Bill English, completing his second month as Prime Minister, opened Parliament yesterday with a statement that was long on boring. The word ‘continue’ cropped up throughout his speech.
And that’s neither odd nor bad. A prime minister who’s just finished 8 years as deputy and also as finance minister is hardly going to tell you he’s been doing a bad job and is going to change everything.
Nevertheless, I read through it in case something had moved out of line. One thing I’d hoped might have moved a little closer to action was the Resource Management Act reform programme. It was down the end of the speech and is still a work in progress. That’s perhaps for the best, because it needs work to remove some of the unnecessary turmoil some changes were going to make.
Mr English said economic growth was expected to average about 3%/year over the next 5 years, “supporting more jobs, reducing unemployment and allowing incomes to rise faster than inflation.
“Unemployment is forecast to drop to 4.3% by 2020-21. Over the same period another 140,000 jobs are expected to be created and the average wage is forecast to increase by a further $7000 to $66,000.
“The Government’s overall fiscal strategy remains unchanged – getting on top of spending and paying off debt in the good times so that the Government can support New Zealand communities through future challenges.
“The operating allowance remains at $1.5 billion for each of the next 4 Budgets. The capital allowance has been increased to $3 billion in Budget 2017 and to $2 billion in future budgets to provide for a number of high quality infrastructure & investment projects.
“Treasury’s latest forecasts of the operating balance before gains & losses (OBEGAL) is for a $473 million surplus this year, rising to $8.5 billion in 2020-21.
“Net debt is expected to fall to 18.8% of gdp by 2020-21, with contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund forecast to restart the same year.”
Among projects for the year (there are others, in case you think the most important one has been omitted – check the link below):
“The Government will continue work on improving the quality of our rivers & lakes, and progress work on a fair & equitable allocation system for water & discharges.
“The Government will encourage petroleum & mineral exploration while adhering to strong environmental & safety provisions. Investment in data acquisition projects such as aeromagnetic surveys will continue, ensuring aeromagnetic data on around 30% of New Zealand’s land surface will be available by mid-2018.
“The Government will continue to promote competition in the electricity market to help keep downward pressure on power prices. It will also continue to promote renewable energy, with a target of reaching 90% renewable energy by 2025, up from 81% in 2015. Work will be progressed on setting renewable energy targets beyond electricity.
“Investment in modern infrastructure is a priority for the Government. Capital spending over the next 5 years is forecast to total $32.1 billion, compared to $18.4 billion over the last 5 years, with major investments in transport, schools, hospitals, defence & housing.
“The Government will continue construction of the remaining 5 roads of national significance, and accelerate a package of regionally important state highway projects under the accelerated regional roading
“Housing will remain a key focus for the Government this year, and work will continue to increase the supply of land for housing.
“Legislation to reform the Resource Management Act will be progressed, to reduce costs & delays for homeowners & businesses, and the Government will also proceed with reform of the Building Act.
“The Productivity Commission will deliver its final report on the urban planning system. This will consider options for the long-term replacement of planning legislation.
“The Government will work with Auckland Council to ensure the successful implementation of the city’s unitary plan. Additional special housing areas will be established, and more underutilised Crown land will be made available to support an increase in residential building.
“The Government is reforming the social housing sector to grow supply and get better outcomes for people & families most in need of housing assistance.
“The Government will build & fund additional social & emergency housing places, having last year provided permanent funding to the emergency housing sector for the first time.
“The social housing reform programme will progress, with the transfer of up to 2500 Housing NZ properties in Christchurch to community housing providers. The reforms aim to drive more diverse ownership of social housing, engaging providers who can support tenants with additional social services, and redevelop social housing to better match tenants’ needs.
“The Government will progress the advanced survey & title services project, which will significantly improve the quality & range of survey & title services provided by Land Information NZ.
Legislation to amend the Local Government Act will be progressed, allowing local authorities to create more shared services across regions, particularly for core infrastructure such as transport, water & sewerage.
“The Government will continue to review New Zealand’s immigration settings to ensure they support economic growth and provide employers with access to the international labour market to fill labour needs that cannot be met domestically. A new global impact visa will be piloted to attract up to 400 young technology entrepreneurs.
“The Government will implement initiatives to contribute to its goal of raising Government investment in research & development to 0.8% of gdp, including the rollout of the $250 million/year strategic science investment fund.
“2 new regional research institutes will be established in Marlborough & Alexandra, and a second round of regional research institute funding applications will be completed, supporting 1-3 additional institutes.
“The Government will continue to resolve historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, and intends for all willing & able iwi to have settled or have an agreement in principle by the end of 2017.”