Environment Minister David Parker’s bull in a china shop approach to resolving freshwater issues in New Zealand is hindering progress on an issue of real importance to all New Zealanders, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Kahui Wai Māori – the Māori Freshwater Forum was established just two weeks ago to resolve issues around Māori rights to fresh water and is now teetering on the verge of collapse after iwi leaders pulled the pin over a lack of consultation.
“To be in this position at such an early stage is a defeat for a Minister who has stated he wants to be judged on his ability to make progress on water issues.
“This is only the start of a long, drawn-out legal battle that could put us back a decade or more in terms of progress on fresh water.
“True to form Mr Parker has arrogantly dismissed the concerns of the iwi leaders. This Government continues to show that it thinks it knows best, that it does not want its ideas challenged, and that it’s quick to insult and denigrate those who disagree with it.
“Water policy remains a confusing mess for parties in Government.
“Before the last election, Labour, NZ First and the Greens claimed that solving water issues in New Zealand was easy.
“Labour campaigned on a royalty on the commercial consumption of water, which would include working with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims. However, as NZ First is opposed to Māori ownership rights that policy was canned when the coalition was formed.
“Meanwhile the Greens are still saying Māori have water rights, but as usual they’re sidelined.
“Winston Peters promised an immediate royalty on bottled water exports if he entered Government – but ten months later the Government’s been told by its own officials that this would breach free trade agreements, though Mr Peters and Mr Parker are also dismissive of that advice.
"National maintains the position that water is not owned by anybody. It’s a public resource and must be managed in the public interest.
“However, we recognise iwi have a particular interest of water within their tribal areas and we amended the RMA last year to ensure iwi have a say in how councils in their region manage freshwater.
“The reason this issue is now going to court is the parties in Government created such high expectations and is now ratting on them.
“National’s approach was considered and moderate meaning we were making progress without ending up in court for nine years. This Government’s managed to end up there in little more than nine months.”
There have now been twice as many people go on strike in the past ten months than in the entire nine years of the previous National-led Government, National’s spokespeople for Workplace Relations and Safety, Scott Simpson and Dan Bidois say.
“We have seen more people strike in the past ten months than in the previous nine years because this Government has lost all credibility at the negotiating table after excessively ramping up union expectations around pay rises for public servants during the election,” Mr Simpson says.
“Yesterday saw almost 30,000 primary teachers strike for the first time since 1994. This means more than 60,000 people have gone on strike across a number of crucial sectors including education, health, retail, manufacturing, transport, and in the public sector.
“And there are more to come. The 60,000 strikes already this year come before the Government’s proposed union-friendly employment law changes are imposed which will make it harder to do business and hire workers.
“National supports higher wages but the way to increase them is through building a strong economy, not tanking it through regressive labour changes and anti-growth policies which sink business confidence and slow the economy.”
Associate Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Mr Bidois says New Zealand’s current labour law settings are some of the best and most successful in the world, but the Government’s plan to deliver more rigid union powers will deliver less jobs, lower wages and more strikes.
“The Government has introduced legislation that would significantly strengthen union power and increase compliance costs on businesses. They would make businesses less productive, reducing their confidence to employ new staff, lift wages or invest for growth.
“These reforms are one of the main causes of New Zealand’s plummeting business confidence which is already flowing through to reduced job creation and lower wage growth. The uncertainty the proposed changes are creating is unsurprising when even the Prime Minister is publicly getting the detail of the legislation wrong.
“These changes are bad for business and bad for workers – the only winners are Labour’s union mates.
“National opposes these reforms and urges the Government to go back to the drawing board to avoid further disruptive strike action, rather than turning a blind eye to businesses’ concerns in the name of ideology.”
The news that the nurses have settled is small comfort to the public given that a number of other sectors and industries are experiencing the effects of an uncertain industrial relations climate, National’s spokesperson for Workplace Relations and Safety Scott Simpson says.
“This is just the first chapter in a risky and uncertain industrial relations saga. After an extremely disruptive strike and the threat of further industrial action from 30,000 nurses pay negotiations have been finalised – but the industrial unrest is by no means over.
“Bus drivers, port workers, meat workers, Government staff and teachers are just a few of the industries that are still involved in potential industrial action. That’s more than 50,000 workers who are considering their options to pursue costly strikes.
“This situation is entirely of the Governments own making. The Labour-led Government has billions of dollars to spend but they chose to prioritise fees free and Shane Jones’ slush fund. It also promised much more than it could deliver prior to the election and since it came into office.
“The Government has not only completely lost control of industrial relations in this country but it is further contributing to the mess it has made.
“Ending the starting out wage, removing 90 day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff, legislating consecutive unsustainable leaps in the minimum wage, reducing flexibility and encouraging 70s style standardised wages bargaining will all contribute to an unsettled industrial climate.
“The Government needs to get its act together and ensure that the escalation in industrial action since it came into office does not continue. New Zealanders deserve a Government that prioritises stable industrial relations.”
