Draft transcript - Thursday, 26 February 2015
Points of Order
Questions for Written Answer— Overdue Replies
Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, under Standing Order 382(4) . It relates to more than 60 questions for written answer that have remained unanswered—half of them for over 2 months—by the Minister of Defence, Mr Brownlee, when that Standing Order requires a reply within 6 working days. I have approached the Minister’s office and got an arrogant reply. So I am now seeking from you assistance in upholding the Standing Order, on this basis in particular: that our key responsibility is to hold Ministers to account. Answers to written to questions are one way of holding them to account. If they treat our written questions with arrogance or behave incompetently, then we have to resort to you to uphold that Standing Order.
Points of Order
Questions for Written Answer— Overdue Replies
Mr SPEAKER: I give the member an assurance that I will look into the matter immediately when I leave the Chamber after the end of question time.
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Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill
Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Minister for Land Information) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: I move, That the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I nominate the Local Government and Environmental Committee to consider the bill. At the appropriate time, I intend to move that the bill be reported to the House by 29 June. This bill amends the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act of 2012. This Government put the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act in place to provide comprehensive environmental management of the natural resources in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Prior to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act coming into force, New Zealand did not have a system in place for managing the environmental effects of activities undertaken in this area. Our exclusive economic zone is one of the largest in the world and, together with our extended continental shelf, is approximately 21 times the size of our land mass. The exclusive economic zone covers an area of more than 400 million hectares, while our extended continental shelf covers a further 170 million hectares. It is an area that holds significant economic potential, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act aims to enable this economic potential to be unlocked in an environmentally responsible way. The bill I am introducing today will make a technical amendment to the exclusive economic zone legislation to ensure the sensible transition of existing petroleum operators into the new regime. There are four petroleum production operations in the exclusive economic zone off the coast of Taranaki, which are crucial for ensuring New Zealand’s oil and gas supply. Petroleum production has been occurring in this area since the 1970s in a safe and responsible manner, but the environmental effects of these activities have previously been unregulated. The Government wants to ensure that existing operators are brought into the exclusive economic zone regime in a way that does not compromise the supply of oil and gas to New Zealand. Currently, transitional provisions in the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act require existing operators to undertake the marine consenting process before their pre-existing petroleum mining permits or privileges under the Crown Minerals regime expire. This bill will ensure that when operators apply for a marine consent for their existing production activities, they will be able to continue operating as they have done for the last 40 years until their marine consent application is decided on by the Environmental Protection Authority. This bill will also provide certainty in the case of subsequent objections or appeals to the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision, as their operations will be able to continue while any objections or appeals are determined. I want to emphasise that the Government would have preferred that Shell Todd Oil Services had applied in sufficient time so as to make this bill not needed, but we also appreciate that with a new regulatory regime, this fine detail over timing was not fully understood. It is inevitable that when we are implementing a new regime of this sort there will be errors that need pragmatic correction. The Labour and Green parties opposite provided no environmental regulation at all in the exclusive economic zone in their 9 years in Government, and it is try that when you do nothing you cannot make errors. This bill does nothing to change the requirement to apply for a marine consent. Operators will still be required to provide an impact assessment on the nature of their activities, and the effects on the environment and on other interests.
[Continuation line: They will also be required to]
Hon LOUISE UPSTON
They will also be required to identify measures to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effects. Applications for production activities will be publicly notified, and submissions will be invited to allow for community engagement on decision making. As New Zealanders, we all value our big, blue backyard. The Government welcomes commercial activity but it must be on the basis that the appropriate environmental safeguards are in place. This bill provides a technical amendment that eliminates any possibility that New Zealand’s energy supply could be at risk should existing production operations have to increase while a marine consent application is being considered or any appeals are being decided. The cost of the Māui Developments gas platform being down is $40 million per day to the New Zealand economy, and this occurred in 2011. We cannot allow that to occur through the inadequate timing issue over appeals for an existing operation. Risking energy supply was clearly never the intention when the regime was put in place. The bill simply reiterates the Government’s original intent that existing operators have a smooth transition into the new regulatory regime. I commend this bill to the House.
[Continuation line: Megan Woods]
Speech - MAHESH BINDRA (NZ First)
MAHESH BINDRA (NZ First): I stand on behalf of New Zealand First to speak to this bill. This bill rightly amends three Acts of Parliament in an effort to improve public safety, reduce crime, and, hopefully, reduce reoffending. The abuse of alcohol and other drugs has been the bane of our lives. It is a major driver of violence, as other speakers have mentioned previously, and unfortunately, therefore, is one of the drivers in the breakdown of our society, the quintessential Kiwi lifestyle. We have to change behaviours if we are to ever rebuild the lives of the offenders, their victims, their families, and our communities. This bill will change behaviours, we believe. It will change the behaviour of hopefully all of the nearly 50 percent of offenders who report that they were under the influence of either alcohol or at least one drug at the time of their arrest. It will also hopefully change the lives of approximately two-thirds of community-based offenders who have drug and alcohol-based addictions. As the law currently stands, the courts and the Parole Board may impose conditions requiring the offender to abstain from consuming or possessing alcohol or drugs. But very rarely are offenders or bailees ever required to be tested for compliance. There is no legal authority to require offenders and those on bail to submit to testing; nor were there any consequences for lack of compliance. To New Zealand First it makes sense to change the situation. This bill, we believe, will change it. The current three Acts—the Bail Act 2000, the Sentencing Act 2002, and the Parole Act 2002—are good. They give provision for the courts and the Parole Board to place conditions on release or bail, relating to the abstinence of alcohol and drugs. However, this bill gives these current pieces of legislation more grunt, more teeth, to be able to bite at the offenders who are using and abusing alcohol while on bail or in the community. Personally, having been a part of the corrections system earlier, in my previous employment, I have seen the success of the random drug-testing system within our prisons. I have seen personally the number of prisoners within the wire, the number of prisoners who used to use drugs, go down drastically, because of random drug testing. That system works two ways. It imposes penalties for non-compliance and at the same time it has brought some incentives at the time of their parole hearing if they do comply with the requirements consistently. I must, at this juncture, congratulate the Department of Corrections on its success in changing people’s lives. Some of my colleagues have very unkindly mentioned that the Department of Corrections also deserves congratulations on getting rid of me, to New Zealand First. The bill makes sense because it will require all those on bail, on parole, or serving community-based sentences who have conditions imposed on them, such as abstention from all other drugs, to be tested for compliance. If they are not compliant, there are consequences for stepping out of line. New Zealand First likes that. New Zealand is faced with a group of offenders, bailees, and parolees whose offending is directly related to their use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. If we are to ever protect our people and property, we need to seek a change in behaviour. Legislation drives a change in behaviour and so does education and support services. New Zealand First hopes that this bill will mean that those offenders at the highest risk of reoffending, because of their use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs, will be forced to change their behaviour. The consequences they face if they are not compliant with the conditions placed on them, once this bill has passed into law, will encourage them to stop abusing alcohol and other drugs. We hope that not only are such conditions placed on them, but they are also ordered to attend rehabilitation and support services so that they can learn how to manage their addictive tendencies. We presume that the testing will be random, and we support this because it defeats the purpose if the offender, bailee, or parolee—
Speech - MAHESH BINDRA (NZ First)
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Trevor Mallard): I regret that I have to interrupt the member because the time has come for me to leave the Chair.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.