Questions to Ministers
Budget 2011—National Savings
AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the
Minister of Finance: How will the Budget next week help lift national savings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Primarily by showing a credible path back to surplus so the Government can reduce the amount of borrowing it is doing. However, we will be able to do this at the same time as boosting front-line health and education services and helping pay for the rebuilding of Christchurch.
Amy Adams: What are some of the Budget changes that will help the Government return to surplus and contribute to higher national savings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget will include changes to KiwiSaver, Working for Families, and student loans, which are large programmes that collectively cost the taxpayer about $5 billion this year. These programmes were introduced at a time when the economy appeared to be growing but in fact was in the midst of a bubble of consumption, debt, and housing speculation, and the Government has had to borrow heavily to maintain these programmes through the recession.
Amy Adams: What changes does the Government intend making to KiwiSaver, and why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government intends to reduce the amount of money it has to borrow from overseas to put into KiwiSaver accounts, and increase the amount of genuine savings from the private sector. As the Prime Minister has outlined, the $1,000 kick-start for new KiwiSaver members will remain as it is now. Changes will maintain total contributions into KiwiSaver funds, which are expected to grow rapidly from about $8 billion now to almost $60 billion in 10 years’ time. These changes will not happen immediately and will not affect people until after the election.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why did his Government cut the KiwiSaver default contribution rate for members and employers in 2008, given that the Prime Minister’s big announcement today is that he will seek to reverse his own change?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may recall that KiwiSaver was at the time costing the Government somewhere around $1.5 billion. We made a number of changes to it that made it affordable, particularly in the light of the significant global recession affecting New Zealand, and as part of the tax package we brought in in December 2008.
Hon David Cunliffe: If KiwiSaver needs to be durable and sustainable, as he used to say, how is his Government promoting that durability by flip-flopping on member and employer contributions and breaking his party’s promise not to cut member tax credits,
when the average Kiwi now thinks they cannot rely on this scheme under this Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is committed to the durability and affordability of KiwiSaver and we have managed to maintain the scheme through the most difficult economic times the country has had in a long time. We are simply not willing to keep borrowing to put money into people’s savings accounts and calling it savings.
Amy Adams: Has he seen any conflicting reports about the suspension of New Zealand Superannuation Fund contributions by the Government during this time of large Budget deficits?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have. In fact, just yesterday the Opposition finance spokesman maintained his consistent line, which is to attack the Government for suspending payments to the Superannuation Fund. However, on 21 March Phil Goff said that when one is in a position of low economic growth one slows the payments down; when one gets into a position of high economic growth, one speeds the payment up. That is pretty much a summary of the Government’s policy. I wish the finance spokesman and the Leader of the Opposition could agree on Labour’s position.
Amy Adams: Has the Minister seen any other reports about superannuation that might concern older New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have. Although the Government has set out to protect national superannuation rates and eligibility, the Leader of the Opposition now seems to be floating a proposal for a two-tier national superannuation system where those who retire early get less than those who delay their retirement.
Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s Don Brash’s plan.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is Don Brash’s plan; that is why I am surprised that Labour has adopted it.
Financial Position and Savings—Prime Minister’s Statements
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “All savings that the Government makes helps in the current financial position we are in.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Yes. The savings we will make in the Budget will be sensible, responsible, and balanced. We are making those savings so that we can redirect funding into front-line health and education services, invest in much-needed infrastructure, fund our share of the reconstruction of Christchurch, and reduce what otherwise would be very large deficits.
Hon Phil Goff: If he wants to reduce the deficit, why is he cutting tax credits to low and middle income earners in KiwiSaver but not cutting back any of the windfall tax gains he gave to the highest income earners at a cost of $2.5 billion each year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because this Government introduced a balanced package of tax cuts that were fiscally neutral. Actually, they are fiscally in surplus; they give the Crown about a billion dollars by 2013-14. The Opposition is welcome to go and campaign on a higher top personal rate and make New Zealand less competitive with other countries. It is more than welcome to go ahead with that. In fact, it should go ahead and do it. But when it comes to tax, as we always know with Labour, it campaigns on one thing and does another, just like it did with the bus last—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I do not blame the Opposition for the reaction, but I was on my feet. The answer was fine until that last bit. The last bit was not acceptable.
Hon Phil Goff: Why is he cutting home care for the frail elderly in order to reduce the deficit but asking for nothing back from New Zealand’s highest income earners, some of whom got more than $1,000 a week in tax cuts, like him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised by the Minister of Health that we are putting more money into home care. That is consistent with this Government, which, despite finding itself in a position where we have to run a balanced Budget, is putting hundreds of millions of dollars more into health care, as the member will see on 19 May.
Hon Phil Goff: If he wants to cut the deficit, why is he cutting tax credits for low and middle income earners in Working for Families but not taking back any of the windfall gains received by the highest income earners in New Zealand, costing this country $2.5 billion a year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because we ran a balanced programme. In fact, as a result of our tax changes we delivered a position where more money was coming to the Crown. But, as I said earlier, if the member wants to go and campaign on raising the top personal rate, he should go and do it, and we will see him on 26 November.
Hon Phil Goff: Does he agree with this quote from Bill English that “Taking higher-income families out of WFF saves very little money,” and is he therefore just tinkering with the scheme, or does he intend to cut deeper into lower and middle income families and the tax credits they get under Working for Families?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I agree with Bill English, and that is why we are not taking higher-income families out of the scheme.
Hon Phil Goff: Why is his Government focusing on cuts that hurt people but do not solve the real problem, which is the stagnation of the New Zealand economy all through last year, even before the earthquakes?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I will tell the member what hurts people. It is when a party is in Government for 9 years and real wages do not go ahead, when it runs inflation rates that are so high that New Zealanders pay an enormous amount for their interest rates, when it goes out and fails to address the issue that one in five young New Zealanders leaves school without being able to read or write properly, and when it is more interested in hiring bureaucrats for the health system than in hiring nurses and teachers. That is what hurts people, I say to Mr Goff, not sensible economic management like this side of the House is delivering.
Hon Phil Goff: What responsibility does he take as Prime Minister for turning the forecast deficit for 2011, which was, at the point when his party became the Government, $2.4 billion, into a $16 billion deficit?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I take full responsibility, and I take full responsibility because I am proud to stand up as Prime Minister and say to the people of Christchurch that in their moment of need, we are helping them and we will fund them. If the member wants to campaign on getting rid of the money for Christchurch, he should go ahead, and I will see him later, but I bet that Brendon Burns, Lianne Dalziel, and the other members from Christchurch such as Clayton Cosgrove will not be saying that in Christchurch. I am proud to take responsibility for keeping programmes that have helped New Zealand in difficult times, and I am proud to be the Prime Minister who takes responsibility for the fact that unemployment capped at 7 percent in this country, not 11 percent. I am proud to take responsibility for that, and if the member does not like it, that is probably why he will never be Prime Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of his comment about the global financial crisis, when did he first become aware of it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think we all started seeing the global financial crisis in the early part of 2008. We were very surprised that the Labour Government did not
respond, but we all know that all Labour knows how to do is spend. Frankly, I am not surprised that the member is asking a question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the collapse and takeover of Merrill Lynch by the Bank of America, with which he was quite familiar, pre-date his commitment to the KiwiSaver tax credits?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I was not aware of the takeover by the Bank of America of Merrill Lynch. That happened long after I left the company. I think we could all see that the global financial crisis was looming. It was deeper than we all thought, and in fact I remember in 2009 being a member of this House when hearing those from the Opposition saying that the Government should be doing more, spending more, and indebting New Zealand more. In fact, we took a very responsible view, indeed, and I am proud to take responsibility for that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the Prime Minister’s comment that he was not aware of the timing of the collapse of Merrill Lynch, I seek leave of the House to table—
Mr SPEAKER: Before I go any further—[Interruption] The member did not need to sit down; I do apologise for that. I just want to know what the document is that he is seeking leave to table.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a clipping from the
New York Times of 15 September 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table an article from the
New York Times
of September 2008. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he accept that someone whose wealth increased by $100,000 a week on average through last year and who received $1,000 a week in tax cuts is more able to save than someone on the median wage with two children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know such a person. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Both sides will come to order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In light of the Prime Minister’s interjections across the House, I want to apologise for understating—
Mr SPEAKER: That was totally unnecessary.
HILARY CALVERT (ACT) to the
Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Yes; because they are talented people who are working hard for New Zealand. I might add, we were disappointed to lose one of our Ministers recently but that is the nature of confidence and supply agreements.
Hilary Calvert: Why does he support the position of his Minister for Social Development and Employment of opposing youth rates, when since their abolition by the last Labour Government youth unemployment has nearly doubled, putting an extra 12,000 young people out of jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think we all admit that, and accept that one of the factors for youth is the rates they are paid. I remember at the time, though, when youth rates were being phased out, long before the law changed, quite a number of big employers at that time thought it was a good idea to get rid of them and in fact led the charge on that.
Hilary Calvert: Does he think the statement that youth rates give “employers a reason to hire younger people and give them a chance to get experience.”, which was made in December 2007 by National leader John Key, is extreme; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because nothing I say is extreme.
Hilary Calvert: Does he consider it extreme to allow a 16-year-old trainee chef to earn $350 a week, or does he think it is more caring to force them to sit at home for $150 a week?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is more caring to make sure that they are in work, and that is one of the reasons why last week the Government put $55 million into allowing youngsters to be employed, with a subsidy of $5,000 going into those employers who take on a young person aged 16 to 24, who may have been on a benefit, to have training applied to that employee either in the workplace or for a New Zealand Qualifications Authority qualification.
Budget 2011—Strategic Changes for Economy
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: What does he consider to be the main strategic changes required to the economy that Budget 2011 will address?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: I am pleased to see that the member is back from his parachute-packing class.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and the House will be silent. That was an unacceptable way to commence the answer to a perfectly fair question. The question was absolutely fair.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Extra supp!
Mr SPEAKER: What a good idea. The Opposition has just gained an extra supplementary question; I will make the record 225.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The main strategic choice for this economy in this Budget is the same as it has been for the previous two Budgets, which is to rebalance the economy away from debt, finance, consumption, and housing speculation to savings, exports, and investment.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the main challenge is the same as it was in the previous two Budgets, will the prescription be the same—namely, further cuts to superannuation pre-funding, and unaffordable tax cuts overwhelmingly directed to people who do not need them?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The prescription in the first Budget was to get hold of public finances, which were at the time out of control because of the stewardship of the previous Government combined with the effects of the global recession. Last year the focus was on changing our tax mix to get right the incentives in the economy, and favouring savings and investment over consumption. This time the focus will be on building savings, and getting the Government in particular to control its own borrowing and spending so it can contribute to national savings.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by his recent earlier statement that the centrepiece of Budget 2011 will be to promote savings; if so, does he agree with the member sitting next to him that the best idea the Government can come up with is reversing the cut to the default contribution that they themselves made not a year ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with what the Prime Minister said. This Budget has to focus on getting the basics of the Government’s finances in order. I think the New Zealand public understand that. They are concerned, for instance, that over the last 12 months we will have ended up averaging borrowings of, I think, $380 million a week. That is far too high and must change.
