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 - April 12th

More detail on gun buyback scheme   The Minister of Police Hon Stuart Nash has announced that a legal framework will be established in relation to the gun buyback scheme. This legal framework will be the first step towards establishing compensation levels. The price list will be developed by independent advisors with a separate expert panel for high value firearms. The legal framework will include compensation for high capacity magazines and parts. The Minister has confirmed that there will be a process for appealing the level of compensation if the established price is disputed. Price lists will be set out in regulations which are now being drafted and should provide certainty for law abiding gun owners impacted by this change. The buyback is to run alongside the amnesty for handing back firearms which is currently set to end at the end of September. If necessary this may be extended.     Gun changes become law   The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament on Wednesday. This was supported by New Zealand First, Labour, Greens and National. This follows on from a full week of Select Committee hearings where a total of 13,062 submissions from interested groups and individuals were considered. The Bill will prohibit from circulation and use in New Zealand most semiautomatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns. It seeks to prevent such an atrocity from occurring again and make communities safer. This has become law within a month of the Christchurch terror attacks. The Government has taken swift and decisive action on this issue. Further changes relating to firearms that require more extensive scrutiny can be expected later in the year.     Darroch Ball accepts petition regarding St John funding     This week Darroch Ball accepted a petition from St John ambulance worker Dean Brown and FIRST Union over paramedics pay. This petition was supported by over 14,000 signatures. The petition seeks to institute recognition for night and weekend work and for better recognition of the education and responsibility of ambulance professional roles. “It’s in the best interests of New Zealanders that we have a well-funded, well-resourced Ambulance service and that our paramedics are able to be fairly compensated,” said Mr Ball       Coalition Government announces new drivers licence initiative   This week sees the Coalition Government delivered a new scheme to assist more young people with getting their drivers licence. The $5 million investment from the NZTA Community Road Safety Fund and $250,000 from MSD announced by the Prime Minister will pay the cost of getting a drivers licence for young people on youth benefits or in care.  The scheme will begin as of the 1st of June. “The numbers tell us some 2500 young people are expected to get their restricted licence through the scheme, helping them move on into jobs. A driver licence is more than just a licence to drive. It’s a vital tool and opens doors to education and jobs.” Jacinda Ardern said. In addition to this there is also a commitment in the Coalition Agreement to offer free driver training to all secondary students. The Government is committed to setting young people up with the skills they need to enter the workforce.     New Infrastructure Commission   Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has introduced a Bill to establish New Zealand’s Infrastructure Commission. The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga, represents a change in the approach towards infrastructure. The Coalition Government is taking a long-term view that aligns with the goals of developing a productive and sustainable economy. The Infrastructure Commission will be an autonomous Crown Entity with an independent board and will have two broad ranging functions. It will provide expert advice, planning and strategy, and support the delivery of major infrastructure projects across the country. “The efficient planning, delivery and maintenance of the right infrastructure is essential to improving New Zealand’s economic performance, and our wellbeing,” Shane Jones said.       Successful uptake of cheaper doctor visits   New Figures released as of April 1 show the positive uptake of free doctor visits to under 14s and cheaper visits for Community Services Cardholders that the Coalition Government launched in December last year. It is anticipated that as of the 1st of April 2019 94 per cent of practices will be offering low-cost services to their enrolled CSC holders and dependants. More than 99 per cent of enrolled children under 14 can now access zero fee general practice visits. Approximately 96 per cent of Community Services Card (CSC) holders and their dependants who are enrolled with a general practice are now able to visit their doctor at low cost. Those not already enrolled with a very low cost access practice will on average pay $20 to $30 less for a consultation. This means almost all Kiwis who hold a CSC won’t be charged more than $18.50 to visit their doctor.    

