dilemma is that this information is in Budgets and is readily available to members of the House. I do not think that we should be doing that.
Oil Drilling—Management of Oil Leaks
3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Will he, before issuing any permits for deep-water oil drilling in the Great South Basin, ensure that all drilling companies have the ability to control any leaks that develop?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : The member is clearly concerned about an incident similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico occurring in New Zealand waters. I say to him that the New Zealand Government is equally concerned, as are, I believe, all oil companies throughout the world. I firstly indicate that we have officials from the Maritime Safety Authority in the United States at the moment working alongside the Americans, and we are also observing the work that has been done to try to rectify the problem there, and, indeed, to find out exactly what the problem was in the first place. More important, as part of our petroleum action plan we have required a body of work to be done on the environmental protection that would be required in our exclusive economic zone. Our expectation is that that work will be completed in time for it to be included in the legislation. Given that we do not have any prospect of deep-water drilling in New Zealand for at least the next 18 months, we expect those new requirements to be in the new law, and that companies will comply with them. But at the moment, it is very much a case of finding out exactly what happened, because it appears that no one quite knows, and that is not a satisfactory situation.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of that answer, will he give an assurance to this House that no drilling will proceed in deep water in the Great South Basin until the oil companies can demonstrate that they have the ability to plug a leak like the one we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first point is that no drilling is planned for any deep-water area—defined in the US as being below 300 metres—in New Zealand, certainly in the next 18 months, and perhaps up to 2 years. I am of the strong view that any of the oil companies that might be interested in pursuing their options will themselves, for the sake of their own liability, want to make sure that they are as safe as they possibly can. If we couple that with the environmental protections we will put in the exclusive economic zone legislation, I think the assurance can be given that the Government will do all it can to ensure that there is a stronger safety regime in place for people drilling in deep water in New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Although I accept the assurance that the Government will do all it can, does he accept that New Zealanders do not want drilling to go ahead in deep water until the oil companies have actually proven that they have the ability to plug a leak like that one, because so far they have not proven they have the ability to stop the leak?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is fair to say that there is one company with a problem. It is now emerging that it has had quite a significant number of problems over a long period of time, and perhaps the monitoring did not show that up quickly enough. That makes me think that we need to have those strong regimes. But I appreciate that New Zealanders will want to be comforted by the fact that the very best technology will be applied to any drilling operations in deep-water New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Although I accept that it will be the very best technology, does the Minister not accept that the very best technology may not be enough, and that, given the ecological sensitivity of the Great South Basin, we should not allow deep-water drilling until the oil companies have demonstrated that they actually have the ability to plug one of those holes?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I said at the outset, there is no plan to drill in that part of New Zealand—or any other deep-water part of New Zealand—for at least 18 months, or perhaps up to 2 years. I would be very, very surprised if any oil company went ahead without having the capacity to do exactly as the member suggests.
Budget 2010—Results of Television One Poll
4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with the 53 percent of New Zealanders in last night’s Television One poll who believe they will not be better off as a result of the Budget?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : What people believe is entirely up to them, but I can assure people that the GST / income tax switch will make the vast bulk of New Zealanders better off. They can check that out by going to www.taxguide.govt.nz and putting in their details. I would also note that 61 percent of people in that survey said that the Budget would be good for the economy, and, even more important, 94 percent said they did not want Phil Goff to be Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Provocative answers invariably lead to disorder. The answer was very good until the last unnecessary bit, but then the interjection across the House was totally unreasonable.
Hon Annette King: Who does he think has the best understanding of the impact of his Budget: himself, or our leading Christian organisations, who have spoken out against his Budget in the weekly newspaper Challenge Weekly, saying that it does little to reduce queues to food banks, that GST will fall most heavily on those least able to bear it, that it has not lessened the gap between the rich and the poor, and that the cost of new houses will rise, and who have dubbed his Budget the “price and pay Budget”?
Hon JOHN KEY: I would not agree with those comments.
Hon Annette King: When he said that New Zealanders would be pleasantly surprised in October, will the gap he highlighted when in Opposition, between the underclass and other New Zealanders, be closed by his tax cuts—an underclass he promised to do something about; if not, was the trip to McGehan Close with the TV cameras in tow just a publicity stunt?
Hon JOHN KEY: It will not be worsened, and I believe that the creation of 170,000 new jobs will help close that gap.
Hon Annette King: When he said New Zealanders would be pleasantly surprised with their tax cut in October, had he factored in the $10 to $20 a week increase in rents, as quoted by landlords; the $5 a week power price increase; the increase in telephone bills; the increase in accident compensation levies; the increase in doctors’ fees; the increase in the cost of food items; an interest rate hike; an increase in rates; and an increase in early childhood education costs for parents; and in fact will the surprise not be an unpleasant one, as Kiwis already suspect because they are not silly?
Hon JOHN KEY: No. If we take one of those points—we do not have all afternoon in the House—Treasury’s advice is that rents will go up by 1.4 percent. I might add that over the last 8 years of a Labour Government the average was 2.6 percent. I point out that if the member is looking at the inflation rate, which is really the fundamental point the member is making, I would refer her to Michael Cullen’s response when he was asked about why inflation was continuously running at over 3 percent under a Labour Government. He simply said that New Zealand could not be immune to these challenges and that the Government certainly could not control the price of petrol or food.
Hon Annette King: Does he think the low-income Aucklander who has contacted me today will get a pleasant surprise in October, given that he has just received an increase of $10 a week to his rent, before October, because of increasing costs from the Government’s Budget; he has been promised a $13.81 a week tax cut, and this rent increase leaves him with just $3.81 a week to cover the $9.68 increase in GST alone, without all the other costs he will face?
Hon JOHN KEY: All I can say is that if rent has gone up now, when there has been absolutely no change at this point, that is because the landlord is choosing to do that. I would make one point: I fondly remember before the Budget when the Leader of the Opposition or the finance spokesman—one of the two—said he was interested in talking to this Government about a capital gains tax on property. Well, that might have done a thing or two to rents.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the front page of the Challenge Weekly newspaper. It is not a well-known newspaper around New Zealand but it is a Christian newspaper, and I think it fits into your category of one that is not widely distributed.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a transcript from an interview on Breakfast television on 26 May with the New Zealand Property Investors Federation.
Mr SPEAKER: That one is a transcript from a recent broadcast, which is available to everyone.
Health Services—Minister’s Statements
5. NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all of his recent statements on health services?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) : Yes, including the statement that the Government has increased funding for positron emission tomography scans this year by $800,000 and next year by $1 million annually. Positron emission tomography scans are a specialised scan that is used to detect and evaluate some cancers, and can provide information about whether the cancer has spread and whether surgery is necessary. This increased funding will increase access for up to an extra 550 cancer patients a year—a near doubling of the existing number of patients with access to those scans.
Nicky Wagner: What benefits will there be for patients from this announcement?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government inherited a situation where some district health boards referred their cancer patients for positron emission tomography scans and others did not. That is clearly not fair or equitable. This new money is being spread across district health boards on an equitable basis nationwide to benefit 550 extra cancer patients across the country each year. The benefit for patients is that up to 40 percent may have their treatment plans revised after a positron emission tomography scan, and many of them will avoid unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment.
Hon Annette King: In light of his statements about Herceptin, was additional funding provided in Budget 2010 for extra cardiac checks for women undertaking the 12-month therapy with breast cancer drug Herceptin; if so, how much was provided?
Hon TONY RYALL: I do not have the detail of that specific matter with me. I would say, though, that we have made money available for improving cardiac surgery because we were concerned about the number of people waiting—a situation we inherited as a Government.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Maybe the Minister misheard me. I did not say “cardiac surgery”; I asked about cardiac checks for women who are taking Herceptin. That is what I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: It is a bit unusual to allow this, but I accept the point the honourable member is making. Could the Minister please answer that part of the question. The Minister indicates he has no further information on that. It seems he does not have the information.
Hon Annette King: Are the figures from Statistics New Zealand—which show that medical inflation continues to outstrip the CPI, jumping to 5.3 percent—correct; if so, on what basis did he make the claim that the Government has protected health spending, when the average percentage increase he has given to district health boards is 3.5 percent, with some district health boards getting as little as 2 percent?
Hon TONY RYALL: That claim was made clearly on the basis that when we look at the costs overall that district health boards are facing, we see that they are getting a very significant funding increase. In fact, funding today is a higher percentage of GDP than provided by any Government previously. I say to the member opposite that a heck of a lot more is being achieved than was achieved during her failed term as Minister of Health in this country.
Budget Calculator—Forecast Inflation Rate
6. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does the Government’s online Budget calculator use the Treasury’s forecast inflation rate of 5.9 percent for 2011; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : First of all, I thank the member for drawing the attention of the House to the website www.taxguide.govt.nz, where anyone can check the impact of the tax and income support changes that were announced in the Budget, and can confirm that virtually all New Zealanders will be better off. It does not include factors not directly attributable to the Budget, such as falling unemployment rates or indexation of entitlements. These are, however, reflected in the Budget forecasts, which include the creation of 170,000 jobs over the next 4 years.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was on notice, and was, I think you would agree, a very straightforward question. The answer really is either “Yes” or “No”. It appears that the Minister was trying to say that, no, it does not, but I seek your assistance in clarifying that matter.
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a fair point. The question was a very straightforward question; we heard a lot of answer that did not actually relate to the question. In the end, after we had heard what was not included in the calculator, we had not actually heard whether that inflation forecast was included. I think the Minister should answer that; it was on notice.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has become a habit of that member simply to raise spurious points of order if he does not get the answer he wants—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I have heard enough; the member will resume his seat. The question asked was a very straightforward question. The question asked, and I will repeat it for the assistance of members: “Does the Government’s online Budget calculator use the Treasury’s forecast inflation rate of 5.9 percent for 2011; if not, why not?”. That is a very straightforward question—no politics—and the House does deserve an answer. There is public interest in that, and the House deserves an answer. Instead of that, the member was thanked for drawing attention to the website, etc. That is not the way questions should be answered. At the end of the day, the member has drawn a conclusion from the Minister’s answer that maybe the calculator does not take account of that forecast inflation rate, but the public should know for certain and should not have to draw a conclusion about it. Where a straightforward question is asked, this House and the public deserve an answer.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Finance did give a straight answer, and I point you to Speaker’s ruling 157/8, which makes it very clear that a member cannot insist on a “Yes” or “No” answer. If you have ruled that that no longer applies, then we should be told that formally.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, I would ask for a little sense to be applied to Speakers’ rulings and the Standing Orders where a matter is clearly in the public interest, and it is not that difficult. The Minister of Finance is responsible. This matter is directly the responsibility of the Minister of Finance; it is not some peripheral thing. And I think the House deserves to know the information—whether the forecast inflation rate is included in the calculator’s calculation results. It is not a difficult matter, and it is just trifling with the House to avoid answering it. I ask the Hon Bill English to answer.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I take the point you have just ruled on one step further by drawing your attention to Speaker’s ruling 158/1. It seems to me that with the ruling you have just made, which will be of benefit to the House, you are in effect overturning Speaker’s ruling 158/1. I raise that because for many years Speakers have used the phrase “The Minister is just required to address the question.” in response to complaints about whether an answer has been properly given. Mr Speaker, I think it is very important for you to indicate whether, in fact, that provision still prevails, or whether you are, in fact, ruling in a way that sets a new precedent in respect of that. It would be of benefit for all members of the House to know whether that change is being made.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the honourable member’s point, and I have made it very clear that my interpretation of Standing Order 377 is very simple. The Standing Order states that “(1) An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” To me, the most crucial part of that Standing Order is that an answer must be given as long as it can be given consistent with the public interest, and the nature of that answer—if there is any doubt about the question asked; and there are many questions where it is hard to work out what exactly is being asked—should address the question as best the Minister can. But, in my view, there is no doubt about what that Standing Order means, and that is why, in my view, it is the responsibility of the Minister to answer a fair question. I think with some questions that are asked a member may be trying to get a “Yes” or “No” answer on something that is not absolutely the Minster’s direct responsibility, or was not on notice. But this question was on notice, and is about something right at the heart of things. The calculator is part of the Budget documentation; it was put in place by the department for which the Minister is directly responsible. There can be no doubt that it is a matter that that Standing Order intends should be answered. That is why I am asking the Minister to answer it.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I regret that I took the time to explain to the House what the calculator does do. In fact, what I said was that the calculator shows the impact of the tax and income support changes announced in the Budget. That is what it shows. It does not include factors that are not directly attributable to the Budget, and that is the answer.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate your efforts to enjoin the Minister to answer that question on notice. It was, as you say, a pretty straightforward question. The dilemma that I think the House has is that even after a second try the Minister’s answer is still quite indistinct, because it is, in fact, circular. He does not define what elements were “within the Budget” and what elements were not, and therefore he has not made clear to the House whether the 5.9 percent inflation forecast, which appears on page 63 of the Budget document containing the Economic and Fiscal Update, and which is an absolutely crucial variable—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has made his point clear, and I will try again. And I am being deadly serious here, because this matter is absolutely the Minister’s responsibility. The figure referred to in the question, it is claimed—and I presume that it has been validated—is in Treasury documentation associated with the Budget, so it is a matter that is absolutely at the heart of the Minister’s responsibilities. The Minister can refuse to answer the question if he believes that it is not in the public interest to answer it, but I would be highly surprised if answering the question was not in the public interest. I once more—and I am deadly serious—ask the Minister not to trifle with the House. I expect the question on notice to be answered. [Interruption] I say to those members who have interjected that they will cease that immediately. This is clearly a fairly testing time in this House. I do not think anyone has ever seen this done before, and I expect members to show a little respect to this place.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The calculator shows the impact of tax and income support changes announced in Budget 2010. It does not include factors that are not directly attributable to the Budget, such as price movements.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I sincerely appreciate your efforts, but the Minister has again given a circular answer. In—
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, the Minister said that it does not include price movements, which is another way of saying that it does not include inflation.
Hon David Cunliffe: Having established, then, that the 5.9 percent inflation rate forecast by Treasury on page 63 of the Budget document containing the Economic and Fiscal Update is not included in the public benefit calculator on the Minister’s website, how can he say to New Zealanders that they can go to that website and calculate whether they personally will be better off, if it, in fact, ignores the full effect of inflation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because the member is suggesting a stupid calculation, and we did not set up the calculator to make stupid calculations. If we wanted to work out the impact on wages over time, we might include an inflation rate, but we would also include projected wage increases. In the Budget the projected wage increases exceed projected inflation. The Budget also shows 170,000 new jobs.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although that question was not on notice, it followed directly from the previous question, which was on notice. The Minister appears to be responding that it is a stupid thing that New Zealanders would go to the website to try—
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. On the question on notice, I insisted that the Minister give this House an answer. I believe that the Minister’s answer on this occasion did answer the question the member asked.
Aaron Gilmore: What was the inflation rate over the 9 years to 2008, and what compensation for it did the Government provide?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Inflation over the 9 years to December 2008 averaged just under 3 percent, at 2.8 percent every year, and peaked at 5.1 percent in September 2008. The cumulative increase in the price level was 28 percent. Those who were on benefits obviously got indexation according to that, but, on the member’s logic, no compensation was offered to anyone else for 28 percent inflation in the cost of living.
Hon David Cunliffe: What provision does the online calculator make for rent rises being passed through to households following changes to property taxation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The calculator does not include rent rises, but the Government has been quite open about the work that has been done on it. Treasury has calculated that it may rise by somewhere between 1 and 2 percent over 3 to 5 years. If we had followed that member’s advice and brought in a comprehensive capital gains tax, rents would be going through the roof.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the online calculator make provision for the indication that up to 50 percent of retailers may seek to pass on price rises unrelated to GST, and what action will he take if that occurs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member had any idea of what was going on in the real economy, he would know the extent of the discounting being done by retailers. Retailers simply will not be able to get away with putting prices up to whatever they like.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can he say that New Zealanders will be better off as a result of this Budget, when the Government’s online calculator omits Treasury’s forecast inflation track, the likely full impact of GST, the impact of property taxes on rents, and the impact of increased Government charges and lost benefits, and when will he admit to the House that he has misled the public of New Zealand as a result?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member should take the advice he is getting from his own supporters, I suppose, on his side of the House, who pointed out to me before that if we are to show price increases over time, we need to match them with wage increases over time. Why does the member not include that in all his calculations?
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the disclaimer attached to the 2010 online Budget calculator, which makes no disclosure—
Mr SPEAKER: That is readily available to members of the House. We will not waste time with that.
Animal Welfare—Funding Increase
7. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Agriculture: What steps has the Government recently taken to improve animal welfare in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture) : Last week I was delighted to announce that the Government will spend an extra $8.2 million over 4 years to boost animal welfare activities. This is the largest increase in animal welfare funding for over a decade, and it reflects the importance this Government places on maintaining the highest possible standards of animal welfare.
Simon Bridges: What specific areas will benefit from the extra $8.2 million?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The vast majority of the funding will go to front-line services and will see the number of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry enforcement officers more than double. There is also additional funding for the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the SPCA, and for a major review of the Animal Welfare Act. This is a comprehensive package that, in addition to the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, will increase animal welfare compliance in New Zealand.
Hon Jim Anderton: Why has the Minister, in the new animal welfare code for 2010, allowed a religious group the right to cut the throats of animals without stunning them first, despite Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and scientific evidence that the animals suffer undue cruelty? This poses the serious question as to how this process will improve “animal welfare in New Zealand”.
Hon DAVID CARTER: If the member is referring to the Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare 2010, I have not allowed an exemption.
Hon Jim Anderton: Why has the Minister approved in the animal welfare code one set of rules for the Muslim community, which is required to stun animals before slaughter, and another set of rules for the Jewish community, which is not required to stun animals before they have their throats cut—something that I refused to agree to when I was reviewing the code as Minister of Agriculture?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The member is misinformed; I have not done so.
Overseas Investment Act Review—Treasury Comments on Screening
8. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with Secretary to the Treasury John Whitehead’s comments that the Government should remove overseas investment screening for all but the “most sensitive” of items; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The Government has been looking at the Overseas Investment Act to see whether it contains the right balance between the protection of New Zealanders’ vital interests, both economic and landscape, and whether the processes are as cheap and effective as they should be. Screening needs to recognise that New Zealand needs some overseas capital. We have billions of dollars of it here now, so we can access skills and technology and investment for new jobs, but also we need to recognise public concerns about those situations, whether the benefits of overseas investment do not outweigh the costs.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he aware that the National Business Review has reported that Andrew Petersen of Bell Gully is working on behalf of overseas investors attempting to buy Crafar farms; if so, does he have any concerns that that is the same Andrew Petersen of Bell Gully who is advising the Government on rewriting overseas investment rules?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is possible. I have not seen that publication or checked the facts. We did follow the common-sense course of asking those people who use the Act a lot what could be done to improve it. Ultimately it is Cabinet, though, that will make any decisions about any change in our overseas investment rules. In the meantime the screening process remains very thorough, and consistent with the Overseas Investment Act changes that were made under the previous Government.
Dr Russel Norman: Was Andrew Petersen of Bell Gully present when the Minister of Finance met the advisory group of corporate lawyers to discuss rewriting our overseas investment rules, on 18 February this year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is possible that he was. I have to say that lawyers all tend to look the same if one meets them in a room, and I could not guarantee whether it was him.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his answer, then, to written question No. 7033—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. If he could start the question again; I could not hear it, because of interjections.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister stand by his answer to written question No. 7033 from 30 April this year, where he said he had not met with any lawyers acting for Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, such as, possibly, the same Andrew Petersen from Bell Gully, and why is he refusing to release any information under the Official Information Act about his meeting on 18 February with the corporate lawyers advising the Government on changing the rules on foreign investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are getting into speculative territory here. I have absolutely no knowledge of whoever those who attended that meeting were acting for. It is unlikely they were acting for Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, which I understand has shown up only in the last couple of months in New Zealand. But I am quite happy to deal with any questions that the member has. In respect of the other issues, the Government is still considering its policy changes.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Talofa lava. Does he agree with the Landcorp chair, Jim Sutton, that the proposal from the China Jin Hui Mining Corporation, recently renamed Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, to buy the 16 dairy farms formerly owned by the Crafar family included “ ‘reputational risks’ to the New Zealand dairy industry and ‘New Zealand Inc’ ”; if so, what will be done to respond to these risks?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Any apparent risks around this particular purchase will be dealt with thoroughly by the existing processes of the Overseas Investment Office and the Overseas Investment Act 2005.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is he aware that one of the Crafar farms is part of the Maraeroa A and B blocks, over which Ngāti Rereahu has a settlement interest, and what processes of due diligence are followed to ensure that iwi are fully informed and involved before any deals are approved by the Overseas Investment Office?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is my understanding that the Overseas Investment Office goes through exactly a set of due diligence processes to ensure that all Treaty interests and claims are taken into account before any approval can be given.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the Official Information Act answer from the Minister of Finance about the February meeting of the working-group on overseas investment.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree that infrastructure assets with monopoly or oligopoly characteristics ought not to be sold to overseas interests?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I understand that people may get concerned about overseas purchase of those assets, although I note that on his watch the previous Government approved—and it may even have been the member himself—the purchase of the Wellington electricity lines network by an overseas buyer.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister aware that controls on the purchase of land by overseas interests have been tightened recently in Australia, and does his Government intend to follow suit?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I understand that those measures were taken in respect of the purchase of residential housing. The Government has not seen any particular problem in that respect in New Zealand.
Budget 2010—Opportunities for Tertiary Education
9. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Does he stand by his statement that Budget 2010 will “ensure more higher education opportunities for New Zealanders”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education) : Yes, because Budget 2010 funds more core tertiary places than ever before. In 2011 the Government will fund 117,400 full-time places at universities, which is an increase of 1,735 on previously projected figures, and 70,000 full-time places at polytechnics and institutes of technology, which is an increase of 3,173. That is a significant achievement in tight fiscal conditions brought on by the global financial crisis.
Hon Maryan Street: Can he confirm that, when he talks about more higher education opportunities for New Zealanders, he is not talking about all the new university enrolments who are being turned away at the door because the Government refuses to fund new places in universities adequately?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out to the member that the number we are funding this year—116,600—is significantly more than what the previous Government funded in 2008. That funding was projected to decline in 2009 and 2010. I also point out that the policy of capping university enrolments was created by the previous Labour Government, and was implemented in 2008.
Hon Maryan Street: Why does he stand by his original statement, when the total number of places funded by the 2010 Budget is only half the number of people who will be turned away from Victoria University alone in the remaining semesters of 2010?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not know that I want to argue with the member’s maths, but the total number of places in 2010 is 116,572. It is difficult to believe that that number of enrolments are being turned away by Victoria University, let alone double that.
Hon Maryan Street: Can he confirm that when he talks about more higher education opportunities for New Zealanders, he is not talking about filling university places with full-fee-paying international students at the expense of places for New Zealanders, but, instead, is talking about using international students’ money to fund New Zealand universities, which is usually the responsibility predominantly of the Government?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. My view is that we need to not only maximise the number of places for domestic students, which this Government is doing, with the highest number ever, but also improve and increase our international education fees. I point out to the member that universities in New Zealand compete for their academic staff with universities internationally, in particular those in Australia. Australian universities have significantly more fee income from international students than New Zealand universities, and we have to improve the fee income in New Zealand to enable them to compete with Australian universities. It is that straightforward.
Hon Maryan Street: Can he confirm that when he talks about more higher education opportunities for New Zealanders, he is not talking about second-chance learners who rely on adult and community education courses to help them get back into formal education, given Budget 2010 continues to slash funding to that sector?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government made some decisions on the funding of adult and community education. We have said we are focusing adult and community education in certain areas, but we are not expecting to subsidise all adult and community education. That was partially in response to the unfunded commitments left by the previous Government. In terms of full-time places at universities, institutes of technology, and polytechnics, this year’s numbers are at record levels, and next year’s numbers will also be at record levels.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Costs to Households
10. JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT) to the Prime Minister: How much of the $3 per week he referred to as the average cost for households of the emissions trading scheme on Television One Breakfast on 24 and 31 May relates to electricity and petrol price rises, and how much relates to the flow-on effect of these costs into the price of all other goods and services that households consume?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The cost of the emissions trading scheme for the average household is estimated to be $165 per year, or $3.17 a week, to be exact. I point out that that cost is half what it would have been under Labour’s emissions trading scheme. I have been advised that of the $165, $117 relates to electricity, petrol, and other energy price rises, and $48 relates to the pass-through of costs. This means that on the weekly measurement the member is using, of the $3.17-per-week cost, $2.25 relates to the increases in the price of energy, petrol, and electricity, and the remaining 92c relates to the flow-on.
John Boscawen: Why does the Prime Minister reject the Reserve Bank analysis of the costs of the emissions trading scheme, especially when it told the Finance and Expenditure Committee on 11 March this year that although the direct impact of electricity and petrol price rises is 0.2 percent, there is an estimated additional indirect impact of 0.15 percent, giving a total impact of 0.35 percent—that is, 75 percent more than the direct impact—which means that the full impact is more than $5 per week, not the $3 he and the Minister for Climate Change Issues are promoting?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member is incorrect. I quote from the Reserve Bank as supplied directly to me this afternoon: “the implementation of the ETS should not affect medium-term inflation … we expect to be able to look through this inflation boost.”
John Boscawen: Will the advertising campaign that the Government is planning highlight the $3-per-week figure or the full cost of the emissions trading scheme as calculated by the Reserve Bank?
Hon JOHN KEY: The full cost is $3.17 per week, as per the best estimates we have. I refer the member to the Reserve Bank, which said that there will be no impact on prices as a result of the emissions trading scheme shock. If the member does not want to accept that cost, he needs to go and challenge the Reserve Bank, but I have it here in writing, and the member should stop making it up.
John Boscawen: I seek leave to table my own email from Mike Hannah, head of communications and board secretary of the Reserve Bank, sent to me this afternoon, which confirms the evidence given by the Reserve Bank on 11 March, when it said that the total impact would be 75 percent more than the direct cost the Prime Minister refers to.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am pretty sure that I heard the Prime Minister say at the end of his answer that the member who had asked him a question was “making it up”. For a Prime Minister to accuse one of his own parliamentary colleagues of making something up cannot be parliamentary.
