This week we moved into the second half of 2020 - and our Government delivered another week of big changes and major progress for New Zealanders. Read below for a wrap of the key things moments from the week - from extending paid parental leave, to making major investments in infrastructure, to extending our free and healthy school lunches programme to the South Island.
This Wednesday was a major date in the Government calendar, with many of our key pieces of legislation coming into effect. To mark the 1st of July, Jacinda Ardern filmed a quick video covering off the main things you need to know.
This past Wednesday, the 1st of July, paid parental leave increased for the second time under this Government, up to 26 weeks. This was something we promised as part of our 2017 election campaign, and it was one of the first pieces of legislation we actioned when we came into Government. Extending this leave builds on our work to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealand families, and helps to make sure new parents get to spend more time with their little one.
The 1st of July this year also meant the commencement of free apprenticeships and trades training. This means New Zealanders can upskill and retrain for jobs at no cost to them. This policy is at the core of what we’re doing as Government: creating jobs, helping people stay in work, and training people up for jobs in the future. This also means a boost for our skilled workforce – something we need as we deliver key projects through our record investment in infrastructure around the country. We’re backing this initiative up with our Apprenticeship Boost package that supports businesses with up to $16,000. This - alongside a number of other measures we put in place pre-COVID, like the Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work scheme - will help them to take on new apprentices or keep their current ones.
Other changes that kicked off on the 1st July include a pay boost for early childhood teachers, the start of the Farm Debt Mediation scheme, and the introduction of cheaper building levies, which will help cut costs for homeowners and businesses. All of these changes will make a major difference to the lives of New Zealanders, as we get our country moving again in the face of COVID-19.
This week, we announced a new package of infrastructure investments that will help kick-start the post-COVID rebuild by creating more than 20,000 jobs and unlocking more than $5 billion of projects up and down New Zealand.
Building infrastructure is a key component of our economic recovery plan: it's about creating jobs as we recover and rebuild together. We focused on key sectors that are central to our economic plan – housing and urban development, climate resilience, energy and community development. We know that times have and will continue to be tough - but we are backing all New Zealanders by creating new jobs and opportunities in communities around the country.
A full stomach makes all the difference to a child’s learning. That's why we were excited to announce this week that our free and healthy school lunches programme has moved south for the first time - helping keep kids in Otago and Southland fed and ready to learn, while creating local jobs for around 30 people.
Eighteen schools with 3000 students are joining the programme: 11 have already begun serving up lunches, and seven are preparing to start during Term 3. This is on top of the 42 schools already taking part.
The programme provides lunches to all students in schools taking part, and is being rolled out in stages. The initiative was expanded in the Budget this year, which will see around 200,000 more children getting a free lunch by the end of 2021. It's not only a win for our kids, it's a win for new jobs in our communities too, with several participating schools employing whānau to help make and distribute lunches on school sites.
Kiwi families rightly expect their children to be able to learn in warm, dry and comfortable classrooms and we are working hard to make that happen.
On Friday of this week, we announced the first wave of a new nationwide school redevelopment programme to upgrade 180 schools over the next 10 years - the most ambitious school redevelopment programme by a New Zealand Government.
Auckland’s Northcote College was one of the first four schools to receive funding from the programme. The investment will be used to refurbish two of Northcote College’s heritage buildings, and relocate a third to a better location on the site. A new gym will be built, and 20 ageing classrooms will be rebuilt or upgraded.
All projects announced under this school redevelopment programme will require hundreds of skilled workers, creating hundreds of jobs in our communities.
It's been a major week of progress - and it's not over yet. This weekend, Labour will be holding Congress - a chance to take stock of all we have achieved in our first term and look ahead to the September 19th election. Jacinda Ardern will be delivering a speech, as will Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis - you can sign up to watch here.
As we begin the countdown to Election Day, we'll be bringing you the latest news and announcements - right here on our website and over on our Facebook page.
Look out for the next edition in this weekly series next Friday.