Who knows regions best?

July 24, 2014

Labour has decided the regions are suffering and its MPs are doing their best to talk them down, but those who represent them have a different story:

Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree that there are growing gaps among the regions of New Zealand, making the economy and society increasingly unbalanced; if not, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, I do not agree with that. A variety of data suggests the regions have led New Zealand’s recovery. Statistics New Zealand regional GDP data shows that Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes’s Bay, Nelson-Tasman, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, of course, all grew faster than the national average in the 5 years to 2013. The most recent ANZ Regional Trends survey shows rural regions growing faster than urban areas, and just last week I received reports from Queenstown, in my own electorate, of a significant boost from a long holiday by the Leader of the Opposition. But if the member wants to talk down the regions, then I hope he declares a crisis, because on recent established history every time Labour declares a crisis, things come right pretty quickly.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree that when the top few percent own most of the wealth the squeezed do not have enough to spend and invest and the economy will not perform to its fullest potential until the imbalance is fixed?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. In fact, in respect of the distribution of benefits of growth I can tell the member that the number of people on working-age benefits in Greymouth dropped 5 percent in the last year. In Blenheim it dropped 9 percent. In Napier it dropped 8 percent in the last year, and in Wanganui the number of people on working-age benefits also dropped 5 percent. Those people are now enjoying the benefits of more jobs and a stronger economy.

Hon David Parker: Then why is it that after 6 years, aside from Canterbury, the unemployment rate is higher in every region of New Zealand than it was when he took office?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, on “Planet Labour” there was no global financial crisis—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just answer the question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —and the member should take that into account when he uses those measures. Of course, in the real world, which is not where the Labour Party is, there was a major recession and unemployment did rise rapidly. Fortunately, it is now dropping consistently.

Tim Macindoe: Which regions have seen the strongest increases in economic activity?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most recent regional trend survey shows that the strongest growth in economic activity in the March quarter was—in order—Northland, the highest, at 3.4 percent, followed by Bay of Plenty, then Waikato, then Nelson-Marlborough, then Otago, then the West Coast, and then Canterbury. ANZ reports that Northland was also the fastest growing region in the year to March at 7.4 percent. Business confidence is at a 9-year high in the survey and the top two areas for business confidence are Otago, despite the complaints of its civic leadership, and the Waikato. As I said, the evidence tends to suggest that the regions have led the recovery not lagged it.

Hon David Parker: Is his selective use of statistics because the latest Statistics New Zealand figures on per capita GDP show that per capita GDP in the last year has gone backwards, not just in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatū, Wanganui, Marlborough, and on the West Coast but also in his own province of Southland?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with that. But what I do agree with is the proposition that a significant carbon tax, a capital gains tax, and water rules that mean that every river has to be absolutely pure, will have dramatic economic effects on the regions and they will all be negative. That is why the regions are turning up to meetings all over the country, to tell us how determined they are to stop the Greens and Labour taking over Government. . .

 

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelive continued the theme in his contribution to the general debate:

IAN McKELVIE (National – Rangitīkei): That speech by Russel Norman was without a doubt one of the most boring obituaries I have ever heard in my life. It was, in my view, a gross misuse of facts to run down rural New Zealand. It will not help our cause. Regional New Zealand has faced its share of challenges in the past 40 years as our population and economy has adjusted and acclimatised to change. The progress we have made in the past 6 years under this Government is now having positive effects as the buoyant world food market and demand lifts farmer confidence, optimism, and ability to invest further in their industry. New tourism initiatives such as the * Forgotten World Adventures, cycle trails, and walking tracks are appearing. The growth in these businesses is leading to new opportunities for growth and investment in our regions. The announcement in Levin last week by Ministers Joyce and Guy of an ambitious plan to double my region’s agribusiness production by 2025, after some early feasibility studies by mayors ** Margaret Kouvelis and * Jono Naylor, who of course is the very good candidate for National in Palmerston North, is another example of proactive Government determined to enable our regions. The interesting point to note is that this agribusiness strategy is not all about increasing agricultural production, as the previous speaker would have us believe. It includes science, tourism, and the manufacturing sectors, which complement our traditional farming activities. Fresh water is critical to the future of our country and the Rangitīkei, as tourism and farming rely heavily on our pristine environment for our futures. The Government has invested heavily in this area, adding a further $12 million to it in the Budget just passed. This is on top of $350 million already committed to lake and river clean-ups, and the $101 million already spent in this Government’s term. The Rangitīkei has three of New Zealand’s major rivers—the beautiful * Whanganui River, which is a beautiful river and a great tourism opportunity for that region and certainly for the electorate of the member sitting next to me; the Manawatū, the subject already of a considerable amount of clean-up funding and, of course, New Zealand’s first river accord; and, of course, the Rangitīkei, one of the best fishing rivers in New Zealand. National has also developed the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research centre in Palmerston North in partnership with * AgResearch and nine other partners. This, as it progresses, will add significantly to our contribution to climate change measures and increase our productivity. The other key measure adding to the productivity in our region and announced in the past few weeks is the increase in the regional roading spend. In my region the replacement of the * Whirokino trestle bridge south of Foxton, which is over 1.5 kilometres long, when completed, will take some 30 kilometres off the trip for the average heavy truck from the central North Island to Wellington—30 kilometres. Add this to the Ōtaki to Wellington roading improvements, including the capital expressway and Transmission Gully, and the benefit to the central North Island will be significant. The * Tongariro and * Whanganui National Parks are a huge resource for the people of Rangitīkei, with winter sports, walking, boating and cycling growing at a great rate. On top of this we have a net migration inflow of people into the region in the last month, an increase in population, and a drop in unemployment. Despite the wailings of Labour and the Greens, this Government has made significant investment in the future of regional New Zealand, and we are seeing the benefits in our region. One of the key challenges that our rural councils face is managing demand for access to our vast network of paper roads, and careful thought will need to be given to the future management of these. The * Walking Access Commission has started this work but there is much to do and funding will be required in the future to complete this work. I want to briefly acknowledge the huge role that Tarania Turia has played in the Māori communities throughout my region, and congratulate her as she leaves this place on making such a great contribution to the welfare of so many. I want to briefly note the work done by Ngāti Apa in the south of the Rangitīkei, particularly in the social field, and now, with the acquisition of * Flock House and the subsequent partnership they have formed to farm this historic property. It will be the forerunner of things to come and perhaps the trendsetter to help unlock the vast potential of Māori land in New Zealand. In * Taumarunui the * Kōkiri Trust is achieving fantastic results in areas such as health, education, work projects, and aged care, under the leadership of Christine Briers—another initiative—and thanks again to the great work of Minister Turia. Finally, I want to acknowledge the time that my north-western neighbour, Shane Ardern, has spent working for the people of the north of the Rangitīkei. In the hill country of the North Island, boundaries are obscure and challenges are the same wherever you live. Thank you.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean added more:

