The Government is compromising public safety and letting down the families and victims of the CTV building in allowing engineers to continue for decades to exploit a legal loophole for fatal design errors, National MP Nick Smith says.
“It was an injustice that the engineers of the CTV building that killed 115 people were able to avoid prosecution for their flawed design due to the loophole of the ‘year and a day rule’.
“The Government is compounding this with its Crimes Amendment Bill that allows this loophole to continue to be exploited for the thousands of buildings designed and constructed since.
“We cannot believe that the Government is going to allow this injustice to be knowingly repeated. If Christchurch has another earthquake in 30 years and one of the newly constructed buildings collapses killing a hundred people, the engineers will be able to exploit this loophole again and walk away without any accountability.
“I urge the Government parties to reconsider this Bill, listen to the families and support my amendments that ensure this loophole cannot be exploited in any future fatalities.
“I tried to get the Government to change the transitional provisions around the ‘one year one day rule’ at select committee to apply to any deaths that may occur after the Bill is passed. Labour members of the Select Committee blocked that change.
“The Government has got itself so caught up in legal knots that it has lost its common sense. No engineer that has previously designed a building expects to avoid accountability from this loophole.
“Nor is it justice for engineers when one gets prosecuted because by chance an earthquake does occur before a year and a day is up when another who makes the same error does not. The fairest way forward is to close this loophole now and for everybody.
“The most significant benefit of removing this one year one day loophole now is that engineers of any previously designed buildings have an incentive to check and correct any designs they might doubt. A key failing in the CTV case was that design flaws were identified, but no one was sufficiently motivated to fix them.
“National will be moving amendments today to fix this Bill. We urge either the Labour, Green or NZ First parties to reconsider.
“It is the eighth anniversary this week of the tragic collapse of the CTV building, the worst engineering failure in New Zealand history. This is the week to listen to the CTV families, properly fix the law and for Parliament to send a clear message about the importance of high standards of engineering for public safety.”
National MPs Nick Smith and Maureen Pugh are calling for the Government to establish a business support fund similar to that used following other disasters to help small businesses and contractors affected by the recent fires and ongoing extreme conditions.
“We have been approached by many small and medium enterprises who need support to get through this disaster,” Dr Smith says.
“These are tourism operators providing biking tours but which are shut out by the ban on access to forests and reserves, agricultural, civil and forestry contractors whose work supply has ceased due to the civil defence ban on such activities and others whose business access has been interrupted by the fires.
“These businesses are still having to pay wages, they are bleeding financially and with the ongoing extreme conditions may have little work or income for many weeks.
“We are recommending to the Government the successful model National used to help businesses get through previous disasters. The wage subsidy package provided after the Kaikoura and Canterbury earthquakes helped thousands of businesses to retain jobs and helped the communities’ wider recovery.
“The subsidy did not fully protect the businesses from the impacts but the $500 per week provided for fulltime employees and $300 for part-time employees helped them get through without dismissing staff,” Dr Smith says.
“We believe this fire, the largest in New Zealand for 60 years, and the uncertainty of when significant rain will occur means this support is needed and justified,” Mrs Pugh says.
“This recovery support will complement the Mayoral Relief Fund and the welfare support available for affected families from the Ministry of Social Development.
“The separate business support is about protecting jobs in an unsettling environment where no one knows how long it will be before full access to the forests and reserves will be restored and the ban on contracting activities revoked.
“We commend the overall effort that local and central Government has put into this emergency in Nelson and Tasman and particularly congratulate Fire and Emergency New Zealand. We’ve got most people into their homes and this proposed business support package is about ensuring we maintain their jobs,” Mrs Pugh says.
An appeal lodged this week against the High Court decision to allow the Institute of Professional Engineers to complete its inquiry into the professional standards of engineering on the CTV building is disappointing and should be dealt with urgently, former Building Minister, Engineering Fellow and Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.
“It is disgraceful that eight years after the CTV building collapsed, killing 115 people, the Institute for Professional Engineers has not been able to conclude its investigation.
“These ongoing legal shenanigans are unfair on the families of the CTV building victims and is undermining New Zealand’s confidence in our systems for holding professionals accountable. This case is turning into one of justice delayed resulting in justice denied.
