Earthquake Commission (EQC) levies will increase from 1 November to help rebuild its Natural Disaster Fund (NDF), which has been depleted following the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes.
“EQC has provided huge support to New Zealanders following the Christchurch, Seddon, and Kaikōura earthquakes, but in the process it has exhausted its reserves,” Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.
“EQC has a Government guarantee and $4.7 billion in re-insurance cover, so homeowners will be covered if there is another natural disaster, but we need to start the process of replenishing the fund so it is available to contribute to future natural disasters.”
Insured homeowners currently pay 15c per $100 of insurance cover, up to a maximum of $207 a year, as part of their insurance premiums. From 1 November homeowners will pay 20c per $100 of insurance cover, with an annual cap of $276.
“This is an increase of up to $69 per homeowner per year, including GST,” Mr Joyce says.
Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee says the levy rise is needed to ensure EQC is on a sustainable footing into the future.
“It would currently take more than three decades before the NDF reaches EQC’s reinsurance excess of $1.75 billion – and that’s in the absence of any significant natural disaster like the Kaikōura earthquake. The new levy rates mean we will be well on the way to restoring the Fund to this level within 10 years,” Mr Brownlee says.
The Government’s review of the EQC Act more generally continues to progress.
“I expect that Cabinet will make decisions on the EQC Act Review in the coming months, however this is not expected to have any further impact on levy rates,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has condemned yesterday’s test launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea.
“UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korean ballistic missiles. North Korea’s disregard for its obligations under these resolutions continues to be of deep concern,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand strongly urges North Korea to start taking responsibility and contribute to the stability to the region.
“This is the eighth test conducted by North Korea this year, some with multiple missiles.
“We will continue to support sanctions and international efforts to address this situation.
“The extent of sanctions will be dependent on North Korea’s action,” Mr Brownlee says.
Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee have today announced that New Zealand will provide $1.3 million to support Fiji’s presidency of the United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year.
“At last year’s conference in Marrakech, Fiji was selected to take up the role of president of this significant event,” Mrs Bennett says.
“This is a major undertaking for any country and these important talks will bring together climate experts officials and leaders from around the world.
“In addition to our financial support, New Zealand climate change ambassador Jo Tyndall will be available as an on-call adviser.”
Mr Brownlee says the conference will be important for maintaining momentum in negotiating the rules which will bring the Paris Agreement on climate change into effect.
“This is also the first time a Pacific Island nation has taken leadership of this conference.
“Given the significant impact of climate change on the Pacific, we are committed to supporting Fiji’s presidency and helping them to ensure the talks are successful,” Mr Brownlee says.
The conference begins on 6 November 2017 in Bonn, Germany.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has welcomed the signing of a letter of commitment between New Zealand and Turkey which will see $1.3 million provided for a new school for Syrian refugee children. “Since the start of the Syrian conflict over six years ago, Turkey has taken in more than 2.75 million Syrian refugees,” Mr Brownlee says. “The refugee crisis is placing a major burden on Turkey and the region and New Zealand is committed to helping address the needs of these refugees, such as access to basic health care and education. “This new, two-storey, 23 classroom school educational facility will help to meet the learning needs of Syrian children in Şanlıurfa province in southern Turkey and is part of a wider package of assistance announced in late 2015. “The funding will also provide for purchasing essential classroom equipment such as desks and chairs. Construction is expected to start later this year. “New Zealand and Turkey have partnered before to support Syrian refugees. In 2013, New Zealand funded the construction of three pre-fabricated schools in refugee camps in Turkey. “New Zealand and Turkey enjoy a long history of friendship, and we are delighted to be able to partner directly with the government of Turkey to take this important project forward.
“So far, New Zealand has provided $27 million in contributions to those affected by war and violence in Syria and Iraq,” Mr Brownlee says.
Last year, the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, estimated at least 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. More than 10 million people have been displaced.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says attending Dubai 2020 will provide significant economic and entrepreneurial benefits that Kiwi businesses should take advantage of.
Mr Brownlee has today released the Cabinet paper and Indicative Business Case (IBC) supporting New Zealand’s attendance at the World Expo, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2020.
Through Budget 2017, the Government is committing $53.3 million over the next four years to design, construct, operate and promote a New Zealand Pavilion that will allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets.
“Our $53.3 million is about 0.5 per cent of current New Zealand exports to the Gulf States,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Since New Zealand’s participation in the Shanghai Expo in 2010, with a free trade agreement with China in place, exports have grown 300 per cent – from just over $2 billion to more than $6 billion.
“It’s expansion of this magnitude that Dubai 2020 presents. It will allow New Zealand to challenge perceptions beyond agricultural commodities and tourism to broader high-growth sectors in IT, health, infrastructure and education.
“Attendance at this expo will build on our already strong relations with the UAE and other Gulf countries. Strong relations in this region will ultimately lead to a range of positive outcomes, including greater bilateral trade and investment.
“I recently talked to my counterpart HH Sheikh Abdullah, who expressed his gratitude about New Zealand announcing our participation at Dubai 2020.
“Before signing up to attend, we wanted to be clear on the value we could get in return so we commissioned financial consultants EY to assess the business benefits.
“Despite adopting a pessimistic model and using conservative figures, the IBC calculates that New Zealand will have comfortably recouped our investment by 2025.
“EY identified 10 key benefits in its IBC – from providing opportunities to increased inbound investment and increased exports to both existing and new markets to attracting more international students to New Zealand and improving our global business connections,” Mr Brownlee says.
The UAE is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These countries are extremely wealthy and, over the last decade, the region has been one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing markets outside China.
The Cabinet paper and IBC can be found here.
