A bundle of statements and speeches has emerged from the Beehive in the past 24 hours.
We can’t closely examine all of them but suggest public servants whose pay is being frozen or subject to a stiff test before it is increased might take a look at some of the Government’s spending decisions.
Spending on cultural festivals, for example.
Here’s our attempt at giving readers a record of what has been done with their money or to improve their wellbeing …
Getting our railways on track
Speech on NZ Rail Plan (speech)
Transport Minister Michael Wood and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dr David Clark have released the Government’s long-term vision for a sustainable rail network.
New Zealand Rail Plan lays out how the Government aims to build a resilient, reliable and safe network, as well as the indicative investments over the next decade.
Michael Wood said rail is key to keeping New Zealand moving and is supporting our economic recovery.
Rail is worth up to $2.1 billion to the economy every year and reduces emissions and congestion. Annually it prevents 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and 26 million car trips in Auckland and Wellington, he said.
State aid for tourism
A plan intended to ensure the immediate survival and long-term transformation of the tourism sector has been outlined by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.
- Five South Island tourist communities are targeted for specialist support
- Pressure on Māori tourism operators and Conservation facilities is recognised
- Domestic and international-facing tourism agencies are put on more secure footing
- The long-term plan will re-set tourism with a focus on sustainability, industry standards and regional economic diversification
“We will roll out a $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan between now and 2023. It will invest in new programmes like small business support, tourism infrastructure, the conservation estate, Māori development, economic and regional development, and mental wellbeing support.”
More state help for tourism
Tourism businesses operating on public conservation land will have another six months of fees waived to help them adjust to the downturn in international visitors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver will be reviewed again later this year to either confirm the reinstatement of fees on January 1 2022, or provide a further waiver if extraordinary circumstances warrant it.
Challenges in energy
Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods addressed a gathering organised by the Energy Trusts Executive.
She discussed challenges facing the industry such as wholesale electricity pricing driven by low hydro-lake storage and tight gas supplies and the need to think about ‘dry year’ energy storage, particularly in a future with a 100% renewable electricity grid.
She also drew attention to her government’s readiness to make special arrangements for Maori: a $28 million Māori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund has been established to trial small-scale renewable energy technologies. The funding for Māori housing projects will be allocated over four years until mid-2024 through an open application process.
Progress on trade talks with the UK
New Zealand and the United Kingdom have agreed “to rapidly lift the tempo of talks”, as the two countries enter a new phase in free trade negotiations, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor announced.
He and UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, have discussed the progress being made in negotiations to put in place “an ambitious, comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade”.
The next formal rounds of talks is scheduled for early June and July.
This will be New Zealand’s first FTA to include dedicated chapters on trade and gender and consumer protection, alongside proposals that are being discussed on environment, labour, cooperation on indigenous interests, SMEs, development, and anti-corruption.
The govt deficit
The Crown accounts for the nine months to the end of March show both OBEGAL and the operating balance remain better than forecast in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) released in December last year. The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was $5.2 billion better than forecast in the HYEFU.
Tax revenue was $69.9 billion, $4 billion above forecast due to higher than expected corporate and income tax, and GST revenue.
Net core Crown debt was 33.3% of GDP, $6.6 billion less than forecast.
Countering the terrorists
The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill, after passing its first reading, will be considered by Parliament’s Justice select committee. It amends the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019 to:
- clarify the definition of a “terrorist act”;
- create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act;
- create a new offence to specifically criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training for terrorist purposes;
- create a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities;
- expand the criminal offence of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support; and
- extend the eligibility for a control orders to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence if they continue to present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.
Spreading the vaccine
New Zealand strongly supports the announcement by the United States Trade Representative to work for a waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation.
Family and Sexual Violence Minister Marama Davidson has launched “the national engagement process on the prevention and elimination of family and sexual violence”. This opens up “a safe and trusted space for all voices of the community, particularly those with lived experience to be listened to and learnt from prior to the creation of the National Strategy and Action Plans”.
Davidson said it was essential Māori leadership, Te Ao Māori thinking and an inclusive Treaty framework played a pivotal part in transforming the system and will be at the forefront.
The engagement will officially begin on 12 May and run until the end of June.
Visit www.violencefree.govt.nz for more information.
State’s involvement in family care
Up to 60 families in Counties Manukau are to be supported through the first three years of parenthood by a new whānau-centred model of care.
The model is being piloted by a Well Child Tamariki Ora service provider, the South Seas Healthcare Trust.
Young parents, within the pilot and their families will be supported by a South Seas key worker, who will be a Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse, “kaiāwhina”* or social worker. The worker will liaise with a multidisciplinary team to ensure the parents and their whānau receive the support they need.
This is the second of three pilots being funded as part of the $10 million Mental Wellbeing Package within Budget 2019 to provide enhanced support for young parents and their families.
* We are guessing a kaiāwhina is an assistant.
A partnership with the Pūhoro STEM Academy will support thousands more young Māori to participate and succeed in the fields of science, technology, and innovation.
The Government will provide the programme with $2.97 million of funding over three years.
Pasifika festival organisers will receive additional support to adapt to the COVID-19 environment through the Government’s newly launched ‘Lua Wave’ component of the Pasifika Festivals Initiative. The initiative provides $12 million over three years through a phased approach of four waves of funding. Lua Wave opens for applications tomorrow and closes on Friday 9 July 2021.
Speaker of the House is spoken to
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the serious issue of alleged sexual assault and harassment at Parliament was poorly managed and inappropriately politicised on Tuesday night.
She has expressed serious concerns to Speaker Trevor Mallard about the manner in which he conducted himself in the House that night.
Point of Order looked at this matter – and at Mallard’s performance during Question Time yesterday – here.