Jacinda Ardern: Opening Statement 2022
New Zealand enters a third challenging year confronting the global pandemic, better prepared than many other countries to chart a path through the disruption and beyond into the recovery.
The past two years have tested New Zealanders in ways we have not seen for many decades.
Just as generations before us have met the uninvited hardships of global events, together we have risen to the challenge.
While all of us have been affected by the pandemic, some in substantial and personal terms of loss, separation and grief, the defining moments of this crisis will be how we have drawn together in collective resolve to keep each other safe.
The countless gestures of kindness, comfort and care. The commitment of volunteers, teachers and health workers. The unwavering service of our border workforce, police, defence force. The hard graft of our farmers, exporters and business owners. The patience of every parent across the country.
That will be the mark by which future generations look back at this moment. And it has been the relentless pursuit of this Government.
It continues to be our guiding aim: to save as many lives as possible and to protect jobs and cushion the blow to the economy.
In a pandemic that moves swiftly, where new variants emerge quickly, no country has perfected the playbook.
At every turn our goal has been to do what is right. Act early and decisively to prevent the worst effects seen elsewhere and to ensure our health workers haven’t had to carry the burden alone. It is an approach that has worked.
Our confirmed cases, hospitalisations and deaths have been the lowest in the OECD for each of the past two years.
Unemployment is at record lows. Record numbers of New Zealanders have moved off a main benefit and into work.
These results are a powerful affirmation of our collective effort.
The measures we have taken have saved lives.
Our policies protected jobs and saved businesses.
The plan we followed has worked.
We face the challenges ahead in a better position than many other countries we compare ourselves to.
We now have a highly vaccinated population with almost 4 million New Zealanders fully vaccinated. Over 40% of children have now have had their first dose.
Over 1.5 million New Zealanders have received their COVID-19 booster vaccination. Uptake is rising rapidly.
We have bolstered our stocks of critical PPE supplies, grown our testing and contact tracing capacity and established a new social and health programme to support many more New Zealanders to recover at home.
Our vaccination rates and the COVID-19 Protection Framework defied predictions of a summer surge and prevented the Delta destruction that health systems in other countries faced.
We can draw confidence from our position. Confidence that with a clear plan, good scientific advice and a unity of purpose, New Zealand can chart its own path.
Keeping people safe
Omicron presents a new and difficult phase of the pandemic as New Zealanders prepare to encounter COVID-19 for the first time on a scale we have not yet experienced.
The spread of Omicron from December 2021 has had a disruptive effect across the world. Case numbers reached record levels: 800,000 a day in the US, 360,000 in France, 180,000 in the UK, and a hundred thousand in Australia at its peak. Health systems were strained and supply chains stretched.
The Government moved quickly to strengthen our border restrictions. This bought us time to prepare for Omicron’s arrival into New Zealand, strengthen pre departure testing requirements, reduce the interval until a booster vaccination, and confirm the rollout of paediatric doses.
Overseas experience has shown while Omicron is more transmissible it is not as severe as Delta and previous variants. This overseas experience is woven into our preparation.
The Government has set out a plan to slow and limit the spread of an outbreak. The COVID-19 Protection Framework uses our high vaccination and boosters together with a range of public health settings to control the spread of the virus while enabling the economy to keep going.
As cases escalate our public health response will adapt to ensure those at highest risk get the care they need. The vast majority of cases will be supported to safely recover at home.
No country is immune from Omicron disruption.
But we are working hard to avoid the worst of it.
As cases grow, we will adapt our public health response to make greater use of rapid antigen tests. The Government has 123 million rapid antigen tests on order through to June 2022. These will be free, accessible through local providers and targeted access to rapid antigen tests will enable asymptomatic close contacts in our hospital staff, paramedics, police, and people who keep our supply chains going such as freight, food producers, and supermarket workers to keep the country moving.
As Omicron progresses, isolation requirements will be reduced and the definition of close contacts will be refocussed on the highest risk exposures. Health and social support will be available through our Care in the Community model.
For those who need greater assistance, our hospitals have been planning and preparing to provide support to a much larger number of patients. Improving hospital treatments are already reducing the likelihood of people needing ICU care. The Government will continue to provide promising new therapeutic treatments.
ICU should always be the last eventuality. Preventing people needing ICU care remains our best option.
Boosters are our strongest weapon. Every booster strengthens our immunity and takes pressure off our health workers. I have a simple message for New Zealanders: If you are eligible, please go get boosted today. It is the most significant thing you can do to protect your family, friends and our nurses, doctors, paramedics and all our health workers.
Boosters work. Recent data from the United States’ Center for Disease Control shows that in late 2021 unvaccinated people were 14 times more at risk of COVID-19 infection and 53 times more at risk of COVID-19–associated death than fully vaccinated people who had received booster doses.
Māori and Pacific health and community providers remain essential to our plan. These providers have driven our Māori vaccination rates to 90 percent first dose and are providing care in the community for those who need to isolate.
The Government has supported their work by directly investing over $250 million, including a $120 million fund to support Māori communities to fast track vaccinations and prepare for COVID-19 in the community. It has provided the basis for our close partnership as we designed the paediatric and booster rollouts and the Care in the Community programme, together.
Our Pacific Health providers have been the backbone of clinical and welfare support to our Pacific communities in Auckland and throughout the country. Their efforts have supported an incredible 94 percent of Pacific peoples to be fully vaccinated. Our Government has supported them with funding to provide clinical and welfare assistance.
Preparing for winter
Advice from experts is that Omicron will not be the last variant. We can expect to face new and different variants this year.
While the timing, severity or transmissibility is beyond our control, the Government will continue to strengthen our health system and critical public services so we are in the strongest position to deal with whatever the pandemic produces.
Taking pressure off our health system during winter is a key priority of this Government.
The Ministry of Health and District Health Boards are preparing to reduce the impact of seasonal illnesses on our health system.
As New Zealand reconnects with the world seasonal influenza will likely re-emerge this year. Increasing influenza vaccination rates in 2022 will be important to ease unnecessary pressures on the public health system through decreasing the winter burden.
