PGF Top of the South announcement
This week the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced a number of investments in the Top of the South Island. These projects are focused on artificial intelligence and high end food development.
The investments totalling over $4.5 million are:
- Nelson Artificial Intelligence Institute Limited (NAII) $3.4 million loan
- The Food Factory (Picot Productions Ltd) $778,000
- Economic development project delivery (Nelson District Council and Marlborough District Council) $400,000
The Institute will focus initially on using artificial intelligence in the aquaculture industry in a region where 70 per cent of the country’s aquaculture industry exists.
The construction of the Food Factory, an initiative spearheaded by Picot Productions Ltd, which produces Pic’s Peanut Butter is particularly exiting. The Top of the South region is known for its high value horticulture products, as well as artisan products such as cider, cheeses, olive oil and baked goods. The Food Factory will provide start up food companies with a collaborative environment to develop new food products.
“These PGF investments will build on the great strides the Top of the South region is already making and I’m proud that the PGF is maximising on the boundless opportunities in the region to be enjoyed by generations to come,” Mr Tabuteau said.
Infrastructure Commission takes shape
The board of the new Infrastructure Commission was announced this week by Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones.
Former Reserve Bank Governor Dr Alan Bollard is to be chairman, with current Treasury Deputy Secretary Jon Grayson appointed as chief executive.
Board members are:
- David Cochrane - currently Special Counsel at Simpson Grierson
- Raveen Jaduram - Watercare Chief Executive
- Sue Tindal - an experienced banker and CFO
- Sarah Sinclair - partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and member of the Expert Review Panel for the establishment of Te Waihanga
- Stephen Selwood - departing Chief Executive of Infrastructure New Zealand
Mr Jones said the Government was confident it brought together a wide range of skills and experience essential for providing effective leadership in the infrastructure sector, and delivering the step-change which is needed.
The Government allocated a record $41 billion in Budget 2019 for capital spending over the next five years, focused on building schools, hospitals, houses, roads and public transport.
“Because of this, the two overarching functions that Te Waihanga will have – strategy and planning, and delivery support – are more important than ever. The Commission will develop a 30-year infrastructure strategy for New Zealand, as well as producing a pipeline of major projects, both of which I’m aware are keenly anticipated by the sector,” Mr Jones said.
The Commission is on track to be operational by October.
Additional measures to help tackle homelessness
The Government has announced additional measures to prevent and reduce homelessness focused on ensuring at-risk individuals and whānau have access to stable housing and continue to stay housed.
Associate Minister of Housing Kris Faafoi, and Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni, announced $54 million in Government funding for initiatives which will support at-risk individuals and whānau to stay in their existing tenancies.
The funding will also provide additional wrap-around services which complement the Government’s existing investment in the Housing First Programme which supports people with multiple, high and complex needs who have been, or are already homeless.
“As part of our work on homelessness we are expanding the Sustaining Tenancies programme. It ensures that tenants who may be at-risk of losing their tenancy receive practical support to help them get back on track,” Mr Faafoi said.
The Government is also investing heavily in additional MSD staff to work with vulnerable people and increased social services.
New Zealand First believes every Kiwi deserves access to a home in which they feel secure, and that some people need extra support in order to achieve that. As a strong partner in this Coalition Government we are working hard to address the housing concerns of many who are struggling as we aim to improve the livings standards of all New Zealanders.
Market study confirms fuel prices too high
The draft findings of the Commerce Commission report on the $10 billion fuel industry in New Zealand found that petrol companies were making ”excess returns” because the market was not as competitive as it should be.
The Government instructed the competition watchdog to look into the fuel market in December on the back of concerns that petrol prices had got less competitive and that there were unacceptable variations in prices around the country.
Commerce Commission chairman Anna Rawlings said the study found that the core problem was the lack of an "active wholesale" market for fuel, resulting in profits for the big players in the market "persistently above the returns earned by comparable firms internationally".
The commission is due to release its final report in December, after which the Government will decide what action to take.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already signaled that the Government will not “stand by” while New Zealanders are facing these kinds of price pressures at the pump and “being fleeced".
New approach to urban planning announced
A new approach to urban planning designed to allow our cities to make room for growth has been released by Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford and Environment Minister David Parker.
The proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development would direct councils – particularly in the six high growth centres of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown – to free up their planning rules while focusing on high-quality streets, neighbourhoods and communities.
“Our Government wants councils to take a long-term strategic approach to the growth of their cities. This means joining up transport, housing and infrastructure in a 30-year plan that involves mana whenua and the wider community in a much more hands-on approach to planning,” Mr Twyford said.
The National Policy Statement will sit alongside the one announced last week on Highly Productive Land, to ensure the Government gets the balance right and development occurs in the right places.
New Zealand First backs moves which reduce bureaucracy and streamline decision-making, allowing for cohesive planning decisions to be made in a timely manner.
Bill to allow licensed premises to stay open on World Cup match days
On Thursday, Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced a Bill to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act to allow licensed premises to remain open for Rugby World Cup matches.
While the existing licensing framework means many premises will already be covered, there are some clubs, especially in rural areas, which are having difficulty persuading their district licensing committees to grant a special licence to extend their hours for this hugely popular sporting event.
“So it makes sense for Parliament to allow clubs to meet a community desire,” Mr Little said.
The Bill will have its first reading early next week.
Boost for workplace literacy and numeracy training
New funding of $14.5 million over four years will see the Government contribute nearly $45 million to the employer-led workplace literacy and numeracy fund between 2019 and 2022.
“Increasing resources for on-the-job literacy and numeracy training is a practical way of opening more doors and supporting New Zealand businesses and workers for the future of work,” said Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
This investment follows the recently announced reform of vocational education, including ramping up on-the-job training.
“Automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly affecting jobs, meaning New Zealand needs a population with high-level literacy and numeracy skills to build a high-productivity, high-wage economy and an inclusive society where everyone can participate.”
New Zealand First is pleased to be part of a Government which is looking to the future and tackling the big issues. The delivery of vocational training, and lifting literacy and numeracy skills, are in both the individual and national interest of New Zealanders.
We are investing in a productive economy and an inclusive society where everyone can participate and reap the benefits.