The Government must be responsible with Kiwi families’ incomes in their approach to waste and must consider their commitment to impose no new taxes when deciding on extending the waste disposal levy, National’s spokesperson for the Environment Scott Simpson says.
“The Government has made a commitment to introduce no new taxes in this term. Any move to increase the waste disposal levy, which they seem to be leaning towards, must be balanced against this promise.
“Excessively increasing the levy, as Minister Sage has spoken about, would increase costs on families and likely lead to more dumping of waste. This would be completely counterproductive to more effectively managing and reducing our waste.
“This Government is already adding thousands of dollars a year in costs to Kiwi households through cancelled tax cuts, higher rents, slower GDP growth and the cost of petrol. Extending and increasing the waste disposal levy would place more cost on Kiwi families who are already seeing increased costs under this Government.
“It must ensure that they are taking the best approach in terms of balancing the interests of the environment, Kiwis’ incomes and the industries who are spearheading the changes.
“The Government’s signalled approach to ban plastic bags is an example of needless virtue signalling. Especially when the industry was already phasing them out.
“Typically most cost effective efficient solutions are industry lead without the need for heavy-handed regulation. That’s why in Government, National worked hard with industry to take an industry-led response to combat the usage of single-use plastic bags.
“We secured an agreement that will see a reduction of 75 per cent of plastic bags used in New Zealand this year. And this was done without imposing new taxes, increasing costs on families or increasing regulation.
“People and businesses must be responsible for their own actions and inactions. Approaches by businesses and communities that promote reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering resources will see an attitude change that will have a more positive, enduring effect.
“National takes a very pragmatic and practical view towards environmental protection and enhancement. We are open to exploring other options in our effort to reduce waste. But we don’t want to see the Government imposing significant costs on Kiwis, especially in light of their promise to bring in no new taxes.”
Businesses are right to be concerned about Government proposals to wind back the clock on industrial relations, strengthening union powers and pitting employers against employees, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“These planned reforms would mean fewer jobs for New Zealanders and less competitive businesses – it is no wonder that businesses are speaking out against it.
“Already we’ve seen more strike action in the first nine months of this Government than in nine years under National, and with the union-friendly reforms the Government is proposing we can be sure there will be more on the way.
“Ending the starting out wage, removing 90 day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff, consecutive unsustainable leaps in the minimum wage, reducing flexibility, and 70s style standardised wages bargaining will all increase risks and costs for small and medium-sized businesses.
“We all benefit when businesses have the confidence to grow, employ more staff and lift wages. This Government’s policies are doing the exact opposite – poor business confidence means employers’ hiring intentions under this Government are the lowest since the Global Financial Crisis.
“We have excellent employment regulations that have seen 10,000 jobs created every month for the last two years. The Government’s changes will put that at risk. They’ll hurt Kiwi families, with unions being the only winner.
“I’m pleased that businesses are taking a stand and encouraging people to speak out against the changes, and I encourage everyone who is interested in a more productive economy that supports both employers and workers to do so.”
The Government’s determination to force workers and industries to collectively bargain wages and conditions will drive down the competitiveness of our employers, while undercutting workers’ rights to tailor employment contracts to suit themselves, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Today’s announcement by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway sends a chilling messages to employers and exporters that competition will be sacrificed in order to advantage unions,” Mr Simpson says.
“The Government fails to explain why these changes are needed. In an environment of record job growth, they make no sense for the New Zealand economy, employers, or the 82 per cent of workers who do not belong to a union.
“This appears to be a simple payoff for Labour’s union supporters at the expense of everyone else.
“The Government is already driving employment law changes through Parliament that will restrict the choice and flexibility workers have, make it harder for businesses to innovate to boost productivity, and give unions rights they haven’t had before.
“Adding forced industry-wide collective bargaining on top of all this will add costs to businesses and take choices away from workers.
“It is impossible to simply legislate for higher wages. The global economy is more complicated than that.
“What works is a confident economy that exports its products to the world and can afford to pay workers more. In the last 12 months New Zealand’s terms of trade have been at a record high and the full-time average wage has increased 3.8 per cent.
“This is what a successful economic plan looks like.
“Labour’s determination to return to 1970s-style union-dominated collective bargaining will hurt workers at the very time when Government policies are already increasing the costs of living and making it harder for Kiwi families to get ahead.”
Environment Minister David Parker needs to learn from James Shaw’s recent charm offensive to farmers and stop beating up on them, National’s Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“David Parker’s extraordinary announcement that the Coalition Government plans to cap cattle herds in a bid to stem nutrient run-off has done nothing but further cement his reputation has a hard-line idealist who shoots from the hip and enjoys nothing more than beating up on farmers,” Mr Simpson says.
“This approach - which he began with farmers in Ashburton during the election campaign - does nothing to encourage environmental achievement or speed up freshwater quality improvements. All it does is fan the flames of a rural-urban divide.
