Handouts from the Shane Jones’ provincial slush fund are a very poor substitute for policies that encourage regions to grow and succeed, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Government is playing a massive confidence trick on regional New Zealand by introducing numerous policies that will damage regional economies and then turning up with a few handouts and expecting that to compensate for the damage,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Today Shane Jones has landed in Taranaki which just happens to have a massive cloud over its economy because of the Government’s attitude to the region’s crucial oil and gas industry.
“And he expects a few cheques for feasibility studies and the Cathedral to cover that off. Well it won’t, especially when the previous government had already announced much of this funding, including for the Cathedral before the last election.
“This is occurring in a week where the Government has continued to put the boot into regional New Zealand by hiking road taxes and decreasing regional roading investment, and then cancelling irrigation funding.
“If you take that along with their policies of stopping international investment in the primary sector, regional New Zealand will definitely be thinking they’ve been sold a pup with this Shane Jones fund.
“Mr Jones needs to front up to Taranaki business leaders and the gas industry today and tell them he’ll back them and ensure they can continue to benefit Taranaki and the wider economy.
“If he can’t do that he has simply become an apologist for the Labour-Green policies that are steadily dealing to regional New Zealand.”
The Government’s confirmation it will axe major irrigation projects is the second major blow it’s dealt to regional New Zealand in a week, National’s Paul Goldsmith and Nathan Guy say.
“Fresh from whacking a major new fuel tax on New Zealand motorists the Government has announced it will leave regional farmers and growers at the mercy of prolonged droughts by canning support for important irrigation projects,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“This is a huge blow to regional New Zealand which is facing an increasingly uncertain future as a result of this Government’s raid on our regions.
“This summer alone saw six regions declared in drought as dry weather hammered primary producers right around New Zealand. These irrigation projects would have given them the certainty they could deal with future dry spells but that certainty’s now been ripped away.
“This Government claims it wants to help grow our exports and support our primary industries to add value but instead of standing behind regional New Zealand it’s taking its taxes and turning its back.
Mr Goldsmith says the Government’s regional growth strategy is a mess.
“It’s Jekyll and Hyde and seems to come down to which of Labour’s two support parties wins the day.
“One day Shane Jones sticks his finger in the air and doles out taxpayer cash for pet projects, the next day four ministers announce the Government will rip $5b out of regional road funding but tax motorists more and the next it is stripping millions out of important and demonstrably effective regional irrigation projects.
“That’s on top of seriously undermining future foreign investment, making it increasingly difficult to find staff and putting potential free trade agreements at real risk.
“It just shows the Government has no clear strategy.
“It says it supports regional New Zealand but it continues to put the boot in. Axing irrigation projects makes it harder for farmers and growers to do their jobs, harder for them to create jobs, harder to grow our exports and harder for New Zealanders to get ahead.”
Shane Jones has been rolled by Labour and the Greens on transport policy and as a result regional New Zealand will miss out on much needed roading developments, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Regional New Zealanders are being told to suck up a big increase in fuel taxes, coupled with a big decrease in regional highway investment, all to help pay for new trams in Auckland,” Mr Goldsmith says. “How did Shane Jones let this happen?
“Mr Jones cynically pointed to an increase in the regional roading improvements fund as a boost to the regions. Nobody will fall for that.
“The increase amounts to around $35 million a year to local roads, a drop in the bucket compared with the $5 billion being taken away from state highways.
Mr Goldsmith says that the previous Government’s plans to upgrade key provincial highways were critical to improving regional development and road safety on main arterials.
"Transport Minister Phil Twyford dismisses those projects as white elephants and about ‘provincial cities’ not regional New Zealand.
“Shane Jones should point out to him that cities like Whangarei, Tauranga and Napier/Hastings are very much in regional New Zealand. He should take Twyford to places like Katitkati, Whangarei, Levin and Tokoroa and tell them their roading projects are white elephants.
“The Green Party was yesterday trumpeting the transport policy as a big win for them and no wonder. The transport policy renders the Government’s regional economic development policy totally incoherent.
