It’s full steam ahead for the economy, according to the latest GDP statistics and a Finance Minister who eagerly drew attention to the new data.
Our farm industries, generally, are doing nicely, too, thank you, in spite of head winds which include a growing raft of government regulations.
But prospects of the America’s Cup being defended in this country are in the doldrums. That’s bad news for yachting buffs (but great news for taxpayers).
GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021, much better than the Treasury forecast of a modest decline of 0.2% in May’s Budget or (with the benefit of more recent data) economic commentators’ forecast of an increase less than 1%.
Internationally, the OECD average was 0.3%.
The economy was 2.4% above where it was in the March quarter last year.
A measure of the strength of the food and fibres sector – or rather, a measure of the government’s confidence in the sector – can be discerned from two reports released at Fieldays in Mystery Creek.
One is the Fit for a Better World Progress Update 2021, the other is the Sustainable Food and Fibres Snapshot, which (Forestry Minister Stuart Nash enthused) “provide an update on the work the Government is doing in partnership with industry”.
We may muse on the extent of industry comfort with this partnership.
But Nash could bray that since the Government launched the Fit for a Better World roadmap it has co-invested alongside industry in projects worth tens of millions of dollars.
And the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund to further boost innovation has committed more than $111 million of funding towards new projects worth a total of almost $250 million.
Nash had more good news for announcing at the Mystery Creek Fieldays (as did other ministers eager to pitch for the rural vote).
He launched a new website to help the forestry sector find the information it needs to plant, grow and manage trees, and to encourage investment across the wider industry.
But it hasn’t been plain sailing for politicians willing to pump heaps of public funding into the America’s Cup.
Stuart Nash happens to be our Minister responsible for the America’s Cup and – in that capacity – he has confirmed the joint Crown-Auckland Council offer to host the next regatta has been declined by the Board of Team New Zealand.
The Crown and Auckland Council put forward “a very generous offer”, Nash said.
The negotiations and the offer are commercial-in-confidence and details cannot be shared at this point. But Nash confirmed it involved cash and in-kind support worth around $99 million.
That’s $99 million the government can put to some other use.
Latest from the Beehive
The Government’s efforts to secure the economic recovery are reflected in the robust rebound in GDP figures released today which show the economy remains resilient despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.
GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021.
New Zealanders’ confidence in the recovery was reflected in a boost in retail spending on big-ticket items, eating out and holiday accommodation, offsetting the COVID-related loss of overseas tourists in what is traditionally a busy time of year for the industry, Robertson said.
Activity in the construction sector recovered to near record levels, while there were solid growth in wholesale trade, business services and manufacturing. Rising business confidence translated into higher investment, with a 15% increase in investment on plant, machinery and equipment during the quarter.
The higher COVID-19 alert levels during the quarter only had a limited impact on the economy, thanks [of course] “to the Government’s quick response to provide cashflow and confidence.
The rural sector
The Government has welcomed the completion of the 250th 4G mobile tower, as part of its push for better rural connectivity.
Waikato’s Wiltsdown, about 80 kilometres south of Hamilton, is home to the new tower, deployed by the Rural Connectivity Group to enable improved service to 70 homes and businesses in the surrounding area.
Nationally, Government-funded connectivity programmes under the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) have improved connectivity for more than 62,000 rural households and businesses.
Along with building new infrastructure to deliver improved digital connectivity to rural areas, the Government committed $10 million in Budget 2021 to open up suitable radio spectrum for rural communities, where broadband capacity and coverage is under pressure.
The Government remains committed to its 2020 Election Manifesto commitment to establish a $60 million fund for improving connectivity and backhaul services in the worst connected parts of New Zealand.
The Government is investing $65 million to support the delivery of programmes targeting rural connectivity, including capacity upgrades for the original Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI1) whilst other rural connectivity improvements are being funded through the COVID-19 Response Fund.
More than 836 kilometres of State Highway and 58 tourism sites have also been provided with mobile coverage under the Mobile Blackspot Fund programme.
More information about the progress of the Government’s connectivity programmes is available at www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/.
The Government is backing a major programme investigating plantain’s potential to help farmers protect waterways and improve freshwater quality, Acting Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri announced at Fieldays.
The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) fund is contributing $8.98 million to the $22.23 million seven-year programme, which aims to deliver a low-cost forage solution to nitrate leaching.
Industry programme partners DairyNZ, Fonterra, and PGG Wrightson Seeds are collectively investing around $10.47 million in cash and $2.8 million in-kind in the programme.
The programme will focus on Ecotain, a proprietary environmental plantain cultivar developed by PGG Wrightson Seeds, which could reduce nitrate-leaching by at least 20%.
Modelling by DairyNZ forecasts a potential reduction of 15,000 tonnes of nitrate leached per year by 2035, on New Zealand farms.”
Two reports released at Fieldays today, the Fit for a Better World Progress Update 2021 and the Sustainable Food and Fibres Snapshot, provide an update on the work the Government is doing in partnership with industry.
