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Volume 665, Week 48 - Wednesday, 21 July 2010
[Sitting date: 21 July 2010. Volume:665;Page:12517. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Questions to Ministers
Foreshore and Seabed Act Review—Iwi Ownership
1. DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the Attorney-General: Further to the Prime Minister’s answer to oral question No. 3 yesterday, what are “the concerns that New Zealanders had about solely having Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed”, and how does the Government’s proposal to legislate for iwi ownership of the foreshore and seabed alleviate these concerns?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) : Many concerns have been raised—for example, that the Foreshore and Seabed Act violates property rights, the rule of law, citizens’ right to go to the courts for justice, and the principle of having one law for all. These were the concerns raised by, among others, the then ACT Party leader Richard Prebble in 2004, when his party opposed the current legislation. Mr Prebble also prophesied that the Act would do great and lasting damage to racial harmony. The Government’s proposal protects property rights and removes the discriminatory elements of the current Act.
David Garrett: Will the proposed legislation weaken the test in section 50 of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which requires, in order for customary title to be granted, uses or practices to have been carried on since 1840 that are integral to tikanga Māori; if so, in what way will the test for customary title be weakened?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The overarching test will be exclusive use and occupation, without substantial interruption. The test has some emphasis on tikanga Māori. I do not believe that the overall changes will be very great, at all.
Hon Jim Anderton: Does the loss of sole Crown title of the foreshore and seabed in any way reduce the rights of any New Zealander in relation to the foreshore and seabed?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No.
David Garrett: Does he agree with the Prime Minister when he said yesterday in relation to the foreshore and seabed: “We are not giving it away.”; if so, what will iwi have to pay for the 10 percent of the foreshore and seabed that he estimates they will get?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes.
Hon Jim Anderton: If the loss of sole Crown title of the foreshore and seabed is not going to reduce the rights of any New Zealander in relation to it, why is the National Government doing it?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I gave the answer to that in my answer to the primary question. It is because there was substantial concern among a significant section of the public that the 2004 Act is discriminatory. It removed the right of access to justice for a significant percentage of New Zealanders, and it removed uninvestigated customary title, and those matters needed to be addressed.
Hon Jim Anderton: Does the Minister think that New Zealanders are more concerned about Crown ownership of the entire Northland coastline, from Maunganui to the North Cape and down to Hokianga, or more concerned about Professor Margaret Mutu’s statement: “we own it”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I think that most New Zealanders are very concerned about ensuring that a significant percentage of the New Zealand population has access to justice and has the right to at least be able to try to prove their case in court. That is what this legislation change is all about.
Hon John Key: Did Michael Cullen’s submission on behalf of the Labour Party contain most of the changes recommended under the proposed new foreshore and seabed legislation?
Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure whether the Minister has responsibility for Michael Cullen’s submission. The Prime Minister may reword his question.
Hon John Key: What reports has the Attorney-General received about Labour’s submission by Michael Cullen about proposed changes to the foreshore and seabed legislation, and do they look a lot like the changes that the National Government is proposing?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have received very, very positive reports indeed. Dr Cullen’s contribution was extremely positive, and many of the proposals that he suggested have indeed been incorporated, because they go a long way towards alleviating the problems caused by the Stalinist Act introduced by the previous Labour Government. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the Hon Trevor Mallard and the Hon David Cunliffe that I have been on my feet for some time now. OK, a little bit of noise is fair enough, but it cannot go on indefinitely. When I get to my feet it will stop, and members will not call other members hypocrites.
Mining in Conservation Areas—Prime Minister’s Intentions
2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When he told Parliament in February that “the Government will also be looking at regulations that may be preventing natural resources being used most productively” and that it would “make significant changes to schedule 4”, was his intention to allow mining in national parks and protected areas?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Our intention was to explore the possibilities in this area and to see whether they were economically valuable, could be achieved in an environmentally sustainable way, and would be acceptable to the community.
Hon Phil Goff: When Gerry Brownlee came to him in 2009 with a proposal for a step change in the economy by allowing mining on national parks and in protected areas, did he encourage or discourage Mr Brownlee?
Hon JOHN KEY: I encouraged Mr Brownlee to go out there and ask New Zealanders whether it could fit within that environment.
Hon Phil Goff: Is it not true that in his speech made the day before Mr Brownlee’s Cabinet paper went to Cabinet, he told this Parliament that actually he intended to go out and mine those national parks and that is what his message really was?
Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Prime Minister yesterday, and on many occasions, blame officials for the 10 February Cabinet paper that proposed mining in 467,000 hectares of national park land, when that Cabinet paper was signed by Gerry Brownlee and Kate Wilkinson, was promoted by both of them in Cabinet, and was supported by the Prime Minister himself?
Hon JOHN KEY: If that the member wants to talk about a Government that blames officials—well, he was part of one for 9 years that won the world cup for the event!
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I can tell by your frown that you understand that it is out of—
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot seek a point of order and speak like that. I will hear his point of order, but he is lucky. Members should settle down a fraction.
Hon Phil Goff: You will be aware that there was no effort made in that answer to answer the specific question that was asked of the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker is considering a point of order and there should be silence. Members know that—especially senior members on both sides of the House. I believe that the Prime Minister did take a part of the question very much out of context in answering it, and made no attempt, therefore, to really answer the question. So I invite the Prime Minister to answer the question, rather than just take a part of it totally out of context.
Hon JOHN KEY: It is not a matter of blaming officials; the paper was prepared by officials.
Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister ever personally favour mining in the Paparoa National Park, the Coromandel, and Great Barrier Island?
Hon JOHN KEY: I favoured going through the process that we went through.
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister still believe that mining in national parks, the initiatives in the Job Summit, the 2025 Taskforce, and plans to become an international financial service centre will achieve step change in the New Zealand economy and catch up with Australia, as he promised New Zealand?
Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not think mining in national parks will, because it will not be taking place. But many of the other things the member discussed are works in progress and will make a difference. But if the member wants to give me 10 minutes I am happy to list all the things the National Government has done to lift performance to take New Zealand out of the recession. They include—and I can start if he wants—reforming the labour laws, which will be going through this Parliament, cutting personal taxes instead of waiting for 9 years, reform of the Resource Management Act, dealing with the situation in Environment Canterbury—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the House has heard sufficient of that answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that members are not allowed to interject when you are on your feet but I think two members clapped the Prime Minister when you were. Is that allowed?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the honourable member should just reflect back on his own behaviour in the last 5 minutes, before he raises points of order about what people do while the Speaker is on his feet. We will not say any more.
3. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in getting the economy growing and helping Kiwi families get ahead?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Very significant progress. The Government is working to get this economy on its feet, because the previous Government ran it into recession in early 2008. Annual GDP growth is currently about 1.9 percent. The Government is putting in a range of policies to lift sustainable economic growth, such as infrastructure investment, new trade deals, science and innovation investment, plans for broadband, very significant tax reform, and sweeping regulatory reform—all of which will help create new jobs and raise New Zealanders’ living standards.
Amy Adams: What recent reports has he received on trends in consumer prices faced by Kiwi families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The latest CPI showed consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in the June quarter, mostly due to tobacco price increases, with annual inflation to the end of June of 1.8 percent. Food prices actually fell 2 percent, which was the largest fall since 1960. Electricity prices increased 2.9 percent in the year ended May, and floating home mortgage interest rates are still at near-historic lows, at around 6 percent. These are well below what consumers faced 2 years ago. There will be some one-off price increases in the next few months, such as a GST increase in October, for which beneficiaries, superannuitants, and Working for Families recipients will be fully compensated.
Hon David Cunliffe: When he said he was “helping Kiwis get ahead”, was he referring to the latest Dun and Bradstreet Consumer Credit Expectations Survey, which shows that 36 percent of New Zealand households are having to use credit cards to pay the bills for everyday expenses?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the figures show that New Zealand households are learning that they need to be very careful about debt. This country has a huge appetite for debt. At the moment New Zealanders are being careful with their spending; they are tending to reduce debt. The good news is that export prices and performance are up. That is the rebalancing the economy needs.
Amy Adams: How will the Government’s tax changes in October benefit some of those most in need?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The tax package will leave someone on the average wage about $15 a week better off, and an average family $25 a week better off. For superannuitants the news is even better. The married rate for a couple on New Zealand superannuation has increased by about $100 a fortnight since late 2008—an increase of more than 11 percent. The married rate for New Zealand superannuation will increase by another $40 a fortnight from 1 October, reflecting the impact of personal income tax cuts and an adjustment to compensate for the GST rate increase. This will take the married rate to $1,022.12 a fortnight—up by $140 dollars in just 2 years.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which of the following does the Minister consider to be his Government’s greatest achievement in helping Kiwis get ahead: achieving 5.9 percent inflation by pushing up the rate of GST from 1 October; promising a step change by excavating national parks, then burying the idea; attacking working conditions through the fire-at-will bill; cutting science funding and the research and development tax credits to strangle innovation; or proclaiming the perfection of his own Government’s monetary policy when it is crippling exporters?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Our most significant achievement was to grab this economy by the scruff of the neck after the previous Government had run it down while the rest of the world enjoyed a decade of prosperity. We protected New Zealanders from the sharpest edges of the recession, and now we are putting this economy back on its feet. One personal achievement of mine was to show up to “Mood of the Boardroom”—which that member mysteriously failed to do.
Amy Adams: How do the most recent trends in consumer prices compare with those that consumers faced in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Just about every measure has improved significantly since 2008. In the few years running up to 2008, inflation peaked at 5.1 percent in the year ended September 2008, with no compensation; electricity prices increased by 72 percent in the 9 years ended 2008; the price of petrol reached $2.11 for 1 litre of 91 octane, and it is now about $1.75; Labour put in place an emissions trading scheme that would have doubled the cost on households; and the official cash rate was at its peak of 8.25 percent and floating mortgage rates were almost 11 percent. New Zealand’s hard-working families are much better off now than in 2008.
Economic Development, Minister—Cabinet Papers Submitted in Last 6 Months
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: How many Cabinet papers has he in his capacity as Minister for Economic Development submitted to Cabinet during the last 6 months which were not related to mining?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development) : I am surprised this question got through, because it should have been clear that the Minister for Economic Development never takes Cabinet papers related to mining to Cabinet. The member should have asked that question of the Minister of Energy and Resources. In my capacity as Minister for Economic Development I have submitted 14 papers to Cabinet in the last 6 months, because—
Hon David Parker: None as Minister for Economic Development.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: —all as Minister for Economic Development, my friend—unlike the other side of the House I am not fixated on mining.
Hon David Parker: What new moves has he as Minister for Economic Development proposed to fill the hole left by his mining blunder, given that John Key said in December last year that members will see a lot of economic development moves by this Government in 2010?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I totally reject the concept of it being a blunder. The mining industry will grow in this country. Further, I could list work related to the wine industry, the food and beverage industry, the leveraging programme from the Rugby World Cup, the output class of training through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the realignment of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s grant scheme, the aquaculture industry, the various missions that we are running into China this year, the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, the Square Kilometre Array—it goes on and on. We are a very active, economically focused Government.
Jonathan Young: How many oral questions in his capacity as Minister for Economic Development has he been asked by the Opposition in the last 12 months?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a most excellent question. I can say that I have been asked one, and the question from the member opposite now makes it two.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure that the Minister is responsible for questions an Opposition might ask, and I was a bit remiss, I think, in allowing the question, but never mind. I apologise to the Hon David Parker for that.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree with commentators that his inept mining moves from a step change to a giant U-turn show that he has no credible plan to bridge the gap between New Zealand and Australia, which had stabilised under Labour but, contrary to National’s election promise, is now growing wider and wider?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is fascinating that the member should say the New Zealand economy had stabilised against Australia’s, when for the last 5 years of the previous Government our export receipts went into the negative, year after year after year. The current Government has a clear programme to grow many sectors of the New Zealand economy, and if time allowed, and the member asked one more question, I would give him a very good example.
Hon David Parker: I am happy to give that opportunity. Has he presented any Cabinet paper on any specific measure to develop New Zealand into an Asia-Pacific hub for financial services?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a matter being considered by Ministers at the moment. In due course—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, we have been the Government for about 20 months, and one of the things we have done is find $21 million to fund a programme that the previous Labour Government had on the books for 7 years and could not move. It is the Food Innovation Network New Zealand, and I quote Professor Ray Winger, who said it has been “frustrating at times working with the Labour Government. These things are no-brainers, and they appear to have none themselves.” He finally went on to say: “Thank God we’ve finally got a Minister who can cut to the chase and get the job done.” That Minister is me.
Jonathan Young: How much interest in Cabinet papers has he received from the Opposition in the last 12 months in his capacity as Minister for Economic Development?
Mr SPEAKER: The member must realise that the Minister has no responsibility for any activities by the Opposition. He may have reporting responsibilities, but he does not have any primary responsibilities. I invite the member to rephrase his question to bring it within the Standing Orders. Given that I allowed him to get away with the first one, which did not meet the Standing Orders, I cannot let him get away with this supplementary question. I invite him to reword it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that it is unusual for me to assist a junior backbencher from the National Party, but he asked how many the Minister had received. The Minister is responsible for what he receives.
Mr SPEAKER: I will listen to the member’s question again. If I got it wrong, I apologise.
Jonathan Young: How much interest in Cabinet papers has he received from the Opposition in the last 12 months in his capacity as Minister for Economic Development?
Mr SPEAKER: I have to disagree with my learned colleague the Hon Trevor Mallard, because the question was not exactly as the member implied. It was as I thought. It referred to interest from the Opposition in those Cabinet papers, and the Minister has no responsibility for that. I will give the member a moment to reword his supplementary question, because I do not want him to lose it. If he is ready to ask it now, that is fine.
Jonathan Young: What reports has he received of interest in Cabinet papers from the Opposition in the last 12 months in his capacity as Minister for Economic Development?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am advised that until today there was none.
Hon David Parker: How can—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have called the honourable member’s colleague.
Hon David Parker: How can his Government be expected to have any credibility on closing the gap with Australia, when he conceded at the select committee that the Government has no specific timing or targets by which it can be held accountable, and when it clearly has no credible plan?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think that is a total misrepresentation of a very long dialogue that took place at the select committee. I suggest to the member that by establishing in 20 months an economic growth agenda for New Zealand we are making a great deal more progress than the previous Government did, which took the economy backwards for the last 5 years of its term.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5—
Hon David Parker: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise. The member must be more on the ball than that.
Hon David Parker: What are the targets and timing for closing the gap with Australia?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We have made no secret of the fact that we see it as an aspirational goal to reach—
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, he asked for timing, and I am about to give it. It is an aspirational goal to reach Australia’s GDP income per capita by 2025. That has been well articulated by numerous National Ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister over a long period of time. I am sorry that the member has not been awake to hear it sooner.
GST—Removal from Healthy Foods
5. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Revenue: How was he able to make any estimate of the cost of taking GST off healthy foods when in his view defining what those healthy foods are is a real problem?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) : On the face of it the member’s question may appear reasonable, except that I did not make any such estimate. The estimate that I made was of the cost of removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables, which is a lesser figure. That estimate was made on the basis of figures used by Statistics New Zealand in calculating the rising costs of those items in the Consumers Price Index.
Rahui Katene: Has he read my bill, which defines “healthy foods” as including fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk products but not cream, lean meats, and legumes; if so, does he still stand by his statement that taking the GST off healthy foods is not viable, due to the problem of defining healthy foods?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Yes, and yes. The reality of the member’s bill is that it introduces a number of terms that will be difficult to quantify in practice. For example, what is “lean meat” as opposed to “non - lean meat”?
Rahui Katene: What analysis have his officials undertaken of the computerised model introduced in December 2009 by the Australian Taxation Office, and does he agree that such a model makes GST food and beverage compliance extremely easy to manage; if not, why not?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The Inland Revenue Department has not spent a great deal of time analysing the ways in which other countries remove certain items from the GST net, simply because it is not New Zealand’s policy to have a non-universal GST. When one looks at the experiences of defining some of these items in the Australian and the British context, one sees that we would be extremely unwise to follow suit.
Hon Phil Goff: Why is the Minister prepared to push up taxes and prices on goods that the Government does not want people to consume, like tobacco, but not prepared to drop taxes and therefore prices on healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, when recent studies prove that this action leads to higher consumption of things that are good for people and is a very effective means of addressing the big obesity problem in New Zealand?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The answer is very simple: the products the member refers to are not easily defined. “Healthy foods”, “fresh fruit and vegetables”, or whatever other terminologies members choose to apply are very imprecise and difficult to categorise, and simply make for ineffective law.
Employment, 90-day Trial Period—Dismissal Process
6. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Labour: Was it the Government’s intention when it introduced the 90-day employment scheme that the usual requirement to communicate the reasons for dismissal in writing to the employee after they are dismissed does not apply when an employee has been dismissed during their trial period?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour) : Firstly, I thank the member for the endorsement that the 90-day trial is actually an employment scheme. But in answer to the question, yes, there is a very narrow exemption from the requirement under section 120 of the Employment Relations Act to provide a written statement requested within the 60-day and 14-day requirement, but we have made it very clear that this does not affect the good-faith requirements to be communicative and responsive. In practice, we expect that fair and reasonable employers will tell employees why a job did not work out.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was it her intention, when introducing the 90-day provision, that an employer would have no obligation to supply a reason for dismissal to an employee or former employee?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: It was our expectation that a fair and reasonable employer will tell employees why a job did not work out. The intent of the policy was that employers did not have to go through the legal rigmarole of providing formal written decisions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is she satisfied that the legal change she made has met her intention as she expressed it in the first part of her last supplementary answer?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I am satisfied that the law is working very well. We have had it in place since March 2009, and the sky has not fallen in.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a relatively simple one. It was a very careful question about an answer to a supplementary question, asking whether the Minister’s intention had been fulfilled by the law, not whether the law was working generally well.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: She said yes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, she did not.
Mr SPEAKER: Members should not interject while the Speaker is considering a point of order. If I remember correctly, the member asked whether the Minister is satisfied that certain things took place. I understood from the Minister’s answer that she said yes to that. She may not have said exactly “yes”, but her answer gave that indication.
David Bennett: What was the Government’s intention when introducing the 90-day trial period, and has it been achieved?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The Government intended to create opportunities for New Zealanders to get into jobs, and the evidence indicates that the trial period is delivering jobs. That is why we are moving to extend the trial period to all workplaces.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was it her intention, when introducing the 90-day provision, that a successful claim of unjustified termination would not be able to secure either reinstatement or compensation for the loss of employment?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: It was the intention in relation to the 90-day trial that a fair and reasonable employer will tell employees why a job did not work out. It was there to create opportunities for new employees to get their foot in the employment market. If the employment relationship did not work out, then it could be terminated.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, it was a very careful and very specific question, which went to—
Mr SPEAKER: To save the time of the House, I invite the member to repeat his question, because it was quite a specific question in respect of claims of unjustified dismissal.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was it her intention, when introducing the 90-day provision, that a successful claim of unjustified termination would not be able to secure either reinstatement or compensation for the loss of employment?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: It was the intention of the trial period that it restricts the taking of an unfair dismissal case only in the first 90 days.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question went to the issue that if there was a successful claim of unjustified termination, an employee would not be able to secure either reinstatement or compensation for loss of employment. The question was not about when a claim could be taken, which was what the Minister answered about. It was a question about whether an employee could get compensation or reinstatement in the 90 days.
Mr SPEAKER: As I understood the Minister’s answer, she implied that an issue of unjustified termination could not arise in the 90 days. I understood that that was the intention. If I have misinterpreted the Minister I invite her to correct me, but that was my understanding of the answer. I believe it answered the member’s question, because it pointed out that that could not occur during the first 90 days of the trial period.
David Bennett: What other reports has the Minister seen on how the 90-day trial period may apply?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Yesterday I saw a statement from Phil Twyford that “6000 employees could be subjected to the 90 day period at the stroke of a pen”. However, as an Auckland member he should know that section 108 of the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010 makes it clear that all employees who take jobs with the Auckland Council or any related agency are to be considered for the purpose of any statute as having continuous employment. Those employees would not be able to enter into a trial period. I suggest that the member might have more luck in getting an electorate if he actually read the legislation he was protesting against.
7. ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Infrastructure: What progress is the Government making with its multibillion-dollar infrastructure programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister for Infrastructure) : Good progress, while supporting thousands of jobs across New Zealand and helping the economy to grow faster. Today the Government announced that it would take the next steps towards a public-private partnership for building and maintaining some new schools. If the proposal proceeds, the school land would be owned by the Government, and the boards of trustees would remain wholly in charge of the governance and day-to-day running of the schools. Officials will now prepare a stage two business case, which will include a decision on specific schools. The tender process could start early next year, subject to Cabinet approval.
Allan Peachey: Why is the Government considering public-private partnerships for building and maintaining some new schools?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government manages over $200 billion worth of assets on behalf of the taxpayer, and we are willing to make use of any tool that will help us to do that. Public-private partnerships are proven internationally as a tool that can make a positive difference to the use of taxpayers’ assets. In April the Government announced that it intends to commission a new prison at Wiri, to be built and operated under a public-private partnership. Post-implementation reviews of public-private partnerships overseas have found that often there is better financial risk management and better operational risk management, and, in the case of schools, sometimes higher educational achievement.
Allan Peachey: What are the benefits of public-private partnership - type procurement of school property?
Hon David Parker: It hides the Government’s deficit!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Actually, it does not, because the public-private partnerships stay on the Government’s books, and the member would know that if he knew what he was talking about. The main benefit is that—
Hon David Parker: No, you have to borrow less money.
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker does not borrow any money.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member should do his homework; it stays on the Government’s books. The main benefit is that, potentially, principals and boards of trustees can get on with teaching without worrying about maintaining school property. But the Government is progressing cautiously in this area. The second-stage business case will be an opportunity to ascertain just what benefits there would be to principals and boards of trustees, as well as what benefits there might be to the Government and, ultimately, of course, to the New Zealand children who are educated in these schools.
Mining in Conservation Areas—Removal of Land from Schedule 4
8. Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Conservation: Why did she sign off on a Cabinet paper which proposed removing 467,517 hectares of land from schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation) : After a stocktake of schedule 4, officials recommended this figure. At the time, the Minister of Energy and Resources and I were satisfied with the recommendation as an initial basis for discussion at Cabinet. As the member knows, Cabinet subsequently reduced the proposal to a net total of 5,000 hectares from schedule 4, and finally decided to remove nothing from schedule 4 and to add 12,400 hectares.
Hon Chris Carter: How does she reconcile her support for the removal of over 5,000 hectares of land from schedule 4 protection with her statutory obligation under the Conservation Act to act as an advocate for the protection of New Zealand’s unique natural heritage?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Quite easily.
Nicky Wagner: What additional protections for conservation land have been agreed on by the Government?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: All land added to certain classes of protected areas will now be automatically added to schedule 4 without the need for a separate process. We will also require that significant applications to mine on public land are to be publicly notified. This was an issue that emerged from the submissions process, which shows that we were listening. This process has led to some significant gains.
Hon Chris Carter: How does she reconcile quite easily her support for the removal of over 5,000 hectares of land from schedule 4 protection with her statutory obligation under the Conservation Act to act as an advocate for the protection of New Zealand’s unique natural heritage?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I have always said that I was happy to have a discussion paper—it was always a discussion paper, not a decision paper—happy to go out to the public for feedback, and then happy to listen to that feedback.
Hon Chris Carter: Why did not she, as the Minister of Conservation, approach John Key to scrap the Government’s mining plans on protected schedule 4 land, rather than leaving it to Gerry Brownlee to do so, as Mr Key told us happened yesterday?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think the member is making some misguided assumptions. There were many, many discussions with Cabinet Ministers and members about the submission process, the discussion paper, and the public feedback that followed.
9. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has the Government made to get schools ready for ultra-fast broadband?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : At the end of last month, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology and I announced the names of the next 239 schools to receive Government-subsidised network upgrades in preparation for ultra-fast broadband. These upgrades are being funded by the $37.5 million that the Government invested into making schools broadband-ready in Budget 2010.
Louise Upston: How many schools has the Government offered upgrades to in total?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: With the addition of the 239 schools whose names were announced last month, this Government has offered upgrades to 353 schools. That is huge progress over 21 months in the first term of this National-led Government. It also compares favourably with the previous Government, which took from 2003 until 2008 to upgrade 259 schools. I look forward to making further announcements about upgrades again next year.
Employment, Sick Leave Policy Changes—Minister’s Statements
10. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: Does she stand by her statements that concerns raised about the Government’s proposed changes to sick leave policy are “ridiculous” and “laughable”?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour) : Absolutely. I believe that the specific comments I referred to as being ridiculous and laughable came from the Council of Trade Unions, which stated that health care costs would escalate, and from the Green Party, which stated that everyone would get pulled out of bed when they were sick. Those statements are ridiculous and laughable.
Darien Fenton: Has she told her Cabinet colleague Peter Dunne that his concerns that this policy is unworkable are ridiculous and laughable?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: We do not intend to create legislation that is unworkable and, actually, the discussion that is going on at the moment is very, very helpful. But perhaps I can assist the member, because not all of the comments have been critical. Today’s Press editorial describes the proposal as being “eminently sensible and worthwhile”, and then it goes on to state: “The measure is clearly aimed at those employees, known at practically every workplace, who consistently take days off, allegedly for sickness but in fact for what is strongly suspected to be no genuine reason. For some, these days of ‘sickness’ often happen to fall on Fridays or Mondays.” This is really just being practical and clarifying the law.
Keith Locke: Why is she changing the law to account for what she has just said about people who persistently take off a Monday or Friday, when the present law already enables employers to require a medical certificate for a 1-day absence if the employer has “reasonable grounds to suspect that the sick leave being taken by the employee is not genuine”; surely that applies to people who persistently take off Mondays and Fridays?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: This is a small suggested change that merely simplifies the current law. It might not get used much at all, but it is there if required by the employer.
Darien Fenton: Does she stand by her statement that “Ultimately, the employer must make arrangements to pay for the doctor’s visit. No one is going to go to those lengths for the sake of it.”; if so, what is the point of this unworkable policy?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Yes I do stand by those comments. The point of the policy to give an extra tool in the tool kit of employers in cases where an employee is taking, or suspected to be taking, a sickie. Whether it is used will be remain to be seen, and whether it is workable I am sure will be subject to careful select committee scrutiny.
Keith Locke: How does requiring employees to drag themselves off to a doctor for a 1-day migraine or stomach bug improve the health outcomes for those particular workers?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The proposal does not mention that at all, and does not actually require that.
Darien Fenton: Given that the Minister has already confirmed today that employers are already able to require proof of sickness or injury within 3 days if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the sick leave is not genuine, is the change this Government is proposing to allow employers to require proof on unreasonable grounds?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: No; we do not insist on unreasonable grounds for anything. Employment law should be based on what is reasonable and what is fair to both the employer and employee.
Canterbury Water Management—Hurunui
11. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for the Environment: What will be the implications for the applications for the Hurunui water project, the Hurunui water conservation order, and the Hurunui River plan of the proposal by commissioners to impose a moratorium on water takes under the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) : The commissioners’ rationale is that advancing the massive $300 million Hurunui water project ahead of finalising a plan for the river and before decisions on the proposed water conservation order amounts to putting the cart before the horse. They also want to give the new Hurunui Zone Committee, under the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, the opportunity to develop a balanced approach to the development of the Hurunui. I have approved the proposal as it provides a window of opportunity to provide for a far more sensible approach to water management in Canterbury.
Colin King: How has the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act enabled a better process for managing the Hurunui River?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, the powers for a moratorium do not exist in the Resource Management Act, so the steps today are possible only because of the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act. Secondly, the purpose of the moratorium is to enable a comprehensive plan to be put in place for the Hurunui ahead of major consents being considered. This would take many years under the existing Resource Management Act. But the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act enables that plan to be brought together quickly so that we are not unrealistically deferring considerations of major consents. The third way the special legislation helps is that it aligns the processes of the water conservation orders on the Hurunui with the plan and the major consent. It is one river, and having the water conservation order being considered separately to the plan makes absolutely no sense.
Brendon Burns: Given that the already unsafe water quality of the lower Hurunui River now requiring a moratorium is paralleled by many other Canterbury rivers and streams, will he halt other new water schemes until tough new environmental rules are in place, or would that totally disrupt the Prime Minister’s growth strategy and projects such as Synlait’s Chinese takeover and Fonterra’s new milk plant at Darfield?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government is committed to balanced development of Canterbury’s water resources, and that means resolving some of the environmental challenges that were totally neglected over the last decade, when not one step was taken to deal with any of the water issues in Canterbury. This has meant that this Government is having to take some of these steps. I find it ironic that the member is calling for a moratorium on other rivers when he campaigned and voted against the very legislation that enables a moratorium to be put in place.
Colin King: How will this decision support the work of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the Hurunui Zone Committee approved last Friday by the commissioners?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This decision breathes life into the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and the work of the zone committee, which has only just been approved by the commissioners. The moratorium enables that zone committee, under the strategy, to develop a balanced plan for the river without being gazumped by a massive scheme that was approved under a separate process. This Government is committed to developing the irrigation potential of the Hurunui River, but it wants to ensure that this is done in a careful and balanced way.
Colin King: Was Russel Norman correct when he claimed that “we mustn’t forget that if the Government hadn’t run roughshod over democracy with the ECan Act we might have a water conservation order on the Hurunui River by now.”?
Hon Darren Hughes: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I think I can anticipate the honourable member’s point of order. The Minister has no responsibility for a statement made by Dr Russel Norman. I will allow the member a chance to rephrase his question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member’s question asked whether the claim was correct. I have responsibility for the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act, so I think it is perfectly proper for a member to ask whether a claim that is being made publicly is correct.