Chris Tremain: What other strategic changes are required for the economy that will be addressed in Budget 2011?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a number of benefits that we hope will flow not just from this Budget but from the accumulation of the last two: lifting growth back on to a stable path; reversing the decline in productivity, which is a critical component of
economic growth and higher incomes, to help revive the export sector, which actually shrank through the latter part of the last decade; and redirecting Government resources in a way that is much more effective.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with Steven Joyce that KiwiSaver is a pyramid scheme, and will he be offering Mr Joyce lessons in the basics of finance so that Mr Joyce can learn the difference, or has that job already been done by Dr Brash?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Mr Joyce, in his usual very insightful way, was referring to the phenomenon whereby the Government borrows money off Asian central banks and pension funds in Europe and puts that money into individual KiwiSaver accounts, and we call it savings. Borrowing is not saving.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister, with the best of intentions, may have misheard the question. I was referring to KiwiSaver—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member’s question was a pretty provocative sort of a question, and the nature of that question will never get a precise answer.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the member’s question was putting a quote from Mr Joyce about KiwiSaver. The Minister did not address KiwiSaver, at all; that is not provocative.
Mr SPEAKER: I will check the
Hansard, but I am fairly certain that there was more than just the quote from the Hon Steven Joyce in that question.
Dairy Farming—Effect of Intensification on Water Quality
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his comments in the House yesterday that “intensification of dairy operations will have had some impact on our river quality … But in reality, the impact is not great …”; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Yes; as I said yesterday, the impacts need to be kept in context, as our water quality is ranked second only behind Iceland, with a score of 99.2.
Dr Russel Norman: Therefore, was Dr Mike Joy, a senior lecturer in environmental science at Massey University, wrong when he said, as quoted by the BBC: “Nearly half of our lakes and around 90 percent of our lowland rivers are classed as polluted.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It may depend on the definition of “polluted”. I will give an example of where sometimes people play with numbers. Yesterday in the House the member claimed that 43 percent of sites in New Zealand are unsuitable for swimming.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister was alleging that I was playing with numbers. One might argue I made a mistake or I had got it wrong, but to suggest I played with numbers suggests I manipulated them in a conscious way. That is suggesting I was acting in a misleading way.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot litigate the Prime Minister’s answer by way of a point of order. I apologise to the member; I was distracted while the Prime Minister was answering, because I did not perceive that the question was likely to lead to difficulty. I apologise for that. I invite the Prime Minister to answer the question again and I will listen very carefully. I think everyone remembers exactly what the question was.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I certainly was not trying to be disrespectful to the member in any way, shape, or form; I was simply making the point that yesterday people gave interpretations of numbers. Yesterday the member said that 43 percent of sites are unsuitable for swimming most of the time. I have gone away and had a look at that number and in fact it is incorrect. Fifty-seven percent of the 206 monitored freshwater swimming spots meet the guidelines all the time, but 32 percent meet the guidelines
except in certain conditions—for example, after rainfall. Even the remaining 11 percent meet the guidelines 75 percent of the time.
Hon David Parker: 57 minus 100 is 43.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I know, but the member said most of the sites are unsuitable all of the time. That is the point; people play with numbers, my friend.
Dr Russel Norman: Therefore, was his Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, wrong when he said in 2008 that “The facts are that water quality, particularly in lowland streams, is deteriorating … with water in many iconic lakes and rivers unfit to … swim in.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, Nick Smith was not wrong, which is why on Monday he was at the forefront of leading the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. That is why in the 2009-14 period this Government will spend five times what the previous Government spent. We care more about the environment than Labour does.
Dr Russel Norman: Was Professor David Hamilton, Chair in Lakes Management and Restoration at Waikato University, wrong when he said yesterday: “Over the past decade or so New Zealanders have witnessed accelerated degradation of many waterbodies in response to diffuse nutrients derived from mostly agricultural sources”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not necessarily. I have not seen the full context of the quote, but I think we all accept that there needs to be a balance between intensification and dairying and environmental concerns. That is why the national policy statement and national environmental standards are there, and why the Government is working hard to get that balance right.
Dr Russel Norman: Given the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that intensification causes water pollution, is there not a contradiction between the Government’s goal to increase intensive agriculture by 300,000 hectares and the Government’s goal to clean up our rivers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because I think it depends on how that is done. I refer the member to what has happened in Ōpuha. The
Ōpuha Dam Water Management Project, which has been in place for some time now, was the supreme winner of the 2008 Environment Canterbury Resource Management Award. The scheme is supported by
Fish and Game New Zealand, local iwi, and the community. It clearly demonstrates that there can be increased economic performance and environmental benefits. So often I hear from the Greens a call for this Government to spend more money. Where do they think that money comes from? We have to have a vibrant economy, and I think we can balance economic growth with good environmental protection. This Government is doing that.
Dr Russel Norman: With reference to the Ōpuha Dam, was Environment Canterbury wrong in January when it accepted that the Ōpuha Dam was linked to an increase in toxic algae blooms in the Ōpihi River, as was reported by their principal surface water quality officer, Adrian Meredith?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I simply have not seen the statement. If the member wants very detailed answers like that he should refer them to the member.
Dr Russel Norman: If the Prime Minister thinks we should trade off increased water pollution for more economic growth in the dairy industry, why does he not just come out and say that, rather than pretend that we can have a million more cows and cleaner rivers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not said that. What I have said is I think it is possible for New Zealand to increase its economic performance and to improve its environmental outcomes. That is why we are doing all the things we have proposed through the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the like.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a report from NIWA, dated July 2010, that shows the link between intensification and water pollution.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table an article from the
Timaru Herald. I know it is a newspaper but it is not necessarily that easy to access.
Mr SPEAKER: How recent is the article?
Dr Russel Norman: The article is from 26 January 2011.
Mr SPEAKER: No, we are not going to do that. We are not going to worry about newspaper articles from this year.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) to the
Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that New Zealanders have adequate access to affordable dental health-care?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health)
: Yes, particularly in respect of children and adolescents. I do acknowledge, though, that some adults struggle to afford dental treatment, but there are mechanisms in place to support low-income adults to access care when they need it.
Hon Jim Anderton: Does the Minister believe that dental care is more, or less, affordable under current economic conditions for New Zealanders on average or below-average incomes?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I can tell the member that in terms of the affordability issue, the Government currently spends around $40 million a year providing hospital-level dental services, and a further $56 million a year assisting people to access the care they need. And in the year ended January some 73,000-odd people sought access through the Ministry of Social Development to the various services they required. So I would suspect that, overall, dental care is affordable.
Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister seen the results of the New Zealand Oral Health Survey, published in December 2010, which shows that 44 percent of all New Zealanders are not receiving any form of dental care; if so, does he think that number is acceptable?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I actually launched the survey results, so I have certainly seen them and am aware of their content. What they show is a number of steps that could be taken by people to improve their oral health-care. For example, about a third of New Zealanders do not brush their teeth twice a day. If they were to do so using a fluoride-based toothpaste, that would have a significant positive impact on their dental and oral health status.
Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister got any comment on the dental health status of New Zealanders and whether it has improved or worsened over the last 20 years?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The Oral Health Survey shows significant improvement in a number of areas since the previous survey in the late 1980s. But it also raises some areas for concern, such as those I have mentioned already, and these are matters that will be worked on. I might say also that one of the things I think it does raise is the relevance of having a survey every 20 years. In such an important area as oral health we may need to look to having more frequent surveys to assess what is happening.
Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister tell the House why dental health treatment is excluded from the public health system of New Zealand, when reputable surveys show
that the number of New Zealanders not receiving any form of dental care has increased from 33 percent to 44 percent in the last 20 years?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I said in one of my earlier answers that we currently spend approximately $40 million on the provision of hospital-level dental services, with the majority being targeted to people with complex medical problems or disabilities and those who need treatment for conditions such as cleft palate and cancer. So I do not accept the proposition that dental care is excluded. I also made the point that about $56 million a year is spent by way of social welfare provision to assist people who are in need to get the dental care that they need. That is about $100 million a year. It is a pretty substantial commitment.
Irrigation and Water Storage—Development
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the
Minister of Agriculture: What steps has the Government recently taken to support the development of water storage and irrigation?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture)
: On Monday the Prime Minister announced a major package aimed at accelerating the development of sustainable water storage and irrigation infrastructure. The package has two parts: the first is a $35 million irrigation acceleration fund to support the development of irrigation proposals to an investment-ready stage; the second stage will see the Government from 2013-14 potentially investing up to $400 million of equity in the construction of regional-scale schemes on commercial terms, to encourage third-party investment. This is a very significant package. It sends a strong message that this Government is serious about progressing water storage because it makes good economic and environmental sense.
Jo Goodhew: What benefits does the Government expect to see from this increased support for irrigation?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Developing irrigation has huge potential to unlock economic growth and to get our tradable sector growing strongly again, while at the same time reducing the environmental pressures on our aquifers. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s research suggests that the package could support 340,000 hectares of new irrigation, boosting New Zealand’s exports by $1.4 billion over the next 7 years and by $4 billion by 2026. This is not about irrigation at any cost, but it is about taking a balanced view to deliver economic growth and environmental sustainability.
Jo Goodhew: What feedback has he seen on the Government’s recently announced water storage package?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The package has received a number of endorsements. Horticulture New Zealand, for instance, has said it is good news for horticulture’s long-term productivity. Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has described it as “welcome news” for the region and “a valuable step” towards future economic development in the bay. The Central Otago mayor said it was “exciting” for Central Otago and “a step in the right direction”. One comment I have just noted was from Bob Engelbrecht, a respected farm management consultant in south mid-Canterbury. He said: “It’s a good sign of Government support for agriculture in New Zealand. It’s just a pity for the whole of the East Coast of the South Island that this sort of project wasn’t considered 20 or 30 years ago.”
Te Ururoa Flavell: How will iwi co-management arrangements, such as those to do with the Waikato River, be impacted by the steps taken by the Government to support the development of water storage and irrigation?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Existing commitments will not be affected. Any irrigation schemes will of course respect and recognise the vital role of Māori. In addition, the
Government’s support for water storage offers an exciting economic development opportunity for iwi, both as major holders of agricultural land and as investors in the schemes.
Diplomatic Protection Squad—Prime Minister’s Statements
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Diplomatic Protection Squad that “I can’t say I do or don’t want it”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why was the Prime Minister unable to—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I want to hear the question.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: The cuckoo’s nest is—
Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Speaker to deal with excessive noise, not to the questioner to make those kinds of comments.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why was the Prime Minister unable to decline Diplomatic Protection Squad protection on his holiday in Hawaii at a cost to the taxpayer of $30,000, when his predecessor and other Prime Ministers declined such protection and had that instruction complied with?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I can say is that I am not a security expert. I take advice from the experts, who are the police. I can also say that that is a sensible thing, I think, to do. I stand by, I might say, all the statements I have made in relation to whether I have the ability to take them. One of the reasons I know that is that I have sought the views of a much higher power, as members will know. That member, of course, was Phil Goff. When he was asked why he takes—
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat immediately. The question did not warrant an attack on the Leader of the Opposition.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It did, actually.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Point of order.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: We now have two points of order. I must have done something equally wrong.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was not an attack on the Leader of the Opposition; it was quite relevant to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is not going to litigate the issue. I will hear the point of order from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why does he require extensive Diplomatic Protection Squad protection with him in the parliamentary complex, including while he is on the treadmill in the parliamentary gym, given the extensive security that already exists in the form of up to 50 professionally trained security officers who already guard the parliamentary complex and the gym?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I assume for the same reasons that Helen Clark had them in the facilities. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to both sides of the House that we will not have any more of those kinds of interjections.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Was the $800,000 budget blowout on the Diplomatic Protection Squad the highest priority spend for the police in 2009-10, given that the police have already been forced by his Government to cut 340 cars out of their vehicle
fleet as part of a $20 million budget cut, as confirmed in writing by the Office of the Auditor-General?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I think the budget blowout was unfortunate, and therefore I apportion the blame fully back to the previous Labour Government, which signed the employment agreement that made $600,000 of the $800,000 blowout necessary.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the Prime Minister aware when he decided not to direct the police not to come on holiday with him that for each day they had surfing in Hawaii, they would get 3 days’ leave when they came home?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I take advice from the police and, as I said, I take it in the same way that Phil Goff does when he is asked why he has security at Waitangi. He said it was because the police insisted on it.
Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just looking for a point of clarification here; I must say I am a little confused. We have had some to-ing and fro-ing in the last day or two about the nature of what you described as “gratuitous comments” that were being made on this side of the House yesterday. I think it is fair to say that we have had a bit of an interchange on that point today, and I think we are starting to settle in that area. There is an issue, though, that comes to mind with the Prime Minister’s responses to some of those questions. Initially, the quote used from Mr Goff was considered inappropriate because it was attacking a member. It was used again and was appropriate presumably because you did not rule that it was not. The use of other members’ quotes over a period of time by both sides of the House has been, frankly, as long as I have been here, a useful tool for question time. I just want to be sure that we are not venturing into new territory here without a bit of a further think about it.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the honourable member to check the
Hansard and look at the question asked by the Hon Clayton Cosgrove and the question asked by the Hon Trevor Mallard, and he will see why I treated the two questions differently. I listened very carefully to the questions asked. In the first case today where I was concerned about an answer given, the primary question was a very straight question, and the first part of the answer was a somewhat gratuitous comment about the questioner, and I stamped on that. But I listened to both, and the two questions that I treated differently were different. I listened very carefully to the questions asked, and when members insert into their questions political innuendo or connotations, I give much more latitude in answers. Where members ask straight questions, I will not tolerate their being attacked for asking straight, fair questions. I am acutely aware that some questions that may seem to be reasonably straight can be quite strongly not so. I am not that stupid; I have been around the place a fair while, and I listen very carefully. That is why I treated those two questions differently.
Hon Simon Power: If I could just respond briefly, Mr Speaker. Nobody is saying for one moment that your experience leads to any degree of stupidity. Are we saying now that the way in which the question is worded determines whether the answer can be used appropriately or inappropriately in the way that you described? Am I clear about that?
Mr SPEAKER: That is correct. Where questions contain political content, political content can be expected in the answer. Where a question is a straight question, I believe that it deserves the respect of a straight answer.
Hon Simon Power: So that I am absolutely clear for members on this side of the House, you are in no way ruling out the use of members’ quotes from previous engagement in this House?
Mr SPEAKER: Not at all.
Hon Simon Power: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I seek leave to table a transcript from Radio Live on 6 May when Phil Goff was asked—
Mr SPEAKER: No, we are not going to do that. I have just tried to settle the House a bit and deal with an issue and I get that dumped on me. We do not table recent transcripts from radio programmes or newspapers, and the right honourable Prime Minister knows that.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart—Milestones
KATRINA SHANKS (National)
: My question is to—[Interruption]—the Acting Minister of Energy and—
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I ask the Labour front bench to show some courtesy to a member at the back of the House who has a right to ask her primary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to hear a point of order on this. The member will resume his seat. I have been very tolerant and I am not going to stand any more nonsense.
KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the
Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent milestones have been celebrated under the Government’s Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. This morning the Prime Minister cut the ribbon to the 100,000th house to have benefited from the Government’s home insulation and clean-heating scheme. [Interruption] I am sorry but I do not know what the fun is on that side of the House, because the fun is all on this side for the achievement. The Government has allocated $347 million to retrofit at least 188,000 homes over 4 years before June 2013. I also want to acknowledge the cooperation of the Green Party with this policy.
Katrina Shanks: What other benefits is the Minister aware of that have come from the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme improves the energy efficiency of homes while making homes warmer, drier, and healthier. This means lower power bills, fewer doctors’ visits, and fewer days off work and school. It is very pleasing to see that approximately 55 percent of the retrofitted houses enjoying these benefits are occupied by people on low incomes. In addition to creating energy-efficient, healthier homes for New Zealanders, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority estimates that about 2,000 people will be directly employed under the scheme over its 4-year duration.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Given the huge success of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, a “smart Green” initiative that is good for the economy, the environment, and the people, will her Government commit today to continue funding beyond 2013?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We are focused on the current programme. We are just over half-way through. We have another 88,500 houses yet to be retrofitted for which there is funding.
Broadband, Ultra-fast—Regulatory Forbearance Cost
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the
Minister for Communications and Information Technology: Has he been advised that the regulatory arrangement around the ultra-fast broadband network will be worth up to $600 million, and who will pay for it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology)
: The premise of the member’s question is incorrect. The regulatory package reduces the regulatory risk for bidders so they are able to accept lower margins and, therefore, offer lower build prices and lower wholesale prices to the benefit of all users. The member has in fact got it exactly the wrong way around. Without regulatory stability and certainty for investors during the crucial build period, taxpayers and/or consumers would end up paying significantly more for ultra-fast broadband. As to the amount she mentions, a number of figures have been suggested as to what these savings will be, and that number is one of them.
Clare Curran: Can he guarantee that retail prices for existing broadband on the copper network will not rise as a result of the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Nobody can guarantee that the retail price of copper will not rise at any time in the future, but the pressure will all be downwards because of the competition from the fibre network, and because, as part of the regulatory changes proposed, the unbundled bitstream access product will move from being retail-minus to cost-plus. Many people believe the commission—that it will lead to lower prices.
Clare Curran: Does he accept that the $400 million to $600 million figure to increase broadband coverage will come from the users who are not receiving ultra-fast broadband now?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, not at all. I really worry about the member’s understanding of the regulatory package’s purpose. It is there to reduce the regulatory risk for bidders so they are able to accept lower margins and, therefore, lower build prices and lower wholesale prices for the benefit of all users. It is not a case of taking from one set of users and giving to the other. It is about reducing the risk premium so that the margins can come down. The member needs to understand that.
Clare Curran: Has he read his ministry’s report to the select committee on this issue?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware to which report the member is referring. I have read lots of advice from the officials, and what I have just told the member is exactly consistent with that advice.
Methamphetamine Precursor—Seizure Operations
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the
Minister of Customs: What interceptions of Contac NT has the Customs Service achieved in the last month at our border?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs)
: Very good news—
Hon Member: Oh! More good news.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: It just keeps coming, I know. Customs officers recently intercepted at the border over 112 kilogram of pseudoephedrine-based Contac NT. This was made up of a number of different intercepts, with the largest individual one being 67.6 kilograms. This one interception resulted in a number of search warrants being executed at several addresses in Auckland last week by the Customs Service in cooperation with the New Zealand Police. The month-long operation, coded named Adrift, led to the arrest of three Chinese nationals, one of whom was a resident. The other two were in New Zealand on student visas. All three have been charged with participation in an organised criminal group, importing a class C controlled drug, and possession of a class C drug.
Nikki Kaye: What is the significance of this large individual seizure and the total seizures for the month in the fight against P?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: It is very significant. At nearly 70 kilograms this is the largest amount of precursor drug used for the manufacture of methamphetamine to be seized this year. It was sufficient to make between 13 and 20 kilograms of methamphetamine, which would have had a street value of somewhere between $13 million and $20 million. The interceptions for the month have effectively reduced the amount of manufactured methamphetamine on the streets of New Zealand by somewhere between 22 and 33 kilograms.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the
Minister responsible for Ministerial Services: Has he now been fully briefed on all of the details regarding the replacement of VIP transport’s BMW fleet; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister responsible for Ministerial Services)
: I have received details on the replacement of the fleet where and when appropriate.
Chris Hipkins: Is he aware that 2 days after his chief of staff met with the VIP Transport Service to discuss the upgrade of the VIP fleet, the owner of an exclusive new and used BMW dealership in Auckland gave a $50,000 donation to the New Zealand National Party?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no responsibility for that.
Chris Hipkins: How can he claim that, when only a few weeks earlier he had attended, as Prime Minister, a client function hosted by the Team McMillan BMW dealership in Auckland, which led to the donation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because that is the very reason why contracts subject to the
Cabinet Manual are made by Ministerial Services—to avoid accusations that would otherwise be levelled of inappropriate conduct.
Chris Hipkins: Would he say that the meeting his chief of staff had with Ministerial Services to talk through the BMW purchase on 28 July last year—just 2 days before the $50,000 donation to the National Party—was just a coincidence or more sloppy management of perceived conflicts of interest by his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would say that the meeting was very difficult to remember, because the chief of staff could not remember it.
Chris Hipkins: Which statement is true: his statement during question time yesterday that he had aggressively reviewed Ministerial Services’ spending line by line to identify all potential savings, or his statement during question time on 12 April that he did not know about the BMW upgrade because it had been just one line in a “very large document” that he happened to have signed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Both. The member needs to take a lesson from some of the former Ministers in Labour about how ministerial responsibility works and when officials have responsibility. I know that the member is probably very unlikely to become a Minister, from what I hear from his colleagues, but he should take some advice.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment)
: I move,
That the Environmental Protection Authority Bill, the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Amendment Bill (No 2), the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Amendment Bill, the Ozone Layer Protection Amendment Bill, and the Resource Management Amendment Bill be now read a third time. It is a pleasure to be at the last stage of this important reform to the governance arrangements for New Zealand’s environment in creating the Environmental Protection Authority. The idea of an environmental protection authority was first proposed in National’s 2006
Bluegreen Vision discussion paper. It was included in our 2008 election policy, it was introduced in a preliminary form in our 100-day Resource Management Act reform bill, and now, alongside these bills, it is being progressed into an independent Crown entity from 1 July.
At the core of this reform is the view that the Ministry for the Environment needs to be the strong and competent policy adviser, that the Environmental Protection Authority needs to be the arm’s-length regulator, and that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment plays a key role as the auditor of our overall environmental governance system. The parallel in the economic and financial sphere is having Treasury as the policy adviser, the Reserve Bank as the regulator, and the Auditor-General. The next stage in our work programme is to beef up the role of the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in independent environment reporting. When completed, this reform will, in National’s view, give New Zealand a first-class and robust environmental system of governance.
I welcome a broad consensus in this House, with all parties supporting the establishment of the Environmental Protection Authority, but I am disappointed that some are choosing to oppose this legislation on pretty spurious grounds. Let me go through each of the arguments put forward by the Opposition in the Committee stage. Labour’s Louisa Wall said she opposed the legislation because it contained a ministerial veto on Environmental Protection Authority consent decisions. No such provision exists anywhere in the legislation. The irony is that the only veto provision where a Minister could overturn a consent decision was actually repealed by National in our 2009 Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill after that provision was so badly discredited by Chris Carter over the Whangamata marina. Louisa Wall’s contribution only made Labour look pathetic.
We had a far more thoughtful contribution from Charles Chauvel. His concern was the lack of provision in this legislation for environmental regulation in the exclusive economic zone. This is an issue on which we agree, and work is well under way to achieve this. The debate here is only over timing. The Government, following the environmental tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, sought an independent review of our
regulatory system for offshore petroleum, to be sure that our reforms would provide the most robust regime possible. This is complex policy and we want to get it right. It needs to be carefully intermeshed with the existing fisheries, transport, mining, and other statutes so that we do not have double ups, nor do we want gaps. My plan is to have a bill before the House in coming months to address this.
