SPEECH: NZ First Restoring Fairness For Taumarunui And Provincial NZ

02 August 2017

Taumarunui Cosmopolitan Club,
10 Miriama Street,
Taumarunui.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
1.30pm-2.30pm

 

It is pleasure to be here in Taumarunui.

Bounded by the Whanganui National Park and the Tongariro, this is a beautiful part of the country. And it’s a proud rugby playing part of New Zealand.

While here today I want to wish the Taumarunui  Rugby Club well for the  11th, 12th and 13th August when it celebrates 110 years. You live in an area with great natural resources. And potential. Yet it is clear you are not being able to fulfil your true potential.

ELECTRICITY

One major headache for approximately 50,000 people here in the King Country and Turangi is the excessive amount you must pay for electricity. There is something seriously wrong when you pay more to the Lines Company carrying the electricity than for the electricity itself. There must be fairness in the pricing regime and it is obvious your region is not getting it.

As well as impacting harshly on domestic electricity users, the unfair charges are restricting business growth in this region. The tourism and agricultural industries are paying the price and valuable export dollars are being lost.

New Zealand First sees the electricity sector as basic infrastructure and as such its primary purpose is to serve the public and underpin the economy. Because it is so important to New Zealand’s prosperity we consider energy policy must be shaped first and foremost by what is the national interest. And as part of this policy, electricity must be made available to all New Zealanders at the lowest reasonable price. Before privatisation New Zealand had a world class electricity system run by the state as a natural monopoly. Under this system, duplication of generation and transmission was avoided.

Management overhead was minimised and electricity costs were some of the cheapest in the world. It was a cutting edge advantage for our businesses and our homes. Today, in contrast, the electricity sector is characterised by ever escalating electricity prices and a fragmented and complex industry structure. What we have is a bewildering array of quasi-monopolistic organisations. And they are not serving New Zealand’s interests.

Worse – the electricity sector has been turned into a gravy train of epic proportions at the public’s expense with management being paid excessive remuneration packages. The so-called “electricity reforms” have not delivered what was claimed would happen and what the public was led to expect – lower prices and better services. It is obvious the electricity system here in the King Country and Turangi is terribly inefficient. You have been let down by National MPs as well as the Commerce Commission which sits by and does nothing.

It is hard to believe the Lines Company has been in front of the Commerce Commission so many times and nothing has happened. The Commerce Commission is a weak government department that needs to be given strong direction and the power to act and enforce. We know that they have failed to do both here in Taumarunui. It is unacceptable.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts pays more than $1 million in lines fees than if the mountain was moved to Queenstown. Either these distribution companies are brought more strongly into line with local expectations or we will make them government agencies. New Zealand First’s long term strategy is to buy back the shares of the state owned energy companies sold by the National government. This will require detailed planning and a long-term approach but it is the only way to ensure the energy sector services New Zealand’s national interest. It will ensure also that areas such as the King Country and Turangi do not have to go on struggling for fair electricity prices. Lines companies must provide infrastructure to customers to a level that ensures the lines can cope with the peak loading of the lines.

We have started discussions with some of the lines companies and despite their reticence we believe there is a need for some form of amalgamation. This will depend on the outcome of the Electricity Authority and Commerce Commission reforms. We can assure you we are pursuing this issue regarding the Lines Company vigorously. My colleague Fletcher Tabuteau has been talking to you and trying to hold the Lines Company, the government and the Commerce Commission to account. We will keep fighting.

It is New Zealand First’s view that too much of New Zealand’s core infrastructure has ended up in foreign ownership. We believe investment in strategic assets must be in New Zealand’s interests – and we consider the electricity sector to be a strategic asset.

HOSPITAL

The government’s made a lot of noise about their so-called surplus in this year’s budget, which was nothing more than exercise in creative accounting. Any government can create a surplus if for years it under spends on nearly every sector. Regions such as the King Country have borne the brunt of government meanness.

Taumarunui once had a large hospital with surgical, medical and children’s wards. Now you have a smaller hospital and face long travel times to specialist medical services.

You are being penalised for living in a provincial area. Then you have to endure the incompetency of the Ministry of Health which under Health Minister Jonathan Coleman cannot do basic accounting – it under allocates money to some DHBs and gives others more than they bargained on.

Last week GPs all over the country went public and said they were under so much pressure it was putting the whole health system at serious risk. Hundreds of doctors wrote to Minister Coleman warning of a looming crisis due to funding issues and a GP shortage.

Did he listen?

No – because he lives in a fantasy world. Quite simply our health system needs an adequate dose of funding from government. And fast.

Putting New Zealanders’ health first should be at the top of the government’s agenda. There are many other issues and areas where the funding deficit is doing serious damage, for example;

    ·      Poverty      

  ·        Conservation  

  ·        Housing

  ·      Roads

  ·      Bridges  

·      Trains  

·      Infrastructure  

To say nothing of stopping contributions into the NZ Super Fund to assist with the future costs of retirement. If the government was paying into the NZ Super Fund there would, on that payment alone, be no surplus – and how come commentators can’t get that simple fact?

