Putting New Zealanders First

New Zealand First is the third largest party in the New Zealand Parliament. The Party was formed in 1993 to represent those New Zealanders concerned about the social and economic direction of our country, and who were seeking pragmatic, common-sense representation in Parliament.

Following the 2017 General Election, the Party retained 9 seats in the House of Representatives and formed a Coalition Government with the New Zealand Labour Party. Party Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters, became Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Party secured three other Cabinet positions and an Undersecretary role.

At the core of New Zealand First's policies are our "Fifteen Fundamental Principles", which emphasise accountable and transparent government, common-sense social and economic policy, and the placing of the interests of New Zealand, and New Zealanders, at the forefront of Government decision-making.

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Latest News

Week in Review - December 14th

NZ First proud of police graduation milestone   New Zealand First is proud that this week’s graduation at the Royal New Zealand Police College brings the number of police officers who have completed training during this term of Government to more than 1000. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters joined Police Minister Stuart Nash at the graduation of Wing 321 on Thursday. “As Coalition partners, New Zealand First and Labour agreed to strive to achieve 1800 additional police officers over three years. Even allowing for workforce attrition, we have almost 500 more officers on the street than last year,” said Police Spokesperson Darroch Ball. “That is a great achievement in a short space of time.” New Zealand First has a long history of working to increase police numbers. In the 1996 coalition with National we wanted to increase numbers by 500, and in the 2005 Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour we strived to achieve an extra 1000. Latest Police figures show we are making inroads. In the year to October 2018, 9353 fewer people were victims of crime, a fall of 3.5 percent on the previous 12 months.  “This is great news for both the police and the communities they work tirelessly to protect.”       Half-Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update   The Government is committed to delivering a strong economy and the latest figures show this is just what we are doing. The Half-Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) released on Thursday showed that the economy is healthy and the Coalition Government is managing the books carefully in accordance with the Budget Responsibility Rules. Highlights include:   Positive labour productivity growth after five years of negative growth Wages forecast to increase by over 3.3% per year across the forecast period Business and residential investment growth around 4% per year Export growth around 3% per year, and the terms-of-trade remaining strong Unemployment to stay low around 4% as businesses continue to hire   “We’re running surpluses, controlling expenses and keeping on top of debt,” said Finance Minister Grant Robertson. He predicts that the economy will continue its momentum over the next few years, underpinned by investment, productivity and wage growth.     Medicinal Cannabis bill passes into law   Thousands of New Zealanders could benefit from the passing into law this week of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill. The new law allows for the domestic manufacture of quality medicinal cannabis products, making a wider range of products available on prescription to those suffering chronic pain. It also includes an exception and statutory defence for those in palliation who possess and use illegal cannabis. New Zealand First promoted the inclusion of anyone in palliation rather than those who are defined as terminally ill, as was originally drafted. The statutory defence will be available to approximately 25,000 New Zealanders who could benefit from palliative care. “This Bill takes a compassionate approach to the use of medicinal cannabis, and to those dying in terrible pain it will make a real difference,” said Health spokesperson Jenny Marcroft.     Government announces action against synthetic drugs   New Zealand First welcomed this week’s announcement that synthetic drug strains linked to recent deaths will be classified as Class A under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, with additional funding support for community addiction services. These changes provide Police with the right powers to combat dealers and manufacturers. This is targeted policing - giving greater search, surveillance and seizure powers, as well as harsher penalties for offenders. Police will also be given discretion in law to not prosecute users for possession and use depending on the seriousness and wider implications of the offence, and where they believe a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial. This change supports the approach that we know that the Police are already taking. New Zealand First has been supportive of harsher penalties for those manufacturing and supplying synthetics. We had been supporting the progression of the Simeon Brown’s Members’ bill to do so but felt that this Bill needed to go further and was not addressing the whole issue. New Zealand First had submitted a Supplementary Order Paper to increase the penalties in line with that of Class B drugs rather than Class C as proposed. Now that the Government has a more fit for purpose solution. Legislation focusing on only an aspect of the problem will no longer have New Zealand First support.     New Zealander businesses to save $100m in ACC levies   Many New Zealanders will benefit from changes announced this week to some key ACC levies. They include: The motor vehicle levy raised from annual car registration fees will be retained at $113 a year. ACC had proposed increasing the levy to $127. The Vehicle Risk Rating scheme will end. This indirectly added to the burden of lower-income New Zealanders who were less likely to be able to buy newer cars. The average work levies paid by employers and self-employed people will decrease from 72 cents to 67 cents per $100 of liable earnings The earner’s levies paid through PAYE (or invoiced directly through ACC for self-employed people) will remain at its current level of $1.21 per $100 of liable earnings   Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government was determined to ensure Kiwis were not being charged more without reasonable cause, while at the same time it was committed to lifting wages. She said the changes would save New Zealand businesses and their customers around $100 million over the next two years compared to current rates. The Government has chosen to make road safety a priority through the transport budget, investing $4.3 billion over three years in a range of programmes.     Sweeping changes to education now open for discussion   The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce has released its report which proposes sweeping changes to the way schools are run, governed, and managed. It is the first major review of the education system for 30 years, and will set the tone for the next 30. It shows that the existing model is outdated and that reform is badly needed. The taskforce held more than 200 meetings around the country. It found that the current school system is failing some students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds; principals feel isolated; enrolment schemes can be unfair; and that Boards of Trustees shoulder too much responsibility and should be more focused on student well-being and achievement. Recommendations from the report include key changes to the funding of schools, including limiting donations and replacing the decile funding system; introducing "education hubs" to manage the appointment of principals, school property, and provide an advocacy service for families with complaints; and to limit out-of-zone enrolments. The deadline for public submissions on the report: Our Schooling Futures, Stronger Together l Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini is April 7. The Government hopes the report will prompt wide discussion and result in a schooling system which works for all children. The review fulfils the Coalition Agreement commitment to develop a 30-year strategic plan for education.     Child Poverty report highlights need for Poverty Reduction law   The latest Child Poverty Monitor, released on Monday, paints a bleak picture of life for many young New Zealanders. The report found that children in low income families are more likely to get sick, to leave school without a qualification, and to sometimes struggle to get food. The Government has set the goal of halving child poverty within 10 years and we have moved swiftly. The Families Package, and extending free GP visits to under-14s, the Kiwibuild homes scheme, and new minimum housing standards for tenants are all in place in our first year. The passing of the Government’s flagship Child Poverty Reduction Bill next week with cross-party support will be the next key milestone. It is unacceptable to New Zealand First that any child should live in poverty in this country and we are working as a constructive Coalition partner to make life better for all New Zealanders.    

