As another year draws to a close, we're looking back on all the progress we've made for New Zealanders and their families. Read below for some of the highlights from 2019!
We began the year by announcing an extension of our Safety Boost programme to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural New Zealand roads. This boost meant upgrades to 670 kilometres of rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast this year. With this investment, we began installing safety upgrades such as rumble strips, roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening, and improved signage.
The Prime Minister visited Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum. At Davos, the focus was firmly on our Wellbeing Budget. It was a great opportunity to champion how we're doing things differently, managing the economy responsibly while also putting people at its centre.
Jacinda Ardern promotes our Wellbeing Budget during a panel at the World Economic Forum. Photo by Boris Baldinger © World Economic Forum.
The Prime Minister's visit to Davos also included a number of other meetings and talks, such as talking trade and the Pacific Alliance with the Vice President of Peru, inequality with the CEO of Oxfam, mental health and climate change with Prince William, and joining Sir David Attenborough on a panel about climate issues. It was a wonderful chance to promote what we're doing in the Pacific to help look after our planet and turn the tide on climate change.
Jacinda Ardern talks to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, at Davos.
January also saw one of the main events in our Labour calendar – the annual celebration at Rātana. Labour’s special relationship with the Rātana movement was sealed in 1936 when Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana met Labour’s first Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage at Parliament. Every year our MPs gather to celebrate the legacy of T.W. Rātana and his teachings.
Nanaia Mahuta was one of the Labour Ministers who traveled to Rātana for the celebrations.
In February, we celebrated Waitangi, travelling to Northland to take part in the commemorations.
Our Coalition Government announced a number of significant investments in our regions through the Provincial Growth Fund. These included helping Māori landowners unlock the economic potential of their land, boosting jobs, upgrading transport links, and connecting more marae to the internet with better access to digital services. You can read more about these announcements here.
We were welcomed to Waitangi by the official pōwhiri, followed by a speech from the Prime Minister. You can watch the speech and read the full transcript here.
New Zealanders spend Waitangi Day in a variety of different ways. For some, it is a moment to reflect on the past, and how we came to be as a nation. For others, it is a chance to look at how far we have to go.
On the morning of Waitangi (and following a stirring dawn service), our PM, Ministers and MPs hosted a BBQ for everyone.
While at Waitangi, we learned of a large-scale bush fire taking place near Nelson that led to the evacuation of hundreds of residents.The Prime Minister visited the area and pledged extra funding for the stricken Tasman community as fire crews continued to battle the blaze. Government funding went to the Mayoral Relief Fund, set up by the Tasman District Council to help communities to get back on their feet after the emergency.
PM Jacinda Ardern speaking to Tasman District residents in Nelson. Photo: Branden Fastier, Stuff
In March, New Zealand suffered a terrible tragedy - a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques that took 51 lives, and changed many more forever.
The weeks following the terrorist attack saw an outpouring of grief from the New Zealand community, as well as support and love for our Muslim community.
Vigils were held up and down the country, promoting peace, love, and togetherness in the face of terror and hatred.
Nowhere was this more visible than Christchurch, where flowers and messages of support and sadness covered the sidewalks.
Our Prime Minister joined many other public officials, including Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, at the official remembrance service, Ko Tātou, Tātou We Are One, in Hagley Park.
The service saw key representatives from the Muslim community take the stage, including the Imam of the Linwood Mosque.
International singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens was among the artists who performed at the service.
Six days after the terrorist attack, the Prime Minister announced a ban on military style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles.
In April, the Prime Minister visited China for bilateral talks and we passed major firearms legislation into law, banning all semi-automatic and military-style weapons in New Zealand. Watch the Prime Minister's statement on the firearms legislation in the House below.
That wasn't all - we signed an accord with midwives for safer staffing levels, and we wiped debt for Housing New Zealand tenants wrongfully evicted by the previous Government's improper methamphetamine contamination policies.
Health Minister Dr David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter join midwives to sign an accord for safer staffing.