Week in Review - April 5th

Gun law reform under way   The process of reforming our gun laws is under way and is expected to be completed by the one-month anniversary of the Christchurch attacks. The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill had its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday, will be reported back from select committee on April 8, pass into law on April 11, and come into force on April 12. The legislation bans all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles. Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines. The swift action on gun control has been met with cross-party support at Parliament and from interest groups including Federated Farmers, Fish and Game, Trade Me, Hunting and Fishing. Later in the year there will be a second stage of reforms which will consider wider issues including stronger and more effective licensing rules, storage requirements, and penalties for not complying with gun regulations. The Government is moving quickly on the initial controls in order to keep our citizens safe. New Zealanders have made their expectations clear that they want guns out of their communities as soon as possible. “Our thoughts remain with our Muslim communities and the people of Christchurch,” Police Minister Stuart Nash told Parliament during the introduction of the Bill. “We are doing this for them. We are doing this for our future generations. It is our responsibility.”     Kiwis better off with changes delivered this week   This week sees the Coalition Government deliver a raft of changes which will improve life for workers, businesses, and families. Key changes effective from April 1 include: Minimum adult wage increases by $1.20 to $17.70 an hour, the biggest increase in New Zealand and the second in our term in Government. The commitment to increase the minimum wage to $20 by 2021 is core New Zealand First policy and part of the Coalition Agreement $1 billion Research & Development tax incentive which provides a 15 percent tax credit to any business spending a minimum of $50,000 on R&D ACC levies drop by on average from 72 cents to 67 cents per $100 of liable earnings, saving businesses and customers $100 million over two years New KiwiSaver contribution rates of 6 percent and 10 percent introduced, and workers aged over 65 allowed to sign up New Zealand Superannuation and Veterans Pensions increase by 2.6 percent Greater support provided for domestic violence victims, with a new right to 10 days' domestic violence leave, and flexible working conditions. The Government is committed to making New Zealand more sustainable, productive and inclusive. “From tomorrow many New Zealanders and businesses will start to reap the benefits of that commitment,” said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.       PM trip to China   Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a brief but successful trip to China early in the week. While the trip was shortened to only one day in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, she met with both Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping. During talks with Premier Li the leaders reiterated the shared commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between our two countries and discussed ways the economic relationship could be strengthened, including upgrading the existing Free Trade Agreement. They discussed China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and regional and global issues where New Zealand and China have common interests, including our support for the World Trade Organisation. They also released a joint statement that committed both countries to working together more to address the impacts of climate change. In the meeting with President Xi, a range of topics were discussed, and both leaders welcomed the significant growth in recent years of trade, cultural and social ties, and other connections. While in Beijing, Ms Ardern witnessed the signing of a new taxation treaty with China. It replaces the existing Double Tax Agreement with a more modern set of rules which ensures that the bilateral framework for taxing cross-border economic activity remains up to date and fit for purpose. The Prime Minister also invited President Xi for a State visit to New Zealand as part of New Zealand’s hosting of APEC in 2021.     Member’s Bill seeks better protection for First Responders   The First Reading of Darroch Ball’s Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill continued in the House this week, after being interrupted in October last year. The Bill creates a new offence under the Crimes Act to protect first responders - defined as police, emergency health and fire service staff, and prison officers. Injuring them with intent would see a mandatory prison term of at least six months, unless manifestly unjust. The maximum prison term would be 10 years. It also brings assaults on firefighters and paramedics into the Summary Offences Act.  Currently, only those who attack police face an aggravated assault charge. More than 2000 ambulance officers last year reported abusive altercations, including assault. Police officers reported being assaulted 346 times last year. “We need to protect our emergency response workers, Mr Ball says. “No-one should go to work worrying about their safety and whether or not they might be assaulted while trying to carry out their job.” “This Bill draws a line in the sand.”     PGF provides big boost to regional economic development agencies   Regional economic development agencies are to receive a substantial funding boost through the Provincial Growth Fund to bolster capacity and progress projects which meet key economic goals. Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced a total of $5.6 million in funding this week - up to $200,000 a year of funding per region for up to two years for organisations in regions eligible for PGF funding. “People living and working in our regions already know the opportunities in their patch and work hard every day to capitalise on those opportunities, but need capacity support to accelerate key projects through the PGF. “This PGF investment is a great example of how our Coalition Government seeks to work, creating an environment which will bring communities on board in shaping the outcomes that affect their place,” Mr Tabuteau said.      

