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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly the decision to invest $1.4 billion in New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccination programme to ensure every New Zealander can receive a free vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccination programme is key to securing our economic recovery. We’ll continue to face uncertainties over the coming year, as COVID-19 spreads and evolves globally, and it’s critical we keep investing in our health response to keep New Zealanders safe. We’ve sufficient doses to vaccinate every New Zealander for free and support our Pacific neighbours. Additional vaccines deemed safe and effective can be deferred for later use and further donated to support regional recovery.

Hon Judith Collins: Will all New Zealanders be able to get a COVID vaccine by the end of this year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Certainly, based on the arrangements that we have with Pfizer, we will have vaccines available in order for all New Zealanders to be able to access a vaccine this year. What we all have a duty to do is encourage New Zealanders to do so. We have seen—and this is really heartening—a decrease in the hesitancy. We continually keep an eye on what’s happening with New Zealanders’ perspective of the vaccine, and over time, as people are being vaccinated, we’re seeing a decline in that hesitancy. But you see globally, even in countries who have been very early adopters with their roll-out, a little bit of plateauing in that vaccination uptake, and we hope that’s not something we experience here in New Zealand.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with the Local Government Funding Agency chief executive, Mark Butcher, warning new centralised water entities will face higher borrowing costs than councils as they seek to invest up to $185 billion in new water infrastructure?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This was actually the analysis that I spoke to yesterday, and it’s one of the reasons that we have been undertaking the three waters reforms. It was instigated by the fact that we had a community who was devastated by such a significant failure in the provision of safe drinking water, and when we then took a look across the water infrastructure across the country, we saw consistent lack of investment—for a number of reasons, but consistent lack of investment. The current local government investment rate is about $1.5 billion annually, or $45 billion over the next 30 years, and as the member has just highlighted, analysis suggests that over the next 30 to 40 years, it could need to be between $120 billion and $185 billion.

Hon Judith Collins: What is her response to Mayor Phil Goff’s 13 May letter to her and other Ministers that states, “Thank you for your letter received 5 May 2021 about the proposed three waters service delivery reform. I am not convinced that the proposed governance arrangements will improve efficiency for Auckland. Auckland has worked cooperatively with DIA; however, the current structure proposed is unlikely to find favour with Auckland and its council.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We continue to work alongside Auckland Council because we take a different view. Obviously, we have to look at water provision and infrastructure through a national lens; Mayor Phil Goff, of course, looks at it through an Auckland lens. Our perspective is that, regardless, actually, there are benefits to Aucklanders by being a part of the three waters programme, but some of the issues that, for instance, Mayor Goff has raised are whether or not he wishes to sit alongside the provision and infrastructure investment of the likes of Northland, whereas, of course, if you take a “New Zealand Inc.” approach, we all need to see healthy drinking water across the country, no matter where you are a ratepayer.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with Mayor Phil Goff that the Government’s proposal that “The governors’ representative group will comprise representatives ranging from four to six local authorities, and up to 50 iwi. Gaining consensus among all the parties is likely to be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The alternative is that we continue with the current arrangements, where, as I have just identified, we have significant under-investment in the infrastructure we all rely on. I would point to the fact that, actually, by and large, we have significant support across local government. There are a few cases where we have some mayors who take an alternative view. We are working closely alongside them, but, by and large, Local Government New Zealand and many mayors and councils recognise that we have a problem and that we need to work together to find a solution.

Hon Judith Collins: Can she rule out a water governance structure for the upper North Island where elected representatives are not a majority?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve made no final decisions on the shape of arrangements for a more consolidated approach to governance, but what I can say is that, to date, the member’s claims around some of these discussions have been patently incorrect. The member, for instance, put out a press statement on Sunday claiming, of course, that there would be ownership of assets by, for instance, Ngāi Tahu. That is wrong. Ngāi Tahu refuted it themselves. So I would say to the member again, if you want to join the debate, I would encourage you to. Firstly, a conversation with representatives from Local Government New Zealand would be a helpful start.

SPEAKER: I will go to the Hon Nanaia Mahuta, but I would remind the Prime Minister that when she addresses “you”, she means me.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Prime Minister aware of reports in Auckland where stormwater overflow going into beaches in Auckland makes them unswimmable, and that, in effect, is another reason why there needs to be change?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely, and I would also recognise in recent times, of course, significant draw on Waikato River. This is where we need to recognise that, actually, we are frequently crossing over simple territorial boundaries, so it makes sense for us to be having these conversations at a much wider level.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with Mayor Phil Goff that “Without elected representatives able to ensure real accountability, the organisation runs the risk of becoming self-centred, with very highly paid executives not hearing public concerns.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I disagree with that.

Hon Judith Collins: Will all of the new water entities have iwi co-governance, in which case, how will that look?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, we have not made final decisions on the governance arrangements for the water entities. However, again, the member may wish to start her conversation with Local Government New Zealand. They themselves, and in many regions and districts, have instigated conversations directly with iwi representatives as they work through these issues. It only seems to be the member herself who views that as a negative thing, when Local Government New Zealand has been a part of it.

Hon Judith Collins: Point of order. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a copy of a letter on the Office of the Mayor of Auckland’s letterhead dated 13 May 2021, to which I have referred in my questions.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There appears to be none.

Leave received to table document.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Point of order. I seek leave to table a response to Mayor Goff on 23 May, in relation to the letter being tabled.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There appears to be none.

Hon Judith Collins: Speaking to that point of order, Mr Speaker. How can the member seek leave to table a letter dated a day that hasn’t actually occurred yet?

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Sorry, my apologies; I misquoted the date. But can I seek leave to table the response to that letter that is being tabled in the House?

SPEAKER: Has it already been tabled?

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: No. No it hasn’t.

SPEAKER: No, OK. Is there any objection—I think we can sum it up pretty easily. Is there any objection in tabling the Minister’s response to the letter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition? There appears to be none.

Leave received to table document.

MIL OSI