JACQUI DEAN (National – Waitaki): What is Labour’s policy solution for everything? Talk it down, say how bad it really is, and then throw some money at it. That will do it—that will absolutely do it. Oh, and have a Minister. Labour members say “Let’s form another committee. Let’s have another Minister.” Who is that going to benefit? Oh, yes, that is right—it is going to benefit themselves. Do you think—or does one think; thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker—that after flying in over * South Canterbury’s beautiful water storage facility, the Opuha Dam; the highly productive dairy factories, one under full operation, one just about to be commissioned; and the most beautiful farms in South Canterbury, with grain stores glistening down below and new sheds everywhere, including milking sheds, and landing at the Timaru airport, and this happened last week, David Cunliffe apologised to South Canterbury for how badly the region is doing? And as he crossed the brand-new $20 million Kurow bridges, with their own cycle lane, creating 150 jobs regionally, on the way through the reinvigorated towns of Kurow, of Otematata, and of Omarama, following the $3 million * Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, do you think that Mr Cunliffe apologised to the locals for the new business opportunities and the incredible new tourist traffic that is now running through the region? And do you think after he recovered from his 2 days—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! Many times the member has brought me into the debate. You cannot mention “you” being the Speaker.

JACQUI DEAN: Thank you so much—thank you so much for your help, Mr Assistant Speaker. And do the Assistant Speaker and the members of the House think that once Mr Cunliffe did recover from his 2 days in beddy-byes with his man flu that he enjoyed all the magnificence that Queenstown offers, from the restaurants to the magnificent high life to the skiing? Actually, I did hear some of my spies report to me that some time last week there was seen on the slopes of Cardrona ski field a man in a red scarf desperately trying to be noticed. But do you think that—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order!

JACQUI DEAN: Oh, right. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. It is just that I am so enthusiastic about the topic that I cannot help but try to include the Assistant Speaker in the conversation, but I will not do that any more. But does one think that Mr Cunliffe then apologised to the people of Queenstown for how well their local economy is doing, with the expansion of the Queenstown airport and with the commitment of Air New Zealand to bringing tourists both domestic and international into the region? And do you think he apologised to the wineries? Do you think that David Cunliffe, when enjoying a pinot noir or a little a pinot gris, perhaps, for his cold, apologised to the wineries and said to the House how awful it was for them? And what about the cherry producers, the pip fruit producers, and the apple producers, who are producing so much that this Government had to respond by increasing the * Recognised Seasonal Employer numbers and, in fact, creating a new seasonal worker programme down south to assist New Zealanders into the region and into work? You see, what we are having to do with Central Otago is have programmes to bring workers into the regions. Unemployment is so low in Central Otago and the whole region is so productive that we need programmes to bring people into the region. There are jobs, all right. There are jobs in Central Otago, all right, and we are creating them. David Cunliffe should apologise. David Cunliffe should apologise because the South Canterbury and Otago regions are doing just fine. Things do not feel so hollowed out when the Winter Games NZ or the Queenstown winter festival are in full swing, or when the BMX world championships or the Wanaka triathlon festival are all go—all supported by what? All supported by this Government. Things do not feel hollowed out to the 11 Otago companies supported by the * Venture Investment Fund, or the initiatives in the meat and wool industries through the Primary Growth Partnerships, or the towns of Queenstown—or what about Ōāmaru or Dunedin city, which have been supported with their ultra-fast broadband upgrade? And what about the hundreds and hundreds of small businesses that now benefit from the * Rural Broadband Initiative and the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise capability development programme?

Labour holds only a couple of general electorates outside the main centres and really don’t understand what makes them tick.

They and their potential coalition partners are against most of the industries which provide the jobs there and export income for the whole country.

Rather than helping the regions their policies would handicap them with more restrictions and higher taxes.

National provides a happy contrast to that with MPs who represent rural and provincial people, understand their issues and how best to help them.


NZ envy of world – Joe Hockey

July 23, 2014

Australian treasurer Joe Hockey says New Zealand’s economy is the envy of the world:

Mr Hockey told TV ONE’s Breakfast today that Australia could learn some lessons from their Kiwi neighbours.

“New Zealand has done a splendid job, the Key government is a standout government around the world and as a result of that it is heading towards a surplus,” he said.

“New Zealand is starting to live within its means.”

Delivering his first budget this year, Mr Hockey said he was forced to slash spending by $10 billion because of the previous Labor government’s overspending.

“They took us to a position where if we don’t take immediate action we will face much bigger debts,” he said.

“If you make the difficult but important decisions up front then you get the benefits down the track. We’ve got a long way to go to catch up to the budget position of New Zealand.”

The government borrowed to take the roughest edges off the global financial crisis but at the same time took a very disciplined approach to public spending.