Mr SPEAKER: We all make comments in this place that are possibly not the best, but I do not think the member was overly offended. I think the House should leave it at that.
John Boscawen: I seek leave to table a letter from Mercury Energy to Scott Paterson of Balmoral, Auckland, advising of the increase in the retail price of electricity from 1 July this year on account of the Government-imposed emissions trading scheme and the extra costs it will impose.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Prime Minister—Conflicts of Interest and Blind Trusts
11. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement to the New Zealand Herald last year that he has put certain assets into a blind trust that is “so blind I haven’t got a clue what’s in it”?
Hon Pete Hodgson: How can that be, given that the public now knows that he knows he can access the details through Whitechapel Ltd whenever he wants to by going to the Companies Office website?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member is incorrect. I refer him to the legal opinion that I tabled last week—
Hon Annette King: We know who wrote that.
Hon JOHN KEY: If the member wants to call those lawyers and Bruce Gray QC, who peer-reviewed their opinion, liars, she is welcome to, but I suggest that she does it outside the House—and I wish her good luck with that one. I tell her to be brave and go out. I refer to point six of the legal opinion, which says “Whitechapel Limited is the trustee of Aldgate Trust and may or may not act as trustee of other trusts.” It is impossible to look at Whitechapel and know whom those assets are held for.
Hon Pete Hodgson: If I can find what is in his trust on any day of the week by going to Whitechapel Ltd, where I find only assets that were in his name at one time and never any other assets in the economy, why does he persist with the fiction that he cannot do so?
Hon JOHN KEY: Because I am accurate. Whitechapel is a trustee. It is a trustee for the Aldgate Trust, but it may also be a trustee for other trusts, and it may well have sold those assets. I have no knowledge of that.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the assets held by Whitechapel Ltd concern wine assets, dairy assets, and real estate assets, all of which used to be in the Prime Minister’s name, and that Whitechapel Ltd contains no other assets whatsoever?
Hon JOHN KEY: No. Whitechapel is a trustee company. It is a trustee company for the Aldgate Trust, as supplied in the legal opinion. As that opinion said in point six, Whitechapel may or may not act as a trustee for other trusts. It is physically impossible for anyone to know whom it holds those assets for.
12. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) to the Minister for Food Safety: What progress has been made on reforming New Zealand’s food legislation?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister for Food Safety) : I am pleased to advise the House that a Food Bill modernising our food legislation has been introduced to the House. This is a comprehensive reform, giving consumers better and more consistent protection, while giving food businesses more certainty and removing unnecessary requirements.
Shane Ardern: What effect will the food bill have on community fundraising activities?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: For a start, the Kerikeri jam makers will be able to make jam and the sausages will be back on the sizzle in Timaru without unnecessary bureaucratic rules.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Talofa lava. How can she guarantee that this bill will have no impact on the cake stalls and sausage sizzles that Kiwis rely on when section 93 of the bill says that people are liable to prosecution if they fail to comply with certain requirements under the bill?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: As the member knows, the bill is based on a risk-based approach depending on the risk of the food concerned. The bill will go to a select committee, and if that clause is a concern I am sure that the member will raise it at the select committee during the bill’s proper scrutiny.
Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I seek leave for all the provisions of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill to be taken as one question; for members to have unlimited calls of 5 minutes each; for the question on the bill, and any amendments proposed thereto, to be taken at the conclusion of the debate; and for the motion to divide the bill to be put without further debate.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Debate resumed from 27 May on the Appropriation (2010/11 Estimates) Bill.
Hon PANSY WONG (Minister for Ethnic Affairs) : This morning I was at the Wellington Fathers’ Breakfast, with 280 fathers, to celebrate families and the important role of fathers. I went there as the Minister of Women’s Affairs to show that women support men, and vice versa, and that families are important. This was what the Minister of Finance had in mind when he constructed the 2010 Budget—a Budget for the family and for future generations. I say well done and congratulations to the Minister of Finance, the Hon Bill English, on delivering a Budget for the many, not for the few.
This is a Budget that rewards hard work. Seventy-three percent of income earners will face an income tax rate of 17.5 percent or less. Two-thirds of the tax cuts in the Budget apply to people on incomes below $48,000 a year. Compensation will be provided to superannuitants and to Working for Families recipients to compensate them for the 2.02 percent increase to GST. This is a Budget that strengthens our economy, with $321 million being invested over 4 years in research, innovation, and commercialisation. Investment in ultra-fast broadband, KiwiRail, and transport infrastructure will continue.
I ask what the response to this well-thought-out Budget has been from the Labour Opposition. The answer is the Hon Pete Hodgson. He is on a daily mission, on taxpayer-funded time, to apparently google our Prime Minister, a self-made, successful Prime Minister, who was brought up by a solo mother in a State house. He is a self-made, successful man, who gave up his overseas business to come back to New Zealand because he wanted to ensure that the younger generation of New Zealanders would have the same opportunity.
So if the answer from the Labour Opposition to the National-led Government’s Budget is the Hon Pete Hodgson, the question beckons as to who else can lead a debate. Some people may have believed the Hon David Cunliffe, who believes that he himself is the most competent member of the Labour bench, to be the answer for Labour. However, today, when he asked a question, he showed himself up. He made an assumption about the tax calculator, which was set up to help individuals to check out what their net income position would be after the tax cut. He said that inflation would have to be factored into that tax calculator, but he absolutely refused to accept that New Zealanders may earn more or that competition may bring prices down. So here is a one-eyed Labour finance spokesperson.
I ask who else there is. Some may ask what happened to the invisible Phil Goff, the Labour leader and the Leader of the Opposition. Well, most New Zealanders may have forgotten by now that a week before the real Budget the Hon Phil Goff delivered an alternative budget. In light of the Labour alternative he delivered, we asked whether he would reverse the tax cut. The answer he gave was “maybe”. We asked whether he would reverse the GST increase. The answer, apparently, was “maybe”. We asked whether he would exempt “healthy food” from the GST regime. The answer was “maybe”. Well, maybe the Hon Phil Goff will be the Leader of the Opposition by election time next year. Who knows?
New Zealanders breathed a sigh of relief that our Prime Minister backs the Minister of Finance in the delivery of a Budget that contains no “maybes” and lays out a clear path for a brighter future for our country. Everyone in the town hall this morning was very impressed by the five speakers, including our Prime Minister. I will give a snapshot of one of the incidents that the Prime Minister related to the 280 fathers there in order to show his style of being a father. He talked about turning down a photo opportunity to open a baseball match that his son was competing in, because, he said, the day belonged to Max, his son. Our Prime Minister is happy and content to sit on the side watching and cheering as a father, rather than to be there as Prime Minister. He is backing his son, and he is not backing just his own children; he is backing the younger generation of New Zealand.
We all know individual well-being—
Sue Moroney: What a hero! I do that every weekend.
Hon PANSY WONG: It is quite interesting that every time we talk about our popular Prime Minister, it upsets Labour members so much. I ask them to get over it. He happens to be a successful, generous man, and to have a sunny personality. It is fantastic that he is the leader of our country.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I can’t hear you, Pansy! Speak up, Pansy—I can’t hear you!
Hon PANSY WONG: The Hon Clayton Cosgrove has so little to say when he faces up to our capable Minister of Police, the Hon Judith Collins. Next time, that member might want to speak up when he asks a proper question to our Minister of Police.
We know that individual well-being is enhanced when people are surrounded by strong families. Cohesive communities are also enhanced by strong families. Strong families and communities lead to a harmonious and peaceful society. We need to support our families. Our families in New Zealand care for each other. I want to acknowledge that some of our families in the community face more challenges than others, and, therefore, as the Associate Minister for Disability Issues, I acknowledge the courage and the spirit of self-reliance shown by members of our disabled communities and their families. The motto of our disabled community is “Nothing about us without us”. I was so proud to take part in New Zealand Sign Language Week, which was organised by the National Foundation for the Deaf. It was also humbling to attend the fund-raising appeal of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, which is raising money for a digital talking library.
One of the wishes of disabled people is to feel included and respected, and to have opportunities to work. This Budget will deliver that. It provides $3 million for a public awareness campaign to change attitudes and behaviours that limit the opportunities for our disabled people. The Budget provides $1.5 million to help promote design standards that will make homes accessible for a person’s lifetime. We have also set aside $93 million for disability services over the next 4 years in the health services area, and in the community support services area, in order to support independent living. We have set aside $2.7 million for respite care.
Society is judged by the way it looks after the disadvantaged, and this National-led Government makes us all feel proud of having a society that watches out for its disabled community.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) : On 20 May this year the Minister of Finance delivered for the Government the most far-reaching, significant Budget in the last 20 or so years. It is a Budget that will impact on this country for many years ahead. Then, for a very slight moment in time, the nation paused, and there was a collective silence—and “collective” is one word that Labour members understand; it is part of the socialist blight that affects their thinking. For a collective moment there was silence, and then, as the Leader of the Opposition began to speak, the nation collapsed into laughter because that leader, who incidentally had not asked the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance a question on the Budget until 1 June—today—asked not about a matter of fiscal substance, no it was all about the cycleway.
Let us reflect for a moment on what it is that the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party do not have confidence in. They claim not to have confidence in tax reform—the very cornerstone of this Budget. The objective of the Government with this Budget and with the tax reform package is to encourage saving and productive investment. It is to ensure that the tax system finally rewards effort, it is to make sure that the tax system is fairer, and that it is aimed to attract and retain skilled people. How can Labour not have confidence in a Budget and in a Government that has those objectives?
Let us have a look at the tax changes for a moment. On incomes up to $14,000 the tax rate is cut from 12.5 percent to 10.5 percent. How can the Labour Party not have confidence in that? On income between $14,001 and $48,000 the tax rate is down from 21 percent to 17.5 percent. How can it be that 250,000 New Zealanders on or close to the average wage, in the $40,000 to $48,000 bracket, have had, in the 18 months of this Government, their income tax nearly halved? How can the Labour Party not have confidence in that sort of decision by a Government?
I hope the list member Carol Beaumont takes her colleagues aside and has a word with them. Ms Beaumont has spent some time in the Glen Innes area of the Tāmaki electorate, which I have been elected to represent. She will be getting the message, which she must convey to her colleagues, that the people in those income brackets, who used to vote Labour without even thinking about it, are no longer interested. The old Labour Party constituency has worked out that the Labour politicians of today have absolutely no interest in their welfare and absolutely no interest in providing them with an opportunity to get ahead. That is where the Labour Party, with its vote of no confidence in this Budget, has failed its old support base. The list member Ms Beaumont knows that. She has been told that on the streets of the electorate that I represent in this House. It is incumbent upon her to deliver that message to her caucus colleagues.
Tax on incomes between $48,001 and $70,000 has been cut from 33 percent to 30 percent, and tax on incomes over $70,000 is down to 33 percent. I can understand why the Labour Party does not have confidence in that move. The House just has to go back to 1999 to remember how quickly Trevor Mallard and his mates moved to raise the tax rate up to 39 percent. There was no justifiable fiscal or economic reason for that Government to do that. It was sheer vindictive, punitive action against people who worked hard and made a success of their lives. That is all it was, and it is a tragedy that we have had to come all this way to a Budget in 2010, 10 years later, before a Government has had the opportunity to redress the balance.
So we come back to the basic question. What is it that the Labour Party does not have confidence in? It does not, it appears, have confidence in the ability, the commitment, and the dedication of New Zealanders to make good choices for themselves with the money that is left in their hands. Let us never forget that taxation is all about denying choice to the people who earn the money, and the more that the socialists take from the people, the less choice they leave them.
Let us reflect for a moment on the impact this Budget will have on the homeownership ambitions of our young people. Banks decide whether they will lend on the ability of the potential borrower to repay the loan and service the debt. That is how those decisions are made. So the more money that a Government leaves in the pockets of a young couple, the more opportunity that couple has to go to the bank and raise a mortgage to purchase a house. It begs another question: why does the Labour Party not want young New Zealanders to have the ability to own their own homes? The answer is simple: the Labour Party depends on keeping people down and denying them choice and opportunity—denying them the chance to get ahead.
Moana Mackey: That’s a great story, grandpa.
ALLAN PEACHEY: Let me just for the moment move to the area of health. There have been major, significant increases in health spending. The member who called me grandpa will understand that I am having trouble reading my notes, because the old eyesight is not what it used to be. But what I can see from what I have in front of me is a very significant increase in health spending. I would like to take one example of that—an example that is very personal to me. It is now easier and quicker to get treatment for cancer than it has ever been in New Zealand, and that is because of the work of this Government, this Minister of Finance, and this Minister of Health putting the resources where people really need them.
The same applies to education. There has been a significant increase in expenditure, and the great thing that came out of this Budget, unlike Labour Budgets, was that that increase does not go towards building a huge bureaucracy, it is going into things like an increase in the operational grants to schools. I suggest that before Labour members finally put their names to a vote of no confidence in this Budget, they should go and talk to a few of the boards of trustees and principals in their electorates. They will get the message that the increase those boards and principals have been given is what they want. I commend the Budget to the House.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : Members on this side of the House will be voting no confidence in this Budget for a number of reasons. As I said in previous speeches, the day Mark Bryers, a multimillionaire and the biggest crook in Blue Chip, earning over a million dollars a year, got his 75 hours community service, John Key gave him a $1,000 a week tax cut. Another reason Labour members have no confidence in the Budget is that, on the same day as that, people on the average wage became $30 a week worse off in real terms. After they got their tax cut, it was negated by GST and by the big elephant in the room, which is 5.9 percent inflation.
I say to Mr Peachey that the other reason why we are voting for a no-confidence motion, and he might want to reflect on it, is that 56 percent of his electorate in Tāmaki, which he is so proud of—presumably the 56 percent he does not want to represent—earn $40,000 or less and are therefore, thanks to him and his vote of confidence, $30 to $50 per week worse off. But his mates on the other side of the Tāmaki electorate, on a million bucks a year and more, get $1,000 a week. That man over there talked about the vindictiveness—that is the term he used—of tax increases. Well, I say to Mr Peachey that if it is vindictive to raise revenue from the people to fund health expenditure, education expenditure, and superannuation expenditure, then we on this side of the House stand guilty as charged—absolutely guilty as charged.
That member then talked about choices. I ask Mr Peachey why he does not talk to the 56 percent of his electorate who are $30 a week worse off as a result of his confidence vote. He should ask them whether they have a choice to pay the increase in the power bill and the increase in the rates bill, thanks to GST and inflation. Do the poorest in our community and the superannuitants on fixed incomes have a choice about paying the increase in food prices? Oh, no, where is Mr Peachey now? He is representing the old 44 percent of his electorate who are very well-off. It is not even that much actually, when we look at the figures.
This Budget is a swindle. On Budget night the members opposite stood up and talked about a Budget approval rate of 80 percent. Oh, yes, did they crow. But we said to them, in speech after speech, that the people will take a little time to unpick it, to unravel it, to undo the stitching as the hem of this Budget is released. What did we have last night? Well, the people delivered their verdict. It was not 80 percent approval; only 37 percent of the people said they feel they will be better off. The rest said they would not be, and we have yet to pile on the GST increase.
A previous speaker, Pansy Wong, talked about the Prime Minister going to a footy match and said that in doing so he was standing beside the younger generation. How does that stand up in credibility with the massive cuts to early childhood education that are piled on and become costs that parents will pay? Then we have the GST increase, plus 5.9 percent inflation. How is that “standing beside the younger generation”, if that is what it takes to go to a footy match? What was the Prime Minister’s response in the Dominion Post to the news that only 37 percent of people feel they will be better off, and the rest feel worse off? His response was: “Don’t sweat it.” So they should not sweat the 2.5 percent GST rise, the 5.9 percent inflation, or the early childhood education cuts, which equate to an increase in fees of $25 per child, per week, on top of what mum and dad Kiwis have to pay. “Don’t sweat it.”, he says; and then he says that he stands by New Zealanders and he stands by young people.
I say that Mr Peachey should go and talk to the 56 percent of his electorate who are worse off, thanks to that member’s vote of confidence. If 37 percent of people say they feel they will be better off, we have to ask what the others say. That is why Labour does not have confidence in this Budget, yet the Prime Minister’s response is “Don’t sweat it.”
The Prime Minister’s own Budget figures show that after he has done all the cash—after he has borrowed $240 million a week for 3 years where the finance costs do not drop down, do not start to decrease, until 2021—the additional GDP growth cumulatively is 0.9 percent over 7 years. Well, is that not a step change! Is that closing the gap with Australia? Is that aspirational for New Zealanders? Is that ambitious—0.9 percent cumulatively over 7 years? That is great, is it not! Stack that up against the 70-odd people who allegedly are working on a cycleway. The previous speaker, Mr Peachey, questioned why we would vote against this legislation, and I say to him that we will vote against it because it is unfair. It is unfair when a third of the tax cuts goes to the top 5 percent and 15 percent goes to the top 1 percent. It is unfair when Mark Bryers, the crook from Blue Chip gets $1,000 a week in tax cuts, thanks to Maurice Williamson and his mates, because he earns over a million bucks, and people on the average wage are 30 bucks to 50 bucks a week worse off. Can members opposite tell me whether that is a definition of fairness?
The previous speaker said it was vindictive to raise revenue for things like social services and superannuation. He said that we should be encouraging savings. I agree with him. The question is why his Government kicked the guts out of KiwiSaver, when part of it was set up for the very sentiments that that member expressed—especially to give young people a start in their first home. Oh, hang on! That vessel is empty, it is echoing over on the other side. The old dust mite in the seat has not said anything. Oh, no, perhaps the old dust mite does not want to talk about the 56 percent of his electorate who will be worse off, thanks to his vote of confidence, because 56 percent of his electorate earns 40 grand or less.
Hon Darren Hughes: What about Kiwibank?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Oh, yes! Mr English has spent all the cash, he has borrowed $240 million a week, borrowed up to the hilt, the credit card is maxed out, and then we come to the doozy that sort of slipped out the other side—to flog the family silver. Mr English has an interesting economic equation. He says that mums and dads can buy Kiwibank. He forgets, of course, that mums and dads, everyone in this Chamber, every member of the gallery, every member of this nation already owns that asset now. So Mr English in his own privileged, pompous way will allow mums and dads to spend their own money, again, to buy, again, what they already own. Then the interesting thing is that one has to ask which mums and dads will be able to afford to buy this asset for a second time. I would wager very few would. If they did get a chance to get a slice of it, the international institutions would, of course, offer them something called a “very nice price for it”, and away it would go back overseas into overseas ownership. But that one slipped out. The other problem with flogging Kiwibank, of course, is that we can sell it only once. The question for the Government is that if the thesis is that an asset that took, I think, about $80 million and returned a value, in today’s terms, of around $800 million—if that is good enough to sell a valuable, profitable asset—then what about the other side of the equation?
Hon Maurice Williamson: How many assets did Labour sell?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Will the Government flog off KiwiRail, because it is not performing the way we would want it to be? I ask Maurice Williamson, who is barking like some sort of lame dog, whether he is in favour of this. Will he call a public meeting and have a debate with his constituents on Kiwibank, and let us see whether we can get a percentage of people who agree with flogging that off? The member says that we flogged assets off in the 1980s, and that is true. Then we learnt. The problem is that party did that in the 1990s and that party has not learnt today. It slipped out of Bill English’s mouth, although he said it a little bit before the election. What he is now doing is prepping these assets for sale.
So we have in this Budget a dishonest Budget; one that has used all the cash; one that has borrowed for the next generation; and now the next step is to flog off some successful assets. Well, I say that Kiwis will object to that. Judging by what is reflected in last night’s poll and the 37 percent rating, it has taken a few days for Kiwis to logically, coolly, in a common-sense way start unravelling this Budget from stem to stern. They have finally worked out that all the spin saying they would be better off is not true. It simply stacks up on this equation again: how is it fair that a person who earns a million bucks a year gets an extra $1,000 a week and someone on the average wage is 30 bucks a week worse off? That is not fair. That is a swindle. That is a dishonest Budget.
- Motion agreed to.
Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill
Parts 1 to 5, schedules 1 to 3, and clauses 1 and 2
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : This is a big bill. It is the third bill that involves changes to local government in Auckland, and those changes are under way. It will help the Committee if I walk members through, in summary, the six parts and the three schedules that make up this legislation.
Part 1 imposes new requirements on the Auckland Transition Agency in relation to its responsibilities for overseeing the reorganisation process for Auckland local government. It imposes further obligations on existing Auckland local authorities and local government organisations during the reorganisation period. It makes further provision for the dissolution of existing local authorities and organisations, and the vesting of interests. It makes further provision for the powers of the Governor-General, the powers of Ministers, and the duties of public officials during the reorganisation period.
Schedule 1 adds new schedules 2 to 4 to the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009. Schedule 1 sets out general and specific requirements for the contents of the planning document that the Auckland Transition Agency is required to prepare, under section 19A of the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009. It sets out the requirements for election signs for the October 2010 triennial elections, and specifies certain terminating and receiving entities.
Part 2 sets out further matters in relation to the structure and functions, and duties and powers, of the Auckland Council that differ from the general provisions applying to local authorities under the Local Government Act 2002 and other local government legislation. The part establishes Auckland Transport as a council-controlled organisation of the Auckland Council, defines the functions and powers of Auckland Transport, and sets out the role of the Auckland Council in transport matters. It sets out the functions, duties, and powers of Auckland water organisations, requires the Auckland Council to prepare and adopt a spatial plan for Auckland, provides for the establishment of a board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua groups and other Māori of Tāmaki Makaurau, sets out an accountability framework for substantive council-controlled organisations, provides a dispute resolution procedure for certain disputes between the governing body of the council and the council’s local boards, and makes provisions for miscellaneous matters arising from the reorganisation.
Schedule 2, which establishes a new schedule 3 to be added to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009, makes provision for the board to promote issues of significance for mana whenua groups and other Māori of Tamaki Makaurau. The schedule sets out board membership and procedures, and establishes a selection body for the board and the processes under which that body is to operate.
Part 3AA provides transitional arrangements for the operation of the Auckland Council, and other local authorities affected by the reorganisation, and amends and repeals certain enactments. Part 3 provides for savings, transitional provisions, and related matters, except for employment. It sets out how the Auckland Council, its subsidiaries, and local authorities other than the Auckland Council affected by the reorganisation must conduct themselves in relation to specific matters during the first few years after the reorganisation. The specific matters include council governance and framework, the sale of certain council property, council-controlled organisations and Watercare Services Ltd, interim rating matters, development and financial contributions, interim by-law policy and planning matters, and the establishment of Pacific and ethnic advisory panels for Auckland.
Part 4 deals with transitional provisions relating to the collective agreements of employees of existing local authorities, and of other local government organisations affected by the reorganisation, that are transferring to a new employer. It requires the chief executive of the Auckland Council to review the position of employees by 30 September 2010, provides whether and to what extent employees are entitled to redundancy or other compensation, provides for related matters about the continuity of employment of employees who accept positions with the new employer, and provides transitional provisions about collective bargaining and collective agreements.
Part 5 makes consequential amendments, repeals, and revocations. Schedule 3 amends or repeals certain public Acts as a consequence of this bill, amends or repeals certain local, private, and provincial Acts consequent to the provisions of this bill, and amends or revokes certain regulations consequential to this bill.
In terms of clauses 1 and 2, the title and commencement clauses, Parts 2, 3AA, 3, and 5—except clause 138(2)—come into force on 1 November 2010. Clause 138(2), which relates to Watercare Services Ltd’s exemption from the status of a council-controlled organisation, comes into force on 1 July 2012. On that day the exemption will cease. The rest of the bill will come into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.
There are also some Government Supplementary Order Papers that amend this bill. I will quickly go through those. Most of the amendments are of a minor, typographical, or technical nature—for example, cross references and inconsistencies in language within the bill are corrected. In addition, there are some more substantial amendments, including new section 49, as amended by clause 45, which sets out the obligations of an Auckland water organisation. These includes the obligation to manage its operations efficiently, with a view to keeping the overall cost of water supply and wastewater services to the minimum levels consistent with the effective conduct of its undertakings, and the maintenance of the long-term integrity of its assets. I know that Mr Phil Twyford is very anxious that we keep the price of water down, for the people of Auckland. Amendments to that clause clarify that that obligation is in relation to its customers collectively.
There is also an amendment in my name, and I thank the Hon Pansy Wong and the Hon Maurice Williamson for bringing to the attention of the Government and Parliament the concern over the naming of the ward. New section 35A, to be inserted by new clause 44A, will amend the Order in Council that gave effect to the determination made by the Local Government Commission under the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act in respect of the wards and local boards for Auckland. The effect of this amendment is to change the names of the Te Irirangi ward and the Te Irirangi local board to the Howick ward and local board—a change that I know will be very warmly received by the people there. Again, that is another demonstration of MPs listening to people, and the Government and Parliament responding accordingly, and I look forward to the support of the Labour Party on that.
Finally, there is a Supplementary Order Paper that will divide the bill into a number of separate bills. Thank you.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : The Local Government (Law Reform) Bill, which is now at the Committee stage, is a long way along the track of a very lengthy process. We remember that last year a bill was passed under urgency without the public having a referendum or a say in what was happening to their seven local bodies and their regional council. Since that time the Labour Opposition has worked constructively to make sure we get the best legislation we can out of the changes that are happening to Auckland. That does not mean to say that we agree with the legislation; in fact, we bitterly disagree on many parts. But I must say that Labour and the Greens have really worked constructively to try to improve it.
What has disappointed me in deliberations on this present bill is that there has been virtually no representation from the Māori Party. One member popped into the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee for a few minutes to put in a minority report from that party. I think that is one of the things that is troubling Aucklanders, because the Māori issue is a very big issue. If one lives in Auckland and sees the make-up of the people there, then I think that it can be seen that Māori people have been harshly treated—not only by the Government but also by one of its key members, the Māori Party. We hear the two aspirants for the mayoral job talk about that.