HONEST GOVERNMENT

Record net immigration is now at net over 73,000 per year. The government love it because it is the only way they can get growth in the economy - by mass immigration. But this government will not come clean – and adjust its numbers to growth per capita, that is, GDP growth per person.  If they did, and it’s flat lining, you’d all know the truth. And the truth is this country is under-performing economically and that affects millions of lives.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY    

Until immigration is drastically reduced any claims that politicians are serious about the housing crisis is just hot air. And reduce it not from 73,000 to what Labour wants - 40,000 to 50,000 - but to 10,000, the net number New Zealand First wants. The Auckland housing crisis is spilling into the regions making housing increasingly unaffordable. National are failing horrendously in Auckland.

Look at the statistics – a 40,000 house shortage and only 10,364 consents issued in Auckland in the year to June, well below the 14,000 still needed just to keep up with population demand. Only a pitiful 6827 houses were completed in Auckland in the year to May. (Auckland City Council data on Code Certificate Completions.).  

SAVINGS  

Four Australian-owned banks dominate our banking sector. These banks remit billions of profits, dividends and other payments each year creating an enormous drain on our economy and the balance of payments. But where is our government on this? As usual - missing in action. 

They are totally happy with 95% of the NZ banking system being owned overseas. It fits perfectly with their “sell-sell” agenda. The proportion of foreign ownership in this country is among the highest in the developed world. Given that NZ is already in net debt to the rest of the world to the tune of $156 billion it is long since time for action on this front.

New Zealand First will start by putting every central and local government account with KiwiBank.

We pay the money so our bank, not a foreign one, will clip the ticket.

YOUNG UNEMPLOYED

An appalling blight on the National government is the way they have allowed more than 92,000 young New Zealanders to drift aimlessly with no job and no involvement in training or education. You’re doing a great job in Taumarunui but what is government doing to upskill young New Zealanders?

The answer – little or next to nothing.

National would rather bring in cheap compliant labour from overseas. They would rather approve a record 226,000 work visas to people from overseas as they did in the 2016/17 year. This was up by 17,000.

It is expected to reach 243,000 next year. All these people can work in New Zealand and yet we have those more than 92,000 young New Zealanders doing nothing.

As well as this we have 139,000 unemployed. These unemployed and drifting young New Zealanders won’t go away. Our society will pay the price – with more crime and dysfunctional families going from one generation to the next. This vicious cycle won’t be broken under National. This country needs to regain its social conscience – or the social problems we have now –- will only deepen and worsen.

EXPORTS – FORESTRY

Farming and forestry play a vital role in your local economy.

However, NZ First is deeply concerned the supply lines of these main export earners have increasingly fallen into overseas control. In the dairy industry, with Infant Formula, the Chinese now have a stranglehold on the supply line from New Zealand to the baby’s mouth in China. In the red meat industry, the controlling interest in our largest exporter Silver Fern Farms is held by the Chinese. Forestry is dominated by foreign owners.

Foreign-controlled companies represent just over 46 percent of the total exotic forestry estate but control eight of the top 10 forest companies in New Zealand. Presently excessive exporting of raw logs is going on.

With massive volumes of raw logs being shipped out, billions of dollars in add-on value are being lost to other economies. In 2000 there were 507 sawmills in New Zealand; in 2015 the number had dropped to 327. Dairy, red meat, forestry, next to tourism, are our biggest export earners and we are losing control of them.

That is not in the best interests of this country. We are handling over our wealth, our assets, and our resources to foreigners.

RAIL  

KiwiRail is scrapping its electric locomotives on the North Island Main Trunk Line and replacing them with diesels. These are staggeringly retrograde steps but they typify this government’s total failure in the area of climate change.

Trains used to stop regularly in Taumarunui and the town is well known for the song about the station refreshment room. Why can’t trains stop here more often? New Zealand First has a policy which does not run down and close rail as National has done. We believe in a co-ordinated transport strategy built on road, rail and shipping.

Your roads are taking a heavy pounding from heavy trucks – especially logging trucks. It makes sense to use rail as other leading economies do.

STIMULATING LOCAL ECONOMY

New Zealand First has policies which will reverse the serious neglect you have suffered under National. Tourism is lifting your local economy. Yet you are struggling to pay for infrastructure – roading and toilets.

The government took in nearly $1.5b in GST from international visitors to New Zealand in the year to March 2016, and $950m the year before, yet little has gone to councils that desperately need money for toilets, sewerage schemes and local road improvements to cope with tourist numbers.

You are being robbed blind. They are taking billions off the regions and giving peanuts back. Worse still, they are trying to make themselves look magnanimous whilst giving you a pittance back.

Under NZ First policy we will return the GST paid by international tourists in this region for tourism infrastructure and roads, and to stimulate job training and opportunities. Under NZ First policy – with our Royalties for the Regions policy no less than 25 per cent of the royalties will go back to the regions.

Under NZ First policy – any water rights for exports will pay serious royalties which will go back to the region where the water came from. Under NZ First there will be no more of you having to go cap in hand to ministers and bureaucrats to ask for your own money back.

EXPORTERS

Under New Zealand First we will help your exporters, farmers, and others by fixing the Reserve Bank Act so the dollar helps them and not the paper shufflers, currency speculators and overseas banks. And of course we will sort out the electricity mess which is holding your region back.

CONCLUSION

This ridiculous situation you face with electricity typifies politics today. We have seen it wherever we have gone in New Zealand on our recent Campaign for the Regions bus tour. Regions are feeling left out, forgotten, neglected – and even betrayed. There is no fairness or balance. Ladies and gentlemen, New Zealand First will restore that fairness and balance to provincial New Zealand.