Green Party welcome Tax Working Group report

Source: Green Party

The Green Party welcomes the Tax Working Group report, which lays out a plan to ensure taxation in Aotearoa is fair and enhances the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“Being in Government gives us an opportunity to be at the table for any tax reforms. We look forward to working meaningfully and constructively with Labour and New Zealand First so we can create the fairest taxation system possible here in Aotearoa,” Green Party finance spokesperson James Shaw said today.  

“New Zealand’s tax system has it strengths, but there is plenty of room for improvement.  

“That is why the Green Party are incredibly pleased to see the Tax Working Group put forward a report that proposes taxation that is fair and progressive.

“The report does a good job of highlighting the areas where our tax system could be better.

“The Green Party have long-held policies of taxing income from capital more fairly and a greater use of ecological taxes. It is great to see the Tax Working Group’s Report focus on both of these issues.

“We will now work constructively with our Government partners to reach a consensus on a response to the Tax Working Groups report.”

MIL OSI

Waiting list for public housing emboldens work to overhaul social support system

Source: Green Party

An increase in the public housing waiting list, now more than 10,000 New Zealanders, shows exactly why the Greens are working with Government to put the heart back into the social support system whilst addressing a growing housing crisis, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“More and more of our people are unable to put a roof over their head, showing we urgently need more state and public housing.

“We are seeing the direct consequences of successive Governments not putting the wellbeing of New Zealanders first. The Greens are working hard to fix this up.

“The Greens as part of this Government are negotiating a major overhaul of our social support system, so that enough is provided for all New Zealanders to live with dignity.

“When more and more New Zealanders are joining the queue to find a home because they can’t afford to rent or own, it is clear that the current support system is broken.

“I look forward to the results from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which are due soon, and further Government reforms in housing and tenants’ rights.

“We will continue to work closely with Labour and NZ First to ensure that all New Zealanders have a safe home to live in and enough to get by”.

MIL OSI

Drug Safety Checking at Otago University Orientation Week a bold step in the right direction

Source: Green Party

The Green Party of Aoteaora New Zealand is welcoming Otago University Student Association’s collaboration with KnowYourStuffNZ and the NZ Drug Foundation to perform drug safety checking at orientation week events.

“This is a hugely positive step towards drug harm reduction,” Green Party Drug Law Reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick says.

“I commend the tireless work of the Otago University Students’ Association in collaborating with the University community, their foresight and maturity in recognising the importance of drug harm reduction.

“Services will be provided by KnowYourStuff and the NZ Drug Foundation. Meeting with KnowYourStuff on Monday, I was struck by how their drug safety testing is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of their contribution to society’s safety.

“Frequently, they’re receiving messages from panicked young people who have no idea where to turn to when their friends have reacted badly to substances of unknown origin and chemical make-up, afraid to go to authorities or access hospital help because of a fear of being arrested or messing up their future.

“The trust and respect they’ve built is proof of the crucial need for law to recognise this public service of saving lives. For nearly five years, KnowYourStuff have operated in a legal grey area off the smell of an oily rag, on the back of dedicated volunteers. Imagine how many emergency hospitalisations, young lives and medical hours could be saved if we formally backed this work.

“Congratulations to OUSA for being courageous enough to recognise the reality that we need to educate and minimise drug harm. This sets a leading precedent, illustrating a pragmatic appetite to evolve beyond archaic thinking and put safety of students front and centre.”

MIL OSI

It’s time for Google and Facebook to pitch in like the rest of us

Source: Green Party

The Green Party welcome moves to make huge multinational companies like Facebook and Google pay their fair share of tax in New Zealand.

“Right now, working New Zealanders pay around $8000 a year if you’re on the average wage of around $50,000. Google pays next to nothing. This is flatly wrong”, Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said today.

“Google and Facebook should not get to make money in New Zealand and not pitch in for our hospitals and schools like the rest of us.

“I am thrilled that our Government will be closing this tax loophole that huge multinationals have profited off of for far too long.

“The Green Party has long advocated for changes to the tax system to ensure that everyone pays their fair share for the public services that improve the life and wellbeing of everyone.

“We’re delighted that in Government, that is now starting to happen”.

MIL OSI

Salvation Army report emboldens need for compassion and generosity for struggling New Zealanders

Source: Green Party

The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report shows the importance of putting the heart back into social support so that all New Zealanders can live with dignity.

