A Rightful Share of the Economic Action
Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland
16 OCTOBER 2015
Speech by New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters MP
New Celtic Barn, Caledonian Park
7.45am, Friday, 16th October 2015
A Rightful Share of the Economic Action
Thank you for your invitation which said “the subject will be of course Northland. We are concerned that the current government have forgotten about us up here and we need jobs, upgrade of roads, the railway and get industry happening here before all our young people disappear”.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of becoming Northland’s MP.
New Zealand First stood in the by-election because we see our role as helping Northland – and the rest of New Zealand – to build a secure and prosperous future.
The people of Northland want decent jobs, affordable housing, quality health and education services and good infrastructure.
But the fact is that a stable and prosperous future built on a thriving economy is not a given – it is not guaranteed for Northland or any other part of our country.
And already there are many people in Northland for whom a decent job and a home of their own are just the fading Kiwi dream.
Right now New Zealand is taking a path that is enriching the lucky few but doing little to protect and promote the wellbeing of ordinary Kiwis, and in particular the regions.
Let’s remind ourselves: there was no issue, no problem, no widespread public concern with the New Zealand flag until some spin doctor in the Beehive told Mr Key changing our flag would give him a “legacy”.
A few weeks ago to rescue the fiasco that the flag change process had become, the so-called “red peak” design was pushed through Parliament under urgency. Using Parliamentary urgency – by passing all the usual scrutiny and review – was a disgrace.
It shows just how cavalier Wellington now is of how our democracy is supposed to work.
NZ First has opposed the outrageous flag changing vanity project from the start – and unlike every other party our opposition has been principled, forthright and unwavering.
Let us look at some of today’s damaging policies.
There is one certain way to undermine the job and housing prospects of Kiwis in Northland and elsewhere.
And that is to do what National has done and allow record immigration – with an influx of over 60,000 migrants annually.
For a population the size of New Zealand that is an incredible number – immigration is running at twice the rate of New Zealand’s natural population increase – the excess of births over deaths.
Of course Kiwis returning from overseas cannot be denied re-entry but we do have a say in who else settles in New Zealand.
Auckland is bursting at the seams with the flood of immigrants and apart from the impact on housing, billions will have to be spent to cater for this population growth by building new schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure.
That is money that Northland and other regions will never see.
There can be no major investment programme to promote regional growth when Auckland has an insatiable appetite for resources to cater for the immigration influx.
Under recent governments, but more so under National, we have a wide open door immigration policy and it all depends on one’s perception whether you think that massive immigration is helping the job prospects of young Kiwis?
Whether you think massive immigration is helping young Kiwi families to get into their first home?
New Zealand First’s policy on immigration is to end this madness.
The brakes must go on.
We need an immigration policy that serves New Zealand as a whole – not one that bloats Auckland but starves the regions.
Another area seriously undermining and jeopardising New Zealand’s future is policy on foreign ownership.
Some would have you believe that foreign ownership does not matter. They brush aside the critics.
For a start they mislead the public by using the term foreign “investment” when it is no such thing.
Real investment creates something new – productive assets, jobs, real productive wealth from exports.
Simply transferring ownership from New Zealand to foreign ownership creates nothing – in fact the impact is negative from a national interest perspective.
In contrast, some have consistently sounded the alarm at the rate at which New Zealand assets such as prime agricultural land and strategic businesses are ending up in foreign hands.
But here again we see attempts to keep the public in the dark on the extent of foreign ownership. They have refused to collect accurate up to date data.
We have drafted legislation, our Land Transfer (Foreign Ownership of Land Register) Amendment Bill that will give the public the full facts about overseas ownership of land and housing.
The economics of foreign ownership are brutal.
Every year a massive flood of profits, dividends and other payments flow offshore to foreign owners – we are talking billions of dollars in payments.
And this is why New Zealand has a chronic balance of payments deficit and deepening international indebtedness.
Yet in 7 years in office National has only managed stop one significant deal - the sale of Lochinver station.
Where is the strategy, the plan to address foreign ownership?
It does not exist.
And the reason is that National has no interest in curbing foreign ownership is that in their vision of free wheeling globalization everything is up for grabs – and the highest bidder wins irrespective of whether that is in New Zealand’s long term interests
It is true that it is not just Chinese companies that are snapping up swathes of our country, so are the Americans and Scandinavians.
But there is a distinction and it is an important one – Chinese companies are all owned by the Chinese Government.
Try buying land in China. They don’t allow that.
NZ First stands for a rigorous test to be applied when foreign interests want to acquire New Zealand land or businesses
And we have a plan to reverse the losses over recent years.
That plan will involve tight scrutiny of all potential deals from a national interest perspective.
The current practice of rubber-stamping deals by the toothless Overseas Investment Office is a farce and needs to end.
When it came into government National stopped paying into the Cullen Fund (the fund for building up a reserve to help meet future NZ Super needs).