Week in Review - December 7th

Employment Relations Amendment Bill passes into law   The Employment Relations Amendment Bill passed its third reading on Wednesday and there is much to celebrate about the new law, which restores fairness to New Zealand workplaces and fundamental rights for workers. It has taken extensive consideration of the many public submissions, and much constructive internal discussion among the Coalition partners to achieve such a well-balanced piece of legislation. New Zealand First went in to bat for small and medium-sized businesses and secured the retention of the 90-day trial for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Removing the trial period would have been a blow for them, said NZ First Labour and Industrial Relations spokesperson Clayton Mitchell. Businesses can also now choose not to opt in to a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA), which will prevent the cost structures of big cities from being imposed on businesses in the regions. This is a great example of coalition politics at work. The law delivers rights and protections for workers which were stripped from them by National, while at the same time giving small businesses a fair go.     Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security Released     While the Government remains committed to mitigating climate change, it must also be ready to address the effects of it, which are already being felt in the Pacific region. Speaking at the release of the Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security at Parliament on Thursday, Defence Minister Ron Mark said the role of the Defence Force was key to New Zealand’s response and it must be adequately resourced and equipped to be effective. Mr Mark highlighted the increasing number of extreme weather events, and the flow-on effects these are likely to have on communities in our region in the future. These include vulnerable populations losing their economic livelihoods, increased food and water scarcity, malnutrition, climate migration, health-related crises, competition for resources, land disputes and the potential for increased violence from mismanaged adaptation or migration. It is clear that the Defence Force will have to adapt to meet the challenges, Mr Mark said. The findings of the assessment report, which was produced by the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Defence Force, New Zealand agencies and Pacific partners, will be considered as part of the review of the Defence Capability Plan, which is expected to be released early next year.     Government releases report from Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction   On Wednesday, the Government publicly released the report from the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, less than a week after receiving it. It paints a grim picture. We have a youth suicide rate among the worst in the OECD, the overall annual suicide rate for 2017/18 suicide rate is the highest in almost 20 years, and one in five Kiwis experience mental illness or significant mental distress. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is also causing widespread harm. The Inquiry process involved widespread consultation throughout the year - over 2000 people attended public meetings, 400 meetings were held with health and service providers, Iwi, community organisations and researchers, and more than 5200 submissions were made. The report made 40 recommendations and the Government will respond formally in March. It sees the inquiry as a “once in a generation” opportunity for change. New Zealand First recognises the seriousness of New Zealand’s mental health and addiction issues and the need to make meaningful change. We are absolutely committed to improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and endorse the Government’s decision to make mental health a focus of Budget 2019.     Retail fuel first for market study   On the back of the Government’s announcement that the retail fuel market will be the first market to be studied under new powers awarded to the Commerce Commission, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has warned petrol companies to start acting responsibly, or the Government could pass a law preventing them from "ripping off New Zealanders". Mr Peters pointed to margins for fuel importers which have more than doubled from 7 per cent in 2008 to 16 per cent in 2017, and said there was “no excuse”. The terms of reference for the study were released on Wednesday. They include: The structure of the industry The extent of competition at the refinery Any factors that may hinder competition between industry participants The conditions for entry by potential competitors Whether wholesale and retail price and service offerings of petrol and diesel are consistent with those expected in workably competitive markets Features of retail petrol and diesel markets that are not in the long-term interests of consumers The commission will publish its findings by December 2019. At that point the Government will be able to determine whether consumers’ interests are being protected, and if not, what action needs to be taken. “You have to be prepared to make a stand in the interests of the consumer,” Mr Peters said.     Government decision soon on UN Global Migration Compact   The Government has not yet decided whether it will sign up to the UN Global Compact on Migration, but a decision is due before the compact is signed next week. The Global Compact on Migration is the outcome of negotiations between 193 member states. It is a multinational agreement on how to better manage the movement of people across international borders. New Zealand First welcomes the opportunity to discuss very serious strategic matters. If the Government decides to sign the agreement, New Zealand would still retain its decision-making authority as the Compact is not legally binding, and recognises the primacy of national sovereignty.     Pacific Diplomatic footprint   In line with its Pacific Reset policy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters this week announced an enhanced diplomatic and development presence in the region. Ten new position are being established in Pacific countries, and another four in China, Japan, Belgium and the US, to coordinate development policy and partnerships for the Pacific. “This is a first step in demonstrating New Zealand is committed to the Pacific to help it be a safer and more prosperous place, and enhancing New Zealand’s voice in a region,” Mr Peters said.    

