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.”
Small business owners will be disappointed to hear that the Government’s Small Business Council is too busy to listen right now because it has been asked to advise on establishing a new working group, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“In a classic ‘Yes, Minister’ scenario, the Council has been tasked with advising Small Business Minister Stuart Nash on the establishment of a Small Business Institute, or to put it plainly, a working group will advise on whether to create another working group.
“The Council, which will also advise on its own future beyond June 2019, is one of more than 180 working groups hatched by a Government that came to office without having worked out its policies during nine years in Opposition. It prefers to use $135,000 of taxpayer money to pay for this working group.
“Not only that, but we haven’t heard anything from the Small Business Council since it was unveiled by Mr Nash two months ago. Mr Nash has also been silent, other than to tell us this week that he’s off to Australia to meet his counterparts.
“Small business owners might have thought a priority for this Government would be to listen to a group that makes up 97 per cent of all New Zealand firms and employs more than 600,000 Kiwis, given their confidence has slumped to a 10-year low. But that will have to wait.
“This is a Government stacked with career bureaucrats so perhaps it has difficulty reaching out to small firms at a grass-roots levels.
“By contrast, National is trying to listen – some 2400 small businesses responded to our survey and their biggest concerns were red tape, changes to employment law, rising taxes and costs, difficulty finding skilled staff and uncertainty about Government policies.
“Small businesses should be an urgent focus of the Government because their uncertainty is driving their decisions right now, like cutting jobs and winding back investment. National is listening because we respect small business owners and we recognise their contribution to our economy and our communities.”
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta needs to give certainty to the sector, instead of giving high-level keynote speeches that say nothing, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.
“Today was her third ‘keynote’ speech on the Three Waters Review. We keep hearing about her junket to Scotland, but the Minister is leaving the public and Councils waiting aimlessly for a decision.
“It’s getting embarrassing that the Minister doesn’t have any more details.
“There is already a sense of unease among Councils about who is going to pay for all of this. Will larger well-funded Councils end up carrying smaller Councils, and just how much cross-subsidisation is there going to be?
“Alongside these cost concerns lies uncertainty within timeframes and most importantly the impact on Council debt, given Councils will most likely lose control of their water services to some yet-to-be-determined water company.
“The Minister needs to be clear about exactly how ratepayers and Councils are expected to fund upgrades in an environment of such uncertainty. The last thing we want to see is Council set amongst Council.”
“Ratepayers are concerned that the cost and sheer size of the three waters upgrades will ultimately fall on them.
“Three waters services are lifeline utilities, critical to New Zealand’s economic security and prosperity, health, safety and environmental protection. That’s why National established the Three Waters Review to assess whether current local government practices and the system oversight are fit for purpose.
“With about $12.8 billion upgrades planned of three water infrastructure between now and 2025, The Minister now needs to get on with the job and deliver certainty.”