The Government’s announcement today of $100 million spend for Māori prisons is just ticking something off Minister Kelvin Davis’ wish list with no evidence it will work, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The programme will be a prison within a prison, but will only be available at two locations.
“National recognises that Māori are over represented in our prison system but we believe in the fundamental principle that the Corrections system should serve all equally.
“There are no details about how this programme will work. The Minister has made clear this is not another rehabilitation programme but a structural change which will create a two tier prison system.
“We need a system that works for all, teaching skills and providing rehabilitation, that acknowledges cultural and personal backgrounds, not an expensive and divisive system that Kelvin Davis has dreamt up.
“National believes in turning lives around and investing in those who need a hand up, not just throwing money at programmes and hoping they’ll work.”
Eugenie Sage confirmed in Parliament yesterday that it was her decision to block Oceana Gold’s Overseas Investment Office application in Waihi, National Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The Minister’s decision appears to be fuelled by her anti-mining sentiment and irrelevant overseas examples rather than properly assessing the commercial realities of the project. She is hiding behind the possibility of a failed tailings storage facility to say that the economic value of the land is not substantial and identifiable.
“Even the Associate Finance Minister described the project as having ‘substantial and identifiable benefit’ as Oceana Gold have a record of adding $373m to our economy in 2016, and this project would add 360 jobs with an average miner’s wage of $120,000.
“The Minister also confirmed new tests around the zero emissions goal of the Government and that ‘proposed investment in non-renewable resource extraction is inherently unsustainable’. This contradicts with her previous approval off OMV’s transaction last year which also involved a mining application.
“It’s clear the Minister is not making decisions based on economic value to New Zealand, but is instead deciding by her personal values system.
“The Minister needs to explain why this case has been treated differently and how investors can have any certainty when we see that the tests and personal political views of the Minister override commercial reality.”
How can New Zealanders be confident the Government is getting tough on crime when Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis thinks rewarding prisoners is the best way to stop them assaulting staff, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“There were four serious assaults and 147 non-serious assaults on prison staff by prisoners in the past 12 months in the Auckland region. Prison staff have a challenging job and they should know the Government has their back when it comes to safety.
“Instead we learn from internal emails that officials in Mr Davis’ department have been told to come up with good behaviour incentives for prisoners, ‘with the goal of positively impacting on staff assaults’.
“Good behaviour should be non-negotiable in prison. There is absolutely no excuse for prisoners assaulting staff. Mr Davis talked a big game about prison standards when he was in Opposition but standards have weakened on his watch, putting prison staff at risk.
“The Government says the best way to keep prison officers safe is to reduce the prison population. But the number of prisoners has risen back over 10,000 and Corrections officers across the country are worried about their ability to maintain order while ensuring their own safety.
“The Minister has shown he is on the side of the criminals rather than on the side of our Corrections officers, who perform a dangerous but essential job on behalf of New Zealanders. National is the party of law and order and our focus is on keeping law-abiding Kiwis safe, not trying to make things easier for prisoners.”
Details of the Government’s plan to end tenure review show some farmers will have wasted time and money on the regime and all farmers on Crown pastoral land will face higher costs, National’s Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Eugenie Sage’s announcement today shows that of the 34 leaseholders currently in tenure review, only eight will be allowed to proceed because they are far enough advanced to create a contractual obligation on the Crown.
“The other 26 will feel aggrieved at the Minister’s unilateral actions in cancelling their applications when they had already started negotiating.
“The Minister for Land Information needs to explain why farmers who entered the review process in good faith won’t have their work honoured, no matter how much they’ve spent so far on lawyers, surveyors and other experts.
“The announcement isn’t a surprise given the Minister’s views on tenure review when it had been shown to have created some good outcomes. In opposing High Country farmers she has exaggerated the extent to which intensive farming has resulted from tenure review.
“No matter what the Minister thinks, farmers are not the enemy of the High Country. She disregards generations of good stewardship of this Crown pastoral land including areas retired to protect its conservation values, such as through QEll covenants.
“I feel for those caught up in the middle of this process – they need certainty but the only thing certain is that costs are going to rise through the proposed charging for discretionary consent applications for leaseholders. At least the current process doesn’t include rent reviews.
“Ms Sage is also vague on the fiscal implications of the proposed changes, a point noted with concern by the Treasury.
