The Government needs to step up to assist in the cleaning up the Westland landfill washout, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This is a large scale environmental disaster. It’s unacceptable to have rubbish from the disused landfill spewing out into one of New Zealand’s most pristine natural environments.
“I visited the site over the Easter break with local West Coast based National MP Maureen Pugh. What we saw was heart-breaking. It’s so sad to see old rubbish like this in one of our country’s most magnificent natural places. Future floods will see more rubbish washed down river and into the ocean.
“This is a Government that says it cares about the environment, but when action and financial support is required, it is nowhere to be seen. The Council has done what it can as a patch up job. But with more bad winter weather coming soon, a much bigger, costlier solution is required.
“Associate Environment Minister, Conservation Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage needs to step up but she says she won’t. No wonder people are saying this Government doesn’t walk the talk when it comes to environmental issues.
“Some people have described the landfill washout as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith told me his council can’t keep funding the clean-up work by itself. Minister Eugenie Sage needs to provide some meaningful financial support right now.
“Ms Sage has options and funding could be made available if she wanted it to be. The fact she hasn’t done anything speaks volumes about her actual commitment to our environment.
“Volunteers have been doing a terrific job trying to pick up rubbish but we can’t rely on the goodwill of small teams of volunteers to sort a disaster of this scale.
“The Government is failing the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment. It’s time for the Government to stop telling us how much it cares and to actually do something tangible.”
Some 8000 jobs may be lost with today’s minimum wage hike, about equal to the population of Motueka, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National raised the minimum wage every year in Government in step with inflation and economy-wide wage rises. They were reasonable and manageable for small businesses, but this Government’s decisions are too much, too fast and based on ideology and political deal-making.
“Today’s minimum wage hike is the steepest in New Zealand history and forces new costs onto businesses, making it harder for them to maintain or create new jobs. Two more sharp increases are coming by 2020 because of Labour’s coalition deal with NZ First.
“Workers and businesses are being hurt by this Government’s poor policy decisions on employment. They’ll soon both lose control of decisions on pay and conditions when they’re forced into compulsory national awards.
“We have much to be proud of as a world-beating economy of nimble, innovative companies that grow and hire more workers. But this Government is dragging us back to an age when New Zealand limped along on subsidies and was held hostage by trade unions.
“We’re enduring the worst outbreak of strikes in three decades and employment data is deteriorating. Unemployment has jumped by 10,000 in the past three months and 11,000 more people have enrolled on jobseeker in the past year. ANZ’s business confidence survey shows firms’ willingness to hire more workers has all but stalled.
“Even the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund is a sham for jobs with hardly any created. The last thing we need is Government policies killing off jobs and stifling our economy but now even the Reserve Bank says the New Zealand economy is losing momentum.
“Advice to Iain Lees-Galloway shows this year’s minimum wage hike will cost the Government $93 million and add $230 million of costs to New Zealand in total, inevitably leading to higher prices. Treasury says further hikes to reach $20/hour by 2021 ‘could be more significant’.
“National supports policies that drive economic growth and ultimately benefit all our communities. We need a productive, growing economy to meet the needs of all New Zealanders.”
Thousands of commuters on Auckland’s North Shore felt the effects of the Government’s close union ties when bus services were cancelled without notice this morning, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Strikes inconvenience the public at the best of times. But wildcat strikes, without notice, are the worst kind of militant action and use ordinary Kiwis as leverage in industrial disputes.
“The Government has empowered its union affiliates through legislation which has encouraged the most strikes in decades, with worse to come. It appears indifferent to the disruptions inflicted on our communities.
“North Shore commuters paid the price with a bus strike today they didn’t know was taking place. They had no chance to make other travel arrangements. The Labour-led Government needs to condemn this type of blunt-force strike action.
“Wildcat strikes do nothing to enhance the public’s already low opinion of trade union militancy and the Government needs to make clear to union bosses that strikes without notice are unacceptable.
“The Government must take much of the blame for this new era of strikes since it has imposed laws that give statutory authority to the unions, make our workplaces less flexible, drive up costs and make it harder for businesses to create new jobs.
“National believes economic growth is the best way to drive up wage growth and create employment opportunities. We will reverse this Government’s employment law changes and focus on a sensible economic growth strategy that give all Kiwis more opportunities.”
The recommendations of Iain Lees-Galloway’s Fair Pay Agreement Working Group show the Government’s industrial relations agenda amounts to compulsory unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Businesses and workers should be frightened. The recommendations from the working group are as radical as we originally feared - backward, one-size-fits-all and rigid.
“Just 10 per cent of an industry would be able to trigger mandatory nationwide employment negotiations. Business owners would lose control over an important part of running their enterprise. Workers would be forced into line with the union movement.
