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Prime Minister John Key was the latest in NBR's Ask Me Anything series.
He answered readers' questions on Tuesday May 6.
Scroll down to see his replies.
Note the session was only open to Verified NBR commenters — a model we'll be using more and more for future AMAs.
NBR subscribers can get Verified by emailing Nathan Smith (if you're not emailing from the office, let Nathan know your work email address).

See previous AMA sessions at

Comments and questions

Hi John.

I'm loving your work and the enormous role our primary producers are playing in our economic recovery.

But I don't like what's happening to our rivers at all. It seems we're losing a big part of our heritage and brand every time there's a river we can't swim in for fear of bacterial infection.

\I wonder if there's an opportunity to set up some sort of "rivers of national significance" programme?

As a taxpayer, I'm happy to chip in. Fonterra is making plenty. Funding doesn't feel like a problem (but of course it will be). I heard you talk on asset sales where you clearly explained that the Government isn't selling assets - it's setting new priorities on the assets we should own. Maybe we could flog off Kiwibank and get our rivers back? That feels like a better asset ownership mix to me.

Thanks for the postive feedback. I agree with you that we need to balance our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities. My Government has committed $250 million to clean up affected waterways. Along with this, we are working with Fonterra to encourage farmers to take responsibility for environmental issues. We're pleased to see that literally thousands of kilometres of waterways that are adjacent to farmland have been fenced in Fonterra's dirty dairying campaign.

The USA asserts taxation rights over all citizens no matter where they live in the world, and has pushed us to implement the draconian FACTA. While it's a bit much to tax the 20% of the population that choose not to live here, how can we push back? (Perhaps we could tax Kiwis living in the USA and demand that US financial institutions deliver their records to us.)

The United States has always taxed citizens on their worldwide income irrelevant of where they live. So there's nothing new in this. The reason the Government supported FACTA was that if we failed to do so, there would be significant consequences that would've been detrimental to a range of New Zealanders.

Is that a reason to support something? Somebody needs to stand up against the police state that is Obama's America; and I would be proud were it us.

NZ should be justly proud of our perennial top rankings on the World Bank's ease of Doing Business scorecards.

But the recent anti money laundering requirements and FMCA have made it harder for everyone, introducing paper, prying questionnaires and even 1-1 meetings into formerly online processes. It's a giant step backwards - and with money laundering is an edge case at best, and raising money for business a priority, how will National bring back simplicity and allow us to get on and do business without red tape?

We're always conscious of the compliace costs our businesses have to endure, as you can see we've been working to try and reduce these. The issues that you have raised have been forced upon us as part our international obligations.

Prime Minister. NBR ran a story on Monday about the possibility that someone, who was not named, will probably leak damaging allegations concerning NZ involvement in the Five Eyes security pact based on information from so-called whistleblower Edward Snowden. Given the tenor of the article in question I think it reasonable to assume that the intent will be to derail National's election campaign. I wonder if you have any comments you would like to make on this matter?

We are aware that Edward Snowden has access to a wide range of information regarding New Zealand and it's involvement in intelligence gathering. I am not concerned by this as I think the vast bulk of New Zealanders acknowledge the need for intelligence collection to protect both New Zealanders and our property. One assurance I can give you, is that to the best advice I have received, our agencies have always acted within the law.

Do you think something could be done about aged widowers still living in their family home that are paying very high rates, despite their small usage of the system, because the value of their property has increased so much but their income has not. Maybe a solution is the rates are put to the new higher figure when the house is sold on. That might act as a deterrent to a bubbling house market but would still get the new rate charged once any house has realized the value set by council, not before. Otherwise are we into Poll Tax?

Rates are set by councils. It's clear that some retired New Zealanders are asset rich and cash poor. My understanding is many councils provide schemes to allow rates to be paid by the estate of New Zealanders in this situation. There are also a number of companies that provide reverse mortgages to accomodate these kinds of situations.

Given the renewed interest in management of savings schemes following Labour's policy announcement last week, would the Government consider introducing self-managed super funds (SMSFs), as per the Australian model?

Benefits of SMSFs seen in Australia include: greater control over investment strategy; more flexibility in investment choice; typically lower costs; greater returns (on average).

I'm sure this would work for some people, but for the majority, having a professional manager take responsibility for their Kiwsaver account, is probably the safest option.

Provincial New Zealand is still largely tight, even with the dairy dollar.
What is the plan going forward to stimulate jobs and development in those areas that will keep populations at least steady if not growing in those locations?