Mr SPEAKER: It is if the member asking the question makes it very clear early on in the question that that is what the member is seeking. I invite Colin King to repeat his question.
Colin King: Has the Minister read any reports claiming that we would already have a water conservation order on the Hurunui River if the Government had not run roughshod over the democratic process?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the claim is totally incorrect. The water conservation orders under the Act—and if the member opposite looked at the Act he would see this—have the decisions made by the tribunal and by the Minister. The councillors of any regional council have absolutely no role in water conservation orders, and I think it is completely incompetent for members like Russel Norman, who makes all sorts of claims about water, to get such basic facts of law wrong.
Mining in Conservation Areas—Public Support
12. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Can he confirm that, as reported on Radio New Zealand, the Government believes it has public support to expand mining on conservation land?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : Yes. The recent schedule 4 debate has revealed that New Zealanders are generally keen to see New Zealand take advantage of its considerable mineral endowment, and a number of polls back that up.
Kevin Hague: Can he confirm that according to the Government’s own summary of submissions, just 1.5 percent of submitters support more mining taking place on public conservation land?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That may well be the case, but I can also report that a TV3 poll in May showed that 53 percent were opposed to mining on previously protected land, and 40 percent were in favour of it. Similarly a Television One poll in April 2010 showed that 44 percent supported such mining. I can also say that in February 2010 the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Phil Goff, said: “I think most New Zealanders want to see a balance. They want to see some areas that are less sensitive in the conservation estate available to environmentally sensitive mining.” That is a quote from Phil Goff, the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption]
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave, noting the interjection by the Leader of the Opposition, to table the previous Government’s approval of a mine in the Paparoa National Park in 2006.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify whether this document applies to land that was schedule 4 land within that national park, because that is germane to the point that is being made.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Hon Dr Nick Smith to clarify the matter.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: The document that I wish to table is the approval by a former Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, for mining in the Paparoa National Park.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Kevin Hague: How can the Minister seriously contend that 1.5 percent of the submissions gives him a mandate to expand mining on public conservation land—or is he now calling on the selective use of polls for that mandate, as opposed to the opinions that were solicited through the discussion document?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not pretending.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister justify the huge time and expense of his stocktake discussion, when all it showed was what the public had already been saying, which is that schedule 4 land is simply too precious to mine; and will his U-turn decision extend to other precious parts of the conservation estate?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will answer the first part of the question: yes.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Why was non - schedule 4 land with significant mineral potential in Northland and the West Coast not investigated in the first instance before he proposed mining in our precious national parks, and will he guarantee further consultation to seek a mandate to mine these other areas?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In answer to the first part of that question, that was not part of our stocktake.
Kevin Hague: Where is the Government’s mandate for more mining in conservation areas, when 99 percent of submitters to the Government’s discussion document, when asked about that issue, said they opposed the Government’s research programme because “the investigation programme would inevitably lead to the opening up of additional conservation areas to mining”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think it is quite clear from this debate that there has been a line drawn in the sand between the most highly protected areas of the conservation estate and other parts of the country that are Government-owned. It is our intention that this particular industry will be part of future economic development, and we are backing it with the aerial magnetic survey.
Kevin Hague: Does he honestly think that New Zealanders will buy his bizarre spin that the 1.5 percent of submissions on one side of that line in the sand that he has just referred to constitutes a mandate to expand mining on public conservation land—what we might call, I guess, an aspirational hole?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think they would do so just as much as they would accept the complete absurdity of suggesting that 32,000 submissions represent the views of all of New Zealand.
Urgent Debates Declined
Mr SPEAKER: I have received a letter from the Hon Trevor Mallard seeking to debate under Standing Order 380 the Government’s announcement of the next step towards a public-private partnership for building and maintaining some new school property. The announcement is a particular case of recent occurrence that involves ministerial responsibility. This is an important matter, but there must be an element of urgency for it to take precedence over other business. The announcement today is part of a continuing process. The business case is to be prepared, which will include a decision on specific schools. In considering whether a matter requires the urgent attention of the House, it is also relevant to consider whether another parliamentary means of debating it is available. There will be other opportunities to debate the matter, especially as the House will shortly debate the estimates. In these circumstances, I am not persuaded that the business of the House should be set aside today. The matter is one that can be considered over a longer time frame. The application is, therefore, declined.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. There has been a controversy over the last 48 hours, since the Government announced its decision over mining proposals. That controversy is because this Government, led by John Key, had proposed to open up New Zealand national parks and protected areas to the mining industry, yet the Prime Minister will not accept responsibility for the part that he played in that decision.
I hold up the New Zealand Herald with an article entitled “Muddled Govt mining stance fatally flawed”. It was fatally flawed. Gerry Brownlee does not admit it, Kate Wilkinson does not admit it, and John Key does not admit it. But their proposal, considered by their Cabinet and announced to this Parliament by John Key in his opening statement to Parliament this year, was to allow the most precious and protected areas of New Zealand to be opened up to mining. That is what it was about. This Prime Minister will not accept responsibility for the part that he played in that decision, but he should. The day before the Prime Minister’s opening statement in Parliament Gerry Brownlee and Kate Wilkinson took to Cabinet a paper that stated that 467,000 hectares of New Zealand’s national parks should be opened up for mining, yet John Key announced that it was not a Ministers’ paper, but an officials’ paper. When I was in Cabinet, a Cabinet Minister took responsibility for what he or she took to Cabinet. If one did not support a proposal, then one did not sign one’s name to it. Of course Gerry Brownlee supported the proposal, because he set it out way back in 2009 in a speech to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and told that international mining interest everything it wanted to hear. What did this speech say? The major proposal was to gut schedule 4 to allow this National Government to go and dig up our national parks.
John Key should have known that that was never a runner. Gerry Brownlee went to see him early in 2009 and said that he had a step change for New Zealand and that he was going to dig up the national parks and we would all be wealthy. At that point John Key had the responsibility to say to Gerry Brownlee that it was not on, and that it was not acceptable to New Zealanders. It is not right for one Government to destroy the heritage of future generations of New Zealanders. He should have said to Gerry Brownlee that he was the Minister for Economic Development, and asked whether he understood that digging up our national parks would destroy our tourism industry, and would destroy our “clean, green”, “100% Pure New Zealand” brand. That is what John Key should have said. He should have told him to take the idea away. It was stupid, it was flawed, and it would never run. But John Key did not say that. He embraced the idea, he announced to Parliament that he was going to do it, and he supported Gerry Brownlee’s paper going to Cabinet.
I will say something about Kate Wilkinson. Kate Wilkinson does not understand that she has a statutory responsibility as Minister of Conservation to advocate for the conservation estate. What did she do? She signed her name to a paper that would have allowed mining in 467,000 hectares of New Zealand’s national parks. I cannot remember in my entire time in this Parliament a worse Minister of Conservation, a weaker Minister of Conservation, or a Minister who failed more in his or her basic responsibility to take the side of conservation and stand up against damaging the conservation estate.
The other thing exposed by this affair is a total lack of planning by this Government to achieve an improvement in living standards, and growth in employment and wages. This is simply the last of a series of failed plans. The Job Summit fell over, and the report of the 2025 Taskforce was discredited by even the Government within 24 hours of its being produced. I ask Mr Brownlee what has happened to the idea of New Zealand becoming the world’s financial services hub. It has gone.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development) : That has to be one of the saddest speeches this Parliament has ever heard. I say that because all that the Leader of the Opposition, the previous speaker, could do was to bring out an issue that is seriously now yesterday’s issue, and try to rewrite history around it. In February of this year the Hon Phil Goff said he thought most New Zealanders wanted to see balance and wanted to see some less-sensitive conservation areas available to environmentally sensitive mining. That was what Phil Goff said in February of this year. He went on further in February of this year to say he thought there was scope in some conservation land to extract minerals if it was done without damage to the environment. He said Labour did that in Paparoa National Park with the Pike River coalfield. This man is grasping at whatever straw he can in order to try to impress his colleagues, rather than speaking directly to the people of New Zealand.
It is utterly absurd for the Leader of the Opposition to say that because the Government took heed of public opinion and took heed of what it learnt in a discussion document, somehow that represents a massive failing of leadership. I think that tells us that the Labour Party has never ever operated in a democratic sense. It has always relied on the sort of dictatorial leadership that Helen Clark offered the country. She had all of her Ministers doing exactly the sort of bidding that she wanted. I have not seen Phil Goff give such a vein-popping speech as that one since he was a frustrated Minister of Foreign Affairs in the previous Helen Clark - led Labour Government.
I could talk this afternoon about the 82 mines that that Labour Government approved on conservation land, and I could talk about the one mine that it approved on schedule 4 land. But I want to talk about the real issues that worry New Zealanders. They are the cost of living and New Zealanders’ place in the economy. In the last 5 years of the previous Labour Government, when we had very, very good economic times, the non-tradables sector grew astronomically. The non-tradables sector of our economy under that Labour Government grew, and it took that as an indication that our economy was in good health. The purchasing power of New Zealanders’ dollars fell under that Labour Government. We had a decline in exports of 5 percent per year for the last 5 years of that Labour Government. All the time its members talked about doing things on a sustainable basis, having an export year, and having all sorts of task forces for this and committees for that—talk, talk, talk.
This is a Government that will do things. This is a Government that is not afraid to go out and ask New Zealanders: “What about this idea?”. If they reject it, they reject it. If they accept it, they accept it. Mr Goff came in here this afternoon and suggested—very interestingly, I think—that because a Prime Minister says we are looking at something, somehow that is it; it is black and white, and cast in stone. That is the sort of legacy that those members want to re-inflict on New Zealanders—the dictatorial, listen to no one, know what is best approach. I think the pathetic efforts by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon to say: “Our Ministers were better than your Ministers.” shows that Labour is still a party in total denial. Labour does not recognise that there is a new style of Government in this country. It is a new style of Government that does not mind asking people what they think and then acting on that advice. That is not unreasonable. That is why we have a democracy.
The other thing that struck me in that speech was the way that poor old Mr Goff’s friends—I was going to call them our opponents—in the caucus had their heads down. They were quite embarrassed and completely unable to show the animated support one would expect for a leader. I think that is sad.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : It is a mark of a failed Government when nearly 2 years in, its members are still talking about its predecessor. How about talking about something they have done? How about talking about a plan that they have? How about talking about the way to make New Zealanders’ lives better? They cannot, because they have no plan. Gerry Brownlee is the man who will for ever—[Interruption] There he goes; off again.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that he cannot do that.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: He will for ever be known for Brownlee’s “Law of Holes”: when in one, stop digging. The corollary to Brownlee’s “Law of Holes” is that when one has stopped digging, one should have a plan B. The funniest thing about this week is that it is now obvious to all that there was no plan B, because there never was a strategy. There is no analysis of what is fundamentally wrong with this economy and how to turn it round.
For the last 18 months we have seen a series of glib one-liners, manufactured pragmatism, and slip backs. It is now obvious to all New Zealanders that the emperor has no clothes. There is no strategy, as John Key promised. There is no aggressive growth in 2010. The Government promised New Zealanders a step change. Its members said they would do it by digging up national parks. Any idiot would have known that New Zealanders would take to the streets in their tens of thousands to defend the wilderness areas that make this country unique and that we all love. But that did not occur to those members. Now they have had to bury the idea. It should never have been dug up.
What about the other plans? The Job Summit was a nice-sounding idea. It led to a cycleway to nowhere, which created a few jobs and took taxpayers on a great ride—a great ride to spend millions to protect John Key’s reputation.
Craig Foss: Which cycleway are you going to rip up?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The cycleway to nowhere. Craig Foss is embarrassed about the cost of it. The Government cancelled a 9-day fortnight, in the middle of a recession. It produced a Budget that rightly said that the economy was imbalanced, but did nothing to solve the imbalances, nothing to restore savings, nothing to help New Zealand companies gain capital, and nothing to lift exports. In fact, those members are still saying that we have the best monetary policy in the world, but the rest of the world has moved on. The rest of the world has moved on, leaving them isolated and alone, dreaming of yesteryear and making up names about the previous Government.
There is no plan to transform our economy into a high-value, high-wage economy. There is no sense of urgency about getting us on a sustainable fiscal path. There is no sense of urgency about our No. 1 long-term problem, which is paying for superannuation. Those members have just kicked out pre-funding for 10 years, and failed to honour their promise to restore pre-funding when the books were in surplus.
How long will it take before New Zealanders realise they have been told a massive lie, which claims that we can have a 65-year-old qualification with no pre-funding? The numbers do not add up, and ordinary Kiwis know that. It is time the Government told the truth about that massive issue that is coming down the pipe.
The Government is saying that young New Zealanders, Generation X and Generation Y, will be able to foot the bill. We know that when young Kiwis figure out how big the bill will be, the Bill opposite will be on his way out. Bill English will be on his way out, John Key with him, and also Gerry Brownlee, the “King of Holes.” Brownlee’s “Law of Holes” is that when we are in one, we should stop digging. But there should be an alternative plan, and that is the problem. There never was a plan, an analysis, or a strategy. It was a rolling maul of sound bites, which has fallen flat because there was never anything behind it except marketing spin. This is a Government whose marketing department rules the roost, and it forgot about ideas.
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour) : Let us remember back to 2008 when, from listening to Labour, one would have thought the sky was going to fall in, and bad employers would be named and shamed, all because we introduced an optional 90-day trial period for new employees in small businesses. It was nothing radical, just moderate and more in line with international trends and jurisdictions. We thought hard about it. It was thoughtful and moderate. We built in protections of good faith, and protections that stated that it would be only by agreement. We also built in protections that ensured discrimination and harassment rights would be retained. We enabled mediation to be available.
In the past nearly 18 months, what has happened? Has the sky fallen in? No, the sky has not fallen in. Has the trial period been abused? If it had been abused, we would want to know about it, so that as we draft and craft the amendments now we could add in more protections if need be. But there is no evidence of abuse or exploitation of workers. Nobody has been named and shamed. Opposition to the 90-day trial has been made mute.
What has happened is good news. The sky has not fallen in. Neither Labour nor the unions, which were very vociferous at the time, have been able to demonstrate that the 90-day trial period is not working.
Chris Auchinvole: Because it did work.
Hon KATE WILKINSON: It works. They have not been able to demonstrate that it is not fair, because it is fair. They have not been able to demonstrate that it is not reasonable, because it is reasonable. It is working. It is fair, reasonable, and it is working. It has given businesses more confidence in admittedly difficult economic times to take on workers whom they might not otherwise have taken on. The Department of Labour’s report highlights, as we know, that 40 percent of employers would not have taken on employees except for the 90-day trial period. It has given workers, especially those on the margins who perhaps do not have an employment record or qualifications, or who are new to the country, the opportunity to say “Give me a go.” They have backed themselves in order to prove themselves and get their foot in the employment door.
I went to our local refugee migrant centre in Christchurch, and I asked staff there what their biggest challenge was. They said it was getting their migrants to have a job. I asked them whether they used the 90-day trial, but they did not, because Labour had scaremongered so much. People there said it would be good because their migrants did not have a job record and did not speak English very well. They did not really know what to expect but would love the opportunity to be given a try and to get their feet in the employment door. Because of the scaremongering, some of them had not been given that opportunity.
This policy is good policy. It has not resulted in fire-at-will. It is a hiring policy. It has given more confidence in hiring. We want people to have jobs, and this 90-day trial regime is one of the tools in the tool kit to get more people into jobs. It is not radical stuff. It is reasonable and moderate, and it brings us more into line with other international jurisdictions, which are a lot tougher. Its success is one of the reasons we are extending the opportunity to all businesses. Let us look at other jurisdictions. The UK has a 12-month trial period.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Twelve months? Wasn’t that under a Labour Government?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Twelve months, under a Labour Government. What do we have? We have 90 days, which is 3 months, or one-quarter of the UK period. Similarly, Australia has a 12-month period, introduced under a Labor Government. What do we have? We have 3 months. This is good policy.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : If the Minister of Labour, who has just resumed her seat, is so proud of the effective protections that come from the good-faith provisions of the Employment Relations Act, I ask why she refused to acknowledge yesterday in this House that under the 90-day trial period legislation employees can be fired without any reason being given. They will not know the reason why they have been fired. They may have given up a prior job to take the new one, but they can be fired without any reason being given, up to 90 days after starting the job. The Minister will not admit that, not because she does not know it, but because she knows that it does not appeal to New Zealanders, who know it is just not fair.
The Minister of Labour is also the Minister of Conservation. Given the controversies this week, we would have expected some defence of the Government’s performance in respect of mining in national parks, but despite the fact that that has been such a terrible mistake on the part of the Government, the Minister of Conservation did not once acknowledge her role, try to defend her conduct, or try to defend the Government position.
That is just not good enough.
Hon Darren Hughes: Beyond belief.
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is beyond belief. I think the most serious aspect of the debate on mining that has been exposed by the Opposition in the second stage is actually the flow-on analysis of what is missing from the Government’s policy. It was always a mistake to suggest mining in national parks. It was always a mistake.
At the last election Gerry Brownlee was already on record as saying that he believed coal to be sexy. In fact, one chapter of the video blog on his website he entitled: “Sexy Coal”. I would have thought that to be a bit of a warning to members of the National Government that they should keep an eye on him. Given that the burning of coal is responsible for about half of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels in the world, the world actually does not want to see a lot more burning of coal, I say to Mr Brownlee. It is not sexy. It is not the way forward for the New Zealand economy.
Against that background, the National Government let him go out last year and say that New Zealand was going to catch up with Australia by mining our national parks, and that mining was going to cause a step change in the New Zealand economy. For a start, it was never going to cause a step change in the New Zealand economy. Only about 10 percent of the difference between New Zealand’s wealth and Australia’s wealth in income terms arises from mining. He had no answer for the other 90 percent anyway, but now he has abandoned the cure he though he had for that 10 percent difference.
I thought question time today was quite illuminating. Where is his plan, now that he has bungled mining his way into the future? Where is his plan?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: There never has been a plan.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Mr Cosgrove is quite right. There is no alternative plan.
Mr Brownlee said that if we asked him some other questions, he would tell us. So I put to him one of the Prime Minister’s other big ideas—that is, that somehow New Zealand will become a financial services hub for the world. I asked him what papers he had taken to Cabinet about that idea. He has taken none.
John Key hops from cloud to cloud: the cycleway, the 9-day working fortnight, mining in national parks, a financial services hub, and building broadband with Chinese money. He has had one idea after another, yet none of them—not one of them—has come to fruition. Not one of them has stacked up in any significant way.
The underlying question I ask this Parliament to consider is what has happened to the promise to catch up with Australia, a promise upon which the National Government was elected. I asked Gerry Brownlee at a select committee the other day about how we should judge how the Government is doing on that promise. I asked him what targets the Government has set, and what its objectives are. He said that it does not have any. He actually admitted that it does not have any objectives and targets, other than the ambition to get there by 2025. That is 15 years away. Not even in the worst nightmares of people who go along to horror movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street do they think that the National Government will still be in power in 2025. So I ask how the Government will be held accountable for whether it meets its ambition of catching up to Australia by 2025. Plainly, it has no plan and no targets, and it should be held to account.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) : Obviously, Labour has never understood the term “discussion document”. Those members have never understood that it is actually about hearing from the public—hearing, in fact, from the 35,000 people who sent in a form submission or made a full submission—then taking on board what they said. One might wonder why Labour members have so much difficulty understanding the concept of listening to the people. The reason is—
Dr Cam Calder: A 9-year dictatorship!
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Exactly! It was a 9-year dictatorship, and that was exemplified by the Electoral Finance Act. There were marches in the street, there were submissions, there were questions week after week in Parliament, and there was a whole campaign in the newspapers and the media saying that the Electoral Finance Act was a fundamental breach of democratic principles. But what did Labour do? It just boxed on; it just crashed on. The public could see the way that the Labour Government ignored the people. It was contemptuous of the public voice.
Dr Cam Calder: Arrogant!
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Arrogant! What a contrast that Labour Government is to the current Government—what a contrast. We put out a discussion document that is, as it says, a discussion document. We listen to the people, and we take on board the people’s voice.
Labour needs to ask itself a simple question: why is it that during the discussion around mining National was about 20 points ahead of Labour—the whole time through? Because people had an intuitive sense that we were actually listening, that we were actually taking on board public comment. The public understood that that was a fundamental feature of this Government. There have been enough examples, in a general sense, for people to understand that the style of the John Key - led Government is to take on board public concerns, and on serious issues—and I recognise that mining is a serious issue—to react accordingly.
Labour, of course, is extremely disappointed. It would like us to be mining in national parks. It would like us to be mining on schedule 4 land, because that would give Labour the ability to play this issue out month over month over month. But the response of a Government that listens is to take on board the public’s fundamental concerns. That is, I suggest, a fundamental difference between this Government and the previous Government.
I want to look at the economic record. I have been listening to the previous debaters, and they kept saying that Labour had a fantastic economic record. What is the truth of that?
Hon Darren Hughes: They take tough decisions.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Yes, tough decisions, like the Electoral Finance Act—that was a really tough decision, Darren! That really worked for Labour! The public really gave their judgment on that one, Darren. While the Labour Government was fiddling around with the Electoral Finance Act and completely distracted by it, what was actually happening in the real world? Well, for 5 years there was declining export growth. The real economy was shrinking. Certainly, there was growth fuelled by the extra borrowing by the private sector; certainly there was growth fuelled by the expansion of public sector expenditure, which meant that the size of Government relative to the total economy grew substantially.
What did it lead to? It led to recession hitting New Zealand 12 months before the rest of the world. Why was that? We saw a succession of investment failures in New Zealand during 2007 and 2008. We were already in negative growth before the change of Government in 2008. New Zealand’s recession preceded the rest of the world’s by 1 year. That is easily forgotten because it has been subsumed in the broader global financial crisis, but that was the reality. That is why so many New Zealanders made the decision to travel to Australia. People saw better prospects there, because, frankly, the Australian economy was being managed better than the New Zealand economy. Members on that side of the Chamber are silent now, are they not? They know the truth of this.
National inherited years and years of mismanagement, and we had to fix it. What has the National Government done? We delivered a tax reform package entirely oriented around growth. It is the best tax reform package in 25 years. The Resource Management Act reforms have been significant. There have been improvements in infrastructure, roads, and broadband. The science and innovation package caps it all off.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) : We have just heard from the former spokesperson on the eradication of political correctness. He wants to know why we were not making any noises. It was because we were asleep.
This is a Government with no plan and no new ideas, but with lots of smiles from Mr Key, who is starting to look like a poor man’s Wizard of Oz. He is like a travelling magician who pulls out every other trick every other time that the one before did not work. But we can only trick Dorothy and the Tin Man for so long, because the people of New Zealand are starting to see there is no plan. There is no way back to Kansas.
What has the “Wizard of New Zealand” pulled out of his bag so far? We have had the 2025 task force, which was meant to show how we could catch up with Australia. What happened to that? Nothing. Don Brash failed to deliver, but “There’s no surprises there.”, as the Kiwi kid says about the Aussie kid, in the TV ad. Don is still being kept on to give another report next year, yet he has run out of money already. That is some trick for the former Governor of the Reserve Bank, who is in charge of New Zealand’s monetary policy. He runs out of his budget in the first year of the task force.
Then we had the Job Summit. How is that going? There are no new jobs. Unemployment is on the rise. The Government that my colleagues on my right and I were in halved unemployment to 4 percent when we went out of office. This Government has increased unemployment by 50 percent already, and it is still rising. Now the rate has almost returned to what it was under the previous National Government. We cannot blame that on the recession, especially when the only idea to save jobs was a 9-day fortnight. That was meant to save thousands of jobs, by getting people to work less so that they were paid less, and businesses stayed afloat. That was the idea. At most it saved 100 jobs, for the whole of New Zealand.
Then John Key came up with another wizard idea. Employees could sell the fourth week of their holidays. That means that the solution to New Zealand’s problems is to get people to work longer. Previously the solution was for people to work less, and now it is for them to work longer. Then National had this great idea of a 9-day fortnight. Employees were going to work less still, and get paid less as well. What a magician’s sleight of hand it was to suggest that employees have the choice to sell their annual leave. In my book it is just working an extra week and getting paid for it. It is not exactly rocket science. But this scheme will save New Zealand and catch us up to Australia. Oh, really? Why not take Christmas Day tomorrow, and then decide to sell it and go to work anyway? Would that fix the problem? We would catch up with Australia then!
Then we had the cycleway. This was meant to create jobs. The cycleway was the great new innovation for New Zealand. Tourist industries were meant to pop up all along the cycleway. All we have seen so far is pictures of John Key on a bike, smiling as always. It will take more than a pushbike and a cycleway in New Zealand to fix up the New Zealand economy. But, however, now we have the answer; it is mining. We will dig up the country, just like Australia is doing, and we will catch up to Australia. What happened to that idea? It was another flip-flop, because the smiling Prime Minister does not want to be unpopular. He discovered that this idea was not all that popular. Actually, 40,000 people in Queen Street convinced him of that. So that is not going to happen.
If John Key and his Government were serious about growing the economy, they would not pay just lip-service to the farming sector. That sector is our largest economic earner. The truth is that agriculture makes up 43 percent of New Zealand’s exports. Is there anything about that that John Key does not understand? Let us compare that with tourism, which he took the portfolio for. Tourism makes up 17 percent of the economy. He did not take agriculture, which makes up 43 percent of the economy. Gee, that is a no-brainer. We want to really lead the economy, so we take an industry that is less than half as important as the one we do not take, and then we do not mention it. John never mentioned farming in the 2008 post-election Speech from the Throne—he never mentioned it. He did not mention it in 2010, in his speech to Parliament at the beginning of this year. I am a member of Parliament for an urban electorate, and I mention agriculture all the time. Mind you, I was told by Helen Clark to mention it, and I did; I was a good Minister.
There is nothing wrong with supporting tourism, but there is a heck of a lot wrong with not supporting farming and ignoring it. If John Key thinks we can grow the New Zealand economy while ignoring the farming sector and building cycleways, he is dreaming. What kind of mickey mouse economics smashes the Fast Forward fund for research in the primary sector, and cancels the tax credit for business, in favour of a cycleway? We do away with the New Zealand Fast Forward fund, we do away with research and development rebates for business, but we replace them with a cycleway. Now, that will work. Yeah, right!
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : My congratulations go to John Key, Kate Wilkinson, and this National-led Government on the planned extension of the 90-day trial period to all businesses. National is a party that backs business and backs workers, because we know that without jobs and growth, New Zealand and New Zealanders will not get ahead.
Having a job is crucial to people’s self-esteem and to giving them choices and independence. That is why this Government has had an unrelenting focus on getting people into jobs. We make no apology for that—none whatsoever. The extension of the 90-day trial period to all businesses is about getting people into jobs and giving employers the confidence to take on new staff. An increase in the number of jobs where jobs are not currently available does not magically appear out of thin air. A business needs to see the opportunity to expand and it is important that it needs to be confident to create those new jobs. The hysteria that has surrounded the announcement has been quite astonishing. Anyone would have thought that sweatshops had been introduced. On the contrary, this is a step forward, not a step back.
Previously the 90-day trial was for small to medium sized businesses with fewer than 20 staff. Our nation’s backbone is small to medium sized businesses. The fact is that 99 percent of New Zealand businesses, which employ 60 percent of our workers, are small to medium sized.
Hon Maryan Street: No, no, the figures are wrong.
Dr JACKIE BLUE: Not according to the Human Rights Commission. The member should read its report. These businesses generate a big part of our wealth. When they prosper, we all prosper.
National’s plans for small to medium sized businesses link with National’s plan for growing the economy. The 90-day trial period was an integral part of our election manifesto in 2008. It was aimed at small to medium sized businesses, because they are crucial to our economy. Many small businesses do not have the human resources of larger companies. The 90-day trial will now be extended to all businesses, and that can only be good for people needing jobs, for businesses, and for New Zealand.
A recent review found that half of all employers had used a trial period when hiring workers. In relation to the last employee that an employer had hired on a trial basis, 40 percent of employers said they would not have, or were unlikely to have, hired that person without having a trial period. To put it another way, without the 90-day trial, 40 percent of businesses would most likely have not hired that person. That is an excellent outcome.
The evaluation suggests that employers view dismissals during the 90-day trial period as being unfavourable, and actively try to avoid them. Indeed, dismissals were not given on the 89th day, as some cynical members and unionists might have predicted, but were given mainly in the first few weeks. The evidence is clear from the evaluation that employers were not out to exploit those employees who were hired under the 90-day trial.
I challenge members opposite. If unscrupulous employers have been using the 90-day trial period in an unethical manner, then I ask why those businesses have not been named and shamed. The fact is that, in general, employers have acted responsibly and workers have been treated fairly. It is important to note that the 90-day trial can only be entered into by a written agreement between the employer and the new worker at the beginning of the employment relationship.
I was interested to read the Human Rights Commission’s recent publication What Next? National Conversation About Work. The publication blows a few tired old myths out of the water and exposes a few truths. The first truth is that work is a critical source of well-being and identity, and that is something the Government absolutely agrees with.
Dr Rajen Prasad: Who didn’t know that? What’s the myth that blows?
Dr JACKIE BLUE: It is a truth, not a myth.
One myth exposed was that all bosses are bastards. It was the observation of the Human Rights Commission that the “employers we met, especially in smaller businesses were more likely to treat their staff as extended family than as labour units.” The article went on to state that many of the employers the commission spoke to were responsive to the needs of their employees, such as family responsibilities, emergencies, and other life events, and were devastated by the emotional trauma of redundancies when they had to lay off staff. It is hardly the comment one would find in a Charles Dickens novel.