Week in Review - November 30th

West Coast gets game-changing PGF package   Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones visited the West Coast where he, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announced a game-changing $140 million Provincial Growth Fund package for the region, investing in tourism, food tech, mining and digital connectivity. Projects include: $87.46 million for tourism, ensuring the region’s popular sites and unique environments are protected and offer high-quality experiences for visitors $32.8 million for extending ultra-fast broadband and mobile coverage $10 million for a garnet mining project at Ruatapu $9.9 million for a milk segregation project with Westland Milk Products The Provincial Growth Fund is the cornerstone policy of the Coalition agreement and is changing the lives and fortunes of regional New Zealand. This is a significant boost for the West Coast and demonstrates how the Government is partnering with the region to support projects that will build a better future for everyone here, Mr Jones said.     Employment Relations Bill passes second reading   The Employment Relations Bill passed its second reading this week. It will deliver a new employment relationship in the workplace by striking a balance between protecting workers’ rights and employers’ interests. The legislation is the result of the three coalition partners of the Government working together and reaching a consensus after hearing an extensive number of public submissions. The Bill contains multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) provisions which clarify employers have a responsibility to enter into bargaining but does not compel them to settle an agreement. New Zealand First went in to bat for small and medium-sized businesses and fought to retain the 90-day trial for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. This is a great example of coalition politics at work. There is much to celebrate, as the outcome delivers rights and protections for workers which were stripped from them by National, while at the same time giving small businesses a fair go.     Free GP visits for under 14s launched   New Zealand First’s long-held policy to extend free GP visits to under-14s has finally become a reality. Health spokesperson Jenny Marcroft joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark at the formal launch of the Coalition Government scheme in Wellington. It will see an additional 56,000 young people eligible for zero-fees general practice care from December 1. This initiative is core New Zealand First policy in action and builds on our 1996 policy of free GP visits for under six-year-olds. It will cost the Government $22.0 million over four years. New Zealand First is committed to improving the lives of everyday New Zealanders and cannot accept that cost is a barrier to accessing healthcare.     New urban development agency unveiled to build more homes    Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced a new Crown agency with "cut-through powers" which will consolidate both Housing New Zealand and KiwiBuild, and fast-track processes in order to secure more public and affordable housing for New Zealanders. New legislation to establish the Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) will be introduced to Parliament in 2019, with the first projects expected to be up and running in early 2020. Housing New Zealand’s role as a public landlord, and its housing services and products, will become part of the authority. The authority will lead a range of large and small urban development projects throughout the country in partnership with local government, iwi and the private sector. It will work at scale and pace with the goal of resolving New Zealand’s housing crisis.     Government receives Mental Health and Addiction report   The Government has received the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, which will help shape New Zealand’s response to mental health in the future. New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD and an increasing number of adults suffering psychological distress. The Government acknowledges there are significant issues which need addressing and is committed to making progress on these. The Panel held 400 meetings nationwide and received more than 5200 submissions. The report is a substantial document which contains 40 recommendations. The Government will release the report to the public by the end of the year and will formally respond by March next year.     Mandatory phase-out of plastic bags   The Government has announced a short, six-month timeframe for the mandatory phase-out of all single-use plastic bags. It follows a five-week public consultation process, where 92 per cent of submitters supported “banning the bag”. New Zealand is a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment – a global pledge to address the root causes of plastic pollution. We must lead by example. The announcement comes as part of a wider work programme to tackle waste issues in New Zealand, which includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills, improving our national data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation to support resource recovery, and developing a national circular economy strategy to design waste out of the system. Protecting our beautiful environment for future generations is a core value of New Zealand First. We need to take action now to clean up the plastic pollution.     New regulations on vaping   Vaping and smokeless tobacco products are to be regulated through changes to the Smoke-free Environments Act. While the Government is keen to encourage smokers to switch to safer products, it needs consumers to have confidence in the quality of vaping and smokeless tobacco products being sold. The new rules will include changes to the way the products are advertised and displayed by retailers. We are also concerned to protect the health of non-smokers, especially young people, so vaping will be subject to the same ban as cigarettes in places like bars, restaurants, and workplaces. New Zealand First believes it is important to focus on smoking minimisation options in order to meet our smoke-free 2025 target, with vaping shown to be an effective tool to quit smoking. We must give New Zealanders the right tools and support to make the best choices for their health.    