- We will deliver an influenza immunisation programme to maximise uptake for at-risk New Zealanders.
Our health system cannot do this alone. There are a range of initiatives in housing, education, and workplace relations that will put us in a stronger position to deal with Omicron over winter.
- Every New Zealand worker will be entitled to 10 days’ sick leave.
This crucial investment will help people take sick leave through winter rather than working with illness and helps to reduce in workplace transmission of seasonal illnesses.
- Keeping schools and early learning centres safe and open.
The latest evidence shows that school closures are finely balanced. They can cause significant indirect harm to children, including widening educational inequities, poorer mental health, behavioural difficulties, social isolation, family stress, family violence, and food insecurity. They also have a disproportionate impact on Māori and Pacific children and children from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
We are committed to keeping schools and early learning services open, with closures only as a last resort due to a significant outbreak in a school or service, staff absences that make it unsafe to operate, or a local lockdown. Public health measures, vaccination, good hygiene and maximising natural ventilation are key steps schools are taking to prevent potential transmission.
Honourable members, the August 2021 outbreak highlighted once again how crucial ensuring every New Zealander has a secure and healthy home is to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
- Kāinga Ora and Community Housing Providers will deliver over 2,000 additional public housing places this year and continue to retrofit state homes to be warmer, drier and healthier.
Last year Kāinga Ora delivered 2,432 houses - the most newly built homes in over 20 years. This year we will increase the amount of new public, affordable and market homes being built by Kāinga Ora in the regions.
Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga and the Māori Infrastructure Fund will deliver approximately 1,000 new homes, repairs to 700 homes, 2,700 additional infrastructure enabled sites and an additional $30 million investment to support Māori housing sector capability. Together this represents the largest investment ever in Māori housing.
Warmer Kiwi Homes has delivered almost 80,000 insulation and heating installs in low-income homes since 2018, ensuring more low-income families have healthy homes and reduced power bills.
- Warmer Kiwi Homes will accelerate the rollout of insulation and heating installs between now and the end of the 21/22 financial year.
We are pleased to continue this work with the Green Party.
More New Zealand rental homes will be warmer, drier and healthier as landlords continue to upgrade their properties to meet the Healthy Homes Standards.
- The Healthy Homes Initiative will be rolled out to nine additional regions.
The Healthy Homes Initiative works with families to carry out a comprehensive housing assessment and complete an individualised action plan to create a warmer, drier, healthier home. The Initiative funds insulation, curtains, beds, bedding, minor repairs, floor coverings, ventilation, heating sources to make homes warmer, drier and healthier and in turn decrease the number of hospitalisations and cases of rheumatic fever.
This prevention work is supported by funding for research into strep throat and a rheumatic fever vaccine will support these prevention measures by enabling enhanced surveillance of Group A streptococcus, laboratory testing infrastructure and clinical trials across the country.
Managing New Zealanders’ health in the long-term
The health system and workers have performed well under COVID-19, but fighting the virus shown the weaknesses of the current health and disability system.
- District Health Boards will be abolished and replaced with a unified health service.
Our nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers do an outstanding job. Every two seconds one of us sees a GP or nurse, and this year there will be around 1.2 million hospitalisations, carried out in over 150 public and private hospitals, by some of the 220,000 people working in the sector.
However, too often the health system makes this harder than it should. Health workers are asking for this to change.
The Government agrees. This year the Government will pass the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill establishing a unified national health service, led by Health New Zealand, to end the post-code lottery and enable better access to healthcare.
Over time it will reduce the variation in health outcomes between regions. In some DHBs, people are twice as likely to die from potentially preventable causes as in others, and three times more likely to be re-admitted to hospital for urgent needs. Unplanned hospitalisations in the highest region are almost 50 percent more than in the lowest. Where you live should not define the healthcare you receive.
During COVID-19 we had to rebuild New Zealand’s public health capacity, which had been underfunded over the previous decade. COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of national coordination and leadership when responding to nationwide threats.
- A new Public Health Agency will be established.
A new Public Health Agency will ensure we are better equipped to fight future outbreaks and pandemics, and support a shift in focus of the health system to prevention.
Māori suffer from more avoidable deaths than most New Zealanders, have lower life expectancy, and do not always receive the same quality care. Māori die at twice the rate as non-Māori from cardiovascular disease. Māori tamariki have a mortality rate one-and-a-half times the rate of non-Māori children. Māori are more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer. These inequities cannot continue. Past efforts have failed to fix these inequities. We must change the way we work.
- A new Māori Health Authority will improve entrenched poor health outcomes for Māori.
The Māori Health Authority will work in partnership with Health New Zealand to develop plans and new services to drive patient and whānau centred care in a way that the current system has failed to do. Everyone will benefit from services that are built around people, not the clinician.
The Government will support the estimated 1.1 million disabled people in New Zealand through the new Ministry for Disabled People, stand-alone accessibility legislation that identifies, prevent, and removes barriers to participation, and the national rollout of the Enabling Good Lives approach, which puts the voice of disabled people and their families at the heart of decision making.
- We will introduce an Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill and rollout the Enabling Good Lives approach nationwide.
These system reforms will mean New Zealanders all around the country have fairer, quicker and better access to healthcare when they need it. Reform will allow for national and regional planning to ensure the best allocation of resources for the whole of New Zealand and consistent standards of medical care.
- The Government will develop the NZ Health Charter, an interim Government Policy Statement, and interim NZ Health Plan.
Keeping New Zealanders healthy is a core priority of this Government. In 2021/22 we are investing 45 percent more in Vote Health than when we took office. We have boosted Pharmac’s budget by $200 million over four years. We have established a new independent Cancer Control Agency to improve cancer care in New Zealand. This year’s Budget will build on this record and start a new multi-year approach to funding the health sector, initially for two years, to provide more certainty and enable planning in line with New Zealand’s first Health Plan.
Valuing the health workforce is key priority for this Government. Health workforces have been traditionally undervalued despite being crucial to the wellbeing of all of us. Our Government is committed to ensuring they are paid fairly for the work they do.