Another myth was that workers are slackers. The Human Rights Commission found that there was universal enthusiasm by employees not just for the socialisation of work but also for the tasks, functions, and professionalism required of them by change in the labour market.
So the hugely respected Human Rights Commission, after meeting hundreds of employers and hundreds of employees, found—wait for it—happy employers and happy employees. It is not the sort of picture that unions want to paint.
The extension of the 90-day trial is about opportunity. It is about giving people the chance to find a job.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : After a couple of days of watching this debacle with Gerry Brownlee I tried to do some research into how best to describe him, and I can do no better than to quote from the Christchurch Press. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! If we look back to 9 May last year we find this headline in the Press: “Gerry on the job”. Mr Brownlee was described as the Ilam MP who was the third most powerful politician in New Zealand. The might, the glory, the influence! Then as I thumbed through the article—
Louise Upston: You’re just jealous!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Hell no, not after the last couple of days. At the end of this article about Mr Brownlee it states “What others say”. The first quote was from a guy called David Henderson from Christchurch. Some Canterbury members may know this guy. He is fighting off bankruptcy day after day, as a property developer, as we speak. I am told by reliable sources that he is the best mate of Gerry Brownlee. Mr Henderson is a business person, whom I know the National Party and the ACT Party admire, and here is what he said about Mr Brownlee: “A nice guy but completely useless.” That is what the mates of “Gerry on the job” say about him. I disagree; there is no egg on Gerry’s face—it would not last long enough, especially if it were fried.
But what has been demonstrated over the last couple of days is that Gerry Brownlee, who wanted to put not a line in the sand but a trench in the sand—he is quicksand in Cabinet—wanted to make his mark on history. He went out like the veritable political blunderbuss that he is and said: “We’re going to dig big holes in places where no one wants us to do that. We’re going to dig up gold. There is gold in them there hills. This is going to happen.”, and that was reinforced by his Prime Minister, who was pop-riveted to this policy. Then yesterday or the day before, Gerry was stuck out on a pole—I will grant that it was a big one—at the press conference, aided and abetted by the ghost that walks, Kate Wilkinson, the person who never fronts on the hard stuff. If one asks her about the cut in general practitioner services in Rangiora, she is nowhere to be seen. She agrees with it, and I will come to that in due time. Kate Wilkinson was stuck out there at the press conference but said absolutely nothing. She would not front the issue, and it has been a complete debacle from start to finish.
I ask, as David Parker did, where the aspiration is. Where is the step change? Where is the great plan and economic development vision for New Zealand? We had one and we delivered on it through 9 years in Government, and the employment rates and economic growth proved it. But where are the words that we heard about before the election, such as aspiration? Where is Gerry Brownlee now? I feel a bit sorry for him. He is stuck out there. He has to huff and puff and stamp his feet, and try to tell everybody that he listened.
If this is now a listening, reformed, reinvented National Government, why does it not say that to, say, the 72 percent of people in my electorate on $40,000 or less a year who will get a meagre tax cut that will be negated by a 2.5 percent increase in GST and by 5.9 percent inflation, which means they will be worse off by 30 to 50 bucks a week? If it is a listening, reformed, reinvented, and now very silent, Government, will it back down on that policy, which constituents in my patch have borne the brunt of? Will it reverse the policy if it finds that the 90-day expansion will put the sword not only into young people but also into others? Will a person in a job who wants to take a promotion to a new job take a risk on a 90-day deal as opposed to a bird in the hand, a permanent job? If that proves to be correct, which it will do, will the Government back down on that? Will it U-turn on that? No. Is it a listening Government? No. Mr Key has not articulated any plan at all. From 70 jobs on a cycleway to a 2025 Taskforce that was dead, buried, assassinated, and nailed to the ground within 24 hours of its recommendations being brought out—
Hon Darren Hughes: And we’re still paying for it!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: According to my colleague we are still paying for it. Where is the plan? I ask Kate Wilkinson, who got up and did her usual and told us a few stories here and there about certain people she had talked to who might have supported the 90-day bill, whether she articulated a plan. No, she did not. Did Gerry Brownlee articulate a plan? No. But these people certainly have egg on their faces. It has been a debacle from start to finish. There is only one reason that they backed down and it is that the people of New Zealand revolted against them on that policy.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) : We are determined to see the number of jobs increase. After the announcement by the Prime Minister, John Key, on the extension of the 90-day employment trial period to all employers, the New Zealand Herald reported that the New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the National Distribution Union, and others are meeting for a war council tomorrow and Friday. The only thing is that that war machine rolling into a nearby town is likely to maim and injure the hard-working New Zealanders whom it thinks it is coming to rescue.
One employer from New Plymouth said this morning about the 90-day trial period for new employees that he spoke about it last week to all his staff, from 18-year-olds to those who have worked there for 20 years, and that 95 percent of them agreed that it was fair and were in favour of it. He said that in tight economic times it is a particularly crucial option. The union bosses’ guns are blazing for just 5 percent of the workforce who agreed with them in that place, and they need to realise that the rest of the workforce is happy because they think it is fair.
Hon Maryan Street: What did you expect them to say, Jonathan?
JONATHAN YOUNG: What about the 5 percent who did not think this measure was fair? They had the courage to speak their convictions, and, obviously, the employer embraced that and enabled it to happen. That is a very good work environment that is very, very open. Another employer said this: “A very good move. It puts the employer and employee on an equal footing with equal rights.” Whether or not members opposite agree with that, the perception out there is that it has been unequal.
Another employer from New Plymouth said that it was a very positive move and another tool in the tool box for employers, who have been on the back foot in this area for ages. The employer also said: “A good employer looks to invest in his employees and does so in good faith, but gets caught when the employee does not deliver on expectations.”
We need to understand that business success is the key to creating more jobs. A fundamental truth that some people do not understand is that with Government employment not growing, and not likely to do so, more jobs for more New Zealanders will come from private sector business. The 90-day trial period is designed to make it easier for businesses to employ those New Zealanders. That is a good and essential thing.
Another employer from New Plymouth says: “I am very encouraged by it.”—members should listen to what he says—“It will give us confidence to recruit more staff.” Another says that he agrees wholeheartedly—
Dr Rajen Prasad: Tell us what the workers say.
JONATHAN YOUNG: I told that member in the very first instance that 95 percent of that large firm agreed with the trial period and said that it was fair.
Dr Rajen Prasad: How many?
JONATHAN YOUNG: It was 95 percent. The member does not want to hear it, but 95 percent of the employees of that firm said that. Another business owner said: “No employer hires to fire.
But it gives smaller employers the added confidence that if they get it wrong, then they are not penalised, and it gives them equal rights with the employee.” Nearly every one of those employers said this morning that they felt this was a fairer deal than they have had to work with in the past. They talked about equal rights and about no longer being on the back foot—equal footing with equal rights—and, as I said in the first instance, one employer said that 95 percent of employees in that firm agreed that it was fair. That is what we want to hear.
National’s employment law package is not about ideological change; it is about moderate change, aimed at rebalancing the system so that it is fair for both employees and employers. I believe in fairness. I believe in justice. I believe in having reasoned dialogue between reasonable people, and I believe that it can build a strong common understanding and goals. We do not want to create or support an us-versus-them environment. I am not anti-union, but, unlike the previous Government, we do not want employees to feel pressured to join a union. We are encouraging communication—reasonable people talking about reasoned ideas—between employees and employers, while ensuring that employees can join, or participate in, unions if they wish to. Sometimes things do not work out. Expectations set and expectations met is what successful work relations is all about.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) : I want to put the topics canvassed so far in this debate into a wider context. Yesterday the New Zealand Youth Choir returned from a spectacular tour of Singapore, South Korea, China, and Australia, and the tour finished with a spectacular simultaneous broadcast across Australia and New Zealand. Everywhere the choir went, it received the support of packed houses. It showed the massive talent that we have here in New Zealand, and it represented New Zealand with massive pride. Tomorrow the Aspiring Leaders Forum will bring together a group of young people to share their ideas and philosophies on leadership, whether in the fields of politics, the arts, business, or sport. Yet, what was the breaking news this morning? It was “Youths arrested after crime spree”. We are told that yesterday afternoon in my home town of Nelson, the police arrested two rangatahi at Taser-point and gunpoint after having set police dogs out to track them across farmland. It appears that two young people aged 15 and 17 years had gone on a spree from Christchurch to Nelson, stealing cars and evading apprehension.
It seems to me that we have the emphasis all wrong. The crime spree that I think this nation should be focusing on is the moral crime of child poverty. Just a month ago the head of OECD social policy, Dr Monika Queisser, told the Government’s Welfare Working Group that New Zealand was out of step with other countries. In her estimation, high child poverty was the third-biggest issue in New Zealand’s social policy. She noted that 15 percent of New Zealand children live in families with less than half the median income, compared with an OECD average of 12 percent, and that the gap between the material deprivation of children and older people is the biggest in New Zealand out of 27 countries. I ask where the breaking news announcement is that will stem the tide on this utterly unacceptable high rate of child poverty.
It is not just international experts who are telling us this. In a report released this month by the Government’s own watchdog, the Human Rights Commission, we were told that New Zealand needs to take a much stronger stand on child poverty. The Right to an adequate standard of living: focus on the right to social security confirmed that recent policy initiatives show that it is possible to reduce child poverty rates substantially over relatively short periods of time. However, the report challenged the Government to also remember that sustained progress requires continued commitment and specific targeting of those who are the most vulnerable.
Earlier in the year the Race Relations Conciliator stepped into the fray, pointing to the 2010 statistics that one in three Māori and Pacific young people are unemployed, and saying that there will be serious long-term effects. The grim reality of child poverty, the generally poor living conditions for low-income children, and child poverty’s disproportionate impacts on Māori have long been brought to our attention by the Child Poverty Action Group. This group has told us that one in six New Zealand children lives in poverty, that a third of children live in overcrowded conditions, and that we have the highest rate—the highest rate—of youth suicide in the entire OECD.
These are not statistics to celebrate. We must fix a vision in our sights that invests in the promise of prosperity for all children. We must promote success and be proud of the amazing achievements of our young people, such as the achievements of the Youth Choir, the aspiring leaders, the Youth Parliament, or the hundreds and thousands of amazing kids in our communities. But we must also ensure that every child has the right to a fair deal, a decent life.
The Māori Party campaigned on the aspiration of setting a deadline to eliminate child poverty by 2020. We know that this will have to work alongside other subsequent policy developments, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, raising core benefit levels, and extending the in-work payment of Working for Families to all families.
We were thrilled to see that another of our policy goals was shared by this OECD expert, and that is the proposal to have a universal child allowance to tackle child poverty. She observed that the countries in the OECD that have achieved low child poverty—the Nordic countries and France—often have universal child benefits, and she suggested that New Zealand might want to explore this in more detail.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : Thirty days ago—as opposed to 29 days ago, as it was yesterday—there was a bit of an event. I will reintroduce the topic of that event and draw some similarities between it and what happened over the last 9 years of what I consider to be some of the best economic times that we have seen and one of the most appalling wastes of time that this country has seen.
The 9 years of the previous Labour Government saw a great move forward in terms of our bank balance, but literally nothing happened. The plaque around the arteries got clogged up and, like my own cardiac event—they call it a cardiac event these days; they do not call it a heart attack—nothing got through. The red corpuscles did not get through to the tissues of this country.
I will do something that has not been done yet in this House, which is to congratulate Gerry Brownlee on a job well done. At least he stuck his neck on the line for his country. He stuck his neck on the line. I support the mining industry in this country; I support it 100 percent. It is the people across the Chamber who do not support our move forward and our looking after our grandchildren and children. That is what the decision is all about. That is what our decisions are based on. Our decisions are based on our children and our grandchildren’s future.
Members on that side will tell us that they have all the answers. Well, if they had all the answers, then we would not be sitting on this side of the Chamber, and they would not be sitting on that side. The fact of the matter is that after 9 long years of good economic times, the country had had a gutsful of the way that Labour had played the game.
I will talk about the whole issue of the 90-day trial period. A long, long time ago, back in the 1980s, I was a union organiser with one of the better unions around—the Northern Clerical Workers Union. Every member of the Northern Clerical Workers Union had to have a trial period. It was written in the national award that there was a trial period for every new employee. Members opposite say that the 90-day trial is just National being anti-union. I will tell members what I am anti: the people who run the unions, who think that it is their God-given right to tell workers what to do. I wonder what Andrew Little’s wage is. I wonder whether it is the wage of a normal, working-class engineer or of a member of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. I bet members that it is not.
I bet members that some of the union boys whom I used to know—I know I am supposed to be calm, because it was only a month ago that I had a bit of an event. This matter has nothing to do with my health; it has everything to do with this country’s health. That is why at the last election people voted for us to get through the hard times. It always happens. National is put into office during hard times because a National Government is the only one that can get this country through the hard times with forward-looking legislation. We talk about our future; we know our future. We want a brighter and better future for our kids and our grandchildren, and we are certainly not going to get it if we leave it to that lot over there.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.
Rodney District Council Bill
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : I move, That the Rodney District Council Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time, I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
The purpose of this bill, as set out in clause 3, is “to constitute the Rodney District Council as a unitary authority”. As such, it will have the responsibilities, duties, and powers of a territorial authority and a regional council in respect of the Rodney District. Clause 4 of the bill specifies that the Rodney District will retain the boundaries that it has had since the local government reorganisation in 1989. It will also retain its existing wards. Because of time constraints, it is necessary to defer the local authority elections for Rodney for 1 year. There will be an election in 2011 to cover a 2-year period, and triennial elections will resume in 2013. This is set out in clause 7 of the bill. Consequentially, Rodney is excluded from the Auckland region and the new Auckland Council under this bill.
The whole saga of Auckland governance has been a confused jumble and an unbelievably undemocratic process. Because of the Government’s mishandling of the decision making around Rodney’s inclusion in the Auckland super-city, Labour believes that this bill should go to a select committee for a fair hearing. I state firmly that Labour supports the original boundaries as proposed by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, but in the interests of democracy—
David Garrett: Democracy?
DARIEN FENTON: I say to Mr Garrett that in the interests of democracy this bill should be given a fair hearing. That is because the Government has ignored the legitimate concerns of the people of Rodney, and Rodney has not had a fair say on it. This is another chance for the Government to get this issue sorted out once and for all.
This is a local bill promoted by the Rodney District Council, which has been through all of the hoops required to get this bill to Parliament. If the member David Garrett does not understand what it has to do, he should go and read up on it. The Rodney District Council and the media have repeatedly asked Rodney citizens whether they want to be part of the Auckland super-city, and the answer has never changed from an emphatic no. A Colmar Brunton survey in April showed that for every person in Rodney who supports becoming part of the super-city, two oppose it. The pattern of opposition is the same in the north, the west, and central Rodney, as well as in the Hibiscus Coast.
There are some differing views about this bill, which reflect the results of the poll—one person in three does not agree. The Northern Action Group, for example, wants the boundaries changed to reflect the select committee’s original recommendation that the Rodney District should be divided in two, with the boundary based on a line between the mouths of the Pūhoi and Makarau rivers. It is fair to say that the council and the citizens of Rodney have sent a consistent message to the royal commission, the select committee, and their local National MPs that they want no part in the super-city. They have been saying consistently that Rodney’s future should not be decided in Queen Street instead of Warkworth, Wellsford, Matakana, or Whangaparāoa.
The Prime Minister, the Minister of Local Government, the Associate Minister of Local Government, and local National MPs have given the people of Rodney false hope. They have repeatedly offered their support to this community and their community representatives, telling them that they should make submissions and that they will respond to them. There was no response. They told the community they should trust the process to deliver the right result, but I ask for whom will it be the right result. They told the community they should put in a petition and the Minister will receive it on the steps of Parliament. A petition was put in on the steps of Parliament; it had over 6,000 signatures from the Northern Action Group and the Wellsford Community Group. The Minister Rodney Hide received it and then it disappeared. Rodney residents were told they could opt out via a reorganisation proposal, but then the Government legislated to ban any reorganisation for the next 3 years. They even told the people of Rodney to get their council to put together a local bill. That is what the people of Rodney have done. Here is their local bill, and the Government should be supporting it.
Unfortunately, I hear that more false hope is being generated and held out to the Northern Action Group, with hints that another local bill to exclude north Rodney and join it to the Kaipara District Council would have every chance of success if it were not for this bill, because this bill gets in the way. If that were true and it were that easy, I have to ask why the Government did not support my amendment to exclude north Rodney when the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill was going through Parliament in June. It is true to say that the Government panicked over the north Rodney boundaries. Despite what the select committee report recommended on the second super-city bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, just 24 hours before the select committee brought the bill back to the House, the Government did a complete flip-flop on John Carter’s decision and decided to bring the whole of Rodney in. John Key attempted to blame the decision on reports that he had received from select committee members. That was outrageous; one of his own Ministers was the chair. The fact is that the Government has dithered around on the issue, has made the wrong call, and has been forced to adopt the initial royal commission recommendation in the wake of widespread public outcry.
Rodney District Council is doing exactly what councils should do. This council has gone to its people, has asked what they want, and is now reflecting that through this bill. This bill is the result of the democratic process required for local bills, which is different from that of other bills, and it should not be ignored. The Government has badly mishandled the creation of a super-city, and the decision making on Rodney’s inclusion has been a fiasco. This bill is now the only option open to the people of Rodney District.
This local bill is not perfect, but it is the only democratic response left in a highly flawed and cynical National-ACT process. The people of Rodney have behaved honestly and honourably. They have been tricked and have been given false hopes. They have been sold out by the people whom they relied on to represent them in this Parliament. The people of Rodney District ask this House once more to let them determine their own future. I ask the House to please support their local bill.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : The first thing I want to say in the first reading of the Rodney District Council Bill is that most of the time when there is an issue of real importance in the community, people protest. One such issue was the foreshore and seabed. Something like 25,000 to 30,000 people parked up outside Parliament. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of that legislation, I would say that the protest showed that a lot of people had a view that was contrary to the view of those putting forward the legislation. During the process of the three pieces of legislation on the super-city, the biggest demonstration was on Māori representation. Then came the huge demonstration that was organised by none other than the great organiser, the great leader of 50-odd people—
David Garrett: John Minto.
Hon TAU HENARE: No, it was my colleague across the Chamber who decided that it would be the biggest protest about the super-city.
David Garrett: Oh, Mr Twyford.
Hon TAU HENARE: Well, I did not say the name. There were only 40-odd people and an ambulance there—and the ambulance was not there for me. I like protests, because I think they show what people are thinking about issues and whether they support issues. The next big protest was the Queen’s Birthday weekend vehicle protest against the super-city and in favour of having their own little fiefdom up there.
Louise Upston: How’d that go?
Hon TAU HENARE: There were thousands of people leaving Auckland on the Friday, and even on the Thursday, to get away for Queen’s Birthday weekend, and there were no hold-ups.
Phil Twyford: They used to vote National.
Hon TAU HENARE: Actually, they have always voted Labour. People like that have always voted Labour. The fact of the matter is that at the next election we will see the Hon John Carter, the Hon Phil Heatley, and the Hon Lockwood Smith all hold their seats, which are based in that area. Do members know why? It is because those people not only support National and their local members of Parliament—because they are good local members of Parliament—but support the idea of a super-city.
Phil Twyford: Has he read the bill?
Hon TAU HENARE: It is hard not to read the bill. There is so much rubbish in it, one laughs when reading it. It is a bit like a cartoon. It has been put together by people who want to protect their own jobs. That is all it is. The bill is only about protecting the power and the wages of those who will lose their jobs in October of this year. That is all they are worried about. They are not worried about being part of a local community board. They are not worried about being part of a bigger prize at the end of the rainbow. They are after the protection of their jobs and their wages or salaries and all.
Phil Twyford: What an insult!
Hon TAU HENARE: It is an insult. It is an insult to the people who want to see this country go ahead.
I cannot believe my luck—this is the third opportunity I have had to speak in the House since that event some 30 smoke-free days ago. Do members know what this issue is all about? It is all about getting the pump of the economy going. We will not be able to do it by supporting the establishment of little backwater fiefdoms. That is not democracy; that is just self-interest at its worst.
Phil Twyford: He’s sold out to big business.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh yeah. Whom did I sell out to?
Chris Tremain: No one.
Hon TAU HENARE: Exactly—no one. Those who have sold out are those with these “good” ideas. All they have done is try to protect their own wages and protect their own outdated and outmoded philosophies.
Hon Darren Hughes: What did the party-hopper do?
Hon TAU HENARE: Let us talk about some party-hoppers. Winston Churchill was a party-hopper, and, frankly, I quite like Winston Churchill. I think Winston Churchill was a great man—a fantastic man. I wish members opposite would calm down. I know what happens to the old ticker when people get stressed out. The only words I can bring to this debate before I sit down are “calm down”. I tell those members to calm down and open up their arteries so the blood can flow through, and let Auckland—[Interruption] I have had 30 smoke-free days. I do not smoke anymore; it is a disgusting habit.
Hon Darren Hughes: He’s a convert to every cause.
Hon TAU HENARE: Actually, I do not care whether people smoke.
Most people in the area of Rodney, further north, want to be part of a great big Auckland movement. They want to be part of the new Auckland. If there is a chance that we have not got it right, there is an opportunity to tweak and change. But we will not be going back to the old left-wing philosophy of having little fiefdoms all over the place, because the people who get control of those little fiefdoms are the people on the left in central government.
The Auckland legislation brings more power to the people of Auckland. It brings more power to the people of north Auckland, east Auckland, south Auckland, and west Auckland. [Interruption] That is what this crowd do not want to happen. They do not want the power to be left in the hands of the people; they want the power to be left in the hands of their mates like Bob Harvey and Len Brown. They are all the same. They want to control their own little fiefdoms and their own little power bases. That is all I have to say.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : I just want to say how good it is to see the previous speaker, Tau Henare, back in the House. He is quite an interesting member. I think he started many years ago in New Zealand First, then he turned to Mauri Pacific, and now he is in National. By the speech he just made, he is smoke-free and will be joining the Māori Party in its policy.
I think local bills demand a bit more respect. This Rodney District Council Bill would be unnecessary if the Government had done what it should have and had a referendum of the people of Auckland. Then this bill would not have reached the House. I want to thank my colleague Darien Fenton for bringing it to the House. It took a Labour list member to do it. Other members of Parliament are associated closely with Rodney, such as the Speaker of the House, the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith. I can understand his reasons why he may not want to address the House. John Key, the Prime Minister, is probably too busy.
Hon Maryan Street: Too busy doing what?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, he is going around everywhere smiling. He is going around saying we will not have any mines, with an ear-to-ear smile as he says it.
H V Ross Robertson: From cloud to cloud.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is right. So the people of Rodney who want this bill before the House are disappointed. There are other members of Parliament from the North Shore, like Wayne Mapp. He dodged the crossfire; he did not want to be involved. We have Jonathan Coleman, but he did not want to know about it. Of course, we have—
Darien Fenton: Or Murray McCully.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Or Murray McCully. He is over in Afghanistan, and many people hope that no harm comes to him. But I doubt that all those people would come from Rodney, because they are very disappointed. They want to stay by themselves. Labour supported the reorganisation principle, right from day one, but the National Government forgot one thing, and that was to listen to what people were saying. I suggest to Rodney Hide and John Carter that they take a call on the first reading of this bill and say why they will not support it. We know they will not support it. I know that Rodney Hide is busy trying to get his vote up. I was at one of his meetings, on Monday, where he shared the platform with Penny Bright. That is desperation politics, but that is what happened. Will those members support local people like Bill Townsend, who worked like nobody’s business to try to make submissions and have the Government take notice of him? It did not happen. Penny Webster, Mayor of Rodney District Council, and a former member of this House and former member of ACT—
David Garrett: Former!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, they cannot afford too many formers or that member will be gone. I must say I would not advertise the fact; I would sit there quietly, take a deep breath, and get on with things. People who by substantial majority in a referendum say they are opposed to what is happening should be shown the decency of seeing this bill going to the select committee. I know that the select committee will bury it; that is what happens. I am doing a local bill for Manukau City—a prostitution by-law bill—but I know that it will not go very far, because Manukau is going into Auckland. But Manukau goes in with its eyes wide open; Rodney is fighting it, and other communities are still very, very unhappy. Papakura people are bitterly disappointed that the Government did not listen to them. They were told by John Carter: “We’re listening.” But they were not hearing. We need a voice in the House to represent that area, and I am really pleased that Labour is doing it, even though we do not hold a parliamentary seat on the North Shore. When all else is lost, people come back to Labour. That is what they will be doing; they will be coming back to Labour. The people of Rodney will not forget this betrayal.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the Rodney District Council Bill, which is a local bill. This bill seeks to create the Rodney District Council as a unitary authority and separate it from the Auckland super-city.
H V Ross Robertson: Where’s the passion?
Dr CAM CALDER: I acknowledge that, indeed, the people of Rodney are extremely passionate about this, I tell Mr Robertson. Some are passionate to have a change, and some are passionate to stay in the super-city concept. I have here a very recently received email from a western corridor focus group that constitutes a representative forum group, with one representative from each of the ratepayers and community associations of Riverhead, Coatesville, Taupaki, Kūmeu-Huapai, Waimauku, Muriwai, Helensville, Parakai, Kaukapakapa, and Shelly Beach. These people are not in favour of this bill, so I think it is wrong to suggest, as we have heard in the House, that this bill has unanimous support in Rodney. I acknowledge the contribution from my colleague Tau Henare. It is good to see him back in the House after his somewhat chequered last 30 days.
One thing we know is that the previous Labour Government called upon a royal commission to investigate the problems occurring in Auckland. That royal commission found, after 18 months of consultation, 3,500 submissions, 500 oral submissions, and advice from experts, that there were huge problems—suffocating red tape, transport bottlenecks, and lost opportunities for development. The commission said that doing nothing was not an option and that an Auckland super-city was the way forward. The commission found many things holding up Auckland in relation to the way the city was run. In particular, it felt there was a lack of leadership, and that Auckland required a leader to unify all the district communities and provide a single vision for the greater community. The commission wanted important Auckland-wide matters, which were getting tangled up with competing interests of local councils, to be dealt with by a single authority.
The commission did not think to ignore the local communities, and the people of Rodney can take some comfort from the fact that the local boards will be the face of local government. They will have an important role to play, and the people elected to local boards will play a huge role in the Rodney community. They will be locally elected people, who understand their community’s concerns and hopes. Local boards will be required to meet regularly with the communities they represent, and they will be required to formally consult their communities when developing their local board plans. They will have a wide-ranging role. They will make decisions on local matters, provide local leadership, and strengthen and build that local community. Local boards will also provide important local input into region-wide strategies and plans, including those of the council-controlled organisations. Auckland needs to move forward together. I think it is for that reason that National has good reason to not support this bill. Thank you.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : Kia ora koutou. It is a privilege to speak to the Rodney District Council Bill, which is essentially a rearguard action by the people of Rodney, who have been steamrollered into something they did not want a bar of—and for very good reason. I have some affinity for the area, having lived at Whangaparāoa for some 13 or 14 years, and I recently held a public meeting in Whangaparāoa. It was on an entirely different topic. The meeting was attended by Green Party members and supporters, but also, predominantly, by members of the public who were perhaps not politically affiliated. One needed only to scratch an inch below the surface to find a great deal of anger and frustration at the fact that Rodney has been pushed into this unwanted and, in many ways, unnecessary amalgamation.
Our colleague Tau Henare, who spoke earlier, was reflecting on what I think is an extremely optimistic view, which is that the Government will not take a political hit on this issue. I will disabuse the member of that belief. There will be a political cost to this. There is a great deal of anger and frustration at the loss of democracy, as there has been throughout the very ungainly and unsatisfactory process of melding Auckland into one mass.
This local bill is a result of the frustration about that hostility and that attack on democracy, which has occurred in Auckland and elsewhere, particularly in Canterbury. Throughout the region, people feel disenfranchised. They have spoken but they have not been listened to. Mr Twyford and I, and other Labour and Green MPs, ran a series of meetings. We went around the entire region to hear people’s stories, including the stories of people from Rodney. They presented very compelling arguments as to why at least north Rodney—if not, in fact, the entire district—ought to be left out of the amalgamation. Over 6,000 people signed a petition. They went to the trouble of presenting that petition to Parliament. They also sought people who supported the amalgamation, and they managed to find only a few hundred in north Rodney who supported that contrary view.
It is true that a number of people think that the super-city is a good idea. Many of those people are under what is clearly a false belief that they will get a bigger slice of a larger pie. In some quarters there is some understanding and expectation that Rodney going into the Auckland super-city will mean that more money is spent in Rodney on roading, on infrastructure, on transport, and on other public amenities. We know that whoever comes into the council in a few months’ time will use a great deal of money, expenditure, and other resources simply to establish the super-city and simply to get some workable form to the very poorly designed super-city and the increasingly poorly implemented process of creating the super-city. It will be a very long time before the Auckland Council has the time or the wherewithal to consider the outlying parts of the city—Manukau District, Franklin District, and, indeed, Rodney District.
There is a reason why the proponents of the super-city were so determined to have Rodney District in the super-city, particularly north Rodney, which is primarily a rural environment and far from Queen Street, far from the west, the south, and the North Shore, which are primarily urban developments. I have one word and that word is land bank. Some would have it that Greater Auckland should aspire to have a population of some 2 million people, which is 600,000 or 700,000 people more than we currently have. Clearly, those people will want to live and work and enjoy recreation somewhere. It is very clear that Rodney District is being preserved as a land bank for future development, despite the wishes and aspirations of people who currently live there, particularly given that there is a strong push to move the metropolitan urban limits in the false belief that the spatial plan will render such an organism unnecessary.
