The Government has today announced $10 million in new funding to expand Pacific labour mobility, as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme celebrates ten years of success.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse say the RSE scheme is an innovative immigration policy that fulfils a labour need in New Zealand while giving Pacific workers the chance to earn an income and gain skills.
“Due to the scheme’s success, the Government has approved $10 million over an initial five-year period to explore what other sectors of the economy – where there is continued high demand for labour – RSE workers are well placed to make a contribution to,” Mr Brownlee says.
“In particular, the Government will be exploring employment opportunities for Pacific women and develop prospects in semi-skilled, higher-income occupations.
“The new funding is in addition to $5 million for the training of Pacific workers in New Zealand and forms a significant component of the recently-signed Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Woodhouse says 10 years on, the scheme is still regarded as ground-breaking and among the most effective development policies in the world.
“During its 10 years, the RSE scheme has more than doubled from 5,000 seasonal workers in 2007, to 10,500 in 2017, and has played a key role in supporting industry growth in New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture sectors,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“It has also played an integral role in supporting economic growth, with RSE workers contributing more than $40 million every year to the Pacific.
“At the heart of the scheme’s success are the strong relationships that have been forged over the last decade with government and industry, and with the highly valued Pacific workers who are welcomed into our communities each year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment partner on the delivery of the RSE scheme.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has today marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“The story of Hong Kong’s economic success under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement has been a very positive one,” Mr Brownlee says.
“This arrangement has also given confidence to New Zealand businesses operating in Hong Kong and New Zealanders living and working there.
“Today, New Zealand is pleased to join the 20th anniversary celebrations in Hong Kong and express our support for Hong Kong’s continued success.
“New Zealand has a close relationship with Hong Kong. We were proud to be the second country – after China – to conclude a Closer Economic Partnership with Hong Kong, which is now our tenth largest export market, with goods and services totalling $1.15 billion in 2016,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced an $11 million boost to global agricultural research.
“New Zealand is a world leader in international agriculture research and we want to help meet global food needs in ways that are positive for the environment,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand is committing $11 million over two years to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a network of research institutes around the world that focus on agriculture, forestry and fishing.
“Our contribution will support improved access to safe, affordable and nutritious food, reduce poverty by improving farming practices, and enhance the management of natural resources,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee is currently in Colombia for the Pacific Alliance Summit. Agriculture innovation is at the centre of what New Zealand has to offer to the region.
In March, we established the New Zealand – Pacific Alliance Agricultural Cooperation Initiative, which will engage on projects within the Pacific Alliance that could benefit from New Zealand expertise and innovation.
The initiative will provide $800,000 over two years to support cooperation activities.
So far three Pacific Alliance delegations have visited New Zealand to research areas for potential collaboration – Colombia (red meat sector), Mexico (dairy, goat and sheep) and Peru (dairy). A Chilean delegation focused on horticulture and irrigation will visit New Zealand in October.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee have announced that New Zealand will contribute up to $6 million to redevelop Honiara’s Multi-Purpose Hall and sports facility.
“Honiara has a large, young, urban population and ensuring they have access to sporting and educational facilities is important for the future of Solomon Islands,” Mrs Bennett says.
“The upgraded facility in central Honiara will provide a safe and positive environment for young people to engage in sporting activities and get access to health and education services from a range of government and non-government organisations.”
New Zealand has previously supported upgrades to the Multi-Purpose Hall in conjunction with the Honiara City Council. The latest funding announced today will deliver a programme of essential upgrades and maintenance, and a significant expansion to the existing facilities.
“For the past 14 years New Zealand has made a significant contribution to the safety and security of the Solomon Islands through our contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Our support is now transitioning and will focus on economic development, creating employment opportunities, and supporting youth.
“The upgrade of the Multi-Purpose Hall is a project which signifies New Zealand’s commitment to the people of Solomon Islands and the young people of Honiara. It will also serve as a key piece of infrastructure when Solomon Islands hosts the Pacific games in 2023.”
Funding for the upgrade will come from the New Zealand Aid programme. Construction is expected to start later this year.
Mrs Bennett is leading the New Zealand delegation to Honiara for the RAMSI farewell. She will return home today. The delegation is travelling by RNZAF 757 and includes representatives from the New Zealand Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Defence Force.
New Zealand is committed to helping Colombia achieve its target of being landmine free by 2021, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee is currently in Colombia to attend the Pacific Alliance Summit in Cali.
“New Zealand has allocated a $1 million contribution over three years to support the nation’s continued demining effort,” Mr Brownlee says.
“More than 50 years of conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC) and the Colombian government has left the country heavily littered with mines, posing significant safety risks for its citizens.
“Colombia’s historic peace agreement has seen about 200 new municipalities become eligible for demining assistance but this requires a substantial increase in resources.
“New Zealand will provide $750,000 to support a two-year demining initiative with the HALO Trust Colombia.
“The funding will help expand the capacity of HALO Trust to identify safe land, map and mark minefields for future clearance in Meta, Colombia, and use New Zealand BurnSafe Thermit technology to destroy items of unexploded ordnance.
“The rest of the money will go to the United Nations, including to the UN Post-Conflict Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Colombia, which also supports demining in the South American nation,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced the renewal of an agreement between New Zealand and Cuba that will boost medical assistance in Pacific countries.