March in Review

New Zealand First condemns terror attack in Christchurch   March was dominated by the terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch in which 50 people died. Since March 15 the nation has been getting to grips with the enormity of the atrocity, but has come together in a show of overwhelming unity and support for those affected. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters spoke in the House on behalf of New Zealand First, condemning the attack. “The Muslim community in Christchurch have our deepest sympathies for their profound sense of loss and grief,” said. “Violent extremism, whatever its origin or form or creed, is utterly rejected by New Zealanders.” “We here in Parliament stand with the grieving families and with the people of Christchurch. As they and the rest of us rebuild we must remember that only by drawing on our strengths as a people will we prevail against the malevolent forces of intolerance and hate.” The Government’s response on gun laws was swift. Sweeping changes were announced within a week of the atrocity. We believe the vast majority of New Zealanders will support us in tightening the rules for gun owners. However, the focus remains on the victims and their families. The National Service of Remembrance, attended by Mr Peters, was an opportunity for us all to demonstrate support for all those affected.     Foreign Minister visited Indonesia and Turkey   Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters travelled to Indonesia and Turkey. While the trip had been planned for some time, the timing of it allowed Mr Peters the opportunity to express New Zealand’s condolences to those from Indonesia who had family members affected by the terror attack in Christchurch.  He then attended a special ministerial meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation being held in Istanbul, Turkey. “This important event will allow New Zealand to join with our partners in standing against terrorism and speaking up for values such as understanding and religious tolerance. We are very clear that the terrorist attack in Christchurch, committed by a person who is not a New Zealander, is utterly contrary to our core beliefs,” he said.       Minimum wage increases to $17.70 an hour   More than 200,000 New Zealanders are better off this week, as the minimum wage rises for the second time since the Coalition Government took office. The $1.20 an hour increase is the largest in the adult minimum wage in New Zealand history in dollar terms and will see our lowest paid full-time workers $48 a week better off before tax. The Government has committed to the minimum wage being $20 by 2021, and has provisionally indicated an increase to $18.90 on 1 April 2020, and $20 on 1 April 2021. These progressive increases fulfil a New Zealand First promise contained in the Coalition Agreement and we are proud to be part of a Government committed to making life better for our hard-working Kiwis on our lowest rates of pay.     Second set of changes announced for ETS   Forestry Minister Shane Jones and Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced a second set of changes to the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of broader reforms to make the scheme fit-for-purpose. Changes to the ETS will see 89 million more trees planted in the coming years and an extra 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in New Zealand’s forests. The announcement includes the introduction of averaging accounting for all forests registered from January 1 2021 and the option to use the new accounting method for all forests registered in 2019 and 2020, Mr Jones said. “By taking a long-term view of the amount of carbon in a production forest, averaging means forest owners will be able to trade more carbon (NZUs) at lower risk, and not have to worry about finding units to repay when they harvest. “It’s essential the ETS provides the right incentives for forestry over the long term so we can deliver on our One Billion Trees programme as well as our commitment to taking action on climate change and supporting the transition to a low emissions future.”     Climate legislation progressing   The Coalition Government is working on the final details of climate change legislation that will set New Zealand on the path to being carbon zero by 2050. “This is groundbreaking legislation,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “It’s technical and difficult legislation we are working hard to finalise.” “No New Zealand Government has ever had to pass a law that, over a 30-year timeframe, seeks to stop climate pollution entering the atmosphere.”  Acknowledging the students who marched nationwide seeking more action on Climate Change, Ms Ardern said the Government was listening and was setting a path for carbon neutrality. “Please keep bringing as many people as you can with you, because we simply won’t achieve our goals alone.”       