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.
Shane Jones needs to get off the couch and do some real work on the Provincial Growth Fund, National Party Economic Development Spokesman Simon Bridges says.
“It’s now obvious he hasn’t done any work and he’s missed all his own deadlines,” Mr Bridges says.
“On 9 November he told us that the full content, structure and character of the fund will be dealt with conclusively in the Budget Policy Statement. Yet when that came out there was nothing substantive in it at all.
“On 9 December Grant Robertson told the House that the HYEFU and the Budget Policy Statement would contain ‘significant certainty about our spending plans’.
“Yet when those documents came out, the only mention of the billion dollar a year Provincial Growth Fund is a specific fiscal risk flag from Treasury, and they are a dime a dozen with this Government.
“The Finance Minister says he’d get us an advent calendar to countdown to the HYEFU. We haven’t even got that.
“It’s clear the work simply hasn’t been done and now Minister Jones will be heading into his long Christmas break.
“In the meantime the Provincial Growth Fund sits idle, and he’s already nearly 15 million trees behind his first year’s tree planting target.
“So far, all we’ve had from Shane Jones is the billion trees that isn’t a billion trees, the work for the dole that isn’t work for the dole, and the Opotiki Harbour project with no costings.
“He’s also spent a lot of time talking about getting his nephews off the couch. Perhaps he should lead by example and get himself off the couch first.”
Time is running out for the coalition Government to get the America’s Cup bases up and running for the Cup Defence in Auckland, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“Economic Development Minister David Parker needs to get his act together pronto,” Mr Bridges says.
“Council and Government officials seem to be in a stand-off with the Prime Minister and Mr Parker and it is not difficult to see why.
“Mr Parker has said on these matters that he ‘doesn’t want to be dictatorial’ but it seems his high handed approach in the face of both Council and Government officials who have differing views to him is causing delays that may well jeopardise the running of a successful Cup event in Auckland.
“It’s also very surprising that no estimate of costs to Government of the America’s Cup are included in the Treasury’s Half-Yearly update. Does the Government really not have any idea yet what it is up for?
“While it may feel like there is plenty of time, the reality is that with planning, designing, consenting and building infrastructure we are well into the eleventh hour before midnight. There will come a point when decisions will be too late and that would be unforgivable.
“I was conscious as Economic Development Minister in the previous Government how tight the timeline was and this was going to be the top priority for me to sort prior to Christmas.
“Now we are heading for decisions in all likelihood a couple of months into the New Year. Officials are obviously tearing their hair out with all the time delays. It’s time for the Government to make a decision.”
The much talked about Opotiki Harbour Development is the first big test for the Government’s provincial growth fund, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“Since the formation of the Coalition Government, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has repeatedly named just one particular individual project, the Opotiki Harbour Development, as an example of what he’d invest in,” Mr Bridges says.
“The only problem is that official advice earlier this year suggested the Opotiki Development would cost two to three times the original $50 million envisaged by the project partners.
“That means the cost to Government could be far greater than the $20-$30 million envisaged, and the expected 220 jobs could end up costing more than half a million dollars per job to create.
“At that rate, the whole $1 billion provincial growth fund will only create 2,000 jobs. In the last two years, 245,000 jobs were created under the previous Government.
“The previous Government directed officials to work to improve the economics of the project by reducing the construction costs, increasing the revenue from the project, or sourcing additional funding from other parties.
“Mr Jones must know all this yet he continues to talk the Harbour Development project up, suggesting a lack of concern about good process and cost to taxpayers. He is on the record saying anything to do with Harboursides is likely to ‘get a tick from me’.
“Already the fund, a key coalition plank, has struck controversy with the so-called Billion Trees Planting Programme when it was revealed that Government would actually only seek to achieve half of this target.
“The question that must be asked is whether this provincial growth fund will have a robust defensible process for allocating taxpayers’ money, or whether it is a huge political slush fund.
“This is $3 billion of hard-earned taxpayers’ money over three years. It can’t be run like Shane Jones’ personal fiefdom.”
The Coalition Government has made history as the first to vote against a closure motion on its own Bill, as its organisation of Parliament sinks to new lows, Shadow Leader of the House Simon Bridges says.
“Recent scenes in the House border on farce. You have the Government – including senior Ministers - filibustering its own legislation because it has so little for Parliament to debate and wants to avoid the embarrassment of the House being left with nothing to do.
“It even went to the extreme step of voting against several motions to end debate on its own Bill because it so desperately needs to fill time – something so extraordinary the Parliamentary Library cannot find a precedent for it.
“Clearly Parliamentary drafters are still struggling to turn the Government’s intentions into legislation, something the Prime Minister referred to on Monday when she admitted there was a lag in getting bills into the House.
“This was confirmed in today’s Business Statement which said the House will sit under Urgency from next Thursday but only one new Bill was mentioned – cancelling tax cuts which would have seen someone on the average wage $1060 a year better off.
“This leaves the House in the unacceptable position of wasting time on straight-forward legislation – carried over from the previous Government – all so the Government can ram through controversial legislation in the lead-up to Christmas under the cover of Urgency.
“And to top it off the Speaker has reprimanded the Government for failing to adequately answer Written Questions from Opposition MPs.
“When the Deputy Prime Minister is asking for clarification of what is meant by “a meeting” in order to avoid answering a direct question then that’s hardly surprising – and it’s definitely not the transparency that was promised.
