First CPTPP Commission meeting agrees on expanding trade

The first meeting of the Commission of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has agreed on provisions to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker – CPTPP meeting agrees guidelines to expand trade agreement

The first Commission meeting of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has reached agreement on guidelines to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker welcomed the agreement on accession procedures – one of the decisions made by the 11 signatories at the first Commission meeting held in Tokyo today.

“New Zealand has always supported the concept of CPTPP as an open accession agreement, having been part of the original P4 agreement alongside Brunei, Chile, and Singapore.

“It was very pleasing to see CPTPP come to fruition with its entry-into-force at the end of December. I welcome the idea that those willing to meet CPTPP’s high standards and objectives are now able to join the Agreement over time,” David Parker said.

“I do not expect formal applications in the near future, but we look forward to continuing discussions with interested economies on the basis of these guidelines.

“In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the remaining signatories complete their domestic processes and join the seven who have ratified the Agreement to date.”

The TPP was timely given the uncertainty over trade with Britain and the EU (Jacinda Ardern is in London trying to talk trade today, before doing likewise with the EU this week), and also the trade turmoil surrounding Donald Trump (who withdrew the US from the TPP).

Parker is Labour’s most experienced Cabinet Minister and one of their better performers.

There’s some irony in Parker’s promotion of the TPP after Labour’s opposing of it when in Opposition (or at least appearing to oppose it by opposing some parts of it).

Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has started to take effect

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (now CPTPP) came into effect yesterday, 30 December 2018.

This ended many years of negotiations, the addition of a number of countries that totalled twelve when the agreement was first signed, but shrunk slightly to eleven when Donald Trump pulled the US out of it (the way he conducts international relations and trashes trade agreements and uses them as threats it is probably better the US is not trying to mess things up).

RNZ: CPTPP takes effect: Exporters first to benefit, govt says

The government is predicting New Zealand exporters will be the first to benefit from the re-jigged TPP deal, which takes effect at midnight.

The Minister for Trade and Export Growth, David Parker, said tariffs in three significant economies – Japan, Canada and Mexico – start reducing immediately.

The new deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), also comes into force for Australia and Singapore at midnight.

Mexico and Canada will cut tariffs further in a second round of adjustments on New Year’s Day, while Vietnam will make a double tariff cut when it joins the trade deal on 14 January, and Japan’s second round will be three months later on 1 April.

Mr Parker said the agreement will give a further boost to the competitiveness of New Zealand products in those markets.

“The CPTPP has the potential to deliver an estimated $222 million of tariff savings to New Zealand exporters annually once it is fully in force, with almost half of that – or $105 million – now available in the first 12 months,” he said.

One export to benefit is fish and fish products, which currently face tariffs of 20 percent into Mexico and up to 10 percent in Japan, Mr Parker said.

“The CPTPP will see all tariffs eliminated on fisheries exports, with the majority of savings from today.”

He said Marlborough wine producers will gain immediate duty free access to Canada.

In the South Island, Mid Canterbury seed farmers who produce 50 percent of the world’s radish seeds, will benefit from the elimination of tariffs on horticultural exports within 15 years under CPTPP.

And in the Otago region he said summer fruits would see big benefits.

“CPTPP will see total tariff elimination on summer fruits, including cherries, for which the tariffs into Japan will be eliminated within six years.”

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that from today Japan will axe tariffs on kiwifruit, grapes and melons, and cut tariffs on imported beef from the current 38.5 percent to 27.5.

So it isn’t totally ‘free trade’, but it is a useful move in that direction.

Despite the benefits, National MP Todd McClay said the government needs to do everything it possibly can to bring the US back into the trade agreement.

“The government now needs to turn its attention to the US market, it’s the world’s largest consumer market, we haven’t got a trade deal with them, they need [the New Zealand government] to do everything they can to entice them back to the TPP and get better access for Kiwis for the US market”.

