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

The Government in Action – June 21st

Farm Debt Mediation Bill helps struggling farmers   A new scheme which will help farmers facing foreclosure is at the heart of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill which was announced last week. Under the Bill creditors, including banks, would have to offer mediation before putting farms into receivership or liquidation. The mediators would be overseen by the Ministry for Primary Industries but the cost for mediation would be shared by the parties. New Zealand First has long advocated for a scheme such as this. The current legislation started life as a Member’s Bill in the name of primary industry spokesperson Mark Patterson, but was subsequently taken on and reintroduced as a Coalition Government Bill. It is modelled on legislation that is already working well in Australia. Total NZ farm debt stands at $62.8 billion – up 270 per cent on 20 years ago. Unlike other sectors, farmers are vulnerable to factors outside their control, including weather, market price, pests or diseases like Mycoplasma bovis, said Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. The key is early intervention, a far better option than forced foreclosure, he said. “The Bill sets up a fairer system and is in the best interest of all parties,” Mr Patterson said. It has received support from both Federated Farmers and the New Zealand Bankers' Association, and will be introduced to Parliament this week.     Northland celebrates two major PGF milestones   Northland celebrated two major Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) milestones this week  – the official opening of the new Bay of Island Airport terminal and the completion of the first stage of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre in Whangārei. “The PGF invested $1.75 million towards the new terminal building, which will ensure the airport is well positioned to make the most of expected future growth, said Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Stage one of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre in Whangārei received $1 million from the PGF. “Plans for the Cultural Centre at Hihiaua have been in the pipeline for about a decade, but an injection of capital from the PGF finally allowed construction of the project to get underway” “It’s timely that both of these projects have been completed to coincide with Matāriki, the Māori New Year. This is a time to reflect and celebrate new life – and for Northland, the future’s looking bright,” Minister Jones said.     NZ ratifies agreement to fight illegal fishing in the Pacific   New Zealand has ratified an agreement to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific. Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau announced New Zealand’s ratification of the Multilateral Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA), while he attended the annual ministerial meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee in the Federated States of Micronesia.Combatting illegal fishing remains a key priority for New Zealand, and the solution lies in a collective regional approach, Mr Tabuteau said.New Zealand will further support efforts to combat IUU fishing in the Pacific through co-operative surveillance activities and the exchange of fisheries information,” Mr Tabuteau said.     Racing Reform Bill passes into law   The Racing Reform Bill passed into law on Thursday. It was the first of two bills which restructure the racing industry in New Zealand. The second is due later this year. This Bill dissolves the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) and replaces it with the Racing Industry Transitional Authority (RITA), which will be mandated to drive change in the industry. It also provides a basis for collecting revenue from offshore betting operators and provides safeguards relating to offshore charges. The select committee which considered the Bill recommended amendments requiring the racing Minister to consult with the Minster for Sport and Recreation before recommending changes to regulations that determine how betting profits are distributed to racing and sports, and by providing for regulations to determine the distribution of betting profits resulting from the repeal of the totalisator duty. New Zealand First has always been a staunch supporter of the racing industry, which contributes about $1.6 billion a year to the economy, employs tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and boosts the country’s exports. Last year’s Messara Review, commissioned by Racing Minister Winston Peters, found that it was in serious decline and in need of substantial restructuring. “It is important that the industry is revitalised and placed on a sustainable footing for the future,” Mr Peters said.     Portfolio announcements by Minister Martin   It was a busy week across the Internal Affairs, Children’s, and Associate Education portfolios held by Minister Tracey Martin. First up, was the announcement of a $4 million-a-year package to recognise the contribution made by Fire and Emergency volunteers to communities across New Zealand. It includes an annual payment of $300 to all volunteers to recognise expenses incurred as part of their activities, access to a network of discounts on products and services, and access to health insurance options. As Associate Minister of Education, she announced details of a $9.8 million package from Budget 2019 which will target students at risk of disengaging from their learning at school. The funding, which will be available from July 1, includes an additional $5.8 million funding over four years for Alternative Education providers, $1.4 million over the next three years for attendance service providers, and $2.6 million over four years for Te Kura’s pilot programme for at-risk students. As Minister for Children, Ms Martin announced the terms of reference for the Oranga Tamariki –Ministry for Children review into the case of the Hawkes Bay mother and the attempted uplift of her baby by the agency. The review will be led by the Chief Social Worker at Oranga Tamariki. A person appointed by Ngāti Kahungunu and with the relevant expertise, mana and connection will provide independent oversight. The Children’s Commissioner will also provide input into the design, progress and findings. “I know many people have been deeply impacted by the recent events in the Hawkes Bay,” says Minister Martin. “The review will provide an opportunity for the voices of the mother, father and whānau to be heard and for their views to be considered.” As well as focusing on the engagement with whānau, iwi and other professionals and key stakeholders, the review will examine the quality of the assessment and planning, the manner and method of processes undertaken, and how Oranga Tamariki worked as part of a wider interagency group. It is due to be completed by the end of July.     