The Green Party’s claim the law prevented them from declining an overseas buyer’s application to expand their water bottling plant is merely an attempt to excuse their hypocrisy, National’s Land Information Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Green Party voters have been betrayed by their MPs, who are trying to blame their hypocritical decision to approve the sale of land to a water bottling company on provisions in the Overseas Investment Act which they promised to change immediately upon entering government.
“Labour and the Greens are trying to hide behind the Government’s reforms to the Overseas Investment Act, implying they’re efforts to live up to their promises, but those reforms won’t help because they primarily deal with residential housing.
“The fact is, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage has confirmed she has not taken any action since becoming a Minister eight months ago to change the rules and that she has nothing in progress to implement the Greens’ water bottling policy.
“Ms Sage has not taken a single step towards living up to the promises the Greens made in Opposition when they bitterly criticised the previous Government’s decisions.
“Instead, Ms Sage blindly followed the OIO recommendation when precedent in cases like the applications to purchase Lochinver Station and Auckland Airport showed she could have exercised her Ministerial discretion differently.
“The Greens and their mates in Labour are misleading their angry supporters and hiding behind the laws set by the previous Government aimed at encouraging overseas investment, when in fact all they’ve done is prove what a bunch of hypocrites they are.”
Green Party voters are feeling rightfully ripped off after Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage’s extraordinary U-turn to allow an overseas bottling plant to purchase more land to expand their operation, National’s Land Information Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“This U-turn becomes more extraordinary when you consider that Ms Sage used that very bottling operation as the catalyst for a Green Party policy to immediately impose a moratorium on such expansions.
“Despite the big talk prior to the election, Ms Sage confirmed at Select Committee yesterday that she has taken no action, after eight months in the job, to implement the policy.
“Members and supporters of the Green Party are rightfully ashamed, with Ms Sage’s turnaround coming at the same time as Green MPs are abandoning their principles and giving support to the Waka Jumping Bill.
“Ms Sage is also struggling to implement the proposed changes to the Overseas Investment Office. A ban on foreign land sales means nearly $16,000,000 of taxpayer funds are needed to close New Zealand off from foreign capital and an open economy, but Ms Sage was unable to clarify in any detail the level of enforcement of the new regime.
“And it gets worse. A ban on foreign purchasers has an exemption for properties of up to 1000 hectares if they support New Zealand First’s forestry policy.
“Not only has Ms Sage not bothered to act on implementing a major election policy, but in capitulating for the political whim of a policy that will lead to an easier track to overseas investment for certain cases, she has demonstrated she has no principles now that she’s a Minister.”
The incompetent and bumbling Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis is being forced to sell a lie that National’s plans for Waikeria Prison were like a ‘US-style mega prison’ but is failing miserably to do it convincingly, National’s Corrections Spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Perhaps Mr Davis gets as nervous in the House as he does in interviews, because he was today unable to answer a simple question about the size of the biggest prison in the US.
“In an attempt to justify why her Government is recklessly refusing to build the required number of prison beds to meet forecast growth in the muster, the Prime Minister has forced her Ministers to join her in misleading the public about National’s plans to build a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison being akin to ‘US-style mega prisons’.
“But she should have done her research, because then she’d realise that the Government cannot reasonably make such a comparison when the biggest prison in the US, the Los Angeles County Jail, houses around 18,000 prisoners.
“National’s plans for Waikeria Prison would have made it the largest facility in New Zealand by around 400 beds, but still far from anything like a US prison. In fact, it would have housed around 8 per cent of the number of prisoners housed in the Los Angeles County Jail.
“Mr Davis clumsily tried to provide some kind of rationale for the Government’s spin, but just like almost everything else he attempts, he royally stuffed it up.
“It’s almost as bad as his admission that prisoners might have to sleep on mattresses on the prison floor because the Government won’t have enough beds to cope with demand.
“That’s hardly going to be good for the mental health of prisoners. After claiming to be ‘focused on mental health’, the Government is now going to have to come up with a line to spin its way of this failure.
“But it should think of something better than the ‘US-style mega prison’ line. Better still, it should build the required number of prison beds so that prisoners don’t have to sleep on the floor.”
The hypocrisy of the Government has been thrown into sharp relief today with Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage unable to justify her party’s about face on sensitive land sales to foreigners for water bottling, National’s Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Just prior to last year’s election Ms Sage promised that in Government the Greens would put an immediate moratorium in place to stop Cresswell NZ Ltd’s application to take up to 580 million litres of water annually from Otakiri Springs near Whakatane.
“Now just months later and firmly ensconced on the Treasury Benches Ms Sage has completed a major about-face and approved the sale of sensitive land to the same company to expand its water bottling plant at the same location.
“The Minister’s own supporters have condemned the broken promise and hypocrisy shown by Ms Sage and rightly so. These supporters can’t understand how a party so opposed to overseas water bottlers can then go ahead and approve such an expanded operation.
“To make things worse, Ms Sage confirmed today that not only has she broken her promise, she’s not even done the work to change to the rules to accommodate their election pledge of a moratorium.
“It’s all well and good for Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson to say ‘we don’t like this decision’ but her party’s done absolutely nothing about it.
“This shows a Green Party and a Government big on false claims and blaming foreigners when it suits their political purposes but failing to have the courage of their convictions when they are in a position to make the decisions.
“This reflects the age old trap of small parties in Government that become more interested in the baubles of office than keeping their promises to New Zealanders.”
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.