National Party Leader Simon Bridges has welcomed the Green Party’s decision to give the Opposition its allocated Oral Questions in Parliament to allow it to better hold the weak Ardern-Peters Government to account.
“I said when I became Leader that National would remain firmly focused on being an effective Opposition and in the past weeks we have continued to do that.
“That includes during Parliamentary Question Time when Opposition MPs get Ministers on their feet asking questions of importance to New Zealanders, and those efforts will now be bolstered by the Green Party’s decision.
“National will use the Green Party’s Questions as well its own to continue to focus on the issues that matter to New Zealanders – the economy, law and order, housing, public services and the environment.
“The Green Party’s willingness for this weak Government to be held to account is commendable and we will honour the spirit of this move by doing so strongly.”
National Party leader Simon Bridges is heading a large delegation of National Party MPs in a show of support for rural communities at this year’s Central District’s Field Days event in Feilding.
Mr Bridges will be joined by local MP Ian McKelvie and Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy today. MPs Barbara Kuriger, Alastair Scott, Harete Hipango, Matt Doocey, Tim Van de Molen, Lawrence Yule and incoming MP Nicola Willis will all be on hand over the coming days to celebrate the event’s 25th year.
“With over 550 exhibitors and over 25,000 visitors this is one of New Zealand's largest regional agricultural events and is an important showcase for the primary productions sector.
“We recognise that farmers and growers are feeling the pressure of all the uncertainty the new Government is heaping on the sector.
“The Government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to irrigation and water storage projects – all of which help grow jobs, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability.
“The Primary Growth Partnership has not only been frozen, but has been raided to the tune of $17 million to fund an unnecessary rebrand of MPI, at the expense of vitally important research and development funding.
“And for those farmers dealing with the spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, MPI has been forced to go cap-in-hand to industry to fund its containment – with no commitment to actually eradicate it.
“The Manawatu-Whanganui region is one of the regions the National Government backed through its 2016 Economic Action Plan.
“The Plan aimed to build on the region’s strengths in primary production and food innovation, and benefit modelling carried out by NZIER estimated the primary sector opportunities alone would have the potential to increase regional GDP by around $580 million by 2025.
“With the new Government largely ignoring the sector, National intends to continue to support an area so vital to New Zealand’s ongoing economic success,” Mr Bridges says.
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has unveiled his new caucus line-up, saying it reflects his intention to make the most of the party’s considerable experience as well as new talent – and to recognise hard work, new ideas and success.
“The National Party caucus is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand. This new line-up reflects that.
“It is a strong mix of former Ministers and senior MPs alongside emerging ones who have proven to me they have what it takes to hold this Ardern-Peters Government to account, to listen to New Zealanders and to develop new policies for the 2020s.
“This means the energy of all 56 of our MPs – Parliament’s strongest and most diverse caucus - is focused on the role of Opposition, ensuring every MP has a chance to directly contribute to taking on the Government and driving innovation and policies in the best interests of New Zealand.
“The team I have announced today also reflects the strength and talents of the women in our caucus, with three in the top five positions, and eight in the top 20. And they are there on merit.
“Unlike our opponents who believe in quotas and catering to special and competing interests, the National Party believes in rewarding hard work and success - in Parliament and out of it.
“That’s how New Zealand will continue to get ahead – through being focused and ambitious, innovative and smart.
“National believes in a New Zealand that is confident, outward and forward looking, and backs itself to succeed on the world stage.
“This team of MPs is an alternative Government in waiting. It will effectively hold this weak Coalition Government to account and ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has appointed Amy Adams as Opposition Finance Spokesperson, saying she is the best person to ensure the Government builds on the National Party’s world-class economic record and does not squander New Zealand’s hard-won success.
“I am today announcing Amy Adams as our Finance Spokesperson and the third-ranked MP in our Caucus, ahead of the caucus reshuffle to show the economy remains the National Party’s number one priority.
“Having a strong economy allows us to invest in public services and create opportunities for New Zealanders – something the National Party has demonstrated over the past decade.
“And, as a result of our strong economic plan this Government has inherited one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world, one which is seeing 10,000 jobs created a month on average, rising household incomes, budget surpluses, and falling government debt. All this is helping ensure New Zealanders get ahead.
