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Volume 677, Week 4 - Thursday, 1 March 2012
[Sitting date: 01 March 2012. Volume:677;Page:743. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Thursday, 1 March 2012
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : When the House resumes on Tuesday, 6 March, the Government will progress a number of bills on the Order Paper, including the Committee stage of the Search and Surveillance Bill, the Building Amendment Bill (No 3), the Customs and Excise (Joint Border Management Information Sharing and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, and, time permitting, the Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill. By agreement of the Business Committee, the House will take extended sitting hours on Thursday, 8 March. This is to progress the Committee stages of the Ngāti Manawa and Ngāti Whare Claims Settlement Bill, the Nga Wai o Maniapoto (Waipa River) Bill, the Ngāti Pāhauwera Treaty Claims Settlement Bill, and the Ngati Porou Claims Settlement Bill, and the first readings of the Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Bill, the Ngati Whatua Orakei Claims Settlement Bill, the Ngati Manuhiri Claims Settlement Bill, the Maraeroa A and B Blocks Claims Settlement Bill, and the Maraeroa A and B Blocks Incorporation Bill.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I am sorry but I missed the very first part of the Minister’s comments. But I am not going to ask him to read the whole thing again! The question I have got, though, is I am seeking an assurance that the Search and Surveillance Bill will not proceed to its Committee stage until we have had the Supplementary Order Paper for at least 48 hours. I think there is general agreement across the House that it would be good if we could have at least a bipartisan approach on this matter, rather than have legislation that only just goes through. Because I know that there is still a bit of a gap between the views of the major parties, I would like an assurance that we will have at least 48 hours to look at it before the bill does come back in.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : One of the new requirements under the Standing Orders that apply to this Parliament and beyond is that the Government does indicate ahead of time bills that possibly could come up for their Committee stage. I am sure that any undertakings that have been made, any understandings that relate to any of these bills, will be honoured.
Business of the House
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I seek leave for the Standing Orders relating to the preliminary procedures for private bills to be suspended so as to permit the introduction of the Maraeroa A and B Blocks Incorporation Bill, which establishes the entity that will hold and deal with property arising from the Maraeroa A and B Blocks Treaty settlement.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.
Amended Answers to Oral Questions
Question No. 8 to Minister, 29 February
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) : I seek leave under Standing Order 354 to make a personal explanation to correct a reply I gave to an oral question in the House yesterday in respect of current account forecasts.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yesterday, 29 February, I stated in reply to a supplementary question on the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update current account deficit forecasts the following: “The pre-election update last year forecast the current account deficit to widen by about just under $5 billion over the next 4 years.” The answer should have stated that the current account deficit is forecast to widen by $8.4 billion over the next 4 years. I inadvertently stated $5 billion, which is the difference over 3 years, not 4 years. I am taking this first opportunity to correct it in the House.
Questions to Ministers
State-owned Energy Companies, Sales—Mixed-ownership Model
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “the mixed ownership programme will be good for … the economy as a whole”; if so, will it be good for the economy as a whole if these mixed ownership companies then sell New Zealand electricity generating assets into foreign ownership?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, he does stand by that statement that the mixed-ownership programme will be good for the economy. That is because the alternative is to borrow billions and billions of dollars on volatile financial markets. You have only to look at what is happening in Europe, where countries are being forced to slash spending and public services, to see the problems that too much debt creates. In terms of the second part of the question, the member’s theory is misplaced, as none of the shareholding and directors rules will change in that regard.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the legislation to establish these partially privatised energy companies include explicit provisions that prevent these companies from selling major New Zealand electricity-generating assets?
Hon TONY RYALL: The legislation will pretty much reflect the existing situation, where directors of State-owned enterprises not only operate under the requirements of the Companies Act but also are expected to act within the confines and requirements of listing requirements on the New Zealand stock exchange.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the legislation to establish these companies include explicit provisions that prevent those companies from selling major New Zealand electricity-generating assets?
Hon TONY RYALL: The proposed legislation does not need to include any additional features to address the concern that the member has, because the Companies Act already requires that any significant transactions would involve consultation with the shareholders. The Government is retaining 51 percent majority ownership.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he saying that his Government will provide no legislative guarantee that major New Zealand electricity-generating assets will not fall into foreign ownership after partial privatisation?
Hon TONY RYALL: There are requirements in the Companies Act that significant transactions require the support of the majority shareholder, and there are similar requirements in respect of the listing requirements of companies. So the Government is retaining 51 percent majority control.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister agree with the reported comments of the revenue Minister, Peter Dunne, who said the law must be very clear that the partial privatisation programme will not lead to the sell-off of dams and other important New Zealand generating assets?
Hon TONY RYALL: I have not seen the exact details of what Mr Dunne has said in respect of that matter. I do know what is in the coalition agreement, and I also know that there are requirements in the Companies Act in terms of the powers that majority shareholders have in respect of significant transactions, and now, similarly, listing conditions also give majority shareholders those sorts of controls.
Hon David Parker: Does the Government’s expectation that 10 to 15 percent of the State-owned enterprises will be in foreign ownership after the Government’s sales programme mean, in effect, that up to 30 percent of the shares being sold are expected to end up in foreign ownership?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has always been very clear that at the end of this programme we expect, when those companies float, that there will be 10 to 15 percent of the overall shareholding potentially in foreign ownership. The member notes, as he has done, the maths in respect of other relativities.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked whether the effect of that is that up to 30 percent of the shares being sold are expected to end up—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did not question the member’s mathematics. I think he agreed with the member.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept that there is now a conflict between the Minister of Revenue and the rest of the Government over this issue as to whether there will be legislative protection for the sale of New Zealand assets, and that if he cannot solve this problem, he no longer has a majority in this House to progress the asset sale programme?
Hon TONY RYALL: No, there is no conflict. What there is total agreement on between United Future and the Government is that we need to make sure that our country controls its level of debt. What is being proposed is an important part of making sure that our country does not face the challenges that so much of Europe happens to face when Governments let debt get out of control.
Dr Russel Norman: Can his plans for partial privatisation proceed without the support of the Hon Peter Dunne?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the Government has made it absolutely clear that it is obvious what the numbers are expected to be in this legislation. We have a coalition agreement with the United Future party, which quite clearly sets out the terms of that agreement. It is quite clear also that the Companies Act already has provisions that involve shareholder engagement on significant investments. I think the member is creating a Green fantasy in respect of this issue.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. What impact has the consultation with Māori regarding section 9 had on the Government’s position regarding its mixed-ownership programme?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think it is already clear. It has been indicated that the Government is looking, in respect of section 9, at the transmission of it into the new legislation, and at clarification that it does not apply to private shareholders.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it his understanding that section 131 of the Companies Act requires directors to act in the best interests of the company, whereas if it is determined that it is not in the best interests of New Zealand to sell those assets, those directors will be required to act in the best interests of the company, not in the best interests of New Zealand?
Hon TONY RYALL: The directors’ acting within the best interests of the company also requires them to act within the other provisions of the Companies Act. The Companies Act, in respect of the question that the member asked in the first part of this exchange, does provide express provisions for majority shareholders to have a say in significant transactions, and the directors will be aware of that.
Hon David Parker: What percentage of the company’s assets have to be sold before it is a major transaction that requires shareholder approval?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Companies Act sets that out to be around 50 percent.
Transport Projects, Waikato—Ātiamuri Bridge
2. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Transport: What important transport projects are underway in the Waikato region?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : Tomorrow will mark the commencement of replacing State Highway 1’s Ātiamuri Bridge, which crosses the Waikato River 39 kilometres north of Taupō. This $24 million project is essential for improving traffic flow on one of New Zealand’s key freight routes and is a great example of investment in the country’s regional roading network.
Louise Upston: What benefits will the new bridge bring?
Hon Member: Re-election of the local member.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: First, I would expect re-election of the local member, but it will also allow for the free flow of traffic, which has become of significant volume. This is important given the 70 percent to 75 percent increase in freight that is forecast over that part of the State highway in the next 25 years. The project also includes the construction of a 1.5-kilometre northbound passing lane, which will improve safety and reduce driver frustration, and therefore voter frustration.
Louise Upston: What other regional roading projects are focused on delivering increased productivity and improving safety?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are many important and beneficial roading projects under way. To name a few, there is Reid’s Canal Bridge, State Highway 2, east of Bay of Plenty; the start on the construction of the Papakura Interchange Upgrade; State Highway 2, the Tauranga Eastern Link; State Highway 2, Muldoon’s Corner, Wellington; and State Highway 35, Maraenui Bluff, 30 kilometres east of Ōpōtiki. These and many, many others will contribute to increased productivity and increased safety.
Sue Moroney: Will he consider funding the proposal for a commuter passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland, a service that is supported by 11,500 people who signed a petition turned down by a select committee dominated by members of his Government?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think the select committee reached a solid and sound conclusion.
Government Financial Position—Forecasts
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement, in his answer to Oral Question No 8 yesterday, that the current account deficit is forecast in the PREFU to deteriorate by “about just under $5 billion over the next 4 years”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) : As I said in my statement to the House earlier this afternoon, the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update forecast the current account deficit to go from $7.2 billion in 2011 to $12.6 billion in 2014, which was a difference of about $5 billion over 3 years rather than 4 years as I said yesterday. Over 4 years from 2011 to 2015, the forecast is to widen by $8.4 billion.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister tell the House whether the country’s net international liabilities are forecast to grow in the next 4 years, and, if so, by how much, to the nearest $10 billion?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have those exact numbers, but they are forecast to grow over the next 4 years, and the member is aware of that, as it was stated both in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update and in the recent fiscal update.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has not addressed the question, which was could he tell the House to the nearest $10 billion.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said he did not have the figures, and given that the primary question was about the current account deficit, it is not unreasonable if the Minister does not have the figures on net liabilities.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he know whether his Government has achieved any of the economic growth forecasts projected since it came to office, including the Budget 2009 scenario, written during the darkest days of the recession?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Some of the forecasts since we came to office have changed, and the member may well be aware—I am not sure—that the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes were not projected in any of those forecasts in 2009 to the extent that they have occurred. That is the nature of forecasts. Treasury in fact makes forecasts and Governments go on to deal with the real world, which, as we know, has changed quite dramatically in the last 3 years.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a pretty straightforward question. It was has the Government met any of its forecasts? The fact that forecasts have changed was not the question. The fact that circumstances have changed was not the question. It was has the Government met any of its forecasts, including, I think, the one that was made in the depths of the recession.
Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister could assist with that, because the question did specifically ask that.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I did answer it. I was asked whether the forecast had changed, and I said yes, and I went on to give some reasons.
Mr SPEAKER: If there is dispute over what the question was, I will invite the Hon David Cunliffe to repeat his question.
Hon David Cunliffe: To repeat the question, has the Government achieved any of the economic growth forecasts projected in any of the official forecasts since it came to office, including the Budget 2009 scenario, written during the darkest days of the recession?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: My response is the same, and that is that the forecasts have changed and that the reality has changed, and that is what happens when you go from forecast to reality, given the level of changes, including the nature and ongoing uncertainties associated with the global financial crisis, and also the fact of the Canterbury earthquake, which occurred after the forecasts the member mentions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was the same answer to the same question, and he did not answer it—in exactly the same way. It is a question of whether it met the forecast, not whether the forecast changed. Any of them—one would do.
Mr SPEAKER: My understanding from the Minister’s answer is the answer is no. If that is not the answer that the Minister is giving there, he should correct me, and he is not correcting me.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a graph of Treasury data showing that the Government has not, in fact, met any of those forecasts.
Mr SPEAKER: The source of the graph?
Hon David Cunliffe: Treasury data.
Mr SPEAKER: Who prepared the graph—the source of the document?
Hon David Cunliffe: My staff.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a document prepared by the member’s staff. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon David Cunliffe: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot hear the member. Is he seeking a supplementary question?
Hon David Cunliffe: A point of order. I seek leave to table this graph showing that GDP—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the member says what is in it, he must say the source of the document.
Hon David Cunliffe: Treasury data.
Mr SPEAKER: But the source of the document.
Hon David Cunliffe: The source of the document is my office—Treasury data.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, the source of the document is established: the member’s staff. He may seek leave.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table this table, which shows that the Canterbury earthquake—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member must identify—
Hon David Cunliffe: —was responsible for only—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member must establish the source of the document.
Hon David Cunliffe: The source is the Parliamentary Library.
Mr SPEAKER: The member may proceed.
Hon David Cunliffe: It is data that shows that only 26 percent of the loss or the variance of those forecasts could be attributed to the earthquake, not 100 percent, as said yesterday by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, we should deal with this first.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I just have an objection to the way that was described, because—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, we can deal with that. Leave is sought to table the document, then I will deal with the point of order. Is there any objection to the document being tabled? There is objection. Now, the member had a point of order.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was just to clarify that the description by the member of what I said yesterday was incorrect.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. But, of course, the problem arose because in seeking leave to table the document, the member went on to express a view about the relationship between what the document said and what some other member said. That is not in order when seeking leave to table a document. The leave should be sought describing simply the source of the document and what the document is, not whether or not it is consistent with what anyone else said. That is why we got into this trouble.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the Hansard of question No. 8—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not do that; the member will resume his seat.
Hon David Cunliffe: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member now have a supplementary question?
Hon David Cunliffe: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I am very grateful.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I inquire of the Speaker whether it is customary for him to express his gratitude for supplementary questions?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat right now, and if he wishes to ask his supplementary question, he will cease trifling with the Chair. He has been using a process of seeking leave to table documents—a perfectly valid process—when he knows that some of the documents he was seeking to table were not valid documents for which leave could be sought. Then he went on, when describing a document, to make comment about another member of the House, which is, again, outside the Standing Orders. I am just asking the member to be reasonable, and please just ask his supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he know what the benefit-cost ratio of allowing Skycity Casino to operate 350 to 500 extra pokie machines would be, and if so, what is it?
Mr SPEAKER: How on earth does that relate to the primary question? If I have missed the point, I will give the member the chance to explain to me.
Hon David Cunliffe: The explanation is very simple. If there is a net economic benefit—for example, from incoming tourism—then that would contribute to an increase in the current account.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a long way from this primary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This casino project was a major feature of the Government’s pre-election promises, and its economic delivery—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard sufficient. All sorts of things were major features of many parties’ pre-election promises. This question asked about whether the member stood by his statement in answer to oral question No. 8 yesterday about the current account deficit forecast in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, and how much it was going to deteriorate—a very specific question—and the supplementary questions should relate to that. And that one clearly did not.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I have actually ruled it out, so I am not sure what the point of order is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I am going to ask you to take some time afterwards to reconsider whether a major economic project can or cannot make a different to the current account deficit. We work on the basis that major projects are meant to help with that deficit. You, Mr Speaker, might have a different basis.
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. It is a very specific primary question, and to ask details about a certain particular project is unreasonable. The Standing Orders were never designed to facilitate that. I am very liberal in allowing most supplementary questions, but that one is clearly well wide of the primary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm whether New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s priorities for addressing the current account deficit exclude casinos and media companies formerly owned by himself; and if so, can he explain why he has made it a priority to do private deals with those companies?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I confirm that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has a number of priorities to deal with the balance of payments deficit, but it is not particularly addressed to the two things the member raises.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having been asked three times whether the Government has met any of its 2009 forecasts—a point discerned by the Speaker, thankfully, as being no—why could he not rise in this House and just say that, rather than try to dissemble as he did?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is sort of “pot black” territory, is it not—the pot calling the kettle black. But—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What can that possibly do towards the answer?
Mr SPEAKER: The member should reflect on his question. He accused the Minister of dissembling, and the Minister is perfectly at liberty, when faced by a question like that, to offer some views in return. The Minister was perhaps being quite modest in the view he was offering in return.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point I was making is that in terms of the best laid plans of mice and men a number of things occurred that changed those growth patterns, such as the Canterbury earthquakes.
Courts—Drug and Alcohol Court Pilot
4. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Justice: What initiatives is the Government planning in the justice system to help reduce drug and alcohol related offending?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) : The Government will set up a drug and alcohol court pilot to deal with carefully selected offenders with severe alcohol and drug dependencies. The 5-year pilot is due to be up and running later this year in Auckland. The aim of the pilot is to deal with 100 offenders a year who have severe addiction problems and need more intensive treatment to help them break the cycle of substance abuse. The drug and alcohol court pilot will deliver on priorities under the Government’s Drivers of Crime work programme, which include reducing alcohol-related harm and improving the availability and accessibility of alcohol and drug treatment services.
Simon O’Connor: How would an alcohol and drug court work?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Offenders who are facing up to 3 years’ imprisonment for crimes where alcohol and drug abuse is a contributing factor will be assessed by a specialist under the direction of a District Court judge. The specialist will determine the most appropriate treatment programme from a range of options. There will be ongoing judicial supervision of the treatment. We know that alcohol and other drug abuse contributes to a wide range of harm, including public disorder, accidents, violence, child abuse, lower productivity, and illness.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Given that alcohol abuse is such a devastating driver of crime, why has she allowed progress on the Alcohol Reform Bill to grind to a halt, and will she make sure that that half-hearted piece of legislation is strengthened so that it can achieve its purpose and reduce the incidence of alcohol-fuelled crime?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Contrary to grinding to a halt, it has got a whole new lease of life since I became the Minister of Justice. I have to say I am enjoying—[Interruption] That member is clearly not in the loop in terms of justice issues.
Question No. 5 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Government Financial Position—Current Account Deficit
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What current account deficit, in dollars, was projected in the pre-election fiscal update by the Treasury for 2012 and for 2016; and does he agree with Hon Steven Joyce’s answer in Oral Question No 8 yesterday, that “the pre-election update last year forecast the current account deficit to widen by about just under $5 billion over the next 4 years”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update states that the 2012 forecast deficit is $5 billion and for 2016 it is forecast to be $17.6 billion. The two main reasons for this are the rebuild of Christchurch following the earthquakes and an expected easing of commodity prices for our exports. The second half of the member’s question has been dealt with earlier in question time.
Hon David Parker: Did the Minister of Finance require or expect his Associate Minister of Finance Mr Joyce to read Treasury’s briefing to incoming Minister, which also sets out the projected rise in the current account deficit to $17 billion in 2016, and does he know whether Mr Joyce read it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The answer is yes, and we have readings in the Minister of Finance’s office where we read pieces of the briefing to incoming Minister to each other of an evening, to enjoy the opportunity to read the wisdom of Treasury.