One of the other repeated objections was that the Environmental Protection Authority did not have a clear protection mandate in its purpose, and that somehow this made the legislation deficient. The reality is that the Environmental Protection Authority will be responsible for the administration of a whole number of Acts—the Resource Management Act, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, the Climate Change Response Act, and the Ozone Layer Protection Act—and each have their own purpose. Many of these make specific reference to environmental protection in their purpose statements. The problem is that if we establish an alternative purpose for the Environmental Protection Authority beyond that in those Acts, we end up with legal confusion over whether the purpose statement in the Environmental Protection Authority Act or in the other Act would be superior—which would trump which. We do not want that sort of confusion. For members opposite to argue that the Environmental Protection Authority has no mandate to protect the environment is to argue that the Acts covering resource management, ozone protection, hazardous substances, new organisms, and climate change—all of which Labour members voted for, and many of which they designed—do not protect the environment. That is nonsense, and it really does expose how shallow Labour’s opposition to this legislation is.
The most extraordinary contribution in the Committee stage was from Labour’s Brendon Burns. He lambasted the Government for balancing economic growth with environmental protection, saying that we had to have either one or the other and that Labour was for the environment. We now know in this election year that Labour is not in favour of economic growth, jobs, or increasing living standards. I am looking forward to campaigning on National’s rational Bluegreens platform of marrying together economic growth with sound environmental management against the anti-growth Labour policy that Brendon Burns is now advocating.
In contrast, I compliment the very constructive role the Māori Party has played in our decisions on the Environmental Protection Authority. The Māori Party brings a strong cultural ethos of sustainable development to this work, recognising that Māori see the use and development of New Zealand’s natural resources as important, while also showing a strong commitment to sustainable environmental management. The Māori Party advocated for a separate Crown entity, it argued for the Māori advisory committee, and it argued for appropriate recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi. All of these are contained in this legislation.
I wish to conclude with some important thankyous. I wish to acknowledge the good policy work that was led by Dr Paul Reynolds and the Ministry for the Environment, and the work of the Parliamentary Counsel Office in supporting the Government in putting together this legislation. I thank the board and staff of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, who, caught up in the winds of change, have retained a strong focus on doing their existing job well. I also thank the Local Government and Environment Committee, particularly its chair, Chris Auchinvole, and its members for the work they put into getting the important detail of this legislation right.
The idea of the Environmental Protection Authority is an idea whose time has come. The key to its success will be in its being a fair, effective, and efficient regulator of our environment. We do not want an expensive bureaucracy, nor a feeble rubber stamp. We want a technically expert, professional organisation that will protect that which is
precious to all New Zealanders while enabling our economy to grow and prosper. I wish the new authority well. It is so important to the success of our country.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I would like to start by acknowledging the Minister for the Environment’s very full contribution to the third reading debate on this legislation arising from the Environmental Protection Authority Bill. This is significant legislation and it is an important initiative for the New Zealand environment. It is correct that many people have put a lot of hard work into the constitution of the Environmental Protection Authority, and, in particular, the work done at the Local Government and Environment Committee involved careful consideration of public submissions, of which there were a number of excellent ones, and, I think, careful thought by members of the committee around the content of the legislation. So although it is helpful to have had a fulsome contribution from the mover of the legislation in the third reading debate, it is a shame that the Committee stage proceeded in the way it did. I have had a look at the record of what happened in the Committee stage. There was a 3 hour 45 minute debate over 2 days. We heard from only five members of the Government during that entire debate, and I include in those contributions the Minister himself on a short call, and the Māori Party member Rahui Katene. The Minister is reminding me that he may have made two short calls. Even if that is the case, it is insufficient. We had one call from the chair of the select committee.
I mention this because I think it is important for the record to reflect that in the Committee stage a number of very significant matters were dealt with. First, there had been significant criticism from submitters and the Labour Opposition that a confusing mandate was conferred upon the Environmental Protection Authority by the legislation concerning its obligations around engagement with iwi. In response to that criticism we saw in the Committee stage a Supplementary Order Paper in the name of Rahui Katene. Clearly it had been drafted by officials in close consultation with the Minister. That Supplementary Order Paper should have come to the select committee and it should have been the subject of proper consideration by the members of the committee. That did not happen. Instead it was tabled, as it were, at the last minute in Committee. As I said, we had one 5-minute speech from Ms Katene, the sponsor of the Supplementary Order Paper. It was touched on in a brief response by the Minister, and that is it as far as the Government is concerned.
John Boscawen: And no discussion with ACT!
CHARLES CHAUVEL: One of the Government’s other coalition partners has just revealed that there was no discussion with it, although I do note that its members voted for the Treaty clause on this occasion, so Mr Boscawen—
John Boscawen: We voted against the Committee, and we are voting against the bill.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: No, no, that is not right. What this confusion shows is just how unsatisfactory the process around the Supplementary Order Paper in particular was.
On the issue of engagement with iwi, this is the position that now pertains in respect of New Zealand’s environment legislation. There are four different types of Treaty clause that exist in different pieces of environmental legislation. They provide different things. There is now an overarching Treaty clause in the Environmental Protection Authority Bill as it currently stands—Act as it is probably about to come. In respect of many of the authority’s other functions there is no obligation to deal with the Treaty or its principles. This is the confusing position that has been created by the Supplementary Order Paper that has been moved and voted on successfully in the Committee stage. This is the mess that now exists in respect of the Environmental Protection Authority’s obligations to consult iwi. If the matter had gone to the select committee, if the Minister had had the courtesy to refer it to the select committee, and if the Māori Party had actually twigged to the fact that there was no Treaty clause in the original
Environmental Protection Authority Bill and had asked for one to be inserted prior to the select committee, then we could have avoided all this confusion. But, as it is, this is the level of parliamentary procedure—the level of impropriety procedurally—that we have been subjected to by this Minister on a key matter as far as the ongoing powers of the Environmental Protection Authority are concerned.
The other reason why it is concerning we had such a scant level of contribution from Government members in the Committee stage is that the Minister moved a very significant procedural Supplementary Order Paper during that stage. It divided the legislation into six separate bills and it made changes to the way in which the legislation comes into effect. I would have thought the Committee and the House deserved the courtesy of some explanation of those changes from the Minister. The Minister, when it suits him, likes to talk about procedure, but so often his actions do not measure up to the standard he sets himself. Sadly, again, this is one of those occasions.
I have some other interesting statistics. We had 20 minutes of calls from Government members, and I include in that category Rahui Katene, the Minister himself, and the chair of the select committee. We had, I think, some 20 minutes of calls from the Green Party, and there were some excellent contributions during those calls. The rest of the 3-hour Committee stage consisted of calls from Labour, and despite what the Minister had to say about one of those calls, I would like to put on record for the House that it was the Labour Opposition that bore the brunt of the job that is undertaken by the Committee of the whole House—scrutiny of the legislation for all members of the House. So I make no apology for that, but I do deplore the fact that there was such a scant contribution on such a key piece of legislation from Government members. If the legislation is so important, if the so-called Bluegreens agenda is so compelling, I think we might have heard more about it.
There are other tokens of disregard for the environment in this legislation. The Minister touched on some of them. The first and most compelling relates to the objectives of the Environmental Protection Authority. The Minister said it was just a matter of timing and that he fully intended to bring more legislation to the House later in the year. Why do it that way? That is the question that arises. Why do it in such a piecemeal fashion? This was his opportunity to bring very good and comprehensive legislation to the House, particularly at a time when there is public disquiet about offshore drilling and exploration. The Minister knows that that is the case. He had a perfect opportunity to create a comprehensive environmental safety regulator here, particularly in respect of that offshore drilling activity. People are concerned about the lack of safety requirements and very, very concerned about the lack of any consultation with communities affected, particularly iwi. This legislation could have resolved those problems, but the Minister was not able to bring comprehensive legislation to the House on the matter. There are many environmental functions that remain outside the purview of the Environmental Protection Authority and that situation should have been remedied right from the start.
Then, of course, there is the fact the Environmental Protection Authority does not actually carry any obligation to protect the environment. Nowhere in the objectives in this legislation is there a statement about the Government’s desire that it be an environmental protector. Talk about hamstringing an organisation right from the start! People want to see strong independent environmental regulation from the centre, and what they have in this legislation and in this authority is, unfortunately, a damp squib, and that is because of the absence of the overarching requirement that the authority be an entity that looks after the natural environment.
The other concern that has been voiced time and time again relates to the independence of the authority. This legislation involves moving the powers of the
Environmental Risk Management Authority much closer to the Minister. Now, the Minister may well be right about individual cases of direction, but the problem, as I tried to point out in the Committee stage, is that the whole tenor of this legislation, basically, is one of ministerial control and direction rather than independence. That is the default position in this legislation, and that is not the way that a proper environmental regulator should have been set up. Labour created the Ministry for the Environment in 1986 because we believed in the fundamental importance of strong environmental regulation and leadership by the Government. We do not believe, as the Minister has said so many times, that environmental, social, and economic goals are competitive. They should be complementary. This was a great opportunity, but because of the deficiencies I have identified, it is a missed one.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman)
: It is a privilege to speak on the third reading of this legislation. It is a comfort to me to have just heard the speech made by my parliamentary colleague Charles Chauvel. It was perhaps a development from the speeches we heard during the previous debate—the Committee stage—on the Environmental Protection Authority Bill. If I may I will reflect on one point the member made, which is the criticism of Rahui Katene’s amendment. Basically, the amendment sets out very clearly the Treaty clause in each of the environmental Acts and it sets out how they are to be treated. If that is a major problem, then I am quite comforted that that is as bad as it gets.
The establishment of the Environmental Protection Authority changes the regulator, not the regulations. This is something we have emphasised from the very beginning and throughout discussions with the submitters at the select committee. From that point of view, the legislation is technical. It does not seek to change the regulations; it changes the regulator. This is a significant point in allaying the concerns that have, very properly, been brought up by Opposition members in their consideration of this legislation.
It has been difficult to achieve the sort of consideration that I think makes for really good legislation on environmental changes, and I have had that experience in the past. But with changes to the Local Government and Environment Committee membership it was hard to have a consistent, discursive approach. I think the Opposition based the minority report—from my reading of it—on the written submissions received by the committee. Some of the key people of the committee, because of obligations to other select committees, were not able to give cohesive attendance at the select committee on the legislation. So we did not have the sort of discussion on environmental issues we are used to having. This is not a criticism. We understand what it is like to be in Opposition and heading towards an election. It is very difficult. I am comforted that the team from, particularly, Labour has seen fit to make very complimentary comments about the work of the committee with this legislation, and I thank them for that, because a lot of work has been done. I am comforted, too, that the Opposition seems more settled with the legislation now—and certainly more settled in its presence on select committees—and I look forward to the sorts of debates, discussions, disagreements, resolutions, remedies, and reconciliations that make for good legislation.
I share Mr Chauvel’s view of the Committee stage of the Environmental Protection Authority Bill. It was not particularly formative, which was a disappointment to me. But that is the way we are established in Parliament, so that is the way it went.