I don’t think it is worth the risk trying to get the US back into the CPTPP while Trump is President. He can’t be trusted to stick with trade agreements. He seems to think he can use agreements to threaten, and to renegotiate, at whim – as he has done with NAFTA. See “Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border……”

Government to sign controversial UN Migration Compact

This looks a bit like a decision dumped at the end of the parliamentary year knowing that it could be controversial – Winston Peters has announced that the Government will support a UN Migration Compact after getting advice it won’t compromise New Zealand’s sovereignty.

If there is no problem why make the announcement now? Perhaps Peters thought it might compromise his and NZ First’s strong anti-immigration stance prior to them getting into power. That had already fizzled somewhat.

NZ First immigration policy (prior to last year’s election) included:

  • Stop the knee jerk annual immigration planning and start working on ten year and 25 year plans.
  • Create a new organisation to protect the integrity of New Zealand citizenship known as the Immigration Inspectorate.
  • Create an “undesirables” category, to ensure those from dangerous and unethical regimes are red-flagged before they get here.
  • Remove the capacity for New Zealand to even consider for refugee status, those with terrorism related convictions in other jurisdictions.
  • Make the Refugee Status Appeals Authority more directly responsible to Parliament.
  • Make DNA testing compulsory when any doubt exists over immigrant/refugee family relationships.
  • Refugee family reunification will be limited to spouses and immediate dependent siblings.
  • Consult New Zealanders about the make up of those coming here.

Peters has avoided talking about this UN Migration Compact until making this announcement, let alone consult with New Zealanders about it.

In particular:

  • New Zealand First will meet UN refugee obligation but believes humanitarian benevolence has been abused by family reunification policy.

NZ First’s tough stance on immigration seemed to be the attraction to voters, but things was whittled down to this in immigration in the Labour-NZ First Coalition agreement: As per Labour’s policy, pursue Labour and New Zealand First’s shared priorities to:

  • Ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages and cut down on low quality international education courses.
  • Take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students

The NZ First Party itself still wanted more vetting of potential immigrants. From their conference in September: NZ First members want migrants and refugees to sign to core values:

A remit to introduce a Respecting New Zealand Values Bill for migrants and refugees was passed by party members despite some opposition, and will now go to the caucus for policy consideration.

These values would include respect for gender equality, legal sexual preferences, freedom of religion and a commitment not to campaign against alcohol consumption.

New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell helped draft the bill and read out its intentions.

“New Zealand is a tolerant society. Our tolerance means that if an individual wants to immigrate to New Zealand, they must accept, respect and adhere to the tolerance our society expects,” it said.

“Immigrants must agree to respect New Zealand’s values and to live a life that demonstrates that they respect New Zealand values.”

From a NZ First announcement two days ago: Common sense approach to immigration welcomed

The Government is taking serious action on the immigration system to make it work better for New Zealand businesses and the regions.

Today’s announcement proposes introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas and replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists.

“New Zealand First celebrates the end to the previous Government’s open borders approach which did not adequately address our skills shortages and put significant strain on our infrastructure,” says Mr Mitchell.

Also two days ago from Todd McClay, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Peters’ still hiding stance on Global Compact:

Winston Peters’ continued refusal to make a decision and tell the public what New Zealand’s position on the United Nations Global Compact on Migration is shameful, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“This morning the Prime Minister confirmed that a final decision is yet to be made on whether New Zealand is signing up to the Global Compact on Migration or not and we are all waiting on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, to make up his mind.

“It beggars belief that the Foreign Minister is still considering what New Zealand’s decision will be.

“The Government has been negotiating this agreement since February, and the Minister signed off on our negotiating position then. The Minister also received a final draft in July, and New Zealand attended the adoption meeting in Morocco last week and yet New Zealanders are still being kept in the dark.

“This is a serious matter. When New Zealand commits to frameworks such as these on the global stage, it is the public’s interests at stake.

