Latest from the Beehive
China’s relations with the United States and Australia (as Point of Order readers know) are seriously strained and now we can add Britain to the list of countries that are turning up the heat on the authoritarian government in Beijing. Britain will suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an escalation of a dispute with China over its introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.
But our PM – in a speech to the China Business Summit – emphasised three points:
- Our important relationship with China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, is in good shape.
- While we have different perspectives on some issues, we continue to manage these well.
- And there continue to be many opportunities for New Zealand to develop with China.
But perhaps a more significant announcement from the Beehive yesterday came from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who said the remainder of the COVID Response and Recovery Fund “is being set aside to make sure New Zealand is in a strong position to fight whatever COVID-19 throws at the economy”.
It was comforting to hear it hasn’t all been spent yet, contrary to the impression created by the daily flow of spending announcements recorded here.
The global pandemic is continuing to grow, Robertson said, and in the face of this and on-going uncertainty,
“ … now is the time to be cautious and keep our powder dry. Keeping debt under control, and supporting jobs and businesses are both important. We are committed to getting the balance right, to give New Zealand options.”
At the time of Budget 2020, the Minister reminded us, there was $20.2 billion remaining in the Fund to be allocated. The Government has since announced several important investments from the Fund, including $570 million for the COVID Income Relief Payment, an extra $700 million for the wage subsidy extension, and more than $300 million to keep supporting our health response including the $150 million for extra PPE announced at the end of June.
This left just over $17 billion in the Fund at the start of July.
Robertson said Cabinet has agreed that further support for ongoing health, border and economic response measures will require about $3.2 billion, with announcements to be made before the House rises (and before the election). This amount includes the $760 million already announced for Three-Waters reform.
This will leave $14 billion in the COVID Response and Recovery Fund, which is now being set aside in the event, for example, New Zealand experiences a second wave.
“The Fund is not there to be used for any old project in the never-never. It is to provide support and stimulus to recover and rebuild from COVID-19,” Robertson said.
This is reassuring, because here at Point of Order we have wondered about the wisdom of some of the spending decisions that flow daily from the Beehive.
The latest lot includes –
- Grants to 59 individuals and organisations to increase the participation of young people in Para sport. This comes from the Minister of Sport and Recreation’s $44,000 Discretionary Fund, for the last two years distributed in partnership with Paralympics NZ. The Fund will be open again in 2021. More information can be found here.
- Two health providers will receive funding through the Government’s infrastructure programme for building projects in Christchurch. The Bone Marrow Cancer Trust will receive $7 million to build 42 self-contained units for patients and their families and whanau; the Cancer Society will receive $6.5 million for the construction of a fit-for-purpose, 50-bedroom accommodation facility for cancer patients and their families and whanau from outside Christchurch and a community centre.
- The Government has put $30,000 towards a Mayoral Relief Fund to support communities impacted by the recent flooding in Northland.
- Education Minister Jenny Salesa has discussed a new action plan – the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020-2030 – to support the education and wellbeing of Pacific children and young people. This initiative is supported by government’s investment of $27.4 million in Budget 2019 and a further $80.2 million in Budget 2020 to support Pacific learners and families.
- The agritech sector is set to benefit from Government investment including $11.4 million direct investment in implementing the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (announced in Budget 2020), a share of $84 million of Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures funding brought forward to boost innovation to support the Fit for a Better World roadmap, and ongoing support from the Government’s agritech Taskforce and existing government programmes.
- A $10 million investment through the Tourism Transitions Programme will support up to 3,000 small and medium tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19 to get expert advice. Eligible businesses will get up to $5,000 worth of advice and expertise to support business continuity.
- Investments from the Provincial Growth Fund and COVID Response and Recovery Fund will go towards roading and flood protection projects in the Far North. $14.2 million from the PGF is being made available for roading projects. $12.5 million to help combat future flooding events in Northland will be provided through the infrastructure package under the COVID Response and Recovery Fund.
Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis was inviting applications for round four of Te Aho Ngārahu, a fund (or trough) that enables Māori storytellers to develop quality localised te reo Māori education resources for ākonga, kaiako and Kāhui Ako. Te Aho Ngārahu received a $1.5 million boost in Budget 2020, increasing its annual funding to $3.41 million.
Since its establishment in 2017, the initiative has produced over 200 resources that share a range of local histories from across New Zealand.
Resources developed through Te Aho Ngārahu include:
- A board game which traces the journey Tamatea Arikinui took through Rarotonga to arrive in Aotearoa.
- Digital story books about Māori superheroes Pūwhaorangi of Te Arawa, and Ngarue of Taranaki.
- A multi-media interactive map that tells the story of Pekehaua, who brought Ruaeo to Aotearoa and carved te awa o Te Awahou.
- An ebook that is a collection of stories of Moriori history on Rēkohu.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage meanwhile was making 47 appointments to 14 of the 15 conservation boards across New Zealand – 21 reappointments and 26 new appointments. The appointments took effect from 7 July. More information about conservation boards can be found at: www.conservationboards.org.nz
Before wrapping up the day’s Beehive Bulletin, let’s revisit Ardern’s speech to the China trade bunch.
She did mention Hong Kong (where the Chinese government has been behaving badly), but she did so in a kindly way:
The New Zealand government takes a stance where, as representatives of the New Zealand people, we think that the public has a direct and resounding interest in the outcome. As you know, this has come to the fore recently around developments like Hong Kong’s new security law, the situation of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province, and Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organisation.
This is important to who we are as New Zealanders.
Looking specifically at Hong Kong, which has been in the news in recent weeks, curtailing the city’s open governance and judicial independence without proper involvement of Hong Kong’s institutions, directly impacts on the thousands of New Zealanders living in, or with close ties to, Hong Kong. Many New Zealanders have also invested in Hong Kong or do business there because of its independent judiciary and high degree of autonomy. It is, then, quite natural for us to raise concerns about Hong Kong’s security law– we believe we are representing real and actual issues for New Zealanders.
Our countries have have different perspectives on some issues, and I expect that we will continue to have these into the future. That is normal. Our relationship is a mature one in which we can manage differences constructively and professionally. Maintaining contact between both sides is key, and our relationship architecture has set us up well to do just this.
But there was nothing threatening – either to the Chinese government or to New Zealand’s trading interests by antagonising the Chinese authorities with a flair for retribution.
The Government has today announced investments from the Provincial Growth Fund and COVID Response and Recovery Fund towards roading and flood protection projects after flooding events in the Far North.
A $10 million investment through the Tourism Transitions Programme will support up to 3,000 small and medium tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19 to get expert advice, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced today.
Ensuring Pacific learners and families are valued, culturally safe and better equipped to achieve their educational dreams and aspirations is the focus of a new action plan released today by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa.
Two health providers will receive funding through the Government’s infrastructure programme for building projects in Christchurch that will provide South Island patients and their families improved access to accommodation and support while they receive treatment, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones and Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Poto Williams have announced.
Applications have opened for round four of Te Aho Ngārahu, a fund that enables Māori storytellers to develop quality localised te reo Māori education resources for ākonga, kaiako and Kāhui Ako, Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis announced today.