“It is unacceptable that a professional, be they an engineer, doctor, lawyer or any other, can avoid accountability by resigning from the professional body, particularly in a case as serious as this where 115 people died.
“I am appalled as a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Engineers and as a Member of Parliament at the way the disciplinary system has been gamed for years to avoid professional accountability.
“Dr Raey has dumped on his junior engineer, contested the Royal Commissions technical conclusions, challenged the composition of the Institute’s Investigating Committee, questioning the Attorney-General’s standing in bringing the judicial review proceedings and is now appealing the decision of the High Court.
“These years of delays means we need the appeal to be resolved urgently. The appeal only enables the Institute to consider the investigation and decide whether to initiate the Disciplinary Committee process that will still take significant time.
“This investigation and disciplinary process is not just important for justice for the CTV families. The engineering profession needs to ensure every possible lesson is learnt from this tragedy. A particularly important area from this case is clarifying the professional responsibilities and accountability of senior engineers and those working under them to guide and improve future practise.
“I have today written to Attorney-General David Parker, with the full support of the CTV families, encouraging the Government to seek urgency on this appeal. We owe it to the CTV building victims’ families and the wider New Zealand public to get these issues resolved.”
A nationwide petition calling for the urgent introduction of roadside drug testing has been launched in Nelson today by Matthew Dow’s family on the first anniversary of him being killed by driver high on meth, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.
“New Year’s Eve should be a time of celebration and hope, but for the Dow family it is the day their son was robbed of his life by a reckless meth user driving like a maniac. The launching of this petition by Matthew’s family, retired Nelson Bays Highway Patrol Sergeant Terry Richards and myself is about getting drugged drivers off the road.
“23 year old Matthew Dow was tragically killed at 9pm on 31st December 2017 in Appleby on SH60 by Alicia Fulcher-Poole. Ms Fulcher-Poole had been smoking meth earlier that day and was witnessed driving erratically and passing recklessly prior to the accident. She was convicted for drugged driving and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
“Matthew’s tragic death was just one of seven fatalities in the Nelson Bay Police District last year where meth or cannabis was identified as a cause or contributing factor, accounting for a third of our region’s fatal road deaths.
“Nationally there were 79 deaths from drug drivers, exceeding for the first time the number killed by drink drivers, which last year was 70.
“It is becoming increasingly more important that we introduce random drug testing with the Government liberalising access to drugs like cannabis.
“National MP Alastair Scott’s Members Bill would have allowed police officers to perform roadside drug testing on any driver who they suspected was driving under the influence of drugs.
“I was very disappointed Labour, NZ First and the Greens opposed the introduction of National’s Bill in October to empower police to introduce random saliva testing. The Government is ignoring the evidence on how much drugs are contributing to New Zealand’s rising road toll.
"It does not have a hope of achieving its zero road death target unless it changes its position on drug testing. This petition is about building momentum for reform.
“Drug drivers are just as dangerous as drink drivers. We need saliva testing to discourage this reckless behaviour.”
The passing of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill has cleared the way for the construction to begin on the largest dam to be built in New Zealand for more than 20 years, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.
“The Bill passed by 112 – 8 votes and clears the way for a sustainable solution to the regions long standing water problems.
“The passage of this Bill concludes a 17-year tortuous process for developing and gaining approval for a sustainable solution for the regions water problems. This Bill resolves the last issue of access to the conservation and LINZ land.
“The resource consents were approved in 2014 by the Environment Court and the funding agreements between the Tasman and Nelson councils, Crown Irrigation Ltd and Waimea Irrigation Ltd previously agreed were signed today.
“The $105 million Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme involves construction of a 53m high concrete faced, rockfill dam in the Lee Valley 20km south east of Brightwater. The 5km reservoir will store 13.4 million cubic metres of water to be released during dry periods for irrigation, town water supplies, industry and for maintaining new minimum river flows.
“The Tasman and Nelson regions do not have an overall water shortage problem with less than two per cent of the total resource used. This scheme takes a common sense approach by storing some of the massive volumes of water available in winter for release in summer.
