The Government needs to answer questions about how it came about that a single area of high-end residential property was chosen for a carve out from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Serious concerns about have been raised about how the coalition does deals and the public deserves answers.
“Why did the Government not seek proper information about who the potential beneficiaries were of the Bill’s only carve out? Which Ministers and MPs met or communicated with iwi and other potential beneficiaries of the Te Arai exemption?
“And exactly what role was played by the lobbying firm part-owned by the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff?
“All these questions need answers; and that’s before we come to what appears to be a clear breach of the Cabinet Manual by the Acting Prime Minister, Winston Peters.
“Paragraph 2.65 of the Cabinet Manual makes no distinction about how distantly a Minister might be related to the potential beneficiary of a decision when identifying a conflict of interest, but Mr Peters clearly thinks he is too distant a cousin of Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust chairman John Paki for it to matter.
“The Cabinet matter makes it clear that when it comes to family and close associates it does matter.
“A clear conflict arose for Mr Peters when it became clear a member of his whanau might derive or be perceived as deriving some personal benefit from a government decision.
“One of the two iwi that would have benefited from the exemption was Ngati Manuhiri, chaired by Mr Paki, who is also listed on land title documents as one of three proprietors of the 283 hectares in Lot 1 of the Te Arai South Precinct covered by the exemption.
“Treasury advised Mr Parker the exemption may positively impact the commercial value of Ngati Manuhiri’s land, transferred as part of the iwi’s Treaty settlement.
“The exemption would have given Ngati Manuhiri and its co-investors 15 years to commercially develop and sell properties on the land – an opportunity given to no other New Zealand landowners under the provisions of the Bill.
“We know from statements in Parliament that NZ First Ministers were staunch advocates for the Te Arai exemption, following meetings with iwi representatives and their co-investors in Te Arai.
“This was a murky deal and the public deserves answers.”
KiwiBuild could see a small number of wealthy New Zealanders become even wealthier at the expense of New Zealanders on the average wage through being allowed to buy Government subsidised KiwBuild houses that probably would have been built by the private sector anyway, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Phil Twyford’s KiwiBuild promises have become such a noose around his neck he’s given up trying to target low and middle income families and thrown it all up to chance.
“As a result, KiwiBuild is likely to see some of the wealthier New Zealanders become even wealthier and those who need more support miss out completely just so Phil Twyford can ensure he gets buyers for the few homes KiwiBuild might turn out.
“Take the case of a couple of lawyers earning $180,000 today who are eligible to enter the KiwiBuild ballot. If they’re successful they’re going to amass significant wealth by living in a subsidised KiwiBuild house, seeing their incomes grow and then selling the house for a capital gain.
“That’s a great deal for them but it’s a poor one for taxpayers and those who need more support, including those who miss out completely.
“And the Housing Minister also confirmed today that even those who already own a home through a family trust will still be eligible for a first home buyer KiwiBuild house. Even from a Government which continues to put out bad and ill-thought through policies KiwiBuild stands out as one of their most poorly conceived.
“In the meantime the residential construction sector is stalling, the Government is imposing more costs on New Zealanders through more taxes and it is costing jobs by slowing our economy.
“All this is going to make it even harder for New Zealanders to get ahead, increase inequality and see billions more taxpayer dollars spent in areas where it won’t make the biggest difference.
“KiwiBuild is increasingly looking like a house of cards and support for New Zealanders who need it is getting further and further out of reach.”
Associate Finance Minister David Parker has been misleading New Zealanders for weeks by insisting that the exemption for the Te Arai Development from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill was to prevent claims of a Treaty breach, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“We now know that’s just wrong. Before Mr Parker took an exemption for the Te Arai Development to Cabinet, he had received clear advice from Treasury that ‘the Government had no legal obligation to exempt Te Uri o Hau or Ngati Manuhiri from the Bill’.
“Treasury advised that Treaty settlements are generally final at the time of agreement with the understanding that the Government will still pass laws of general application, and that the specific treaty settlements in question contain no specific obligations that require an exemption.
“When asked on what legal basis he decided there was a need to grant the exemption Mr Parker stated in Parliament that his decision ‘was informed both by my conversations with ministerial colleagues and the advice that I had from Treasury, which was in itself informed by legal advice’.
“But Treasury went as far as to say Mr Parker should not state Te Arai was exempted due to the need to honour a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
“And to further muddy the issue, Mr Parker attempted to exempt residential development land from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill that had no iwi ownership whatsoever and has now confirmed he did not verify the exact ownership details of the land before proceeding
“Given we now know that Treasury advised there was no legal issue and recommended against the exemption, it must be asked just what was said between Shane Jones, Kelvin Davis and David Parker to justify this rushed decision which is so at odds with the intent of the Bill.
“Mr Parker’s contradictions and lack of information on Te Arai continue to raise serious questions as to the real reason that Cabinet granted Te Arai an exemption which the Government must explain.”