“But even after weeks of questioning by National, the Government seems no closer to providing information on whether they will commit us to this United Nations framework

Also two days ago in Parliament’s question time  Labour’s David Parker spoke on behalf of Peters (Peters was in Washington):

10. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he made a decision whether New Zealand will sign up to the United Nations global compact for migration?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the diplomatic processes that apply. There is no document to be signed; there is a vote.

Hon Todd McClay: Why has the Government not yet been able to make a decision, given he has had the draft text of the UN compact since July?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, because we are carefully checking all of the facts, including the irresponsible and incorrect assertions that this somehow curbs the sovereignty of countries that vote for the compact.

Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that the Government have been negotiating the compact since February, they’ve had the draft text since July, adopted it in Morocco last week, and are actually just keeping Kiwis in the dark until after Parliament has lifted for the summer recess?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, no. I can confirm that the gymnastics of the Opposition, who signed up to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop telling lies.

Hon Todd McClay: Was the Prime Minister correct on NewstalkZB this morning when she said that it’s Winston Peters who would be making the decision to sign the UN compact later this week and not Cabinet?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen the transcript of that interview, and that is an improper characterisation of it. [Interruption] It’s an incorrect characterisation of it.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with the statement that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, made to media that the problem with these non-binding agreements is over time they become binding; and, if so, will he inform his Cabinet colleagues of his long-held position on UN agreements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: …The first point to make would be that I’m sure that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was speaking in respect of treaties. This is not a treaty. The second point I would make is that the reversal by the National Party on its earlier position is desperate, opportunist flip-flop, which appears to show that the National Party takeover by Judith Collins is just about complete.

This demonstrates the contentious nature of the UN Compact on Migration.

Yesterday’s announcement:

Government legal advice says UN Migration Compact doesn’t compromise sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.

“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” said Mr Peters.

“The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have provided legal advice which confirms this UN cooperation framework is neither legally binding nor constraining on this country setting its own migration policies.”

Specifically the legal advice has stated that:

  • The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
  • It does not establish customary international law;
  • The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
  • It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
  • The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
  • The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” said Mr Peters.

“We are aware that the statements of other countries voting in support of the compact, such as the United Kingdom, are underpinned by legal advice supporting their positions.”

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues while also being confident our own sovereign decision making isn’t compromised,” he said.

Reaction from Simon Bridges from NZ to vote in favour of UN Migration Compact (NZH):

National leader Simon Bridges has said the compact treats legal and illegal migration in the same way.

“There is no automatic right to migrate to another country without that country’s full agreement, a view which the UN’s Global Compact on Migration seeks to counter.

“While not binding, the compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren’t.”

Newstalk ZB (audio): Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong

“It does not mean that you have a right to migrate, it does mean that your sovereignty is in any way compromised, and it does not mean that this overrides or prevails over the immigration law of any one country.”

The Free Speech Coalition says the UN Compact for Migration prohibits all critical speech of open-border migration, and encourages reporters to be educated on migration terminology. They say that’s unjustifiable in a free society.

But Peters says they haven’t read the whole thing.

“It begins by saying this, this and this, and it reaffirms that the media have the utmost right to practice their trade, free without fodder from politicians or governments.”

Peters says that in their statement to the United Nations tomorrow morning our time, they will be making it clear how New Zealand is interpreting the compact.

Countries can interpret the compact however they like? That seems odd.

And does it leave it open to future New Zealand governments to re-interpret it?

Signing the UN Compact is probably not an achievement that Peters will be campaigning on next election.

Can NZ really be ‘a bridge’ between US and China?

I still don’t know. Jacinda Ardern was asked by RNZ how New Zealand can act as a bridge between China and the US. She doesn’t seem to have really answered.

On The Nation in the weekend: Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker says New Zealand is trying to position itself as the bridge between the United States and China. “We have a bit of a reputation for the honest broker, and it’s times like this that we should draw upon that reputation”.

Nation: David Parker on trade, APEC and globalisation

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker: Inclusive Trade Action Group meets in Port Moresby

New Zealand, Chile and Canada today reaffirmed a commitment to work together to advance trade that benefits all their citizens.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker joined Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero and Canadian Deputy Minister for International Trade Tim Sargent at a meeting of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) during APEC Leaders’ Week in Papua New Guinea.