“I acknowledge the support of the Labour, NZ First and ACT parties alongside my National colleagues for enabling the passage of this Bill. I also acknowledge the Mayor and Councillors of the Tasman District Council, the board and staff of Crown Irrigation Ltd, the team from Waimea Irrigators Ltd and local iwi for their support over many years in enabling this project to proceed.
“The practical dividends of this scheme are a cleaner and healthier Waimea River that can be swum, kayaked and fished in during summer. It means the region will be able to produce thousands of additional tonnes of valuable crops like apples, hops, wine and berryfruit. It means the thousands of additional homes being built on the Waimea plains will have a secure water supply.
“This project will enable the Tasman and Nelson regions to be the first to fully comply with the new national standards for minimum river flows and water quality standards that I introduced as Environment Minister under the previous Government. It illustrates that water infrastructure is, alongside tighter regulation, stream planting and fencing, an important part of the solution to New Zealand’s national water challenges.
“My disappointment is that this project is the last to receive funding with the new Government cancelling any further financial support for water infrastructure. My hope is that the future success of this Waimea project will help convince future government’s water storage can deliver both environmental and economic benefits to regional New Zealand.”
A record number of Official Information Act requests have been declined by the State Services Commissions in the past year, despite the agency being responsible for implementing the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“At the agency’s annual review before the select committee today, the State Services Commission admitted declining 22 Official Information Act requests in the past year, compared with a total of six declines over the previous seven years.
“This makes a joke of the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever.
“When Official Information Act requests are provided, the State Services Commission isn’t showing much openness. Included in the State Services Commission’s numbers for Official Information Act requests that were approved is the release of the Open Government Strategy in response to National’s Official Information Act request that had 90 per cent of the document redacted.
“This poor record on openness of disclosures and information is compounded by the State Services Commission doubling its budget for public relations and communications from $403,000 to $845,000. This equates to $50,000 for each of the 17 press releases issued by the State Services Commission.
“These numbers show the Government has put spin ahead of substance and far from being more open, its lead public service organisation is declining a record number of information requests while doubling its expenditure on spin doctors.”
The successful completion of the Waimahia development that now accommodates more than 1000 people and which has delivered a new home every week for over four years is the sort of housing model that the Government should be replicating, National MP Dr Nick Smith said at today’s celebration in Weymouth marking the project’s completion.
“This $112 million Waimahia housing development is a wonderful success story and a huge credit to the community housing sector and iwi partners. It has delivered 295 genuinely affordable homes for modest and lower income families in a beautiful new coastal neighbourhood that includes a new early childhood centre, park, wetland and jetty.”
The Waimahia development was launched in October 2013 by then Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith and then Auckland Mayor Len Brown promising 282 homes. The project was the Government’s first special housing area, part of the surplus Crown land programme and was funded by the Social Housing Fund.
“This project has over achieved in delivering 13 more homes than promised. It exceeded budget enabling $3 million of the $29 million grant to be returned to the taxpayer. The project has taken nine months longer than the planned four years to complete,” Dr Smith says.
“First home buyers have acquired 234 of the Waimahia homes, with 91 purchased with a mortgage, 85 under shared equity and 58 under rent-to-buy schemes. The average price was $355,000 for two bedroom, $452,000 for three bedroom, $535,000 for four bedroom and $545,000 for five bedroom.
“The remaining 61 homes are rented to high need tenants at discounted rentals, as social housing and are owned by CORT Community Housing, Accessible Properties, the Monte Cecilia Trust, and Habitat for Humanity.
“Waimahia is one of over a dozen major housing developments initiated by the previous Government but it offers the most in helping shape future housing policy. Its major innovations is the rent-to-buy and shared equity schemes to help first home buyers and the partnering with community providers to provide social housing rather than traditional state housing.
“The scheme contrasts with KiwiBuild in that the homes are markedly more affordable than the private market and the buyers are lower income earners who would be unlikely otherwise to be able to own their own home.
“Waimahia is one of many housing initiatives taken by the previous National Government that is positively contributing to improvements in Auckland’s housing market. Supply is the most important issue and the number of homes being built has increased by 20 per cent each year over the past six years trebling from 4000 in 2012 to 12,000 last year.