This bill represents a good statement of the very deeply held feelings of the Rodney District people, and the Greens will be very happy to support the Rodney District Council Bill on that basis. Kia ora.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) : I do not know about the members on the other side of the House but I am a resident of Rodney District, and I have been in contact with councillors—or, should I say, they have been in contact with me—for some time on this whole issue. I want to correct the record. Statements such as “The people of Rodney think this”, or “The people of Rodney think that” could not be further from the truth. The best that one can say is that the people of Rodney are highly divided on this issue. It would be fair to say that there are many—and I am happy to admit that I am one of them—who think that the best solution would probably be a split between the Kaipara District Council and the super-city. The question, of course, is where that split should be.
I attended select committee hearings where a number of options were considered and put forward, such as the northern railway line that runs past my house, which would have put me in the Kaipara District, and the ridge for the catchment of the Kaipara Harbour, which would have put me in the super-city. There was no consensus on that but there was certainly consensus on one thing. Aside from a small number of Rodney District councillors and a few of their supporters—perhaps a few hundred; Mr Clendon talked about the petition, and I think he said 600—
Darien Fenton: 6,000.
DAVID GARRETT: That would probably be the total number who wanted a unitary authority.
There are 90,000 people in Rodney. I had a meeting with Mayor Penny Webster, a former MP, as Mr Hawkins noted. She timed it very badly, because a few days before the meeting I received an email from a woman in Australia who was complaining about the number of MPs we have to run this place. She asked why we need 122 MPs to run New Zealand when the Greater Melbourne Council has 20 councillors and they have a population of 1.8 million.
When I went to see the Rodney District Council I made that point. The councillors were rather sheepish. Then I asked them how many fulltime-equivalents they had. I do not want to misrepresent what I heard, but it was in excess of 400—400 fulltime-equivalents. I was astounded. Then the mayor said it was a very wide area. I asked whether she had been to Melbourne. I said it takes half a day to get across it by train.
So the Rodney District Council has 20-odd councillors, I think, for a population of 90,000, and Melbourne is able to manage 1.8 million with the same number. That is a perfect example of why this is a very bad idea. I am not sure whether Ms Fenton has actually been past the great castle in Centreway Road, Ōrewa—the “not to be for much longer” headquarters of the Rodney District Council. It is astounding. It is a huge castle of a building for 90,000 people.
Last year a councillor rang me, gave his name, which I will not give, and told me that the Rodney District Council budgeted $6 million—this is last year—for new vehicles—
Hon Members: How much?
DAVID GARRETT: —it was $6 million—when it knew it was going out of existence in November the following year. That is an absolutely scandalous misuse of ratepayers’ money—and I am one of them. I am a ratepayer in the Rodney District. The Rodney District Council was so dysfunctional some years ago that the Government had to put commissioners in to run it. I believe they were actually physically attacking each other. So as an example of a unitary authority model, one could hardly pick a worse one than the Rodney District Council.
I will end as I started by saying I agree that the community is divided. Many people, and I am one of them, think that probably—probably—the area should be divided. The area I live in, Kaukapakapa, is definitely rural. It does not have very much in common with Parnell—in fact, nothing, thankfully, which is why I live there. Most of the people around my area would be much happier with the Kaipara District Council. But the crucial thing is that we will all get a shot in 2013 to make submissions and move the boundary, but in the meantime one could not pick a worse example of a council as a unitary authority than this one, and any claim that the people of Rodney wish this to happen is simply nonsense. Thank you.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) : During the select committee process associated with the Auckland Council law reforms, Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara referred to a historical request from 1860 from the rangatira Paora Tūhaere. The rangatira issued a plea for unity between Māori and the Crown in governance. It was a plea that appears to have fallen by the wayside in recent months, but not for want of trying. I believe that this Rodney District Council Bill is an expression of the effort made by both local government through Rodney District Council and mana whenua by merit of the work undertaken by Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara.
The purpose of this legislation is to constitute Rodney District Council as a unitary authority. The Māori Party takes as a starting point that a unitary authority must, by its very nature, ensure the authority of mana whenua. Our approach to the Rodney District Council Bill is similar to any bill in the local government policy framework, in that Te Tiriti o Waitangi provided at a minimum that tangata whenua should have an equitable say in the decisions that affect them via Treaty-based representation. But in the case of Rodney, it would appear that a unitary authority for the local authority is a concept that mana whenua have already been working with and alongside of. We know as a result of a memorandum of understanding that Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara has already consolidated with Rodney District Council that both authorities often work together. This partnership is demonstrated in practical ways to ensure the best outcomes in terms of water infrastructure, with projects linked to wastewater, water conveyance, and stormwater.
As mana whenua, the iwi, the hapū, and the marae have indicated consistently that they will not willingly abdicate their responsibilities regarding kaitiakitanga, and, as such, have advanced a particular role in relation to co-monitoring. This has been evidenced in the Environment Court. In essence, it is observed in means such as facilitating consent. I hasten to add, of course, that the emphasis towards kotahitanga to work together in the process of pursuing a single intent has been demonstrated by Ngāti Whātua through the south Kaipara takiwā for other than the council process alone. I am thinking particularly of a partnership that evolved between five mana whenua marae in south Kaipara and a primary health organisation aimed at improving the health of Ngāti Whātua whānui. That way of working is destined for success, and it has been recognised in the New Zealand Health Innovation Awards.
We also understand that Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara is a key part in the council’s social well-being strategy. This is the whāriki, the foundation, upon which we respond to this bill. We know that the die is cast already and it is highly unlikely that the bill will proceed through the House, but I think it is important for the record to note that Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara have recognised the benefit of the memorandum of understanding they negotiated with the Rodney District Council. It is the basis for a relationship of goodwill between the two parties.
The Rodney District Council is the only council out of three others that sit within that tribal rohe that has established this form of relationship with Ngā Rima o Kaipara. As such, it has been of great value to the people. The key question now is inevitably around the new Auckland Council’s capacity to engage with the iwi and hapū of Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara ki te Tonga. We have been advised that Naida Glavish, the chair of Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara, has indicated that they would engage reluctantly with any advisory board of the Auckland super-city. We are apprehensive that the relationship established under the memorandum of understanding will continue with the new Auckland Council when the council comes into effect. We would not want to place at risk the level of input that Ngāti Whātua Ngā Rima o Kaipara currently holds in regard to the decision-making process around issues relative to Rodney District. We support this bill at its first reading to provide a forum for discussion about how to best invest in a unitary authority that brings mana whenua alongside.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : Sometimes this Parliament is a court of last resort, and today is one such occasion. For the people of the district of Rodney, this is their final opportunity to have a say, to have their day in court.
The people of Rodney submitted to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, they submitted to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee on the second super-city bill, and they lobbied their elected MPs in good faith. Still frustrated, the people of northern Rodney gathered a petition. I will correct the gentleman from Taupaki—David Garrett, the member for ACT—who said that they gathered only 6,000 signatures. Well, those 6,000 signatures in northern Rodney were collected from a community of 22,000 people. That is an impressive result in anybody’s book, I think.
The Government invited the people of northern Rodney to submit a reorganisation proposal to take Rodney out of the super-city, but in the next breath, under this Minister of Local Government, it banned any reorganisation proposals in the Auckland region for the next 3 years. This local bill, the Rodney District Council Bill, was brought to the House by my colleague Darien Fenton. It is the last chance for the disillusioned and disenchanted of Rodney District.
Why do the people of Rodney deserve to have a say on this issue? There are three reasons. The first is that this ACT-National Government has utterly mishandled and mismanaged the entire Auckland reorganisation process over the last 18 months, particularly in relation to the inclusion of Rodney and the people of Rodney in the Auckland super-city. It has been a fiasco.
The second reason is that the people of Rodney District do not want to be part of the Auckland super-city. A Colmar Brunton poll of a sample of 1,200 people stated that 52 percent of the people of Rodney District opposed Rodney’s inclusion in the super-city. A bare 21 percent said that they supported their community’s inclusion in the super-city. Those results are absolutely clear.
But it is not just the people of Rodney who are unhappy about being press-ganged into Rodney Hide’s super-city by this Government. Those poll results can be found throughout the entire Auckland region. No matter which way we ask people the question—whether they feel like they have been listened to by the Government, whether they think their lives will be better under the super-city, or whether they think things will be run more efficiently—almost always about 50 percent of the respondents say no. They do not think life under the super-city will be better; they do not want to be part of it. All the polling that we have seen published in the last 6 months indicates that this Government is lucky if it can muster 20 to 30 percent of people who support the super-city.
The third reason Labour is supporting this bill is that the National Government would not give the people of Rodney their day in court. It would not allow them to have a say at the select committee on whether they should be incorporated against their will, against their wishes, into the super-city.
The member for Rodney declined to sponsor this bill. The member for Northland—even though he is the Associate Minister of Local Government and was quite happy to chair the select committee—would not sponsor this bill. The member for Helensville would not sponsor this bill. The member for Waitakere would not sponsor this bill. Four Government Cabinet Ministers whose electorates overlap with the district of Rodney refused to sponsor this bill, but my colleague Darien Fenton did the right thing and brought it to this House.
Those three reasons are why we are supporting this bill. It is a bizarre fact of this situation that Labour supports, and has supported throughout the super-city process, the royal commission boundaries. We believe, based on the planning and the environmental arguments, that Rodney should be in the super-city. There are very persuasive reasons to protect the metropolitan urban limits and to prevent rampant urban development leapfrogging over urban limits into the hinterland. There are very good reasons in terms of managing Auckland’s long-term growth that Rodney should be part of the super-city. But, in spite of that, we think democracy means that the people of Rodney deserve to have their day in court.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) : This bill, the Rodney District Council Bill, really demonstrates this Government’s inconsistency and duplicity. In my contribution to this bill, I want to demonstrate that. Fundamentally, the bill is about enabling the voices of the people of the Rodney District Council to be heard in this Parliament. By the very reaction that the Government is taking and by the actions taken by those who should be representing the interests of this conservative electorate, the Government is really disabling the views of the people of Rodney from being heard. The Government has failed the people of Rodney by not fronting up and also by making little of the arguments that they are presenting. Not one National member north of the bridge has come forward to say that he or she would at least put his or her name to a local bill, which is the tradition. Not one of those members has done that. The people of Rodney will not forget it.
The people of north Rodney are good and reasonable folk. They essentially want to represent the views of the people whom they have campaigned very actively with. They make it quite clear that they want to get north Rodney out of the super-city, following the view of the majority of the members in this area of that city. That argument is pretty important and pretty powerful, yet they are not being enabled to be heard here.
Government members are being absolutely inconsistent. They take a particular position when it suits them, but on the same principle they discount it when it does not suit them. I remember very well when the Hon Maurice Williamson came to this House and said what a wonderful thing it was that the people of Howick, the people of Te Irirangi, had had a big meeting, had signed petitions—he brought the box into the House—and how important democracy was. On the basis of that, the Hon Pansy Wong and the Hon Maurice Williamson supported the name change and carried the day.
I ask what happened in this particular case. Howick does not even describe Te Irirangi, which is a beautiful name. It has local meaning as well, but members opposite used, in that case, the principle of “the voice of the people”. Well, what happened this time? The people of north Rodney have come together, with 6,000 signatures. They have described to us how they walked street after street to find people at home to sign the petitions, but the Government is being inconsistent and illogical. My colleague Darien Fenton and I were invited in the summer of this year to go to north Rodney and have a public Labour Party meeting there. I asked my wife to come along. I said that it was a very conservative electorate, and there would probably be 20 people there, if that, so we could go and have a meal.
Dr Cam Calder: Did you take the red machine?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: They are the people who elected the Government last time, so Mr Calder should listen to what they said. When we went there the hall was full to overflowing. The people were angry. They were absolutely annoyed that the Government was not listening. It is an insult to those people that the Government has not listened.
The position taken by Tau Henare today was that those people were interested only in themselves, and that is why the bill is here today. That is an absolute insult to the people of north Rodney. I hope they are listening to this debate or will read the transcript, because they will realise that the Government is not interested in actually living by the democratic principles that this country operates on. The party opposite sings its praises all the time, but it is inconsistent. The Government talked about mining, but now it says that the people do not want it, so we will not have it. Yet the people of north Rodney do not want to be part of the Auckland super-city.
This bill is about giving a voice to the people of north Rodney. They will not have that voice. I thank Darien Fenton for bringing the bill forward. It is a shame, and a black day in the history of this Parliament really, that the people of north Rodney cannot come and have their say. Thank you very much.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : I cannot say I am surprised at the response from National and the ACT Party and their decision to vote against the Rodney District Council Bill. I do not think the people of Rodney will be particularly surprised, because it is just another event in a very long pattern of their being let down by their parliamentary representatives, being ignored, and being put through a ridiculous and undemocratic process. I am sure that members opposite will be hearing from them directly, and I am also sure it will be noted that there has been no contribution from those members in this debate. I thank the Greens and the Māori Party. I know that Dave Clendon has been, as he said, around the district, and certainly I have too, with colleagues Phil Twyford and Rajen Prasad. For the information of the ACT Party member David Garrett, I live in Taupaki, which is in Rodney District, and nobody has asked my opinion on that side of Rodney.
This is a sad day, as my colleague said. We are seeing a pattern emerging, where this Government is willing to ride roughshod over local views and local opinion. I find it ironic. I like the comparison with the back-down on mining, drawn by my colleague Rajen Prasad. Apparently that occurred because the people have had their say. The people of Rodney have tried to have their say through a proper process, and let me just remind the House what that process entails. A local bill is not something that I just draw up and bring to this House. A local bill has to go through a very complicated legal process. Consultation with the local people is required. They are allowed to have their say. There must be notifications, and the Clerk has to be absolutely convinced that that process has been followed.
Even though I felt privileged to take up this local bill and put my hand up, I believe that the members from the local area have some explaining to do. I would have thought that if the Government was so confident about its process and about what has come out of a year’s work on the super-city it would welcome a debate. It would have welcomed the chance for the Rodney people to come and have a say through the only democratic means left to them, which was a local bill. I think they deserve better from this Government. The people of Auckland certainly deserve better. As I said, it just follows a trend we are seeing from this Government—a Government that ignores local views: for example, the decision to fire the board of Environment Canterbury without any local consultation.
The Government has been intimidated, I think, by the very malevolent presence of the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide. So tainted has that name Rodney become, that I would not be surprised if there was an application to the Geographic Board to change the name—
Dr Rajen Prasad: Change his name.
DARIEN FENTON: The Geographic Board cannot change his name, but it could change the name of Rodney, and I would not be surprised if we saw that at some stage. I doubt that this will be the last—
Sue Moroney: It could be called Darien.
DARIEN FENTON: They could call it Darien. That is right: the Darien District. That sounds pretty good to me.
I doubt this will be the last time we hear from Rodney on this issue, or from north Rodney. They have vowed to keep fighting. They will do that, through the ballot box next year. Members opposite should not be too confident about picking up those National Party votes next time. Members would be surprised how many people are now saying, all over the place—not just on this issue but on a whole lot of other things, such as cuts to early childhood education, and so on—that this Government has to go.
In closing, I acknowledge all of those who were involved in bringing this local bill together. I acknowledge the Northern Action Group and the Wellsford Community Group. Those people went from farm to farm, from door to door, collecting 6,000 signatures, to bring the issue to Parliament and present it to the Minister because they were promised they would be listened to. They have been let down once again. I also recognise all the other groups in the community that have tried to contribute to the democratic process surrounding what is a massive change. They have been let down. Promises were made, and the people have been let down. I think this whole process has been hijacked by this Government. This is a very, very disappointing day for Rodney.
|Ayes 58||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.|
|Noes 64||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.|
|Motion not agreed to.|
Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : I move, That the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill be now read a second time. Hoi anō, kia ora tātau e te Whare. I te tuatahi hei wāwāhi i waku kōrero, ka huri te titiro ki a koe kai taku rangatira e Tau, kua hoki mai koe ki tō Whare. Nau mai, hoki mai me tō ate hou hei whakahihiko i te ngākau, ka mutu, e hari koa ana kua hoki ora mai. Nau mai, hoki mai. Otirā, ki a tātau e hoa mā mō te āhuatanga o ngā mate o te wā, waiho rātau kia moe. Anei tātau kua hoki mai ki roto i ngā pakitara o te Whare, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātau.
Ko tāku i te tuatahi he mihi kau atu ki te komiti nā rātau tēnei pire i titiro i ngā marama kua hipa. Ka mihi rā ki te Local Government and Environment Committee. E hoa mā, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te mihi ki a Chris Auchinvole, te tiamana o taua komiti i whakatuwhera nei te kūaha kia tae atu ahau ki te whakatakoto i ngā kōrero e pā ana ki tēnei pire. Ki a au nei, i āhua areare mai ngā taringa ki te tikanga o taku pire, ka mutu, ahakoa he āhua uaua ki ētahi. Ko te mea nui i tae mai ngā tāngata o te motu ki te whakatakoto i ō rātau whakaaro ki mua i te komiti, ka mutu, i rongo te komiti i ngā kōrero. Te āhua nei e kore pea e eke ki te taumata i wawatatia mai ai i ngā marama kua hipa engari ko te mea pai, i kōrerohia, i wānangahia. Nō reira, ka nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa i kaha rongo nei i te tikanga o tēnei pire.
[So greetings to us, the House. First of all, I open my address by looking in your direction, Tau, my honourable member; you have returned to your House. Welcome back with your restored heart that makes you vibrant within. How happy I am that you are back and alive. Welcome back, welcome back. In respect of the departed fellow members, allow them to rest there. Here we are, back within the walls of the House, so greetings to you collectively, and to us all.
First, I want to acknowledge the Local Government and Environment Committee, which considered this bill in the past months, and the members on it. To you, the committee members, thank you. To the chairman of that committee, Chris Auchinvole, I greatly appreciate the opportunity you provided that enabled me to appear before the committee to make personal representations on this bill. I feel that the purpose of my bill struck a chord somewhat with those who listened, even though some had difficulties coming to terms with it. The important thing is that the people of the country came before the committee to present their views, and ultimately the committee heard them. I get the feeling, however, that what I desired in the past months will not be achieved, but the best thing that has come out of this process is that it was addressed and debated. So I appreciate greatly all of you who listened intently to the purpose of this bill. ]
The Waitangi Tribunal’s He Maunga Rongo: Report on Central North Island Claims of 2008 stated that the taking of lands in the central North Island was “a major grievance”, and that “the compulsory taking of land and resources—without consent and sometimes without compensation, by legislation unsanctioned by Maori communities—has given rise to an enduring and powerful grievance.” This bill, which I have put forward, responds to that challenge to address the enduring and powerful grievance of the legislative history that has been unsanctioned by Māori communities.
Māori land has over the years both been taken under the Public Works Act for a specific purpose and purchased by the Crown for specific purposes. In most instances, land sold to the Crown for a specific purpose has been sold by Māori for only that specific purpose, and for no other. With that principle in mind, this bill, which I have had on the books for some time, proposes either that land sold to the Crown should be offered back to the original owners and/or their descendants, or that compensation should be offered. That is the point of the bill.
We have a legacy of Waitangi Tribunal reports in this land that suggests the Crown has historically failed to honour its obligations and responsibilities as articulated in article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Those reports have said in the strongest terms that the Crown has an obligation to protect Māori land for use by Māori for as long as Māori wish. We know too that the evidence of these words is revealed by the amount of land taken from Māori by the Crown and its agencies using the various tranches of the Public Works Act over successive generations.
During the select committee process submitter after submitter, when describing the way in which Māori land has been taken in a disproportionate manner over the decades, told us that the Public Works Act 1981 creates discrimination. Atareta Poananga shared her views on the way in which the Waitangi Tribunal’s reports have dealt with public works takings, and talked about the fact that they have described what she called “a crucial insight into the human cost of Crown policies and practises … In the Turangi Township Report for example the Tribunal described the statutory powers of the Crown as ‘draconian’ and that many ‘suffered grievous spiritual loss, the scars that remain today’.” She reported that “The Crown operates from a world view that assumes the inherent superiority of certain values and beliefs which are firmly rooted in Western Law.” Her challenge to the committee was that “Tikanga Maori should be elevated to the same status as Tikanga Pakeha”.
Atareta Poananga also advised the select committee of the view of Te Roopu Arataki, a group of Māori who were considered to combine a specialist technical focus with knowledge of tikanga. Te Roopu Arataki assisted Land Information New Zealand on policy development for a review of the Public Works Act. It was their unanimous opinion that “not one more acre of Maori land should be taken for Public Works purposes.”
I might add that this is the phrase that my colleague Hone Harawira has upheld in the last couple of days. In fact, he has breathed new life into that phrase, which originated in the Māori Land March to Wellington 35 years ago. The march had as its slogan, as I say, “Not one more acre”, because Māori were scared about how much Māori land was being gobbled up by the Crown. Such is the passion that many of our people have in wanting to retain their land. This bill is related very much to the passion that our people sang about and continue to sing about, and in some cases even march about.
My view is that this bill has the most honourable intentions. The bill proposes amendments to the Public Works Act 1981, specifically section 40, in order to ensure, firstly, that the former owners of land who have been deprived of that land by the Crown for the purposes of a public work are given the right of first refusal to purchase that land when the Crown no longer requires it for the particular public work for which it was originally acquired. Secondly, the bill would ensure solatium payments for the former owners of land who have been deprived of their land for a public works purpose for which the land was never actually used. Thirdly, it would ensure that where the former owners are deceased, the descendants of the former owners can exercise the rights set out in section 40(1).
I have read the view of Land Information New Zealand that the purpose of the bill is already met through the current mechanisms for redress, compensation, and offer-back available through the court system and te Tiriti o Waitangi settlements process. But I put it to the House that the very solid evidence that came out of the approximately 71 submissions on the bill was that all the legal and Māori submissions were actually in favour of the bill’s proposals. I understand that the select committee does not want the bill to proceed; that is a little bit disastrous. That is its view, and there is little that I can do about it, unfortunately. But I strongly recommend that section 40 of the Public Works Act and the incidental sections be reviewed.
It is my strongest view that the Crown has an obligation under te Tiriti to protect, preserve, and promote the retention of Māori land by Māori by adopting policies and practices that facilitate that obligation. Given the major role that the Crown has played in the dispossession of Māori of their land, the Crown must have a major role in rectifying the critical land-loss situation that Māori confront in 2010. The dispossession of land from Māori is an indictment on the Crown. We will never forget that where Māori once held 660 million hectares, now, in 2010, Māori control less than 6 percent of the land mass of Aotearoa. We say “Not one more acre”.
The Public Works Act as a whole was often used in unscrupulous ways. Against that background, although the members of the select committee understood that the intention of the bill was laudable, the practicalities of such legislation were clearly a bridge too far to cross.
Finally, I submit that the failure of the Crown to protect Māori land as agreed to within article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a blatant breach of its obligation to Māori. I stand on notice before the House to say that if this bill does not proceed today, the Māori Party will nevertheless continue to uphold, and be dedicated to, our commitment to protect and preserve the whenua that is still in our hands, as tangata whenua, and for the generations to come.
In closing, I thank in English the select committee for giving solid time to the bill and for listening carefully to my submission. I thank the select committee for giving time to all of the many submitters, and I publicly thank the submitters, who took time out to provide information to the select committee. That was really well appreciated, and I am hopeful that in the end a review of the Public Works Act may well be a positive outcome. Kia ora tātou.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman) : I stand to speak on the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill. I begin by thanking the honourable member Mr Te Ururoa Flavell for his hard work on the issue, for the seriousness with which he has approached the issue, and for the excellent level of discussion that has taken place in regard to this bill at the Local Government and Environment Committee.
In reflecting on Te Ururoa Flavell’s final comment, which was that he hoped that the consequence of this bill would be a review of the Public Works Act, I can perhaps turn that round slightly without causing offence and say that in the event of the Public Works Act being reviewed, this issue could be part of that review. I think that a review will probably be wider than just this issue, and I think we basically had good agreement on that in the committee.
National rightly supported this bill’s referral to the select committee as we felt it was important that the issues were debated. The Public Works Act was reviewed in 2001, but despite the noise it generated at the time no changes were made. This is one of the reasons why, almost a decade on, it has been worth revisiting this debate. Mr Flavell’s bill has obliged people to consider the Public Works Act, and although the broad intentions of it are good, there are significant concerns associated with the bill as used and as drafted, particularly as to the past, and the potential impact of its provisions. These concerns were pointed out in some of the 71 very sincere submissions we received, and were again highlighted in the advice we received from Land Information New Zealand, the Government department that administers this Act.
This bill seeks to ensure that former owners of Māori or general land taken or acquired by the Crown for the purposes of a public work are given the first right of refusal to purchase that land, where the Crown no longer requires it for the public work for which it was originally taken or acquired. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you have easily understood that sentence I suggest that you could do the cryptic crossword in the Guardian and find it a dolly.
Let me give an example that was brought before the select committee by one of the submitters. Let us suppose that land was essentially bought for a purpose, such as a runway, but then the runway was moved into a different direction and therefore the land was eventually used, say, to house cool-stores at the airport. That was not the purpose for which the land was taken, and that, basically, is part of the argument that affects this whole issue. The bill as drafted would do this, through amendments to section 40 of the Public Works Act 1981.
The bill would also provide for solatium payments to be made for loss of land or opportunities associated with its use where land was acquired or alienated for a public works purpose for which it was not actually used. Where the former owners of the land are deceased, the bill would pass these rights to be exercised by their descendants.
As we noted in the select committee report, it would appear that the bill’s offer-back and solatium provisions are intended to apply retrospectively, and then we start into the major financial, practical, and legal implications, should this bill be enacted. The committee was advised that the number of previous Public Works Acts in New Zealand’s history have all permitted land to be acquired for one use and then used for another if changes in use were in the public interest, and that this allowed for the effective and efficient management of land for public works purposes.
I dare say that members of the House can begin to see the complications that creep into this well-intentioned provision. Provisions proposed in the bill could undermine and invalidate these historical changes of use. In effect, all land where the current use is different from the original public work would become surplus on enactment of this bill, requiring the investigation of this land and its offer back to former owners or successors, and they would have to be defined, irrespective of whether the land was acquired compulsorily or by voluntary agreement. This would be a most unfortunate, unintended consequence.
And not only that—there is no central and easily searchable register of land acquisitions, transfers, and disposals under the Act since it was first enacted in the 1870s. There are likely to be thousands, possibly thousands upon thousands, of properties held by the Crown or local authorities that are not currently used for their originally intended public work but are still being used for a public works purpose.
As such, if this bill were passed it is likely that every Crown agency, local authority, State-owned enterprise, and Crown research institute would have to make an initial assessment of all land under its control in order to establish whether the bill’s requirements affected that land. We were provided with copious illustrations by local authorities as to the detail involved in that. If any part of that land was not being used for the original work, a full offer-back investigation under section 40 of the Act would be instigated. As one can imagine, the resulting workload would be unduly burdensome and costly, especially as implementing the offer-back provisions of the current regime can take up to 12 months for a single property. There would also be impacts on the future use of land.
Let us consider, for example, the situation in which the Crown currently has land, or land has been acquired by local authorities for public works, and it is transferred or set apart for another public work. It is often considered more efficient and cost-effective to use land already in Crown or local authority ownership for a new public work, rather than to acquire more private land. However, if this bill were to be implemented there would be the likelihood that all land in this situation would first have to be offered back to the former owners or their successors, and then we come to the problem again of defining exactly what a former owner or successor is.
The process of offering back and then reacquiring land sounds like a logistical nightmare, and indeed it would be. For a Government that is about cutting red tape and simplifying and streamlining our resources, I would suggest that this bill is the opposite of what we would wish to achieve. Also, to create this degree of bureaucratic procedure was not, in my mind, the intention of the author of the bill. Aspects of the Public Works Act are being reviewed in phase two of the Resource Management Act reforms anyway, which I look forward, as a member of the select committee, to being involved in.
This bill has been carefully considered by the Local Government and Environment Committee, and I take note of the very kind comments that Mr Flavell made towards the seriousness that was given to this bill by the committee, collectively and by individual members. I can certainly say, on behalf of the committee, that it was a very interesting bill and it certainly exercised our minds. I stand by the select committee report, which highlighted many of these difficulties and problems, which, I repeat, were not anticipated by the author when the bill was introduced. National is opposing this bill. Thank you.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) : I start by congratulating Mr Flavell on bringing the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill to the House. One of the important duties of a member of Parliament is to put before the House one’s own ideas and the changes one wants to make. This bill is all about trying to make a difference. For that reason alone, I congratulate the member.
I also say to him that this bill brought about so many issues that one did not know about when one first read it. It became more and more complicated as we went into it. I say to Mr Flavell that perhaps, in the fullness of time, we will see another bill based on this issue. You see, when a member presents a bill to the House, that member does not have the resources that a Government has to plan it, or to look at all the fish-hooks that are in it—and there are many in this bill.
No one can criticise Mr Flavell for having honourable intentions and realistic expectations that the House will want to address the fairness element of the Public Works Act. The Public Works Act is not all about fairness, at all. One of the submitters was the Ardmore Airport company. The land at Ardmore was originally used in World War II as a place where a military airport could be built. Of course, over the years things have changed. It is a very, very busy airport. Indeed, if this bill had proceeded it would have caused all sorts of dilemmas for the airport.