We continue to see good growth in the regions, to encourage this, Government is committed to improving infrastructure in the regions including ulta-fast broadband, better roading and electricity networks. The expansion of mining and exploration also adds to employment opportunities in the regions.

Mr Key why did you not endeavour to influence the outcome of the MMP referendum last year which is the main threat to returning National to power and also to the future of NZ?
Graeme Edwards

For the last six years, National has worked effectively in Government under MMP and I remain confident we can do so in the future.
We decided to focus the last campaign which coincided with the referendum, on the most important issues of the day, namely the economy, law and order, health and education.

Hello Mr Key,

When do you think NZ will need to raise the age of eligibility for NZ Super?

Why does your govt not think it fiscally prudent to begin setting a date now?

This year, the Government will be in surplus, which will continue for a considerable period, based on the best information supplied by the Treasury. Raising the age of Super, would simply add to that surplus, which is not necessary. Good economic management, has allowed us to give New Zealanders this option

Hi John,

Feels like some of your ministers are currently going through a somewhat rougher patch.

Good on you for acting fast and relieving Maurice Williamson from his job (though its sort of a pity, I liked the guy ...).

However not sure I understand why Judith Collins is still serving - can you help us to understand what Judith has and Maurice hasn't?

I consider every situation on its merits. The Cabinet Office advice in relation to Maurice was that there was a clear breach of the Cabinet Manual and anyway, I think every New Zealander values the independence of the NZ Police force. In the case of Judith, I think she would admit that the accumulation of her actions regarding a recent trip to China were unwise and based on Cabinet Office advice, I accept that this allowed a perception of a conflict of interest to be created and I'm sure she has learnt a valuable lesson from this.

Hi John,

I'm the Chair of the Copyright Council of NZ and I'd like to get a better understanding of the value that the government places on the creative industries in NZ. Recently MBIE commissioned a series of seven reports on the economic value of various sectors but the creative industries were not included in any of these.

It would seem difficult for the government to make decisions on important matters such as IP [intellectual property] policy when the value of the industries that would be impacted by this, is not quantified and the wider cultural, education and tourism benefits are not factored in. Can you tell us how you plan enable the growth and protection of NZ’s creative businesses? Thanks.

Given the tragic state of the Red Meat sector and given the economic and environmental fragility represented by the headlong rush into dairying, compounded by the growing reliance on China, are you happy with the current agricultural/ land use direction?

Is the government concerned that the current thrust has strayed too far to a volume driven emphasis at the expense of value driven protein/nutritional opportunities?

This point perhaps illustrated around the proposed mega dams which essentially will perpetuate the dairy conversion trend. Are you comfortable that NZ is trending into one big Dairy farm, and NZ putting the majority of its eggs in one basket?

Have you ever inhaled?

No, other than the fumes of a good glass of wine

After Judith Collins calling Katie Badford a liar on Twitter, and using it to bait TV3, will you be telling MPs to pull their heads on social media?

Who is the most effective opposition MP?

Shane Jones

What would happen to NZ's economy if a Christchurch quakes-scale natural disaster occurred? Could we afford it?

While we would never wish such an event, I am very confident New Zealand could cope. One of the reasons why the Government has been so careful with Government spending and worked so hard to get back to surplus, is to keep New Zealand Government debt levels low. We are and remain one of the least indebted OECD nations,.

What's the ideal population for NZ balancing economic ambition with environmental and lifestyle factors, and what's the best way to get there?

Which political blogs do you read on a regular basis? Do they include Whaleoil? How often do you talk to Cam Slater?

I read very few...Kiwiblog, Whaleoil and from time to time the Standard.

How important is China, and Asia in general, to NZ's future?

Critical. China is now our second largest market and growing rapidly. Overall, Asia is becoming a place of high net worth consumers who want to buy our goods and services. Our relationship with Asia has allowed us to navigate the global financial crisis far better than we otherwise would have.

Morning Prime Minister,

After you leave politics, do you see yourself returning to business, or to a public service role like Helen Clark at the UN?


I want to start with the golf course ... my guess is a commercial focus.

Thanks everybody. The session is closed to new questions. The PM has had to shoot off, but we're hoping he can get to the remaining couple of questions later today.

Thanks to NBR for running this Q & A session.
Its a quick way of seeing areas of concern and the Govt via Mr Key's, replies.
Malcolm Boyd