“National prefers a collaborative approach between Government and farmers with long-term management plans. We urge all stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard before the eight-week consultation period ends on April 12.”
The Corrections Minister needs to explain why prisoners are being prioritised over guards after five serious assaults at Auckland’s brand new maximum security prison, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Five prison guards have been attacked since the wing opened in October in two separate attacks. That includes a guard being punched in the head and four officers being seriously assaulted by a group of inmates.
“The new prison is designed to be safe but the Corrections Association has made it clear that the attacks come down to relaxed protocol because maximum security prisoners are being given the same rights as those in low-security prisons.
“The Association says management is more worried about prisoner rehabilitation than staff safety.
“Minister Kelvin Davis needs to make it clear to prison management that these are violent offenders and they need to be treated that way. Staff shouldn’t be put in harm’s way because this Government has a soft on crime approach.
“The Minister talked a big game in Opposition about standards in prisons and yet since he became the Minister we’ve seen a relaxation of standards, putting at risk prison officers.
“Prison guards have the right to be safe at work. The Minister needs to ensure that they come home from work unscathed, and not the victims of crime.”
The National Party welcomes signs that Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage is backing away from her Green Party’s anti-foreign investor rhetoric and is now approving investments that benefit the economy and create jobs, National’s Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Ms Sage’s about-face means foreign investment continues to be a crucial element in the mix of funding sources for building homes, commercial construction and much-needed infrastructure projects such as roading.
“Between November 1 last year and July 26 this year foreign investors applied to purchase almost 60,000 hectares of New Zealand land. Ms Sage approved all but 30 hectares of it, representing a 99 per cent approval rate.
“The value of this land sold to foreigners equates to almost $1 billion, compared to the $3.5 million worth of land that was declined.
“This is just another flip-flop for a Minister who has struggled to represent the Greens’ position while holding down her portfolios, like the approval of the sale of land for water bottling when the Greens had campaigned for an immediate moratorium on new bottling plants.
“Attracting quality international investment plays a vital role in our economy and is crucial to creating jobs for Kiwis across the country. For example, in two recent decisions a particleboard plant in Kawerau will create 110 jobs while a new landfill near Wellsford will generate 50-100 jobs.
“In Government, National simplified overseas investment rules, cut red tape and speeded up processing times for applications to make easier for local businesses that need foreign investment to grow.
“It seems as though the Minister has finally listened to the National Party and recognised the importance of foreign investment and the value of the wider benefits it brings to our economy.”
Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s decision to strip funding from the Tauranga to Hamilton Expressway Extension project will put a dampener on the long-term economic growth in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions, local MPs for Tauranga, Taupo and Hamilton East Simon Bridges, Louise Upston and David Bennett say.
“Waikato is the fourth largest regional economy in New Zealand, and its central location makes it a nationally significant infrastructure corridor. Strengthening the link between Tauranga and Hamilton is fundamental to economic growth in the region,” Mr Bridges says.
“Over time greater freight volumes will use the road as the preferred route to and from other economic centres and the Port of Tauranga. Further investment in this stretch of road will provide economic benefits to the regions and improve safety.
“The Expressway connects our capital of commerce, Auckland, with one of our core agricultural areas, the horticulture in the Bay of Plenty and the Port in Tauranga.”
“The extension of the expressway builds on the early success and benefits the Waikato Expressway is already delivering, such as reduced congestion and travel times, as well as a safer commute,” Ms Upston says.
“The previous National Government approved a four-lane extension for the State Highway 1 Piarere turnoff, a black spot for crashes between Cambridge and Tirau.
“The planning and acquisition phase of the Cambridge to Piarere stretch is already underway. It would be ridiculous for all of this work to be wasted if the Government completely scraps this project.”
“Waikato’s central location in the upper North Island makes it a nationally significant infrastructure corridor, which is why the previous National Government announced the Waikato Expressway,” Mr Bennett says.
"The current Government hasn’t thought through its plan. The Extension is vital as it divides the traffic from Rotorua to Tauranga. There is not much good having a road that stops at Cambridge when the traffic divides at Piarere.
“This is another example of a Government prepared to strip investment out of the regions in favour of a pet Tram project in Auckland. National had a carefully balanced plan that prioritised our regions was delivering on key infrastructure for all of New Zealand.”
