The Government’s surprise announcement it has asked three people to spend a month writing a report on the state of New Zealand’s housing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Housing Minister Phil Twyford has spent years arguing the Government has all the answers. But now he has those answers he’s decided they don’t fit his narrative so he’s outsourcing the work.
“The views of those asked to write the report are well known. If the Housing Minister wants to read them he can look them up. That begs the question, why do they need to spend a month re-publishing them?
“Government officials from agencies including the Treasury, Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have developed a comprehensive plan on housing issues ranging from increasing supply to growing the social housing sector and that’s working.
“The housing market is flat to falling and we are in the middle of a record residential building boom. The solutions were implemented by the previous Government based on official advice and they are working.
“Now Mr Twyford is saying that advice doesn’t suit him and his go-to analysis is going to be written by three people in a mere four weeks. It makes no sense. Is he that worried he’s going to be caught out for telling tall tales? Or is he looking for an excuse to implement radical and unpopular policies that aren’t necessary?
“Mr Twyford needs to realise that and let the building industry and social housing sector get on with the job.”
The Government’s new bill supposedly aimed at imposing stricter regulations on landlords does nothing to further improve the quality of New Zealand’s rentals, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“National strongly supports efforts to make homes warmer, drier and safer but Labour’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill does nothing to further those aims and in fact takes a number of backward steps.
“The previous National-led Government took a range of practical measures which improved rental accommodation for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, without imposing unreasonable costs on landlords and driving up rents.
“We invested heavily in insulation and made it compulsory in all rental properties along with smoke alarms, and we changed the law to ensure bad landlords were more accountable.
“Under Labour’s bill, the date for homes to be insulated could actually be delayed and the responsibilities placed on landlords will remain the same, as will the penalties they face when they fail to comply.
“The requirements for homes to be heated, ventilated, properly drained and free of draughts are also already required under existing housing regulations - so what is the point of this needless legislation?
“As with a lot of what we are seeing from Labour, they are struggling to come up with ideas and when they manage to do so they are failing to deliver the detail.
“Instead we continue to see them impose superficial and ill-thought out changes which only create uncertainty, and then spin them as significant improvements.
“That’s exactly what we are seeing here. This latest bill is a waste of the House’s time and National won’t be supporting it.”
New Zealand’s inaugural Motorcycle Awareness month, which begins today, is an opportunity to increase awareness around the risks for motorcyclists on our roads, ACC Minister Michael Woodhouse says.
“Motorcycle safety is one of the four priorities of the Government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan 2016 -2020,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Over the past decade, motorcycle travel has increased by 60 per cent, which is why we are committed to raising awareness through Motorcycle Awareness month.
“Motorcyclists should use this month to think about how they can sharpen their skills to not only lower their risk of harm, but also to ensure they make the most on their time of the bike.
“Last year, sadly 52 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents. Motorcycle Awareness month will play an important role in helping to reduce that number by bringing safety to the forefront of all road users’ minds.”
As part of Motorcycle Awareness month, ACC will be running a number of initiatives to help motorcyclists stay safe and improve their ride. These include:A Get Ride Ready campaign in conjunction with local councils which guides riders through actions to enable them to make the most of summer riding. ACC’s motorcycle safety programme Ride Forever is sponsoring this year’s Motorcycle Show in Auckland over September 16 -17. The Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council’s Ride and Decide summit programme. This incorporates a number of events bringing together motorcyclists and road safety agencies to share insights and knowledge. This will result in a joint commitment to improve the safety of motorcyclists.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced details of a new Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship category to complement the annual refugee quota.
“When the Government announced an increase to the refugee quota last year, we also committed to piloting a Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship category,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Today’s announcement delivers on that commitment and provides an alternative form of admission for refugees wanting to resettle in New Zealand.”
The key objectives of the category include:Providing an opportunity for community organisation to be actively engaged in refugee resettlement, and in doing so, to build local communities that welcome refugees. Enabling sponsored refugees to quickly become independent and self-sufficient in New Zealand. Providing an alternative form of admission for refugees to complement our annual refugee quota.
Applicants will need to have a basic understanding of English, have a minimum of three years’ work experience (or a qualification requiring at least two years’ tertiary study), have an acceptable standard of health and be aged between 18 and 45.
"An initial pilot of the category will test the objectives of the category by providing for 25 refugees to be nominated by sponsoring community organisations on the basis they can achieve self-sufficiency and participate in society quickly,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“This is an excellent opportunity for community organisations to take the lead in providing resettlement options for some refugees and further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fulfilling our international humanitarian obligations to provide support and protection to refugees.”
A call for expressions of interest from potential sponsoring community organisations will be made by Immigration New Zealand in October this year with successful organisations decided before the end of the year. The first refugees are expected to arrive in New Zealand by June next year.
