An independent water quality regulator is a positive move, but questions still remain over the extra regulation and costs that will be lumped on councils following the Government’s Three Waters Review, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“National broadly supports establishing an independent water regulator in response to the Havelock North Campylobacter outbreak.
“But there are still worrying signs regarding the regulatory regime and cost impact, particularly on small councils whose limited ratepayer base could be hit with huge debt for years to come.
“How much will it cost rural marae and papakāinga, or other small self-suppliers like rugby clubrooms and community halls, to fall in line with the new regulations?
“And will five years be enough time for them to transition? Local councils and mayors have already contacted me with their concerns about the tight timeframe. No one wants mandatory one-size-fits-all policy making.
“My main concern is that the Government’s march towards greater water regulation will end up over-burdening many smaller councils and self-suppliers in rural areas.
“There is still plenty of uncertainty about this process. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has appeared confused throughout, initially leaning towards compulsory amalgamation of water suppliers before softening her stance.
“This Three Waters Review is starting to look like another KiwiBuild back down in the making.”
The Government is missing in action when it comes to helping small business so National is taking the initiative to crack down on red tape in all its forms, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“Today in Christchurch I kicked off the first leg of my Red Tape Roadshow so I can hear from those being hindered by overwhelming bureaucracy.
“National’s Have Your Say campaign for small business last year showed red tape is the biggest hindrance to growth. A survey of the building industry this year also showed red tape is still the number one problem.
“National cracked down on excessive bureaucracy when last in Government but there’s more to be done. Business owners can’t rely on this Government to reduce red tape because its natural inclination is to add complexity and grow the bureaucracy.
“We’ll be taking our Red Tape Roadshow around New Zealand and will be coming to a venue near you. If you’re a business owner struggling against a tide of red tape then we want to hear from you.
“Come to our public meetings and discussion groups and take our red tape survey. This is an opportunity to put on record your frustration about compliance that keeps you at your desk late into the night. You can directly influence National’s policy.
“National has a proven track record as competent managers of the economy. We back our businesses to compete on the world stage and we’ll help by making sure that compliance is simple and easy to use. We need a productive, growing economy to meet the needs of all New Zealanders.”
Environment Canterbury’s decision to declare a climate change emergency will only add another layer of bureaucracy and red tape to a complex issue, National's Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“National believe in a pragmatic, science-based approach to climate change, but hitting the panic button at a Local Government level isn’t going to achieve anything.
“To add to the confusion ECan Chief Executive Bill Bayfield has admitted that there is no single definition of what declaring a climate emergency actually means.
“It is up to Central Government to provide good policy direction on this issue, which is why National has worked hard with the Government on creating an enduring Climate Change Commission which will give science-based advice for successive governments.
“Local Government should be focusing on long term planning to mitigate factors such as coastal erosion, land movement due to earthquakes and changing weather patterns.
“This appears to be a case of Local Government trying to gain a headline in an election year.”
Stuart Nash seems oblivious to the harm a Capital Gains Tax would cause small business owners, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“The Minister for Small Business said last week he hadn’t heard from any small businesses about a Capital Gains Tax. Where was he hiding? Small business owners are talking about a Capital Gains Tax up and down New Zealand and they’re worried.
“If he thought about small businesses he’d conclude they will be hurt by a Capital Gains Tax, and in a way that would sap their energy and enthusiasm because that’s what would be taxed. It is a tax on entrepreneurs, innovators and all those willing to take a risk to build something that grows and creates jobs.
“A business owner will endure hard times in the hope that they’re building value which will pay off down the track. For some it is their retirement plan. Now the Government is considering a way to grab one third of any gains via a new tax.
“While Mr Nash isn’t listening, we are. One business owner said about him: ‘If you are indeed the Minister of Small Business the least you could do is actually talk to us, let alone listen to us’. Another said: ‘Taxing my capital that I created through hard work is outright theft no matter how you sell it.’
“National wants Kiwis to have opportunities in our own country but taxing them more will hold people back. We believe New Zealanders should keep more of what they earn. We’d repeal a Capital Gains Tax and won’t introduce any new taxes during our first term.”
It is hard to believe that the Minister for Small Business hasn’t heard from a single small business on their concerns about a Capital Gains Tax, which amounts to a tax on their hard work, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“A Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is front of mind for every small business owner I talk to. You would have to bury your head in the sand to avoid hearing their concerns. Where has Stuart Nash been hiding?
“A CGT would be an insidious extra tax on anyone trying to start a business – be that a plumber or an innovator who may be building the next Xero. They could be taxed if they run their business at home, then pay taxes all their working life, only to lose a third of their gains when they sell up to retire.
“We need more people to have the courage to start and grow their own business, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. We shouldn’t be chasing them overseas with new taxes or discouraging them from even giving it a go.
“Running a small business is hard work and owners often take less for themselves to keep it going through lean years. They hope that they’d at least have something to show for it when they sell.
