The Government’s latest announcement of a new earthquake insurance settlement service will be welcomed by homeowners as it expands on the Residential Advisory Service set up by the previous National Government, National’s Greater Christchurch Regeneration spokesperson Nicky Wagner says.
“It’s important homeowners have a place where they can discuss their claims, can find support and move towards resolving any disputes.
“The Residential Advisory Service (RAS) was set up in 2013 and links residents with the correct people for their particular issue and ensures those needing help are given detailed specific advice and guidance by independent advisors.
“The Government recognised the good work RAS does and extended its service to June 2019 with additional funding.
“The RAS has been a highly successful service in Christchurch since its establishment – it has assisted thousands of Christchurch residents with their insurance claims after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes – and the new service will build on the experiences and learnings from the RAS.
“The Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCR) has the expertise and experience of Darren Wright as the new director, who has been in the thick of the post-earthquake environment and is qualified at resolving claim disputes.
“This gives us confidence that homeowners will be provided with a tailored service that will meet most needs.
“RAS will still be a service available to North Cantabrians affected by the Kaikoura Earthquake, and will be incorporated into the new GCCR.
“GCCR will expand on the support and guidance RAS was providing, and continue to help property owners who are having difficulty with insurance or repair challenges.
“Insurance issues can be extremely stressful and confusing, so we want all homeowners who are going through difficult times to have a place where they know they will receive the support and advice they need.”
The New Zealand Initiative’s report on tobacco harm reduction further highlights the urgent need for vaping legalisation, National MP Nicky Wagner says.
“Smoke and Vapour: The changing world of tobacco harm reduction by Jenesa Jeram shows the need for vaping legalisation in New Zealand by highlighting how current policies are increasingly ineffective in helping long-term smokers kick the habit.
“My Smoke-free Environments (Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes) Amendment Bill currently in the Members’ Bill ballot will allow electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to be sold to people aged 18 years and over.
“The aim of my bill is to assist long-term, daily smokers to quit by improving access to less harmful alternatives and help meet our goal of a Smokefree New Zealand by 2025.
“This is in line with the New Zealand Initiative report, which recommends alternatives like electronic cigarettes.
“This report follows the District Court’s decision to allow the sale of tobacco products except those chewed or dissolved in the mouth. The Court’s decision, and now this report, have opened up the debate around tobacco products and possible alternatives.
“The report recommends ‘light touch’ regulations around the sale of electronic cigarettes and suggests we treat vaping differently to smoking tobacco because of the lower health risks.
“I remain cautious about light touch regulation of these products because it could normalise the practice. These products should be used as tools to help smokers to quit, not as an accepted alternative to smoking.
“I look forward to the opportunity at Select Committee to debate the differing points of view on regulation and how best to handle electronic cigarettes and vaping.
“I want to thank Ms Jeram for taking the time to meet with me last week to discuss her report which provides more depth and breadth to the debate around vaping legalisation.”
Questions must be asked about why the proposed East Lake seems to have been removed from the Residential Red Zone regeneration exhibition, and some answers are needed as to the reasons for its exclusion, National’s spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Nicky Wagner says.
“The East Lake project is a hugely popular proposal that would provide the city with a flatwater facility for kayaking, rowing, waka ama, dragon boating, yachting, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, cycling and walking in the Residential Red Zone,” Ms Wagner says.
“It has been included in many of the different proposals put out for consultation so I’m extremely surprised and concerned see it excluded from the final exhibition.
“The proposal has been developed by the East Lake Trust, a community-led project, in conjunction with other community and sports groups after Regenerate Christchurch was specifically asked by the Council and the Government to assess the feasibility of a water sports facility in the area.
“In April this year they reported that such a facility was not feasible because of the lack of a water supply, the impact on storm water and concerns around flooding.
“But at a recent meeting with representatives of flatwater sports, the agency is reported to have said that these were not the real reasons for excluding the facility, but were simply given because people could understand them.
“This project has been anticipated for several years now and many people in Christchurch were excited by the opportunities a facility like this would offer.
“To see the hard work of these community groups now excluded from the exhibition is disappointing in itself. To now have doubt cast on the reasons for this is a source of understandable frustration and confusion.
““For any decision to be credible it must be evidenced-based, and accepted and understood by everyone concerned, even if they disagree with the outcome. This decision has failed that test.
“I’d expect the Minister responsible, Meagan Woods to come out and give a clear, honest explanation as to why the project has been excluded – and I’ll be asking that of her,” Ms Wagner says.