National will progressively extend Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks as part of its Parents and Newborns Package designed to support families to grow and stay healthy, while also putting more money into their pockets.
“National will share the dividends of a growing economy, with more support for families with newborns in a new package made possible only by the improving government finances,” Women Spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
National’s Parents and Newborns Package will:
- Progressively extend Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks over two years, with an initial step of 2 weeks on 1 July 2018 followed by a further two weeks on 1 July 2019
- Add flexibility to Paid Parental Leave, by allowing both parents to take some of the 22 weeks off at the same time so they can be at home with their baby together
- Support women to take care of their own health by offering them one free dental course during pregnancy and up to their baby’s first birthday
- Give more families a chance to have a baby by providing a third free IVF cycle, and speeding up access to fertility treatment for eligible couples
Mrs Bennett says this package which make a huge difference for thousands of families during a vital stage in their lives.
“National’s Parents and Newborns package recognises the role of both parents, and allows families to have the flexibility that suits their circumstances. It is good for parents, good for their baby and will help support women in the workforce,” Mrs Bennett says.
Workplace Relations and Safety Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says National has always wanted to increase Paid Parental Leave in a responsible way.
“We’ve already increased it to 18 weeks and widened the criteria for those that can access it – the improving fiscal outlook means we can now extend Paid Parental Leave further,” Mr Woodhouse says.
Health Spokesperson Dr Jonathan Coleman says that a growing economy is allowing National to help to grow and support new families.
“All New Zealanders deserve the chance to have a family so we are also pleased to be able to further stand behind people struggling to conceive, through funding for an extra IVF for those who need it,” Dr Coleman says.
“We also want to support pregnant women and new mothers take care of their health.
“As pregnancy can lead to dental problems for some women, we will fund one dental course for all pregnant women and mothers up until the babies first birthday, including a check-up and any resulting x-rays, extractions and fillings.
“National believes in supporting families to have healthy babies who grow up to be healthy kids, and we are making real progress.
“Around 94 per cent of 8 month olds are now immunised and around 800,000 children under 13 are benefiting from free GP visits and prescriptions.”
Mrs Bennett says the Parents and Newborns Package will ensure parents can spend more time at home supporting each other and bonding with their babies in those important and stressful early months, and we will help them stay healthier.
“National will continue to ensure the benefits of our growing economy are passed on to families,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Parents and Newborns Package will come into effect on 1 July 2018. It is expected to cost $88 million per year from 2019/2020 once 22 weeks of Paid Parental Leave is fully implemented.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse has today rejected claims that the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill currently before Parliament will make it harder to settle pay equity claims.
“The Government shares the desire of Kristine Bartlett and the Unions to get this important piece of legislation right,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“We don’t, however, agree with the Union’s assessment of what this Bill will do.
“The purpose of the Bill is to avoid the adversarial court process that the parties in the Terranova case would have had to embark on had the Government not intervened and negotiated a settlement.
“The good faith bargaining process that is proposed is exactly what the Terranova process involved and any suggestion that the settlement could not have been achieved if this Bill was in law is simply incorrect.
“The Terranova settlement was reached with reference to a comparator within the health sector and the Bill enables parties to look outside the sector if an appropriate comparator cannot be found.
“This will make New Zealand’s law more progressive than any other country we compare with.
“There will be an opportunity for the public to have their say on the Bill during the select committee process and we will be listening carefully to those submissions,” Mr Woodhouse says.
ACC Minister Michael Woodhouse has today announced four reappointments to the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council.
“The Council represents the motorcycling community and has a vital role to advise ACC on safety initiatives that will make motorcycling safer on New Zealand roads,” Mr Woodhouse says.
Mark Gilbert has been reappointed as Chair of the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council for a further term of two years.
Alan Petrie, David White, and Johan Bosch have also been reappointed as members of the Council for further two year terms after their current terms expire at the end of this month.
“I would like to take the opportunity to publicly thank Mark Gilbert, and the hardworking members of the Council for their important work to keep motorcyclists safe.
“The reappointment of the Chair and these three members will ensure stability and continuity on the Council and will allow for their important work to gain further momentum,” Mr Woodhouse says.
Note to editors
The Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) was established in early 2011 to advise on how the Motorcycle Safety Levy (MSL) fund should be spent to help make riding safer for riders.
MSAC members are motorcyclists who are well connected to motorcycling communities throughout the country.
The MSL is a levy collected from motorcyclists when they register their motorcycles and it generates approximately $1.8 million a year which is distributed to fund road safety initiatives specifically for motorcycle and moped riders.
MSAC engages with motorcyclists and provides advice and recommendations to ACC on investing MSL money on initiatives that will make motorcycling safer. These include research, awareness campaigns and the introduction of safer road design to reduce motorcycle crashes.