The Government is admitting that its ‘affordable’ KiwiBuild houses are out of reach for many lower and middle income families by having to lift the eligibility criteria to $180,000, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has set the eligibility criteria for KiwiBuild so wide that 92 per cent of first home buyers are eligible. That’s because he knows he will fail to deliver houses that are affordable to lower and middle income earners.
“This is the Government running up the white flag.
“Having such a wide criteria and a ballot system to determine the lucky few to get a subsidy is unfair and will mean struggling families could miss out in favour of higher income families and people with significant cash assets.
“There are 24,000 first home buyers a year and the Government is now only planning to deliver 1,000 homes in its first 20 months in office – so they should be targeted to lower and middle income families.
“It is ironic that Labour doesn’t think that someone on the average wage deserves a tax cut, but believes families earning $180,000 deserve a subsidy to help them buy their first home.
“The best thing we can do to help first home buyers is to build more houses – and that’s where this Government is failing already. Under KiwiBuild, it is yet to deliver a single home, and it has lowered its target for the first year from 10,000 homes to just 1,000.
“National had a plan to target support to low and medium income first home buyers through our KiwiSaver KickStart programme, while cutting through the red tape and building the infrastructure to speed up house building.”
The net number of firms expecting economic conditions to deteriorate in the second half of 2018 has doubled according to the latest business opinion survey from NZIER, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“NZIER has found that pessimism remains across all regions in New Zealand, with Taranaki, Otago and Blenheim particularly downbeat.
“This isn’t surprising. The Government has introduced a range of anti-growth measures, from industrial relations reforms and hiking fuel taxes to shutting down oil and gas and lower investment in our State Highway network, and that’s reflected in plummeting business confidence.
“Those changes are hitting businesses hard, but the real losers here are Kiwi workers – because when businesses aren’t confident they’re not hiring more staff and lifting wage.
“The survey also shows cost pressures have increased sharply for business – particularly those in the retail sector. Unsurprisingly, they’ve responded by raising prices and more plan to do so in the next three months, hitting Kiwi families in the back pocket.
“This is worrying, because changes such as higher fuel taxes, rent increases and higher income taxes are already costing Kiwi families over $100 a week more – and this will just add to that pressure.
“The Government needs to stop dismissing these very real concerns, and start showing it understands. It needs to back businesses and help grow the economy. When businesses are strong we all benefit through greater investment, more jobs and higher incomes.”
Over 1.7 million families will be worse off because of Labour’s changes to National’s Families Package, which comes into force tomorrow, National Party Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Families Package will deliver benefits to families in need – and that’s because 80 per cent of it was designed and legislated by National as part of Budget 2017,” Ms Adams says.
“However Labour’s removal of the $1060 tax cut for a worker on the average wage means over 1.7 million families will actually be worse off, including 257,000 families with children.
“Labour was quick to trumpet the benefits of its approach to the small number of families who gain under its approach – but that is cold comfort to the more than 1.7 million families who will be worse off.
“And that is before you take into account other Government policies which are pushing up the cost of living significantly.
“Changes such as higher fuel taxes, rent increases and higher income taxes are costing Kiwi families over $100 a week and that’s an unacceptable burden on New Zealanders who are trying to get ahead.
“National carefully managed the finances. We managed our spending to get back into surplus so we could afford a Families Package that included tax cuts for the average earner. And there was enough left to do it again in 2020, if we kept spending under control.
“But rather than prioritising Kiwi workers, Labour is blowing money left right and centre - $900 million for foreign diplomats, $2.8 billion for free tertiary education fees without adding any extra students, and a $3 billion slush fund so that New Zealand First can undertake their pet projects.
“This is classic tax and spend from Labour – cancelling the tax cuts for hard-working Kiwis and spending it on poorly thought through policies.
“On Planet Labour money seems to grow on trees. Taxpayers know differently, and should be allowed to keep more of what they earn.”
Continued falls in business confidence are beginning to spill over and directly impact hard-working New Zealanders’ opportunities to get a job, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“A net 39 per cent of businesses are pessimistic about the economic outlook for the year ahead – that’s worrying because we want these companies confident about investing for growth, hiring more staff and lifting wages,” Ms Adams says.
“The Government has introduced a range of anti-growth measures, from industrial relations reforms and hiking fuel taxes to shutting down oil and gas and lower investment in our State Highway network.
“These chickens are now coming home to roost, with firms’ hiring intentions now at the second lowest level since we came out of the Global Finance Crisis. The only time it was lower was in November immediately after the Ardern-Peters Government took office.
“Despite talking a lot about good intentions, this Government’s policies are squandering our economic opportunities – actually making it harder for people to get a job or get a raise.