The Government needs to explain how it allowed a GPS blindspot that stopped residents at a child sex offender village from being tracked, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Residents of Rimutaka Prison's outside-the-wire child sex offender unit can't be GPS tracked due to a communications blindspot. They are among 200 of the country’s most dangerous freed violent criminals who are meant to be under strict supervision orders.
“Up to 11 child sex offenders can be held at this location.
“The unit is only 1.5 kilometres from Hutt International Boys' School, 1.8km from St Brendan's School, and Silverstream School is 2.8km away. There are also over 40 early childhood centres in the area.
“The community should have been informed that this unit was being established. Instead, it was all hush-hush until Corrections was forced to confirm it in August.
“When this centre was announced, Corrections assured the public that all residents would be able to be monitored, including by GPS monitoring.
“But it has become clear that the Government has known about this blind spot for months. Yet it has done nothing. This is unacceptable.
“Corrections claims there is currently ‘no option’ for GPS monitoring. It needs to either find a way to make this happen, or move these highly dangerous offenders to somewhere they can be tracked. It’s astonishing they allowed this site to go ahead knowing the offenders couldn’t be properly monitored.
“National is the party of law and order, and we are committed to making our communities safer and putting victims first.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis continues to show what little control he has left of his portfolio, failing to reconcile his public statements with the recommendations he made to Cabinet about Waikeria Prison, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Mr Davis recommended to Cabinet last year that it implement the 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison planned by National and that it was the ‘only sensible plan of action’.
“Fast-forward six months and he was condemning the planned 1500-bed facility as an ‘American-style mega prison’ and announcing he would instead build a much smaller facility.
“When asked to explain the significant turn of events and what exactly made the planned facility an ‘American-style mega prison’, Mr Davis could only say that American-style mega prisons were ‘bigger’ and ‘house more people’.
“The release of Mr Davis’ Cabinet papers on the Waikeria Prison decision revealed that Cabinet simply ignored his advice which is a better explanation for the turn of events, but raises concerns about the lack of confidence his colleagues have in him.
“Mr Davis also cannot reconcile his claim that he is focused on rehabilitation with the fact that Cabinet ignored the advice in his May 2018 paper that said larger prisons allow a ‘full range of specialist facilities and rehabilitation programmes’ and went ahead with a smaller build.
“When asked to confirm his statement to the Corrections estimates hearing that ‘we’re not expanding the facilities to actually service them,’ in reference to extra rehabilitation funding to accommodate prisoners who will be on pop-up beds in existing prisons, Mr Davis is now claiming there will be extra funding.
“I eagerly await his announcement about exactly how much the Government will be funding for these extra rehabilitation services.
“And I’ll continue to wait for his admission that National had the right plan all along, but that his colleagues simply ignored his advice to implement it.”
The decision to spend $750 million for just 600 beds at Waikeria Prison is another example of the Government’s bad spending choices and recklessness when it comes to law and order, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“This Government is spending three quarters of what the previous Government had planned to spend on building a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison, but getting just one quarter of the prison beds.
“The National Government had a plan to spend $1 billion to build 1500 beds at Waikeria Prison, with capacity to expand to 2000 if required, which Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis recommended that Cabinet implement.
“Papers reveal that Mr Davis advised Cabinet that large-scale prisons ‘are the most efficient and cost-effective way to add quality capacity to the prison network’ and that ‘building small and medium scale prisons is significantly more costly’.
“But Mr Davis’ colleagues ignored his advice and went ahead with building a much smaller facility, for nearly the same amount as they would have spent implementing National’s plan.
“It makes no sense, not only for taxpayers but also for prisoners given the smaller prison is going to make it harder for them to access the rehabilitation programmes they need.
“Mr Davis himself acknowledged in a Cabinet paper that smaller prisons ‘can pose challenges when it comes to supporting prisoner rehabilitation’, while larger prisons allow ‘a full range of specialist facilities and rehabilitation programmes’.
“Sadly we’re used to this Government making bad spending decisions, but it can hardly claim to be focused on rehabilitating prisoners if it’s ignoring advice on how best to do it.
“That’s just going to put prisoners at higher risk of reoffending upon release, which is going to make our communities less safe.”