Darroch Ball works as Fiji Election Observer

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball returned to Parliament this week after spending an intensive three weeks working as an Observer in the Fiji general election. Mr Ball was part of an international team which included NZ MPs Poto Williams, Louisa Wall and Michael Wood, and a number of MFAT officials. The New Zealand contingent was led by former Labour MP Ross Robertson. Mr Ball arrived more than two weeks ahead of the rest of the team in order to work on early voting in remote villages and outlying islands. This included observing the training of the Fijian electoral officers who were in charge on voting day, and ensuring that everyone who wanted to vote, could. The hours were long and the conditions were tough at times, but it was clear that the team had an important role to play and they were welcomed by the local people. “It was good to see that even in isolated villages the people were keen to vote and have their voices heard.” The November 14 election was Fiji’s second since its return to Parliamentary democracy in 2014. Mr Ball described the team’s support to the Fijian Electoral Office and the government as a whole as “vitally important”. New Zealand takes seriously its role as part of the Pacific family and is ready to offer support and positive influence wherever possible. The interim report from the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) which Mr Ball was part of indicates that the election was free and fair. “As a politician I have been involved in elections as both a voter and a candidate. This role made me realise how much we have an absolute trust in our electoral system, how smoothly our elections run and how, sometimes, we take that for granted.”    

