PGF announcements north and south
The political year wrapped up with significant Provincial Growth Fund announcements around the country.
In the eastern Bay of Plenty, Regional Economic Development Minster Shane Jones announced support for projects totalling $25 million. They include aquaculture facilities and development, the first stage of Opotiki harbour redevelopment, Whakatane waterfront and town centre regeneration, and a feasibility study into improving visitor access to White Island.
“Eastern Bay of Plenty has a clear vision of the future and through the Provincial Growth Fund, the Government is able to work alongside them to progress projects that will strengthen their communities and grow the local economy,” Mr Jones said.
He also announced $1.3 million to improve digital connectivity. Only last month, the Government allocated $40 million from the PGF to improve internet and mobile coverage in the regions.
In Coromandel, the PGF is investing $924,000 in aquaculture and marine services to accommodate the forecast growth in the green shell mussel and Pacific oyster production. Infrastructure is currently limiting ability to meet demand.
In Southland, Under-Secretary for RED Fletcher Tabuteau announced funding of $1.9 million for feasibility studies into the development of Invercargill’s inner city, a commercial salmon and mussel hatchery, and scoping further development of the sheep and goat milk industry with FoodSouth.
“It’s great to see the PGF’s involvement in all three projects which demonstrate exciting opportunities to develop Southland’s high value industries, and the revitalisation of Invercargill,” Mr Tabuteau said.
Child Poverty Reduction Bill passes final reading
The Child Poverty Reduction Bill passed its final reading in Parliament this week with near unanimous support from across the party divide. ACT was the only dissenting vote.
New Zealand First has long been committed to improving the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and readily supported Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her pursuit to reduce child poverty through this Bill, which was introduced in the Coalition Government’s First 100 Days.
The new law will oblige this Government and all future governments to set targets to reduce levels of poverty and material hardship among New Zealand children. Each government will also develop a comprehensive strategy to promote the overall wellbeing of children and young people, including their education, health and personal safety.
It has been greeted enthusiastically across the charities and welfare sector, with Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft describing the Bill's passing as "an historic cause for celebration".
New Zealand First believes it is unacceptable that any child lives in poverty in this country. We are proud to be part of a Government working to tackle this issue. Our Families Package is already under way and it will lift the incomes of more than 384,000 families by $75 a week when fully rolled out, GP visits are now free for all children under 14.
We look forward to the ambitious child poverty reduction goals set by the legislation being met.
Referendum on personal cannabis use in 2020
The Government will hold a binding referendum on personal cannabis use at the 2020 general election. New Zealand First have maintained that this referendum should be binding in order to reflect the consensus of the nation.
The Green Party negotiated the referendum during Confidence and Supply Talks to form the Government. Justice Minister Andrew Little announced Cabinet had made the decision on Monday, but said there was still detail to work through.
The news comes just a week after the Medicinal Cannabis Bill passed into law, allowing for a more compassionate approach to the use of cannabis for those in chronic pain and palliative care.
An August 2017 Curia poll found 65 per cent of the country supported legalising or decriminalising marijuana for personal possession.
Overhaul of temporary work visa scheme
The Government has proposed changes to the way temporary visas are issued and the public is invited to have its say.
The new system is designed to be simpler and more targeted, allowing areas and sectors experiencing genuine labour shortages to get the support they need. It will be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, but will include new employer checks to help combat migrant exploitation.
This announcement delivers on a longstanding New Zealand First policy to develop strategies that encourage the regional dispersion of immigration and puts an end to the previous Government’s open borders approach.
Public consultation is open until March 18, 2019 via the MBIE website.
Winston Peters in the US
Foreign Minister Winston Peters spent the week in the United States, where he met Vice President Mike Pence, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
He also held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior members of the US Administration.
“The visit was an excellent opportunity to engage with US policy makers on a number of issues important to both our countries,” Mr Peters said.
Plastic bag phase-out date confirmed
The Government has confirmed that retailers will be banned from selling or giving away single-use plastic bags from July 1, 2019, after Cabinet agreed to new regulations.
The phase-out marks the start of a significant Government programme to reduce waste, which includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation, and a greater focus on product stewardship for problematic waste such as vehicle tyres and e-waste.
The ban on single-use plastic bags received strong public support during consultation earlier this year.
New Zealand First believes the decision balances the interests of consumers, businesses and the health of the environment. It also demonstrates the Government’s commitment to upholding New Zealand’s clean, green image.
UN Migration Compact
Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced this week that New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.
The legal advice from both The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade outlined that:
- The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
- It does not establish customary international law;
- The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
- It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
- The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
- The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
New Zealand First would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues.