Flagship project in Government's regional fund nearly trebles in cost

One of the flagship projects in the new Government's regional economic fund, the Opotiki Harbour expansion, has blown out to nearly three times its original estimate. 

The harbour expansion would create jobs and provide a boost to local industry, but National is questioning whether it's value for money.

Opotiki Harbour is in one of the most deprived areas of the country, and its development had been budgeted to cost around $50 million.

Now it could be far more expensive.

"Very high numbers like $100 to $150 million. You are talking about 500, 600, maybe even more thousand dollars per job," said Simon Bridges, National's economic development spokesperson.

The expansion would allow larger vessels access to the harbour, opening it up for the aquaculture and marine tourism industries.

It was promoted and supported by National, and now it's the number one project for Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones' $1 billion fund.

We can't see anything else that's going to deliver, that's going to stop us paying out benefits. - Opotiki mayor John Forbes

"It's not inexpensive. But I would say for the National Party to attack this project is to sabotage an initiative that they themselves were promoting," Mr Jones said.

The Opotiki mayor, John Forbes, says the cost is more than worth it.

"We can't see anything else that's going to deliver, that's going to stop us paying out benefits. If you want to address deprivation, you do it with opportunity. This is really important for us," he said.

Mr Bridges says National was looking at how to make it cheaper, "to see if we could work it down even in terms of the construction costs, maybe get more revenue for it, maybe see if other parties could come in to make it work".

Mr Jones said he thinks it's "possible to have a more heightened level of acceptance in terms of risk. I think that probity is always the essential test that politicians have to meet. But that shouldn't be used to thwart the ambitions of regions".

Mr Jones says regions like Opotiki desperately need projects like the harbour expansion and that's why he's willing to take a risk. But he'll need sign-off from his Cabinet colleagues, and will take a proposal to them shortly.

Mr Forbes hopes the Government decides to back the plan, despite the cost.

The Opotiki Harbour expansion would create up to 300 jobs in a deprived area, but National is questioning whether it's value for money. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand's refugee quota jumps to 1500 per year from July 2020, Government announces

New Zealand’s refugee quota will be raised to 1500, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

It was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

"It is the right thing to do," said Ms Ardern. 

"It puts New Zealand much more in line with the humanitarian policies of other developed countries."

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Yesterday, Ms Ardern told media she wanted to see the current quota increased but a sticking point has been the vastly different policy positions of Labour's Government partners. 

Labour pledged to raise the quota to 1500 and the Green Party aimed for a quota of 5000.

Earlier this month NZ First's Winston Peters told media in Nauru that the focus needed to be on New Zealanders struggling at home.

"We have 50,000 people who are homeless back home and I can show you parts of Northland where people are living in degradation," Mr Peters said, while being questioned at the Pacific Islands' Forum.

National's Simon Bridges said yesterday if the refugee quota was lower than 1500 it would be a demonstration of "Winston Peters undermining the Prime Minister".

"If you look at the Prime Minister's rhetoric she's made great play about being a globalist, a progressive with soaring rhetoric on these issues.

"It's all very well to do the photo ops, the international pieces, but when you've got important questions like this back home that... [are] now are up in the air because of a lack of unanimity and cohesion."

Jacinda Ardern. (Richard Tindiller) Source: rnz.co.nz

Government moves to make pay equity claims easier - 'We must continue to close gap'

The Government want to make it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims, introducing a proposed law on the 125th anniversary women first got the vote in New Zealand. 

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway said today he was proud to take "the next step to address historic inequities in pay for women". 

He said The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was intended to make the process of making pay equity claims simplified and more accessible.

Acting Women's Minister Eugenie Sage said the bill was "one piece of the puzzle" in striving to close the gender pay gap. 

"Discrimination has led to lower pay for many female-dominated industries, despite having similar working conditions and skill requirements to comparable male-dominated occupations."

Earlier this year, National MP Denise Lee's Members' Bill on pay equity was voted down.

It intended to "eliminate and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex" in employment pay, and to also "promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds". 

Labour MP Megan Woods saying there were "some very simple mechanistic reasons contained within this legislation why that would not occur", and fellow MP Jan Tinetti saying "this bill does put things backwards for pay equity". Labour, National and NZ First voted against it. 

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source: istock.com


Live Stream: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes major announcement from Parliament

Ms Ardern is speaking from the Beehive Theatrette. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: 'Cantankerous old' rescue dog's escape down Bay of Island thoroughfare prompts laughter around the world

A rescue dog named Lily from the Bay of Islands has become an overnight internet sensation after her wily escape down Kawakawa’s main street – with a giant flag in tow — put smiles on tens of thousands of Facebook users' faces.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 320,000 times in the first 16 hours since it was posted last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the dog wasn't interested in waiting to see what surprise might be in store, instead bolting despite being tied to the large Coca-Cola flag.

"It wasn't until I saw the video that I realised I had charged into oncoming traffic, which is quite alarming, but I just wanted to get hold of her before someone hit her," Ms Green told the New Zealand Herald today, describing the nine-year-old as a "cantankerous old lady".

"After taking her home I realised I still had to return the flag and pay for my sausage," she added. "I couldn't believe it."

Ms Green changed her Facebook profile picture to show Lilly late last night as the video, posted by user James Mcdonald, quickly started to take on a life of its own.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

"Crack up go doggie," added user Katie Bennett.

The basset hound, named Lily, was tied to a large flag outside a dairy. So she took the flag with her on her wild escape. Source: Facebook/James Mcdonald