Work-to-date by the Council has delivered a New Zealand-specific evidence base that has helped inform ACC’s input to the Government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan 2016-2020.
More information: MSAC
Following these re-appointments, the current membership of the council is:
Date of original appointment
Mark Gilbert (Chair)
1 July 2013
7 April 2014
7 April 2014
1 September 2015
1 September 2015
1 September 2015
1 September 2016
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says more than 250,000 visa applications have been made online since the service became available in August 2014.
“Immigration ONLINE is helping to transform the immigration system by delivering more efficient visa services and a better customer experience,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“A rapid uptake in the last year has seen the number of ONLINE applications reach 261,000 – an increase of more than 80,000 in the last year.”
In Budget 2015, the Government invested $28.4 million to improve the technology to extend Immigration ONLINE.
“We are now seeing the benefit of that investment with 60 per cent of visa applicants able to apply online now, expanding to 80 per cent of all visa applicants from early next year.
“Immigration ONLINE is more efficient and often less expensive for applicants, which is why it is now the preferred channel for submitting temporary work and student visa applications.
“Immigration ONLINE is an example of the government’s commitment to deliver better public services by making greater use of technology.”
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today confirmed changes to temporary work visa conditions following an extensive consultation process.
“The Government is committed to striking the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders are at the front of the queue for jobs and making sure our regions have access to temporary migrant labour necessary for sustained economic growth,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“We are also committed to ensuring that lower-skilled migrants are clear about their future prospects in New Zealand, which is why we consulted on a number of changes to temporary work visa conditions.”
The changes consulted on included introducing remuneration bands to help determine skill levels; a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled visa; and requirements for partners and children of lower-skilled visa holders to meet visa conditions in their own right.
“The consultation process resulted in around 170 submissions and today’s announcement shows the Government has listened to the feedback raised by employers and industry, particularly in the regions,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“While the minimum stand down periods and visa requirements for partners and children will still apply for lower-skilled migrants, we are amending the remuneration band for mid-skilled migrants to address issues raised during the consultation process.
“As a result, the remuneration band for mid-skilled will be 85 per cent of the New Zealand median income, which is currently $41,538 a year, instead of $48,859 as proposed during consultation.
“This means that any migrant earning below $41,538 a year will be considered lower-skilled and will be subject to the stand down periods. Any migrant earning between $41,538 and $73,299 a year in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1 – 3 will be considered mid-skilled, and those earning over $73,299 a year will automatically be considered higher-skilled, regardless of their occupation.
“The new mid-skilled remuneration band recognises the fact that these workers are filling genuine skill shortages and are more likely to progress with further skills acquisition or work experience. It also provides more certainty for employers in planning and training their workforce.
“The consultation process also uncovered a misunderstanding around what the changes mean in terms of employers’ ability to continue to access lower-skilled migrants.
“I want to reassure employers that the changes announced today are not designed to reduce the number of migrants coming in on temporary work visas.
“Employers will continue to be able to employ migrant workers where there are genuine labour or skill shortages. However, these changes will help provide clarity around the conditions under which temporary migrants come here.
“Today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to immigration and is in stark contrast to Opposition parties who want to decimate the regions by cutting immigration by tens of thousands.”
The changes to temporary work visa conditions will be introduced on 28 August, alongside the previously announced changes to the Skilled Migrant residence category.
Other issues highlighted during consultation will also be addressed during Phase Two of the review of temporary migration settings.
These include developing a framework for further targeting of immigration settings by sectors and regions, developing proposals to incentivise and reward good employer behaviour, and ensuring that seasonal work visas reflect seasonal work.
Phase Two will also address concerns raised by primary industries that the current ANZSCO lacks classifications for some jobs and therefore disadvantages workers whose occupations are classed at a lower-level by default.
For more information, visit www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/changes-temporary-migrant-work-settings.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse has today introduced the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill to Parliament.
“The Bill implements the recommendations made by the Joint Working Group and aims to address one of the material barriers to achieving pay equity,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Bill provides a practical and fair process for employees to follow if they feel they are not being paid what their job is worth.
“It will also make it easier for employees to file pay equity claims directly with their employers rather than having to go through the courts.
"To support an effective and efficient pay equity regime, the Bill includes regulation making powers that prescribe additional matters that can be taken into account when considering:whether a pay equity claim has merit matters that can be considered as part of a pay equity assessment identifying appropriate comparators.
“The Government is committed to achieving pay equity in New Zealand and the introduction of this Bill is a significant step toward ensuring female dominated jobs are paid fairly and closing the gender pay gap.”
The Bill will repeal and replace the Equal Pay Act 1972 and the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960, and amend the Employment Relations Act 2000.