My view of this legislation is that it is rational and it is National. They go together in this serious legislation. Labour has four main concerns about the bill: the functions are not broad enough, the objectives should require the Environmental Protection Authority to protect the environment, the authority should be independent from its Minister, and the legislation is not clear about the need for the authority to take account of Māori
perspectives in decision making. In my view, there are short answers to those concerns. Opposition members say the functions are too narrow to provide leadership; they are not. They say the objectives are inadequate and do not expressly require the authority to protect the environment; they do. They say the authority is not sufficiently independent from its Minister; it is. They say the legislation is not clear about the need for the authority to take into account the Māori perspectives in decision making; it does.
I will expand on why I think that. Under the proposed structure the Ministry for the Environment will have responsibility for policy, the Environmental Protection Authority will have responsibility for regulator functions, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment will be the auditor. That is a fairly decent, wide sort of a structure to provide leadership. Separating the functions will ensure that the environment is properly protected. All the legislation that sits behind the Environmental Protection Authority—and let us remember that we are changing the regulator, not the regulations—has the protection of the environment at its core. The legislation has no other purpose. It is a significant improvement on the status quo of the Ministry for the Environment, which a Labour member, with some pride, said the Labour Government established. Labour left it untouched for 9 years—hence the changes now.
Like the Environmental Risk Management Authority, the Environmental Protection Authority will have an independent board and a Māori advisory board that are at arm’s length from the Minister. That gives a certain safeguard that the authority will take into account Māori perspectives in decision making. That is what those organisations are established for.
Another key feature that gives me great confidence in the structure of the legislation is the way the relative organisations have packed in, scrummed down, and got together to make sure that this thing works. It has been salutary to them. We spoke to the organisation representatives at the select committee about how they were bringing together their organisations and how they were going to handle the shift. A lot of human resources have gone into the work and there is a lot of enthusiasm. The thing the organisations anticipate most is that for the first time since they have been doing their work there will be a collegiate structure to give them added collegiate, academic strength in the work they undertake. Instead of working in isolation, they will suddenly have a group of colleagues to work with.
Labour has the opportunity to get in behind this legislation and share in the confidence and progress it offers. They should and they could. That would be good. Thank you.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills)
: It is with a little bit of disappointment that I find myself in opposition to this legislation. It is legislation that had it been properly considered, had it had a clear plan for the protection of the environment, and had it had a Minister for the Environment who was actually driving forward with a clear agenda and some confidence in his role as a Minister—which should be in protecting the environment—then I would be very enthusiastic about supporting it, even though, obviously, it would have been legislation introduced by National. I think that is what both the Minister and the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee, with due respect, have failed to understand—that actually there are times when proposed legislation can be agreed to by everyone, and such opportunities would be wise to take.
The obstacle National has to overcome in order to do that is to find a plan. A plan in anything would be good: a plan for the economy would be fantastic for the Government to have, or a plan for jobs. Speaking from a local perspective, I say that a plan for heat pumps in Christchurch homes before the middle of winter would be quite handy. In preparing this legislation, a plan for the environment and its protection would have been
really valuable. But National did not do that. It does not have a plan for anything, and that is why it is with some disappointment that I end up in a position of opposition to this legislation.
Labour supported the Environmental Protection Agency Bill at its introduction so that the bill could go to the select committee. At the time we said we wanted to hear the debate. We wanted to see whether improvements could be made, because in theory the idea is good. As Chris Auchinvole pointed out, of course it is good to have a strong regulator, and of course it is good to have collegiality—as he so delicately put it. But without a plan, and without legislation that backs up the regulator, we will just get a bunch of overpaid, frustrated bureaucrats, and I am not sure that that is what National says it is trying to achieve.
I am sure the current leader of ACT in the House, John Boscawen, will have something to say about that. I really look forward to hearing his contribution during this debate, and, in particular, to hear the ACT contribution in relation to the Supplementary Order Paper from Rahui Katene, which the ACT leader revealed to the House just a while ago the ACT Party was never consulted on. That is gobsmacking, and I am sure the chair of the select committee was also amazed to hear that his Minister had not consulted on that particular provision.
When this legislation was introduced, and before it went to the select committee, we said we would support it but would tell the House what our concerns were. One of the biggest ones was exactly that point—that instead of a strong authority with a clear mandate to protect the environment, this body would become an overstaffed bunch of bureaucrats who did not have a clear mandate, so instead would be used by the Minister as an opportunity to fast track controversial projects. I know that members on the other side will lift up their hands in horror and say they would never do that. Maurice Williamson actually has more integrity, so he will not be raising his hands in horror; he knows that is exactly what the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues want to do.
They want to fast track other projects, just as they have already fast tracked the Waterview Connection. The organisation that is meant to be protecting the environment has been used to fast track the Waterview Connection. The time frames for submissions were absurdly short for that process. Local community board representation was deliberately ignored; the voice of the very people being affected was squashed by the Minister. “Who gives a toss about local people?” was what National people said. Even the Auckland City Council asked for the submission deadline to be extended, and the Minister told it: “Go back to Auckland. We’re not interested.” Even though it was an Auckland issue—it was the Waterview Connection that was being discussed—not a single National member from Auckland raised his or her hand in support of the local community voice. Those members stood back and let the local voice be totally trampled by the transitional Environmental Protection Authority, which was being used by the Minister to fast track controversial proposals.
In the same way the National Government has done exactly the same thing in the case of Transmission Gully. It has circumvented the Wellington regional freshwater plan by using the Environmental Protection Authority as its vehicle, and it will try to do exactly the same thing in relation to the men’s prison at Wiri. Anyone who says that building a men’s prison in a community does not have an impact, and therefore it does not matter if it is fast tracked, is incorrect. If it were not for this organisation being set up and used to fast track projects, local people would be able to have their say.
Some people might say that that does not sound like what an environmental protection authority or this agency should be doing. But it is exactly what it is doing, and that is why Labour has opposed this legislation. Despite the theory about the authority being great, every bit of practice that National has used it for has been
absolutely abhorrent, and absolutely opposed to the very name of the organisation—environmental protection. We should not be surprised, though. We should not be surprised that National has used that organisation to ride roughshod over the voices of local communities, and to totally discard the concerns expressed by people about the negative environmental impacts of certain proposals. Instead, National has used the organisation to just bowl ahead, sidetrack all other protections, and fast track controversial projects.
We should not be surprised about that, because one of the first things National did when it came into Government was to throw out the emissions trading scheme and bring in a very watered-down version, which has added billions of dollars of costs that now have to be borne by New Zealand taxpayers. Those taxpayers, who are currently finding it very hard to pay their weekly bills, need to be reminded that the National Government has loaded bucket loads of costs on to them through changing the responsibility of polluters in the emissions trading scheme. Polluters have been let off the hook. Nick Smith has said: “Let them pollute. Let them not be charged for their pollution. Instead, let ordinary mum and dad taxpayers pay for it.”
Gerry Brownlee, who used to be the Minister of Energy and Resources, tried opening up schedule 4 land to mining. It was not until there was a huge outcry up and down the country that finally he changed his mind and backed off. But I am not sure he has backed off that idea completely; he still drools at the idea of having mining up and down our most important parts of New Zealand. It is another example of the way that National has completely ignored our New Zealand “clean, green” brand and our “100% Pure New Zealand” motivation for exports and tourism. National members have just said: “We have a quick buck to be made here by people whom we know will donate to the National Party if they are able to take advantage of those opportunities like mining, or like providing new BMWs to Government Ministers, and therefore we will go ahead with it.”
The functions of the legislation are too narrow, and remain too narrow, despite Supplementary Order Papers being produced by Labour to extend those functions. The objectives are totally inadequate; the Environmental Protection Authority is not even required to have environmental protection as one of its objectives. How weak can that be? The authority is not sufficiently independent from the Minister. The chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee is wrong in that particular regard; the authority is not hands off. It can be significantly interfered with by the Minister, and that is a very dangerous precedent to have when we are talking about an area in which there is often tension between protection of the environment and development. We cannot afford to have the Minister butting in, regardless of who the Minister is.
The final point I make is that this legislation has introduced a previously unheard of test in respect of consideration of the Treaty of Waitangi. We should have had, at the select committee, a proper debate about the Treaty clause, but instead we had slipped into this legislation at the Committee stage, with no scrutiny by officials, the select committee, or the public, a brand new test for consideration of the Treaty of Waitangi. That will be problematic, and it will do nothing to pursue a vision of protection for the environment.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Roy. I am very pleased to speak on the legislation. The Green position has been managed by David Clendon, our Environmental Protection Authority expert, but as he is not here today I am taking an opportunity to speak on something I have been involved in for a very long time.
For many years environmental activists in this country wanted an environmental protection authority. We were looking at the American model, and that was what we
wanted, but it was not what we got, so we will be voting against this legislation. However, I might go into a bit of background to describe to members the long struggle to see an independent environmental protection authority set up.
We wanted one to address the extremely substantial environmental problems that face this country. After many years we finally got an independent authority called the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which was set up to be independent and has been, to put it mildly, somewhat disappointing. Although it is independent from Government, the lack of resources and ability to address issues in a way that is both modern and precautionary has been a problem, so we have been interested in the Government’s proposal under the Environmental Protection Authority Bill to create the Environmental Protection Authority.
But we would not call it that. Having read the functions of the bill, and been involved in the functions of the bill, we feel that this bill should be called the “Environmental Undermining Authority Bill. The functions are clearly about facilitating development at the expense of the environment, while masquerading as a new form of appropriate monitoring. It will not meet the goals for which the environment movement has fought for so many years. Nor will it even meet the achievement standards of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which struggled with a wide range of issues, from genetic engineering to 1080 poison.
Although conservative and often frustrating in terms of its ability to respond to the community, that authority was not the Government. It was separate from the Crown, and it maintained a degree of separation that was valuable for people trying to protect the environment. It did achieve some progress on important issues, such as the reassessment of the toxic chemical endosulfan, which is banned in many, many countries. Finally, through the authority, we managed to achieve, after persistent lobbying—particularly by people such as Sue Kedgley and many other environmental activists—progress on some issues.
The Environmental Risk Management Authority was always a struggle. It was always a struggle for tangata whenua to be heard, despite the existence of a Māori advisory committee, and it was always a struggle for communities to be heard. For kaitiaki Māori and environmental activists it was often a disappointment, but nothing like the disappointment we experienced when we saw this bill and the functions of the new Environmental Protection Authority.
We believe that this bill has been set up to provide a lot of control by the Government over the Environmental Protection Authority, and we do not see any strong advocacy for the environment. If we look at the US Environmental Protection Agency and other bodies around the world that are set up as protection agencies, we see that protection of the environment is a core goal. If we look at this bill we will not find protection of the environment. We will find words associated with development, facilitation, and balance, so that we can do such things as increase the use of water for irrigation, for example, and increase the facilitation of development that the community needs to be able to stand up to and oppose on a case by case basis.
Everybody has been frustrated with aspects of the Resource Management Act, and we were frustrated because so often big businesses had more power and more lawyers. Now we have a situation where the Environmental Protection Authority will have the weight of decision-making power and the control of the Government behind it, preventing the kind of deliberative, facilitative community engagement that the Environmental Risk Management Authority at least tried to do, even though it often failed.
We will have situations like the one I have been dealing with in the last few days, where a chemical is highly toxic and can result in considerable harm to the community,
can possibly cause a death in another country, and can be part of our food chain, but to reassess it will be a huge fight. It was a huge fight with the Environmental Risk Management Authority, but it is quite possible, looking at the functions of this bill, that it will be a huge fight under the Environmental Protection Authority. It will not be in the interests of the most powerful people in this country to reassess the use of these chemicals. That is what will be difficult about having to deal with the Environmental Protection Authority.
