Labour’s coalition partner NZ First has threatened to withhold regional development funding for an important economic development project in Rodney unless local National MP Mark Mitchell ends his advocacy for it and stops criticising NZ First ministers.
In an extraordinary request over the weekend, NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft - who said she was under instruction from a Minister - also requested that National pledge to not ask Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones questions about the project, should it go ahead.
“Ms Marcroft said she had been sent to tell me that the Mahurangi River Restoration Project would be considered for funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, but for that to happen I would have to end my involvement with it as a local MP.
“Ms Marcroft told me this was because the Government was unhappy with me revealing the illegitimate use of Defence Force aircraft by Defence Minister Ron Mark.
“She also said if I ended my involvement and the money was granted, that they did not want National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith asking Shane Jones questions about it in Parliament.
“Finally, she implied my work as an Opposition MP would be a factor in funding any projects in my electorate I was involved in.
“I immediately told Ms Marcroft this behaviour was unacceptable, and that she had been put in a very compromised position by her colleague. She refused to name them so I said she had two hours to have the Minister call me before I took the matter further.
“She sent a text message an hour later asking me to forget the conversation.
“But this is rotten politics. It goes to the core of our democratic processes and the National Party will not let such behaviour stand.
“This billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund is taxpayer money and should be used to benefit New Zealanders, not buy an easy ride for the Government nor to try and convince local MPs to stop supporting local projects, because they have annoyed the Government.
“The Prime Minister needs to find out which of her Ministers is attempting to use public money for political gain and she needs to quickly explain what she intends to do about it.”
National Party Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell welcomes news that Justice Minister Andrew Little is continuing the work of his predecessor Amy Adams to repeal the one year and one day law as part of the Crimes Amendment Bill.
“Mr Little’s announcement that Cabinet will today discuss a draft bill started in 2017 by then-Justice Minister Amy Adams is good news.
“Ms Adams asked officials in June 2017 to begin work on a number of potential amendments to the Crimes Act, including the repeal of Section 162 that states no one can be held criminally responsible for a death that occurs a year and a day after the cause of death.
“It’s good to see the Government picking up where National left off. The law as it stands doesn’t make sense, as demonstrated by the inability to prosecute anyone for the CTV building collapse. We also know that victims of serious assaults, for example, are able to survive longer because of advances in technology, meaning that perpetrators can avoid liability if their victims die outside the legislated period.
“Ms Adams also sought advice on including the repeal of blasphemous libel in the Crimes Amendment Bill, as well as amending self-defence laws to ensure that a person can claim self-defence even if that person is responding to a threat that is not imminent.
“The latter is particularly relevant to cases involving family violence, where a perpetrator’s behaviour can escalate to the point where victims may feel their life is in danger and the need to take drastic action. I hope that the Government will also continue our work on this.
“Thanks to the previous Government, Mr Little has plenty of opportunities to continue our work to make the justice system work better for New Zealanders.”
Defence Minister Ron Mark has some serious questions to answer over what appears to be totally inappropriate use of NZDF aircraft, National’s Defence spokesman Mark Mitchell says.
“Official Information shows Air Force NH-90 helicopters and a B200 King Air aircraft have repeatedly been diverted to Mr Mark’s hometown, Masterton, apparently to ferry the minister from his home to events around the country and back again,” Mr Mitchell says.
“There is no Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Masterton, which suggests the aircraft are being sent from Ohakea Air Base for the Minister’s personal convenience.
“Mr Mark has even used an NH90 to travel from Masterton to Waiouru and back in the same day – a three hour trip each way by car. Why did he not save the taxpayer the cost and the NZDF the time and use a much cheaper Crown car instead? It’s happening so regularly locals are asking questions about it.
“At a time when the Defence Force is being asked to do more than ever before, while also being asked to tighten its belt and brace for a funding cut it is appalling that the Minister of Defence is using the Air Force as a personal taxi service.
“I want to know why the Minister has either requested this service, or refused to decline it, as he would have known there is no way the flying hours, fuel and cost could be justified.
“This is an incredibly inappropriate use of Defence resources, and I am sure the public would be interested to know why the Minister is opting to use already stretched Defence assets rather than the Ministerial Crown Cars that are available to him.
