My thanks to Trevor Cameron and the Nelson Team for your work for Campaign 2020. We have got just less than 100 days to Election Day.
It is great to have Paul Goldsmith here, National’s Finance Spokesperson. The defining issue for Election 2020 will be who the nation best trusts to navigate NZ’s economic recovery.
Paul is a politician of ideas and principles.
Politics for me is not a game of who has the smartest put-down or slogan, but is a serious contest of the ideas and values that will determine Nelson and New Zealand’s future success or failure.
The many books that Paul has authored tell a story of the strong skills he brings to finance.
His “History of Tax in New Zealand since 1840” was not a best seller but shows his depth of knowledge of public policy.
He gets that every dollar taken in tax by the Government is a dollar less in the private sector. He has done a good job in exposing Government waste in areas like Shane Jones’s Provincial Growth Fund.
He has also authored many books on great Kiwi entrepreneurial families like the Gallaghers in Hamilton and the Fletchers from Dunedin.
He gets that wealth in New Zealand is not created by government, but by thousands of businesses, investing, taking risks and creating jobs.
Paul and I may share a passion for good policy but we also have some differences.
He plays the right wing in our Parliamentary Rugby team, where I play the left wing.
He stands in the historically National seat of Epsom and does a very good job of not winning.
I stand in the historically Labour seat of Nelson and try to keep winning!
Paul has two skills I will not ever try to compete with.
He has a black belt in Tae kwon do and is a concert pianist
He has agreed to indulge us this afternoon with an item on the piano to add a bit of class to our campaign launch.
Nelson and New Zealand has had a torrid last three months with the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. I am proud of the way New Zealand responded and the success in ridding New Zealand of the virus.
National played a constructive role in that success. We highlighted early failures at the border and with testing that resulted in a better response. We backed the lockdown, but also called out the excesses like the rushed laws giving over the top powers to the police.
I also wish to acknowledge my electorate office team particularly Nan Ward, through lockdown.
We provided food deliveries for our seniors, organised a children’s art competition to honour essential workers and dealt with hundreds of individual problems. It was exhausting but it is the work I love as a local MP in helping people when it matters most.
The challenge ahead is all about jobs. Nelson’s unemployment is up 500% on last year and economic forecasts have Nelson and Tasman losing 4,000 jobs over the next year.
Last week’s OECD report had New Zealand’s economy being hit harder and our unemployment rising at almost double Australia’s.
My top priority for Campaign 2020 is jobs and the economic recovery.
I have the experience and track record in Government from previous recessions to know what is required to rebuild our local economy.
Historically New Zealanders look to National to provide the economic leadership when the going gets tough.
I first came to Parliament in 1990 when unemployment locally topped 10%. We do not want to go back there.
National in the 90’s successfully got the economy growing again, debt down and jobless numbers under 5%.
Again, in 2008 we inherited a collapsed economy and ballooning jobless numbers. Once more we did the hard yards and every year from 2010 to 2017 the numbers on the dole dropped.
And here is the bit we need to remind New Zealanders of.
Long before Covid-19 the dole queues were on the rise again. Unemployment benefit numbers went up 10,000 in 2018 and another 13,000 in 2019.
That is why I have such confidence in our message, National’s message, that if you care about jobs, Tick National.
The key is understanding business. It is entrepreneurs that create jobs, not Government.
It’s about making sure every arm of Government is helping not hindering enterprise.
Last month I highlighted the risk to hundreds of Nelson marine engineering jobs from the Government’s refusal to allow fishing vessels in port for repairs. The boat I highlighted has been in isolation at sea for weeks and their last port of call was Covid-19 free. They had clear plans to test and quarantine crew. The most concerning part was customs officials telling the boat to go to Hawaii for repairs without any regard for the loss of income and jobs to Nelson. This one boat had $6.5 million worth of work done on it when last in Nelson and once it starts going elsewhere, it will be difficult to get back. Thankfully the Government U-turned on Friday.
I see the same sort of lost job opportunities in the aquaculture industry with Ministers and officials delaying decisions on new marine farming space for years, when that space would create hundreds of new jobs.
I could list so many Nelson examples where bureaucratic rules are unnecessarily costing opportunities and jobs.
We need a Government where every official, in every Government agency, gets that we need jobs and that their role is to help make it happen.
I commend our National Leader Todd Muller on taking the Small Business portfolio.
Leaders usually like to take the glamourous portfolios like Arts, Sport or Tourism.
Todd Muller is showing he gets what is needed by wanting to champion this cause.
A second key difference to Nationals Economic Recovery Plan is our focus on wise infrastructure investments over loosely splashing cash everywhere.
Ramping up New Zealand’s investment in infrastructure is sensible economics during a recession. It requires borrowing, but it delivers important assets for future generations alongside the debt.
Nelson has five infrastructure projects I will be campaigning for.
The most important is Nelson Hospital. A major piece of my work as Building Minister in our last term of government was writing the laws on seismic strengthening that came into effect in 2017. These give priority to buildings like hospitals. I have mentioned it before but it has become much more important with three significant developments this year.
