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Latest Government News

  • 25 November 2017, 4:54 pm
    Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, has condemned the terrorist attack in Egypt’s North Sinai which has killed more than 230 people and injured over 100 more, making it the deadliest attack in Egyptian history.   The attack took place today during Friday prayers (Egypt time) when gunmen opened fire on worshippers in the mosque, as well as detonating bombs.   “New Zealand strongly condemns this cowardly attack on innocent people at prayer and conveys its condolences to the Government of Egypt and the families and loved ones of those affected.” Mr Peters says.   The area where the attack took place is one of two areas in Egypt which New Zealand’s travel advisory classifies as an extreme risk due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and the presence of armed groups.    “Our embassy in Cairo is monitoring the situation closely and there is no indication of any New Zealand casualties," Mr Peters says.   The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice to New Zealanders travelling to Egypt is available on www.safetravel.govt.nz.         Contact:  Stephen Parker 021 195 3528    
  • 25 November 2017, 11:01 am
    Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford has commissioned three of New Zealand’s leading experts to provide an independent stocktake of the housing crisis. “For too long, the previous Government refused to accept the housing crisis and establish the scale of the problem we face,” says Minister Twyford.  “For instance, it was only once the Labour-led Government came to office that we learned MBIE’s official figures show a nationwide shortfall of 71,000 houses and that projections show house building would fall if not for KiwiBuild. “The previous government never acknowledged or accepted the official numbers, and also refused to accept its own official definition of homelessness. “Shamubeel Eaqub, Philippa Howden-Chapman, and Alan Johnson are among New Zealand’s foremost experts on housing. Their insight will be invaluable. “This report will provide an authoritative picture of the state of housing in New Zealand today, drawing on the best data available. It will put firm figures on homelessness, the state of the rental market, the decline of homeownership, and other factors in the housing crisis. “The Labour-led Government is already pushing ahead quickly with initiatives to make housing more affordable and healthy, including banning overseas speculators, passing the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, cancelling the state house selloff, and setting up KiwiBuild. This report will help the Government refine and focus that work where it is most needed. “I have instructed officials to provide the experts with any and all information they request. The years of spin and denial are over,” says Phil Twyford. The report will be due before Christmas.   Note: Shamubeel Eaqub is a respected independent economist and commentator, and author of Generation Rent. Philippa Howden-Chapman is Professor of Public Health at Otago University. She has led groundbreaking research on the health impacts of cold, damp housing. Alan Johnson is Senior Policy Analyst for the Salvation Army and author of The Salvation Army's State of the Nation report, which highlights effects of the housing crisis.
  • 24 November 2017, 2:23 pm
    Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker has confirmed that United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox will visit New Zealand between 25 and 28 November.   “New Zealand and the United Kingdom enjoy a uniquely close and important friendship,” Mr Parker says.     “We have long-standing and deep family connections. Our countries promote shared values and respect for international norms. We share extensive defence and security links, as well as significant business and investment ties.   “New Zealand and the United Kingdom are both strong advocates for progressive and inclusive trade. We are important trading partners and have committed to laying the foundations for a UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement once the UK leaves the EU.   “We welcome Secretary Fox’s visit as an opportunity to strengthen our close relationship at a time when the United Kingdom is seeking to reshape its relationships around the world following its decision to leave the European Union,” Mr Parker says.   While in New Zealand, Secretary Fox will visit Auckland and Wellington, meeting with senior ministers and engaging with the business community.