“Mr Mark needs to front and explain why he thinks his personal convenience is the most appropriate use of taxpayer funded defence resources,” Mr Mitchell says.
Defence Minister Ron Mark seems to be blissfully unaware of what’s going on in his own portfolio, National Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“Earlier this month, the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating warned his senior officers to prepare for spending cuts, asking them to ‘reprioritise’ resources in the coming years. He highlighted a need to focus on ‘reducing growth in personnel costs,’ and ‘moderating demand for new strategic initiatives,” Mr Mitchell says.
“However, when both matters were put very clearly to Mr Mark in Parliamentary questions this week he denied that either was occurring.
“While it’s encouraging that Mr Mark says there is broad Government support for the $20 billion Defence Capability Plan launched in 2016, it appears he’s in danger of losing the arm wrestle with Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
“The plan, and the accompanying 2016 Defence White paper, were consulted on heavily with Australia, to ensure a focus on appropriate future requirements and interoperability with our closest ally.
“What will be of concern come Budget 2018 – in light of Lieutenant General Keating’s communications with his senior officers – is any indication that because of the Government’s tight spending restrictions any much-needed Defence spending is put off to a later date.
“The Defence Force simply can’t cope with delays to the upgrades to our Orion search and surveillance aircraft, the now over 50 year-old C130 Hercules air frames, and a rapidly changing technology environment, to name just a few cost pressures.
“Any major change to the 2016 Defence Capability Plan will have a hugely detrimental effect on the Defence Force’s ability to respond as it needs to, not to mention morale, which the National Government got to an all-time high.
“The Defence Capability Plan 2016 provides a solid blueprint of what work the Defence Force needs to undertake over the next decade.
“It includes the sort of asset upgrades the Defence Force needs to prioritise to make it not only fit for purpose, but also interoperable with its major defence partners.
“This is something Australia will more than likely seek some confidence on at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum today,” Mr Mitchell says.
Defence Minister Mark Mitchell has extended his deepest condolences to the family of the Special Operations Force soldier who died during a maritime counter-terrorism training exercise off the Coromandel Peninsula this morning.
“I offer the Government’s most sincere sympathies and my own to the soldier’s family. Our thoughts are very much with you at this terrible time,” Mr Mitchell says.
“No words can adequately describe this sudden and tragic loss. Your family member was a man who commanded high respect amongst his fellow soldiers and embodied the Army’s core values of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.
”This is a tragedy not only for the family, but for every member of the Defence Force. My thoughts are also with them today.
“I especially acknowledge the loss suffered by our Special Operations Force family and the soldier’s mates at Papakura. As Minister I’ve been supported by the SOF and have witnessed their professionalism on operations and in training. They take on difficult and demanding tasks and regularly accept significant risk. They do so to serve and protect their fellow New Zealanders.
"I understand there will be a high level of public interest and outpouring of sympathy for the family, but I ask that everyone give family, friends and colleagues the time and space they need to grieve,” Mr Mitchell says.
The annual Minister of Defence Industry Awards of Excellence were presented at the Defence, Industry, National Security Forum in Wellington last night by Defence Minister Mark Mitchell.
“I congratulate the winners, and all the finalists, in the various categories,” Mr Mitchell says.
“They are an outstanding group of companies who have all the skills and deliver the top-class service that is essential for the New Zealand Defence Force to carry out its day-to-day operations.”
The winners are:
Provision of a service to Defence less than $15 million: Gilbert Sheet Metals (Auckland)
Provision of a product to Defence less than $15 million: PPG Industries
Provision of a product or service to Defence in excess of $15 million: Systematic Software Engineering
Health and Safety Citation: South Pacific Industrial (Northland)
Special Award: Steve Bennett (Airbus New Zealand)
Special Award: Christine Baker (Bidfood)
The award citations are on the Ministry of Defence website:
“These awards recognise industry’s role in supporting Defence throughout the year and the calibre of the winners, and everyone nominated, reflect the high standards of the whole sector,” Mr Mitchell says.
The sector employs around 2,500 people, generates $125 million in wages, and $60 million in revenue, and delivers economic benefits throughout the country with hubs in main centres as well as in Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Blenheim and Nelson, Mr Mitchell says.