“However, the Labour-NZ First-Green coalition Government seems intent on squandering that through plans to impose more taxes on hard-working New Zealanders and through rolling out negative and backward looking policies which will slow down our growth and see New Zealanders miss out.
“The National Party will fight these changes and Amy is the best person to lead that effort.
“Amy is an incredibly experienced former Minister, serving as Associate Minister of Finance as well as holding a range of important and challenging portfolios, from Social Housing to Justice and Environment, which she handled with real diligence and focus.
“She has chaired Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, has a background in commercial law and is a talented and hard-working member of the National Party caucus.
“Amy follows in the footsteps of the National Party’s hugely successful finance ministers, Bill English and Steven Joyce, and I have no doubt she’ll do a great job on behalf of all New Zealanders. I look forward having her on my team.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has thanked retiring MP Steven Joyce for his service to New Zealand and the National Party.
“Steven has made a huge contribution during his 15 year political career, including in the last decade in Parliament. In that time he has proven an exceptional minister, colleague, advisor and political strategist.
“As a minister, Steven has played a major role in helping create a stronger New Zealand, particularly in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.
“Among his many successes, he oversaw the rollout of the ambitious Ultra-Fast Broadband programme, ensuring New Zealand is one of the most digitally advanced economies in the world.
“As Science and Innovation Minister he worked with the private sector to substantially lift investment in R and D, helping pave the way for some of the world leading science and business initiatives we are seeing and benefiting from today.
“And as Transport Minister he helped make New Zealand’s roads safer and more resilient, through initiatives like the Roads of National Significance.
“He was someone both John Key and Bill English turned to for advice and to get things done. That meant he was given some tough tasks but he consistently rose to those challenges. And I will also continue to use him as a sounding board as the National Party looks to 2020.
“He played a major role in rebuilding the National Party, leading the past five elections and helping turn National into New Zealand’s largest and most popular political party.
“Steven is a huge loss to Parliament and to the National Party and I want to thank him for his immense contribution to New Zealand, and his wife Suzanne and their children for sharing them with us. We wish him all the best.”
Simon Bridges has today been confirmed as the new Leader of the National Party, with Paula Bennett confirmed as his Deputy.
“This is an enormous privilege and I want to thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to lead a strong, united and focused Opposition with the ideas and talent to continue to take New Zealand forward,” Mr Bridges says.
“My focus as Leader will be ensuring we build on those policies to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
“Our caucus has an incredible depth of talent and abundant energy which is why we continue to enjoy so much support. New Zealanders believe in our vision for New Zealand and in our team.
“My job as Leader will be to hold the Jacinda Ardern-Winston Peters coalition to account.
“Their Government is big on lofty intentions, but struggling to turn that into real gains for New Zealanders.
“That’s why we will continue to present an ambitious and strong alternative Government, heading into 2020.
“I would like to commend Amy, Steven, Judith and Mark for putting themselves forward, and our colleagues for the constructive way we have handled this important decision. That gives me great confidence.
“I would also like to thank Bill English for his tremendous service. Under Bill’s leadership New Zealand has become a better place and we are grateful for all he has done.
“I’m delighted that Paula Bennett has been selected as Deputy Leader. Paula brings great experience and ability to draw people together and I know she will continue to do an excellent job.
“Our renewed focus on 2020 begins now and I can’t wait to get to work.”
The Government needs to turn its five days of korero with the Northland people into action, and commit to continuing the concrete steps National were taking to grow jobs and wages in the region, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“Two years ago the National Government, local councils, iwi and businesses jointly developed and launched the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Development Action Plan, which came up with 58 tangible actions across key industries such as tourism, forestry and horticulture to grow the Northland economy,” Mr Bridges says.
“Despite spending a lot of time talking about his good intentions for Northland, the Minister for Regional Economic Development is yet to commit to continuing to progress the Action Plan.”
The Action Plan is already delivering benefits for the region. Within the first year multiple projects to support the economy had been progressed, including the establishment of the Māori Forestry Collective for Tai Tokerau, funding for the Hundertwasser Art Centre and the opening of Pou Heranga Tai – The Twin Coast Cycle Trail
“As usual, Mr Jones is all talk and no action,” Mr Bridges says.
“Already he is backing down from his flagship policy to plant one billion trees over ten years. In his latest statements he has said just five million extra trees will be planted in the first year – meaning it would take 200 years to reach his goal.
