Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


Rural round-up

July 27, 2015

TPP must deliver, say beef producers:

Beef producers from five Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries are calling for a high-quality market access deal on beef to be secured at the TPP ministerial meeting in Hawaii this month.

Negotiators and trade ministers from the 12 TPP countries will meet in Maui in late July, with the goal of reaching agreement on the outstanding issues across the TPP agenda.

The Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA)1 says it is vital that a comprehensive, trade liberalising deal be finalised. . .

North Canterbury farmers get reprieve on intensification limits – Tim Fulton:

Farmers dealing with drought in North Canterbury have been spared the “unintended consequations” of rules that could have stunted their recovery.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) will no longer apply its proposed “10 per cent rule” in the Hurunui catchment, meaning farmers will not be forced to get resource consent for normal farming practices, like re-stocking and applying fertilisers.

ECan will no longer consider some of these improvements a “land use” change triggering its so-called “10 per cent” limit. . .

Hawke’s Bay ‘Land Girl’ honoured:

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Craig Foss will today present a pin and certificate of appreciation to Hawke’s Bay ‘Land Girl’ Tiny (Helen) White.

During World War II, Mrs White and more than 4000 other New Zealand women volunteered for organisations such as the Women’s Land Service.

“These women, commonly referred to as Land Girls, took up the roles of the men sent overseas — they worked on farms and in other essential industries,” Mr Foss says. . .

From city to country to DWN coordinator:

It was the call of the land that saw Dairy Women’s Network’s newest staff member pack up her family from living the city life and head back to the family’s 830-cow dairy farm.

Melissa Sinton, who has just taken over the role of DWN regional convenor coordinator for the lower North Island, was working in pharmacy in Rotorua three years ago, when she was encouraged to come back to the family farm in Arohena, south east of Te Awamutu.

“As a mum of three young boys, it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. Moving back to the farm was definitely something I did for myself, but more so for my family,” she said. . .

 

Hamilton Honey Scores Sweet Silver at National Awards:

Honey collected from hives at three popular Hamilton locations has claimed a silver medal at the recent National Beekeepers Association National Honey Competition.

Kirikiriroa Honey, produced by Waikato firm Sweetree, claimed second prize in the Beekeepers Special Reserve section of the awards, held in Taupo in June.

The awards’ Special Reserve Category included 12 entries. . .

 

Agcarm President Mark Christie to the 68th Agcarm Annual Conference

Like all well run organisations, Agcarm has a clear vision.

“To protect and enhance the health of crops and animals through innovation and responsible use of quality products.”

From this, our objectives focus on sustainable, science based innovation, where high quality products result in high quality produce for local and global consumption.

They also focus on the strong need for stewardship and responsible use, while ensuring user and environmental safety. . .

Cows master maze make mice, look like dimwits – Julie Power:

Everyone knows rats and mice can navigate mazes, but cows?

New research shows cows can be taught to follow sounds to find food in a maze. Some cows got a perfect score, when tested four times a day for four days straight. 

And confirming that some cows are smarter than others, heifer number two nailed it immediately from day one of testing, amazing researchers when she found the food in less than 20 seconds. . .


Safer roads for all

March 6, 2015

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss has announced the Visiting Drivers Signature Project (VDSP) will be extended and planned safety improvements fast-tracked following recent crashes involving overseas visitors.

“The Government recognises that many people are concerned with poor driving behaviour on challenging roads in and around popular tourist destinations, particularly in the lower South Island,” Mr Foss says.

That is why we are extending the VDSP to include the West Coast — an area that attracts a large number of tourists.

“A range of planned safety improvements on state highways in Otago and Southland will also be fast-tracked for completion by July 1 this year.”

These improvements include an additional:

50km of centre-line ‘rumble strips’
140km of no-passing markings
200km of highway marked with ‘keep left’ arrows
“This work will improve safety for all road users, including the increasing number of overseas visitors choosing to explore our country by car,” Mr Foss says.

The safety improvements announced today will be in addition to a range of measures already in place in Otago and Southland, including 564km of edge-line rumble strips, 1800km of highway marked with ‘keep left’ arrows, 4755 curve warning signs and 165km of safety barriers.

“Every death or serious injury on our roads is a tragedy and these tragedies can be prevented by improving safety in every part of the transport system — vehicles, speeds, road users and the roads themselves,” Mr Foss says.

I would also like to see arrows at exits from tourist attractions showing which side of the road drivers should turn on to.

Rental companies need to take more responsibility for people who hire their vehicles.

A Queenstown company has set a good example with an app it will use to screen drivers.

A Queenstown car hire company is taking the unprecedented move of pre-screening foreign drivers.

Wai Hire Cars is launching an app this week to test its customers’ knowledge of the road rules.

Manager Greg Wensley believed rental firms had a “moral responsibility” for basic screening of customers.

“In some [foreign] countries you can essentially just buy a driver’s licence without having to sit tests.

“In these customers’ hands, our rental cars can become deadly weapons.”

Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) chief executive Barry Kidd said Wai’s driver-screening app was the only one in the country he knew of and he applauded the “good idea. . .

These measures will make roads safer for all users.

However, they won’t change the need for drivers to be alert, concentrate on driving, drive to the conditions, obey road rules and be considerate of other drivers.


What do we do about tourist drivers?

February 23, 2015

A five-year-old lost her life in a head-on collision on Saturday.

The driver of one of the vehicles has been charged with dangerous driving causing death.

He’s a Chinese tourist.

. . . The latest figures, from 2013, show overseas drivers were involved in 11 fatal accidents, 90 causing serious injury and more than 400 that caused minor injuries. In all 11 fatalities, the overseas driver was found to be at fault.

In the four years to 2013, 37 percent of crashes in Westland involved an overseas driver, 25 percent in Southland, 24 percent in Queenstown-Lakes and 17 percent in Central Otago.

Yesterday’s accidents come just days after three American citizens were killed when their car crossed the centre line and collided with a logging truck north of Tokoroa.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss told 3 News any fatal or serious accident is a tragedy and the Government, police and NZTA are trying to reduce crashes through what’s called the Visiting Drivers Signature Project.

That includes better signage on tourist routes, directional arrows on the road, the use of rumble strips, guidelines for rental vehicle companies and steering wheel safety tags in rental cars. . .

This will inevitably bring more calls for tourists to have to do a driving test before they can drive here, which the AA does not favour:

. . .  AA national manager for policy Simon Douglas told MPs that visiting drivers are not ove-represented at a national level in road accidents.

“AA does not believe that a practical test at the border for visitors is pragmatic or practical. We just don’t believe it will be able to be implemented or make a difference,” he said.

Instead Simon Douglas said the Government should prioritise the roll-out in tourist areas of rubber strips, wire-rope barriers, and arrows reminding drivers to keep left.

If tests could be implemented it would almost certainly result in reciprocal tests for New Zealanders overseas.

It might weed out a few really incompetent tourist drivers but would do nothing to counter the danger of generally competent drivers who revert to their home driving habits after a while.

When we’re in countries where we have to drive on the other side of the road my farmer and I reckon it takes both of us to make sure we don’t get complacent. The few times I’ve driven by myself on the right-hand side of the road I’ve planned the trip meticulously and constantly reminded myself to keep right and look left first.

There’s been an awful start to the road toll this year with 46 deaths from 41 fatal crashes by last Friday compared with 34 from 33 crashes at the same time last year.

Most of those weren’t caused by tourists but of course there are a lot more local drivers than visitors.

Whatever we can do to make tourist drivers safer also needs to apply to all of us.

 


WWI: changing the fabric of our nation

November 12, 2014

Statistics NZ has produced an infographic commemorating Armistice Day :

Statistics Minister Craig Foss said:.

“The First World War was a significant event in New Zealand’s history — it helped define us as a nation and it continues to have a lasting impact,” Mr Foss says.

“I am proud to be able to tell the story of this important event through statistics.”

The First World War – Changing the Fabric of our Nation infographic has been developed by Statistics New Zealand in partnership with the WW100 Programme Office.

“Communities, towns and cities rallied to the call for ‘King and Country’ in 1914. Just over 100,000 New Zealand troops served overseas from a population of barely one million,” Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says.

“The WW100 centenary honours the sacrifice of those who fought and will also tell the story of those who remained at home.”

The infographic uses historical census data to highlight key events prior, during and just after the war.

 The infographic is too wide for the post, you can see it all here.

We developed the First World War – Changing the fabric of our nation infographic in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage WW100 Programme Office, and with valuable assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force, to mark the First World War centenary from 2014 to 2018. The First World War was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and we are proud to commemorate this important event through the statistics we’ve been gathering about New Zealand for over 100 years.

The infographic aims to present key information about the war and its impact on New Zealand. With the limited space available on an infographic, depicting all factual information relevant to this significant historical event is difficult.

We developed this infographic for any organisation or group to use in their commemoration activities and events. We are happy to share relevant files with these groups for republication.

 

Image, First World War – Changing the fabric of our nation, WW100 infographic.

The WW100 programme and other resources are available at WW100.govt.nz


New Cabinet announced

October 6, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced the Cabinet for his third term:


“There is a lot of work ahead to continue implementing our plans to build a stronger economy, reduce debt and create more jobs,” Mr Key says.

“The new Ministry builds on the experience of the past two terms in office, and combines experience with some fresh talent.

“A number of Ministers have had significant portfolio changes, reflecting the need to give Ministers new challenges as well as providing a fresh set of eyes in some portfolio areas.”

Mr Key says a number of Ministers have been promoted either to the front bench, or further up the front bench, to reflect their strong performance in recent years and their promise for the future.

“Paula Bennett has been promoted to number five in the rankings, and picks up State Services, Social Housing and Associate Finance in addition to retaining her Local Government portfolio.

“Dr Jonathan Coleman becomes Minister of Health, and also picks up the Sport and Recreation portfolio, which will link nicely together.

“Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are promoted to the front bench, both with significant new responsibilities. Ms Adams becomes Justice Minister and Mr Bridges Transport Minister.

“Christopher Finlayson remains Treaty Negotiations Minister and Attorney-General, while picking up significant new responsibilities in the intelligence area. He becomes Minister in Charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and Minister Responsible for the GCSB, working closely with me in my new role as Minister for National Security and Intelligence.

“In this role I will continue to be responsible for leading the national security system, including policy settings and the legislative framework. Mr Finlayson will operate within the framework I set and exercise ministerial oversight of the NZSIS and GCSB, including approval of warrants.

“Officials have examined models used overseas and what we are adopting is very similar to what is seen with our closest partners.

“Housing continues to be a key area of focus for the Government, and a Ministerial team of Bill English, Paula Bennett and Nick Smith has been assembled to lead that work. Mr English will have direct responsibility for Housing New Zealand; Ms Bennett will focus on social housing, while Dr Smith will work on housing affordability and construction issues. The Social Housing portfolio will have responsibility for the government’s social housing functions, and for its relationship with the social housing sector.

Other changes include:

Gerry Brownlee becomes Minister of Defence, while retaining the role of Leader of the House and his Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and EQC portfolios.

Anne Tolley becomes Minister for Social Development.

Dr Nick Smith becomes Minister for the Environment.

Nikki Kaye becomes Minister for ACC.

Michael Woodhouse becomes Minister of Police. He also becomes Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety – a new portfolio title to reflect the modern focus of what had previously been the Labour portfolio.

Jo Goodhew becomes Minister for Food Safety.

Mr Key says, in announcing his new line up, three new Ministers will be appointed. Maggie Barry is to go straight into Cabinet as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister of Conservation and Minister for Senior Citizens. Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith will be Ministers outside Cabinet holding a variety of portfolios.

“Two ministers previously outside Cabinet have been promoted to Cabinet. Todd McClay will be Minister of Revenue and Minister for State Owned Enterprises, while Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be Minister of Corrections, Minister for Ethnic Communities and Minister for Pacific Peoples.

“Craig Foss remains a Minister, but will now serve outside Cabinet as Minister for Small Business, Minister of Statistics and Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.

“Chester Borrows will not be appointed to the new Ministry. He will, however, be National’s nominee for Deputy Speaker, and I want to thank Chester for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

A number of Ministers continue largely in their current portfolio responsibilities. These include Steven Joyce in Economic Development, Hekia Parata in Education, Murray McCully in Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy in Primary Industries, Tim Groser in Trade and Climate Change, and Nicky Wagner in Customs.

“The support party Ministerial and Under Secretary roles have already been announced, but I want to acknowledge again their contribution to the formation of a strong, stable National-led Government.”

Mr Key says the National Caucus will meet tomorrow (Tuesday 7 October) to elect its three whips for the coming parliamentary term.

The new Ministry will be sworn in at Government House in Wellington at 11am on Wednesday morning.

The list of names, positions and rankings is here.

 


Why not make it permanent?

July 1, 2014

Import tariffs on a range of building products will be temporarily suspended from today – a measure which is expected to reduce housing costs and increase competition in the residential construction sector, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and Commerce Minister Craig Foss.

“The building materials covered by the tariff suspension comprise about 90 per cent of the cost of the material in an average new house. Currently, these materials attract tariffs and duties that add an estimated $3500 to the cost of a new home. These will be cut to zero per cent tomorrow for at least the next five years,” Dr Nick Smith says.

“The scheme includes a comprehensive list of materials such as roofing, cladding, framing, windows, doors, insulation, plumbing and electrical components, fixed cabinetry, paint and builders’ hardware and fixings,” Dr Smith says.

“New Zealand is a small market for building materials. While we would prefer as much content as possible is locally manufactured, we need the competitive pressure of imported products to ensure we are getting best value for money,” Mr Foss says.

“It is through competition and choice for consumers that we keep costs down.”

The tariff suspension comes off the back of the Budget 2014 initiative to temporarily remove anti-dumping duties for building materials, for which legislation was passed under Budget urgency in May. The temporary suspension of tariffs on building materials will reduce Crown revenue by $5.5 million each year, which was provided for in Budget 2014.

“Suspending import tariffs on building materials is consistent with this Government’s strong public commitment to address housing affordability, particularly given the need for building materials for the Canterbury rebuild and increased construction activity across the country,” Dr Smith says.

“There is no single magical solution to improving housing affordability. We are freeing up land supply, reining in development contributions, cutting compliance costs and investing in skills and productivity in the construction sector. It is about making a whole lot of changes like removing tariffs and duties that aggregate together to make homes more affordable.”

I have just one problem with this – that the removal of tariffs is temporary.

When we spend a lot of time and energy extolling the benefits of free trade to other countries we have to be open to imports ourselves.

Tariffs protect inefficient producers and add costs to everyone who builds something new or repairs something old.

Why not make the suspension of tariffs permanent?


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