The Government needs to reconsider its decision to can a key strategic transport network in Auckland, the East-West Link, as congestion in the city continues to worsen, MPs for Pakuranga and Maungakiekie Simeon Brown and Denise Lee say.
“Despite the business case for the East-West Link stacking up, the project was left out of the Government’s transport plan. Commuters are facing rising petrol costs due to the regional fuel tax, but aren’t seeing the investment in significant roads like the East-West Link,” Mr Brown says.
“The East-West Link would have had an enormous benefit for local and national economies. By cancelling the route, the Government has clearly signalled it does not take congestion in Auckland seriously.
“The new route would have improved safety and accessibility for cycling and walking and provide transport choices for people in our communities.
“Transport continues to be one of the most important issues for residents in my electorate of Pakuranga, with many working at or owning businesses in the area that would have benefitted from this project.”
“East-West Link would provide a new transport connection, making it easier for local business owners, freight and customers to get in and out of the Onehunga – Penrose area, supporting the movement of goods, services and people for Auckland,” Ms Lee says.
“There are over 6000 daily freight movements on Church Street alone. We need to get these trucks off our suburban roads for the sake of local residents and businesses.
“The area targeted by the East West Link employs over 130,000 people and contributes roughly $10 billion a year to Auckland’s economy. The key aspect of the project was to create a further connection between SH1 and SH20, and improve connections to rail and freight hubs in the area.
“Commuters are under pressure from rising petrol costs and increasing congestion. It simply isn’t right for them to pay that price without the Government reinvesting it into the roads they’re using. Transport Minister Phil Twyford has been asleep at the wheel in finding an alternative solution.”
Synthetic drugs are a blight on our society, and those who deal and profit from them have been put on notice today as the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill passed its second reading, MP for Pakuranga Simeon Brown says.
“More than 45 deaths have been attributed to synthetic drugs this past 12 months alone, with a countless number of people also being admitted to hospitals requiring treatment due to harmful side effects.
“This needs to stop. One of the key principles of Government is the protection of its citizens from things that would do them harm, and I’m pleased to see that at least a small part of the current Government acknowledges that.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank New Zealand First for their continued support of my Bill and for standing with National as we seek to protect New Zealanders from these harmful substances.
“My Bill will increase the maximum prison sentence for those caught dealing synthetic drugs from 2 years to 8 years, which will deter suppliers and give our justice system more power to keep these criminals away from the vulnerable people they prey on.
“We cannot simply reclassify a couple of strains here and there and hope the problem goes away. Illegal manufacturers have had little difficulty reworking their drugs to differentiate them from those we’ve identified and regulated, so blanket penalties are required to get them off the streets and this is what my Bill will accomplish.
“Enough is enough, and it’s time for the rest of the Government to get on board and take this issue seriously before more irreversible harm is done. As a Parliament we need to be united in our ambition to care for and protect our fellow New Zealanders, and my Bill is an important step in the fight to eradicate harmful synthetics.
“I’m calling on the Government to support my Bill when it returns for its third reading to send a clear message that dealing deadly drugs will no longer be tolerated in New Zealand.”
The Government will have the opportunity to take action against the growing damage caused by synthetic drugs when the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill returns to Parliament tomorrow for its second reading, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says.
“With more than 45 deaths attributed to synthetic drugs in the past 12 months it has become clear that this is a very serious issue facing our communities, and immediate action needs to be taken.
“I am calling on the three Government parties to support my Bill tomorrow and ensure it sees a third reading. Action needs to be taken to deter suppliers from dealing these drugs and we must give the courts the power to keep these criminals away from vulnerable New Zealanders.
“Too many Kiwis have died and too many families have been left heartbroken by the loss of their loved ones, all because of drug dealers who couldn’t care less about the harm they are causing.
“As a Parliament we need to stand up and say enough is enough. My Bill will increase the maximum penalties for those caught dealing synthetic drugs from 2 years in prison to 8 years but will more importantly send a message to these merchants of death that their enterprise will no longer be tolerated.
“New Zealanders need their Parliament to take real action against crime, and simply reclassifying a couple of synthetic strains won’t cut it. Illegal manufacturers have proven they have no difficulty reworking these drugs to bypass regulated strains, so blanket penalties on them and their suppliers are required to deal with the issue once and for all.
“I hope the Government will support my Bill as a significant first step towards tackling what is fast becoming an epidemic.”
The Government needs to explain why it hasn’t started a review into the Psychoactive Substances legislation despite it being legally required to, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says.
“When the National Government passed the law to make synthetic drugs illegal it added a clause that the law must be reviewed every five years.