“The state of the nation reports are an opportunity to reflect as a nation on what kind of country we want. This provides more evidence that we need to be bold in our response”, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“As part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour, the Green Party negotiated an overhaul of the social support system in Aotearoa.

“This work is underway, with the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) investigating how we transform social support so that it stops New Zealanders from languishing unnecessarily in poverty.

“We are a kind and generous country, but the State of the Nation report shows that too many New Zealanders, including children, are living in entrenched poverty because of woefully inadequate social support.

“Together, we are going to change that. We need to see an increase in the levels of support, we need the harshness taken out of how we give support, removing excessive sanctions and penalties.

“I look forward to the WEAG report and the response to it that will help New Zealanders live with dignity”.

MIL OSI

Public opinion clearly supports a cleaner, greener NZ

Source: Green Party

A Colmar Brunton survey released today clearly shows New Zealanders’ growing concerns about climate change, pollution and waste, says Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“The results of the Colmar Brunton survey confirm that we’re on the right track with our plan for a smarter, cleaner, low-emissions New Zealand.

“The increased concerns from New Zealanders about climate change, plastic waste, and water quality certainly don’t surprise me.

“Those increased concerns are a reminder that New Zealanders increasingly want to lead more sustainable lifestyles and want meaningful action from government and business on environmental protection and climate change.

“The Green Party is focused on solutions to the plastic waste choking our oceans and the dolphins, whales and fish which live in them.

New Zealanders have listed this as their top concern and my colleague, Green Minister Eugenie Sage, is leading the Government’s efforts to phase out unnecessary plastic and ultimately to create a zero-waste economy.

“I’m working to create cross-party support for a zero carbon bill as the centrepiece of our response to the climate crisis. And Green Minister Julie Anne Genter is working to diversify how New Zealanders get about, with fast, comfortable and convenient trains, buses, cycling and walking.

“The increased concern New Zealanders are showing for the environment inspires all our Green Party Ministers and MPs. Clearly more New Zealanders want to lead sustainable, environmentally-friendly lifestyles. And they support both government and business making decisions that help them do so, like ditching single use plastic bags and choosing more sustainable travel alternatives”.

MIL OSI

Commencement Speech – Start of Parliament 2019

Source: Green Party

E Te Māngai o Te Whare, tēnā koe.

Ki a koutou huri noa i Te Whare, ngā mihi o te wā ki a koutou katoa.

Mr Speaker, on Election Night 2017, I said that, “New Zealanders have voted for change!”

The three Opposition parties that night commanded a majority of votes, and I said it was time for us to work together to create the Government of change that New Zealanders wanted.

Four weeks later the Deputy Prime Minister said that there had been a choice, “between a modified status quo or for change”.

Change, Mr Speaker.

This Government – our Government, the first that the Greens have been a part of – was elected on the basis of change, to ensure a good future for all New Zealanders.

To end child poverty.

To reverse the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.

To ensure that people’s wages are actually enough to make ends meet.

We were elected to fix the housing crisis.

To make certain that every New Zealander has a roof over their head and a warm, dry home they can call their own, whether they rent or own.

We were elected to reverse the epidemic of mental ill health sweeping our nation.

To get people with drug problems out of prison and into care.

Our Government – and the Green Party that Marama Davidson and I are proud to lead as part of it – was given a mandate to bring about equality for women – finally – and to stem the tide of domestic and sexual violence against them.

To honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to create a country where future New Zealanders can understand each other not just in Te Reo Pakeha, but Te Reo Maori as well.

We were elected to clean up our rivers.

To make the water coming out of our taps safe to drink.

To give sanctuary to the dolphins and the whales and the fish that swim in our oceans.

And to free them of the deluge of plastic waste that is choking them.

This Government was elected to restore our native forests and to save our endangered birds.

And this Government, our Government – we – were elected to make climate change history!

***

Mr Speaker, that is the change we campaigned on and that our Government was elected to bring about.

All of us on this side of the House want to be able to look our kids and grandkids in the eye and say we tried our best to create a good future for them.

And I know that some people are frustrated that things aren’t moving as fast as they could be.

But, Mr Speaker, can I just take a moment to say that if anyone still thinks the Green Party could be making more progress on any of these issues if we’d gone into partnership with a limping, conservative, fourth-term National Government whose central policy was the slow running down of public services, they’re beyond mistaken.

