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News and Updates from Bill English

27 February 2015
Govt backs data forum’s recommendations

The Government is backing the recommendations of the NZ Data Futures Forum to make better use of public data and uphold privacy standards, Finance Minister Bill English and Statistics Minister Craig Foss say.

The NZ Data Futures Forum — an independent expert advisory group from the public and private sectors — was established by the Government last year to help drive further use of open data.

Recommendations in the forum’s final report included:

  • Exploring the potential value of an independent data council which could lead, support and advocate for data use
  • Reviewing the policy and legislative environment to ensure it supports better use of data
  • Launching catalyst projects supporting collaboration between public and private sectors
  • Encouraging Government agencies to continue to open up data to the public.

The Government has directed officials to report back in March on progressing data catalyst projects and the Government’s Open Data initiative.

“Delivering better public services for New Zealanders means making better use of the information we have and lifting accountability to the public through transparency,” Mr English says.

These initiatives sit alongside a range of measures the Government is taking to improve data use, including Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure, the Ministry of Social Development’s investment view, and a pilot project between Land Information New Zealand and Wiki NZ.

The Government has also established the Social Sector Board to accelerate integration of social sector data, including setting common standards.

“More data use highlights the need for that data to be used responsibly,” Mr Foss says.

“The Government has signed-up to the Forum’s four recommended data use principles of value, inclusion, trust and control.

“Giving individuals greater control over the use of their data, and building confidence in our institutions to protect sensitive information is an essential part of making better-use of information.”

New Zealand was recently ranked fourth-equal in open data by Open Data Barometer Global Report.

The recommendations of the New Zealand Data Futures Forum can be found at: https://www.nzdatafutures.org.nz

The Government’s response can be found at: http://www.stats.govt.nz/about_us/what-we-do/our-publications/cabinet-papers.aspx

26 February 2015
Speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University

Good afternoon.

Thank you Michael and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, and Steve and Massey University, for inviting me back to this annual event.

It’s a pleasure to be with you again today. I make this the sixth time I’ve spoken at this forum since becoming Minister of Finance.

With the National-led Government now into its third term, I’d like to update you on our priorities for the next three years.

We have three busy years ahead of us. And there is much to do.

There is broad agreement among commentators that New Zealand is doing well compared to other developed economies.

Our economy is growing. Employment is increasing. And wages are rising.

Households and businesses are benefitting from low inflation and a long period of stable, low interest rates.

We’re making good progress in improving public services in areas like welfare, health, education and law and order.

We’re now drilling down to the people who really need our help the most. Their lives are often complex and their problems are longstanding.

We’re prepared to invest in them now because we can make a difference to their lives and that will have a financial payoff for taxpayers down the track.

The Government is working towards surplus and repaying debt.

We’re pressing on with wide-ranging economic reforms under the Business Growth Agenda spanning capital markets, innovation, skills, natural resources, infrastructure and export markets.

The Government’s seventh Budget on 21 May will set out the next steps in our economic programme.

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26 February 2015
Thousands of new houses for Auckland’s Tamaki

Around 7,500 new houses are expected to be built in the Auckland suburb of Tamaki over the next decade as part of the Government’s programme of increasing and speeding up new housing developments, Finance Minister Bill English says.

That will represent a net increase of about 5,000 houses after accounting for removals and demolition of older properties, he said in his annual speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University in Auckland today.

“This important aspect of our Social Housing Reform Programme – to increase the supply of affordable houses – has not had much attention.

“Housing New Zealand is the largest residential landowner in the country and much of its land is used inefficiently by the standards of modern urban planning.

“We want Housing New Zealand to free up more land for housing development and to do this more quickly.”

There are opportunities to redevelop and revitalise smaller blocks of land, but also whole social housing suburbs.

Some of these larger developments are happening already and the Tamaki Redevelopment Company – a partnership between the Government and Auckland Council – is a good example of that, Mr English said.

“It’s delivering new social housing alongside affordable housing and other homes as part of a major urban renewal project.

“We want to accelerate this activity, so small and large redevelopments of Housing New Zealand land and properties are completed with more urgency.”

The Cabinet will soon make further decisions about Tamaki and the Government will confirm details in the next few weeks. It will involve redeveloping some of Housing New Zealand’s 2,800 houses in the suburb – many of which are over 50 years old and sitting on large sections.

“Over the next decade or so, the company and its partners expect to build around 7,500 affordable and social homes, along with other community facilities. That’s a net increase of around 5,000 houses after accounting for removals or demolitions of older properties.”

Mr English says work is already underway.