Another busy month. We began by celebrating new access to mental health and wellbeing support for every child in Canterbury and Kaikōura’s primary and intermediate schools through the Mana Ake programme. Mana Ake puts social and mental health workers into schools for one-on-one and group sessions with children to help them deal with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. It's about supporting our kids, easing pressure on teachers, and providing further help for parents.
Later in the month, the Government introduced the Zero Carbon Bill into Parliament, with the goal of delivering landmark action on climate change.
The Prime Minister then travelled to France to co-Chair the Christchurch Call conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, which saw an unprecedented group of global leaders in government, public service, and the tech industry come together to sign the Christchurch Call. This pledge seeks to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online, to stop the internet being used as a tool for terrorism.
The Prime Minister co-chaired the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
We also kept working to break the cycle of homelessness with another boost to Housing First, we strengthened NCEA and removed fees, we supported equal pay for working women, and we announced the biggest investment ever into family and sexual violence prevention.
The end of the month brought the Wellbeing Budget 2019, which included five key priorities:
- Taking mental health seriously
- Improving child wellbeing
- Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations
- Building a productive nation
- Transforming the economy
In June, we travelled to Fieldays to meet up with our rural communities and celebrate another year of strong primary sector export growth.
We also marked the expansion of mental health support to the regions in the recent Wellbeing Budget - making sure everyone who needs help can get it, no matter where they live.
While at Fieldays, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke more about the focus of the Sustainable Land Use package, announced as part of the Wellbeing Budget. Through this great package, our Government is providing on-the-ground support to help our farmers and growers lift their environmental sustainability, unlock more value from their hard work, and improve water quality in at-risk catchments and wetlands. Through this package, up to 2,200 farmers will get help to reduce their environmental footprint and boost their bottom line over the next four years.
Watch below to hear from Labour MPs Kiri Allan and Kieran McAnulty who were on the ground at Fieldays.
In July, we wiped unpaid NCEA fees! This meant nearly 150,000 students with unpaid fees could get their hard-earned credits and qualifications.
We also restored payments for parents and partners caring for disabled people with high or very high needs. This was all about addressing the needs of those parents and partners who provide this important, and sometimes challenging care, for their loved ones.
We announced we're making our roads safer, with safety upgrades to a further 2,430kms of New Zealand’s most dangerous state highways and local roads.
And we added grants for heaters and heat pumps to our Warmer Kiwi Homes programme - just one part of our winter package, which includes the Winter Energy Payment.
In August, we hit the lowest unemployment rate in 11 years - down to 3.9%. The same data also showed wage growth at a ten year high. Both were clear signs that our Government's economic plan is delivering for Kiwis.
We also announced our plan to deliver better cancer care, with funding for twelve new Linear Accelerators replacing half of all of New Zealand's radiation machines. It was the biggest investment in radiation therapy, ever.
August also meant the one year anniversary of the Mana in Mahi: Strength in Work programme. To celebrate the success of the programme, which supports young people into on the job training, we extended the places available from 150 up to 2,000. That's 2,000 young people who will get an opportunity to gain skills and qualifications and start their careers.
We also made more progress addressing child poverty - announcing our programme to provide healthy lunches for Year 1-8 students in up to 30 schools from 2020. As a Government, child poverty is one of the toughest long-term challenges we have to tackle. Fixing all the things that cause child poverty will take time, but one thing we can do straight away is make sure kids get at least one decent meal a day.
The Prime Minister with some children at the launch of the Child Wellbeing Strategy - which included the lunches in schools programme - in Rotorua.
We built on the previous month's cancer care announcement with the launch of our Cancer Action Plan, which included more funding for Pharmac so they can fund more cancer drugs, a Cancer Control Agency, to
provide leadership on cancer care and more investment in prevention and early detection.
The Prime Minister and Health Minister visited Auckland Hospital for the launch of our Cancer Action Plan.
We also announced a number of new ways to help Kiwis into homes, whether through progressive home-ownership, by lowering the deposit required for a government-backed mortgage from 10% to 5%, or by allowing family and friends to pool their First Home Grant's and their KiwiSavers to buy their first home together. We also made sure future governments' could not sell of state houses, passing the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Bill.
September was a major month for mental health - we officially announced a Suicide Prevention Office to coordinate action already underway to reduce New Zealand’s historically high rate of suicide.