Firearms buy-back scheme strikes fair balance   The Government has announced details of the firearms buy-back scheme proposed in the aftermath of the March 15 terror attack. Under the six-month buy-back and amnesty, licensed firearms owners will get fair compensation for weapons handed in, said Police Minister Stuart Nash and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. The buy-back price will reflect the brand, make and model of the prohibited firearm; its base price; and its condition. In developing the price list, Police sought independent advice from KPMG who consulted with farmers, hunters, dealers, auctioneers and gun clubs. “The approach to prices balances fair compensation for people’s firearms and a fair cost for the taxpayer,” Mr Nash said. “The compensation scheme recognises licensed firearms owners are now in possession of prohibited items through no fault of their own, but because of a law passed by almost the entire Parliament.” The fund available for the buy-back and amnesty has increased by $40 million through a contribution from ACC. The total set aside for the scheme is now over $200 million. There is still considerable uncertainty about the overall cost of the scheme, as it is not yet known how many guns will be handed in, their type or condition. Mr Robertson said the Government would top up the fund if needed. The collection of firearms from the community is a huge logistical exercise and is expected to get underway in mid-July. The buy-back and amnesty runs until December 20.     Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal launched   Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the launch of the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal which will provide a fair, flexible and cost-effective way for long-suffering Canterbury homeowners to resolve outstanding insurance claims relating to the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. The launch follows the allocation of almost $3.4 million in last month’s Budget for the establishment of the tribunal in the 2019/20 year. The tribunal will be chaired by former District Court Judge Chris Somerville. Cases can be transferred from the High Court to the Tribunal, and homeowners can choose to have a representative to receive communications for them and an advocate who can speak on their behalf. “This tribunal will be a circuit-breaker for those disputes that have dragged on for too long and for people who deserve closure and to move on with their lives.” Mr Little said.     Expanded mental health and addiction services for offenders   The Government announced a $128.3 million expansion of Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) services in prisons and the community. At the heart of the Wellbeing Budget was the Government’s commitment to doing things differently to break the cycle of offending and keep communities safe, and this investment aims to achieve that. “This expansion of services will help reduce reoffending by targeting some of the key drivers of crime and barriers to rehabilitation,” said Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis. “If we support people struggling with mental health or addiction issues, we make it easier for them to engage in education, employment and rehabilitation activities, and develop positive relationships with whānau and support networks. That means they can get their lives back on track.” Once fully implemented, the expanded mental health services will support up to 2310 additional offenders with mild to moderate mental health needs per year.    

The Government in Action - June 14th

Napier-Wairoa rail line reopens   On Friday, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones attended the reopening of the Napier-Wairoa rail line. In one of the earliest Provincial Growth Fund announcements last year, $5 million was committed to reopening the line for logging trains between Wairoa and Napier Port. This provides a boon to the forestry industry and potentially takes more than 5700 trucks off the road each year. The line was closed under the National Government in December 2012. New Zealand First is strongly committed to regenerating the regions, boosting forestry, and reducing carbon emissions by getting trucks off our roads. The reopening of this line helps to achieve all these goals.       New Hercules fleet announced in Defence Capability Plan   Defence Minister Ron Mark released the Defence Capability Plan 2019, which outlines planned investments in the New Zealand Defence Force until 2030. Top of the priority list was the long-overdue replacement of the ageing C-130 Hercules fleet with five new C-130J “Super Hercules” aircraft. Mr Mark said that the current fleet had been in use since the 1960s and had “reached the end of the road”. The replacement aircraft were proven, and fulfilled the NZDF requirements on range, payload, and other capabilities. The new fleet, expected to be in service by 2023, is expected to cost about $1 billion. The Plan maintains total spend at $20 billion out to 2030, with $5.8 billion having already been committed since 2014. However, it has reprioritised investments to better support the Coalition Government’s objectives relating to the Pacific Reset policy, and the impacts of climate change. Other key announcements included: Increasing Army numbers to 6000 personnel by 2035 and boosting defence intelligence personnel, cyber security and support capabilities The purchase of an Enhanced Sealift Vessel to complement HMNZS Canterbury, with an additional vessel scheduled to replace Canterbury in the mid-2030s Additional investment in maritime satellite surveillance in 2025 to complement the recently confirmed P-8A Poseidon planes The use of “Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" - or military drones - was signalled after 2030 The decision to replace the ageing ANZAC frigate fleet has been deferred until the 2030s, after costly upgrades over the past decade The plan delivers on a key Coalition Agreement commitment to review the Defence procurement programme and was developed in line with the Government’s priorities, Mr Mark said. All investments would be robustly tested and subject to detailed business cases.  “At its heart, this new Capability Plan is a humanitarian plan. It readies New Zealand to lead in the assistance of our neighbours, and to contribute to the security of our friends in the Pacific.”     Government announces withdrawal of troops from Iraq   Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, Defence Minister Ron Mark, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that New Zealand troops in Iraq will return home by the middle of next year. New Zealand currently has 95 New Zealand personnel stationed in Camp Taji where they are training Iraqi soldiers. Their numbers will be reduced gradually, with 45 remaining in January 2020 and all of the troops withdrawn by June next year. “Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do,” Mr Mark said. The Government also announced that the New Zealand Defence Force’s deployment in Afghanistan would continue until December 2020, where they are helping train Afghan Army Officers.  Beyond 2020, new positions would be sought in Afghanistan with NATO which would focus on involving women in peace and security initiatives, reconciliation and reintegration. “This is an important area of work for the Government and the Defence Force, and we are pleased that New Zealand’s contribution to it in Afghanistan would be led by some of NZDF’s highly capable female officers,” Ms Ardern said.       $68 million PGF funding package for Hawke’s Bay   Investment in transport infrastructure, digital connectivity, water storage, and skills and employment are all included in the $68 million Provincial Growth Fund package announced for Hawke’s Bay last week by Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau. The region is a significant contributor to New Zealand’s agriculture sector and a global producer, processor and exporter of primary sector products but it also faces challenges which include high youth unemployment, low wages and lower GDP per capita compared to the rest of New Zealand. Investments include: Two water storage initiatives, an aquifer mapping project, and a region-wide water assessment project to better understand the region’s wider water needs and improve security of water supply in dry years Transport initiatives to improve links within the region and between major transport hubs, key services and markets Improved connectivity package to better connect 11 Hawke’s Bay marae to fast and reliable broadband to help them take advantage of business and education opportunities Improving employment, skills and capability through the PGF’s Te Ara Mahi programme The Wairoa district will specifically receive $9.1 million from the PGF for road upgrades, developing Māori land, and on programmes to get more people into work. Central Hawke’s Bay will receive more than $40 million to support investments in road and rail, water storage and other economic development opportunities “These investments will provide a much-needed boost for the Hawke’s Bay and will absolutely lead to economic growth and enhanced social outcomes.” Mr Tabuteau said.     Science and Innovation Hub gets $75 million upgrade   The Government is investing $75 million in upgrading the Gracefield Innovation Quarter in Wellington, one of New Zealand’s key science commercialisation sites. The upgrade to the existing site will provide the country’s top scientists, engineers and researchers with the modern facilities needed to help transform our economy to become more productive, sustainable and focused on growing Research and Development, said Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Megan Woods. Gracefield is home to over 200 world-leading scientists, researchers and technicians, along with tenant businesses. It features state-of-the-art specialist workshops, pilot plants, labs and equipment, and world-class measurement facilities. Three new buildings will be constructed, another will be extended, and existing buildings refurbished. “Research and innovation provide the key to achieving our ambitions for a more productive, sustainable and resilient economy, environment and society,” Dr Woods said. New Zealand First secured a Coalition Agreement commitment to work towards the goal of increasing New Zealand’s R&D spend to 2 percent of GDP by 2027. This investment in Gracefield follows on from last year’s announcement of an R&D tax credit incentive scheme for businesses, and brings us one step closer to achieving our ambitious goals which will benefit the economy and the country as a whole.     Building of state houses ramps up   The building and refitting of state houses is picking up pace, with the regions starting to see the benefit. Housing Minister Phil Twyford said 2700 new homes are now being built, 900 of them in the regions. “This is the biggest state house building project in the regions in decades,” he said. By the end of the next financial year, Housing NZ expects to complete 1389 of the homes currently being built. “Housing NZ is investing $5.6 billion in building new houses over the next four years. This will result in a net increase of 1100 much-needed new state homes each year until 2022.” Older housing stock is also being retrofitted, ensuring homes meet the Healthy Homes Guarantee standards. The Government is committed to ending homelessness and making housing more accessible for all. This is not a quick-fix, but a long-term commitment. New Zealand First believes every Kiwi deserves to live in a warm and dry home and is proud to be part of a Government tackling the housing crisis which has been a decade in the making.    