Trade is crucial to our economies but so is ensuring that the benefits that come from trade are shared by all,” David Parker said.

“The New Zealand Government’s Trade for All agenda ensures that our trade policy delivers for all New Zealanders.

“The meeting of ITAG members recommitted us to this goal and set out some specific objectives to advance inclusive trade in 2019, including building support among our CPTPP partners, and in the WTO and APEC.”

It follows the three countries’ Joint Declaration on Fostering Progressive and Inclusive Trade issued at the signing of the CPTPP in March this year.

https://twitter.com/NewshubNationNZ/status/1063532842372673536

 

Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality”

The quality of rain water in New Zealand is pretty much pristine, but after it falls and flows past our towns and through our farms and industries it deteriorates, sometimes to an alarming degree.

The is probably near universal support for improving the quality of water in our creeks and rivers, lakes, inlets and lagoons, and on our beaches.

Actually water quality does not need to be improved so much as degradation needs to be drastically reduced.

Aims are a bit vague – “promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years” – but should be widely supported.

Minister of the Environment David Parker:


Taking action to improve water quality

The Government today is announcing its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

“Clean water is our birthright. Local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

“New Zealanders value our rivers and lakes. More than 80 per cent are committed to improving water quality for the benefit of future generations and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” David Parker said at a function in Parliament to launch the new work programme.

“New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard.

“The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices. Our remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.”

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits,” David Parker said.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said both Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai.

“We are committed to a substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development.”

David Parker said the Government’s approach to solving these issues is engaging leading New Zealanders who care about our freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others.

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

Alongside work to tackle climate change, reduce waste, and protect our natural biodiversity, today’s release of the freshwater work programme shows this Government is determined to protect our environment for future New Zealanders.

Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders all agree our natural resources must be used wisely.

“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater Agenda and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-agenda

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.


See also: Freshwater plan to explore Māori and Crown shared interests

The Government plan announced today to improve freshwater quality acknowledges that water quality cannot be addressed without a concurrent and substantive discussion with Māori, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said

Q+A: David Parker on taxing bottled water

David Parker as Trade and Growth Minister was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Parker was asked about this from the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • No resource rentals for water in this term of Parliament
  • Introduce a royalty on exports of bottled water.

Winston Peters via Stuff (June 2018):

A coalition commitment to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports appears to have stalled, with the Government still trying to find a workaround that won’t breach its free trade deals.

Environment Minister David Parker told Newsroom the Government had not “got a lot closer to an outcome” on an export royalty since MFAT’s concerns were raised, and was instead focusing on how to tackle carbon emissions.

“The Government makes agreements as you go into coalitions as to what it is that you prioritise, and we prioritised emissions pricing over water pricing in the coalition agreement and both the Greens and New Zealand First agreed to that.”

Unless there is significance in the order that priorities are listed in the agreement this is not clear.

However, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says he is confident a solution to implement a royalty on bottled water will be found before the end of the year.

“I think New Zealanders think it’s unfair that people who bottle water and send it offshore without any return to the public, they don’t think that’s fair – I agree with them, I think that’s also true of other water bottling as well. We’re working through that.”

“Let me tell you, we’ve had so many other things on that it’s not been the priority we’d have all liked, but it certainly is now.”

Asked whether the Government still planned to introduce an export royalty on bottled water this term, Peters said: “I think I can confidently say, this year.”

Parker:

I’ve got a Cabinet paper coming through soon, in fact I’ve seen a draft of it looking at the different options. We’ve agreed in the coalition agreement that we won’t have a price on water generally during this term in Parliament.

There’s two reasons why you might in the longer term there’s the Tax Working Group suggests. One is fairness between the public and private, if private people for their own profit arre using a public resource then maybe they should…

And the second goes to the efficiency of the use of the resource. If there is a price for scarce resources then they’re inclined to be used more efficiently and so there’s less waste which is environmentally good.

