Budget 2012 app popular new initiative

28 May 2012 0 Comments

The Government’s new smartphone and tablet app for Budget 2012 was downloaded more than 8,600 times and was New Zealand’s most popular free-download app on Budget day, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The Budget App, called NZ Budget, allows users to read the Budget speech and key Budget documents, watch video coverage and read ministers’ public statements.

The $59,000 cost of developing the app was funded through savings in Budget printing costs, which are expected to be at least $100,000. It was developed in less than four weeks by the Treasury and Wellington company PaperKite.

“I’m pleased the new app was a popular addition to our Budget communications,” Mr English says. “It confirms that New Zealanders have an appetite for receiving information in new, innovative ways.

“It’s also a good example of the Government’s focus on delivering better, more innovative, public services.”

The Treasury will update the Budget app each year, and use it as the base for other related government information, as the Government moves increasingly online.

Video: Botany visit with Jami-Lee Ross

18 February 2011 0 Comments

Fresh from his speech on the Government's big infrastrucutre programme (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/govt-infrastructure-investment-supporting-jobs) Bill English visits Stevenson's Engineering in Botany with by-election candidate Jami-Lee Ross.

March: Ensign

13 March 2009 0 Comments

Everyone knows that times are tough at the moment and the economy is struggling here and overseas. Rural areas are not immune from the problem. The IMF and World Bank both announcing that they now expect the world economy to get smaller for the first time since 1945, should make it clear to everyone, just how serious the situation is. Jobs are definitely on the line and some have already gone as we have seen across the country.

The recent job summit was a way to look at the problem and try and prevent some job losses in places like Eastern Southland before they happen. By being proactive about the situation we are hoping that many people can stay employed through the tough period, even if it is at a reduced level. Many seasonal workers such as those at the freezing works have experienced this type of thing in the past. When there are less lambs or cattle to kill for a few weeks they go onto reduced hours. Of course this year with reduced animal numbers overall they are also on reduced hours.

This was one of the ideas that came out of the job summit. A nine day fortnight will significantly reduce costs for some employers enabling them to keep people in employment. The Government will pay $12.50 per worker for 5 hours per fortnight to help encourage workers to go on the scheme.

It is this type of innovation and collaboration between government and business that will allow many people to stay employed during the economic downturn. Along with bringing infrastructure spending forward and spending money in key areas such as state housing we are doing our best to save as many jobs as possible. Of course we won’t be able to save every job so we have a safety net in place for those who do become unemployed.

The most important thing to come out of the job summit was peoples’ willingness to work together and help each other to save as many jobs as possible. Seeing workers, unions, employers, and government all working on the same page is very encouraging despite the economy. Working together is the best way to get through the recession in the best shape possible.

Fiordland Focus

06 March 2009 0 Comments

The weather is a topic that bores some people but everyone’s livelihoods depend on it. The weather in Fiordland is the stuff of legends, normally for people being on the receiving end of it. The one thing that can be guaranteed is that no two years are the same. And, what is good for one person is bad for the next.

After last year’s drought this year has been comparatively damp and the farmers are much the happier for it. It has allowed them to capitalise on better lamb and venison prices which is good. I know there is nothing worse than looking to the forecast for rain every week and seeing ‘showers’ on Friday that never arrive.

This good fortune for farmers has however played havoc with plans of local holiday makers and tourists alike. Many boats have spent a lot of time stuck on trailers instead of skiing or fishing because of bad weather. This makes it hard if you sell fishing tackle and petrol. Also big events like the Rodeo had to be postponed. Its classic Murphy’s Law kind of stuff.

It’s rather like the current global financial situation. The dollar has greatly devalued which has meant better prices for exporters and has made it cheaper for tourists to come here. At the same time however it puts the price of imported goods such as petrol up and some tourists are staying at home because of the uncertainty.

Hopefully with some good ideas coming out of the job summit we will be better equipped to weather the financial storm and keep plenty of visitors streaming into places like Fiordland. This along with some inventive ways to keep people employed in slow periods should mean that most are in a good place to take advantage of things when they turn around again.

Southland Times: The reality of less sheep is about to roll over the southern sheep industry

03 September 2008 0 Comments

Someone once said they could predict anything except the future. we can see every day in the south just how wrong the experts were when they predicted that primary production was on the way out and film fashion and hi tech industry were the future.

