As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones we’ve achieved over the past year.
We supported more than 1.6 million workers with the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
We then extended the scheme to support hundreds of thousands of workers in the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, saving jobs and supporting businesses.
We declared a climate emergency, and started work to move to a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025.
This builds on the work we’ve already done to tackle climate change, including introducing the Zero Carbon Act, banning new offshore oil and gas exploration, and reaching an historic agreement with farmers to price agricultural emissions.
We extended paid parental leave to 26 weeks, giving parents more time with their babies during those precious first few months.
When Labour came into Government in 2017, parents were only eligible for up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave.
We made all apprenticeships free, which will help ensure we have the skilled workforce we need for our rebuild.
We also launched the Apprenticeship Boost payment, which supports employers to retain and take on new apprentices.
We backed Kiwi businesses with the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme.
So far, 100,000 businesses have taken out interest-free loans through the scheme to help them get through COVID-19. and we've expanded the scheme so businesses can invest in new equipment and digital infrastructure to help them grow.
We delivered better wages for the lowest paid New Zealanders, by increasing the minimum wage to $18.90 an hour.
We've committed to raising it to $20 an hour from 1 April this year.
We launched the Progressive Homeownership Scheme, supporting more New Zealanders into their own home.
The scheme is targeted at low and middle income families who are struggling to pull together a deposit, or pay a mortgage, into home ownership.
We started upgrading roads, rail, hospitals and schools right around the country through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.
This investment is creating jobs and supporting our economic growth, while also making sure our essential infrastructure is fit-for-purpose.
We also invested in community infrastructure projects across New Zealand, as part of our COVID response.
From flood protection networks to sports stadiums, these shovel-ready projects are creating thousands of local jobs and boosting regional economic growth, supporting our recovery and rebuild.
We secured COVID-19 vaccines for every New Zealander, and for our Pacific neighbours.
The Government plans to roll out New Zealand's largest ever immunisation programme later this year, beginning with the people most at risk of getting COVID-19, as part of our ongoing work to keep Kiwis safe.
We took another step towards achieving pay equity in New Zealand, passing the Equal Pay Amendment Act.
This makes it easier for people to make a pay equity claim, and helps ensure workers in female-dominated industries are paid fairly.
We introduced the fast-tracking consents process, allowing infrastructure projects to get started sooner.
This will mean more jobs are available sooner, keeping Kiwis in work and supporting our economic recovery.
We made renting fairer by reforming outdated tenancy laws.
Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act will give renters more security by removing 'no-cause' terminations, limiting rent increases to once every 12 months, and enabling families to install child- and earthquake-proofing fixtures.
We introduced free period products in schools, because young people shouldn't have to go without these essentials.
The programme launched in 15 Waikato schools, and will expand to all state and state-integrated schools on an opt-in basis this year.
We permanently increased main benefits by $25 a week to support Kiwi families.
We also doubled the Winter Energy Payment for 2020, helping to cushion COVID's impact for low income families and keep people healthier through the colder months.
We funded an extra 8,000 public and transitional homes, meaning thousands more families will have a warm, dry place to live.
This investment will also create jobs and provide a boost to the construction sector as we continue our economic recovery.
We expanded our free lunches in schools programme, which gives Kiwi kids the energy to learn and is creating jobs around New Zealand.
Once fully rolled out, the expanded programme will see around 200,000 children get a healthy, free meal at school each day.
We put the environment at the heart of our economic recovery by supporting almost 11,000 green jobs to upgrade walking tracks, restore wetlands, eradicate pests, and more.
We also took action for our endangered wildlife, introducing stronger protections for Māui and Hector's dolphins.
We boosted funding for PHARMAC to make sure New Zealanders continue to get the medication they need.
This was on top of the funding increase we provided in 2019, which saw PHARMAC fund five new cancer drugs.
We launched free trade talks with the UK, opening up more opportunities for Kiwi exporters.
We also supported our farmers and growers by investing to eradicate costly pests like wallabies and wilding pines, allowing 2,000 Pacific Island RSE workers into New Zealand for the upcoming harvest season, and providing practical support for firms looking to export for the first time.
These are just some of the things we achieved in 2020, and we’re committed to building on this progress in the year ahead. We will continue to put in place policies that keep New Zealanders safe and accelerate our economic recovery, while also laying foundations for the future.
If you want to learn more about our progress so far, check out our record here. And make sure to stay in the loop with all that we’re doing by signing up to our mailing list and following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.