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.

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