  • 23 November 2017, 12:21 pm
    Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash today announced the Terms of Reference for the Tax Working Group and that the Group will be chaired by Sir Michael Cullen. “Our 100 Day Plan includes the establishment of a Tax Working Group. The Working Group will consider changes that would improve the structure, fairness and balance of the tax system,” says Grant Robertson. “This Government is committed to a fair and progressive tax system. It is important that New Zealanders have confidence in their tax system and know that everyone is paying their fair share.” “At the moment the tax system appears unfair – for example, it doesn’t treat income from speculation in housing as it does income from work. We want to consider how we can create a better balanced system and can encourage a shift to investment in the productive economy. “Individual wage-earners, businesses, asset owners and speculators should pay their fair share of tax. Right now we don’t think that is happening. This working group is not about increasing income tax or the rate of GST, but rather introducing more fairness across all taxpayers. “The Working Group will also consider how the tax system can contribute to positive environmental outcomes and the impact of likely changes to the economic environment, demographics, technology and employment practices over the next decade. “As former Minister of Finance from 1999 to 2008, Sir Michael’s credentials are impeccable and he will be a huge asset to the Working Group.” “The other members of the Working Group will be announced before Christmas. They will include a diverse range of tax and finance experts and representatives of the business and wider community. The Working Group will be supported by a secretariat of officials from Treasury and Inland Revenue and have an independent advisor to analyse the various sources of advice received,” says Stuart Nash. “Final recommendations to Ministers are expected by February 2019. As promised before the election, any significant changes legislated for from the Group’s final report will not come into force until the 2021 tax year. “It is important to ensure that all sectors of the New Zealand economy can feed into the Working Group’s processes and that all relevant perspectives are considered.” “As we promised during the election campaign, certain areas will be outside the scope of the review, including increasing any income tax rate, the rate of GST, inheritance tax and changes that would apply to the family home or land beneath it,” Grant Robertson says. “We also want to thank our government partners, the New Zealand First and Green parties, for their input and support of the Terms of Reference for this important piece of work on the future of our tax system. "This review is a core part of the government’s programme and I’m confident it will deliver recommendations that will enable us to put in place a tax system that is fair for all New Zealanders,” says Grant Robertson.
  • 23 November 2017, 10:28 am
    The New Zealand government is dismayed by the recent decision of Cambodian authorities to dissolve the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says.   “New Zealand is a long-standing partner of Cambodia, and this latest blow to Cambodia’s democracy is deeply concerning.   “There is now a serious question over the legitimacy of Cambodia’s general election next year, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen will stand largely unchallenged,” Mr Peters says.   “New Zealand calls on Prime Minister Hun Sen to urgently restore freedom of expression and political choice for the people of Cambodia.”   The dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue Party is the latest in a series of concerning actions in the country, including the ongoing detention of the Cambodian National Rescue Party’s leader, Kem Sokha.     Contact:  Stephen Parker 021 195 3528  
  • 22 November 2017, 2:39 pm
    Health Minister Hon Dr David Clark says today’s official opening of a new medical centre in Auckland emphasises the vital role of Primary Care in the New Zealand health system.  Dr Clark says the new Beachlands Medical Centre demonstrates the value of keeping healthcare close to the people who use it.  Dr Clark grew up in the area, and he and his family were patients of the Beachlands practice.  “As a former patient in this practice, I benefitted from the care and expertise of the healthcare professionals who worked there. Now as Minister of Heath, it’s been my privilege to return to open a new facility which will benefit thousands of residents.”  Beachlands is a fast growing area of Auckland and the practice currently has an enrolled population of 5900 patients.  “The practice has been proactive in anticipating future demand in the area. I want to praise the initiative of the current leaders of this practice for their foresight in taking out a new lease, and then to design and fit out premises around it.  “As a result of this forward thinking, today we see a state-of-the-art medical centre, pharmacy, physio practice, lab testing, specialist rooms, podiatrist, psychologist and soon a dentist, all in one place.  “It’s making it really easy for people to get to see the range of services they need to.”  Dr Clark also praised the role of Beachlands in being a pilot practice for several mental health initiatives with the Counties Manukau District Health Board.  It holds a monthly clinical meeting with a DHB psychiatrist and team, along with its own GPs and nurses. The DHB psychiatrist can also consult patients in practice rooms.  Additionally, Beachlands is part of a new CMDHB initiative with both Te Rawhiti (adult) and Whirinaki (child and adolescent) mental health nurses being in the practice to consult, advise and integrate care better alternate fortnights.  “Beachlands Medical Centre demonstrates the key role primary care plays in both physical and mental health,” says Dr Clark.   BACKGROUND The Beachlands Medical Centre facility opened for business in August and represents the merger of two previous practices, Maraetai and Beachlands.  It is one of nine pilot practices working in a collaborative model with CMDHB and its four PHOs to redesign the way general practice delivers its services. The practice is a member of East Health Trust Primary Health Organisation and has eight GPs, eight practice nurses, four receptionists and a practice manager.
