Our post on pushing for a free trade deal must have influenced Mahuta’s meeting with Indian minister – or maybe not

Buzz from the Beehive

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has welcomed what she hailed as “an historic visit to Aotearoa New Zealand by the Indian Foreign Minister”.

Your Point of Order team would like to think the invitation to her Indian counterpart was extended after Mahuta read our recent article which argued why Trade Minister Damien O’Connor should be quickening the pace in pushing for a free trade agreement with India

Australia has secured a free trade deal with  the  planet’s  fifth-biggest economy, we pointed out.  We should be pressing to do likewise.

On the other hand, maybe our influence on Mahuta is negligible because she tends to ignore the advice we have given her on Three Waters and her press statement does not mention free trade agreements.

The statement was posted on the Beehive website along with news that ministers are:-

Revenue Minister David Parker says more than 4 million Cost of Living payments have been made “to provide timely support for low- and middle-income New Zealanders and soften the impact of inflation pressures”.

But wait – he hasn’t finished with the handouts (a total Cost of Living payment of $350 is being made in three instalments of about $116).

The number is expected to grow to more than 6 million payments once the remaining eligible people file their tax returns by the first quarter of 2023.

Parker said the targeted and meaningful support helped take off the hard edges for Kiwis feeling the pressure of higher prices.

No doubt – but wouldn’t lowering their taxes do this too?

The PM (who also is Minister of Child Poverty Reduction) popped up to announce that the Annual Ministry of Social Development Child Poverty Report shows child poverty continuing to decline despite the one in 100 year economic shock caused by COVID-19.

She said:

“… despite COVID-19 causing the greatest global economic downturn since the Great Depression in New Zealand we have continued to lift children out of poverty over the past two years and avoided to date the spike in poverty we saw during the Global Financial Crisis a decade ago.” 

She specially mentioned reductions in material hardship and increases in both before- and after-housing cost incomes for those on the lowest incomes, including a 40% increase in after-housing income for those on a Main Benefit since 2018.

And she drew attention to government initiatives such as the Families Package, minimum wage increases, benefit increases, and Food in Schools contributing to reductions in poverty.

But she acknowledged

“… I know there are still a core group of children in New Zealand that lead very hard lives and there is more work to do to fix that.”

Social Development Minister Sepuloni drew attention to key numbers (around 113,000 people have moved off benefit and into work in the last year, for example) but was keen to stack the latest figures alongside those after the Global Financial Crisis

  • There were 145,000 fewer children in hardship in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic than when hardship numbers peaked after the GFC in 2011;
  • there were 70,000 more jobless households with children during and immediately after the GFC than during COVID-19;
  • rates of hardship for Māori rose to 36% after the GFC, and 47% for Pacific people but these have since dropped to 20% and 24% respectively which means there are 40,000 fewer Māori children in poverty now than there were after the GFC;
  • Around the GFC (2007 to 2011) less than 40% of households with children said they had enough income to cover the basics. This is now 61%. That’s 150,000 more households who can meet their basic needs now.

State-owned Enterprises Minister David Clark and Transport Minister Michael Wood said KiwiRail will remain a state-owned enterprise, allowing it to focus on transitioning its above-rail business to be financially self-sufficient.

They said the Ardern Government had invested heavily in KiwiRail over several budgets

“… to ensure that it is better placed to deliver on the Government’s objectives. As a state-owned enterprise, KiwiRail will be best placed to participate in several competitive markets, including freight both on-land and across Cook Strait.” 

Since 2017, $8.6 billion has been invested in building a resilient and reliable network, much of this replacing track, new culverts and bridges.

Getting more people to use the rail network and more freight off the roads is a key part of the Government’s emissions reduction plan and ministers are considering the role of rail as part of the New Zealand freight and supply chain strategy, along with improving inter-regional passenger rail.

The announcement follows the conclusion of an entity-form review, led by the Ministry of Transport and the Treasury, in consultation with the Public Service Commission and KiwiRail.

New Zealand Railways Corporation will also remain a state-owned enterprise.

Conservation Minister Poto Williams announced two blocks of Buller land rich in native species have been purchased by the Crown to be protected in perpetuity as public conservation land

Acquired via the Nature Heritage Fund, one block is in the Punakaiki River valley adjoining the Paparoa National Park while the other is close to Westport and the Buller River.

Taking time out from Three Waters, our Foreign Minister has been engaged in formal talks with India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

This was the first visit by an Indian Foreign Minister since 2001 and follows two previous meetings between the two ministers offshore and visits to India last month by New Zealand’s Associate Agriculture and Trade Ministers.

Mahuta said:

“This year marks the 70th Anniversary of formal diplomatic relationships between India and New Zealand. India is a priority relationship for New Zealand. It was our 16th largest trading partner in the year to December 2021, and we are committed to broadening our partnership.

“We discussed opportunities for expanding the relationship and cooperating on new areas, such as climate change and sustainable agriculture. We aspire to develop opportunities in the economic, cultural, technology and services sectors, and to strengthen people to people links.”

NZ is changing immigration settings to attract high-skilled migrants with a clear pathway to residency for globally hard-to-fill roles and

We anticipate there could be opportunities for high-skilled migrants from India through the green list, such as dairy farm managers and ICT roles.

“Another area of focus is New Zealand’s progress towards joining the International Solar Alliance, which India and France established in 2015. It promotes solar energy through research, development and innovation and mobilises investment for affordable solar energy around the world, including the Pacific.”

The Ministers also discussed India’s interest in joining the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which promotes international cooperation and research to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.

Latest from the Beehive

7 OCTOBER 2022

More than 4 million Cost of Living payments made

More than four million Cost of Living payments have now been made to provide timely support for low- and middle-income New Zealanders and soften the impact of inflation pressures.

Child poverty declines in spite of COVID

Government policy means child poverty measures improve during COVID-19 in contrast to them rising sharply during the GFC.

KiwiRail to remain a State-Owned Enterprise

KiwiRail will remain a state-owned enterprise, allowing it to focus on transitioning its above-rail business to be financially self-sufficient, Ministers have announced today.

6 OCTOBER 2022

55-hectares of Buller land purchased to protect native species

Two blocks of Buller land rich in native species have been purchased by the Crown to be protected in perpetuity as public conservation land.

Strengthening the relationship with India

The Foreign Minister says an historic visit to Aotearoa New Zealand by the Indian Foreign Minister provides an opportunity to strengthen the relationship in areas like people-to-people exchanges and climate action.

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