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Monday, 28 April 2014

Amalgamation: Services

Macaskill Lakes in Upper Hutt.
Council amalgamation is a hot topic not just in Rimutaka but the whole Wellington region at the moment. The Greater Wellington Regional Council's application for amalgamation of all the territorial authorities argues that water is a "prime example" of what council amalgamation could achieve. The problem is that the application itself demonstrates we can have the benefits of amalgamation anyway through shared services.

With the example of water, the application points out that at the moment, GWRC provides water to Upper Hutt and Hutt City, Porirua and Wellington Cities who then provide the water to their citizens, paid for through our rates. The city councils have recently agreed to unite the retail and supply functions of water into a single entity, Capacity Infrastructure Services. Each of the councils own shares in the company and each appoints directors to it.

There's nothing to stop the other councils in the region (particularly Kapiti, where water is also an issue) from joining Capacity either. It is a great example of a services being amalgamated, without each local council disappearing.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Anzac Day: Remembering

Gus Mahoney, my great-grandfather.
What does Anzac Day mean to me? It's a time for remembering our forebears. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my great-grandfather Joseph (Gus) Mahoney fought in France before being shot in the hip in September 1918.

Gus was a farm labourer from Newlands and according to family was a good shot with a rifle, probably as a result of handling them on the farm. Following basic training at Trentham Army Camp (including a brief hospitalisation for measles) Gus was assigned to the New Zealand Rifles Brigade (NZRB) and sent off to Europe in 1916.

We don't have an exact record of where Gus fought, but we do know the company he served in was part of action in the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele. He was wounded in September 1918, right before the end of the war, and sent to England to recover before coming home to New Zealand in 1919.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Forbes economic challenges and responses

Forbes blog has an interesting article on New Zealand's "economic bubble", focusing on the property market. Steven Joyce has responded, pointing out that the blog post is over hyped. The focus of the post was on the overheated property market, while also pointing out that New Zealand households are very highly indebted, and that government debt has increased greatly since 2008.

In many ways the post re-enforces the government's economic policies. For starters, the overheated property market, particularly in Auckland, is being cooled by the government's housing accord. The focus on increasing supply will cool house prices over time: affordable housing to enable first home buyers to get on the property ladder, increasing land supply and resource management reform all mean that more houses will be built, reducing the cost to New Zealanders overtime and the amount they have to borrow (it's worth remembering that household savings rates have been pretty good over the last few years).

Second, the debate over government spending and debt will no doubt be a big issue this election. The government has had to deal with a recession (which started before the global financial crisis), the GFC which led to the collapse of many of our finance companies, and the two Christchurch earthquakes. The "Labour ran surpluses" meme ignores these factors, and seems to imply that a Labour-led government wouldn't have spent up on those things. Of course they more than likely would have, on top of their additional borrowing to ramp up government spending in all other areas, including borrowing to make contributions to the Superannuation Fund. Labour's line has been that the government has run up a large debt which they say is "the biggest debt since Muldoon." This is a silly line, it ignores that the economy has grown hugely since 1984, meaning the size of government debt to the economy is actually much smaller. Since we're looking at getting back into surplus, the pressure will be on the opposition to show that they're not the big spenders they make themselves out to be.

The economic challenges Forbes has outlined are not new, but neither are they fatal. What would be fatal would be a major blow-out on government spending, the end of initiatives to increase housing supply, and increased regulation to make life difficult for house builders, and business in general.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Rimutaka electorate's new boundaries

New boundaries for Rimutaka in 2014, from Elections NZ.
The Electoral Commission has announced the new electorate boundaries for the 2014 and 2017 elections. As expected Rimutaka's boundaries have seen some significant changes: the western hills suburbs of Kelson and Belmont have been moved into the Hutt South electorate, and Naenae and parts of Epuni added to the Rimutaka electorate. This has created a clearer north-south boundary between the Hutt's two seats, which is what local submitters were after.

This won't change our campaign for Rimutaka - we're still running a two-tick campaign and will be out in the community doing just that. Our challenge now is to communicate with the communities that have been added to the electorate.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Transport: GWRC's draft plan

The GWRC's draft plan
Today I met with Paul Swain, Upper Hutt's representative on the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC). We discussed a number of transport issues in the region, including upgrading SH58, double-tracking of the railway line from Trentham to Upper Hutt, Upper Hutt and Silverstream railway station upgrades, integrated ticketing and bus services from Stokes Valley to Queensgate. Most of these issues will be raised by GWRC's Draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan.

Paul explained the various options with each of these issues and the process from here with the GWRC's plan. Submissions on the plan are open until 10 May, I encourage everyone interested in the region's transport needs to make a submission.

