Sunday, 31 August 2014

National, Labour and debt

Watching the analysis of the Q+A debate between National's Bill English and Labour's David Parker this morning, a quick note stated that National has increased government borrowing, and that Labour's record was paying down debt and running surpluses.

Both statements are true. Like the Bolger/Shipley National Government of the 1990s, the Clark/Cullen Labour Government of the 2000s paid down debt with the surpluses they ran. The current Key/English National Government borrowed money so we could weather the economic storm New Zealand entered (it should always be remembered) before the rest of the developed world in 2007. Then there was the global financial crisis leading to the finance company collapses, Canterbury earthquakes and Pike River to pay for.

The first problem for Labour is that its record was only good for a short time - in its last five years of office spending increased by 50%, this pushed mortgage rates to 11% and causing inflation to exceed 5%. The final PREFU under Labour in 2008 forecast 10 years of persistent government deficits, which would've put the country into billions and billions more debt than has been the case under National. 5 years on from the 2008 forecast, National was able to forecast a small surplus.

The second problem for Labour is that while David Parker might point to Labour's record last time, the party's proposals are to spend all of the next four Budgets, by hiking its new spending to $18.4 billion.

By contrast, National has committed only a small fraction of future Budgets. This will provide us with flexibility to deal with future shocks, speed up debt repayment or provide future tax reductions should there be room to do so.

Friday, 29 August 2014

What we've announed this week

I'm hearing on the doorstep that people want to know what it is that National will do if re-elected on 20 September. Here’s just some of what we announced this week:
  • $150 million boost for rural broadband – to extend the Rural Broadband Initiative and connect more rural businesses, homes and families.
  • Support for free trade agreements and open markets – to boost international trade and economic partnerships, lifting job-creating exports and creating higher incomes.
  • Introduce a new gold standard target for cancer treatment – speeding up cancer diagnosis to ensure faster treatment.
  • $50 million investment for pain reduction and prevention – more investment in primary care and prevention, $30 million to lift our record numbers of orthopaedic operations, and $14 million to deliver extra general surgeries.
  • $11 million for sign language over four years – to support sign language in schools and work with families of newly identified deaf children.
  • $40 million funding boost for Aged Care over four years – to increase rest home bed subsidies and boost dementia care across district health boards and communities.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Polling booths in Rimutaka for 2014

The Electoral Commission has released the polling booths in Rimutaka for the 2014 election. No major changes from 2011.

Advanced polling booths open on 3 September - check out the list to find the one nearest to you.

$150m more for Rural Broadband

Sometimes people forget that Rimutaka is not just an urban electorate. Large parts of the electorate are rural - and they know that rural broadband is a game changer. It changes the way rural firms do business, the way our kids learn, and the way our health services deliver to us as patients.

Today National announced that if re-elected, we will invest an extra $150 million over three years to enhance and extend rural broadband.

Our existing investment of $300 million in rural broadband is already making a huge difference, and will result in over 250,000 households and businesses in the regions having access to faster broadband.

But National wants to see more homes and businesses benefit. Our plan will help communities enhance their connectivity with new technology, as well as extend mobile coverage in remote parts of New Zealand.

We want New Zealanders to have access to the best technology as they compete on the world stage.

Monday, 25 August 2014

$40 million funding boost for Aged Care

I've visited a number of rest homes, retirement villages and care units while out on the campaign trail. It's clear to me that aged residential care services play an important role in supporting older New Zealanders who can no longer live at home.

National has announced today a $40 million funding boost over the next four years for aged residential care and dementia services. This will bring New Zealand's annual investment in aged residential care to over $985 million and will ensure we continue to provide older New Zealanders with the best possible care in the future.

Over the next 20 years the number of New Zealanders over the age of 65 will double to 1.2 million people. We will increase rest home bed subsidies by 5% from 1 October – this equates to an extra $7.5 million for aged care this year and $10 million extra for subsequent years.

The remaining $2.5 million will be one-off funding towards implementation of dementia care pathways across district health board and communities. While it will be up to providers to decide how this extra money is spent, National expects many will choose to use it to increase staff wages. As our aging population grows, demand for aged care services will also grow · Despite tight financial times, which have seen many countries freezing or even reducing funding for health services, the National-led government has increased funding to aged residential care by over $240 million.

National is committed to ensuring older New Zealanders have the care, security, wellbeing, and respect they deserve.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: First home buyer grants welcomed in Hutt Valley

Lewis Holden, National candidate for Rimutaka

Chris Bishop, National candidate for Hutt South

National’s candidates Lewis Holden and Chris Bishop have welcomed today’s announcement by the Prime Minister and Housing Minister to double the Government support for first home buyers.

“The package announced today will help more first home buyers in Hutt Valley achieve the dream of owning their own home over the next five years,” Mr Bishop says.