As I get around the country in the run- up to the election its clear the economy is doing better in the South than most other places. Other dairy based provinces are doing almost as well but the larger urban areas have a hangover. Too much of the economic growth in the last 9 years was driven by borrowing and rising house prices. The people who partied the hardest have the biggest hangover. High prices for our agricultural production and dairy in particular have saved the country from a nasty recession

The outlook isn't too bad either, with more people willing to pay higher prices for our food products and the NZ dollar coming down. This is exactly the opposite of what the experts predicted 8 years ago

About eight years ago the government ran a big conference in Auckland called the Knowledge Wave.  The theory was that New Zealand wouldn't survive on primary production and fast growing industries would take its place, industries like fashion, film, design and IT. The hip, cool fast growing industries have made some progress but the fact is while NZ has some brilliant people in each, they are still small and struggling to grow.  Hundreds of millions have been spent trying to get these new industries going. 

I never liked the idea that somehow producing food was dumb and we needed much smarter people to do smarter things. Agriculture isn't just about milk powder or meat.  It's about people who know what they are doing.  We have a particular set of skills and knowledge about grass farming in a temperate climate that other people just don't have.  It will take years to build up the same culture of success in biotechnology or film making or IT.  And then it will take years to turn these into multi billion dollar industries.  It would be great if these industries succeeded but it shouldn't be at the cost of downgrading agriculture.

Agriculture has succeeded because it has changed fast enough to keep up with world markets. We don't sit round waiting for the latest government strategy to tell us what to do. That's why I'm confident the south will deal with the changes underway in the meat industry.  It's happening for the right reasons, farmers looking for better returns on our precious land and water.  Competition from the diary industry will make our sheep industry strong and leaner.  And with up to 20 per cent less lamb there will be change. 

And I hope dairy doesn't turn into a bubble. Prices are high there is a lot of debt. Only time will tell if it's too much.

The next 5 years should be good for agriculture and good for the south. The next round of growing our wage rates and salaries will be based on the country earning a living not borrowing it. NZ needs a government that knows how to do that.

Fiordland Focus: Inspirational NZ Olympians

26 August 2008 0 Comments

As we hopefully come to the end of a tough winter the Olympics have provided a welcome distraction and some inspiration. The Kiwi team has once again put in a great effort with some truly great medal winning performances. Nick Willis in the 1500 struck a particular chord with me. His achievement will touch New Zealanders and for some it will be a landmark.

I remember John Walker getting silver as the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in 1974. He broke the world record and came second to Filbert Bayi. It was one of the most exciting things I have ever seen and started a lifelong interest in athletics, but unfortunately no Olympic career.

25 years later I went to a function in honour of John Walker which included the world's top runners in his time. They introduced a special guest who came and sat down beside me. It was Filbert Bayi. I was star struck. He was a warm dignified man with real star quality.

Nick Willis was inspired by those runners. His performance to get up and win the bronze medal showed this inspiration. He deserves all the credit he gets because his performance will be working its magic on a young person somewhere and inspiring them to be a great Olympic 1500m runner. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 25 years.   

ARTICLE: Farming in the South

26 February 2008 0 Comments

Last week I spent a few days giving Opposition Leader John Key a close look at farming in the South.

The trip included time at Waimumu Field Days, a public meeting at Tuturau to help raise money for the new roof on the hall and a woolshed social event in the Tokanui Fortrose area. 

I played a game for the Tokanui Golden Oldies team when they came to a tournament in Wellington two years ago. During the after match a deal was done to get the Leader of the Opposition down for a quiet drink in a woolshed.

A large crowd showed up and the Aucklander showed he is just as much at home in Tokanui as he is in wellington. It was an enjoyable night. They've had a good year on the coast with a bit more sunshine

The most important bit of the trip was a briefing on the Alliance proposals for the meat industry. Farmers know something has to change and at the Field Days the message was clear; get on and do it. Farmers are more interested in change now they have been for years and signs of coordinated change are better than no direction at all.

Sheep farmers' cheque books are closed but the industry keeps innovating judging by the variety of products and services on sale at the field days. Even a drought, low prices, a high dollar, and high interest rates haven't completely killed confidence.

Southland Times: National's new youth policies

01 February 2008 1 Comment

The current problems with violent youth crime have been well documented recently in the media. We must remember that these terrible acts only represent a tiny percentage of our young people, who generally strive towards achieving their full potential, and are very valued members of our great country.

But we cannot ignore that there have been a number of high profile incidences of murder and violent bashings where the offenders have been young people. This is a very disturbing trend. What is equally disturbing is the current government's lack of will to tackle the problem.

