Menu

Plan to expand protection for Maui and Hector’s dolphins

The Government is taking action to expand and strengthen the protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins with an updated plan to deal with threats to these native marine mammals.

Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash today released proposals for consultation for a revised Threat Management Plan to protect the Hector’s and Māui dolphins. 

“These precious dolphins are New Zealand taonga. We need to act now to ensure their populations increase and both species thrive,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Māui dolphins are nationally critical, with only an estimated 63 dolphins remaining.  Hector’s dolphins are nationally vulnerable with about 15,000 in New Zealand waters.

“The proposals include options for a significant expansion of the areas of ocean free of set nets and trawl nets to protect dolphins from the risk of bycatch in fishing nets. They are based on best available science, New Zealand and international expertise.”

“This information make it clear that the risks of bycatch to dolphins have reduced in areas where there are restrictions on set netting and trawling,” says Eugenie Sage.

“The Government recently announced that cameras were being placed on commercial fishing vessels operating in the areas of highest risk to Māui dolphins. The proposals in the new Threat Management Plan are part of a wider and ambitious programme of change in fisheries management this year,” says Stuart Nash.

“Together, they provide for the long-term protection of Hector’s and Māui dolphins and address a wide range of threats. The document recognises the need to carefully balance the proposals to protect dolphins, against the impact the changes could have on people and their livelihoods,” he says.

“The scientific risk assessment has been through multiple rounds of peer review, including by an international panel of experts, and it draws on a range of new information. Combining the latest data and expertise means this is the most comprehensive and robust assessment to date of the risks to the dolphins,” says Mr Nash.

The discussion document includes proposals to extend the boundaries of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary south to Wellington and for the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary to extend north to Kaikōura, south to Timaru, and offshore to 20 nautical miles.

The discussion document identifies other threats that need to be dealt with to protect the dolphins; including toxoplasmosis and sub-lethal threats such as seismic surveys and seabed mining. It includes options ranging from requiring compliance with the Department of Conservation code of conduct for seismic surveying in New Zealand’s five marine mammal sanctuaries set up to protect Hector’s and Māui dolphins to prohibiting seismic surveys and seabed mining within the sanctuaries.

The proposals also include the Department of Conservation developing an action plan to deal with toxoplasmosis, a disease that can affect dolphins and other marine mammals, by targeting research to answer knowledge gaps, enhancing education for cat owners and advocating for riparian and wetland restoration.

 A moratorium on commercial tourism permits targeting Māui dolphins is also proposed to minimise the disturbance to the dolphins from boats.

“There’s keen public interest in protecting the dolphins, with many articulate letters from young people coming into our offices. Now there’s a chance for public feedback to help us improve these proposals,” Stuart Nash says.

“We know people are passionate about marine mammals and there are a wide range of views out there about the best way to protect them. I encourage everyone to share their thoughts and make a difference,” Eugenie Sage says.

To find out more about the options, and how to have your say, go here.

Add your reaction Share

Cameras on vessels to ensure sustainable fisheries

Commercial fishing vessels at greatest risk of encountering the rare Māui dolphin will be required to operate with on-board cameras from 1 November, as the next step to strengthen our fisheries management system.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash have announced new funding in Budget 2019 will ensure our fisheries are managed sustainably, compliance is encouraged, and monitoring and verification are increased.

Jacinda Ardern says one of the priorities of the Wellbeing Budget is to support regions and businesses adjust to long-term environmental challenges facing our economy. “Enhanced fisheries management helps secure a sustainable future for our marine species.”

“Māui dolphins are critically endangered. It is estimated just 63 adults remain in our waters. Their habitat stretches from Northland to Taranaki and overlaps the inshore fishery where commercial vessels catch species like snapper, tarakihi, gurnard and john dory.

“It is crucial we act to protect this fragile population of marine mammals. On-board cameras will give us independent, accurate information about the impacts of commercial fishing in this area. It will encourage compliance and ensure fishing practices are sustainable and verified.

