The Government should spend more time listening to victims of crime and less on listening to soft-on-crime activists, by getting on with making sure there is enough capacity in our prisons for serious offenders, National’s Corrections Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“After eight months, the Government still doesn’t have a plan to house New Zealand’s growing prison population – but we have confirmation, accidentally revealed by Nanaia Mahuta, that National’s planned 1500-bed Waikeria Prison won’t go ahead.
“The Prime Minister has attempted to justify a decision that is going to make our communities less safe by saying that the crime rate is static and that means there’s something wrong with the rising prison population.
“What she has failed to disclose is that while lower-level offending is down, serious offending – including aggravated assaults, sexual violence and murder – is up. That’s why there are more people locked up.
“98 per cent of people in prison are there for crimes like this and these are the people the Government will let loose on our streets if it doesn’t build capacity to put them where they need to be. People aren’t in prison for stealing a Crunchie Bar, despite what the Government and soft-on-crime activists might have people believe.
“And the Government’s claim that National proposed to build a 2500-bed ‘mega prison’ is misleading. The plan was always to build a 1500-bed facility which was based on evidence that shows serious crime continues to rise and this is what’s needed to meet forecast growth in the prison muster.
“So far all we have from the Government is pop-up beds and a pledge to have 30 per cent fewer people in prison.
“Without a corresponding decrease in serious crime or a plan to make that happen, the only way to meet that pledge is to let more offenders out on the street which means our communities will be less safe.”
The Ardern-Peters Government is putting ideology ahead of public safety by not building the much-needed prison at Waikeria, National’s Corrections Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“No government wants to build a new prison, but when you’re faced with an increase in serious and violent crime it is the only option to keep the public safe.
“That’s why National put plans in place for a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison.
“But the Government dithered for seven months over whether to go ahead with this facility, all while prison numbers continue to rise, and has now confirmed that it is off the table.
“This flies in the face of all the data that shows the prison population is forecast to keep rising and indicates loud and clear the Government will be moving towards softening bail laws.
“Its Budget announcement to provide 600 pop-up beds in existing prisons is like putting a plaster over a gaping wound.
“It will also make it much harder for prisoners to access the rehabilitation and education services they need.
“Not only has the Government not increased funding for rehabilitation services to reflect rising prison numbers, it appears it has actually cut funding to programmes like the Alcohol and Other Drug Aftercare Package and Methamphetamine Targeted Screening and Rehabilitation.
“The plans for the new facility at Waikeria would have included Drug Treatment Units, reintegration programmes, education and training programmes and Special Treatment Units to help address violent and sexual offending.
“It would have also included an upgrade of the existing facilities at Waikeria, which are no longer fit-for-purpose and pose health and safety risks to Corrections staff and prisoners.
“If the Government took crime seriously and prioritised public safety, it would have picked up where we left off and the new prison build would likely be underway by now.
“Instead, it has no plan to reduce reoffending and appears willing to gamble public safety for its own ideologies.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has today confirmed that the Government is looking at relaxing bail and sentencing laws for serious and violent criminals, and interfering with police prosecutions to reduce the prison population, National’s Corrections Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“After months of the Government avoiding questions about how it intends to meet its prison population reduction target, Mr Davis has clarified that it is considering making it easier for serious and violent offenders to get bail and harder for them to go to prison in the first place.
“When asked a very straight question about whether the Ardern-Peters Government is considering making changes to bail and sentencing laws for serious and violent criminals, Mr Davis confirmed it was looking into it.
“What’s more, Mr Davis also confirmed he was willing to speak to the Police Minister about interfering in operational matters to stop Police prosecuting criminals to try and reduce the prison population.
“The reason we let the Police decide who they should prosecute is that they are best placed to know who poses a real risk to society and safety.
“The fact Mr Davis is willing to direct who police prosecutors should and should not prosecute suggests he is more concerned with Labour’s ideological crusade than protecting the public from people who pose real harm.
“This is all in the name of trying to avoid the decision of whether or not to build new beds at Waikeria Prison. Given there are less than 200 prison beds left throughout New Zealand, the Ardern-Peters Government is yet again putting ideology ahead of the protection of the community.
“Public safety and reducing crime is one of National’s top priorities. It is very worrying that the Ardern-Peters Government has decided it is willing to gamble the public’s safety for its own ideologies.”
The Government’s last minute announcement of a change in the Mānuka honey definition puts one of New Zealand’s iconic export industries at risk, National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The repeated changes and subsequent confusion around the definition and test for Mānuka honey are extremely unsettling, and indicate that the Minister has no idea what he is dealing with,” Mr Bennett says.