There is not a lot of substance in this bill, and that is very, very disappointing. It should be the most substantial change in a generation in terms of the idea of setting up an independent authority with the capacity to meet modern precautionary risk assessment standards. But it will not do that. It does not even know what that is about, and it is not driven by that ethos. All over the world we have changed from being an absolutely ruthless exploiter of the environment to understanding that protection of the environment is the economy. The environment is the economy. But this authority is not set up to achieve those goals; it is set up to facilitate the environment, supposedly in balance with the economy, but without the ability to control it.
What we struggled with, when the Environmental Risk Management Authority looked at risk assessment of environmental risk, was the fact that it looked at very backward models of environmental risk assessment, and it forgot about the precautionary approach. If the Green Party was writing this Environmental Protection Authority Bill, we would be talking about the precautionary approach. For those who do not understand it, it is about thinking before we act, and recognising that, as in the medical world, the first rule of the planet is “First, do no harm.” First, do no harm to those things that sustain life. First, do no harm to those things that give us any kind of economy and basic essentials such as clean water, healthy food, and an ability to manage our environment for future generations, not to mention Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which requires us to recognise the rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of the tangata whenua, and which—obviously, from hearing previous speakers—was not dealt with in an appropriate and substantial way in the Local Government and Environment Committee, and is not dealt with appropriately in this bill.
The Green Party is very concerned about the Environmental Protection Authority and where it is going. We need the ability in this country to protect our citizens from hazardous chemicals, to protect water for future generations, and to have the power to say no to Project Aqua and other mad, hare-brained schemes that should be able to stopped. Forty-thousand people said no to mining, but with an Environmental Protection Authority that will facilitate development, will those people still be able to say no to those things? It will depend on their ability, again, to go back to the Resource Management Act and try to defend these things.
The whole point of the authority was to set some standards, because the Ministry for the Environment, with all due respect to it, is weak on many of these issues. It is weak on risk assessment, on international standards of environmental protection, and on implementing the precautionary approach.
Why on earth would we create the Environmental Protection Authority to be a weak arm of Government that has the job of assisting the Ministry of Economic Development? That is how this bill reads. It does not read: “Environmental Protection Authority: international, modern, best practice, precautionary.”, let alone: “respecter of indigenous wisdom on the environment.” It is an opportunity missed. We can use all the beautiful words in the world about how we are balancing this with that, but it is a false balance, and this is a bad bill. It misses out on one of the most crucial opportunities in a generation, which was to set up a precautionary approach, and to set up an
environmental protection authority that recognised the changes in the understanding of the sensitivity of the environment on a huge range of issues.
In the last 5 years organisations such as the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States have changed their standards to lift them into line with what we know about this dying planet, because of our greed and our commitment to trashing resources in the name of development. Instead of that, we get something that facilitates more development, while pretending not to by using the word “environment” in its title, as if that meant anything.
The Green Party is deeply disappointed with this bill. We stand for environmental protection. We have always stood for it, and we are appalled that we will end up with more development, while pretending to be providing environmental protection. Let us just be honest and say that this is a development bill. I would much rather it was called the “National Development (Fast Track Development) Bill”. Let us be honest about where we are coming from, and make sure that we tell the truth in this House. All the Environmental Protection Authority will do is confuse the people of this country who think that environmental protection is a Government priority, when clearly it is not.
Kia ora tātou to all the people out there who fought for a good Environmental Protection Authority. The Green Party regrets deeply that we do not have one. People are being hoodwinked if they think that we have. The Green Party will be opposing this all the way through. Kia ora tātou.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: It is with great pleasure, unlike Labour, ACT, and the Green Party, that I stand in support of the third and final reading of this legislation. Less than a week ago I successfully negotiated the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi clause into the Environmental Protection Authority Bill, and the emails of jubilation are still coming in. Unfortunately, there were no congratulations from ACT, the Greens, and Labour on that. I had to wonder whether the lack of congratulations from Labour was because Mr Chauvel’s amendment to give effect to the Treaty was turned down. It is really sad that Labour voted against having a Treaty clause. The Māori Party has a deep commitment to assisting whānau, hapū, and iwi, as tangata tiaki, to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the well-being and future good health of the environment. Kaitiakitanga, the act of protection of our resources, our flora and fauna, is essential to Māori well-being. It is also fundamental to Treaty jurisprudence. For what the promise of the Treaty gave us was to ensure that the Crown would take an active role in protecting the things regarded by Māori as taonga. As articulated in article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown has an obligation to protect Māori land for use by Māori for as long as Māori wish.
The wording of the suite of legislation covered under the Environmental Protection Authority Bill now includes the statement: “recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi”. I want to break this down in terms of the significance of this amendment. The Environmental Protection Authority monitors and enforces environmental protection processes under the Resource Management Act. With this amendment, anyone acting on its behalf must recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Environmental Protection Authority is designed to provide stronger central government leadership on environmental issues. With this Treaty clause now in place, that leadership is about recognising and respecting the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That will mean a direct commitment towards maintaining and improving opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision-making processes within the environmental protection sector.
As a result of Māori Party advocacy over many months, we have been able to ensure that at least one of the six members on the Environmental Protection Authority board
must have knowledge and skills relating to the Treaty and to tikanga Māori. This does not preclude more than one Māori candidate from being appointed, of course, and we will be keen to support that possibility. There will also be a Māori advisory committee established as part of the Environmental Protection Authority to provide assistance and advice to the board on matters that come up from a Māori perspective. This is similar to Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, which currently operates within the Environmental Risk Management Authority.
I want to make it quite clear, of course, that the establishment of the Environmental Protection Authority will not prevent iwi from having a direct relationship with the Crown on policy and other strategic matters related to natural resources. What our Treaty clause does is highlight and promote the significance of Treaty provisions throughout the various component parts of related legislation. I will take three examples as a case in point. Section 8 of the Resource Management Act requires that “all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi). In the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, there is a similar section 8 requiring again that “all persons exercising powers and functions under this Act shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”, while in the Climate Change Response Act 2002, there is a specific provision for the Minister to consult representatives of iwi and Māori, or to be satisfied that the chief executive will have consulted on his or her behalf. The acceptance into law of our Treaty clause is a triumph for environmental protection and for the Māori Party.
Another unique aspect of this achievement is that the Environmental Protection Authority is a regulation authority. It does not generate policy, as such. As the Minister has outlined, the authority is an independent body concerned with enforcement of regulation. The Treaty clause therefore requires the authority to enforce regulations that in some cases are already subject to Treaty clauses—for example, the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the Conservation Act 1987, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, the Resource Management Act 1991, the Crown Minerals Act 1991, and the Fisheries Act 1996 all have Treaty clauses and are effectively carried over into these new regulations.
What we have envisaged is that both the process and the substantive decision-making of bodies in the legislation give due and reasonable weight to the special relationship Māori have as tangata tiaki of the environment, pursuant to article 2 of the Treaty. Iwi had the distinct preference that the Environmental Protection Authority be established as a stand-alone Crown entity. The Government has agreed to proceed with the Environmental Protection Authority as a stand-alone Crown agency and to appoint a statutory Māori advisory committee alongside.
I have taken the time to travel through the impact of the Māori Party influence upon this legislation, and in particular the provision it accords to giving effect to the principles of the Treaty. But what we cannot fathom is the fact that Mr Harawira and the Greens have forged an unlikely alliance with the ACT Party in voting against the Treaty clause. This morning we learnt that the sole reason that the ACT Party is voting against this legislation is my amendment to include recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in this legislation. I guess one could say that the true colours of that party are revealed when the very foundations of our nationhood, the basis on which tangata whenua and other New Zealanders live together in this land, is the reason why that party opposes this bill.
But the opposition of other parties, in particular the Greens, Labour, and Mr Harawira, is surprising and disappointing. It was a complete shock that the Greens reneged on earlier commitments by opposing my amendment, and it is very hard to
fathom why the member from Te Tai Tokerau, who I understand has just resigned, would vote against the sacred covenant signed at Waitangi some 171 years ago.
At the end of the day each of these parties will be accountable to their membership, so we leave it in their hands to ask the inevitable questions as to why. But for the Māori Party, we say loud and proud that we stand by our work to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi.
I want to finish by congratulating Dr Smith and acknowledging his consistent efforts to work alongside the Māori Party on developing the model for the Environmental Protection Authority. Dr Smith and his advisers have spent many months producing A3 charts, policy papers, proposals to respond to the many questions we have put forward about how to ensure effective Māori representation, a commitment to iwi engagement, and respect for the knowledge and experience of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. He has taken the time to listen to our concerns regarding the importance of Māori environmental committees, advisory boards, and governance groups currently operating. He has also agreed with our advocacy to safeguard a credible and respectful process for Crown-Māori engagement on natural resources and environmental management. Ultimately, caring for our environment is one of the greatest opportunities we have to uphold our responsibilities for the spiritual and cultural guardianship of Te Ao Mārama. We are pleased to support this legislation.
JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT)
: Members of the House and those observing the debate on this legislation will know that it would be normal for the ACT Party to take a call immediately after the Green Party, and before the Māori Party. But I took the opportunity to listen to Rahui Katene’s speech this afternoon, before I responded. I thought it was very important to hear the justification both for the Treaty clause and for the process with regard to it before I responded.
I will deal in turn with the comments of Ruth Dyson and Rahui Katene, but, first of all, I would like to refute one of Rahui Katene’s last statements, when she said the sole reason for the ACT Party opposing this legislation, as she had been advised this morning, was the Treaty clause. That is absolutely not correct; that is not the sole reason. We did not decide to oppose this legislation this morning; we decided to oppose it this afternoon, at 1 minute to 2. The reason that we decided to oppose the legislation at 1 minute to 2 is, as I notified the Government last night, that we are not happy about the process. I notified it that we have a confidence and supply agreement, which we are absolutely committed to supporting, as Mr Steven Joyce, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, knows with regard to his ultra-fast broadband bill. But it is a mutual arrangement, and is an arrangement that calls for respect on both sides.
It is a condition of our confidence and supply agreement that we be given 48 hours’ notice of any significant amendments. My advice yesterday morning was that Heather Roy, who was the ACT MP in the House on Thursday afternoon, was not aware until 5 o’clock, when she walked into the House and heard the speech of the Hon Ruth Dyson objecting very strongly to this legislation, that the Treaty clause was to go into it. That was the first notification that the ACT Party had of it. Heather Roy raised it at our caucus yesterday morning; I took it up with National last night. I discussed it further with National this morning, and I awaited a response from Nick Smith when I came into the House just before 2 o’clock. He gave me no evidence or advice, whatsoever, that this clause had been advised to the ACT Party prior to it being tabled in the House at 3.31 last Thursday. So I refute, first of all, Rahui Katene’s comments that the sole reason that we are opposing this legislation is the Treaty clause. It is both the clause and the process with regard to it.
I also refer to Rahui Katene’s comments when she said—and I was very pleased to hear this from her—“Less than a week ago I successfully negotiated the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi clause”. Less than a week ago was prior to 5 p.m. last Wednesday, and once again I say to the Government that we have a confidence and supply agreement. The ACT Party will respect it. We have been very, very good at providing stable Government. We intend to provide that all the way up to the 26 November election day, but we will not be taken for granted.