Nominations for the awards covered some of the wide range of services that support Defence, including information technology, engineering and catering supplies.
Good evening everyone.
Ambassador Yeo, my Parliamentary colleague Melissa Lee, the Dean and members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the Korean community and guests: It is a great pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate the Foundation Day of the Republic of Korea. Ambassador, this is the first celebration of your Foundation Day as the ambassador to New Zealand – welcome.
Just looking around tonight and chatting with you all has reminded me of the very strong friendship between our two nations, a friendship that is founded on the sacrifices and comradeship shared on the battlefields of Korea over 60 years ago.
There are veterans of the Korean War here and on behalf of us all and our Governments I especially acknowledge you and the hardships you suffered. You put your lives on the line and I thank you for your service. Some of your mates did not come home, and tonight we also remember and honour them.
It is very rewarding to know that veterans who have visited South Korea over the years have said that what they did was well worth it, seeing the great progress the country has made economically and in so many other ways during the past decades.
Like you, New Zealand has been deeply concerned by, and has strongly condemned, the behaviour of North Korea in recent months. New Zealand has repeatedly called on North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile development, and return to a meaningful dialogue to address the concerns of the international community.
As you know, the New Zealand Defence Force has for many years maintained personnel in Korea as a committed member of the United Nations Command overseeing the Armistice, and this has just been extended for two years. Although the numbers are small, it is an important deployment for the Defence Force, and highly sought-after by the young officers who are posted into those roles.
I can assure you that we are totally united with the Korean people and the international community in calling on North Korea to cease reckless actions that place at risk the peace, stability and prosperity of North Asia and beyond. New Zealand has welcomed and co-sponsored, wherever possible, UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea and will continue to support diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.
2017 has been a busy year for our relationship. Tonight is a good time to enjoy the shared achievements and to look ahead.
The high-quality free trade agreement that now exists between New Zealand and Korea has opened new opportunities to grow the partnership between our two innovative economies.
Two-way goods and services trade is now valued at more than NZ$4 billion and it is encouraging to see businesses continue to make full use of the agreement for increased trade, investment and co-operation.
From agriculture and education to ICT, climate change and Antarctica, we work very well and successfully together.
I also want to highlight the extensive contribution of the Korean community in New Zealand.
So many Korean New Zealanders, “Kowi” as I understand they are often called, are involved in New Zealand society in the fields of business, health, government, science, academia and others. They are highly successful leaders in their chosen professional fields and in other areas of activity.
And of course both countries are very proud of the achievements of golfer Lydia Ko. Not only is she an Olympic medallist, but she serves as an excellent role model for our youth. (And I’d just like to note here that she is from my own electorate of Rodney and Gulf Harbour is her home golf club.)
We also acknowledge the many young New Zealanders who have worked as English teachers in Korea and served as cultural ambassadors.
They make a great contribution while there and then again back in New Zealand through the knowledge and understanding of Korean life and culture they can share with their peers.
New Zealand and Korea have come a long way together. We have built a modern and varied relationship and we can be very optimistic for the future in every way.
Ambassador, we acknowledge your important role, together with our Embassy in Seoul, in promoting and developing the opportunities we have. I share your hopes for the relationship. Thank you for inviting me here tonight.
Ambassador, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in the toast to His Excellency President Moon Jae-in and to the people of the Republic of Korea.
Land Information Minister Mark Mitchell has announced the reappointment of Phillip Curnow and Ken Taylor to the Valuers Registration Board for a further three-year term. The Board is the authority that oversees the performance of New Zealand’s land valuers.
“Both Mr Curnow and Mr Taylor were first appointed to the VRB in 2007,” Mr Mitchell says.
“Based in Hamilton, Mr Curnow brings urban, commercial and industrial property expertise to the VRB, as well as expertise and knowledge of local body, compensation, and ground lease valuations and advice.
“Mr Taylor is a senior valuer who brings rural experience to the VRB. Based in Alexandra, he provides geographic representation as well as expertise in and knowledge of South Island rural valuation.
“Both Mr Curnow and Mr Taylor are highly experienced valuers with a wealth of experience. I am pleased that they will continue to serve on the VRB and help maintain New Zealanders’ confidence in registered valuers,” Mr Mitchell says.
