The Government’s Predator Free 2050 strategy lacks ambition and ignores one of our greatest tools to reduce predators, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“In 2016, the National Government announced a goal for New Zealand to be completely free of predators such as rats, possums and stoats by 2050.
“It appears from the current Government’s recent strategy announcement that this ambition has been considerably downsized to achieving only ‘one city predator free’.
“Even this smaller target will be difficult to meet if the Conservation Minister keeps ignoring the benefits of biotechnology to reduce predator numbers.
“Predator Free 2050’s mandate includes looking at biotech as an option, but Eugenie Sage won’t allow this to be investigated.
“Her spending on conservation is going to be wasted if she continues to ignore the advice of experts and community stakeholders, and keeps up her Minister-knows-best attitude.
“National believes science should inform conservation policy and has pledged to reform the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act to allow innovation in this area.”
The Government’s policy of no new mines on conservation land is in disarray as Government Ministers can’t agree, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“Damien O’Connor is now claiming the policy has been parked, as a result of the justified backlash from the West Coast community.
“The Prime Minister announced the policy, without any consultation with those affected, during her speech from the throne in November 2017.
“Members of Labour, the Greens and NZ First are simply not on the same page, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been steadfast in her support for the policy, but she’s being undercut by her colleagues and now no one knows what is going on.
“It’s more uncertainty for the West Coast community which has already suffered as a result of this policy, with skilled workers being forced to leave the region due to lack of employment.
“This has a big impact on the community as these are the people who support local schools, businesses and volunteer organisations.
“On top of this the West Coast has had to endure a potential ban on whitebaiting, a rejected application for a clean, green power scheme and is piling restrictions on to farming.
“New Zealanders deserve certainty and all they’re getting is mixed messages from this Government who keeps failing to deliver.”
Times are tough for small business retailers as consumer nerves hit them in the back pocket, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“The latest figures from Retail NZ showed 55 per cent of retailers did not meet their sales target over the Christmas trading period, and overall sales were down 7.6 per cent in October and 2.8 per cent in November compared with the previous year.
“That’s a bitter pill to swallow as Christmas is when retailers need to make their money. Retail is a tough environment for small businesses to operate in. Increased competition, rising costs, and a Government that offers scant support certainly doesn’t help.
“Consumers know the Government is out of its depth when it comes to managing the economy and that’s why they’re thinking twice before spending. If consumers are reluctant to spend amidst economic uncertainty, then it’s small business retailers who suffer.
“The news doesn’t get any better for small business retailers either. They’ll soon be feeling the effects of the upcoming minimum wage increase and will have to battle on under a government with no plans for growth.
“It’s no wonder that business confidence has tanked, there’s simply no respite for operators who want to work hard and get ahead.”
Ratepayers will be disappointed to know that the Government is telling new councils to spend their rates on implementing ill-defined wellbeing targets instead of providing vital infrastructure, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“The Government is implementing legislation that would require councils to include poorly defined ‘wellbeing’ initiatives throughout their planning process.
“At a time when combined council debt sits at around $16 billion and rates are going up disproportionally to income and inflation, the last thing ratepayers and councils need is more red tape and costs from Central Government.
“The Minister admitted she has no idea of the costs this will force on to ratepayers, but she is pushing on regardless.
“National believes that local councils already work hard for their ratepayers, and adding more bureaucracy for them to wade through will only have adverse effects on their operations, and take their attention away from their communities and onto report writing.
“If the Government really cared about ratepayers’ wellbeing it would be working with local councils to implement good quality local infrastructure, public services and a rates bill that wasn’t skyrocketing year on year.”
Increasing regulation from Central Government is set to cause a headache for newly elected local and regional councils, and increase costs on ratepayers, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“In the coming weeks, councillors will be sworn in around the country. They put themselves forward with noble intentions of serving their local community, but in reality will face ballooning costs and a mountain of complex legislation to work through.
“National supports cleaning up our waterways, but the Government’s freshwater reform and three waters review are both highly problematic for regional councils. They will have to go through phases of consultation, analysis and hearings in order to overhaul planning processes over the next three years.
“The weight of new national standards and tight development controls will be felt strongly by councils who will be forced to pass on additional costs to unsuspecting ratepayers.
“Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has admitted that the freshwater reform and three waters review will be ‘very challenging’ and will bring ‘cost pressures’ to councils, but is still pushing forward with another regulation to make councils identify and report against a series of wellbeing targets for every decision made.
“These wellbeing targets aren’t even known as of yet, with yet another expensive working group being assembled to come up with them. This is all coming at a time when combined council debt sits at around $16 billion and rates are going up disproportionally to income and far outstripping the rate of inflation.
