By Clayton Mitchell, NZ First List MP.
OPINION: April marks the mid-point of the Parliamentary term, and it is timely to reflect on how far we have come.
It’s great being part of a Government with fresh thinking and energy. We set an ambitious agenda for action and have been working tirelessly to deliver on our policies. This week has been a big week for the Coalition Government as a raft of changes take effect which offer better support for workers, families and businesses.
On Monday, the minimum wage increased by $1.20 an hour to $17.70. It is the largest increase in the adult minimum wage in New Zealand history, is the second increase during our term of Government, and will not be the last. We are committed to seeing it rise to $20 by 2021.
While it is essential that our lowest-paid workers earn a fair day’s pay, we recognise that these increases are an additional cost for employers. New Zealand First is keen to see a tax package introduced which will help to offset the cost to business.
We have already played a key role in supporting businesses to grow through the establishment of a $1 billion Research & Development Fund for New Zealand enterprise.
From this week, businesses spending a minimum of $50,000 on R&D will receive a 15 percent tax credit. We have passed a law targeting multinational organisations that use New Zealand as a trading post, but have been paying little or no tax.
And we have introduced legislation which will impose GST collection on overseas websites selling low-value goods to Kiwis online. It needs to be a level playing field for our businesses.
We are making great progress with our flagship $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund and One Billion Trees programme. We have put money into regional forestry, agriculture, tourism, and transport links, all with the aim of creating sustainable jobs, meeting our climate change commitments, building stronger communities, and driving future growth.
The Government is investing in health, education, housing and transport – sectors which touch New Zealanders’ lives every day, but which were neglected under the National Government.
We have put an end to foreign property speculation in order to make the property market more accessible to New Zealanders. And we are on track with our goal to increase police numbers by 1800 over three years, a move we believe is absolutely necessary in order to keep our communities safe.
Primary industries remain the backbone of the New Zealand economy, and they are well supported to grow their reputation internationally. We have boosted funding for MPI, Biosecurity, and environmental initiatives.
From April 1, ACC levies dropped, National Superannuation and Veterans Pensions increased, and new Kiwisaver rates of 6 percent and 10 percent were added. In July we launched the Families Package which, when fully rolled out, will help improve life for 384,000 families and lifts thousands of children out of poverty.
Making life better for all New Zealanders is the focus of the Coalition Government and I am proud to be part of it. I am pleased with the progress we have made so far, but there is still much to do and we are committed to maintaining the momentum.
Clayton Mitchell is the New Zealand First List MP based in Tauranga.