Hon David Parker: Can the Minister of Finance assure the House that the Associate Minister of Finance Mr Joyce now understands it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Absolutely, he is confident that Mr Joyce understands it, and he finds him a very good Associate Minister of Finance.
Hon David Parker: If the Associate Minister of Finance Mr Joyce did not previously understand the seriousness of New Zealand’s deteriorating current account deficit, can the Minister assure the House that the rest of his Cabinet does understand that under his policies the current account deficit is projected to increase every year to 2016?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister rejects the first part of the premise of the member’s question. The Associate Minister does understand. I have to say, in relation to the second part, there is a little bit of irony there, because it is forecast to widen, but that member was actually part of a Government between 2005 and 2008 where the current account deficit averaged more than 8 percent of GDP over that period.
Hon David Parker: Did Treasury’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update predict that the worsening current account under his Government’s policies results in New Zealand’s net international liabilities increasing to 77.6 percent of GDP by 2016, and is he aware that that equals an increase in New Zealand’s liabilities to foreign lenders and foreigners of approximately $50 billion?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, and again I have to say it is interesting because we have had a significant decrease in international liabilities in terms of the actual recorded numbers since this Government has been in office. Yes, it is projected to increase again, which is why the Government is working very hard on a range of matters, including its 120-point economic development action plan, to have an impact on those matters.
Foreign Charter Fishing Vessels—Ministerial Inquiry Report
6. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Has he received the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries) : Yes, Minister Wilkinson and I received the report from the panel last Friday, and we have released the report today. I thank the panel, chaired by the Hon Paul Swain, for its excellent report. It is clear from the report that there have been issues of abuse on some foreign charter vessels. This is completely unacceptable and a risk to New Zealand’s reputation. The Government will not tolerate the abuse and exploitation of crews on foreign charter vessels.
Ian McKelvie: What steps will the Government take in light of the report into foreign charter vessels?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The report contains 15 recommendations. The Government has already accepted in principle, and is acting on, the inquiry panel’s first six recommendations. These include such measures as tightening the code of practice and moving to 100 percent observer status on the foreign chartered vessels. The remaining recommendations, which the Government is still considering, cover legislative amendments, ratifying international conventions, and significant policy changes. The Government wants to understand the wider economic impacts before making any decision on these.
Darien Fenton: Will there be extra funding for his department or the Department of Labour so that they have the staff and equipment necessary to properly monitor and enforce foreign charter vessels’ compliance with the recommendations that this Government has accepted today, or will they be expected to do that within current baselines?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I am confident that all ministries and departments can initiate the recommendations accepted so far by the Government within current funding arrangements.
Auckland Council—Financial Management
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he have confidence in the financial management of Auckland Council?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Local Government) : Financial management of the new Auckland Council is the responsibility of its elected mayor and council, and if the member has a concern, he should take it up directly with them. If he is not satisfied with their response, he should lay a complaint with the Auditor-General. There is a high test for intervention by the Minister in the financial matters of a council, and it generally follows a complaint to, and negative report by, the Auditor-General.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it correct that Deloitte is doing significant consultancy work on behalf of the Auckland Council, including senior managers of Deloitte charging $3,400 per day plus GST—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is not responsible whatsoever for the operational activities or decision making of the Auckland Council. The primary question was allowed because the member needed to have the opportunity to ascertain whether or not the Minister was contemplating any particular actions in relation to the Auckland Council. The Minister made it very clear in his answer that he was not. The only other matters that the Minister is responsible for are the appointments to the council-controlled organisations and any Crown investment being made by those—how many are there—six council-controlled organisations. But matters outside that are certainly not the responsibility of the Minister. I would have to rule that question out.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is well known that the Auckland Transition Agency was appointed by this Government. The Auckland Transition Agency chose the chief executive, Mr McKay, and other executive officers were all chosen by the Auckland Transition Agency, a Government-appointed body. That was clearly manifest in press statements at the time. That is the linkage that makes this council unique, and that is why this Minister is responsible for those appointments. This happened—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I regret to disagree with the member. Had the member questioned the Minister about appointments, that might be the case, but the member was seeking to question the Minister about the detailed operations of the Auckland Council. The Minister is in no way responsible for them, and the Minister made that very clear in his answer. There was nothing in the Minister’s answer—I mean, the member could have had a track for supplementary questions had the Minister widened his answer to allow the member to do so, but the Minister’s answer was quite constrained. The supplementary questions available to the member are very constrained, because we cannot have Ministers being questioned about the detailed operations of the various councils around the country. That is not in order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had this matter out with your staff this morning. Your staff member made the same statement you are making now. I pointed out the case of ECan—Environment Canterbury—and the tracing of appointments by the Auckland Transition Agency, a Government-appointed body, and officials appointed by this Government. That, she accepted, was the linkage, which presumably was the reason why she accepted this question. It having now arrived on the floor, you are now ruling it out. What is consistent about that?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the honourable Leader of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Speaker, you did not rule out the primary question, for the reasons that you outlined, which could have led to a series of supplementary questions that were appropriate—given the primary question. The point here, though, is that Parliament passed an Act to put the greater Auckland Council in place, and the financial responsibilities for that organisation lie with that organisation. There are other remedies for the member to follow if he is unhappy with the way in which that council is conducting its financial matters.
Hon Member: Point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear first from the shadow Leader of the House, the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, I want to take a slightly different tack to the one that the right honourable gentleman has taken on this. Your having accepted the original question about whether the Minister had confidence in the financial management, I think a following question asking the Minister whether he was aware of a fact that might cause him to change his mind as to whether or not he had confidence is a legitimate supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the members’ contributions, because this is an interesting issue. But the primary question was allowed only on the grounds that I explained: that it was possible that the Minister was contemplating some actions that the Minister could have been responsible for, and it would be wrong to prevent the House from being able to ascertain that. But the Minister having replied in the way he did—that he was not contemplating any actions in respect of initiating any reviews or reports, or taking any actions to put in place a review authority—very much narrows the scope for supplementary questions, and, really, leaves the only range of supplementary questions available questions in relation to the Crown appointments to the council-controlled organisations or the Crown’s investment in those organisations.
To go as far as the honourable member has suggested, I think, is really taking things a step too far altogether, because question time is not designed for that purpose. The member can easily make his concerns public. He does not need question time, with questions outside the Standing Orders, to do that. The Minister can be questioned on matters in the future, but to use question time in that way, I think, is quite outside the Standing Orders. The primary question was allowed—and a lot of thought was given to whether or not it should be allowed—only because of the possibility that the Minister might have been contemplating initiating certain reviews or reports, or taking certain actions, in relation to the authority, the authority being the Auckland Council. The Minister has made it clear he is not, so that narrows the supplementary questions very significantly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just said something that is cause for grave concern. Our rights here go back to 1688. Those rights are for a member of Parliament—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. We are not going to waste time today with the right honourable member lecturing me on our rights. I have been around this House just as long as that member has, and I have upheld the rights of members across this House with some degree of conscientiousness. But the Standing Orders must be complied with. The member may like to raise all sorts of points during question time, but if they are not within the scope of the Standing Orders, they are not allowed, and I have to uphold the Standing Orders equally for all members. I have required Ministers to answer questions where I believe that the Standing Orders require them to do so. I will uphold that member’s rights, all right, but his questions must be within the Standing Orders, and I have ruled that that supplementary question is not within the scope of the Standing Orders.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to consider where we have got to now, and that is, effectively, if a Minister knows about an issue and is contemplating a change, then a question is within the Standing Orders, but if a member is bringing up information in Parliament—in the way that he has a right to do—that is new to the Minister and inviting him to change his mind, that is outside the Standing Orders. I do not think that can be right.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The point the member is missing is this: the point the member seeks to bring up is not the Minister’s responsibility. The Minister can be responsible only for actions he might be taking, or those Crown decisions on appointments. The detail that the member was seeking to raise, and that the Hon Trevor Mallard has suggested should be allowed by way of a supplementary question, is definitely not the Minister’s responsibility. That is definitely not the Minister’s responsibility, and that is why the supplementary question cannot be allowed.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am not going to take more time on this, because I have made it very clear. I can assure the honourable member that I consulted in some detail on this matter during the process of the approval of this primary question. I, in fact, have a full ruling here. I have been quoting bits from it. I am prepared to deliver the full ruling to the House, because this matter has been given a lot of thought, and I will not have question time hijacked by questions that are simply outside the Standing Orders. The member has further supplementary questions, and—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better be a good one.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, Mr Speaker. At the risk of inviting you to breach the Standing Orders, can I invite you to read your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: It is totally the Speaker’s prerogative what he does, and I want to get on with question time, rather than take up time doing that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister have confidence in Mr Doug McKay, the chief executive appointed by the Auckland Transition Agency, which was a Government-appointed body, and his knowledge about gifts and travel from Deloitte to the chief financial officer of the Auckland Council?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is not for me as the Minister of Local Government to have confidence in the chief executive of the Auckland Council, any more than in that of any one of our other 78 councils. That is the due—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You appointed them. You appointed them. That’s the difference.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —and proper role of the mayor and council. I would point out to the member with his interjection that the council and the mayor have confirmed Mr Doug McKay as their chief executive. If the member has concerns about any financial impropriety involving that council or any other, the proper process is for him to take those matters to the Auditor-General.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister still have confidence in the chief executive, Doug McKay, who was appointed as I said before, and his allowing a senior financial officer to receive an expenses paid trip to the US from Deloitte—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I have to rule that question out, because the Minister in his answer made very clear that the position of the chief executive is no longer the position of a Crown appointee. The position is now one confirmed by the council and not a normal Crown appointee, so the Minister has no responsibility for confidence in that person. It is the council that has that responsibility. The Minister has no responsibility for it, whatsoever. So I have to ask the member to—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Everyone knows that this council is not like the Bay of Plenty council—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I finish my point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: No, because it is not a point of order. The member will resume his seat. The member should know, having spent 27 years in this House, that points of order relate to the proceedings of this House. What the public might know about a certain individual is nothing to do with the proceedings of this House. I am prepared to hear the member if he has a Standing Order that he feels the Speaker is not upholding appropriately or correctly. I would be happy to hear from him then. But if he wants to make some comment about what the public might know, I am afraid he will be sat down very promptly, because that is nothing to do with the proceedings of this House, and points of order cannot be used to raise such issues.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate what you are saying, but it seems to me that, surely, the period between when the Government appointed this person and when the council appointed him as its chief executive should be open to questioning, because during that period he was a Government appointee, appointed by the Minister. We should be able to ask the Minister about at least that time period.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a very interesting point of order the member has raised.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The point made by the co-leader of the Greens is not completely correct. The Government was responsible for the appointment of the transition authority. The transition authority then appointed an interim chief executive. The council, once elected, then confirmed the appointment of the chief executive. It is not correct that the Government appointed the chief executive, either during the transition stage or once the council was elected.
Mr SPEAKER: I—[Interruption] Order! This is a serious issue. The right honourable member wants to ask questions, and I want this issue taken seriously because there are important issues. But I appreciate the point raised by the Hon Dr Nick Smith, because he clarified what I as Speaker had no way of knowing were the facts of the matter. I think that makes it even more clear that the supplementary question that the member was seeking to ask was not in order. The member has a further supplementary question, should he wish to exercise it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have virtually lost all my questions here today, but my real point is this. The circumstances that led to, for example, the removal of Environment Canterbury show that despite it being an elected body, the Minister had a responsibility. All I want to know is whether he has received any reports of these matters—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trying to pursue further supplementary questions by way of a point of order. I allowed the primary question just in case the Minister was initiating any reviews or reports, and the Minister made it very clear that he was not. In the case of Environment Canterbury, the Minister was taking action, and he could certainly have been questioned on the actions he was taking—no doubt about that. If the Minister was taking actions, or initiating reports or reviews, or anything like that, he could be questioned on that. But he cannot be questioned on the operations of the Auckland Council or its chief executive, because he is not responsible for those matters. The member could question him about Crown investment by some of the council-controlled organisations, he could question the Minister about Crown appointments to those council-controlled organisations, but that is about the limit of that kind of questioning. If the member does not wish to have a further supplementary question, I will proceed to the next question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister had any reviews or any investigations, or does he intend to initiate any inquiries, into reports of significant financial mismanagement and conflict of interest where Deloitte is involved in the Auckland Council, to the extent that it is picking up money as consultants whilst also doing the auditing work for Audit New Zealand—another Government-responsible body?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I have not received any reports or concerns, but, equally, I would say to the member that if I did receive concerns about any financial impropriety involving any of our 78 councils, my advice to those people would be to refer them to the Auditor-General. The intervention powers that I have as a Minister are quite limited, and only in serious situations, and around financial matters have only followed negative reports by the Auditor-General.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has used New Zealand First’s allocation of supplementary questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You have ruled them all out.
Mr SPEAKER: That does not mean they are not supplementary questions.
Industrial Action—Government Response
8. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What action, if any, does the Government intend to take in respect of industrial action currently occurring in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Labour: The industrial actions taking place at the moment are matters that are between the employers and the employees. The Government has not been asked to intervene and does not intend doing so.
Darien Fenton: Will her Government’s planned legislation to remove the requirement to conclude collective bargaining not mean workers have no options left but to strike in order to achieve fairer wages and working conditions?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, the vast majority of collective agreements are signed without problem.
Darien Fenton: Does she agree Oceania Group’s aged-care workers would not need to be striking at the moment if her Government had provided them with a fair $15-an-hour minimum wage?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Darien Fenton: Does she agree that her Government’s policies undermining workers’ rights have encouraged employers to pay less, and if not, how does she explain her answers to written questions yesterday, which show that almost half the number of jobs created in the last year have been minimum-wage jobs?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In answer to the first part of the question, no. In relation to the second part of the question, it is important that new jobs are created in the economy. They are opportunities for people to progress.
9. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology: What recent progress has the Government made to improve New Zealanders’ access to broadband?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) : I am happy to report that the Government’s Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative is now under way in Dunedin. By July of this year there will be new fibre past 1,400 homes and businesses and providing connections to 14 schools in North Dunedin. Along with the ultra-fast broadband builds under way in Ashburton, Christchurch, Rangiora, and Blenheim, this will provide real opportunity to boost economic growth and increase productivity in the South Island.
Michael Woodhouse: What recent progress has been made in the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative?
Hon AMY ADAMS: A launch was held at Eureka in the Waikato last week to mark the first five of 154 new broadband wireless towers being delivered under the scheme. As well as the new tower at Eureka, new towers are now also up and running in Motueka, Waitakere, Kūmeu, and Puketaha, and 44 existing towers have also been upgraded to date. This means the first rural New Zealanders are now enjoying the benefits of the Rural Broadband Initiative, with the added benefit of better cellphone coverage, as well. I am proud to be part of a Government delivering real results for rural New Zealand.
Ship Grounding, Rena—Government Response
10. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Will he commit to holding a Royal Commission or a Commission of Inquiry into the Government’s response to the grounding of the Rena?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : The current focus remains on the salvage and clean-up efforts. The independent Transport Accident Investigation Commission is investigating the grounding and can be expected to make any recommendations required on matters to improve shipping safety. Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand’s regulatory investigation has already seen Rena crew facing charges before the courts. In due course we will consider the nature of any independent inquiry, should it be required.
Gareth Hughes: Why now, 148 days after the Rena grounding—described by environment Minister Nick Smith as New Zealand’s worst environment disaster in decades—has the Government not yet announced a royal commission of inquiry or commission of inquiry, considering the Pike River inquiry was announced 20 days after that incident, the Canterbury earthquake inquiry was announced 48 days after that crisis, and the average for all royal commissions and commissions of inquiry is 41 days?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no competition here to see who can get the inquiry in the shortest period of time. We have two investigations going on at the moment. One of those has led to court action being taken; that is progressing at the present time. The Rena is still on the reef and the clean-up operation continues, as will the salvage operation.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister stand by the Prime Minister’s statement to Gary Taylor of the Environmental Defence Society that it is his expectation to have some sort of independent inquiry into the aftermath of the Rena grounding; if so, in what time frame will we see an announcement of a royal commission or a commission of inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister made the commitment to an independent inquiry, but at the moment there are inquiries taking place by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and by Maritime New Zealand itself, and of course there is a massive clean-up going on there, as well. There is a natural sequence to these things that will unfold, and in time we will make a decision about the nature of an inquiry that might be required to further find out what happened.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm the statement made by officials at the select committee this morning that undertaking work to draft legislation to ratify the bunker convention, which would significantly limit the liability for taxpayers in situations like the Rena grounding, was not a priority; and if so, will he instruct his officials to make it a priority?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I was not at the select committee this morning, so I would be very unwise to agree with anything that was quoted by the member.
Grant Robertson: Does the Minister think it should be a priority for his officials to draft legislation to ensure that the bunker convention is ratified and implemented by New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think that my officials should be engaged in, firstly, ensuring that we get a good outcome from the discussions with the owners of the vessel about what they will contribute to the very significant cost that the New Zealand taxpayer has had to meet, and then, of course, considering what the best position for New Zealand might be, moving forward.
Mr SPEAKER: It would have been quite helpful had the Minister made some reference to the substance of the question in relation to legislation in relation to the bunker—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought I was very clear. If you could understand the vagaries of the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ questions, it seems to me you should have been able to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member knows that that is no way to use a point of order, and because he did that I invite Grant Robertson to repeat his question, for all to hear it clearly.
Hon Member: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I have invited Grant Robertson to repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That sort of insult really requires an apology, particularly from some illiterate woodwork teacher.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member just heard me tell the Hon Gerry Brownlee that his point of order was totally out of order. OK, I did it in reasonably good humour. The member knows he cannot use points of order to abuse other members. He will now leave the House. I will not tolerate the point of order process being used to abuse other members.
- Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I was asked whether I considered it a priority for officials to advance the bunker provisions, which the member was questioning on. I said I thought the priority should be, first, engaging with the owners to conclude negotiations over what they will pay for the costs that the taxpayers have been encumbered with, and then we would look to what would be the best options for New Zealand to protect itself in the future. I think that is a perfectly clear answer.
Mr SPEAKER: With respect, I have invited the member to repeat his question. I will hear his repeated question.