- We will work to conclude pay equity settlements with health workers.
Honourable members, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 continue to put pressure on New Zealander’s mental health. For many the most challenging aspect of the pandemic is the emotional and mental strain the pandemic continues to place on us all.
We have made progress on building mental health services in New Zealand and increasing access and choice of mental health and addiction support. We will continue to work with the Green Party to implement Kia Manawanui Aotearoa: Long-term pathway to mental wellbeing, our 10-year strategy and action plan for transforming New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing.
We have established new primary and community mental health and addiction services in general practice, as well as kaupapa Māori, Pacific and youth-specific services. Together these services had delivered over 280,000 sessions since the programme began in July 2019, and provided support to over 27,000 people in the first quarter of 2021/22. These services will continue to be expanded over the next two years.
- By the end of 2022, 2.7 million enrolled New Zealanders will have access to integrated primary mental health and addiction care through general practices.
We will continue to support young people to access mental health services. As well as increasing the number of counsellors in large secondary schools, 24,000 young people in 141 primary, intermediate and small secondary schools throughout Aotearoa now have access to counsellors - the first time in New Zealand counsellors have ever been funded in schools for this age group.
Mana Ake provides mental health and wellbeing support for over 7,000 children in years 1–8 in Canterbury and Kaikōura. This year we will continue our roll out of the successful scheme to 24,000 of our most vulnerable children and young people in Northland, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and West Coast regions.
- Mana Ake will continue to roll out to five more regions.
In Counties Manukau a new youth peer support service for young people struggling with addiction will be rolled out this year. Wellington will implement new, culturally responsive counselling and peer support services for people with alcohol and drug addiction issues. These services will be targeted to Māori and Pacific people and mark a significant improvement in the of addiction treatment current availability.
In South Canterbury a new service is in place to support people before and after they go into residential care. Whānau support through a Kaupapa Māori provider has also been stood up, alongside support for other families of people experiencing addiction issues. These services, once fully operational, will provide support for 2,000 New Zealanders a year.
- New addiction services will commence in Wellington, Counties Manukau, and South Canterbury.
Two communities that have particularly high rates of burn out and stress are small business owners and rural communities. COVID-19 has exacerbated this with ongoing uncertainty and isolation. Rural communities also face particular challenges accessing mental health support. The Government has committed to working with small business groups and the rural sector to develop better support for mental health needs.
- Partnering with small businesses and the rural sectors to develop better support for mental health needs.
We know that outbreaks pass. We know that the calm presence of a neighbour, friend or family member is the reassuring contact that will pull us through this next phase. We know that, as we saw over summer, we can live with it on our own terms. We are better prepared and prepared to face what will come.
Securing our economic future
In the face of two years of pandemic disruption, New Zealand businesses and workers have proven to be resilient, innovative and highly adaptable. The Government has supported businesses, workers and families through this crisis.
Over the course of the pandemic the Government has invested $8.8 billion in the health response. In addition to saving lives, we have kept people in work, supply chains running and shops open. Where the Government has acted to impose public health restrictions, it has put in place support for businesses and employees to sustain them through. Over the past two years we have invested $22.9 billion in saving jobs and businesses through the Wage Subsidy, Resurgence Support Payment and Small Business Cashflow Scheme.
A strong health approach has been the best economic policy. New Zealand has weathered the COVID-19 disruption better than many of our key trading partners. New Zealand’s economy grew 4.9 percent over the last year, outperforming most of the OECD, led by our significant investment in keeping and creating jobs, with record low unemployment, record numbers of New Zealanders moving off a main benefit and into work, over 100,000 more people employed now than 12 months earlier, our primary sector obtaining record export prices, and a construction boom underpinned by the Government’s infrastructure programme and strong support for new housing.
But that is not the limit of our ambition. The Government’s economic plan is to build a high wage, low-carbon economy that provides economic security in good times and bad. It is focussed on increasing the value of our exports, developing new markets, and investing in skills, new technology, modern infrastructure, and research and innovation to drive productivity, reduce emissions and increase wages.
Reconnecting with the world
Managed Isolation and Quarantine has proven to be a successful shield keeping New Zealanders safe from COVID-19 while enabling more than 200,000 people to come home since borders closed in March 2020. The impact of border closures has been significant. It has separated family and friends and prevented many businesses from accessing skilled employees. It has been particularly hard for those overseas missing milestones or the celebration of a loved one.
The Government will roll out a phased reconnection plan through 2022.
Reconnecting New Zealand is more than the family and friends who will be reunited. It is also a critical element in our plan for a high wage and low-carbon economy.
- The Government’s reconnecting plan will enable businesses to access skills and provides a clear timeframe for the resumption of tourism.
All New Zealanders and key visa holders will be able to start entering the country over the coming three months. From March there will be an expanded border exception for critical workers and skilled workers to enter New Zealand, self-isolate for a short period and then go about their business. As the year progresses we will gradually welcome Australian residents, students and our tourism industry will be able to extend manaakitanga to visitors once more.
As the border opens New Zealand exporters will be able to re-connect with partners face-to-face. We have the most innovative and creative exporters, who have continued to grow and enter new markets despite the global pandemic and the closure of New Zealand’s borders. It’s no surprise. We market ourselves based on our clean, green and safe production – qualities consumers are willing to pay a premium for. But we cannot take that for granted. We will work hard to take advantage of this economic opportunity and roll-out a proactive programme of re-engaging with high priority international markets.
- I will lead trade delegations and trade-supporting visits into four key markets this year – Australia, Asia, the United States and Europe.
The Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom is expected to save New Zealand exporters approximately $37.8 million per year on tariff elimination alone including tariffs on all honey, wine, kiwifruit, onions, a range of dairy and meat products, and most industrial products. Over 97 percent of tariffs are being removed the day the FTA comes into force covering 65 percent of our current exports into the UK. It’s one of our best deals ever and secured at a crucial time in our COVID recovery.
- New Zealand will sign a Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom.
The EU is our fourth most important trading partner with two-way goods and services trade at over $15 billion and a market of more than half a billion high income consumers.