We also announced changes that will see New Zealand history become part of the local curriculum and marau ā kura in every school and kura by 2022. Students will be taught about our own country's history and identity, as well as the important leadership role New Zealand plays in the Pacific.
The Prime Minister was in New York in late September for the United Nations General Assembly. She was personally invited to open the United Nations Climate Summit, where she made the case for a collaborative approach on carbon emissions prices, to tackle climate change.
And - yes there's more! We launched our School Leavers Toolkit. From budgeting advice, to help with what to expect when moving into a flat, applying for a job, and more - we're making sure young people have everything they need to succeed.
We furthered our work in combating violent and extremist terrorist content online in October, investing in doubling the the investigative, forensic, intelligence and prevention work of the Department of Internal Affairs.
In October, we released the Crown’s financial statements for the year to June. They showed an economy in good shape - with growth that outperforms economies we compare ourselves to. It demonstrated the government is striking the right balance between managing the books well, building a strong, resilient economy, and investing in the things that New Zealanders care about - like fixing up our hospitals, building better schools and classrooms, and investing in our transport. The results show businesses are investing, employing more workers and paying higher wages, while at the same time reporting stronger profits.
We celebrated two years in Government in October - and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern marked the occasion by attempting to run through all of our achievements of the past two years, in two minutes! The popular video of this sparked a number of copy-cats around the world...
In November we officially passed the Zero Carbon Act - an historic moment, and one that, as the Prime Minister said, puts us "on the right side of history". Among other things, the Zero Carbon Act sets climate change targets to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees. It also establishes an independent Climate Change Commission to hold future Governments to account. Read more about our action on climate change here.
We also celebrated officially reaching 1800 new police officers on the beat. The total Police workforce is now the largest it has ever been. The annual attrition rate in Police dropped below 4 per cent in 2019 - one of the lowest in the public sector. The net gain, counting attrition, is 1000 officers since the start of the the 2017/18 financial year.
The Prime Minister and Police Minister visited Police College in Porirua to attend the graduation of Wing 332.
We also celebrated another success - 90% of eligible schools officially took up our funding boost to remove school donations. This scheme will give those 1,563 schools guaranteed extra funding next year - meaning the families of more than 416,000 students will be better off. The donations scheme is part of our plan to make education more affordable for students and families, building on a number of things we've done in education, including making the first year of tertiary education fees-free, the first two years of industry training fees-free, and scrapping fees for NCEA and scholarship exams.
In housing, we announced changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, giving renters more certainty by limiting rent increases to once every 12 months instead of every six, and allowing them to make minor adjustments to their home to make it their own.
December started off on a high-note with our annual Labour Party Conference! We welcomed over 500 of our Labour whānau in red to Whanganui, where we reflected on the last two years in Government, and looked ahead to 2020 and beyond.
In her speech at the Whanganui Opera House, the Prime Minister announced the first part of our new infrastructure package:nearly $400 million to improve the condition of school properties across New Zealand. Our investment will see nearly every state school in the country receive a capital injection next year valued at $693 per student to bring forward urgent school property improvements and repairs; the one-off cash payment will see some schools receive up to $400,000 to spend on needed upgrades that have been put on the back burner. This investment is the biggest capital injection for school maintenance funding in at least 25 years and will have a massive impact on schools and on local trades jobs.
The Prime Minister delivers her address at the Labour Party Conference in Whanganui.
At 2:11pm, on December 9th, Whakaari / White Island erupted. It was an extraordinary tragedy but, once again, New Zealanders came together to treat and support those affected with skill, dedication, and aroha. Read the Prime Minister's statement here.
Back in Wellington the Prime Minister was proud to host her annual Christmas Party for a group of Barnados New Zealand tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau. A Christmas feast, face painting, card making, a photo booth, and a special gift from Santa, all made this day a day to remember.
The Prime Minister invited Barnados tamariki and whānau to Premier House to share in some festive spirit - with an extra special guest!
2019 was a huge year for Labour, a huge year for the Government, and a huge year for New Zealand. We've achieved so much and we're only just getting started.
Watch this space for more progress in 2020!