“One of the most worrying aspects is the lack of opt-out provisions for businesses. That means both small and large businesses across New Zealand will be coerced into more restrictive, costly employment agreements. That is a step towards compulsory unionism.
“The Government needs to quickly dismiss these radical recommendations and give certainty to businesses and workers that they will not be coerced into these restored national awards. They hurt our economy in the 1970s and they will hurt it now.
“It is also worrying for the credibility of the recommendations if it is true that some working group members were prevented from expressing their own view of an appropriate framework. The report should reflect the entire spectrum of opinion of its members, not just the union and academic majority.
“National believes the best framework to increase wages over time includes flexible labour markets, respect for the right of individual workers and businesses to agree to their own terms and allows workers to negotiate their own contracts based on productivity or experience.”
As local councils grapple with the litter left behind by holidaymakers, a Member's Bill from National could soon introduce stiffer penalties for people caught illegally dumping rubbish, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
"It really annoys me seeing our beautiful natural environment ruined by the careless and thoughtless actions of lazy litterbugs.
"It's sadly far too common to see people brazenly throwing litter from moving cars, to say nothing of others who dump their rubbish without a thought about the impacts.
“My Member’s Bill will ensure Councils have a more powerful tool to help prevent littering and keep our communities safe and clean. It is due to have its Second Reading in Parliament in February.
“This Bill will increase the maximum on-the-spot infringement fines councils can impose for those caught littering from the current measly $400 to a serious $1000. This will send a clear message to those who litter that it is entirely unacceptable.
“Councils and communities are continually dealing with the mess left behind by those who would instead litter our countryside than dispose of their rubbish legally and properly.
“As the MP for Coromandel, I see how particularly bad litter is during the holiday season when we have thousands of visitors. Some of them care little about the litter they leave behind when they go home.
“With the current maximum infringement fine set at just $400 some councils don’t even bother issuing on the spot litter fines. I hope an increase to a $1000 maximum will change that and send a strong message to litterbugs.
“This Members Bill builds on National’s previous efforts to curb littering which included the ‘Do the Right Thing’ anti-littering campaign and funding of over $80 million to more than 130 projects through the Waste Minimisation Fund.
“Fines are just one part of the solution but, combined with working with councils and changing people’s attitudes I believe we can reduce the amount of litter left behind and ensure our environment looks better, our wildlife is better protected, and our clean, green reputation is upheld.”
Today’s $1.20 per hour wage hike will be welcomed by workers on the minimum wage but will cost jobs and make it harder for businesses already struggling with new taxes and higher costs, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National supports consistent increases to the minimum wage and we raised it every year we were in Government. Increases need to reflect the economic climate and inflation. While signalled, a 7 per cent hike to $17.70 an hour is steep, and so is the extra $231 million a year in costs it will impose on New Zealand businesses.
“While the announcement is good news for workers on the lowest pay rates for others it will mean their jobs are in jeopardy as businesses will struggle to absorb the new costs.
“Just last year MBIE said a similar increase of $1.25 would cost 7000 jobs and increase inflation. Some businesses will struggle as a result of this increase and jobs will go with them. We already have the highest minimum wage relative to the average wage in the OECD and this will make us more of an outlier.
“It’s yet another decision made by this Government which will make it harder to do business.
“The problem is Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway knows that and has said he doesn’t care. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
“You simply can’t just legislate your way to prosperity – if you could you’d simply make the minimum wage $50. But artificially inflating wages is no substitute for an economic plan.
“The fact is these decisions have consequences but like so much of what this Government does it hasn’t thought those through.”
Government Ministers should explain why the worst year for strikes in three decades will be rounded out by a stoppage by Air New Zealand engineers on the Friday before Christmas, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Calling a strike on the airline’s busiest day of the year is designed to maximise the disruption to the tens of thousands of Kiwis travelling to be with family over Christmas. It is just the latest move by a union movement empowered by its mates in the Government.
“As a result, the whole country is held to ransom. This is exactly the sort of strike the Prime Minister told us wouldn’t happen. Labour is taking us back to 1970s-style adversarial union activity except back then it was Cook Strait ferry unions disrupting Christmas.
“This Government holds Air New Zealand up as an example of best practice for industrial relations. In debate over the Employment Relations Amendment Bill this week, Labour MP Marja Lubeck said union delegates at the airline play a crucial role in ‘coming to a good, concluded bargaining that ensures that both sides of the party win’.
“Ordinary New Zealanders will certainly not be winners. Some 42,000 people are booked to fly on Dec. 21 and they don’t deserve to have their Christmas break disrupted by the Labour Party’s union affiliates. This is on top of news that petrol tanker drivers will strike in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday.
