Action needed on dodgy tourist tax websites

Source: National Party

The Government’s clumsy implementation of its tourist tax has resulted in unofficial foreign websites popping up that could be misleading visitors and causing them to shell out even more than they need to because its own app is too difficult to use, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Kelvin Davis promised to make it easier for people to visit New Zealand, but his rushed implementation of the tourist tax has instead led to unofficial websites and a clunky app.

“Unofficial visa and tax payment services are charging tourists huge fees to get approval to visit New Zealand. That’s on top of the new taxes and fees the Government has already put in place for visitors.

“Meanwhile, the Government has released an official app, but each visitor has to use it separately, so families cannot pay the tax in one simple transaction. It’s bureaucratic and a hassle for travellers.

“MBIE is correcting as many as a thousand applications each week made through the app because it’s poor at reading passport numbers and names.

“The Government was warned its new tax would mean fewer visitors and a loss of up to $70 million for small businesses. Mr Davis ignored this advice and pushed ahead with his new tax under urgency in Parliament, and we’re already seeing the consequences of that with falling visitor numbers from major markets like India and China.

“Unofficial sites and an app that doesn’t do its job will only put tourists off even more.

“Kelvin Davis needs to sort out his app and shut down the websites which take advantage of tourists.”

Government piles pressure onto new councils

Source: National Party

Increasing regulation from Central Government is set to cause a headache for newly elected local and regional councils, and increase costs on ratepayers, National’s Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“In the coming weeks, councillors will be sworn in around the country. They put themselves forward with noble intentions of serving their local community, but in reality will face ballooning costs and a mountain of complex legislation to work through.

“National supports cleaning up our waterways, but the Government’s freshwater reform and three waters review are both highly problematic for regional councils. They will have to go through phases of consultation, analysis and hearings in order to overhaul planning processes over the next three years.  

“The weight of new national standards and tight development controls will be felt strongly by councils who will be forced to pass on additional costs to unsuspecting ratepayers.

“Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has admitted that the freshwater reform and three waters review will be ‘very challenging’ and will bring ‘cost pressures’ to councils, but is still pushing forward with another regulation to make councils identify and report against a series of wellbeing targets for every decision made.

“These wellbeing targets aren’t even known as of yet, with yet another expensive working group being assembled to come up with them. This is all coming at a time when combined council debt sits at around $16 billion and rates are going up disproportionally to income and  far outstripping the rate of inflation.

“Councils are also grappling with how to manage tourism pressure, economic development and rising sea levels, which all come on top of their day-to-day service delivery.

“The new crop of councillors have a whole range of issues to contend with and unfortunately their job will be made that much harder by a Government intent on shifting costs and regulatory burden onto their shoulders.”

Widening Access to Contraceptives Welcomed

Source: New Zealand Government

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter welcomes PHARMAC’s move to improve access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs).

PHARMAC has today announced it will fund the full cost of Mirena and Jaydess for anyone seeking long term contraception, lifting previous restrictions on access to Mirena.

“I welcome women having greater choices over their bodies and contraceptives,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“I know, from talking to women and organisations like Family Planning, that price is a significant barrier to accessing contraception.

“Budget19 allocated $6million per year for LARCs and includes funding for insertion and removal of other contraceptive options such as Mirena and Jaydess.

“The Government has already moved to ensure women who have a Community Service Card, those living in low income areas, or in high need, will have better access to free or very low cost contraception, including LARCs.

“LARCs are both reliable and becoming increasingly popular as more people discover the benefits they offer.

“Mirena can also be used for the management of some conditions including endometriosis. Improving access to effective long-acting implants makes it much easier for women to manage their fertility and reduce unintended pregnancies,” says Julie Anne Genter.

National’s solution so Nash can pay back the cash

Source: National Party

National has come up with a solution so taxpayers can keep their own money after Revenue Minister Stuart Nash tried to short change them, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.