Government to review Fire and Emergency New Zealand funding   The funding of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is to be reviewed by the Government, with the aim of providing a stable, simple funding system fair to both individuals and businesses. FENZ is the amalgamation of former rural and urban fire authorities, and the national body for all fire and emergency services in New Zealand. It was formed in 2017. “The establishment of FENZ has gone well and New Zealanders are beginning to see the benefits of a modern, unified fire and emergency service,” said Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin. FENZ, like the Fire Service before it, is funded by a levy on property insurance but there are flaws in the insurance-based funding which the Government is seeking to address: Property owners who do not insure do not pay a levy but still benefit from FENZ’s services; The levy increases insurance costs and can act as a disincentive for people to adequately insure their properties; and Levy collection is complex to administer, and FENZ’s levy income may become uncertain as the commercial insurance market evolves. The Government believes there may be better ways to fund such an important organisation and, two years on from the establishment of FENZ, the timing is right for a review. Internationally, there is a move away from insurance-based funding models. “The review will look at a wide range of options for funding FENZ. We will be looking to achieve a model that is stable, universal, fair and flexible, Ms Martin says. A public discussion document on the FENZ funding model will be released later this year.     Ministers prioritise consultation on climate change   The Government has announced changes to the Terms of Reference for the Interim Climate Change Committee which will better prepare the Government to initiate meaningful change to key legislation addressing the implications of our changing climate. These changes were announced by Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor and Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods. When the Interim Committee was established in April 2018 it was intended findings would be delivered to the Independent Climate Change Commission. That permanent Commission is expected to be established later this year. The changes announced last week mean the Interim Committee will deliver its two key reports, one on agriculture and one on renewable electricity generation, directly to the Minister for Climate Change. This will allow the Government to consider the findings and act quickly.   “These changes will set the foundations for New Zealand to move forward on ways to tackle the impact of our changing climate,” Mr Shaw said. Mr Shaw said it was important feedback on the Interim Climate Change Committee’s recommendations is sought from all New Zealanders, including from the primary sector. “Our engagement on the Zero Carbon Bill and the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme has told us that certainty, direction and moving forward together towards a low emissions economy are what people want from us,” Mr Shaw said.     Date announced for Pike River Re-entry     May 3 was announced as the date for re-entry of the Pike River mine, subject to all safety preparations being completed. The re-entry fulfils a long-held commitment by New Zealand First made to the families of the 29 men who died in an explosion in November 2010, to do everything practicably possible to re-enter the drift, recover any remains, and better understand the cause of the tragedy. The Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little, said a huge amount of preparation had gone into preparing the site for re-entry, and that safety was “a non-negotiable bottom line for the whole project and everyone involved”. New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has long supported the families’ fight for re-entry, saying that they had been let down by the National Government. A commitment to re-entry of the mine was part of the Coalition Agreement with Labour.       Primary sector booming   Latest figures show that primary industry exports are continuing to exceed expectations, up nearly $3 billion on last year. The Situation and Outlook report forecasts primary sector revenue to reach $45.6 billion for the year to June 2019, 3 percent more than predicted in December. The Ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry all welcomed the news. Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the export performance was particularly impressive, given the modest outlook for the global economic environment and high degree of uncertainty generated by trade tensions. Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said he was heartened by forecasts of higher export volumes for seafood in key markets, especially China, the US, and Europe. And forestry trade is booming, with exports continuing to perform well and forestry revenue set to top $6.8 million, an increase of 7 percent from 2018. New Zealand First’s flagship One Billion Trees programme would ensure this success continued, said Forestry Minister Shane Jones. “It is building the foundation for a profitable and productive forestry sector well into the future. This will have positive, lasting impacts for our economy, our environment, and our people.”     