The Government in Action - May 24th

$21 million funding boost for ambulance services   The Government announced a much-needed funding boost of $21 million over two years for ambulance services in New Zealand. While other emergency services are fully funded by the Government, the operating costs of ambulance services (St John and Wellington Free) are 72 percent funded by the Ministry of Health and ACC, but the remainder comes from part-charges and public donations. With demand for ambulance services growing every year, the Government has provided this additional funding as an interim measure while work is carried out on determining a sustainable long-term funding model. New Zealand First has long advocated for full funding of ambulance services. Speaking after the announcement, Mr Peters said he looked forward to the day when the Government contributed 95 percent funding for ambulance services. It would be “fair, right and reasonable”, he said.       Pike River Re-entry achieved   Tuesday saw the successful and long-awaited re-entry of Pike River Mine, where 29 miners died in an explosion in November 2010. Three experts, including Pike River Agency Chief Operating Officer Dinghy Pattinson, completed breaching the 30m seal and successfully re-entered the Pike River mine drift. After this initial re-entry and assessment, their report of findings and potential hazards will shape further re-entry and recovery operations. In December 2016, New Zealand First promised the families of those who died that we would re-enter the mine. “We have delivered on that promise,” Winston Peters said. “Re-entry into Pike River is about justice. It’s about finding out the truth, and it is about doing what’s right for the families of those 29 men,” Mr Peters said.     Climate change legislation passes first reading   The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament with near unanimous support from politicians. The Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5deg Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050. Climate Change Minister James Shaw acknowledged there were differing views on aspects of the Bill and appreciated the support from across the political divide. Now that it has gone to select committee for consideration, New Zealanders have their chance to become involved in determining the final form of the legislation. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the party had the agriculture industry’s interests at heart and had worked hard in negotiations to balance them against the need for the government to take strong action and show leadership on climate change.     SuperGold Card, ACC changes for Seniors   Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced three initiatives which will benefit New Zealand’s Seniors. Top of the list is $7.7 million for an upgrade of the SuperGold Card, held by more than 750,000 over-65s. It will involve improvements to the website to make it more user-friendly, and the launch of a new app to help show Seniors where the card can be used when they are out. These will be launched before the end of 2019. “The changes will help Seniors on fixed incomes to stretch their dollar further so they can buy the services and products they need,” Ms Martin said. She also announced changes to ACC, effective from July 1, which will mean that older people who are still working and are seriously injured will no longer have to choose between receiving NZ Superannuation or ACC weekly payments. They will instead be entitled to weekly ACC compensation for a personal injury, along with their NZ Super or Veteran’s Pension for up to two years. Ms Martin also announced that $600,000 from the Wellbeing Budget would be earmarked for Digital Literacy Training for Seniors. “We don’t want older people being left behind,” she said. “We want them to be able to access information and services online, and to stay in touch with their families.” New Zealand First values the Seniors in our communities and has always so spoken up for them. As an active partner in the Government, we are working to meet their needs and ensure their later years are active, independent, and fulfilling.       Funding package to tackle family and sexual violence   Budget 2019 will see the Government delivering the largest-ever investment in family violence and sexual violence support services. The total package is worth $320 million over four years and will be spread across five areas: Preventing family violence and sexual violence ($47.8 million) Safe, consistent and effective responses to family violence in every community ($84.3m) Expanding essential specialist sexual violence services: moving towards fully funding services ($131.1m) Reforming the criminal justice system to better respond to victims of sexual violence. [$37.8m) Strengthening system leadership and supporting new ways of working ($20.0m) Making the announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie said the funding would see a new and collaborative approach being taken “to tackle one of the country’s most disturbing long-term challenges”. The funding package will sit across eight portfolios and is the result of the first-ever joint Budget bid from multiple government departments. “Wellbeing means being safe and free from violence,” Ms Ardern said. “That is why this package is such a significant cornerstone of the Wellbeing Budget.” “When a child is in a house where family violence takes place they are also a victim of that violence,“says Minister Martin. “As joint Minister of this initiative and the Minister for Children I am pleased to see this prevention work is finally funded.”     PGF invests in getting Kiwis working in horticulture   Horticulture, one of the cornerstones of the New Zealand economy, is the latest sector to benefit from PGF funding. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced funding of $1.1 million, to be spent on the establishment of six horticulture career co-ordinators to tackle labour supply issues facing the industry. They will be based in Northland (already established), Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Upper South Island, Otago, and Manawatū. Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest primary industry – worth over $5.6 billion to our economy in 2017. But the shortage of skilled labour is an ongoing issue which the Government recognises needs addressing. “Horticulture is a priority sector for the Provincial Growth Fund but there’s no point trying to expand the prospects of this industry if we don’t have people to fill the jobs we’re creating,” Mr Jones said. The regions involved in the project have an over-representation of people not in employment, education or training (NEET), and Māori. The investment fits the PGF funding goals of expanding local businesses, providing sustainable jobs close to home, improving the outcomes of regional Maori, and maximising New Zealand’s economic potential.     Major PGF investment in Otago cycle trail   Otago is to receive $7 million in a wide-ranging investment package which will target tourism, transport, manufacturing and skills to help boost economic growth in the region. The bulk of the investment, $6.5 million, will support the extension of the Clutha Gold Great Ride Cycle Trail from Lawrence to Waihola, almost doubling its length from 73km to 136km. An additional $1.5 million will come from the Government’s Cycle Trail Enhancement and Extension Fund. Local workers will be employed in both the construction and operation of the extended trail. “This is a significant investment in regional tourism infrastructure which will draw tourists into stunning parts of the region which many visitors currently miss, will inject new life into the towns of Lawrence, Milton, and Waihola, and will create jobs for locals,” said Clutha-based New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson. “It’s fantastic news for Otago.”       Extra support for ethnic communities   The plight of ethnic communities in New Zealand has been in the spotlight since the March 15 terror attacks. Building on the Government’s response in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, Budget 2019 is investing in improving support for these communities and ensuring their long-term future. Minister in charge, Jenny Salesa, this week announced that the upcoming Budget would provide $9.4 million over four years, on top of the additional $1.8 million for the ethnic communities portfolio announced in April. “This initiative will support our ethnic communities to develop and lead their own initiatives. An increase in grant funding will help programmes that promote leadership, culture and connectedness,” Ms Salesa said. The Government is providing the Office of Ethnic Communities the resources it needs to be able to employ 15 extra staff in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. “This initiative is an important part of achieving the Government’s plan to build healthier, safer and more connected communities.”    