“The current approach is having an impact – 14,000 new jobs have been created in the last five years, and the number of people in work is the most ever. We need to keep growing this number, which is why the Government should commit to the actions in the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Development Action Plan.
“The Government needs to turn its good intentions for the people of Northland into concrete actions. It is vitally important that the new Government commit to continuing the important projects of the Action Plan, to further support the Northland community.”
The vacuum that is the new Government’s immigration policy must be filled so it stops choking off regional growth opportunities, National Party Immigration Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“We are seeing story after story around regional New Zealand that businesses can’t find enough workers,” Mr Bridges says.
“Just in recent days, businesses in Nelson, Queenstown and Mid Canterbury amongst others have all put up their hands saying they can’t find staff.
“Yet there is real confusion on the Government’s immigration policy and whether it will help fill the labour shortages in regional New Zealand.
“This week the Immigration Minister has again muttered something about regional skills lists, yet he’s still saying Labour will cut immigration by 20-30,000 a year.
“And again, no detail on either statement.
“Small and medium sized businesses can’t grow in a vacuum. They need certainty and this is another area where the Government isn’t providing any.
“We are seeing business confidence around the country suffer under this Government and the number one cause is policy uncertainty.
“They need to step up and make some strong positive decisions on immigration policy for regional New Zealand and remove at least one of the handbrakes on confidence and growth in our provinces.”
The new Government’s target to plant a billion trees in ten years is rapidly turning into a fanciful mirage, National Party MPs Simon Bridges and Nick Smith say.
“We learnt on Friday that Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is now hoping to plant just five million extra trees this year,” Regional Development Spokesperson Mr Bridges says.
“At 5 million trees a year, it would take 200 years to achieve a billion trees. I know Mr Jones is not the hardest worker but stretching a ten year target out to 200 years would be an impressive under-achievement even for him.”
Forestry Spokesperson Nick Smith says this back down on the flagship forestry policy is hugely embarrassing and damaging to the Government’s economic and environmental credibility.
“The Government initially promised 100 million extra trees per year. This was then cut in half by including 50 million trees already being planted each year. The latest back down further reduces the new planting planned for this year to only five million,” Mr Smith says.
“The new target for 2018 is now no different from what is already happening. An average of 55 million trees were planted each year over the last seven years, increasing to 62.5 million in 2016, the last year of full data. The Minister’s new promise of 55 million trees being planted this year is barely any promise at all.”
Mr Bridges says this change in target is on top of plans to change the overseas investment rules so the values of forest investments drop significantly. That will only decrease forest plantings.
“We are three months in and not a single tree has been planted - so the Government is around 24 million trees behind target already.
“The Labour-led Government is already getting a reputation for lots of talk and no follow-through in regional New Zealand. Labour MPs at their Caucus this weekend need to think about what they’re actually going to do for the regions.
“As with Mr Jones’ Work for the Dole scheme and the Government’s unclear plans for the Opotiki Harbour and regional immigration, this is another policy that is a slogan without anything behind it. It is simply a mirage,” Mr Bridges says.
National’s petition to extend the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Tirau and from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range was launched today, announced MPs for Tauranga and Hamilton East, Simon Bridges and David Bennett.
“This is one of a series of petitions National is launching aimed at saving regional highway projects that are at risk of being canned by the new Government,” says Mr Bridges.
“Strengthening the link between the Bay of Plenty and Hamilton is fundamental to economic growth. Tauranga is New Zealand’s main port and Hamilton provides many services such as health and education to the south Waikato.
“Getting rid of National’s expressway extensions would put a dampener on the great growth we have seen in Tauranga, the wider Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, and wider Waikato.”
Mr Bennett says it would also mean longer, less reliable journey times and more deaths and serious injuries. “No one has ever died on one of National’s four lane highways given their safety features. The further improvements we were planning would save many lives.”
“National knows that developing infrastructure is essential for the regions to build on their economic growth. When we realised that the Government wasn’t going to prioritise these projects, we knew we had to stand up and be counted. We want to show the Government that the regional communities are behind these projects.
“The people in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty have great drive and ambition; we just need the Government to support it.
“As Government prioritises light rail in Auckland, our petition aims to show them that the Waikato and Bay of Plenty refuse to be left behind.”
The petition can be found here.