I think one of the worst aspects of the Public Works Act, which was drawn to the attention of the select committee, was that many of the original intentions for taking land under that Act changed over time. When people take land and turn it to some other use, people soon forget the original use. Ardmore Airport turned into a teachers’ college, then Auckland University’s engineering section, and housing, and now it is being used as an airport. The No. 4 Squadron of the Air Training Corps has a base there. A helicopter service is there now. Things change over time, and this bill needs to address those sorts of questions.
We have a situation whereby many councils around New Zealand would be terrified if the bill went through unchanged. They would be scrambling to see what land they took under the various provisions of the Public Works Act and what consequences could flow on from that. For example, land may have been taken many years ago and be now used for public reserves. Land taken for public reserves may now be used for car parking. There could be all sorts of problems.
People came along to the Local Government and Environment Committee and made submissions. The really interesting thing in listening to the submissions was that no one was against the basic concept of being fair and making sure that land is used for its original purpose. But time is a funny thing—it changes things dramatically. I think most people realise that. Things changed quite dramatically in relation to Ardmore Airport and the Auckland International Airport. I well remember that at Māngere, where the international airport is, there was once a grass flying strip with cows all around it. It is now quite different, and it will continue to change.
I think that we make these moves under the Act with the best of intentions. I well remember having to deal with some of these issues when I was the Mayor of Papakura, and it was always a dilemma to try to change the purpose for which land was taken. I say to Mr Flavell that he should not give up. Hopefully, when there is a review of the Public Works Act this matter will become part of that review.
There is a strong feeling that a lot of the land that has been taken under the Public Works Act has been Māori land. When people feel aggrieved by land being taken from them they do not get down to the fine detail of why it was taken and what it is now being used for. It was their land and it is not being used for its original purpose. I do not think this will be the last time we debate this matter in Parliament. I hope that either later on in the term of this Parliament or in the next Parliament there will be a new bill. I think the challenge is to the Government itself to introduce legislation and use the resources it has to present what is a very complicated issue to the House in a way that enables many of the problems to be resolved. When one is a member with not very many resources it is extremely tough.
I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that everyone on the select committee took a great interest in the bill. That interest was nothing other than genuine and I think we did the best we could to work through some of the problems. But they were too numerous. I do not think that the bill could be put in a workable manner. The select committee has reported back in a way that I think clears out all the fish-hooks. We have laid them open. No one on the select committee criticises Mr Flavell. I think that everyone on the committee thinks he did a good job.
I conclude by saying that, yes, a lot of work has been done by the Waitangi Tribunal and lots of problems have been solved. This is another problem, under different legislation, that needs to be addressed. I hope it will be. Finally, I say once more that Labour understands and has sympathy with the issue, but we cannot support the bill in its present form.
NICKY WAGNER (National) : I rise to debate the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill in the name of Te Ururoa Flavell. This bill looks to amend the Public Works Act 1981. It seeks to ensure that former owners of Māori or general land taken or acquired by the Crown for the purpose of public works are given the first right of refusal to purchase back that land when the Crown no longer requires it for the public work for which it was originally taken, and also that solatium payments can be made for loss of land and loss of opportunities associated with the use of that land when the land was acquired or alienated for public works use but for which it was not actually used. The key here is that it was not actually used.
The Local Government and Environment Committee has considered this bill. There were 71 submissions and a lot of interest in the bill, which led to some fascinating discussions. Te Ururoa Flavell and the Māori Party acknowledge that although the bill contains issues that should be addressed, the bill in its current form is too far-reaching and broad. It raises a new set of issues that would be significant for the country. They further acknowledge that the Land Information New Zealand report on the bill recommends that it not proceed. It recommends that the bill does not proceed because of its retrospective element, which would negate legitimate past use of the public works land and expose the Crown and local authorities to significant financial costs. It recommends that the bill does not proceed because it creates a very restrictive and costly regime for future strategic planning and management of public works and the return of public works land. It recommends that the bill does not proceed because its purpose is already met by current mechanisms for redress for compensation and offer back, available through the courts system and the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.
The report also notes a series of technical difficulties with the bill. Te Ururoa Flavell suggests that although the bill should not proceed, he would like to see either an overall review of the Public Works Act or at least a review of section 40, which provides a series of issues that he feels any review should include. The first issue is the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Public Works Act. He would like to see a special review of section 40 because it fails to acknowledge and address the historical injustices created by the use of the Public Works Act to dispossess Māori of their land. He would like to see solatium payments made available by the Crown to beneficiaries, and considers that the Māori Land Court is an appropriate forum to determine these issues.
The Local Government and Environment Committee reported back to the House that it did not want to proceed with the bill. However, it recommended that when the Public Works Act is reviewed the issues raised during the consideration of this bill are included in that debate.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) : It is a pleasure to speak on the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill, although it is with some regret that like many of the other contributions this evening mine will be to oppose the bill, for all the same reasons that have already been canvassed. But, like others, I would like to start by congratulating Te Ururoa Flavell on bringing this bill to Parliament and getting it through to a select committee. It was a long road for Mr Flavell. The bill was first introduced in July 2007 and it did not get its first reading until June 2009. So he waited patiently for that first reading. The issues were significant enough for most parties in the House to see fit to send the bill through to a select committee, where those issues could be properly addressed and considered. It was at the point of the select committee consideration that some of the perhaps further fish-hooks in the bill were discovered. That is not to say that there is not resounding support for what Mr Flavell is trying to achieve, and already a few different options have been suggested. Mr Flavell said that he would like to see a review of the Public Works Act, and the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee, Mr Auchinvole, has said that perhaps one day it will happen, and this issue could be one thing that is considered as part of that review. I hope the debate that has occurred in the select committee and here in the House might help stimulate the Government into proceeding with such a review, and other things may be included in that review, but I hope that Mr Flavell’s concerns might also be addressed.
The Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill sought to ensure that the former owners of Māori land—or general land, for that matter—that had been acquired by the Crown for the purposes of public works are given the first right of refusal at the point when the Crown no longer requires that land. It also sought some redress where that land has been used for purposes other than what the Crown originally intended it for. This bill had merit. The issues were certainly worth considering, and that is why Labour supported its referral to a select committee. Mr Flavell opened his address by thanking the select committee and by saying that the door was open. He said that he felt listened to and that the bill was discussed by everybody. I am sure that the people of Rodney would have enjoyed receiving the same level of consideration from the Government. They, of course, were shut down at the first reading of the Rodney District Council Bill. But again this is an issue of land, of who controls land, and of who has a say in the way that we use our land. I think that the people of Rodney had just as much reason to have their consideration taken to a select committee and to have the sunlight shine on their issues, as well as on a whole host of other things.
This is a rare moment when this Government has actually given people the opportunity to make submissions on a members’ issue. There were 71 submissions on this bill, which means that the discussion was obviously quite varied and a range of views were heard. Well, a range of views could have also been heard on the bill of my colleague Phil Twyford about the privatisation of Auckland’s assets. There could have been some good discussion on that bill at a select committee. Darien Fenton had a bill to discuss minimum wages for contract workers. That would have been quite a good bill to have at a select committee, as well. I think that the discussion would have been interesting and that we could have come back to the House to consider what the people had to say and what the public thought about that bill, just like with this bill, but, no, the Government shut that one down. Ruth Dyson had an amendment to the Resource Management Act to do with the requiring authority status. That bill was shut down at the first reading. Winnie Laban had, I thought, a very important bill dealing with the rights of the families of people who are suffering from poor mental health, and I know that that bill came very, very close to making it through to a select committee. That would have been a good bill to refer to a select committee.
Do members know what the common theme is here? Those were all Labour bills, and the Government was not prepared to allow those bills to go through to a select committee. We have seen with this bill that there is a very good opportunity to hear the issues at a select committee, and to maybe not progress the bill any further after that but to stimulate some debate so that those issues can be considered, and may then be looked at in another way. With this bill, there has been a proposal about a review, or maybe there are already a few mechanisms available through the Treaty of Waitangi and other issues. But that has all come up as a result of the parliamentary process. It seems that the only way that one can get this Government to rethink its position on anything is to march up Queen Street in Auckland to show the Government that there is political will against what it is doing and that maybe the result of the next election would be at stake. Then we would have a back-down, as we have seen with mining. Then we would get a back-down.
Chris Auchinvole: What’s this got to do with Te Ururoa’s bill?
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: But it would be far better to use the political process in the way that Mr Flavell has with this bill. It is a good bill with good intentions. It has raised a number of issues that were worth considering, and I know that the select committee took a lot of time over them and listened very closely to the submissions. That is the value of our process, and it could be used in a whole range of ways. But I think that the issues with this bill have been well covered by previous speakers. It is a pity that it will not go on, but I think that this is not the end of this issue. We will see this issue again. Maybe Mr Flavell will find another way to put it through in legislation. Maybe the Government will suddenly rumble into action and look at the Public Works Act and at all the other anomalies that it may have within it. But I congratulate Mr Flavell on bringing this bill to the House. It is sad that it will probably not progress any further than this second reading, but he has raised some important issues that are worth discussing.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : Kia ora koutou. This Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill seeks, in essence, to give Māori the first right of purchase, the first right of refusal, for land that the Crown has acquired compulsorily, in the event that the Crown no longer has use for that land and seeks to sell it. Māori should have the right at the very least to have first option of buying back land that was taken through the Public Works Act. The Green Party supported this bill’s referral to a select committee because it is a way of addressing a process that has been going on in this country for a very long time—that is, the process of alienation of Māori land. The classic colonising model evolved with the usual impact of bibles and bullets, and introduced illnesses played a demoralising part. Starting as early as 1841, in came a whole raft of legislation—and, indeed, the Native Land Court and the Public Works Act—as some of the legislative mechanisms that either deliberately or consequentially served to deprive Māori of their land, resources, and possessions.
The Treaty Resource Centre has a very instructive document on its website listing legislative violations of the Treaty over the years, from 1840 through to the early to mid-1990s. That document runs to some four or five A4 pages, and it is not a list that should give any cause for celebration or pride to those who are responsible or who have benefited from some of those changes—in fact, quite the contrary. The bill we are considering today seeks to make some contribution to reversing a process and to put in place some provisions that undo some of the harm that has been done over generations.
The point has been made that virtually every report, every hearing, of the Waitangi Tribunal will contain within it some reference to the effect of the Public Works Act in facilitating the alienation of Māori land—the taking of land from tangata whenua. In some instances, compensation was not paid for the land at the time that it was taken. It is interesting to note that in 1908 the Public Works Act first authorised the taking of land by the Crown for public works. At that time Europeans had the right to compensation and the right to appeal, but those rights were not applied to Māori land until nearly seven decades later. It was 1974 before that playing field was evened up. It is an indication that there was not a great deal of goodwill even through the 20th century towards putting right the alienation. The success of the campaign to alienate Māori land can be readily seen in the historic numbers. In 1840 Māori had control of some 66 million acres of land, and within 12 years, by 1852, that had been reduced to some 34 million. Nearly half of the land had been taken by various means. This process went on inexorably, it seemed, well into the 20th century and even into the 21st century, with the foreshore and seabed raupatu in 2004 and the confiscation of that land.
This bill is clearly not being supported by the Government, albeit there is obviously some expression of goodwill towards the principle behind it. But in the interests of restoring justice and some of the material wealth that has been lost, it is important that there be a review of the Public Works Act. We support the view of the proposer that in the course of the review, consideration ought to be given to inserting a Treaty clause into the Act. There needs to be acknowledgment of the historic injustice done, and there need to be some remedies and some mechanisms to remedy those, including solatium payments.
It was quite interesting to note the Land Information New Zealand report to the Local Government and Environment Committee on this matter, which dwelt at some length on solatium payments. Clearly, officials were quite troubled by the notion and the principle of those payments. The report noted: “Solatium payments and loss of use are subjective economic considerations, which would require a highly detailed assessment.” The report goes on to say: “Potentially, the former owner of the land or their successor could be compensated twice.” We accept quite happily the first proposition, which is the notion of subjectivity. Mana, justice, and fairness are very subjective notions that need to be established and debated. Value needs to be assigned to them, but that ought not to frighten us away from the principle of solatium payments at some point in the future. The second proposition, the idea that somehow former owners or their successors would enjoy double compensation, is patently wrong in the way it was posed in the report, but that is a debate for another day and a topic to be returned to.
I think the key assurance that the proposer of the bill should reasonably be expected to secure is a genuine commitment from the Government to return to the primary Act in a timely fashion, and to undertake the significant review that is called for. There is clearly good will for that; it has been expressed here on all sides of the House. I hope that that will not be lost, and that the review will proceed in a timely fashion. The Greens will continue to support this bill, acknowledging, as we do, that there are significant problems—fish-hooks have been referred to—but we support it to inflate the importance of the principle that is underpinning this bill, which is the return of land, and the compensation for land inappropriately taken for which there was no compensation offered. We think that despite support being given for the principle that has been expressed by Government speakers, there is no absolute responsibility on the Government to return to this Act and to have that done sooner rather than later. Kia ora koutou.
LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) : I am pleased to stand to speak on the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill in the name of Te Ururoa Flavell. As other speakers have said this afternoon, the motive for this bill is worthy, but in practice the further the Local Government and Environment Committee looked into this bill, the more troubling it became. A number of submitters were in support of the intent behind the bill, but they raised serious concerns from a wide range of quarters, whether they were the Manukau City Council, the Wellington City Council, groups such as Federated Farmers and Vector, or airports such as Auckland Airport.
I will talk about some of the challenges that have arisen as a result of the submissions to explain in a little bit more detail why this legislation will not work, why National will not be supporting it in the second reading debate, and why the select committee as a whole reported back that it recommended that the bill not be passed. There are a couple of issues or challenges, such as the retrospective nature of the legislation, the definition of “original use”, the unintended consequences that arise, and also the impact on future land use.
We will look first at unintended consequences. I will use an example that Vector, which opposes the bill, brought forward. It is not just Māori land that is affected by this bill, it is all land. There could be a situation where a piece of land was subject to discussions under the Public Works Act and was then acquired voluntarily through a sale and purchase agreement. That land would then be subject to this legislation. So, no matter how the land was acquired, it would be subject to the offer-back requirements. One of the issues is that even if the land is not required for the original purpose for which it was purchased, it may be required for other public works. I will give a couple of examples of that. One of the problems with this bill arises in a situation where there is a piece of land that is currently used for a public work. There could be more than one public work utilising that site. Co-location is more prevalent these days, so the problem becomes compounded.
In terms of the retrospective nature of this legislation, the bill would create significant expense both for central government and local government. It would be incredibly inefficient to have to offer back land to the original owner, assuming we could track them down. If the land were still being used for a current public work, even if not the original public work, that organisation, whether central or local government, would have to go through the process of repurchasing that land, which is very bureaucratic and cumbersome, and, of course, not at all what this current Government is interested in; we are about getting rid of red tape and getting rid of bureaucracy.
Then there is the issue of original use. Again, this Government is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure, unclogging the arteries of our country. I will not go into the matters of unclogging arteries like the Hon Tau Henare has already described earlier in the House today. But I do want to give a simple example of how original use can change over time. If we think back, there may have been some land that was purchased, let us say, for a post office or a manual telephone exchange. Over time, the land went from a post office, to a telephone exchange, to a cabinet on a side of the road, and now to a fibre optic cable under the ground. The argument that submitters raised was in respect to whether that fibre optic cable was the original purpose for which that land was acquired. If we were looking at it from a pure perspective, we would argue that it was not. If we look at it from a pragmatic perspective, we would have to argue that it does, and that is why the original use definition creates significant problems.
If we take that argument forward, we can then look at the impact on future land use. I will use the example of an airport. An airport clearly needs room to expand in the future if it is planning for a 50-year horizon, not a 5-year horizon. One of the airports that came to submit to us said that it had significant blocks of land that were for the purpose of an airport. Currently it did not need that land, but it would need it in the future. All of a sudden, there would be a problem if this bill were to pass whereby that airport would have to offer back the land that it was not currently using for an airport but would need in the future. It would then have to hope that in the future when it needed the land it would be able to purchase it back, which is fairly unlikely. That is a bit ridiculous. Those are some of the complicating factors with this bill.
Another unintended consequence of the bill was raised by Wellington City Council. It gave another example of a difficulty around a public work and the use of the land. The Wellington City Council gave the example of a paper road that is not used as a road, but is used for the very important purpose of flood control. Under this legislation, I ask whether we would expect the Wellington City Council to have to offer back the land that it so desperately needs for flood control, because the land is not being used as a road. Those are numerous examples of how difficult this legislation was the deeper we delved into it.
I must say again that the intention of the bill was great. I commend Te Ururoa Flavell on bringing the bill to the House and on getting it through the select committee process. He and the select committee members recognise the difficulty with progressing it further. I recognise that there are some difficulties and some problems that need to be solved, and some of the submitters also said that the public works legislation needs further attention. This Government will look at aspects of the Public Works Act when it does its phase two reform of the Resource Management Act. The first phase was incredibly successful. It is great to look towards the next round of reform, part of which will incorporate the Public Works Act.
We do recognise on this side of the House that there are some issues, but unfortunately this bill does not fix them. I look forward to being part of the committee working on the second phase of the Resource Management Act to pick up some of the issues with the Public Works Act. Thank you.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : I rise to support Labour’s position in this debate that this Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill should not proceed any further. We supported the bill at its first reading. We believed it had considerable merit and it deserved the chance for proper scrutiny, analysis, and debate at a select committee. That is what it got. I want to join those before me in this debate who have acknowledged the good intentions of Te Ururoa Flavell in bringing this bill to the House. There is no doubt that the select committee engaged with this bill with a great deal of seriousness. There were 71 submissions to the committee. Almost everybody recognised that there are significant issues of rights and justice associated with this bill. As a consequence, there was a seriousness about the debate. However, at the conclusion of the debate, a strong view had formed on the select committee that this bill carries with it too many unintended consequences, and that its effective result would be to open a can of worms that is too big and too challenging for our current legal framework in this area to deal with. The consequences would make it unworkable.
I shall reflect a little on the Public Works Act, and what an important role it plays within our legal system and the modern history of this country. Others have noted that a view was formed in the course of the select committee process that this bill correctly identified a problem but offered an unworkable solution. I suggest that part of the reason for that is the underlying problem that the Public Works Act itself represents a trade-off between two different sets of values. On the one hand, we have private property rights, which play a central role in our society and our culture. On the other hand, the Public Works Act is a product of 19th and 20th century thinking about the development of the State—infrastructure, ports, roads, bridges, railways, and public buildings. It is the full gamut of physical infrastructure that is needed for the development of the State and the pursuit of the public good.
There is no doubt that in New Zealand, as elsewhere around the world, the original Public Works Act, which we inherited from the British jurisdiction, played a critical role in the early nation-building of Julius Vogel, with the expansion of roads, rail, and so on. Over the years the legislation had evolved to recognise the rights of property owners. Nevertheless, the Public Works Act itself gives powers to the State to override private property rights in the interests of the community. Those two values are in contradiction. A careful web of concessions, rights, responsibilities, and obligations has built up over the years around the Public Works Act. To start unpicking that now, or to seriously renegotiate the balance between those two legal principles, is an ambitious proposition that almost all of the submitters and the select committee were not willing to entertain.
Two key concerns emerged from the discussions at the select committee. The first is the retrospective nature of the application of the buy-back provisions and the solatium provisions. It was felt by many of the submitters and, I think, by most of the committee that it would have destabilising and impractical consequences for the administration of the Public Works Act in New Zealand. The effect of the passage of this bill in its current form would be to deem all land that had been acquired under the Public Works Act surplus land overnight, and it would necessitate a massive project of historical research and legal determination to work out whether the provisions of this bill would apply to thousands and thousands of pieces of land from one end of this country to the other, whether former owners or their successors could be identified, and whether land would have to be offered back. Thousands of properties all around the country have been used by the Crown and local authorities for numerous different purposes since the Public Works Act was enacted in the 1870s. We believe that that would have been completely unworkable.
The second big objection is the impact on the future use of land and that the provisions of this bill would have created such an enormous compliance cost on local government, the State, and the various other Crown entities that are empowered under the Public Works Act. They currently have huge portfolios of land that have been acquired under the Act and are being held for some future public work, are in the process of being transferred or set apart for some reason, or are in the process of being disposed of when no longer required. The view we heard from many of the submitters, particularly from local government, airports, and ports, was that the rationale built into the Public Works Act allows the use of a piece of land that has been acquired under the Act to be changed over time if it is seen to be in the public interest. On balance, that is a more efficient and cost-effective way to use these resources than it would be to offer that land back to former owners before the use could be changed.
The effect of this would be to completely freeze up the process of the acquisition of land under the Public Works Act for infrastructure. Personally, I am extremely conscious that we have an infrastructure deficit in this country. When I look at Auckland, I see that the needs for investment in infrastructure over the next couple of decades are huge. We are talking about the rail system Auckland needs, which Steven Joyce is back-pedalling on as fast as he can, the investment in broadband, and the investment in water, infrastructure, and electricity. Those needs are huge in our country’s biggest city. The appropriation of land under the Public Works Act for this infrastructure—not only for roads, rail, electricity, and water but also for the urban renewal projects that are so needed in Auckland—will require the agglomeration of land under the Act to undertake the kind of ambitious urban renewal that Auckland needs. I would hate to see the ability to acquire land for these purposes compromised or jeopardised.
Those are the two main objections that emerged from the discussions in the select committee. I cite an example that Waitakere City brought to the select committee about land on the Te Atatū peninsula that was acquired by the Auckland Harbour Board in the 1950s. The board thought the land might be needed for a future port for Auckland. There is no evidence that that land was compulsorily acquired. It was negotiated and paid for, and the land was held. Obviously, no port was ever built there and periodically Waitakere City reviewed it. The land has been used for many other public purposes, including being set aside for a marae and recreational purposes.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Dr CAM CALDER: I acknowledge the work done by my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell on the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill. I have had the privilege of sitting on the Local Government and Environment Committee, which heard submissions on this bill, under the exemplary chairmanship of Mr Auchinvole. We heard many submissions from airports, ports, and public utilities. It became apparent that there were many possible complications and unintended consequences of the bill, which is the reason that National is opposing it.
Some of these concerns and complications follow; my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell has himself acknowledged them in the select committee. These were unintended and became more obvious as the complexity of the legislation and the situation became apparent from the many submitters. The bill in its present form creates too many complications to be workable. It would require strict definitions of “original owner”, “descendant”, and “original public work”, to name a few. These definitions could be in conflict with other legislation, and interpretation could be difficult. It would probably require every Crown agency, local authority, State-owned enterprise, and Crown research institute to make an assessment of all land they hold to see whether it may be affected, which, of course, would be a very costly and time-consuming exercise. It is more efficient and cost-effective to use land already in Crown ownership or local authority ownership for new public works, rather than acquiring more public land.
I do not wish to speak at length on this bill. I acknowledge my colleague’s work on this but National will not be supporting it. Thank you.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) : It seems entirely fitting as MP for Te Tai Tonga to have the last word in this debate on the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill. I want to take us back to the words of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1991. The report began with the now historic statement: “The narrative that follows will not lie comfortably on the conscience of this nation, just as the outstanding grievances of Ngai Tahu have for so long troubled that tribe and compelled them time and again to seek justice.” The Tribunal acknowledged Ngāi Tahu’s generosity to the nation and noted that “Ngai Tahu have not objected to giving up their lands when they were satisfied that this was for the public good. They are, however, well justified in objecting to the Crown’s failure to return such land once that public interest has been served … To be consistent with the obligation to protect Ngai Tahu’s rangatiratanga over their lands, we feel that the tribe’s continuing interest in lands devoted to the public good should be recognised by the Crown.”
When Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu presented to the Local Government and Environment Committee it was, no doubt, the weight of these words and the legacy of this history that led them to their deliberations. The rūnanga fully supported the intent of the bill but suggested that the bill does not go far enough. I acknowledge my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell for his determination, his vision, and his steadfast endeavour to ensure that no more Māori land will be taken by the Public Works Act.
I have been sitting in the Chamber this afternoon listening to the speeches made by the members who have spoken on this bill, and I have to say that I am extremely disappointed in the attitude that has been taken. Members said that the further we got into this bill, the more unintended consequences we saw. They said that it was impractical, that there were huge compliance costs, that it was difficult to deal with in the public good, and so on and so forth.
I will give a little bit of history to the House. I am from Te Wai Pounamu. I am Ngāti Kōata from Te Tau Ihu; I am Ngāi Tahu from Te Wai Pounamu. The Te Tau Ihu claims report has been published, and I will read to the House one of the quotes from that report. It was a quote from my auntie Pūhanga Patricia Tupaea. She said: “Auntie Maria Tuo Hippolite (who was my grandmother) gave me the kōrero about the land we lost to the Crown. She had said that we had been promised free health, free education, and jobs in return for letting those settlers come and live on our land and that we would participate, not be excluded; that our mana would be respected. I feel great grief at the loss of our land and at the loss of our Treaty relationship. We have always acknowledged that the Pākehā European had great benefit to bring. We were, and are, willing to welcome them among us and share what we had but not to have our mana, customs, and laws disregarded and our land and resources taken. These must be restored and rangatiratanga recognised so that the partnership will resume on the right footing. Pākehā had a lot to offer us but we didn’t invite them amongst us to become our masters.”
I will tell the House a little bit about the Te Tau Ihu claims. One of those claims is about the Nelson tenths. With tenths, what normally happens is the Crown buys 10 sections, nine are sold, and one goes back to Māori. In the Nelson tenths, 10 sections were sold. Then another one was taken—not out of the 10; it was another one—and given back to Māori. So, in fact, Māori got elevenths. But the taking did not end there. Once that tenth—or eleventh, as it actually was—was put into a reserve the land kept being taken. In one particular case the report stated: “The Crown took land from the estate for public works in circumstances where it could have limited its taking to the leasehold and quite frequently where the work was not essential in the national interest nor was it essential that it be trust land that was used.” This is talking about public works.
I also quote from a Waitangi Tribunal report called “Public Works Takings of Māori Land in the ‘New ZealandGazette’ ”. It states: “The definition of what constitutes a public work has widened over the years … The Gazettes in the 1880s indicate that there were a number of major road lines and railways in construction that involved the taking of Maori land … Roads and railways, however, only constitute some of what was taken under the label public works. The sheer variety of purposes that land was taken for shows the very broad definition that ‘public work’ has had in New Zealand legislative history. The following list of the public purposes that Maori land was taken for and proclaimed in the Gazettes, illustrates the wide domain of the Crown’s powers to take land for public purposes: lighthouses, gravel-pits, police stations, hospitals, scenery preservation, school sites, native schools, electric lighting, wharf sites, cemeteries, landing reserves, stock paddocks, post offices, drainage systems, courthouse sites, public buildings, internal communications between lakes Rotomahana and Tarawera, a station for collecting rainbow trout ova, the construction of beacons and leading lights, model kaainga, waterworks, magazine reserves, abattoirs, bridges, recreation grounds, historic purposes, pilot and signal stations, travellers’ accommodation, public health purposes, and defence works. This demonstrates the immense variety of purposes for which land could be taken as a public work.”
I will also talk about public works as spoken about in the Ngai Tahu Ancillary Claims Report 1995. The Waitangi Tribunal said: “We turn now to discuss the manner in which the tribe’s reserves have been taken for public works purposes such as defence, roading, railways, scenic preservation, and recreation, as this has been a dominant issue in the ancillary claims.” It goes on to state that many times the lands were taken without notification to the owners—in fact, the only notification was in the Gazette when it was gazetted. The owners did not even know that their land had been taken from them.
“As important as the issue of notification is the Crown’s failure to return lands which are no longer required for the purpose for which they were originally acquired. A striking example of this was the acquisition of some 592 acres in 1964”—this is 1964, not 1864—“for the television transmitter site at Hedgehope. Less than one-sixteenth of the land so taken was required for the purpose. Rather than returning the surplus area, it was leased out for grazing and then set apart as State forest.” I wanted to point this case out because when members talk about how inconvenient this bill has been, or could be, I get really angry, and I am sure that other Māori around the country are just as angry. Members are talking about our land. Members are talking about our history. It was taken; it was not given back—592 acres were taken for one television transmitter. It is grossly unfair and the fact that it has not been returned is an even bigger issue of fairness.
People say that there are other forums that we can go to in order to get redress for this issue—they are talking about the Waitangi Tribunal; they are talking about direct negotiations—but the truth is that all we will get back is 1 percent of the value of what was taken from us. Even then there are letters to the paper and the public moans about it, such as a letter that I read in the Press just the other day saying that Māori were on the Treaty gravy train again. We are being made out to be the bad guys. I think it is grossly unfair that the members are not allowing this bill to go any further, and I have to say that we will not be stopping here. Kia ora.
|Ayes 14||Green Party 9; Māori Party 5.|
|Noes 108||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; ACT New Zealand 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.|
|Motion not agreed to.|
Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill
- Debate resumed from 16 June.
MELISSA LEE (National) : It is a pleasure to rise in support of my colleague and neighbour Jackie Blue. I think the last time we spoke on this bill I got slightly further than my learned colleague in front of me, Cam Calder, who managed only to put out “Tēnā koutou” before the dinner break, so I did slightly better—but still. The Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill is about consumer rights. This Government is committed to promoting an environment where consumers—all of us fit into this category—can make purchases knowing that our rights are protected. Before we broke for the last adjournment when I spoke on this bill, Jackie Blue gave some wonderful examples. The one that I remember is about TradeMe. If we as consumers win a competitive online auction from a professional seller, we are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, but if I hit the button for “buy now” on the same online auction, then I am. This is an anomaly that must be fixed.