“In Hutt City, the new house price caps for the KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant and Welcome Home Loans schemes will be increased from $350,000 to $450,000.

That means many more people in Hutt City will be able to get government support when buying their first home.

“In Upper Hutt, the new house price caps for the KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant and Welcome Home Loans schemes will be increased from $300,000 to $450,000.This is great news for the people of Upper Hutt,” Mr Holden says.

The package comprises three changes:

  • Replacing the KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy with a HomeStart grant, doubling the support for buying a new home and increasing the house price caps;
  • Enabling larger KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawals by including the member’s tax credit (meaning first home buyers will now be able to withdraw all of their KiwiSaver savings except the $1000 kick-start);
  • Expanding eligibility for Welcome Home Loans by aligning the house price caps with the new KiwiSaver HomeStart grant.

“Nationally, we are roughly doubling the number of people receiving a Government grant to buy a first home from 10,000 per year to 20,000 per year, and doubling the Government grant they are eligible for if buying a newly-built home,” says Mr Holden and Mr Bishop.

In all, this new package will help about 90,000 lower and middle income first home buyers over the next five years.

“It will ensure that more New Zealanders are able to attain the dream of owning their own home.

“The intent of the package is also to increase the supply of new housing and to encourage housing companies to build homes in a price range that is affordable for first home buyers.

Currently, individual first home buyers are eligible for a grant of $3000 after three years in KiwiSaver, $4000 after four years and $5000 after five years.

Under HomeStart, this grant will double to $6000 after three years, $8000 after four years and $10,000 after five years for the purchase of a newly built home.

The changes to the KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawal in enabling access to the member’s tax credit will increase the maximum withdrawal amount by $512 per year for each year a member has contributed.

The KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawal is limited to members buying a first home, who have been contributing for a minimum of three years. The KiwiSaver HomeStart grant and Welcome Home Loans have additional criteria of people having an income below $80,000 for an individual and $120,000 for a couple, and the house being purchased must be below the regional house price caps.

The package will cost an additional $218 million over the next five years, and come into effect on 1 April 2015.

“HomeStart complements the wide programme of work the National Government already has underway to improve housing supply and affordability,” says Mr Holden and Mr Bishop.

“We are freeing up more land supply, reducing building material costs, reining in infrastructure and compliance costs and investing in sector skills and productivity.”

More information:

Summary of changes:

Media Contacts:

Lewis Holden – 027 699 1350

Chris Bishop – 021 852 661

Authorised by Chris Bishop 6/25 Tennyson St, Petone and L Holden, 128 Whakatiki St, Upper Hutt

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

PREFU: surplus, jobs and higher incomes still on track.

The PREFU (PRe-Election Financial Update) was released by Treasury this morning. Key points from the forecast are:
  • The Government’s operating balance before gains and losses is expected to be in surplus by $297 million in 2014/15 – down from $372 million in the Budget forecasts. Surpluses in each of the following three years will be smaller than forecast in the Budget.
  • Core Crown expenses are forecast to fall to 30.3 per cent of GDP by 2015, down from 35 per cent of GDP in 2011.
  • Because residual cash deficits continue for a year longer than forecast in the Budget, net government debt is expected to fall below 20 per cent of GDP in 2020/21 – when contributions are now scheduled to resume to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.
  • Annual average GDP growth for the year to March 2014 was 3.3 per cent compared with the 3 per cent Budget forecast. Growth for the year to March 2015 is forecast to be 3.8 per cent (compared with the previous 4 per cent forecast) and then largely in line with previous forecasts. There were 83,000 more New Zealanders in jobs in the year to June 2014. 
  • Treasury’s Pre-election Update forecasts another 151,000 new jobs will be created by mid-2018. Unemployment is forecast to fall to 4.5 per cent by 2018 – down from 5.6 per cent in the June quarter of this year. 
  • In the two years to March, the annual average wage has increased by around $3,000. The Treasury forecasts it will increase further by around $6,600 to $62,000 by mid-2018.

We're heading in the right direction - let's stay on it!

Monday, 18 August 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: Cycleway fund opportunity for Rimutaka

With Gerry Brownlee and Chris Bishop at today's announcement.
"Today's cycleway fund announcement is a great opportunity for Rimutaka and the Hutt Valley" said Lewis Holden, National's candidate for Rimutaka

Announced by John Key and Gerry Brownlee in Petone today, $100m has been allocated to be spent over the next four years on accelerating cycleways in urban centres

An Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will investigate opportunities to invest in urban cycleways that would expand and improve the cycling network. In addition to this funding, up to $30 million is available from the National Land Transport Fund for walking and cycling projects in the 2014/15 financial year.

This investment will be complemented by funding from local government.

"As your strong voice for Rimutaka in a National-led government, I will work with NZTA and the two Hutt valley local authorities to see that cycleway projects, such upgrading the cycleway next to SH2, are championed" continued Mr Holden.