Because when you hear the Leader of the Opposition start the year with his exciting new idea of tax cuts – we’ve never heard that one before from the National Party, have we? – what he’s telling you is that he wants to cut funding for the doctors that keep us healthy and the midwives that deliver our children, and to cut funding for the teachers that educate our kids.

He’s been going around saying, “we’re going to build loads more roads and pay teachers more and cut taxes”.

And if Mr Bridges thinks he’s going to ride into Government on the back of that bandwagon, he’s going to need to be towed there by an entire blessing of unicorns.

Mr Speaker, it’s been widely reported over the summer that National wants nothing more than to talk about how we fund our public services.

Or as it’s commonly known – tax.   

OK. Let’s indulge them a little.

Let’s start by talking about Karen.

Karen is a renter, has a career and earns roughly the median wage.

Over the last ten years she’s earned about $450,000 and paid roughly $70,000 in tax to help pay for the public services we all rely on.

She budgets well and can manage the rent and other expenses but doesn’t have enough left over to save.

Then there’s Paul.

Paul also earns the median wage, but he’s a bit older than Karen.

Paul got lucky and managed to buy some rental property before house prices really started skyrocketing, about the time Karen entered the workforce ten years ago.

On the day Paul sells his rental property, he makes as much as Karen has earned in ten years – $450,000.

And he pays zero tax on that income.

And remember that Karen has paid $70,000 on hers.

What does Paul do?

He uses that as the deposit to buy two more houses.

And what does Karen do?

She keeps renting, because there is no way on God’s Green Earth that she’s going to be able to scrape together a deposit on $45,000 dollars a year.

Mr Speaker, that, in a nutshell, is why we have a large and growing wealth gap in New Zealand.

And it is undermining our ability to pay for the public services we all rely on.

Mr Speaker, the Green Party have long been calling for this fundamental imbalance to be addressed.

Every expert group in living memory has agreed with us.

But no government has been bold enough to actually do it.

But if we are to be the Government of change that New Zealanders wanted and elected, we must be bold.

The crises we face on multiple fronts – the wealth gap, the housing crisis, climate change – we cannot solve without fundamental reform.

These crises have been allowed to metastasize because generations of politicians have timidly tinkered rather than actually cut to the core of the problem.

And the consequences of that timidity are being felt by Karen and the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders like her, stuck in Generation Rent.

So when the commentators pontificate about whether this Government can politically afford to do what no government before it has done, I ask, can we afford not to?

We were elected on a promise of change.

If we want to reduce the wealth gap, to fix the housing crisis and to build a more productive, high-wage economy, we need to tax income from capital the same way as we tax income from work.

The last question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘can we be re-elected if we do this?’

The only question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?’

***

Mr Speaker, boldness is needed everywhere.

The vast majority of New Zealanders were delighted when the Prime Minister and my fellow Green Minister, Eugenie Sage, announced last year that we were phasing out single use plastic bags.

But they also know that plastic bags are only a tiny part of a much larger problem.

Enormous islands of plastic waste are spewing into our oceans all over the world.

Plastic has been found in the fish we eat.

We need to massively cut down what we use in the first place, as well as dispose of it properly.

So this year, Minister Sage will be leading the next phase of the war on waste.

Part of the solution will be to put a proper price on pollution and waste.

In its interim report last year, the Tax Working Group pointed out that New Zealand makes less use of pollution pricing than just about anywhere else in the OECD.

So it’s hardly surprising that we have some of the highest waste per capita in the OECD.

Mr Speaker, just as we don’t have a snowball’s chance in Australia of fixing inequality without taxing income from capital the same way we tax income from work, neither can we resolve our environmental challenges without putting a proper price on pollution and waste.

Simon Bridges says he wants the National Party he leads to have a strong environmental focus.

I look forward to seeing how he does trying to clean up our environment without making polluters pay.

People aren’t stupid.

They know when they’re being lied to.

But they also appreciate being told the truth. 

Mr Speaker, I believe that we lose nothing by being honest with New Zealanders.

The truth is that we can clean up our rivers and our oceans and our skies.

And it will involve changing the way we do things now.

We can make the switch from oil and coal to solar and wind.

We can have fast, comfortable and convenient electric trains and buses through our cities, and congestion-free roads for our electric cars.

My other fellow Green Minister, Julie Anne Genter, and our colleague Phil Twyford will this year be making some of the boldest investments in New Zealand’s future transport infrastructure ever.