The government has co-invested alongside industry in projects worth tens of millions of dollars, he said.
The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund so far has committed more than $111 million of funding towards new projects worth a total of almost $250 million.
Link to a progress report for the Fit for a Better World 2021 Progress Update.
Link to further information about the SFF Futures Snapshot projects referred to in this release, and other projects.
New Zealand’s Quarantine Free Travel pause with Victoria has been extended to 11.59pm on Tuesday 22 June.
New Zealand health officials will keep a close watch on developments in the state; the pause will be reviewed if the situation changes.
Information about Quarantine Free Travel between Victoria and New Zealand is available on the COVID19 website: https://covid19.govt.nz/travel/quarantine-free-travel/australia/
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is mourning the passing of Dr Sir Ian Hassall, New Zealand’s first Children’s Commissioner and lifelong champion for children and children’s health.
As a paediatrician Sir Ian contributed to a major world-first cot death study that has been directly credited with reducing cot deaths in New Zealand and abroad, and initiated a successful campaign to reduce the drowning rate of children at home.
Sir Ian was responsible for medical oversight of the nationwide network of Plunket/Karitane Family units and established the Child Abuse Prevention Society (Parent Help) in 1977.
He was appointed Commissioner for Children in 1989 and has been a member of several ministerial advisory committees on various issues affecting children.
APEC ministers have agreed working together will be crucial to ensure economies recover from the impact of COVID-19, said Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark.
He chaired the virtual APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting which revolved around the overarching theme of promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth for APEC economies.
APEC structural reform ministers agreed to:
- Support APEC economies through ideas and discussions as they design and implement structural reform policies and projects;
- Encourage ideas for APEC-funded projects that contribute to structural reform initiatives, targets and responses to the economic effects of COVID-19;
- Consult the private sector via the APEC Business Advisory Council to make sure that the implementation of the Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (EASSR) is commercially-relevant, responsive, and actionable;
- Encourage greater collaboration amongst APEC economies.
The Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (EAASR) was also endorsed, which outlines four pillars:
- Creating an environment for open, transparent, and competitive markets;
- Boosting business recovery and resilience against future shocks;
- Ensuring that all groups across society have equal access to opportunities for more inclusive, sustainable growth, and greater well-being; and
- Harnessing innovation, new technology, and skills development to boost productivity and digitalization.
The APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting takes place once every five years.
A new website was launched at the Mystery Creek Fieldays to support the forestry sector find information it needs to plant, grow and manage trees, and to encourage investment across the wider industry.
Forestry Minister Stuart Nash says the new Canopy website is tailored for farmers, iwi and other forestry interests, to support their recovery from the impacts of the global pandemic and associated economic shocks for the primary sector.
The aim is to make the centralised online channel the ‘go-to site’ for the most up-to-date guidance on forestry as an investment.
More than 230 young people are expected to benefit from further funding of $2.95 million in four He Poutama Rangatahi programmes, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni announced.
The new programmes are Toku Tai Oretanga in South Auckland, Inspiring Youth Futures in the Hutt Valley, Ignite – Youth Employment Service in the Hawke’s Bay, and Learner Me Tech Camp in Taranaki.
He Poutama Rangatahi so far has supported 2547 at-risk young people to overcome barriers to employment, education or training.
The education sector, students, their parents, families and communities are invited to share their thoughts on a list of proposed NCEA subjects.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said this is a significant part of the Government’s NCEA Change Programme that began in 2020 and will be largely implemented by 2025.
The goal is strengthening NCEA for current and future learners across both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.
There are 62 subjects, including 13 new subjects in the New Zealand Curriculum that we want to discuss and develop, and 16 subjects, including seven new subjects for Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.
Some proposals that are being tested, like Tourism and Outdoor Education, recognise learning already occurring in schools. Others, like Applied Mathematics and Science are proposed to provide more choice to schools in strengthening options and pathways for all students.
The detailed proposals are at https://ncea.education.govt.nz/have-your-say. The Ministry will be seeking feedback until 11 August.
The Minister responsible for the America’s Cup Stuart Nash, has confirmed the joint Crown-Auckland Council offer to host the next regatta has been declined by the Board of Team New Zealand.
“The exclusive period of negotiation between the Crown, Auckland Council, and Team New Zealand ends tomorrow, 17 June,” said Stuart Nash.
“Representatives of the Team New Zealand Board have informed the Crown-Council negotiators that the offer is not sufficient. The offer expires today, 16 June. From tomorrow, Team New Zealand is now free to seek support from other partners.
The offer involved sufficient investment to ensure the Cup Defence and the wider event could be successfully delivered on land and on the water, Nash said.
Legacy infrastructure remains in place. It was purpose-built to provide access to team bases, an events centre, the Cup Village, an international media centre, and public facilities.
It had previously been announced that the Crown offered around $5 million to keep the team together on the condition that AC37 be hosted in New Zealand. That offer has not yet been taken up.
Team New Zealand has received government assistance following every America’s Cup event since 2003.