“Small businesses are worried about a Capital Gains Tax and they’re talking about it to anyone who will listen. I am listening but clearly, the Minister is not.
“National believes New Zealanders should keep more of what they earn. We would repeal a CGT and have vowed not to introduce any new taxes in our first term.”
The Government needs to put ratepayers at the front of the discussion when it comes to its response to the report released today on climate change adaptation, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“In the report ‘Vulnerable: the quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise’ from Local Government NZ it is suggested that as much as $14 billion of local government infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise.
“Based on this report the Government may be required to change policy settings concerning climate mitigation and needs to consider the cost to the end user.
“This cost must be considered particularly in light of its gold plated three waters policy, which will impose high costs on councils, ultimately falling on ratepayers.
“We need to be pragmatic about the cost of climate change mitigation, not idealistic.
“National is working with the Government to see an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission established, so we have a framework through which we address climate change issues in the future.”
Small business owners are still waiting for the Government’s Small Business Council to do something for a sector struggling with rising costs and prescriptive labour law changes, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“It has been five months since the Council was formed and after four meetings, including one in November, there has been no tangible improvements for small business.
“In fact, despite the Council stating, almost eight weeks ago, that it would increase its focus on how it could “better support” small business, nothing has been forthcoming.
“Negative sentiment still abounds in business with a recent NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion finding that 18 per cent of businesses expect a worsening in economic conditions over the next few months.
“This sustained negativity is well founded because the Government has done nothing for businesses, with its union-friendly employment law changes and hikes to the minimum wage only adding to their woes.
“Surely better support for small businesses should have been the goal for this council, and indeed for the Labour-led Government, from the outset.
“Smaller operators make up 97 per cent of all businesses in this country and employ over 600,000 people, it's not good enough that the Government and this Council continue to sit back and watch them struggle, while they claim to be doing something about it.”
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has released an underwhelming policy decision for Councils on the Three Waters review, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“Compulsory aggregated services is still on the table despite the uproar from Councils across the country. It’s becoming clear that this is the option the Minister is leaning towards as actual decisions won’t be made until the end of 2019.
“Ms Mahuta has raised Council expectations through the roof prior to her trip to the United Kingdom six months ago. But the Minister didn’t bring back any new information other than ‘international models demonstrate that better quality services can be delivered’.
“Councils are losing confidence in Ms Mahuta’s ability to run the Three Waters Review as she continues to leave them hanging by a thread for at least another 12 months.
“The Minister gave the impression that Councils would know more about the regulations of their drinking water standards by October this year, however she has just extended the deadline to June next year.
“The Cabinet paper is another re-write of the Minister’s three keynote speeches and shows the Minister has no new information to give to Councils.
“Ms Mahuta needs to be addressing growth and ageing infrastructure. Councils don’t have the time to wait while the decision is delayed, they have annual and 10 year plans to produce.
“How can they possibly plan for the future of their infrastructure if they don’t know what regulations the Minister is going to impose on them.”
The Government is on warning not to dumb down rules for New Zealand’s Three Waters to a one-size-fits-all regime as it won’t be a good fit for every community, National's Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“National supports the call from Councils around the country for the Government to show common sense on water reform.
“We’re all holding our breath awaiting Government announcements around Three Waters reforms this month and Councils are no doubt anxious about the direction that this new regime will take.
“What no one wants to see is mandatory one-size-fits-all policy making.
“This approach has the potential to negatively impact smaller local authorities, lumbering their limited ratepayer base with huge debt for years to come.
“What might fit the Wellington City Council will be very different to the needs of the Waimate District Council and it’s this diversity that the Government must take into account if its water reforms are to stay afloat.
“Councils do want high-quality infrastructure and services around waste, storm and drinking water.
“However, they’re fearful that the Government will enforce aggregated services within a specific time frame and not take into account the range of communities across the country and each Council’s ability to fund and support this massive change.”
The Government must stop ignoring the evidence that small businesses are being hurt by its policies and that in turn is undermining New Zealand’s economic growth, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“MYOB’s latest survey indicates more than half of New Zealand’s small and medium-sized businesses expect the economy to decline over the next 12 months compared with just 23 per cent prior to the election last year.
“The survey doesn’t just poll sentiment. It asks what’s actually happening in the firms it polls. The results show 26 per cent of business owners saw their own revenue fall in the past 12 months – the first time actual, revenue has been negative since 2011.
“About half of those surveyed blame the Government for the slump in confidence and almost three-quarters cited rising fuel costs.
“The survey is in tune with National’s own survey and the feedback National MPs are getting from talking to business owners on the ground every day. The Government can’t continue to dismiss the slump in confidence as some sort of aberration because it doesn’t fit its narrative.
“The impact on the economy and on our communities is being felt now. Small businesses are reluctant to take on apprentices or hire more workers. They’re holding off on making investments.
“Unlike this Government, National is listening because we respect small business owners and we recognise their contribution to New Zealand.”