A further review of the Defence Estate is an admission by this Government that it has mismanaged its spending and is having to kick an extremely important issue down the road for another day, National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“Defence Estate spending isn’t sexy or popular, but it’s long overdue and is very important for the health, safety and effectiveness of the almost 15,000 members of our Defence Force.
“While this Government has sat on its hands for the last 20 months awaiting four reviews into Defence policy, procurement and capabilities, our Defence Estate has languished.
“This Government inherited a $1.5 billion Defence Estate Regeneration Plan that National would have started to implement in the 2018 Budget.
“What needs to be fixed or redeveloped is known in extremely granular detail already, so this review is nothing but a costly timewasting exercise.
“Defence Force morale was at an all-time high and attrition rates were at an all-time low under National because we took Defence seriously. Both will suffer if real spending on bringing the Defence Estate up to standard doesn’t begin in earnest very soon.
“Defence Minister Ron Mark has said it is his ‘mission to have Estate Regeneration in a positive, future-proofed position before the end of this term of Government’, but we are yet to see any real movement to achieve this goal.
“Unfortunately it looks like Mr Mark hasn’t been able to hold the sway necessary with his Cabinet colleagues to get this vitally important investment programme underway.
“How embarrassing that they’ve fobbed him off with another expensive working group.”
The concerning number of crimes going unreported shows the Government’s soft on crime approach is failing New Zealanders, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
The latest Crime and Victims Survey from the Ministry of Justice revealed 77 per cent of crime was not reported to police over the past year – a jump of 10 per cent since this was last measured in 2015.
“The increasing level of unreported crime in this country is worrying, particularly since the report found people’s perceptions about the seriousness of a crime affected whether or not it was reported to Police.
“All New Zealanders should feel confident that, no matter how big or small a crime is, they can report it and see justice done.
“But these figures show the Government’s hands-off approach and dropping of important police targets has left the public disheartened and lowered their confidence in an appropriate response.
“The Government has shown it isn’t prepared to take problem seriously either, with Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters deflecting media questions on the issue by casting doubt over the report’s accuracy, saying it lacks substance.
“Rather than burying its head in the sand when it comes to an uncomfortable problem, the Government should be telling us what it will do to see all criminals held accountable and inspire more confidence in the justice system.
“National will develop policy that ensures victims and all New Zealanders feel confident enough to report crime and help keep their communities safe.”
In a move typical of a Government which wants to tell New Zealanders we are failing, Justice Minister Andrew Little has sold New Zealand short at the United Nations when we should be promoting ourselves proudly on the world stage, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“New Zealand has a great track record on human rights, democratic freedom and freedom of the press. We are regularly ranked one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
“It is a Government’s responsibility to always look for improvement, but we can be proud of the steps we have made.
“Instead, Andrew Little has taken to the world stage and talked us down as a nation. He’s said that our justice system is broken despite years of crime decreasing and New Zealanders feeling more safe in their communities.
“This is incredibly disheartening for the people who work on the frontline, such as our police, court staff, judges, and corrections officers, who work hard to ensure we have one of the best justice systems in the world. Mr Little’s comments will do nothing to improve confidence both domestically and internationally.
“Mr Little shouldn’t be apologising to countries that have far worse records on human rights than we do. We should be proud of the nation we have built together.
“Labour’s plan to go soft on crime by reducing the prison population with no plan to reduce crime will hurt our well-functioning justice system and make New Zealand less safe.”
Public concern around the Government’s soft on crime approach is clearly building as shown by the level of public anger over the sentence that Rouxle Le Roux received for the death of Nathan Kraatskow, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“Almost 160,000 New Zealanders signed a petition asking the Crown to appeal the sentence of home detention for dangerous driving causing death. Crown Law has today decided against doing so.
“Judicial independence is important but the National Party is concerned that the Government’s soft on crime approach is making communities less safe.
“National Party Leader Simon Bridges and I accepted the petition from Nathan Kraastkow’s family at Parliament on Tuesday.
“The National Party will ensure policy is developed to reinforce that victims and their families are kept at the heart of our justice system and offenders are held accountable.
“National is the party of law and order and will ensure the voices of victims and all New Zealanders are heard.
“Our thoughts remain with the Kraatskow family today.”