Of course, what people in Auckland do not like and do not understand is how seven local authorities can change in such a way that about 75 percent of their work will be taken up by council-controlled organisations. People think that that amount of rate money will be spent in a way that is not very clear. I remember Auckland City Council making charitable payments many years ago, whereby some money would be sent “under the counter”. That was not transparent. That is one of the things that people are concerned about—that there should be sufficient transparency. To that end I have lodged a Supplementary Order Paper, which I will talk about a little later on, that will make sure all of the seven council-controlled organisations have meetings so that the public can understand more fully their roles in the governance of Auckland.
There are many people in Auckland who are very keen about what is about to happen. They are not keen in the sense that they necessarily like it, but in the sense that they are keen to find out more. I mean people like Penny Bright. If she goes to every council-controlled organisation meeting and gets arrested many times, plenty of people will be saying “Good old Penny.” We need people who keep an eye on things. That is one of the great things about democracy. We have people who keep an eye on things. We need people to be determined not to let their rights be swept under the table.
It was really good on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, because there was a very good partnership that meant we could work together to make sure that ordinary people, who came along in vast numbers, were heard. They were not necessarily understood or their points taken up by everyone, but they were listened to. I think it was one of the best select committees from the point of view of listening to people. The Labour Party most certainly got its membership well acquainted with the problems that Auckland faces and with the change to something vastly different. This is a huge change to local government. I suppose the 1989 changes are—
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : On this side of the Chamber we look forward to a free-ranging debate over the next couple of days as we work our way through the Committee stage on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. I hope that we will see plenty of the Government’s Auckland MPs in the Chamber. I note that only five of the Government’s Auckland MPs are currently in the Chamber—
Hon John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. It is not appropriate to refer to the absence of MPs.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): The member must desist from doing that.
PHIL TWYFORD: Speaking to the point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I have ruled that that is the case. If the member wants to raise another point of order, it ought to be on a separate matter, because it is a long-held tradition of this House that in no way do members refer to the absence of any member from the Chamber.
PHIL TWYFORD: I certainly will not refer to any absent members of this Committee by name. I recall that when we debated the Committee stages of the second super-city bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, one of the mayors of Auckland was so moved by the complete absence of Government members from the debate that he took to texting them late at night to ask them why they were not in the Chamber to be held accountable for the legislation that they were pushing through, and to be accountable to the voters in their communities.
Let me say at the outset of this Committee stage debate that Labour believes Auckland’s local governance arrangements are in need of reform. We support the idea of there being one mayor, one council, one plan, and one rates bill. We support most of what the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance had to say. We believe that as our largest city, Auckland has a vital role to play in the life of our nation. It is our gateway to the world, and it must become a magnet for tourists, investors, and skilled migrants. It must develop, for the sake of the economic prosperity of our country, a concentration of energy, ideas, and skills that will drive our creative industries and generate the science and innovation that our economy needs in the 21st century. We need to have the ability in Auckland to make the big decisions—for example, on building a modern public transport system. The city must have the tools to manage its growth as the population heads towards 2 million people over the next three decades, and we must develop our assets, revitalise our central business district, and open up the waterfront. We need to have smart economic development that will generate high-quality jobs and opportunities for a rapidly changing population. Reforming Auckland’s governance could go a long way towards setting up the city to meet those challenges. The process of shaping a unified Auckland could go a long way towards gearing the city up for an exciting period of change.
But this bill is the culmination of a year-long process that has undermined public support for change and corroded public confidence and support for a unified Auckland. The provisions in this bill reflect the same defects in thinking that we have seen in the earlier two bills, and the same concerns that Aucklanders have been raising consistently over the last 18 months. I will touch on the key concerns that Labour has with this bill.
The bill imposes a corporatisation model on Auckland government. It ignores the cries of Aucklanders over the last few months that they do not want central government to tell Auckland what it should and should not corporatise in the new Auckland. It imposes the commercial model on the transport council-controlled organisation, which will consume more than half of the Auckland rates bill, in a way that is happening in no other city around New Zealand.
On the powers of local boards, this bill fails to deliver on a promise that this Government has been making consistently for the last 12 months that it would empower local communities. The bill does not do that. The powers of local boards are highly constrained, and the boards that are being created are nothing like the empowered, capable second tier of government that the royal commission had anticipated.
This bill strips away the right that Aucklanders currently have under the law to have a direct say on whether the Ports of Auckland should be privatised. It takes away the right of Aucklanders to decide in a binding referendum whether the ports should be sold off.
This bill puts in place a toothless Māori advisory panel, and that is unsatisfactory to members on this side of the Chamber. We believe that the Government has missed a huge opportunity to move into the 21st century, with Māori at the top table, making decisions about Auckland’s future. That is a wasted opportunity. It half-heartedly sets up advisory boards for the Pacific community and other ethnic communities. It gives power to the mayor to set those boards up, and has nothing to say about the election or selection of the members of those panels from those communities. We believe that is weak and half-hearted.
In spite of the many soothing noises made by the member for Auckland Central during the weeks when we heard public submissions, this bill fails to deliver any kind of mechanism to guarantee youth participation in the new Auckland.
Nikki Kaye: Yes, it does.
PHIL TWYFORD: The member opposite will regret the promises that she has made to the young people of Auckland.
On the issue of campaign spending, this bill sets up an undemocratic ceiling for campaign spending. It will effectively mean that in the mayoral campaign, in the last 3 months before an election, a candidate can spend up to $580,000. That is undemocratic. It is a gift to candidates in this election and in future elections who are backed by big business or who have huge personal wealth. We are against that. It is undemocratic. It does not provide a level playing field for candidates who want to stand for the mayoralty.
For all those reasons, Labour has issued a minority report setting out its arguments against these changes and explaining why it is opposed to this bill.
The Government has said time and again that it is listening to Aucklanders. It may have listened, but it certainly has not heard. The people of Auckland asked for three things from this Government—three things. They said local government in Auckland should not be corporatised, local boards should be given real, guaranteed powers in law, and it should not be made easier to privatise the Ports of Auckland. The Government has said no, no, and no; it has not listened to Aucklanders. The Government pretends to listen, but on the fundamentals the content of this bill shows that the Government has been determined to steamroller through its agenda, in spite of massive public opposition.
This bill passes considerable power from citizens, and their elected representatives, to hand-picked boards. It imposes corporatisation on Auckland in a way that no other city or district in this country has been subjected to. It over-centralises power away from communities right across our country’s biggest city, and it gives that power to a 20-member council. It ignores the message of the royal commission that the new, unified Auckland must recognise that its population is becoming younger and more diverse by the day, and that the new Auckland Council should work overtime to create a place in Auckland for all those groups and give them a stake in the political process.
A toothless Māori advisory board, ethnic and Pacific advisory panels with a 3-year sunset clause and no obligation for their members to be elected from their communities, no youth council, and taking away the democratic safeguard against the privatisation of the Ports of Auckland—all those factors have fed into the fact that a solid 50 percent of Aucklanders do not like the super-city. No matter how they are asked, about half of Auckland’s population say they are not happy with it. When asked in a recent Herald-DigiPoll whether they thought the amalgamated super-city would be a better place to live in, 48.5 percent said no. When asked whether the single Auckland Council would be better or worse for them, 52.7 percent of Aucklanders said it would be worse for them and only 31 percent said it would be better. When asked whether replacing the existing eight councils with a single council would improve the management of the region—the central claim that Rodney Hide has made all the way along in this process—49 percent of Aucklanders said no, it would not result in improved management.
That is a damning indictment of the process that this Minister and this Government have run over the last 18 months, and Aucklanders deserve better than that.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government) : Apart from thanking the Minister of Local Government, the officials, the Auckland Transition Agency, and all those who have been involved in this process, I guess it is appropriate at this time to also record my thanks as chairman of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee to all the members of the committee who were involved in this process. I acknowledge that the Opposition members were constructive as we went through the select committee process. The major Opposition party and the minor parties involved were all helpful as we went through the challenging process of hearing the people of Auckland.
One thing that I am very proud to say—and I want this recorded in Hansard—is that this legislation has been drafted by the voices of the people of Auckland. It has been drafted that way because the select committee listened. I guess the disappointing thing is that, having had the Opposition participate in the select committee process all the way through, when it came towards the end of the process it started getting complicated. It became quite technical and some significant changes were made with quite rapid speed. Unfortunately, they went over the heads of the likes of Mr Twyford, who just does not seem to have understood the end result. I know that the Opposition has continually harped on about—and, I have to say, many requests were made by the people of Auckland regarding this—ensuring that we did not corporatise Auckland, that the local boards would have their say, and that democracy in local government was put back into Auckland, which is one of the things that this Government and the select committee concentrated on doing.
Contrary to what Mr Twyford likes to keep going on about, I draw the Committee’s attention to a couple of clauses that set out very clearly not only the intent of the Government but also the effect that the legislation will have. I draw people’s attention to clause 75AA, which sets out very clearly the powers that the Auckland Council will have over the council-controlled organisations. This legislation gives the Auckland Council more authority over council-controlled organisations than any other local authority in New Zealand has. It specifies things that they have to do, which other local authorities do not. The legislation says that the council has control of what it thinks the council-controlled organisations will do. Indeed, the legislation is so specific that it sets out the policy and basically says to the council-controlled organisations that they will administer Auckland Council policy. It even goes further, and says that, by the way, at any time the council is unhappy with what they are doing, it will dismiss all the directors and pull it back to being a committee of council.
What authority other than that could we have given the Auckland Council? The fact is that if the council does not like the council-controlled organisations, with the exception of the transport authority and water services—the only ones we have kept in law until 2015—the council-controlled organisations can disappear from day one, if that is the wish of the council. From 1 November they are entirely in the hands of the council. There is public reporting and public accountability. They have to report to the council. The council sets the direction of the council-controlled organisations.
Quite honestly, I do not know how I can make it much clearer. We have seriously tried in the select committee—and we actually achieved it—to ensure that the Auckland Council was in control of the council-controlled organisations. That is what Aucklanders wanted, what the Opposition wanted, and, more important, what the people of Auckland wanted, and that is what they have. Members should read clause 75AA. What is really disappointing is that when the Minister and I went to Auckland to tell the people about the select committee report, it took the likes of the New Zealand Herald reporters just a few hours to click on and understand. Unfortunately, that seems to be beyond the ability of the Opposition. I just wish that we could get the New Zealand Herald reporters to take one or two calls, so that the Opposition can understand.
I turn to local boards, and draw the Committee’s attention to clauses 17 and 39C, which set out very clearly the responsibilities that the local boards will have. The point is that the people of Auckland and the Opposition kept saying to us that they did not want Wellington telling them how to run their city, and that they want us to keep out of it. They want to run their city. It is their right to have their city. They want to have their local democracy, so we need to make sure that they get the powers and the responsibility to run their local boards, and that is exactly what we have done. We have given the responsibility to the local boards, and we have done it the way we have for this reason: we have done it in principle. We have just heard contributions from Opposition members, and quite honestly we—and I include myself in this—did not have the skills or the knowledge to know of every function that every particular board would have.
H V Ross Robertson: Still don’t.
Hon JOHN CARTER: No, of course; that member is quite right—and neither does the member who just interjected.
H V Ross Robertson: Oh, you’d be surprised.
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, the member claims that he knows every function of every board that there will be—all 21 boards and every one of their functions.
H V Ross Robertson: I never said that.
Hon JOHN CARTER: Well, does the member believe he does or not?
H V Ross Robertson: I never said that.
Hon JOHN CARTER: He never said that—right. The fact is that he does not. The fact is that no one on this side would claim to know that, and no one in Auckland knows every function. That is why we had to have a team of people to work out what the functions were. The Auckland Governance Legislation Committee did not have the time or the resources, so a group of people are out there doing the work. They will specify the functions that will become the functions of the local boards. They are set down in the legislation in concrete and cannot be moved unless there is agreement between the council and the local board.
Aucklanders keep telling us in Wellington not to dare to tell them what to do, because they want to do it themselves, yet the Opposition is saying that we should have prescribed it in the bill. Well, people cannot have it both ways. Either we prescribe it—and, quite honestly, we did not have the ability or the resources to—or, alternatively, we give that responsibility to Aucklanders, which is what we have done. We have put the “local” back into local government. We have put the “local” back into the local boards, and we have given them the funding to do the job. We want the local people to control their own destiny, and that is exactly what will happen through this legislation.
I am proud of the legislation that this Government is dishing up because it is exactly what the people of Auckland asked for. I tell members that it will work because it is a great piece of legislation that will set the future for Auckland and, as a consequence, for the rest of New Zealand.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : It has been something of a marathon getting here, and I have been involved in this longer process for only a relatively short time. I was reflecting recently that it is a considerable learning experience witnessing the passing of a bill of the scale of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. It is possibly once in a lifetime, because we do not often see a single piece of legislation that will have such a significant, wide-ranging effect as this bill will have. It was a wonderful opportunity to do a great deal of useful and good work. Unfortunately, it seems that that opportunity has been missed, and that it will be the responsibility of the incoming Auckland Council to endeavour to make the best of it—as somebody said, to endeavour to make a silk purse out of what is a distinctly sow’s ear of a piece of legislation.
Having said that, it is true, and it has been commented on already, that the bill came out of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee a much better bill then it went in. I believe that that was the direct result of those many hundreds of people who submitted in person, the thousands of people who made submissions in print, email, or however it might have been, and the sheer scale and scope of the opposition and the enthusiasm that this generated. It must be said that one very positive outcome of this bill, undoubtedly, is that people will be paying a great deal more attention to local government in Auckland this year than perhaps they have in the past.
It is interesting that initially the idea of the principle of reviewing and reforming the governance of the Auckland region had quite a lot of traction. It was a very popular idea some 18 months ago, and clearly the popularity has diminished substantially to the point now where it is quite difficult to find many people who are entirely happy about the shape and form of this bill, and the city structure of the legislation—
H V Ross Robertson: Are there any?
DAVID CLENDON: Indeed, are there any? I am sure there are a few, yes; there are a few of them here today. But in the general public they are few and far between. That is an indication that the public’s confidence, enthusiasm, and perception of the potential benefit of this reform has been seriously eroded and diminished over its course, and that has largely been a factor or a function of the process of this bill. The non-governmental organisation Our Auckland recently conducted a mini-referendum of its own. It gave people the opportunity to vote, and out of the nearly 9,000 people who responded, 96 percent said they were unhappy about the process and the way in which this series of bills have passed through, been presented, and have got to the final sign-off in this House.
It came through very clearly, and continues to come through, that there are two fundamental core beliefs, or principles, that people are unhappy about. One of those is the loss of democracy. The other is the potential for loss of public ownership, control, and management of assets that have been bought and paid for by generations of Aucklanders and generations of New Zealanders. We see that that public ownership, public control, public management is seriously under threat from the various provisions of this bill.
Democracy is something very dear to the hearts of New Zealanders. In a general way the whole process and structure of this new super-city diminishes the opportunity for democratic input. There are a number of very specific clauses and provisions within the bill that take away the rights from Aucklanders that every other New Zealander will continue to have, and which Aucklanders will lose for at least 3 to 4 years. It is a question of public ownership, as I said. We do note the fact that there is still a substantial belief in the value of maintaining public ownership and control of core assets like water, transport, access to parks, and so on.
At one point it could be said that there was a surfeit of democracy in New Zealand. In a sense, this is round two. In the late 1980s we know there was an amalgamation, and there was some rationale for that. David Lange once famously referred to Auckland as a series of villages connected by a sewerage system. There was some value in the amalgamation of the 1980s and the early 1990s, and they were not without their hiccups and their bumps along the road. But in the intervening 20 years there was cohesion; the seven districts, the four cities, and the regional council did develop a sense of place and did develop their individual unique identities. They were powerful identities.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) : After much debate and petitioning, and after many submissions and discussions, it is with mixed emotions that I come to this stage in the debate on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. Much of the time in the Committee stage will focus on the detail of this bill: how the provisions will and, perhaps, will not work, what is missing, and even perhaps what should not be there. But I will begin with some very general thoughts.
Labour has always supported the need for there to be reform in Auckland. It is a point that every single Auckland-based Labour member has always made, and by and large we supported the vision presented by the royal commission. The vision presented by the royal commission was set out in a report that looked not just at one element of our lives but also comprehensively at our social needs. It looked at our environmental needs, and it looked at our planning and development needs. The royal commission looked at our need for true, democratic representation, not just at our transport needs. It looked at not just one or two of those issues but all of them in a comprehensive way, and it looked at them for all of us, not just for one or two groups in our communities. It looked beyond the cursory nod towards advisory boards, to ensure that there was representation across the board.
Labour supported that vision of Auckland. We do not support the vision that has been presented to us, and the supposed leadership that has been presented to us, by the National Government. I listened closely to the statements made by the chair of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and to his claim that this legislation was written by the people of Auckland. I would say the people of Auckland would not want that responsibility to be put on their heads, and just because one says something, that does not make it so.
What is my measure of what would have made good legislation? What is my measure of legislation that would have demonstrated some leadership from the National Government as to its vision for Auckland, rather than just leaving everything to chance? Well, my measure is pretty simple. I am a list MP based in Auckland Central. I guess that in many ways I cover the heart of Auckland, including the beautiful gulf islands, but, more important, I consider myself to be a proud “Grey Lynner” and resident of Auckland. On that basis this is my measure of what would have made a good bill: will this bill make our lives as Aucklanders better?
Will this legislation make the lives of the young people, who make up 37 percent of the population in Auckland and whom we constantly make decisions on behalf of, better in the future, as well? Will it improve our environment, not only in places like Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island, where we are acutely aware of our surrounds, but also for folks who live in the central business district, out in Waitakere, or in south Auckland? Will it encourage sustainable development? Will it give us all a greater say over our public spaces, an area where we have consistently failed in the past? Will it give Aucklanders the chance to have input into the master plan for the waterfront, which so far has been lacking? Will it protect our assets, such as the ports and our water? Of course, 75 percent of those assets will now sit with council-controlled organisations, but the chair of the select committee says that was all our decision and Aucklanders wrote that into the bill.
Will this legislation improve people’s view and experience of democracy—of political representation? Will it encourage participation, or will it breed cynicism? Will it give genuine hope and a real sense to people, not only people of voting age—and I see that this bill cynically separates people into two groups: those who can vote and those who cannot—but also those who are not of voting age that they can create change in their city, regardless of whether they can post a ballot? Will it give the same rights and responsibilities to those who are members of the Auckland Council that council members in other jurisdictions throughout New Zealand currently have?
My measure is a very simple one: will this legislation make our lives as Aucklanders better? I ask that not simply in a monetary sense, which I know is a measure that some other members may have used, but also in relation to all areas that create well-being and all the areas that the royal commission touched on. I think not.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : Talofa lava. I come to my first call in the long Committee stage ahead of us on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, the third super-city bill, as an Aucklander who has lived in Auckland for many, many years—for more than 20 years. I am someone who lives in Waitakere, works on the North Shore, in Northcote, and has been involved in Rodney. I have been to many meetings on this issue with both community groups and ordinary people, and I have listened. I have discussed it with my neighbours, talked to the people of the North Shore, and talked to many groups about their concerns about this bill.
We can understand their concerns, because this is the biggest change in local government in New Zealand’s history. It is a huge change. There has never been an amalgamation of this size. The new Auckland Council will have greater assets than Fonterra and Telecom combined. It will be enormous. It is unimaginable. It will employ thousands of staff and represent 1.4 million people, which is one-third of our nation. Is it any wonder that Aucklanders are concerned about this bill? Is it any wonder that there have been meetings in all parts of Auckland? This is a major constitutional change from local government to regional government. I do not wonder that the polls we have been hearing about today—and no doubt we will hear more about them—show that Aucklanders think that the process has not been sufficient and that their voices have not been heard, and still have deep concerns.
This bill got off to a very bad start. I know that the process has been very long, but it got off to a very bad start. We had had two other bills. One did not even have a select committee process and the second was driven through the House under urgency. All people could do was listen powerlessly to what was happening here. One would think that, with this third bill, the Government might have learnt something, but submissions on this third bill were called for around Christmas Eve last year. People were given the summer holidays, until the middle of February, to get their submissions in. When people were getting back from their leave, if they had any, when they were getting back from the beach, they had to be thinking about their city and the enormity of the huge change to Auckland that this bill is the culmination of.
I want to put on record my congratulations to the people of Auckland, the thousands of Aucklanders who made submissions, who made the effort, who had the passion to put their submissions in and turn up at the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, even though, I heard, in some instances, people had 5 minutes to have their say, which I thought was pretty deficient. I also want to put on record my congratulations to the select committee. At least there was a process on this bill and at least it went on for a bit longer than that of the other bills.
What really concerns me about these bills is that National made an election promise to consult Aucklanders on the findings of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. National has broken that promise. When John Key was in Opposition, he put up a member’s bill promoting a referendum. What happened to that idea? How quickly the Prime Minister has forgotten! The Government has bypassed the provisions of the Local Government Act, which require a referendum on amalgamation. That has never happened before for any other community anywhere in New Zealand.
As my colleagues have said, Labour supports the reform of Auckland’s governance structures but we oppose this bill. The process has been deficient. I am really disappointed that we have gone through a year and a half of this and the Government is still saying “No” to the things that Aucklanders most want to help fix their broken super-city and to shift control back into their hands. The Government has broken its promise to give power to the local boards. We do not know what those powers are. How can people contemplate standing for a local board when they do not know what their responsibilities would be? They do not even know what they would be paid. Aucklanders have clearly called for the powers of the local boards to be spelt out in legislation, and the Government said all along that that would happen.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) : The Committee will be aware that the Māori Party has serious concerns about the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, particularly the way that mana whenua have been cut out of any decision making. I thank Mr Hawkins for bringing the Committee’s attention to our minority report. I also thank him for the concern he has shown for the way that our member has not been able to attend every hearing of the select committee. I think his concern might be because he does not realise that that member is, as are all members of the Māori Party, in constant contact with mana whenua and is able to find out directly from them what their concerns are with this bill and with other areas. Perhaps it is because that party did not do that itself when it was in Government.
We have serious concern about this bill, and we have a solution. I want to talk about our Supplementary Order Paper to insert a new clause that would give effect to the principles of the Treaty. I remind the Committee that the confidence and supply agreement we entered into with National includes in its introductory words: “Both the National Party and the Māori Party will act in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi.” Therefore, this Supplementary Order Paper is in keeping with the efforts of the Māori Party to recognise the Treaty of Waitangi and specifically set out the ongoing decisions on which the Crown has an obligation to consult. The purpose of our Supplementary Order Paper is to amend this bill to ensure that we make great progress in honouring the Treaty. The Supplementary Order Paper is designed to give coherence to the Government’s commitment to the partnership between Māori and the Crown, to give legal effect to the commitment to the principles of the Treaty, to maintain Māori confidence in the Auckland area, and to accelerate progress towards social, cultural, and economic development and well-being between Māori and non-Māori.
We put forward this amendment as we firmly believe that a Treaty of Waitangi clause would provide a legitimate and substantive framework upon which decisions regarding Auckland will be considered. We also present this amendment in the context of the annual review of relations released in March by the Human Rights Commission. That review identified Māori representation in local government and an effective voice for Māori in the decisions of the new Auckland Council to be among the top 10 race relations priorities.
Another foundation for the amendment is due recognition for the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are particularly mindful of article 18, which sets out the aspiration that indigenous people have the right to participate in decision making in matters that will affect their rights through representatives chosen by themselves. The amendment is, in itself, explicit recognition that these issues are respectively not recognised by a Māori advisory group, and on that I agree with Mr Twyford. We are also motivated by the desire to uphold the nation’s constitutional foundations, current law, and the wish of the people, particularly mana whenua, for the benefit of Māori and the wider public.
The final platform for this amendment being presented is to enact the intentions of the Local Government Act 2002, which sets the expectation that local authorities will foster Māori capacity to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority.
I present this Supplementary Order Paper in the knowledge that the Treaty was effectively absent from New Zealand legislation for over 135 years. In fact, it was not until 1975 that the Treaty was put into legislation through the Treaty of Waitangi Act, which set up the Waitangi Tribunal and delegated a role to the tribunal to determine the meaning of the Treaty and Treaty principles. Since that time, Parliament has included Treaty legislative references and provided some legislative guidance on the Treaty’s meaning. Our Supplementary Order Paper provides the key statement: “This Act must be interpreted and administered so as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.” In doing so, we believe these provisions align with other similar legislative provisions that are often used in the statute to ensure the Treaty is treated with the highest level of attention.
But there is another element to the Supplementary Order Paper that bears further discussion, and that is the wording “to give effect”. Those in the House with the good knowledge of the statute will recall that this is found in section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987. It states: “This Act shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.” If one were to wander through legislation, one would see a colourful menu of clauses that effectively incorporate the Treaty. There is a rich archive of legislative activity in relation to the Treaty, which has helped to guide the appropriate interpretation of Treaty clauses in legislation. We understand that there is a wide spectrum of knowledge around this House about what the Treaty means in practice.
If there was ever an issue to which the Treaty principles should be applied, it would be in the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009. The governance reorganisation of Auckland would have been an entirely appropriate mechanism to enhance Treaty responsiveness. It did not, and more the shame, but that is another story. The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is a chance to set that record straight, and to pursue an honourable course of Treaty jurisprudence. Our intentions in drafting the Treaty clause are to provide for the ongoing engagement of tangata whenua in the scheme and to ensure that the distinct situation of iwi Māori, including rights and interests under the Treaty, are fairly accommodated in implementation of the scheme.
I will return to the notion of Treaty principles. In case there is any doubt, the Court of Appeal defines these principles as a relationship of a fiduciary nature that reflects a partnership imposing the duty to act reasonably, honourably, and in good faith; states that the Government should make informed decisions; the Crown should remedy past grievances; there should be active protection of Māori interests by the Crown; the Crown has the right to govern; and Māori retain rangatiratanga over their resources and taonga and have all the rights and privileges of citizenship. If members are still unsure, they should consult the Waitangi Tribunal, which gives further specificity to the principles as partnership; fiduciary duties; reciprocity—the cessation of Māori sovereignty in exchange for the protection of rangatiratanga, leading to the duty to act reasonably, honourably, and in good faith; mutual benefit, leading to the duty to act reasonably, honourably, and in good faith; redress for past grievance; equal status of the Treaty parties; the Crown cannot evade its obligations by conferring its authority on another body; active protection of Māori interests by the Crown; options—the principle of choice; and the courtesy of early consultation.