Grant Robertson: Does the Minister think it is a priority for his officials to undertake the work to draft legislation to ratify the bunker convention, which would limit the liability of New Zealand taxpayers in situations like the Rena grounding?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will expand a little on what I just said on the previous question. I think it should be a priority—and it is a priority—for my officials to work towards getting a good outcome from negotiations with the owners of the Rena, so that the expenses that the taxpayers have incurred to date are minimised. Going forward, I would like to point out that any convention we might sign will have its own limitations. We do not know yet where we are going to end up out of this negotiation, therefore cannot know what would be a good level of limitation that might be put into legislation.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.
NZ On Air and Broadcasters—Minister’s Responsibilities
11. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What duties, if any, does he believe he has to protect the Broadcasting Commission, also known as NZ On Air, and broadcasters from political interference?
Mr SPEAKER: The changed word was instead of “also known”. The member said “colloquially known” as NZ On Air. But I do not think that changes the substance of the question.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I believe that the board has the professionalism and the ability to resist political interference. But were the chair of the board to be concerned about any potential political interference, I would expect the chair to raise this with me. This has not occurred. My duty is to not interfere in operational matters of the board.
Clare Curran: How did appointing Mr Stephen McElrea, the chair of the Prime Minister’s National Party organisation in his Helensville electorate, help protect NZ On Air and broadcasters from political interference?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I did not appoint that particular member.
Clare Curran: Does he think it was appropriate for Mr McElrea to try to stop the broadcast of an NZ On Air - funded documentary about child poverty in New Zealand prior to the election?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I feel confident in the board. I would always expect all board members, if they have concerns about any matter, to raise any issues they have with the chair of the particular board. In this particular instance the chair of the board did not raise such matters with me.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This again was a commendably direct question of the Minister, asking him whether he thought a particular action was appropriate. I think the only interpretation you could take, if we are using your relatively liberal way of interpreting things, is yes, but I think most people in the House or the public could not tell that is what the Minister actually said.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows the question was seeking opinion from the Minister, and where an opinion is being sought on an issue like this, there is no particular answer. The Minister gave the House information that there had been no complaint to him that would have required him to exercise any view on the matter, and therefore he is not obliged to answer any more specifically than that.
Clare Curran: Does he believe it was proper for Television New Zealand (TVNZ) in what was interpreted by Fair Go journalists as an instruction to ask Fair Go journalists not to report stories that upset their advertisers?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I am comfortable that Fair Go has always given all participants a fair go. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Unless some other member wants to have an early shower, there will be order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was nothing about what was on TV. The question that the Minister was asked to give an opinion on was not what was on TV, but on what Fair Go journalists interpreted as a direction not to criticise their advertisers. This does go right to the core of the Minister’s responsibilities, both as Minister of Broadcasting and as Minister in charge, to make sure that TVNZ is ethically proper.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think it is highly debatable whether some of these matters go right to the core of the Minister’s responsibilities. Certainly they are responsibilities of the board, but the Minister has very constrained responsibilities in respect of this for very good reason—to avoid political interference by a Minister. The question was asking the Minister about something that I do not believe he does have direct responsibility for. The way the Minister answered it, I think, was not unreasonable given the nature of the question.
Clare Curran: Can he not see that this is the latest in a long list of slippages in media standards in Government-controlled organisations caused by his Government’s lack of principles?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I think many members do not see what that member purports to see in many of the questions that she asks.
Contaminated Sites—Moanataiari and Management of Contaminated Soil
12. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: What action has the Government taken to assist local councils to deal with the possible contamination of residential and community properties in Moanataiari?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) : The Government has agreed to provide $238,000 to assist the Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Waikato Regional Council with the issues arising from arsenic contamination of this subdivision in Thames, following representations by the local member. The funding is being used for additional tests on the 212 residential properties, and for the immediate remediation of hot spots at the Moanataiari School and the local childcare centre.
Scott Simpson: What steps at a national level is the Government taking to improve management of health risks from contaminated sites?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government last year adopted a national environment standard for managing contaminated soil, setting out safe levels across 12 contaminants, including arsenic. This is seen as a more efficient process than having each one of our 78 councils engage in the necessary expertise to determine safe levels. The new standard took effect on 1 January this year. The Government is also advancing a programme of work as part of the memorandum of understanding with the Green Party on further steps that would have New Zealand better manage the environmental risks from contaminated sites.
Misuse of Drugs (Classification of Tapentadol) Order 2011—Approval
Parliamentary Service Commission
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I move, That, pursuant to section 15(1)(d) of the Parliamentary Service Act 2000, the following members be appointed as members of the Parliamentary Service Commission: Michael Woodhouse, Chris Hipkins, Metiria Turei, Barbara Stewart, Te Ururoa Flavell, and Hone Harawira.
- Motion agreed to.
Search and Surveillance Bill
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) : I move, That the Search and Surveillance Bill be now read a second time. The bill provides a coherent, consistent, and certain approach to our search and surveillance laws. It modernises the law of search, seizure, and surveillance to take into account advances in technologies and regulate their use. The bill also provides rules that recognise the importance of the rights and the entitlements affirmed in other enactments, including the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Evidence Act 2006. The bill ensures that the investigative tools available to enforcement officers are effective and adequate for law enforcement purposes.
I would like to commend the Justice and Electoral Committee for its thorough consideration of the bill, and for the sensible amendments it has proposed. The committee received 478 written submissions on the bill across two separate rounds of consultation—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order! If members are having private conversations, please do it in such a manner as not to disrupt.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: —and heard 29 oral submissions. I note that many submitters were concerned about the bill. In particular, many felt that the bill contained ineffective protections for human rights. The committee has vigilantly considered the concerns surrounding human rights, and has recommended a number of changes to ensure the bill strikes a more appropriate balance between these rights and law enforcement needs.
Two important areas where the committee has recommended amendments are examination orders and surveillance powers. The committee has recommended that the thresholds for the making of examination orders be raised to offending punishable by 5 years’ imprisonment or more in the business context, and offending either punishable by 7 years’ imprisonment or more, or committed by an organised criminal group in a non-business context. This means that examination orders will not be available for low-level offending such as trespass and disorderly behaviour. This was a major concern for a number of submitters.
Additionally, I have discussed with the Labour Party its proposal to raise the threshold for examination orders to offending punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment in both the business and non-business context. Doing so would substantially limit the types of offences for which examination orders are available. For example, it would exclude offences such as engaging in money-laundering and accessing a computer system dishonestly.
An offence like engaging in money-laundering often involves complex financial transactions, and the examination power will ensure that those who have been involved, such as an accountant, will assist to unravel the documents relating to the transactions. It is also important that examination orders should be available in the business context to investigate offences committed by organised criminal groups. Raising the threshold to 10 years would undermine the effectiveness of examination orders, the rationale for their existence, and the purpose of the bill.
The use of surveillance as an investigative tool has also been restricted. The committee has recommended that all audio surveillance and visual surveillance involving entry on to private property be restricted to the investigation of offences punishable by 7 years’ imprisonment or more, with exceptions only for some offending under the Arms Act. These forms of surveillance have also been limited to police and authorised law enforcement agencies. Only the Customs Service and the Department of Internal Affairs may apply to be authorised by Order in Council to carry out visual surveillance or to use interception devices.
To obtain authorisation an agency must have the technical capability to undertake these forms of surveillance and appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the information obtained in the use of these devices. The bill expressly recognises privileges protected under the Evidence Act, such as medical privilege, legal professional privilege, and the rights of journalists to protect their sources. For instance, under the bill a journalist may refuse to answer questions or produce documents that would reveal the identity of a source. A journalist may also refuse to allow an item to be searched, by making a claim that it is subject to journalistic privilege. The bill contains a process for claims of such privilege to be determined by a court.
A further concern among submitters was a lack of appropriate safeguards. The bill contains a number of safeguards, which will mitigate the abuse of power by law enforcement agencies. These include requiring prior judicial approval for any law enforcement power unless there is sufficient reason for the power to be carried out immediately; a requirement that powers may be exercised only where there are both reasonable grounds to suspect relevant offending and reasonable grounds to believe the exercise of the power will obtain evidential material of the offending; detailed reporting requirements; and the ability to seek redress through the courts when the manner of execution of a search, a seizure, or surveillance is unreasonable.
These numerous measures ensure that there are sufficient safeguards that will prevent unreasonable or unjustified use of the powers in the bill. I will be tabling a Supplementary Order Paper that will give effect to a number of further technical and policy amendments, and I can advise the members of the House that as soon as that is ready I will get it available to the parties who have expressed interest.
One of the changes in the Supplementary Order Paper alters the commencement of the bill so that it will commence in two parts. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamed and Others in 2011, the surveillance device provisions contained within the bill will commence on the expiry of the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Act in April 2012. This is to ensure that the police will be able to continue to utilise surveillance as a crime-fighting tool.
The main policy changes contained within the Supplementary Order Paper include restricting the determination of claims of journalistic protection made under section 68 of the Evidence Act to the High Court, where such a claim has been made following the execution of search warrants, production orders, or examination orders; amending Acts not amended by the bill as introduced to bring them under the regime established by the bill; enabling police to search for and seize firearms or dealers’ licences where there is an existing power to search for and seize firearms; and enabling police to search for and seize firearms where a police safety order is in force.
I believe that this bill strikes a necessary balance between law enforcement powers, privacy, and human rights. The bill ensures that the police and other agencies are able to investigate crime, whilst preventing unlawful search and seizure, and allowing the courts to examine the reasonableness of powers used. I believe that the amendments recommended by the committee effectively address the concerns raised, and once again I thank the committee members for the work that they have done on this bill. I commend this bill to the House.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : I want to begin my remarks today by acknowledging the new Minister of Justice, the Hon Judith Collins, and wishing her well in her justice portfolio. I also want to recognise the consultative approach that she has adopted early on in her stewardship of the portfolio, and I think it is appropriate to acknowledge also that she has a herculean task ahead of her in trying to rationalise the workload that she has inherited.
It is, as I have said previously in this House, a difficult workload to have inherited. It is a grab bag of measures, frankly, some of which sit half—or not even half—completed. I think it will be important for her, with respect, to rationalise the workload that she has inherited. In doing that, I have already expressed to her privately that the Labour Opposition will offer its support for the sensible measures that are part of that legacy, although not all of those measures, because I am not sure, frankly, that history will be kind to her predecessor in the portfolio.
Mr Power was a popular member of this House and a charming member of this House, but frankly the backlog that now sits in the justice portfolio waiting to be processed is most undesirable. Frankly, also, the record reflects that Mr Power was not willing to consult on measures that he ought to have consulted on, particularly this one, the Search and Surveillance Bill, where it is undoubtedly desirable that there be a multiparty consensus on the powers of search and surveillance that the State ought to be able to exercise.
This legislation has a protracted history. Labour introduced the original Search and Surveillance Powers Bill back in 2008, following a Law Commission report. The bill, as the Minister has said, was extensively modified via the select committee process, in which the Labour team was led by my predecessor as shadow Attorney-General, the Hon David Parker. I want to also pay tribute to Mr Parker for the diligence that he showed in that exercise. As the Justice and Electoral Committee report from November 2010 shows, his work contributed to a much better bill emerging from the committee than what entered it. In singling out Mr Parker for praise, I want to join the Minister in congratulating the other members of the select committee on the work that they did.
It is clear that this is a much better bill. There are significant modifications to the proposed surveillance device regime, better regulation of the more intrusive forms of surveillance that were originally proposed, a reduction in the warrantless surveillance period, better rules over the retention of data, stronger reporting requirements for surveillance device warrants, and better controls over examination and production orders. So it is absolutely the case that Parliament did what it is expected to do via the select committee process on this measure. It did look at the detail. The parties worked together and they did produce a better bill.
But Labour left the select committee process with three issues that it remained concerned and dissatisfied about. As soon as that process ended back in November 2010 Mr Parker wrote to Mr Power, and he said: “These are the three issues that we need you to address in order to get multiparty support”—that is, Labour support as well as National support—“for the legislation. First of all, there needs to be an exemption for the news media for production and examination orders. The powers relating to the Serious Fraud Office concerning production and examination orders ought to be brought into line with the powers that are going to be conferred on the police by this bill. And the thresholds for the availability of production and examination orders in respect of the offences they would apply to should be raised generally from 7 to 10 years.” So those were the three issues.
These are important issues, particularly in the time in which we sit now of declining media freedoms. And concerns have been raised earlier, for example, in question time by my colleague Clare Curran: concerns about apparent political influence at New Zealand On Air; concerns around turning Television New Zealand, through less than transparent means, into a commercial broadcaster rather than a public broadcaster, a State broadcaster with those characteristics; the resourcing of Radio New Zealand and the adequacy of that; concerns about deals done with private broadcasters like MediaWorks, involving a senior Minister; and, of course, the tea tapes. All these matters are matters of concern relating to the climate of media freedom in this country, and they are matters that we cannot ignore. They are matters that are directly within the purview of this bill, and they are matters that really have to be dealt with if we are going to make progress here.
Consideration of the bill became more urgent last year because of the Hamed decision already referred to by the Minister. The legislation had been languishing on the Order Paper for a year when the Supreme Court decision forced Parliament to act late last year in those dying days of the last Parliament, when we put in place an interim regime, which is due to expire next month.
So, clearly, we are in a tight time frame to deal with this problem, but it took Mr Power a year, a full year, to give Mr Parker a substantive reply to the three concerns he raised.
Hon David Parker: It wasn’t received until after the election.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: It was not received, as Mr Parker said, until after the election, and essentially he put the burden on Mrs Collins to deal with these three concerns.
The Minister and I met yesterday. She wrote to me today, and I accept her good-faith attempt to try to resolve these problems, and in passing I should say that, in respect of at least two other measures I can think of, I appreciate the approach she has already shown in this portfolio. She is willing to stand back and take a look at whether a measure is really necessary and whether or not it really commands stakeholder support, and if it does not, she is willing to give it another look. That is something that ought to be said for the record.
The problem we have with this legislation is that, as I have said, we are in an urgent legislative phase here, because of the expiry of the interim Act next month. We still do not have a Supplementary Order Paper, even though I acknowledge the Minister’s commitment to share it when it is ready, but as the Leader of the House signalled before question time, we could be 5 days away from the Committee stage.
So we have the problem, really, over the issue of media freedoms, which is that even though the Minister says she will ensure that it is a High Court warrant that will be required for a production or examination order against the media, rather than a District Court warrant—and that is a great step forward—there is still the problem that the police will have the material in their possession in the interim while the order is being applied for and while objections are being processed, and journalists and their sources are going to know that. They are going to know that the enforcement authorities of the State can see that material before a judge can pronounce on its admissibility, because a copy can be kept to prevent its destruction. Until we can get that fundamental issue dealt with, as I have said to the Minister, we do have a real issue.
I think on the other two matters that are outstanding the Minister has given an undertaking about reporting on the Serious Fraud Office powers, which I know she has consulted her colleague about, and will give that careful consideration. On the issue of the threshold of 7 or 10 years, I am not sure that that is so much of a problem. We can have a schedule of offences in the bill, and we would know what was in and what was out, and that would get around the objection that has been raised.
If this measure proceeds past a second reading, I hope a satisfactory Supplementary Order Paper can be produced and considered in time, and that, if it is, we can support the measure. But meanwhile, without a Supplementary Order Paper to consider, with the Committee stage maybe 5 days away, and without addressing the objections that Labour has consistently raised now for over a year, it is impossible for us to support the legislation in its current form, and we will be voting against the second reading of this bill.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) : I would like to thank Mr Chauvel for his acknowledgment of our new Minister of Justice, the Hon Judith Collins, and the very demanding role she has assumed and the huge workload that she has inherited. I too wish her well in that. This bill, the Search and Surveillance Bill, is, of course, one of those very important measures that she is now charged with progressing through the House.
I would also like to begin by acknowledging the work of my predecessor, the Hon Chester Borrows, as chairman of the Justice and Electoral Committee in the last Parliament, and those members who sat with him on that committee, because they were very, very busy, particularly in light of the Hamed decision late last year, immediately before the election. I was not a member of the committee at that stage, so I acknowledge the work that others on it did as they heard the submissions and contributed to the deliberations. I agree that they have produced an important and better measure as a result of that work.
Both the Minister and Mr Chauvel have mentioned the Supreme Court decision in Hamed v R, which called into question the lawfulness of a number of the situations in which covert video surveillance is currently used. This is an issue, clearly, of significant public interest. We need to get it right. The Supreme Court stated that standard search warrants could not be relied upon as a lawful authority to conduct covert video surveillance and that this needed to be regulated by a proper regime. This is provided for in the bill in the surveillance device regime.
To prevent a number of ongoing criminal investigations that used surveillance from being jeopardised at that time, the Government enacted the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Act, which was the measure Mr Chauvel was speaking about a few moments ago, which for 6 months, until the middle of next month, suspended the effect of the Hamed judgment. We are now not far away from the expiry of that particular piece of legislation. So this Search and Surveillance Bill seeks to strike a balance between the need for effective law enforcement tools and protection of the rights of citizens, as set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
The existing police powers are more than 50 years old, and it is very important for the House to take that fact into account. This is an area where there have been very significant technological developments. In fact, the technology available to us now is such that even our parents would not recognise it, and certainly not our grandparents 50 years ago. The law during the intervening five decades has developed in a very piecemeal fashion, as it has attempted to respond to those developments. That is why the Law Commission concluded, in its 2007 report, that search and surveillance powers should be consolidated and updated. In particular, the commission called for a bill to bring order, certainty, clarity, and consistency to the sprawling mass of statutory powers for search and surveillance, which were scattered, or are scattered, throughout the statute book. The Law Commission also identified a need to address the glaring gaps where the law has failed to keep pace with the changes in modern society.
It is important to understand what the bill’s surveillance regime actually covers: interception devices that can intercept communications, which are also known as audio surveillance, tracking devices that can detect where a thing is located or whether a thing has been opened or tampered with, and visual surveillance. Only a judge may issue a surveillance device warrant, if he or she is satisfied that the conditions are met. The degree of intrusiveness of surveillance will depend on the circumstances. For example, video surveillance will not always be more intrusive than searching a house under a warrant. However, there are significant privacy concerns with regard to visual surveillance, including trespass and audio surveillance, so these methods should be limited to cases of serious offending.
