Parliament Hansard Report 06 April 2023

Parliament Hansard Report – Thursday, 6 April 2023 – Volume 767 – 001104


Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I intend to use this second reading speech to address the issues the Governance and Administration Committee considered during the course of its quite brief but lengthy—lengthy in time—hearings.

I’ll start today by making a few observations about the process used to introduce and process this urgent piece of legislation, which came in for some critical scrutiny from both submitters and some sectors of the media. That criticism was to some degree warranted. However, no one came up with a better way of expediting this process for the benefits of those affected. Frankly, I believe, as a select committee and as a Parliament, we’ve come to the best position possible on this. I also believe that members of Parliament come to Parliament with a very strong idea of making people’s lives better, and this is a great example of this Parliament coming together in an attempt to make people’s lives better. Admittedly, those people are suffering some significant challenges at the moment.

I could not stand here to talk today without thanking all those who worked their way through making this bill what it is today and put in place a piece of legislation that will benefit the areas and people affected by the weather events of February. The committee staff, under our minder Tui, who put in many hours to assist us to get to this point, and especially Hannah, who must have listened to every word that was said and captured them in a very good report. To our officials, who put the great effort in over the past three or four weeks, actually, developing two bills—not one but two—to deal with this emergency situation, I thank them as well. They did an amazing job, and I think it’s a really interesting time to have a group of officials who are very prepared to cooperate with the select committee.

I think, during the course of those hearings, we addressed most of the concerns raised by submitters—not necessarily how the supporters would want us to, of course. I hope in saying that, that those submitters are more comfortable with the process than they were at the time that submissions were called for. I also want to thank those submitters who made the effort under extreme urgency to provide the select committee with some very good submissions which helped shape this bill as it has come back to Parliament.

It interested me, however, that some submitters made a significant effort with very little resource to provide us with very good information and very good submissions, and others appeared to use the process as a grandstanding exercise, basically, to criticise the Government for the urgency required to act in this instance. I think that’s very disappointing, particularly as those organisations tend to be well resourced.

I’ve probably said in this House before that I was the Mayor of the Manawatū at the time of the 2004 flood event which devastated our region, and I know that any help forthcoming gives local communities great hope and it also gives local communities, I think, hope that someone in Wellington cares. I think it’s important that this House puts in place a piece of legislation that will assist quite a large number of people in those communities. I think that is the least we can do. The fact that it’s done under urgency and with comparative haste, I think, also signals the importance of this issue to this House, and, in fact, the importance of it to those people concerned.

I must also thank the select committee and our two adopted members, in Eugenie Sage and Simon Court, who may not agree entirely with the position we ended up in but, none the less, added great value to the discussions. I also thank Minister McAnulty for tolerating many of the sentiments we expressed, and addressing them in his second reading speech.

I’ve no fears the seemingly unwarranted power we’re granting to Ministers will be abused, and I’m confident that local communities will benefit greatly from the enactment of this legislation. It also means roads, bridges, water pipes, houses, farms, orchards, and even railway lines will be reinstated much quicker as a result of this bill.

I think the important thing to remember in the course of the reinstatement—and these Orders in Council will largely deal with reinstatement—is that they’ll be reinstated in the same place they were before. So the fear that the Resource Management Act, for example, will be abused in the course of this, in my view, is minimal, and we have taken one or two other safeguards in the course of the alterations to the bill to manage that.

As I’ve said, we had many constructive submissions, and a number expressing concerns about the lack of communication with Māori. We’ve endeavoured to address this matter where appropriate. However, most of those concerns raised by submitters, in relation to the lack of communication with Māori, relate to the emergency response, not the emergency recovery. We’ll take the opportunities at select committee to raise these issues on their behalf with the appropriate parties as they all report to our select committee either through annual reviews or whatever. So there will be an opportunity for us to take those up at a later date.

Back to the bill. On the changes the select committee has made: we introduced one more safeguard with respect to the ability to make Orders in Council, and that was to ensure that geographical areas, where appropriate, are defined. The reason for that is that there’s—and I think the most obvious one—the need, or there may be the need in some cases, to burn waste, for example; there may be no other way to do it. You wouldn’t want that Order in Council to stipulate that waste could be burnt and that it could be burnt all over New Zealand, because it will almost certainly be specifically for one area. So I think that was an important change to make.

As the Minister said, the Manawatū Regional Council or Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Council, or Horizons Regional Council, as it’s known, and the Wellington Regional Council both added to the bill because a number of their constituent councils declared civil defence emergencies during the course of those events, and, of course, it would be difficult for the regional councils to not have been included in this bill, because quite a significant amount of those damaged assets actually affect regional councils as well as district councils. So that was necessary.

Another very interesting discussion we had related to the need to consult the leaders of previous Parliaments’ political parties. This comes about, of course—and it’s most appropriate now—in that this Parliament will dissolve for a time for the general election, and there will be no committees in, of course. Because the Orders in Councils are automatically referred to the—oh, I’ve forgotten the name of the committee—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Regs Review.

IAN McKELVIE: —the Regs Review, thank you, Gerry—the Regs Review Committee, that committee won’t be sitting while Parliament’s in adjournment, and it’s highly likely, I think, that these Orders in Council will be made at that time. So the need to have a body that represented this Parliament that could peruse those needed to be put in place. It was decided that the leaders of those political parties in the previous Parliament—so the Parliament’s adjourned, the leaders of the political parties in the previous Parliament then, effectively, take the place of the Regs Review Committee until the new Parliament is convened. So that was necessary because you had to have some reference point for those Orders in Councils.

The other issue was amending clause 13(3)(a) to add to the list of matters the Minister must consider in appointing members of the review panel. That was extended to health, rural interests, and primary industries. I guess those terms were used because they—certainly, the health one was an interesting one, and I’m sure there’ll be other committee members to talk about that more later on this afternoon. So that was a change that, I think, was very useful.

Finally in this speech, I just want to talk briefly about the discussions we had with submitters, and amongst the committee, about how we could improve this process for the future. I think that the committee came firmly to the view that a more permanent piece of legislation needs to be developed which would inevitably platform, because disasters are all different, but, none the less, it would be a base from which the Parliament could then develop legislation in the event of future emergencies—and there’s no doubt there’s going to be plenty of them. But I think that that would allay the fears of submitters that we’re giving, effectively, what you might term as “unbridled power” to the executive. It would have to be altered per event, but, none the less, the base legislation would appear, and I think that the public would have some confidence that at least the base legislation has been given adequate scrutiny—or scrutinised in the appropriate manner, and so, therefore, it would give the public more confidence that what we’re doing in the future was good.

The National Party will provide an alternative view in the committee report, and will outline some of the changes which, with more time, we would have liked to have seen made in the bill. This will not, however, stop us from supporting the bill. I think, despite the fact that the system’s never perfect, this bill, for all intents, will be of great value to those areas affected by the disasters of the last few months. Thank you, Mr Speaker.