He avoided saying when a decision was expected.

On issues with trade agreements and water – “Can you actually implement a tax on that?”:

Ah you are restricted by your trade agreements. There are still things you can still do, um, ah, they are very, some of them are quite complex, ah it doesn’t kick up a lot of money…

Levies or taxes in various forms are possible, but there is a sense of umbrage on the part of New Zealanders who think that it’s wrong that we export water to the rest of the world without anything coming back to the public for that privilege.

Can you do something without breaching these agreements, and this year?

Ah yes you can do some things, ah, you clearly can do some things, ah, you could also change the rules related to foreign direct investment to make it clear criteria when people are investing from overseas which is something we might consider in the second part of our…

What does he prefer?

Ah I’m not going to express a preference on this.

Can you do it this term or is it in the too hard basket?

Um, yes we can.

So it will be done this term?

I didn’t say that.

You want to do it this term?

Well I, you know, I think the principle where private people are exporting a public resource for their own profit, that something should come back to the public, is a fair play.

So Parker avoided giving any indication of when something may happen on taxing water being exported.

Then he was asked about the complication of claims of Maori ownership. “Is that going to be resolved this term?”

(Big breath) Well, no one’s been able to resolve that until now. Ah, I think there’s considerable goodwill on the part of all sides of these water debates. Ah the public made it clear they want water quality improved. You can’t do that without resolving some of the water allocation issues relating to nutrient discharge rights.

That does throw up Maori rights and interests because Maori disproportionately hold the underdeveloped land that wants the right to…

But you can avoid a foreshore and seabed mess which Michael Cullen was talking about earlier?

I think so.

And Parker was let off the hook there after avoiding committing to any time frame for taxing bottled water, and without giving any indication how Maori claims on water rights might be dealt with.

 

 

David Parker’s and Parliament’s reputations enhanced

Last week David Parker was under fire for alleged, with claims he had a ‘close personal relationship’ with property  developers given a Government exemption for overseas investment in a development at Te Arai.

Matthew Hooton said that Parker should stand down pending an inquiry, and made allegations that he later retracted and apologised for. A Facebook post and an NZ Herald article are no longer online.

On Thursday Hooton tweeted:

‘Entirely blameless’ is a major retraction.

Audrey Young writes:  David Parker emerges with reputation not just intact but enhanced

When things get really bad a fog can sit over the whole Government for weeks. Sometimes it results in a political scalp, sometimes it just damages the individual.

Rarely does it enhance the reputation of the minister involved. But in the case of the exemption for Te Arai development to the foreign-buyers ban, that is what has happened to David Parker.

The only other occasion in which a political reputation was clearly enhanced in the face of a ministerial crisis also involved David Parker, in 2006.

He shocked everyone including his own Prime Minister when he resigned as Attorney-General the day allegations were published in Investigate magazine over some historic filing of returns to the Companies Office.

Parker was reinstated to cabinet a few weeks later when evidence turned up at the Companies Office disproving the allegations. He returned a more honourable minister than when he resigned.

In the 10 days since the select committee recommended the controversial 15-year exemption for Te Arai development at Mangawhai, events have moved more slowly, but no less honourably.

And most of the stunning relevant revelations exonerating Parker occurred in House itself as National has put the heat on Parker.

National had legitimate questions for Parker about the background to an exemption for one development at Mangawhai involving settlement funding of two iwi – and Parker more than answered them, which he did so at length, and with reasoned and passionate argument.

It is National’s job to hold the Government and Ministers to account. In this case Parker responded and showed there was no cause for concern about his involvement.

What has emerged is that although the Treasury advised against any exemption for any development, it was done after Parker took a paper to cabinet and sought its approval.

Parker refused to listen to any private pleadings of any developer during the course of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill banning foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses.

He made it clear they should make to the committee.

