Keeping track of our railways investments: more than $4bn has gone into a revitalisation programme including a new maintenance facility

When shunted out of Parliament at the general election (their likely fate if Shane Jones fails to win Northland), New Zealand First’s MPs at least will be able to look back at their contribution to the revitalisation of the country’s railways.

Mind you, they are doing this with our money and the billions of dollars debt we will be expected to pay back.  And whether the revitalisation makes good economic sense is open to argument because the investment has been huge.

The Government has already committed more than $4 billion to bring New Zealand’s rail network back from the brink after decades of under-investment, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said in a press statement which he and State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters released to announce the latest investment.

This is a $39 million investment to build a new rail maintenance facility in Christchurch, which will support hundreds of construction jobs and ensure a strong future for South Island rail, they said.

Almost 300 people will be needed to construct the new facilities in Waltham over the next two to three years and (Peters said) KiwiRail has assured him  it will be using local civil contractors and material suppliers wherever possible  in addition to its own staff.

“That means a good amount of the Government’s investment will be going back into Canterbury’s economy, its people and its businesses, which is crucial to help offset the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

The investment complements an earlier investment of  almost $20 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade the Hillside heavy engineering workshops in Dunedin.

It is part of the $3 billion infrastructure package in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, announced by Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Shane Jones on July 1. The fund is expected to deliver more than 20,000 jobs across New Zealand and unlock investment with a project value of more than $5 billion.

Safe drinking water

On the legislative front, the Government has introduced to Parliament the Water Services Bill, a measure which Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says will transform drinking water safety in New Zealand and improve environmental outcomes for our wastewater and stormwater networks.

It is a companion to the Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Act which forms a new water regulator, passed by Parliament last week.

“We all expect to be able to drink the water that comes out of the tap knowing that it is safe, and we want to swim in our rivers and lakes or gather kai moana at the beach without fear of getting sick. 

“This new legislation is designed to give Taumata Arowai the powers it needs to do this for all our communities. It provides the legislative tools for the new regulatory regime for drinking water and is a major step change to ensure the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. 

“It will also make a significant contribution to urban and coastal water quality through a national oversight role of wastewater and stormwater.’’ 

  The Bill is a response to the Havelock North drinking water contamination in 2016 when around 5000 people became ill and up to four deaths were associated with the laxity in quality control.   The Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry found the contamination was a result of systemic failure across service provision, regulation and source protection – all aspects of the system were implicated.

The new Bill comprises a significant part of the Government’s response to the inquiry report and is modelled on the core fundamental principles of drinking water safety identified by the inquiry. These include:

  • A high standard of care must be embraced in relation to drinking water
  • The protection of source water is of paramount importance;
  • Multiple barriers against contamination of drinking water must be maintained;
  • Water contamination is almost always preceded by some kind of change and these changes must never be ignored;
  • Suppliers must guarantee the safety of drinking water; and
  • A preventative risk management approach must be applied in relation to drinking water.

Reserve Bank reform

Another newly tabled bill, this one dealing with the Reserve Bank,  aims to strengthen New Zealand’s financial system by improving the bank’s governance and accountability.

But don’t expect changes any time soon. This Bill is not expected to be read for a first time until after the election.

Key changes to the current legislation include:

  • Adding an overarching financial stability objective, to complement the recently updated monetary policy objectives.
  • Strengthening decision-making through moving from a single decision maker to a board model.
  • Ensuring operational independence is balanced with appropriate accountability, with a number of changes to update the Reserve Bank’s accountability and reporting frameworks to align with state sector practice.
  • Providing for a Financial Policy Remit issued by the Minister, setting out matters that the Reserve Bank board must have regard to when setting and implementing its strategic approach to financial stability.
  • Increasing accountability and transparency in the Reserve Bank’s management of foreign reserves, by requiring the Reserve Bank and the Minister to agree a Foreign Reserves Management and Co-ordination Framework.
  • Changes to the funding model to promote transparency and allow for appropriate recovery of costs, through industry levies and fees.
  • Providing the Council of Financial Regulators with a statutory mandate to support effective and responsive regulation of the financial system by facilitating cooperation and coordination between its members.
  • Expanding the Reserve Bank’s functions in respect of cash, including supporting public confidence in banknotes by enabling the Reserve Bank to set standards for devices that check the authenticity and/or quality of banknotes.

Further details can be found here.

Phase 1 of the Reserve Bank Act reforms have already been passed to introduce the Reserve Bank’s employment mandate to sit alongside inflation targeting in its monetary policy objectives.

Further work under Phase 2 is focussed on the introduction of a new ‘Deposit Takers’ Act, including a deposit insurance scheme for New Zealand. Due to the impact of COVID-19, consultation on the Deposit Takers Act was extended until 23 October. These reforms are expected to be introduced to Parliament in 2021.

Family planning 

Family Planning New Zealand  is being given $427,000 to help reduce wait times by increasing hours for existing staff, hire new clinical and administrative staff, and other cost pressures.

Family Planning is dealing with a patient-backlog created by a month of appointments that had to be postponed due to COVID lockdown, and fewer people seeking out primary healthcare and other sexual and reproductive health services during COVID-19 Levels 3 and 4, said  Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter, .

China chided

The Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made several other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong.

China’s passage of its new national security legislation had eroded rule-of-law principles, undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that underpins Hong Kong’s unique status, and contravened commitments China made to the international community, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said.

“New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China. If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision.”

New Zealand’s review of its overall relationship with Hong Kong is ongoing, but Peters announced two other outcomes of it.

  • We are changing how we treat the export of sensitive goods to Hong Kong.  From now on, we will treat military and dual-use goods and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way as we treat those exports to China.
  • We have updated our travel advice to alert New Zealanders to the risks presented by the National Security Law.

New Zealand remained deeply concerned at the Chinese security legislation and will continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong as the law is applied, Peters said.

Release

29 JULY 2020

Waltham investment key to the future of South Island rail

The Government is investing $39 million to build a new rail maintenance facility in Christchurch which will support hundreds of construction jobs and ensure a strong future for South Island rail, Sta

Rt Hon Winston Peters Hon Shane Jones

Infrastructure

State Owned Enterprises

Release

28 JULY 2020

New water services bill for safe drinking water

The Government has today introduced legislation to Parliament that will transform drinking water safety in New Zealand and improve environmental outcomes for our wastewater and stormwater networks.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Local Government

Release

28 JULY 2020

Reserve Bank reform to improve governance and accountability

The Government is taking further steps to strengthen New Zealand’s financial system through reforms to the Reserve Bank Act to improve the Bank’s governance and accountability, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

Hon Grant Robertson

Finance

Release

28 JULY 2020

Biggest cash-injection for Family Planning in a decade

“Today I am pleased to announce funding to help Family Planning New Zealand address long wait times, and help hire more staff in their call centres and clinics, so that New Zealanders can get the sexual health information and clinical services they need,” Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter said.

Hon Julie Anne Genter

Health

Release

28 JULY 2020

New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

The New Zealand Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says.

Rt Hon Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister

Foreign Affairs

 

 

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