Northland rail investment massive boost for region
This week, The Minister for State Owned Enterprises Rt Hon Winston Peters and the Minister for Regional Economic Development Hon Shane Jones announced a $94.8 million investment to maintain and improve the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, which will have significant benefits for Northland’s economy.
“Without our investment, this rail line to Whangarei will become unsafe and have to close within five years – leaving Northland cut off from rail services most other regions have,” Winston Peters said.
The funding will see about 54 kilometres of the 181 kilometre track replaced or upgraded; tens of thousands of sleepers replaced, tens of thousands of cubic metres of ballast added; aging bridges replaced; overdue maintenance work on tunnels carried out; ditches cleared and embankments stabilized.
“This initiative will see many millions of dollars being injected into Northland, helping stimulate the region’s economic growth. I’m proud that PGF funding has been able to make this happen,” Shane Jones said.
PGF invests over $2 million in the West Coast and Canterbury
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest in an initiative to get young people into jobs.
This latest PGF funding announced by The Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau is in addition to PGF projects totalling over $88 million already announced in the West Coast region as at 31 July 2019.
The overall PGF investments totalling over $2 million announced today are:
- The PGF, through its skills and employment programme, Te Ara Mahi, is investing nearly $1.09 million in total in an already successful driver hub initiative, run by the Salvation Army, to be expanded from Canterbury to the West Coast.
- A further almost $1.09 million through the PGF’s Te Ara Mahi programme has also been given to the Salvation Army to extend its current driver hub in Canterbury.
- $100,000 will be provided towards establishing an appropriate governance structure for West Coast Ports.
“This initiative involves a 12 week Community Driver Mentor programmes to be run in Greymouth, Hokitika and Westport, which supports participants to pass their restricted driver test, as well as an eight week programme supporting people to gain their full licence.
“It specifically targets young parents, youth without parental support, sole parents, at risk young people and migrants, and will consider supporting other local people who are facing barriers to attaining their restricted and full licences, and provides ongoing pastoral care to participants beyond both courses to assist them into sustainable employment,” Fletcher Tabuteau said.
PGF supporting a diversified Taranaki economy
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is helping Taranaki prepare for its future with three investments in early stage projects.
The investments announced are:
- Phase 1 of hydrogen infrastructure project (First Gas Limited) - $259,934
- Acos filler acceleration project (Acos Filler Limited) - $300,000 loan
- Next steps for New Plymouth airport runway (New Plymouth District Council) - $56,762
“The Government is committed to supporting Taranaki in its transition to a low emissions economy. This initial investment will take important steps towards potentially utilising existing gas infrastructure as part of the region’s clean energy future,” Shane Jones said.
Coalition Government action on cancer
The Coalition Government has unveiled plans for a Cancer Control Agency to administer the new 10-year Cancer Action Plan, a $60m boost to PHARMAC, and confirmation that the extension of free breast screening to those aged 70 to 74 is a priority action for the Government.
“Cancer touches just about every one of us at some stage in our lives. On average 66 people every day are diagnosed with cancer – and they deserve world-class care,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
The new Cancer Action Plan is focused on reducing cancer incidence and improving cancer outcomes in New Zealand. The agency is to begin work immediately. As a priority, PHARMAC will also undertake work to ensure its funding decisions are faster and more transparent.
New Zealand First secured the extension of free breast screening to those aged 70 to 74 during Coalition Negotiations.
“New Zealand’s breast screening programme has resulted in a reduction of approximately 30 percent in breast cancer mortality for women. There is evidence to suggest the extension of the programme to women between 70 and 74 will also have beneficial impacts on mortality rates, which is why we made it a priority during negotiations.
“New Zealand First stands with cancer sufferers and their loved ones calling for better, timelier treatment. There’s much more to do, but, the Coalition Government has taken the first step in that direction,” said Jenny Marcroft.
Healthy waterways action plan launched
This week the Minister for the Environment David Parker and the Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor launched the Coalition Government’s action plan to stop the degradation of our waterways and clean up our rivers and lakes within a generation.
The Action Plan for Healthy Waterways sets out the proposed new requirements to improve freshwater, which include:
- Raising the bar on ecosystem health, including protecting wetlands and streams (through a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management)
- Set higher standards for swimming in the places New Zealanders swim in summer
- Interim controls on land intensification, until councils have plans in place (2025) through a new National Environmental Standard (Freshwater NES)
- An accelerated planning process that will enable better, faster and more consistent freshwater management plans by regional councils (through the RMA amendment bill)
- Support for the delivery of safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater through an amended Drinking Water National Environment Standard and proposed Wastewater NES.
- Improving risky farm practices where needed including ensuring farmers and growers understand and manage environmental risks through farm plans (Freshwater NES)
“Farmers have done a huge amount of work to improve their practices over the last 20 years and some are leading the way in restoring our pristine waterways. The knowledge and skills of those exemplar farmers needs to be shared with others,” Damien O’Connor said.
“We know some farmers feel they are under pressure and we understand their concerns. That is why we included a $229 million package in the Budget to help with the transition and why we have set a target of a generation to restore our waterways,” David Parker said.
PGF delivers $12 million boost to Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery
The Sarjeant Gallery project will proceed as planned, thanks to a $12 million boost from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) announced by Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau.
The PGF grant will be going towards the construction of a new wing situated alongside the purpose-built category one listed heritage building.
“The redevelopment will turn this nationally significant gallery into a world class attraction. A recent economic impact assessment estimates the redevelopment will attract 22,000 additional visitors per year and generate around $11 million in additional regional spending.
“It has taken the Whanganui District Council ten years of fundraising effort for this project to reach this point, and what better way to celebrate than on the gallery’s 100th anniversary,” Fletcher Tabuteau said.
This week Housing Minister Megan Woods announced the rest of KiwiBuild to help more New Zealanders into home ownership.
“The housing crisis developed over decades and won’t be solved overnight. We’ve made a good start across the wider housing portfolio but KiwiBuild isn’t working so we are changing it. When policies aren’t working we are honest about that and fix them,” Megan Woods said.
The reset includes:
- New ways for people to become home owners, such as shared-ownership schemes
- Boosting supply by building more homes where evidence shows they are needed
- Letting friends and family join their $10,000 deposit assistance together
- Reducing to 5% the deposit required for a government-backed mortgage
- Reducing the amount developers receive for triggering the government underwrite rather than selling to KiwiBuild buyers
This reset accompanies other action the Coalition Government has already taken to begin to address the housing crisis including:
- Banning overseas speculators from the market
- Stopping the sell-off state houses
- reforming tenancy rules
- Helping hundreds of homeless people get into a home with wrap around services including addiction services and mental healthcare
- Building record levels of state and public houses
- Starting off reform of the RMA