“This uncertainty has flow-on effects for not only the industry but also exporters and consumers. With only a week until export requirements come into force, the industry is still in the dark.
“Overseas markets are looking to New Zealand to provide a credible and robust definition for Mānuka honey and all that we have so far are a series of failed attempts and back-tracks.
“Yesterday in the House I asked the Food Safety Minister which of the two standards released by MPI outline the accurate test for Mānuka honey, and he said that they both did.
“The definition put out this week only requires one microgram of the 2MAP marker per kilogram, whereas the first definition that was released in December required that the honey had five micrograms of the marker.
“The Minister also indicated that he had carried out “lots” of consultation with the industry around the December test. However the industry tells me that this is not the case. The dropping of legal action after the Minister reverted back to his pre-December test further proves that.
“I’m calling on the Minister to give the industry some reassurance and confirm a test and standard for Mānuka honey once and for all,” Mr Bennett says.
National’s petition to extend the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Tirau and from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range was launched today, announced MPs for Tauranga and Hamilton East, Simon Bridges and David Bennett.
“This is one of a series of petitions National is launching aimed at saving regional highway projects that are at risk of being canned by the new Government,” says Mr Bridges.
“Strengthening the link between the Bay of Plenty and Hamilton is fundamental to economic growth. Tauranga is New Zealand’s main port and Hamilton provides many services such as health and education to the south Waikato.
“Getting rid of National’s expressway extensions would put a dampener on the great growth we have seen in Tauranga, the wider Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, and wider Waikato.”
Mr Bennett says it would also mean longer, less reliable journey times and more deaths and serious injuries. “No one has ever died on one of National’s four lane highways given their safety features. The further improvements we were planning would save many lives.”
“National knows that developing infrastructure is essential for the regions to build on their economic growth. When we realised that the Government wasn’t going to prioritise these projects, we knew we had to stand up and be counted. We want to show the Government that the regional communities are behind these projects.
“The people in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty have great drive and ambition; we just need the Government to support it.
“As Government prioritises light rail in Auckland, our petition aims to show them that the Waikato and Bay of Plenty refuse to be left behind.”
The petition can be found here.
Today’s announcement of a formal definition for Mānuka honey roundly ignores industry feedback, National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The new Minister for Primary Industries has today announced the definition for multifloral and monofloral Mānuka honey.
“Damien O’Connor has announced that ‘the final scientific definition for Mānuka honey is made up of a combination of four chemical markers derived from nectar and one DNA marker from Mānuka pollen’.
“But that definition excludes a chemical test for Leptosperin that the honey industry currently uses in its existing tests, and that they strongly advocated for inclusion in the Ministry test during its consultation period.
“The Minister excluded Leptopserin as he believes it dilutes over time. But he needs to show what proof he has of that dilution and the time that the dilution takes.
“To exclude Leptosperin is to put at risk existing industry tests for Mānuka honey. Using the Minister’s explanation of why he has removed Leptosperin raises the question as to how much Mānuka honey that is currently available on the market has been subject to the Minister’s dilution factor, and therefore cannot be sold as Mānuka honey under either the Ministry or the industry tests.
“MPI has worked for a number of years to develop the standard announced today, and I’ll watch with interest how industry responds to the new definition,” Mr Bennett says.
Food manufacturers are upping the ante when it comes to using the Health Star Ratings systems on food labels, Minister for Food Safety David Bennett says.
“The Ministry for Primary Industries is reporting as at 31 March 2017 about 2700 packaged food products with Health Star Ratings were available to New Zealand consumers,” Mr Bennett says.
“That number is a significant increase on a survey done only a year before that showed 807 products on shop shelves with Health Star Ratings.
“The decision to work with industry to introduce the system voluntarily means costs are being kept down, both for producers and people buying the products.
“This jump follows a large increase in consumer awareness and understanding of the system. A survey published by MPI shows that more than 60 per cent of consumers are aware of Health Star Ratings.
“About 50 per cent of consumers have a correct understanding of how the system works.”
Health Star Ratings are an independent rating system developed by the New Zealand and Australian governments in collaboration with public health experts, the food industry and consumer groups. Packaged foods are given a number of stars based on their nutrients, ingredients and the amount of energy (kilojoules) they provide, so consumers can compare similar products to see which is healthier.
“Health Star Ratings were only introduced in 2014. We are delighted to see the food industry embracing them as a useful tool to inform consumers about their products.”