The Prime Minister needs to tell the public whether she backs Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ attempt to discredit the real concerns of Karel Sroubek’s ex-wife by dismissing her as a political informant, National Party Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
National can also reveal that an Immigration official turned up at Mr Sroubek’s estranged wife’s house in spite of her being the subject of a Police safety plan meaning her address was restricted information.
“Rather than front up to a bad decision to let a convicted criminal remain in New Zealand, Mr Peters went on the attack while answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister last week, trying to discredit the concerns by saying Mr Sroubek’s estranged-wife was a ‘National Party informant’. He continued to play the fool today.
“She’s not. She is a victim who is the subject of a Police safety plan. She was was directly affected by a bad decision, fears for her safety and has been repeatedly let down by the Government. But the Deputy Prime Minister attacked her anyway.
“Now her family has even greater fears for her safety, saying Mr Peters has ‘placed a fair and square target on the back… of a vulnerable young woman already dealing with enough challenges under the circumstances’.
“That the Government would attack the motives of a victim raising real concerns in order to try and take the heat off itself is appalling.
“Yes, she made a submission in Mr Sroubek’s support, but she says this was made under duress. She doesn’t want him to stay and has changed both her phone number and address, because of what she says are threats to her safety.
“The unwelcome visit by Immigration to discuss her statement, a visit she later received an apology for, makes the situation worse.
“Seeking help, her initial approach was also to a former Labour Minister. She was referred to the Opposition because the Government had let her down and she had nowhere else to go. We took up the issue because this is a bad decision that put her and the public at risk.
“The family of Mr Sroubek’s ex-wife have rightly had enough. They say Mr Peters has caused immense stress ‘and a feeling of utter hopelessness’.
“The Prime Minister needs to tell New Zealanders whether she thinks her deputy’s actions were acceptable. They were not and National will remain on the side of victims and continue to fight against this bad decision.”
The Government’s soft on crime approach has filtered through to the Police as 84 people were visited for illicit drug importation but not one charge was laid, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“Police have admitted they visited 84 addresses as part of a crackdown on people importing illicit drugs via the dark net.
“Police haven’t said how many of the people they visited were importing large quantities of illicit drugs to sell.
“It’s unbelievable that Police would let people give a warning to anyone who is importing illicit drugs like MDMA and LSD. These drugs cause a huge amount of harm in our communities.
“Police say they were focussing on education and harm reduction. We agree that’s an important aspect but not when it comes to people who are importing illicit drugs so they can deal them which some clearly were.
“Part of the operation revealed Auckland teenagers were importing drugs to sell to their peers. These are incredibly dangerous substances which are no so potent even a small amount can kill or be diluted to supply up to 50 people.
“And this follows Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway inexplicably granting residency to a violent, gang associated, fraudster who also imported illicit drugs.
“Illicit drugs ruin lives and cause a great deal of harm in our communities. While we need a health approach for people with addiction, we can’t stand by and watch while the people who peddle these into our communities are coddled.
“National is the party of law and order and won’t stand by while this Government soft on crime approach allows criminals to get away with pushing dangerous drugs into our communities.”
The Government’s cut-price plans for major Northland highways shows it’s priority is pet projects like central Auckland trams and is leaving Northland behind, MPs for Rodney, Whangarei and Northland Mark Mitchell, Dr Shane Reti and Matt King say.
“The Penlink project would provide an alternative route between the Whangaparoa Peninsula and State Highway 1 at Redvale. With only one way out of the Whangaparoa Peninsula this road is not only a safety issue, but also vital for the overall network,” Mr Mitchell says.
“This is an important project that the Government has wrongly thrown into uncertainty.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is choosing to axe or down-grade projects that, had they gone ahead, would have made a real difference to our community, as well as the wider Northland transport network.”
“The previous National Government committed to delivering a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei. This was a vital project for Northland on a road that links us to the rest of New Zealand and built on our previous Road of National Significance between Puhoi to Warkworth,” Dr Reti says
“Part of this project, from Whangarei to Te Hana, was forced to be put under re-evaluation by NZTA following the Government’s cuts to highway funding. NZTA has since announced that instead of a reliable four-lane highway, only short term safety improvements are being made.