By doing so it turned round the forecast decade of deficits Labour left it with and is now back on track to surplus.

The growing economy is one of the reasons we’re getting a net migration gain:

. . . In the June 2014 year, permanent and long-term (PLT) migrant arrivals numbered 100,800 (up 14 percent from 2013), the first time more than 100,000 arrivals have been recorded in a year. Migrant departures numbered 62,400 (down 22 percent). This resulted in a net gain of 38,300 migrants, the highest annual gain since the October 2003 year (39,300). New Zealand recorded its highest-ever net gain of 42,500 migrants in the May 2003 year.

In the latest year, New Zealand had a net loss of 8,300 migrants to Australia, well down from 31,200 a year earlier. Net gains were recorded from most other countries, led by India (7,000), China (6,300), and the United Kingdom (5,500).

In June 2014, New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 4,300 migrants, the second-highest monthly gain of migrants. The highest gain ever recorded was in February 2003 (4,700).

Net migration has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012. The difference in the net gains recorded in September 2012 and June 2014 was mainly due to:

  • fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia (down 2,400) 
  • more non-New Zealand citizens arriving (up 1,500)
  • more New Zealand citizens arriving from Australia (up 500).

Seasonally adjusted PLT arrivals of 2,000 migrants from Australia in June 2014 matched the number of departures to that country, resulting in net migration of zero. The last time this series recorded net migration of zero was in August 1991. 

We’re on track for our first ever net gain of migrants from Australia.

No wonder their treasurer envies us and the benefits we’re reaping from the hard, but right, decisions taken to get the government back into surplus and the economy growing sustainably.


BPS working for NZ

July 22, 2014

National set targets for its Better Public Services programme which are showing positive results.

Long-term welfare dependency is reducing and more young people are achieving higher qualifications under the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman say.

The Government today published the July update of BPS targets, which confirms more good progress in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders, however making headway in other areas is slower, Mr English says.

“The Government is committed to making progress on the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, and particularly the most vulnerable,” he says.

“Taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year on public services to help their fellow New Zealanders and this Government is determined to ensure they get what they pay for. Our focus on reducing welfare dependency, increasing achievement in schools and reducing crime require government agencies to find better solutions and to work with others to implement them.

“We are prepared to spend money on effective programmes which change lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

Dr Coleman says the ambitious goals set by the BPS initiative were chosen to make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders.

“We have always said some of the targets will be challenging and require determination and teamwork to achieve, and it’s pleasing to see agencies working co-operatively.

“The latest update shows we are making good progress overall. We have now met the targets for reducing total crime and youth crime. There has been good progress in reducing long-term welfare dependency, increasing Level 2 NCEA pass rates and those with New Zealand Qualifications Framework Level 4.

“Progress in the past 12 months towards our target of reducing long-term welfare dependency is encouraging, with 6434 (8.5 per cent) fewer people continuously receiving jobseeker support for more than one year. We are also seeing people stay in employment for longer.

“In other result areas, more work is being done to reduce rheumatic fever, reduce assaults on children, and improve online business transactions.”

Dr Coleman says that because of the BPS programme, agencies are working together more effectively and delivering results through collaboration and innovation.

“Agencies are making better use of data to drive better services and to meet the needs of local communities. Agencies are also learning about what works through research and evaluation,” he says.

“There is a greater focus on chief executives doing what is best for the system as a whole, rather than just looking at the short term interests of their department, and that is supporting the changes needed to achieve results.”

The BPS programme began in 2012 when the Prime Minister announced goals and measurable targets in 10 challenging areas, including reducing long-term welfare dependency, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, reducing crime, and improving interaction with Government.

The Better Public Service Results July update is here.

Money is being spent where it will have a positive impact.

This is often more expensive in the short term but it will pay off with both social and financial dividends in the medium to longer term.

Behind these numbers are individuals whose lives and outlook are better than they would have been had National not introduced targets and policies that are working for New Zealand.

We’re committed to tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders. You can check out our good progress here: national.org.nz/better-public-services #Working4NZ


More common than sense

July 21, 2014

Winston Peters accused the Conservative Party of plagiarising New Zealand First’s policies.

Common policies isn’t plagiarism but copying a slogan could be and that’s what NZ First has done by adopting it’s common sense as its rallying cry for the election.

Since 2002 when Peter Dunne got the television worm to dance by insisting his policies were common sense, that’s been associated with him and United Future.

Common sense is an appealing slogan but New Zealand First backs it up with policies which have a greater claim to common than sense.

One of these is removing GST from basic food items.

The thought of wiping $15 off every $100 spent on groceries is attractive but it’s not that simple.

Not all of the grocery bill is spent on food and the part that is isn’t all spent on basic items – whatever they are and that’s where the problems, and costs arise.

Exactly what is basic and what isn’t requires definition, that’s open to debate and it all adds complexity and cost to our enviably simple and relatively cheap to administer GST system.

Labour tried to sell removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables at the last election but gained little if any traction. One of the reasons for that was that the biggest gains from that would go to the wealthy who’d save on luxury items.

But the bigger problem with this policy is the cost.

. . . Mr Peters said his policy would save New Zealanders but cost the Crown a whopping $3 billion a year or thereabouts.

“This bold policy aims at the heart of the inequality undermining our society.”

Also “as part of a fair system” NZ First would remove GST from rates on residential property.

“This tax-on-a-tax deceit has to end, and it will,” Mr Peters told around 150 party faithful at Alexandra Park.

He did not provide details on how much that policy would cost, but with local authorities raising more than $7 billion a year in rates, the Crown would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

However, in an echo of Labour’s plan to fund its big-ticket items, Mr Peters said the policies would be funded through “a clampdown on tax evasion and the black economy” which he estimated was worth $7 billion a year. . . .

Inland Revenue already devotes a lot of time and money to detecting and clawing back money lost through evasion and the black economy.