There is no doubt that audio and visual surveillance are important tools for investigating crimes. However, because they are also recognised as involving significant privacy concerns there are a number of safeguards necessary for their use. Visual trespass surveillance and interception devices are available only to investigate offences punishable by 7 years or more of imprisonment, or for certain firearms offences. The only agency that will be able to undertake visual trespass surveillance and interception will be the police, at first. The Customs Service and the Department of Internal Affairs may be allowed to conduct trespass surveillance in future, once they have been properly trained in its use and authorised under the bill.
It is my view that New Zealanders understand the need for this consolidation and updating of our search and surveillance legislation, and that they will agree with and be reassured by the safeguards contained within it. It is an important measure, and I acknowledge the work of the Minister, her officials, and those members who have brought it to this point.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : For a start, can I repeat the thanks that have been expressed by my colleague Charles Chauvel for the way in which the National Party conducted itself at the Justice and Electoral Committee. The committee was chaired by Chester Borrows. The Search and Surveillance Bill is one of the most complex and difficult pieces of legislation that I have considered in any select committee since I have been in Parliament. It is one in which the select committee took very seriously the proper balance between the protection of civil liberties and the necessary powers to be afforded to State agencies to investigate criminal conduct.
The need for an update of the law had been made clear by the Law Commission. There were various powers in New Zealand that were being exercised by the police in an unregulated form, because the original legislation passed in yesteryear did not cover some of the new technologies that had been developed since. So it was clear that there was a need to update the search and surveillance legislation.
I do not have time to go into the detail of the many changes that were made at the select committee. With the cooperation of the Minister of Justice and members of the select committee, suffice it to say that other than issues that Charles Chauvel and I have been talking about today, we are satisfied that the bill represents an appropriate balance between powers that are needed by the State and civil liberties that we need to protect for our citizens for them to be free from unreasonable search and surveillance by State agencies.
But we are left with some very serious issues, and I want to put on record what I think has been a deliberately political and improper dealing with the concerns that have been raised by me on behalf of the Labour Party. While the bill was at the select committee it became abundantly clear that the issue of Serious Fraud Office powers needed to be addressed. Why? Because at the time when this was at the select committee, or thereabouts, the Serious Fraud Office, without a judicial warrant, exercised its powers against the National Business Review to seize—or to claim a right to seize—records relating to the National Business Review investigation of the South Canterbury Finance failure. It became absolutely apparent that this was a problem that needed to be fixed. It needed to be fixed by changes to the Serious Fraud Office powers to make sure that it can exercise its powers only if it goes to a court and gets a warrant. At the moment it does not need to go to the court to get a warrant, and that is the fundamental problem that we have with the Serious Fraud Office powers.
This issue came to light because when the prior Labour Government was considering these issues, at that time we were proposing a merger between the Serious Fraud Office and the organised crime unit of the police. There was a discussion as to what powers should be carried forward from the Serious Fraud Office to the police. At the time, the Law Commission recommended to Cabinet that none of these powers for examination orders and production orders, which are an undermining of the right to silence, should be carried forward to this new unit.
There was some public disquiet about those powers being taken away from the Serious Fraud Office at the time when it was being merged with the police. So with the approval of my then Cabinet colleagues, I as a member of Cabinet went to see a number of Queen’s Counsel, mainly in Auckland, about whether these powers were needed for the Serious Fraud Office. The advice that I received was that we were naive if we thought that some of these powers were not necessary for the Serious Fraud Office, and therefore the advice was that these powers should carry forward for the Serious Fraud Office in some form. There was also a universal—but for one person—view that the Serious Fraud Office abused its powers because it used this non-warranted route for normal investigations, which should be carried out either through normal investigative processes or though the police in ways that get warrants.
So it was the view of the Law Commission, as well as the senior lawyers involved and the Labour Cabinet, that we needed to carry forward these powers of the Serious Fraud Office to this new joined agency for both the police on serious crime, and the Serious Fraud Office in respect of its serious fraud problems. We reached that view because we realised that some of the most pernicious organised crime and gang crime is even more serious, or at least as serious, as the crime that is dealt with by the Serious Fraud Office, and if those powers were justified for the Serious Fraud Office, we could not see how we could say they were not justified for the police.
Then we had the situation where the National Government was elected. It had campaigned against the Serious Fraud Office being merged into the police force, and we accept that is its right, but then we had the carry-on of the new powers for the police, including the derogation or undermining of the right to silence through production orders and examination orders through the police. We agreed at the select committee that that needed to be surrounded with very careful protections of civil liberties, the most fundamental of which is that you have to get a warrant from a judge.
The problem remains in respect of the Serious Fraud Office, because it does not need a warrant. It was outside the scope of the Search and Surveillance Bill. We said we would cooperate with the Government to bring forward another bill to make sure it happened. We said that we would cooperate through the Business Committee to make sure that parallel legislation could be introduced to this House. It is easy to do. We did it this very day in the House in respect of some of the Māori settlement legislation earlier today, so it can be done, Minister, and it can be done easily, as it was done this very day in respect of settlement legislation.
I wrote to the Minister of Justice in November 2010 in respect of these very issues, and I laid all of this out. I did not get a reply until after the election. At the time, because of delays, I speculated both to my colleagues and to the press that this was effectively an act of political subterfuge, and it was the real intention of the Government to reply so late in the piece that it could just push this legislation through after the election without addressing the very serious issue of media freedoms.
Media freedoms are absolutely essential to clean democracies. If you do not have free media, free of intrusion from State agencies, you cannot guarantee the long-term strength of your democracy. There are a number of things that are piling up in New Zealand that show that this Government has a poor record in respect of media freedoms. I do not have time to go through some of the attacks on civil liberties during the last 3 years, but I do have time to note to members opposite the abuse of the Prime Minister’s position, by calling in the police to hound media sources after the tea tapes went wrong. That was wrong. That was an attack on media freedoms. I do have time to recount the fact that under this Government the Serious Fraud Office, without a warrant, went into the National Business Review and put it at risk of prosecution, fines, and criminal penalties because it would not hand over its records about the press’s investigations into South Canterbury Finance. I do have time to report how terrible it is that we have the Prime Minister’s Helensville electorate chairperson appointed to NZ On Air and trying to interfere with the timing of programming leading up to the election, when that Mr McElrea tried to stop the airing of a documentary on child poverty. I do have time to talk about Minister Joyce doing a sweet-heart deal with one of the commercial companies in respect of frequency fees for—
Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Point of order, the member Simon Power.
Simon Bridges: Well, almost, but not quite: Simon Bridges. This has absolutely nothing to do with the bill. The speaker has strayed very wide of the mark of this bill, and what he is saying is irrelevant.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Speaking to the point of order, I am emphasising why media freedoms in respect of both the police and the Serious Fraud Office need to be dealt with in this bill. This is clearly within order, and I would request the right to continue.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): It is a debatable issue.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. So against that background—
Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was not a debatable issue. I was asking you to rule on a question of relevancy.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I have ruled on the question of relevancy: it is a debatable issue.
Hon DAVID PARKER: So not having had a response from the Minister during the period prior to the election, what turns up the day following the election? The day following the election I get a letter from the by then ex-Minister of Justice Simon Power, effectively saying they were not going to do anything about it. They did not even have the decency to point out the date of the letter that I had sent them, because they were so embarrassed that that letter was sent over a year prior.
This is very, very important legislation. We should have agreement across the House in respect of search and surveillance legislation. It ought not to be an issue of political controversy, and yet we have the Government refusing to move on the issue of whether the Serious Fraud Office needs these powers. It says now in this latest letter that it will look at how often the Serious Fraud Office is abusing or using these powers. I say that I do not need to know any more. I know that the Serious Fraud Office marched into the National Business Review and without a warrant from a judge said “Give us your records.” That is wrong. That can be fixed by this Parliament, and unless it is fixed by this Parliament or we get an agreement from Judith Collins that she will fix it—we will accept an undertaking that she will fix it in the next little while—you have got a scrap on your hands with this, because it is wrong. It is wrong, and the problems in respect of media freedoms need to be addressed.
DAVID CLENDON (Green) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Tēnā koutou. I am pleased to take the opportunity for the first time to speak to the Search and Surveillance Bill. The Green Party’s view on this proposed legislation was formerly represented by our now departed colleague and friend Keith Locke—departed in the parliamentary sense, of course—but I am pleased to pick up the cudgels from Keith and to endeavour to do at least half as good a job as he has done on what is a very complex and far-reaching piece of legislation.
It is to be acknowledged, as it has been, that the Justice and Electoral Committee clearly has taken its responsibilities seriously. I do not know how often committees open up a second round of submission. Clearly this committee chose to do that, to its credit. If one looks at the list of submitters, the depth, the quality, and the range of the submissions that were made, largely in opposition to the original draft of this bill, I think one can see there very clearly why the step was made to have a much closer look. Generally we will acknowledge that the committee process has delivered a better bill, but still not one that is sufficiently advanced that we can support it. We still consider that this bill, on the whole, represents a major erosion of civil liberties. We do not concede that the extreme steps taken in this bill are warranted in the current climate that we have in this country, and we will continue to oppose this bill.
There are a number of examples, issues, and provisions we could take. I will focus on just some of the more serious, and clearly the issue of examination and production orders come to the fore in that list. These are clearly a violation of a traditional, long-held right to silence, a right for people not to speak, with some exceptions. There are virtually no exemptions in this bill. People who may be required to give evidence against a suspect could be close family members, friends, spouses, civil union partners, or people living in the nature of marriage. We believe that that spousal relationship or its equivalent has an integrity—almost a sanctity—that ought to be recognised and honoured. It is unacceptable that a spouse can under this legislation be obliged to give evidence against their partner in ways that could lead to prison sentences. It is compromising a relationship that ought not to be compromised by anything we do in this House. It is unacceptable and we continue to argue strongly against that.
We are concerned, similarly, that production orders can be enforced by a whole host of State agencies other than the police, Customs Service, or indeed the Serious Fraud Office. It is instructive to look at column 2 of the schedule, and just to start ticking off the number of individuals, the various officers, and the appointees of a whole host of Government agencies that would have the power to enforce these orders. We think it goes far too wide. It will enable all sorts of abuses; it will almost invite abuse by agencies that the average New Zealanders would think have no part in investigating the privacy, or compromising the privacy, of New Zealanders.
We note that some of the offences where an examination order may be deemed appropriate include such things as intentional damage. It is not desirable that people damage property, but these charges of intentional damage are often linked to civil disobedience, to peaceful, non-violent protest. In the course of appropriate people asserting their right to protest, intentional damage is not an uncommon charge that is brought, and although it is fair that people should suffer the consequences if that is deemed to have occurred, we do not believe that in that context a person exercising their right to protest should be left vulnerable to these orders at a later date. Again, there seems to be no end point at which that liability to these examination orders would halt.
The question of a dissenting group who might be deemed by police to be an organised criminal group also opens the way for an examination order to be granted. Not wishing to comment on an issue currently before the court, but we are extremely uneasy about the apparent ease with which a group of individuals might be described or deemed to be an organised criminal group. We think that has yet to be tested by the courts, and we think it is a step too far at this point to have that as a provision of this bill. Clearly the provisions of this bill move us much closer to what could be called a surveillance State, with extensive provision for visual and for audio surveillance, for tracking people, for intercepting their communications, and for looking at their relationships, and we think that is many, many steps too far. There is simply not the need in New Zealand society for such extraordinarily invasive measures to be applied.
We are concerned that judges will be given the power to issue warrants for as yet untried surveillance techniques or mechanisms—those novel forms of surveillance perhaps not even developed yet or invented, dare I say. Is it conceivable that we might have a monitoring device disguised cunningly as a teapot, which would be acceptable at some future time? We believe that if novel forms of surveillance, of monitoring, of tracking are to be included in the arsenal of weapons, that matter should come to this Parliament. It should not be left, with all due respect, to the judiciary. It ought not to be its role to make decisions that ought to be the domain of this Parliament, particularly given the severity of some of the sentences that are considered in this bill.
The point is well made that some of the existing legislation that this bill seeks to amend, and in some cases to repeal, is sometimes 50 years old, and we know that technological advances have been extraordinary. We see technology advancing almost by the month, certainly by the year, and five decades is too long a time. That, however, does not in any way justify the provisions of this bill that would enable the use of very easily concealed surveillance devices. Tracking devices now can be very small. Devices that can intercept people’s communications equally can be very small, and can be remote from the point at which information is found. Facial recognition technology, and all of these technologies—arguably, yes, Parliament needs to have some serious thought about how we can manage the existence, the reality, of these technologies. This bill fails to do that. All it does is seek to utilise existing and, indeed, yet to be developed forms of technology in ways that we do not think are acceptable in a free and liberal democratic State.
I have made the point that we are very concerned that there is a very long list of State agencies that would be given powers under this bill, and it is important to note that very few of these State agencies have any forms of independent complaint authority. If a person has a concern with the actions of the police, for example, about whatever matter, then there is a clear line of accountability through the Independent Police Conduct Authority. Any citizen can take a complaint to that authority with a fair expectation it will be heard. Many of the State agencies listed in this bill have no such remedy for citizens who feel that their rights have been compromised or abused, and we ask the question: where are those people to go if, indeed, they feel they have been mistreated by these agencies?
One of the most offensive surveillance warrants made possible by this bill is that which will allow State agents to trespass into a private home in order to insert surveillance equipment that can spy on people’s kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. This is beyond the pale. People have a right to expect their homes to be inviolate. The notion of these representing only very serious crime and criminal offending is not borne out by the fact that some of the provisions of this bill could be imposed on people who have been found guilty of relatively minor offences against the Arms Act. The Greens are no friends of weapons. We are on record many times as being very conservative on the availability and use of weapons and firearms, but it is possible, for example, that somebody found guilty of ownership of an air gun or a replica pistol—which are not desirable things, indeed, and the ownership of which constitutes relatively low-level offending—could be vulnerable to this legislation. It is not necessary legislation. We will oppose its progression through the House. Thank you.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the Search and Surveillance Bill. It has had, as we have heard, a long gestation period. I want to acknowledge the work done by the Hon Simon Power—gone but not forgotten—and the Hon Judith Collins, and the excellent work done by the Justice and Electoral Committee—
Simon Bridges: I was on that.
Dr CAM CALDER: —which gave the bill intense scrutiny. I hear a cry from my colleague in front of me, the member for Tauranga, that he contributed. He was, I believe, the deputy chairman under the Hon Chester Borrows, who was the chairman of the committee.
Simon Bridges: Who’s deputy chairman now?
Dr CAM CALDER: Good question—well may you ask. The aim of this bill is to implement the Government’s decisions on the legislative reform of search and surveillance powers, which are based on that 2007 eponymous Law Commission report. We aim to provide—and we believe that the bill does—consistency, clarity, and certainty to the law about search and surveillance, which is currently a noodle soup of statutes scattered throughout the law book. We are trying to find a balance and strike a balance, to avoid accusations like those we heard in the previous speech from David Clendon of there being a surveillance State. We see the need to strike a balance between effective law enforcement tools and protection of the rights of citizens under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
I think it is pertinent to make just a brief observation on how we will achieve this. There is a specific purpose clause, and it provides that the purpose of the bill is “to facilitate the monitoring of compliance with the law and the investigation and prosecution of offences in a manner that is consistent with human rights values”. How will it do this? By “(a) modernising the law of search, seizure, and surveillance to take into account advances in technologies and to regulate the use of those technologies; and (b) providing rules that recognise the importance of the rights and entitlements affirmed in other enactments, including the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Evidence Act 2006;”. Finally, it will do this by “ensuring investigative tools are effective”—this is all about our giving police the tools they need to keep our citizens safe—“and adequate for law enforcement needs.”
I commend this bill to the House.
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) : The people of New Zealand need to ask themselves a very important question in relation to the Search and Surveillance Bill: are they willing to give up some important personal rights and freedoms in exchange for better law enforcement? Few would agree, I think, because the price is too high. People do not know that it is happening. It is up to us in this House to see that it does not. New Zealand First strongly opposes the bill. It does not protect personal rights, and the benefits of better law enforcement cannot be bought at the cost of compromising important personal rights and freedoms. Parts of the bill will start New Zealand down the road to a police State. It is no exaggeration that the bill will do that. Some accuse the previous Labour Government of wanting a nanny State. Does this National Government want to move from a nanny State towards a Nazi State? If the Government is careless about compromising personal rights and freedoms, then this House cannot be.
The purposes of the bill, for what it was intended, are right and proper, but it goes much too far. It partially abrogates some very important personal rights and freedoms. Reform of search and surveillance was needed. It consolidates and improves these powers, which are current in 69 different Acts; it removes many inconsistencies; it codifies existing case law; it clarifies powers that too often are unclear; it provides regulation for high-technology devices used in surveillance; it seeks to ensure judicial oversight where it is needed; it places issuing functions for warrants in experienced hands; and it provides for public reporting of the use of powers and other safeguards. But these are not enough, especially given the intrusive nature of some of the powers; the scope for abuse of personal privacy; the limitation on the right to silence; the scope for abuse of the use of private information and access by a great number of State agencies, not just the police—and this can be extended further by Order in Council—and the lack of sufficient and effective objection procedures.
The bill is a very large one, but there are four areas of particular concern. In my view, the most important of these is the provision for examination orders in a non-business context. Currently only the Serious Fraud Office can require a person to answer questions, compulsory examination, in serious fraud cases—a business context. But apart from the Serious Fraud Office power, the law has protected the right to silence since the abuses of the Star Chamber in the 16th century. The right to force people to talk or face prosecution is a short distance from interrogation with force. I want to remind the House about the origin of the right to silence, because it is an extremely important right that we must keep in mind here. In the Star Chamber in the 16th century, people were forced to make an oath in which they were required to swear truthfully to answer questions put before them, without knowing what they were being accused of. This created a “cruel trilemma” as it was described, and the accused were forced to choose between, on the one hand, perjury if they lied to protect themselves, contempt of court if they refused to answer, or, thirdly, betraying their natural duty of self-preservation if they were forced to speak. The rejection of the procedures of the courts of Star Chamber eventually resulted in this right to silence principle and that right has remained enshrined in the common law tradition inherited from England, and in the United States it is expressed in the Fifth Amendment to the constitution.
