General Debate

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

STUART SMITH: It is great to have an opportunity to speak this evening in the general debate. There has been a lot of talk about economic performance and so on, but there are 80,000 more people in work than there were a year ago.

What does that mean on the ground? In KaikĊura just recently I was talking to some businesses down there who claim that they have had the best year ever in business. Those businesses are doing well, and that is actually employing lots of people.
It is at that level that employment is growing in New Zealand, rather than keeping something like the Hillside workshops, which are no longer relevant to New Zealand’s economy and business—

Phil Twyford: No longer? It’s because you closed them down.

STUART SMITH: Well, if they were, they would still be in business. We have an inflation rate of less than 1 percent, and that is significantly lower. We are in a unique economic position, where we have got economic growth but low inflation, and that is quite unusual. We are actually adjusting our economy to it—it is fantastic.

I want to talk a little bit about housing, which has been discussed a lot lately. It seems to be a triumph of ideology over good sense, where the debate is swinging on who owns the houses rather than on having a house for people to live in. If you do not have a house in the social housing areas, you do not really care whom you renting from or whom you are getting it from—[Interruption]. Not you, Mr Assistant Speaker, of course—the person concerned.

I think the main point is that those people do have a place to live in. That is why relooking at the whole system is a much better way of going about it, and I am proud to be part of that.

In relation to that, I want to talk a little bit about the Resource Management Act matters, how new houses are being built, and how new developments are going on. We have just recently had the Rules Reduction Taskforce in my electorate going through and looking at the rules that impact on those things, and it is quite significant. We had an hour with the councillors and council staff telling us their views on duplicative rules and rules that do not seem to make a lot sense. Then we had builders for an hour, the general public for an hour, those consultants who help through resource consents, architects, and engineers.

It was amazing the stuff that came out in that, and I am sure that we are going to get some really significant gains out of that. It is the little things that wind builders up—for example, the test and tag rule, where, when you go and buy an extension cord or a power tool at the local hardware store, you can take it home and use it, but if you want to take it on to a building site it has got to be tested and tagged before you can use it. Then, in 3 months’ time, you have to use it again. There are no moving parts—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Trevor Mallard): That is the fifth warning the member has had.

STUART SMITH: Is it? OK. When we have to use a test for our cars we have a 3-year warrant for a brand new car, so to have an extension cord that has a life—as far as a test goes—for only 3 months, it does not seem to make any sense at all to me. It is time that those sorts of rules were dealt with—the sooner the better.

One of the other things that comes out of that is that there are 170 planning documents in New Zealand across 78 councils, but Scotland, which has 5.3 million people and is of a similar size to New Zealand, has only 37 planning documents. Clearly, we have a much more complex local government environment in which to work under and that is causing some issues.

Certainly, in the Marlborough Sounds, where over 78 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture is based, in the council’s long-term plan it is mooting that all aquaculture farms go to being a discretionary activity. In the past, they had not been under that regime and that will mean that their consents all run out in 2024. There is some doubt that the council will actually have the resources to deal with it and, even if it does, it is going to cost those marine farmers $20 million just to go through the process, when 98 percent of those consents will more than likely just roll over anyway.

Those are the sorts of things that we need to have a really hard look at to ensure that we are not just wasting ratepayers’ money and stopping businesses from developing. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.