“Enhanced fisheries management sits alongside other efforts to deal with long term environmental challenges. This includes a proposed network of marine protected areas off the Canterbury and Otago coast, legislation to tackle greenhouse gases, phasing out single-use plastics, greater funding for predator and pest control, and support for sustainable tourism growth.

“The on-board camera programme encourages our fishing industry to meet expectations from consumers and overseas regulators about how seafood is caught and how we protect species such as Māui dolphins.” says Jacinda Ardern.

Stuart Nash says the Budget sets aside $17.1 million over four years for purchase, installation and maintenance of the cameras, as well as the costs of storage, review and analysis of the footage.

“It is a significant investment and allows us to move quickly alongside industry to implement change,” says Mr Nash.

“Commercial trawlers and set netters working in Māui dolphin habitat will be required to carry cameras because their fishing methods pose most risk to dolphins.

“It will affect up to 28 vessels although the final number requiring cameras will depend on whether they continue to fish in the area using trawl or set nets. The final number may be fewer as some of these vessels may choose to fish elsewhere. 

“Other vessels that work the area use methods like long-lines, purse seine nets and potting that pose a lower risk and they will not be required to carry cameras at this stage.

“The roll-out of cameras in the Māui dolphin habitat allows time to refine systems and processes before a wider camera programme is considered across more of the commercial fleet.

“Currently many vessels in the affected area carry an independent Fisheries NZ observer on board to monitor activities. This monitoring will continue after cameras are installed while we test and refine the system.

“It is important to emphasise that cameras by themselves will not stop a dolphin being caught in a net. But international evidence from Australia, the U.S., Denmark and the U.K. shows cameras drive positive change and greatly improve the quality of fishing data.

“In Australia 75 vessels have operated with government-funded cameras since 2015. Other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, ran four-year camera trials with the government working alongside the commercial fleet to take the time and effort to get it right.  

“Overseas experience has demonstrated the value of on-board cameras, but also made it clear we need to invest time, effort and resources for the greater public good.

“On-board cameras are the latest step in an ambitious programme to protect the marine environment and support sustainable fisheries. By December 2019 all commercial fishing vessels will be reporting their catches and positions electronically and in close to real time. This will give us better data about what they catch and where.

“Legislation is also likely to be introduced later this year after public consultation on the rules that govern commercial fishing. We sought feedback on practices around what fish can be brought back to port and what fish can be returned to sea, as well as penalties and offences.

“Greater protection for Hector’s and Māui dolphins will be achieved through a review of the Threat Management Plan (TMP) to be released for public consultation shortly.

“A renewed TMP will give us better information for fisheries management. It will drive cultural and behavioural change to ensure our marine environment is managed effectively, now and in the future,” Mr Nash says.

Add your reaction Share

Greatest number of new Police in a single year

A new record for the number of Police officers deployed to the regions in a single year has been created with the graduation today of Recruit Wing 326.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of 78 new constables means a total of 831 new frontline Police have been deployed to communities around the country during the 2018/19 financial year.

“The previous highest number of new Police in one financial year occurred 21 years ago when 683 officers graduated during 1997/98,” says Mr Nash.

“Since the Coalition Government was formed 1,367 new recruits have graduated from the Police College at Porirua and from two innovative training wings in Auckland. It is the first time since the 1970s that recruits have trained in Auckland.

“During the next financial year there will be a record five Police training wings in our largest city. We are stepping up training there in response to feedback from aspiring recruits. The course is non-residential so recruits can return home every day.

“Following the events of March 15th we are responding to unexpected new demands for national security, crime prevention and community safety.

“The Wellbeing Budget contains more than $260 million in new initiatives for Police. Thanks to this new investment, Police can strengthen controls on the use of firearms. They will be able to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation and begin the next stage of reforms to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands.”

