Key Notes - Happy Christmas
18 December 2009
It's been a busy year. National has worked hard to protect New Zealanders from the sharpest edges of the recession and prepare for future growth, while delivering on our election promises in law and order, health, and education.
Treasury's half-yearly fiscal update shows that we've come through the recession better than many people thought. And we're seeing some strong signs of recovery. That's great news, but the pressure on government finances is still tight.
2010 will be another big year. We'll be working to unleash New Zealand's potential for growth and lift wages. We'll also stay focused on the issues that matter - making our communities safer for families, lifting achievement in our schools, and providing better healthcare for all New Zealanders.
Thanks very much for your support this year and for reading Key Notes. I hope it's given you a sense of where we are taking New Zealand. This is the last issue for 2009. I'll be back in your inbox in January.
And thanks for your comments. They give my staff and I a good idea of what concerns you. Please keep them coming.
I hope you and your family take some time off and relax over the holiday season. Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Tackling Greenhouse Emissions
I'm in Copenhagen this week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Yesterday we announced that New Zealand will invest $45 million over four years in the Global Research Alliance on agriculture greenhouse gases. The Alliance brings together researchers to find solutions to emissions from farm animals and horticulture. Twenty countries so far - including the United States, Canada, and India - have joined the Alliance.
Fourteen percent of the world's greenhouse gases and almost half of New Zealand's emissions come from agriculture. The Alliance has huge potential to help our farmers cut emissions and help global food supply keep up with the world's growing population.
Lifting Achievement in Schools
This week the Education Review Office released a report into reading and writing in Years 1 and 2 at primary schools. It found that almost two out of three school leaders aren't properly monitoring how well their pupils achieve. It also found that 30 percent of teachers aren't teaching reading and writing effectively. Children - and parents - deserve better.
The report goes some way to explaining why one-in-five young New Zealanders leave school without the basic skills they need. And it shows just how crucial our National Standards policy is. Under National Standards, primary and intermediate schools will be required from next year to assess each child's progress in reading, writing, and maths, and report this in plain English to parents. We want to work constructively with teachers and principals to introduce National Standards. And we're providing extra funding to roll them out and help children who are falling behind.
Improving our Highways
On Tuesday the Government gave the go ahead for Transmission Gully - a project to improve State Highway 1 north of Wellington. This is part of the Wellington Road of National Significance, which will see a four-lane expressway built in stages between Wellington Airport and Levin over the next 10 years.
Earlier this year we identified seven initial Roads of National Significance around the country. With our announcement of $11 billion in new State Highway investment over the coming decade, National wants to significantly improve our road network and help unclog New Zealand's growth arteries. In coming months, we'll have more to say about our progress on the Roads of National Significance.
Reining in Electricity Prices
Under Labour, electricity prices rose about three times faster than inflation. That's just not on. And that's why we've introduced a new bill into Parliament to put in place many of the recommendations of the Ministerial Review Group into the electricity market.
The changes are designed to improve the security of our electricity supply, boost competition in the market, and rein in increases to the family power bill. Since the review began, price rises have flattened. I hope that trend will continue.
Celebrating Waitangi Day
National wants a harmonious New Zealand where all Kiwis respect each other. That's one of the reasons why Cabinet has approved the flying of a national Maori flag from Auckland Harbour Bridge, Premier House, and some other sites on Waitangi Day. The Maori flag won't replace the New Zealand flag. It will fly alongside it, to celebrate Waitangi Day and recognise the partnership which the Crown and Maori entered into when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi.