SPEECH: National Excelling Only In Constructing Myths

 

Speech to Civil Contractors of NZ

Ellerslie Convention Centre,

 

Level 3, 80 Ascot Ave, Remuera,

 

Monday, June 26, 2017,

 

6.15pm.

National Excelling Only In Constructing Myths 

 

 

Thank you for your invitation to your AGM at a time when a massive increase in infrastructure work is placing enormous pressures on your industry.
Having work is good; but having too much work can be a nightmare.
This shouldn’t be so; this country should have been better placed to deal with our infrastructural needs and challenges.

Steven Joyce - novelist
Finance Minister Steven Joyce excels in one area.
He an excellent writer of fiction.
In his Budget speech this year he said:
“This government has a strong track record as New Zealand’s infrastructure government.”
That comment is laughable.
Reading this sentence various images to mind:
Images of motorways in all our major cities grid-locked; 
- of rail lines that have been shut down;
- of people sleeping in cars because there are not enough houses;
- of tourists queuing outside toilets with their legs crossed with a fearful look in their eyes with a suggestion that they might have to abandon the queue and head for the nearest bush.
Look at what Infrastructure New Zealand said after Minister Joyce announced a belated capital investment for infrastructure in this year’s budget.
“The NZ Government is back in the infrastructure game.”
Infrastructure NZ said the government had been out of adequately funding infrastructure since the 1980s. They said also -
- That the government had reduced the state’s role in telecommunications, energy and irrigation for three decades.
- That the government had sweated “increasingly stressed transport and housing assets.”
Infrastructure NZ knows when it sees “spin.”
They are fully aware also of the National government’s parsimonious, myopic approach to infrastructure and the massive challenges now faced.
They said: “The frameworks and agencies which rolled out the vast investment programmes of the 1960s were scaled back or removed decades ago.”

Gross under-funding of infrastructure
The plain reality is – the government has been caught out badly by their gross under-funding of infrastructure which has been exacerbated by out of control immigration and they are scrambling desperately to catch-up.
Years of woeful neglect have left us massively ill-prepared.
Only National’s desire to get back into power at this year’s general election has seen them wake from their slumber.
But they’re only trying to play catch-up.
Their effort falls far short of what is required.
So too is the money they have given for tourism infrastructure.
The government grabs $1.5 billion from GST on tourism alone.
But last year they gave only $12 million and this year only $5.5m to councils desperate for money to put in toilets, carparks and other infrastructure.
All of a sudden, with the election looming they remembered it.
They’ve bumped tourism infrastructure funding up to $102 million, but drip-fed over four years. And much of that is just moving funds from other allocations.
Contrary to what Mr Joyce says, his government’s track record as New Zealand’s infrastructure government is abysmal.
Her and in the regions we are all paying the price.

Roading
The roading chaos is not confined to the clogged motorways of our cities.
In 2009 the government removed rural road funding and gave the money to Roads of National Significance.
Many of our rural roads are now falling apart, especially those used by heavy trucks and milk tankers.

Rail
For years the government has run down our national rail network.
This is seen clearly in my electorate of Northland.
Minister of Transport Bridges cut the Dargaville-Whangarei line, the Kauri-Otiria line; he shut down the Portland connection and halved the rail freight service to Auckland.
All that added to Northland’s already serious roading problems – huge numbers of trucks, roads falling apart, dust causing health problems.
Then, Mr Bridges suddenly decided to back off.
After years of destroying rail he woke up and earlier this month announced a review of rail.
After years of destroying rail he woke up.
Someone who knows better has told him this country needs a strong rail network.

Water infrastructure
Another crisis looms with water related infrastructure.
Local Government NZ on 16th June warned that local authorities face a $100 billion plus bill to replace ageing infrastructure, including water infrastructure (pipes, drains and sewers) coming to the end of its life.

Housing
Last year only 7200 houses were completed in Auckland.
This for a city with a shortage of over 40,000 houses and with over 73,000 immigrants taking up permanent residency in New Zealand every year with most of them heading for Auckland.
How did we get to this appalling situation?
To get the answer you need only look at all the other political parties.
We have a Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith who is so confused he doesn’t know the difference between a consent and a completed house.
We have a Prime Minister whose bogus economic 3% GDP growth is two thirds from population growth and mass immigration – not productivity. In real terms growth is around paltry 1%.
We have a government that refuses to accept mass immigration is disadvantaging thousands of New Zealanders and adding to our problems, and particularly in Auckland with pressure not just on roading and housing infrastructure but hospitals and schools and policing.
We have a government denying there is a housing crisis in Auckland when everyone else says there is.
The Zealand Herald says Auckland’s housing is a calamity; economist Shamubeel Eaqub says anyone denying Auckland has a housing crisis is a liar.
So who’s telling the truth?

Skilled workers
The run down of trades training and letting thousands of young New Zealanders remain idle must end.
Its projected we need 38,000 more skilled workers through to 2020.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment said the demand for construction workers over the next five years will be as high as 65,000 with about half needing to be trade qualified.
If the government was doing its job we wouldn’t have these mushrooming problems.
We would have planned for these needs.
We would have training schemes and programmes and incentives to get young people into training and jobs. 
National know they’ve messed up.
That’s why last week they announced an increase in funding over the next four years to support work-based training.
They are trying to play catch-up again with drip feed funding.

Strong infrastructure governments
New Zealand once did have strong infrastructure governments.
Past governments saw a problem and did something about it.
With tens of thousands of soldiers returning from the Second World War War, they set up a Rehabilitation Board and trained them into building trades, as mechanics, and as farmers.
The government back then didn’t look to solve a skills shortage by bringing in immigrants.
They didn’t jump on planes to go off to recruit in China.
They didn’t leave, as we do now more than 90,000 New Zealanders aged from 15 to 24 to rot away without education, employment or training.
They trained and upskilled New Zealanders  
They built hundreds of thousands of state and state-financed houses, laid out suburbs and erected amenities and landscaped open spaces.
They constructed motorways and major dams through the 1950s and 1960s.
Seven dams were built along the Waikato River alone.
We had strong infrastructure governments back then.

Conclusion
Today the government is in denial and playing catch-up.
As Infrastructure NZ said – government has been out of infrastructure for years.
And they’ve only woken up about infrastructure and trying to get back into the game because in 90 days they want to save their political necks.
New Zealand needs to get back some of the mojo we once had.
New Zealand First has policies to create the infrastructure we need going further into the 21st century.
We will release our housing policy closer to the election.
Our policy is based on the needs of New Zealanders now and into the near future – it has land acquisition, construction, and financing provisions.
We will ensure our roads, both urban and rural, are adequately funded and that our rail network is maintained and modernised and not run down.
We support the urgent training and upskilling of young New Zealanders, helping them to start careers in the building industry.
We have our Youth Employment Training and Education Bill to get thousands of young New Zealanders aged 15 to 17 who have become disengaged in school, into training and jobs.
We will get New Zealand back on track so one day a Minister will be able to say, in all truth, that the government does indeed have a strong track record as New Zealand’s infrastructure government.
Thank you.