The Labour Government has avoided committing to building a multi-use arena in Christchurch and has instead kicked it for touch into the distant future, National’s spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Nicky Wagner says.
“Despite pleas from the public, sporting groups and event operators, the Government still won’t front up with any kind of commitment to replace Lancaster park.
“Instead, the Minister responsible, Megan Woods, has issued a vague statement that some design work will begin, and that any final design will be subject to a business case.
“Christchurch voters should not forget that, during the election campaign, Jacinda Ardern committed $300 million extra to go towards the ongoing rebuild of Christchurch – and that money should be ear-marked for these kinds of projects.
“Notably, this big-spending Government has not committed to any costs for a multi-use stadium – no doubt, leaving future governments and tax-payers to take the financial hit.
“However, what Megan Woods has announced today – with quite some fanfare - is that ‘Ōtākaro has completed the detailed design of the Metro Sports Facility, and is now ready to go to market to confirm the final cost of the project’
“This is disingenuous in the extreme - this was already the case under the National Government until she halted the process in November last year.
“Ms Woods has achieved nothing other than a six month delay on the project,” Mrs Wagner says.
National Party spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has welcomed the decision by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to follow the previous National Governments’ approach to keep the current Environment Canterbury (ECan) board.
“Nanaia Mahuta is making a sensible decision to keep the current ECan Board and returning to a full democracy at the 2019 local body election, as the previous National Government had planned,” Ms Wagner says.
“Labour made plenty of noise about the lack of full democracy in Canterbury whilst in Opposition. Both present Ministers Eugenie Sage and Megan Woods led an aggressive campaign to have full elections immediately.
“Yet again, now that Labour is in Government it has abandoned its policy and is continuing with the plan started by National.
“Our long-term approach whilst in Government was designed to improve the standards at ECan. In 2009, the previous Government appointed commissioners to ECan following repeated poor performance by the council in achieving their regulatory requirements.
“Thanks to the hard work of the commissioners and the strong, sensible leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley and David Bedford, Canterbury now has one of the best performing regional councils in New Zealand.
“This has always been about making good decisions for Canterbury. The commissioners were put in to complete the water management plan for Canterbury which had languished under the leadership of the previous council.
“Nanaia Mahuta’s decision shows that the long-term plan started in 2009 has been effective. Half of the members on ECan were elected in 2016 and the plan had long been for the full council to be elected in 2019.”
National MP Nicky Wagner is looking to improve laws around the accessibility of e-cigarettes to provide less harmful alternatives for long-term smokers that will help them kick the habit.
“The Members’ Bill I lodged this week, the Smoke-free Environments (Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes) Amendment Bill, designed to allow electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to be sold to persons over 18 years of age,” Mrs Wagner says.
“Currently the sale and supply of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid as consumer products is illegal. However, the Ministry of Health itself has said that e-cigarettes have the potential to contribute to the Smokefree 2025 goal.
“E-cigarettes offer a better alternative to ordinary cigarettes for long-term, more engrained smokers and are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco. They also pose no identified health risks to bystanders.
“While our smoking rate continues to decline, we still lose 4500-5000 New Zealanders each year to smoking-related illnesses. We must be open to alternatives that help to wean smokers off cigarettes and have fewer health risks.
“Although the numbers of smokers are decreasing and less young people are taking it up there is a group of long-term smokers, particularly Maori and Pasifika, who find it extremely difficult to quit.
“Vaping and electronic cigarettes are not a cure-all, but they offer an alternative for bridging the gap between a long-term habit and quitting altogether.
“There is no evidence that electronic cigarettes provide a gateway for smokers of tobacco cigarettes or that non-smokers are attracted to electronic cigarettes.
“I encourage all my Parliamentary colleagues to support this Bill through first reading.”
There has been widespread concern in the Christchurch community that Labour has rescinded some of the funding appropriated by National to support the rebuild of Christchurch, National Party Spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Nicky Wagner says.
“With Labour’s recent record of promise and back track, it’s not surprising that the Christchurch community was worried that the funding set aside by National for Christchurch may not be available,” Mrs Wagner says.
“Fortunately, in response to my questions in the House today the Minister for Greater Regeneration Megan Woods has confirmed that they will honour National’s funding appropriations for Christchurch.
