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Latest Government News

  • 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/
  • 20 November 2017, 5:37 pm
    The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture today announced that the New Zealand Government has nominated Dr John Barker for the position of Director General of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). The successful candidate will take up the position in January 2019. The OIV is an intergovernmental organisation which issues recommendations on viticulture and winemaking practices. It has 46 Member States and 13 Observers. Dr Barker understands the challenges and opportunities that face the organisation and the wine sector, and he has both the vision and the competence to ensure that the OIV can fulfil its role as the trusted vine and wine reference body for a rapidly changing market,” said Mr Peters. “New Zealand’s membership in the OIV gives us the opportunity to identify and influence strategic global debates in areas affecting one of New Zealand’s most successful and fastest growing export industries,” he said. Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export, worth approximately NZ$1.7 billion in the year ended June 2017. Global exports are growing at approximately 10 percent per annum, and are expected to reach NZ$2 billion by 2020. New Zealand’s nomination of Dr Barker for the role of OIV Director General signals our commitment to an organisation that is critical to the way wine is regulated in our key export markets,” said Mr O’Connor. “The OIV plays an important role in helping to facilitate ongoing trade through establishing relevant technical standards for wine and wine products,” Dr Barker is currently a Principal at John Barker Law. He has long-standing experience as New Zealand Winegrowers’ General Counsel, and has held several roles in the OIV – including the Presidency of the OIV’s Law and Economy Commission.  He knows the people and the issues within the OIV, and also has positive and longstanding wine sector relationships with the countries and organisations outside the OIV.
  • 20 November 2017, 5:28 pm
    Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson welcomes today’s release of a new set of principles from Sport NZ that recognise and protect the right of young New Zealanders to play. The release coincides with the United Nations Universal Children’s Day, celebrated annually on 20 November to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improvement of children's welfare. “Fewer Kiwi kids are having the playful, active upbringing enjoyed by previous generations,” says Grant Robertson. “Play is the simplest form of physical activity and the starting point for equipping children with the motivation, confidence and ability to engage in other forms of physical activity. It’s something that comes naturally to kids, and parents and those working with children can enable and encourage it. “The play principles acknowledge Sport NZ’s role – along with others in the sport and active recreation sector, together with government and private bodies – in making sure opportunities for children to play are preserved, enhanced and relevant to the world we live in today. “Encouraging greater physical activity among children is one of my top priorities as Minister for Sport and Recreation so I welcome this as an important step in galvanising action among stakeholders across the country. United Nations Universal Children’s Day is a perfect day to continue this important conversation,” says Grant Robertson. Notes to editors: Universal Children's Day marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (in 1989) which defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of children worldwide, including an affirmation of children’s right to play. Play is an integral part of Sport NZ’s Young People Plan, which provides leadership and direction for those working with young people to ensure Kiwi kids develop a lifelong love of being physically active and realise the benefits this brings in terms of health, wellbeing and social connectivity. Earlier this year Sport NZ collaborated with the Ministry of Health to develop two sets of guidelines (for under-fives and children aged 5 to 17) that also recognise the importance of play for children. Sport NZ’s play principles are available at sportnz.org.nz/play-principles.
  • 20 November 2017, 4:12 pm
    Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little today announced the establishment of a new stand-alone government department, the Pike River Recovery Agency, Te Kahui Whakamana Rua Tekau ma Iwa. The Agency will work in partnership with the Pike River families to plan for decisions on the manned re-entry of the drift of the Pike River Mine. “The coalition Government is committed to Pike River re-entry. We will work closely with the families and involve them at every stage,” Mr Little said. “The new agency will make sure that the families and their experts are listened to, respected, and included. It is crucial to make every effort to recover the drift, so it can be comprehensively investigated. “The new agency will be a government department, headed by a chief executive, who will report to me. “The purpose of the agency is to gather evidence to better understand what happened in 2010, with an eye to preventing future mining tragedies and to give the Pike River families and victims’ overdue closure and peace of mind. “The stand-alone department will ensure resources are not diverted to other activities, and will provide accountability to Parliament. The final decision on whether to re-enter the drift will be made by me, informed by expert advice from the agency. “I have planned on the basis that the new agency will - depending on my decision - execute a plan for complete recovery of the drift by the end of March 2019. Exact timing will depend on technical assessments.” The Pike River families have said that safety is their first priority, and the Government agrees. “The families and the Government are going into this with eyes wide open. We agree that the decision about manned re-entry must be based on a technical assessment of the risks and advice that risks can be reasonably managed. “The public can be confident that we are committed to transparent and impartial decision-making, based on robust advice about feasibility, safety and cost,” Mr Little said.