Greater effort would result in greater costs and would be very unlikely to result in a fraction of the billions of dollars that would be lost from the tax take if these policies were adopted.


Will the payout go down?

July 18, 2014

When Fonterra announced its forecast payout for the 2014/15 season some thought it was optimistic.

After this week’s large drop in the GlobalDairyTrade price index and no encouraging signs for recovery in the short term a revised forecast for a lower payout is expected.

Federated Farmers is warning farmers to prepare for something less than the opening forecast of $7:

“The reality is that the world is having a near-perfect production season with Europe and the Americas having a blinder,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy chair.

“The fall in GlobalDairyTrade reflects supply and demand.  With good weather, high milk prices and grain availability, global dairy production has ramped up.

“While GDT Prices may have come off there is no milk lake of yesteryear.  The world needs to grow a lot more than New Zealand’s annual production every year just to meet demand.

“In the short term, I would recommend dairy farmers start planning for payout forecasts being predicted by the banks of $6 to $6.25 kg/MS.  We need to remember $6 kg/MS is the practical breakeven for about twenty percent of the industry with high production costs.

“Be conservative by focussing on debt and prioritising productive investment.

“This volatility in the payout shows that when politicians start mouthing off about new taxes specifically for farmers, without a clear objective of what they could achieve aide from being affordable in one year, they miss the reality that good years usually alternate with bad years. . .

Many farmers used last season’s record payout to repay debt and the prudent budgeted for a reduced income this season.

Even so, a lower payout will mean farmers re-look at budgets and there will be less money to spend in rural communities and the wider economy.

However, while the payout will be lower than last season’s and almost certainly lower than the opening forecast, it is still expected to be at least at, if not better than the average for the last few years.

The outlook isn’t as optimistic as hoped but that’s no reason to be pessimistic about it, or dairying.


Dairy cash cow for regions

July 15, 2014

Dairying is a cash cow for the regions:

New Zealand’s regional economies are milking the dairy industry, taking $14.3 billion in total in 2013-14 – a 31 percent increase in earnings – DairyNZ figures show.

The regions earned about $14.3 billion from dairy farms in 2013-2014, taking the lion’s share of national dairy earnings. In total, it’s estimated the New Zealand economy earned $17.6 billion from dairy exports that year.

DairyNZ’s chief executive Tim Mackle says its recent Economic Survey shows the industry contributed about 31 percent more than the previous year and injected much of that back into growth, farm spending and jobs.

“Our latest survey shows the financial value that dairy farmers bring into each province, helping grow residents’ wealth even if they are not dairy farming themselves,” Dr Mackle says.

Dairy’s boost to rural economies is consistent with the national trend. National dairy export revenue soared by 30 percent to 17.6 billion in 2013-14, a Situation and Outlook 2014 report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says.

New Zealand’s dairy export revenue is expected to rise in the future, reaching $18.4 billion by the year ending 30 June 2018, based on a modest rise in domestic production, increasing international dairy prices, and a depreciating NZD, the MPI report says.

DairyNZ’s 2013-14 estimations shows New Zealand’s top provincial performer in dairying is Waikato, retaining its top spot from the previous year and earning $3.8 billion, followed by Canterbury with $2.77 billion, Southland with $1.72 billion then Taranaki with $1.44 billion.

Opposition parties say they’re keen for the regions to do better but they’re also against dairying which is a cash cow for the regions.

The benefits aren’t just financial, they’re social too – providing jobs on farms and in the businesses which service and supply them with the population boost that brings.

The other leg of the sustainability stool is the environment but most of the criticism of dairying is based on past practices.

Dairy companies and regional councils require high environmental standards and most farmers are complying with them.

There is still more to do but problems which built up over time aren’t solved overnight.

The left’s anti-dairying policies wouldn’t necessarily do much to help the environment, they would harm the economy and the whole country would lose from that.


Who cares about the regions?

July 14, 2014

The regions are a foreign country to most opposition MPs.

They visit occasionally, grab a headline about how bad things are and pop back to the safety of a city.

While there they try to show they care, but their policies give the lie to that:

There would be a bleak future for New Zealand’s regions if a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana Party coalition became Government after the next election, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

“A number of election policies released in the last couple of days show that the regions would be in for a dramatic and long term slowdown if there was to be a change in Government after September 20,” Mr Joyce says.

“Cartoon-like policies from the Greens and the Internet Mana Party against fresh water usage and oil and gas exploration and in favour of big new carbon taxes show how little they understand what drives most jobs and incomes in regional New Zealand. Thirteen of our 16 regions have a big stake in industries based on our natural resources and there would be thousands and thousands of job losses if their policies came to pass.

“The Greens and Internet Mana want the regions to sacrifice most of their livelihoods for holier-than-thou policies that would achieve little except making New Zealanders a lot poorer. The worrying part is that these sort of attitudes would drive any post-election Labour coalition.

“On top of that, the Labour Party mounted a very lukewarm and half-hearted defence of the oil and gas industry on Saturday. Either David Shearer is being controlled by the left wing of the Labour Caucus or he knows it’s all a bit pointless because any left wing coalition energy policy would be run by the Greens with help from Laila Harre and Hone Harawira.”

Mr Joyce says regional New Zealand knows how to balance the environment and the economy to ensure sustainable economic growth.

“This government is working with the regions to lift economic growth and job opportunities while improving environmental outcomes,” Mr Joyce says. “The left talks about the regions but promotes policies that would do real damage to them.

“The stark reminder we have received this weekend is that regional New Zealand would be completely nailed by a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana coalition.”

 Labour and the GIMPs would take New Zealand backwards.

All primary industries would face more regulation, more restrictions, higher costs and more and higher taxes.

That would result in less production, fewer jobs, lower profits and as a result of that the tax take from them would be lower even though the tax rates would be higher.