When select committee members and cabinet colleague Shane Jones (at the behest of John Key) raised the potential injustice, Parker did the proper thing and took it to cabinet.

So Parker acted properly.

Disarmingly, Parker did not defend every aspect of what has occurred.

He conceded in the House it was fair enough that National question whether he and select committee should have looked into details about the level of the iwi involvement in the development before recommending the exemption.

As they haver a right to do this, and a responsibility to do this if they think that things warrant proper scrutiny. It was a proper use of Parliament. And Parker responded properly and showed that he had acted properly.

There are still things to be asked over the Te Arai development, but both Parker and Parliament have had their reputations enhanced over this.

Parker stands out as probably the Government’s most capable looking Minister.

Labour, David Parker and a property developer

Questions are being asked over claimed favouritism involving Labour, David Parker and and a Queenstown based property developer.

The story was broken by Politik:  Labour and the Queenstown property developer

Questions are being asked about how a group of Labour MPs on a Select  Committee agreed to grant an exemption from the  overseas buyers  ban to a luxury Northland property development where sections are valued at up to $4.5 million each.

The exemption has now been removed for procedural reasons  but how it  got where it did raises some intriguing questions.

They are accentuated because the inclusion is so unusual, particularly for a Labour Government, to grant what in effect was a special favour to wealthy property developers.

Labour disputes that and says it was actually granting a favour to the local iwi who stood to be substantially disadvantaged if the development did not go ahead.

But POLITIK has found that the iwi have only a minority interest in the development.

On the face of it, the exemption flew in the face of everything Labour has been saying about property development since it became the Government.

You may not have access to that if you have passed your number of reads there, but if you get a ‘Don’t Panic message close that Window (X in top right of the Window).

Matthew Hooton picked up on it:

Kiwiblog covers it: The Government’s attempt to waive the law for a friend

his should be, as Matthew says, a major news story. I hope National pursues this further as the conflicts of interest in this are huge, as well as the hypocrisy.

 

And NZH has Hooton covering it: Why David Parker should stand down pending inquiry

As Economic Development Minister, he leads the mammoth Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, with its extraordinary regulatory powers and corporate-welfare schemes.

As Minister for the Environment, he directs everything from planned reform of the Resource Management Act to expanding the Emissions Trading Scheme.

As Trade Minister, he oversees New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and negotiations for post-Brexit free-trade agreements with the European Union and United Kingdom.

Parker even chooses which cases the Government will take to the World Trade Organisation on behalf of New Zealand exporters.

This is not all. As Attorney-General, Parker is the Crown’s senior law officer with responsibility for the Government’s administration of the law.

He decides whether the Government will appeal cases it loses to private interests in lower courts.

In effect, he appoints all new judges, has ministerial responsibility for the Crown Law Office and the Parliamentary Counsel Office and decides whether legislation is compliant with the Bill of Rights Act.

Parker is also an Associate Finance Minister, working with Grant Robertson on the Government’s $80-billion-a-year budget. He is one of Jacinda Ardern’s closest political advisors and a vital link to Winston Peters.

One of Parker’s key projects is the Overseas Investment Bill to implement Labour’s pre-election promise to get foreigners out of the residential property market.

According to Parker, the Bill is about values. It will ban overseas buyers of existing houses and ensure the property market is a New Zealand and not an international one.

Despite that, Labour MPs — against advice from parliamentary lawyers — inserted a clause in the Bill at the last minute to protect a single development from the new rules.

As revealed by the influential political newsletter Politik, the project is one by Los Angeles billionaire Rick Kayne and celebrity Queenstown property developer John Darby, with whom Parker was associated when working with the late Howard Patterson.

To some observers, this could look like a possible attempt by either the Government or naïve Labour backbenchers to personally favour a former business associate of the Government’s most powerful minister by exempting him from Labour’s flagship ban on foreign house buyers.

In 2006, he stood down as a minister after allegations he had filed false companies returns, for which he was cleared by the Companies Office. Now, though, he is exponentially more powerful and the Te Arai situation is far more sensitive.