Firstly, the new reports on Nelson Hospital show our local problem is much more serious than thought. Our hospital would be unusable in the event of a significant earthquake. Nelson resides within New Zealand’s core fault zone with a similar level of risk to Christchurch and Napier. It is not a question of whether we have a major earthquake – just a question of when.
Secondly, the Nelson City Council has issued four “Earthquake Prone Building Notices” against Nelson Hospital this year. The buildings have been identified to be only 1/5 to 1/3 as strong as they need. These notices require an upgrade by 2028. That may sound a long time away, but the lead time for these massive projects is years. We need to get cracking now.
Thirdly, last week the Ministry of Health published a nationwide stocktake of our hospital buildings. Nelson rates poorly on issues beyond the seismic problems.
The 149 beds are insufficient as shown by the overcrowding last winter. The main tower blocks were built when our region’s population was 40,000 – it now tops 100,000. Nor are the facilities up to an acceptable standard for patients, doctors, nurses or modern care models.
National had a strong programme of upgrading New Zealand’s hospitals having built new facilities in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Blenheim. Construction had begun on the new Greymouth Hospital and Dunedin was approved. These last two have slowed in the last three years. Not one new hospital project has been started under this Government. It’s a bit like Kiwi-build, mental health and Auckland Light Rail – Labour is long on rhetoric and light on delivery.
My goal regardless of Government is to get Nelsons new hospital recognised as the Health Ministry’s next cab off the rank. This project is an order of magnitude larger than others I have advocated for Nelson like Whakatu Drive, Garin College, Nelson Airport Terminal or the Waimea Dam. The outcome I am seeking is a new Nelson hospital that will meet the health needs of the region for the next half century.
The second infrastructure challenge for our region is transport where congestion just keeps getting worse. My biggest disappointment for Nelson in Winston Peters decision to install a Labour Government is dumping Nationals commitment to build the Southern Link. Insult has been added to injury in that $9 billion of infrastructure was announced earlier this year, but not a dollar for Nelson or Tasman. They even cancelled the $6 million project for quiet sealing on SH 6 through Stoke and Atawhai last year. Meanwhile they have hiked our petrol taxes and road user charges 3 times and are due to do it again in 2 weeks on July 1st.
This is costing Nelson and Tasman households an extra $10 million per year. We are paying more for less.
It will come as no surprise to you of my continued commitment to the Southern Link Highway. It is the only realistic answer to congestion in and out of our city. The problem is only set to get worse when the Princes Drive connection and traffic lights on Waimea Road is competed in August. But the problem is wider. We need to also progress major improvements to our State highways in Richmond.
There are also two major infrastructure projects that need additional government assistance to complete. They are the Waimea Community Dam and the Great Taste Cycleway.
The Waimea Dam construction is progressing at pace. The culvert completion enabling river diversion will occur in August. Cost overruns are in part caused by the drought and fires last year that delayed start-up and the shut down through the Covid-19 emergency. I will be advocating for additional Government assistance to reduce the burden on the ratepayer.
The 5th and final infrastructure project I am pushing for is the new Berryfields School in Richmond West. Hundreds of new homes are completed and underway in this Special Housing Area and this new school needs to be advanced quickly. We are making good progress.
I will also be campaigning on the very clear choice Nelson has at Election 2020 over the fate of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
NMIT was rated as New Zealand’s top performing polytechnic. It has tens of millions in cash reserves. It has a unique history in that the original land in Hardy St was provided by Nelson City ratepayers. It is so wrong that these assets are being taken out of our control and being used to prop up underperforming institutions.
This radical nationalisation reform is bad for students and bad for Nelson. I have fought it at every stage with submissions, petitions and parliamentary questions. The problem is that Labour has a confidence in centralised Wellington bureaucracies that I and National do not share.
NMIT will retain its independence, assets and local control under a National government.
I want to conclude on a personal note.
Some people ask me why I want so strongly to continue as Nelson’s MP knowing the hours, time away and inevitable flak that goes with the role.
Firstly, I love the work of helping families and businesses, making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Secondly, I truly believe Nelson is a stunning community and consider it such a privilege to be its parliamentary advocate. I love our diverse industries and spirited entrepreneurs, our beautiful environment and outdoorsy culture, our creative arts and science sectors, our amazing network of caring organisations and our diverse but respectful political culture.
Thirdly, I feel so privileged to be part of influencing Nelson and New Zealand’s future and championing those timeless values that the National Party stands for.
Todd Muller did a great job of restating them yesterday and I commend his speech to you.
Those values of supporting entrepreneurship, of the importance of family, of freedom and individual responsibility, of being financially prudent and careful with every dollar of hard earnt taxes and that balanced Kiwi perspective on welfare of being caring but focused on a hand up more than a hand out.
Those National Party values are the right values for getting Nelson and New Zealand through these tough times.
Election 2020 will be about Nationals plan for more jobs, less debt and more infrastructure, from a party with a strong track record in delivering for Nelson and New Zealand.
Let the campaign begin.