  • 20 November 2017, 9:38 am
    The news that the road toll for 2017 has now surpassed the total for 2016 is tragic news, says Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter. “This year we’ve already seen 330 people lose their lives on New Zealand’s roads. “Every death on our roads is a tragedy and the high number this year is quite simply unacceptable. “The road toll has been going up over the last four years and is now the highest it’s been since 2010. My number one priority in the transport portfolio is to bring the road toll down. “In recent years expensive roading projects have been the priority and road safety has taken a back seat. “This government will be exploring all options to improve road safety including reallocating funding to target high risk roads. “Every life lost leaves behind a devastated family and community. We have to do better. “In addition, all of us have a responsibility to make our roads safer. It’s the basics, like wearing a seatbelt at all times, driving to the conditions, and stopping a mate from driving home drunk,” said Ms Genter.
  • 19 November 2017, 9:51 am
     Today (Sunday) and tomorrow mark two international days for children and the Minister for Children, Hon Tracey Martin is asking New Zealanders to reflect on our tamariki and do something extra for them.  “Today, like every day, is a day to remember and look out for the wellbeing of our children,” Children’s Minister Hon Tracey Martin says, marking International Day of Prevention of Child Abuse (19 November) and welcoming UN Universal Children’s Day (20 November).  “It’s important to support and acknowledge the special days we have designated for our children and I invite everyone today to do something extra for a child. Children note all the things in their environment, good and bad, praise and criticism, love and neglect, and we know from our international comparisons New Zealand can do better.  Small acts of kindness, the things that make kids smile, are what help children grow and reach their potential.  “I’d also suggest bigger commitments, such as coaching children’s sport, helping the local board of trustees, or donating to children’s charities.  And we need more social workers and caregivers - more New Zealanders need to put their hands up for this vital work.”  “There’s nothing more important to New Zealand than the wellbeing of its children.”  Mrs Martin said that the new Government was aware of the issues that face the nation’s families and children and was making our kids, who are our future, a priority.  “We’re going to have child poverty reduction measures and targets, and we’re going to have a families’ package – they’re part of the 100 day commitments. We’ll also continue with the approach taken with Oranga Tamariki in putting children first and ensuring the voices of children are heard.  “But no government and no government agency alone can ensure our children get the support and love they deserve. That’s over to us and how we act as families; as whanau; as communities; as neighbours.  “Every day is a day to remember our children.”  The Minister said that, as a nation, we had to better to prevent child abuse.  “If you know a child who you believe or suspect is in danger or facing a form of physical or emotional abuse – put them first and make a call.”       If you believe a child is in immediate danger call: POLICE ON 111.   If you're worried about a child and want to make a referral or report a concern, call freephone: 0508 326 459.  Lines are open 24/7, or email contact@mvcot.govt.nz  To find out more about social work - http://socialworkerjobs.co.nz/ or becoming a caregiver - https://mvcot.govt.nz/caring-for-someone/becoming-a-caregiver/           
  • 17 November 2017, 3:27 pm
    International visitor spending has reached a record high of $10.4 billion in the year to September 2017, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says.  The latest International Visitor Survey results from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed expenditure increased four per cent compared with the year ended September 2016.  “International visitor spending is up, helped by a boost during the DHL New Zealand Lions Series. UK visitors spent $181 million in the third quarter of 2017, up 104 per cent on same quarter in 2016,” Mr Davis says.  “We’re also receiving more visitors from the United States, resulting in a 14 per cent jump in spending over the year, to $1.2 billion.   “Though international visitor numbers continue to climb, overall expenditure growth has been moderated by the strong New Zealand dollar, which affects the amount visitors spend.  “MBIE has forecast that visitor numbers and expenditure will see steady growth over the next few years. Annual international visitor spend is predicted to grow 47 per cent by 2023, reaching $15.3 billion.”  The Government’s priority will be to help manage growth, Mr Davis says. “We are planning to invest in infrastructure, the conservation estate and training for our tourism sector workers. “I will be looking at various options as ways of responding to the sudden growth in visitor numbers and ensuring a sustainable funding model for tourism. “My first step will be to talk to people in the tourism sector so that any funding and investment changes are well informed and meet the needs of the industry.”  For more information on the International Visitor Survey, visit: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/tourism/tourism-research-data/ivs
  • 17 November 2017, 11:50 am