“The reason that’s so important is because the ingredients of the drugs, how they’re supplied and the technology used are always changing, which means we need to make sure the law remains fit for purpose.
“The Coalition Government claims that it is taking urgent action around synthetic drugs, however this review was meant to start two months ago. I’ve asked questions of the Ministers of Health, Police, Customs and Justice which show no work has been done.
“When Winston Peters was the Acting Prime Minister he promised ‘urgent action’ after the deaths of up to 45 people and yet nothing has gone to Cabinet.
“If this Government was serious about taking action it would adopt my Members Bill which would see longer sentences for the people who supply these drugs. Instead the Government is all talk and no action.”
Today’s announcement that the financial viability of Whitireia and WelTec are considered at risk is due to the Government’s reckless election promise to arbitrarily slash immigration while paying the tertiary fees of wealthy students, National’s Associate Tertiary spokesperson Simeon Brown says.
“The Government’s campaign on slashing immigration and international student numbers has sent a shock through our tertiary education sector.
“National warned it would have a chilling effect on our $4.4 billion international student market and today’s announcements has proven that demonstrably true.
“It is disturbing to hear that the viability of institutions like Whitireia and WelTec are considered at risk which could affect hundreds of jobs and thousands of students.
“Proposals to clamp down on post-study work rights for international students were heard in overseas markets, dampening interest in New Zealand and spooking the sector, with the likes of Manukau Institute of Technology also warning of major financial impacts.
“This is all down to the Government’s priorities. Budget 2018 was the first in a decade not to increase funding for the sector as the Government chose to spend $2.8 billion on free fees instead.
“Now we see the immediate impact of that decision, compounded by its reckless and cynical approach to immigration policy.
“The Government needs to put its reforms on ice and deal with the reality of a tertiary sector which relies on exporting education to the international market.
“Instead, it’s doubling down, dissolving councils, progressing changes to in-study work rights for international students, and committing to extending the fees free scheme to the second and third year of study.
“These changes are putting hundreds of jobs in the tertiary education sector at risk, and come on top of the Government’s other anti-growth policies which are making businesses less confident to invest, to lift wages and hire new workers.”
The Government’s major backdown on post-study work rights for international students is welcome, but the damage to New Zealand’s international reputation has already been done, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse and Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown say.
“Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has been forced into a U-turn on his proposed changes to post-study work rights after he was told it could cost more than $1 billion a year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“We told Labour before the election that its policy to slash the number of international students would gut the international education sector and grind our economy to a halt.
“Yet it still went ahead with proposing to require students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas to study in New Zealand for at least two years before becoming eligible for post-study work visas, which would have seen a major drop in student enrolments.
“Thanks to the chorus of voices that joined National in warning the Government that this proposal could result in 50 per cent fewer student enrolments next year at a cost of almost $500 million in export earnings per year, the Government has finally backed down.
“Had it not backed down, thousands of students studying one-year graduate diplomas would have had all post-study work rights removed. This would include, for example, teachers qualified overseas doing a one-year course to gain teacher registration in New Zealand.”
Mr Brown says the change would have had a significant impact not only on international education sector but on other sectors that relied on those skills so the backdown is welcome.
“But it’s too little too late, with news that the number of Chinese students coming to New Zealand fell for the first time since 2013 cutting millions of dollars from the sector,” he says.
“Given the Education Minister has signalled closures of polytechnics, institutes of technology and private training establishments, and Chinese student numbers could continue to fall by at least 30 per cent, the sector is already in real trouble.
“The previous National Government introduced measured, sensible changes to prevent student exploitation and improve the quality of private training establishments.
“It’s a relief that the Minister has now recognised that was the correct path to follow. There is no need for further reckless changes in order to meet an arbitrary immigration reduction target conjured up during an election campaign.”
Minister of Education Chris Hipkins’ has today revealed that our export education sector could take yet another hit with suggested closures and mergers on the way for our polytechs and ITP’s, Nationals associate spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Simeon Brown says.
“Not only will this sector suffer from the Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights but today it has been revealed that the review of the sector could result in the merging or closure of any number of these institutions,” Mr Brown says.
“These ITP’s and polytechs are a huge part of the communities that they are based in and the potential closures should not be taken lightly. This will have a huge impact on our regions where ITP’s are critical to the local skill requirements.
“This is also yet another hit on our export education sector at a time where we are already becoming a less attractive place to study as a result of the Government’s other changes.
“The changes the Government is making around post study work rights will also bring fewer people into the country to help fill shortages in our regions. The visa changes could also cost New Zealand 1,000 jobs and up to $1.4 billion. This is at a time where the economy is starting to cool and unemployment has started to rise.