“The Government often points to business’ outlook for their own activity, but here the story is equally worrying. Only a net 9 per cent of businesses have a positive view, compared to over 40 per cent under National before the election.
“The Government needs to stop taking pot-shots at our businesses and making it harder for them to grow. It is only by having a strong economy that we can grow wages and create opportunities for all New Zealanders.”
Latest GDP figures show New Zealand’s GDP per person growth rate has fallen behind Australia for the first time in six years, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“On a per person basis, New Zealander’s incomes rose by only 0.6 per cent in the last year, compared to 0.9 per cent in Australia, according to the latest Statistics New Zealand figures and that’s a concern.
“All of Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s claims of the beginnings of an economic ‘transformation’ can’t hide the fact that until now, New Zealand’s GDP per capita had outperformed Australia every single quarter since we worked our way out of the financial crisis in 2012.
“The sharp decline shows New Zealand has fallen behind our closest international counterpart on a per person basis.
“The last time New Zealand’s GDP per person growth rate fell below 1 per cent was back in 2011 when we were coming out of a global financial crisis.
“Unfortunately for Mr Robertson and this Government, they don’t have that excuse this time around. In fact, they largely have themselves to blame.
“These latest findings show that the falling business confidence that has occurred under this Government as a result of its bad decisions, working groups, uncertainty and lack of leadership is having real and tangible effects.
“Maintaining economic growth must not be taken for granted. Unfortunately for New Zealanders, Mr Robertson and his colleagues continue to prove they’re just not up to it.”
The Government needs to get its head out of the sand, with this morning’s GDP figures for the March quarter a disappointing 0.5 per cent, meaning New Zealand’s economic growth is slowing at the same time the world economy is picking up speed, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“At 2.7 per cent New Zealand’s economic growth is performing below forecast, and is now at its lowest level since 2014.
“National left the country’s economy in good health following consecutive years of 4 and 3 per cent growth.
“Today’s figures show construction growth, in particular, has fallen off a cliff to 1.4 per cent following a booming 10.7 per cent increase last year.
“GDP per capita actually declined in the March quarter.
“These disappointing GDP figures come on the back of business confidence falling, businesses’ view of their own activity declining, and consumer confidence deteriorating.
“Together, this is a clear warning sign for the Government. Yet so far the Government is showing no concern about slowing growth and plummeting confidence.
“Slowing economic growth translates directly into fewer opportunities and lower incomes for Kiwi families trying to get ahead. Already we’ve seen job growth fall from 10,000 new jobs a month under National to just 4,000 new jobs a month under the new Government.
“Economic growth does not happen by accident, yet this Government takes it for granted.
“Finance Minister Grant Robertson needs to sort out his priorities. Policies like banning oil and gas exploration, strengthening the unions at the expense of workers, cutting foreign investment and taxing more for petrol will do nothing to improve New Zealand’s economic growth at the very time it needs nurturing.
“Denials by the Government that its policies won’t slow economic growth are wearing thin and it’s time it faced facts before it does serious damage to family incomes and jobs.”
The Government’s Bill to ban foreign buyers is a textbook example of bad law-making and the changes made at select committee will do nothing to alter the fact it’s a dog, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“National, along with countless experts, has repeatedly told Labour that the number of foreign buyers in New Zealand is very low and there is no evidence they are significantly driving up the cost of housing or taking houses from New Zealanders.
“Yet after cynically blaming foreigners with Chinese-sounding names, the Government has pushed ahead with the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill without proper policy development which has forced it to make several unworkable, poorly thought-out changes.
“Forestry investments have been given a free pass, while the same investments into viticulture have been effectively blocked without any clear justification for the distinction between the two.
“For residential properties, as 90 per cent of submitters pointed out, the Bill will do the opposite of what is intended which is to make housing more affordable for New Zealanders.
“To address housing affordability we need to build more houses, but banning all but a few foreign buyers will mean fewer housing developments proceeding at a time when we need to grow our housing stock.
“The Bill will also hamper the ability of New Zealand businesses to access foreign capital in order to expand and impose significant costs and delays on the housing sector.
“It also appears that the Government now thinks it will be able to pick and choose who of New Zealand’s trading partners will be able to invest in our housing market. First Australia, and now Singapore, have been carved out – and with trade negotiations looming with China, the EU, and the UK, who’s to say they won’t also demand an exemption?
“Furthermore, changes to the Bill make clear that if foreign individuals not already exempt from the ban make their case right, Ministers may also give them an advance green light to purchase whatever properties they like here. Just what sort of ‘case’ they would need to make remains to be seen.
“The changes in this Bill are not based on any clear or compelling evidence and are against the weight of submissions.
“It’s become a hallmark of this Government to not listen to evidence and advice it doesn’t like, so now we’re in a situation where its own Bill is likely to worsen the problem it is trying to solve.
“It’s about time Ministers stopped thinking they know better than the experts and started listening to the evidence.”