Week in Review - November 30th

West Coast gets game-changing PGF package


Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones visited the West Coast where he, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announced a game-changing $140 million Provincial Growth Fund package for the region, investing in tourism, food tech, mining and digital connectivity.

Projects include:

  • $87.46 million for tourism, ensuring the region’s popular sites and unique environments are protected and offer high-quality experiences for visitors
  • $32.8 million for extending ultra-fast broadband and mobile coverage
  • $10 million for a garnet mining project at Ruatapu
  • $9.9 million for a milk segregation project with Westland Milk Products

The Provincial Growth Fund is the cornerstone policy of the Coalition agreement and is changing the lives and fortunes of regional New Zealand.

This is a significant boost for the West Coast and demonstrates how the Government is partnering with the region to support projects that will build a better future for everyone here, Mr Jones said.



Employment Relations Bill passes second reading


The Employment Relations Bill passed its second reading this week. It will deliver a new employment relationship in the workplace by striking a balance between protecting workers’ rights and employers’ interests.

The legislation is the result of the three coalition partners of the Government working together and reaching a consensus after hearing an extensive number of public submissions.

The Bill contains multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) provisions which clarify employers have a responsibility to enter into bargaining but does not compel them to settle an agreement.

New Zealand First went in to bat for small and medium-sized businesses and fought to retain the 90-day trial for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

This is a great example of coalition politics at work. There is much to celebrate, as the outcome delivers rights and protections for workers which were stripped from them by National, while at the same time giving small businesses a fair go.



Free GP visits for under 14s launched


New Zealand First’s long-held policy to extend free GP visits to under-14s has finally become a reality.

Health spokesperson Jenny Marcroft joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark at the formal launch of the Coalition Government scheme in Wellington. It will see an additional 56,000 young people eligible for zero-fees general practice care from December 1.

This initiative is core New Zealand First policy in action and builds on our 1996 policy of free GP visits for under six-year-olds. It will cost the Government $22.0 million over four years.

New Zealand First is committed to improving the lives of everyday New Zealanders and cannot accept that cost is a barrier to accessing healthcare.



New urban development agency unveiled to build more homes 


Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced a new Crown agency with "cut-through powers" which will consolidate both Housing New Zealand and KiwiBuild, and fast-track processes in order to secure more public and affordable housing for New Zealanders.

New legislation to establish the Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) will be introduced to Parliament in 2019, with the first projects expected to be up and running in early 2020. Housing New Zealand’s role as a public landlord, and its housing services and products, will become part of the authority.

The authority will lead a range of large and small urban development projects throughout the country in partnership with local government, iwi and the private sector. It will work at scale and pace with the goal of resolving New Zealand’s housing crisis.



Government receives Mental Health and Addiction report


The Government has received the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, which will help shape New Zealand’s response to mental health in the future.

New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD and an increasing number of adults suffering psychological distress. The Government acknowledges there are significant issues which need addressing and is committed to making progress on these.

The Panel held 400 meetings nationwide and received more than 5200 submissions. The report is a substantial document which contains 40 recommendations. The Government will release the report to the public by the end of the year and will formally respond by March next year.



Mandatory phase-out of plastic bags


The Government has announced a short, six-month timeframe for the mandatory phase-out of all single-use plastic bags. It follows a five-week public consultation process, where 92 per cent of submitters supported “banning the bag”.

New Zealand is a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment – a global pledge to address the root causes of plastic pollution. We must lead by example.

The announcement comes as part of a wider work programme to tackle waste issues in New Zealand, which includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills, improving our national data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation to support resource recovery, and developing a national circular economy strategy to design waste out of the system.

Protecting our beautiful environment for future generations is a core value of New Zealand First. We need to take action now to clean up the plastic pollution.



New regulations on vaping


Vaping and smokeless tobacco products are to be regulated through changes to the Smoke-free Environments Act.

While the Government is keen to encourage smokers to switch to safer products, it needs consumers to have confidence in the quality of vaping and smokeless tobacco products being sold. The new rules will include changes to the way the products are advertised and displayed by retailers.

We are also concerned to protect the health of non-smokers, especially young people, so vaping will be subject to the same ban as cigarettes in places like bars, restaurants, and workplaces.

New Zealand First believes it is important to focus on smoking minimisation options in order to meet our smoke-free 2025 target, with vaping shown to be an effective tool to quit smoking. We must give New Zealanders the right tools and support to make the best choices for their health.



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