The Cooperation Arrangement was first signed between New Zealand and Cuba in 2015 and enables Cuban doctors to receive language training in New Zealand before providing medical services in the Pacific Islands.
Mr Brownlee says the agreement – funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme – has been renewed for three more years.
“New Zealand and Cuba have a shared interest in the Pacific and extending this agreement between our two nations demonstrates our ongoing commitment to small island developing states,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Since 2015, the arrangement has delivered positive results in the Pacific and renewing it will allow New Zealand to provide 18 weeks of language training for up to five Cuban medical personnel per year.
“I look forward to seeing further progress take place in this area,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee is currently in Cuba to meet with his counterpart, before travelling to Colombia for the Pacific Alliance Summit.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce and the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee have today announced plans to simplify and improve the EQC scheme for New Zealanders.
“EQC has provided huge support to New Zealanders following the Christchurch, Seddon, and Kaikōura earthquakes,” Mr Joyce says.
“This review has provided us the opportunity to consider how the scheme could work more effectively for future natural disasters.
“Everyone with a private insurance policy, that includes fire insurance for their residential building, will continue to receive EQC cover,” Mr Joyce says.
Mr Brownlee says the reforms will have no impact on the handling and outcome of existing EQC claims.
“The reforms we are announcing will simplify the relationship between the EQC scheme and private insurance and help provide faster and smoother resolution of claims following a major event,” Mr Brownlee says.
The reforms are:Increasing the monetary cap from $100,000 (plus GST) to $150,000 (plus GST) for EQC building cover. Clarifying EQC land cover is for natural disaster damage that directly affects the insured residence or access to it. Standardising the claims excess on EQC building cover at $1,000. This currently ranges from $200 to $1,150 depending on the size of the claim. EQC no longer providing any residential household contents insurance. Requiring EQC claimants to lodge claims with their private insurer who would pass the claim on to EQC (if the property is insured).
“Requiring EQC claimants to lodge claims with their private insurer will help EQC and private insurers work better together in future.
“Following feedback from the Discussion Document issued in 2015, changes were made in response to submitter concerns regarding the treatment of land damage affecting residential buildings, the previously proposed $2000 excess and the idea of combining building and land damage cap amount,” Mr Brownlee says.
Further work now needs to be done on the details of a scheme that will incorporate the features announced today.
The Government hopes to release a draft of an EQC reform bill later this year or early next year, with the changes anticipated to be implemented in 2020.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee will today travel to Cuba to meet with his counterpart before attending the Pacific Alliance Summit in Colombia.
On June 27, Mr Brownlee will visit Cuba to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.
“This visit will help to strengthen New Zealand’s interests in the Latin American region, which is home to about 625 million people,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand works with Cuba on a number of important issues, including agriculture, international development, and regional cooperation.
“Both nations provide support to Small Island Developing States in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. Cuba is an important player in the Caribbean and the visit is a valuable opportunity to engage with one of our larger partners in the region,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee will then attend the Pacific Alliance Summit in Cali, Colombia on June 29 and 30. Trade Minister Todd McClay is also attending.
The Alliance is a regional organisation, established in 2011 by Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. New Zealand has observer nation status with the Pacific Alliance.
“The Alliance is looking to begin trade negotiations with some observer countries as a pathway to offering Associate Membership of the group,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand already has long-standing relationships with the Alliance and each of its constituent nations.
“Pacific Alliance is a growing force for political and economic stability in Latin America, so it’s important for New Zealand to be a voice at the table,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced New Zealand will provide a workshop in Barbados to help upskill the Caribbean in disaster risk management.
“New Zealand knows that having the right people with the right skills in place before an event happens is essential to responding to it effectively, and this is what we will be sharing with the Caribbean,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Like the Pacific, the Caribbean is largely made up of small island states, vulnerable to natural disasters.
“The workshop will focus on what mix of skills and experience the participant agencies need to have in order to manage disasters, and participants will prepare practical plans based on their countries’ specific needs.
“Thirty-five people from disaster response and disaster management agencies across the Caribbean region will attend the two-day workshop later this month.
“The workshop, funded by New Zealand, will be run in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and delivered by two emergency management competency experts from GNS Science,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced a significant boost to support Pacific island countries comply with international anti-money laundering standards.
New Zealand is providing $3.6 million to the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering.
“The Group is a collaborative international organisation committed to the effective implementation and enforcement of international standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” Mr Brownlee says.
“In recent years, there has been a global push to tighten anti-money laundering standards, and compliance with the standards has proven complex and costly for most Pacific island countries.
“The group will use the funding to provide Pacific members with technical assistance, including drafting new legislation, training regulators and supervisors of financial and non-financial institutions.
“It will also be used to train law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting financial crime.
“Money laundering diverts essential funds away from the legitimate economy, and is often used to fund further criminal activity, including drug and people trafficking.
“These are trans-national issues, so better compliance with standards across our region is in New Zealand’s best interests. Improved compliance will help enhance international confidence in Pacific island economies.
“This investment will reduce operating risks and encourage banks and other financial service providers to invest in the region. It will also reduce risks in key sectors like remittances, tourism, and trade, on which Pacific island economies depend,” Mr Brownlee says.
The activity will run from July 2017-2022 and will mainly cover the 11 Pacific island countries that are members of the Asia/Pacific Group: Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.