Napier-Wairoa rail line reopens
On Friday, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones attended the reopening of the Napier-Wairoa rail line.
In one of the earliest Provincial Growth Fund announcements last year, $5 million was committed to reopening the line for logging trains between Wairoa and Napier Port. This provides a boon to the forestry industry and potentially takes more than 5700 trucks off the road each year.
The line was closed under the National Government in December 2012.
New Zealand First is strongly committed to regenerating the regions, boosting forestry, and reducing carbon emissions by getting trucks off our roads. The reopening of this line helps to achieve all these goals.
New Hercules fleet announced in Defence Capability Plan
Defence Minister Ron Mark released the Defence Capability Plan 2019, which outlines planned investments in the New Zealand Defence Force until 2030.
Top of the priority list was the long-overdue replacement of the ageing C-130 Hercules fleet with five new C-130J “Super Hercules” aircraft. Mr Mark said that the current fleet had been in use since the 1960s and had “reached the end of the road”. The replacement aircraft were proven, and fulfilled the NZDF requirements on range, payload, and other capabilities. The new fleet, expected to be in service by 2023, is expected to cost about $1 billion.
The Plan maintains total spend at $20 billion out to 2030, with $5.8 billion having already been committed since 2014. However, it has reprioritised investments to better support the Coalition Government’s objectives relating to the Pacific Reset policy, and the impacts of climate change.
Other key announcements included:
- Increasing Army numbers to 6000 personnel by 2035 and boosting defence intelligence personnel, cyber security and support capabilities
- The purchase of an Enhanced Sealift Vessel to complement HMNZS Canterbury, with an additional vessel scheduled to replace Canterbury in the mid-2030s
- Additional investment in maritime satellite surveillance in 2025 to complement the recently confirmed P-8A Poseidon planes
- The use of “Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" - or military drones - was signalled after 2030
- The decision to replace the ageing ANZAC frigate fleet has been deferred until the 2030s, after costly upgrades over the past decade
The plan delivers on a key Coalition Agreement commitment to review the Defence procurement programme and was developed in line with the Government’s priorities, Mr Mark said. All investments would be robustly tested and subject to detailed business cases.
“At its heart, this new Capability Plan is a humanitarian plan. It readies New Zealand to lead in the assistance of our neighbours, and to contribute to the security of our friends in the Pacific.”
Government announces withdrawal of troops from Iraq
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, Defence Minister Ron Mark, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that New Zealand troops in Iraq will return home by the middle of next year.
New Zealand currently has 95 New Zealand personnel stationed in Camp Taji where they are training Iraqi soldiers. Their numbers will be reduced gradually, with 45 remaining in January 2020 and all of the troops withdrawn by June next year.
“Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do,” Mr Mark said.
The Government also announced that the New Zealand Defence Force’s deployment in Afghanistan would continue until December 2020, where they are helping train Afghan Army Officers.
Beyond 2020, new positions would be sought in Afghanistan with NATO which would focus on involving women in peace and security initiatives, reconciliation and reintegration.
“This is an important area of work for the Government and the Defence Force, and we are pleased that New Zealand’s contribution to it in Afghanistan would be led by some of NZDF’s highly capable female officers,” Ms Ardern said.
$68 million PGF funding package for Hawke’s Bay
Investment in transport infrastructure, digital connectivity, water storage, and skills and employment are all included in the $68 million Provincial Growth Fund package announced for Hawke’s Bay last week by Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau.
The region is a significant contributor to New Zealand’s agriculture sector and a global producer, processor and exporter of primary sector products but it also faces challenges which include high youth unemployment, low wages and lower GDP per capita compared to the rest of New Zealand.
- Two water storage initiatives, an aquifer mapping project, and a region-wide water assessment project to better understand the region’s wider water needs and improve security of water supply in dry years
- Transport initiatives to improve links within the region and between major transport hubs, key services and markets
- Improved connectivity package to better connect 11 Hawke’s Bay marae to fast and reliable broadband to help them take advantage of business and education opportunities
- Improving employment, skills and capability through the PGF’s Te Ara Mahi programme
- The Wairoa district will specifically receive $9.1 million from the PGF for road upgrades, developing Māori land, and on programmes to get more people into work.
- Central Hawke’s Bay will receive more than $40 million to support investments in road and rail, water storage and other economic development opportunities
“These investments will provide a much-needed boost for the Hawke’s Bay and will absolutely lead to economic growth and enhanced social outcomes.” Mr Tabuteau said.
Science and Innovation Hub gets $75 million upgrade
The Government is investing $75 million in upgrading the Gracefield Innovation Quarter in Wellington, one of New Zealand’s key science commercialisation sites.
The upgrade to the existing site will provide the country’s top scientists, engineers and researchers with the modern facilities needed to help transform our economy to become more productive, sustainable and focused on growing Research and Development, said Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Megan Woods.
Gracefield is home to over 200 world-leading scientists, researchers and technicians, along with tenant businesses. It features state-of-the-art specialist workshops, pilot plants, labs and equipment, and world-class measurement facilities. Three new buildings will be constructed, another will be extended, and existing buildings refurbished.
“Research and innovation provide the key to achieving our ambitions for a more productive, sustainable and resilient economy, environment and society,” Dr Woods said.
New Zealand First secured a Coalition Agreement commitment to work towards the goal of increasing New Zealand’s R&D spend to 2 percent of GDP by 2027.
This investment in Gracefield follows on from last year’s announcement of an R&D tax credit incentive scheme for businesses, and brings us one step closer to achieving our ambitious goals which will benefit the economy and the country as a whole.
Building of state houses ramps up
The building and refitting of state houses is picking up pace, with the regions starting to see the benefit.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford said 2700 new homes are now being built, 900 of them in the regions.
“This is the biggest state house building project in the regions in decades,” he said.
By the end of the next financial year, Housing NZ expects to complete 1389 of the homes currently being built.
“Housing NZ is investing $5.6 billion in building new houses over the next four years. This will result in a net increase of 1100 much-needed new state homes each year until 2022.”
Older housing stock is also being retrofitted, ensuring homes meet the Healthy Homes Guarantee standards.
The Government is committed to ending homelessness and making housing more accessible for all. This is not a quick-fix, but a long-term commitment.
New Zealand First believes every Kiwi deserves to live in a warm and dry home and is proud to be part of a Government tackling the housing crisis which has been a decade in the making.