When Ruth Dyson rose this afternoon she said she was a little disappointed to have to vote against this legislation. She referred in particular to the fact that her party had not been properly consulted on this particular clause. Like Ruth Dyson, I am also disappointed to have to stand this afternoon to speak against this legislation and the way in which it has been handled by the Government. This is very significant legislation. The Treaty of Waitangi provision is a very significant provision, and if members had any doubt about that they had only to listen to Rahui Katene’s comments when she talked about it being a triumph for the Māori Party. It is a pity that the other members of this House and other New Zealanders were not accorded the respect from National of being told what is actually in this legislation, what the Government was planning, rather than Rahui Katene simply tabling the Treaty clause as an amendment at 3.31 last Thursday afternoon.
I would like to read and record into
several paragraphs of Rahui Katene’s press release from last Thursday. It is headed up: “Maori Party succeeds in inserting Treaty clause into Environment Protection law” and reads: “Environment spokesperson for the Maori Party, Rahui Katene, is delighted that her amendment to help to ‘recognize and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the Treaty of Waitangi’ in the Environment Protection Authority Bill was supported during the committee stages of the Bill today. The amendment ensures that the Environment Protection Authority Bill, and any person acting on behalf of the Bill, must ‘comply with the requirements of an environmental act in relation to the Treaty’. ‘Amidst all the noise of the political theatre played out over recent days, it is extremely important to me’ ”—that is, Rahui Katene—“ ‘and the Maori Party, that we consolidate and strengthen the role of the Treaty as a living document. I hope that my amendment will enable tangata whenua to exercise influence and authority in decision-making processes related to environment protection’ said Mrs Katene.”
Moving on to the second-to-last paragraph—I will skip a few paragraphs—the press release says: “ ‘It is also gratifying that through this SOP, we will be able to maintain and improve opportunities for tangata whenua to contribute to the decision-making process through the establishment of a Maori advisory committee’ said Mrs Katene.” Mrs Katene, in her press release, asks “ ‘What does all this mean?’ ” The release says “ ‘It means we are one step closer to understanding—and acting—in a way which upholds article two of Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ ”—in effect, “chiefly authority over lands, villages and all things precious”. That was obviously news to members of the Labour Opposition. It was news to members of the ACT Party, and I wonder how many National Ministers to whom this was also news, because I can think of a few. I wonder how many National backbenchers this was news to, and I wonder how many New Zealanders this was news to. I wonder how many New Zealanders know we are voting here today on legislation that will go further towards understanding and acting on “chiefly authority over lands, villages and all things precious”.
The ACT Party stands for one law for all. We absolutely stand for private property rights, whether they be Māori private property rights, Pasifika private property rights, or Pākehā private property rights. That is absolutely fundamental: one law for all. We have campaigned on that theme for several years, and I suspect there is no party more
concerned about Māori and Māori underachievement than the ACT Party. I say that because my colleague Sir Roger Douglas introduced a bill that would allow young people to take the first opportunity to get on the employment ladder at the age of 16 and 17 years old—youth rates—and National voted against it, despite opposing the abolition of youth rates strongly when it was in Opposition. I make a promise to the House this afternoon on behalf of my colleagues, and on behalf of Dr Brash, the leader of the ACT Party outside Parliament, that we will spend the next 7 months on making sure that New Zealanders understand these issues very, very honestly.
Let me come back to two quick points. The comment was made that the ACT Party actually supported the Treaty of Waitangi clause at the Committee stage. I say for the sake of the
Hansard that that is not the case. Heather Roy voted against the Treaty clause in the Committee stage last Thursday afternoon. She continued to vote for other aspects of the Environmental Protection Authority Bill, in part, in the Committee stage, but she voted against this clause, and the ACT Party is voting against this legislation. I should stress that the main bill is the Environmental Protection Authority Bill. We are voting against that bill. We will also vote against the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill. The original bill was broken into six bills. We will support the other four, but we will vote against the Environmental Protection Authority Bill as it now is with the Treaty clause in it.
I make one quick point about the emissions trading scheme. Ruth Dyson continues to perpetuate an untruth about the emissions trading scheme. What is causing us to pay more for electricity is the $350 million of annual subsidies to foresters—$350 million for trees substantially planted before 2008. I have not had time to elaborate on that message, but I certainly will do so in future.
NICKY WAGNER (National)
: We have had a very wide-ranging debate in the House about the Environmental Protection Authority, and we have had plenty of suggestions about what it should cover and what it could cover. This package of legislation allows for flexibility in the future, but today we start the process of establishing a new, stand-alone Environmental Protection Authority, which will provide the country with technical and regulatory functions and independent environmental oversight.
This legislation is significant because it allows the Government to provide stronger central government leadership on environmental issues. Combining technical and regulatory skills in one body will lead to better-informed environmental decisions and greater protection of our natural resources.
Contrary to the debate that is going on in the House today, the original bill, the Environmental Protection Authority Bill, was well supported by environmental groups and by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Most of the 38 submitters supported the legislation, with many suggesting further functions for the Environmental Protection Authority.
We all understand that it is more efficient and more effective for a small country of just over 4.4 million people to regulate some environmental issues nationally. It is difficult to get consistency when 78 different councils can be involved in environmental decisions. We want to focus our personal energy and resources on conserving and enhancing the environment rather than on continually having to relitigate the same issues in different places.
As New Zealanders we feel closely connected to our natural environment. We define ourselves by our mountains, our rivers and lakes, and our enjoyment of the great outdoors. Our economy depends on the environment. The two major drivers of our economy—tourism and agriculture—are absolutely underpinned by our clean, green environmental image. No one wants to buy food from a country that is degraded or
polluted. No one wants to visit a crowded, dirty, and neglected environment. We must work hard to be true to our image, and the Environmental Protection Authority will help us make sure we are conserving our natural resources and enhancing our environment.
The Environmental Protection Authority will be a Crown agent under the Crown Entities Act 2004, and it will bring together under one entity regulatory functions concerning the environment that are presently split between the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Environmental Risk Management Authority. The Environmental Protection Authority will combine the functions of the Environmental Risk Management Authority under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act with a wide range of powers, including national-level administration of the Resource Management Act, with a focus on processing applications for proposals of national significance.
The authority will contribute to providing greater central government direction on the administration of the environment. It will pick up all the administrative functions associated with the emissions trading scheme, including the management of the unit registry. It will also have some other functions, which include the administration of the Ozone Layer Protection Act, restrictions on ozone-depleting chemicals, and regulations for hazardous waste, following our international obligations under the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions.
This legislation has been written to be flexible. It is designed to allow additional functions to be included as needed in the future. The Environmental Protection Authority will continue to develop, and the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Dr Nick Smith, has already indicated that he would like to see the Environmental Protection Authority be responsible for regulation under the proposed exclusive economic zone—legislation that he hopes to bring into the House before long.
The establishment of the Environmental Protection Authority was part of National’s election promise, and it underpins our blue-green vision of protection for the environment while growing the economy. I believe that the Environmental Protection Authority will be positive for New Zealand. It will give us the technical information and the tools to help us protect and enhance our environment. I commend this bill to the House.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I swear that if I hear the phrase “Bluegreen agenda” again I will gag. Through the passage of the legislation we have seen clear evidence that the Bluegreen agenda can be consigned to the wastepaper bin. If one does not believe that in respect of the legislation, then one needs only to look at the national policy statement on fresh water, which most of the environmental groups that were a party to the Land and Water Forum are already condemning.
I will turn first to the contribution from Rahui Katene on behalf of the Māori Party. Talk about trying to make a silk purse out of a kunekune’s ear. We heard the member say that the amendment she introduced to establish a Māori advisory committee to advise the Environmental Protection Authority delivered on the Māori Party’s commitment to partnership with the Government. In fact, her amendment fails dismally in that respect. It does not really deliver in respect of any sense of partnership. Really, it diminishes the Treaty, because it acknowledges that the advisory board is not much more than a sham in meeting the Crown’s Treaty obligations. The amendment waters down Treaty obligations to the point of simply providing a pretty toothless opinion-sharing body.
I thought we had reached a stage in the development of our nation where Māori deserved more than at the Committee stage of important legislation a coalition partner representing Māori introducing an amendment that simply delivered a default mechanism in respect of meeting Treaty obligations. That committee will not deliver
any amount of partnerships or
tino rangatiratanga. It is a sad commentary on the Māori Party. I find myself in the unusual position of being drawn to some understanding of Hone Harawira and the reason he defected from the Māori Party.
At the commencement of this final reading of the legislation the Minister for the Environment tried to portray Labour—and me in particular—as opposing economic development, because of commentary I made through the passage of the legislation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s what you said.
BRENDON BURNS: No. The Minister did not correctly report me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a strong supporter of economic development, but I will support economic development only when it is sustainable. That is not what is provided for by the legislation. The legislation does not even include any reference in its principal clauses to sustainability, and the principles and objectives do not include real reference to environmental objectives.
I put on the record of the House my record of having been instrumental in forming the Marlborough Economic Development Trust. I put on the record of the House my having established a vineyard that contributes to the export economy of this country. I take deep offence at the Minister suggesting that I am opposed to economic development. I am absolutely committed to sustainable economic development. I say to the Minister in respect of my province of Canterbury that I am committed to seeing the greening of the plains, but I will not tolerate any more browning of the waters. I do not believe that the Minister’s agency has the necessary power, clout, budget, or commitment, nor does the Minister represent in Cabinet a towering presence in respect of environmental protection.
We are seeing that affirmed by the parties to the Land and Water Forum. Seventy-two hours since grandiose statements were made about how the freshwater policy statement was going to deliver nirvana and future water quality, they are starting to peel off. We saw organisations that were a party to that process look to the legislation as a signal that this Government would hold the line and improve environmental quality and enforce protection. Already we are seeing Fish and Game New Zealand, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Environmental Defence Society, the Water Rights Trust, and others say that that national policy statement on fresh water is not delivering what they understood was going to be delivered. I am sure they will look equally at this legislation as a record of this Minister’s failure to deliver in respect of environmental policy and protection.
That was not what we were looking for. We were looking for something akin to the American model, which outlines five strong goals and principles on clean air and global climate change, clean and safe water, land preservation and restoration, healthy communities and ecosystems, compliance, environmental stewardship, global climate change—all of those things not actually affirmed by this legislation. That is very unfortunate, because there was an opportunity to do so.
I say to the Minister that he made strong comments to my colleague Louisa Wall in respect of her questioning him about clause 82 of the Environmental Protection Authority Bill. She questioned whether he had any veto rights in respect of matters that are called in under the provisions relating to national significance. I just note too that new subsection 142(7), which is inserted into the Resource Management Act by clause 82(3), states: “To avoid doubt, the Minister may make a direction under subsection (2) that differs from the direction recommended by the EPA under section 144A.” So, if we still have another speaker from the Government, I would like some affirmation as to whether that provides a mechanism for a veto in respect of the Minister’s role with call-ins under events of national significance, as provided for under this legislation.
I go back to my opening premise that this legislation was seen by many of us as important legislation. It provided an opportunity for the Government to affirm that it truly was committed to a Bluegreen agenda—an agenda that would balance economic sustainability and environmental outcomes—but, unfortunately, that has not come to be. We have seen that from the legislation in front of us and from the allied freshwater policy statement released earlier this week. These are disappointing times, because New Zealand has to get this right.