And if that is still not enough, there are always the principles proposed by the executive: the Government’s right to govern; the right of iwi to self-management of their resources; redress for past grievances; equality—all New Zealanders are equal before the law; and reasonable cooperation by both parties.
I have gone to the trouble of spelling out these legislative references and describing the Treaty principles, because it appears that some members of the House are still not aware of their meaning. The truth is that we have come a long way since 1877 in Wi Parata v The Bishop of Wellington and the Attorney-General, which suggested that the Treaty was a simply nullity, because Māori tribes were incapable of performing the duties, and therefore assuming the rights of a civilised community. We have come a long way. We are in new, enlightened times, times that reflect the strength and survival of iwi who have advanced the debate so significantly about Treaty rights. The Māori Party is extremely proud to have brought to this debate the crucial significance of the Treaty for local government organisation in such a key issue as the Auckland law reform. The Treaty clause is about recognising our founding document and recognising that the Treaty is about joint responsibility and working together. The scheme also relies on regulations for much of its implementation. The Treaty clause will ensure iwi and Māori are able to participate in the development of these rules. The amendments we put forward clarify how the rights and interests of iwi under Te Tiriti o Waitangi are to be incorporated in this legislation. They provide for consultation with iwi on matters under the Act and they breathe life into this legislation in terms of enacting the responsibilities of the Crown to incorporate the Treaty into legislation.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : What is effectively happening to Aucklanders with the passage of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is that we are wiping out local government in Auckland and setting up what in any other country would be called a form of state Government. We are setting up a council here to represent one-third of the people of New Zealand. Councillors will have constituencies that are larger than the constituencies of members of Parliament. There will be constituencies with 80,000 to 100,000 people. How can that be called local government? It cannot be called local government, and with so few councillors representing one-third of the population of New Zealand, Aucklanders will inevitably find that their councillors become inaccessible. The whole idea of having grassroots local government has gone out the window, and it has been replaced by state Government.
I heard a National member asking about the local boards. Well, what about the local boards? We have wiped out eight perfectly well-functioning councils, including Waitakere City Council, which is one of the most innovative councils in New Zealand, and, likewise, Manukau City Council. We have replaced them with 21 local boards. Other members have commented on the fact that these local boards have no powers, still, spelt out in the legislation. Despite all the promises, etc., still there are no powers for the local boards. Even the rather waffly statements in the bill about their powers make it very clear that the governing body, the Auckland Council, can intervene on almost any decision of a local board, saying a matter is in the interest of Auckland as a whole. The council can take over and wipe out local boards, so really their main power will simply be to advocate.
The other issue that people have not really focused on is the tiny number of people who will be on the local boards. There will be four to nine members, with a quorum of two. We have replaced eight councils with tiny boards of four to nine members, so that we can get a quorum of two who will represent their area. That is not a form of local government; that is not grassroots democracy. That is just a sham.
The next issue is that the mayor is to have unprecedented powers: powers that no other mayor in New Zealand will have. The mayor will appoint every chair of every committee. All that the mayor will have to do is to set up 10 committees, appoint their chairs, and then he will have 10 hand-picked chairs who are beholden to him—and the mayor will inevitably be a man; there are no women candidates, as yet. The mayor will be able to control the agenda, in much the same way that Cabinet controls the agenda of this Parliament. He will control the agenda and will be able to ram through the agenda for Auckland, because of these powers. It is called the strong mayor model. No other mayor in New Zealand has such powers, except for the mayor of the Auckland Council.
We will have not only a strong mayor controlling the agenda of the council but also the council-controlled organisations. OK, some changes may have been made to the council-controlled organisations, but why would we siphon off 75 percent of the functions of the democratically elected councils into council-controlled organisations that are replete with unelected and unaccountable directors? I served for many years, while I was on the Wellington City Council, on a holding company that was a council-owned company. I can assure members that that basically ran like a company. I was the only one representing the Wellington City Council. The board was basically just like any corporate board. It had a fiduciary duty in that case, and basically it was run like a corporate board. This will be the case with the council-controlled organisations in the Auckland Council. Sure, one can write a statement of corporate intent, but I ask what real influence that will have with regard to the day-to-day running of, for example, the transport of Auckland. What real influence do the statements of corporate intent to the State-owned enterprises have on the day-to-day running of Auckland?
The system has all been set up to subvert local democracy, to siphon as much as possible of the powers of the Auckland Council into the hand-picked boards of council-controlled organisations. When I say that the board members are hand-picked, I mean that none other than Mr Hide, in some cases with Mr Joyce, will appoint the directors. That is completely unprecedented. Nowhere else in New Zealand does central government get to decide whether council-controlled organisations will be set up by local government, let alone who will serve on them. So that is an unprecedented level of central government interference in local government, which undermines the whole principle of local government. The fact that the Minister of Local Government will appoint the members of the council-controlled organisations is absolute, blatant political interference.
This system is all set up to enable corporate interests to gain precedence in Auckland, and stage two will be for those interests to get their hands on the $28 billion worth of assets that the Auckland Council will have. The supreme irony could very well be that although the whole system has been set up for the corporatisation of Auckland, if the people of Auckland elect not the candidate of the corporate interests, Mr Banks, but Mr Brown, we could have a mayor who was not under the control of corporate interests or of this Government. It would be a supreme irony if the upshot of all of this was that the corporate interests effectively lost control of the structure that they have set up so carefully and so diligently over the last few years.
We will find that National has really set up a state Government. Australia has both local government and state government. That is really what the Government is doing here, with one council to represent one-third of the population of New Zealand and 20-odd councillors each representing 100,000 people. I guess that that at least will give those councillors something to do. At least they will be able to run around in their wards, trying to represent their 100,000 people. They will have little else to do, because all of the key elements of the council will be siphoned off into the council-controlled organisations.
I also cannot understand why the mayoral candidates are running around saying the big issue for Auckland is public transport and transport problems and promising to fix those transport problems, when they cannot. The mayor will have only very indirect power in that area, because even all of the critical issues of transport are being siphoned off into a council-controlled organisation.
Nikki Kaye: They control the spatial plan.
SUE KEDGLEY: Oh, well, I am glad to hear that there is something left that the councillors do control and that not everything—not everything—has been siphoned off into the council-controlled organisations.
This legislation realises the most extraordinary goal of the ACT Party. Anyone can look up its local government policy; it is quite explicit. ACT wants to shrink democracy and corporatise the functions of local government. Rodney Hide has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in this Auckland bill. But let us not blame just Rodney Hide; he could not have done this without the support of the whole National Government. Its members have supported the undermining of local government, the undermining of local powers, and interference by central government in the affairs of local government on a scale that has never happened before, at least not to my knowledge. At the end of all of this we will have funny little boards, which are supposed to pretend to represent local communities and local democracy.
The Auckland bills have united the people of Auckland in a way that no other thing has ever done before. People have had an issue with the way that Auckland has been fragmented; it has been fractured, it has not been coherent, it has not been unified, yet the introduction of this legislation and the way that it has been introduced have united people against it. A recent DigiPoll says that more than 60 percent of Aucklanders are against the way that this Government has handled this reorganisation. The non-governmental organisation Our Auckland polled more than 9,000 people. The first question asked: “Do you approve of the way in which the Government is setting up the new Auckland Council (the ‘Super City’)?”. The yes vote was 4 percent; the no vote was 96 percent. The third question asked: “Has the Government officially asked you what kind of Auckland you want?”. The no vote was 94 percent. The second question asked: “Do you think the Government has paid enough attention to the wishes of Aucklanders before completely restructuring Auckland and how it is governed?”. The no vote was 95 percent. This legislation has done what no other thing has ever done for Auckland before; it has brought together John Banks, Len Brown, Michael Barnett, environmentalists, Māori—a whole bunch of people who in normal circumstances would never get together in the same room.
Hon Tau Henare: So you’re saying that Māori and environmentalists don’t get on? Is that what the member is saying?
DAVID SHEARER: They are united against this bill going forward. It is a wonderful thing, I say to Mr Henare: this legislation has done for Auckland what no other issue has done before. It is a disastrous public relations exercise for the Government. As the reorganisation goes forward this year it will continue to fail and falter, and it will be fodder for the Opposition during the election. The tragedy is that that will be at the expense of ordinary Aucklanders. Ordinary Aucklanders will miss out on the opportunity to have a city that they cherish and really want.
It is worth having a look at the history of the way in which the reorganisation has been carried out, because it is the process that is at the real heart of the problem. Let us think back to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It deliberated for 2 years, it spent $4 million, it heard some 3,000 submissions, and within 9 days of it reporting out came the Government’s own report setting out what it believes that Auckland wants, without any reference to the royal commission, which had patiently heard, deliberated, and thought carefully about what Auckland really needed. That was the real tragedy; in many ways that was the beginning of the end of this process.
It meant the end, for example, of a bipartisan approach. Members on this side of the Chamber gave deliberate thought in the early stages to whether we should get behind the legislation, whether it should be driven by a bipartisan approach so that we could hear all of Auckland’s real concerns, and so Parliament would be able to think as one body about what one-third of New Zealanders might want and might need. Instead we get the extraordinary arrogance of a Government putting before Aucklanders what it believes that Aucklanders need, without real consultation, without real reference to the royal commission, which had deliberated on it, and without any reference to Aucklanders themselves.
Then we had to go through the farce of the first bill. The first bill did not even acknowledge any Auckland input. It had to be pushed through under urgency, which necessitated members on this side of the Chamber working through the night and into the weekend. On behalf of Aucklanders, for whom we care, we were prepared to go that extra mile in order to put forward what they believe. Aucklanders had a say on the second bill. What did they say? They said that they did not agree with the way that the Government was reorganising Auckland: they did not agree with the powers of the council-controlled organisations, they did not agree with the lack of power of the local boards, and they believed that it was the end of democracy and the end of their having a voice in Auckland. Again, I do not think the Government expected that sort of response from Auckland.
The headline of a recent piece by Bernard Orsman in the New Zealand Herald referred to a win for the people. He wrote that because, finally, as a result of the activities of Aucklanders, the 760 submissions on this third bill, and the activities of the Auckland MPs on this side of the Chamber, who have been fighting to stand up for what Aucklanders really want, the Government was forced to listen. It had to listen, because it realised that if it did not do that, it would lose the votes of Aucklanders at the next election. This bill was not the result of any great shift because of Aucklanders’ real wishes; the substructure that has underlain all of this legislation is still there. The Government has simply tweaked it and fiddled around the edges to make it more palatable for Aucklanders, so that it will glide through, and so that the Government will be able to give the impression as we go into the local elections that it actually listened, which resulted in some changes. But this Government has not listened at all. It has not listened to New Zealanders. It has not listened to Aucklanders. Despite the beauty of Auckland—and in Mercer’s 2010 quality of living survey Auckland was voted fourth equal out of 221 cities in the world for quality of life and for being a great place to live—we have politicians who insist that they know better than Aucklanders and they do not have to listen.
In many ways, with this third bill we finally had a process in which Aucklanders could have their voice heard. Members on this side of the Chamber enabled that voice to be heard. We listened with care and deliberation. We listened carefully. I sat for the odd time on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, where members opposite nodded but had absolutely no intention of listening carefully and making any changes to the legislation. Oh no, they listened politely and carefully, nodded their heads, gave many of the submitters a shake of the hand or a hug, and thanked them for their contribution, but it did not make any difference. It actually made no difference.
I grew up in Auckland. It is my home. I was born there, I was schooled there, I sail on the water, and I tramp in the Waitakeres. It is a place that I care about. I represent the people of Mt Albert, and when I walk around the streets of Mt Albert everyone I meet whom I ask about the super-city asks me what the Government is doing. People say that it is not doing what they wanted it to do; it is doing what it wants to do, what its ideology says, led by that man there, Mr Hide, who has tried to railroad his ideology right through the middle of Auckland. And Auckland has said no. Auckland has said no. Changes have been made to this bill, but it is far from perfect and it is far from being a bill that we on this side of the Chamber are able to accept.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) : I am delighted to speak on this historic legislation. I am delighted to be here this evening to talk about the many changes that have happened as a result of the select committee process. But first, I make a few comments about how Labour members failed in this process, and I give members a couple of instances. Mr Twyford stands up in this Chamber and talks about local democracy. Mr Twyford not only went out and protested while he was a member of a select committee but he actually organised the protest. If that is not a constitutional outrage, and if that is not a lack of democracy, then I do not know what is.
Second, it is very difficult to be lectured by Labour members about democracy when all we have to mention is the one phrase “the Electoral Finance Act”. Members on the Government side of the Chamber know that it is very difficult to receive lectures about democracy from members on that side of the Chamber after that legislation.
But I want to talk about the wonderful provisions within this bill that will lead to greater democratic participation for Aucklanders. In particular, speakers opposite have talked about youth engagement. What is wonderful about this legislation is that it is different. It is different for youth. We now have, and I refer members to the part of the bill regarding youth engagement, a specific reference that will require the mayor to take into account youth views and to set up a mechanism that will enable the council to engage with youth. That is a significant change for the people, the youth, of Auckland. Members opposite wanted a defined structure within the legislation, but what they failed to show, and what they failed to represent, was how they would put that structure within the legislation, given there were so many different submissions on it.
But we also have greater local democracy here, and I want to talk about that for a second. We currently have a community board system within Auckland whereby the community boards have been at the whim of councillors. Some areas of Auckland have not been able to have even community boards. Members opposite—and I have talked to members opposite—have been slip-sliding on their position so often. When it came to how many local boards we would have, members on this side of the Chamber were very clear: we stood for 21; those on that side of the Chamber wanted six to nine. I challenge Mr Twyford to stand up and talk about the number of local boards he wanted to deliver for Auckland. This side of the Chamber is very clear. We are putting in a structure that will finally guarantee local board structures to communities of Auckland. If we listened to the Opposition we would not hear about what is in the legislation.
The other key point about these local board structures is that there are several key protections. The first is the principle of subsidiarity. So I say to those members opposite who talk about local boards’ functions and powers being stripped away that they have not read the last piece of legislation or even this piece of legislation. There is a clear principle of subsidiarity, which says that any decision making goes to the local board unless the governing body can prove that it is regional. Finally, members can understand that that provision is actually very significant.
Hon Parekura Horomia: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. This is a very, very serious debate, and I am concerned that the Minister in the chair, the Minister of Local Government, is bringing the Committee into dispute by texting while this discussion is going on.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am the judge of that, thank you. I ask the member to sit down. We have a debate going on. It is a robust debate. [Interruption] I am on my feet—there are a lot of interjections that are not related to the debate. I will decide the relevance or otherwise of what the Minister is doing.
NIKKI KAYE: As I was saying, we are moving from a system of community boards that have been at the whim of councillors and have had no power, to a system of local boards whereby there is a principle of subsidiarity that will enable decisions to be made locally unless the governing body can prove that they are regional.
The other key protection, the other key facet, of this legislation, which is crucial—and which members opposite have not picked up yet because they failed to turn up to the select committee a number of times—is that it is a collaborative process.
Hon Steve Chadwick: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. The speaker opposite knows she cannot mention the presence of members at select committees or their absence.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): There is a clear ruling. One cannot refer to members who are not present. I ask the member to continue. She has a minute remaining.
NIKKI KAYE: There is a local board plan process whereby, for the first time, there will be a requirement to have an agreement between the governing body and the local boards. There will be a dispute resolution process for cases where there is disagreement. That protection will provide for those local boards to be able to get what they want at a local board level.
This is a historic day. We have made many changes to this legislation. I look forward to talking in detail about all the changes, because members opposite are just reading their previous speaking notes. They have not looked at what happened during the select committee process. They are using slogans like “lack of democracy”, which we have already talked about. I look forward to addressing issues such as privatisation, in other speeches I will be giving.
I make it clear to the people of Auckland that is a historic day. We will have a system of one regional entity and one mayor that will finally be able to deliver from a cultural, social, economic, and environmental perspective to the people of Auckland.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : Talofa lava, Mr Chair. As an Auckland MP I rise to speak with considerable sadness about the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. Today is not quite the historic day that the member opposite, Nikki Kaye, was referring to, as we are in the Committee stage on this bill. As I am an Auckland member of Parliament this bill affects me. It affects my access to representation in local government. It affects the services provided to me, to my neighbours, to the electorate I work in, to the people of Panmure, to the people of Ellerslie, and to the people of Onehunga. Across the Chamber, members are fooling themselves if they believe that those people believe the rhetoric about this being a great day for Auckland and that this measure will deliver all these fantastic outcomes. Aucklanders do not believe that.
This bill, the third Auckland bill, is the culmination of quite a considerable amount of work. It is about the future of Auckland’s local government. Others have mentioned the appalling processes that took place around the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Bill and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. I will talk about general points in this, my first contribution, but members can rest assured that Auckland members from this side of the Chamber will be rising to speak frequently and on the detail of this bill. So I can reassure Ms Kaye of that matter. Actually, I want to acknowledge Ms Kaye as being one of the two National members of Parliament based in Auckland who are ready and willing to speak on this bill in the House. It is great that she has done that. I congratulate her on that.
This bill will make Auckland’s governance less transparent, less accountable, and less responsive to Aucklanders. We object to 75 percent of Auckland Council assets being put into the hands of unelected, council-controlled organisations. That is a point of principle and one that is shared by an overwhelming majority of Aucklanders. The local boards should have more power, and I think we will talk about that in quite a lot of detail and get into the argument about whether this bill does indeed provide sufficient power. We say that the bill does not. Māori should have guaranteed representation, and the council should have more community involvement.
We are also concerned on this side of the Chamber that this bill paves the way for privatisation of council assets. Again, that is another issue that Aucklanders feel strongly about. Aucklanders do not believe National members when those members say they are not interested in privatising council assets.
We have heard a lot of times that the Government has listened to Aucklanders. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I heard a member opposite say that, I would be a very rich person. I sat in on a number of occasions in respect of the two bills that were referred to the select committee. On many occasions I heard very sympathetically and earnestly stated comments about listening to Aucklanders. Well, the reality, both in substance and in process, is that this bill is flawed, and the outcome does not show that the Government has listened to Aucklanders.
The stakes are high. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. A third of our population live in Auckland. It is the entry way for most people visiting our country, and it is the exit route for many of our exports. It is a very important city. It is a place where many of us live, raise our families, go to school, go to work, and enjoy ourselves in what is, as Mr Shearer said, an incredibly beautiful city. The stakes are high in terms of getting this right.
But what are we facing? We are facing the centralisation of power, both in terms of mayoral powers and in terms of a lack of genuine authority being given to the local boards. We are facing community becoming corporate. We are facing transparency becoming opaqueness. One of the things that sadden me the most about this bill is that there has been a real missed opportunity. The value of local government, the public good that is done by local government, is not well understood by New Zealanders. I think that the missed opportunity was the opportunity to ensure that we took Aucklanders with us on this journey. It was the opportunity to inform people of the role of local government, and to actually find out what they want from their local government. It was an opportunity to improve understanding of the processes of local government and how people can participate.
This could have been a real opportunity to engage properly with Aucklanders, to commit to some key principles, to commit to an appropriate time frame instead of the very rushed job we have seen all the way through, and to try to build a high degree of consensus about the sort of Auckland we want. That takes time and commitment to the process. Auckland is an incredibly diverse city; it is clearly the most diverse city in New Zealand.
Simon Bridges: You haven’t been to Tauranga.
CAROL BEAUMONT: I have in fact been to Tauranga, quite recently. As I was saying, Auckland is a very diverse city. It has some of the richest New Zealanders and some of the poorest. It has many social issues that we need to deal with. This process has missed the opportunity to talk to Aucklanders about all of those things, to build that consensus, and to put in place reforms that would have stood the test of time.
I acknowledge the efforts of Aucklanders to try to have their say. People have been out on the streets, they have protested, they have written submissions, and they have attended meetings. I have been impressed by the quality of the submissions to the select committee on two of the three Auckland governance bills. There were 786 submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, and 348 of those were heard by the committee. I acknowledge each and every one of those people. Certainly there were a range of very fine submissions from the Maungakiekie electorate where I work. They came from a range of groups such as existing local government politicians, business associations, community groups, and young people’s groups. The submissions were of a very good quality. But we have ended up with just a continuation of the approach of this Government—that is, spin. It is all about messaging: “We are listening.” Labour members have listened, and heard a number of tokenistic changes that are meant to reassure Aucklanders that they have been listened to.
In the select committee process on the third bill it was interesting that people had seen through that approach by the Government. But on the second bill where Mr John Carter and others had said: “We are listening.”, people gave them the benefit of the doubt. They thought: “OK, they’re listening to us and they are going to do these things.” But when people submitted on the third bill, there was just enormous anger from many of them, because they knew they had not been listened to, at all.
I want to talk about a number of issues that deal with what this means. Ironically, it may well mean a better turnout in our local government elections this time, because of the level of anger. That would be a good thing, and, hopefully, that would mean the election of a decent council that will try to make the best, as others have said, out of what is in the legislation. But the Government needs to take heed of the view of Aucklanders, and I know that it is not something the Government is keen to do.
I just quote a little bit from the Onehunga Community News, which is a fine monthly publication. It states: “Supporters of this legislation must take heed. There are many areas which give grave cause for concern. If the new structures limit people’s perception of their ability to practise democracy locally, then they still have a national election on the horizon. The 2011 election gives the super-city a year to get bedded in, or will local MPs discover the truth of the adage: ‘He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword’?”.
Aucklanders are angry and will hold the Government to account for these changes. So there will be an opportunity in the Committee stage, and Labour members will be raising a number of Supplementary Order Papers. I urge the Government to look at them and to look at improving the legislation. Fa‘afetai, soifua.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : I think that one of the very important things that have not been mentioned so far tonight is how much this process will cost Aucklanders. Not only is it costing their own local representation but it has cost $200 million, so far.
Hon Members: How much?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The change is costing Aucklanders—not the Government—$200 million. When we sat in the motel in Parnell in Auckland and heard the submissions, and saw Nikki Kaye running up afterwards to anyone from her electorate and saying soothing things, and how hard she would work to make changes, the Government was rattling through the purses and wallets of Aucklanders to find $200 million for the transition. It is really important to know that people are being made to buy into something they would normally say they did not want, if they were asked.
It is interesting that we have a Government that is rushing this bill through, but I think that if it were really listening it would make more changes to the bill. I have put forward amendments to increase the public accountability of all council-controlled organisations of the Auckland Council. That is very, very important. People want to have some say on that. I have been in politics a long while—3 years as a councillor, 9 years as a mayor, and 20 years as an MP—and one thing I have learnt is that Tories always believe in doing deals behind closed doors.
Hon Members: That’s right.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is right; they always do. The Government has a mishmash situation where three of the crown-controlled organisations will have a say, and the others will not. My amendments will bring some accountability. Some people might be disaffected, but if they are involved, that is better.
David Bennett: No!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Last night that member from one of the Hamilton seats was struggling when he was talking to people in Papakura. He really struggled, and he started to make up some of his answers, on which I took quite a few notes.
We want to make sure that this process is as open as possible. When we have a Government that is appointing council-controlled organisations before the new Auckland Council has even started, then people become suspicious. In Auckland lots of people are suspicious of the Government. I say to the Government that this will make them more suspicious, because they believe in being able to talk to their local people. What powers will the local people have? They do not know yet.
H V Ross Robertson: Māori seats?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: What will happen about Māori representation? We on this side believe very firmly that there should be Māori representation. I have to admire Tau Henare, who on the second Auckland governance bill went with Shane Jones, as a subcommittee—and I think even Hone Harawira was there—around marae to get their views. But, no, the Māori Party now thinks that it is more important to go to New York than to Auckland. I think those members should be ashamed of that.
We have the opportunity to try to make this bill even better. There were a lot of changes during the time from when the bill came into the House until it was reported back, but those changes are not sufficient to make Aucklanders feel confident, and to make Aucklanders feel they are getting something that will be better. Yes, Aucklanders know there are plenty of things wrong with their local government at the moment. People in Papakura know that an 11 percent rate increase this year is outrageous, but they do not know yet about the $200 million they will have to cough up to help pay for the transition. That is something that I really think people should be aware of.
As we move forward, I think that this debate will widen, and that we will see some National people who were on the select committee getting up and speaking. We have not seen many of them do that yet, but I think we should see that.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : Lau Afioga i le Fofoga Fetalai. Talofa, Mr Chair. [Interruption] Manuia fa‘afetai lava. [Interruption] Yes, I was born and raised in the hood. He did not know that, did our Ross Robertson, but, never mind, members on the other side do not know a hell of a lot.
I want to concentrate a little bit on local board plans. I am over the moon that one of the powers of the board—
Su’a William Sio: Can he understand it?
Hon TAU HENARE: We will get there soon. One of the default levels of service for local activities is that it has to include an explanation of each of the variations, if there are any, to that level of service for local activities. It has to include an estimate of additional cost, or even savings, associated with each variation. It has to include a budget. This is all part of the local board plan, which is the plan that right down at the grassroots level those local boards have to submit, along the way, to the Auckland Council. It is more than just an agreement with the council; it is a contract between the council and the local board. When it comes time for the council to make its decisions, the council has to reflect the priorities and preferences in the board’s plan.
I want to say two things to the people of Auckland—firstly, merry Christmas, because the Auckland Council has been a long time coming. Do members know why it has taken so long? It is because of the little fiefdoms that have been perpetuated by none other than those people across the way in this Chamber—
Simon Bridges: George Hawkins.