Ambassador Traslosheros, Parliamentary colleagues, the Dean and members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, members of Mexico’s community in New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen.
While it’s an honour and a privilege for me to join you in celebrating Mexico’s National Day, can I first say that I and I’m sure all New Zealanders were deeply saddened to hear news of the devastating earthquake that struck Mexico last week.
On behalf of the New Zealand Government, Ambassador, please accept our sincere condolences and please convey that message to the people of Mexico. The thoughts of all New Zealanders are with the injured, the loved ones of those affected, and the emergency services staff at the forefront of the response.
As you will all know, New Zealand is no stranger to dealing with the tragic impact of earthquakes and their aftershocks. We understand the effect that these events can have at a national level and recognise the importance of international solidarity.
So as a nation, we wish you both strength in dealing with the consequences of this event and resilience as you begin to recover and rebuild.
Our two countries enjoy a strong and well-established friendship. With partnerships in trade, agriculture, sport, and the arts, our two countries have an excellent relationship, full of opportunities.
Recently we made good progress on one of those opportunities. In June, my colleague Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, attended the Pacific Alliance summit in Cali, Colombia, where he met with Secretary Videgaray.
Thanks to the support of Mexico, we were able to announce the launch of free trade negotiations with the Alliance at the summit, and we are very grateful to Mexico for that support.
An agreement with the Alliance will provide a host of new opportunities for New Zealand and Mexican businesses, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of greater collaboration between our countries.
Mexico and New Zealand also work closely together in agriculture.
Earlier this year, we hosted a study tour from Mexico organised through the New Zealand-Pacific Alliance Agricultural Cooperation Initiative.
Our Special Agricultural Trade Envoy visited Mexico this year and we are looking forward to signing our Agricultural Cooperation Arrangement in the near future.
In June we welcomed a four-person all-female delegation from the Mexican Senate led by Senator and track and field Olympic silver medallist Ana Gabriela Guevara.
The delegation met with members of the New Zealand-Latin America Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians.
They also called on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and met with officials to discuss issues of common interest between New Zealand and Mexico, including a discussion with the Ministry for Women.
2017 has been a good year for our cultural and sporting links with Mexico. In May, the New Zealand Film Festival opened in Mexico City.
With six feature films, including the instant classic Boy, and a selection of shorts, the festival encouraged audiences to immerse themselves in the language, culture, lives and society of New Zealand. It was a great success and was attended by over 1,200 people.
Then in June, our All Whites football team played Mexico in the Confederations Cup. Despite taking a strong first-half lead, the All Whites were not quite up to the challenge: Mexico came back for a deserved win.
Finally, I am proud to note that our growing friendship with Mexico is echoed by our growing embassy in Mexico City. Over the past year, we have added two new permanent positions, and next year we will add a third.
With our new ambassador, Mark Sinclair, starting work soon in Mexico, and the hard work of Ambassador Traslosheros here in Wellington, I know that the friendship between our countries is in safe hands.
Recognising and honouring the valuable friendship and the many threads of a relationship that continues to expand and deepen, on behalf of the Government of New Zealand, I propose the toast: to President Peña Nieto and to the Government, the representatives, and the people of the United Mexican States.
Former High Court Judge Sir Hugh Williams QC has been reappointed as chairperson of the Electoral Commission for a further term of 18 months, Associate Minister of Justice Mark Mitchell announced today.
“Sir Hugh continues to provide the Commission with very able legal and strategic leadership and I’m pleased he has agreed to continue to serve in this important office,” Mr Mitchell says.
Appointment to the role is made by the Governor-General on Parliament’s recommendation. Mr Mitchell says Sir Hugh has been reappointed for 18 months so he can oversee the reporting processes that will follow the General Election.
Sir Hugh was appointed a Judge of the High Court in 1995 and retired from the bench in 2009. He was appointed president of the former Electoral Commission in 2009 and then chairperson of the present Commission in 2011.
The Electoral Commission administers parliamentary elections and referenda, the allocation of time and money for the broadcast of election programmes, conduct of the Māori Electoral Option, and supports the work of the Representation Commission, which sets electoral boundaries, provides advice, reports and public education on electoral matters, and electoral enrolment services for both parliamentary and local body elections.