Monday, February 26, 2024

Second round of Govt programmes halted to focus on core business

A second tranche of government programmes will be halted or delayed to allow the Government to focus more time, energy and resources on core issues facing New Zealanders, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

“I want New Zealanders to know the Government is doing its bit and is cutting its cloth to suit the times we are in,” Mr Hipkins said.

“Some of these things we’re delaying or stopping mean a lot to us. But we’re taking the hard decisions because we know Kiwis are also making some tough calls.”

It will give Ministers and wider government more bandwidth to deal with cost of living issues and the cyclone recovery, he said.

“The two lots of reprioritisation will save about $1 billion, which will be reallocated to support New Zealanders with the cost of living.”

“That’s in addition to the over $700 million in savings we reallocated to fund the petrol excise cut and half-price public transport extension through to the end of June.

“This $1.7 billion in savings represents a clear intent of the Government to focus on the issues that matter most to New Zealanders and provide a little bit extra in support to households.

The programmes that are being reprioritised include:

  • Saving $568 million by stopping the clean car upgrade scheme, where households can scrap their old cars in return for a grant for a cleaner vehicle or to pay for public transport.
  • Refocusing the goal of increasing and improving public transport as an alternative to driving to the five main centres of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.
  • Significantly narrowing the speed reduction programme to focus on the most dangerous 1% of state highways, and ensuring Waka Kotahi are consulting meaningfully with affected communities.

“That means speed limits will reduce in the places where there are the highest numbers of deaths and injuries and where local communities support change. We will continue to make targeted reductions in the areas immediately around schools and marae and in small townships that a state highway runs through,” the Prime Minister said.

  • Stopping the social leasing car scheme. The scheme was to provide leasing arrangements to low income families for clean cars but was proving difficult to implement. Also, several of the communities where it was to be trialled have been affected by the recent weather.
  • Deferring advice on the second part of legislation looking at alcohol reform that relate to pricing, sponsorship and advertising. This will now be pushed back to April 2024, rather than come to Ministers in March this year.

These are areas that need time to investigate properly and ensure there are no unintended consequences. For example, when community groups are doing it tough, the Government doesn’t want to see any restrictions on sponsorship increasing costs for community sports teams, the Prime Minister said.

  • Not introducing legislation to lower the voting age to 16 for general elections. Instead, the focus will shift to lowering the age for voting in local body elections.
  • Deferring work on the container return scheme that would see small refunds for returning containers.
  • Deferring public consultation on a new test to determine who is a contractor and who is an employee. A recent Employment Court ruling has significant implications on the legal definition of a contractor, so rather than pushing ahead with our proposed consultation on changes we will put our work on hold until all appeals of the case are heard, Mr Hipkins said.

“I can also confirm today that we will roll out transport projects in Auckland in stages.”

“Reducing transport emissions is critical to achieving New Zealand’s climate change targets, but we need to focus our efforts on the areas where we can achieve the greatest reductions, such as our biggest cities.

“With around a third of New Zealand’s population estimated to live in our biggest city, it’s where we can make the largest single gains in future-proofing transport systems to tackle congestion and reduce emissions.”

He said work on Auckland Light Rail will continue alongside other city-shaping investments like a second Waitematā Harbour Crossing, more rapid busways, and better connections to growth areas like the North-West.

“But just like the London Underground didn’t suddenly appear fully formed, and in fact took many years to develop, Auckland Light Rail will happen in stages – with the first stage expected to be confirmed by the middle of this year.”

“There’s nothing new in taking a staging approach to significant transport projects. The Wellington Northern Corridor and Northern Busway projects, for example, are being delivered by successive governments in stages.”

The Waikato Expressway started in 1993, with the Bombay Hills to Mercer construction, and was only finished last year,” he said.

“Auckland Light Rail is no different. Staging the rollout will align it with other critical transport investments, particularly the second Waitematā Harbour Crossing.”

“Investing in a modern Auckland where people can get around, where there’s less congestion and cleaner travel options is the least the city should expect. Our Cabinet is absolutely agreed on that.    

“Today’s announcement doesn’t mean there won’t be more areas we will look at. My expectation is that Ministers will continue to prioritise their own work programmes, including by re-scoping plans and amending policy where necessary.”  

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