Week in Review - May 17th

Christchurch Call “first step” in eliminating extremist content online   Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was in Paris last week, where she and French President Emmanuel Macron co-hosted the Christchurch Summit, attended by leaders from 10 countries and major tech companies which committed to a set of collective actions that aim to eliminate terrorism and violent extremist content online. The actions of the Christchurch Call – endorsed by a further six countries not attending in Paris, plus the EU – include developing tools to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content; countering the roots of violent extremism; increasing transparency around the removal and detection of content, and reviewing how companies’ algorithms  direct users to violent extremist content. The pledge is split into three lists of commitments - one for governments, one for tech companies, and one for the two working together, along with a statement which stipulates that the agreement shouldn't impinge on free speech rights or the openness of the internet. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Amazon commended the call, saying “… it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”. Ms Ardern said she was proud of what had been achieved at the summit but that it was only a “first step” towards a shared goal of eliminating terrorist content online. “We have all agreed to ongoing collaborative work aimed at improving our collective security.” New Zealand First supports the action the Prime Minister is leading on behalf of the Government. The coalition partners agree that bold steps must be taken to arrest the propagation of hatred in order to help secure the safety of our communities.     Wellbeing approach to Budget 2019 explained   In a pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the approach taken in planning for the country’s first Wellbeing Budget. This Government believes it is time to take a fresh look at how we measure economic success. Even when the key economic indicator of Gross Domestic Product has been good, many New Zealanders have continued to struggle. Lowering rates of home ownership, high youth unemployment, poor mental health statistics, and hundreds of thousands of children growing up in poverty are just some of the reasons we need to do better. “A wellbeing approach is about taking a wider view, recognising and weighing up the overall pros and cons of government policy on all of the things that enable New Zealanders to live lives of purpose and value,” Mr Roberston said. There are three fundamental elements to the Government’s wellbeing plan.  A whole-of-government approach. Agencies working together to assess, develop and implement initiatives to improve wellbeing Looking at intergenerational outcomes. Thinking about the long-term impacts on future generations at the same time as meeting the needs of the present The need to move beyond narrow measures of success. The priorities of the Wellbeing Budget 2019 are: Tackling mental health crisis Reducing child poverty and domestic violence Investing in crucial national infrastructure Managing the books responsibly Building a sustainable economy and preparing for jobs of the future. These represent some of the biggest long-term challenges and opportunities that we face as a country and that they will not be solved in one go, but the Coalition Government is determined to confront them head-on. The problems have been ignored for too long. We are doing the right thing now - putting New Zealand and the welfare of New Zealanders first. We are looking to make a positive difference for generations ahead.     Forestry sector to get additional $58 million   In another pre-Budget announcement during the week, Forestry Minister Shane Jones said that a further $58 million would be delivered to allow continued transformation in the forestry sector. “Forestry plays a key role in many of our Government’s priority areas – enhancing regional development, supporting Maori to realise the potential of their land, improving water quality, reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs,” Mr Jones said. The new funding will allow Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) to increase its regional presence to ensure foresters and landowners have the support they need, he said. It will also see the agency focus on the Government’s goal of developing a sustainable, domestic forestry workforce. New premises will be built in Rotorua, at the heart of the forestry sector, to accommodate Te Uru Rākau’s growth. It is expected that up to 25 forestry-related jobs will be based there, along with Ministry of Primary Industries staff. Mr Jones said the One Billion Trees programme  - a key New Zealand First policy - was on track, with 61 million trees planted in the first year, and 100 million trees expected to be in the ground every year from 2020. “With forestry worth over $6 billion to our economy, the Wellbeing Budget gives clear and visible leadership to Te Uru Rākau to build a sustainable sector that delivers improved social, environmental and economic benefits for New Zealand,” Mr Jones said.       Repeal of betting levy   When opening the Karaka May sales auction in Auckland, Racing Minister Winston Peters made a pre-Budget announcement to repeal the betting levy currently paid by the racing industry to the Crown. The levy will be returned to the industry, with a proportion set aside to support the reduction of gambling harm. Redirecting the betting levy was a recommendation of the Messara review of the racing industry, and will help ensure the long-term sustainability of an industry which contributes billions to the economy whilst employing tens of thousands of New Zealanders. “It is important that the industry is revitalised and placed on a sustainable footing for the future.  Redirecting the betting levy funds is only one of a number of steps the government is undertaking,” Mr Peters said.       Senior Ministers on global stage   While Parliament was in recess last week, key senior ministers were overseas representing New Zealand on the global stage. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters travelled to Fiji with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to attend a Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting. During his time in New Zealand, Mr Guterres met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, visited survivors of the Christchurch attack, and held talks with Climate Change Minister James Shaw. He said New Zealand was on the “front lines” of the world’s climate crisis and was showing extraordinary leadership, for which he was grateful. He praised the Government’s zero carbon legislation, saying the move was “absolutely crucial”. Mr Peters’ presence at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting comes only a few days after Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau was in Fiji for the annual Pacific Forum for Economic Ministers where the theme was on building resilience and sustainability. The Government is deeply committed to its role in the Pacific through its Pacific Reset policy - a re-energised approach based on New Zealand values and increased technical and financial support to the region. Meanwhile, Trade Minister David Parker attended APEC and OECD meetings in Chile, Paris, and Brussels focused on the outlook for world trade and the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement (FTA). “At a time of ever-increasing tensions – both in trade between major players and in the World Trade Organisation – these meetings are an opportunity to build trust and confidence and identify solutions.” On the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement, Mr Parker said the Government was keen to meet “the ambitious target” of a substantive conclusion by the end of 2019.     PGF invests in future jobs in Bay of Plenty   Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced an investment of more than $2.2 million in three skills and education programmes which offer young people extra support to develop the skills they need to get them into work, and which will help to address future employment needs in the Bay of Plenty. The programmes are Kawerau Pathways to Work ($969,000), Eastern Bay of Plenty Driver and Operator Training Centre ($598,000), School of Hard Knocks ($713,740). The programmes will receive funding from He Poutama Rangatahi and Te Ara Mahi initiatives, funded through the Provincial Growth Fund. “The three initiatives predominately target young people not currently in employment, education and training, and who are most at risk of long-term unemployment,” Mr Jones said. Two of the initiatives build on the PGF’s existing $2m investment in the Kawerau-Putauaki Industrial Hub, which underpins a number of promising commercial investments in Kawerau that are expected to bring around 500 jobs to the regions in the next five years. This latest investment meets key goals of the PGF, including lifting the outcomes of those affected by unemployment, building thriving communities by creating job opportunities close to home, and injecting new life and economic prosperity into the regions.       Royal Commission of Inquiry into Terror Attack under way   The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attack will begin considering evidence next week, following the appointment of the second and final commissioner, former diplomat Jacqui Caine. The Royal Commission will work to fully understand what happened in the lead-up to the Christchurch attack, what could have been done to stop it, and how we can keep New Zealanders safe,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.  “This is a critical part of our ongoing response to the attack. The Commission’s findings will help to ensure such an attack never happens here again.” It is due to report to the Government by 10 December 2019.     Funding boost to tackle homelessness   Budget 2019 will see the Government invest a further $197 million to tackle the challenge of chronic homelessness in New Zealand. It will be used to strengthen the Housing First programme which the Government already funds in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga, and will over the next few months extend to many other towns and cities around the country. The programme houses and supports people who have been homeless for a long time or who are homeless and facing other complex social and welfare issues. It recognises that it is much easier to address issues such as poor mental or physical health, substance abuse, or unemployment when people are properly housed. It is a co-ordinated approach which sees the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development bring together local health and service providers, housing providers, local government, iwi, and other agencies locally to turn around people’s lives. The new Budget funding will provide 1044 new places and will raise the number of people the programme can help to 2700. New Zealand First is proud to be part of a Government tackling the tough issues facing many New Zealanders and working to make life better for them. We believe that every New Zealander deserves a warm, dry place to call home and access to quality health and welfare services. Only by taking a co-ordinated approach with local government and social services can these goals be achieved.     NCEA exam fees scrapped   The Government has announced that NCEA exam fees for secondary students are to be abolished as part of a wider review of the qualification framework. More than 145,000 households are estimated to benefit from the removal of the $76.70 NCEA fee that families pay every year for around 168,000 secondary students. The removal of fees is one of a number of changes being made to NCEA, following a year-long review which 16,000 New Zealanders took part in. Other changes include: Retaining NCEA Level One and dropping the number of credits required to get each level from 80 to 60 Introducing a new externally-marked 20-credit literacy and numeracy benchmark Reducing achievement standards for each subject, but making each one broader Funding the continued roll-out of the NCEA Online programme so students can choose to sit their exams using a PC or laptop Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the changes were needed to address limitations and unintended consequences that had built up in the system over time. The Government wants to reduce the burden of over-assessment for both teachers and students and make the qualification more relevant for students, many of whom leave school with gaps in their knowledge and skills. The changes will be phased in over four years, starting from 2020.  