These rights evolved and operate in Anglo-American jurisprudence—through rights expressed, in one case, in an entrenched constitution, and, in the other, in Acts of Parliament, which unfortunately, as in this case, can easily be changed. In Australia and New Zealand, where police officers are still required at common law to inform an arrested person that they do not have to answer questions, but that whatever they say can be used in court in evidence, it is a very important right. The right is recognised in key international human rights documents, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The European Court of Human Rights has held that “the right to remain silent under police questioning and the privilege against self-incrimination are generally recognised international standards which lie at the heart of the notion of a fair procedure”. In France the French code of criminal procedure makes it compulsory that when an investigating judge hears a suspect, he must warn him that he has the right to remain silent, to make a statement, or to answer questions. In the United States the Fifth Amendment to the constitution codifies the right to silence, and following Miranda v Arizona in 1966, the Supreme Court has ruled that suspects questioned while in police custody must be told of their right to silence, including during the execution of a search warrant.
Clauses 31 and 32 of the bill would allow a senior police officer to apply to a judge for an examination order in a business context on reasonable grounds, where there is reason to believe that an offence punishable by more than 5 years’ imprisonment has been committed, and that is similar to the Serious Fraud Office right in serious fraud cases. So the police could then question a person and require answers. It is arguable whether even the Serious Fraud Office should have such a right, even with judicial overview, but it is a serious step to extend this to the police. But clauses 33 and 34 extend the police powers even further, to any non-business case that, as clause 34(a) states: “(i) involves serious or complex fraud that is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 7 years or more;” or “(ii) … an organised criminal group as defined in … the Crimes Act …”.
This opens up a wide area for police for the use of compulsory examination, and it should be opposed for that reason. It goes too far and fails to achieve the desired balance between the need for police powers to fight serious crime and the need to protect personal rights and freedoms. It is easy to lose those rights incrementally in these ways. The line may have already been crossed with the Serious Fraud Office having compulsory examination rights, but at least the Serious Fraud Office is specialised; the police are not. There are requirements in the bill for reporting, but they are not likely to be effective and we are likely to get on to a slippery slope, so that the use of these powers becomes routine. Nor is the fact that the police would have to apply to a judge for an order a sufficient limitation either.
Another area of concern is the power to be granted to enforcement officers for production orders. This is OK as far as it applies to a requirement by police for a person to produce a document in the same circumstances that apply to search warrants. If the circumstances are sufficient for a search warrant, then they should be sufficient also for the production of a document. But one concern arises in cases involving telecommunications network operators who would be able to obtain call-associated data as well as the content of the message or document itself if it is stored in the normal course of business. Clauses 69 and 70 provide for an enforcement officer having the right to apply for a search warrant to apply for a production order, and an enforcement officer is one listed in the schedule to the bill. The concern there, of course, is that there are a lot of those agencies referred to in the schedule of the bill, and more may be added by Order in Council.
So you have to ask the question: when will it stop? How many people, ultimately, will get those sorts of powers? It really just goes way too far. The freedom of the press is also an issue. Clause 130 recognises privilege for many groups of people, and the rights of journalists are protected amongst them, but—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but his time has expired.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : It was a good speech, it was a learned speech, from Denis O’Rourke, and I empathised with him when he talked about the Star Chamber. Sometimes when I listen to Green members in this House I feel like I am back there. But I do want to put his mind at ease, because very much the intention of the Justice and Electoral Committee—and I was on it—in relation to this bill, the Search and Surveillance Bill, was not to increase State powers but simply to rationalise them, to modernise them, and to consolidate them. I am not going to stand here with my hand on heart with this 259-page bill—which, I agree with David Parker, is an incredibly complex and a difficult piece of work—and say that it absolutely, in every single case, does not increase any State power whatsoever. But that was certainly our intention when we came to it, and I think we tried to stay very much true to that.
I do want to just return to the Hon David Parker’s speech. I do not want to sound a dud note, but it is a bit rich to have a member from the Labour Party lecturing this side of the House about media freedoms and press freedoms when Labour’s stated policy, from Clare Curran, is to absolutely increase regulation and State sector control of the media. So if the media are listening to this—and maybe some of them are—just remember which side of this House has actually stood up for freedoms in the past and which side actually has as its stated policy to increase State control of the New Zealand media.
Turning to this bill, I am not going to take very long at all on it. I do not want to talk about the substance. Frankly, as I said, it is complex. It was some time ago that the select committee sat, but just to talk about—
Hon Maryan Street: Oh, you mean you’ve forgotten.
SIMON BRIDGES: —pretty much—the select committee process, I do want to say that some can be cynical of the process, but in regard to this bill, and then the special committee that was set up to deal with the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision in Hamed, it was a first-class process. I think it proved that all parties—the Labour Party, the Green Party, ACT, with Rodney Hide, and the National Party—could come together. We could come together at short notice with some urgency and we could take advice. We applied our minds to the situation we were presented with, and I think, if I do say so myself, the committee did a first-class job.
I come back, just in summary: this bill does not intend to increase State powers; what it does intend to do is to update the law, consolidate the law, and rationalise it.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) : The history of this bill, the Search and Surveillance Bill, has been well traversed by various members who have contributed to it. It started with a Law Commission report. It was followed up with a bill that was introduced that, unfortunately, was not dealt with before the 2008 election. That was discharged and then a new bill was introduced, and that is the bill before us now. It was referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee. I was not on that select committee at the time—I am on that select committee now—but I do want to acknowledge the elevation of the then chair of that committee to his new position as Minister for Courts. I think it is a well-deserved appointment, and I know from speaking to colleagues who were on the Justice and Electoral Committee in the last term that they too feel that it was a really well-deserved appointment, because of the role that he played to facilitate engagement of all parties around that table and to try to get bills back to the House in a better shape than the bills as introduced. I think this bill is a case in point. It is definitely a better bill than the bill that was introduced; however, there are still a few outstanding issues that we do want to raise, and they have been very able raised by my colleague, our shadow Attorney-General, Charles Chauvel.
The one good thing about the role that Chester Borrows has played, and now plays in his new position as Minister for Courts, is that he, like the new Minister of Justice, has shown he is willing to engage in a very meaningful way, even after legislation is back in the House, and also when dealing with issues relating to his portfolio as they impact on constituency MPs. I say “meaningful” because the Minister of Justice’s response to Charles Chauvel’s approach in the short time that she has been Minister and he has been the shadow Attorney-General contrasts with that of the former Minister of Justice, who actually took an entire year to respond to the letter that the former shadow Attorney-General wrote to him in, I believe, 2010. In fact, the reply was not received by our former shadow Attorney-General until after the 2011 general election, which I believe is actually quite a travesty of process. I think it is not something that should be encouraged in this Parliament, to have ministerial correspondence outstanding for such a significant period of time, especially when it deals with such a fundamental issue.
I want to repeat something that my colleague Charles Chauvel said, and that is that legislation like this cannot afford to go through Parliament by a mere one or two votes; it really does require substantial support in the House for it to have meaning. It is an important piece of legislation. I do not say that for all pieces of legislation. With search and surveillance, where we are dealing with fundamental human rights, it is important that we ensure that substantial agreement is able to be accorded throughout Parliament. I do not think that there is much between us on this particular piece of legislation.
I just want to comment on some of the issues that were raised by the member Denis O’Rourke for the New Zealand First Party, because a lot of what he said related to matters that are not actually covered in the bill. It is relevant to the bill, because the absence of any amendments to the Serious Fraud Office legislation is certainly relevant to the implications of an approach that we were adopting. Our former Attorney-General David Parker talked about how when we were in Government that was going to occur, with the Serious Fraud Office function merging with the functions of the New Zealand Police, therefore making sense that, in fact, the Serious Fraud Office provisions would stand as they were, without being amended, and allow for the police provisions to match an amended set of provisions for the police once that merger had occurred. So that is why the legislation, as originally introduced by us, did not include the Serious Fraud Office, and that is why there were some tighter restrictions around the provisions relating to police powers to obtain examination orders.
I think that the select committee has got it right for the police, but the fact that it has not got it right for the Serious Fraud Office is actually a feature of the legislation. The fact is that without the unanimous agreement of this House, we really cannot address these concerns in the Committee of the whole House. We would have to have an instruction to the Committee of the whole House that an amendment outside the scope of the bill would have to be agreed. An amendment outside the scope of the bill at this late stage in the piece I do not think would be a good process. The reason I do not think it would be a good process is that we actually have not heard specific evidence at the select committee on that particular issue. So perhaps I could just simply restate again the suggestion that has come from our two members who have spoken previously on the bill that perhaps this is an issue that the Minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office could take on board.
We acknowledge that the Minister of Justice has reported to us that the Serious Fraud Office will be requested to provide in its annual report to Parliament the number of examination orders made in the period covered by the report, and the number of persons charged in criminal proceedings where the collection of evidential material relevant to those proceedings was significantly assisted by an examination conducted under an examination order in the period covered by the report. They are good measures, but I think the Minister could take on board the need to go back and reflect on whether this is an area where there could be some further improvement. I think you have heard indicated on this side of the House that we certainly would be willing—and I think other parties would be willing too—to facilitate the passage of legislation actually bringing the powers of the Serious Fraud Office into the same context or the same arrangements as provided for police in the Search and Surveillance Bill.
I just want to also comment on the Serious Fraud Office’s view on why it should not be covered by this bill, when it was raised with the previous Minister of Justice, Simon Power. I think I would like to put that on the record, because I am a little bit concerned that its view is a little bit self-serving. This is a quote from a letter of 25 November, which was received on 28 November and signed out by the then Minister of Justice, the Hon Simon Power, who was the Minister of Justice when it was sent but not when it was received: “The SFO’s view is that their powers were enacted in the SFO Act with agreement by both sides of the House 20 years ago, and have operated with relatively little controversy since. Accordingly, the SFO does not consider that an ad hoc change to one very specific provision in its Act is desirable and could potentially have an adverse impact on the effectiveness of its wider operations. Coming at a time when the SFO is seeking to enhance its responsiveness to serious financial crime, the Minister responsible for the SFO and the Director of the SFO consider any proposal to change its powers would be more appropriately achieved as part of a more comprehensive policy development process in relation to the SFO itself.”
I think that that does perhaps give us a way forward, and I do encourage the Minister now responsible for the Serious Fraud Office to take on board the recommendation, certainly from many members of this House, to have some limits placed on the powers of the Serious Fraud Office. I do think that to rely on the facts that it was enacted 20 years ago, when our thinking on some of the human rights issues may not have been as advanced as it is today, and that it has operated with relatively little controversy since, shows that it forgot to notice the controversy surrounding its own use of its powers with the National Business Review, as my colleague has pointed out.
The last thing I just want to mention very quickly is that this does make an important point in relation to press freedom. We rely on the media being able to report on things that need to be brought to the public’s attention. I know that in the financial markets area this is absolutely vital, and I would not want to think that people would not bring things to the media’s attention—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but her time has expired.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : I am pleased to speak to the second reading of the Search and Surveillance Bill. I am a new member on the Justice and Electoral Committee. I know it was a very complicated bill and the previous committee did an excellent job. I would like to wish the new Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, well in her role, and also the previous chairman of the committee, Chester Borrows, in his new role as Minister for Courts.
This legislation updates old powers and old law—over 50 years old—which well and truly needed to be done. It is quite timely that it will be enacted. Importantly, there are new powers, but they are balanced by safeguards that protect human rights, such as requiring independent authorisation before exercising search powers. Enforcement officers must justify the reason for search powers to be used, and those officers must be neutral. There are also detailed reporting requirements for all concerned—that is, the issuing officer and the chief executive of the relevant agency in Parliament. Importantly, the Act will be reviewed in 2016 and amendments can be made at that stage. And, importantly, this bill does not impact on New Zealanders under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
There are other safeguards, which we can debate in the House when we have the Committee stage. I certainly commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) : Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to the Search and Surveillance Bill. As the three previous speakers on the Labour side of the House have mentioned, this bill has had a long gestation period. It began under a Labour Government in 2008, sparked by the Law Commission report in 2007. On this side of the House we still support the continuing reform of the law in this area around search and surveillance, because we think that the legislation has become outdated. But in its current form we will not be supporting this bill to the next stage, because we have some substantial concerns around three areas, which have already been highlighted by Charles Chauvel, David Parker, and Lianne Dalziel.
I will be focusing, because of my past, on the press freedom aspects of our concerns. We would like to see some specific provisions in this bill inserted to protect the freedom of the press and the confidentiality of their sources.
Hon Maurice Williamson: This member caused a lot of this bill.
KRIS FAAFOI: I know Mr Williamson would like that too, from a number of the stories he may have fed to the media that I was aware of when I was a journalist, so I am sure that Mr Williamson may want to keep his anonymity in that respect.
Over time our minority report put forward our concerns, and also letters that David Parker sent to the Minister in the previous term of Government laid out our concerns about this bill. We are seeking three main amendments, which relate to both examination and production orders. The first, of course, as I have already spoken about, is that the media should be exempted from examination and production orders. As Lianne Dalziel has mentioned, there are Serious Fraud Office processes for examination and production. We believe that these should also be the same as for the police, and that the threshold for the police to make use of the examination and production orders should be lowered.
In terms of media freedom, I think it is a good thing that a High Court judge will now be involved to deal with objections around the production and examination order applications against the media. I know this was a live issue, certainly, in my time. I think there was suspicion that the police may come knocking on our door at Television New Zealand (TVNZ) for some tapes. I cannot remember the specific issue, and someone else in the House may be a bit more learned in the legal area, but we understood that the police could not serve a search warrant in Parliament Buildings, so very quickly we removed the tapes from our Lambton Quay office and put them into a safe cupboard in our press gallery office to make sure that the police—I do not know whether they are still there. They may be; someone may have forgotten about them. But this is certainly a live issue that the media takes very seriously at the moment.
Hon Anne Tolley: Obstruction of justice.
KRIS FAAFOI: Maybe the Minister Anne Tolley is going to be sending the police around now, just to see if they are there. Maybe it was pertaining to National Party issues, so maybe, if they are back at the TVNZ office on Lambton Quay—they were not able to get their hands on the tapes at that time.
We also believe that there should be some better protection for material that may have been seized under these orders but is still in the possession of the police, which may be in dispute. We believe that under the current legislation there are not enough protections around in that department, but we are hopeful that there is going to be a Supplementary Order Paper at some stage, and we are expecting one, where some changes may be made in that respect to make sure that there are better protections for information, tapes, or documents that may have been seized from the media but are still in dispute.
As we all probably know around this place, the protection of the media’s sources and material is a major pillar of journalism, and to risk that is a serious risk to the level of freedom of the press at the moment, so we are on the side of the media, and we have spoken to many of them who want to make sure that in this legislation there are protections in place for them to make sure their sources remain anonymous.
This is important legislation and we do believe that some of the measures in it are worthy of our making sure they are passed, but because of the three areas of concern that we have at the moment, we are not willing to support it unless some serious changes and significant changes are made. So we are hopeful that that will be done. I think we have had some signals from the Minister of Justice that those changes will be made. We still wait to see the shape of those, but we are hopeful that because we do not think there is a huge chasm between our concerns and the ability—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member; his time has expired.
STEFFAN BROWNING (Green) : The Greens oppose this bill. This bill is downright excessive. Media freedom is essential, as is a citizen’s right to silence, and a reasonable expectation of privacy. Clause 108 allows the forensic copying of material from personal computers of those who are not actually accused of a crime. The bill lacks controls over privacy of material beyond those specified in a search warrant. Clause 119 allows use of other material, and this range of material can be found anywhere on a computer, not necessarily the material that is the subject of that search warrant. And, worse, clause 101(4)(k) allows hacking by police.
Under the Operation Eight situation that was under another bill, but with similar types of powers, there were innocent people who had their computers confiscated for many, many months. Transferring that into this situation, the other material on that computer that was totally irrelevant—if any was relevant to the issue at stake there—would be held by the police and could be looked at in a way that is a total invasion of privacy. Not only this, but the bill allows very broad powers to require the spouses, friends, and colleagues of a suspect to answer questions or produce documents, or maybe face a term of imprisonment if they decide not to cooperate.
My own experiences in advocacy in non-governmental organisation association and networking make me very alarmed at the suggested provisions. Some spurious accusation or politically motivated investigation could have my computer, or my colleagues’ computer, hacked, or my friends, a girlfriend, and their friends quizzed. And not only this—
Scott Simpson: What’s her name?
STEFFAN BROWNING: Too many. Not only this, but these production orders can be enforced by a range of State agencies other than the police. So would it be the Ministry of Economic Development looking out for Solid Energy because of the Happy Valley protesters, or maybe Scion or Plant and Food Research, when direct action has been used to point out significant environmental shortcomings, or even significant non-compliance in those organisations, that risks New Zealand’s biosecurity and, in fact, international reputation? My colleague who was here earlier, Catherine Delahunty, was under surveillance from the age of 14 as a student activist, by the SIS. This bill would allow that sort of thing to happen under police situations. This bill brings the scenario into the power of the police and other unrelated State agencies.
I have been accused in this House of being an ecoterrorist—a term that should never be used in this House. Terrorism relates to harm, physical injury, and/or even death. The issues that I was involved with were absolutely genuine, and I have faced no charge, and nor has my colleague been charged. But because of the activities, we could come under this sort of bill. There are many in the non-governmental organisation world who are absolutely concerned for New Zealand who would come under this. The Greens will oppose this bill.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) : It is my privilege to stand and support the second reading of the Search and Surveillance Bill. Briefly, I would like to touch upon a point that was raised during the select committee process. It was to be ensured that the cultural and religious beliefs of the person being searched be adequately respected and protected. Thus, clause 120(1A) was inserted to require all officials to take care of sensitive issues during rub-down searches and strip-searches. This was the point that I wanted to touch on during this contribution. I commend this bill to the House.
|Ayes 61||New Zealand National 59; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 59||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.|
|Question agreed to.|
|Ayes 61||New Zealand National 59; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 59||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.|
|Bill read a second time.|
Game Animal Council Bill
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Conservation) : I move, That the Game Animal Council Bill be now read a first time. I propose to refer the bill to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
This bill delivers on the Government’s 2008 confidence and supply agreement with United Future to proceed with the establishment of a big game hunting council as part of a national wild game management strategy, with a view to it becoming a statutory authority. That provision had, in turn, grown out of United Future’s 2005 agreement with the previous Labour-led Government, which led to the establishment of the game animal panel. After receiving over 4,000 submissions and hearing from a wide range of groups, individuals, and organisations, the panel, chaired ably by the Hon Margaret Austin, proposed amongst its recommendations the establishment of a statutory organisation to coordinate and foster management of recreational, guided, and commercial hunting. So in many senses this bill arises directly from the game animal panel, and I want to acknowledge this afternoon the work of Margaret Austin and her team.