  • 22 November 2017, 11:26 am
    Rt Hon Winston Peters Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs     22 November 2017     NZ welcomes Mugabe’s resignation   Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister the Rt Hon Winston Peters has welcomed the resignation of Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, who voluntarily stepped down today after 37 years.   “This moment will be seen as a critical point in the history of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean people have voiced their support for change in a peaceful way.”   “New Zealand has made its position on the Mugabe regime clear over the years. Zimbabwe has suffered enormously under Robert Mugabe’s presidency through economic oppression, corruption and a blatant disregard for democracy and human rights,” Mr Peters says.   New Zealand has travel bans in place for Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace due to the destructive conduct of Mugabe’s government.   “The Zimbabwean people have an opportunity to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible to determine the future direction of their country.   “New Zealand supports the efforts of the Zimbabwean people to uphold democracy and to return to a prosperous and vibrant country free of oppression,” Mr Peters says.   Ends       Contact: Stephen Parker 021 195 3528
  • 22 November 2017, 10:07 am
    Education Minister Chris Hipkins has welcomed the results of an international study showing New Zealand students are among the best in the world at collaborative problem solving.   The 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study assessed the skills of 15 year olds in 52 countries in collaborative problem solving.   New Zealand students ranked in the top nine countries for ability in collaborative problem solving and New Zealand ranked second, just behind Singapore, as having one of the largest proportions of students who scored at the highest level of collaborative problem solving proficiency.   “New Zealand’s high ranking is testament to our forward-thinking teachers and school leaders, who deliver a future-focused curriculum, equipping their students with the skills and knowledge to be globally competitive,” Mr Hipkins says.   “Historically considered soft skills, collaborative problem solving skills are increasingly seen as essential by employers who are competing in a globally connected and technology savvy world. Increasingly, employers say they require employees to be able to collaborate not only with the person seated beside them but also with others around the world,” he says.   “One of my priorities as Education Minister is to lead an evolution of our education system to ensure our students develop these and other transferable skills and attitudes such as resilience, creativity, adaptability and interpersonal skills.”   This is the first time that an international assessment has attempted to measure students’ ability to solve problems by requiring students to develop a shared understanding of a problem and come to a solution. The research focused on competence in and attitude towards communications, managing conflict, organising teams, building consensus and managing progress.    “We will be looking closely at the findings to see how we can continue to build our performance in this area and how it might better support all students to reach their full potential, particularly the lower socio-economic groups who performed less well,” says Mr Hipkins.   Link to NZ country report on PISA: https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2543/pisa-2015/pisa-2015-collaborative-problem-solving
  • 21 November 2017, 2:00 pm
    The Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Megan Woods has today announced a new plan for the Metro Sports Facility anchor project, after it was revealed the long-delayed project was expected to exceed its budget by $75 million under the current approach.                                                                                                                                         The previous government’s plan was for an early contractor involvement process, however official advice to the Minister showed that if the project went ahead on the current procurement approach, it would be well over budget. This increase was made up of a new increased price by the preferred supplier and an increased risk allocation to cover the project. The project had also fallen further behind schedule, being delayed until the last quarter of 2020.   “As an incoming Minister, I have been conducting a thorough review of progress on the Anchor projects and to learn of a $75 million budget blowout on this project was very disappointing. That is an undue burden on taxpayers and ratepayers for a project that is already significantly delayed – in fact the facility was due to be opened by now, yet construction has not even begun. We can do better.   “This Government is committed to faster, concrete progress on the Canterbury recovery. We want action and momentum, not the delays and roadblocks we have seen in years past.   “That’s why I am announcing today that the early contractor involvement will be cancelled and I have instructed officials to undertake urgent work to get this project back on track.   “I have asked for two pieces of work– the first is for Ōtākaro to complete the detailed design work itself and get ready to go out for a new build-only contract. This will be completed by March/April 2018, allowing for the facility to be opened in the first quarter of 2021 if we proceed with this contract.   “I have also asked officials to use this time to partner with the Christchurch City Council on an urgent review of options for the project such as whether it would be beneficial to combine part or all of the Metro Sports Facility with the proposed Multi Use Arena. This will allow us to test whether the assumptions made in 2012 about this project still hold up and we are still getting a facility that meets the city’s needs and is fit for purpose. “We will act urgently, as we are aware we are inheriting a project that is already well behind schedule. Having this work complete by the time a build-only plan is ready means no time is lost by considering other options now. “At that point, I will make a decision about which option to proceed with and a construction timetable can be established. This review will give us a clear plan to deliver this project as quickly as possible, with a timeline we can be upfront about and have confidence in, in a manner we can afford.   “The people of Canterbury were promised a high quality sporting facility. It’s clear that the plan agreed under the previous government was not going to be able to deliver that without unacceptable extra costs. I know we can’t continue with the same approach and expect a different outcome. Today’s announcement is about setting out a clear roadmap to deliver a fit for purpose facility that Cantabrians deserve,” says Ms Woods.
  • 21 November 2017, 11:09 am
    The Government has today taken a big first step towards making tertiary education and training more affordable for all New Zealanders.   The Government’s first 100 days programme includes introducing a $50 a week boost to both student allowances and loan entitlements for living costs and making the first year of tertiary education fees-free from 1 January 2018.   “Today we are announcing the first of these policies is in place as promised. This will make more than 130,000 students $50 a week better off.   “From 1 January, student allowance base rates and the maximum amount students can borrow for living costs will rise by a net $50 a week,” says Education Minister Chris Hipkins. “Where the allowance rate reflects the living costs of two adults, the increase will be $100 net a week.”   “Allowance payments for single students aged under 24 and living away from home, for example, will rise from $177.03 to $227.03. The maximum amount that students can borrow will rise from $178.81 to $228.81.   “No change is being made to eligibility rules for student allowances or loans.   “We have heard the concerns of students and their families who have told us cost is a real barrier to taking on tertiary study. Improving affordability and access to tertiary education and training will improve opportunities both for our young people and for adult learners who have previously been deterred from taking on tertiary study and training because of cost,” Mr Hipkins said.   “New Zealand itself and its economy will also be a big winner, with an ever increasing number of jobs requiring tertiary-level education or training.”   In addition, student allowance rates and loan living costs maximum will be further adjusted from 1 April 2018 in line with any increase in the CPI. The Accommodation Benefit is also scheduled to rise by $20 a week in 2018 to a maximum of $60 a week for students,” Mr Hipkins said.   Fees Free   The Government is also on track to deliver the first year of fees-free education and training from 1 January next year. “Final decisions are being worked through, and students can rest assured that the first year of fees-free study will kick in next year and they should plan accordingly. We expect to be in a position to make announcements soon, Mr Hipkins said.   “The changes for 2018 are just the first step in the process as the Government rolls out a full programme of three years’ fees-free tertiary education for New Zealanders by 2024 alongside better support for living costs,” Mr Hipkins said.   Further information is available through the Ministry of Education website: http://www.education.govt.nz/ministry-of-education/specific-initiatives/changes-in-education/