New Zealanders voted for stability and security at the last election. In the six months since, we’ve worked hard to keep Kiwis safe from COVID-19, while accelerating our economic recovery and tackling long-term challenges like housing affordability, child poverty, and climate change – and we’ve made good progress.
Here are just some of the things we’ve achieved over the past six months:
We’re keeping COVID-19 under control while opening up opportunities, making sure that Kiwis continue to reap the rewards of going hard and early.
We’ve kicked off quarantine-free travel to and from Australia. The trans-Tasman bubble is the first of its kind in the world and something to be proud of. Soon, we’ll also be opening a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, reuniting families and boosting tourism in the Pacific.
We’ve taken the next step in our response by rolling out safe and effective COVID vaccines, adding an extra layer of protection against lockdowns and opening up new possibilities to reconnect with the world. We’ve already administered more than 300,000 doses, and our vaccine roll-out will ramp up in the coming months as we continue to grow the economy while keeping people safe
Our recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic is going strong, with the Government taking additional steps to increase employment and support Kiwi businesses.
We’ve funnelled more major infrastructure projects into the fast-track consenting process – creating jobs, speeding up our economic recovery, and increasing housing supply. Our extended business debt hibernation scheme gives companies that are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic some breathing room. And we’ve extended the Small Business Loan Scheme, to help vulnerable but viable businesses with ongoing cashflow issues.
Our efforts to boost local employment saw a record number of people move off the benefit and into work in the first three months of this year. We’ve expanded the Tupu Aotearoa programme to Pacific communities in Nelson, Marlborough, Tasman and Northland, helping them develop skills and connect with local employers.
The past six months have also seen steps taken to protect workers. Our big changes to the Equal Pay Act took effect, giving workers in female-dominated occupations a clearer pathway to pay equity. And we’ve introduced legislation to double sick leave entitlements from five to ten days a year, supporting workers to stay home when they’re sick.
We’re taking action to ease pressure on the housing market and help Kiwis into homes. We’ve invested $3.8 billion in infrastructure to accelerate housing supply, lifted income and house price caps on First Home Loans and Grants so more people can access this support, and tipped the balance in favour of first home buyers by extending the bright-line test from five to ten years. New Zealand’s housing crisis has been decades in the making, and there are no quick fixes, but these measures will make a difference. You can read more about this here.
We’ve increased support for Kiwi families, with the aim of making Aotearoa the best place in the world to be a child. Changes to the minimum wage, main benefits, and superannuation have raised the incomes of 1.4 million New Zealanders. We’re making changes so that parents are not penalised for having an additional child while receiving a benefit. Our expansion of the Pregnancy and Parenting Programme will offer support to more mums and whānau grappling with addiction issues, and we’ve increased the number of registered social workers to 10,000, so quality support is available to Kiwis who need it.
We're committed to protecting our environment. In the past six months, we’ve moved not only to signal the urgency of the challenge ahead – by declaring a climate emergency – but also to take action to reduce our footprint and support businesses to do the same.
We’ve committed to making the public sector carbon-neutral by 2025, and we’ve started funding clean energy projects to meet that goal. The Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund is helping the private sector to transition away from fossil fuels. Successful applicants from the first funding round have been announced, with 14 companies set to receive significant support to shrink their carbon footprint. The impact of these projects combined will be like taking 49,000 cars off the road.
Our Jobs for Nature programme is forging ahead – boosting our economic recovery, providing jobs in the regions, and better looking after our natural landscapes, native bush, birds, waterways, and coast. Dozens of projects have been included in the programme since we took office again – creating hundreds of jobs while supercharging efforts to clean our rivers systems, fight kauri dieback, train predator control specialists, and more.
We’re breaking down barriers to education and filling skills gaps. We’ve invested in new classrooms and other school upgrades across the country, which will improve the learning environment of hundreds of thousands of students. Up to 300,000 children with diverse learning needs are now being supported, thanks to our new learning support coordinators. We’ve expanded free lunches in schools, meaning an additional 88,000 students get a healthy meal every school day, and we’ll start rolling out free period products to all schools that opt in from next month.
More than 100,000 people have accessed free apprenticeships and free trades training since we introduced the initiative in July. Our extended Apprenticeship Boost initiative has further supported our economic recovery, supporting people into meaningful and sustainable work, and helping industry by filling skills gaps.
We’ve been working in partnership with tāngata whenua to make good on the promises enshrined in te Tiriti and support Māori aspirations. We’ve announced the establishment of the Māori Health Authority, which will be dedicated to ending long-standing inequities in healthcare access and health outcomes. We’ve announced that our first Matariki public holiday will be held on 24 June 2022, and we’ve boosted Māori trades training. We also passed the Whenua Māori Rating Amendment Bill to modernise rating laws affecting Māori land and support housing development, and we’ve increased opportunities for local councils to strengthen Māori representation at their decision-making tables. We also reached an agreement on the future of Ihumātao.
Our major health reforms will ensure that New Zealanders can get healthcare when and where they need it. The Māori Health Authority is just one part of our plan. This restructure will result in a truly national healthcare system. It will reduce pressure on hospitals, by making sure fewer Kiwis get so sick they need hospital care. And it will remove the inconsistencies that have created a postcode lottery in health – so the kind of treatment people get is no longer determined by where they live.
We’ve also announced an independent review into PHARMAC, to look at things like timeliness and transparency in the purchasing of medicines, and we’ve boosted funding for Youthline, increasing the mental health support available to our rangatahi and tamariki. New vaping laws have taken effect that are helping smokers to quit while deterring young people from starting.
As always, there’s more to do. But we’re making good progress, together, to build an Aotearoa we can all be proud of.
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