During the last Parliament the panel’s work was taken a step further through the work of the Game Animal Council Establishment Committee, chaired by Garry Ottmann, whose contribution I would also like to acknowledge this afternoon. The establishment committee conducted a further round of public consultations, and the upshot was this bill, introduced shortly before Parliament was dissolved for last year’s election. So this bill is a culmination of a deliberate, thorough, and considered process under both Governments over the last 6 years, involving all the key stakeholders, and it is therefore with a real sense of pride that I bring it before the House today.
The bill establishes a Game Animal Council, including specifying its make-up and functions. The purpose of the Game Animal Council is to improve the management of game animals—namely, deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pigs—including the improvement of opportunities to hunt those animals, while also providing advice to the Minister of Conservation on issues affecting the hunting sector.
Secondary objectives for the council include providing information and education to the hunting sector; reducing conflict within the sector; the promotion of safety initiatives, including firearms safety; education and training; raising awareness and advocating for the views of the hunting sector; and conducting research into game animals and their management.
The bill creates powers for the Minister of Conservation to manage what will be known as herds of special interest to hunters for recreational hunting outcomes, and allows for those powers to be delegated to the council. A herd of special interest to hunters would be a game animal herd of a particular species or subspecies in specific locations that was considered to have high value to hunters, either because of the hunting experience and the accessibility of the animals or the quality and the significance of the trophy. The bill provides the Minister with the ability to designate a herd to receive such a status, based on the recommendations of the council along with input from the Department of Conservation and other stakeholders. Upon a herd being designated as a herd of special interest, the Minister would in turn delegate to the council specific management functions to be carried out under a herd management plan. The Director-General of Conservation, on recommendation from the council, will have the ability to appoint warranted enforcement officers similar—but more limited in function—to Fish and Game rangers. The enforcement officers’ role will be to ensure compliance with the conditions of herd management plans and to prevent other illegal actions, including the liberation, conveying, and capturing of game animals.
A localised example of the herd of special interest model already exists with the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation. In the past 6 years alone the foundation has removed nearly 5,500 predominantly red deer from Fiordland, and that has been paid for, and managed by, recreational hunters, and constitutes a classic win-win situation. Conservation values are being enhanced by the reduced number of deer, while hunters enjoy a wapiti herd with far greater genetic integrity and trophy value than it had before. Members of the foundation have further contributed to conservation by laying up to 70 kilometres of pest control lines and funding the reopening of the blue duck hatchery in Te Ānau, and last December the foundation finally achieved formal recommendation of its efforts with the signing of a management agreement with the Department of Conservation. The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation did all this from scratch and in the face of much scepticism. That is a great achievement on its part, and I congratulate it heartily on it.
What the Game Animal Council will do is provide hunters with the legislative and organisational framework to be able to achieve similar outcomes in other parts of the country. Funding for the council will come primarily through a levy on the export of game trophies, supplemented by a small Crown contribution of $50,000 per animal. Provisions also exist in the legislation for other forms of self-funding to be explored in the future. It should be noted that the establishment of the council will not in any way alter current levels of free access to hunting opportunities provided to recreational hunters.
The council will have a minimum of nine and no more than 11 appointed members, and those who are appointed to the council will have knowledge and experience reflective of the diversity within the hunting sector and the game animal industries. Members will be selected after a public nomination process, and both the public and organisations with an interest will be able to submit nominations to the Minister.
I must emphasise, though, that this bill does not dilute existing powers to manage wild animals for the purpose of protecting conservation values. Herds of special interest to hunters must be managed consistent with statutory management strategies, plans, and policies relating to conservation. But by allowing outdoor recreationists a greater stake in the management of their recreational resource, I believe that, like the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, the Game Animal Council will achieve huge gains for both recreation and conservation. New Zealand’s back country is a special place. However, it would not be half as special if people were not inspired to go and use it. For many New Zealanders, our connection with our outdoor heritage is a major part of what it means to be a Kiwi. But the New Zealand back country is not, as some may wish it to be, an exhibition in a museum, nice to look at but never to be touched—just another picture on the wall. It is a place steeped in history, rewarding of adventure, and offering a lifetime of enjoyment. In some small way, I hope that this legislation and the organisation that it will create will uphold and enhance those values for the enjoyment of generations to come. It is therefore with a huge degree of pleasure and pride that I commend this bill to the House this afternoon.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) : The real reason behind why this bill finds its way to the House today in the form that it does is contained in the very first words of the bill’s explanatory note—on the front page: “The Game Animal Council Bill delivers on the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the United Future Party …”. What else did we discover today in the House? What else does that confidence and supply agreement deliver to the National-led Government? Asset sales. That is exactly why we find ourselves today debating the Game Animal Council Bill and the recommendations it has in its current form.
The Government knows that it needs the votes of Mr Dunne and Mr Banks—because that is it. What is between asset sales—selling off the assets built up by past generations; selling to supposed mum and dad investors, who already own those assets—and no asset sales is the vote of Mr Dunne. It is the vote of Mr Dunne, and if he is really going to represent the people of Ōhariu in this House, he should be listening to them and saying that asset sales are the wrong thing to do for New Zealand. Whatever benefits there might be to causes that Mr Dunne is interested in, such as around the hunting of game animals, it is not worth it, Mr Dunne. It is not worth it to sell off the legacy of past generations, the things that will generate income—
Dr Cam Calder: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Look, I realise that the debate does range widely in this time of the debate, but we are talking about asset sales to the exclusion of everything else. It is hardly on the subject of the Game Animal Council—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! I am the judge of that. The member has brought it back to the subject, but with a couple of minutes gone I am sure he will now focus on the 8 minutes ahead.
GRANT ROBERTSON: Thank you very much, Mr Assistant Speaker Tisch. Indeed I will, but it is important to note that in the explanatory note of the Game Animal Council Bill, Dr Calder, that is how it starts. It starts talking about the confidence and supply agreement. The main reason that Government over there wants that confidence and supply agreement is to pass its agenda of selling off this country’s future, and on this side of the House we will be opposing that.
This bill comes to this House in a form that has a great deal of concern for the Labour Party. Because regulatory impact statements for bills do not come to us as members of Parliament in the same way they used to, it is important nowadays to make reference to the regulatory impact statement about this bill. It is a regulatory impact statement that makes absolutely clear that although there may well be issues to be resolved in how we have communication, cooperation, and participation in the game animal area, this regulatory impact statement tells us that this is not the way to do it. This is what Treasury and the Department of Conservation say in the regulatory impact statement: “Given the Game Animal Council’s proposed functions, the Council does not need to be a body corporate and require separate legislation. A Ministerial advisory committee under the Wild Animal Control Act would be a more appropriate structure.”
So why are we establishing a whole new structure here, a whole new council, that actually sets up competing interests here, two organisations—the Department of Conservation and this body—in terms of the management of wild animals? Why would we do that when the Department of Conservation and Treasury, the Government’s two key advisers in this matter, are saying it does not make sense, it is not necessary, and there is another way?
Andrew Little: There must be something in it for him.
GRANT ROBERTSON: That is right, Mr Little. There must be something else in it, and that brings us right back to asset sales.
But if we go on, this Government on the other side of the House tells us time and time again that it is all about efficiency, and it is all about making best use of the resources. Well, let us look at what the regulatory impact statement has to say about that: “Introducing separate legislation to create a Game Animal Council would have the highest costs in regulatory time and resources.”—the highest costs in regulatory time and resources. Well, so much for the efficiency of Government; so much for making the cutbacks. Those officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or Te Puni Kōkiri, they can be damned—as long as the vote is there for asset sales. It does not matter that this is the most expensive option that is available in this area. As long as it delivers that vote of Mr Dunne for asset sales, that is fine.
The regulatory impact statement goes on to say: “Establishing the Game Animal Council under section 5 of the Wild Animal Control Act would have the least cost in regulatory time and resources. While this would be the simplest and most cost-effective way to establish a Game Animal Council, it would allow the Minister of Conservation to disestablish the council at any time.” That is the excuse given for why it is not going to take that option.
This bill will make it to the select committee, but what we want to say is that when it gets to the select committee we want those other options considered. Yes, we want there to be more cooperation, more collaboration, and more participation by those in the hunting community, but let us look at all the options. Let us look at an option that does not create confusion, does not create two bodies that are involved, and actually makes sure that we have the protection of our conservation values and allow the hunting of game animals.
The Labour Party wants to make clear we respect the long traditions of the hunting of game animals in New Zealand. New Zealanders do enjoy this. It does actually help to control animal numbers and protect biodiversity, but let us not set up a situation, a regulatory framework, that is going to create confusion and that is going to lead to outcomes that might diminish some of that conservation area.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has pointed out that the council could effectively, if it chose to under the proposed law, halt 1080 operations for possums, rats, or stoats if it thought game animals were going to be at risk. The balance of how you make decisions about that is something that we believe the Department of Conservation has the key role in. By all means let us have an advisory committee. Let us have some kind of structural process that is going to help this happen, but let us not do it in a way that undermines the conservation values that we all hold dear in New Zealand.
So we understand that this is an area where there does need to be further work done. This is something that we want to make sure that all members of the House are able to participate in, and we will vote for the bill to go to the select committee for that reason. But I want to make absolutely clear in this House that we have grave concerns that this structure not only is expensive, potentially unnecessary, and possibly damaging to our conservation values but also is a straight-out sop to the United Future party and Mr Dunne to ensure his vote for sales of State assets. We need to be absolutely 100 percent clear in this House that that is what this bill does.
In a first reading I know that we are obliged to talk about the bill, and I have done that in some depth, but it is a matter of serious concern to this side of the House that this bill finds its way to this House today on the back of the sale of assets built up by past generations of New Zealanders. This is on the back of the sale of assets into the worst possible state of the global economy, where the worst possible price—which Mr English does not even know; he is guessing at it—could be gained for New Zealand for those assets. It makes no economic sense; it makes no social sense. But Mr Dunne is voting for it on the basis of the support for this bill to establish the Game Animal Council.
In our contributions during the select committee process we will look seriously at the other options that might be available for the management and participation of interested groups in the management of game animals, but we do so knowing that this bill potentially creates a situation where the Department of Conservation will not be able to fulfil its role in the way that New Zealanders would expect in terms of protecting conservation values. We do see a place for the hunting of game animals in New Zealand, but we do not believe that setting up a body like this—in competition, effectively, with the Department of Conservation—is a good thing. We would like to see some form of committee or expanded committee created. We will listen to the submissions in the select committee process and we will ensure that New Zealanders’ conservation values are protected while hunting continues to take place.
TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) : It gives me great pleasure to stand and speak on the Game Animal Council Bill. Can I say that the last speech from the Opposition was a load of puffery and posturing, but it was very good to hear at the end that it is likely to vote for this legislation. What great confusion there is on the other side of the House! But at least they are showing that in some things they are consistent, and that is in opposing absolutely everything.
A great disservice was done to Mr Dunne, actually. Mr Dunne started on this journey along with hunters and recreational enjoyers of the outdoors in New Zealand some years ago. In fact, I think Mr Dunne’s first discussions were held under another Government, when Labour was on this side of the House. Can I say to you, on behalf of hunters in New Zealand, I recognise your commitment and the hard work that you have put into making sure that they have a seat around the table and a voice around the table. I think that recognition certainly is there.
The reason it gives me pleasure to stand and speak on this bill is that I want to declare an interest. I am a member of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, and whenever I have an opportunity I enjoy going out and hunting.
Andrew Little: An honorary membership, surely.
TODD McCLAY: There is the interesting thing—already we have Opposition members calling that into question. If you live in a city, you probably do not understand fully what this legislation is about, but in provincial New Zealand, parts of the country where we hold all of the seats, this is very important.
All over New Zealand hundreds of thousands of recreational huntsmen and others enjoy going out and spending time in the wild. One of the larger concerns I have had in the 4 years I have been the member of Parliament for Rotorua—an area where we have fantastic hunting, by the way—has been that there is not enough recognition of the recreational side of this activity.
Although hunters come together in groups, are responsible, and care as much about the environment and management of species as anybody else does, they do not have the same amount of say as they should. The very important thing here is that this bill recognises everyday New Zealanders. It recognises that they are in pursuit of their leisure activities, and allows them to come to the table and have greater involvement—not control, but involvement—in decision making in some of the areas that affect them.
Can I say to the members of the Opposition and to the last speaker, Grant Robertson, I can confirm that as a species Mr Robertson is not covered by the scope of this bill, so he can now relax. I want to recognise a couple of people particularly, and the work that they have done. Tim McCarthy—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! I think that comment was unnecessary and I ask the member to withdraw it.
TODD McCLAY: I withdraw, and I will carry on without debate. Can I say that I want to recognise Tim McCarthy, the National President of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, for his work. I certainly want to recognise Alec McIver, from Rotorua, who is the immediate past-president of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and put a huge amount of work into this. I also recognise Garry Ottmann, who has also spent many, many years getting people from the recreational community together in one thought and one voice on the way we should move forward.
I want to make a very special mention of someone who emails me a lot, and I am sure emails other members a lot, and that is “Honest Dave” from Serious Shooters in Rotorua—a passing comment about him. But again, what I want to say is that very clearly this legislation is about recognising the rights and obligations of everyday New Zealanders in the pursuit of their leisure activities.
I commend the Minister of Conservation for working equally hard over the last couple of years to deliver what I believe is a very important and very good piece of legislation to this House. Can I say that I look forward to it going to the Local Government and Environment Committee, passing through the committee’s consideration quickly, coming back to this House, and entering into law, because many people on all sides of this House actually support this legislation, for reasons other than those pretended at by members of the Opposition. Kia ora.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) : Tēnā koe. The preceding speaker, Todd McClay, identified himself as a member of the deerstalking community. The term “stalk” seems suitably apposite, based on the quality of that contribution and the gratuitous insult hurled at our colleague Grant Robertson from this side of the House, who was pointing out that there are a myriad of interests whenever you deal with the conservation estate and wildlife management. Every single one of those stakeholders is entitled not only to bring their views forward but to amplify their views, which is why I look forward to the Game Animal Council Bill and I support this bill going to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
I want to acknowledge the presence of members of the hunting and recreational community who have worked tirelessly to bring together a group that is probably more disparate than the 72 tribes I was working with when I was the chairman of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. I would say to them, and I would say to the Associate Minister of Conservation, that I do feel, as this bill wends its way through the select committee and Committee stages, that I look forward to seeing inclusion of tangata whenua in whatever committee finally survives the travails of parliamentary debate, and that we find space to appoint tangata whenua to the board—or to at least have criteria guiding the Minister’s appointments to this board—so it can draw upon the expertise, the relevance, and the capacity of the tangata whenua in order to add something to this large wildlife management question. I would like to put that to the Minister and also to members of that community. Who knows to what extent we will support this bill in its final form, but if you want it to gain a higher level of acquiescence and enjoyment amongst the larger tribes, such as Tūwharetoa and, dare I say, Tūhoe, then be proactive in that sense.
There are concerns about this bill. Let us deal with one concern at the moment. You can create these advisory boards and these committees, etc., and give them whatever statutory status may be required as a consequence of a deal between the major party and Mr Dunne’s party, but, at the end of the day, what will the level of obligation be upon the Minister either to delegate down to this specialist body or to take any notice of what this specialist body might say? I think those are some of the reasons why members on this side of the House are right to be a bit sort of leery as to whether things will actually change. Unless there is a positive duty on the Minister of the day, the Director-General of Conservation, or the regional staff to pass on meaningful powers or to take on board sensible recommendations, it can actually turn into a talking shop. A great deal of hot air, time, energy, and possibly money will be expended, but it may not actually make it into the statutory processes for the management of this resource.
There is a debate between the deep ecologists represented by the Green Party and those others of us who have environmental awareness but possibly live with a more pragmatic view of life. I certainly fit into the latter group. It seems to me that the deep ecologists’ view is that wildlife ought not to be managed but to be wiped out. That view is not consistent with my conception of how trophies, how wildlife hunting, and how improved wildlife management can contribute to regional development, and how in a host of different areas around Aotearoa what is needed is an expansion of the type of economic activities that are capable of generating jobs and turning into a platform for export dollars.
No one in this House is perhaps as well informed as you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In fact, I believe that you are peerless in this particular respect of understanding the capacity of wildlife hunting, better wildlife management, and its ability to contribute to regional economies. You are so persuasive on this matter that you had Kelvin Davis, Ricky Barker, and me go out into the wilderness and demonstrate that we are capable of shooting mallard ducks—oh, I should not have said that—and ring-tailed pheasants, as has been my wont in the far-flung areas unfortunately poorly represented by Hone Harawira, in the absence of Kelvin Davis. We tend not to shoot the swans up there, because they are sitting targets until they start to munch too many of the flounders upon the seabed and foreshore, which hopefully my tribe is rapidly regaining—but that is another matter.
I would like the record to show, without my indicating what will be the final shape and form of our party’s status and stand on this piece of legislation after it has been to the select committee, that your powers of persuasion, Mr Deputy Speaker, moved us in that direction up in the boohai beyond Taihape. Amongst other things, cellphones did not work there. In addition to that, probably the most intelligent creature I saw up there was the dog that was dispatched to find the deer that was shot but ran into the bush. Far be it for me to say who shot that deer—far be it for me to say that. I think it could have been a National person and it was Bambi, but that is another matter—that is another matter.
There are some aspects to do with this bill that we will not be supporting—I can tell you right now. They lie between the debate as to whether it should exclusively remain the role of the Department of Conservation to manage this resource, or whether it should be seen as something akin to possums—i.e., the chamois, and the various other types of deer—and be eradicated. That view is reflective of deep ecology, and I fear it represents zero growth, something I have got absolutely no time or support for.
The notion that there should be a game trophy levy and that we should actually be able to charge a fee once these magnificent animals are hunted, etc., and turn it into revenue is beyond cavil. That, I do not think, is going to attract a great deal of negativity, but then I can also see some people opposing it for fear that it represents an incentive not to reduce numbers but actually to maintain them for that profit motive. But all these things can come out in the select committee. We can have those who genuinely feel that the Department of Conservation is being denuded of powers. There are others who feel that at long last the empire known as the Department of Conservation, which is often a feeling reflected on the maraes of Māoridom, is going to have to listen and be statutorily required to take on board the views of this part of the wider New Zealand recreational community. And let those views come forward in a credible and manageable process.