Tamaki’s first neighbourhood regeneration project, called Fenchurch, began over a year ago. The development, which is being led by Housing New Zealand, is in the middle of Glen Innes and will deliver 32 quality homes on what were empty sections.

The Ministry of Education and the Tamaki Redevelopment Company are also building a new early childhood education centre for up to 60 children.

And the Tamaki Redevelopment Company has partnered with the Department of Conservation to renovate an old building and convert it into a community hub that will be managed by residents.

“So the Tamaki regeneration has a social as well as a development focus,” Mr English says. “This is just the start of what will be a transformation in Tamaki.”

Mr English says this is part of the Government’s wider focus of getting on top of housing affordability issues and building a lot more affordable houses – particularly in Auckland.

“Affordable houses have gone from being 30 per cent of new builds to just 5 per cent in just 25 years. More expensive houses have to be built to recover land, infrastructure and building costs.

“The Government’s approach is having an impact, but we need to press on.”

26 February 2015
Flag Consideration Panel members announced

The Government has appointed 12 New Zealanders as members of the Flag Consideration Panel which will engage with the public about a possible new New Zealand flag, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

The panel will be chaired by former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury Emeritus Professor John Burrows, ONZM, QC of Christchurch who was co-chair of the Constitutional Advisory Panel. Writer and reviewer Kate de Goldi of Wellington will be the deputy chair of the Flag Consideration Panel.

The other 10 members are:

Nicky Bell – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand and board director, Auckland

Peter Chin, CNZM – Former Mayor of Dunedin, director and trustee, Dunedin

Julie Christie,  ONZM – Director of Julie Christie Inc. and board member, Auckland

Rod Drury – CEO of Xero and technology entrepreneur, Havelock North

Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM – Olympian, Commonwealth gold medallist, ASB Head of Talent & People Strategy, board member and trustee, Waitakere

Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM – Former Chief of NZ Defence Force, Wellington

Stephen Jones – Invercargill Youth Councillor, Invercargill 

Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE – Former All Blacks captain, coach and administrator, Masterton

Malcolm Mulholland – Academic and flag historian, Palmerston North

Hana O’Regan – Academic, Maori Flag Consideration Panel members announcedstudies and te reo Maori, Christchurch

“Many New Zealanders were considered for the panel following nominations by a cross-party group of MPs,” Mr English said.

“I am pleased with the panel’s independence, calibre and experience and each member has committed to undertake the flag consideration process carefully, respectfully and with no presumption in favour of change.”

The panel will hold its first meeting in early March. It will:

  • Consider and oversee a public engagement process to begin in May.
  • Invite New Zealanders to send in designs or ideas regarding a possible alternative flag.
  • Shortlist designs for the first postal referendum, which will be held this year using a preferential voting system, inviting voters to rank the designs in order of preference.

The winning design will run off against the current New Zealand flag in a second, binding referendum to be held next year using the First Past the Post voting system. A New Zealand Flags Referendums Bill containing these measures will be introduced to Parliament shortly.

“This process will give New Zealanders the rare privilege of having a say on one of the most important symbols of our nation,” Mr English says. 

“I hope New Zealanders will take the opportunity to listen and talk to each other and consider the design suggestions that come forward before making their minds up and taking part in the referendums.”

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20 February 2015
December deficit $381m better than forecast

Higher than expected tax revenue and lower than expected operating expenses contributed to an operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) deficit of $990 million for the six months to December, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The OBEGAL deficit was $381 million better than the $1.37 billion deficit forecast by the Treasury in the Half-Year Update in December, driven primarily by core Crown tax revenue being $323 million above forecast.

GST was $132 million (1.7 per cent) above the HYEFU forecast and corporate tax was $124 million (3.1 per cent) above forecast. In addition, customs and excise duties were $46 million (1.8 per cent) above forecast.

“Although GST and corporate tax were both ahead of forecast for the six months to December, these latest figures underscore the difficulty in forecasting the difference between two large numbers. It remains to be seen whether the higher-than-expected growth in revenue continues through the rest of the financial year,” Mr English says.

“The Government still considers that the strong economy and responsible fiscal management can deliver a surplus when the final accounts are published in October. The smaller than expected OBEGAL deficit reinforces that message.”

Core Crown expenses for the first half of the financial year were $90 million lower than forecast at HYEFU – with the variance being spread over a number of departments.

“The Government is continuing to responsibly manage its finances. Crown expenditure for 2014/15 is forecast to be $4.1 billion lower than forecasts made when we first set the surplus target back in 2011. The challenge is coming from revenue, which the Government has much less control over,” Mr English says.