“In 2018 the Government was warned default KiwiSaver account holders had already overpaid tax to the tune of $70 million on their investment (PIE) income.

“New Zealanders shouldn’t pay any more tax than necessary. This especially impacts those New Zealanders on low incomes, the Kiwis that just cannot afford to be paying more tax than they should be. We want to ensure they get their refund.

“Historically refunds were not made because the system couldn’t cope with them, however the new Inland Revenue IT system doesn’t have this restriction. 

“Under the PIE arrangement, tax is deducted at a maximum of 28 per cent. Some taxpayers have been paying much less than they should have while others have paid much more.

“For those who’ve underpaid, the Minister has chosen to go back to the year from 1 April 2018 and ask them to stump up tax to the tune of almost $50 million. A similar amount will be paid in the 2019/20 financial year.

“Some couples will be in the situation where one half may have to pay back money to Inland Revenue but the other half isn’t entitled to their refund. How is that fair?

“The Minister knows a change of legislation is needed so taxpayers can be refunded what they’re owed. When I asked him repeatedly about it, he claimed it was an operational matter for Inland Revenue and then said it required a legislative change.

“National believes New Zealanders shouldn’t have to pay more tax than necessary. That’s why I’ve drafted a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which will allow Mr Nash to make these changes in Parliament.

“I intend to table this as soon as the House resumes and I encourage Mr Nash to do the right thing so that New Zealanders can be paid back the money that belongs to them.

“There’s a principle with tax that you pay your fair share. Inland Revenue is also duty bound to refund any overpayment of tax.

“This is a tight-fisted Tax Minister who wants to take with one hand but not give back with the other. I’ve done all of the work for him, he now needs to do the right thing.”

Andrew Bayly’s SOP can be found HERE.

Major upgrade for Taranaki Base Hospital

Source: New Zealand Government

The Government has approved the next stage of a major redevelopment of Taranaki Base Hospital, which will deliver new and improved facilities for patients.

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced details of a $300 million dollar project to build a new East Wing at the New Plymouth hospital. It will be funded out of the $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health facilities.

The project will create new critical and acute care facilities, including:
•    A new Emergency Department (twice as large as the current ED) and Intensive Care Unit
•    A rooftop helipad which will mean faster, safer patient transfers
•    Purpose built maternity facilities and delivery suite, a new postnatal ward and neonatal unit
•    Upgraded laboratory and radiology services
•    A dedicated tupapaku facility (morgue)

“Taranaki Base Hospital serves a population of 120,000 and last year its Emergency Department treated 33,600 – with tens-of-thousands more receiving inpatient, outpatient and other services. They deserve modern, fit for purposes facilities that support high quality services,” David Clark said.

“This Government is serious about the long-term challenge of rebuilding our neglected hospitals. In our first two Budgets we have invested twice as much into upgrading hospitals and health facilities as the previous Government managed in nine years.

“This much needed work at Taranaki Base Hospital will address the poor condition and seismic issues with the buildings that currently house the remainder of acute clinical services. 

“It will improve the resilience of the hospital so it can provide emergency clinical care after a major disaster. 

“The building will also target a 5-star Greenstar certification, reducing the energy, water and carbon footprint of the hospital.

“Most importantly, these upgraded facilities will improve how acute clinical services are delivered, ensuring high quality care and better health outcomes for the community. 

“I’m particular pleased that the new maternity ward will house a primary birthing unit, delivery suite, antenatal clinic and assessment unit – and that a postnatal ward will be collocated with the neonatal unit. That will be great news for new mothers and their babies. 

“The new, much larger Emergency Department will also mean there’s more capacity to manage acute demand. A new acute assessment unit will also help ensure people get the appropriate treatment and reduce hospital admissions.

“Final approval of this project is subject to the detailed business case. Work towards this next stage is already well advanced. Clinicians, user groups and local iwi will continue to be consulted to ensure we get the best outcomes for staff and patients.