I would say that, personally, I feel a lot more reassured, and I am quite sure I speak on behalf of my Māori colleagues as well, when we see there is some specific or explicit duty, rather than an assumed silent duty, to deal with the tangata whenua, given that a number of our hapū and iwi have this wildlife on their own whenua. They have strong relationships with the Department of Conservation, and they ebb and flow depending on the political tide or the bureaucratic tide. I would encourage advocates from the recreational hunting community, the Minister, and members on the other side of the House to bear that in mind.
There is actually going to be a very large debate when this bill comes back. Largely, as I say, there is the ideological dimension, because we just will not agree with that element of the confidence and supply equation that enables the Government to proceed and sell the assets—but I am not going to talk about that. We are talking about a different type of asset here: whether the wildlife resources may or may not be better managed through the erection of this committee, and whether they themselves turn into assets.
That is for the future, but I can say that I look forward. I am going to endeavour to inveigle myself on to the Local Government and Environment Committee. I am a proud member of the Primary Production Committee. I have waited 6 years to join that committee, and after the level of toil that exhausts us on that committee, I am sure it will be just a walk in the park going on to the Local Government and Environment Committee. I am going to seek permission to be one of the Labour people who from time to time go on to that committee, to ensure that the Māori dimension is not overlooked and that people do bear in mind, despite our institutional concerns about the proposed structure, that the members of the recreational hunting community are a strong, credible voice in the broader environmental management challenges that face us in Aotearoa. Kia ora.
EUGENIE SAGE (Green) : Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak on the first reading of the Game Animal Council Bill. The Green Party opposes this bill because of the pre-eminence that it gives to introduced deer, tahr, chamois, and pigs in the management of our public protected lands, and the way that that cuts across the statutory purpose of conservation legislation. The bill creates the Game Animal Council as a statutory authority, and in so doing, elevates and gives special status to hunting and problem animals such as deer and tahr. The bill is a big lollipop for United Future, but it is a huge backward step. It is poisonous for conservation, and particularly our indigenous plants. Our alpine flora evolved without browsing mammals, and species such as Ranunculus lyallii, the Mount Cook buttercup, are very vulnerable to the heavy browsing and trampling of big introduced herbivores such as tahr and chamois. So we believe that our conservation lands should be managed to protect their indigenous ecosystems and provide for a range of recreation, not managed as game preserves for hunting. These game preserves are in direct conflict with the purpose for which conservations lands are managed, and that is to protect our natural indigenous ecosystems, wildlife, and habitats.
Although Mr Dunne may say that this bill does not dilute existing powers in the legislation, it creates very real tension between the delegated functions of the Game Animal Council and the Department of Conservation. We have seen how many hunters interested in protecting deer from by-kill through 1080 operations have opposed and raised a lot of public concern about 1080 in order to protect their hunting interests, and that same tension will be evident with this Game Animal Council.
The bill enables the Minister to designate herds of special interest, and allows the Game Animal Council, not the Department of Conservation, to manage areas of conservation lands for hunters and recreational hunting. In giving this privileged status to hunters and hunting, we seem to have forgotten the deer menace and the huge financial and resource investment by the Crown over many decades in controlling deer and other pests on Crown land. Deer were declared noxious animals in the 1930s, and it was the Department of Internal Affairs and then the New Zealand Forest Service that employed professional cullers from the 1930s right until the end of the 1980s to eradicate deer from New Zealand. We understood then the ecological impacts of deer browsing. We understood that it could contribute to erosion. We understood that it severely reduced the capacity for forestry generation. So the Crown funded those professional cullers, and that saw nearly 3 million deer culled between the 1930s and the mid-1950s.
It was that effort in professional deer culling and helicopter recovery of venison that dramatically reduced deer numbers in the South Island. It was this House that passed the Wild Animal Control Act in 1977, in recognition of the need to control these harmful species and to regulate the operations of both commercial hunters and recreational hunters, if we were to get effective wild animal control. This bill undermines that past commitment and that investment of Crown resource, because of the privileged status it gives to hunting. In our view, the Government’s conservation priorities are all awry. Having cut conservation funding by $54 million, the Government is now proposing to allocate $100,000—it says in the regulatory impact statement—to the Game Animal Council, when the Department of Conservation is having to pull back on its work. How is that $100,000 to be found? Through reprioritisation within Vote Conservation. So it will be robbed from work on our indigenous species. A tramper emailed me only yesterday to say how impressed he was by the work of the department in the Hurunui Valley, where staff are working to protect great spotted kiwi. They and he were worried that those staff would lose their jobs in the next round of restructuring in the department. The Government can increase the spending on noxious animals such as tahr, but not on our indigenous species.
As the regulatory impact statement highlights, there is no need for this bill and no need for the Game Animal Council. I quote from the statement: “There is no information clearly establishing that current institutional arrangements in the management regime for wild animals requires change to improve participation among the different groups with interests in these animals and their effects”. It goes on to say: “There is no evidence that current user groups and organisations (for example the Deerstalkers’ Association) are deficient in representing their members’ interests.” We already have the Conservation Authority and conservation boards, which enable people to participate in the management of conservation lands.
We have an example of what happens when you get a herd management plan, in the tahr control plan in the central Southern Alps. Himalayan tahr numbers were reduced to around 3,000 in the early 1980s. Now, with that plan, which emphasises the role of recreational hunters, we have seen tahr numbers climb to over 10,000, with huge impacts on the alpine flora of that region, including a number of threatened plants, like the Mount Cook buttercup. So this bill, in putting hunting interests first, potentially compromises all of those indigenous ecosystems.
I look forward to being on the Local Government and Environment Committee and hearing public submissions. There will be, I think, a strong swell of opposition, because of the way the bill cuts across the Conservation Act and the conservation purpose to preserve and protect our indigenous biota. Thank you.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : It is a huge pleasure—a huge pleasure. [Interruption] We have got eager people supporting the Game Animal Council Bill on this side of the House. We are men of the land here. It is a great pleasure to rise and speak on this bill, the Game Animal Council Bill.
The contribution from Mr Grant Robertson was audacious and barefaced in its disregard for reality. I have confirmed with the Hon Peter Dunne that, in fact, support for the Game Animal Council Bill was part of the 2005 confidence and supply agreement with the Labour Government. The only difference between the Government in 2012 and the Government in 2005 is that we on this side of the House, as a Government, honour our promises. We honour our promises, which is no surprise to the people of the country, and that is why we were re-elected.
This is an excellent bill. I have to declare an interest. From the age of about 8 years old I have early memories of getting up before light; popping into a smelly, old, rattly truck; driving to the foothills of Mount Egmont/Taranaki, as it was then known; picking up an old single-shot, bolt-action, “V”-sighted .22; and heading off into the foothills of partially cleared native bush and pastoral land to get myself a possum. That was my first introduction to hunting, and it was something that has remained with me ever since.
Sadly, because of circumstances beyond my control, it is not often that I do get out into the bush, but I have had the pleasure of going fishing in the Joes River with the Deputy Speaker, who is in the Chair at the moment. We saw only old spoor there; we did not see any fresh sign, nor did we see a live animal. But I have had occasion to open my account in the central North Island plateau in the last couple of years, and to get a wild pig down in the Marlborough Sounds a few years prior to that.
The species that this bill covers are deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pig. You cannot go into your neighbour’s piggery and ping one and say it is covered; it has got to be a wild pig. There are, of course, herds of special significance, as we have heard—the wapiti—and this is where the Game Animal Council will have a role. The Game Animal Council will have a role to have delegated power to manage herds of special interest. We have heard from the Hon Mr Dunne how this is happening to great effect in Fiordland with the wapiti legislation.
My friend and colleague on the other side of the House Shane Jones was concerned about whether Māori would be involved in the Game Animal Council. I can put your mind at rest. Hello, Gary, it is lovely to see you and thank you for all the work you have done on behalf of getting this bill to where it is, and your colleagues around you. I want to mention Alec McIver as well, a past-president of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, who has worked. These interest groups will be on the Game Animal Council: recreational hunters, commercial hunters, meat exporters, deer farmers, safari park owners, Māori hunting interests, and conservation. They are all in the mix, and they will be able to inform the Minister of Conservation and give feedback to her.
This is an excellent bill. I have great pleasure in supporting this bill. I commend it to the House.
RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) : I rise on behalf of the New Zealand First Party to speak to this bill, the Game Animal Council Bill. New Zealand First opposes this bill. We note, as Mr Robertson did, that this bill has come before the House solely in order to satisfy one part of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the United Future party.
New Zealand First does support responsible hunting. I am in fact a keen hunter—not too keen nowadays, since entering this House and in fact since the election campaign, which as members will know is time-consuming and does not allow one to roam the hills with a weapon, which is perhaps not a bad idea.
New Zealand First regards this bill as being quite simply an unnecessary piece of legislation. The general policy statement in the bill’s explanatory note states: “The primary purpose of establishing such a council is to improve the management of deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pig, including the improvement of opportunities to hunt those animals.” New Zealand First contends that this bill, as it is constructed, will in fact reduce the opportunities to hunt the aforementioned animals, currently enjoyed by many in the New Zealand hunting community, and that it will add unnecessary additional costs and bureaucracy where little to none currently exists.
New Zealand First believes that the management of the animals listed does not need to be improved, and that the existing hunting methods and activities permitted and carried out by recreational hunters are working well, with regard to preventing the species named from increasing to pest proportions, and that the breeding populations of these animals on conservation lands are stable and easily controllable by present hunting practices.
As other speakers have indicated, regulatory bodies already exist and are not problematic. This bill therefore attempts to solve a problem that does not exist, and in so doing it creates an expensive regulatory regime that includes some quite Draconian provisions and that carries the potential to restrict the freedom of recreational hunters in New Zealand to continue harvesting food from the bush, and at the same time performing the valuable service of pest management for the nation, in the manner in which they have long enjoyed.
The bill as it comes before the House is in some ways poorly constructed and self-contradictory. It provides for the Minister of Conservation to appoint members of the proposed council, when perhaps a more balanced and effective body could be formed, were it to be elected by the hunting community itself. Clause 8(1) of the bill specifies that “The Minister must appoint no fewer than 9, and no more than 11, persons as members of the Council.” However, subclause (7) then states that “The Council’s powers are not affected by any vacancy in its membership.” In addition to this anomaly, clause 16(1) provides that “The Minister may … designate any herd of game animals in a defined location on conservation land to be a herd of special interest …”, yet clause 30 makes it an offence for any person to liberate an animal that belongs to the herd of special interest or to allow it to escape, which to my mind begs the question as to where an animal is supposed to be able to escape to if it already lives in the wild.
In addition to allowing the Minister to appoint the members of the council, the bill provides for the Minister to delegate his or her powers to that council, and further stipulates that the members of the council will not be personally liable for any act done or omitted, provided that such an act or omission is made in good faith. So we have a proposal for a council appointed by a Minister, largely on the recommendation of one small section of the hunting community, who gave their support to the United Future party, who may then receive delegated powers from that Minister, giving them a quite unprecedented level of ability and authority to determine rules that will apply to all of that hunting community.
With all due respect to Mr Jones, New Zealand First is also concerned by reference in clause 8(3)(vii), which states that the Minister must consider that members of the council should have knowledge and experience relating to Māori hunting interests. We ask why this quite unnecessary and divisive provision needs to be included, given that all the species of animals listed are ones that have arrived in New Zealand since European colonisation. We see no need whatsoever for this deliberately separatist provision in the bill.
New Zealand First notes that clause 11 provides for members of the council to be remunerated for their “services at a rate and of a kind determined by the Minister:”, without any further form of explanation or reference, which we consider to be unacceptable. Perhaps if this were to be paid by the trophy levies it would not be quite so bad; otherwise we consider that all Government expenditure does need to be accountable.
The bill provides for enforcement officers and honorary enforcement officers to be appointed, provided that the director-general considers them to be fit and proper persons, but does not specify what qualities or qualifications any such persons should possess. New Zealand First does not have any issue with police officers or other warranted officers of the State, such as fisheries officers, being appointed to such roles, but we do hold concerns around statutory powers being awarded to individuals who may not be trained and vetted in the exercise of such powers.
We are concerned also that honorary officers may exercise powers of halt and seizure at their discretion where herds of special interest are concerned, and that clause 31 appears to indicate that the burden of proof is placed upon persons in areas where such herds normally reside to prove that they are not hunting those animals, and that an enforcement officer may presume that any snare, net, trap, firearm, weapon, vessel, or vehicle can be declared to be intended for hunting if they believe they have reasonable grounds.
All in all, we see this bill as being unnecessary and an intrusion on the rights and freedoms of hunters, poorly constructed, potentially Draconian, and contributing to increased costs for the hunting community at no advantage to the nation or indeed to the conservation estate. New Zealand First does not support this bill. However, we accept that the House will pass it to select committee and we look forward to opposing it there. Thank you.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) : This is a bill that certainly warrants support. We have heard the previous speaker from New Zealand First, Richard Prosser, saying the Game Animal Council Bill is a United Future agreement bill. Well, I think that sells it a little cheap. The origin, the genesis, goes back quite a long way; certainly it goes back to 2005. I was aware of its discussion. I believe there were 4,000 submissions on it from people, and it certainly is nothing new to the recreational hunting practitioners.
Recreational hunters are very special people, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I know that you are reasonably keen on recreational hunting, and have some expertise in fishing, I am told. That is all well and good, and all to the benefit of everybody. I am a very keen fisherman myself, and the hunting I have done I have thoroughly enjoyed. But for those who are really gripped with it, it is an all-absorbing, very, very important part of their lives. I remember asking one standard West Coast deer hunter—and he is not a man who I think has ever lied—“How many deer have you shot in your lifetime?”. Honestly, he had smoke coming out of his ears with concentration, and eventually he said: “Oh, Chris, I don’t know, but it’s thousands.” Thousands, thousands. Not a light-hearted involvement; a thorough commitment to good hunting practices.
I can remember when I arrived in New Zealand how I was struck by the relative freedom we all have to go hunting—that is something that is well worth preserving—particularly in comparison with other countries. It is almost, one could say, a birthright. But management of the hunting stock is something that has been engaged in for centuries—centuries. Gamekeepers were not a casual luxury. They had a real job to do. Game wardens have a real job to do. The Department of Conservation has divided jobs to do in this. The management of the hunting stock by recreational hunters is something that is not just sensible; it is extremely positive from all points of view. It will be a statutory body; a voice for recreational hunters, giving voice by recreational hunters. They will work hand in hand with the Department of Conservation. They will work hand in hand with other users of the recreational estate. I have been speaking today with recreational hunters on the West Coast, which must be one of the bastions of good hunting still remaining in New Zealand, and I have heard nothing except thorough, thorough support for this bill and its sentiments. I have great pleasure in supporting it. Thank you very much.
LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa) : Kia ora, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute. I am the spokesperson on sport and recreation, so I will bring a different spin on this bill. I want to acknowledge Minister Peter Dunne, who has brought the Game Animal Council Bill to the House. For all intents and purposes it is really a member’s bill, but because of the situation he is in, he has managed to negotiate, as part of his confidence and supply agreement, this bill.
Labour is supporting the debate. I think it is really important that the interest groups have an opportunity to have a say, and actually we have heard about the concerns of some of those interest groups, particularly from the Greens spokesperson. So I want to acknowledge at this point in the proceedings that we are going to take into consideration what the affected parties have to contribute. When I look at the purpose of this bill, it says that the main purpose of this bill is to establish the Game Animal Council “to improve the management of deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pig, including the improvement of opportunities to hunt those animals.” So the premise is, you need animals to hunt, not the actual hunting process itself.
It has been really interesting for me to look at what research has been done in this area. In June 2010 Amelia Woods and Geoffrey Kerr produced a research report for land environment and people. It is a Lincoln University study that looked at recreational game hunting. It looked at the motivations, the satisfactions, and the participation of those hunters. The report found that for most hunters—and these are both overseas and New Zealand hunters—they were motivated to hunt for the following reasons: they enjoyed being in or experiencing nature, they enjoyed the social aspect of time with family or hunting companions, they were engaging in an exciting activity, and they got solitude, challenge, sport, and exercise from hunting. So although getting a kill is a desired outcome from a hunt, not all hunters are primarily motivated by this aspect or this activity. I think that is really interesting to note, given the evidence about the purpose of this bill.
I did want to highlight some of the interest groups, and as sport and recreation spokesperson I have to ensure that—for example, with hunting and fishing, the fact is that for a lot of New Zealanders, enjoying our natural environment is a pursuit that not only they enjoy but also the community enjoys. Actually, when we look at TV shows like the ITM Fishing Show, the TradeZone Gone Fishin’ on TV3, Outdoors With Geoff, and Hunting Aotearoa, this issue and this area are things that New Zealanders are really interested in. But they are interested in them within a context, and that context is the beautiful, green Aotearoa that we have. When I look at, for example, some of the organisations that this is relevant to, I look at Fish and Game New Zealand, which is a statutory body. It was set up under the Conservation Act of 1987 to manage, maintain, and enhance sports fish and game birds for present and future generations of anglers and hunters. When I look at the history of groups that engage in this activity, there has been a dual focus on environmental protection, environmental enhancement, and enjoying our environment, so I think that we have to make sure we are not going to compromise that which a lot of entities are deriving pleasure from. I just want to highlight that—
Hon Peter Dunne: The duality the member talks about hasn’t actually happened in practice.
LOUISA WALL: But it is the underlying theory of us, as a nation, having an environment that we can enjoy, so we have to keep central to any bill what the unintended consequences may be from introducing species and their impact on the environment.
Looking at the whole context of hunting in New Zealand, it is interesting to note that game hunting in New Zealand is primarily governed by two factors. One is obtaining a hunting licence or permit, which is administered by the Department of Conservation, and if using a firearm, it is about obtaining a firearms licence from the New Zealand Police. The conditions contained in the hunting licence or permit have to be observed, and some of the conditions around that licence or permit are about not discharging firearms in the vicinity of huts, tracks, or camping grounds; not spotlighting on public property; and not hunting 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunrise. Again, all these rules are about ensuring that there are multiple uses of our environment, so we have to make sure that those who are there to tramp, to camp, and to just enjoy what New Zealand has to offer are not going to be adversely affected by this bill.
