Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s announcement today is another broken promise from a Government which continues to prove it is unable to back it up its unrealistic claims from Opposition, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“The $81.3 million increase over four years is a 4.6 per cent increase and barely more than inflation - and it’s less than what National put up. National’s 2017 Budget committed more than $107 million to DOC – the largest funding injection in its history.
“While the Greens claimed in Opposition that DOC’s budget needed to at least double to meet what it called the biodiversity crisis, this announcement is one twentieth of that.
“It’s another broken promise from a party that claims to be environmentally minded but has no mind for backing that up. It’s clear the Greens have been sidelined by their coalition partners and have struggled to gain more investment in the environment because almost a billion went to Winston’s diplomats.
“While DOC’s budget grew by 20 per cent under National, our conservation interest is in outperforming, rather than outspending our political opponents. We also need to be smart about it. For example our partnership approach also helped secure more than $100 million of private sector investment in nature.
“And National made significant progress. Our Battle for Our Birds efforts ramped up 1080 use seven-fold from 100,000 to over 700,000 hectares a year and we saw strong growth in endangered bird numbers. During our watch takahē numbers grew by 52 per cent, kakapo by 64 per cent, and kōkako by 130 per cent - a massive improvement.
“And Predator Free 2050 was one of the largest and most ambitious conservation efforts in New Zealand’s history.
“National does welcome the further increased investment in pest control, something we dramatically increased during our nine years in government under constant criticism from NZ First. NZ First promised to reduce the use of 1080 and needs to explain to its supporters why in Government it’s allowing efforts to continue to ramp up.
“Clearly there is much more coming from the Greens in this Budget – NZ First's tally is currently $4.9 billion, and the Greens are only sitting at $80 million,” Ms Dowie says.
Confirmation today that New Zealand First has rolled-over to allow the rollout of digital monitoring technology on commercial fishing boats is welcome and vindicates the work of the previous National Government, Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie and Fisheries spokesperson Ian McKelvie say.
“It’s good to see that after seven months of delays and stagnation, the Ardern-Peters Government has finally started to address the so-called technical and administrative issues they claimed surrounded electronic monitoring on commercial fishing vessels,” Ms Dowie says.
“However I am deeply disappointed that the Coalition continues to delay making a decision on extending this monitoring to include cameras. That’s despite all the evidence – and support from the Department of Conservation - that cameras will make a difference in protecting our marine mammals.
“This proves that Eugenie Sage has no influence on Stuart Nash and remains voiceless among her Coalition colleagues,” Ms Dowie says.
Mr McKelvie says today’s progress vindicates the earlier work of the previous National Government.
“Given the earlier protestations from New Zealand First, it’s wonderful to see how compliant they have become since the announcement Labour would give them $1 billion to spend on foreign aid.
“However, there must still be some infighting around the Cabinet table as the Coalition still doesn’t seem to have formed a view on whether that monitoring should include cameras.
“If rolled-out fully as we intended, digital monitoring will help revolutionise the way New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are managed and monitored and will help protect their sustainability,” he says.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has once again failed to do her job to improve environmental protections, today blocking an attempt to better protect endangered Great White Sharks, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“In Parliament today, the Conservation Minister prevented me from introducing my Members Bill, the Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill, which will keep both Stewart Islanders and endangered Great White Sharks safe.
“My Bill would help keep people and sharks safe and separate and it’s needed. There are real concerns in Stewart Island that commercial cage diving is making their beaches less safe. We need to do more to reduce the risk of shark attacks and ensure these endangered sharks are left alone.
“Unfortunately for our marine species, a lack of action from the Conservation Minister is becoming a pattern. She is refusing to put in place practical measures to better protect them.
“Ministry for Primary Industries figures show that since 2013, a dozen whales, two orca, six hectors dolphins, thousands of seals and more than 10,000 seabirds have been caught by commercial fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
“National had a plan to turn this around by introducing cameras and electronic monitoring on commercial fishing boats. But the Government has delayed this rollout and the result will mean our marine life is less well protected.
“Minister Sage has completely failed in her advocacy and clearly has no voice with her coalition colleagues who are unable, or unwilling, to overcome so-called ‘technical difficulties’ that are delaying a measure that will better protect our marine species.
“It’s not good enough that the very person charged with better protecting our environment is instead doing the opposite. I challenge Minister Sage and the Greens to live up to their promises.”
Sarah Dowie MP for Invercargill has introduced a Members’ Bill to the ballot to address a previously unregulated activity in New Zealand, shark cage diving.
“My Members Bill, the Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill has been lodged in the Members Ballot and would provide best practice regulations for shark cage diving activities,” Ms Dowie says.
“The Bill acknowledges and addresses the risk that is posed by shark cage diving that is carried out in close proximity to beaches. This risk is increased due to the nature of competing activities in coastal waters in the Stewart Island area, where shark cage diving is currently carried out.
“Water-users, residents and families on Stewart Island have felt endangered by shark cage diving operations that are carried out close to the shore. Something needs to be done to ensure that consideration of public safety surrounding shark cage diving activities is paramount.
“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill would provide conditions for granting permits relating to the geographical area within which the commercial shark cage diving operation may operate, as well as minimum distances of operation from specified locations such as beaches.
“It would also provide the means to ensure that the people operating the cages work in a way that poses no threat to sharks, while also mitigating the clear threat to the safety of the public using the sea for work or recreation.
“The introduction of the Bill to the ballot is supported by a number of organisations in the industry including PauaMac5 and the Kina Industry Council who welcome the clarity that the Bill would provide on this serious ongoing issue.
“I have had ongoing involvement with the matter since it was initially brought to my attention in 2014 and I am excited to lodge this Members’ Bill in the Members’ Bill Ballot. If it is drawn from the ballot I look forward to seeking cross-party support.”