Law puts an end to secondary tax overpayment   New legislation putting an end to routine overpayment of secondary tax for workers with more than one job has come into effect. The Taxation (Annual Rates for 2018-19, Modernising Tax Administration, and Remedial Matters) Bill makes a number of changes to simplify aspects of our taxation system. One of the most important will affect secondary taxpayers. Inland Revenue will more closely monitor the tax paid by wage and salary earners through the year and suggest a different tax code if needed. This makes life easier for those on secondary tax codes who may pay too much tax during the year. “For too long, the inefficiencies of secondary tax have resulted in hefty tax deductions and large tax overpayments by hardworking Kiwis with multiple jobs who have to wait until the end of the year for a refund,” said New Zealand First Revenue spokesperson Fletcher Tabuteau. “New Zealand First has campaigned for many years to address this problem in our tax system and is proud to be a part of the Coalition Government which has taken action on it.” The new law also sees those who only earn employment or investment income will no longer having to file a personal tax summary (PTS) to get a tax refund, adds new KiwiSaver contribution rates of 6 percent and 10 percent, and opens up the savings scheme to those aged over 65. More information can be found at: http://taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/bills/52-72    

Winston Peters Speech to Commemorate the Christchurch Mosque Attacks

Rt Hon Winston Peters, New Zealand First Leader     We acknowledge the Prime Minister speaks for the Coalition Government and indeed, because of that, we would have preferred not to rise and speak. This should not in any way be construed as giving consent or license to the obscene act perpetrated against innocent worshippers last Friday at Linwood and Deans Ave Mosques in Christchurch. The sickening scourge of terrorism imported to Christchurch was the work of a coward. A coward who we reject. That is what we must all say.     New Zealand First rises today in support of the victims of the violent attacks of March 15. The Muslim community in Christchurch have our deepest sympathies for their profound sense of loss and grief. In a country like ours that practices religious tolerance, an attack on one of us peacefully observing their beliefs is an attack on all of our beliefs. Friday, March 15, 2019 is the day everything changed in our country, a day when someone from outside our shores attempted to terrorise us and tear us apart. That, we believe, was his objective - and he has failed. Why? Because violent extremism, whatever its origin or form or creed, is utterly rejected by New Zealanders. His creed, like extremists anywhere and everywhere, seeks only to destroy. It is evil and destructive. The Pakistani Foreign Minister, when expressing his country’s sympathies for New Zealand, told me that 77,000 people in his country had died from terrorist-related violence in Pakistan’s recent history. He truly understood how New Zealanders feel. We’ve had a number of messages in a similar vein from Muslim countries all around the world.   New Zealand is not alone yet the terrorists’ formula always remains the same. Wherever terror strikes it seeks to create or provoke fear and panic. But in New Zealand it has failed. It has failed because our thoughts are not the terrorist’s thoughts and his ways are not our ways.  Why? Because New Zealanders believe in a fair go. We are a practical people. We are a tolerant people. We aren’t scared to lift our heads above the parapet and express our values to the world. And we have the ability to reflect upon ourselves, and how others see us, so we know how to get along with each other. While everything else may have changed since March 15, New Zealand’s essential character has not and will not.  One lesson that we have learned from this national tragedy is that our firearm laws are not fit for purpose, which is why the government is committed to fixing them up. But that is for tomorrow. Today is a day to pay our respects to the grieving families of Christchurch. We here in this parliament stand with them and the people of Christchurch. Once more their lives have been massively disrupted. Once more we see their remarkable resilience. They have suffered more over the past decade than we can say. The people of Christchurch will stay in our thoughts as they reclaim their city. As they and the rest of us rebuild we must remember that only by drawing on our strengths as a people will we prevail against the malevolent forces of intolerance and hate. That is what we must do. Can I close by acknowledging the calm and comforting leadership of the Prime Minister during this moment of national tragedy. Her clarity, empathy and unifying leadership is helping to guide the country through this test of our resolve. We will follow that example.   Winston.Peters@parliament.govt.nz  

Week in Review - March 8th

