First up, this week saw the release of two major documents to do with our economy - the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) and the Budget Responsibility Report. The HYEFU reports from Treasury indicate that our economy is stronger than ever.
- Growth: about 3% per year
- Unemployment: to stay around 4% a year (a historical low)
- To keep running healthy surpluses.
We're also keeping debt under control, with net debt forecast to be below 20% of GDP within five years of us taking office.
Along with the HYEFU, we also released a Budget Responsibility Report, outlining the five core priorities for Budget 2019 - New Zealand's first Wellbeing Budget. We're doing things differently, setting key measures and targets in mental health, innovation, and child poverty, among others - because we know the success of our country - and it's people! - cannot be measured in dollars and cents alone. Listen to our Finance Minister Grant Robertson explain more on this here:
Did you know about one third of Kiwis are renters? From this week, we've officially banned unfair letting fees. Letting agents and property management companies will no longer be allowed to charge a letting fee. It's just one of the ways we're making life better for those who rent their homes.
Another major announcement this week - we're coming down hard on dealers and manufacturers of synthetic drugs. We've introduced a suite of measures to tackle the synthetic drug problem, which has cause significant harm to our communities, including a number of fatalities.
We're classifying the main two synthetic drugs (5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA) linked to recent deaths as Class A. This will give police the search and seizure powers they need to crackdown on suppliers and manufacturers, who will also face tougher penalties – up to life imprisonment.
We're creating a temporary drug classification category, C1, so new drugs can easily be brought under the Misuse of Drugs Act, giving police the search and seizure powers needed to interrupt supply – an important part of a health response.
We're also choosing to follow the evidence, and take a health-based approach to the users of drugs. We're amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to specify in law that Police should use their discretion and not prosecute for possession and personal use where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or there is no public interest in a prosecution. This will apply to the use of all illegal drugs, so there is no perverse incentive created encouraging people to switch to a particular drug.
We're also allocating $16.6 million to boost community addiction treatment services, and provide communities with the support to provide emergency “surge” responses.
It's a two-pronged approach that is backed by evidence: a health-based approach to users while cracking down on suppliers. Our Minister of Police Stuart Nash gets to the core of what the measures are truly about:
“We are striking a balance between discouraging drug use and recognising that many people using drugs need support from the health system, or education about harm reduction. We don’t want our jails full of people with addiction problems, we want those people getting treatment."
The Police Minister was joined by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters at a police graduation for eighty new recruits of Wing 321 at the Royal New Zealand Police College this week.
The graduation saw us reach a significant milestone: more than 1,000 new constables deployed around the country since this Government took office.
The push for 1,800 new police was part of our commitment to creating safer communities.
We've had a number of exciting announcement and visits up and down the country this week - including the Prime Minister's attendance at the ASB Rugby Awards. Here she is pictured Kendra Cocksedge, the first woman to win the New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year.
While in Auckland, the Prime Minister attended Papakura Marae to announce a $1 million investment to support Papakura Marae's kaumātua housing plan.
Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta praised Auckland Council’s role in progressing the plan, with six two-bedroom homes to be built on the marae, which sits on council land.
“We need to design and enable innovative approaches to accelerate whānau, hapū and iwi development.”
Last but certainly not least, our Coalition Government continues to support our thriving regions with the Provincial Growth Fund, with a number of investments into the Eastern Bay of Plenty this week. We're funding improved digital connectivity for the region - Ōpōtiki receiving approximately $300,000 and Whakatāne approximately $1 million. This raises the total investment in each area to $4.2 million and $3.1 million respectively and will make faster broadband available to approximately 861 new households and businesses.
It's not only digital investment though - we're also investing in the future of aquaculture. Aquaculture provides one of the biggest opportunities for the Eastern Bay of Plenty to transform its economy, develop significant employment and improve the region’s standard of living. We’ll support Whakatohea Mussels Opotiki Ltd to progress further work on a business case for a mussel processing facility. When fully operational this initiative has the potential to create more than 200 jobs in the region year round.
The Whakatohea Māori Trust Board will also receive support to prepare a business case to accelerate the development of its aquaculture interests and settlement assets. The study will include looking at the potential for a commercial mussel farm and spat catching site including a scientific assessment for a deep sea water farm site.
In addition to these projects, the Provincial Growth Fund is also helping with a a plan to improve visitor access to Whakaari (White Island), and to employing a labour coordinator for the Bay of Plenty Kiwifruit industry.
That's it for this week! Tune in next week to keep up-to-date on all the latest buzz around the Beehive and everything else happening around the country.