- We will continue to work towards concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union this year.
Reducing emissions and encouraging innovation
Tackling climate change will be a core part of our economic strategy.
A low-carbon future for Aotearoa New Zealand is within reach, powered by clean energy and underpinned by protecting and restoring nature. We have made good progress laying the foundations, but our work is not finished.
Climate Change is our greatest opportunity for new jobs and higher wages. For a country already earning a premium from our clean, green and innovative image, there is an opportunity to use that natural advantage to create new jobs in new industries. It will also reduce New Zealand’s reliance on global energy prices.
Consumers around the world are more climate conscious and are changing their spending to match. We need to change to meet their expectations.
Other countries are moving to compete and seize these opportunities. New Zealand cannot afford to be left behind. In many areas we will not be the first to make these changes, but we can still be the most innovative. The future growth of our exports will be built on a credible plan to bend our emissions curve and meet our targets.
We have established the architecture to support a transition to reach the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act targets. This year we will work with the Green Party to establish the emissions budgets for the next 15 years and New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan.
- New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan will put innovation and clean technology at the heart of our economic transition.
New Zealand is well-placed not just to innovate the way we do business currently but also to seize the opportunities new technology brings. The Emissions Reduction Plan will focus on supporting a just transition into high wage and high productivity jobs and partnering with businesses to not only reduce emissions but also reduce costs and to grow into new markets.
- We will support businesses to reduce their energy costs, enable independence from global energy prices, and reduce emissions through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) and Low Emission Transport Fund.
The GIDI and Low Emission Transport Funds enable businesses to test new technology, trial new business practices and support new investments that reduce cost. Early action can be the catalyst for accelerating the wider deployment of new transport technology across the economy. GIDI has supported businesses to improve their productivity and reduce their costs by replacing industrial process heaters to low emissions alternatives - reducing lifetime emissions by 6.6 million tonnes. A third round of projects will be announced in early 2022.
The Fund complements a new National Environment Standard prohibiting new low and medium temperature coal boilers and beginning the phase out of existing boilers coming into effect this year.
The Low Emission Transport Fund will support businesses to pilot new low emission transport technology. The more we can reduce our reliance on global oil markets, the more we will control and protect our economic future. The first two rounds of projects will be announced early this year.
Honourable members, the Government is focussed on supporting businesses to become early adopters of new technology and global leaders ready to seize the markets of tomorrow.
Hydrogen is a key future tool for reducing emissions in the parts of the world economy that will be difficult to decarbonise. Its versatility, low weight, and wide range of uses could make it a particularly valuable and sought after export commodity. New Zealand is uniquely placed to become a world-leader in hydrogen production using renewable energy, creating new export opportunities, high-wage jobs and regional industries.
- We will develop a shared plan with businesses and investors to ensure New Zealand is well-positioned to produce green hydrogen at scale and exploit this economic opportunity.
The Government will continue to support innovative and dynamic businesses to take advantage of economic opportunities arising from the transition to a low emissions economy. The Green Investment Fund and the expanded Venture Capital Fund, Elevate NZ, will invest in new and innovative start-up businesses and low-carbon technologies of the future. The Regional Strategic Partnership Fund will work with regional New Zealand to identify, develop and maximise each region’s comparative advantages.
Most of the materials and products we use head to landfill – an average of 781 kilograms per person, 50 percent higher than in 2010 and 45 percent higher than the OECD average. Not only does this damage the environment, but represents lost jobs and opportunities. Electric vehicle batteries for example often retain up to 80 percent of their capacity and can be collected, refurbished and recycled. Research by the Ministry for the Environment has shown that for every 5 jobs created in landfilling, 15 to 20 jobs could be created in resource recovery or recycling.
- Working with the Green Party, we will finalise New Zealand’s waste strategy, and take steps to collect, refurbish and recycle products such as electric vehicle batteries.
Honourable members, New Zealand has sustained itself through sustaining others for decades. Our customers expect us to do this sustainably. Many of our farmers across the country are meeting this challenge. The Government will continue to work with the primary sector to respond to changing consumer expectations. We will work together to improve the sustainability of our products and practices, implement practical ways for the sector to gain more value, create more jobs and bolster New Zealand’s clean, green and innovative brand.
The Primary Sector Council’s Fit for a Better World sets out a shared vision for the food and fibre sector committing to meet the greatest challenges humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low-carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and at the same time, feeding our people.
- We are working with farmers on the delivery of a national integrated farm planning framework.
We will respond to the feedback provided by our farmers and finalise the design of the Freshwater Farm Plan System, Intensive Winter Grazing System, and Stock Exclusion System. These farm plans will begin to be rolled out in the second half of this year.
- We will work with industry through the He Waka Eke Noa Partnership to support farmers and growers to measure, manage and reduce on-farm agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
This year all farmers will know their greenhouse gas emissions profile. He Waka Eke Noa leaders are due to present the Government with their proposed approach to pricing and reducing agricultural emissions in May.
- The Government will support more farmers to adopt existing measures and technologies to reduce on-farm emissions and invest in research to provide new ways to reduce methane emissions.
The Government will also take steps to incentivise practical ways for farmers to change farming practices, improve biodiversity and freshwater quality and take up the promising technology available in the market now. We’re working with the sector to establish more than 170 catchment groups so farmers and growers can share their ideas and practice innovations to improve freshwater and lower emissions.
We will boost research and development in technologies to reduce agricultural emissions, including promising areas like vaccine development, methane and nitrous oxide inhibitors, and low emissions animal breeding. This includes the Sustainable Food and Fibres Futures fund and bringing together industry, Māori, researchers and government to ensure that we continue to produce world class research that leads to practical application and supports our farmers to be the best farmers for the world.
Honourable members, after the global COVID-19 recession and years of record low inflation around the world, global supply chain disruption, bottlenecks, and rising shipping costs caused by COVID-19 restrictions, and volatile energy prices, have seen inflation rising across the world. This demonstrates how increasing global fuel prices are a risk to economies that remain reliant on fossil fuels. This means making it easier for families to purchase fuel efficient vehicles is not just a crucial part of our plan to reduce emissions but an important part in providing greater energy security. It means more control over our own future as global energy volatility rises.