The other thing I would like to take the opportunity to highlight is that it is really hard to see how this bill will address the issue of an enforceable law—an explicit code of practice for hunters. We do have one for game bird hunting, which has a code of practice, but it is going to be really interesting to see how this code of practice will impact on people who are not in regulated organisations or do not belong to clubs. There are a lot of people I know back in Taupō who hunt because they like to put food on the table, and, actually, they get the permits from the local iwi groups, because they go pig-hunting to feed the whānau. How are we going to make sure that these people are going to also have this code of practice for hunters? It is something just to highlight. But if the underlying purpose of the bill is, in fact, to prevent the types of hunting accidents and tragedies that have happened, then I do not think the bill is the answer. If the bill seeks to manage the hunting of specific types of game animals, then surely the granting of hunting licences and permits is the starting point for this type of control. I look forward to the opportunity for interested parties to have a say, which is why we are supporting this bill’s referral to the select committee, but we have serious reservations about the unintended consequences if this bill proceeds. Thank you.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) : I would like to take just a very short call in favour of the Game Animal Council Bill and to advocate to the House that this does get support. I understand that this bill has been a long time in the making and so for the people watching tonight, and the people in the gallery, it will be a very good thing for them to see this bill being passed through its first reading.
I also have to say we should be congratulating the Hon Peter Dunne on bringing this to the House. I know he has been a passionate advocate for the game animal community, and with having this bill going through in his name he will be very pleased. And so what if it came through as the result of a confidence and supply agreement? We are a Government that gets things done. We are a Government that is about action. We are a Government that lives up to its promises. And we are a Government that is going to pass this bill through its first reading this afternoon. And good on Labour for supporting it; it is good that Labour members are going to support it. But if the only opposition they can come up with is the fact that Peter Dunne supports the mixed-ownership model, then that is a very weak seat of opposition they have.
The fact that 4,000 people submitted on this issue, through the process, says to me that the Game Animal Council enthusiasts are passionate people and want to see this happen. Also, the fact that the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation has been operating for some time very successfully, says to me that this bill will have good implications for the community, should it be implemented. The fact that this bill is here tonight, going through the process, and getting put into place is something that the Game Animal Council community is looking forward to, and it will be very pleased to see this happen. [Interruption] The Hon Maurice Williamson asks how this will affect my electorate. Well, there is lots of shooting that takes place in some parts of South Auckland, but I do not think that it is of animals, unfortunately. I look forward to this bill being passed tonight through its first reading, and getting a lot of support from the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Gareth Hughes—is this a split call?
Gareth Hughes: Yes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: A warning bell at 4 minutes.
GARETH HUGHES (Green) : Kia ora. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. I am very happy to take a call on this Game Animal Council Bill, because it is a bad bill. This is legislation at its worst. It is all about special interest. It is all about increasing the cost to the taxpayer. It is all about reducing that “clean, green” brand, which brings in $22 billion a year to this country, and which this Government is prepared to throw out the door, and throw down the drain with its “Drill it, mine it, kill it, cut it, and sell it.” approach to economic development.
We have this bill only because the member for Ōhariu, Peter Dunne, has put it in front of the Government. I stood in the Ōhariu electorate with the honourable Minister and I did not hear him once tell the people of Ōhariu, which could be New Zealand’s most suburban electorate, that he was going to be the casting vote for the unpopular asset sales, that he was going to sell off our State assets—those assets that already belong to our mums and dads and everyday Kiwis—and that he was going to cut it, sell it, mine it, and drill it, but what was he going to give in return? What was he going to bring to Ōhariu? The Game Animal Council Bill, a special interest for those hunters in New Zealand.
What we have seen under this Government is special interests flourishing. We have seen special deals for Warner Bros, special deals for Skycity, special deals for MediaWorks, and now we are seeing special deals for hunters. The sad thing is that I do not think the people of Ōhariu wanted the Minister to be using his casting vote and getting only this for the 30 pieces of silver. Ōhariu is getting the Game Animal Council Bill.
In all seriousness this is a bad bill. What it does is establish the council to improve the management of deer, tahr, chamois, and wild pig; allow these herds of special interests; and introduce this game trophy export levy. I agree wholeheartedly with the regulatory impact statement of this bill that said quite simply that it is a solution in search of a problem. But I would go further; it is actually worse than that. It is a solution that is going to cause further problems. Actually, it is a problem that is going to cause lots of problems—and I have got a huge list from our spokesperson on this bill. The first big problem is that it is going to cut across the Conservation Act. This Government is already cutting the Department of Conservation budget, reducing its ability to work, and reducing the focus of our country on marine protection, which Kiwis love and value. It is going to cut across the Department of Conservation not for the benefit of all New Zealanders, but for a few special interests.
It is going to put those hunters in a privileged position. This new statutory body is going to be subsidised by the taxpayer by more than $100,000. So at a time when fiscal austerity is the watchword, this Government is prepared to fork out hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to support this special interest. And lastly, where is the money coming from? It is not coming from the consolidated accounts, it is not coming from the overblown borrowed $19 billion on transport; it is coming from the Department of Conservation—a vote that this Government has remorsefully cut despite its impact and benefits to our “clean, green” brand and our economy. It is $100,000 that Vote Conservation cannot afford.
The bill redefines, or tries to redefine, these animals—the tahr and whatever—from noxious pests to herds of special interest. It cannot be both; they cannot be noxious animal pests as they are at the moment, and herds of special interest. It shows the contradiction; it shows the contradiction that this bill brings to our country.
I guess, lastly, a big problem with this bill is that the new council will be advising the Minister of Conservation. The council has advisory functions but also has management functions. This is just like putting the wolf in the hen house.
In summary, it is a bad bill. The Greens are going to be opposing it, we think there is going to be a tonne of select committee submissions opposing this bill, and that this problem is simply going to cause problems. I guess, to sum up, this is our heritage we are talking about, it is our conservation estate. This is a heritage of our forefathers. To put aside these wonderful areas—we cannot go splitting it up, we cannot have separate hunting estates and conservation estates. Next we will be listening to the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand, the oil and minerals lobby, which is advocating for coal, gold, and minerals reserves in this country. What is next? This Government is going to keep on picking winners, and it is bad for this country, bad for our conservation estate, and bad for our economy. Kia ora.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : Quite frankly, I think the Game Animal Council Bill is a bit rubbish, actually. The Labour Party is going to support this bill’s referral to a select committee and let people have a say on it, but we have serious concerns. I have to say we are not guaranteeing supporting it past the select committee process.
Let us be clear about what this bill is. This bill is the price that National was willing to pay in order to be able to hock off those State-owned assets—this is the price. In fact, it says so under the heading “General policy statement” in the explanatory note of the bill. It is very clear: the very first line of the bill admits that the reason we are even debating it is because that is what the Government had to give Peter Dunne in order to get him to agree to hocking off the State assets—hocking off the State assets, even though he told the voters of Ōhariu before the election that he did not think that selling State assets was a good idea.
It says here right at the very beginning, in the general policy statement, in the very first sentence: “The Game Animal Council Bill delivers on the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the United Future Party”. This is the price of the asset sales; this is what they were willing to pay in order to get Peter Dunne. I have to say to Peter Dunne that if this was the price, he should have been asking for more—he should have been asking for more—because those State assets that he is going to vote to hock off are worth a heck of a lot more than this piece of legislation.
There are real concerns with this bill, and, in fact, the Government is willing to pay the price that Peter Dunne has extracted out of them, despite the fact that the regulatory impact statement, the Government’s own regulatory impact statement, says that the proposal has the highest regulatory burden—the highest regulatory burden. This is from the red tape - cutting Government; this is from the Government that was all against red tape. There is not a word from the ACT Party on this, who are the great red tape cutters in all of our reducing regulation. This bill has the highest regulatory burden, but National members are going to support it, because that is the price they had to pay to get Peter Dunne’s one vote—their one-vote majority to hock off the State assets. That is what they were willing to pay.
What does the regulatory impact statement say? It said that this bill “is likely to have the highest costs and be the least aligned to the current wild animal control regime and legislative framework”. Once again, another indictment—in the regulatory impact statement—as to what this National Government is willing to put up with in order to get Peter Dunne’s one vote.
Officials recommend establishing the Game Animal Council as an advisory committee, it says in the regulatory impact statement, but, oh no, not for the members of the National Government. They do not really care about that, providing they get their one vote from Peter Dunne in order to support their asset sales, because this is a Government that is barely scraping through with one of the most unpopular—unpopular—changes that we have seen from any Government in the last few decades, the hocking off of State assets. New Zealanders do not agree with it, and Peter Dunne told the voters of Ōhariu before the election that he did not agree with it, and now he is voting for it in exchange for the Government supporting the Game Animal Council Bill.
I return to some of the core concerns with the bill. This bill undermines the position of the Department of Conservation. In fact, there are serious and legitimate concerns being raised by people about pest control. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has raised concerns about the impact this bill could have on pest control, and, effectively, 1080. The use of 1080 poison has been a huge topic of debate in my electorate, but it works, and it has worked. Yet this Game Animal Council being established by this bill could seriously curtail the use of 1080, which has had a fantastic impact.
Yes, it is a point of huge debate. There are people in my electorate who are passionately opposed to the use of 1080 and they come along to all the meet the candidates meetings before an election and they tell me that they are, but it has worked. We have birdlife back in the hills around the Hutt Valley—birdlife that was missing for quite some time—and it is largely because of the use of 1080. So why should the Game Animal Council have the ability to undermine that? It is the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, an independent officer of Parliament, who was telling the Government this, and the Government is simply turning a blind eye to that.
This bill is not a good bill. It is the price the Government was willing to pay to get Peter Dunne to vote for State asset sales, despite telling the people who voted for him before the last election that he would not do so. This bill is misnamed. In fact, it is all about defending one endangered species—the Peter Dunne endangered species. That is what this bill is all about protecting, and we can forget about anything else. It is about protecting the endangered species that is Peter Dunne. I say to the House that come the next election, when Peter Dunne is judged, he will be removed.
Dr Cam Calder: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Assistant Speaker Tisch refused to allow the honourable member here, Todd McClay, to refer to Grant Robertson and point out that he was not an endangered species, so—
Hon Annette King: That’s not a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is a point of order, but I think the comment made by Todd McClay was made in an entirely different context. But the member’s time has expired.
PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) : I think that listening to the speeches from the other side of the House has confirmed to me why both those parties have struggled to get much support in provincial and rural New Zealand, because they are out of touch with the concerns and interests of those people. It is fair to say that there is not much in the way of game animals in Epsom, but there are plenty of pigs to be found in the Waitakeres. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: If members want to have a debate they can go out into the lobby. This cross-chat is not helpful to the occasion.
PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am delighted to support this Game Animal Council Bill to go to the select committee for consideration. I think it is a worthwhile bill. There is room for everybody in the conservation estate in New Zealand and a wide range of interests, and this makes good sense that we can allow people interested in hunting game to get out there and have some say and involvement in the organisation of these things. I will not trespass on the time of the House but I do support this bill. Thank you very much.
- A party vote was called for on the question that the Game Animal Council Bill be now read a first time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Was the ACT Party not called?
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: It was, and I am afraid that I missed it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action?
Chris Hipkins: He doesn’t need leave—the vote hasn’t been counted yet.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Let us just clarify this. We have gone past the call for ACT, and the member is asking for that vote to be noted. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that?
CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I am aware, the Standing Orders allow that any member can correct a vote during that vote being undertaken. They need to have leave to do so only if the vote has been read out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: OK. I will accept the member, and I will instruct the Clerk at the Table to record the vote, so ACT is now recorded.
|Ayes 97||New Zealand National 59; New Zealand Labour 34; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 23||Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.|
|Bill read a first time.|
|Ayes 97||New Zealand National 59; New Zealand Labour 34; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 23||Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.|
|Question agreed to.|
Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Land Information) : I move, That the Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill be now read a second time. The bill sets out a new system for setting rents on the 212 pastoral leases in the South Island high country. It replaces the current system for setting rents based on a version of land value. The current system is complex, subjective, and very prone to dispute. It has resulted in 112 disputes over rent being appealed to the Land Valuation Tribunal.
The new system moves away from land value and instead introduces a production-based approach. What a farmer can earn from a farm will actually help determine what rent he should pay. I think I said in the first reading that it is very unfair to believe that just because the sheep get a nice view of a lovely lake, they will produce more wool.
The bill establishes a framework built around a formula for calculating rent in two distinct parts. The first part measures the productive capacity of the land in a pastoral lease in standard stock units, and the second part measures the value of those stock units as revealed by objective economic data. The bill also contains a modern disputes resolution system to replace the complex and very expensive appeal process of the Land Valuation Tribunal. The bill also specifies a role for the Valuer-General in setting the details of the new system and monitoring its operation.
The bill has widespread support from South Island high-country farmers and has been developed in consultation with leaseholders, farm managers, and independent experts, and even environmental groups have been extensively consulted in the development of this. I wish to acknowledge the work of the Primary Production Committee for its efforts in considering the bill, for its report back on the bill, and for the helpful amendments it made. I also want to thank each of the 12 submitters who participated in the select committee process.
Many submitters said the bill should contain a comprehensive purpose clause. The bill now has a new and expanded purpose clause. This explains how the policy on earning capacities rent is affected through the primary legislation and through the regulations and rules that will be made under it. The new purpose clause is a very useful addition to the bill and will help those interpreting the elements of the new system in the future. A related amendment requires the Valuer-General to have regard to the purposes of the amendment in exercising his or her functions.
The committee also made some useful changes that clarify how regulations will set out how the value of stock units is to be inferred from objective data series. The values will be calculated by looking at data series to capture net farm incomes per stock unit on farms comparable to those run on pastoral leases. The framework established by the bill very deliberately provides for the Valuer-General to make rules to specify or constrain inquiry into the productive capacity of the land.
I think it is critical that such a complex and technical subject matter should be reflected in rules. For instance, the bill envisages using land-use capability units, models, and algorithms in the process of assessing that productive capacity. Most submitters acknowledged the need for detailed rule-making powers but sought more clarity about them. I agree we need to have as much certainty as we can get around the methods that can be used in the new system.
The amendments made by the Primary Production Committee clarify some of the rule-making powers. The powers are reorganised into mandatory and discretionary groups. The Valuer-General would be required to make rules on the mandatory group. This group contains the rules that will need to be made to get the new system working.
The changes also clarify how the Valuer-General must define a standard stock unit that would be used in all parts of the rent-setting formula. These changes allow for the definition to reflect the current state of agricultural science while ensuring that a common definition applies to all parts of the formula. The amendments made by the Primary Production Committee also ensure that all parties will have the information they need for assessing productive capacity.
The committee also made some useful minor changes to parts of the dispute resolution process. The bill contains another important amendment to deal with the 112 lessees where rents are currently in dispute. The amendment would give lessees the option of using the new system to settle their historic rent disputes. Lessees can also agree with the Commissioner of Crown Lands to vary, truncate, or omit the steps in the new process so they can get a quick resolution. Lessees will retain the option of pursuing historic rents under the old system, but I certainly expect that most will choose to opt for the new system.
The Labour members of the Primary Production Committee have recorded a minority view. This view says in effect that the Crown is giving away a return on the value of pastoral leases beyond their use for pastoral farming. Some leases do have high values because of their amenity values, like their spectacular views and lakeside settings.
But I say to the Labour Party again that a farmer can make no more from his sheep or cattle on a high-country estate where they have a beautiful look over Lake Wānaka than he can on another farm that does not have such amenities. So to say: “You’ve got a beautiful view or you’ve got a lovely mountain vista, therefore your rent should be higher.” is in the National Government’s view wrong. It should be based on the earnings capacity of the land. These amenity values, in our view, should not contribute to the rent setting.
The nature of the legal relationship under the pastoral leases requires rents to be set on the use for which the leases exist in the first place—that is, pastoral farming and good management of the land. If we did rent on amenity values, we would be fundamentally altering the legal relationship between the Crown as lessor and the lessees. The value of leases would be reduced, and as illustrated by the 1997 amendments to the Maori Reserved Land Act, lessees would expect compensation. The issues of returns to the Crown from amenity values is a diversion from the core issue of how rents should be set.
The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill that we are considering in the second reading should proceed, because the current system is simply not working, and the disputes over rent need to be resolved so farmers on pastoral leases can get on with the business of farming and managing that land. Officials, experts, and lessees all agree the current practice cannot continue, as do I. As Minister for Land Information I am very happy to move the second reading of this bill.
RAYMOND HUO (Labour) : To better understand what the Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill has to offer, we can ask a landlord, or any landlords—corporate or private ones—and they will tell us that the rents they would normally expect to receive should be fair and reflect the value of the land. That is not difficult to understand, because it is the best principle of property rights. What is difficult to understand is that the National Government, under this bill, challenged the basic principles of property rights between the landowner and the lessees.
This bill seeks to change the norm, and this bill will severely compromise the property rights of the landowner—the Crown in this case—to negotiate a fair return on the full value of the land. The bill would replace the land valuation basis for setting rents for pastoral leases with a property-earning capacity basis. So the difference is basically between land value and the property-earning capacity of the lessee.
Labour is opposing this bill for four main reasons. Firstly, I should reiterate that Labour supports the continuation of tenure by leaseholds on Crown pastoral lands to ensure sustainable management and protective utilisation of high-country leases. I agree with the submitters who expressed the need for certainty in rental setting. We agree that this is a priority. However, certainty can be achieved by using a system that recognises the total value of the land, not selectively choosing aspects of that value. Selectively choosing aspects of that value has actually put the interests of the 231 lessees that this bill seeks to address before the interests of the farming sector at large and the interests of the 4.4 million New Zealanders.
Secondly, rent for these properties is already set relatively low—that is, 2 percent, excluding improvements. By cutting this further, which is exactly what this bill seeks to achieve, the National Government will be forgoing potential revenue, which could go towards much-needed protection for other fragile, high-country environments.
Under the existing regime a discount was already possible if the lessees could not afford the full rent. Labour supports the principle of income-related rents where cases of hardship can be established and the fair rights of lessees are difficult to uphold. We support implementation of a mechanism to provide relief to those lessees who can demonstrate that a fair market rental is beyond the earning capacity of the land they occupy.
- Debate interrupted.
- The House adjourned at 6 p.m.