One of the reasons New Zealand has survived the global financial crisis and is beginning to prosper is the strength of primary industries.

Any progress would be reversed if Labour and the GIMPs were in government.

They only care about the regions for show.

National by contrast has MPs in all but a couple of provincial seats, knows the regions, understand their issues and governs for all New Zealand – not just the urban liberals to whom Labour and the GIMPs are targeting their policies.


What about the birds?

July 14, 2014

The Green Party aims to have every river clean enough to swim in.

What will they do about the birds?

Up until recently, ORC staff and local farmers alike have been baffled as to what has been responsible for high concentrations of E.coli occurring at Clifton Falls on the upper Kakanui River, particularly during summer.

ORC staff have been concerned about the bacteria, as high levels have the potential to cause illness in recreational bathers.

ORC enlisted the help of local farmers, who provided access to their properties and the nearby river for close inspection. When still no source of bacteria was found, a helicopter was sent into the gorge to gain an aerial perspective of the problem.

The source – a large colony of nesting gulls – was found in rugged terrain, about 5 km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with widely divergent results Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml .

ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100m should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting. . .

But they can’t be removed because some are protected.

Council resource science manager Matt Hickey said an aerial inspection of the site had revealed that the colony contained at least one species of protected gull, and that meant the council could not act to remove the nesting birds.

”There are three species of gulls, and two of them are protected. . . .

This is not the only river to be polluted by birds and of course they are not always to blame.

And like a lot of other Green policies while this one looks fine on the surface, it’s impractical when you look deeper.

Some waterways, like the Waiareka Creek near us for example, have never been swimmable.

It used to be a series of near stagnant ponds most of the year. Now, thanks to guaranteed minimum flows with irrigation it’s running clean and clear and waterlife has established again, but it’s not deep enough to swim in.

The causes of water pollution are many – some are natural, some the result of people’s activity.

Some waterways will be able to be cleaned up relatively easily – and this is already being done.

It will take a longer time and a lot of money to get others cleaner and getting up to swimmable standard for some waterways will be impractical.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the Greens announcement today is just the latest step in their anti-jobs, anti-growth, stop everything manifesto.

“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but the Greens approach is costly and impractical.  Approaching improvement through blanket bans and requirements for every drainage ditch across New Zealand to be maintained at a swimming pool standard just shows that the Greens have once again confirmed they are the anti-growth Party, by pursuing polices that would hurt households and damage the creation of new jobs across regional New Zealand for little real gain,” Ms Adams says.

“The Greens need to explain where they will find the billions of dollars of costs and lost revenue it could take to make every single centimetre of New Zealand’s 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams suitable for swimming. They clearly haven’t thought through the consequences.  Once more we see that they are happy to spend the taxes generated by productive New Zealand but they take every opportunity to impose more costs on households and the businesses who are at the heart of our economy.

“And Russel Norman is once again attempting to mislead New Zealanders by comparing the nitrogen settings in the new National Freshwater Standards to the Yangtze river in China.  While the Yangtze is indeed a highly polluted river, nitrogen is not the problem there. Dr Norman knows this, or at least he should, but continues to try and twist the reality in support of his own agenda.

 “The Government’s approach to raising freshwater standards is much more pragmatic. Our clear, robust national standards for rivers and lakes will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

“Our approach will ensure that for the first time New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

 “The Government will let communities make the call about whether particular rivers and lakes should be suitable for swimming all the time, rather than be dictated to by politicians in Wellington.

“In addition, New Zealand already has a system for protecting our most valuable waterways – water conservation orders. These give the highest level of protection to 15 iconic waterways across New Zealand, and have been described as creating a national park system for water.  What the Greens are actually saying in this policy is they plan to stop New Zealand using one of the more important natural advantages it has.  

“Rather than stopping water use, National’s plan is about ensuring it is used responsibly in a way that provides for the needs of our people now, and into the future.”

The Green party appears to believe that economic growth always can only come at the expense of the environment and only by putting the brakes on growth can the environment be protected and enhanced.

That is not right.

I am proud to head the Bluegreens Caucus and proud to be the Chair of the Local Government & Environment Select Committee

It doesn’t have to be one or the other – we can have both economic growth and environmental protection and enhancement.

Furthermore if we want high environmental standards we need the wealth a growing economy brings to pay for them.


The means not the end

July 12, 2014

Most people accept that National is a good economic manager and recognise it has a good head.

Many don’t get the link between that and a good heart.

The economy matters not as an end but as a means to better services, better opportunities and better lives.

 Technical measures of our economy are important, but most people use ones that are closer to home and closer to their hearts.

Manufacturing expands for 21 months

July 11, 2014

Once more the statistics don’t support the opposition’s manufactured manufacturing crisis:

The manufacturing sector remains in expansion mode, despite some aspects of the results that need to be watched closely in the months ahead, according to the latest BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI).

The seasonally adjusted PMI for June was 53.3 (a PMI reading above 50.0 indicates that manufacturing is generally expanding; below 50.0 that it is declining). This was 0.7 points higher than May, with the sector now being in expansion for 21 consecutive months.

BusinessNZ’s executive director for manufacturing Catherine Beard said that the slight lift in expansion levels was obviously welcome, albeit with a few head winds for manufacturers.

“Overall production levels remain healthy, and have been very consistent for the last three months. Employment levels continue to show more people entering the sector, while the largest proportion of comments received are still positive.

“As mentioned last month, the fundamentals of both the PMI and other indicators of the economy still point to positive activity. However, the continued strength of the New Zealand dollar, as well as new order levels continuing to fall, mean there are elements of the sector that need to be watched closely in the months ahead.

BNZ senior economist, Craig Ebert says “Wading through the manufacturing component of the latest QSBO, while there are clear hints of moderation, it seems mainly a settling down into normal growth patterns rather than any sort of stalling. We get a similar impression for the recent PMI levels and trends, with its weak spot seemingly concentrated in new orders.” . . .