We need to look at the BBC
HARDtalk programme earlier this week, where an eminent journalist grilled the Prime Minister about New Zealand’s environmental record. That was not the first time. Two years ago the
Guardian claimed that we were “greenwashing”, that we had made the claims many times of being a clean and green nation, 100 percent pure, but the facts were not there. That was 2 years back. The real risks of that are actually there for the farming community. I say that to members opposite from a farming background, such as Colin King, the MP for Kaikōura, and those who represent other rural seats. Those who will pay the price for the failure of the Environmental Protection Authority to really grapple with the issues of environmental protection, in the final analysis, will be our farmers, because the rest of the world’s farmers are looking at New Zealand. Our environmental record is being questioned by the global BBC. It is being questioned by other eminent newspapers and media organisations. We have to acknowledge that our reputation is growing more and more tenuous by the day.
The Environmental Protection Authority was a chance. It was a chance for a line to be drawn, a statement to be made, and an assertion to be given that the environment would no longer be the provider of economic growth for this country—that from here on we had to have economic growth that was truly sustainable. Part of that was going to be assured by a stand-alone watchdog organisation with the resources, the power, the clout, and the mandate to enforce environmental regulations, to say that when people pollute, they pay, and to preclude people from having access to resources if they have not committed to those kinds of principles.
So it is with enormous disappointment that I see this legislation in its final stage of the House. We wish only that the Minister had taken the opportunities in front of him and assured New Zealanders that the Environmental Protection Authority would do what its name suggests.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I am delighted to speak on this legislation. I am particularly delighted as a Bluegreen from Auckland. We need to remind ourselves of why we need this legislation. The reason we need this legislation is the years of the 2000s, when our environment was trashed. That is right; under the last Labour Government, under a red-green Government, we had significant environmental degradation. I will take us through some of that.
In many areas we have had to redress the degradation. In the area of deforestation, New Zealand lost 30,000 hectares under Labour’s years in office. We turned this around in 2009 and 2010. In the area of renewable energy, there was more generation from coal, oil, and gas under the last Labour Government than in any time in our history. Under this National Government, more than 32,000 gigawatt hours of electricity was produced from renewable sources in 2010.
Ruth Dyson mentioned the emissions trading scheme. The irony of Labour members mentioning the emissions trading scheme is that under Labour’s watch, emissions significantly increased. The other massive irony of Labour members mentioning the emissions trading scheme is that they constantly talk about our most disadvantaged. There is such hypocrisy in that, because the emissions trading scheme that Labour would have passed would have doubled the cost to low-income families.
Hon Steve Chadwick: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member opposite used the word “hypocrisy” relating to some Labour policy. I take offence at that remark.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, it is out of order to use that word. I ask the member to withdraw that comment.
NIKKI KAYE: I withdraw and apologise. This legislation is about creating a national, independent environmental regulator. This legislation will finally provide a one-stop shop for the environmental regulatory functions of consenting, monitoring, and providing technical advice. This legislation is about providing a much more professional framework for how we manage our environment in New Zealand. That is sending a very clear message that we value our environment.
In the area of the economy, for a very long time we have had a professional framework with a very clear split, with Treasury as a policy adviser, the Reserve Bank having the regulatory functions, and the Auditor-General as the auditor. By ensuring that the Ministry for the Environment can be a policy adviser, the Environmental Protection Authority a regulator, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment an auditor, we are showing that we really value our environment.
We on this side of the House understand that our environment and our economy are inextricably linked. Despite the history of Labour—its degradation and trashing of the environment, and the “greenwash” that comes from that side of the House—we have done many things under this Government to show how much we value our environment.
The benefit of this legislation is also in the area of efficiency. We will be bringing together regulations across Government agencies, including the Ministry of Economic Development, the Environmental Risk Management Authority, and the Ministry for the Environment, all under one roof. The merging of these technical and regulatory skills will severely reduce inefficiency and will lead to much more robust and informed decision-making.
There are benefits in the area of national consenting, as well. The Opposition constantly raises issues of certain consents, but one area where the Environmental Protection Authority will really help is the area of renewable energy. We know this, because an application is currently before the Environmental Protection Authority for Contact Energy’s $1 billion Tauhara geothermal station near Taupō.
I acknowledge the support of certain environmental groups for this legislation. There is a very good quote from Gary Taylor from the Environmental Defence Society. He stated: “The EPA is to become the national environmental regulator and it’s vital that it is free from political influence.” We are pleased to see the continuing evolution of the Environmental Protection Authority as a national, independent environmental regulator.
Finally, I will touch on the issue of political neutrality that has been raised by many Opposition members, and I just remind members what is in the legislation regarding this issue. The Environmental Protection Authority is an independent Crown entity. It will be free from political influence, and that is really important. It is really important that we finally have a much more professional framework for our environmental issues, because this country values our environment too much to allow what happened in the “noughties”—as I refer to them—under the last Labour Government to happen again. That is why this legislation is part of a significant amount of reform that our Government has done to ensure that we can properly get good information about what is happening in our environment and properly manage things like our consents, in order to ensure that big renewable energy projects are happening.
This legislation is important not just for current New Zealanders but also for the future New Zealanders who will come after us. This legislation is part of our Bluegreen approach that will enable environmental issues to be considered in a much more professional, independent, accountable, and transparent way. In passing this legislation,
we are sending a clear message to New Zealanders that this Government highly values our environment.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: Well, there goes the next generation of the Bluegreens. My advice to Nikki Kaye is that if she wants to burnish her credentials in Auckland Central with the liberal voters of that electorate, she should not go around claiming to be a member of the Bluegreens too much, because after this legislation passes, her reputation as an environmentalist and as a liberal will not be looking all that crash hot. If I were here, I would not go around admitting to the fact that I was a member of the Bluegreens.
In 1970 that great American liberal Richard Milhous Nixon set up the American Environmental Protection Agency in response to the growing concern about the pressures on America’s natural environment. For many years the American Environmental Protection Agency has been the standard-bearer for active Government in the protection of the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency is not perfect, but at least it knows what it is there for. At least it has clear goals and objectives.
I will read to the House the goals of the American Environmental Protection Agency, which are set out in its empowering legislation. Goal No. 1 concerns clean air and global climate change. The goal is to protect and improve the air so it is healthy to breathe and so that risks to human health and the environment are reduced. Goal No. 2, which concerns clean and safe water, is to ensure that drinking water is safe, and to restore and maintain the oceans, the watersheds, and their ecosystems. Goal No. 3 deals with land preservation and restoration. Goal No. 4 is to have healthy communities and ecosystems, and Goal No. 5 is compliance and environmental stewardship. It is all there.
The American Environmental Protection Agency, which is a real environmental protection agency, knows what its job is. It has clear tasks and clear goals. By contrast, the Environmental Protection Authority that is being established by the Hon Nick Smith is a sham. I do not know why he wants it to be called the Environmental Protection Authority, because it is not fundamentally about environmental protection.
As the legislation is currently worded, the objective of the Environmental Protection Authority is to undertake its functions in a way that, firstly, contributes to the efficient, effective, and transparent management of New Zealand’s environment and natural resources, and, secondly, enables New Zealand to meet its international obligations. There is nothing in the fundamentals of this bill that makes it clear to the public and to the nation that the purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority is environmental protection. It is a sham. I say to Minister Smith that there is something missing in the heart of this bill, and it is called environmental protection and integrity.
I will comment on Rahui Katene’s speech. She talked about a triumph for the Māori Party and a triumph for environmental protection. She claimed that she had successfully negotiated the Treaty clause—inserted into the bill by amendment—that we see on the Table. I contend that it is not in fact a Treaty clause. It does not deserve to be called a Treaty clause. In fact, it diminishes the Treaty because it states that the advisory body that the clause sets up, which is a sham, is meeting the Crown’s Treaty obligations. Ms Katene told the House that she had been overwhelmed by congratulatory emails. Well, I suggest that she checks her email filter, because when she gets back to her office she will probably find in her junk folder dozens and dozens of emails telling her what a sell out this Treaty clause is.
It is very clear that the Māori Party has become the party of advisory committees. Members of the Māori Party got done over by Rodney Hide and ACT on the Auckland Council when they were denied democratically elected Māori seats. What did they get?
An unelected statutory board, which has brought into contempt in Auckland the whole notion of special governance provisions for Māori. The Māori Party claimed credit for that. I suppose that is a triumph too, is it? The so-called Treaty clause waters down the Treaty obligation and devalues the currency. The Māori Party is so keen to claim victory and to claim credit that it is willing to devalue the currency of Treaty obligations in New Zealand law.
The second part of that clause, which is about complying with the Treaty clauses in other environmental legislation, is hardly a triumph, either. Parties were always bound by Treaty clauses in other legislation. This particular clause adds nothing to that situation. That is a sham, and the fact that the Māori Party is claiming credit and claiming that this is a triumph shows that there is a lot of chutzpah in that party. They should be in fact embarrassed by it.
Labour members voted for the Environmental Protection Authority Bill at the first reading, because we thought that the stated intent of the Environmental Protection Authority would be to provide leadership in the whole area of environmental regulation. We thought that was worth supporting. But even then we had suspicions that it was a kind of Trojan Horse, dressed up for all the world like a comprehensive environmental regulator. A closer look reveals that it is designed mainly to fast track existing controversial projects.
Even during the gestation period of the Environmental Protection Authority, although there is a handful of staff from the Ministry for the Environment, the authority has already been used to fast track controversial projects. That is the real purpose, the real agenda, of the so-called balanced-growth philosophy of this Government. The Government has already used the Environmental Protection Authority to fast track the Waterview Connection and, as we have pointed out in this debate, time and time again the time frames were compressed, local communities have been denied a fair say in the process, and the Environmental Protection Authority has deliberately ignored the requests of both the Auckland Council and the local board to extend submission deadlines.
We are seeing the same thing happen with regard to Transmission Gully, where the Environmental Protection Authority is being used to circumvent the regional freshwater plan. Now, the whole fast-tracking agenda is under way with regard to the private prison at Wiri in South Auckland. The Environmental Protection Authority is consistent with the environmental record of this Government. There are too many examples to name in this debate, but I will give members a few of them.
The Government has watered down Labour’s world-leading emissions trading scheme. It has added billions to the taxpayers’ bill for carbon emissions and let big polluters off the hook. That is a fact. The Government has failed to adopt real environmental standards. We have seen that, as Brendon Burns pointed out earlier, with regard to the national policy statement on water. It has watered that down and failed to provide proper accountability for polluters.
I will summarise, in closing, the key objections that Labour has in respect of this legislation. The objectives of the legislation do not even include environmental protection, the functions are too narrow and are piecemeal, the legislation actually confuses the environmental legislation, and, finally, the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision making is not sufficiently independent, it lacks credibility, and far too much power is put in the hands of the Minister.
The Māori name for the Environmental Protection Authority is Te Mana Rauhī Taiao, which translates as “to protect the mana of the environment”. This legislation and its provisions most certainly do not protect the mana of the environment. The name is a sham and it should be replaced. This legislation is the spawn of the Bluegreens,
National’s in-house environmental lobby, which Nick Smith has so keenly fostered. What a disappointment this legislation must be to that Minister! What a disappointment the Bluegreens must be as his great political project! The legislation is a profound disappointment for anyone who cares about cleaning up and protecting our natural environment for future generations. It is final proof that the Bluegreens are an oxymoron.