Week in Review – May 10th

Landmark Climate Change legislation introduced   The Government is taking action on the long-term challenges of climate change with the introduction of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Bill to Parliament. The critical goal is to reduce global warming by 1.5degC over the next 30 years by setting a net zero target for carbon by 2050. New Zealand First negotiated extremely hard to achieve balance in the policy announced, balance between expressing strong leadership over climate change policy and the need to respect the important role that agriculture plays in the New Zealand economy. With the needs of the agriculture sector in mind, New Zealand First ensured that: The Climate Change Commission will not be granted statutory independence in the manner of the Reserve Bank; The Government will establish and legislate split gas targets for carbon dioxide and biogenic methane. These gases are being treated differently as the lifespan in the atmosphere of CO² lasts for hundreds of years, while methane degrades in around 20 years; The Government will set an initial methane target at a 10 percent reduction from 2017 levels from 2020 to 2030, providing certainty for the agriculture sector as it transitions towards a lower emissions future. Setting the 10 percent biogenic methane target until 2030 also recognises the research going in to the development of methane inhibitors and vaccines which may see significant technological progress by 2030; The 10 percent reduction target for biogenic methane includes 11 percent for waste, making the effective bovine-induced biogenic methane target 26.7 percent, which lands squarely inside a wide range of officials’ advice; The Climate Change Commission will review the 2050 targets against progress, including the 10 percent biogenic methane target not until 2024, providing a predictable transition period for the agricultural sector as it tackles mitigation efforts; The methane target from 2030-2050 will fall within the IPCC range of 24-47 percent, but the pathway set between 2020 and 2030 (i.e., the 10 percent reduction from 2017 levels) will establish a predictable direction of travel and progress against that target ; Unnecessary advisory groups supporting the Climate Change Commission were removed.       Government improves work conditions for New Zealanders   On Monday sweeping employment law changes came into effect, restoring protections for working New Zealanders, strengthening the role of collective bargaining, and promoting fair wages and conditions. “The Government is committed to building a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages,” said Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Key changes which came into effect this week include: Reinstating prescribed meal and rest breaks Strengthening collective bargaining and union rights Restoring protections for vulnerable workers, such as those in the cleaning and catering industries, regardless of the size of their employer Limiting 90-day trials to businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and these changes will help achieve that. New Zealand First fought hard to retain the 90-day trial for employers of fewer than 20 staff, securing it as a major concession for small business owners who form the backbone of our economy. These changes strike the right balance, providing strong safeguards and rights to workers, while maintaining certainty and flexibility for employers.     Cannabis referendum details announced   The Government announced details of how New Zealanders will choose whether or not to legalise and regulate cannabis. A referendum will be held at the 2020 election with a question asking whether or not to adopt draft legislation. The Coalition Government is committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals and the draft legislation will include: A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis Regulations and commercial supply controls Limited home-growing options A public education programme Stakeholder engagement New Zealand First has always believed that voters should make the decision on conscience issues, and not temporarily empowered politicians. The voters’ choice will be binding insofar that all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome. It is hoped that the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters’ decision.     Minister Jones releases first Infrastructure Pipeline report   Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones released a prototype Government Infrastructure Pipeline report, showing the scope of spending by major central government agencies over the next five years. A Government building programme of $6.1 billion-plus has been revealed, with education and defence taking the lion's share of new infrastructure and building work. Mr Jones said the Government was the construction industry's biggest client and lack of certainty and transparency on new state projects had been an issue, so the report would give much-needed certainty. Developing a long-term and publicly available Infrastructure Pipeline will be a key focus for the new Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga, which is on track to be up and running by the end of the year. “This prototype will allow us to gather feedback on the pipeline’s form and function before it expands to involve all central government agencies, local government, and, in time, private sector projects.” Mr Jones said.       Code of Conduct ensures better financial advice for Kiwis   Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced that a new code of conduct will come into effect next year to ensure that New Zealanders receive good quality advice when it comes to investing their money. Serious issues were identified by the Financial markets Authority and Reserve Bank RBNZ in their recent reviews of the banking and life insurance sector. The code, alongside the new financial advice legislation, will help address those issues by ensuring consumers’ interests are much better served. Mr Faafoi said anyone giving financial advice to consumers will need to act fairly and with integrity when they give advice, and to meet a minimum standard of competence. Businesses that provide financial advice will need to be licensed. “We want consumers to have confidence that people advising them about their finances are prioritising their interests, are competent and are following professional standards.”     Taking action to improve life for those on benefits   The Government is committed to offering better support for New Zealanders on benefits. While a number initiatives have already been announced during the term of this Parliament, further changes announced this week include: 263 new frontline staff to focus on helping more people into meaningful and sustainable work The scrapping of the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government Lifting the abatement thresholds for those on benefits who work, in line with minimum wage increases These changes follow the release of the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report, Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand. It contained 42 key recommendations that call for a systematic overhaul of New Zealand’s welfare system with a renewed focus on support to help those on benefits into sustainable work, and improved income adequacy to ensure families on benefits are not living in poverty. “The Government is taking a balanced approach and is committed to delivering change over the longer term and prioritising areas like housing and mental health which impact on all New Zealanders but especially those in the welfare system,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni. Minister for Children Tracey Martin said the welfare system needed to be fair to everyone and support child wellbeing. The combined investment of today’s three pre-budget announcements is $286.8 million over the next four years.      Government outlines how it will respond to Historical Abuse inquiry   Minister of State Service Chris Hipkins will lead the Crown’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions, the Government announced this week as the scale of the investigation becomes apparent. Eleven government agencies are involved in responding to the inquiry. The six principles guiding the inquiry will be: manaakitanga, openness, transparency, active listening and learning, connectivity between agencies, and meeting Treaty of Waitangi obligations in order to build stronger Maori-Crown relationship. “In setting out the principles, we have taken an important step in the vital task of rebuilding trust between Government and children who were abused while they were in state care,” Mr Hipkins said. “The Government is determined to take action in a transparent, co-ordinated and timely way to ensure such wide-scale abuse over such a long period can never be allowed to happen again.” The Commission’s interim report is due in December 2020, and the final report in January 2023.  