We can replace our ageing freshwater and sewage pipes with new infrastructure that will be resilient to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

We can rebuild our schools our hospitals to make them fit for purpose so everyone can have a good future.

In all these areas – transport, water pipes, schools and hospitals – just as with the tax system, successive governments have simply been too timid to do what really needs to be done to fix the problem.

They have preferred to kick it down the road.

To lump it on to future generations.

And here we are.

Mr Speaker, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is making headlines in the United States calling for a Green New Deal that offers everyone a good future.

I would like to, in all modesty, mention that the Green Party first called for a Green New Deal here in New Zealand ten years ago.

We have a thirty year infrastructure deficit to deal with.

And we have an urgent need to build a new generation of infrastructure that is resilient to climate change and sea level rise.

We have the lowest cost of borrowing in recent history.

We have a public expectation that finally there is a Government willing to make the big investments not just for this generation, but for those to come as well.

We have no excuse not to. 

***

Mr Speaker, when the House resumed after the formation of Government in late 2017, I said, “It is 27 years since the Green Party was first founded, with the goal of bringing the principles of ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision-making, and non-violence to New Zealand politics to solve the problems that traditional politics could not.

It has been a very long and a very winding road, but today the Green Party has arrived in Government.”

In the fourteen months since, our Government, Marama and I, and our Green colleagues, have been busy.

Our Government has nearly completed a top-to-tail review of our tax and welfare systems with a view to overhauling them this year.

Our Government has introduced a Families Package that will boost the incomes of 385,000 families by $75.00 every week and make it easier to send that child to school camp, or to afford extra school books. 

Our government has put 1900 families into public housing, so they have a roof over their head.  

We’ve made the lives of New Zealanders warmer with Winter Energy Payments.

Our Government has re-started the home insulation scheme.

We’ve introduced new standards for rental properties that mean our homes are healthy and not making our kids sick.

We’ve taken a huge step in launching, just yesterday, in Porirua, the pilot of the youth mental health scheme the Greens campaigned for.

Young people in Porirua will no longer have to book an appointment with their GP, join a long queue, and then pay around $150 for critical support that could save their life. That service is free, as it should be.

We’ve built a whole-of-government framework for tackling violence against women in the home.

We’ve given our native birds a fighting chance with the biggest increase in Conservation funding in sixteen years.

We’re investing billions in light rail, buses, cycling and walking to make it easier and safer to get around our cities.

Last year, our government said that fossil fuels our not our future.

This year, the green investment fund will make its first investments in the low-carbon economy of the future.

And, also this year, we will pass the Zero Carbon Act, hopefully with political consensus across the House.

Finally, we’ll have legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a politically neutral Climate Change Commission to guide us over the coming decades.

Mr Speaker, our Government has been busy.

But these few changes I have had time to list won’t, by themselves, result in the truly transformative outcomes that New Zealanders elected this Government to shepherd in.

As the Prime Minister said, we know that there is still so much more to do.

We are just getting warmed up.

But to do it we must, for God’s sake, be bold.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

MIL OSI

Young people in Porirua will get the support they need with free mental health support

Source: Green Party

The first trial taking place in Porirua, will provide free mental health support for under 25s to ensure young people can thrive, Green Party Mental Health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said today.

“This is our Confidence and Supply Agreement in action. This is the Greens in Government.

“I am thrilled the Labour Party and New Zealand First have been so receptive to ensure our young people are supported.

“My personal history with mental ill health is on the public record, alongside thousands of other New Zealander’s stories. These struggles, compounded by poverty, trauma and isolation should not be normalised growing pains in a country that has the resources to ensure wellbeing.

“I am thrilled that this pilot has been designed to put peer support front and centre and ensure high accessibility. Young people will be able to access free support through their school, a mental health hotline, their doctor, and many more touchpoints.

“In Porirua, rangatahi aren’t going to have to book an appointment with their GP, join a long queue, and then fork out around $150 for critical support that could save their life.

“Having travelled across the country speaking to young people about mental ill health, I know that this pilot is the starting point for transformational mental healthcare in this country. I’m so happy that from today, the youth of Porirua will be able to get the help they need when they need it.

“I look forward to working with New Zealand First and Labour to further extend these trials”.

MIL OSI

Green Party delighted with safe homes for refugees in Whanganui

Source: Green Party

The opening of the new refugee resettlement housing unit in Whanganui marks a step forward in New Zealand’s commitment to offer a safe home for families fleeing war and persecution, Green MP and refugee Golriz Ghahraman said today.