“Councils are also grappling with how to manage tourism pressure, economic development and rising sea levels, which all come on top of their day-to-day service delivery.
“The new crop of councillors have a whole range of issues to contend with and unfortunately their job will be made that much harder by a Government intent on shifting costs and regulatory burden onto their shoulders.”
Ratepayers will notice an increase in rates as the Government’s freshwater proposals cause local councils to overhaul their water plans, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“With local elections occurring at the moment, the first job for incoming councillors will be to figure out how much they need to increase rates by as a result of these new regulations.
“Councils are still implementing improvements from the previous National Policy Statement (NPS), and now they’re expected to supersede these initiatives for another NPS only a few years later, and, in addition to that have it notified by 2025, which is a very short timeframe.
“These councils have already spent a huge amount of time and ratepayers’ money planning and implementing these changes, resulting in many of them already experiencing improved freshwater health.
“Having over a dozen Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities reviewing plans in just the next five years will put massive pressure on New Zealand’s fresh water experts and substantially increases the risk of dispute.
“Environment Canterbury (Ecan) ratepayers are expected to shell out an estimated $12 million over the next three years for new or modified planning processes.
“This is a rushed and costly process with a flawed consultation, and ultimately the cost of this is going to fall on to ratepayers both urban and rural.”
National will establish a birthing unit in Wanaka if elected in 2020, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says.
“Families in Wanaka and the surrounding areas deserve access to a high quality birthing unit that’s near to them, and that’s what we’re committed to delivering in partnership with the local community here.
“A birthing facility in the Upper Clutha is long overdue. In fact, it’s desperately needed. The 12 months to June this year saw 153 babies born to Wanaka families and it’s predicted numbers will top 200 over the next year.
“In the next two decades, the number of births across Central Otago and Queenstown, including Wanaka, is predicted to rise by 18 per cent.
“We expect that a brand new birthing unit will require a capital investment of about half a million dollars. We will invest a dollar for every dollar raised by the local community, who are actively fundraising already, in addition to funding half a million dollars in estimated annual operating costs.
“Wanaka’s distance from a base hospital poses huge safety concerns for expectant mothers. The nearest primary birthing unit is Alexandra’s Charlotte Jean, an hour’s drive away, and the nearest tertiary unit is in Dunedin, a three and a half hour drive away.
“There have been so many near misses for Wanaka mums, and it’s time there was a facility for them to give birth safely and locally.
“National is committed to helping families. If elected in 2020, as well as building a local birthing unit here in Wanaka, we’ll give all new mums the chance to have three days of fully funded postnatal care.
“We want to give Wanaka babies, and all Kiwi kids, the best possible start in life. I’m proud to stand up for Wanaka families.”
The Coalition Government’s freshwater proposals are set to inflict huge costs on to ratepayers and councils, and the Government doesn’t seem to care, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ) economic analysis of the proposals show that the costs to regional New Zealand will be vast, and there are real concerns about how local businesses will cope.
“The Minister claims that the changes have been ‘well canvased with the sector’ and that they’ve ‘come to a common ground’, but the many local councils who are grappling with how they will be able to afford this will not agree with her.
“LGNZ President Dave Cull has also expressed concerns at the breadth and pace of changes, highlighting that they ‘can only go as fast as a community’s ability to pay.’
“Some councils are still working to implement previous environmental initiatives, but this work is going to be superseded by another action plan with increased costs to ratepayers.
“The Minister needs to have meaningful consultation with these councils and listen to the concerns they have.”
A National Government will require all government departments and government agencies to pay their contractors on time and within 30 days, National’s spokesperson for Small Business Jacqui Dean says.
“Getting paid on time is a big issue for New Zealand small business owners. Long delays in payment can inhibit their ability to invest and expand. In the past year, only half of all small businesses were cash flow positive in any given month.
“National wants to find ways to ease the stress for small business owners and ensure healthier cash flows. We believe the Government should lead by example, instead of punishing others into compliance.
“We will also establish a ‘Small Business Payments Guarantee’. This will be a voluntary initiative committing large New Zealand businesses and not-for-profits to ensure New
Zealand small businesses are paid on time and within 30 days.
“New Zealand’s economy is driven by hardworking small business owners. Every Government should do what it can to reduce costs and uncertainty so that our small businesses have the confidence to take risks, invest, hire new staff and lift wages.
“National has committed to implementing these changes in our first hundred days in Government.
“We understand the economy and will do everything we can to back business owners to succeed. National will restore business confidence and revive our economy.”
National’s Economy Discussion Document can be found here
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.”