“Manukau Institute of Technology has warned the Government that the proposed visa changes put their institution at risk of becoming financially unviable. This may in turn give the Government cause to close or merge the institution.
“The Government simply can’t gut New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner through its visa changes and then use their review as an excuse to merge or close these institutions.
“This is yet another part of our economy being undermined by a Government which is refusing to realise the real impact its bad decisions and anti-growth policies are having on New Zealand’s economy. This will affect our businesses and mean fewer jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders.
“Ministers must reconsider these changes immediately and ensure that the outcome of the review is not predetermined by the economic uncertainty that they are creating.”
The Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights for international students could cost New Zealand 1000 jobs and up to $1.4 billion, just as the economy starts to cool and unemployment starts to rise, say National’s Tertiary Education spokespeople Paula Bennett and Simeon Brown.
“The Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights have prompted forecasts from Aspire2 that show there could be a direct hit to the economy of up to $1.4 billion and result in a loss of up to 1000 jobs,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Today we’ve seen unemployment rise for the first time since 2016 as business confidence drops to its lowest level in a decade. Despite this, the Government seems intent on decimating a $4.5 billion sector.
“The Government’s changes are being made on the basis of preventing exploitation, which they should rightly be concerned with, but they should use some of their free-fees funding to boost the New Zealand Labour Inspectorate, instead of potentially crushing the sector.
“These changes risk driving education exports to countries like Canada who have clear and attractive policy settings for international students. Is the Government happy for Canadians to benefit from that $1.4 billion spend rather Kiwis?”
“Aspire2 also estimate that enrolments will drop by up to 90 per cent, forcing them to cut jobs and close a number of campuses which may force them out of the sector altogether,” says Mr Brown.
“Manukau Institute of Technology have also warned the Government that the proposed changes put their institution at risk of becoming financially unviable.
“The sector has made it clear that unintended consequences of the changes will also negatively impact the tourism and hospitality, horticulture, and agriculture industries.
“Ministers must reconsider these changes immediately before they put New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner at risk right when the economy is starting to wobble.”
If Winston Peters is serious about cracking down on synthetic cannabis with the ‘greatest urgency’, he must support National MP Simeon Brown’s Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill currently before Parliament.
“It’s good to see the Government agrees we need to do something to eliminate synthetic cannabis which is wreaking havoc on our communities,” Mr Brown says.
“In the last 12 months alone, there have been up to 45 suspected deaths as a result of synthetic cannabis use.
“New Zealanders struggling with addiction to this insidious drug don’t have time to wait while the Government figures out what to do.
“That’s why the Government’s first step must be to support my Member’s Bill which will increase the penalties for suppliers of synthetic drugs from a maximum of two years’ imprisonment to a maximum of eight years.
“The sooner my Bill is passed, the sooner we can start taking suppliers off the streets and deterring them from producing and/or supplying synthetic drugs.
“I am happy to meet with Ministers to discuss my Bill and any other possible measures that can be implemented now to urgently tackle synthetic drug use.”
The international education sector risks losing up to $40 million a year if the Government implements changes to make it harder for international students studying graduate diplomas to get post-study work visas, National MPs Michael Woodhouse and Simeon Brown say.
“International students are a critical revenue stream for our Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), and those studying graduate diplomas alone bring in as much as $40 million a year,” Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“A change proposed by the Government to require students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas to study in New Zealand for at least two years before becoming eligible for post-study work visas fails to recognise the higher calibre of those studying graduate diplomas.
“Many of these students have already obtained bachelor’s degree and should get the same post-study work rights as those graduating from bachelor’s degrees in New Zealand.
“If the Government doesn’t make this change to its proposal, some in the international education sector estimate that student enrolments could drop by at least 50 per cent in 2019, which would see the industry and our economy lose out on millions of dollars. The ITPs have been clear that this policy would destroy a significant part of the sector.”
Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says Education New Zealand estimates the proposed change could affect up to 17,000 international tertiary students and cost almost $500 million in export earnings per year.
“ITPs are already under financial pressure due to a strong labour market and the Government’s proposal will put even more financial pressure on the sector,” he says.
“International students studying graduate diplomas bring a wealth of experience to New Zealand and often fill vital skill shortages. By completing post-graduate diplomas, they are able to add to their knowledge and broaden their skillset.
“Where there are issues of quality or student exploitation, these should be addressed through individual examination of providers, not whole-scale immigration policy changes that will have unintended consequences for the sector and the wider economy.
“The Government must urgently exclude international students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas from the requirement to study for two years in order to obtain work rights, before it starts to have a real impact on enrolments.”