“Today’s announcement means the people of Taranaki can be confident their hospital will continue to deliver the care they need into the future. 

“But there is much more to be done to improve hospital facilities around the country and I expect to make further investment announcements in coming days and weeks,” David Clark said.

Construction of the new East Wing at Taranaki Base Hospital is expected to begin by the end of 2020 (or early 2021) and it is expected to open in late 2023. Stage One of the hospital’s redevelopment, the $80 million Acute Services Building, was opened in July 2014.

NOTE: Today’s announcement is the latest in a growing list of investments this Government has made in our hospitals and other health facilities. Since Budget 2018 funding has been confirmed for projects up and down New Zealand including:
•    $275m for Auckland DHB to address significant infrastructure challenges at Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre 
•    $200m (plus $42.1m from the DHB) for a new elective surgery unit at North Shore Hospital 
•    $80m for four projects at Counties Manukau DHB including recladding of the Kidz First Building and establishing a radiology hub at the Manukau SuperClinic
•    $79m for new specialist mental health facilities at Canterbury DHB’s Hillmorton campus
•    $45.6m for the new Wellington Children’s Hospital
•    $30m for a new integrated stroke unit at Auckland DHB
•    $24m for new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Northland DHB’s Whangarei Hospital 
•    $20m for new Buller Hospital Integrated Family Unit
•    $8.4m for Individualised Service Units at Capital and Coast DHB for our most high needs intellectual disability and mental health patients 
•    $7.1m for the Phase 2 redevelopment at Bay of Islands Hospital
•    $15-20m for new in-patient mental health and addiction unit at Hauora Tairāwhiti Gisborne Hospital

In addition, good progress is being made on the Dunedin Hospital rebuild project and Budget 2019 included a ring-fenced contingency to fund the work. 

Major issues with Govt’s school donations scheme

Source: National Party

It’s not surprising that only a third of schools eligible for the Government’s school donations scheme have taken it up given how unfair and complicated the policy is, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“Despite promising to end all school donations, the Government’s school donations policy only covers deciles one to seven, leaving disadvantaged families in schools with high decile ratings in the lurch.

“Principals are starting to see the fishhooks in the Government’s policy. As a result of the new definition and enforcement of guidance, which covers all schools, some schools will have to find funds for stationery, workbooks and day trips because the Ministry considers some of these to be core curriculum and others not.

“Schools in higher deciles feel as though they have been shafted. Not only did the Education Minister exclude them from the policy, but the Ministry is also enforcing new guidance around what schools can or cannot charge, which sees some schools predicting they will lose tens of thousands of dollars.

“One school has estimated it could be $150,000 worse off as a result of both being excluded from the scheme and the enforcement of new guidance on donations. National raised these issues in select committee but the Government refused to listen.

“It’s clear the policy is inequitable and difficult to implement, which is why it’s no surprise schools aren’t jumping to take up the scheme yet. Some schools are still working out how out of pocket they will be, and whether they will have to cut how they provide education in other areas.

“After two years of delays the Minister has admitted the decile system is flawed but is still proceeding with a donations policy based on the decile system.

“The Government has created a very difficult situation for principals and boards who are dealing with parents with high expectations, but the reality is a number of schools are working out they will be worse off as a result of enforcing the new rules and the payment not covering what they ask for now.”

Supreme Court ruling backs regulation for shark cage diving

Source: National Party

My Members Bill proposing practical regulations on shark cage diving has taken on greater relevance following the Supreme Court’s ruling that shark cage diving off Stewart Island is not an offence, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill was drawn from the ballot in September 2018 and would ensure both people and sharks’ safety should it become law.

“The Bill provides conditions for granting permits relating to the geographical area within which the commercial shark cage diving operation may operate, as well as minimum distances of operation from specified locations among other conditions.

“It also regulates the activities of commercial shark cage diving in a way that would alleviate the safety concerns of those using the water for work or recreation.

“Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has previously not supported my Bill, but I hope she can change her mind and support these practical changes in light of the Supreme Court decision.

“She is also yet to explain why she didn’t appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgement that has now been overturned by the Supreme Court. Months have passed since this decision and she chose to completely remove herself from all responsibility, despite being the Minister in charge.

“With the Bill up soon for first reading, I hope the Minister takes the Supreme Court decision into consideration and changes her mind to supporting this practical legislation.”

Extra support for rural families

Source: New Zealand Government

Extra funding will allow Rural Support Trusts to help farming families, says Minister for Rural Communities and Agriculture Damien O’Connor.

“I know that rural families are worried about some of the challenges facing them, including the ongoing uncertainty created by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

“Those concerns sit alongside ongoing worries about bank debt and how best to meet the challenges of improving our waterways and meet New Zealand’s climate change commitments. 

“To that end, I’ve spoken to the Rural Support Trusts and, alongside our Mycoplasma bovis Programme partners, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ, we’ve set aside an extra $250,000 to help with their work talking to farmers on the ground.

“The trust will develop a plan for using the money, in addition to the other farmer support mechanisms provided by the M.bovis programme, and the DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Compensation Assistance Teams (DBCAT).

“The Rural Support Trusts do a fantastic job and are well placed to deliver additional help. They’re experienced and practical people who can coach farmers through difficult times.’’

Mr O’Connor says the new funding is on top of previous increases by the Government.

“The Government has already boosted funding for the Rural Support Trusts from $386,500 a year to $626,000 for their daily work. Outside of that, the trust is budgeted to receive more than $1m in the next year for M.bovis related work.

“I met this week with all the major banks and Rural Support Trusts. I asked that financial institutions make sure they are working alongside Rural Support Trusts and others to help farmers where required.

“I’m extremely proud of the ongoing high performance of our primary sector. We’re getting record prices for our food and fibre. 

“In the Budget we set aside $229 million to spend on things like boosting advisory and extension services.

“A Farm Debt Mediation scheme will be a safety net for farmers and improvements to NAIT will help prevent some of the tracing issues we’ve experienced with M.bovis. Soon we will release an industry-backed plan to ensure the sector gets the skilled workers it needs.

“The Budget had $1.9 billion for mental health to improve frontline services, rural communities included.”

Govt policy leading to 20 measles cases a week

Source: National Party

The Government’s deprioritisation of 30-50 year olds to manage low vaccine stock could be leading to an average of around 20 new measles cases each week, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“Among age groups that have been able to access vaccines, the spread of measles has slowed, but among those aged between 30 and 50, the outbreak hasn’t let up. Last week there were 26 new cases when we would expect the number to be falling.

“At the end of August, Julie Anne Genter recommended everyone under 50 be vaccinated. Less than two weeks later, the Ministry of Health deprioritised 30-50 year olds in order to manage low vaccine stock. This remains the policy across almost all of New Zealand.

“Especially concerning is that the hospitalisation rate for this age group is over 20 per cent. Many of those people will have children or jobs they can’t afford to be away from.

“It’s important that children are protected, but 236 adults between 30 and 50 have contracted measles this year, and many of these cases could have been prevented through vaccination.

“The Government’s botched response to measles is hurting New Zealanders. Now the promised 100,000 vaccines have arrived in New Zealand, Ms Genter needs to update the guidelines and allow 30-50 year olds to be vaccinated.

“It wouldn’t have had to limit vaccine provision if it had heeded warning the warning signs and ordered more vaccines sooner. There were three outbreaks in January and February alone – this should have been a clear sign more vaccines would be needed.

“On top of that, the World Health Organisation sent warnings about the risks of measles to all governments in the Pacific in April.

“This Government ignored the signs, scrapped the health targets that resulted in higher vaccination rates and ignored National’s proposal to allow pharmacists to vaccinate for measles, which would have improved access.

“Julie Anne Genter needs to show leadership on measles so that New Zealanders are protected.”