“Not only that, some companies have improved their products to make them healthier and to get a higher star rating.
“Consumers too are showing they understand what the Health Star Ratings are for, and that they can use the system to select a healthier food option, based on the number of stars on the package,” Mr Bennett says.
More information can be found at: http://www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/whats-in-our-food/food-labelling/health-star-ratings/
The House of Representatives passed the Racing Amendments’ Bill through its first reading tonight, during the final sitting week before the election.
The Bill has been referred to the Primary Production Committee.
“It’s a day of celebration for the racing industry as we take another step forward to getting money back into the New Zealand community,” Minister for Racing David Bennett says.
“I would like to acknowledge all those who have worked so hard to get us to this position, especially the New Zealand Racing Board, its chair, the venerable Glenda Hughes, and its chief executive, John Allen.”
The Bill modernises racing and sports betting in New Zealand, amending the Racing Act 2003. It seeks to return money into New Zealand through information and consumption charges from offshore betting operators.
An information charge seeks money from offshore operators taking bets on New Zealand racing and sporting events. A consumption charge seeks money from offshore operators taking bets from people living in New Zealand.
“The Racing Amendments’ Bill will also enable in-race betting, and will allow the New Zealand Racing Board to offer betting on a wider range of sports – which may soon include politics if the last month is anything to go by.”
“The broad cross-party support for the Bill recognises the importance so many people place on the collection of betting charges. Those charges will be used to assist the racing industry and other sports bodies to reinvest in their codes,” Mr Bennett says.
The Bill is available at:
Note to editors:The New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB), which operates the TAB, is the only provider of racing and sports betting that is authorised in New Zealand. When people bet with the TAB here in New Zealand, the NZRB distributes profits to New Zealand’s racing and sports organisations. It also helps to fund services that address gambling harm. New Zealanders can bet with offshore websites but, unlike the NZRB, the operators of those websites do not contribute any money back to this country.
A project which redesigns and streamlines food safety requirements under the Animal Products Act 1999 is underway, Minister for Food Safety David Bennett says.
“This project is to make the rules easier to understand and more accessible for businesses than the current state of play. We want our food safety system to be fit for purpose,” Mr Bennett says.
The MPI run project will consider consolidating and simplifying 41 regulations under the Animal Products Act 1999.
“We have a world class food safety system, and to ensure it remains amongst the best in the world we are continuously looking at ways we can improve.
“Industry feedback told us streamlining notices and regulations would help them run their businesses more efficiently, with a greater understanding of expectations keeping their customers.”
The redesign is on the back of a Government inquiry which recommended some changes to further strengthen New Zealand’s food safety system.
Targeted industry workshops have will gather feedback to better understand what is working and what is not
Once the workshops have been completed, MPI will develop proposals for changes to the regulations and notices, which will be publically consulted on.
“We are continuously trying to find ways to make it easier for people to achieve and go beyond the world class food safety system.
“So, it is great to support progress which helps them, while continuing to protect and promote New Zealanders health and produce,” Mr Bennett says.
The operation of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 review has been kick-started with the release of a discussion document, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs David Bennett says.
The document, which asks people how they think the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 is working, has been released as part of the consultation process of the Review. “This legislation has been is a central part of a $60 million package for Veterans,” Mr Bennett says. “We need to see how the operation of the Act could be improved and what needs to be changed. “It’s important that we get it right when we are investing in those who fought for the freedoms New Zealand experiences, so we can ensure Veterans’ have the services they deserve. “I encourage everyone who has an interest to take this opportunity to have their say,” Mr Bennett says. The Review is a legal requirement for the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force under the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 and is being independently led by Professor Ron Paterson. The Review is expected to be completed, and a report provided, by the end of 2017. “I have released this discussion document early in the Review process, to give people as much time as possible to think about how the Veterans’ Support Act is working for them”, Professor Paterson says. Submissions on the discussion document are due by 15 September 2017. Consultation meetings will be held in Whāngārei, Auckland, Tauranga, Gisborne, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill in August and September. Information about the independent review, consultation process and discussion document can be found on the New Zealand Defence Force website www.nzdf.mil.nz/corporate-documents/vsa “I’m looking forward to meeting as many veterans and their families as possible at the consultation meetings. They have served our country and the Veterans’ Support Act is there to provide the support and rehabilitation they need as a result of their service,” Professor Paterson says. “We don’t often get the opportunity, so soon after new legislation comes into effect, to independently review how it is working,” Professor Paterson says.