Payments into the Cullen Fund must be resumed and this can be a mechanism to buy back prime assets into New Zealand ownership.
NZ First has ideas for boosting savings.
As things stand the private sector funds of KiwiSaver are dominated by Australian-owned banks.
We would establish – KiwiFund – as a low fees, state-run KiwiSaver option with a focus on investing in New Zealand assets and infrastructure.
Northland, like many other regions, has an infrastructure deficit.
All roads are significant if you use them for your daily life and livelihood. We want to see a major campaign to seal local roads, improve overall road quality and double-lane bridges where practical. This will improve productivity and road safety significantly.
New Zealand has a staggering total of over 31,000 kilometres of unsealed roads. Of that total Northland comprises over 10% so there is a massive deficit in sealing roads
We also need to make it easier and more efficient to move bulk products such as wood from forests to processing facilities and then to major urban centres and ports.
In our view there is an important role for rail in Northland. That means upgrading the Auckland to Whangarei line, not closing it by stealth.
As things stands it looks suspiciously like National are hoping that some pretext, some excuse – say a storm breaching the line – will allow KiwiRail to mothball the line as a first step to closure.
This was the deceitful, underhand tactic they used to get rid of the Napier – Gisborne rail line. Is that being alarmist? No, just realistic. There is a Chip Mill at Portland where 50% of the logs come by rail. Many logs used to come from Dargaville until almost unannounced that line was closed. Now there are plans to close the Portland rail shunt connection. And what do you think comes after that?
NZ First also supports building a rail link from the main line to Marsden Point’s North Port.
In our view to support its long term development and growth the port of Northland and Marsden Point should be rail connected.
As you may be aware there is a New Zealand First private member’s Bill awaiting introduction to the House that will grow North Port instead of the Ports of Auckland.
North Port has a great future as an export port and cruise port – we cannot allow that to be stifled any longer.
A reliable electricity supply is absolutely fundamental for Northland now and in the future.
The massive power outage at the Kaikohe substation that cut power to over 30,000 homes and businesses in Northland last weekend is simply unacceptable.
Government must act now to ensure that the electricity grid is robust and reliable.
The days of short changing Northland’s infrastructure must end.
Building the economic base
NZ First’s economic policies are all about building New Zealand’s economic base.
In particular it is vital to grow the manufacturing and exports sector through a competitive exchange rate as well as tax and other forms of support for the export sector.
Last week I spoke to the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association’s regional meeting in Whangarei.
In that talk I mentioned that for a secure and resilient future the New Zealand economy must have strength in depth.
We have had a stark lesson in the collapse of dairy prices that putting too much reliance in one sector leaves us exposed and vulnerable to a downturn in that sector
Northland already has a very important forest growing and wood processing sector. In our view the wood sector in Northland has obvious potential for growth.
But potential is one thing; actual growth and expansion is another
That is why NZ First has a comprehensive range of specific policies targeted at the manufacturing and export sectors. Here are 3 examples:
· NZ First will reform the Reserve Bank Act to ensure we have no repeat of a chronically overvalued dollar damaging the export sector
· We will use the tax system to encourage investment. For example by deferring tax for investment in processing plant, equipment and machinery. And we will also strengthen this with accelerated depreciation provisions
· NZ First will reintroduce an R&D tax credit to encourage stronger private investment in high-quality R&D with an overall objective of lifting private R&D from 0.6% of GDP to around 2%.
In conclusion, what Northland does not need is Another Round of Silver Bullet Scenarios.
In yesterday’s Northern Advocate there was a heading “TPP Opens US Doors” and then the promise “Northland firms able to bid for $1.7 trillion in overseas government contracts”.
Many of you will remember the ANZUS breakup with the US and Australia back in the late 80’s.
In 1988, the then Minister of Defence in New Zealand, Bob Tizard, in an attempt to reconcile with Australia entered a naval vessel construction contract arrangement with that country. New Zealand was promised massive returns in helping to construct these vessels.
What in fact happened was that TENIX, an Australian ship building company, set up TENIX Ship Building New Zealand, but by 2008 they had exited New Zealand and the facility sits there in Lower Port Road, Whangarei, waiting for new tenants.
It is true that we got some high class trade jobs, and some good work for a short while, but the Australian owners did by far the best by using our New Zealand base company registration as though adding the initials NZ to a company somehow makes it beneficial to New Zealand.
No one is being arrogant here, but how many people in Northland, or indeed this room, know how much $1.7 trillion is, or, by what percentage does it exceed New Zealand’s current GDP.
When the people of Northland returned a NZ First MP to Parliament earlier this year they sent the Government a blunt and powerful message.
That message was that National had failed Northland.
They had had years to deliver but had been found wanting.
In contrast, in NZ First we know who we serve – ordinary New Zealanders
Our policies will make a real difference by building a secure and prosperous future for Northland and New Zealand.
Northland wants its rightful share of the economic action. And together, we are going to get it.