Buzz from the Beehive
Hard on the heels of Chris Hipkins announcing an embarrassing U-turn on one (but only one) contentious aspect of the government’s Three Waters legislation, ministers seemed keen to remind the voters what a splendid government we have.
Each of three Beehive statements since the U-turn involved initiatives and handouts to improve our wellbeing.
Mind you, the benefits will be enjoyed in one case only by people living in certain parts of the country –
Forty-six councils across Aotearoa New Zealand, from large metro centres to small provincial towns, will receive funding to implement more transport options for communities, as part of the Transport Choices package 2022-24, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.
In other words, 46 councils have successfully lined up for goodies served from the Transport Choices trough, a $350m “package” which aims to provide people in communities around the country with a wider range of efficient, cost effective and sustainable transport options.
According to the NZ Transport Agency website, Transport Choices will help local councils fund and support the implementation for:
- Delivering strategic cycling / micro-mobility networks – significantly increasing the pace and scale of implementing planned cycling/micro-mobility networks in urban area through delivering low-cost, safe, on street cycleways.
- Creating walkable neighbourhoods – targeted and neighbourhood scale investments to significantly improve the safety and attractiveness of walking in urban areas, focused around centres, rapid transit stations, and in rapidly growing neighbourhoods.
- Supporting safe green and healthy school travel – accelerate investment in school travel programmes, delivering comprehensive change that makes active modes safer and more convenient for trips to/from schools and in surrounding neighbourhoods.
- Making public transport more reliable and easier to use – accelerating programmes of small-scale upgrades to public transport facilities to improve customer experience and service quality for people of all ages and abilities.
Did any councils which applied miss out?
The website says councils across the country completed the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process to apply for funding from Waka Kotahi between August and September 2022.
A total of 46 EOIs were received from councils (including city and district councils, unitary authorities, regional authorities, and joint council responses).
The EOIs were reviewed and moderated by Waka Kotahi in September 2022 and recommendations were put forward to the government for agreement to proceed to the next stage of the process.
It has now been confirmed that 46 councils will proceed to the next stage of the process
In his statement today, Wood said:
“Our Transport Choices package will help make our towns and cities more people-friendly places to live, work and visit. It will support more people to choose different ways of getting to where they need to go safely and enable more kids to get around under their own steam.
“The package will fund additional bus stops, bus prioritisation lanes, new cycleways, improvements to transport infrastructure around schools and improved walking access for neighbourhoods.”
The ambitious Transport Choices package would help people in communities across the country get to where they need to go more safely and efficiently, and help to reduce emissions, Wood said.
This would help to meet emission reduction targets as set out in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan released in May 2022.
The transport agency will now work with successful councils in a two-stage process. The first stage is to further refine and scope their project proposals, with construction beginning on some projects by June 2023.
The only firm figure in Wood’s statement was the $350 million magnitude of the fund.
Details of how much money went to each council presumably can be found somewhere else.
Another new press statement advises us that –
The Government is taking action to reduce waste and lower emissions from the building and construction sector in significant Building Act amendments announced today.
Minister for Building and Construction Megan Woods said these proposals “will help us to build a better future for generations of New Zealanders” by enabling mandatory energy performance rating requirements for buildings and waste minimisation plans for construction and demolition projects
The Bill also proposes mandatory waste minimisation plans being required during building and construction activities.
Woods said early analysis indicates that these proposals could support emissions reductions of 12.6 Mt CO2-e between now and 2050. For comparison this equates to nearly 19,000 plane trips between Wellington and Auckland per year until 2050.
Buildings make up nearly 9.4 per cent of our domestic emissions, through the energy they use directly and from their embodied carbon (emissions that come from the production, transport, construction, replacement and disposal of construction materials and products used throughout the life of a building).
The measures proposed in the Bill would be implemented through regulations, which will be consulted on publicly and phased in from 2024 onwards.
The changes set the foundation for future climate change work outlined in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), released by the Ministry for the Environment on 31 May 2022.
Under the ERP, building and construction initiatives have five key objectives:
- Accelerating the shift to low carbon building,
- Reducing the embodied carbon of construction materials,
- Shifting energy use from fossil fuels,
- Improving building energy efficiency
- Establish foundations for future emissions reduction.
Health Minister Andrew Little brought good news for people afflicted with cystic fibrosis-
Pharmac’s plan to fund the cystic fibrosis medicine Trikafta is another example of the Government’s boost to the medicines budget helping New Zealanders, says Health Minister Andrew Little.
The minister hastened to acknowledge that he could take credit for the funding of Pharmac but not for deciding which patients will be funded for which treatments:
“Pharmac, not politicians, makes the decisions on what treatments to fund, but politicians decide what funding to provide to Pharmac, and health is always a priority for Labour governments,” Andrew Little said.
Since 2017, he noted, the government has increased the medicines budget by 43 per cent, letting Pharmac make more than 200 medicines available for thousands of people.
“Trikafta is the latest of those medicines. It has the potential to not only greatly improve quality of life for people with cystic fibrosis, but also extend their lives by up to 27 years.
“This is fantastic news for them and for their families, and comes on top of other recent announcements, like a plan to fund the spinal muscular atrophy medication Spinraza and a call for proposals for late-stage lung cancer medicines.”
Editor’s notes accompanying the statement say the Government’s funding boost has allowed Pharmac to make an extra 201 funding decisions since 2017/18, including 68 new listings and the widening of access to 133 treatments, with more to come.