Rt Hon Winston Peters - One Year in Government

 

 

A year ago New Zealand was given hope for a brighter future, as New Zealand First and Labour became partners in a Government with fresh thinking, energy, and a determination to improve the lives of everyday Kiwis.

During the election campaign we sensed discontent, that too many people were struggling to make ends meet, that essential infrastructure and services they used on a daily basis were crumbling in the face of chronic underfunding, that some communities no longer felt safe, that the regions felt they had lost out to investment in the big cities and big business. In short, that the priorities of central government were wrong and it was time for a change.

It was this undercurrent of sentiment that was uppermost in our minds during coalition negotiations. In deciding our coalition partner, we had the simple choice between a slightly modified status quo with National or a real tide of change with Labour. As our very name suggests, we put New Zealand and New Zealanders First and in making the decision to partner with Labour, we have proven in our first year the real positive change we are making in the lives of people who call New Zealand home.

We set an ambitious agenda for action and we are working tirelessly to deliver on the 61 policy points detailed in our Coalition Agreement with Labour.

Regenerating the Regions

In February we launched our flagship Provincial Growth Fund and Billion Trees Programme. The $3 billion fund and the ambitious planting programme aim to breathe life back into the regions. For too long they have been neglected. Nearly half of us live outside our main cities. If this country is to do well, then our provinces must thrive. They are the powerhouse of the New Zealand economy.

In the first year alone, we have invested millions of dollars in some of the most neglected parts of the country. We have put money into forestry, agriculture, tourism, and regional transport links, all with the aim of enhancing economic development opportunities, drawing in private sector investment, creating sustainable jobs, contributing to community well-being, lifting productivity, and helping meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.

Restoring lost capacity

The Government is investing in health, education, housing and transport – sectors which touch New Zealanders’ lives every day, but which were neglected under the National Government. We are moving quickly to bring hospitals up to standard, expanding and rebuilding where necessary. $750 million was set aside in Budget 2018 for new capital projects, including major upgrades to Auckland hospitals and a new hospital for Dunedin.

More than 25,000 New Zealanders had their say in the Education Conversation and related summits which ran this year. As a result of this, the Government has set a 30-year pathway for education. We are planning for the next generation and our goal is ambitious – nothing less than the best education system in the world. We want every child in New Zealand to reach their full potential. To this end we have also boosted funding for special education needs, lifted the wages of learning support assistants, and initiated a plan to boost teacher numbers by 850 for 2019.

It is not acceptable to this Government that New Zealanders are homeless, or living in cold, damp conditions, or forced to rent when they would prefer to buy. The housing crisis was created over a decade under National and won’t be fixed overnight, but we are already starting to provide new and affordable housing to New Zealanders through our Kiwibuild scheme. It aims to deliver 100,000 homes for first home buyers over the next decade.

Effective transport links are critical to New Zealand’s economy. Under National, funding was channelled into the extravagant Roads of National Significance. Rail was marginalised, lines were closed, and regional roads deteriorated. The Government has approved a 10-year plan for transport which will inject record investment into roads, rail, air and sea links, with the goal of developing our growing regions and cities and saving lives on our roads.

Supporting NZers and our communities

There are many ways the Government is working to make life better for all Kiwis. We have already increased the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour and plan for it to be $20 by 2020-2021.

We have launched Mana in Mahi, a scheme which would see more young people on a benefit gain industry training skills which will lead to sustainable and meaningful employment and help address some of the skills shortages which employers face.

How well we treat our youngest and oldest citizens reflects on us as a society. New Zealand First is proud to have Tracey Martin as both Minister for Seniors and Minister for Children. Over 65s continue to benefit from our Super Gold Card which is in the process of being modernised, we have launched a Positive Ageing Strategy to address the needs of our rapidly ageing population, and extended GP visits to under-14s. When fully rolled out our Families Package, launched in July, will help improve life for 384,000 families and lifts thousands of children out of poverty.

Dwindling police numbers has seen organised and drug crime skyrocket, and left many communities feeling vulnerable. As part of our Coalition Agreement, we set the goal of recruiting 1800 extra police over the next three years. In August, the first allocations of extra officers were made around the country, with hard-hit regional towns seeing their police numbers boosted by 17-27 percent. This will make a real difference as we work to make our communities safer.

Regaining our place in the world

While we understandably focus on issues and progressive policy changes at home, we must also be mindful of our role and contribution on the global stage. In an increasingly turbulent world, we need to be clear about the challenges we face, ready and well-equipped to respond, and have valued working relationships with our neighbours and allies.

Budget 2018 secured a $367 million funding boost over the next four years for defence, and an extra $150 million for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We are now increasing our defence force capability, strengthening our representation globally, and building our influence and activity in the Pacific through our Pacific Reset policy. We are restoring the capacity lost under National and regaining our place in the world. It is long overdue.

New Zealand First is proud of its role at the heart of Government. As always, we have taken a commonsense approach and have negotiated balanced policy outcomes. We have stood firm on retaining the Three Strikes law until it is reviewed as part of a wider justice reform package, we argued to retain the 90-day trial for small businesses, and we have restricted foreign ownership of New Zealand property in order to give hard-working Kiwis a better chance of fulfilling their dream of home and land ownership.

New Zealand First and Labour have worked together constructively and achieved so much for New Zealand over the past year. We have had real influence in shaping a better future. We have proved the doom merchants wrong and demonstrated how effective Coalition Government can be. But there is still much to do. We will continue to work in the best interests of New Zealanders. It is what drives us.

 

 

 

 

Winston.Peters@parliament.govt.nz

 

 

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