We’ve made a good start on supporting New Zealanders to move to an electric or hybrid vehicle. The Clean Car Discount has led to a 15 percent reduction in emissions from new imported vehicles and more than tripling the number of new electric vehicles being sold each month. More electric vehicles were registered in New Zealand in the six months following the introduction of the rebate than in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020. In fact, 2021 saw more electric vehicles registered than the entire period from 2013 to 2018.
- With the support of the Green Party we will pass the Clean Car Bill and develop a long-term national electric vehicle charging infrastructure plan.
We cannot rely on electric vehicles alone. We will take steps to improve the fuel efficiency of the existing fleet through a Sustainable Biofuels Mandate and provide New Zealanders with better transport options to reduce congestion and enable more choice through investing in public transport, cycling and walking in our cities, with a focus on making walking and cycling to and from school safer and more accessible.
To support this work the Government has established the Climate Emergency Response Fund, built on recycled New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) revenues.
There is more to do to reduce emissions and seize this opportunity. As we learnt from the 1980s, pushing against powerful global trends leads to painful corrections. We will act now and avoid unnecessary and costly changes from inaction. Otherwise, the lost opportunities and costs of inaction will only grow.
Modernising New Zealand’s Infrastructure
Building new infrastructure is essential if we are to remain globally competitive and connected to the world.
Historic underinvestment in infrastructure has been a handbrake on our economy. It has led to lower productivity, aging and neglected schools and hospitals, caused congestion in our cities and held back our regions from reaching their economic potential. The Infrastructure Commission estimates that the new investment needed to meet the historic underinvestment would cost 0.7 percent of GDP every year over a 30 year period.
Infrastructure requires long-term planning and an eye to the future.
This Government is planning for the next 30 years, not just the next three. That is why we’re investing $57.3 billion in infrastructure over the next five years and have significantly increased investment in modernising our schools and hospitals, enabling more housing, providing New Zealanders with greater choice and tackling congestion in the transport system, and rolling out new telecommunications and energy infrastructure to prepare the economy for the future.
We will continue to deliver new transport infrastructure. Key projects such as the Hamilton section of Waikato Expressway, the Matakana link road in Auckland, the Northern Busway extension to Albany, and the Pūhoi to Wellsford Project are due for completion this year.
- Construction will begin on the Mt Messenger bypass on State Highway 3 and New Zealand Upgrade projects Penlink and the Takitimu North Link.
The Government will progress Auckland Light Rail and will bring forward planning for an additional Waitematā Harbour crossing to build a fully integrated transport network in our largest city.
The Government will continue to modernise our schools.
- Since we introduced the National Education Growth Plan in July 2019 we have delivered more than 22,000 additional student places through new or upgraded classrooms and we aim to deliver another 10,000 this year.
The School Investment Package has funded 4,364 maintenance and upgrade projects in state schools, which includes essential roofing and plumbing works, classroom upgrades, libraries, outdoor learning, playgrounds, administration blocks and break-out spaces.
- We will continue to rebuild our health system with twenty four construction projects due to be completed this year, including Wellington Children’s Hospital, refurbished child and maternity facilities in Timaru, and new mobile dental clinics across Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and the Lakes District.
The Government expects to approve more projects this year and will continue work on the new Dunedin Hospital.
Regional investments help remove barriers for growth and give a meaningful boost to our regional economies across a wide variety of industries and sectors. The Government has invested in over 1,700 regional economic development projects worth $4.3 billion. Recently Puketawa Marae near Ōkaihau in the Hokianga became the 500th regional economic development project completed with Crown investment.
This year the Infrastructure Commission will complete New Zealand’s first Infrastructure Strategy. Work will begin on an Energy Strategy to decarbonise the energy system, reduce reliance on global energy markets, and ensure the electricity sector is ready to meet future needs. As part of this, work will begin on a long-term plan for New Zealand’s gas infrastructure and for gas production and distribution in the transition.
The electrification of our economy as we move away from fossil fuels represents one of our largest long-term infrastructure challenges. Transpower estimates that electricity demand will increase by 68 percent by 2050, increasing from 25 percent to nearly 60 percent of New Zealand’s energy needs. The Government will develop initiatives to support new renewable electricity generation.
- The Government will drive the New Zealand Battery Project, examining options to enable a secure, affordable supply of renewable electricity.
The Project will continue to explore the possibility of pumped hydro storage schemes and alternative technologies or approaches, such as hydrogen and biofuels.
Increasing the availability of broadband and 5G is crucial to improving productivity and supporting farmers to transition to a low emissions and high value future. We are making good progress on improving rural connectivity, with 287 new mobile towers complete, nearly 1,000km of new coverage of state highways built, more than 500 marae connected, and 70,000 rural homes and businesses with access to improved broadband since December 2018. In November, five new towers and a new satellite earth station brought mobile phone and broadband coverage to the Chatham Islands for the first time.
- We will complete the 350th Rural Connectivity Group mobile tower.
But there is still more to do. This year we will continue to roll out broadband in more rural areas, invest in removing mobile blackspots, connect more marae to the internet, and increase wireless broadband capacity in targeted rural areas that have experienced congestion and poor broadband quality, including during the pandemic when digital access has been even more important.
- We will deliver high quality broadband services to 99.8 percent of the population through Ultra-Fast Broadband, Rural Broadband and related initiatives.
We will also lay the foundation for future connectivity through allocating radio spectrum for 5G services. We started this year by signing an historic and enduring agreement with Māori to address their interests in radio spectrum.
- We will develop a telecommunications connectivity strategy to provide a sustainable, cost-effective and integrated long-term plan to improve New Zealand’s connectivity
This year we will enable more housing, begin reducing water bills, improve quality, and prevent New Zealanders becoming sick from their drinking water. Without change, rates bills across the country will rise. New Zealanders simply cannot afford to follow the status quo, facing costs of between $1900 and $9000 over the next 30 years, depending on location. Under our plan this reduces to between $800 and $1640, saving each household thousands of dollars.