Business is never easy but 21 successive months of expansion with the dollar providing a head wind is a sign of the sector’s strength.

 


CTG very bad idea

July 10, 2014

Act leader Jamie Whyte is not impressed by Labour’s proposal to introduce a Capital Gains Tax:

On TV1’s Q&A programme, David Cunliffe boasted that his proposed new capital gains tax would collect an extra $5 billion a year. That is the biggest tax hike in the history of New Zealand. Which is saying something.

This isn’t replacing other taxes, it’s in addition to them.

It is a dreadful boast. Taxes are always paid by people, whatever the taxes are levied on. Income taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, GST: they are all the same in this respect. They are all paid by people.

Nor are the people who bear the cost necessarily the people who write the cheques to the government. For example, if a capital gains tax means that landlords get a lower return on the capital appreciation of their properties, it will increase the rents they charge their tenants. Or landlords may sell their properties to owner-occupants. The supply of rental properties will then fall and, again, tenants will end up paying more.

Actions have consequences. If the cost of property rises or the return on investment falls, landlords will put up rents or sell and invest elsewhere.

This won’t just affect domestic rentals, it will affect commercial properties too which will add to the costs of businesses.

Where the cost of a capital gains tax will fall is a complex matter and extraordinarily difficult to predict. All Cunliffe knows is that the $5 billion will somehow be extracted from the people of New Zealand so that it can be spent in ways that he figures will buy him the most votes.

At least, that is what Cunliffe thinks he knows. In fact, he has almost certainly over-estimated the amount he will be able to squeeze out of tenants, consumers and entrepreneurs because taxes can be avoided.

Our observation of CGT in Argentina is that it prompts people to hold on to property, especially farms, rather than selling them.

This has led to a lot of absentee ownership, boosted the price of land and made it harder for people to get into farming.

When it comes to income tax, people can divert their activities from highly taxed activities, such as working in productive jobs, to low taxed activities, such as playing golf. When it comes to a capital gains tax, they can divert their investments from rental properties to bigger homes for themselves (which will not incur capital gains tax at sale). They can invest overseas rather than in New Zealand. They can delay selling assets to avoid realising a gain and paying the tax. And they can spend money on accountants and tax lawyers to devise all sorts of other ingenious schemes

Such avoidance activities will reduce the loot Cunliffe can get his hands on. That’s good. But they will also reduce the growth of the New Zealand economy. Resources will not flow to their most valuable uses. They will instead flow to the uses that are farthest from Cunliffe’s grasp.

A capital gains tax is a very bad idea.

I’m not opposed to a CGT per se.

There could be merit in it if it was comprehensive and replaced other taxes so it was cost-neutral.

Labour’s is neither of those and is, as Whyte says a very bad idea.


Labour stands firm with no proof

July 10, 2014

The Labour Party is standing firm on its claim the Government has influenced police statistics, despite admitting it has no proof to back it up.

That stance isn’t confined to these accusations which not only smear the government but are an attack on the integrity of police too.

Labour is standing firm on several policies although the facts don’t support their stand.

Examples include:

* The belief that increasing tax rates will increase the tax take.

* The assertion that a capital gains tax will restrain property prices rises even though family homes are exempt and a CGT has not restrained property prices in other countries.

* The contention that adding fewer than one teacher per school will be better for children than improving the quality of teachers.

* The belief that what’s good for unions is good for workers.

* The belief that increasing the minimum wage will not have a negative impact on employment and business.

* The belief that adding costs and complexity to employing people won’t harm jobs.

* The claim that inequality is worsening.

* The belief that changing  KiwiSaver contribution rates would be a viable tool for reducing inflation.

* The assertions that National’s policies aimed at helping people from welfare to work are beneficiary bashing.

* The belief that governments are good at running businesses.

These are just a few of Labour’s policies and beliefs which aren’t supported by facts.

But the most erroneous belief is that they, a party riven by internal divisions, could lead a stable government with the support of the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.


Fitch tick backs govt programmes

July 9, 2014

The National-led government has received a tick from Fitch for its economic programme:

Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings’ decision to revise New Zealand’s AA sovereign rating outlook from stable to positive is a vote of confidence in the New Zealand economy and the Government’s programme, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The positive outlook, which was announced overnight, indicates the likely direction of the credit rating over the next year or two, although it is not confirmation that a change will occur.

“As Fitch notes, the Government’s fiscal consolidation and its track to surplus in 2014/15 are strengthening the resilience of New Zealand’s credit profile,” Mr English says.

“Furthermore, it confirms that the Government has a credible plan to increase its fiscal surplus in the years ahead and to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.

“And Fitch comments that New Zealand’s economic policy framework, business environment and standards of governance rank among the world’s strongest from a credit perspective, warranting ‘high grade’ sovereign ratings.”

In its ratings update, Fitch also notes that New Zealand’s main vulnerabilities relate to its high net external debt and dependence on commodity exports.

“The Government remains focused on working with New Zealand households and businesses to lift our economic competitiveness,” Mr English says.

“We have made some good progress in addressing our longstanding vulnerabilities, with both the current account deficit and New Zealand’s net international liabilities substantially lower than they were five years ago.”

Alongside Fitch’s AA rating with a positive outlook, New Zealand is rated Aaa with a stable outlook by Moody’s and AA with a stable outlook by Standard and Poor’s.

This is a vote of confidence in the government’s programme and the direction it is taking New Zealand.

It’s not just academic. The more positive the view of the ratings agencies the lower the risk for lenders and that has an impact on interest rates.

 


Best month ever for commercial vehicle sales

July 3, 2014

June was the best month ever for sales of light and heavy commercial vehicles:

David Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of the Motor Industry Association says “The strong New Zealand dollar, competitive pricing and New Zealanders confidence that the economy is heading in the right direction have all combined to help drive sales of new vehicles skywards as records continue to fall.”

