$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.”