We must remedy this, because there are unscrupulous people in this world who would specifically look for these loopholes to sell inferior goods to innocent people who get really excited about winning an auction online but find that they have no protection. I prefer to hit the “buy now” button because I cannot be bothered waiting for the auction to happen. My son likes to wait for that auction to happen, but by the end of it he is not protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act, and that is a very, very sad situation.
There is always recourse, and people could take this up with the sellers if they can find them and take them through the disputes tribunal. However, without the protection in law a disputes tribunal has little legal reason for finding in favour of the buyer. We were told by Jackie Blue that millions of New Zealanders are trading on sites like TradeMe. I am a member, my son is a member, and I have sold and bought items on TradeMe. Even my son has traded and swapped toys through TradeMe and I had to drive miles away to pick up those toys that he traded online. Now I know that he was not actually covered by this law, and was just one of the 280,000 weekly online transactions on TradeMe. We are looking at over a million transactions a month, and that is a lot of auctions that are probably won and not protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act. This bill addresses that issue.
The other issue is one that was on telly recently on Fair Go about extended warranties. Most people, naive but well meaning, and concerned to protect their newly purchased goods, often end up buying extended warranties. We have probably all done it at one point; I know I certainly have. But as we all know, it is completely useless and a complete waste of money. A lot of extended warranties that people buy at the moment cover less than what consumers are entitled to under the law. If we happen to break things by accident, most home and contents insurance cover them, so there is really no use for an extended warranty.
Having said that, there will be some people like my friends in Mount Albert who have seven children, and their washing machine will be getting a good go, 7 days of the week. That washing machine probably needs an extended warranty, but that is not so in normal, everyday cases. Customers and retailers must be clear as to what the Consumer Guarantee Act covers, as it seems people often get turned away by retailers when things go wrong because they do not have extended warranties, but the Consumer Guarantees Act should cover them. This is a good bill, and I commend it to the House.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : We have very weak consumer protection law in New Zealand, and the Green Party supports anything that will strengthen consumer protection, help to protect consumers, and keep them well informed when they are buying goods. So we are very pleased to support the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill, which helps to protect consumers in two small but important ways, and we congratulate Jackie Blue on this bill. It gets rid of the loophole that means that if consumers buy something through a competitive online auction, they are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. Obviously, when there are 15,000 businesses selling online every week, this is an important issue. There is no doubt that some unscrupulous operators are deliberating exploiting the loophole. Jackie Blue reported that the Motor Trade Association actively advises car salespeople to make use of the loophole to dispose of older and less reliable cars before the loophole is closed through legislation like this. This is shocking, and the sooner that we close the loophole the better it will be. The sooner that we pass this legislation, the better it will be.
The second issue is that extended warranties are sometimes being offered by retailers at considerable cost, when, in fact, the extended warranty provides little or no greater protection than that which already exists under the Act. We think that addressing that issue is a very good initiative, because it will mean that consumers will have to be informed about whether an extended warranty that they are considering purchasing provides any benefit, any right, or any convenience greater than that provided for under the Act. The warranty will have to include more information about what it really means, and this is important because many people do not really have any idea what an extended warranty might or might not entitle them to.
The provisions that address both those matters will assist consumers to make informed decisions about purchasing, but the underlying problem is that most consumers in New Zealand have never heard of the Act. If they have heard of it, they have absolutely no idea what it means for them. I note that the Minister of Consumer Affairs is doing a reform of consumer law. She may like to carry out a survey. I am sure she would find that the overwhelming majority of consumers have no idea that the Act means that retailers are obliged to guarantee that the products they sell are of an acceptable quality and are fit for their purpose. This means that most products should perform well for many years, and if they do not, then the retailer must be prepared to have them repaired or replaced. Most consumers have no idea of that, and I think it would be useful to consider requiring retailers to refer to this right in any pamphlet in which they advertise their product. If consumers knew of the existence of this Act, if they knew that everything that they were buying needed to be of an acceptable quality and fit for its purpose, and if they knew that the retailer must take it back if it fell apart—as many consumer goods do these days—then I think that retailers would not be able to con consumers with extended warranties, and consumers would be much better informed.
The other point I make is that all of these amendments are intended to help consumers to make informed decisions about purchases. Consumers are not exactly clamouring for these amendments to be made, but they will be helpful. Yet what consumers are clamouring for, and what would help them to make informed decisions, is the right to know where a product, especially food, comes from. It is ironic that the Government claims that it is supporting this bill because it supports the consumer’s right to know what he or she is buying, but it refuses to allow mandatory country-of-origin labelling so that we can find out what we are buying. Nor has anyone ever explained—perhaps the Minister of Consumer Affairs could explain this in this debate—why it is mandatory to know where our clothes and our footwear come from, but nothing else, including our food.
It is also ironic that the Government will not support consumer legislation to protect consumers from exorbitant interest rates and loan sharks—a bill on which is coming before this House straight after this debate—yet it puts forward this bill as being a great piece of consumer protection. One of the key objectives of the whole Ministry of Consumer Affairs is to enable consumers—
Hon HEATHER ROY (Minister of Consumer Affairs) : It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak in the first reading debate on the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill, which is in the name of Dr Jackie Blue. I commend the member for bringing this very good bill to the House.
The bill covers two issues. One is that of extended warranties, as we have heard from the previous two speakers, Melissa Lee and Sue Kedgley. Extended warranties were the subject of a Ministry of Consumer Affairs survey of 1,000 people in 2009. It was a very good survey. The previous speaker, Sue Kedgley, was clearly unaware of it, but it was very rigorous, unlike some that the Green Party has done recently.
The survey showed that very few New Zealanders knew about the implications of extended warranties. They did not realise that extended warranties provide customers with very little protection and certainly do not cover more than the Consumer Guarantees Act does. There are two exceptions to that: goods that are bought at auction and goods that are purchased by a tendering process. They are not covered in the same way. The protections in the Consumer Guarantees Act do not apply to them, and it may well be worth considering purchasing an extended warranty. But, in the main, when consumers purchase goods from a retail chain store, for example, it is most unlikely that the purchase of an extended warranty will give any additional protection to what they already get under the Act.
The second provision in this bill concerns online sales. The Green Party member Sue Kedgley mentioned my consumer law reform discussion document, which is under way at present. It was released a few weeks ago and submissions are being called for at the moment. Written submissions will close on 31 July. Verbal submissions will be heard on 10 and 11 August. Online sales form quite a part of that discussion document under the consumer law reform project, because they are a gap in the law. We heard from Melissa Lee that some purchases are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act and others are not. Confusion exists as a result of that.
The provisions in this bill are excellent. I am pleased to think that I am hearing from the House that Dr Jackie Blue’s bill will go to a select committee, at which point she has agreed to hand over the bill to the consumer law reform process. I am delighted that she has done that, because these matters will be able to be addressed at that point.
The member who spoke before me, the Green Party member Sue Kedgley, mentioned that we have very weak consumer protection law in New Zealand. That in fact is not the case. Many jurisdictions look very enviously on the Consumer Guarantees Act; it is good principles-based law. New Zealanders are very well aware of the protections offered to them under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
In the survey carried out in 2009, which I mentioned earlier, 49 percent of New Zealanders were able to name the Consumer Guarantees Act, and they knew in general terms of the protections that were conferred on them by the Act. They knew that if they had an issue with goods they had bought they could go back to the retailer, and that they have the right to have the goods replaced or repaired, or to have their money reimbursed. Those who are familiar with research will know that that was an extraordinarily good result. It shows that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, over a period of time, has done a very good job of educating people as to their rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
I am looking forward to seeing the consumer law reform submissions. I am also looking forward to hearing the oral submissions that will follow. This is a revolutionary initiative in New Zealand. We are reviewing seven pieces of legislation with the intention of rolling those into two pieces of principles-based legislation: the Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act. That will simplify the process; it means that New Zealanders will experience less confusion about their rights when they buy goods. We are aiming to set up a very level playing field where businesses and consumers can enter the marketplace with confidence. Thank you.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā nō tātou katoa e te Whare. A simple browse of today’s TradeMe listings on Māori heritage yields the following classic finds: with a starting price of $6, I could buy a vintage stereoscopic postcard of Māori children in Rotorua. It is a used postcard posted on 3 September 1906 with a genuine message on the back. For a dollar more, I could get another postcard called: “In the Ngawhas—Whakarewarewa”. It is described as being in excellent condition. Or, for the mighty starting price of $12.50, I could buy the postcard known as “A Haka for a Penny”, featuring the children of Ōhinemutu, and categorised as a “Nice tidy piece of historical significance.” All of these examples are from my electorate and my home town of Rotorua, which is the home town of the Hon Steve Chadwick, as well. The problem is that from the luxury of our computer, how do we know whether we are getting a good deal? How reliable is the classification of the stereoscopic postcard? Is it really 3-D or is the illusion of depth just a marketing technique? What does it mean to be in “excellent used condition”? Without a trademark in sight, how can we guarantee whether a postcard is a tidy piece of historical significance or just a big huge rip-off?
The Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill is about giving us some confidence with the supply of goods and services by suppliers through competitive online bidding, such as on TradeMe. We in the Māori Party support the concept of safer trading using online auction websites, and the assurances that purchases of goods and services through online auctions will be protected under the Consumer Guarantees Act. We are also pleased that this bill will require transparency with the benefits of extended warranties. From time to time some might ask how the key kaupapa of the Māori Party fits with these sorts of bills. We have rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga, and manaakitangi, and those are values that promote excellence, accountability, and transparency. We support the notion inherent in this bill that consumers should be informed about whether any extended warranty they are considering purchasing provides any benefit, right, or convenience.
One of the issues that creates some debate amongst many Māori is the cultural authenticity of objects listed in online auctions or for competitive tender. Under the Protected Objects Act of 1975, it is an offence to sell taonga tūturu—in other words, Māori cultural objects—to people other than registered collectors, public museums, or licensed dealers. It states that there should be a banned or restricted items section on, for example, TradeMe sites. The question we have is who monitors the vast range of products for sale on sites such as TradeMe. The bill requires that retailers who are offering extended warranties to consumers must fully inform the consumer about the benefits of that warranty. I remember a couple of years ago a huge furore broke out about a set of wooden stacking Māori dolls, which were selling for up to $35 a set at souvenir and gift stores around Aotearoa. Aroha Mead, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at Victoria University, said that the dolls were an insult to traditional artists. They were basically a derivative of an original Russian doll, but made in China. The key question is whether this bill will do anything to improve the extended warranty one might get for products such as those.
In closing, I note that the concept of an extended warranty is frequently applied to hire purchase agreements for vehicle sales. We know that many of our low-income communities, particularly Māori and Pacific communities, are often encouraged to sign up to hire purchase agreements as a way of being able to buy up front without needing to show the cash. It is an issue that will come up again, particularly with the next bill that is to be debated, the “Loan Sharks Bill”. It is suffice to say that we support the concept of increasing the accountability and transparency of any of these transactions. The Māori Party is pleased to say that we will be supporting this bill’s referral to a select committee.
RAYMOND HUO (Labour) : It is a great pleasure to speak in the first reading of the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill, not only because the Consumer Guarantees Act used to be one of the areas of my legal practice prior to becoming an MP, but also because I am taking a call on behalf of my learned colleague Clare Curran, who is Labour’s very diligent and busy MP for Dunedin South.
I should congratulate Dr Jackie Blue on this sensible bill. We support this bill as a fitting response to the genuine community concern about consumer protection. This bill extends the right of the consumer in an evolving market place. It is a common-sense bill that updates our legislation so that it better serves the consumer in the modern market place. Equally, I should congratulate my colleague Carol Beaumont on her Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill, more commonly known as the “Loan Sharks Bill”. Carol Beaumont’s bill protects the most vulnerable families by cracking down on loan sharks, and I heartily encourage the Government to support it on the basis of principle, not expediency.
The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 sets out a number of warranties that consumers receive from suppliers, manufacturers, and importers of goods, and from suppliers of services. It is not possible to contract out of these warranties unless the consumer of the goods or services is a business. The Act requires the supplier to guarantee that it has the right to sell the goods, and the goods must be of an acceptable quality. The supplier may remedy a failure of any goods to comply with the guarantee by repairing the goods, by curing the defect in title, or by refunding the money paid where appropriate.
That all sounds very good, and the Act serves very well in the, shall I say, conventional market place. However, consumers are not well served in the online market place; for instance, they are not protected under the current Act when entering into competitive bidding online. Loopholes exist that bypass consumer rights, and those loopholes need to be closed. This bill amends the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 to improve its operation in two areas: firstly, extended warranties, and, secondly, the supply of goods and services by suppliers through a competitive bidding process that uses an online trading facility.
The bill seeks to assist consumers to make informed decisions about purchasing extended warranties. It will provide for a cooling-off period following the purchase of an extended warranty, during which consumers can change their mind and cancel the purchase of an extended warranty and still receive a full refund. It will further extend the protections of the principal Act to goods and services supplied through a competitive bidding process, using an online trading facility, for example TradeMe. According to Clare Curran, Labour’s spokesperson on communications and information technology, today at around 12.30 p.m. over 55,000 Kiwis were shopping on TradeMe. That is a big market place. Yet under the current Act, consumers are not protected when entering into a competitive auction online. This loophole means unscrupulous sellers can often market faulty goods without fear of come-back.
To conclude, in supporting the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill, Parliament is seeking to close some apparent loopholes for the benefit of consumers. I hope that intention will continue this evening in support for Carol Beaumont’s bill, and that it will not be halted for mere political expediency at the expense of New Zealand consumers. Thank you.
KATRINA SHANKS (National) : It is my pleasure to speak in the first reading of the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill tonight. First, I acknowledge Dr Jackie Blue, who has put forward this member’s bill. I think it is fantastic when we have support from all parties for a bill that is practical. Everybody sees that the gap in the legislation can be easily fixed through Parliament bringing in a little legislation. It is a small bill, but it makes a big difference for the people whom it affects.
It is also great that the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill is being referred to the select committee that I sit on, the Commerce Committee. We are a busy, hard-working select committee, but I am sure that we will find time for this bill. I will be interested to hear what submitters have to say about this bill, and about the other bills to do with consumer guarantees that are coming before our select committee and which we are working on.
The thing about this bill is that it affects many young people in our society. Over 280,000 online trades are made a week, and over a million are made in a month. I am a parent, like many of the people who are out there listening to the debate tonight, and our kids go on TradeMe continually. They are continually trawling, trying to find that bargain, and trading their Pokemon cards or bits of Lego. They deal with professional traders and with other kids who just want to trade a Pokemon card, and like many parents out there, I drive around the city dropping off Pokemon cards in other people’s letterboxes. It would be cheaper for me to buy the cards brand new, but it is all in the spirit of TradeMe to trade and to teach children the value of the money they have.
There is a loophole on TradeMe, in terms of professional traders. If we go on TradeMe and opt for the “buy now” option, we are currently protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act.
The other option on TradeMe is to go through an auction. My children are often lucky enough to win the auction. They sit there until the last second, pushing in the last dollar, another dollar, and another dollar, even as their parents sit there freaking out at the dollars going up and up and up. [Interruption] They are buying Pokemon cards; the most expensive Pokemon cards ever, I have to say. If young people are lucky enough to win the auction, they are not protected at all. When it concerns a non-professional trader, I think that is fine, because it is in the spirit of TradeMe. But when it concerns professional traders, this legislation will change the situation to ensure the Consumer Guarantees Act will apply to those traders.
I also put out a challenge to any school teachers listening, especially in the Wellington area. This is great legislation to engage young people on. Young people trade on TradeMe, so this legislation would be great to do a bit of a study on in social studies classes. Teachers cover governance in their social studies classes, especially in year 10. That could show young people how they can make an impact by coming in and being a submitter to a select committee on something that they are interested in and that impacts on their lives. They could see how the process works.
My challenge is to school teachers and to any children who are listening or watching—they should be going to bed, as it is 10 past 8; my children should be in bed—to come along and make a submission to our select committee. This bill affects them, because TradeMe affects them. We have a very robust select committee process. Young people could come in, have their say, and see how our process works. They could see the outcome from coming in and giving a submission with their friends or as a class project. We would love to see them at the Commerce Committee.
The other area that this bill affects is extended warranties. I might go with my children to buy an iPod. The shop assistant says to get an extended warranty for 5 years, because if something happens we have this warranty and will be so much better off. If customers scratch the screen, they will be able to bring in the iPod, and the retailer will see whether they are covered. Actually, in many cases, customers should be covered under the warranty that they already have without having to buy an additional warranty. The salesperson will now have to tell customers that so they will know it when they go into the shop, and that is a really good thing.
The other thing is that there will be a cooling-off period with regard to the extended warranty. If customers get all excited in the shop when buying an iPod and purchase an extended warranty, and they then go home and their parents say that the extended warranty cost $60 more than they were told about, there is a cooling-off period so that customers can go and do something about it.
It is my pleasure to speak in the first reading of this bill this evening. Thank you.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : I will speak briefly. I thank all members for their support of the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill. I am really pleased and delighted that it will go to a select committee and be merged with the Minister’s consumer reform legislation, which he is bringing to this House, hopefully later this year. I certainly hope it will be this year. I think the matters raised in this bill are urgent and have been of some concern for some time in the sector. The online issue is urgent because of the sheer number of transactions that occur on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. I know that TradeMe has been extremely concerned. It brought in its own code of practice for professional sellers some 18 months ago because there was no legislation. It has been waiting for this legislation to come to the House.
The loophole, where if a consumer wins a competitive auction from a professional trader he or she is not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, is not something that online bidders understand. Very good points have been made about educating the public about the Consumer Guarantees Act. Equally concerning is the issue of unnecessary extended warranties being bought. The fact is that often when consumers buy items and they buy extended warranties, they are probably paying for protection consumers are already entitled to under the Consumer Guarantees Act or other consumer laws; or even their home and contents insurance policy may cover it, and possibly the manufacturer’s warranty. But, as the Minister indicated in her speech, there may be situations where an extended warranty is entirely appropriate.
Once again, I thank members for their support. I think members have raised important issues, which I am sure will be taken up at the select committee. I look forward very much to this bill becoming part of the consumer legislation the Minister is bringing to the House later this year. Thank you.
- Bill read a first time.
- Bill referred to the Commerce Committee.
Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : I move, That the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill be now read a first time. I seek the support of my parliamentary colleagues for people who are struggling, who are vulnerable, and whose families are being hurt by the actions of predatory and irresponsible lenders. These lenders, commonly referred to as loan sharks, are prospering in these hard economic times. I feel a great weight of responsibility raising an issue that has such serious implications throughout New Zealand, but particularly for low-income, Pacific, and Māori families. I have spoken to hundreds of people about this issue. There is widespread support for my bill and for the broader Stop Loan Sharks campaign. The community wants action, and it wants for this Parliament to act cooperatively to stop loan sharks.
I need to acknowledge many people. I start with Charles Chauvel, who has campaigned passionately on this issue. Charles was the original sponsor of the bill and—along with Mr Andrew Shann, who is in the gallery—has worked tirelessly on the need for regulation of loan sharks. Many members will have received detailed correspondence from Mr Shann, who is an expert in the area. I thank Andrew. I acknowledge the people who work so hard in the community to deal with the consequences of loan shark behaviour: the budget advisers. These people are true heroes. They have my utmost respect for the help they provide to people in extremely difficult circumstances. Despite being under-resourced, they often manage to do the seemingly impossible. The many budget advisers I spoke to told me that the majority of the people they see are hooked into high-interest loans. In some areas, it is 100 percent of the people they see. Community law centres, citizens advice bureaux, churches, unions, women’s organisations, Māori organisations, and Pacific organisations also assist those who suffer at the hands of unscrupulous loan sharks. I thank them all for their efforts on behalf of some of our most vulnerable people.
The purpose of the bill is to amend provisions in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 and the Credit (Repossession) Act 1997 to require lenders to act responsibly when lending and to curb excessive rates of interest. At the appropriate time I intend to move that this bill be referred to the Commerce Committee. Part 1 of the bill amends section 39 of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to allow for a maximum rate of interest to be set by regulation. Such delegated legislation avoids the need to make amendments every time there is a change in the rate of interest. An amendment to section 118 extends the definition of “oppressive” conduct to include a responsible lending obligation. It would effectively impose an express duty on the creditor to have done at least some analysis of the debtor’s income, expenditure, and commitments in order to form a reasonable belief that the debtor can afford the lending. Part 2 amends the Credit Repossession Act 1997 by limiting the amount that the creditor can recover from a debtor. This is particularly so when it should have been obvious at the outset that the debtor would not have the capacity to meet the payments. Part 3 amends the Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2004.
There is no limit in New Zealand on what interest rates companies can charge. They could charge 55 percent, 1,000 percent, or 2,000 percent. In contrast, interest rate restrictions now apply in Japan, many countries in Africa and Europe, and almost all of South America. Four Australian states have implemented pay-day lender caps at 48 percent, and nine of Canada’s 10 provinces have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, such restrictions. President Obama has undertaken to cap rates at 36 percent right across the US. In the UK the incoming Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition Government has already undertaken to implement interest restrictions on store cards, and Britain is one of the last countries in the European Union to take such measures. Responsible lending provisions are also used in other countries—for example, the UK, Australia, and South Africa. It has been successfully argued that a responsible lending obligation already exists by virtue of sections 28 and 29 of the Consumers Guarantees Act, which guarantees consumers of lending services that a creditor will use requisite skill and care and that their services are fit for purpose. However, for those in the community who have English as a second language or who have communication difficulties, having to argue the above in legal proceedings is not very accessible.
In speaking to people about this bill and the broader loan shark campaign, I have been deeply moved by what I have heard. Stories abound of people hurt by irresponsible lending and excessive interest rates. I am sure that many other members have heard of this harm. I will mention two such stories because this bill is about people, like the Tongan family that needed $3,200 to repair their car. The family have five children under the age of 13. The husband works as a storeman and the wife is a stay-at-home mother. His total take-home pay is $598 per week. They also receive Working for Families. They took out a loan with a company in Ōtāhuhu, and as security put up their car as well as two cultural mats that had been in their family for over 80 years. The loan was for $3,500. The interest charge was 55 percent over 24 months. The family had to repay $1,925 in interest, or $5,425 in total. They defaulted in the third month, then default charges started. Nine months later this family have had their car repossessed and they have had to pay for vehicle towage and storage. The family wants their mats back, but the company refuses to return them until such time as the debt is paid off in full. They have no car and still owe more than $10,000.
What about the young woman called Honey? At the age of 21 she is in huge debt, due to loans for her family members. She was extremely scared when she approached the budgeting service. She felt her only option was suicide. I quote: “I’ve done nothing but a good deed to help out when needed, but I get stepped on the back for this. I seriously want to die, as a way out of this mess. I’ve had enough. I’m 21 years of age and I’ve never been in this situation before, and I’m as scared as hell.”
There are many organisations that hear these stories and that support this bill. The Salvation Army says that it deals with people who are victims of loan shark activity daily. The activities of loan sharks in offering loans at exorbitant rates of interest cause immense suffering and lock people into poverty. The finance sector union says that the Government is developing a negative record of siding with banks and financial institutions, rather than customers. FinSec members see firsthand the negative impact of debt on borrowers and their families. The Problem Gambling Foundation says that the campaign is long overdue, and that problem gamblers are easy targets for loan sharks. The Pasifika community, in urging the Prime Minister to support this bill, explains that finance companies exploit people during their vulnerable times, and legislation is required to ensure families do not end up on the breadline because they have borrowed from an unscrupulous lender. Child Poverty Action Group says that the charging of outrageous interest rates is one of the cruellest aspects of unregulated lending, and talks about the obscene practices impacting negatively on the poorest children. The Jubilee Christian Centre points out that there are 23 references to the term “usury” in the Bible, and none speak favourably of it. They believe this should be a parliamentary-wide bill, with support from all members who have a conscience.
Last year both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister publicly condemned banks for taking advantage of credit card users by charging high interest rates of 22 percent. Although I agree with them, 22 percent does not even compare with loan sharks hitting our most desperate and poor community members, sometimes with interest rates in three or four figures. I can tell the House that the community expects us to show leadership on this issue, and to send a strong message that we are willing to work together to protect those who have been targeted. I have been very disappointed by the comments of the Minister of Consumer Affairs and of ACT and National colleagues. There have been lots of sympathetic words attached to excuses about why they will vote against this bill, such as that the bill does not go far enough. Well, it is a starting point and provides focus tools to deal with the problem. The damage is a much wider creation from low incomes, poor access to reasonable credit, and poor financial literacy. There is also the comment that the bill will not work. I believe we should test this robustly through the select committee process. Many countries have interest rate caps, and they do not seem to be having too many problems.
National MPs say they are already working on the issue. I was shocked to find out recently that the review of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, which contains some good suggestions but does not deal with excessive interests rates, has been deprioritised by the Minister. That is right; any outcomes have been delayed by a whole year. How can that be right? I look forward to hearing of the Government’s work on this matter. I now urge members across the House to do the right thing, to listen to the community, and to show leadership in helping some of the most vulnerable who are being exploited.
Hon HEATHER ROY (Minister of Consumer Affairs) : Although the Government does not support the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill, I would like to begin by commending Carol Beaumont for her desire to protect New Zealanders from some of the problems that arise from over-indebtedness and for bringing this well-intentioned bill to the House.
Credit is an important part of everyday life. It provides flexibility for consumers to access goods and services, and enables increased participation in the market. But in the current economic climate many consumers face greater challenges in accessing, using, and repaying credit. Care is needed to ensure that consumers can access credit, and also use and manage that credit appropriately.
Consumers are protected in credit contracts by the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, or the CCCFA as it is routinely called, which covers all loan arrangements that are primarily for personal, domestic, or household purposes. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs monitors the effectiveness of credit legislation. The ministry’s monitoring of the operation of the credit market resulted in a discussion paper, The Review of the Operation of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003. The paper was released in 2009 and addressed many credit-related matters, including the ones raised in Ms Beaumont’s bill.
This bill is promoted as a solution to the problems in the area of fringe lending. It has four main features. The first is introducing a cap on interest rates. The second feature requires lenders to reasonably believe that borrowers will be able to repay loans. Thirdly, the bill limits what lenders can recover, should a borrower default on loan repayments. Lastly, the bill allows pawnbrokers to charge administration fees. I would like to address each of these four parts in turn.
Ms Beaumont argues that capping interest rates will prevent excessive or exploitative profits from being made from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, and she points to caps on interest rates in other jurisdictions, as we have just heard, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and most Australian states. But the Australian Government is currently reviewing the effectiveness of interest rate caps and has stopped the introduction of further caps in order to monitor the effects of the ones already in place. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs is monitoring the outcome of this review.
The ministry’s research into interest rate caps has also found that those most likely to be affected by caps will be the disadvantaged and vulnerable borrowers whom the bill aims to protect. A possible unintended consequence of interest rate caps is that if the cap is set too high—and I would suggest that 48 percent, as Ms Beaumont promoted as a reasonable amount, is too high—it could become a target. In fact, if a Government-approved target is set too low, the cap could result in a decrease in the supply of credit, which would disadvantage those who most require it.
Hon Members: Rubbish!
Hon HEATHER ROY: It seems that Opposition members do not really pay much attention to what the Government wants to do, despite Ms Beaumont’s intention to hear that.
Ms Beaumont’s bill also proposes the introduction of responsible lending obligations to ensure that credit providers do not provide or suggest unsuitable credit. Providers would have to ensure that the credit meets the consumer’s requirements and that the consumer is able to service his or her loan obligations. There are difficulties with this approach. A difficulty in implementing such specific responsible lending provisions is that being new and untested they can create uncertainty for lending agencies. This in turn leads to less credit being available to those who already have difficulty in obtaining access to credit from mainstream providers. Existing legislation includes specific protections against oppressive conduct. Important and immediate developments from the courts indicate that these provisions already protect against irresponsible lending. There are also examples of disputes tribunal referees using the oppression provisions in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to deal with oppression and exploitative secured loans or consumer credit contracts.
To strengthen the protection available to consumers, the Government requires all financial service providers to belong to free-to-consumer dispute resolution schemes. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs is also considering the introduction of protections against unfair contract terms in the Fair Trading Act.
The third feature of the bill seeks to limit the value of a debt owed to the value of the goods at the time of enforcement. Ms Beaumont argues that this will curb some of the excessive actions of fringe lenders and repossession agents. This is simply misguided. For example, if a consumer buys a $3,000 TV under a no payments for 2 years, interest-free finance deal and then reneges after 2 years, the creditor would be able to recover only the current value of the TV, which by that point in time would be valued at about only $1,500—half of what it was. The retailer would have effectively paid the consumer $1,500 to look after its TV and provided a free pick-up service to get it back. What would the incentive be if this was put in place? No one would bother paying anything. Such a clause could encourage the non-repayment of loans and, potentially, cause a collapse in the consumer finance market.
As part of the ministry’s Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act review, the Government is looking at better listing and description of security items in order to prevent lenders seizing anything and everything. Proposals include giving responsibility for the enforcement of the Credit (Repossession) Act to the Commerce Commission.
The bill’s final feature seeks to allow registered pawnbrokers to charge administration fees, removing the need for higher interest rate charges. Pawnbrokers currently charge a single fee for redeeming a pledged good. This is called an interest charge and covers both the fee for the pawnbroking service and the interest charged. It is non-contentious. Pawnbroking charges have existed in this manner for years, and there is no reason to change and complicate this accepted approach to pawnbroking.