Paul is hosting a public meeting on the Draft Transport Plan on Wednesday, 23 April in the Upper Hutt City Library at 7pm.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Transport: submissions closing soon. Tell NZTA to upgrade SH58!

From NZTA
Out on the campaign trail today a number of people told me on the doorstep they were worried about the safety of SH58 or Hayward's Hill Road. I'm not surprised - the accidents and near-misses on this road are well known.

Then there's the implications of Transmission Gully opening in 2020. With the mooted Petone-Grenada road due, in the best-case scenario, to be completed three years after the Transmission Gully route opens, we'll have to put up with an increased amount of traffic for (at best) three years.

The logical thing to do is to upgrade SH58 now. Petone-Grenada may make sense by itself, I don't dispute that. But it certainly doesn't make sense to have an unsafe road taking more traffic because the Hutt Valley's link to Transmission Gully won't be ready until three years after the new route out of Wellington opens. Luckily, NZTA is seeking public submissions on Petone-Grenada link. Why not let them know what you think.

Friday, 11 April 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: 12,000 warmer and healthier homes in the Hutt Valley

Lewis Holden, National Party Candidate for Rimutaka

Media Statement 11 April 2014

12,000 warmer and healthier homes in the Hutt Valley 


More than 12,000 Hutt Valley homes are warmer and healthier after having insulation installed under two Government programmes.

 “The insulation programmes Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart and Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes are helping to reduce health risks for many Hutt Valley households,” Lewis Holden says.

“Warmer, drier homes have a positive effect on people’s health, meaning less money spent on doctor visits and fewer sick days. “Budget 2013 allocated $100 million over three years to Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes. This programme offers free ceiling and underfloor insulation for 46,000 low-income households, particularly families with children and high health needs.

“Third party funding from organisations in the Hutt Valley community, as well as support from the health and social sectors, has contributed to the success of the programme, and I thank these organisations for their continuing support,” Lewis Holden says.

ENDS

Media contact: Lewis Holden, phone 0276991350

Background Who is eligible for Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes?
  • The home owner or main tenant needs to have a Community Services Card and there must be children under 17 years, adults over 65 years or someone with high health needs living in your home. Landlords with eligible tenants will also qualify, although landlords may be asked to make a small contribution. 
  • You must live in a house built before the year 2000. 
How do I apply for free insulation as part of the programme?
  • You can find a list of insulation providers contracted to deliver the programme at www.energywise.govt.nz
  • If you are a tenant, the insulation provider will help liaise with your landlord.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Media release: First new home in Pomare

Housing Minister Nick Smith (centre)
with Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace (left)

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith today opened the first new home in the 150-house Pomare mixed housing redevelopment in Lower Hutt, Wellington.

"This first new Pomare home is the future face of social housing in New Zealand under the Government’s new policy which takes effect following this weekend. We are replacing old state house suburbs with mixed housing developments where homes are of better quality and more diverse in size and ownership,” Dr Smith says.

“We are deliberately replacing intensive state house subdivisions with mixed communities made up of state, social and privately-owned and tenanted housing. International experience and research findings have shown mixed housing communities lead to much better social outcomes. Developments like Pomare will be replicated in dozens of projects around New Zealand.”

 Up to 20 of the 150 new homes will be state houses for high-need families and another 20 will be administered by social housing providers, while the remainder will be on-sold as low-cost homes. There has been high interest in the pre-sales with 29 confirmed sales, five in the sales process, and only six still available for sale from the first 40 due to be completed this year.

“These homes are superior to the old, cold, damp houses they have replaced. They are fully insulated, have double-glazing, better ventilation and heat pumps. They have been planned around nearby amenities such as the health centre, enhanced green spaces and improved transport links. “This project is a public-private partnership between Housing New Zealand and City Living. This reflects our ambition to tap into the property development skills in the private sector to build and market more attractive and affordable mixed housing estates.

“These physical changes in Pomare’s housing are symbolic of the policy changes the Government is making in how we deliver housing assistance. From next week, Housing New Zealand will be one of many social housing providers that are able to offer subsidised housing and from Monday, the Ministry of Social Development will be responsible for assessing families for housing assistance.

“Pomare is changing for the better and so is the Government’s social housing policy. We want better quality housing and mixed developments where social housing is indistinguishable from others. Our goal is strong, safe communities of affordable housing and the dividend will come in improved social outcomes for families,” Dr Smith concluded.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Economic development: Aviat Networks and R&D investment

New Zealand's R&D spending by sector, 2006-2012. From Statistics NZ
Research and development investment is critical to building a more competitive economy. Since 2008, New Zealand's overall spending on R&D has increased by almost half a billion dollars, or 23%. What's pleasing is that this investment hasn't just come from the government and universities, but from private businesses. This is one of the major planks of the business growth agenda - encouraging investment in R&D.