Hon TAU HENARE: —the little fiefdom out in South Auckland, the little fiefdom over on the Shore, the little fiefdom in west Auckland—
Hon Steve Chadwick: Oh, they’re worried. Oh, they’re very worried.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, no, I tell the member we are not worried. We are not worried, because the people of Auckland are going to get a shot in the arm to bring Auckland into the 21st century. How do I know that? In my hand I have a typed amendment from none other than Shane Jones. He worked so hard on the select committee, day in, day out. It was a slog-fest. But all those members could come up with, after the rhetoric on Māori seats, was an amendment to clause 45 to state: “The Auckland Transition Agency must ensure that Auckland is divided into two Maori electoral districts for the purposes of electing councillors to represent the Maori people.” How did those members come up with that brilliant idea, after all the submissions from everybody—even from those against Māori seats? All they could do was come up with that; all they could do was to divide Auckland.
Well, here is one question that I would like to put to the Hon Shane Jones: because the only people who are allowed under this amendment to vote on the Māori electoral seats are Māori who are registered on the Māori roll, what happens to the thousands upon thousands of people who live in Auckland but who are not on the Māori roll? Mr Jones believes that in one fell swoop he has given the vote to everybody, but he has not—
H V Ross Robertson: Disenfranchised.
Hon TAU HENARE: —he has disenfranchised a large proportion of Māori who live in Auckland. It is nothing to do with Ngāti Whātua; there is no word about mana whenua or Ngāti Whātua in there. We know for a fact that Mr Jones hates—hates with a vengeance—anything to do with iwi, like iwi power and iwi representation. There is absolutely nothing there in that amendment that mentions Ngāti Whātua or any other tribe.
I want to make mention of the spatial plan, and how such a plan—
Phil Twyford: Nikki’s the spatial plan one. Don’t steal Nikki’s issue.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, I see. I know it gets tough when a member is under pressure and does not have a seat—does not even have a nomination. It is all good when a member has a nomination, but—[Interruption] At least I have lived in my electorate for 25 years, unlike some people who have moved into Grey Lynn in the last couple of weeks. But that is OK, that is all right; I lived in Grey Lynn once too. I rented in Grey Lynn, in Ariki Street.
Hon Steve Chadwick: He’s the face of Auckland.
Hon TAU HENARE: The face of Auckland—well, there we go. The face of Auckland in the future will be one of an economic powerhouse that tackles the problems in Auckland in a holistic way, rather than just having Manukau for Manukau, North Shore for North Shore, and west Auckland for west Auckland. David Shearer in his speech likened Māori political groups to the environmentalists, and said that for the first time all those disparate groups were getting together—as if Māori were not environmentalists and environmentalists were not Māori. What a speech from the former captain of the first eleven at Papatoetoe High School!
To get back to spatial plans, I tell the Committee that the spatial plan is crucial, because it has at its core the social, economic—
Hon Shane Jones: It’s in your head. It’s empty space.
Phil Twyford: The member’s a spatial cadet.
Hon TAU HENARE: —oh, members are getting personal now; there is no need to get personal, there is no need for that—environmental, and cultural well-being of the city—
Phil Twyford: I withdraw and apologise for calling the member a spatial cadet. I am sorry.
Hon TAU HENARE: I will not get in the gutter. I will not get in the gutter with that member. The spatial plan is a long-term strategy, and Labour members will know what a long-term strategy is because they will be sitting over there for a very long time. They will be sitting over there for a very, very long time. The spatial plan actually becomes the aspirational note of the city—the aspirational note of the city. Let me say, in winding up, that if we get it right for Auckland, the whole of the country will be right. You know, it is all right for the members across the way to think that economic development in this country starts and begins in Timbuctoo, but it actually starts with getting Auckland right. If we get Auckland right as have, or as we will attempt to do—
H V Ross Robertson: Yes, that’s better.
Hon TAU HENARE: —as we had—what we will do for the nation is get us on the road to a better future.
I finish by saying that last night, in that great suburb of west Auckland, Te Atatū, the peninsula—and I know that Phil Twyford is after the nomination—the Te Atatu Residents and Ratepayers Association had a meeting. I thought is would be a bit of a set-up job, with lefties all pouring out. But it was not. There were people there like Elizabeth Grimmer, who has been a stalwart for west Auckland local government. She got up and said “Nobody gets everything they want, but at the end of the day what we’ve got is a good deal.” She is not a hard-core Tory; she is not a hard-core lefty. She is a hard-core community person, and we cannot say she is wedded to any philosophy other than that of local government and community input. I take off my hat to the likes of Elizabeth Grimmer, and to those who have worked hard to make sure their voices are heard. And they have been heard in this bill.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) : Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. I tell folks that that was Tau Henare, of Te Atatū, the area that means in our Māori language “the dawn”. But this legislation is very sad for Aucklanders, because it is no dawn event. As well, that man allowed his speech to degenerate into invective. He did not need to begin with Parekura Horomia and the weight-reduction course to become the biggest loser. He has gone through so many permutations in Māori political camouflage in this Parliament: Aotearoa Tuatahi—tuatahi; Mana Motuhake—tuarua; Mauri Pacific—tuatoru; and the National Party—tuawhā. Tahi, rua, toru, whā—that member and his career, and its relevance to this legislation, are far out beyond Te Atatū.
Simon Bridges: Where is Phil Goff?
Hon SHANE JONES: Oh, we are being educated by the member for Tauranga, who today asked an oral question about the welfare of animals. Why? Because he has an interest in “cocky spaniels”, because that is the countenance and heritage at the moment of the political character he has brought to the Chamber. But we will not bother Aucklanders with any further comment about that small, irrelevant, canine barker from Tauranga. Let us put a certain level of reality into this debate.
Tau Henare has every reason to fear. He knows that Rodney Hide and the ACT Party, despite their numerical modesty, have triumphed over members on the Government benches. They did not want the “Gotham City” that will be evident every time the dawn greets Te Atatū. They did not want power residing in glass, shiny towers in Queen Street. They wanted power to be spread around, but, instead, they have enraged the people of the north and sucked in the rural elements of Rodney, Te Hana, and Whakapirau, which is otherwise known as Wellsford. People there need to go back to the Māori name of Whakapirau, because this is a rotten bill for Wellsford. This is a rotten bill for people in that part of the north.
Hon John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. The member might care to know that Whakapirau is above the northern boundary.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): That is a debating point.
Hon SHANE JONES: I would like the opportunity to give that member The ReedDictionary of Maori Place Names. The original Māori name for Wellsford is Whakapirau. The man there is talking about waka pirau. One of these means “a rotten waka”—the one he occupies. The other means “to put the light out”, which is what has happened to Wellsford, Rodney, Warkworth, and right down to Franklin. Rest assured, the member John Carter does know a thing or three, unlike Tau and my good friend “Hone Katakata”, about such matters.
Let us focus on why Auckland neighbourhoods are so disappointed. First, budgetary pressures will prevent local communities from having any resources to give either substance or fuel to their desire to the much-vaunted principle that is referred to by Nikki Kaye as subsidiarity. No one has subsidiarity unless she or she has power or resources. There is no power and there will be minuscule resources down in these small, garden society - orientated local committees.
Hon Tau Henare: Tell us about your Supplementary Order Paper.
Hon SHANE JONES: In relation to the Supplementary Order Paper that Tau Henare refers to, I say that it is a very simple but overdue improvement to this bill, and that is having two Māori seats. They are seats designed for citizens. They are seats designed not for marae, not for rūnanga, and not for mana whenua, but for Māori citizens, just as we have such a device that enables—perish the thought—Hone Harawira and others to come to Parliament. However, that is a temporary aberration that will soon pass, as a consequence of their being found to be powerless and hopeless in relation to this bill. Our focus is on enriching the citizenship qualities of our Māori ratepayers and residents, because they know one thing: that they will have no power, and plenty more rates. Before members opposite talk to members on this side of the Chamber about place names or rates, they should get their facts straight.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : I will make reference quickly to the spatial plan in clause 66 of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, which we heard a little bit about earlier. I hope the member who referred to it will recall that the original document that went to the select committee suggested that the spatial plan should have a single purpose, which was growth and development. That said something about the perception, world view, and preference of the people who drafted it. Growth and development stood alone in that key position in the spatial plan, which is the 30-year, long-term strategy. To suggest that nothing but growth and development should be the driving imperative of that entire enterprise would be catastrophic for Auckland and the region. We were reassured that, never mind, in other legislation there were references to social issues, cultural issues, and indeed the environmental outcomes of local governance, and we could rely on that. But I am pleased to say that Green and Labour lobbying, shall we say, finally encouraged the drafters to insert specific provisions so that in future the spatial plan, which is the overall, overarching strategy for this new governance structure, will need to consider social, environmental, and cultural issues, as well as economic and other issues. That was such a blinding oversight of the original drafters that it almost defied belief.
I mentioned earlier the loss of democracy that this bill entails. We are undoubtedly losing democracy in the larger sense. We are specifically losing our rights to propose a change to local body boundaries anytime between now and the next local body elections in 2013. The people of north Rodney, in particular, are seriously annoyed by that, to the extent that they are considering trying to bring a local bill to Parliament, in order to once again regain the right, enjoyed by every other New Zealander, to propose a reorganisation of boundaries. Aucklanders will not be able, until after 2013, to propose changes to the electoral system, a right that is enjoyed by every other New Zealander. So we have diminished rights and diminished opportunities to participate as citizens in a democratic society.
Perhaps the cruellest cut of all is that we are getting less and will be paying more. We will pay a great deal more. Eighteen months or perhaps 2 years ago, when this grand new vision of a new city and a new governance structure for Auckland was pronounced, it was all about reducing rates. It was about efficiency, cutting costs, and stopping the inexorable rise of rates for people in the area. We have not heard so much of that language from the Minister of Local Government—and I apologise if we are keeping him awake. We have heard very little about that recently. The idea that this exercise will save anybody money seems to have dropped off the agenda, and there is a very clear and obvious reason for that—it will not. There will not be savings for Auckland in the short term, and it is very unlikely that there will be savings in the long term. There is nothing in this structure that suggests we will save money.
It is extraordinary that, by the Minister’s own admission, there has not been a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis done of this entire project. The cost overall is a “suck it and see, we’ll tell you at the end” figure, except that nobody will ever know, because the figures are not being kept. We heard a bit in the last few days about the costs associated with the transitional authority, and we were reassured that they would come in on time and under budget. They must come in on time because the statutory requirement is that this new, shaky structure must be in place on 1 November. As for under budget, I doubt that very much. The costs that are being imposed, the invisible but very real financial costs, are already being picked up by councils, and they will almost certainly go through to the pockets of ratepayers in the Greater Auckland area. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of costs in this exercise. No matter what alchemy or what smoke and mirrors anyone may endeavour to attach to the whole process, the hard dollars will have to be spent.
There is already an obvious human cost. The people working within the eight local authorities—the seven territorial local authorities and the regional authority—have been walking on egg shells for months, wondering who will keep their job and who will lose it. We know there is an enormous amount of work that is being done that needs to be done. More work will be done from 1 November, and there is a question about who will be there to do that work. We know already that some of the best and brightest employees of the councils have looked at the situation and simply turned their backs on it and walked away.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) : Kia ora tātou, nō reira e te Whare. Given that it is Samoan Language Week this week, malo le soifua and talofa lava, and, in expectation, fa’afetai lava for the opportunity to address the Committee this evening. The Hon Tau Henare made the point that Auckland would be a powerhouse under this legislation. I say to the Committee that that is yet to be seen. Of course, much will depend on the quality and calibre of those individuals who offer themselves for the leadership roles in Auckland. At the moment we have two mayoral aspirants—Len Brown, from our city of Manukau, and the Hon John Banks, from Auckland. Much of whether this will be successful will come down to the calibre not only of the mayoral aspirants but also of those who offer themselves as ward councillors and as board members. This is representation without accountability.
The Minister of Local Government can say what he likes, but Aucklanders will be the losers in this restructuring because bigger is not necessarily better. I have seen from my own experience that although it may be true that we get economies of scale and more efficiencies—and that is the argument that the Government is progressing—it is true only if each individual unit of local government is efficient in its own right. Smaller can actually be better because it would be more effective and more efficient with the controls that can be put in place. We want to see increased efficiency. We think that is very, very important. Members on this side of the Chamber are not opposed to progress. In fact, Labour is the party of progress. It has always been known as a party that promotes fresh ideas. If we look at some of the major social reforms in this country, we see they have come from Labour. We are not opposed to the changes taking place, but we are opposed to the manner in which it has been done, to the appointment of the council-controlled organisations, and to how this will be structured.
I ask the Minister where the accountability is. Where is the transparency? Where can the general public have a say on how Auckland will be run? Members on this side of the Chamber are concerned that their voices will be lost. We know that this will cost around $200 million. Who will pay? The ratepayers of Auckland will pay—so much for the tax cuts and the GST increase. The costs will continue to go up and up. The challenge is on the Minister to bring in the budget under the figure that has been set. That is the challenge for the Minister. I ask the Minister what initiatives he has taken to ensure that the overall cost of the restructuring will be lower than forecast. The last thing that people in Auckland want is to find their rates increased because the cost of the restructuring is more than was envisaged. That is the challenge for this Minister, and I know that he is competent enough to know that.
I want to know what the Minister has done. What controls has he put in place to ensure that there is feedback to those people who will control Auckland, so they will be able to run it in a most effective and efficient manner? Two of the things that members on this side of the Chamber are concerned about are the transparency and the accountability of those people who will run Auckland. The big thing is the way in which the council-controlled organisations will be run, and the appointments and how they will be done. When people ask me what council-controlled organisations are, I tell them. But they want to know from the Minister exactly what that will mean for them as individuals and as ratepayers, because they are concerned.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) : Talofa lava. I am grateful for the opportunity to take a call on this bill. I am a proud Aucklander, and have been so for about 47 years. Auckland is a great city, and its people are wonderful. Anybody who has lived in Auckland for that length of time, and who has a sense of what Auckland is about, should have seen today as a proud day, and as the day on which Auckland began to develop itself as a great city in going forward together. But we know as Aucklanders, and we know as Labour members, the problems of Auckland. We have known them for some time. So the last Government started the process to change that by appointing a royal commission. It was a great royal commission, and it produced a great report. One would have thought that we would spend some time going carefully through that report and developing many opportunities for Aucklanders to participate in change, so that today we could see the kinds of results Aucklanders want.
Today nobody is particularly happy with this bill. One cannot say that Aucklanders are happy with this bill. One cannot say that Māori are happy with this bill. One cannot say that the Pacific community is happy with this bill. Certainly, I can say that the ethnic community, alongside many others, is not happy with this bill. I ask myself what went wrong. What went wrong in the process? It was well designed to take the issues of Auckland through a good process and arrive at a point where today we should have been celebrating and agreeing with members opposite.
The process was hijacked; a new Government was elected and the new Government must take responsibility for that. A Minister of Local Government was appointed, but the only model this Minister has had in mind is a corporate model that he will drive through the heart of Auckland. In everything that has happened, one can see the footprint of that particular ideology and that perspective. That is why the groups I referred to are not happy, and why the changes that have been proposed in the bill are not the kinds of changes that will give Auckland the opportunity to move forward as a great society, and together.
In Auckland we are worried. We are worried about water, we are worried about sewerage, and we are worried about rates; we are worried about many things. We are also worried about those communities in Auckland that are advantaged and those communities that are disadvantaged. One would have thought that this process would give all of those communities a chance to participate in designing where we need to go. We struggled with the process in the first bill, which was rammed through this House. At least there was some consultation in the select committee on the second bill. But here we have a bill that puts before us a system, a process, that really is less transparent than the one we currently have.
I ask the member for Auckland Central how this process could be more transparent, but she will say that it is much more transparent. However, today the citizens of Auckland can listen to whatever their councils discuss, apart from the few occasions when their meetings are held in private. Citizens can ask questions; they can participate in the meetings. But where will they be when the council-controlled organisations meet? Where will those citizens be when 75 percent of their interests, if you like, in dollar terms are being discussed by non-elected members, and when they have very little, if any, recourse to that process?
That is what this Minister has driven through; that is what this ideology has done to Auckland. In a sense, it has the opportunity to take away from Auckland the very thing we are all trying to do, which is to create for Auckland a great environment, and create for itself a process that will take its people and its interests further. This system that has been designed is less accountable to the people of Auckland. Indeed, when a council-controlled organisation presents a PowerPoint presentation and glossy brochures to a small group of people, to say “We are now consulting you.”, that is not the consultation the people of Auckland deserve. They deserve to be intimately involved with their particular interests, so that at least they can own the solutions that are being designed. This particular system will not do that for us.
The same can be said of the powers of the boards. Speaker after speaker from this side will get up and criticise the very holes that are in the provisions this bill has come up with.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) : It is my pleasure to take another call and to speak specifically to some of the more substantive points about the council-controlled organisations. Throughout the submission process three very strong messages, amongst others, came through from the submitters. The first of those messages was to give a strong voice to the local boards, because Aucklanders are entrusting to them much of their access to local democracy. It was the submitters’ perception that the Auckland Council would be an unattainable body, one that would be far out of their reach, so they asked for strong local boards, where they can have a strong voice.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
JACINDA ARDERN: Before the dinner break I was touching on the three key components—the three themes—that were picked up on by most of the submissioners heard by the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, and the first of those was the need for the local boards to have greater power. The second was a very strong theme of having a greater say over Auckland’s assets, and what I would call a pretty widespread aversion to the idea of privatisation, particularly as it related to water. Finally there were widespread concerns around the council-controlled organisations, or CCOs.
The final response from the Government about council-controlled organisations says to me that the Government has missed the point. The submitters were saying that their overwhelming concern was not just the way that the council-controlled organisations would operate—the technical operating matters—but their overwhelming use in this legislation, the fact that 75 percent of the council’s assets would sit with those bodies, and the fact that it was perceived that the general principle of the way that they would operate was very much at arm’s length from the more democratic institution of the council itself. Tweaking round the edges, in my mind, and I imagine in the minds of a good majority of Aucklanders, has not fixed that general principle. Despite the changes that have been made by the Government, it has not addressed the substantive concern expressed by Aucklanders.
I will go over some of the changes that have been suggested by the select committee—and that the Government is making. In response to that strong message from submitters, I think we got a relatively weak message back. I very much have the sense that the Government is saying that it will let others decide. I have not really seen leadership on this issue, even though the public were asking for leadership. Section 75AA under Part 8, in clause 45, has a requirement that the council must adopt a policy on the way that the council-controlled organisations would operate, including various statements about objectives and priorities, and statements about expectations of how the council-controlled organisations would work with the priorities of central government and of local government planning. Section 75AA(2)(e) is at the heart of some of the issues raised by the submitters. It states that the statement from the council must “set out any circumstances in which each substantive council-controlled organisation must conduct its business as if it were subject to Part 7 of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987:”. It must set out any circumstances in which they will behave in that open and transparent way. So rather than the general principle being that they will behave like that, and the statement setting out small areas in which they may create an exception, we are working on the inverse. In my mind, if we were sticking with the general principle of transparency, of openness, and of the public having access to those organisations, it would have been in the reverse. I would not mind if the Minister in the chair, the Minister of Local Government, would speak on that point.
I remember the North Shore City Council making a very compelling argument that that is the way that the council-controlled organisations should operate; that apart from circumstances where there were compelling reasons why their meetings should not be open—for contractual reasons or the like—they should by default operate in the same way that the council operates. I asked the North Shore City Council how often its meetings are closed. It said that it would probably be for no more than 20 percent of its business, and it promptly releases all information afterwards. I do not believe that what is being set out by the Government goes to the substantive heart of the issue. I think there has been a general misinterpretation. People have assumed that there is a requirement that the council-controlled organisations operate in this way; rather, the council “may” require them to. The Government has not shown leadership here and required that the council instruct the council-controlled organisations to conduct all of their business in that way. It has simply given the council the option. I would have preferred—and I am sure many of the submitters would have, too—to see much more leadership on this issue.
I want to go to one of the council-controlled organisations themselves to see how this provision will operate in practice. I see that people submitted on the Waterfront Development Agency. They had a number of concerns. This matter is addressed in the commentary from the select committee. It states: “We consider that it would be useful if the process for establishing the waterfront development CCO were outlined in the bill, and accordingly recommend amending clause 18. This amendment addresses concern that the bill does not prescribe the role, functions, and responsibilities of the waterfront development CCO.” How is the Government addressing the concern that there is no detail on the role, functions, and responsibilities? It simply says that it will do it by Order in Council, which is, again, not a particularly transparent, open, and accessible way to respond to a deeply held public concern. So what substantive changes were made to the Auckland Waterfront Development Agency? Well, it is being called something else. It is now named the Waterfront Development Council-controlled Organisation. I would not mind the Minister spending a little time outlining to the Committee what he sees as substantive changes to the Waterfront Development Agency, because the changes seem cosmetic to me. I am happy to be corrected on that, but if he could explain to me the significant difference between it being established as an entity, as a council-controlled organisation for the Auckland Council, and what we had before, I would be pleased to hear it.
I would also be really pleased to hear any Government member explain to me how the public will, in a tangible way, have input into the substantial issue of waterfront development. Let us look at the various waterfront developments going on in Auckland. We have a tank farm, which is a development project that takes up 29 hectares of the waterfront. The sum of $200 million of public money is being spent on that project. The amount goes into the billions when we include private money. We also have the debate on Queen’s Wharf. The ultimate test will be how the waterfront council-controlled organisation, the council, the ports, the public, and I would add central government, all interact to develop a master plan that, ultimately, the public are happy with. At the moment, we are seeing piecemeal decision-making about our waterfront. I am not convinced that what we have in this bill will make it any different from what we currently have.
I would also like to add into the mix that we cannot exclude the fact that central government will have its way on the waterfront, just as it has already had its way on Queen’s Wharf. We may believe that the Auckland Regional Council alone has led that process, but we all know that, in reality, John Key has very firmly said that he wants Queen’s Wharf to be party central during the Rugby World Cup. Any attempt by the public to have their say has been wiped out of the water by the fact that the existing sheds on Queen’s Wharf will come down in a matter of weeks to make way for the Prime Minister’s much-heralded party central. How will this bill change that? How will this bill make sure that the public ultimately have their views heard on the way that our waterfront is developed? At the moment, central government holds such sway over it that it can make significant decisions such as the removal of 98-year-old historic sheds, and then claim that a decision has not been made, and then claim that it is leaving the option open for the people of Auckland to decide. Come a couple of weeks’ time those sheds will be down, and that question will not be up for debate by the public any more.
How will the waterfront development council-controlled organisation contend with demands like that from central government? How will it act as a voice between the council, the ports, and central government? How will the public have their say in amongst all of that?
I am glad, though, that both the mayors who want to be the mayor of the Auckland Council have said that they want to look at the Auckland Waterfront Vision 2040 document, which was developed 4 years ago.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : I gave an overview of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill earlier, but let me begin by thanking Jacinda Ardern, Phil Twyford, George Hawkins, and Shane Jones for their contributions, and also the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee that considered this bill. I think we all agree that this is an important bill for Auckland and, indeed, for the country. Its genesis goes back a long way; in fact, it probably goes back nearly 100 years when we see what Michael Joseph Savage campaigned on in 1919.
It was the previous Government that set up the royal commission. What has impressed me about the progress of this bill is how everyone has worked together to produce the best results. In particular, the Opposition has worked hard to keep us on our toes and it has done a good job. The work we have done as a Government reflects that. Currently, I have officials working through the Supplementary Order Papers from the Labour Party and the Green Party, to take on board their concerns and to see the improvements those proposals could make. We are taking them seriously, and I thank them for that.
I would particularly like to thank the councils for the effort they have put in. They have worked with central government and with the Auckland Transition Agency to make sure we get the best result. It is a very tough time for them because they are at the sharp end of the upheaval. The Department of Internal Affairs has worked around the clock—literally, at times—to keep to the timetable. I would like to especially acknowledge the Aucklanders who have come together under the Auckland Transition Agency to do what is the most enormously complex change management process in New Zealand’s history. They have been doing an outstanding job. I thank the members of board whom we have appointed, and in particular Mark Ford.
Today is 1 June. A remarkable New Zealander, Rob Fisher, has been helping us, and it is his birthday. He is 66 years old today, and he was born on 1 June 1944.
Hon Darren Hughes: The Minister’s younger brother?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I wish. I do not have the brains to be Rob Fisher’s older brother. The remarkable thing is that Rob Fisher is out the back, working through the Supplementary Order Papers that the Labour members and Green members have put up, and is keeping an eye on the bill to see what will be the best result for the governance of Auckland. I would like to think that there will be some Supplementary Order Papers that we can find our way to support, if they make the bill better. Certainly, we do not believe that getting the governance right for Auckland is a matter of the Labour Party having it right, the National Party having it right, or the ACT Party having it right; it is about getting the best governance for Auckland. We all have an interest in getting the best governance for Auckland, and I am sure that members, given the help we are receiving out the back from Rob Fisher and others, would bear with me for a minute if we record in Hansard a very happy birthday wish for Rob Fisher, who has taken the trouble to come down here. Thank you.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is further evidence that the Government is not listening. It is not listening to its support parties. Just ask the Māori Party—everything it has suggested around Māori representation has been totally ignored. I am pleased that members of the Māori Party are not voting for this bill. They know that even though they say they represent the voice of Māori, they have not been able to convince this Government to give Māori representation on the most significant reorganisation of Auckland City in the last 20 to 25 years. That is a telling thing.
This Government is not listening to its own local members—just ask Paul Hutchison. In the Franklin district, scores and scores of people turned out to public meetings to voice their opposition to the way in which this Government was ramming through its proposals for the super-city. Why? Because they know that their special and unique identity in Franklin will be lost in the ether with the ramming ahead of these types of changes. The Government is not even listening to its own local members. Paul Hutchison could well be gone by the next election. Certainly, that is what his own constituents are saying. He should be concerned.
Most important, this Government is not listening to everyday Aucklanders—people who live across the whole of Auckland City and who have said that this process is too fast and too soon. They want to have a say and they are asking why the Government is not listening to them. And what have the Government and the Minister of Local Government done? They have absolutely rammed through a proposal that does not fit right with what is in the hearts of Aucklanders. Aucklanders want local democracy and a way for their voices to be heard. More important, they want to express that in a way that can be responded to.