New Zealand will provide a further $5 million in relief assistance to pressing humanitarian crises across Africa and the Middle East, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced.
“An estimated 45 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, of which 20 million face starvation and famine,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Conflict and insecurity have exacerbated drought conditions, causing widespread humanitarian need.
"New Zealand will provide $2 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen and Nigeria, and $2 million to the World Food Programme in South Sudan and Somalia.
“Not only will this provide emergency food assistance, it will also help fund food security initiatives such as school meals for children.
“We will also provide $1 million to support the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, where an estimated 13.5 million people are in need of assistance due to continuing conflict.
“The aid will go towards providing household items, as well as providing healthcare to the sick and wounded.
“The funding will also go towards training female heads of households so they can start income-generating activities.
“In each of these countries, the World Food Programme and International Committee of the Red Cross will be providing life-saving relief assistance in areas including emergency food, water, and healthcare to those who need it most.
“This announcement brings New Zealand's assistance to relief efforts across South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen to more than $7 million since the beginning of March.
“It also brings New Zealand’s total assistance to the Syria regional response to $27 million since 2012,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee will today travel to Tonga to meet His Majesty King Tupou VI, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and cabinet ministers.
The visit will be the first by a New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister to Tonga since early 2015 and will provide an opportunity for Mr Brownlee to build on the strong bilateral relationship between New Zealand and Tonga.
“With over 60,000 Tongans living in New Zealand, the connections between Tonga and New Zealand are based on family and community links, as well as a strong government-to-government relationship,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Tonga is an important partner on key regional priorities such as fisheries and regional connectivity.
“This visit to Tonga early in my tenure as Foreign Affairs Minister reinforces the importance New Zealand places on its relationships with Pacific Island countries.
“I will discuss Tonga’s priorities for New Zealand’s assistance to Tonga, including energy, policing, justice and education,” Mr Brownlee says.
While in Tonga, Mr Brownlee will meet with business leaders and visit New Zealand-funded renewable energy projects to see the difference that New Zealand development assistance is making to the people of Tonga.
“Tonga’s small but growing economy presents opportunities for New Zealand businesses – particularly in the areas of energy, construction materials, wharf development and tourism,” Mr Brownlee says.
New Zealand has committed around $62 million development assistance to Tonga over the 2015-16 to 2017-18 financial years.
Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee has today named Bradley Sawden as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Iraq.
New Zealand established an Embassy in Baghdad in 2015 to support New Zealand and Australia’s joint ‘Building Partner Capacity’ mission.
“This mission has trained over 20,000 Iraqi police and army personnel who are on the frontlines of the fight against Daesh,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Mr Sawden will be charged with supporting New Zealand’s non-combat training mission to Iraq and assessing how we can continue to support and build relations with the Iraqi government.
“In addition to leading New Zealand’s engagement with the Iraq government and providing diplomatic support to the training mission, our Embassy will also be responsible for maintaining relations with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Sawden has been involved in national and international security issues across the defence and security sector of the New Zealand government.
His most recent posting was in New York as Counsellor at the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations during New Zealand’s tenure as a member of the United Nations Security Council.
The Earthquake Commission (EQC) will lead the clean-up of flood-damaged properties in Edgecumbe, say Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee and Lead Minister for Edgecumbe Anne Tolley.
“I’ve authorised EQC to clean-up all affected properties in the township, including for those homeowners who do not have insurance,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Having the Government pick up the tab for cleaning up Edgecumbe means work can get underway while cost sharing arrangements are finalised with the Whakatane District Council.
“This arrangement is similar to the management of emergency works in Canterbury following the February 2011 earthquake.
“EQC has started the clean-up efforts and contractors on the ground have already cleared about 17 properties with around 15 more currently scheduled.
“Staff will be contacting residents to discuss the work involved in clearing their properties and to offer those who are insured the opportunity to lodge a claim.
“A large part of the clean-up involves clearing the silt and debris that have inundated properties and their subfloors so the foundations can be checked and repaired,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mrs Tolley says Edgecumbe is now well into the recovery phase following the severe flooding in the region.
“The Government is committed to ensuring the people of Edgecumbe have the support they need to get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Mrs Tolley says.
“We’ve provided $500,000 of Enhanced Taskforce Green funding to employ people to assist the Council with the clean-up. Work continues on the needs assessments, and the first work crews will be up and running next week.
“Over 2,700 civil defence payments (totalling over $685,000) have been made to help people with food, clothing and bedding, and there’s also been over 220 other emergency related payments (totalling around $36,000).
“The Temporary Accommodation Service has received 60 requests to date.”
Last month, the Government announced an extra $700,000 to further support businesses, farmers and growers. Inland Revenue also waived late payment fees and penalties for those prevented from paying on time due to the flooding.
More information about EQC’s cover for this year’s flood events is online at http://www.eqc.govt.nz/get-help-now-claims/march-floods.
In his first overseas engagement as Foreign Affairs Minister, Gerry Brownlee will today travel to Australia.
Mr Brownlee will meet his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Sydney tomorrow.
“Given the close intersect of trans-Tasman values and interests both globally and regionally, I am deliberately meeting my Australian counterpart as early as possible in my tenure as Foreign Affairs Minister,” Mr Brownlee says.
“It speaks to the value New Zealand places on its relationship with our most important bilateral partner.”
In their first formal bilateral meeting, the two Ministers will discuss global, regional and bilateral issues.
A particular item for discussion between the two Ministers in the trans-Tasman agenda is Australia’s policy changes that will see New Zealanders paying higher fees in the Australian tertiary education system.
“Our relationship with our trans-Tasman neighbour is both close and important so I’m keen to have a discussion about the bigger picture and how we can communicate sooner on these issues going forward,” Mr Brownlee says.