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.”
The true cost of the Government’s Criminal Justice Summit has been released showing the Government spent almost a million dollars on consultants alone, with the total bill reaching more than $1.6 million.
“The breakdown of costs from the summit show the final bill included $970,660 on consultants, $26,592 on an MC, $65,800 on gourmet catering and $101,528 on international speakers, the total was $1.625 million.
“Justice Minister Andrew Little needs to take responsibility for the wasteful spending of taxpayers’ dollars. The two-day talk fest failed to properly hear from victims or Māori and Mr Little has now pledged to have two further summits.
“Mr Little needs to let us know whether the next two summits will also have the same price tag attached.
“The cost would be easier for taxpayers to swallow if they were getting value for money, but the Summit was talkfest that had no clear objectives and has shown no outcomes.
“It’s clear Mr Little has tried to avoid proper scrutiny by releasing this overdue information during the last Question Time for this sitting block. This meant the Minister would avoid questions from journalists on his way into Parliament and from the Opposition in the House. That’s cynical even for a Government which has proven to be the least open and transparent we’ve ever seen.”
The Government’s Criminal Justice Summit has cost taxpayers $1.5 million dollars, an amount that could continue to increase, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“When I first asked Justice Minister Andrew Little how much he expected the Summit to cost, he estimated it would be $700,000. Instead, the two day talk-fest blew out to more than double that. It was attended by six hundred people, which means it cost $2,500 per person.
“Mr Little now needs to explain how it cost so much and where the money has come from. Like most people, I think that money would have been better spent on victims.
“The summit largely focussed on going soft of on criminals. Now, Mr Little is talking about having another summit for victims and a third summit for Māori. That could bring us to $4.5 million.
“PWC was contracted to run the event and the food was provided by a gourmet caterer which included decadent gluten-free chocolate brownie, pork, apricot and thyme pastries, four different kinds of croissants, luxury pies and chicken and cranberry casserole.
“The Government has more than 160 working groups and summits costing at least $170 million. This is all because Labour didn’t do the policy work while in Opposition and is now crowdsourcing its policies.”
The Government has today committed to doing something Defence Minister Ron Mark and his NZ First colleagues criticised in Opposition – making compromise purchases of defence assets that weren’t built to do the jobs expected of them, National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“This is a Government with a now proven fiscal hole and that is starting to impact the investments it makes, including long-overdue upgrades to Defence assets.
“The 85 metre Norwegian vessel Edda Fonn will come to the Royal New Zealand Navy already 15 years old. It is a survey and light construction ship, not the dive, hydrographic and mine clearance vessel approved for purchase in 2016.
“The Government will need to retrofit it at an as-yet unspecified further cost to taxpayers on top of the $103 million purchase price.
“The Edda Fonn is not the sort of Littoral Support Vessel the Defence Force made a strong business case for to replace the now retired vessels Resolution and Manawanui.
“Only last month the Defence Minister said there ‘had been too many examples in the past where procurement decisions have been the wrong decision, where we have taken a commercial option only to find that it doesn’t work there in the military role.
“He went on to say ‘In fact, some of them don’t even work in a civilian role. We’re not going to cut corners’.
“During that interview Mr Mark must have known that he was on the verge of signing off the purchase of a commercial survey and light construction vessel that was going to need to be expensively overhauled to turn it into the dive and hydrographic vessel the Navy needs.
“Mr Mark needs to explain how much this process will cost, and whether all the specifications in the business case approved in 2016 will be fitted to the Edda Fonn.
“If the converted ship cannot undertake all of the functions in that business case Mr Mark will have delivered a compromise solution of the sort he criticised in opposition.”
National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell has welcomed the repatriation of the remains of former New Zealand Defence Force personnel who died while serving overseas.
“This is an historic day for the families of fallen Defence Force personnel and for New Zealand.
“As the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade select committee that made the recommendation to the previous Government for repatriation, I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the Committee in saying how pleased we are for the families on this very special day.
“After decades of delay and advocacy by the families and former colleagues of the fallen soldiers, the decision was taken by the National-led Government to bring them home. I’m sure it will be an incredibly emotional day for all those involved.
“I was pleased to see that after questioning to the Minister of Defence, provisions were made for Veterans to pay their respects to their comrades, through a guard of honour.
“I wish to extend my heartfelt thoughts to the families of those welcoming home their loved ones today, and thank those currently serving in our Defence Forces, whether at home or abroad.”
The National Party will be well represented at this week’s Criminal Justice Summit, but we’re extremely doubtful it will come back with any good reforms National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“National wants to ensure any reforms to the Justice system will reduce the crime rate but also keep victims at the heart of the justice system. Instead, the Justice Summit is set to be a talkfest between people with the same goal – to soften the punishments for serious offenders.
“Justice Minister Andrew Little says that the stories of victims shouldn’t be told in the media while the summit is happening. He wants to restrict the voices of victims, while letting violent criminals onto the streets to reduce prison numbers.
“This is completely hypocritical, as Mr Little has repeatedly talked in the media about the stories of offenders. Just today he was in the news defending a man who attacked his ex-girlfriend’s car with a sledgehammer. He goes as far as saying the man was ‘obviously provoked’.
“His attitude shows he’s firmly on the side of offenders and doesn’t want to know about victims of crime.
“The Government has only invited speakers who are going to tell it what it wants to hear and isn’t bothering to listen to victims who are worried about its plans to go soft. The agenda reads like that of a yoga convention with sessions like ‘individual reflection’ and ‘hope’.
“Typical of a Government which has established 140 working groups but is refusing to listen to anyone it disagrees with, the Government has its agenda and that’s to go soft on crime. It wants to reduce the prison population by a third, but it doesn’t have a plan to reduce crime and nothing on the Summit’s agenda suggests this is a focus.
“Instead it’s just going to soften up our bail, parole and sentencing laws to make it easier for criminals to get out of prison early and harder for them to get sent there in the first place. That’s just going to make our communities less safe and we won’t stand for it.”
The Government’s Criminal Justice Summit is nothing more than a public relations exercise to try to justify its plans to go soft on crime, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“It is apparent that the Government has already pre-determined the outcome of the Criminal Justice Summit, and that’s to loosen up our bail, parole and sentencing laws.
“We know this because it has chosen to downsize Waikeria Prison by 1000 beds, even though forecasts from the Government’s own officials show that the prison population is set to rise by 4100 in the next nine years.
“Responding to a forecast increase of 4100 more prisoners – over 2000 more than the previous forecast indicated – by slashing the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by 1000 shows that the Government knows exactly what it wants to do with our justice system.
“New Zealand will be thousands of prison beds short so the Government simply won’t be able to lock away all the serious offenders it needs to in order to keep our communities safe.
“And the Government has already said it wants to cut the prison population by a third, but doesn’t have a corresponding plan to reduce crime and the number of victims.
“Instead, it looks like the Government is just going to make it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place.
“Justice Minister Andrew Little knows that New Zealanders won’t stand for this so he has set up this Summit to try to justify the Government’s unpopular plans.
“If the Summit was genuinely about looking at ways to reduce crime, then National would support that. But all the talk from this Government so far has been focused on having fewer prisoners, rather than fewer victims.
“National will do everything we can to stop the Government putting criminals ahead of victims and hardworking Kiwis.”