The Government is hiding behind a smokescreen and is blustering about the number of children it plans to lift out of poverty, National’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“National’s Family Incomes Package was projected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty on 1 April 2018. It would have given 1.2 million working Kiwis an extra $1060 per year in the hand – and, we had committed to undertake a further package in 2020 that would have had a similar impact.
“The mini Budget announced by Labour today outlines its plans to lift 88,000 children out of poverty – but by 2021.
“So, comparing apples with apples, during the same period National would have lifted about 100,000 children out of poverty, whereas Labour only plans to lift 88,000.
“Labour has reverted to type by throwing billions of dollars at poorly targeted hand-outs, including over $3000 baby bonuses that go to everyone, irrespective of whether they need it or not.
“During our term in Government, the number of kids in material hardship fell by nearly 40 per cent to 135,000 in 2016.
“Thanks to the hard work, motivation and brave decisions of thousands of Kiwi parents, there are now 60,000 fewer children growing up in benefit-dependent households.
“Statistics like that can’t just be made up. We were the first Government in 40 years to lift benefits and the results are beginning to show.
“This is yet another example of a big-spending Labour Government that just cannot execute its ambitions,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Prime Minister has left more questions unanswered than not, following revelations her Government is cutting funding to children’s charity KidsCan, National’s Spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“KidsCan has been told it will lose its $350,000 government funding from 1 July next year.
“They were told there would be no more funding and that they were not a priority. As soon as this news was made public, both the Minister and the Prime Minister have been scrambling to distance themselves from it.
“In Parliament today I asked Jacinda Ardern whether her Government would continue its $350,000 funding of KidsCan but she wouldn’t answer.
“Given the huge amount of food, clothing and hygiene products KidsCan have provided hundreds of thousands of Kiwi kids, I think they deserve some clarity.
“The Prime Minister’s ducking and diving around simple commitments like this begs the question; is funding to services like this being cut because her Government has over-committed itself to its idealistic 100 day plan?
“I have also heard that the Kickstart breakfast programme is at risk of losing their funding.
“For the Prime Minister to purport that reducing child poverty is a priority, and to then not give certainty to these organisations is appalling. Words and measurements alone won’t cut it for our vulnerable children. Prime Minister – please back them up with support for initiatives that work,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Coalition government needs to front up and explain its decision to cut funding for one of New Zealand’s leading children’s charities, National’s Spokesperson for Children, Paula Bennett says.
“This evening we’ve learned that the Government will stop funding KidsCan from 1 July next year.
“For over a decade KidsCan has helped children who are living in hardship. It has provided over 168,000 children across 700 – mostly low decile - schools with over 21 million basic food items, over 500,000 health and hygiene products and over 700,000 items of clothing.
“They are making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children. In the same week the new Government is talking about passing legislation to monitor child poverty, it is undermining the future of one of New Zealand’s most effective children’s charities.
“The Prime Minister has waxed lyrical for quite some time about her desire to eradicate child poverty and yet, after less than two months in Government, she’s axing a programme specifically targeting the very kids who need the most help.
“This is another example of Labour’s ideological stance against partnership models. KidsCan is a shining example of how corporate and public funds combined can achieve great outcomes.
“I implore the Government to rethink this terrible decision,” Mrs Bennett says.
Confirmation from the Children’s Commissioner that the growth in child poverty has been halted is largely due to initiatives introduced by National, the Party’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“Judge Andrew Becroft has today confirmed that since the National Government increased benefits in 2015, there has been a drop in the number of children living in low income households.
“This is great news and further consolidates National’s track record as a party that shows it cares, rather than just says it cares.
“We were the Government that increased benefits for the first time in 40 years. Since 2010 we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 135,000 and since 2011 we reduced the number of children in benefit-dependent households by 61,000.
“Child poverty is a serious issue that we remain committed to working hard on. It needs to be recognised though that the complex issues that are the causes of hardship are often intergenerational.
“That’s why it’s extremely concerning that Jacinda Ardern and her Government haven’t committed to retaining either the Social Investment approach, or the Better Public Services targets we implemented.
“Our drive has been – and will always be – to root out the source of the problem through sophisticated data-driven risk analysis, followed up with solutions that work for the individual on a case-by-case basis.
“Judge Becroft points out that for children to flourish and thrive, sustained progress is needed.
“It is, therefore, both surprising and extremely disappointing that the new Government intends to abolish our Family Incomes Package. This would have lifted around 50, 000 children out of poverty, by one OECD definition.
“These are real solutions for real hardship. Labour has made big proclamations about putting child poverty reduction targets into legislation, but they’ve baulked at putting a number to those targets.
“National left the new Government a great opportunity to further reduce child poverty with strong job growth, budget surpluses and our Social Investment toolkit to root out the causes of hardship.
“As an Opposition party, we will hold the Government to account and ensure it steps up and delivers more than just slogans,” Mrs Bennett says.
The first round of the new $100 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund has attracted 43 eligible applications, says Tourism Minister Paula Bennett.