Week in Review - November 23rd

Big week for NZ on international stage   Fresh from attending Armistice commemorations in Europe, Foreign Minister Winston Peters joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the East Asia Summit in Singapore and APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea. At both events, the pair sidestepped the growing rift between the US and China over trade, preferring to emphasise our own free trade message – that New Zealand is open for business and wanting foreign investment in major infrastructure projects. New Zealand and Singapore extended its 18-year-old free trade deal, making it easier for New Zealanders to do business with the island state. Trade and investment between the two countries is currently worth about $10 billion. It marks the first step towards the launch next year of an Enhanced Partnership which will see even greater co-operation on trade, science, innovation, the environment, education, the arts, security and defence. Ms Ardern held a number of bilateral meetings with other regional leaders in Singapore, including Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Malaysia's 93-year-old leader, Mahathir Mohamad, who issued a warning about China’s growing influence in the Pacific, and her first meeting with new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In Port Moresby, leaders sought to formulate a shared vision for advancing APEC’s role as a driver of economic integration and growth in the region. However, the trade spat between China and the US saw the Summit end without the issue of the usual joint leaders’ statement. Mr Peters said New Zealand was in a stronger position in the Pacific because of the US-China conflict. The unrest and unpredictability meant other countries were looking at New Zealand with fresh eyes as a prospective partner in the region. He also announced multi-million dollar aid packages for Papua New Guinea, including support for both vaccination and electrification projects, along with a four year programme of support for the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Plus programme, a new joint New Zealand–Australian initiative. On the sidelines, the Inclusive Trade Action Group met, with the New Zealand, Chile, and Canada reaffirming its commitment to work together to advance trade that benefits all their citizens.     Funding boost to tackle kauri dieback and myrtle rust   On Tuesday, the Government announced an extra $13.75 million in funding over three years for research to combat the spread of kauri dieback and myrtle rust. These diseases are threatening our iconic native trees and other aspects of our biodiversity and warrant urgent action. The latest funding comes on the back of $11.6 million already allocated and will allow researchers to generate long-term solutions to the problem. New Zealand First is proud to be part of the Government which is delivering on the Coalition Agreement commitment to increase support for National Science Challenges to counter incursions such as these. “Maintaining the uniquely clean, green character of our environment is a core focus of New Zealand First,” said Conservation spokesperson Jenny Marcroft. “That’s why we made biosecurity a priority at the negotiating table, and continue to advocate for a well-resourced biosecurity system capable of effectively addressing incursions when and where they occur.”       Middlemore Hospital gets $80 million “fix it” funding   As the Government continues with its commitment to turn around years of neglect in New Zealand infrastructure, Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital will be able to start fixing its run-down facilities with an extra $80 million in funding announced this week. Nowhere displays the symptoms of neglect and under-investment better than the Middlemore campus, where some buildings, including the children’s hospital, have severe rot and mould in the walls, and others are vulnerable to earthquakes. Budget 2018 saw $750 million set aside for new capital projects, which included major upgrades to Auckland hospitals. With the latest $80 million dollar investment, the Government has allocated well over $600 million of the total to key projects. Improving access to high quality health services provided in world-class facilities is a priority for the Coalition Government. “This is about delivering the quality facilities and services that people need and deserve. This is a Government committed to that task,” said Health Minister David Clark. Key capital investments from the Health budget include: $275m for Auckland DHB to address significant infrastructure challenges at Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre An estimated $200m plus for a new elective surgery unit at North Shore Hospital (Waitemata DHB is preparing a business case) $80m for four projects at Counties Manukau DHB (business cases to be developed). $45.6m for the new Wellington Children’s Hospital $24m for new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Northland DHB’s Whangarei Hospital     Three Waters Review   The Three Waters Review announced by the Government this week will examine the state and performance of New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. Most three waters assets and services are owned and delivered by local councils. This review will initiate a strategic conversation with local government about community wellbeing and proposals to overhaul the regulation of water, said Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta. Pressures facing the water sector include funding, ageing infrastructure, rising environmental standards, climate change, seasonal pressure from tourism, and the recommendations of the Havelock North Inquiry into drinking water safety following the campylobacter outbreak in 2016. The Government recognises that it is time to address these issues, and the burgeoning cost of water infrastructure. “It’s important to lift the focus on to the real challenges facing us as we consider strategic opportunities to strengthen the role of local government in delivering prosperity and wellbeing for our communities,” Ms Mahuta said. Recommendations are expected to be presented to Cabinet in June next year.     Net migration lowest since 2015   Annual net migration fell to 61,800 in the year ended October 2018, its lowest level in three years, according to figures released by Statistics NZ. In the year to October, migrant departures were up 5400 to 66,400, while migrant arrivals were down by 3500 to 128,100. This brought annual net migration to its lowest level since the year ended September 2015.    

