Plain English - Friday 1 March
A weekly update from Bill English, National Party Leader. Friday 1 March 2002
Out and about in the regions
This week I visited the Tauranga and Coromandel electorates, where National is putting in a big effort to beat the Greens and NZ First. There is already a mood of optimism among our party workers with issues like the petrol tax helping things along. Labour have underestimated the opposition to the petrol tax right around the country. Even the NZ Herald said it was a political blunder. The Bay of Plenty will pay $10m in petrol tax and won't get a cent back.
Congratulations to John Banks
Auckland Mayor John Banks deserves a large amount of credit for getting government action on Auckland's transport problems. Labour's polling has told them they have to run with John Banks or he'll run over them. That's why we have the Labour and Alliance supporting tolling and private financing which they opposed in the past. I announced these measures as part of our policy a month ago, so National will support these measures in Parliament.
Under current RMA procedures the motorway network will take more like 20 years to complete, rather than the 7 years Auckland mayors want. We have yet to see whether the Government has taken action to speed up RMA processes. All the money won't make any difference if they can't get the consents for years.
Second World Health
The challenges for our health policy grow by the day. Graeme Edmond, CEO of Auckland Health has said we have to debate whether we are headed for a second world health system. Annette King said this week we should stop trying to compare our health system to that of Australia and the UK because they are richer countries. I can recall Labour promising that a bit more tax would fix public health, but they seem to be revising that position. National left the system with viable finances, reasonable morale and tools for sorting priorities. Now it's running in the red, morale is low and the priorities are purely political.
It's hard to see just how Labour can pull the system out of the dive even with extensive cuts. We are concentrating on a rescue package, rather than extensive restructuring.
Encouraging our innovators?
One of New Zealand's most innovative companies, Invensys Energy Systems, has been on the receiving end of harsh treatment from State-owned Meridian Energy. The Christchurch based telecommunications company is now facing a 91% increase in its power bill.
Meridian has been using its strong market position to generate profits for the Government's coffers. How does this fit in with the Government's "innovation" strategy of encouraging our hi-tech innovators? This is a government owned business after all. Labour has done their review of the energy market and we can expect to see some difficult politics from them as responsibility for the actions of SOEs is sheeted home to Labour.
Closing the Gaps?
The Government has introduced a two year moratorium on new aquaculture developments, which includes mussel and oyster farms.
Iwi groups met in Wellington recently and say that 90% of applications affected represent Maori interests. Reports show this move will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of jobs to communities which really need them. Many of these enterprises are in rural areas and offer unskilled employment to many young Maori. It's also particularly hard on developers who have gone through years of red tape and have finally achieved resource consent.
You can expect to hear more about this issue as National increases the pressure on the Government and the Maori Caucus. Any kind of enterprise is preferable to government grants for Maori. I welcome this kind of enterprise because it provides opportunities for people who have precious few opportunities.