“June sales of 12,519 new passenger and commercial vehicles is up 17% on June 2013 and 14% YTD on this time last year. Registrations of 4,002 new commercial vehicles for the month of June were phenomenal, not only being the strongest June sales since the MIA began collecting records for commercial vehicles in 1981, but the strongest month of any monthly commercial sales”.

There were 8,517 passenger vehicles sold during June, up 975 units (13%) on June 2013.

Year to date registrations of passenger vehicles is 4,550 units (11%) ahead of 2013.

Commercial vehicle registrations of 4,002 units were up 821 units (26%) on June 2013.

Year to date registrations of commercial vehicles is 3,134 units (21%) ahead of June 2013, reflecting a continued strong market for commercial vehicles. . .

Vehicle sales are an indicator of economic performance and confidence.

Most commercial vehicles are bought by businesses and the purchase reflects business optimism.

Oh – and some other people who are working in their communities and working for New Zealand as part of #TeamKey buy commercial vehicles too:

Had coffee with local business legend Danny Lendich at Coffee Club on Lincoln Rd, Danny loves the truck!!!


Real wages growing

July 3, 2014

The average weekly wage grew 3.2% in the year to March while inflation increased at less than half that rate – 1.5%.

Our wages are growing, our plan is working. #TeamKey http://ntnl.org.nz/1sCYDoh

Add to this real growth in wages: interest rates which were at historic lows and have risen only slightly, and that much maligned high dollar which increases our purchasing power and makes imports, including essentials like fuel, less expensive and we really are better off under  a National-led government and #TeamKey.


Opposition threat to regions’ progress

July 2, 2014

The Opposition has a propensity for shedding crocodile tears about the regions.

Like many of the other areas they’ve tried to say are in crisis, the reverse is true:

Economic Recovery—Role of Regional Economies 8. LOUISE UPSTON (National – Taupō) to the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he received on how the regions contributed to New Zealand’s economic recovery?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Yes, I have received a variety of reports that indicate that the regions have led New Zealand’s recovery out of the global financial crisis. The recent regional GDP data released by Statistics New Zealand shows that regions like the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson-Tasman, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland all experienced growth above the national average for the 5-year period from 2008 to 2013. I have also received the recent ANZ Regional Trends report, which notes that 11 regions reported growth in the first quarter of 2014. The Nelson-Marlborough economy has risen for 12 consecutive quarters, the Bay of Plenty economy has risen for nine quarters in a row, while ANZ estimates that Northland grew at 7.4 percent in the last year.

Louise Upston: What policies has the Government put in place to strengthen the regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need all of our regions to achieve their potential. That is precisely what the Government’s Business Growth Agenda is all about. So here is a list of just a few of the things that we are doing to help grow jobs and investment in regions around New Zealand—

Hon Member: Where are the jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —84,000 in the last 12 months—all of which sit alongside the big investment in regional roads announced by the Prime Minister at the weekend. These include our Rural Broadband Initiative project in ultra-fast broadband, Primary Growth Partnerships, Callaghan Innovation’s research and development funding, the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise regional business partners programme— . . .

But this good work won’t continue if there’s a chance in government.

Louise Upston: What policies would, in his view, hold the regions back from growing strongly and delivering more jobs and more growth?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen a number of policies advocated that would hold the regions back. For example, a carbon price that is five times the world price would hold New Zealand’s regions back; a capital gains tax on every productive business and farm in the country, while exempting two-thirds of residential property, would harm regional New Zealand; stopping people using wind-blown timber on the West Coast would hold that region back; rolling back reforms of the Resource Management Act would hold all our regions back; and policies that are anti-trade, anti-investment, anti – oil and gas, anti-dairy, and anti anything that develops our national resources would hold our regions back, and those—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think we have all got the picture.

Trevor Mallard’s bird-brained idea of resurrecting the moa provided inspiration for several answers at Question Time yesterday, including this one:

Louise Upston: What recent innovative ideas for regional development has he seen that merit closer attention?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen one as late as this morning that I could only describe as genius. A gentleman has proposed the resuscitation of our extinct flightless bird known as the moa. I think this is a serious proposal that requires some examination. It shows the value of having somebody with this gentleman’s long experience around in the policy development process. He is probably the only member who can personally recall how successful—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! . . .

Actually, the moa idea would be a lot less dangerous to the regions than the other anti-growth policies promoted by the opposition.

That’s not to give any credence to the idea, it just highlights how bad the rest of them are.


Inside and outside

June 29, 2014

Spot the difference:

Outside the National Party conference: the lonely figure of Trevor Mallard announcing Labour’s lame anti-growth immigration policy – to which he’d forgotten to invite the media.

Inside the conference venue: hundreds of delegates, a united caucus and policies which will build New Zealand and make a positive and sustainable difference to New Zealanders – economically, socially and environmentally.

We're working for a stronger economy.


Regions bouyant

June 28, 2014

Opposition parties have been trying to convince us the regions are in decline, but the reverse is true:

. . . The latest Westpac survey shows economic confidence has declined in most regions but remains buoyant. Respondents in the quarterly survey are not so upbeat as previously. It follows reports from some economic groups and unions that some regions outside Auckland are at risk of stagnating. ANZ Bank economists disagree with the stagnation theory. They say the idea the regions are being plundered for the benefit of the cities is simply not backed up by the statistics. “Our own Regional Trends proxy for regional economic activity puts Northland at the top of the annual growth stakes in the year to March 2014.” Canterbury and Auckland have led economic growth over the past few years. Strong rises have also been recorded by Waikato, Otago, Taranaki and Nelson-Marlborough. The ANZ commentary says to get the full story, it’s worth doing a bit of knife-and-fork economics (that’s a few dinners chatting along the way).