It is estimated $185 billion is needed to fix, upgrade and maintain New Zealand’s water services over the next 30 years. It is clear that without our plan to establish four publicly-owned water service entities we will continue to see a frail network and contaminated water in many communities. To delay will only push the problem on, increase future household costs.
- We will create four publicly owned and locally governed water entities to ensure every New Zealander has access to affordable, high quality drinking water, and water services without ballooning rates bills
Higher wages and growing skills in New Zealand
Reforming New Zealand’s approach to skills and training is a key part of this Government’s work across infrastructure, economic development, healthcare, and housing. Historically New Zealand has failed to train the skilled workers necessary to enable a highly productive, high wage, and innovative economy. COVID-19 has demonstrated how dependant we are on skilled migrants– arguably over-dependent. We can and will develop talent here and become more self-reliant. The greater our ability to train and nurture the skills we need here, the more secure our economy is to global shocks.
When this Government took office it was faced with a vocational education system that was poorly funded, fragmented, uncoordinated, and lacking strategic direction. Key institutions were insolvent and requesting Government support.
We have transformed it.
Vocational education will ensure that the skill needs of individuals and industry continue to be met. The six new industry-governed Workforce Development Councils are now in place, while our new regionally-based vocational educational provider Te Pūkenga is integrating the best of the old polytechnic and industry training models. A new unified funding system is being developed to complete these reforms.
- The Government will continue to prioritise training New Zealanders with the skills needed to thrive
Tertiary enrolments grew significantly in 2021 with large increases across industry training, apprenticeships, and provider-based enrolments. In fact, apprenticeship enrolments have increased by over 25 percent on 2020.
Our investment in fees-free apprenticeships and targeted training has seen more than 175,000 people take up the opportunity since July 2020, including over 80,000 apprentices. The Apprenticeship Boost Initiative has so far helped employers keep over 40,000 early-stage apprentices employed and training towards their qualifications through wage subsidies.
Mana in Mahi supports people to obtain trades qualifications and enter into lasting employment. Since 2018, there have been 4,446 Mana in Mahi placements and there continues to be increasing demand for this programme.
The Government will continue to reform the early learning and school sector, working with the education leadership and workforce.
- We will build on the new unified pay scale for teachers across primary school, secondary school and kindergartens by progressively working towards pay parity for teachers in education and care centres. We will work to resolve pay equity claims within the education sector
The Government is focussed on turning around long-term declines in maths and literacy.
- The new Curriculum Centre will release plans to change and improve the way maths and literacy are taught and learnt
With Te Mahau, this Government has now rebuilt the system capacity so that we can take action to turn this around.
We will continue to progress multi-year reforms to school equity funding, the curriculum and to the NCEA system, while managing impacts for the workforce and students.
- We will continue to grow Māori-medium and kaupapa Māori education to meet the needs of our ākonga over the long-term
We are aiming to see 30 percent of Māori learners participating in Māori-medium and kaupapa Māori education by 2040. To prepare for this we are planning for more Māori-medium providers and to train more teachers who are fluent in te reo. We will also reform the legislative underpinning of Māori-medium education.
Honourable members, immigration has long contributed socially, culturally and economically to New Zealand, and our society is better for it. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths creating a richer and more vibrant nation. Immigration can be an important source of skilled labour and new ideas, helping to boost innovation and productivity. However, parts of the economy have become too reliant on continued access to low skilled labour, providing few incentives to increase productivity through investment in new business practices, capital and new technologies.
- We will focus on rebalancing New Zealand’s immigration policy
We will focus on attracting the right balance of skilled migrants New Zealand needs as well as creating incentives for investing in technology and improving the terms, conditions, training and wages of New Zealand’s workforce.
In some industries the Government will partner with industry to develop industry plans and training programmes to support New Zealanders into skilled positions, increase focus and investment in productivity and to ensure industries have access to the right people, at the right time, with the right skills.
- We will continue to work with a range of sectors through Industry Transformation Plans
These plans are designed collaboratively by businesses, workers and the government to identify how to lift productivity, add value, increase exports and employment opportunities in transition industries and in areas of existing advantage.
The Agritech ITP has provided the basis for New Zealand Growth Capital Partners and Finistere to launch the Agritech Venture Capital Fund to invest in getting firms from the start-up to the commercialisation phase, partnering in high-potential products and growing them into innovative technology for primary industries here and overseas.
We have already produced a collaborative strategy with the Construction sector.
Public consultation on the Digital Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Food and Beverage, and Forestry and Wood Processing Plans will be undertaken this year. The Government will work with businesses to develop Plans in the fisheries and tourism sectors.
- We will introduce and pass legislation enabling Fair Pay Agreements so businesses compete on price, service and quality rather than through driving down the wages and conditions of certain vulnerable workers.
Fair Pay Agreements are about making sure that many of the low paid workers who are getting our country through COVID-19, like bus drivers, supermarket workers, and cleaners, get a fairer deal. The Agreements will improve wages and conditions for employees, encourage businesses to invest in training, as well as level the playing field so that good employers are not undercut and disadvantaged.
The New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme has been designed to give certainty and support to businesses and workers alike, not only during economic crises but to respond to the future of work and the just transition to a low emissions economy. The Government, Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions are seeking feedback on an Income Insurance scheme that would support workers to retain about 80 percent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs.
The Government will also work on enabling small businesses to access the finance they need to grow. Access to finance is one of the main challenges small businesses face with a third of small businesses struggling to access finance and another third having never tried to raise a loan. We will take steps to support small businesses’ cash flow and improve transparency of large entities payment practices.
- The Government will pass the Retail Payment System Bill to help reduce paywave fees, saving retailers thousands of dollars per year.
Balanced and responsible management of the Government’s accounts
The last few years have shown that an economic shock can occur at any time. We are a small country exposed to the global economy and with unique geography. We need to continue to exercise our responsible approach.
- The Government will continue its disciplined and balanced approach to managing the Government’s accounts.