“It’s not good enough. State Highway 1 from Whangarei to Marsden is the deadliest Police Hot Spot road in New Zealand. Four lanes will improve the safety profile of this deadly stretch of road.”
“This is a project desperately needed in the north and, if built, would provide a huge boost to the economy and employment of our region. The Northland region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway 1,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland by providing a safer, more reliable and resilient route for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north.
“But by moving billions of dollars out of state highway funding for trams in central Auckland, the Government is showing its true colours. This tram plan is a sham. Northland deserves better.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has been unable to explain his appalling decision to grant Karel Sroubek permanent residency and if he continues to refuse to explain then he should resign, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse say.
“The Prime Minister and Iain Lees-Galloway have been unable to provide any good reason for granting residency to a drug-dealing gang affiliate who came into New Zealand with a false passport,” Mr Mitchell says.
“They haven’t been able to justify the decision because it cannot be justified. Mr Sroubek comes from the Czech Republic, a first world country governed by the rule of law, which is part of the European Union. It seems like the Minister has been duped by a sob-story from the immigration lawyer of an experienced criminal.
“In her press conference the Prime Minister said she was ‘giving us clues’ as to why Mr Sroubek should stay. How about giving us answers. A wink and nudge isn’t good enough when the safety of New Zealanders is at risk,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Prime Minister also told that media that the National Government would have had to make similar decisions. I categorically reject that we would have allowed anyone with this sort of criminal history to stay here. We weren’t that naïve.
“The letter that Mr Lees-Galloway released is the standard letter put out by anyone who receives residency which is approved by a Minister, it doesn’t prove anything.
“Mr Lees-Galloway has proved he’s not working in the best interests of New Zealanders and he’s making our country less safe. If he can’t provide an explanation then he’s simply not capable of being a Minister.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway needs to explain why he granted permanent residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, who is currently in prison, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse say.
“The Minister must release more information on what appears to be a disgraceful decision to grant residency to a violent gang associate convicted of importing drugs into New Zealand,” Mr Mitchell says.
“Mr Sroubek used a false passport to enter New Zealand in 2003. He is a known gang associate who is now serving time for importing drugs with a street value of $375,000.
“This is a person who the Parole Board has just decided is not safe enough to release back into the community. When his sentence ends, instead of being deported he will now be released back into the community.”
“Mr Lees-Galloway will not say why he made the decision to grant residency, nor what the conditions of his residency are,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Serious questions need to be answered by the Minister about his decision. The information I have on this case does not come close to any threshold where special consideration should be given by the Minister.
“This Government has promised to clamp down on immigration, making it harder for Kiwi employers to fill skills shortages, yet it allows violent criminals to stay here.
“National is the party of the law and order and we are committed to making our communities safer and putting victims first. We will not stand by while decision like these are made without any justification.”
The real issue concerning the Waitangi Tribunal will not be addressed by more resourcing, but by fundamental reform, National’s spokesperson for Justice Mark Mitchell says.
“The Tribunal was originally set up to investigate claims and make recommendations to the Crown, but the Tribunal has moulded that mandate into something entirely different.
“Increasing funding for the Tribunal so it can investigate a wide range of inquiries is not the way forward. They would not be in the place they find themselves today if the Tribunal focused on its primary directive, instead of looking at a variety of irrelevant issues.
“By opening itself up to kaupapa claims, as Minister Shane Jones has said, the Tribunal has ‘become a dumping ground for all manner of problems that they cannot resolve.’
“The Tribunal acted inappropriately when they accused former Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson of prioritising political objectives of concluding settlements over a fair process with respect to negotiations with Whakatōhea. That was serious, erroneous and extremely insulting to both Crown and Iwi.
“I agree with recent comments from Mr Jones, who said the Tribunal was ‘a judicial beagle, chasing all sorts of scents whilst lacking common sense.’
“The reluctance of Justice Minister Andrew Little to make changes while settlements are still underway is wrong.
“The time for reform is now, so as to ensure the number of cases before the Tribunal are resolved in a timely manner and to a degree that suits both parties.
“Given there is cross-party consensus for fundamental reform of the Tribunal, it is a project that should be dealt with urgently.
“The National Party will cooperate in a constructive manner when it comes to reforming the operations of the Tribunal to prevent further delays to the hearing of claims and subsequent settlements.”