The new initiatives for Police include:

  • $168 mill for payments and administration of the gun buyback scheme; 
  • $41.8 mill to tackle family violence;
  • $5.86 mill for victim video statements;
  • $37.19 mill to provide all emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance) with state of the art new digital communications capabilities and to ensure the integrity of the current system in the interim;
  • $8.778 mill for other initiatives across the wider justice sector, such as mental health, addiction and alcohol and drug programmes.

“In addition we are making a substantial investment of $455 million in frontline mental health services. Police officers have been under pressure because a lack of health resources meant they were the first line of response to mental health needs. Improving mental health care is one of our long-term challenges,” Mr Nash says.

Add your reaction Share

Ensuring multinationals pay their fair share of tax

New Zealand is pushing on with efforts to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share of tax, with the release of proposed options for a digital services tax (DST).

In February Cabinet agreed to consult the public on the problem of multinational digital companies which do substantial business in this country but pay no tax on income or revenues.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash today proposed two broad options to ensure offshore digital companies no longer enjoy tax breaks which are not available to local businesses.

“Our number one preference remains an internationally agreed solution through the OECD,” says Mr Robertson. “However if the OECD cannot make sufficient progress this year we need an interim solution. Other nations have already taken this step.”

“The UK has announced it will introduce a two percent DST from April 2020. Austria, the Czech Republic, France, India, Italy and Spain have also enacted or announced DSTs.

“We need to protect our economy and the integrity of our tax system. Modern business practices, digitalisation in particular, mean that a company can be significantly involved in the economic life of a country without paying tax on income or turnover.

“Multinational companies like social media platforms and e-commerce sites generate income through cross-border digital services rather than face-to-face retail,” says Mr Robertson.

The DST outlined in a discussion document released today would apply to:

  • platforms which facilitate the sale of goods or services between people, such as Uber and Airbnb and eBay;
  • social media platforms like Facebook;
  • content sharing sites like YouTube and Instagram; and
  • companies which provide search engines and sell data about users.

“A DST would be narrowly targeted at certain highly digitalised business models. It would not apply to sales of goods or services, but to digital platforms who depend on a base of users for income from advertising or data.

“The value of cross-border digital services in New Zealand is estimated to be around $2.7 billion. The estimated revenue of a DST is between $30 million and $80 million, depending on the design,” Grant Robertson said.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash says the Tax Working Group concluded New Zealand should continue to participate in the OECD discussions but also stand ready to implement a DST if a critical mass of other countries move in that direction.

“The OECD is seeking approval for its digital economy work programme from the G20 group of large economies at a meeting in late June. The progress made at the OECD to date has not been sufficient to allay the concerns of several countries, who have announced or introduced DSTs as unilateral interim measures.

“Any DST in New Zealand would be an interim measure. The Government would look to repeal it if and when the OECD’s international solution was implemented,” says Mr Nash.

The two options are:

  • Changing the current international income tax rules, to allow more taxation in market countries.  This option is currently being discussed by the OECD and the G20 group of large economies.
  • Applying a separate DST of three per cent to certain revenues earned by highly digitalised multinationals operating in New Zealand. The discussion document seeks feedback on how a DST might work in practice.

“The Government is committed to future-proofing the tax system to ensure it can handle changes to how people work and how business is done,” Mr Nash says.

“The significance of the digital economy is only going to grow over the coming decades. We need to keep adapting to ensure multinationals who do business here are paying their fair share of tax.

“We’ve passed legislation to collect GST on remote services, and to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax if they have a physical presence in New Zealand, and we have legislation before parliament to ensure we collect GST on low-value imported goods,” says Mr Nash.

The discussion document can be found at taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz. Consultation closes on 18 July 2019.

Add your reaction Share

Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

The consultation document is attached.  Further details will be available on the Ministry of Transport website.