The recent Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update forecast that New Zealand will achieve a surplus in 2023/24 – three years earlier than forecast in Budget 2021 and significantly faster than was achieved post-Global Financial Crisis. Net debt is forecast to peak at 40.1 percent of GDP in 2022/23 before falling to 30.2 percent at the end of the forecast period. This is lower than the peak of 48 percent forecast at Budget 2021.
New Zealand is in a stronger fiscal position compared with other developed nations and our accounts continue to outperform forecasts. This has been recognised as New Zealand is one of the few countries to have had its credit rating upgraded during the global pandemic.
This has been achieved while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and making significant investments in the health, education and social services that were so underfunded when we took office.
Foundations for the future
The Government remains committed to addressing some of the country’s long-standing difficult issues this term, with a particular focus on child poverty, climate change and housing.
Tackling New Zealand’s housing crisis and ensuring every New Zealander has a warm, dry and secure home remains a key priority for this Government. There is no silver bullet. It will take a concerted effort over many years to increase the supply of new housing, improve the quality of our housing stock, develop more secure and affordable rentals, and support first home buyers into their own homes.
We are seeing positive signs with over 48,000 new homes consented in the year ended December 2021 – the most since records began, and 24 percent more than the December 2020 year. This year will see us make progress across a range of initiatives that remedy the decades of under-investment in housing supply and remove barriers to the construction of new homes.
Over the past four years, the construction workforce has grown by 14 percent and is now the fourth largest employer in New Zealand, making up approximately 10 percent of the national workforce at 281,400 people for the year ended September 2021.
Investment in the construction of new homes is being incentivised through our changes to interest deductibility and the income tax bright-line rules. These measures will channel efforts into stimulating much-needed new housing supply.
To enable builders and developers to build more homes, the Government will progress key reforms removing the infrastructure and planning barriers preventing the construction of new homes.
- We will continue to allocate the $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund to infrastructure projects that will jump-start housing developments by funding necessary services, like roads and pipes to homes.
Investment in infrastructure was identified by local councils and others as one of the key actions the Government can take to increase the supply of housing in the medium term. The fund is already enabling more than 3,500 new homes in Auckland and Porirua.
New Zealand’s housing shortage is being made worse in our biggest cities by limits on the number and types of houses that can be built. We will reform the Resource Management Act 1991 to reduce red tape, improve housing supply, and better protect the environment.
- The Natural and Built Environments Bill and Spatial Planning Bill will be introduced to Parliament.
This new legislation will build on the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and the new minimum zoning requirements of the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021. Councils will enable plan changes giving effect to these reform this year. Our fast-track consenting process is enabling around 7,000 homes and 14,500 jobs across 19 projects.
The Commerce Commission will continue its investigation into competition for residential building supplies in New Zealand.
- This year the Government will begin to redesign the emergency housing system and make sure it is supporting New Zealanders in the manner they need.
The current system we inherited is not working. We want to see support provided earlier, an emphasis on prevention, and for people in urgent housing need to have access to high quality and safe temporary accommodation with the right levels of support at the right time and clear pathways to permanent housing.
This work builds on strong foundations. Through the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, the Government is supporting more than 10,000 people at risk of or who are experiencing homelessness over three years. Community Housing Providers and Kāinga Ora have delivered an extra 8,000 warm, dry public housing places since November 2017. Of these, 6,503 households are living in brand new homes.
Alongside the Green Party, we will take the necessary next steps to reduce homelessness outlined in the Action Plan, including a renewed focus on rangatahi.
Over the past four years, this Government’s policies have reduced all nine official measures of child poverty compared to the baseline year. Since coming into Government we have lifted 18,000 children out of material hardship and 43,300 fewer children are in poverty since 2017/18. Our main benefit increases announced in Budget 21 are projected to lift a further 33,000 children out poverty.
Income support changes made by the Government since 2017 have meant more than 109,000 families and whānau with children are on average $175 a week better off. In April 2020 we increased benefits by $25, and in Budget 21 we further increased weekly benefits rates by between $32 and $55 per adult in line with the recommendation from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, with an additional $15 for families with children.
- Families received a $20 boost in July 2021 and the remaining increases will roll out on 1 April this year.
330,000 families benefitted from the Families Package and over a million New Zealanders receive the Winter Energy Payment every year. The Government will further lift the incomes of 346,000 New Zealand families by an average of $20 a week through changes to Working for Families. We will increase the minimum wage and conduct a full review of the Working for Families system.
There are now 875 schools with over 200,000 students receiving free and healthy daily school lunches. Evaluations show food in schools is making a big difference for those students who need it most – and their whānau. This backs up what many teachers, principals and parents are telling us about the differences they are seeing in the classroom, at home, and to the family budget.
We will continue to roll out free period products for all students across New Zealand to reduce poverty, help increase school attendance and make a positive impact on student wellbeing.
Debt to government was highlighted by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and the Tax Working Group. The Government is progressing work to reduce the accumulation and impact of government debt for people in hardship.
Our housing programme is an integral part of our efforts to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child and tackle the cost of living for New Zealand families. Increasing the number of affordable, healthy and secure rental homes is a key part of improving child wellbeing.
It’s why we reformed New Zealand’s rental laws to provide more security and enable tenants to put down roots in their communities and make their house a home. It’s why we’re preventing children from becoming sick due to cold and draughty homes through the Healthy Homes Standards and the Winter Energy Payment.
We are concerned about rising rents. That’s why we are investing in new housing supply and taking steps to support the construction of build-to-rent developments that will provide affordable high-quality, well-located and well-managed rental properties. It’s why we restricted rent rises to once a year and banned rent bidding and letting fees. It’s why we are supporting whānau who are unlikely to be able to buy their own homes into home ownership.
- We will continue to roll-out our Progressive Home Ownership scheme. The scheme will support between 1,500 and 4,000 whānau step into home ownership.
This year the Government will receive the Commerce Commission’s report into competition in the grocery sector.
Further steps will be taken to reduce the cost of transport. In Auckland, the Government will commence the Community Connect pilot providing a 50 percent discount on public transport to Community Services Card holders.