“Furthermore, in response to my questions concerning the $300 million extra for the rebuild Labour promised during the election campaign, both the Minister of Greater Christchurch Regeneration and Minister of Finance hinted that it would be part of Budget 2018.
“We look forward to the continuation of the funding that was promised by the previous National Government and know that the Christchurch community will be happy to have assurances that the rebuild will progress as planned.”
Megan Woods appears to have contradicted her Prime Minister in walking back her promise to Christchurch of $300 million being readily accessible for the city’s rebuild, National’s Spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Nicky Wagner says.
“Before the election Jacinda Ardern committed that ‘Labour would be putting $300 million on the table, readily accessible for projects’ but in Parliament today the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration said that the funding was not readily accessible, but may be included in the Budget,” Mrs Wagner says.
“A Budget bid does not mean the funding is guaranteed as we were promised.
“I asked Megan Woods whether she could confirm the funding so that it can be included in the Christchurch City Council Long Term Plan, which is currently being drafted. This is the exact time that the Council needs certainty of funding so they can make informed choices about where to invest.
“If the Government is serious about the fund they should come out and guarantee it so that the Council can plan for it now, otherwise they risk delays with its roll out in the months or years ahead.
“Megan Woods has been very vocal about Labour’s commitments to providing certainty and transparency for Christchurch, and Christchurch residents voted for Labour based on those promises. Now Ms Woods is the Minister responsible for the regeneration of our city, she has to deliver them,” Mrs Wagner says.
It is time for the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Megan Woods to stop deliberate holdups and political engineering and just get the Metro Sports Facility underway, National’s spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Nicky Wagner says.
“Media reports that official information being sent to the Minister showing her politically-motivated search for cost cutting measures may take the whole thing back to the drawing board are deeply troubling.
“Every day the clock and the dollars are ticking over on the Metro Sports Facility project. The delay is now the Minister’s, and I urge her to act now,” Ms Wagner says.
“Christchurch residents have put too much time and energy into this project for the Minister to dither. A lot of time has already been spent identifying community needs, ensuring that the project fulfilled a wide range of needs, and designing the facility for construction.
“The building, if it follows the current design, will be fit-for-purpose and it is expected to be one of the best sporting complexes in the Southern Hemisphere.
“However, I am concerned that ‘cost saving measures’ that are reportedly being considered by the Government will not only downsize this project but also trigger substantial delays.
“It is appalling that this important project may fall victim to Labour’s over-promising in other areas. If money is stripped away from the project it will have huge implications on the facility.
“As is often the case with such big projects, potential risks were identified in the middle of 2017 but a peer reviewed solution was requested and delivered to the Minster. Instead of following this advice, the Minister ordered yet another report that confirmed the previous advice that this is the right option.
“The only reason the next phase in August 2017 wasn’t signed off was because it was within the election period, and if authorised, the project would be proceeding by now.
“This facility will boost our community health, continue the revitalisation of the central city and provide our high-performance athletes and sports clubs the facilities they need.
“The people of Christchurch, our children and families, along with our sports people are all waiting to see progress on this project and there is no reason for the continued delay,” Mrs Wagner says.
Census day has dawned with a Minister missing in action as the raft of unresolved issues pile up, National’s former Minister of Statistics Scott Simpson says.
“James Shaw is new to Government and he needs to get his priorities right,” Mr Simpson says.
“The Census is the most important public interaction that Statistics NZ carry out.
“It’s unbelievable that in light of the multitude of problems being reported by those grappling with the country’s first online census, he has chosen to be swanning around the Pacific on a junket while his officials at Statistics NZ are left to carry the can.
“There are real concerns around New Zealanders not receiving their code letters, some are struggling with online access and many are reporting a lack of response to queries and calls for help.
“It’s obvious that officials are really struggling to land a credible result for the 2018 Census and, so far, the most interest their Minister has shown was to berate them for not asking more questions about gender and the LGBTQI community.
“It is deeply ironic that the Minister, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are all overseas this evening, and won’t be counted in this important snapshot of our society,” Mr Simpson says.
National’s disabilities spokesperson Nicky Wagner says reports that Kiwis with disabilities are especially struggling to complete this year’s Census online are extremely disappointing.
“Not only does it exclude them from the opportunity to take part, but it’s likely the results will be skewed because so many people from this sector of society won’t be represented.
“It would be good to see the Minister step up and take a lead on this issue – even at the 11th hour – instead of focussing on his other interests,” Mrs Wagner says.