Do we really think that local boards will respond to the local concerns of Aucklanders? People out there in Auckland do not think so. As I said, scores and scores of people turned out to public meetings in Manurewa and the Papakura and Franklin parts of my electorate to voice their opposition to these plans. They were saying that the real cost of the transition had not been spelt out. Nothing had been spelt out to citizens and ratepayers in Papakura and Franklin. They wanted to know the true cost of moving towards a super-city structure. Would their rates increase; if so, by how much and when? They are sensible questions that should have been answered at every point at which the super-city proposal was being touted by National MPs.
The people also said they were given no real explanation about whether the protection of public and local assets would be achieved through the transition. Many people were concerned about things like the status of their local parks, or regional parks if they were in their areas. They asked what would happen to libraries and arts centres where they fund-raise locally and contributed to getting those buildings established for the benefit of their communities. There has been no real answer from the Government at any point when it was promoting this proposal. There was no real acknowledgment that local voices would be heard on local boards, or whether the boards had any real power to respond. They are still not sure.
None of their concerns in those three areas has been allayed at all by the responses from the Government. There was a real sense that there would be great loss to distinct communities like Manurewa, Papakura, and Franklin, which would be morphed by the super-city identity and would have a sense of dominance in the centre; a sense that the motivation for the super-city is around money, not people. Not once did any Government member, in proposing the super-city reorganisation, show or demonstrate how social issues would be addressed.
Nikki Kaye: That’s not true.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: It is. I challenge that member to turn up to some of her communities in Auckland City and respond to the concerns they raised in terms of the way social cohesion would be achieved in a super-city structure. Let us take crime as an example. How would that be addressed in this super-city structure? Nikki Kaye should debate that in her electorate, because citizens across all of Auckland were asking these very questions.
Labour is ambitious for Auckland City. It is the biggest international city we have in this country and we are ambitious for it. We know that more needs to be done.
Chris Tremain: Labour is ambitious for Auckland City?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Yes, we are.
We agree that a better governance structure can be achieved so that better decisions can be made in planning for infrastructure and investment, long-term growth strategies, urban design, social inclusion response plans, and utilities management plans. Those are some of the things that we understand and acknowledge need to be done for Auckland.
The thing here is that the Minister has steamrollered ahead and has not taken account of any way in which local democracy and participatory democracy could be kept onside in terms of the reorganisation. There was some talk in the Committee earlier about the great benefits of a spatial plan. Let me offer some thoughts. There is a strong feeling that the infrastructure and information required to inform spatial plans make for quite a difficult task. In fact, it will include a number of layers. Let me lay out an example as it applies to concerns raised by Māori.
An effective spatial plan would take into account a wealth of information accumulated by a number of councils on issues like heritage sites, wāhi tapu, and sites of significance. Underpinning that information would be the range of tangata whenua groups that would be consulted when one is trying to deal with these types of issues. There has been no sense of how, in the transition, all that information across a number of councils will be compiled and then moved across into a spatial plan. It will take time, and people know that. But they do not know at all—certainly, tangata whenua groups do not know—whether their relationship, which has currently been accorded at a local council level, will transfer across to the super-city. There is no sense of that. Will tangata whenua, who have an established relationship with councils like Manukau, Papakura, and Franklin, continue with those relationships in any substantial way?
Hon Tau Henare: Not according to Shane Jones’ Supplementary Order Paper.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Tau Henare has totally confirmed what I thought—those relationships will probably not continue.
There is no guarantee that those relationships, forged at a local level, or any service-related contract will carry over to the super-city. Mr Henare continues to confirm my greatest suspicion that the Government will not take any notice of them. We know Māori representation has been ruled out. Instead, a Māori advisory board established a poor second substitute. Why? Because Māori have said at every layer of decision making that they want to contribute and be positive contributors to the way in which Auckland City will move forward into the next century.
At a working level, long-established relationship agreements and working protocols have been steamrollered. Tangata whenua are not at all high on the Government’s agenda. That is why members of the Māori Party are voting against this measure—and good on them. But it is still not enough, because as the demographic profile changes in Auckland there will be more Māori, more Pacific people, and more ethnic people. The Government has stood back and said—lo and behold—that it does not want anyone represented on the council, but it will have advisory boards. The Government will be happy with that. Well, we want to give everybody a fair shot at it. We want everybody to have a say on the way in which Auckland is going. The Government should really stand up on that front.
I want to offer a rural perspective, especially for the Papakura and Franklin parts of my electorate that will be washed up in this. I see the honourable member, Paul Hutchison over there. He will know exactly what I am saying. Franklin punches well above its weight in terms of its contribution to Auckland City. It is considered the food bowl of Auckland.
Franklin people want to preserve their identity. They want to preserve the way in which they can make a contribution to the economic growth and opportunities that are in Auckland, but they want to preserve what is unique about them: their rural provincial lifestyle. They fear that that will be lost in the super-city structure. They feel that their rural voice—their lone rural voice—will be morphed by the many other voices on the council. The people of Franklin are concerned, and they are holding their member, Paul Hutchison, to account for whatever bad outcome will emanate from the super-city structure. They have said that he should be very careful at the next election. But, hey, they said it, not me; he should be worried.
More important, Franklin is now split between Auckland, the Hauraki District, and the Waikato District. Many members of the Franklin District are saying that their natural communities of interest are aligned to one another. Pukekohe and Tuakau residents go to each other’s areas to shop. Their kids go to schools either in Pukekohe and Tuakau, and they live not too far apart. Yet if we look at the way in which the reorganisation has taken place, we see that there is a deliberate split between Pukekohe and Tuakau. People are not comfortable with that. They know it will fundamentally change a lot of things. There may, for example, be changes to transportation in the area or to investment in certain areas. Things should change and Paul Hutchison should be concerned.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Sadly, the Hon Nanaia Mahuta has pronounced my name incorrectly four times. It is pronounced “Hutchison”. The Hutchinsons invented the testicular press.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I seek—[Interruption]
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The member has called for a point of order. Please let us have some silence and let this matter be sorted out without any interjection.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I know that the member has taken offence to an incorrect pronunciation of his name. His name is Paul Hutchison, and I ask that the record show that. But, as I said, he should be concerned.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): As a general point, people should pronounce others’ names correctly. We all accept that.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : Talofa lava. It has been a real privilege to be on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, which considered the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill and the two previous bills that make up this Auckland law reform. Dr Paul Hutchison—not yet the Hon Paul Hutchison—was not on the committee permanently, but he came along from time to time and made some very valuable contributions. He was a powerful and strong advocate for the area that he represents. It was good to have him there. This series of three bills does a great job not only in putting the “regional” back in and lifting things up to the regional level where they need to be, but also in putting the “local” back in and doing things locally.
I grew up in a place called Te Atatū North, on Gloria Avenue. I was not a ratepayer, but my parents were. Down the road from where I used to live is a guy called Tau Henare. He lives on the same street as my brother. I tell this story for a reason. As a young guy, I used to go into town on the bus, down Point Chevalier Road and up through town. The big smoke—where one would go on a night out if one was really feeling cool—was not actually Henderson.
Hon Darren Hughes: Youth group trip.
SIMON BRIDGES: Uncle Darren was driving the bus! On a night out we would go into the city. The point of this story is that we would enjoy the city centre of Auckland, but if one asked my parents, they certainly would not have paid for any of the amenities there. They had no interest as ratepayers in west Auckland, in doing the big things that needed to be done in the city centre of Auckland. This bill changes that. It lets things happen regionally where they need to happen regionally—I think that is very good—whilst also letting places have their local flavours. That is excellent.
I will share another thing. There have been a number of surveys, and one of them recently stated that Auckland was the No. 4 best city in the world. That is perhaps disputable. I judge a city on one’s ability to run around the waterfront, see what is happening, get a good feel for the city, and enjoy it. I have to say—the New Zealand Herald has picked up on this and Jacinda Ardern has made some good points about the waterfront in Auckland—Auckland’s waterfront is not the best waterfront in this country. Wellington has an excellent waterfront. Its council has done a fantastic job here. In Auckland, although there is a lot of opportunity, it is not a great place to live, to work, and to play right there at the front. Out in St Heliers there are good runs, but in the centre there are not. This bill will allow a central business district with an infrastructure that is needed to make a vibrant positive city. I think that is a very good thing indeed.
Labour members have said that no one has been listening. They say that National has not been listening. The New Zealand Herald has been entirely critical of the process, and it has had a lot to say on this matter. The National Party’s good friend Bernard Orsman has written some fairly hard-hitting articles. The headline on the front page on 25 May says: “Super City u-turn: People power wins”. I do not agree that there was a super-city U-turn; there was some tweaking and some listening, and in response to that listening, some changes were made. But as the New Zealand Herald said, people power wins. That is what we have seen here. The New Zealand Herald editorial on the same day says: “Changes make Super City plan acceptable”. The editorial went through a number of the changes and the details, which I will not bother the Committee with, but the final sentence of the first paragraph sums it up: “finally, it presents a workable framework for uniting Auckland that should have the support of Aucklanders.” The editorial finishes with a challenge.
Hon Darren Hughes: Who paid for that?
SIMON BRIDGES: That member did. It says: “It now falls to Aucklanders to make the Super City work.”
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : That was quite an interesting little speech from the member for Tauranga, Simon Bridges, who hardly got into the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, at all. I do not think that the New Zealand Herald column will save Nikki Kaye. I think her obituary has been written by the New Zealand Herald already. This bill writes her political obituary. When there is a situation at select committee meetings where one goes up, rushes around, and tells people that one will do great things, those people will look at that, and they will ask how that changes—
Nikki Kaye: I’ve had great feedback.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, that member has not had any influence on anything—not a thing. I will talk about the $200 million that this legislation is costing the ratepayers of Auckland. Nikki Kaye should be going around, opening the ratepayers’ purses, and showing them how much it will cost them. She should go round and show the old people. I tell her to go round and tell the young people who are struggling with rents for apartments how much it is costing them. I think that is the real key.
We have not even talked about the eight chief executive officers who will lose their jobs. They will have to get big payouts—big, big payouts. It will be like winning the first division prize in Lotto for some of those chief executive officers, except that they do not have to keep on buying tickets. That is something that people in my area, who are struggling to manage with only a proposed $3.30 a week extra from the Budget, will look at and ask why some of the chief executive officers get over $1 million—over $1 million—and why they will have to pay for that. That is what is wrong with this legislation. In an electorate like Manurewa, a lot of people cannot afford to pay for the million-dollar golden parachutes that those people will get.
All this sort of thing has not come out, but it should, because people need to know the full story. When one realises that a lot of directors soon will not have their jobs and maybe some of the ordinary workers will not have their jobs, I think that that is a real worry. Although people can put a gloss on this bill about how wonderful it is for Auckland, it will not be good for some individuals. We have to look at people not only in Manurewa but also in Franklin. The people in Franklin are not very happy. They are not very happy in Franklin. There sits the member for Hunua, Dr Paul Hutchison. He has come to life again. He sits there like a statue—in fact King Dick’s statue outside does a lot more than that member—because he did not get stuck in for his constituents in Franklin. He should have got stuck in and really argued. This bill will mean that he will have an independent National opponent standing against him. They have already selected a person. That is because that member did nothing.
Let us look at Papakura. It has a very good mayor in Calum Penrose. It may have some councillors who are not too flash, but the people there have passion. They have a real passion for the town that they live in, and they feel cheated by this legislation. I have not heard Government members get up to explain how this is a vote winner for them. It is not a vote winner for them. Nikki Kaye can grin from over there, but I remember sitting in the motel listening to submissions. Regardless of whether submitters were from Great Barrier Island, Waiheke, or Auckland, she would get up, run over, and say: “Great speech. I really listened to that. That was so wonderful. I will do my best.” Well, people in Auckland, on Waiheke, and on Great Barrier Island ought to know that Nikki’s best is not good enough—it is not good enough. People who go into Auckland to try to eke out a living look to their MP for support, but what happens? Nothing.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : Someone recently likened three of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee members to the family members of The Beverly Hillbillies programme. Jethro is Simon Bridges, Elly May is Nikki Kaye, and John Carter is Jed Clampett. I thought that was wonderful.
I point out to Mr Bridges the arrogance that we experienced on that select committee. Having to endure the National and ACT members was quite horrific. I will point out one of the snide remarks that were made. I think at one point there were a thousand submissions, or near enough to a thousand submissions. I remember saying to Simon Bridges that a lot of the submissions were against the bill and that he had to listen to them. Mr Bridges said that although there were a thousand submissions against the bill, all the people who did not make submissions were obviously for it. I say to Mr Bridges that I do not think that is the case, but I clearly remember him saying it.
The other thing that I have to point out to Mr Bridges, which came up over and over again, was that so many of the submissions were pro Māori representation. They were pro having Māori seats. So many of the people who made submissions were pro having a strong Pacific voice and pro having a strong ethnic voice on the council. I recall Mr Bridges quite clearly saying to a number of the submitters: “If there are enough of you, why do you need special seats? Why can’t those groups just get elected on their merits?” Mr Bridges seems to think that that is possible because he is Māori and the member for Tauranga. I remind Mr Bridges that there was someone else there who broke the ground for him; there was a Māori member before him in Tauranga, and that was Mr Winston Peters. He is a person whom I know Mr Bridges looks up to very much—he very much looks up to Mr Winston Peters. So Mr Bridges did not break the ground there. Mr Peters paved the way for Mr Bridges to come through as a Māori member of Parliament for Tauranga. So let us remind Mr Bridges about that. He forgets that he stands on the shoulders of giants; he forgets that.
I also point out that I was not a full-time member of that select committee, but when I did sit in on its deliberations there were times when I felt rather nauseous watching Miss Nikki Kaye drooling over the submitters when they came through, promising them the world, like Mr Hawkins said previously, and telling them that she is listening to them—“I am on your side and I am listening; I am listening.” But then what happened? Did they get youth representation on the Auckland super-city? No. How does she respond now? She says that youth will have a voice of some sort, but they will not have the voice they wanted. If she is to be the conduit for youth, then I would be very concerned, because she did not represent them very well.
Hon Darren Hughes: She’s the renegade!
CARMEL SEPULONI: I know. She is the renegade! She is the renegade of the National Government, but my goodness that did not work very well, did it?
Nanaia Mahuta brought up this issue previously, with regard to Māori, Pacific, and ethnic representation. Our Pacific community has been upset that they are now looking at the fact that the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will appoint their people to the Pacific Islands Advisory Board. Effectively, they are seeing that they may as well be Government appointees. It is the ministry that is appointing the people; it is not the Pacific community that has a say on selecting the candidates whom they think are the best fit for those positions. The Government needs to have so much control over everything that it cannot hand over even a small thing like allowing the Pacific community to decide who will represent it, on a small scale. These are not council seats; this is an advisory board. But it is the one little thing that the Government could not even give to the Pacific community.
I would like to know from the Minister of Local Government what the problem was with that. The current boards are elected. We recently had elections for the Pacific people who will go on the Pacific Islands Board Auckland City, even though it is for only a few months. They had a successful election. So I ask the Minister what the problem was with allowing our communities to select the representatives. Is the Minister so concerned that they might choose people who do not fit with the Government’s thinking, and who may challenge some of the Government’s thinking? Is that what the concern is? I would really like to have an answer from the Minister on that.
The other issue in relation to this legislation is the time frame that has been put around these boards.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) : It is a pleasure to stand with my colleagues and bad-mouth this Government for this lousy bill. It is appalling. Let us look at the council-controlled organisations. How many Auckland members opposite have spoken on this bill? I know we have had the member for Tauranga and some others, but we have had very few speeches, certainly very few impassioned speeches, or speeches from members who know that what they are saying about this bill is right. I am ever-hopeful that this lousy Government will see the error of its ways and accept that this bill should not progress. Why should it not progress? It should not progress because it does not have the support of the people. This bill does not have the support of the people. Why does it not have the support of the people? Because the poor sods never even got to have a say on this bill; most of it was rushed through. This is the one occasion when there have been submissions, and these submissions have been overwhelmingly opposed to this bill.
I will talk about council-controlled organisations. Currently there are 34 council-controlled organisations operating under the Auckland City Council. Many of them are very small but they are in touch. They are in touch with the grass roots, they are accountable, they are accountable to the public, and the system is working—by and large. Is there room for improvement? Certainly there is. Labour members of the House have always said there is always room for improvement.
What does this bill seek to do? It seeks to cut down those 34 council-controlled organisations to seven, which will be appointed. They will be council-controlled and have no accountability to the public. And what responsibility will those council-controlled organisations have? They will be responsible—and let us be really clear on this—for spending $650 million per year of ratepayers’ money. That is more than half the total rates bill on everything: from roads, to public transport, to fixing footpaths—to all of the things that happen within this greater city that will be created. Where is the accountability in that process? Where is the accountability in that power going to seven council-controlled organisations? Where is the accountability? Where is the link back to the public? Phil Goff said, when he spoke at the packed meeting on the future of Auckland City—
Hon Tau Henare: How many people?
LYNNE PILLAY: Thousands of people took time off from work and felt passionate enough on it. Tau was there, lurking around the corner. Tau Henare had a supporters’ meeting in the local telephone booth and he had a bit of time left over so he went to our meeting. [Interruption] No, no, no; he has lost weight, he is trimming down, he would have fitted. But at that meeting one of the points Phil Goff made was very, very telling. He said Labour was about communities, not corporates, and I think that is what sums up this bill. This bill is not about communities; it is about a corporate model—a corporate model that is offensive. It is offensive to every level of people not just in Auckland but throughout New Zealand.
Hon Tau Henare: And your mates in the unions.
LYNNE PILLAY: Is the member banging on about unions again? What does he have to say? Speaking of unions, let us just look at those council-controlled organisations. The Minister of Local Government—who is not listening at the moment, and I think he should; he is too busy talking—has said that if the council-controlled organisations do not work, we can just sack their members. He may think that the 90-day Act of Kate Wilkinson and National applies to the council-controlled organisations but there is news for them: one does not get rid of directors as fast as that.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : I was going to talk about the local boards, but I will get on to them shortly. I will start by making some comments about council-controlled organisations, because of the misinformation given by the previous speaker, Lynne Pillay, who said there was no accountability for the council-controlled organisations. There is a lot of misinformation about that. In fact, there is a lot of accountability for the council-controlled organisations. When we went around all the regions of Auckland, whether to the east, west, south or north, we heard the concerns of submitters. There were concerns about the council-controlled organisations and the lack of accountability—concerns that they were at arm’s length from Auckland Council and were basically secret organisations.
I say to that member that the council-controlled organisations are not a power unto themselves, and they will not be doing their work in secret. Council-controlled organisations have to produce a statement of intent, which outlines their objectives and plans ahead. The council-controlled organisations must account to the council in terms of all those objectives; they are accountable to the council. The council-controlled organisations have to produce those statements of intent and stick by them. That is how the system will work. Auckland Transport is the only council-controlled organisation that has been set up as a statutory council-controlled organisation, and it will require an Act of Parliament to disband it. Watercare Services can be disbanded after 2015, but, essentially, any other council-controlled organisation can be disbanded by the council as it sees fit.
The council will also require the council-controlled organisations to follow a specific accountability policy, which spells out exactly what the council expects of each council-controlled organisation, and the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee has recommended that all council-controlled organisations be made subject to the council’s long-term plan. Under the Local Government Act 2002, meetings are subject to the provisions of the Official Information Act and as such they do not have to be open to the public, but it is important to note that the select committee has recommended that the council may require in its accountability policy that council-controlled organisations must hold their meetings in public. So there is huge transparency and huge accountability; it is quite different from what that member said.
I will now talk about local government, because that is one of the most important aspects of this bill. We have the super-city—we have the big picture for the council and the mayor—but the local boards will be the face of local government and the face of local communities for all of Auckland, and concern about the boards was the main fear that members of the select committee heard submitters raise. Submitters were concerned that communities would lose their identity and be swallowed up in this new regime. We listened carefully to submitters; we listened, and we have made changes to the legislation. The local boards will represent communities at the local level, and they will play an integral role in the Auckland Council’s overall planning process. Their role will be wide-ranging and very significant. They will help to build strong local communities.
The local board members will be elected from the local community. Those local board members will know exactly how their communities tick. They will know about a community’s hopes, its fears, and its aspirations. Those local board members will be absolutely crucial in bringing a local community together. They will be required to meet regularly with the community that they represent and to understand exactly what its concerns are. They will be required to formally consult the community when developing their local board plans. Those local board plans will have to be done every 3 years, and every year the local board will have to agree with the council on its local priorities and funding. It is important to note that the local boards will have funding to match the responsibilities and role that they have.
The second bill provided for local boards to be responsible for all non-regulatory activities, unless taking a regional approach would better promote the well-being of Aucklanders. In other words, local boards will deal with all matters that are not regional. Local boards will be able to propose by-laws and are expected to undertake a range of regulatory functions delegated by the governing body. Some regulatory functions might include by-laws, consent processes, licensing such as dog and liquor licensing, and animal management. The Auckland Transition Agency cannot delegate regulatory authority to the local boards, but the council can—and I am sure that it will after 1 November.
Let us take the example of alcohol, which is very topical at the moment. It could well be that the council develops a region-wide policy and framework so that there is consistency throughout the region, but the council could well devolve responsibility—and I hope that it does—to the local boards, so that they have the ability to make decisions about liquor bans and possibly the placement of liquor outlets. I know that that is a huge concern in Mount Roskill. In the area where I work, in Mount Roskill South, residents were up in arms. They revolted against the potential opening of a liquor outlet last year. They came together for the first time. It was unprecedented, but they were united in their opposition to it. The proposed liquor outlet was to have been in a local store, metres from some schools, a kindergarten, and local parks, not to mention the fact that there were already a number of liquor outlets within a kilometre of the site. The community objected violently. Residents could not do much about it as the consent had already been granted, but they still vocalised their opposition. They won in the end, because, quite sensibly, that liquor outlet decided not to open. Thank you.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : I want to address a number of issues in my second contribution to this debate. I think that what Aucklanders are saying is that this bill has come out with too little on local boards and too much on council-controlled organisations. That is the lack of balance in this bill, and that is the concern on this side of the Chamber. The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is a massive con job on Aucklanders. The Government has ignored the voices of Aucklanders who say these changes will make Auckland governance less accountable and less transparent. The Government’s corporatisation plans for Auckland have been given the green light. Despite what members opposite say about council-controlled organisations, the Government is still planning to hand over 75 percent of local government to council-owned companies. Making these new council companies publish a glossy brochure and hold a press conference every 3 months and calling it accountability will not satisfy Aucklanders, I am sorry. It is an insult, actually. A majority of the initial directors will be appointed by the Minister—Rodney Hide. Why would anybody feel comfortable about that? The council-controlled organisations will be so big and so powerful that it will be difficult for the council and the mayor to hold them accountable. I feel sorry for any mayor. Obviously I have my preferences about who might be the mayor of the super-city—
Carol Beaumont: Are you a John Banks supporter?
DARIEN FENTON: —no, I am not a John Banks supporter—but how on earth can they have a platform on transport in Auckland when so much of it will be controlled by an organisation that has no accountability to the people of Auckland?
This Government is imposing the council-controlled organisations on Auckland. Every other council in New Zealand gets to make its own decisions about what is corporatised and what is not. What is so different about Auckland? Why do Aucklanders have to put up with that? The Government insists on setting up the transport agency as a council-controlled organisation against the wishes of Aucklanders and the advice of four Government departments, who said it would reduce transparency and accountability to ratepayers. There are some very interesting questions about the transport council-controlled organisation, and maybe the Minister can help me with this. I cannot get my head around how this massive corporation controlling millions of dollars can deal with things that matter at the local level. I am thinking about things like school travel planning, or walking school buses, or road safety coordination, walking, cycling, community road safety, cycle safety, accessibility programmes, and other things that matter at a local level. Currently councils deal with those things. They employ staff to deal with those things and they have plans around those particular things.
Aucklanders deserve better from this Government. They deserve to have a say on the future of their city, and the Government has denied them that. This process of reform held out a huge opportunity, but it has been missed. The royal commission came up with a vision for Auckland, which the Government threw in the rubbish bin. It hardly considered it—and what happened? The royal commission’s report went from 800 pages, 18 months of work, down to 2 weeks of work and 36 pages, or something like that. Unbelievable! I think the people of Auckland have been denied a real say in having a city that is really worthwhile. Aucklanders want a democratic city, not the corporate city outlined in this bill.
The minor changes in this legislation proposed by the Government do not go far enough. I think it is interesting to go back and look at some of the polling that has been done on this issue. People have mentioned the Herald-DigiPoll, but I want to go back to the Our Auckland poll on things like council-controlled organisations. First of all, 94 percent of people did not think the Government had officially asked them what kind of Auckland they wanted. That is serious—94 percent of people. Out of 9,000 responses, and in a very short period of time, that figure is quite big. Also, 92 percent did not want core council services such as water, transport, economic development, tourism, and events to be operated by corporate—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I am sorry to interrupt my colleague Darien Fenton, who is giving a very good contribution. From time to time, Ministers who are in charge of legislation cannot sit in the chair and have to be replaced by another Minister. That is completely understandable, and there is no trouble with that, at all. I see that Mr David Carter, the Minister of Agriculture, is in the Chamber, but another Mr Carter, John Carter, the Associate Minister of Local Government and also the chairman of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, which considered the bill we are currently considering in the Committee of the whole House, has now assumed the position of Minister in the chair.
I think the Government can organise itself in such a way that that does not happen. It is not good for the order of the Committee for the Minister who acted as the chairman at the select committee to then sit in the chair during the Committee of the whole House for the scrutiny of the legislation. I do not think it is appropriate, when the role of the Committee is to try to scrutinise this legislation. This particular member has already had a chance to do that in his role as select committee chair. To now sit here as the Minister in the chair is, I think, farcical.