Although Ms Beaumont should be applauded for highlighting the issues confronting vulnerable borrowers, the fact is that this is a very complex area that requires comprehensive solutions, not just a band-aid solution, as this bill proposes. However, the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill proposes superficial band-aid solutions and has the potential to wreak even more havoc on the very people it is trying to protect. As the Minister of Consumer Affairs I do not support this bill, and the ACT Party does not support the bill. It has fundamental flaws and contains provisions that could result in dramatic and perverse consequences.
Opposition members have asked what the Government will do. [Interruption] If they stop talking, they might hear. The Government is currently considering comprehensive measures to address these issues, with real solutions—real solutions that include reviewing the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, as is currently happening. This project has not been deprioritised. It has been reprioritised in favour of the consumer law reform, which also will address some of the issues in this bill.
Implementing the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act is another measure that the Government is currently working on, and one that was introduced by the previous Government. Each financial service provider or financial adviser must, from 1 December, be registered. It must also, in order to be registered, belong to a dispute resolution scheme, which will give consumers far more protections than they have ever had previously. Quite why the previous Government did not put this in place much sooner is beyond me.
We are, of course, undertaking a major review of consumer law, and this too will cover many of the provisions proposed in this legislation. A discussion document is out at the moment, and the submission process is under way. I look forward to people such as this bill’s promoter putting forward a written submission on this discussion document.
The last thing, which is extraordinarily important, and which the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and other Government agencies are putting a lot of effort into, is improving financial literacy. Arming consumers with the means and the wherewithal to recognise for themselves the sorts of credit provisions that they should entertain, and those they should not, will go a huge way to dealing with the unscrupulous lenders that we know do exist. As I have just said, a discussion paper has been released that suggests carefully considered amendments to the legislation that the bill seeks to amend. There is little point in progressing this bill further while that paper is out for consultation. The issues are complex—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member; her time has expired.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : An American Vice-President once said that the moral test of a Government is how it treats those in the dawn of life, those in the twilight of life, and those in the shadows of life. The Credit Reform (Responsible Lending) Bill is about protecting those people in some of the darker shadows of life—Kiwis who have become so trapped in the cycle of poverty and debt that they are forced to borrow money from predatory fringe lenders just to live from one day to the next. Those lenders—let us call them by their true name: loan sharks—target the most vulnerable members of our society and charge them obscenely high interest rates, sometimes 1,000 or 2,000 percent per annum once the true rate is calculated. The lenders have no intent of ever seeing their loans repaid; that is not how the business model works. Instead they profit off the rapidly compounding interest and the subsequent seizure of the debtor’s assets once the debt has been sold on to a repossession company. That behaviour is morally repugnant.
I am proud that Carol Beaumont has sponsored this legislation, which seeks to regulate the interest rates that lenders can charge and require them to take responsibility for ensuring that those people taking out loans can actually pay them back. I congratulate Carol Beaumont on her campaign on this issue, and on her determination to pursue it, whatever the outcome of tonight’s debate. She can be assured of the continuing support of all members on this side of the House.
The changes set out in the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill have never been as urgent as they are now. Times have never been better for loan sharks. Unemployment is up and families are struggling to make ends meet. At least 75 percent of taxpayers earn under $40,000 a year. That is a huge group who have been left worse off as a result of this year’s Budget and the price inflation and wage deflation we are seeing in its wake. Despite that, the Government refuses to act.
Heather Roy has just trotted out the claptrap we have heard from the officials at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs for the last 5 years. Her excuse for turning her back on the vulnerable people targeted by loan sharks is that the area is too complex and that credit contracts law is currently under review. Well, that is not good enough. Struggling families out there cannot wait another year for her review and for solutions that may not even hit the target as far as what is required. We have to take action now. For National and ACT to refuse to let this bill go to a select committee is to let down all Kiwis.
This bill was drafted with input from a number of individuals. I give credit to former professor Duncan Webb and Andrew Shann, in particular, for their assistance. Andrew Shann has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of those people adversely affected by loan sharks. He took the issue to National and asked it in good faith to act on this issue, only to be ignored. He has authorised me to say that his father, now 91 years of age, is at home listening to the debate tonight. Mr Shann Snr is a former National Party electorate chair. His family’s support for the National Party goes back to that party’s foundation in 1936. He is appalled that the party today lacks the decency to see that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do.
While we are talking about National Party pedigrees, if she does not mind me putting it that way, I want to acknowledge the presence of the Mayor of Porirua, Jenny Brash, in the gallery tonight, and the Deputy Mayor of Porirua City, Litea Ah Hoi. Porirua City has been fantastic in supporting this measure. It sees every day the damage that loan sharks do, and it understands the need to regulate.
I challenge the Government to do what is morally right: to protect the most vulnerable, struggling New Zealand families from those who are exploiting them. It owes it to people such as the family in Mount Albert whose house I was present at last year when the repo agent came to call on behalf of Budget Loans. That agent’s conduct was disgraceful. At the time, Budget Loans was and still is owned by Cynotech Holdings Ltd. Cynotech is run by convicted fraudster Allan Hawkins. Its fifth-largest shareholder is a subsidiary of the New Zealand Guardian Trust. Its sixth-largest shareholder at the time was the family trust of Craig Foss, chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, although I note that the trust has now disposed of that shareholding. Clearly, there is a lot of money to be made by those who choose to profit from the activities of loan sharks. Shame on them, because they do it off the backs of the most vulnerable in our society, and shame on National and ACT for leaving us in the company of countries like Nigeria that fail to act to protect the vulnerable. That failure is a betrayal.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) : I rise to speak in opposition to the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill. Although I admire the intention of the bill to address issues relating to loan sharks, I believe that the bill is flawed in many ways. The amendment to section 118 of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act amends the definition in that Act of “oppressive”. I would first of all question whether a legislative change of this sort is needed. As the Minister of Consumer Affairs has alluded to, the section already contains the word “unconscionable”. Surely, if any debtor could prove that the lender knew that he or she could not repay, then a court would accept the conduct as being unconscionable. The onus would be satisfied if the lender had asked for proof of income, but that is the easy part. Any lender can ask for bank statements, pay records, or any other proof of income, but in the real world the ability to repay a loan has much more to do with one’s expenses as with one’s income. This is the point. At the end of the day a lender can judge the ability of a debtor to repay based only on what the debtor chooses to disclose of his or her expenses. Borrowers are likely to say whatever it takes to obtain a loan, and this clause does not remedy that.
The bill also seeks to regulate interest rates and it requires the Governor of the Reserve Bank to provide them. In Canada, section 347 of the Federal Crimes Act criminalised interest rates charged in excess of 60 percent. Since then, the Federal Government has had to change that law to exclude pay-day lenders. A 48 percent interest rate on a pay-day loan for $1,000 over 2 weeks is $18.40. No one will do business on those types of terms at that rate.
The member’s answer might be that lenders can charge fees. Well, that is the next problem with this clause. Caps on interest rates alone do not cap the cost of borrowing funds. That is why fees are regulated along with interest rates in Singapore and why fees are completely prohibited in Hong Kong. The member’s bill has no prohibition on fees. Therefore, her interest cap is completely ineffective. This bill does not propose a realistic or workable solution. This is an important issue that needs to be looked at in the forthcoming review.
The third change is to repeal section 57(2) of the Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act. In the explanatory note of this bill, the claim is made that if fees can be charged, then there will be no need to charge high interest rates. That goes against the member’s concerns about the total cost of borrowing. I ask why allowing more fees to be charged would lower the total cost of borrowing. It would simply spread the total cost of borrowing between interest and fees. You see, it is very clear from legislation elsewhere that if we want to effectively cap the cost of borrowing, we cap interest and ban fees, we regulate fees and interest, or we cap the total cost of borrowing not just the interest. In one clause in this bill Ms Beaumont proposes that we cap interest and let lenders charge whatever fees they wish to charge, and in another clause she wants to allow fees where they are currently prohibited. This is clearly an ad hoc and confused approach to legislation.
In my electorate office in Maungakiekie we have seen the effects of these loans on our constituents. In fact, in my meetings with many budgeting agencies like the Salvation Army and other budgeting services, I have discovered that the problems are more far-reaching than this bill would address. It is what this bill does not contain that is disturbing. I have a problem with dragnet clauses that allow a moneylender to grab everything in a borrower’s home and to come back for more and more. There are real problems with moneylenders being able to send in repo men to take away children’s beds, bedding, clothing, and toys. I have issues with the fact that a car dealer needs a certificate to sell cars, but needs nothing to finance the sale. There are problems with the fact that a pawnbroker can loan money against the property that he or she holds and needs a licence to do that, but a lender who loans money against security not held needs nothing.
Most countries that legislate in this area, for good reason, have a licensing regime. This matter needs to be looked at seriously in the upcoming review. The problems that I have alluded to have no political party slant. It is not about the left and the right; it is about what is right and what is wrong. For this, we need better law than we have here today and we need to have a much better bill to go to a select committee.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : I am pleased to stand on behalf of the Greens to support this Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill tonight. It is a bill intending to require lenders to have reasonable expectations that money lent will be paid back—that the borrowers have the capacity to pay it back—and to prevent excessive rates of interest being charged on those loans.
The bill will require lenders to seriously consider the ability of prospective borrowers to repay a loan. That is something one would wish; that, in an even somewhat imperfect world, people who lend money would do as a matter of course. But, sadly, we know that that is not the case. Even lenders who are operating more or less within the law are able to charge their customers excessively and to put people into extraordinarily poor financial positions.
Credit and the access to debt seem to be something of a national disease. Even quite legitimate lenders in recent times have been guilty of encouraging and actively selling debt. I recently spoke to a banker, a fellow who was the first of three generations of bankers in his family. The grandfather was the first of the generations. In his day, to borrow money was a serious matter, and banks required significant references, credentials, and a very close examination before they would lend money. His son operated in a somewhat looser environment. The grandfather was horrified to discover that his granddaughter, who was also a banker, was being actively encouraged to sell debt and was being rewarded for selling debt to people. She was selling credit cards and selling loans, and that is a reflection of our culture. Of course, the loan sharks that this bill endeavours to drive out, or at least to put some controls on, are the extreme reflection of that culture.
Why do borrowers engage with these clearly unscrupulous and cheating lenders? To some extent it is to do with naivety, a lack of financial literacy, or sometimes just sheer desperation. People need money to repair a car or to make a car warrantable to enable people to get to work. People need to pay bills and to repair appliances so that a family might continue to function. There are cultural demands for travel or to meet other family obligations, such as weddings, funerals, or whatever else it might be. There is a temptation to purchase toys, be they cars, large televisions, or expensive telephones. That is driven by the relentless consumer advertising that we are all constantly exposed to. Often the least well off, the most vulnerable, are the most vulnerable to that consumer advertising.
A very wide and diverse range of organisations has spoken out in support of the proposal in this bill, including the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services, which said that over 30,000 new client families walk through its doors around the country every year, many of them hopelessly indebted to loan sharks. Loan sharks are in the business of making money off those vulnerable people, those vulnerable communities, and they deliberately target those groups by their store locations and presentations.
I currently live in Avondale, which is a low-decile suburb, if we could describe it that way. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four or five outlets in the main street of Avondale where one can walk in and just about be guaranteed to walk out with often quite substantial sums of money, with very little reference to one’s ability to repay that money. FinSec, the bank workers union, came out in support of this legislation and, as has been pointed out, noted that the Prime Minister criticised charging a rate of interest on credit cards of 22 percent, which hardly compares with the rates that are being charged by the worst of these loan sharks.
The point is already made that we are actually out of step, and it is made again by FinSec that we are seriously out of step internationally with other developed countries. Restrictions apply in Japan, in many countries in Europe, in South America, and even in Africa. Caps have been implemented or proposed in most of Australia, Canada, the USA, and the UK, but we seem to struggle with the very notion of applying these limits and controls on unscrupulous lenders.
I will quote from a speech made on a similar topic: “Firstly, and probably most significantly, the Green Party believes there should be a named and fixed limit on interest rates charges. Many low-income people in south Auckland and elsewhere are defaulting on loans that have exceptionally high finance rates … Those loans are being made by moneylenders who are very well aware that it would be just about impossible for a borrower to meet the repayments.” That quote was from a speech made in 2003 in this House by Sue Bradford at a time when what was then called the Consumer Credit Bill had its first reading debate in this House. Seven years ago, the Greens and Sue Bradford were advocating for exactly the sort of mechanism that we are now again endeavouring to bring back to this House.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora huihui tātau katoa. Ko tāku noa ake ko te whaiwhai haere i te āhuatanga o ngā kōrero kua puta, me kī, i a Reipa me ngā Kākāriki mō tēnei pire. Ko tā mātau e kī nei, hāngai tonu ana tēnei pire ki te hunga rawakore, koremoni me te hunga pani rānei. Kāre mātau i te tino whakaae atu ki tērā momo huarahi. I tōna pūtake, he kōrero tēnei mō te hunga penihana, te hunga koremahi. Ka huri ki hea ki te kimi moni, ka huri ki te nanakia, ki wētahi hei utu i ngā nama, pēnei i te kai, ngā mea, me kī, hai ōranga mō te tangata. Nō reira, tēnei pire he kōrero mō te ōranga o te tangata. Ka kore he moni, kore he kai, ka huri ki hea? Ka huri ki te nanakia. Nā reira, he aha tēnei mea te nanakia? E ai ki tā te Department of Internal Affairs, anei te whakamārama i te reo Pākehā mō tēnei mō te loan shark. E ai ki rātau.
[Greetings, Mr Assistant Speaker, and greetings to us all gathered here. I want to follow up on what Labour and the Greens have said about this bill. We advocate that this bill focuses on the needy, the penniless and those without. We do not go along with what they say. Essentially this story is about beneficiaries and those without work. Who do they turn to for finance? To the loan shark or to others who can offer finance to pay bills like those for food and essentials to survive on. So this bill is a story about one’s survival. If there is no money, no food, who does one turn to? To the loan shark, no doubt. So what is this thing called a loan shark? This is an explanation in English to the Department of Internal Affairs.]
A loan shark is a person or entity that offers loans at very high interest rates, typically illicitly and requiring little or no security. Repayment is often enforced by blackmail or by threats.
Nō reira, koinā te pūtake o tēnei pire mō tērā momo nanakia. Ko tāku he mihi ki tērā mema a Carol Beaumont. Ko ia tēnei e kōkiri nei i tēnei pire ki roto i te Whare Pāremata i te mea, i ngā tau kua hipa, ehara i te mea kua tino rongo ngā taha e rua ki te pūtake o tēnei o ngā take. Mēnā ka taka te tangata ki roto i te raruraru ā-moni nei, ānō nei, ko te korokoro o te parata, inā kē tōna toronga. He kore moni, he āwangawanga ā-ngākau, he māuiui, he whakawehewehe i te tāne me te wāhine, wahine ki te tāne, kore moe, ēnei āhuatanga katoa. Nō reira, ka pā kaua ki te pūkoro i tōna kotahi engari, ko te noho o te tangata i tēnei ao. Kāore e kore, tātau katoa kua huri ki te pēke, ki tētahi atu rānei ki te moni. Ko te mate mō tēnei pire, inā kē te nui. He nui noa atu te moni e kimihia nei e ētahi ki te haere ki te pēke mō te whare, ā, mō te aha rānei. Nō reira, koinei tā mātau e āwangawanga nei. Kua rongo ake i te ingoa o tēnei tangata nei a Mr Andrew Shann, ka nui te mihi ki a ia. Nāna tēnei take i kōkiri me tautoko ka tika. E ai ki tāna, e 90 pai hēneti o te hunga haere ki te kimi moni, nō te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, nō te Ao Māori, ngā mea o Tonga, o Hāmoa rānei, nō te Ao Māori—e 90 pai hēneti o tērā hunga nō tātau. Nō reira, kia tūpato tātau.
Arā anō te pātai, he aha te take ka haere mai ki a au, a Māori nei, a Hāmoa nei, ā Tonga nei? Mō te aha? Ā, nō te mea kai te rongo tātau i te ngau o kore moni, ērā āhuatanga katoa. Engari, me hoki rā anō ki tēnei tangata ki a Mr Shann me te mihi ki a ia i te mea, ko ia tētahi kua tae mai ki a mātau o te Pāti Māori i ngā toru tau kua hipa. Me mihi ki a ia. Me mihi ki te mēa o Porirua ki a Jenny Brash, ki a Litea Ah Hoi, tēnā kōrua, tēnā koutou hara mai i te mea, nā kōrua anō rā tēnei take i kōkiri pēnei i tā te mema a Charles Chauvel i kokiri nei i tēnei take. Me mihi ki a ia i te mea, kua puta i roto i wāna rangahau ēnei kōrero katoa. Kia huri au mō te wā poto ki te reo Pākehā.
[So that is this bill’s rationale for that kind of loan shark. I commend that member, Carol Beaumont, for bringing this bill before the House, because neither side in the past has been prepared to face up to the issues around this matter. When a person falls into debt it is like dropping into a huge whirlpool in the sea called the throat of Te Parata. Its effect spirals. It creates poverty, stress, illness, a breakdown in relationships, sleepless nights, and all those kinds of things. So it is not the pocket alone that is affected, but a person’s lifestyle in this world as well. Without a doubt we all turn to banks or someone else for money. The problem for this bill is the scale of it. The amount sought by some for the house, or whatever, from the bank is huge. And that is a concern to us. Hearing the name of this person, Mr Andrew Shann, brings to mind the solid work he has done in this area. We acknowledge and appreciate him greatly. According to him, 90 percent of those who seek money are from the Pacific Islands and Māoridom; from Tonga, Samoa, and Māoridom; 90 percent of that group were ours. So we need to be careful.
Here is another question. Why do Māori, Samoans, and people from Tonga come to me? What do they come for? Because we are feeling the sharp edge of poverty and all those kinds of things. But we must go back to this person Mr Shann, and commend him, because he was the one who worked solidly with us, the Māori Party, in the past 3 years. We acknowledge him. Acknowledgments as well to the Mayor of Porirua, Jenny Brash, and Litea Ah Hoi; greetings to you two, and the others, welcome. You two worked on this matter as well, like the member Charles Chauvel. But we must be grateful to him because all that we have talked about here was revealed in his research. I wish to switch to English for a brief moment. ]
Mr Shann’s research indicates that actual annual interest rates being charged by fringe lenders can exceed 400 percent per annum, effectively compounding to well over 1,500 percent. Secondly, he says insufficient attention has been paid by regulators to the fringe lending sector. He says that whether fringe lenders can legally recover the extremely high rates of interest they charge is unclear, and that New Zealand is lagging behind the Australian states in protecting consumers from the behaviour of the fringe lending sector.
Ka mutu i tēnei pire tēnei momo ngāngara? Ē kāo! Engari, tērā pea arā anō ētahi tiakitanga hai āwhina i ahau a Māori nei, otirā, te hunga noho koremoni nei. Kua roa mātau e kōrero ana mō tēnei take, mātau, ngā mema Pāremata o te Pāti Māori. Katoa ngā mema kua rongo i ngā kōrero mō te ngau o ngā nanakia nei ki ngā mea e noho nei i roto i ō mātau rohe pōti. Nō reira, he pai tonu te āta titiro ki ngā waka ātaahua, ngā whiriti ātaahua, ngā mea hōu mō te kāinga engari, mēnā ka ngau tonu tērā i tō pūkoro me te āhuatanga o ētahi nanakia e haere nei i roto i ngā hapori, ka raruraru i reira. Nō reira, ka tautoko te Pāti Māori i tēnei pire.
[Will this bill put an end to this type of reptile? Not at all! But it might give more helpful protective measures to Māori like me, indeed to vulnerable people on lower incomes. We, the members of the Māori Party, have spoken out about this issue for a long time. All members have heard stories about people in our electorates who now owe more than they own. So while it is still fine to look carefully for flash cars, fridges, and new things for the home, the moment it hits the pocket and one becomes a victim of a shady loan shark in the community, then there is a problem. So the Māori Party will support this bill.]
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) : I join with my colleagues tonight in recommending the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill to this House and thanking members for their support. I simply appeal to those who are able to acknowledge that we have a problem in our communities with loan sharks. I ask members to consider the matter before they vote.
Yesterday some of us joined Carol Beaumont and others who support her member’s bill in front of Parliament, where in a symbolic gesture we attempted to use a net to catch a young man who was dressed in a shark suit. In my mind, that was a very powerful symbol that highlighted what Carol Beaumont’s bill is attempting to do. It reminds me of a Samoan proverb “E mana’o i le i’a, ae manumanu i le upega”. Literally speaking, it means “If you want to catch fish, you cannot be worried about tearing your net”. Another meaning of this proverb could be “If we want to protect our people, to protect the vulnerable New Zealanders, we must build a stronger safety net”.
This bill is a small safety net in the overall scheme of things. It is a small step in efforts to prevent fringe lenders or loan sharks from charging excessive interest rates. It is a step change towards ensuring that loan sharks are more responsible when lending money, especially when lending money to vulnerable people. It is a small signal to unscrupulous lenders who are in a powerful position in an extremely free environment where they can charge any amount of interest. This bill is a signal to those loan sharks about their predatory behaviour in exploiting poor people who are not financially savvy in their time of desperation. We are saying to those loan sharks that that sort of behaviour is unacceptable in our community, in any city in New Zealand. Loan sharks’ unbridled exploitation of desperate people is unacceptable to the Kiwi way of life.
The concept of interest is difficult for many Pacific people to get their heads around. From a Pacific eye, the concept is better understood when the word “usury” is used in the Bible. Many who understand the term will recognise that it is promoted as evil. It is a bad thing. If we love our brother, then we will not charge an arm and a leg when our brother is in need—or our sister, for that matter. That is what this bill is about. People who approach loan sharks go to them as the last resort. They are unable to get loans from banks or the help they need from credit unions, so they go to these loan sharks in desperation for simple things like the rent or the electricity bill that is 2 weeks overdue. The loans sharks know that they are desperate. They know that these people will struggle with repayments, and that is why they add on that particular interest. The minute somebody is unable to pay that loan, other costs are added on to it.
A short example is of a man who owed $300 to the Ministry of Justice, which confiscated his car. He did not have $300. He went to a loan shark to borrow that money to get his car so he could get to work. Today, 3 or 4 months later, he has paid the $300 but he is still paying interest to the loan shark he borrowed the money from.
The way that loan sharks advertise and behave is really predatory. They use people who are familiar to them in a friendly manner.
HEKIA PARATA (National) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Huri noa i tō tātou e te Whare, tēnā tātou katoa. I begin my remarks on the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill by acknowledging Carol Beaumont for the work, effort, and purpose that sits behind the bill, and her predecessor, Charles Chauvel, who equally has made significant contributions to this area of work. I also join with the House in acknowledging Her Worship the Mayor of Porirua, Jenny Brash, the Deputy Mayor of Porirua, Litea Ah Hoi, and Andrew Shann. I acknowledge all the work he has done and the many months and years he has devoted to that work. If it is not clear from the speeches tonight, I will make it clear that I do not think there is any disagreement between any sides of the House as to the problem we face and the concern we have about the predatory nature of fringe lending and the vulnerability of fringe borrowers. But, with respect, the fact that we disagree on the solution to this problem does not attribute to one side or the other a greater moral authority. I think it is important—
Carmel Sepuloni: It’s shameful that that side is not supporting this bill.
HEKIA PARATA: I am not ashamed at all to say that I think this is absolutely a problem, and that it is one we need to deal with. Obviously, it disproportionately affects those who are on the fringes of our society—those who are the poorest. In many cases, they are Māori and Pacific Islanders. To have the Opposition shouting abuse at me that I should be ashamed is offensive, because I do share the concern of the House; I do not share those members’ view that the Opposition has the monopoly on understanding the solutions. This is a very complex area and the bill proposes measures that are not, in my view, viable solutions. The Government is looking at comprehensive measures to address these issues, and we are reviewing—
Carmel Sepuloni: Looking is not good enough.
HEKIA PARATA: It is amazing how those members can sit on a moral high ground when Labour had the opportunity for 9 years to address this issue, but it did not do so. I have 4 minutes, and I would really like the opportunity to contribute my 4 minutes to this debate. We are reviewing the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, we are implementing the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act, we are undertaking a major review of consumer law, and we are improving financial literacy. Lacking as they might the drama that the Opposition wishes to bring to this debate, those measures have far greater potential to bring about the changes that we all agree are necessary.
The interest rates cap proposed in the bill as a way to stop loan sharks has generated the most publicity. Although National does not support the charging of excessive interest rates, we have reservations about interest rate caps being a viable regulatory intervention for over-indebtedness and poor lending practices, because the issues are wider and more complex than the cost or affordability of credit. All consumers should have access to credit when they need it, on an informed basis. If a cap is introduced at a level insufficient to generate a lender’s required margin, the price of credit can be transferred from the interest rate to fees and other charges, thereby negating the intention of price control.
The bill seeks to limit a creditor’s right to the value of the goods at the time of enforcement. This measure, too, is problematic. There is concern that the finance market for lending on consumer items could potentially collapse overnight if such a law was introduced.
The bill proposes the introduction of responsible lending obligations that seem to be based on initiatives in Britain and Australia. We have heard from previous speakers that the capping of interest rates has been halted in the Commonwealth of Australia while its effectiveness is studied. The notion that we should embrace what every other country in the world is doing—which they have been doing for only the last 12 months or so, without knowing how effective it is—seems to me to be a foolhardy rush when we have the opportunity to test the confluence of changes that we are already bringing about. I do not resile from my position that I share the concern of this House for fringe borrowers; nor do I resile from the position that this Government is taking.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : I would like to begin by commending my colleagues Carol Beaumont and Charles Chauvel for a job well done: for the fantastic campaign they have run, and the foresight they have shown. I also wish to acknowledge the Mayor of Porirua, Jenny Brash, and the deputy mayor, Litea Ah Hoi. I thank them both for coming along to support this bill. I also acknowledge Andrew Shann for the amazing amount of work that he has put into this member’s bill.
I need to start by dispelling some of the myths that have been said tonight in the House. We heard from a number of members, but I wish to speak to the points that were made by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, the member Hekia Parata, and the member Sam Lotu-Iiga. All three said that this bill does not go far enough. I have been a member of Parliament for only 18 months, but I have seen a number of bills come through this House. No bill is perfect when it comes up for its first reading. That is why we allow it to go to a select committee. We make the decision on whether it should go to a select committee based on the intention behind the bill and what the bill seeks to achieve. Everything that this bill seeks to achieve is something that we as a whole Parliament should be endorsing.
Four things stand out about this bill. I think they need to be mentioned and told to members on the Government side of the House, because they fail to get it. This bill is about the duty of care to vulnerable citizens. It is about protection of the weakest members of our society, advocacy for those members of our society, and fairness. Those are the four points that members on that side fail to understand.
I am a Pacific woman, and it has come up over and over again tonight that Pacific people are the ones, alongside Māori, who are disproportionately affected by loan sharks. As a Pacific woman, I humbly need to acknowledge that an organisation that does not take political matters lightly or come out endorsing political matters has done so on this occasion. That organisation is P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Inc. That organisation has written to the Prime Minister, pleading with him that he support this bill. The reason it is pleading with him is that the organisation knows that loan sharks are out there being predators on our families and our communities. Rather than speak on behalf of myself as an individual, I wish to read directly the letter that has been written to the Prime Minister by the Pacific women’s organisation P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Inc. I say from the get-go, with my hand on my heart, that I am a member of this organisation, but I have not even spoken to those people about this legislation, so I have in no way lobbied them in that regard. The letter is addressed to the Prime Minister and states: “We are writing to seek your urgent action on loan sharks by seeking your support for the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill. As the premier organization of Pacific women in New Zealand, with 20 branches from Whangarei to Invercargill, PACIFICA has been supporting Pacific families by empowering Pacific women for over 34 years. Unsurprisingly, PACIFICA has been seriously concerned by the significant number of Pacific families struggling on low incomes, who are vulnerable to accessing expensive finance company loans. Prime Minister, it is evident that our families are preyed upon by loan sharks. Targeted advertising campaigns, free ‘Pacific focused’ gifts such as boxes of corned beef, trips to Samoa and Tonga, and the recruitment of Pacific frontline staff are all practices that loan sharks use to attract Pacific clients. On any given Sunday evening when Pacific programmes view on Triangle TV, the car dealer and finance company advertisements repeatedly target their Pacific viewing audience. The problem we have Prime Minister, is not with loans being easily accessible; but that finance companies exploit people during their vulnerable times through the supply of high interest loans with high fees, making them more expensive than loans provided by banks. Families who are already shackled by the constraints of low income, now have the added burden of having to pay back more than just the principle and the interest. Furthermore, when a client falls behind in their repayments they are subject to default interest and penalty fees, in some cases this can add up to more than the principle. … It is upon this basis, that we contest that all lenders should be fair, legal and monitored by the government. We are now seeking your support for the first reading of this Bill and we ask that this matter be given the chance for public discussion and debate through Select Committee.” It is signed by Sally Dalhousie, National President.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : My colleague Steve Chadwick said to me: “I don’t know whether to feel sad or mad.”, and I feel exactly the same way. I feel both ways: I feel very sad that I have heard in this House tonight that the Government will not take responsibility on this issue; I feel very mad that the voice of the community has not been listened to, and that a genuine effort to deal with the problem of loan sharks is being ignored. Instead, members have tried in 5-minute speeches to argue what is wrong with the Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill. I think it deserves a fair hearing at a select committee, and the public deserve the right to have a say on it. I acknowledge those parties that have spoken in support of this bill—the Greens, the Māori Party, the Progressive party, and I understand that United Future will also be supporting it—and I thank them for that.