“James Shaw, on the other hand, has acknowledging the enormous progress already made by our farmers in their environmental stewardship.
“Dairy farmers have spent $1 billion in five years on the likes of fencing and planting around waterways, culverts, bridges and other infrastructure to contain nutrient run-off.
“Could it be that Mr Shaw is becoming a practical environmentalist focused on striking the right balance between strong economic growth and responsible management of our precious environment?
“Where Mr Parker has failed so badly is in not recognising the improvements occurring because of strict regulations set by National, and administered by Regional Councils.
“The recent Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) report shows for all river water quality parameters measured over a ten year period, more waterways are improving than deteriorating.
“This is tangible proof of the progress being made and the hard work of farmers, councils and communities.
“When we came to office there were no National Policy Statements or National Environmental Standards on water quality. We invested a record $400 million in improving water quality and our regulatory framework under the Resource Management Act was on track to meet New Zealander’s aspirations for clean freshwater within a generation.
“It will be a retrograde step for water quality reform if the Government attempts to overregulate an industry that is already working towards improving water quality.
“My message to David Parker is to change his tune, and quickly. Perhaps James Shaw might be able to offer some pointers,” Mr Simpson says.
National’s Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson’s Members Bill to toughen up the penalties for people caught illegally dumping rubbish has passed its first reading in Parliament today.
“Nothing annoys me more than seeing our beautiful natural environment ruined by the careless and thoughtless actions of lazy litter bugs”, Mr Simpson says.
“It’s far too common to see people brazenly throwing litter from moving cars to say nothing of others who dump their rubbish.
“That’s why I sponsored a Member’s Bill to ensure we have more tools to help prevent littering and keep our communities safe and clean. This Bill will increase the maximum instant fines councils can impose for those caught littering from measly $400 to a serious $1000. This will send a clear message to those who litter that it is entirely unacceptable.
“Local councils and communities are constantly dealing with the mess left behind by those who would rather litter our countryside than dispose of their rubbish correctly. New Zealanders are rightly proud of our environment and while the overwhelming majority do the right thing, it is spoiled by those who refuse to.”
In Auckland alone, litter clean-up costs almost $5 million a year. This is money that could be better spent on things like roads and parks for the community.
“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 we 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.”
The Litter Increased Infringement Fee Amendment Bill has been referred to the Environment select committee for consideration and opened to submissions from the public.
The Ardern-Peters Government’s employment law changes will cause significant problems for New Zealand’s tourism industry, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay and Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“The tourism sector has rightly put its hand up and said these reforms will make it harder to sustain and grow the sector,” Mr McClay says.
“In particular they have singled out the rest and meal breaks provisions as completely inflexible and unworkable.
“This is a sector made up of a huge variety of businesses that are busy at different times of the day and different days of the week. Requiring everyone to down tools at the same time is impractical for a service sector dealing with international visitors.
“It’s also telling that the tourism industry identifies that the 90 day trial changes will work in exactly the opposite direction than the Government intends,” Mr Simpson says.
“This sector, which employs over eight per cent of New Zealanders, is known for taking on young and new workers and giving them their first jobs. Surely that’s what the Government wants.
“When tourism operators say the law change will make it riskier and less likely for the operators to take a chance on people on the fringe of the workforce, they should be listened to.
“The test will be whether the Government chooses to listen, or whether they have decided they’ll ram these changes through regardless of whether they are good for our country and our workers.”
“The tourism sector is the largest export industry in New Zealand and it’s made up of a huge number of mostly small businesses,” Mr McClay says.
“If they haven’t earned the right to have their concerns acted on by central Government, then who has?”
Not one, but two, chief executives will reappear at a Select Committee this week to correct the record following inconsistencies exposed by National MPs, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“In the same week as Radio New Zealand’s CEO and chair are being recalled to correct the record regarding the Carol Hirschfeld-Clare Curran saga, the chief executive of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will reappear to answer a number of questions around contradictory evidence given to the Environment Select Committee in February,” Mr Simpson says.
“At his last select committee appearance on 15 February, chief executive Dr Allan Freeth assured us there had been no discussion, questions or issues with the Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage, over the Chief Scientist or over the EPA’s role, independence or expression of views.
“He said this despite Eugenie Sage later stating publicly that she had actually met with the EPA on the issue, and the paper record shows she sent emails to the EPA that were critical of the Chief Scientist.
“We also know that this issue was discussed at the first meeting between Eugenie Sage and the Dr Freeth in late November. The Chief Scientist resigned in February.
“If the EPA is to be an effective environmental watchdog, then it needs to be completely free of any ministerial interference.
“It is critical for the Government to be held responsible for its repeated attempts to cover up examples of Ministerial interference.
“It is without question that in New Zealand environmental regulatory decisions should be made on the basis of science and not politics.
“We intend to hold the Government to account for inappropriate ministerial interference in public agencies like the EPA and RNZ. New Zealand’s public sector needs scientists and journalists that are independent of the Government of the day,” Mr Simpson says.