“We received 39 eligible applications from 29 councils for infrastructure projects that will help communities with growing visitor numbers. The cost of the proposed projects would be $35 million overall, with councils seeking a total of $17.8 million from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund,” says Mrs Bennett.
“We also had four applications from three councils for $70,000 in funding for feasibility studies with a total cost of $130,000. This shows that while demand is there, our initial $100 million investment looks about right for what is needed.
“We will work with councils to support communities with high visitor numbers but low ratepayer bases so they can really benefit from the growth New Zealand is seeing in the tourism sector. Tourism employs 188,000 people in New Zealand and we want to see that continue to grow.”
Councils were invited in August to apply for co-funding to develop visitor-related public infrastructure such as carparks, freedom camping facilities and sewerage and water works.
The fund’s panel will now make their assessment and recommend a package of infrastructure projects that best aligns with the Government’s priorities for the fund.
For more information, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/tourism/tourism-infrastructure-fund
Women's Minister Paula Bennett is encouraging all New Zealanders to take some time tomorrow, on Suffrage Day, to reflect on women's rights in New Zealand.
"I'm so proud to live in a country that was the first in the world to give women the vote. I hope all New Zealanders take time to reflect on that tomorrow and just how far we've come," Mrs Bennett says.
"Kate Sheppard and the other suffragists fought for years to give women this right and did this country proud.
“This Government has continued to support women. In the public sector 45 per cent of people on state sector boards are women, 46 per cent of women in senior leadership roles in the public service, we’ve introduced pay equity principles and we’ve settled a $2 billion pay equity claim for 55,000 care and support workers.
"We still have so much more to achieve though. We have a 9.4 per cent Gender Pay Gap. This recently reduced from 12 per cent - but in 2017, we just shouldn't have one. We’re working with the private sector to encourage them to measure their Gender Pay Gap and to work to reduce it.
"I'm often asked why we have a Ministry for Women and not a Ministry for Men. My answer is simple - when we no longer have a Gender Pay Gap and women aren't predominantly the victims of domestic and sexual violence, I'll happily shut it down.
"Until then, we should continue to focus on improving the lives on women and girls in this country. Anniversaries like this are the perfect time to reflect on that," Mrs Bennett says.
The Labour Party is continuing its full-frontal attack on regional New Zealand with its announcement today that farming would join the Emissions Trading Scheme, National Party Climate Change Spokesperson Paula Bennett said.
“No other country includes agriculture in their ETS. We have the best, most sustainable farmers in the world and Labour want to place costs on them that their competitors don’t face,” says Mrs Bennett.
“All that will do is force production overseas to less environmentally friendly places. That does absolutely nothing to combat climate change and is in fact worse for the planet.
“This is yet another example of how Labour would stall the economy. It comes hard on the heels of a water tax, a land tax, a capital gains tax and their opposition to the TPP trade deal, it’s hard to remember a more deliberate multi- pronged attack on our regions and a single sector in the economy.
“Labour talk about regional development and exports but their actions would harm towns across New Zealand and our biggest exporters, and would cost local jobs.
“The emissions intensity of our farmers is decreasing by about 1 per cent a year and the industry is committed to doing better, that’s why National is investing $20 million a year into research which will find a scientific solution to reducing emissions from agriculture.
“Labour have also said they want to legislate a carbon target and set up an independent climate commission. But legislating a target won’t reduce a single emission. National is 100 per cent committed to our 2030 Paris Agreement target and we are focussed on practical steps that will actually help us meet it.
“We will have 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 and are already over 85 per cent, we will have 1 in 3 electric vehicles in the government fleet, and we are investing a record amount in public transport.
“We also have the Productivity Commission working on how we transition to a low carbon economy while still growing jobs and the economy, something Labour seem to have no regard to.
“More taxes, legislation and working groups from Labour, while National is focussed on what is practical to actually get emissions down.”
Some of New Zealand’s finest tracks are set to become part of a new network of Great Short and Great Day walks, Tourism Minister Paula Bennett and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry have announced.
“We’re bringing new facilities and a new, higher profile to some of the best walking experiences New Zealand has to offer as part of Budget 2017’s $76m investment in DOC’s infrastructure,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Great Day and Great Short Walks, developed by DOC in partnership with Tourism New Zealand, are an expansion of the highly successful Great Walks brand aimed at promoting more of the fantastic walking experiences available across the country.
“This is a chance to draw more tourists off the beaten track and enable more communities to benefit from increasing visitor numbers,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Budget 2017 funding will allow DOC to better manage the impact of visitor growth, while also protecting biodiversity and threatened species.
“Ranging from Mt Manaia in Northland to Lake Gunn in Fiordland, the walks have been chosen from DOC’s best and most spectacular tracks. Some, such as the track to Cathedral Cove, are already world famous, while others are relatively unknown gems,” Ms Barry says.
Ms Barry released the list of walks, which includes the Cape Kidnappers Great Day Walk, while in Napier today.