In Taita, we have a great success story with Aviat Networks. The Dominion Post reports that the company has grown its workforce from 60 to 100 since 2010. They've got another 12 vacancies this year that need to filled.
The great news is that there's more to come. Aviat are going to continue to invest in their facilities as a "centre of excellence" for software development, thanks to Victoria University's software engineering degree.

This is a great example of the return from the government's encouragement of R&D. With the university providing skills for Kiwis to get into high-paying jobs and R&D investment creating still more, there are even more opportunities for jobs and growth coming onstream.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Transport: Snapper on trains?

My Tranz Metro ten-trip (top) and Auckland AT "Hop" card.
In 2011, the government announced an investment of $88.4m in upgrading the infrastructure for Wellington's metro rail network. We're now seeing results from this investment, with patronage growing in the Hutt Valley. I've previously said it's time stations in the Rimutaka electorate were upgraded - and the Upper Hutt City Council along with the Greater Wellington Regional Council are working together to deliver this outcome.

What else can be done? Rising patronage creates a new problem, in that the old-fashioned way passengers are charged for their trips in Wellington doesn't work when trains are experiencing higher patronage. In other words, ticket collectors can't move around the carriages to collect fares or clip tickets. Back in 2011, GWRC estimated this was costing them (or more correctly us, as ratepayers) $9,000 a day in lost fares. Since fares account for 47% of Tranz Metro's revenue, that's a fair chunk of the money needed to keep public transport running.

Luckily, the solution already exists. Snapper, the equivalent to Auckland Transport's (AT) card is already in use on Wellington's buses. The iconic Wellington Cable Car was added to Snapper's network following an announcement on 24 February. Add Tranz Metro to the mix would mean that for the first time you could get on a bus, for example, in Timberlea to Upper Hutt Railway Station, and use the same card again to pay for the train into Wellington.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Economic Development: ACC levy reduction good news for small businesses

Just paid my car rego for the next 6 months... ACC is a big part of that.
ACC is an ongoing concern for small businesses, it's a big cost on their bottom line. The scheme provides protection for workers if they're harmed. ACC must strike a balance between these two demands and the requirement to be self-funding, which they are now doing. On Tuesday (1 April) reduced ACC levies kicked in, which is great news for wage earners and employers in New Zealand. The reduction in ACC levies means they will be $387 million better off. The levy cuts make employers and workers better off and show the scheme is in good health on its 40th birthday.

The average New Zealand household can expect to keep just over $200 extra each year and small businesses will be around $180 better off annually. Larger employers will receive, on average, a $6,000 reduction. The levy cuts are possible because ACC is now very close to being fully-funded. National’s responsible management of the scheme means ACC will hold sufficient financial assets to meet lifetime costs of all current claims. With ACC approaching this target, New Zealanders are starting to enjoy reduced levies.

Hopefully, there's more to come - late last year Cabinet agreed in principle to investigate a risk rating system for levies for car registrations (I just paid mine the other day, picture above) which could mean lower levies for most motorists.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Amalgamation: who's driving it?

City of Upper Hutt's pre-1989 boundaries.
Who's driving amalgamation of Wellington's regional and local councils?

A letter to the editor in the Hutt News this week incorrectly states that the proposal before the Local Government Commission for a Wellington super city is a "National Party concept".

In fact, the application to the Local Government Commission for the creation of the super city was made by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, which is chaired by Fran Wilde, former Mayor of Wellington City and Labour MP for Wellington Central. Ms Wilde is closely supported by Nick Leggett, Porirua's Mayor, who is a member of the Labour Party.

On the other hand, Local Government minister Paula Bennett has stated that the government has no position on the super city, which more than likely will have to go to the vote. Personally, I am opposed to amalgamation of Wellington's councils. If there are efficiencies for ratepayers from amalgamating council services, then that is a much more sensible option.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: Crime falls 10.3% in Hutt Valley


National’s Rimutaka Candidate Lewis Holden is welcoming figures released today which show crime took another large drop in the Hutt Valley in 2013.

“Across the Wellington Police District, crime fell 9.9 per cent in 2013. In the Hutt Valley, the drop was even greater at 10.3 per cent,” says Mr Holden.

Today’s figures add to a trend of falling crime under National, following a 10.2 per cent drop in the valley in 2012.

“It is particularly encouraging to see drug crimes across the Wellington region more than halve last year.

“Nationally, recorded crime is down 20.2 per cent. This is the fourth successive year crime has fallen.

“These results are great news for our communities here, and around New Zealand. They reflect the hard work of our local Police, as well as National’s commitment to tackling crime.

“The Government is well on its way to reaching a target of 45,000 fewer crimes in our communities every year from 2017.”

ENDS