“While everyone talks about Christchurch, 100km down the road is a place called Ashburton; it’s booming. That’s irrigation for you. South Canterbury is riding the same wave. Central Otago is going very well with evening flights the icing on Queenstown’s cake. Ironically in Otago, it’s the city (Dunedin) that is underperforming the region. Southland is just Southland and getting on with business and not crowing about it. Blenheim just had a bumper grape harvest; Nelson has a reasonable vibe (was there last Wednesday). Taranaki – white and black gold working in tandem. Bay of Plenty – Psa being worked through (kiwifruit land prices have rebounded), they’re seeing Aucklanders relocate, and the port is going well (though the forestry sector is grinding to a halt, which is something we’re watching). Wellington – no Govt spend but lots of IT spend and investment, and Kapiti is doing nicely. Waikato – a 2-hour wait to get into Fieldays the other Friday told us something. Manawatu – trundling along solidly. There are weak spots, but this talk of cities surging and the regions being down in the dumps is just hubris. In many cases it’s not a lack of demand or opportunities holding regions back, it’s getting the available resources (particularly labour). That’s not a bad problem to have!” . .

Just like the manufactured manufacturing crisis opposition parties tried to promote, regions aren’t in decline, they’re buoyant.

 


NZ one of better for inequality

June 25, 2014

The left have done their best to make inequality the problem of the moment.

Fortunately for New Zealand, though not the left’s campaign, the OECD facts contradict their story:

New Zealand was one of only six developed economies in which both income inequality and disposable income inequality was flat or slightly better between 2007 and 2011, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In its latest report, which looks at the impact of the global financial crisis on inequality across 33 developed economies, the OECD confirms New Zealand performed relatively well through the GFC and its aftermath, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“The domestic recession in New Zealand under the previous government in early 2008 and the global financial crisis that followed were tough on many New Zealanders and their families,” he says.

“However, this Government ran large deficits and borrowed through that period to continue its significant support programmes. At the same time, we also set a track back to surplus and supported an economic recovery that is now delivering more jobs and higher incomes.

The opposition criticise the increase in debt but give the government no credit at all for using it to protect the most vulnerable from the worst impact of the GFC.

“This latest OECD research confirms that while inequality increased in many OECD countries during the global financial crisis, this was not the case in New Zealand.”

Using data compiled for the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes report, the OECD’s latest Income Inequality Update confirms that both income inequality and disposable income inequality were flat or slightly better in New Zealand between 2007 and 2011.

It also finds that the disposable incomes of the top 10 per cent of New Zealand’s income earners were hit harder than the bottom 10 per cent of income earners through this period.

“Across the OECD as a whole, the opposite was true,” Mr English says. “The bottom 10 per cent of disposable incomes fell by twice as much through the GFC and the top 10 per cent.

Mr English says that the Government remains focused on supporting the most vulnerable New Zealanders by improving public services, lifting education standards and supporting more New Zealanders off welfare and into work.

“It’s in these areas that we can make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders most in need.”

The easiest way to solve inequality is to make the rich poorer – as the left want to do by taxing them more.

That might close the gap between the top and bottom but will do nothing to improve the lot of those in most need.

Addressing their problems, as the government is doing through better public services, higher achievement in education and helping those who can work to do so is the only way to get sustainable improvement in living standards for the vulnerable.

The OECD report is here.


Meanwhile what matters more

June 19, 2014

Political sideshows might excite political tragics.

But what matters far more are what affects people directly.

One of the biggest of those is the economy and there’s good news on that front today:

Strong growth in construction led to a 1.0 percent rise in gross domestic product (GDP) in the March 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.

Construction activity grew 12.5 percent, due to large rises in residential and non-residential building. Growth in construction activity was strong in Canterbury and in the rest of the country.

“Construction was responsible for two-thirds of GDP growth this quarter,” national accounts manager Gary Dunnet said. “This is the largest increase in construction in 14 years.”

This is the third consecutive quarter in which GDP has grown by 1.0 percent or more. GDP growth for the year ended March 2014 was 3.3 percent.

The expenditure measure of GDP rose 1.3 percent in the March 2014 quarter. Growth in construction activity was reflected in a 2.1 percent rise in investment. Rises in residential and non-residential building were partly offset by falls in plant, machinery, and equipment and intangible assets.

Spending by New Zealand households was flat, while spending by tourists increased 7.7 percent. Higher tourist spending also drove an increase in exports of travel services, which contributed to a 3.1 percent rise in exports.

The size of the economy (in current prices) was $227 billion for the year ended March 2014.

The third consecutive quarter in which GDP has grown by at least 1% and annual growth of 3.3% – that is a remarkable turnaround in the wake of the GFC.

While earthquake recovery work is helping, growth in construction is not confined to Canterbury.

This reflects the good work led by the government, but Finance Minister Bill English says there is still a big challenge:

. . . “This is the latest in a run of encouraging economic indicators,” Mr English says. “Our challenge is to ensure this growth continues over the long term, because that’s the best way to deliver more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders.”

“Business and consumer confidence remains high, manufacturing activity has been expanding for almost a year and a half and the current account deficit is less than half of what it was five or six years ago.

“However, we still have plenty of work ahead of us to ensure these positive indicators continue to translate into real opportunities and progress for New Zealanders and their families.”

The solid growth was widespread across the economy in the March quarter. Construction made the largest contribution, with mining, agriculture, retail trade and accommodation also making positive contributions.

“This confirms businesses are investing for the long-term to support productivity and higher wages,” Mr English says. . .

“We are making good progress but our long-term challenge is to make the enduring structural changes needed for New Zealand to reach its economic potential,” Mr English says.

That will require more of the policies that are working now and none of the anti-growth, higher-tax, higher spending policies the left want to inflict on us.


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