The Acting Prime Minister should invite the proper authorities to investigate and Parker should again stand down in the meantime.

But the Acting PM jumped to parker’s defence in Parliament today. Question 1:

Hon Paula Bennett: How can he have confidence in the Minister in charge of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, David Parker, when it has been reported he has close personal relationships with high-end property developers who have sought exemptions from the bill?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that we inherited that deal from a former Minister Steven Joyce, who did not go through the consultation process, and if Amy Adams knew anything about the law she would know that full well. That being the case, Treasury gave us one set of advice, and the Speaker referred to a separate set of advice. As a consequence, we’ve acted on the Speaker’s advice.

The issue also came up in Question 3:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister: under this visionary and responsible policy, what proportion of New Zealand homes will no longer be able to be purchased by a foreign buyer outbidding a New Zealander?

Hon DAVID PARKER: There are currently 1.8 million homes in New Zealand, and more than 20,000 new homes will be built over the next year. Under this law, foreigners cannot buy any of the 1.8 million existing homes and can only purchase a fraction of the 20,000 new homes that would be built and would then have to either on-sell them or lease them to New Zealanders. The bill as reported back from select committee ensures that more than 99 percent of New Zealand homes will not be able to be sold to foreigners.

David Seymour: Was the bill’s process subject to any time pressure due to the need to pass it before the CPTPP is ratified?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that notwithstanding his proximity and the Government’s proximity to Mr Thompson, this is evidence that the Government is not corruptible on this matter and would somewhat suggest that Mr Thompson was far more successful with the previous Government?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to allow the Minister to answer the question. I am going to deduct two supplementary questions from the Opposition for the interjections from the acting shadow Leader of the House and the finance spokesperson.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The involvement of either Mr Thompson or Mr Lewis in this had no effect on my decision. The advice we had received from Treasury to the select committee, based on public submissions that were heard by all, was that this was an iwi-based development that had suffered interminable delays, and we had some sympathy for their position—

Hon Amy Adams: Iwi-based?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, that is as it was described to me, Amy Adams, and the paper trail will show that. The paper trail will show that. We had some sympathy for that position, and so we were willing to agree a transitional provision. We wanted it to be tight because we didn’t want there to be exemptions up and down the land, which is why the other regulation-making power is narrow, so that if future Governments want to unwind the ban on foreign buyers, they’re going to have to do it by primary legislation and not sneak it through by ministerial discretion.

Most ordinary people will roll their eyes at this if they take any notice at all, but some seem to thing it could be a big deal.

 

Foreign buyer rules relaxed

Prior to getting into Government Labour talked up the effect of foreign buyers on the New Zealand housing market, and copped a lot of criticism for their ‘Chinese sounding names’ claims. They were also accused of exaggerating the impact of foreign buyers – and this has turned out to be true with foreign buyers being just 3% in recent statistics.

Once in power Labour restricted foreign buyers despite warnings of what that would do to discourage new housing developments. They have now partly backtracked.

RNZ:  Government relaxes rules on foreign buyer ban

The government’s overseas buyers’ ban on New Zealand homes has been softened, with some multi-storey apartment buildings now being exempted.

New Zealand officials and minister have also been negotiating with Singapore as the ban contravenes agreements between the two countries – that has now been resolved with Singapore securing an exemption, along with Australia.

Since the legislation has gone through select committees the government has acknowledged some fish hooks, that may have actually put the brakes on housing supply in Auckland.

Broadly, they apply to developers concerned about not being able to complete big projects if they can’t sell individual apartments to foreign buyers.

Another issue was overseas corporates getting caught up in the ban when they wanted to buy residential land – for example to build cell phone towers.

They were valid concerns, Trade Minister David Parker said.

“The advice we had from officials was that if we didn’t allow investment in apartment buildings then the whole complex was more likely not to proceed so there would be fewer purchase choices for New Zealanders,” Mr Parker said.