National Party Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie has welcomed the Department of Conservation’s rollout of cleaning stations in response to the spread of kauri dieback.
“Kauri dieback is devastating our forests and one of our most iconic tree species and we must be doing everything we can to stop it.
“The previous National Government was hugely focused on doing so, initially allocating nearly $30 million dollars to fast-track and beef up the Government’s response.
“Since then however, the new Government and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage have been too slow in moving to stop the spread.
“The Minister needs to start getting more done to ensure that Conservation is not a forgotten priority.
“On top of her inexplicable failure to rollout monitoring cameras on fishing boats to better protect our marine species she is fast looking like she is either uncommitted to conservation or failing to get the support of her fellow governing parties to do her job.
“In the meantime action on protecting our environment has gone backwards, kauri dieback continues to spread, and we need more action from our floundering Government.”
Sarah Dowie's Member's Bill to streamline the process for bringing tortious actions forward has passed unanimously in Parliament today.
"This Private International Law (Choice of Tort) Bill simplifies and improves a complex piece of law, bringing New Zealand into step with comparable countries," Ms Dowie says.
"The previous law was notoriously difficult for lawyers and judges to understand and apply, let alone everyday New Zealanders.
"My Bill replaces the complicated set of criteria on which laws apply for torts that involve other countries, establishing a general rule that means the laws of the country where the event happened apply.
"Furthermore, it creates a simple clarification of the law specifically for property torts, meaning the law of the jurisdiction where the property was damaged applies.
"Lastly, the Bill provides the judiciary the flexibility to make exceptions to the new rules outlined above, in situations where it is appropriate and pragmatic for this to occur.
“I am pleased to see the Parliament support this Bill.”
National MP Sarah Dowie is pleased that the Government has adopted her amendment to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill which boosts the number of hours that parents on Parental Leave can return to work without forfeiting their entitlement.
“Extending the number of keeping-in-touch days is great for parents and means that they can maintain the balance between time off to care for baby and the connection with their workplace, without worrying about losing their leave entitlements,” Ms Dowie says.
The amendment extends the number of keeping-in-touch days commensurate to the extension of Paid Parental Leave. A parent will not be treated as having returned to work if they perform 52 (up from 40) hours or fewer of paid work during their leave period. This takes effect when the leave is increased from 18 to 22 weeks on 1 July 2018. It will then extend to 64 hours when the leave is further increased from 22 to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.
“Many parents like to be able to pop into work from time to time while they’re on leave with their little one so it makes sense to ensure that if we extend the parental leave period we also extend the number of keeping-in-touch days,” Ms Dowie says.
“This amendment is a straightforward tidy-up which the Government should have done through a Cabinet Committee before rushing the Bill through Parliament.
“I’m glad that in this case the Government has seen sense and adopted my change to the Bill, although it is disappointing and surprising that they have not taken up National’s other proposed change which would have allowed both parents to take Paid Parental Leave at the same time.”
The Santa Parade is always a highlight for young and old and I had a wonderful time at this year’s parade with Mayor’s Tim Shadbolt, Gary Tong and Tracy Hicks. The floats were amazing with so many local businesses supporting this year’s event. Even the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic crowd. Mayor Tim’s scooter was a highlight, as was the big man himself!
Another highlight this month was hosting Hon Judith Collins in the electorate. I had a very busy day with the Police and Corrections Minister joining Super Blues for morning tea, touring the Invercargill Prison upgrade and meeting with the staff at Invercargill Central Police Station. We ended the day with an inspirational talk by the Minister to the Glass Elevator Women’s networking group.
Launch of the Southern Regional Development Action Plan
The big economic success story for the regions is right here in in our backyard. At the Southern Regional Development Action Plan launch held recently at Bill Richardson Transport World, Ministers Steven Joyce and Nathan Guy announced a $2.4 million package from the Government to support the regional growth plan for Southland. Our aquaculture, tourism, primary industries and education sectors have all benefited from the funding boost.
Southland Education Centre
Recently I had the pleasure of officially opening the Southland Education Centre at Southland Hospital. The centre provides staff and students the opportunity to further develop their skills and expertise. Other health groups and organisations will also be able to access this high tech resource centre which will benefit the delivery of healthcare in the wider community.
Out and about in the electorate
Last month Donovan School invited me to see the new learning spaces for the students. With one now in use and two more due for completion early next year, the students will be looking forward to learning in these new, high tech and innovative classrooms. Principal Peter Hopwood has seen the school role increase dramatically over the last 12 months and I am impressed at how he has guided the school through these changes.
I also had the opportunity to visit Otatara School last month. Principal Sharon Livingston and her hard-working team are very proud of their school and students. I was lucky enough to see the school haka being performed and Room 7 had prepared a question and answer session for me. I had a wonderful time meeting the students and I would like to thank to the young student leaders who were my tour guides during my visit.
SIT Graduation Ceremony
A huge number of graduates attended the SIT Graduation ceremony earlier this month and it was my privilege to be invited to welcome the students and their supporters to the ceremony. I would like to congratulate the graduates for their commitment and dedication to completing their studies and I wish them luck as they take that the next step on their journey.
With exams now completed, schools have been able to celebrate their student success and I would like to congratulate all those who received awards in recognition of their schooling excellence in their chosen fields. I also acknowledge those students who were awarded school dux for this year and leadership roles for 2017.
And so with that, we come to the close of another year. Thank you for all your support, it has been a wonderful 12 months and I look forward to working with you again in 2017. I hope you have the chance to spend time in the company of friends and loved ones over the Christmas period.
My office will be closed from 21 December, reopening on 23 January.
Have a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year.