Hon John Carter: The one thing that the member who raised the point of order will not appreciate is that on this side of the Chamber we are multi-talented.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): That is not a point of order. I say to Darren Hughes that the only very firm rule on this is that when the Minister in charge of the bill is in the Chamber, he or she has to be in the chair. They cannot be substituted. But after that there are no particular rules. It is up to the Government to ensure that there is a Minister in the chair. No one can be excluded from it, so if the member who is currently in the chair—John Carter—had some other role in Parliament, that is immaterial. The only binding rule is that if the Minister in charge of the bill is in the Chamber, he or she has to be in the chair. I now call on Darien Fenton, who has 16 seconds remaining.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I trust the time will remain 16 seconds and not become 15 seconds after you called her name. The concern the Opposition is raising here is an issue of practice. We believe it is poor practice, first of all, for a Minister so closely linked with the legislation to chair a committee, but that is a whole other issue. The issue in front of us right now is that the Hon John Carter, having chaired the select committee, is now the Minister in the chair, is acting as the Minister in charge of the bill and can answer questions from the Committee of the whole House—all members of Parliament—having already chaired the select committee.
This is not an attack on the Government. Mr Hide was sitting here diligently, contributing, and doing a good job as the Minister in the chair. But another Minister, the Hon David Carter, is here, and it seems to me that if Mr Hide has to be away temporarily the Hon David Carter could sit in the chair. But it is verging on preposterous for the Hon John Carter to say that it is a good parliamentary practice for him to chair the select committee and then for the bill to be returned to the House and be considered by the Committee of the whole House while he sits there as the arbiter and the responder to questions that the legislature has on the legislation. The Government can fix this very quickly by simply asking the Ministers to swap places. My question to you, Mr Chairman, is whether there are any issues around conflict.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The member is traversing the same ground again. He used slightly different words, but he went over the same ground. I make the point that the only requirement in respect of the Minister in the chair is that if a Minister in charge of the bill is in the Chamber, he or she has to be in the chair. If the member who is in charge of the bill is not in the Chamber, it is entirely the Government’s decision as to who sits in the chair. I guess it is a little akin to what happens in question time; it is for the Government to decide who answers questions. If a particular Minister is absent, then the Government can determine whom it wishes to have here. Whether the member has been on the select committee or was the chair of the select committee does not impinge on that particularly. I do not want to go over this again. If the member wants to take the issue further and have the Speaker make a written ruling on this, I am happy to have the matter referred to the Speaker, and he can come back and rule on it. That is my ruling on it. Mr John Carter is perfectly entitled to sit here and undertake the business if that is the Government’s decision.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I do not wish to prolong the issue, but the second point of order raised by the Hon Darren Hughes was a direct challenge to your ruling in the first place. It was nothing other than a direct challenge to your first ruling, which set out that there was no conflict: the Minister in the chair could be any Minister as long as he or she was taking the place of the Minister who was formerly in the chair. It was a direct challenge to your ruling.
Hon Darren Hughes: Mr Chairperson—
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I do not want any more comment. I take up the Hon Tau Henare’s opening statement that we should not prolong this. I think we will get ourselves into some agony. I have ruled on the matter; that is the end of it. As Chair it is up to me to determine whether I take offence or see it as a challenge. It is not up to any other member in the Committee to feel offended or to feel that it is a challenge. I took it as a fair enough point of order and I want the ambience of the Committee to continue. I want to move on; let us build some bridges here, team. I shall give Darien Fenton a couple of extra seconds to finish her speech.
DARIEN FENTON: Thank you, Mr Chair. I was talking about the Our Auckland poll recently in which 92 percent said they did not want core council services such as water, transport, economic development, tourism, and events to be operated by corporate, unelected council-controlled organisations.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) : I will start with a quote from the New Zealand Herald: “It presents a workable framework for uniting Auckland, which should have the support of all Aucklanders.” I say to those members who claim that somehow Aucklanders are not supporting this legislation that they have not seen the emails in my in-box and they have not been reading the New Zealand Herald, that wonderful Auckland publication.
Lynne Pillay summed up the Labour Opposition debate for me. She said: “I am delighted to use this as an opportunity to bad-mouth the Government.” That has pretty much been the Labour speeches the whole way through. But Aucklanders who are listening want to know about the legislation. They want to know about the actual details, so I will quickly run through some of the arguments that have previously been put up by Phil Twyford and some of his colleagues. I will start with the democracy argument, which I have already addressed in a previous speech.
I have mentioned the double standards of the Labour Party with regard to democracy but, in particular, I throw the question back to members opposite. If they are really serious about saying that this is not about delivering local democracy, then they need to explain why many of the community board leaders who came to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee argued that under the current community board structure, they had a lack of democracy. I would argue that local boards are a heck of a lot stronger in terms of community boards, and members opposite need to stand up and argue how local boards are somehow inferior to community boards.
I also make the point that three other aspects make them deliver strong local democracy. The first is protection of subsidiarity; the second is the legislative requirement to be adequately resourced, which, again, is new and different compared with the rest of the country; and the third is that local board members are on the same footing as councillors when they are developing a local board plan process. So members opposite have to stand up and argue the legislation on those points.
The second point I would like to address was the one raised by Nanaia Mahuta. She threw down the challenge and asked how the social issues would be solved under the super-city. I want to repeat a question that I asked Len Brown at the select committee. I asked: “Isn’t part of the benefit of having the super-city, finally one regional entity that can look to areas like South Auckland, which we know has not got the infrastructure of Ponsonby and Parnell, and isn’t part of the benefit, that finally they can get some of the infrastructure that they deserve?”. He looked back at me and said: “Nikki, that is the great white hope of the super-city.” So to members opposite who claim that somehow this legislation is not about delivering on better social equity across Auckland, I say that they have not had a look at the legislation and realised the potential for a mayor to be able to deliver to some of those poorer Auckland communities.
The third point is that many community boards argued for having 21 local boards, for the fact that they would be able to have contact with their citizens. But members opposite would also know, again, their duplicity on this point: they did not want 21 local boards. They vehemently argued against that. So again members need to back up their slogans with arguments.
The fourth point is around the asset protection provisions. Many of the members opposite have raised issues regarding privatisation. I want to mention just two particular clauses. The first is clause 73 in Part 3, which specifically states that Watercare Services cannot sell any of the water infrastructure, and, after 2015, it will revert to the council. The second is clause 62 in Part 3, which puts a moratorium on the sale of strategic council property until 2012.
The next point is then there will also be the provisions under the Local Government Act, which require community consultation around the sale of any assets. Again, members opposite use slogans but I argue that they need to get up and debate some of these points.
The fifth point is around the cultural fabric of Auckland. We listened to the select committee submitters—and I have mentioned previously my predecessor Judith Tizard—on the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act. We have delivered on that legislation to ensure that it carries through.
The next point that I will just touch on, which has been raised by some members, concerns the waterfront. I had the privilege of attending the launch of the development of Sea+City, with the Prime Minister down on the waterfront. Do members know what I said to someone after that function? I said that our Prime Minister has done more for Auckland in his term in office than the previous Labour Government did in its last term in office. That was a really historic moment. We are out there, delivering on the waterfront, and we are about to finally have a structure. Mr Twyford is looking at me and shaking his head, but he is the one who—
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : Talofa lava. I want to go back to a point that was made by, I think, my colleague Lynne Pillay. In my earlier contribution I acknowledged the work of Aucklanders in trying to have a say on this legislation. Submissions on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill were called for in late December, and people had to 12 February to make a submission. I want to put that on record because if the Government were serious about listening to Aucklanders, then it would have given Aucklanders a far better opportunity than that to make submissions. As we all know, that period included Christmas and New Year, and everybody was on holiday. Despite that, we ended up with 786 submissions, the overwhelming majority of which were opposed to the bill. Furthermore, the polling that has been done to date also shows strong opposition to it. I find it quite offensive that members opposite talk about their in-box being full of support for the bill, and say that everybody they talk to thinks this is a wonderful day for Auckland. That absolutely ignores the reality of the submissions, the polls, and what people on the ground are saying.
One of the areas that people are particularly concerned about is the corporatisation of local government, and the so-called—and misnamed, in my opinion—council-controlled organisations, or CCOs. That is still a significant problem with this bill. The Government can dress it up in whatever way it wants, tweak around the edges, put on a few little fancy public meetings, and everything else, but that does not change the cold, hard reality that Aucklanders have been given no choice—none at all—about which, if any, of the operations of the Auckland Council are to be run by arm’s-length commercial entities. That has been decided for them, and they do not want it. I say “they” but I should say “we”. I am an Aucklander and I do not want it, either. The extent to which Auckland local government is being corporatised as a result of the Government’s actions and the bill that we are now debating is unique in New Zealand local government.
Labour is certainly unpersuaded that that should be done in Auckland. We believe that decisions about these matters should be made by an elected Auckland Council, not by the National Government ramming through changes in this legislation. In fact, the Minister of Local Government admits—he admitted it in a Cabinet paper—that the council-controlled organisations will play a greater role in service delivery for the Auckland Council than for any other council in the country.
Why is that? Why should Aucklanders have their local government corporatised? Will Auckland continue to be unique, or is this an example of what is to come for the rest of New Zealand? For people listening out there, I say be very, very aware that this is what will happen throughout local government. Seventy-five percent—I repeat: 75 percent—of council activities and assets will be kept at arm’s length from our elected representatives.
The Government can dress it up in whatever way it wants, but that is corporatisation. And these are huge council-controlled organisations, in the case of Auckland. They have been created by the Government, and they will wield much of the power in the new Auckland. Of course, as we all know, at the moment those organisations’ members are being appointed by Rodney Hide. That very moderate person, who is sure to be looking after the best interests of all Aucklanders, is busy filling up those council-controlled organisations with his mates, and they will control 75 per cent of council activities and assets. That is just plain wrong.
The media comment on this is interesting. I noticed before a quite hearty reading of a Bernard Orsman article. Yes, he said: “Super City u-turn: People power wins”, and I do not agree with the article, but when he summarised the main changes, this is what he said about the council-controlled organisations. Members should ask themselves whether it sounds significant to them. He said that the council-controlled organisations will hold public meetings.
Jacinda Ardern: May.
CAROL BEAUMONT: Oh, is it “may”? It is even weaker: they may hold public meetings. Well, that sounds really significant. He said that Rodney Hide will—maybe it should be “may”—consult mayors on the directors of the council-controlled organisations. So Rodney will consult about which of his mates he will appoint. He also said that the Auckland Council will appoint the chairs and deputy chairs of the council-controlled organisations. Well, that is a slightly stronger position, and it is better, but those comments are made in a positive article about the changes being made in this bill.
Hon Darren Hughes: What are the Samoan ones?
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: Talofa lava; malo le soifua—and, in anticipation, let me say thank you, fa‘afetai lava, for the opportunity to address this Committee on the issue of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. This bill will make Auckland’s local government less transparent, less accountable, and less responsive to the needs of Aucklanders. The Auckland Council should have more community involvement.
I ask the Minister why the National-ACT Government deviated from the views of the royal commission. Labour, when in Government, initiated the royal commission, but the National-ACT Government has chosen to ignore all of those recommendations, and it has done so at its peril. That is why our colleagues from Auckland are here in the Chamber tonight debating this issue. We feel strongly that the people of our communities have been disenfranchised by the establishment of the council-controlled organisations.
When I researched this legislation, I looked and found the New Zealand Herald poll. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the figures: “Only 32.4 percent said they supported it, while 58.8 percent were opposed.” So that tells me, tells the Committee, and tells the country that more than half of Aucklanders oppose their water, transport, and roads being run by unelected boards under the Government’s super-city plans. I have to put this to the Minister: why will he not stand up for those Aucklanders who are concerned about this issue? Why will he not allow the transparency and accountability that Aucklanders in this democracy are entitled to?
I look along the wall of the Chamber and I see the plaques in commemoration of battles fought at Cassino, in Korea, and in the Pacific. We know that certain people left this country to defend our democracy, and I hate to think what they might think tonight if they were to read this bill, listen to this debate, and understand just how much democracy and elected officialdom has been taken away from the people of Auckland with the establishment of the council-controlled organisations. It is just not good enough.
I am told that Nikki Kaye, when she was on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, used to run around to all the submitters and say that she was going to fix it. But did she fix it? No, she did not. Dr Paul Hutchison is from Franklin. But what has happened to Franklin? What did you do? Why did you not stand up for Franklin, and for its mayor, Mark Ball? Did you do so? No, you did not. And what happened to Pukekohe?
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Order—
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: I am sorry, Mr Chairperson. I should know better, and I apologise profusely. I was talking to the member for Franklin, because he has not stood up for that council.
Hon Member: Hunua.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON: Hunua, I am sorry. I apologise. But he has not stood up.
I will ask the Minister of Local Government a question. Mr Hide said that the Government will be appointing the founding members of the board, but it will leave one or two positions on the board vacant for the new council to appoint when it comes into being on 1 November. I ask the Minister what exactly that means. I am sure that listeners and the general public will be only too pleased to get an explanation from the Minister of exactly what that means: how it will work, who will be appointed, on what criteria, and why. If the Minister could answer that question, I would certainly appreciate it because an answer is necessary. On this side of the Chamber we are asking for transparency, accountability and openness. I notice that the Minister may—may—ask the boards to have public meetings. I suggest that more needs to be done on that, and I know that my good friend and colleague the Hon George Hawkins will deal with that issue.
Hon JOHN CARTER (Associate Minister of Local Government) : The member Ross Robertson has asked a question that is worth pursuing, actually, and I will make two points that are important at this stage. I will respond to the question he has asked about the appointment of directors. Let me make the point—
Hon Darren Hughes: This guy wants to be the Speaker one day.
Hon JOHN CARTER: —thank you very much—that it is true there are to be seven directors of each of the council-controlled organisations. The Government has made the decision that five positions will be filled prior to 1 November. Two vacancies will be available for the Auckland Council to make appointments, if it so wishes. I also make the point that, as someone read out, the Minister will consult with the current mayors so that there is general agreement as to who is appointed. That is important.
But I should also make it very clear that from 1 November, if the Auckland Council is not satisfied with the directors that have been appointed by the Government prior to that date, it has every right to change them. From 1 November it is entirely in the hands of the Auckland Council as to who stays on, or who does not stay on, as a director. Indeed, apart from the appointments to the transport council-controlled organisation, and the Watercare council-controlled organisation, which runs through till 2015, if the council decides that the other five council-controlled organisations are not to function and become committees of council, then that too can be an Auckland Council decision. We made that decision for the very reason that people kept saying to us that they did not want Wellington to control them; they wanted Auckland to control. So we have done our best to ensure that Auckland makes those decisions. The member has raised a very good point, and I think there has been a very good response to it—a response made as best we could.
I will make one other point. We have been debating this legislation now for the best part of 3½ hours, or maybe close to 4 hours, and I think we have heard the concerns of the Opposition. I remind the Opposition that one of its roles is to oppose, and those members have certainly done that for the last 4 hours, I think it is fair to say. They have made their points on the things that concern them.
But it is also the duty of the Opposition to propose, and the one thing I am disappointed by is that I have not heard any alternatives.
H V Ross Robertson: Mr Hawkins has got one.
Hon JOHN CARTER: I know. I have seen an amendment from the Hon George Hawkins, and—
Phil Twyford: And me.
Hon JOHN CARTER: Oh yes, there are one or two. But given the concerns about the local boards and the powers, etc., of the council-controlled organisations, I would like to hear how the Opposition would have prescribed the functions and arranged the funding of the local boards.
As members opposite know, the Government has been very clear to say that once the Auckland Transition Agency specifies what functions the Waitakere board, the Franklin board, or the North Shore board might have, those will become the functions of the board and they cannot be taken away from it. If 300 or 500 functions and the funding for them is given, then the Auckland Council cannot just say the next day that it does not like that and will take those functions away from the boards. It will not be able to do that. The functions allocated by the Auckland Transition Agency will become the permanent functions of that board, and the only way that they can be changed is by a negotiated agreement between the council and the board.
That is what the Government has done. If the Opposition is not satisfied with that system, then we would be very keen to see what alternatives there are and whether there is a better alternative, because this Government is prepared to listen. We have listened to one or two of the proposals put forward by the Opposition, and we are considering whether we will give them support. We are prepared to listen on both of those issues. If members have a better system of accountability for the council-controlled organisations, then we would love to hear it. If they have a better proposition on the way in which we can arrange the functions, prescribe them, and give them more definition, well, please tell us. We would be very keen to hear them. That is also the role of the Opposition.
Disappointingly, so far in the 4 hours of this debate we have had one or two amendments put forward, but we have not had the significant amendments of the kind that, if there is concern about issues, we would have expected a good Opposition to put forward. I look forward to those proposals being put on the table so that we can debate them.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : One of the things Aucklanders feel about the process that has taken place over the last 12 months is that they have not had a fair crack from this Government. They feel that the process has been shabby. One of the ways this process has been shabby is that no clear delineation of roles has been made by the Government. We have been subjected to the Associate Minister of Local Government sitting as the chair of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee, which is not unprecedented in parliamentary practice but is highly unorthodox. To have tonight the chair of the select committee sitting as Minister in the chair in the Committee stage is far from acceptable and far from satisfactory, and I think it is just another indicator of what a shabby process this Government has run.
The National Party likes to think of itself as a modern political party, one that is ambitious for New Zealand. But with this bill the National Government is taking us back to the 19th century. Through the 19th century, as universal franchise extended across the Western World, the government of cities shifted from oligarchy to representative democracy. It is a simple idea: all citizens have the right, through the vote, to an equal say in the running of their city or country. But this Government is bringing oligarchy back to New Zealand through this legislation, where powerful commercial interests get to run the city in their own interests. That is what this bill does. The Government is bringing oligarchy back to New Zealand in the 21st century.
The effect of this bill, as Carol Beaumont very ably pointed out, is to shift two-thirds or perhaps three-quarters of the operations and assets of local government into stand-alone commercial structures, and to remove them from full public accountability. The idea of our system of government is that the citizens have a right to know that they hold their elected representatives accountable through the ballot box, and that those representatives are expected to conduct the business of government openly and transparently. The model that this Government is imposing on Auckland, because of its own ideology, is designed to give local government the right to hive off parts of its operation and run them as commercial structures.
I make it clear that throughout this debate Labour has not been opposed to the council-controlled organisation model per se. That model was actually invented by the previous Labour Government. Although there is a place for that model, the National-ACT Government is imposing the commercial model on Auckland in a way that no other district and no other city in New Zealand have had to put up with.
I ask why we cannot just wait another 5 months for the elected representatives of Aucklanders to make this decision for themselves. Why not wait 5 months so that the mayor and council can, with democratic legitimacy, choose whether to corporatise parts of local government? Why? Because the Minister of Local Government cannot wait as long as that. He does not trust the people of Auckland. I ask why we cannot set up the Auckland Transition Agency to have a caretaker arrangement so that the operations of Auckland local government are managed in the interim, and then let the new council decide. I ask why we do not set up these business units—whether they be water, transport, the waterfront development authority, investments, or any of the other council-controlled organisations that this Government is setting up—as my amendments would do if passed. That proposal would set them up as business units or departments within the council; then, in 5 months’ time on 1 November, the people of Auckland would decide through their elected representatives.
I was very touched to hear the Minister of Local Government say tonight that there is a team of officials outside the Chamber beavering away to work through all our Supplementary Order Papers and amendments. I recommend to them the typescript amendment in my name that would add a new clause 45A to give the Auckland Council sole responsibility for determining the structure of all of its activities and its assets. If this Government were serious about listening to Aucklanders, that is what it would do. Clearly, the Government is not.
The Minister thinks he is being terribly generous by leaving two vacant seats on the boards of the council-controlled organisations for councils to fill themselves. Well, that is very nice of him!
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) : Talofa lava, Mr Chairperson. Fa‘afetai fele lava. I am absolutely delighted to speak on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, and I too want to congratulate Ministers Carter and Hide and the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee for the excellent job they have done in listening to the people of Auckland. As a fifth-generation Pākehā New Zealander and Aucklander, I have a huge interest in the outcome of Auckland and I believe the select committee worked incredibly hard to give it a very, very positive outcome.
I want to mention the Franklin issue, because Mr Phil Twyford and his merry followers from Labour came down to Franklin a few months ago and stated in the Pukekohe Town Hall that Labour would split apart Franklin at the Waikato River. Only two parliamentarians I know of, one the member for Waikato and the other the member for Hunua, myself, have spoken out openly for Franklin to become a unitary authority. In my case I have also written in the Herald to that extent with the mayor, Mark Ball. We worked very hard for that to happen. However, that is not to be, and what I hear from the good people of Franklin is that they wish the bill and the Auckland region to go forward as positively as possible.
To that effect, I have lodged an amendment, which I believe will contribute to that happening. I am very much hoping that it will be supported by the Labour Opposition, because it should be. The amendment would ensure that the rural sector must be involved in the development, adoption, and implementation of the spatial plan. The spatial plan is extremely significant for the future of Auckland. I want to thank the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, Federated Farmers, Mayor Mark Ball, who sadly is not at all well at present, and Mayor Penny Webster from Rodney for supporting us.
I want to thank my parliamentary colleagues and the ACT Party for supporting this amendment. It is very important that the rural voice is heard in Auckland. After all, it makes up 75 percent of the new Auckland region. The Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association came to me and said that reverse sensitivity was one of the issues that was very important for their businesses. For instance, a local regulation in Papakura means that they are not able to drive their trucks, or tractors, or equipment through Papakura from dawn to dusk. They have great issues in terms of water, elite soils, and roading. All of these are very, very important to the people working in the rural sector, so I am delighted to present this amendment today. It emphasises just how important the rural sector and its voice is to Auckland and to New Zealand. After all, there will be only two representatives from Hunua and from Rodney out of the 21, and, therefore, it is important to support this amendment.
I would also like to mention just how well this Minister of Local Government and this Government have listened to people, such as the good people of Beachlands. They came to me to say that their children were in danger of falling into the local stormwater ponds. [Interruption] I say to Dr Prasad that he should listen to this, because this amendment is about the children of the Auckland region. The Beachlands residents pointed out to me that there was no safety for children where the waterways and stormwater drains of Auckland are situated, particularly in high-density housing areas. Therefore, I put forward an amendment to section 49, “Obligations on Auckland water organisations”, in new Part 5, inserted by Part 2, which was accepted by the Government, that an Auckland water organisation must have regard for public safety—for example, the safety of children in urban areas—in relation to its structures.
It was very interesting that the mums and dads of this Beachlands community, a highly built-up area, came to me very concerned that they had contacted the Mayor of Manukau, Len Brown, and he had said there was no need to worry about that area as the council had put in the beautification. I went and had a look, and it was obvious that little children could easily fall down into this waterway. In fact, there were three waterways. I spoke to Safekids and other such organisations. I congratulate Safekids on the work it has done, and I congratulate the Minister on being so responsive and inserting this amendment into this bill. It will mean that tragedies, such as the one involving that poor little child in west Auckland, will be prevented to a certain extent, at least whereby an Auckland water organisation must have regard for public safety and particularly the safety of children.
These are two instances where the Government has shown great responsiveness. First, it is listening to the people of Auckland—the rural sector in Franklin and Rodney—and inserting a most important amendment into the bill, whereby the rural sector must be involved in the development, adoption, and implementation of the spatial plan. Second, the safety of children is provided for. Thank you.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) : Kia ora, and talofa lava, Mr Chair. Talofa lava, everyone. He mihi nui ki te whānau of Ngāti Pikiao o Ngāi Te Rangi for the loss of Meratā Mita, a great person who was associated with the city of Tāmaki-makau-rau and who died yesterday outside Māori Television in Auckland. She is a great loss to this country, particularly for Ngāti Whātua ki o Ōrākei and others who were involved in the struggle for Takaparawhau, Bastion Point, which is one of the most powerful symbols of the struggle in Auckland for the voice of the marginalised, and the indigenous marginalised, against the powers that be. That, in essence, is what some of this is about—it is about the powers that be—so I wanted to acknowledge the passing of a very important woman and the loss to her whānau, which will be felt all over the motu.
I was at the first select committee hearing on the first bill. It was a bit like reading the first chapter of a novel, when a person thinks “Oh, this is not looking very good; this novel is not my kind of book. But maybe if I persevere it will all come right.” Well, I missed the middle bit of the hearings, but I thought that maybe the issues that had come up from the hundreds of submitters I had heard speak, in the days that I had heard them speak, would change things, and that at the end of the book there would be an amazing pulling together of the threads. A miracle would take place. But, sadly, now that I am here with the last chapter, having not read the book but just heard it reported by my colleague David Clendon, and having listened to the speeches made today in this House, I am disappointed in the book; it is not finishing on a hopeful note.
This is about the loss of people’s ability to participate in decision making. I think there is a great sense of sadness for those of us who were there at the beginning, when we heard submitter after submitter talking about the issues involving the bill and what they wanted. Many of them were not individuals but community groups. From listening to members today I gather that there were more than 786 submitters, half of whom were heard orally, on this final bill. So clearly there was a sustained opposition and a sustained raising of the issues. But listening is not the same as hearing, and hearing is not the same as acting.
I am very sorry that we now have a so-called super-city. It is not particularly super, this law; if it is super, then who will it be super for? For me, it sounds as if it is party central for the elite. That is great; that is what the elite really need—they really need party central. But for people living in the streets of Manukau, Waitakere, or North Shore, who were pretty happy with their relationship with their district council, it is not super. I notice what happens when humans identify a problem, and there definitely were regional problems with decision making in Tāmaki-makau-rau, and no one denied it. We needed to make changes. But if we go back to the ancient Greeks we can learn that we are always consolidating power, and then we find out that consolidating power does not work and we collapse again. This has happened throughout history. I do not know how many years it will be before we go through the same process again. After we have consolidated power in Auckland, we will have to go back over the same ground and end up in the same place.
One of the central issues that concerns me about this bill is to do with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the failure to address the fundamental issue of tangata whenua representation. This issue has been completely ignored through the long-term process, from the beginning of the bill to the end. It started with a march in Auckland in the rain. We marched, and we called for justice. It does concern me this morning that because the Government did not listen, we have instead the ghastly spectre of John Banks claiming he wants to embrace a non-voting Māori adviser. That is the kiss of death—to be embraced by John Banks. I decided it was an incredibly patronising statement. We do not need to have a vote, we do not need a seat at the table, and we do not even know or recognise te Tiriti; we will have a token adviser who will be embraced by the mayor.
