Whaleoil transcript: Mike Hosking and Kelvin Davis on a billion trees, KiwiBuild & Sroubek

ZB on 13 November 2018

Mike Hosking.

Hosking

Tell me, why would your government cut a $30M deal to plant trees up north when no-one checked the quality of the land?

Davis

That’s a question that you would have to ask the minister responsible, but, hey look, are you saying that the Tai Tokerau land isn’t quality?  I’d have to take issue with the MP for up there.

Hosking

Well, what we are finding out this morning is that the land in this particular deal that was done, a $30M deal to plant 1.1 million trees was so clogged up with weeds it couldn’t be used.

Davis

The land up there, the land up there I’ve seen planted in pine trees that you could barely get a bulldozer through but it’s still, the trees get planted and they still grow.  The weeds, in my opinion, don’t inhibit the ability of a pine tree to grow.

Hosking

Are you a horticulturalist?

Davis

No, I can’t really claim to being (sic) a horticulturalist?

Hosking

So, are you saying the report is wrong?  So, originally there was (sic) 1.1 million trees ordered and its now down to 119,000, we think it’s cost you so far $400,000 in seedlings?

Davis

No, look there and will be more land that we can plant on.  There’s plenty of land that’s not being productive up there at the moment, Mike, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to plant plenty of trees up there.

Hosking

So, the $30M deal, don’t worry about it, the trees you’ve lost from 1.1 million down to 119,000, don’t worry about it, it’ll be OK.

Davis

We will still be able to meet our target of a billion trees over 10 years, Mike.  You know, we’ve got to keep plugging on, this is a great policy of ours, that you know, there’s plenty of land up there that can be used.

Hosking

I actually like the policy.  The regional development policy ideas is a good idea, but one of the great fears was the wastage of spending and this is a very good example of it.

Davis

Look, I don’t think there’ll be wastage.  I think that we can still make use of other land, of… you know, we’ve still got plenty of land for trees to be planted on up there, Mike.  I think the opportunities for employment for the people up there…you know, I think it’s a great policy.  I think we are not going to get everything right straight away, but at the end of the day we will still get our billion trees in the ground.

Hosking

So, the fact you’ve had to write off about 900,000 trees shouldn’t really be a problem?

Davis

Yeah, but those trees can still be planted elsewhere, Mike.  That’s what I’m saying, there’s plenty of land up there.

Hosking

Shane Jones, who is of course linked to all of this.  20 questions having to be corrected, 60 plus meetings that were never accounted for, he’s in charge of three billion dollars.  One of those meetings was with Pita Paraone who is a former New Zealand First MP of course, how do we know there’s something not (sic) dodgy going on and none of this is ever recorded?

Davis

Oh, no.  You are not quite right here.  So, the meetings were all recorded in his diary; they just weren’t under the particular portfolio.  You know, ministers don’t go out of their way to… to admit information like that. We know that if we get caught well then….

Hosking

Claire Curran did.

Davis

…. there would be big problems for us. But look, there were some 42,000 questions lodged in the last twelve months by the opposition.  I think we submitted 42,000 over three years.  So, if over 42,000 questions there is a handful of anomalies… a handful of ministers that have made a few mistakes…. and let me say Shane Jones corrected the mistakes too, and the National party held onto it for a month or so… that’s not a very good strike rate… 42,000 and there’s a handful of ministers that have anomalies, Mike.  If National are going to spend hours and hours pouring over the information in the back rooms they’re actually not really focused on the really important stuff like jobs and houses and education and health and… you know… getting kids out of poverty.

Hosking

Are you worried about KiwiBuild and the demand given there’s only 330 odd registered buyers for what will… as promised, be 100,000 houses?

Davis

No, I’m not worried.  Phil Twyford’s done an immense amount of work on KiwiBuild, and there are more that have investigated, I think there’s 10,000 that have investigated…

Hosking

Yeah, there’s plenty that have shown an interest but the difference between showing an interest and actually having the money and the wherewithal to pay the bill comes down to 338.

Davis

Yeah, it’s early days yet Mike.  We’ve only been going for one year and we are expected to fix up a mess of nine years all in one year.  Give it time to seed itself, plant itself, KiwiBuild will be successful and will help a whole lot of people into their first homes, I think it’s fantastic.

Hosking

Would you rule out the government having to buy these homes if you can’t find people to do it for you?

Davis

Oh, really that’s not a decision that I’ll be making here on the phone right now, but you know….

Hosking

Will that sort of thing worry you though, if the government had to stump up with hundreds of millions of dollars to buy homes that no one would buy?

Davis

Look, I don’t think it’s going to get to that Mike, that’s the thing, you know…

Hosking

Well, on the evidence, it is.

Davis

Oh, like I say, it’s early days.  You know, when you say the evidence it’s one week and you know…

Hosking

It’s not one week, it’s a whole year.

Davis

Yeah, but… I mean its still early days… like I say, we can’t fix nine years of neglect in one year and it takes a little while for all these things to kick in and Phil Twyford’s done a fantastic job.

Hosking

Is part of the problem is: you didn’t sell KiwiBuild properly in the sense that we thought it was for people who were locked out of the market when it isn’t.  It’s for people on six figure salaries who’ve got 10 percent deposit for $650,000 homes?  Which is only a third of the people who ever own enough money to do that.

Davis

Yeah, there’s people struggling to buy their first homes and KiwiBuild is designed to help people to build their first homes.

Hosking

But it’s not.  That’s been exposed to the truth. It simply isn’t. You need to be able afford a $650,000 house.  If you’ve got that sort of wherewithal there are thousands of listings on the open market that can solve your problem.

Davis

Yeah but solving the house crisis is a very complex issue here and KiwiBuild is one of the strategies that we have.  I mean, let’s face it, the previous government created this problem and didn’t have any answers. At least we are putting up options Mike.

Hosking

Would you as minister of immigration have let Sroubek have residency?

Davis

Look, I’m really over that issue.  Ian Lees-Galloway has come under a lot of pressure.  He had to make a big decision in a short amount of time and absorb a whole heap of information and, you know I’m not privy to the information that he had at his disposal.

Hosking

When you say “short amount of time” the short amount of time was instigated by him, he was the one who instigated the “less than an hour”.  He had all the time in the world.

Davis

Yeah, and I’m hearing people say he should have made the decision in five minutes…

Hosking

Yeah, and why not boot him out of the country, because it wasn’t hard?

Davis

That wouldn’t have been the only decision he had to make in that day and the only amount of information that he had to absorb.  I mean, that’s the nature of being a minister.  You have mountains of information, you have to absorb it, you have to make decisions in a high-pressure situation… I believe there’s more…

Hosking

What’s high pressured about it?  You’re sitting in a meeting, you read the file. He didn’t read the file… what’s remotely high pressured about it?  Guys a crook, he’s a drug smuggler, he’s a gang associate, he’s a liar… what’s complex about that?

Davis

There’s 108 similar people that the National government also let stay in the country as well, we’ve got to remember that but, like I say, ministers don’t just have one issue to deal with at a time in that they’ve got… they can have a cup of coffee and have…

End of recording.


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