“While many of these chosen walks are already top quality, others will see investment to make them truly world-class, with new facilities such as toilets or improved track surfaces.
“DOC’s own research has shown tourists are looking for shorter, easier experiences and we’re meeting that demand by highlighting the best through this new brand.”
The new networks will be officially launched by DOC and Tourism New Zealand in October this year.
Great Short Walks (30 minutes to 3 hours)
o Mt Manaia, Northland
o Mangawhai Cliff, Northland
o Rangitoto Summit, Auckland
o Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
o Wainui Falls, Golden Bay
o Charming Creek, West Coast
o Cape Foulwind, West Coast
o Devil’s Punchbowl, Arthur’s Pass
o Kura Tawhiti, Canterbury
o Lake Matheson, West Coast
o Fox Glacier, West Coast
o Tasman Glacier View, Mt Cook
o Blue Pools, Haast PassLake Gunn, Fiordland
Great Day Walks (4-6 hours)
o Te Whara - Bream Head, Northland
o Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay
o Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Ruapehu
o Hooker Valley, Aoraki
o Roy’s Peak, Wanaka
A re-elected National Government will invest $82 million over four years to tackle methamphetamine with a range of tough measures to clamp down hard on organised crime and drug dealers, Police spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
It will also fund more treatment places for those addicted to methamphetamine and other drugs.
“Gangs are increasingly pushing dangerous drugs into our communities and we are committed to stopping them, locking them up and seizing their ill-gotten gains,” Mrs Bennett says.
“National will redouble its efforts to stop drugs getting into the country, stamp out meth labs and disrupt the supply networks as part of a refreshed Methamphetamine Action Plan.
“We’ll also increase Police powers to stop gang members from committing crimes in the first place, backing up our investment in more Police officers and smarter policing and our tougher sentencing of offenders.”
A new National Government will spend $40 million over four years on drug treatment and education services including:
- 1500 additional in patient drug treatment places
- Community based treatment, prevention and education services provided by NGOs and Iwi
National will also invest $42 million over four years on a crackdown on gangs and the supply of serious drugs by:
- Giving Police new power to search the cars and houses of the most serious criminal gang members at any time to ensure they don’t have firearms through new Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs)
- Doubling the number of drug dog teams and introducing them in domestic airports, ferries and mail centres to clamp down on trafficking
- Increasing penalties for manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabis from a maximum of two years imprisonment to eight years, but no changes to charges for possession
- Imposing new obligations on gang members on a benefit so that if they can’t justify expensive assets, they can have their benefit cancelled or be declined a benefit
- Introducing a new charge of ‘wilful contamination’ for people who contaminate rental properties
- Introducing compulsory police vetting for anyone working at ports, mail centres or airport baggage centres (this includes contractors)
“These measures come on top of the $503 million announced earlier this year for 1125 more Police Staff, which included 80 police to target organised crime and drugs.
“Serious drugs like methamphetamine and the gangs who peddle them are a scourge on our society,” Mrs Bennett says.
“These drug dealers are destroying lives for profit and greed and these drugs have no place in our country.
“We need to help those that are already addicted and find ways of stopping new victims of this drug and the gangs who peddle them.
“Our investment in strengthening our borders will also help reduce harm because we know the most effective way to tackle this problem is to stop drugs reaching our shores in the first place.
“National is the party of law and order – we take the safety of all New Zealanders seriously. Police’s mission is for New Zealand to be the safest country in the world, and National wholeheartedly supports this goal,” Mrs Bennett says.
The $82 million over four years will be made up of $40 million from the proceeds of crime and $42 million of new funding.
Women’s Minister Paula Bennett has today welcomed a reduction in the Gender Pay Gap of almost three percentage points.
Statistics New Zealand today announced that the Gender Pay Gap is now 9.4 per cent for the June Quarter 2017, down from 12 per cent last year.
“As Minister for Women I’ve made sure that this is the top priority for both me and the Ministry for Women. It’s fantastic to see such a significant reduction today,” Mrs Bennett says.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still believe having any Gender Pay Gap is completely unacceptable but it’s moving in the right direction. I want New Zealand to be the first country to eliminate the Gender Pay Gap and I believe we can.
“It’s been great to see this issue increasingly in the media and at the front of minds of Chief Executives and Board Chairs. The Ministry for Women has been working with the private sector to give advice on how to close the gap and will soon release a tool on how to measure it.
“Research shows that companies that have diversity are more successful and ultimately make more money.
“I believe businesses are taking this issue seriously. I would encourage them to keep promoting women who deserve to be promoted and encourage more women onto boards.
“This is something we’ve worked hard on in the public sector. We recently reached our goal of 45 per cent of women on State Sector Boards and 46 per cent of women in senior leadership roles in the public service.
“I hope this is an issue we keep talking about and taking action on so that the gap continues to trend in this direction, because in 2017 there is absolutely no excuse for someone to be paid less just because of their gender.