I believe that what I have heard in the House tonight has been truly awful. The speeches have been probably some of the worst speeches I have heard in my time in Parliament.
I do not think there is any disagreement that there is a problem with loan sharks. Any member of Parliament will know there is a problem, because they will see it in their communities. They will have people coming to their offices and they will hear the stories. Certainly, I found it quite tragic that the member for Maungakiekie spoke in the way he did, because in the very area that we share our offices—we both have offices in Onehunga—there are many loan sharks. Just this week, I saw featured on television a young man going into one of those places and being offered loans at 25 percent per month, which on a compounding basis is over 1,300 percent per annum. I found it disgraceful that the member for Maungakiekie made the kind of speech that he did.
Members know there is a problem with loan sharks. I want to repeat for the House what was said by the Jubilee Christian Centre, which is a registered charity with no interest at all in getting involved in party politics. It talked about the use of the term “usury” in the Bible, and that none of the references—all 23 of them—speak favourably of it. My colleague Su’a William Sio also mentioned that. The centre went on to say that this bill should receive parliamentary-wide support, and that all members who have a conscience, including Government members, should support it. At this stage in the debate, I am still standing before the House urging members to make the right decision to assist people who are struggling, who are vulnerable, and whose families are being hurt by the actions of predatory and irresponsible lenders.
We have heard a number of excuses given tonight that make me mad and angry. It has been said that this bill does not go far enough, but, frankly, some of the issues that lead to the problem are not things for which we would legislate—for example, we all agree that we need to improve financial literacy. That is about resources and focus; it is not a matter for legislation. Members have mentioned low incomes in New Zealand, but I do not see the Government doing a lot of work in that area. Certainly, that is one of the root causes of the problem, as is the credit market itself, where those who are outside the banking system who cannot get credit from banks need access to credit on reasonable terms. That is also not a matter for this bill, but there are targeted suggestions that are worthy of consideration in a select committee.
We have heard the excuse that the provisions in the bill will not work. In several 5-minutes speeches, we have had supposedly some analysis of that issue. Well, I would like to see a great deal more robust consideration of that in a select committee where we look at the experience of other countries. I do not see that the dire consequences being predicted by the Minister and some of the other speakers are in play in those countries.
National and ACT MPs have said that their parties are already working on this issue, but I say that that is the biggest and worst excuse of all. Frankly, there are some good provisions in the review of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, but why has it been delayed for 12 months? How can those members stand in this House and tell us that that legislation will help when they have delayed it by 12 months? It is an absolute disgrace. I find those excuses very hard to stomach, and doing nothing, which is effectively what is happening here, is not a plausible answer. Where are the solutions? None of the Government members who have spoken tonight have suggested solutions.
I want this House to know that this campaign will not end here. The community wants something done, and I and my colleagues will be working with the community to continue this campaign.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : I seek leave to table the letter to the Prime Minister, dated 19 July 2010, by the premier organisation of Pacific women in New Zealand—P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Inc.—asking that the Government send this bill to the select committee.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There being none, leave is granted.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
|Ayes 59||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 63||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5.|
|Motion not agreed to.|
Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : I move, That the Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I am pleased to introduce this bill to the House to affirm greater recognition of tangata whenua interests in the resource management and local government planning process. As stated in the explanatory note, “The purpose of this bill is to strengthen the provisions by which iwi management plans influence regional and district plans and policies,”. Clause 5 of the bill introduces an amendment that would mean iwi management plans would be elevated in the planning hierarchy, recognising and providing for the interests of tangata whenua when it comes to developments in their rohe. The intention is that the cultural, environmental, and heritage interests of tangata whenua are considered more effectively at the front end of the planning process rather than at adversarial, often lengthy, resource consent hearings.
I believe that this bill strengthens the intent of sections 6, 7(a), and 8 of the Resource Management Act by setting out the priorities of iwi in their management plans. This bill also promotes in a practical way the intent of section 5 of the Resource Management Act to achieve an integrated response that footnotes the whole notion of sustainable management. Māori have a huge contribution to make in this space and too often they have been left on the periphery rather than being critical to the outcome. I am optimistic that given the National-led Government’s new-found relationship with iwi and Māori this bill may get to select committee. Indeed, if the Māori Party can see the value of this bill, then I would hope the Government would endorse its judgment, as the bill is progressive in its intention.
Not so long ago the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu (Claims) Waikato River Settlement Act passed its third and final reading in this House, with a significant majority. That settlement provided for a co-governance and co-management framework to address a longstanding concern amongst Waikato iwi that the degradation of the Waikato River be addressed. That settlement makes provision for statutory recognition of a vision and strategy that seeks to create an integrated management approach to cleaning up the river and, more important, forging a common ambition amongst iwi, local government, landowners, Government agencies, industry, and the community.
Some of the mechanisms to achieve change require accords, joint management agreements, and a broader context for considering land-based activity and its effects on waterways. I expect several more settlements will look to this model as a means of defining a unique approach to catchment management of waterways and engaging effectively with iwi and central and local government.
The bill seeks to normalise a way of doing things that has been achieved to date only as a result of Treaty settlements. I have heard numerous examples throughout my electorate where negative encounters with the Resource Management Act have led iwi to oppose resource consents because of a lack of engagement with tangata whenua or any recognition of their concerns. Iwi management plans are just part of the picture and should be integrated across council planning and policy processes. In order for them to be effective they must be developed as planning documents that preserve the integrity of tangata whenua aspirations, but are able to be utilised by regional councils and territorial authorities in the planning process.
To achieve this, a dedicated work stream for iwi, councils, and the Ministry for the Environment would be necessary. Undoubtedly this will signal a new way of doing things, with some councils having to engage the participation of iwi through their regional policy statement consultation processes. I believe this bill sets a uniform approach to achieving best practice. This change will result in the setting of better planning and policy-making decisions, rules, and internal operational practices for council and more effective outcomes. I have thought about the issue of cost and foreshadowed that there will be a fiscal impact that might be better considered in full by the select committee process, as it will involve iwi and local and central government.
I want to highlight just a few examples from my electorate, Hauraki-Waikato, as there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Ngāti Te Ata is situated in the south of Tāmaki Makaurau, the Auckland isthmus. Their interest to protect ancient burial sites at Maioro in Waiuku, and historical sites at Matukutureia in Wiri, are well documented in the Manukau claim, yet their representation to protect their heritage and special landscapes have been fraught with conflict, frustrated by process, and delayed by inaction. A long period of time has passed since their interests were brought to light substantially in the 1980s. But that has been a long and drawn-out process. Against the backdrop of the Auckland super-city reform this amendment would give greater assurance to iwi who want to protect their natural heritage and historical sites.
Across the Hauraki Gulf I think about Whangamata. Hapū and iwi there lodged objections to the Whangamata marina on the basis that their traditional fishing and harvesting grounds would be detrimentally affected. Even though the Resource Management Act provided for recognition of kaitiakitanga and the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, those hapū presented their information to the Environment Court, to Ministers, to local MPs, and to anyone who would listen, but their interests were secondary to the economic potential of the marina. The chairperson of the Hauraki Māori Trust Board even declared that they were not anti-development but their customary interests in the area had been totally ignored.
If this amendment were to proceed, iwi could have had a proactive discussion about a development proposal with their priorities clearly outlined in the council planning documents, and relevant policies and rules applying to consents in sensitive spaces. There would also be a clear point of engagement for developers wanting to meet with iwi. Out on the west coast in the small community called Marokopa, the efforts of one woman on behalf of her hapū, Ngāti Tūpoho, has led to the preservation and protection of sand dunes and a sandspit in the area. Her dogged determination has, at times, seen her efforts conflict with those of the community wanting to enjoy access to this coastal area, but her intent to be a kaitiaki in a very real way cannot be faulted.
The benefit of this amendment would provide greater protection for her to continue the good work that has been done, and it would also provide better access to information and points of engagement for the larger community in terms of recognising this special and historically significant place.
I come back to the Waikato. Near the river at Horotiu, archaeological sites had been excavated in the past. This is the case throughout this stretch of the river, as the sand was particularly useful for lining kūmara pits and preserving the kūmara over winter. Although these sites are protected, there is an application to build approximately 5 metres from the pits. The applicant argues that although the site is preserved and protected, it is not damaged by this development. This site is on private land. The benefit of the amendment that I am putting to the House today would be that whether on private or public land, Māori or general land, all would be subject to clause 6, which amends section 75(2) “to allow territorial authorities to state resource management issues of particular interest to local iwi in their district plans.”
There are other examples too numerous and equally important to outline in the House. But whether the issue is discharge in waterways, dirty dairying practices, sewage effluent being discharged into harbours, developments in small coastal villages, a change in land use, intensification of farming practices, or mining practices out in the exclusive economic zone or on conservation land, tangata whenua have been involved in consenting processes, and too often at the back end. The Resource Management Act can and should work better and we should not have to wait for a Treaty settlement. There is simply a better way of doing things by including at the front end of the planning process engaging council and territorial authorities more positively with the aspirations of iwi. After all, there is a dearth of Māori representation on councils, and a legislative imperative would ensure proactive engagement with tangata whenua in the planning and policy-making process.
I am a firmly believer that if something needs fixing, then do it. Since its inception the Resource Management Act has undergone a number of iterations. Some changes were driven by sheer political ideology; others were technical changes resulting from the practical experience of implementing the intention of the Resource Management Act. This amendment seeks to rebalance the interest of tangata whenua in the planning environment to have greater regard to the cultural, spiritual, historical, and environmental values of iwi. I am hopeful that during the debate today members may consider the positive contribution that this bill can make to the resource management and planning decisions of local government. In many ways it will simplify and streamline more effective engagement with Māori. Kia ora.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman) : I am very pleased to speak on the Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill in the name of the Hon Nanaia Mahuta. As the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee, which considered the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill, I am very cognisant of the issues raised by this bill and the fact that we keep visiting the Resource Management Act to change it yet again. But let us step back for a moment and consider the progress that has already been made in the area of resource management.
Stage one of our reforms saw this Government streamline and simplify the Resource Management Act to ensure a better balance of environmental protection with economic growth. That has achieved good, positive outcomes for all concerned without incurring unnecessary delays and excessive costs.
We removed the pervasive presence of the Resource Management Act in matters of low-level environmental significance by defining the activities that should not require consent, and that means they will have a smoother pathway to approval. For example, a great deal of time and money was wasted in issuing 4,500 consents annually for trimming, pruning, and removing non-scheduled trees in a number of urban councils.
The whole process was undertaken in order to simplify and streamline the Resource Management Act so as to make better progress without compromising the ideals of environmental protection. The reforms reinforce National’s blue-green message that being pro-environment does not equate to being pro - red tape. We have already achieved much in reforming the Resource Management Act, so let us not look backwards but let us take a step forward together.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for the member to have his full allotment of time restored if he cares to pick up the research notes for the bill currently being debated by the House.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): That was not a point of order. I say to the member that points of order are made about the order of the House. Points of order are not to be used to break up a member’s speech. That was, in my opinion, a deliberate tactic to break up the member’s speech. I warn the member against it. Please let the speech flow.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I can appreciate what this bill is trying to achieve.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which bill?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: The bill that we are speaking about and that I have been speaking about throughout.
Hon David Cunliffe: Are you sure?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I cannot be responsible for the lack of comprehension on the part of members opposite—they will catch up in due course.
The bill aims to strengthen the provisions by which iwi management plans, or IMPs, influence regional and district plans and policies and elevate their status in the planning hierarchy. Under this bill, regional councils will be required to recognise and provide for iwi management plans as opposed to taking into account these plans, as is legislated now. However, I believe it would be a retrograde step to introduce this legislation, because there will be ample opportunity to debate these issues in phase two of the reforms of the Resource Management Act.
One of the four objectives of the phase two reforms is achieving efficient and improved participation of Māori in the resource management process, so I think it would be unhelpful to pre-empt these discussions or indeed limit the possibilities. I am certainly not unsympathetic towards the proposal of the bill; I am looking just at the process.
I am confident that through the process of the phase two reforms, we will ultimately have legislation that will ensure that Māori and iwi can be sufficiently involved in participating in the resource management process. In fact, I understand that the Ministry for the Environment is working on means to improve iwi involvement through iwi management plans in the Resource Management Act processes. There are three options on the table.
Option one is to change the statutory weight of iwi management plans. Increasing the policy weighting means that the key content of, and outcomes sought by, iwi management plans can be given more consideration in Resource Management Act planning processes. Option two is the definition and minimum requirements for iwi management plans. The option proposes identifying a list of matters that must be considered as a minimum requirement of an iwi management plan. The matters should be identified during consultation with iwi Māori, and, ideally, could include environmental outcomes sought, resource management issues of significance, Māori customary values, and processes for meaningful engagement with local authorities.
Option three is the lodgement and the register of iwi management plans. The lodgement process would require the chief executive of the relevant authority to send a copy of a lodged iwi management plan to the Ministry for the Environment or to Te Puni Kōkiri. There would be a new corresponding obligation on central government to keep and to maintain a central register of iwi management plans. The register could be made publicly available to promote the sharing of information among iwi and hapū and assist local authorities and resource consent applicants in locating iwi management plans.
I am looking forward to the cost-benefit analysis of each of the options, as I am sure that we will all be open to discussions on these options as we work through the process of finding the best solution to the situation.
I point out that there are some fundamental problems with this bill. Elevating the status of iwi management plans to the level proposed in the bill would represent a significant step change in how non-statutory plans are considered under the Resource Management Act. The bill would elevate iwi management plans to a status similar to that of nationally important projects, which are dealt with in section 6 of the Resource Management Act. I do not think that that is the way forward. It would mean that iwi would have the power to influence or bring to a standstill district plans if they varied from iwi management plans. I think that would be unhelpful, and it would hinder progress.
These provisions were amended in 2004. It is a matter of balance. Previous decision makers were required to have regard to iwi management plans. In 2004 that changed to “take into account.” I believe this was and still is a sensible approach and a balanced approach, but I am sure we can further discussions during phase two of the reforms.
I say in conclusion that the National-led Government is making fantastic progress on Resource Management Act reforms. Phase one went a long way to reducing costs, uncertainty, and delays, which have frustrated New Zealand homeowners, small businesses, and farmers for years. Phase two will address aquaculture, the new structure of the Environmental Protection Authority, freshwater management, urban design, and infrastructure issues.
The Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill would in fact be an awkward distraction from this progress. Regardless of the fact that it has fundamental problems, we must remember that one of the four objectives of phase two reforms is achieving efficient and improved participation of Māori in the resource management process. I look forward to being part of those discussions. We will therefore be voting against this bill. Thank you.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : Our Resource Management Act can and should work better when it comes to involving iwi in the planning and consent process. As a House we should be proactive in creating good legislation that strengthens the constructive relationship between Māori and consent authorities. I would like to take this call firstly to congratulate my colleague the Hon Nanaia Mahuta on putting forward a bill that does just that, and, secondly—despite the speech we have just heard from Mr Auchinvole—to encourage all parties in the House to support the legislation.
Currently the law provides that those exercising power are required to have regard for kaitiakitanga, which has been translated as guardianship over our natural environment, and for the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Consent authorities are therefore required to consult iwi and to give consideration to any relevant documents prepared by them. However, the way things are currently structured, iwi input may be poorly integrated into the plans of local authorities.
Māori have no real way, as of right, to participate in planning, except to object through the consents process, causing delays and resulting in a few positive outcomes while at the same time being potentially divisive because of the adversarial nature of the objections process. Partnership and good faith, which are both Treaty principles that suggest working together, are not fulfilled by this process. Instead, we take an unconstructive and adversarial approach to these matters. It is not the right way to do things.
Nanaia Mahuta’s bill seeks to remedy this by ensuring that more weight will be given to iwi concerns early in the planning and consenting process. It encourages a greater level of engagement between iwi, authorities, and resource management stakeholders. This would shift iwi to a position of front-end participation, providing better outcomes for all involved and having more public support than has been garnered in previous situations, because of the front-end rather than post hoc nature of the input that the bill would provide for.
As Nanaia Mahuta said, the bill also seeks to normalise a way of doing things, as opposed to the current situation where those involved often have to wait for a Treaty settlement to have the way in which they want things to be done formalised. A recent example is where provision has been made for statutory recognition of the vision and strategy in the Waikato River settlement legislation.
Sandra Goudie: Yeah, and that’s costing a million bucks a year.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: I am sorry to disagree with the learned view being shouted across the House by Sandra Goudie, but that legislation looks to create an integrated management approach to cleaning up the Waikato River, and developing a goal common to iwi, local government, landowners, Government agencies, industry, and the wider community—
Sandra Goudie: It’s a big costly bureaucracy.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: —and no shouted voice from the 1960s across the House can negate that.
It is a strongly held belief in the Labour Party that things get done better, faster, and to the benefit of everyone when people work with, rather than against, each other. This bill would extend that value to an area of the law where it is sadly lacking at the moment. I listened carefully to Chris Auchinvole’s speech setting out the reasons why the National Party will not be supporting this legislation. Basically, he told us not to worry, because these matters would be dealt with in phase two of the review of the Resource Management Act. Well, we will see; maybe they will, and maybe they will not.
Why not vote to send this legislation to the Local Government and Environment Committee? That is what I say to National members—and I see that the Minister for the Environment as well as the chair of the select committee are present in the House tonight. When submissions are heard on the second phase of the Resource Management Act reforms, submissions could be heard on this legislation too, and the House will perhaps gain some assurance that the matters referred to in Nanaia Mahuta’s bill are being dealt with in an adequate way. I commend that course of action and I commend Nanaia Mahuta’s bill to the House.
NICKY WAGNER (National) : I rise to speak on the Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill. I thank the Hon Nanaia Mahuta for this bill and for raising the issue of iwi management plans.
This bill aims to strengthen the provisions by which iwi management plans influence regional and district plans and policies, and elevate their status in the planning hierarchy. Under this bill regional councils would be required to “recognise and provide for” iwi management plans, as opposed to what is legislated now, which is to “take into account” those plans. Charles Chauvel has spoken eloquently of Māori being involved in the front end of Resource Management Act issues. This bill does nothing to change the process; it merely elevates the status. It would be another change to the status of iwi management plans, because this bill’s provisions were amended in 2004. Previously, decision makers were required to “have regard to” iwi management plans, and in 2004 this was changed to “take into account”.
National does not support this bill. We are already involved in a process of updating and reforming the Resource Management Act, which includes reforms to increase Māori participation in the Resource Management Act process. Phase one of the reforms was the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act, and that Act went a long way towards reducing costs, uncertainties, and delays that had frustrated New Zealand homeowners, small businesses, and farmers for many years. During that process we heard a lot about iwi management plans, and learnt that although some iwi have detailed plans and have used the process very effectively, others have not. Ngāi Tahu, the South Island iwi and the iwi of my home town, Christchurch, have a comprehensive set of iwi management plans. They have found that their plans have been taken into consideration and have been very useful. However, there is a lack of consistency on the number and quality of iwi plans across the country. As a first step, all iwi should be encouraged to develop iwi plans, and this bill would do nothing for iwi if they did not have plans in place.
National’s reform of the Resource Management Act is continuing. We are now on to our second phase of reforms, which will address aquaculture, the new structure of the Environmental Protection Authority, freshwater management, urban design, and infrastructure issues. National has already identified the need for more Māori participation in the Resource Management Act process. One of the four objectives of the second phase of reforms is “providing for efficient and improved participation of Māori in resource management processes.” We believe that will be a better way to ensure iwi plans are recognised and provided for without additional legislative complexity.
We therefore conclude that concerns of Māori will be more effectively considered through phase two of the Resource Management Act reforms than under the Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : Kia ora koutou. The Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill that we are discussing clearly seeks to enhance the status of iwi management plans in developing district plans and regional policy statements. It does this through a very simple mechanism of changing some language within the Resource Management Act from “take into account” to “recognise and provide for”. As politicians—and for some, indeed, as lawyers—we know the power of language. Language matters. This is a very simple but very appropriate change to make in the context of the wider legislation.
As a party committed to te Tiriti and to recognising Māori as tangata whenua, the Greens are very happy to support this bill and the intention underpinning it, which is to enhance the role mana whenua play in the management and development of the rohe. It is a very small step towards more comprehensive acknowledgment of rangatiratanga.
It seems that much of the opposition to this bill—in particular, to the notion of enhancing iwi management plans, and, more generally, to a deeper level of Māori engagement in resource management—comes from a fear, I think, of conflict between Māori activity, ideas, and developments and environmental protection or, indeed, economic development. For many people these things cannot coexist. Clearly, this is an ill-founded fear and it is simply not true. There are numerous examples of why it is not true.
In a technical sense, this particular bill’s giving a stronger foundation and a higher status to iwi management plans would not elevate the plans to a level where they could in any way compromise or threaten the overarching primary criterion of the Resource Management Act, which is the promotion of sustainable management. Section 6(e) of the Act already recognises and provides for iwi concerns. The sky has not fallen. This is not a veto right; it is simply a means of adding more weight to Māori issues, Māori concerns, and Māori aspirations.
I studied resource management at Lincoln University in 1993-94, only a couple of years after the Resource Management Act had come into force. At that time there was considerable optimism within Māoridom that this very new, radically different regime would give Māori greater opportunities to be actively involved and to affect the management of our natural and physical resources. Some very high-quality analysis and review were done through the resource management law review process of the late 1980s; again, this was cause for optimism. I had the good fortune to be influenced by some of the people at the centre for Māori studies at Lincoln University, as it was then, not least one Hirini Matunga, who had some extraordinarily innovative and creative ideas about how Māori and non-Māori planning processes could run in parallel, in tandem, and give us richer and deeper outcomes. Sadly, a lot of that early promise has not been fulfilled, largely because Māori have constantly found themselves struggling to find that point of entry to get real influence and some traction in terms of creating these high-level documents—the district plans, the policy statements. They are constantly forced into a position of reaction and objection, which is not helpful.
The Māori world view is naturally integrative. The Resource Management Act was intended to enhance integrated management at an ecosystem level, a regional level, and a catchment level. Māori do this almost intuitively. But we are not seeking to rely simply on some spiritual or cultural value. I have personally witnessed some extremely good work done by young Māori students of mine, their peers, and their own teachers, who are looking for creative ways of blending Western science and Western economic and cultural norms and practices with mātauranga Māori, with Māori knowledge, and with Māori aspirations. These models exist; they could be applied. This bill, in raising the status of iwi management plans, would be a useful step towards encouraging much better outcomes for Māori and non-Māori alike. Kia ora koutou.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Kia ora anō tātau katoa. E te tuahine, ka mihi rā ki a koe mō te āhuatanga o tō pire e wānangatia nei e te Whare i tēnei pō. Kia mōhio mai koe, ka tautoko te Pāti Māori i tōu nā hiahia ahakoa, tērā pea ko te āhua nei ka kore e eke. Hoi anō, me mihi rā ki a koe ka tika. E tika ana kia kōrerohia tēnei pire i tēnei wā tonu nei i te taenga mai o te tangata, me kī, te kaituhi mō ngā take iwi taketake o te Rūnanga Whakakotahi i te Ao, arā, the United Nations specialrapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights, aProfessor James Anaya,kua tae mai ki Aotearoa nei ki te āta titiro i te āhuatanga o te noho o te Ao Māori, ngā iwi taketake, ki konei. E tiakina ana, āe rānei, kāore rānei, ka mutu, ki te kimi rongoā.
[Greetings once again to us all. I acknowledge you, sister parliamentarian, in respect of your bill being debated by the House tonight. I want you to know that the Māori Party endorses your desire, even though it seems likely that it will not succeed. But we must congratulate you, all the same. That is the least we can do. How timely it is that this bill is being debated at this very moment, with the arrival of the special rapporteur of the United Nations, Professor James Anaya, who has arrived in New Zealand to take a close look at how Māoridom, the indigenous people, exist here— whether they are they protected, yes or no, and further to that, to seek remedies.]
Kua hara mai nā runga i te āhuatanga o te whakaputanga o te Rūnanga Whakakotahi i ngā Iwi o te Ao mō ngā Tika o ngā Iwi Taketake. Professor James Anaya has arrived on New Zealand shores. He does so in the context of the New Zealand Government’s support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Ko tāku e pīrangi nei, ko te whakatakoto i tētahi wāhanga o tērā Whakataunga, arā, ko te article 25. Article 25 of that document states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”
Nō reira, kei reira tonu te tuarā o tāku kōrero, he tautoko, he mihi tonu ki te Hōnore Nanaia Mahuta mō tana hiahia ki te whakatakoto i tēnei pire ki mua i te aroaro o te Whare Pāremata. We congratulate the Hon Nanaia Mahuta on taking the initiative to put the Resource Management (Enhancement of Iwi Management Plans) Amendment Bill into the ballot—an initiative that we believe serves the intent of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to keep our natural resources and environment healthy, safe, and intact for future generations.
The Māori Party will certainly support the initiative taken by this bill to elevate the status of iwi management plans as they relate to the setting of regional policy statements and district plans. It is a bill that has been a long time coming. It responds to the poor integration of iwi management plans into local authority plans and policies by strengthening the provisions that enable iwi management plans to influence planning and policy. In doing so, it fits with the key policy position of the Māori Party, which is to promote whānau, hapū, and iwi as kaitiaki, and support moves to restore this role to them.
So we are even more determined to acknowledge the initiative of this bill in putting into legislation aspirations and commitments that will ensure that the intent of the Resource Management Act is honoured. We would go so far as to make a suggestion to the Hon Nanaia Mahuta, if by chance the bill was lucky enough to go through. It would be that she strengthen the provision in clause 6 that allows councils to state issues of significance to the iwi. There is no specific or compulsory requirement to include issues of significance to iwi, but merely a provision for councils to act only if they want to. We know how the notion of “voluntary” works in relation to compliance, especially compliance with the Treaty. The opportunity for mana whenua to be involved is a key ingredient that we would say needed to be put into the bill.
We also would speak about the new models of negotiation, and I would recommend that we consider the recent Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Toa, and Ngāti Raukawa initiative to form a regional rōpū to collectively liaise with all of the councils in their rohe. That is the sort of stuff that I am sure the Hon Nanaia Mahuta would be putting up, and it should be supported by the rest of the House.
Another well overdue amendment that might go a long way to assist in addressing some of the issues that she is after would be to elevate the Treaty of Waitangi section to a preamble in the Act, similar to that in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, or perhaps to move it to Part 2 of the Act and make it a matter of national importance. This is another suggestion that might be helpful. We are close to the vote now, so we will know shortly whether the bill will progress.
The idea of the changes I have just suggested is to give the Treaty greater status in the Act, so that decision makers would be compelled to recognise and provide for hapū as the Treaty envisaged. All in all we support the initiative from the honourable member. I am happy to say that the Māori Party is pleased to support this bill and hopes that in the short space of time left the bill is voted on and supported. Kia ora tātou.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) : Kia ora tātou. I am very pleased to support this bill in the name of my colleague Nanaia Mahuta and commend her for it. This is a bill about creating the potential for front-end consultation with iwi without the need first for Treaty settlements, such as happened in the Waikato. It will take some effort from councils to implement this bill, if passed, but the benefits of it are, I think, very, very clear. We do not need to look very far into our history to see a graphic example of where a bill like this might have prevented a major issue that we are still, as a Parliament and as a nation, dealing with today.
I think back to Marlborough 10 years ago when iwi in the Marlborough Sounds felt that they were being excluded from the growing race for water space in the Marlborough Sounds. They believed, whether right or not, that a councillor or councillors were precluding them from gaining any water space. What did that lead to? It led to the foreshore and seabed issue that this Parliament and indeed this Government are still trying to resolve today. Yet this Government is saying that it will oppose this very sensible bill.
I also note that Nick Smith, who has been in the House tonight, has today announced a moratorium on the Hurunui River and further extraction of water in that catchment. That decision was recommended to him by the Environment Canterbury commissioners he installed by parliamentary majority just a few months ago. Included amongst the seven commissioners is one appointed iwi representative. Yet Dr Smith and this National Government say that they do not support this bill, which facilitates iwi input into decision making and allows for some recognition of iwi management plans—some taking proper account of iwi management plans when councils are forming their own plans. It is very, very much a bill that will allow Māori to be truly taken account of in their contributions to the future of a regional plan and of a region.
I also note that the ACT leader, Rodney Hide, in talking about what I suppose in a sense is a precursor to this bill—the co-governance arrangements on the Waikato River, which gave Tainui a right for some input into the decision making on the river they regard as so sacred and important—commented that it was an inappropriate decision because it was not democratic. He said that it was not giving the community the right to sack people—that people coming from iwi into those co-governance arrangements were only being appointed. Yet Rodney Hide, along with Dr Smith, was very pleased to be able to sack the Environment Canterbury councillors just a few months earlier, and that supposedly did not contravene any democratic principle at that time.
This is a bill that makes sense. It acknowledges that Māori, through iwi management plans, should be allowed to have some input into council plans. It acknowledges that they have in the past—and it was extraordinarily variable—not been able to have their views heard around council tables when important decisions are being made. The goal of the bill is to ensure that more weight is given to iwi concerns in planning and consenting processes, and that there be a greater level of engagement between councils and iwi. That is a commendable principle. It should not have to require Treaty settlements and it should be something that this Parliament recognises and reflects in the adoption of this bill in the name of my colleague Nanaia Mahuta. The Opposition Labour Party supports this bill along with the Māori Party and the Green Party. We believe that the bill deserves to have a run and I think the Government should reconsider its position in respect of it.
- Debate interrupted.
- The House adjourned at 10 p.m.