    Twelve young New Zealanders, aged 14-18 years, have been selected to take part in the Ministerial Youth Advisory Group, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today. The Youth Advisory Group is being set up to enable young people to have their say and have more influence on the education system and issues that affect them. “I am looking forward to working with this inspiring group of young people, hearing about their experiences of our education system, and how they think we can improve it,” says Minister Hipkins. “I want our young people to have a say in the way our education system works and the Youth Advisory Group provides an exciting opportunity for young New Zealanders to get involved in the decision-making.”  The 2018 Youth Advisory Group members are: Shaneel Lal, Otahuhu College, South Auckland Bevan Xiao, Long Bay College, Auckland Abby McRoberts, Aotea College, Porirua Liam McLeavey, Waiopehu College, Levin Okirano Tilaia, Cashmere High School, Christchurch Geniqua Samupo, Avondale College, West Auckland Brodie Cross, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu | Correspondence School, (Christchurch) Nathan Farr, Kings’ High School, Dunedin Hadassah Wharawhara, Te Kāpehu Whetū partnership school, Kerikeri Costa Blackman, Tolaga Bay Area School, Tolaga Bay Kate Morris, Darfield High School, Darfield Watene Campbell, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna, Wellington “I expect this diverse group of young people will bring fresh perspectives and valuable insights about education – they will also make sure that we are aware of the most important issues they are facing,” says Minister Hipkins. “The youth advisory group will decide what they want to talk about at each meeting. I imagine topics include things like student wellbeing, mental health, and preparing for careers.” Insights from this group will be shared with the Ministry of Education and other education sector agencies. An online youth forum will include more than 150 young people who will discuss and test insights gathered from the advisory group, to ensure a wide range of viewpoints on selected education topics. The group’s first meeting will be held in late February 2018.  Questions and Answers Q: Why is it important to have a Youth Advisory Group on education? A: Education shapes New Zealand and we often don't hear enough from those who we deliver education to. As the Minister of Education I feel it important that I do hear directly from young people about their experiences of education, as they use the system. I expect they will bring fresh perspectives and insights about the most important issues facing them today, with a particular focus on education. Q: What will your involvement in the 2018 Education Youth Advisory Group meetings or related events? A: My involvement will be: Attending the Orientation and each other meeting of the Youth Advisory Group. Where I can't attend, I will send them a video message or Skype in to the meeting. Where time allows, joining in some live panel discussions with the forum. Receiving a report on the key insights after each meeting from the Ministry of Education. Q: How did you select the members of the Youth Advisory Group? A: Applications closed on 3 September 2017.  Ministry officials selected a short-list of registrants for me to consider. I approved the final selection of the Youth Advisory Group. To ensure a wide range of young voices are canvassed we are setting up an online platform, those who register their interest can opt into the Online Youth Forum (we have more than 150 members so far).  Registrations of interest will remain open, so I encourage all those that would like to, to apply. Q: How were the members of the Online Youth Forum selected? A: Everyone who completed the registration of interest to participate in the Online Youth Forum and met the criteria, were invited to be part of the Forum. Q: What criteria did you use to select members (what skills/qualities were looked for)? A: The short list of the Group was determined by three things: Their biography or video clip identifying why they would like to be part of the Group. This will include how well they communicate and the life and educational experiences they bring with them, The character reference, and Diversity of the entire Group. Q: Why 14 to 18 year olds? A: The establishment of a Youth Advisory Group and Online Youth Forum offers a fresh opportunity for our young people, 14-18 year olds, to provide their perspectives and insights about some of the most important education issues facing them today. These young people are in the later stages of their learning journey through New Zealand's compulsory education system. This age group will be able to reflect back on their own experiences of Primary and Intermediate school education, their current experience in Secondary, but also be able to look forward and think about their own learning pathways and think about what might help them to meet their goals and aspirations. At a later stage we may use focus groups or other mechanisms to gain the perspectives of younger children, as well as those who have left the compulsory education system, through to further education, employment and beyond. Q: How long can someone be in the Youth Advisory Group? A: The tenure of the membership will initially be one year and will be reviewed at the end of the first year. Q: How will the Youth Advisory Group be resourced? A: The Ministry of Education has agreed to provide all resourcing to support the activities as the secretariat of the panel. This will include: • providing expertise support, • covering the members’ travel cost, catering and accommodation, • providing a youth facilitator for the panel, • reporting to the Group’s insights to myself as Minister of Education, and • sharing the insights gathered with relevant Ministry groups and the education sector agencies.  