Road User Charges incurred by trucking companies and smaller operators transporting hay to farmers in Nelson should be refunded, says National’s South Island Regional Development spokesperson Andrew Falloon.
“Over the past week, many of us in Canterbury and on the West Coast have looked on in desperation at the situation in the Nelson and Tasman districts.
“The fires have had a huge impact on the primary sector, destroying many hectares of feed and leaving farmers in a precarious position.
“Baling contractors in Mid and South Canterbury have got together with local transport operators to form the Nelson Fires Hay Convoy, a critical project getting much-needed feed to those who need it. Hay is also being sent up from the West Coast.
“The costs are substantial. The hay has been donated, and the trucking companies and smaller operators have generously come to the party in volunteering themselves to transport the feed.
“But there’s still the cost of fuel and of Road User Charges. At around $1,500 in Road User Charges for a return trip from Ashburton to Nelson, at least $18,000 in additional costs have been incurred so far, with many more journeys ahead.
“As a gesture of goodwill to the remarkable work that these contractors, companies and individuals are performing, I’ve written to Transport Minister Phil Twyford asking him to refund Road User Charges incurred during the deliveries.
“I’m aware of one dairy farmer significantly affected by the fire who has 400 stock on a paddock not much larger than a rugby field and next to no feed. When the convoy arrived he nearly broke down.
“For these farmers and those helping them temporarily forgoing what amounts to additional revenue would be a small but significant boost to this much-needed mission.”
The Government must urgently address the skills migration shortage which is hampering regional New Zealand’s growth, National’s spokesperson for South Island Regional Development Andrew Falloon says.
“Towns like Ashburton are bearing the brunt of it. There are 500 vacancies in the district and employers have stopped advertising because of a lack of applicants.
‘The Mackenzie District has been granted a streamlined labour market test for migrant workers seeking an Essential Skills Visa.
“I’ve written to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway asking him to consider putting similar measures in place for other districts.
“This anti-immigration attitude from the Government is stifling the growth of businesses and the economy.
“Iain Lees-Galloway said in March that the current immigration settings would remain in place until the end of the year. It’s now almost December and he hasn’t made any announcements. All we know is that Labour’s election manifesto said it would reduce net immigration by 20,000 - 30,000 per year.
“Iain Lees-Galloway has had a disaster year as Immigration Minister. He’s approved residency for a convicted drug smuggler and fraudster, while declining visas for law-abiding people who are genuinely needed and wanted by communities.
“The least he can do is end the year by supporting hardworking local businesses so they can keep the lights on by getting the workers they desperately need.”
The Government’s decision to axe completely the planned four lane highway from Christchurch to Ashburton shows it isn’t prepared to support regional New Zealand, MPs for Selwyn and Ashburton Amy Adams and Andrew Falloon say.
“National planned for the choked route between Christchurch and Ashburton to become a four-lane highway, with the road widened and oncoming traffic separated,” Ms Adams says.
“The Christchurch to Ashburton link is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the South Island and has become increasingly congested in recent years.
“NZTA have recently announced they are looking at installing median barriers on parts of the highway. This is a poor substitute for what is really needed. It appears NZTA is using this announcement of minor works to deflect attention from the fact that the required four laning and road separation will now not occur.
“The demand on the road has only increased, in the last 15 years international tourist numbers have more than doubled, the number of passenger vehicles has swelled, and due to a strong local economy more and more trucks are travelling on the road.
“Coupled with the continued success of Timaru’s PrimePort and the growth of the inland port at Rolleston, this has made the road the second most dangerous in the South Island.”
“Between 1 January 2010 and 31 March 2018 there were 19 deaths and 109 serious injuries on this stretch of road. The Government is ignoring these horrendous statistics, all in the pursuit of cutting costs out of the South Island roading budget,” Mr Falloon says.
“The planned new highway is sorely needed to improve safety, reduce congestion and minimise travel times for those commuting and transporting goods throughout the region. The existing road is becoming a handbrake on Canterbury’s growth.
