Big week for NZ on international stage
Fresh from attending Armistice commemorations in Europe, Foreign Minister Winston Peters joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the East Asia Summit in Singapore and APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea.
At both events, the pair sidestepped the growing rift between the US and China over trade, preferring to emphasise our own free trade message – that New Zealand is open for business and wanting foreign investment in major infrastructure projects.
New Zealand and Singapore extended its 18-year-old free trade deal, making it easier for New Zealanders to do business with the island state. Trade and investment between the two countries is currently worth about $10 billion. It marks the first step towards the launch next year of an Enhanced Partnership which will see even greater co-operation on trade, science, innovation, the environment, education, the arts, security and defence.
Ms Ardern held a number of bilateral meetings with other regional leaders in Singapore, including Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Malaysia's 93-year-old leader, Mahathir Mohamad, who issued a warning about China’s growing influence in the Pacific, and her first meeting with new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In Port Moresby, leaders sought to formulate a shared vision for advancing APEC’s role as a driver of economic integration and growth in the region. However, the trade spat between China and the US saw the Summit end without the issue of the usual joint leaders’ statement.
Mr Peters said New Zealand was in a stronger position in the Pacific because of the US-China conflict. The unrest and unpredictability meant other countries were looking at New Zealand with fresh eyes as a prospective partner in the region.
He also announced multi-million dollar aid packages for Papua New Guinea, including support for both vaccination and electrification projects, along with a four year programme of support for the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Plus programme, a new joint New Zealand–Australian initiative.
On the sidelines, the Inclusive Trade Action Group met, with the New Zealand, Chile, and Canada reaffirming its commitment to work together to advance trade that benefits all their citizens.
Funding boost to tackle kauri dieback and myrtle rust
On Tuesday, the Government announced an extra $13.75 million in funding over three years for research to combat the spread of kauri dieback and myrtle rust.
These diseases are threatening our iconic native trees and other aspects of our biodiversity and warrant urgent action. The latest funding comes on the back of $11.6 million already allocated and will allow researchers to generate long-term solutions to the problem.
New Zealand First is proud to be part of the Government which is delivering on the Coalition Agreement commitment to increase support for National Science Challenges to counter incursions such as these.
“Maintaining the uniquely clean, green character of our environment is a core focus of New Zealand First,” said Conservation spokesperson Jenny Marcroft. “That’s why we made biosecurity a priority at the negotiating table, and continue to advocate for a well-resourced biosecurity system capable of effectively addressing incursions when and where they occur.”
Middlemore Hospital gets $80 million “fix it” funding
As the Government continues with its commitment to turn around years of neglect in New Zealand infrastructure, Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital will be able to start fixing its run-down facilities with an extra $80 million in funding announced this week.
Nowhere displays the symptoms of neglect and under-investment better than the Middlemore campus, where some buildings, including the children’s hospital, have severe rot and mould in the walls, and others are vulnerable to earthquakes.
Budget 2018 saw $750 million set aside for new capital projects, which included major upgrades to Auckland hospitals. With the latest $80 million dollar investment, the Government has allocated well over $600 million of the total to key projects.
Improving access to high quality health services provided in world-class facilities is a priority for the Coalition Government.
“This is about delivering the quality facilities and services that people need and deserve. This is a Government committed to that task,” said Health Minister David Clark.
Key capital investments from the Health budget include:
- $275m for Auckland DHB to address significant infrastructure challenges at Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre
- An estimated $200m plus for a new elective surgery unit at North Shore Hospital (Waitemata DHB is preparing a business case)
- $80m for four projects at Counties Manukau DHB (business cases to be developed).
- $45.6m for the new Wellington Children’s Hospital
- $24m for new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Northland DHB’s Whangarei Hospital
Three Waters Review
The Three Waters Review announced by the Government this week will examine the state and performance of New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
Most three waters assets and services are owned and delivered by local councils. This review will initiate a strategic conversation with local government about community wellbeing and proposals to overhaul the regulation of water, said Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta.
Pressures facing the water sector include funding, ageing infrastructure, rising environmental standards, climate change, seasonal pressure from tourism, and the recommendations of the Havelock North Inquiry into drinking water safety following the campylobacter outbreak in 2016.
The Government recognises that it is time to address these issues, and the burgeoning cost of water infrastructure.
“It’s important to lift the focus on to the real challenges facing us as we consider strategic opportunities to strengthen the role of local government in delivering prosperity and wellbeing for our communities,” Ms Mahuta said.
Recommendations are expected to be presented to Cabinet in June next year.
Net migration lowest since 2015
Annual net migration fell to 61,800 in the year ended October 2018, its lowest level in three years, according to figures released by Statistics NZ.
In the year to October, migrant departures were up 5400 to 66,400, while migrant arrivals were down by 3500 to 128,100.
This brought annual net migration to its lowest level since the year ended September 2015.