Q: Who will facilitate the Youth Advisory Group meeting or events? A: An experienced Youth Facilitator has been selected by Ministry of Education officials. Q: How will the insights and perspectives of these young people on the Advisory Group and Online Forum inform decisions about education policies? A: Providing avenues for young people to share their perspectives is always valuable. We have around 800,000 children and young people in the education system at any one time. The Advisory Group and the Online Forum provide two opportunities for our young people to share their own experiences of our education system. And with a fast evolving, digital world, we can discuss some of the most important issues facing them today. For example, we are currently gathering up sector and community perspectives on the Digital Technologies curriculum - we would expect children and young people to tell us how they are using technology as an integral part of their own learning, and their views on the skills they think they need to compete in a connected and global job marketplace. Q: What happens to the students' views once they're shared them at the meetings? A: The Group meetings will be facilitated by an independent youth facilitator who will collate the information and insights generated during the discussions. The insights will be fed back to the Group to make sure they accurately reflect their views.  The insights will then be tested with the Online Forum, so that we get a breadth and as many diverse perspectives as possible. The Ministry will then report this back to me, to the Minister as an Education Report.  The insights gathered will also be fed back to the Leadership Team within the Ministry, relevant Business Groups and education sector agencies. As the membership matures in experience and expectations, the Group members may wish to collaborate more on the reporting.  At that time, we can review how best to do this. Q: Will the students' views be presented to policy people at the time they're making key decisions? A. All insights will be shared with policy and there may be specific times when they are also invited to attend a meeting when we are talking about specific policy e.g. the NCEA review in 2018. Q: Have New Zealand's children or young people's views and perspectives have been taken into account by the education system in New Zealand before? A: Children and young people are at the centre of education in New Zealand and the recent update to the Education Act emphasises that point. However, while research and educators often seeks the views of learners, there has not been a formalised and sustained mechanism for young people to communicate their views on policy or voice their experiences of education with the Minister of Education. This group initiative establishes and enforces that mechanism for our young people. Q: Why are you setting up this Youth Advisory Group? A: It is essential that all New Zealanders receive an education that is useful and relevant to them, so that they succeed and go on to further education in universities, polytechnics, other tertiary providers, or industry training such as apprenticeships; and that they have hope for their futures. The establishment of a Youth Advisory Group and Online Youth Forum offers us a fresh and exciting opportunity to really engage with young people about education. While we have some specific topics we may want to seek their views on, we also want the Advisory Group to have the opportunity to drive the conversation and decide what gets discussed at each meeting.  Topics we expected to canvass include the future of work, student wellbeing, education priorities, and their perspectives on technology and the use of digital tools in learning and assessment.
  • 17 November 2017, 7:04 am
    New Zealand intends to become a leader in the global fight against climate change, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has told a major United Nations climate change conference.  Mr Shaw delivered the New Zealand National Statement at 11.45pm (NZ time) on Thursday at the COP23 conference. Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio is also at COP23.  Overnight, New Zealand also joined an international “Powering Past Coal” alliance committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation, led by Canada and the UK.  “I have set out to the international community our new government’s plans to reduce climate pollution at home and remain actively engaged with the international effort,” said Mr Shaw. “Our goals and plans for forestry, energy, transport, and agriculture are getting a good reception. People seem really pleased to see the new New Zealand government planning to lead by example. “We know that the future of our electricity system is in renewables, not coal, so I was delighted we could recognise that formally at this important international meeting. “New Zealand is a small country and our emissions are less than one percent of global emissions, but size is not an excuse for inaction. “If you add up all the countries who contribute less than one percent, we collectively contribute almost a quarter of global climate pollution. “New Zealand officials have been working hard at this COP to get outcomes that are good for us, good for our Pacific neighbours, and good for the world,” said Mr Shaw. Fiji’s leadership of the COP23 meeting has put the global spotlight on the vulnerability of low-lying Pacific Island nations to increased storms, droughts, and sea level rise caused by climate change. Mr Shaw said New Zealand is a Pacific country that stands beside its neighbours and will support them. “The most effective thing we can do for the Pacific is to reduce our climate pollution as much as we can and encourage other countries to do the same. “We are also committed to supporting our Pacific neighbours to adapt their infrastructure to the changing climate.”