“We need to be investing in the critical infrastructure that supports growth in our regional economies. Instead the Government has stripped billions of dollars from the regions and funnelled it back to Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s pet tram project in Auckland.
“The upgrade of the road is vital to ensure the safety of those travelling on the road, to better connect the regions and boost regional economic growth. The Government is putting savings ahead of safety.”
Shane Jones is ignoring the South Island in his three year pursuit for votes in Northland, National’s South Island Regional Development Spokesperson Andrew Falloon says.
“Of the funds allocated so far by the Regional Development Minister, less than five per cent has been earmarked for the South Island. That’s staggering. The mainland accounts for thirty per cent of New Zealand’s regional population.
“By contrast, Northland - the home patch of Shane Jones, Winston Peters and Kelvin Davis - has been promised nearly half the fund despite making up less than seven per cent of our regional population.
“Worse, more than one-fifth of the money meant for the South Island has been suspended and may not be paid due to a Serious Fraud Office investigation.
“If he was serious about economic development in the regions, he’d be backing projects like the Waimea Dam, four-laning State Highway One between Christchurch and Ashburton, and mining on the West Coast, all of which are unlikely to happen under a Labour-Greens-NZ First Government.
“Instead, Shane Jones is taking money off taxpayers in every other region in the country to hand around Northland in a desperate attempt to save his party.
“It’s a blatant vote-buying exercise,” Mr Falloon says.
A Members’ Bill to limit the availability of concurrent sentencing has been lodged by Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon.
“My Sentencing (Restriction of Concurrent Sentencing) Amendment Bill will ensure that serious, recidivist criminals do not receive a discount on their sentences for multiple crimes,” Mr Falloon says.
“Concurrent sentencing is a logical option for judges to consider when sentencing offenders who have committed a number of related crimes in a short space of time, or as part of a single act by an offender.
“However, the Sentencing Act allows for concurrent sentencing even when the offending spans a number of separate and unrelated incidents, and in the case of offending while on bail, potentially weeks or months after the initial offence.”
The Sentencing (Restriction of Concurrent Sentencing) Amendment Bill will:
- ensure offenders on bail for an existing offence receive a cumulative sentence for a subsequent offence;
- remove concurrent sentencing for offenders who commit crimes while in custody and on parole, increasing the deterrent to them continuing with their offending after they’ve been sentenced;
- specify that offenders who commit multiple offences of sexual violation must receive cumulative sentences for those offences.
“Rape and serious sexual offences have a particularly harmful effect on victims, who carry the scars with them the rest of their lives; offenders shouldn’t receive any reduction in sentence for offending against more than one person,” Mr Falloon says.
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon has today launched a petition aimed at saving plans to extend State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Ashburton to four lanes.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford has said that a number of important regional highway projects across the country are under review, including the four-lane State Highway 1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton – this is not good enough,” Mr Falloon says.
“Recently in Parliament I asked the Transport Minister to commit to building the road. He refused to do so. I think that’s wrong, and I think most Cantabrians think so too.
“The existing road is becoming a handbrake on Canterbury’s growth and Labour has cast doubt over the continuation of the planned project to extend the highway.
“The demand on the roading infrastructure will only increase with the continued success of Timaru’s PrimePort and the growth of the inland port at Rolleston.
“In the last fifteen years international tourist numbers have more than doubled, the number of passenger vehicles on the road has swelled, and with a strong local economy more and more trucks are on the road.
“We need to be investing in the critical infrastructure that supports growth in our regional economies, not putting all our eggs in one basket with Auckland.
“Not only is it becoming more congested, it’s more dangerous. During the campaign and my time as an MP I have spoken to people who are no longer willing to drive through to Christchurch, nervous about the number of trucks or drivers new to our roads.
“A four lane highway between Christchurch and Ashburton will reduce travel times and make the road safer for everyone. I will continue to push the Government to include the project in their plan and I encourage the public to show their support by signing the petition.”
The petition can be found here.