Week in Review – May 3rd

$95 million to address teacher shortage   With Budget 2019 scheduled for May 30, this week saw the first pre-Budget announcements. On Thursday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a $95 million funding boost to address the teacher shortage. It aims to draw more New Zealanders into the profession by offering scholarships and incentives. Budget 19 will fund 2480 additional trainee teacher places through: 1860 TeachNZ scholarships - fees and living costs for trainees studying in hard to staff subject areas  300 Teach First NZ places to recruit graduates and professionals into low decile secondary schools where they teach while completing a postgraduate teaching  240 places in a new employment-based teacher education programme for secondary teachers  80 Iwi-based scholarships. The number of New Zealanders enrolling in initial teacher education (ITE) plummeted by about 40 percent under National. The Government is stepping up to address the chronic teacher shortage which has resulted, and is investing in providing the world-class education which all New Zealand children deserve.     Pike River re-entry delayed   Friday’s long-awaited re-entry of the Pike River mine was delayed by “unexpected and unexplained” readings on atmospheric monitoring systems at the site. Re-entry to Pike River was a bottom-line commitment for New Zealand First which is now entrenched in the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition agreement. Re–entry is about finding out the truth, and it is about doing what’s right for the families of those 29 men who have fought so hard to get to this point. New Zealand First remains committed to re-entry of the Pike River mine, but only when it is safe to do so. “Safety has always been our first priority, and will continue to be. In these circumstances the appropriate precaution is to temporarily suspend operations,” said Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little. “I back the Pike River Recovery Agency to take the time needed to fully understand the cause and significance of these new readings. The Agency will know more after further testing and investigative work is completed over the next week. A meeting of ventilation experts will then convene later in the month.       Milestone for Research and Development   New Zealand First welcomed the passing of the Taxation (Research and Development Tax Credits) Bill, which introduces a research and development (R&D) tax incentive for New Zealand businesses.                       “New Zealand First has consistently campaigned to introduce such a tax incentive, and increase public spending on R&D to encourage business and economic growth,” said New Zealand First Deputy Leader Fletcher Tabuteau. “Under the previous Government’s failed grant scheme, R&D spending continued to lag behind international competitors. Finding a way forward to close this gap was a priority for New Zealand First during coalition negotiations. This tax credit is an important step towards fulfilling the Coalition Agreement commitment to work towards increasing Research & Development spending to 2% of GDP over ten years, Mr Tabuteau said.     Unemployment down, wages up   Unemployment fell from 4.3 per cent in the December 2018 quarter to 4.2 per cent in the three months to March 31, and wages grew 3.4 percent over the year to March 31, according to official figures released this week. Unemployment is now at its second lowest level in 10 years. With wages also up, this shows that the economy is strong and that the Government is implementing policies that support workers and business. A closer look at the numbers shows more positive trends. The unemployment rate for Māori fell to 8.6 per cent from 9.6 per cent, and the Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) rate fell to 13.2 per cent from 14 per cent in the December quarter.     Winter Energy Payment starts earlier this year   The Winter Energy payment, a key Government initiative implemented last year to assist superannuitants, veterans, and beneficiaries meet additional winter heating costs, begins again this week. The May 1 seasonal start date is earlier than last year, meaning a longer overall payment period for those eligible. Around one million New Zealanders will be better off with the financial assistance the Winter Energy Payment provides. A single person will get an extra $20.46 a week tax-free, while a couple, or a single person looking after children, will get an extra $31.82 a week tax-free. New Zealand First believes that everyone deserves a warm, dry place to call home and is proud to be part of the Government providing extra support during the winter months.  It's a little bit extra, but it makes a big difference.     Government continues to run surplus   The latest Crown financial statements show a surplus of $2.5 billion in the operating balance before gains and losses for the nine months to 31 March 2019. The result is $329 million higher than the Treasury forecast in December 2018. The surplus demonstrates that the Government is continuing to manage the books carefully in the face of softening global growth and international volatility. The Wellbeing Budget in May will outline the next steps in the Government’s plan to grow and support the economy.  

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