Week in Review - November 16th

Pike River re-entry confirmed   Eight years almost to the day after 29 miners died and were trapped in the Pike River Mine explosion, the Government has confirmed that it will attempt re-entry and recovery of their bodies. This is great news for families of the miners who have fought for years to recover the bodies of the men, and to understand the cause of the explosion in the mine. It also fulfils a New Zealand First election promise and coalition agreement commitment with Labour. The National Government and state-owned mining company Solid Energy determined manned re-entry could not be done safely and the decision was made to seal the mine permanently. The Coalition Government established the Pike River Recovery Agency in January with a budget of $23 million. Of the three options, it recommended to the Government that the safest approach for re-entry was single entry through the existing drift. Cabinet last week approved an additional $14m for the re-entry attempt which will begin in earnest in February, although considerable preparatory work has already been undertaken. Minister in charge, Andrew Little, said it would be an "extraordinarily complex" undertaking, but the process to make it safe had been robust. The families of the dead men are elated with the Government’s announcement. “We fought really hard for our men for a very long time, and today this is a victory for the families and the little people in New Zealand,” said families’ representative Anna Osborne.     Manawatu-Whanganui latest region to benefit from Provincial Growth Fund   On Thursday, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced a $48 million Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) package for Manawatū-Whanganui. It is the latest in a raft of multi-million dollar funding announcements for the regions this year and will support projects across a range of sectors including transport, food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism. The largest investment is for KiwiRail, to advance work on establishing a regional freight hub near Palmerston North. The $3 billion PGF was a flagship New Zealand First election policy and a key coalition agreement with Labour. This Government is committed to reversing years of neglect under National and to creating new employment and economic development opportunities for those living outside of our cities. It aims to contribute to community wellbeing, lift productivity, encourage more private sector investment, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.       Peters attends Armistice ceremony, opens embassies in Europe   Foreign Minister Winston Peters joined world leaders for the official ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, held at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Representatives of the countries that fought and supported the war effort all attended. “These commemorations, 100 years on, are an opportunity to join together in remembrance of the great sacrifice made in the First World War,” Mr Peters said. Three out of every five New Zealanders who fought in the war sustained casualties. More than 18,000 service men and women lost their lives. He also attended the inaugural Paris Peace Forum convened by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the centenary events. Intended to be an annual event, its aim is to provide a platform for world leaders to reflect on current global security challenges and foster international co-operation. While in Europe, Mr Peters also opened New Zealand embassies in Stockholm and Dublin and met with Swedish and Irish leaders. The opening of the embassies is part of the Government’s commitment to strengthen its representation globally. In Budget 2018 MFAT secured an extra $150 million over four years, needed to rebuild expertise and resourcing to better equip New Zealand to respond to an increasingly turbulent global environment. “At this time of global uncertainty, New Zealand needs to work more closely with friends andpartners who share our values and our commitment to fair and rules-based global order.” Mr Peterssaid.       Government celebrates “excellent” employment stats   Job figures released on Tuesday show that unemployment has dropped to 3.9 per cent in the latest quarter, down from 4.4 per cent at the end of June. It is the lowest unemployment rate in a decade. And employment is up, with 29,000 more people employed since the June quarter. At 68.3 percent overall, this is the highest rate since the statistics series began more than 30 years ago. Other economic indicators have shown strong and widespread growth this year. We've seen population growth in the regions, reports of more job ads, high levels of migration and tourism, growing retail sales, and rising exports. While admitting that employment figures can be volatile, ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said the data “flies in the face of what business confidence has been saying for the last year”. "As yet we haven't seen any material signs coming through yet that weaker business confidence is impacting on the broader economy." Finance Minister Grant Roberston described the figures as “excellent”, and a reflection of the success of the Government’s policies which back businesses to invest and hire, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they were reason to celebrate.     Royal Commission terms of reference extended   The Government has agreed to expand the scope of a proposed inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, to include those abused in church care. The inquiry will now be called the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions. It was initially established in February to be chaired by the former Govenor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, but the full terms of reference and budget were only revealed this week after an extensive period of public consultation. The terms of reference were extended as a result of lobbying by survivors of abuse while in faith-based care who felt they had been left out by the original proposed scope of the inquiry, and by the Catholic and Anglican Churches who felt it should be “fully inclusive”. It will begin hearing evidence from January next year, with the first interim report to be presented by the end of 2020. A final report will be submitted to the Governor-General in January 2023. The inquiry has a budget of $78.85 million over four years, which includes more than $15 million to help participants by providing counselling and support. The inclusion of church abuse in the scope of the inquiry has been welcome by past victims, with one describing it as “a gamechanger”.     Pacific Reset picks up pace with $10 million fund   Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announced the establishment of a $10 million Pacific Enabling Fund. The fund will allow engagement with Pacific partners on a diverse range of activities outside the Government’s formal aid funding arrangements, such as cultural and sporting diplomacy, people to people links, and some military cooperation activities.  “The Coalition Government is committed to rebuilding New Zealand’s standing in the Pacific, supporting our Pacific partners, and continuing to deliver on our Pacific Reset priorities,” Mr Peters said.    

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