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.
A new $400,000 scholarship programme to build global expertise on climate change, agriculture and food security will boost New Zealand’s contribution to agricultural greenhouse gas research say Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
The scholarship, announced today at the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) Council meeting in Tsukuba, Japan, is a joint initiative of the GRA and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
“Finding new ways to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to meeting our ambitious 2030 Paris Agreement targets. This scholarship builds on the $20 million a year we already invest in agricultural emissions,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Our farmers care deeply about our environment and we have some of the best environmental farming practices in the world,” says Mr Guy.
“Given a growing global population, it’s in everybody’s interest that we are successful in producing food more efficiently and sustainably. We need all major food producers and the international scientific community to be fully involved.
“Using science and research is a far more sensible approach for tackling agricultural emissions than that of Labour and Greens who would punish farmers and growers by including them in the ETS. This would add a cost that no other country imposes, and ironically mean that consumers buy more products from overseas farmers who are not as environmentally efficient as us.”
New Zealand funding support will enable up to 40 recipients to be hosted in research centres of GRA partners and member countries over the next three years. New Zealand has been a long standing donor of the CGIAR, most recently committing a further $11 million over two years to its network of research institutes around the world.
For more information see www.globalresearchalliance.org.
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.
A re-elected National Government will introduce tougher and more consistent freedom camping rules that will protect public spaces and crack down on poor behaviour, Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley say.
“Lots of Kiwis and many of our international visitors love to camp, and they make a large contribution to our tourism industry,” Tourism Spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
“Freedom campers stay longer and spend more on average than other visitors, but there are now a lot more people freedom camping than there used to be and a small minority don’t treat our roadsides and public spaces with adequate respect.
“Local councils have been asking the government to create more consistent rules and to help them penalise those who break these rules.”
- Restrict all non self-contained vehicles to areas that are within easy walking distance – approximately 200 metres – of toilet facilities
- Continue to allow Councils and the Department of Conservation to ban all freedom camping from certain areas, and extend these powers to LINZ and the NZTA to ensure Crown-owned land can also be restricted. The areas could be as small as a certain street or as large as a whole town centre
- Allow Councils and the Department of Conservation to issue instant fines for those who break the rules. If the fine can’t be paid on the spot, it will be assigned to the vehicle owner, including rental car companies
“We will also create a new smartphone app to show exactly where people can and cannot camp, and ensure consistent public signage across the country to ensure freedom campers know their rights and responsibilities,” Local Government Spokesperson Anne Tolley says.
“Our changes will not affect trampers, campers and hunters who enjoy our back country areas as they are not considered freedom campers.
“We want responsible campers to continue enjoying the best of what New Zealand has to offer and add to the $380 million a year they currently spend in our regions.
“These sensible changes, which build on those we made ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2011, will make the rules much easier to follow, and will still give Councils the flexibility to make rules that suit their communities alongside a simple way to punish those who break the rules with bad behaviour.”