“They will remember their first days of safety and freedom in Whanganui, forever.

“I know my family and I will never forget the warmth and security when we first arrived and settled in West Auckland. I’m so excited for all the new friendships and enriching experiences that Whanganui will share with these new arrivals. 

“New Zealand is a kind, compassionate and safe country. We want to help and we can. With war and persecution forcing more and more people to flee their homes, it is the right time to be increasing the amount of people we welcome here. 

“At this moment in global history, taking more refugees is a reflection of the strength of our values. It is the right thing to do.

“To those who have fled persecution and need a safe place to call home, we want you to know New Zealand welcomes you.”           

MIL OSI

Double-up means dip in bittern population

Source: Green Party

New research highlights the importance of New Zealand’s wetlands for one of our most secretive native birds, the Australasian bittern or matuku, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said today on World Wetlands Day.

GPS tracking of matuku/bittern has, for the first time, revealed that this threatened swamp dweller flies more than 300 km between wetlands in the eastern South Island as well as large distances between North Island wetland sites. Previously it was thought bittern ranged only small distances from their home wetlands.

The Department of Conservation-led study shows that bittern rely on a network of wetlands, to feed and breed in.  It also means matuku/bittern may be rarer than previously thought as birds have probably been double-counted in local counts in different parts of the country.

“Bittern are secretive birds that use a freeze pose to hide among wetland vegetation and are expert at evading people.  The GPS tracking has given new insights into their behaviour and habitat requirements,” Eugenie Sage said.

“In New Zealand, we have lost 90 per cent of our natural inland wetlands since the mid 1800s.  In addition, 74 per cent of our remaining wetlands are less than 10 ha in size, and wetland drainage and damage is continuing.

“This research shows the importance of the last 10 per cent of our wetlands across the country to enable wetland specialists like bittern to survive.”

In the study male bittern were tracked flying 330 km from Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury to wetlands near Blenheim during the breeding season last spring.  They also flew 117km from Whangamarino wetland in north Waikato to south Kaipara and from Whangamarino to Kaituna in the Bay of Plenty.

“Wetlands are home to precious wildlife and plants including rare and threatened species like bittern, Canterbury mudfish and swamp helmet orchid. They also act as nature’s ‘kidneys’ filtering sediments and nutrients from runoff and as sponges in the landscape helping sustain rivers and streams in times of drought,” Eugenie Sage said.

“While DOC, councils, iwi, Fish & Game, community groups, supportive private landowners and businesses are making good progress in managing and restoring many significant wetlands, we need to value all of our remaining wetlands and do more to protect them.”

Background

Matuku/bittern have declined dramatically in New Zealand with their distribution shrinking by 50 per cent since records began before 1900. Their populations are highly fragmented. It’s estimated there are less than 1000 birds in New Zealand and a similar number in Australia, where bittern are also found.  Bittern has the highest threat status of ‘nationally critical’.

As well as habitat loss, the ground-nesting matuku/bittern is vulnerable to predators such as stoats, ferrets and feral cats.  Bittern eat small eels and fish as well as insects and poor water quality can affect their food supply.  Climate change also poses uncertainties with the risk that coastal inundation could affect freshwater wetlands, limiting plants like raupō that bittern prefer to nest in.

DOC’s bittern research is part of its Arawai Kākāriki freshwater programme and is supported by organisations such as Environment Canterbury, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, BirdsNZ, Ducks Unlimited and Hawkes Bay Forest & Bird.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. It also marks the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international agreement to recognise wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) and encourage the wise management of all wetlands. The theme for WWD this year set by the Ramsar Secretariat is wetlands and climate change.

The Ramsar Convention (external site) which was established in 1971 includes 170 countries. In total there are 2,339 Ramsar sites. 

The NZ Government became a signatory to the Convention in 1976, and currently has six Ramsar sites, these are:

Firth of Thames, Waikato
Whangamarino wetland, Waikato
Kopuatai Peat Dome, Waikato
Manawatu River Estuary, Manawatu
Farewell Spit, Nelson
Awarua Wetland/Waituna Lagoon, Southland

DOC has freshwater programmes such as Arawai Kākāriki and Living Water funding wetland management at its Ramsar sites and is currently investigating the potential for future Ramsar wetlands. 

MIL OSI