“The reality is Shane Jones has been completely dealt to by the Greens. New Zealand First’s claim to support regional New Zealand has been exposed as a sham.”
Regional GDP figures out today from Stats NZ provide a further benchmark for the new Government to live up to, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Growth figures of 9 per cent in the Bay of Plenty, 8.2 per cent in each of the Waikato and Northland, 7.9 per cent in Southland and 7.1 per cent in Otago in the year to March 2017 are clear proof that the regions have been thriving and not struggling as the rhetoric would have it,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“For New Zealand’s sake, we need that growth to continue. The challenge for the new Government is to keep these numbers up and not do anything to stuff them up.
“The previous Government’s consistent sensible economic policies have encouraged investment in the regions and brought in skilled people to work for growing regional companies.
“The new Government clearly needs to stay the course with that approach and not head down the haphazard inconsistent path of Shane Jones which will only discourage private sector investment.
“Regional GDP growth has now averaged 26.2 per cent over the last five years while Northland has grown at 30 per cent.
“The figures also contain a warning for the anti-oil and gas crowd. They show that Taranaki is our wealthiest region but also hasn’t grown much recently. It would only take a continuation of the sort of rhetoric we’ve seen in the last week to send Taranaki backwards.
“Regional development is all about applying predictable coherent economic policies that businesses can base their investment decisions on, and building the infrastructure that people actually use.
“If the coalition Government still says the regions are struggling I look forward to seeing their growth figures exceed these in the years ahead.”
While some regional New Zealanders may share Mr Jones’ frustration with air services, Shane Jones is going too far indulging in personal attacks on business leaders, National Party Economic Development Spokesman Paul Goldsmith says.
“Attacking public companies is a strange approach to economic development,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“It is up to Air New Zealand to defend its record in regional New Zealand, and it’s perfectly appropriate for politicians to raise questions of performance, as my colleague Nathan Guy has done.
“What’s not acceptable is a style of politics based on attacks on businesses and their leaders.
“Mr Jones made his name in opposition attacking Countdown. Now he is attacking Air New Zealand. Next he’ll move on to banks and other companies. It’s nothing but economic vandalism for political gain.
“While this may give Mr Jones the attention he craves, this style of politics undermines business confidence and investment that improves the services to the public he says he’s concerned about.
“If he genuinely cares about economic development he’ll get some discipline and engage constructively with businesses – businesses who employ thousands of hard-working Kiwis.”
Shameless Shane Jones is not just rolling out the pork for Northland, but focusing that pork in his own close neighbourhood to help him get around, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Today’s announcement that there will be a Government subsidy for the Kerikeri airport expansion just over the fence from Shane Jones house follows the $9 million announcement of the Waipapa roundabout which is just up the road from the same house,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“And once again, no criteria, no process by which the money is assessed, just a Minister writing out taxpayer cheques when he feels like it.
"The Kerikeri airport upgrade was listed in the previous Government's regional action plan for Northland - but it was clear it was the responsibility of the airport owner, Far North Holdings.
“In this country airports pay for their upgrades out of their own pockets. Why is Kerikeri airport different, beyond it being the airport Shane Jones uses?
“It’s the same with the Waipapa roundabout project. Why was that chosen to be able to dip into Shane’s fund over the myriads of other roading projects around the country?
“Is there a plan now for all airport expansions to be subsidized, or all roundabouts? How do airport companies and councils apply? What are the criteria?
“This announcement comes hard on the heels of the news that Defence Minister Ron Mark was using the Air Force as his private taxi service, and the decision to use an Air Force Hercules to take eight Ministers to the Chatham Islands to open the new wharf.
“This behaviour is quite shameless,” Mr Goldsmith says. “It would be laughable if it wasn’t about the serious use of taxpayers’ money.
“The Prime Minister needs to enforce the rules around the use of public money and put some proper disciplines around the allocation of money from the Provincial Growth Fund.
“If she doesn’t, her Ministers will think they have an ongoing right to put money into whatever takes their fancy and take hardworking New Zealanders for a ride.