Research & Development spending on the rise   The Government has welcomed news that total R&D spending across New Zealand grew by $758 million to $3.9 billion, or 1.37 percent of GDP over the past two years. It is especially pleased to see that R&D spending by businesses increased $548 million in the same period, to more than $2.1 billion in 2018. The Coalition agreement between New Zealand First and Labour set a target to increase R&D spending to 2 percent of GDP over 10 years. Increasing business R&D expenditure is a key driver in meeting this target. The R&D Tax Incentive which comes into effect in April will enable more businesses to undertake R&D, said Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Megan Woods. “Lifting the amount NZ businesses are spending on R&D will help diversify our economy by encouraging new industries and companies to innovate, move further up the value chain and deliver higher wages for Kiwis,” she said. The tax incentive is part of a wider economic strategy to help improve the wellbeing and living standards of New Zealanders through better productivity, sustainability and inclusive growth.     Government moves synthetics into Misuse of Drugs Act   The Government is stepping up to tackle the escalating issue of synthetic drug use. The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, introduced on Thursday, shifts two key synthetics - 5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA - into the Class A drug category and creates a temporary category, C1, allowing new drugs to be easily brought in under the Misuse of Drugs Act. These changes give police greater powers of search and seizure in order to interrupt supply, and the courts serious sentencing options - up to life imprisonment.  The Bill also reaffirms the discretion police can take in deciding whether to prosecute offenders or refer them for treatment and therapy, and backs community addiction treatment services with an extra $16.6 million in funding. “We endorse this move to toughen up on the suppliers of synthetics with a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, but also back the more holistic approach the Bill takes in providing greater opportunity to rehabilitate users,” says Law and Order Spokesperson Darroch Ball. “Tinkering with the law will not achieve a thing in the fight against these poisons. This Bill takes a much-needed bold but balanced approach to dealing with the scourge of synthetic drug use.”     Tabuteau trip to Gulf States enhances relationships and opportunities   Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau travelled to the Gulf States this week, continuing New Zealand’s efforts to develop and strengthen the relationship with what is now our seventh largest trading partner. The Gulf is an important market for New Zealand’s high value produce and advanced services exports. In addition, there is significant potential for investment from these countries in New Zealand’s productive industries,” Mr Tabuteau said. He visited the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar. Of these, the UAE is New Zealand’s most significant relationship in the region. While there, he held talks with the Government and business leaders ahead of Expo2020 in Dubai.   In both Kuwait and Qatar, he took the opportunity to reinforce the strong bilateral relationships and enhance growth in trade and investment.     Building activity at 44-year high   Figures released this week show that building consents for new dwellings have reached 33,576 – a figure not seen since 1975. In the year to January, Auckland building consents for new dwellings were up 20 per cent, while Wellington was up 18 per cent. Government-related building consents reached 2065 for the year, the highest number since 1978. Industry forecasts predict continued growth over the next six years, with dwelling consents expected to increase year-on-year to a forecast high at 43,100 in 2023. “This latest data reflects the confidence there is in the Government’s comprehensive housing plan which is focused on building the houses New Zealanders need,” said Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa. “The Government is continuing to push forward to further grow the supply of houses.” The Coalition Government remains committed to getting more New Zealanders into warm, dry homes and will continue to work with the construction sector in order to best support its growth.     NZ extends global reach on tax evasion   The Government is extending its global reach on tax evasion by adding another 30 territories to the current list of 60 jurisdictions where New Zealand has information-sharing agreements. “The addition of 30 new territories reflects increased international cooperation by OECD and G20 countries to crack down on tax evasion,” said Revenue Minister Stuart Nash. The global standard known as the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) enables information sharing about details of accounts at many institutions, including banks, private equity funds, investment advisors and some brokers and trusts. The Coalition Government is determined that our tax system should be fair for all New Zealanders and is determined to find those who try to evade their obligations by hiding their assets offshore.     NZ, Australia reaffirm defence commitment in Pacific   Defence Minister Ron Mark and his Australian counterpart Christopher Pyne reaffirmed the mutual commitment of both countries to defence co-operation in the Pacific. The Joint Statement noted a lift in focus in the region leveraging off Closer Defence Relations and New Zealand’s and Australia’s respective Pacific Reset and Pacific Step Up initiatives. The three focus areas agreed under the Joint Statement are for Australia and New Zealand to: have the collective ability to improve security outcomes in the Pacific; maintain strong, interoperable forces and capabilities to respond to requests for security assistance from the Pacific countries; and enhance Pacific resilience and self-reliance through the two countries’ respective capacity building programmes.    

