Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has been busy in the past 24 hours, joining the PM for the opening of a new aquatic centre, enthusing about data from the latest visitor statistics and announcing a new industry strategy.
The Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan was in the business of announcing strategies, too. She welcomed the Ministry for Ethnic Communities’ release of its first strategy, setting out the actions it will take over the next few years to achieve better wellbeing outcomes for ethnic communities.
Emerging from its annual conference, the ACT Party’s leadership appears to regard itself already as a key element in the next government.
ACT leader David Seymour had the conference cheering as he spoke of how ACT would ensure in the first hundred days of the next government, Labour’s measures on Three Waters, the Māori Health Authority, the 39c tax rate, and Fair Pay Agreements would all be gone, just as ACT’s policies on 90-day trials, three strikes, oil and gas exploration and charter schools would be reinstated.
No surprises there.
But ACT will need far more than this if it is to win over the thousands of additional votes to make certain it does have a powerful voice, rather than being just a prop for National. It will need Cabinet ministers in influential roles.
Most of the issues highlighted by Seymour are likely to get National’s support or are changes which National already has said it will enact. He admits getting them to repeal the Zero Carbon Act will be harder.
The Commerce Commission will be enabled to require supermarkets to hand over information regarding contracts, arrangements and land covenants which make it difficult for competing retailers to set up shop.
We were pleasantly surprised to catch up on the latest announcement from Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta – jointly issued with Defence Minister Peeni Henare – about the extension of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment to Solomon Islands.
This is being done as part of the Pacific-led Solomon Islands International Assistance Force.
It attests to the marvels of Zoom, because (a) Mahuta has been accused of being out touch with what’s happening in some spots of special interest to New Zealand, and (b) she was saying she has met with Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Jeremiah Manele via Zoom
“… to discuss the depth of our cooperation as well as the extension of our deployment to Solomon Islands.”
A read-out of the Zoom call will (or should) be on the MFAT website here.
Ministerial announcements are braying about April 1 triggering a great outflow of money, or the prospect of a great outflow, from the Government’s coffers.
It sounds like most of us will get a slice of the action, although in some cases this action perhaps will amount to no more than furnishing Inland Revenue with our annual returns and coughing up our dues.
Some ministerial announcements, true, concerned comparatively small sums.
But two separate press statements – one from the PM – drew public attention to the transfers of huge sums of money from the Government to families, welfare beneficiaries, superannuitants and so on.
The message, palpably, was that Jacinda and her team are aware of the squeeze on the cost of living, but they care deeply for our wellbeing and are determined to ease the burden.
Taxpayers and Wellington ratepayers will be picking up the tab for yet another political decision that has resulted from the breakdown of law and order and the surrendering of the grounds around Parliament to protesters for three weeks.
Wellington City Council and the Government have agreed to support inner-city Wellington businesses which lost significant revenue during what they described as “the illegal occupation at Parliament grounds” with a $1.2 million business relief fund.
In line with previous contributions to council-led response funds, the Government is contributing $200,000. The City Council is investing $1 million in the fund.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster is disappointed. He says he originally asked for $6 million to bolster central-city businesses which either had to close, or experienced a huge drop in revenue after the protests.
Instead, the Government offered $200,00 for the $1.2m package that will offer any business which suffered a 50 per cent drop in revenue a one-off $30,000 payment.
Further government responses to the cataclysmic events in Ukraine loomed large in the latest Beehive announcements. A new 2022 Special Ukraine Policy was introduced and more humanitarian aid is being provided to support people in that war-torn nation.
Parents and wider family members offshore of Ukrainians in New Zealand will be able to come here under a policy benefitting around 4,000 people (which at first blush doesn’t seem to be too generous).
And Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced “our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine” while announcing that NZ will be providing an additional $4 million in funding to support Ukrainian communities.
This funding is in addition to the initial $2 million already provided “and will help those immediately on the ground while we continue to look at options for further support,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
More health announcements – concerning state support for farmers and growers affected by Covid-19 and “free” flu vaccinations – have flowed from the Beehive.
More ominously, Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker has drawn attention to the threat to the health of the oceans – and to fish stocks – posed by climate warming.
He didn’t announce anything in particular to counter this threat. Rather, he mentioned measures he intends to take, such as overhauling the highly contentious Resource Management Act.
His statement was prompted by an announcement to the Stock Exchange by New Zealand King Salmon: the warming of the sea has been killing the company ‘s salmon stocks enough to cause a significant downwards revision in earnings expectations.
The company has reduced its forecast earnings for the 2022 year by $4 to $5 million. The higher salmon losses have been recorded most notably in the company’s Pelorus Sound operations.