Parker has admitted they rushed to implementation of the changes and have had to reconsider when it became apparent it was having an adverse effect on trying to get more houses and apartments built.

Under the new regime, overseas investors would be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

The new rules allowed foreign buyers to purchase apartments ‘off the plan’ but they had to sell them once built. They can now retain ownership, but can’t live in them themselves.

This seems weird, especially when the government says they want to get more Kiwis into home ownership.

And the changes announced yesterday are still being criticised.

Phil Twyford in Opposition in 2016: Foreign buyers’ data selective and ineffective

The Government’s newly released foreign buyer data doesn’t give an accurate picture because it was collected at a time when offshore speculators had temporarily deserted the market, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says.

“The Government is out of touch with the 70 per cent of New Zealanders that support Labour’s policy to ban offshore speculators from buying existing homes. National should back my Bill when it comes before Parliament next month, instead of supporting foreign speculators against the interests of Kiwi first homebuyers,” Phil Twyford says.

Twyford as Housing Minister in December 2017: Ban on overseas speculators a step closer

“This Government welcomes foreign investment in houses to add to our housing supply,” Phil Twyford says.

“However, purchases of homes by offshore speculators push first home-buyers and families out of the housing market.”

Phil Twyford says the legislative changes demonstrate the Government’s determination to make it easier for New Zealanders to buy their first home.

“We expect the law to be passed early next year fulfilling a key pledge in our 100 Day Plan. The previous National government said it couldn’t be done without breaching trade agreements. They just didn’t try and in doing so, they put foreign buyers ahead of New Zealanders.

“This Government prioritises home ownership and housing affordability for all New Zealanders. This Bill will ensure that house prices are set by New Zealand-based buyers, not international buyers,” Phil Twyford says.

The National opposition now say: Twyford’s numbers badly wrong on foreign buyers

“When challenged on the AM Show today and faced with official statistics, Phil Twyford failed to defend his previous stance that foreigners – particularly Chinese – dominated New Zealand’s property market,” Mrs Collins says.

“He originally claimed that 30 per cent of homes in New Zealand were being sold to foreigners. In the face of irrefutable evidence – he could not defend those numbers.

“Official statistics released yesterday show foreign house buyers make up just three per cent of New Zealand’s residential property market, exactly what the previous National Government maintained.

“In the lead up to the election Labour and Phil Twyford ran a scare campaign claiming buyers with ‘Chinese sounding names’ were not real New Zealanders deserving of a home and were responsible for ‘pricing first-home buyers out of the market’.

RNZ: Overseas house buyer problem ‘was never real’

Many developers are still opposed to a ban on the sale of existing homes to foreigners despite a slackening of the proposed new rules.

Only a fraction of New Zealand’s housing stock is foreign-owned and there are developers who think banning or restricting that investment discriminates.

In the first draft of the Overseas Investment Amendment bill, overseas buyers could buy apartments off the plans, but would have to sell them once the building was completed.

The new draft has softened that, now allowing developers to sell up to 60 percent of their apartments off-plan, without the requirement for buyers to sell within a year.

Official figures show nationally 3 percent of people who bought residential property in the last quarter didn’t hold New Zealand citizenship or resident visas.

Mr Church and other developers believe these figures prove the whole law should be scrapped.

“It indicates that the hyperbole around this issue being a much larger problem is just that, it was never real.”

Interestingly Twyford didn’t feature in yesterday’s announcement, it came from David Parker as Associate Finance Minister.

Foreign buyer screening law reported back

The Bill putting in place the Government’s policy of banning overseas buyers of existing houses has been reported back to Parliament by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Under the new regime, overseas investors will be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

“This will help first home buyers to get their foot on the property ladder,” David Parker said.

All permanent residents and resident visa holders who spend the majority of their time in New Zealand will be able to purchase homes under the regime without obtaining consent.

Australian and Singapore citizens and residents will be treated the same as New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Australia was always a special case. Singapore was not happy with the initial changes and also pushed for an exemption.