 

Add your reaction Share

Making it easier to get help from Police

Police Minister Stuart Nash says calling a cop suddenly got a whole lot easier with the launch of a ground-breaking new service for non-emergency calls.

“The single non-emergency number ‘ten-five’ is designed to provide better service for the public and to take pressure off the iconic 111 phone number,” Mr Nash says.

“Police receive more than two million calls a year. Almost 900,000 are to the 111 service. There are around 1.2 million non-emergency calls to other Police numbers.

“Just 20 percent of 111 calls result in an emergency response, known as priority one. Another 20 per cent are priority two. This means at least sixty per cent of calls to the 111 number could be better dealt with on other channels. Some involve complaints about parking or noise or cheeky children.

“Calls to 111 should be limited to cases where an emergency is happening now or just happened and there’s a threat to life or property. If it’s already happened and there’s no immediate danger, call 105.

“We hope the introduction of the three-digit ‘ten-five’ number will make it easier for callers to get in touch with the right part of the Police service for the right reasons.

“There are many other ways people can get help with community safety and crime prevention. The *555 number is for urgent road issues. There are online forms, the anonymous CrimeStoppers 0800 line and the 1737 mental health support line.

“The police workforce has never been larger, and earlier this year passed a record high number of 13,000 frontline officers and support staff. It is a crucial part of the Coalition Government’s efforts to improve the wellbeing of communities.

“The new non-emergency number ‘ten-five’ now makes it so much easier to get the right help from these extra Police,” says Mr Nash.

More information is available at: 105.police.govt.nz.

Add your reaction Share

More Police deployed to the regions

Frontline Police numbers have been boosted with today’s deployment of 77 new officers to the regions.

Police Minister Stuart Nash today congratulated the recruits of Wing 325 who graduated at a formal ceremony at the Royal New Zealand Police College.

“I am delighted at the continuing progress in the diversity of our new Police officers and this latest recruit wing is a prime example,” Mr Nash says.

“Forty-nine per cent of the new recruits are female officers. It is one of the highest proportion of female constables to graduate from a recent training wing. Thirteen per cent of the new officers are Maori, 12 per cent are Pasifika and 12 per cent are Asian.

“The youngest recruit is 19 and the eldest is 45 years old. Nineteen of the new Police officers were born overseas and at least 17 languages other than English are spoken by those who graduate today.

“There are New Zealand and provincial sports reps, former members of the Armed Forces, and others with a strong tradition of volunteering in their communities. Others have been active in the arts including one who worked on a Hobbit movie.

“I also want to pay tribute to wing patron Paula Tesoriero who has been an inspiring mentor to the new recruits.

“Since the government was formed a total of 1289 new constables have been deployed. We are working hard on the recruitment, training and deployment of new officers.

“Our objective is to make New Zealand the safest country in the world. The wellbeing of our communities, crime prevention and public safety are key priorities for the new constables who graduate today,” Mr Nash said.

Add your reaction Share

Taxpayers get a smarter and fairer system

One of the biggest IT projects ever undertaken in the state sector has successfully passed its latest hurdle with the transition of more than 19.7 million taxpayer accounts from one Inland Revenue computer system to another.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash is congratulating staff and the external agencies, including banks and ICT companies, who worked on the project known as Business Transformation Release 3.

“We are committed to ensuring our tax system is fair. That also requires us to ensure it is administered fairly through Inland Revenue’s own processes”, Mr Nash says.

“The department had to close its call centre and online presence over the Easter and ANZAC break to enable it to happen. A lot could have gone wrong. But instead, everything appears to have gone right.

“Every single taxpayer account for Income Tax and Working for Families was migrated from the legacy computer system to the new system, known as START. It involved a mind-boggling number of transactions and processes.

“The system went live on Friday and has been tested in the real-world environment over the past few days. For example, this week it processed $33 million in Working for Families payments for 161,000 customers.