Simply raising the school leaving age will do nothing. These violent young offenders are not the students who attend school every day and do their best to get good grades. They are young people who have already slipped through the cracks of the educational system. Raising the school leaving age to eighteen will simply increase already worryingly large truancy statistics.

There are two things needed to address this problem.

First we need to take a proactive attitude to preventing young people from becoming youth offenders in the first place. This means we should find effective ways of keeping young people engaged in education and training.

This is what National's Youth Guarantee is all about. It provides quality alternatives to keep young people in education and moving towards meaningful employment.

Attempting to force young people to stay in school, when they obviously do not do well in that environment, has not, and will not work.

National's Youth Guarantee allows them to study at Polytechnics, Wananga's and other industry training organisations that suit their needs. This can include a combination of institutions. 

Second we need a more effective range of tools to deal with young offenders.

This means we have to expand the powers of the Youth Court to more effectively deal with those who are committing serious offences. 

This does not mean that we will simply lock them up and throw away the key.

We instead propose to increase the reach of the Youth Court to deal with younger offenders charged with serious crimes.

They will also be able to impose sentences that last for longer, which involve intensive mentoring and drug and alcohol rehabilitation in order to obtain a meaningful intervention that provides a real chance to prevent reoffending. These may also include the more helpful aspects of military training.

It is time for a change to meaningful policies that actually achieve results rather and help those young people before it's too late while effectively dealing with those who cross the line.

Bill English

National Party Deputy Leader, MP for Southland/Clutha

Community volunteers

23 October 2007 0 Comments

Community volunteers

Every now and again I worry about whether our communities are active enough.  People are so busy, with most households on two incomes to meet their obligations and it's hard to get volunteers  But over Labour weekend I saw two events where its obvious voluntary activity is still going strong.  The Balclutha Fire brigade had its 125th anniversary.  On Saturday about 35 fire engines showed up for a parade down the main street.  A number of old fire engines turned out in tip top condition and in going order.  Someone is putting in hours of time to maintain the engines and it was great to see them on display.

Two weeks ago Riversdale turned out over 200 people on the 90th anniversary of Passchendaele to commemorate Riversdale residents who had died in the 1st World War.  The Community has pulled together to plant an avenue of oak trees along the main road, for each soldier killed in the war.  They have produced a book researched and written by a former local Don McKay telling the story of each soldier. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to RSA Welfare and future commemorative projects in the Riversdale-Waikaia district. It was a moving and enjoyable event.

On the weekend, Owaka opened its new museum of local history.  Hundreds of hours of voluntary labour and machinery made this large project possible in a small community.  It's the biggest crowd Owaka has seen for years, showing strong support and appreciation for six years of hard work getting the job done. 

So our communities work differently but they still work.

Newslink 12: On the anti-smacking legislation

02 April 2007 5 Comments

I voted against legislation to ban smacking and I will keep voting against any law that makes a parent potentially criminal for appropriate smacking of a child.

The best protection for a child is a functional family and this legislation will make a difficult job harder for parents without any benefits for children at risk of violence.

The government and its agents such as police and social workers should not interfere in the relationship between functional parents and thriving children.  People justify this interference with two flawed arguments.

The first is that the country needs to make a statement about child abuse. Apparently the way to stop people killing children is to attack normal functional parents.  This is like saying we’ll make a statement against arsonists by banning the use of fire.

The best protection against child abuse is a functional family and a community that supports families.  Why undermine the authority and judgement of parents in functional families who do not abuse their children just to “make a statement”?

The second argument for the smacking ban is that children deserve the same protection as adults. This argument ignores the fact that the relationship between parent and child is completely different from the relationships between adults.  Of course children deserve protection, but they also need direction and discipline. I don’t tell other adults to get out of bed, do the dishes, or be polite because I have no legal or moral responsibility to do so.

However, I am totally responsible for my children’s physical and moral welfare. The law reinforces my obligations to make sure my children have enough to eat and that they go to school.  In fact too many parents these days lack confidence in their ability to treat their children as children and give them direction. Other influences like the peer group and the media seem to take over at a younger and younger age.

This anti-smacking ban reflects the current philosophy that parents don’t know what they’re doing.  The government seems to believe every parent needs to be a qualified child psychologist and teacher as well as an expert on occupational health and safety legislation operating from licensed premises under regular inspection.

Most parents do a good job of bringing up their children. The smacking ban makes many of them potential criminals and it won’t make any difference to child abuse.

Parliament is out of line with public opinion on the anti-smacking legislation.  There’s only a few weeks to pull them back. So let the politicians know your opinion.