"The National led Government was very focused on a comprehensive action plan to grow Northland. We just took the view that Northland was bigger than an area within a 5 kilometre radius of Shane Jones’ place."
The list of reasons why Labour’s fees-free policy is one of the most wasteful and badly-executed policies in decades keeps getting longer, with the calculation that $38 million a year will be spent on university dropouts, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Not only has this $2.8 billion policy had no real effect on enrolments, it has been so poorly designed that $38 million will be wasted on students who fail to finish their first year of study.
“This is taxpayers’ money going straight down the drain – all because Labour was so desperate to rush the policy through in its first 100 days, it didn’t bother to do the work needed to ensure that the $2.8 billion investment would be spent wisely.
“That $38 million could have otherwise gone towards improving our schools, roads, and hospitals or on investing in our tertiary sector so that it remains genuinely world-class.
“With academic performance requirements not being introduced until 2021 and the Government expecting more people to enrol in the second year of the policy, the amount of money being wasted on dropouts could reach up to $58 million a year.
“It’s not surprising that Education Minister Chris Hipkins wouldn’t appear on camera to explain to New Zealanders why his Government is frittering their money away.
“It must be rather embarrassing to be spending so much money and gaining almost nothing from it.”
Revelations that a $261 million hit to the New Zealand economy each year is the best case scenario under the Government’s plan to cut the number of international students will be of little comfort to our international education industry, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The international education industry is now our fourth largest export industry, worth about $4.5 billion to the economy and employing around 30,000 people.
“I’d have thought this was something to celebrate but the new Government appears intent on downsizing the industry by cutting the number of international students and limiting the work rights of prospective students.
“These changes would make the New Zealand international education industry uncompetitive and have far-reaching impacts, including shortages in our hospitality and retail workforces.
“If a $261 million hit to our economy each year is the best we can hope for under the Government’s plans, I’d hate to consider what the worst case scenario would be.
“The ‘best case scenario’ is based on a reduction of 10,000 international students and assuming that changes to work rights are successfully targeted to the lower-value tertiary sector.
“But Labour was clear during the election campaign that its policy was to reduce the number of international students by between 15,000 and 22,000 per year – that’s around a quarter of all incoming students which would mean a significantly larger impact on the economy.
“It demonstrates a reckless attitude by the Government thinking that it can undermine big parts of our successful economy without real impacts on real people.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins would have been wise to follow his own advice that “anecdotes are not always a good way of making Government policy”, with virtually no extra students taking up tertiary study under his Government’s $2.8 billion fees-free policy, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Government’s rationale for this hugely expensive policy was that the cost of tertiary education was a barrier to entry for many, based solely on anecdotal evidence.
“The 2018 academic year is now underway and Universities New Zealand has revealed that the policy has had no real effect on enrolments. This is hardly surprising and means the Government is spending $2.8 billion to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
“It ignored the fact that tertiary education in New Zealand was already among the most accessible in the world. The money for fees could be borrowed interest-free, and students from low-income families received weekly allowances that weren’t required to be paid back.
“The Government might have realised this was a bad policy had it undertaken a cost-benefit analysis but it was revealed in Select Committee earlier this month that it hadn’t bothered, despite the policy coming with a hefty price tag.
“Now we have a situation where $2.8 billion is being spent on students who would have gone into tertiary education anyway and were prepared to contribute to the cost of their study.
“If the purpose of this massive new investment is to increase participation in tertiary education, then the Government has failed.
“It’s a textbook example of why anecdotes are not always a good way to make Government policy.”
Labour’s ideological opposition to privately delivered services has reared its ugly head with the removal of a clause in the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill that treats public and private providers of tertiary education equally, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The clause established the principle for providers of tertiary education with similar offerings and outcomes for students, no matter whether they are public or private providers, to receive the same rate of funding.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has said publicly that private training establishments often do a better job than the polytechnics.
“So it makes no sense that he would now punish them by removing the clause that ensures they receive equal funding to their public counterparts.
“I can see no reason why the Government has removed this clause from the Bill other than pure ideology.”