This Government has committed to putting the wellbeing of current and future generations of New Zealanders at the heart of everything we do. We are pursuing wider measures of success: supporting New Zealand’s unique culture and identity to flourish, empowering New Zealanders to meet their potential, and protecting our unique environment and biodiversity for future generations to value as we do.
We are a country that takes pride in our heritage. A small island nation in the Pacific with voyaging roots from both Hawaiki and Europe.
Across Aotearoa there are stories of our arrival, stories of settlement, stories of conflict and of unity, of hope and hardship.
These stories are our stories.
And learning, sharing and acknowledging these stories that trace back to many different shores is crucial to our connections to one another.
- That’s why we are extremely proud that schools will have the resources available for them to teach New Zealand history in school this year. And that as a nation we will celebrate a new public holiday in Matariki for the first time this year.
Matariki is a time of remembrance, joy and peace – it is a time for all of us to come together and celebrate who we are as a people. This is our Māori new year and its only right we celebrate and learn more about Matariki later this year as our newest public holiday.
The connections developed across the Pacific over our history define our vibrant nation. We are a Pacific people; a key partner in a region linked permanently through our history and culture. This year we will further deepen New Zealand’s Pacific relationships, strengthen our relationships and investments, and build our status as a trusted and influential partner of choice. COVID-19 has amplified regional vulnerabilities and put the region’s development at risk. We will work with our Pacific partners to support their recovery from COVID-19.
- New Zealand’s will prioritise a peaceful, stable, prosperous and resilient Pacific.
Climate change remains the single greatest threat to Pacific lives and livelihoods. New Zealand will quadruple its finance commitment and invest $1.3 billion over four years to support countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, at least half of which will be invested in the Pacific. I have seen and heard first-hand the impact of climate change in our region.
New Zealand has a proud tradition of an independent foreign policy with a focus on promoting peace and seeking multilateral solutions grounded in respect for human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. As new challenges arise in a world marked by disruption and uncertainty we will continue to pursue diplomatic and multilateral solutions.
The Government wants to ensure Aotearoa is a place where everyone feels safe, valued, heard, has a strong sense of belonging, and is able to participate fully in society.
Feeling safe is crucial to the wellbeing of New Zealanders. The Government is concerned about gang and organised criminal activity in New Zealand. We will continue to protect New Zealanders from organised crime and gangs. That’s why this Government is delivering 1800 additional Police officers to frontline policing and working to remove unlawful firearms from our communities, fight the threat from organised crime, gangs and extremist networks, reduce harm from methamphetamine, and disrupt transnational crime, child sex exploitation, and cyber-crime.
- The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will be amended to introduce a new power enabling seizure of assets of those associated with organised crime – where the person’s known legitimate income is likely to have been insufficient to acquire the asset.
This new organised crime power will help prevent those involved in organised crime from benefitting from crime and remove the primary reason for organised crime to exist – the profits these criminals can make from vulnerable New Zealanders.
We have the largest Police workforce ever with 700 officers focused on organised crime. Over the last year, Operation Tauwhiro targeted the disruption and prevention of firearms-related violence by criminal gangs and organised criminal groups. Since it was launched, 1,369 firearms and 52.87kg of methamphetamine have been seized. 1,161 people have been arrested in relation to firearms offences.
We have implemented harsher penalties for gun crime. We are taking further action to reduce gun violence by ensuring guns do not fall into the wrong hands. The firearms vetting process will require additional information of applicants to ensure they are fit and proper to hold a license. The Government has introduced legislation to create Firearms Prohibition Orders which help to stop guns falling into the wrong hands and remain committed to developing a firearms register.
Keeping New Zealand families safe is also about breaking the cycle of family and sexual violence. Working with the Green Party we launched Te Aorerekura – our first ever National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence. This is a 25 year strategy that sets out a collective vision for the wellbeing of all families, and includes an Action Plan to drive cross government change.
This Government is committed to continuing, and expanding, our efforts to prevent and reduce drug harm in our communities through programmes such as Te Ara Oranga, a successful methamphetamine harm reduction initiative being piloted.
The initiative takes an integrated approach across health, Police and the community, with a kaupapa Māori focus, to reduce drug-related harm and support better community health, social and justice outcomes, including improved wellbeing, re-engagement with whānau and employment, and a reduction in family violence and crime.
Anyone who calls New Zealand home, regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation should be safe. The Government is continuing to progress the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terror Attack in Christchurch on March 15.
We are supporting our diverse communities through the establishment of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, rolling out the ethnic community graduate programme and establishing Kāpuia, the ministerial advisory group to support the Governments ongoing work in this space. We are tackling harmful behaviour and discrimination by strengthening New Zealanders counter terrorism laws. We are also taking a victim-centric approach to hate crime through the Police programme Te Raranga and amending the Human Rights Act to extend legal protection against speech that incites hatred and discrimination.
We are working towards Aotearoa being a place where everyone feels safe, valued, heard and has a strong sense of belonging means addressing past wrongs.
- We will work to develop a new, independent, survivor-focused redress system to respond to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care.
The collaborative design will also be guided by the views of survivors and Māori, Pacific peoples and disabled people.
The Government admires the courage of survivors, their whānau and their advocates who have shared their care experiences with the Royal Commission. We must do better to care for our children, young people and vulnerable adults.
New Zealanders have entrusted this government with the responsibility of leading the country through a crisis. This Government has provided stable, united leadership through the most challenging times New Zealand has had to face in modern times. We have done so while continuing to make progress on the long term challenges New Zealand faces: housing, child poverty, mental health and climate change.
We will continue to make pragmatic progress on these challenges. We will work with our co-operation partner, the Green Party, to provide stable progress on transitioning to a low carbon economy, reducing waste, taking mental health seriously and improving New Zealand’s biodiversity.
Nothing in the programme set out today will come easily. But our opportunities and potential greatly outweigh our challenges.
No statement can represent the Government’s programme entirely or predict the issues New Zealand will have to face. But this Government has a plan that keeps us moving forward. We must keep going.