More information on the new fund is here:


CIT "rotting away"

The Dominion Post reports that the former CIT site in Heretaunga, closed since 2001, is costing taxpayers $450,000 per year to maintain.

CIT featured in our meet the candidates meeting on Thursday last week. One of the questions we were asked was what we'd do with $100m. I responded that I'd reopen CIT as a science & technology park.

I'm aware of an investor who is interested in the CIT site, but the potential future owners, Ngati Toa, will need to be convinced. I will strongly advocate that CIT is used, and not left to rot.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Rimutaka Electorate Public Meeting this Thursday

From the Rimutaka Lion's Club:

Media Release: Rimutaka Electorate Public Meeting

Thursday 14 August - 7:30 pm ( at Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club -all welcome )

The five currently announced electorate candidates for the Rimutaka electorate will take part in the public meeting on Thursday 14 August at 7.30 pm at Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club.

Rimutaka Lions Club President Colin Cheeseman says the club has organised the meeting in line with Lions voluntary community service role which includes promoting the principles of good government and good citizenship.

Lions Club member Paul Lambert says the club was motivated to organise the forum for local residents when it appeared none had been planned. The club has arranged similar events in the past . ( Lions Club members do not debate partisan politics and sectarian religion as part of club activities )

Candidates attending

Chris Hipkins -Labour
Lewis Holden -National
Aaron Hunt -NZ First
Philip Lynch -Conservative
Susanne Ruthven-Greens

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Special Voting

I've had a few people come in to our campaign shop on Main Street in Upper Hutt and ask about casting a special vote. A special vote is different from an advanced vote in that you will need to cast a special vote if you:
  • are voting outside your electorate
  • are unable to get to a voting place in person
  • enrolled to vote after Wednesday 20 August
  • are on the unpublished roll
To cast a special vote you will need to fill out this form. In most cases casting an advanced vote makes sense - we were given the list of advanced polling booths in Rimutaka the other day, there's a number in the electorate from Upper Hutt to Naenae.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Network for Learning hits 700 connections

N4L map in Upper Hutt.
700 schools around New Zealand are now connected to the Network for Learning - 7 of them in the Rimutaka electorate. The Network for Learning provides fast, dependable internet to schools. The roll-out is almost five months ahead of schedule.

High-quality, high-speed internet is essential for students, teachers and schools in the modern economy. The better we can ensure that every student can benefit from technology to achieve their best, the more prosperous New Zealand's future will be.

The Government is investing $211 million in the Managed Network, which will provide quick and reliable internet complete with uncapped data, web filtering and network security services for all New Zealand schools wishing to participate.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Representing Rimutaka

There's been a fair few letters backwards and forwards to the Upper Hutt Leader about my efforts working with the Upper Hutt City Council to get the former District Court's car park opened up for the people of Upper Hutt. I'm not going to comment on the politicking going on, but suffice to say I've ruffled a few feathers which is a good sign.

Alison Cooke, who first raised the issue, has written a letter to the editor (right) saying thanks to all of us. I'm just doing my job as a representative for Rimutaka. Of course I'm only a candidate at the moment, not an MP - but with your support I could be pouring my energies into making Upper Hutt an even greater place to live and work.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

29% of Wellington UFB rolled out

A new report on the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network is now more than 517,000 end users can now connect to in 28 towns and cities across New Zealand. In Wellington, 29% of the roll out is now completed.

Our broadband program is estimated to deliver GDP growth stemming from the program of $5.5 billion over 20 years, and $33 billion of economic benefits to New Zealand end users of high-speed broadband applications.

Over the last quarter, the number of customers signing up to a service under the UFB program has jumped by about 44 per cent, taking the total number to nearly 39,510.

Monday, 4 August 2014

30 days until advanced voting opens

Advanced voting starts 3 September 2014.
The Electoral Commission is working overtime to get voters enrolled in time for when advanced voting opens - in 30 days!

The 2014 election is the first where anyone can cast an advanced vote for any reason - the idea is that by making voting more flexible, we should arrest the decline in turnout.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Transport: an interchange at Manor Park

SH58 in the Wellington Region.
With the campaign ramping up, we're knocking on as many doors in Rimutaka as possible. This weekend the team went to Manor Park.

One major issue that came up repeatedly was the interchange with SH2 and SH58 at Manor Park. Local residents can't get into the traffic when it's stopped at the lights or when cars and trucks and flying past at 100km/h.

The logical solution to this would be to make Manor Park an interchange, along the lines of the one NZTA has built at Korokoro. This was proposed back in 2007 but never funded.

As Rimutaka's MP I will advocate strongly for this project to proceed. I've previously outlined my view that Hayward's Hill Road (SH58) should be upgraded as a result of Transmission Gully going ahead - it makes sense in that case to build a proper interchange with SH2.