“The proportion of homes sold to first home buyers has been increasing since 2015 when National’s HomeStart scheme was introduced that has since helped 50,000 kiwis nationwide into their first home.
“I am disappointed no Government Minister or Labour MP accepted an invitation to attend today’s opening. It would dispel their repeated claims that National did not build any affordable housing. They would also gain from the lessons of this project on how to help more Kiwi families into homes.”
Nelson MP Nick Smith is praising the Tasman District Council for its decision to proceed with the Waimea Community Dam, after a lengthy meeting today which saw a 9-5 vote in favour.
“This is a hugely positive decision for the future of the Nelson and Tasman region. It means a cleaner and healthier river, enables growth of our key horticultural industry and secures household water for the huge growth in Richmond, Mapua, Brightwater and Nelson South.
“I congratulate the Mayor and Councillors for having the courage to make this major infrastructure decision for the region. The easier option would have been to ignore this long term problem and just keep kicking the can down the road. It would have been negligent for the Council to have voted no today as it would have lost over $40 million of Government funding support in grants and discounted loans. This funding from Crown Irrigation was particularly vulnerable as the new Government is cancelling the fund.
“We should not be at all surprised that this $100 million water project has been controversial as this is always the case with big infrastructure investments. Most water augmentation projects proposed around New Zealand in the past two decades have not proceeded because of funding, resource consents or politics. We are positioning ourselves with this project to be a national leader in sustainable water management with a stronger economy and cleaner environment.
“The last hurdle now to complete is the passage of the Local Bill I am sponsoring to access the land. It passed its second reading on Wednesday by 112- 8 votes. I remain hopeful of having its third reading on Wednesday 12 December so it can be passed by Christmas enabling dam construction to begin in the New Year.”
Nelson MP Nick Smith has welcomed today’s report to Parliament from the Governance and Administration Select Committee on the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation) Bill and its unanimous support for the Bill’s passage.
“The Select Committee was strongly influenced by the strength of submissions from the Council, environmentalists and water scientists that the dam was necessary to address the significant minimum flow and water quality problems in summer.
“The compelling economic case put by horticulturalists like Boysenberries NZ and industries like Nelson Pine also satisfied the Committee that the dam was in the best economic interests of the region.
“The Select Committee has made three changes to the Bill in response to submissions. Firstly, the request for the Council to provide public access over the 9.7ha of public conservation land has been strengthened in response to concerns from Fish and Game, Federated Mountain Clubs and the Walking Access Commission. Secondly, the time to begin construction of the dam without requiring further law change has been extended from 2020 to 2025. Thirdly, the protections for iwi with a first right of refusal over the land in the event the dam is ever decommissioned in future has been strengthened to ensure local Treaty settlements must be honoured.
“The Select Committee report and amended Bill were tabled in Parliament today and the Departmental Report and all submissions are also now available on Parliament’s website.
“The timetable for passage by Christmas is tight with the Bill requiring a second reading, a clause by clause debate and a third reading. My objective remains to get the Bill passed by Christmas to enable dam construction work to start in the New Year.”
The release of documents from the Government today about the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer shows there is a raft of questions the Prime Minister needs to answer, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent multiple messages to Clare Curran asking how the appointment process was progressing. The messages show she was very much across the details of the appointment. The Prime Minister needs to explain why she was so deeply invested.
“The Prime Minister’s Chief Press Secretary contacted Derek Handley asking to speak with him urgently and Mr Handley later sought advice in return. The Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff also phoned Mr Handley. How can the Prime Minister have shrugged all of this off so casually when her office was so deeply involved?
“The meeting with the Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff took place because Labour Party President Nigel Haworth set it up. He had met with Mr Handley before the election where Mr Handley offered his help to the Labour Party. Mr Handley then got in touch again post-election where he was referred to the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister needs to be open and transparent about whether she discussed appointing Mr Handley with the Labour Party President
“When questioned in Parliament the Prime Minister was less than up front about her correspondence, simply saying it was on record she’d known Mr Handley for a number of years. What we now know is that both she and senior staffers in her office deeply involved in the appointment process. The release of these documents raise more questions than they answer.”