“The Coalition needs to get its act together. It’s meant to be running the country but it is struggling just to run Parliament. New Zealanders deserve better.”
Comments from Jacinda Ardern along with supporters of the Coalition Government this morning show that Labour and New Zealand First are already at odds on the Work for the Dole scheme, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“This happened more quickly than we thought,” Mr Bridges says. “Ms Ardern’s comments this morning are completely at odds with those of Shane Jones yesterday.
“He’s in favour of work for the dole, she wants a training programme. He wants it to be compulsory, she wants to put it in front of Cabinet, which won’t support it.
“We all know who will win. The Labour Party and the left won’t let work for the dole happen. They want to reduce work obligations, not increase them.
“This is just the latest embarrassment for Shane Jones after the billion trees target was cut in half in a couple of days.
“The question for New Zealand First is, how can they champion the regions if all their regional development policies keep getting rumbled by Labour?
“Shane Jones should stop all his bluster about work for the dole and a billion trees. It’s quite clear neither phrase actually means anything.
“It’s quite obvious that he’s already the Minister in name only. Labour is running the show.”
Shane Jones’ regional work for the dole scheme is the latest NZ First Policy to come up against the realities of working in a Labour/Greens/NZ First Coalition Government, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“In an interview on TVNZ’s Q&A today, Shane Jones said he wants a work for the dole scheme to get unemployed people in the regions planting trees. However that’s anethema to Labour and the Greens who if anything want to reduce welfare obligations to be available for work,” Mr Bridges says.
“Mr Jones’ interview was a long list of things he’d like to do but Labour and the Greens won’t let him do.
“Things like irrigation schemes, the Te Kuha mine on the West Coast, gas exploration, and work for the dole schemes.
“The only thing the parties can agree on is spending more taxpayers’ money. Mr Jones admits he’s got no idea where the money comes from, but says he trusts Grant Robertson will find it.
“Six weeks in, we are still no wiser on what the provincial growth fund will do, how it will work, and who will decide.
“Meanwhile he’s already at least several million trees behind the billion tree eight ball.
“Despite Mr Jones’ comments, many parts of regional New Zealand have been performing the strongest economically that they have in 30 years.
“Mr Jones needs to stop talking in riddles and start laying out what NZ First will actually do in regional New Zealand.”
After just nine sitting days the new Government has run out of new legislation for the House to consider, Shadow Leader of the House Simon Bridges says.
“Today’s Business Statement by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins was extraordinary for what it didn’t include – anything new.
“Just 35 days into its ‘100 Day Plan’ it outlined six Bills that the House will consider next week – but all six were introduced by the previous Government.
“After a lot of bluster about being a Government of action, ideas and bold reform the Government appears to have run out of puff already.
“The Autonomous Sanctions and Electronic Interaction Reforms Bill are worthy pieces of legislation. But the New Zealand public probably expected the new Government to at least have some idea about how to turn its vague ideas into reality, and to actually put up legislation for the Parliament to consider.
“The two of their Bills they have passed were Members’ Bills carried over from the last Parliament.
“That’s on top of the Parliament this week also considering such weighty items as the Statutes Amendment Bill and the Subordinate Legislation Confirmation and Validation Bill – neither of which were in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. Or at least the public version.
“Their lack of organisation was underlined today when a question by them to one of their own ministers was thrown out by the Speaker because they tried to ask it to a minister who hadn’t yet received their delegation.
“The Parliament is treading water. The Government’s 100 Day Plan has turned into 100 Days of Inaction.
“The National Party has plenty of good ideas and new legislation we would be happy for the Government to adopt. Given the Government has no legislation of its own, it’s welcome to take on ours.”
National Party Immigration Spokesperson Simon Bridges has welcomed the new Government’s major climb-down on its immigration policy as announced by Immigration Minister Ian Lees Galloway.
“This is a very significant u-turn. Prior to the election Labour was going to reduce migration by 20,000 to 30,000 people. New Zealand First was going to cut it by 60,000,” Mr Bridges says.
“Now less than two months later the Immigration Minister is saying ‘we are not fixated on the numbers’.
“This is a major shift in a core policy that needs a proper explanation from the Government.
“It’s great to see them starting to acknowledge and adopt the previous Government’s immigration policy, however how serious are they? And does the anti-immigrant party New Zealand First support this change?
“This flip flop has been coming over recent days and weeks as Labour has belatedly realised New Zealand’s high rate of employment and shortage of skilled labour.
“They’ve been talking of teachers’ visas, police visas, builders’ visas and so on. They’ve also slowly realised they can’t kneecap industries like tourism and international education with unrealistic immigration policies.
“Regions are crying out every other day for skills. The houses and roads won’t build themselves nor will the forests plant themselves.
“The Government needs to be clear about its immigration policy so Kiwi businesses can plan their growth with confidence.
“And then they need to tell us after this latest flip flop why New Zealanders should believe anything they say.”
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.
“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.
“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.
“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.
“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.
“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.
“The reality for Mr Jones is that even planting 500 million trees over a decade, if that’s what the new marketing catch-cry will be, is unlikely.
“After all, the new Government has also committed to slashing the necessary immigration needed for our workforce and the nurseries will find it difficult to gear up for both private and public sector forestry expansion
“All he will do is displace existing private sector activity. The forestry industry should tell him he’s dreaming.”