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Latest Government News
21 November 2017, 2:00 pmThe 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 amThe 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 pmThe 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 pmSport 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 pmMinister 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.