Week in Review – March 1st

Funding restored for gifted education   Associate Education Minster Tracey Martin announced a $1.27 million package of support for gifted education, fulfilling a New Zealand First coalition commitment to restore funding which was lost under the previous National government. A key component of the package is increased funding for one-day schools, where gifted children come together one day each week, to engage in different types of challenging and strength-based learning with their peers. Six extra teachers have already joined the one-day school team so far this term, to meet the growing demand and more students will now be able to join the programme. The package also includes funding for a programme of events, experiences and opportunities specifically for gifted learners, strengthened guidance for teachers and kaiako, and expansion of online learning modules. New Zealand First believes all young people deserve an education which meets their needs, and this announcement reflects the Coalition Government’s commitment to restoring support and funding for gifted education.     Latest stats good news for the Government   A range of statistics released this week are good news for the Government and for New Zealanders. The latest Crown accounts show the Government’s financial position and New Zealand’s underlying economic fundamentals remain sound, providing protection from global volatility, said Finance Minister Grant Robertson. The results for the seven months to January 31, show core Crown tax revenue and core Crown expenses were within 0.5 percent and 1.3 percent of the Treasury forecasts, and a $1.9 billion surplus. Net core Crown debt is in line with the half-yearly forecast at 20.7 percent of GDP. The forecasts show the Government is on track to meet the Budget Responsibility Rule of reducing net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years of taking office,” Minister Robertson said. Also this week, the latest NZIER Quarterly Predictions showed forecast economic growth of around 2.7 per cent over the next five years, the longest stretch of growth in New Zealand since 1992. There was also a noted improvement in business confidence in the December quarter. Trade figures are also positive. New Zealand’s goods and services exports increased 10 per cent in dollar terms to the year ending September 2018. Goods exports grew 7 per cent in the 2018 calendar year. The Coalition Government remains committed to responsible fiscal and economic management and building continued success and resilience in our exports sector.     New Healthy Homes standards released   New healthy homes standards to make rental properties warmer and drier were announced by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford. The standards set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties. They reflect feedback from a wide range of public health experts, stakeholders including landlords, tenants and building experts. It is estimated about 200,000 families live in rental homes that do not have ceiling or underfloor insulation. The standards will now be drafted in regulations and approved by Cabinet. They will become law by mid-2019, with a compliance timeline ranging from July 1, 2021 for private landlords to July 1, 2023 for Housing New Zealand homes. New Zealand First believes every Kiwi deserves to live in a warm, dry home and is proud to be part of a Government stepping up and taking responsibility for improving living standards     PGF invests in Far North’s future   The Provincial Growth Fund has announced it is investing $8.2 million in key community-led projects in the Far North. The biggest investment is $4.6 million for Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi Busby’s Kupe Waka Centre, to be built in Aurere at the southern end of Doubtless Bay, which will draw in both New Zealand and overseas tourists. Kaitaia is to get $3 million for a much-needed multi-use sports centre, and there is support for three local iwi (Aupouri, Ngāti Kahu and Te Rarawa) to investigate the feasibility of major projects, including a water storage scheme and a barge at Te Mingi to transport logs to Whangarei.  “Taken together, the announcements made today reaffirm our determination to unlock the full economic potential of the Far North. It’s also an example of the PGF bringing agencies together from across Government to make a difference for people on the ground,” said Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis. The latest announcements bring total PGF funding to date in Northland to $90.9 million.     Births, Deaths, Marriages Bill deferred   The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill is to be deferred in order to address problems caused by the select committee process. In making the announcement, Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said that significant changes were made to the Bill by the select committee around gender self-identification, and the public had not had sufficient opportunity to comment. “We have to ensure that democratic processes are followed,” she said. There were also wider legal implications of changing to a self-identification system that needed further clarification and consideration. Minister Martin said that no-one would lose any current rights from the delay of the Bill and she wanted to make it easier for people to formally acknowledge their identified gender. She said she was committed to initiating work and consultation on mitigating some of the barriers individuals faced in changing sex information on their birth certificates.     Foreign Minister Peters in the Pacific   Foreign Minister Winston Peters is this week leading a New Zealand delegation in the Pacific countries of Fiji, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. The trip is a further reflection of the Coalition Government’s commitment to its Pacific Reset policy. Areas of mutual interest to be discussed in each country will span climate change, development co-ordination, and the building of deeper partnerships. The delegation includes Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio, Associate Minister for Pacific Peoples Carmel Sepuloni, and MPs Poto Williams, Alfred Ngaro, and Darroch Ball.    

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