“The new system will continue to be tested in the coming weeks and extra staff have been brought in to handle customer questions. It is still early days and there are likely to be bumps along the way. However, IR assures me it has plans in place and will be ready to respond.

“The short-term inconvenience to customers while they get used to the new system is more than offset by the significance of the changes. Every taxpayer affected will now have their account managed in a smarter, fairer and more efficient way.

“Too many people have been paying the wrong secondary tax. IR’s technology will now be smart enough to spot if someone is overpaying tax and help them correct it with a tailored tax code. It will make a big difference for those with more than one job or an irregular income.

“It also allows for automatic tax assessments. From late-May to mid-July, salary and wage earners will find out if they have a refund owing or a bill to pay. About 1.65 million customers will be told they have a refund.

“If this year is anything like 2018, an estimated $860 million will be refunded straight into people’s bank accounts.

“Around 330,000 families receiving Working for Families support will receive more accurate payments during the year. This means they get the assistance when they need it and have less chance of a debt to repay at the end of the year.

“All tax revenue is now administered in the new system, after GST, withholding taxes, fringe benefit taxes and others were migrated in the past two years. Other systems administered by IR, including student loans, KiwiSaver and child support, will be migrated in the next two years.

Mr Nash says the Business Transformation Release 3 project has involved the biggest changes to the tax system in two decades:

  • Two million customers were contacted in advance
  • 3,600 staff received special training
  • 92,300 tests were completed beforehand
  • 7 million accounts were migrated to the new system
  • Records of 100 million transactions were migrated
  • 3 million web account logons were updated
  • More than 1,100 separate tasks were completed to cut-over the systems
  • A core team of 271 people worked over the holiday weekend with support from a further 50 people for distinct processes
  • A significant volume of pizza and chocolate was consumed by the team involved

Find out more about Inland Revenue’s changes at www.changingforyou.ird.govt.nz

Add your reaction Share

Early insights into use of restricted drugs

The first nationwide snapshot of the consumption of restricted drugs indicates the prevalence of methamphetamine use in New Zealand, says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“The first quarterly analysis of the nationwide wastewater testing programme reinforces the coalition government’s determination to target organised crime,” Mr Nash says.

“We know that methamphetamine causes a huge amount of harm. It is confronting to learn that on average, an estimated 16 kilograms of methamphetamine is used every week.

“This translates to an estimated $20 million per week in social harm. Organised crime groups are primarily responsible for manufacturing, importing and distributing this drug. 

“Police are committed to dismantling the supply of illicit drugs and also work closely with other agencies to help reduce demand, by breaking the cycle of addiction.

“The expanded testing programme is still in its infancy and care must be taken with reading too much into the results of the testing, between November 2018 and January 2019. However, it is clear that methamphetamine use, and the organised crime syndicates behind its distribution, need attention.

“The programme was initially a pilot in three sites but $1 million was set aside in last year’s budget which enabled it to be rolled out to 37 sites nationwide. It tests for methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

“The wastewater testing cannot pick up traces of synthetic drugs, nor is yet covering cannabis use. The programme tests public sewage schemes for traces of restricted drugs, to provide insight into patterns of use.

“The results are the first real insight we have on drug consumption in both major urban centres and regional communities. I am pleased to see the use of fentanyl remains low. Only 3 grams were consumed on average each week, which includes medically prescribed use.”

“As part of the coalition agreement, more than 700 extra Police are being deployed in dedicated roles as investigators and specialists in detecting and preventing organised and serious crime. This is central to our efforts to enhance the wellbeing of families and communities”, says Mr Nash.

Add your reaction Share

Andrew Little leads NZ delegation on global anti-terrorism taskforce

Justice Minister Andrew Little leaves for the United States today to take part in a global task force that’s tackling terrorism and anti-money laundering.

“I’m looking forward to leading the New Zealand delegation to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Ministerial Meeting in the capital Washington DC on April 12,” says Andrew Little.

 

Read more
Add your reaction Share