This week was chock-a-block with announcements! From a new Business Advisory Council, to the reveal of nationwide transport funding and projects, to a big education rebuild in Bay of Plenty, and so much more....
PM Jacinda Ardern delivered a major speech to the business community this week, announcing the formation of a Business Advisory Council, chaired by Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxton. The Council will help build a closer relationship between Government and business, and provide high-level free and frank advice to the Prime Minister on key economic issues. It's a great opportunity to harness expertise from the private sector to inform the development of the Government’s economic policies.
“I want to work closely with, and be advised by, senior business leaders who take a helicopter view of our economy, who are long term strategic thinkers who have the time and energy to lead key aspects of our economic agenda," stated Ardern.
We're looking forward to building a closer relationship with the business community and continuing to maintain a strong and stable economy that delivers for all New Zealanders.
This week we properly launched our National Land Transport Plan.
We're making a record investment, with $16.9bn invested in our land transport system over the next three years. This means delivering a safer, better connected and more resilient transport system.
The investment over the next three years is an 18% increase on the previous Government's investment from 2015/18, with more going into roads and transport in regional New Zealand. In fact, most roading investment will go to the neglected regional roads rather than the big cities. Significant investment will be made to improve freight connections to ports, airports and distribution centres.
To ease congestion and make our cities healthier places to live, we're investing in public transport, rapid transit, and walking and cycling. We are funding projects like the AMETI busway, renewing Wellington’s rail tracks, the Skypath and Seapath walk/cycleways, and investigating a new commuter ferry service in Queenstown.
We're investing in new state highway projects like Puhoi to Warkworth, the Waikato Expressway, the Mt Messenger bypass, the Manawatu Gorge replacement, Transmission Gully, and the Christchurch Southern Motorway - and funding proper state highway maintenance.
We're helping grow our regions, making it easier to get around our cities, and saving lives on our roads. We're keeping New Zealand moving!
We believe every child deserves decent facilities to learn in, so they can achieve more.
That's why we announced a major investment to replace crumbling classrooms, and provide new modern learning spaces for students in Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty.
Our PM joined Minister of Education Chris Hipkins at Otumoetai College in Tauranga to make the announcement. In total, we're investing about $73 million into two major redevelopments and 39 new roll growth classrooms at 15 schools across the Waikato, Hawke's Bay, and Bay of Plenty.
Education is a major priority for us - and we're excited to see more developments in this area to come.
This week we also took measures to improve the safety of children in care, launching a new unit and reporting system named The Safety of Children in Care Unit, housed in Oranga Tamariki. The unit will be able to get a full picture of where harm is occurring, to identify higher risk areas which need to be investigated and - most importantly - to understand the risk factors and make changes to avoid such harm in the future.
A series of wānanga are being held from Kaitaia to Dunedin to help shape the future of Māori education.
Between now and mid-October over 25 wānanga will be held. Our Minister for Crown/Māori Relations Kelvin Davis will be attending a number to hear the views of Māori people, as will other Ministers.
Our Government is focused on raising achievement for all Māori learners. These wānanga are the biggest opportunity in decades to make sure all Māori voices are heard on education.
We saw a couple of announcements in the housing space for Queenstown this week, with our Minister of Housing Phil Twyford confirming $24 million of 10 year interest-free loans to Queenstown Lakes District Council to support major infrastructure projects around Ladies Mile at the entranceway to Queenstown.
The funding brings forward the development of around 1,100 houses by six years, with the first houses expected in 2020. The infrastructure includes wastewater mains and a pump station, water supply reservoir and mains, a new roundabout on SH6, pedestrian and cycle underpass and bus stops.
Twyford also announced that the HomeStart and Welcome Home Loan house price caps for Queenstown Lakes will be increased to $600,000 for existing homes and $650,000 for new builds to enable more first-home buyers to get onto the property ladder.
The previous HomeStart price caps of $500,000 for existing homes and $550,000 for new builds for Queenstown Lakes District meant that it was virtually impossible for first-home buyers to access the grants. Queenstown Lakes District has the highest median house price in New Zealand, so it makes sense that it also has the highest HomeStart house price cap, alongside Auckland, to give buyers a fair chance at accessing the grant.
In exciting news, New Zealand tertiary students will now get the chance to apply for an internship with NASA’s International Internships Programme thanks to a new agreement between the space agency and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The internship will give high-achieving students the opportunity to work in NASA's most advanced research facilities, inspiring our future innovators in the fields of Earth observation, astrobiology, and robotics.
The programme also further strengthens New Zealand's relationship with the United States, and raises our profile as a location for space activities. Up, up and away!
Lastly - this announcement came late last week - we're waving goodbye to departure cards at airports! That last-minute burden of filling out a departure card before taking flight for overseas will be a thing of the past come November. We're improving the experience of all travellers leaving New Zealand, making the upcoming busy holidays a much smoother and easier process for everyone involved. It's a further move to align us with the practices of other countries - few countries require detailed departure cards like we do currently.
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.