Thursday, May 19, 2011

Budget 2011 - Building our future

Budget 2011 builds a stronger platform for growth, sets a credible path to Budget surplus and helps lift national savings. It boosts investment in health, education, and infrastructure including irrigation, while also helping to rebuild Christchurch.

It is a responsible and balanced budget for the times. It takes steps to ensure the Government returns to Budget surplus by 2014/15, so we can start repaying debt and contributing to higher national savings.

We have taken decisions to better target spending to those most in need. This will ensure that schemes like Working for Families, KiwiSaver and interest-free student loans remain affordable and sustainable into the future.

As already announced Budget 2011 invests in a fresh water policy package.

This includes an Irrigation Acceleration Fund of $35 million supporting development of irrigation infrastructure proposals.

The Government will also consider in a future Budget investing up to $400 million of equity in water infrastructure schemes.

The package features a Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund to help councils with historic pollution problems – including reprioritised funding of $15 million over two years, and a total clean-up programme commitment of $264.8 million.

You can find out more about Budget 2011 by visiting the Beehive website.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Helping to clean up Hawkes Bay

The saying ‘many hands make light work’ is being put into practice in Hawkes Bay. Around 48 people, many of whom are currently on benefits, will help to clean up parts of the flood damaged region.

Approximately 120 farms in the Wairoa, Hastings, and Central Hawkes Bay have been affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding and urgently need some extra hands to help with the clean up effort.

Having seen the slips and flooding damage first-hand, I understand the scale of the problem for many of these farmers.

I am pleased that we have been able to offer further assistance to those farmers most affected. Myself and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett have approved up to $500,000 which will fund up to 48 jobseekers for 12 weeks work. This is part of Enhanced Taskforce Green which has been activated in response to the severe flooding.

Work can begin within two weeks, much of which will focus on clearing debris from fences and making repairs, as well as removing silt from properties.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A fresh start for fresh water

My colleague Nick Smith and I joined the Prime Minister yesterday in announcing the Government’s fresh water policy package which will help grow the economy while better caring for our rivers, lakes and aquifers.

The package is the result of at least two years of work by MAF and is designed to expand on the Government’s economic growth agenda.

It includes a $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund to support the development of irrigation infrastructure proposals to the ‘investment-ready’ prospectus stage. The Fund also supports the development of new water harvesting, storage and distribution infrastructure.

Government will later consider in a future budget, investing up to $400 million of equity in water infrastructure schemes.

I believe New Zealand’s greatest competitive advantage is its water. It’s our “liquid gold”. But to date we have not done a good enough job in using this wonderful resource.

Water quality is deteriorating in parts of New Zealand, especially in agricultural areas. And at peak times, we face water shortages.

National wants to turn this around. If we improve the way we manage our rivers, lakes, and aquifers, water will help us build the stronger economy we’re striving for.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beefing up the sector

Great news with the red meat industry recently announcing its goal to grow the sector from $8 billion to $14 billion by 2025.

The Red Meat Sector Strategy, initiated by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, is a plan to lift the performance of the meat industry and give it clearer direction.

At the moment there is a real risk that current good returns could create farmer complacency about addressing the long-term issues facing the sector. As a farmer I can identify with the strategy’s clear message that we must all look at lifting our on-farm performance further.

I’d like to congratulate Beef + Lamb NZ and MIA on initiating this work. New Zealand red meat is a valuable product, prized by wealthy consumers in a range of markets. We need to continue to build on this base to restore sustainable profits to the sector.