An advisory body is always problematic, because the word advisory means “can be ignored”; that is what it means. I have been on advisory bodies, and we always got ignored. It is very interesting to go around local governments throughout Aotearoa and to see who gets ignored on advisory bodies. Many people who have had the invidious role of being the iwi liaison person have ended up physically and spiritually unwell.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : I want to comment on the speech made by the member for Hunua, Paul Hutchison. He said the Government has been listening to people, but, of course, it has not, because he has had to put an amendment up in his own name. If a Government member has to put an amendment up in his own name, that means no one is listening to that member at caucus. Paul Hutchison talked about the vegetable growers in Pukekohe. Well, he is a wee bit like the vegetable growers in Pukekohe: sometimes very, very wet; at other times dry. I think that people out there are finding that a bit hard to work out.
The Opposition wants the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill to be as good as it can be. We know that the whole concept that the Government has embarked on does not go down well with Aucklanders, so I have lodged some amendments to the Government bill. My amendments provide that every council-controlled organisation will need to be open to the public. This is what I am proposing in my amendments. There is no discrimination from members on this side of the Chamber. We do not think just three Supplementary Order Papers should be out in the open; we think all the amendments put up by members should. The council-controlled organisations should have to hold at least two meetings a year. What is more, those meetings should be held at the most critical times when accountability and interaction with the public and local boards are needed. One should be held when the statement of corporate intent is to be signed off, and the other at the time of the annual general meeting of council-controlled organisations, when their directors have to report on how well the organisations have performed. The shareholders and the people of Auckland should be given the opportunity to attend, and hopefully to make their views well known. I think that if these amendments are adopted by the Government, it will give people a greater degree of confidence.
But, of course, that does not solve all the problems that people have. We have a situation where the Opposition really wants to try to help with regard to this legislation, but on the other side of the Chamber the Government members sit looking like stunned mullets.
Dr Rajen Prasad: More like dead ones.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, yes they are; they are not a very lively lot.
We have in Auckland something that I think is very good and that we can be proud of: the mayors of Auckland, who are getting on with their jobs at the moment. I think that is very important. We have people like Bob Harvey, who has been around for some time and is still endeavouring to make sure that the people of his area are being well served. I imagine he does not think that they will be better served when the new super-city comes in. There are John Banks and Len Brown. Len Brown, the Mayor of Manukau, is getting out in the community and doing marvellous things. Calum Penrose is the Mayor of Papakura District. I do not think his council is up to much, but he is the sort of person who gets out and keeps an eye on his community. He is a community leader, and that is what will be lost when we have the super-city. Instead of there being one mayor who has to look after 1.4 million people, Calum is able to look after 50,000 people in his area very well. Then there is Mayor Mark Ball, who would have been amazed to hear what the member for Hunua said previously, because it did not bear any resemblance to the real situation. Of course, there is also Mayor Andrew Williams, who is quite controversial, and Mayor Penny Webster. The mayors are all trying to do their best. Penny Webster, a former ACT member, has actually started to think that maybe the Labour Party is not too bad.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : I am sorry to members for being out of the chair, but we have just been working through the amendments. We still have a bit of work to do, but, although some of the amendments do not agree with Government policy and some of them have been incorrectly drafted, the one from Mr Hawkins, on the face of it, does have some merit, and we are working with officials and with colleagues on it.
The idea, as I understand it from reading the amendment and speaking to officials, is that, as the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is drafted at present, the council can require the council-controlled organisations to have meetings in the open. By the way, that has always been the case, because they are council-controlled organisations, but the bill now makes that explicit. The difficulty, as I understand from the member’s amendment, is that there is no mechanism for the people to have their say. So one can imagine that if there is a board meeting going on, people can observe it, but there can be no input. The difficulty, too, is that members of the public would have to be removed, obviously, if there is anything of a commercial nature. For some of the council-controlled organisations that is not so significant, but for others that could be a large part of their board business.
So it occurs to me, at least, that if we are going to open up those meetings, there needs to be a mechanism by which the public can have direct input into the council-controlled organisations—sort of like at shareholders’ meetings. One can imagine board meetings where the board meets and it has to front up and explain its decision making. But more particularly, in a public meeting shareholders can get up and have their say. As I understand it, that is essentially what the member’s amendment is attempting to do. Let me give that member an assurance that we are taking his work and his proposal seriously, as we are with the other amendments. If members want particular questions answered about their amendments, please raise them, and we will work through them.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : Talofa lava, Mr Chairman. Kia ora, I say to Mr Jones. It was an honour to serve from time to time on the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee on the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill. I would like to pay credit to the hard work done by the regular members of the committee on both sides of the House and the quality of submissions received—submissions that this Government has listened to, to such an extent that no finer authority than the royal New Zealand Herald said that the select committee has done a worthy job and that it now falls to Aucklanders to make the super-city work. It went on to say “it presents a workable framework for uniting Auckland that should have the support of Aucklanders.” This is something this Government has brought to fruition.
The last years of the late, unlamented Labour administration were a Faustian tragedy played out right here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Here it was not just one individual who sold his or her soul, but an entire caucus, hell-bent on retaining power at any cost. It was a caucus characterised by fear, loathing, and mistrust, and that was just with themselves within the caucus, let alone any external agencies. It was a cavilling caucus, querulous and lost, sliding somnolently from lassitude and lethargy to contented catatonia and back again. Sadly, there were no alchemists and no conjurors in this caucus—sadly, no alchemists and no conjurors in this Faustian pact; no architects or visionaries for a brighter future; no advocates for hard-working New Zealand men and women; no attempts to address the glaring problems of Auckland governance until the dying days of a tottering, failing administration.
It is a point that was recognised by a member opposite, who said: “We were very late coming to the party and doing something about it.” Instead, hard-working New Zealanders were taxed mercilessly, condemned to labour like Sisyphus, day after day, working without respite, and taxed in more and more ingenious ways in an attempt to contain the insatiable lust for dollars to feed the blind, dogma-driven tax-and-spend behemoth that was the previous Labour Government—a Government whose economic policies were such that New Zealand’s tradable sector in years of unparalleled economic prosperity underperformed and slid further and further behind, year after year, after year. Of course, Mr Jones is going to ask me how useful—
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I feel that the member opposite is undermining the dignity of the Committee with his speaking style.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Interesting! There is a question of relevance, but I say to the member that this has been a pretty wide debate on many aspects of Auckland governance. Some of the words with which the member speaking has articulated and crystallised his ideas are words I have not heard before, which is interesting, but maybe the member, with a minute and 44 seconds to go, may talk about the bill.
Dr CAM CALDER: Thank you very much, Mr Chair; talofa lava again. How useful were the late, unlamented Labour administration’s economic policies? I would submit they were as useful as a pair of clogs to a surfboard rider, as useful as a green log to a huhu grub, as useful as a return ticket on the Titanic. That is a particularly apt image, because such was the economic mismanagement under Labour that the New Zealand economy sank, year after year, after year. Like the New Zealand economy, the Auckland economy underperformed for years. The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill will allow the new Auckland Council to foster economic growth, think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. I commend this bill to the House.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour) : The decision to establish a Māori advisory board instead of what Māori really want—that is, dedicated seats on the Auckland Council—is yet another breach of the partnership inherent in the Treaty of Waitangi. It also is contrary to the intentions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This Government was happy to ratify it on 19 April this year, only to disregard it on 20 April. That declaration was drawn up over the course of 20 or so years to address issues of this very nature. Now this Government has the opportunity to demonstrate to Māori that it can offer more than simply the modern equivalent of beads and trinkets—beads and trinkets that have little or no value other than to pacify the natives. In comparison with what Māori actually want—that is, dedicated seats—the Māori advisory board is just another bead, another trinket.
Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says: “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” In terms of the Auckland Council, Māori have said that the political status they want is dedicated seats, not an advisory board. Now is the time for this Government to show that its ratification of the declaration is more than just a broken promise, and that it can be more than just an aspirational and non-binding waste of time. The Government should demonstrate that it is genuine and sincere in pursuing the right of Māori to “freely determine their political status”, as article 3 of the declaration states, allow Māori to freely pursue our “economic, social, and cultural development”, and allow us the opportunity to make a contribution at the council level to decisions that will affect all Māori and all citizens in the city of Auckland.
Clause 45, in Part 2 of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, includes section 67A, which says that the advisory board is not required to accept direction from any person. That is this Government’s way of saying to the board that it has some form of tino rangatiratanga—that it does not have to accept direction from any person. And thank goodness for the never-ending generosity of this Government, because when it comes to the board’s name, section 68 in clause 45 says that the board may choose to name itself. That is about the extent of the tino rangatiratanga or the decision making that Māori have when it comes to the Auckland Council. Section 69 in clause 45 says that the board is “to develop a schedule of issues of significance to mana whenua groups and mataawaka of Tamaki Makaurau, and give a priority to each issue,”. If I was on that advisory board, the very first issue of significance that I would draw up would be to call for dedicated Māori seats. I would remind the Government over and over again of its obligation in terms of this part of the bill, and I would remind it of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As I said, on 19 April this year the Government was quick to sign up to the declaration, but on 20 April it was equally as quick to disregard it.
Labour worked hard to ensure that the advisory board would be more effective, but we still have not altered our position that there should be dedicated Māori seats on the new Auckland Council. Under Labour’s plan there would be at least two Māori seats on the Auckland Council, but there could be more. It would depend on how many Māori were on the Māori roll in the Auckland region.
It is difficult for me to understand what this Government is afraid of when it comes to genuine Māori seats and Māori representation. When we consider the contribution of Māori in general, and of tribes such as Ngāti Whātua, to the establishment and the defence of Auckland in the mid-1800s, it would appear that those contributions have simply been banked and forgotten by those who are now in charge. Ngāti Whātua contributed a lot. They gave 3,000 acres back in the 1800s for the establishment of the city. They gave other land. They gave Takaparawhau, which we know as Bastion Point. Only 14 years after the initial offer of land for Auckland, the 700-acre Ōrākei block was all that was left. The papakāinga of that hapū was taken and there was no compensation. I believe that a small form of compensation that could be afforded to the descendants of Ngāti Whātua would be a couple of dedicated seats on the Auckland Council.
It is not as though a successful precedent has not already been set. Like in Parliament and also on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, these seats should be allocated on the basis of the number of Māori on the roll. A Department of Internal Affairs report said that the key to effective participation and better decision-making was having Māori representatives with the same status as other elected councillors. In talking to staff, councillors, and Māori involved in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, one officer of the council described Māori representatives as being the best-prepared and most-effective contributors to council decisions. I believe that it would be no different if, instead of a Māori advisory board working with the Auckland Council, we had dedicated Māori seats. The advisory board, in my opinion, is just another empty, hollow, symbolic gesture. There is no replacement for protecting and supporting the ability of Māori to participate effectively in our democracy. There will be no benefit to Māori in their not having representation on this city council. There is no polite way to put it: in my opinion, Māori have been shafted.
When the issue of Māori seats on the Auckland Council was raised, John Key floated the idea of a compromise. Even after Cabinet had rejected the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance that three seats on the council should be allocated to Māori, John Key still said that nothing was set in stone. I do not believe that. I believe that the decision had been made a long time ago before all this double-speak and speaking with forked tongues occurred. I believe that it was decided long ago that Māori would not have any representation on the Auckland Council, that they would not have seats on the Auckland Council. Māori have to put up with the second-rate, second-status entity that is a Māori advisory board. I do not think that is acceptable. I believe that Mr Key was being disingenuous. He knew back then that there was no way that Māori seats on the council would be acceptable. He is yet to learn that, when dealing with Māori, we like people who are straight up to our faces. The most recent example of that is the decision made by Mr Key not to return the Urewera ranges to Tūhoe. That is a case in point where speaking with a forked tongue actually wins more enemies than friends.
People did make their views known, and the majority of the submitters to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee backed Māori seats. Of those submissions, 60 percent supported Māori seats, a further 20 percent instead affirmed the need for some sort of Māori representation or participation, and just 20 percent registered their opposition to Māori seats. That was a clear mandate, but Mr Key gave into the Hon Rodney Hide’s threat to resign and the seats were scrapped.
I believe that the people of Auckland—in fact, of New Zealand—owe it to the biggest Māori population not just in the country but in the world to give it representation on the Auckland Council so that its views can be heard. I know that Māori would be able to contribute effectively to the running of the Auckland Council.
GARETH HUGHES (Green) : Talofa lava. If we ask any Aucklander about local issues, inevitably transport will be high on the list. Images of cars stuck in traffic are as identifiably an icon of Auckland as Rangitoto or the Sky Tower. I am very glad to take a call tonight to discuss how the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill relates to transport. I am concerned about this because I believe this Committee is walking into a system that will encourage us to use the same ideas that got Auckland into its mess to also get it out. The Green Party strongly opposes this bill, because it takes away Aucklanders’ democratic rights and their access to more transparent and open decision-making, and because it will deliver worse transport options for Aucklanders. This legislation, like the Government’s Auckland transport folly—the $1.7 billion Pūhoi to Wellsford holiday highway—is being rammed through way too fast, like a 53-tonne juggernaut truck. It is being pushed for purely ideological and political reasons, as opposed to genuine community demand and input, and it will deliver benefits for just a few, not the majority.
This legislation will have a massive bearing on how people and freight get around our biggest city, and I fear that, like the holiday highway, this big political gamble will deliver missed opportunities and worse public transport options. The major feature is the new Auckland transport council-controlled organisation. It will collect more than half the total rates take and will have considerable power and influence. I fear there will be too little transparency, too little accountability, and not enough democratic involvement. It will be by far the most powerful transport agency in the country, and it will manage not just public transport services and walking and cycling, which regional councils do, but also improvements to local roads, footpaths, and regional arterial routes, which are currently managed by local councils. Clearly, Auckland needs to take an integrated approach to transport, but this bill corporatises transport activities and removes the council’s control and democratic decision-making.
I acknowledge that the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee has improved some aspects of the unpopular council-controlled organisation structure, but the bill still fails in numerous respects. The initial board will be chosen by the Minister of Transport, rather than by the current regional transport local politicians. Sure, the council-controlled organisation will be slightly more representative—the Auckland Council can fire directors from day one, and it will appoint the chair and deputy chair of the board—but Steven Joyce will be setting the initial direction, and we know how pro-roads and how pro-motorways he is, even in the case of uneconomic ones. Transport is one of the biggest issues that faces voters in Auckland, and this legislation takes away the democratic leadership needed on this crucial issue and gives it to Steven Joyce’s appointees. On transport, Auckland needs leadership, not more bureaucrats.
One of the minor improvements in this bill was that the transport council-controlled organisation now has to take into account Auckland Council’s statement of intent for transport and act in accordance with the wishes of the Auckland Council. But we should have just let the Auckland Council decide, like other councils do, what is appropriate for Auckland.
An important question is how the council-controlled organisation will interact with the local boards. The risk is, of course, that local decision-making and local democracy will be emasculated and ignored by this bill. I find it hard to believe that the local boards will be able to influence the transport council-controlled organisation through a plan that is published every 3 years. That is a pretty weak tool.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, this bill fails to link land-use planning and transport planning together, which sets Auckland up for failure. By taking away the Auckland Council’s role in transport planning—even taking away its ability to choose the most appropriate structure for the region—this bill will see Auckland heading in different directions. The bill creates a siloed system, in which the Auckland Council will have to work very hard to keep the council-controlled organisations together. The need for it to do so will be reinforced further by the physical distances that were recently announced between the various entities, which will see the integrated functions split between the council office downtown, the council’s policy and planning team based on the North Shore, the infrastructure team in Mount Roskill, and the transport council-controlled organisation based in Henderson.
In short, this bill does not deliver for Aucklanders, does not deliver for transport, and will see Aucklanders stuck on their congested motorways.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) : In 4½ months the voters of Auckland will decide on their new mayor, the new council, and the local boards. I, for one, am looking forward to that day, because our city needs to be brought into the 21st century. We have been hamstrung by a creaky local governance situation. We have to look only at our waterfront to see the detriment of that, and we have to look only at our transport system to see the problems of the system today. The previous Government recognised that reality. That is why it appointed the royal commission, although one would never know it, judging by the debates being made in this House tonight and also made previously. The reality is that Auckland needs to have this reform, New Zealand needs to have this reform, and it is time that we got on with doing it.
The Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill is the third bill. It locks the key part of the architecture of the super-city in place. I will deal with the two core issues: firstly, the local boards, and, secondly, the council-controlled organisations.
Many people seem to believe that the local boards will have limited or very little power. That is simply false. The falsehood spread by the political opponents of this bill has no relationship to the material set out in the bill, and it is, frankly, a result of propaganda. Let us look at what the local boards will actually be able to do. They will, for instance, deal with local board plans. They will deal with all local civic duties, Anzac Day, and all sorts of local events such as that. They will deal with all of the issues around community development and arts and culture in their particular areas. Victoria Theatre would be a case in point. They will deal with libraries, and there are numerous libraries in what will become the area of the Takapuna-Devonport local board. They will deal with parks and recreation. There are a large number of parks in the region. I am not referring to the regional parks but to all the parks that most people use on a daily or a weekly basis for walking, sports, or taking the dog for a walk. The local boards will also deal with economic development, including town centres—Mairangi Bay, Devonport, and many other places throughout Auckland—and local environmental issues.
These local boards will have real power and real accountability back to the people. I am confident that a substantial number of people will seek office on these boards, because unlike the present community boards, these local boards will have real power, real influence, and a significant delegated budget that will enable them to make a difference. This, in fact, fulfils the promise that was sought by many people: giving real governance to local people through their local boards.
But the governance of our city is not just dependent on the local boards; it is also dependent on the city and on the council-controlled organisations. Let us look at those organisations, as well. Transport, Watercare Services, economic development, investments, the waterfront, and amenities—those are important roles, and we need them to be properly governed. The council-controlled organisations will be implementing the council’s priorities; indeed, under this legislation they are required to do so. But do we really want the 20 councillors of Auckland Council to decide on the water rates? Do we really want the 20 councillors to decide on which pipes should go where, or should that be left to Watercare Services? Actually, right now it is left to that organisation. Virtually every local authority has delegated that power to a council-controlled organisation. I suggest to members opposite that amongst the first and most immediate gains that Aucklanders will see across our city are improved water quality, more efficient delivery, and, frankly, an opportunity for there to be lower prices. Taking a much more effective approach to council-controlled organisations will deliver the opportunity for that to occur.
I simply cannot understand why the Opposition has been so opposed to the council-controlled organisations, because in truth there are already 41 such organisations. This legislation will reduce their number to seven far more effective council-controlled organisations, which will provide real delivery and will be accountable back to the council and to the people. These are hugely important organisations, and they will be effective for our city. I say this: the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and the local government Ministers, both Mr Hide and Mr Carter, have listened very carefully to the public of New Zealand. They have made major changes to this bill, including the changes set out on the Supplementary Order Papers in the name of Mr Hide that are being tabled. They have listened to the submissions. That is why two positions on each of the council-controlled organisations are being left for the city to make appointments to. It seems to me that the Opposition has simply misunderstood, either wilfully or ignorantly, the distinction between governance and management. In order for there to be effective, modern governance, one has to have council-controlled organisations to undertake service delivery. Of course those organisations should be dependent on the powers conferred upon them by the local authority, the Auckland Council, and they will be.
I say this to members on the Opposition side of the Chamber: I keep hearing them go on and on about Māori representation. Frankly, the new council will have a choice about that. Candidates out there are providing genuine proposals to voters about that choice. Surely members on the other side of the Chamber believe in democracy. Surely they cannot be opposed to the voters of Auckland having that choice. Voters will have opposing candidates to choose from. But, oh no, what we hear from the Opposition members is an echo of the arguments of the past about issues that have been long since dealt with in the two previous bills.
I say to those members that in 4½ months our city is to make a dramatic change in its governance. What does that mean? It means taking our city from the 20th century into the 21st century. What I have noticed about this—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: John Banks’ campaign manger.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP:—John Banks has been very, very clear on this point: we have a clear choice in Auckland. Do we want to be a vibrant, forward-looking city that is admired by other cities around the Pacific rim and is seen as being a destination? Voters ultimately face that choice. I say to voters that they should look at the prescriptions of both the leading candidates at the present moment and make their judgment ultimately on this basis: how do they perceive our city, looking into the future, as the engine driver of the New Zealand economy—our portal to the world that makes us a relevant and vibrant place for the future? We face that choice, and that is ultimately what this legislation is about.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : In 4½ months, when Aucklanders get the opportunity to vote on the vibrant city they are going to have, because of the Government it will be without Māori representation. That is the simple truth of it. Vibrancy requires a matrix of a whole lot of people who make up Auckland being represented—Pacific people, Māori people, ethnic people—but instead, they have been relegated to an advisory board status. A wave of popularity of the Māori seats was encouraging and it could be easy to ride that wave. Labour firmly believes that it is right to have Māori representation and have dedicated seats. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, in fact, said that if we were going to do anything different for the future of this city in terms of representation we should do it now, do it differently, do it for Auckland, and have dedicated Māori seats.
I confirm and endorse the precise contribution of my colleague Kelvin Davis regarding the issues around Māori representation. He outlined a number of key points that a number of people would be very interested in listening to. The royal commission proposed that Māori seats be dedicated. Iwi who are currently involved in their councils said that two seats was not enough, but it would be a very good start, as they would be at the top of the decision-making table. It would be very difficult otherwise for us to be represented because one needs a bit of money the way this Government is promoting things. It would probably be quite difficult to get any candidate up from communities like ours to be represented, so dedicated Māori representation is the way to go.
I have met with mana whenua in Auckland around this very issue and they were really concerned about the shape and form of the new governance structure, and that the interests of tangata whenua would continue to be protected and advocated for on the real decisions affecting Aucklanders. They want to be part of a vibrant city, they want to contribute to decision-making, and they want to contribute to the way the city can evolve going into the future.
Māori will be key economic players going forward in Auckland. Treaty settlements denote that Māori and iwi are willing to be partners with local government, with central government, and with the community to ensure that the interests of Auckland can benefit everybody. But the politics of exclusion promoted by the Minister of Local Government totally denied any sense of representative participatory democracy, not just of Māori but of a number of groups. We are concerned about that.
The cost barrier is a very real concern; certainly Māori will be affected by it. It is simply not enough to say that if all Māori voted then they would get someone on the council. It is not good enough to say that. A cost barrier will play out and will have an effect on the type of representation coming through on the super-city. It may not be the case for local boards but it will be the case at the council level, I am sure.
The other point I want to highlight is one that my colleague Kelvin Davis raised. On the one hand the Government signs the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, promoting that it is an aspirational document that holds promise for Māori, yet it has no intention of implementing any of its articles to the benefit of an outcome that could promote and accelerate opportunities for tangata whenua. The Māori Party knows that. Its members have been told that the declaration is a good thing, but the Government will give on the one hand and take on the other. It will give them a flag, but it will take away Māori representation. I know for a fact that if tangata whenua were asked what they would prefer, it would be not shallow symbolism, but substance. They would have preferred seats on the council. They know that by sitting around the decision-making table, by participating in a democratic decision-making process, they could put on the table the key issues that affect Māori communities, but also with a broad enough vision of what is in the best interests of our citizens here in Auckland.
I think that in many ways the politics of exclusion underestimated the real intent of tangata whenua to be willing contributors to a positive look for Auckland City and, more important, for New Zealand as a whole—tangata whenua groups like Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, Te Kawarau-a-Maki, Te Waiōhua, Ngāti Te Ata, Te Akitai, Ngāti Tamaoho, Ngāti Paoa, Waikato, and Hauriki, to name a few.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) : Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Earlier this evening we heard from Mr Wayne Mapp. He came back into the House wiping the sweat from his brow, and we can rest assured it was not from any toil in his ministerial duties; it was from wandering around Takapuna and Northcote, on the other side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, as he has become the cheerleader for John Banks. He has not been reduced to delivering pamphlets or handouts about the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, but his speech this evening touched on the issue of Māori seats.
Before I get to that, however, I must speak and register a protest on behalf of the insect community. Unfortunately, Cam Calder talked about the huhu grub, an esteemed member of the insect community, getting lost on a green tree or a green log. Quite apart from his obvious ignorance about insects, his speech reflected far too much ingestion of the word and the meaning of “green”. He not only attempted murder on the bill; I have to support what Phil Twyford said: not once did he actually talk about the provisions of the bill. I can only imagine he has gone on to develop into whatever happens to a chrysalis that has been polluted by the predictable ideology that riddles this bill, and by whatever other inputs that might pass for perfume in the animal kingdom that have been visited upon him.
Labour actually did want to see Māori seats. Admittedly, there is debate in Māoridom: should the seats be on the basis of mana whenua, on the basis of the actual tribes that originally belonged in the Tāmaki-makau-rau area stretching up to the Kaipara, or should they replicate what we have in Parliament? That is a very difficult issue to resolve, because on one hand we have notions of custom and intergenerational entitlements that are rooted in kinship, and on the other hand we have the democratic franchise, which ought to be colour-blind. In our country, however, we have married the democratic franchise to our tradition of respecting indigeneity. The Māori seats in this House enable Māori to play a key role in the House. The Minister of Local Government had the opportunity to blend that tradition into what has become the super-city.
An error was made in the planning and the strategy of the Minister of Māori Affairs. Once the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance had reported back that there should be two Māori seats and a mana whenua seat, he unwisely described that as being too timid and too weak to be an accurate reflection of Māori presence in Tāmaki-makau-rau, or Māori input, and that empowered the arm of Mr Hide to rule Māori seats out altogether. So it is not entirely Mr Hide’s fault. It is actually a fault of strategy and an exaggeration of the relevance and, quite frankly, the leverage that the Māori Party thought it had.
But at the end of the day the Prime Minister had an opportunity to graft something into the super-city legislation that would have shown that Auckland is a distinctive, Pacific-based metropolis, that it is proud of our founding document, and that it is proud of the distinctive contribution that Māori make to that area and to the city. However, it did not happen.
- Progress reported.
- Report adopted.
- The House adjourned at 9.56 p.m.