“The Labour-led Government must take much of the blame for the number of disruptive strikes this year since it has signalled that this is a time for pay increases and has imposed laws that give statutory authority to the unions, make our workplaces less flexible, drive up costs and make it harder for businesses to create new jobs.
“National believes economic growth is the best way to drive up wage growth and create employment opportunities. We will reverse this Government’s employment law changes and focus on a sensible economic growth strategy that gives all Kiwis more opportunities.”
The Labour-led Government has persisted with employment law changes that will hurt the New Zealand economy, our businesses and workers, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Iain Lees-Galloway has claimed the Employment Relations Amendment Bill was intended to make life better for working New Zealanders. The real intent is to strengthen the rights of Labour’s union affiliates while doing little for the 83 per cent of workers who aren’t union members.
“This Bill forces extra costs on business, allows pay rates to be settled elsewhere and lets union officials enter workplaces unannounced.
“The coalition’s junior partner, NZ First, has failed to get any substantial push-back on what is an ideologically driven Bill. Given it wrangled a $3 billion slush fund out of the coalition agreement, the public must wonder what horse-trading went on to tame Winston Peters.
“Business leaders say they were ignored during the passage of the Bill and may have been hoping NZ First would argue on behalf of firms both large and small. But it has achieved little for the SMEs it purports to care for, which will now face increased costs they can’t control.
“Workplace flexibility is a key pillar of New Zealand’s economic growth and explains why we have one of the world’s highest rates of employment. Under current law, some 245,000 jobs have been created in the past two years. That’s an extra 5 per cent of Kiwis in work.
“Instead of trying to enhance the strengths of our economy, this Government has sparked the worst year of strikes in three decades, with no end in sight. Families with school children, commuters and people using health and justice services are among those being disrupted.
“Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is under scrutiny in other portfolios for skipping key details. He can’t be relied on to avoid hurting the economy with this Bill.
“A good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy that creates jobs and nurtures our communities. A future National-led Government will repeal this attempt to take us back to 1970s-style adversarial union activity.”
New Zealand businesses deeply unsettled by labour law reform now have another concern, with lightning strikes deemed an appropriate negotiating tactic, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesman Scott Simpson says.
“Business was ignored in the Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which curbs workplace flexibility and undermines a key pillar of New Zealand’s economic growth. In the worst year of strikes in 30, there’s now the prospect of strikes with no warning.
“This week’s Employment Court decision not to rule lightning strikes by Ministry of Justice court staff illegal, even though only 30 minutes notice was given, will only encourage more industrial action and more disruptive tactics.
“A Justice Ministry official has warned of health and safety risks if courts had suddenly to be cleared, especially cases involving angry criminal defendants or rival gang members. Disruptions could also affect time-sensitive cases in the Family Court.
“This Government has only itself to blame for creating high expectations that have emboldened unions to take strike action of the sort we haven’t seen for decades.
“National opposes the Government’s employment reforms. Businesses large and small will bear the brunt if it passes into law as is, which will see pay rises decided elsewhere and union officials able to barge into workplaces unannounced.
“National supports higher wages but the way to increase them is by building a strong economy allowing businesses to grow, create jobs and pay more.”
The Labour-led Government is choosing to ignore the very real fears locals have for their safety when travelling from Tauranga to Katikati by not upgrading the route to four lanes, local MPs for Coromandel and Bay of Plenty Scott Simpson and Todd Muller say.
“The previous National Government had committed to building a Tauranga to Katikati Expressway as part of the next generation of Roads of National Significance, but it is clear now that the new Government has other priorities,” Mr Simpson says.
“This road would have seen a continuous four-lane highway from Tauranga to Katikati with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and a centre barrier to separate traffic coming from the other direction. All vital safety improvements for a modern road.
“In 2016 then Minister of Transport Simon Bridges committed $520 million to build the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL). That project was going to be a completely upgraded four-lane highway and would have been underway by now, if this Government hadn’t slashed highway funding.
“The new plans for the Government’s TNL includes a new two-lane road between Te Puna and Tauranga, with incentives for public transport and high occupancy vehicles.”
“This is woefully inadequate, shows no understanding of the needs of the community, and lacks any future vision for the Bay. It’s been watered down to the point where it’s unrecognisable. It’s the TNL in name only,” Mr Muller says.
“The Bay is booming. We want to see the Government commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs. Unfortunately, Transport Minister Phil Twyford seems unaware that there is life south of the Bombay hills and is taking an Auckland-centric approach.
“This is just one of many examples of the Government stripping funding away from regional New Zealand and feeding it back to Auckland, specifically for Mr Twyford’s pet tram project.
“Regional New Zealand deserves better – and our communities deserve better.
“Under National construction would have begun on the TNL last month, but this Government can’t even give us a start date.”