Shane Jones says NZ First will listen to business sector's concerns over Government's employment reforms

Shane Jones says NZ First will listen to business concerns over employment relations reforms, to tackle low confidence in the business community that have sprouted from the proposed changes.

"We are an ambitious Government; we have a heck of a lot going on," the Regional Economic Development Minister told TVNZ1's Q+A.

But the current low-confidence business community wanted not only more certainty, but also specifics on executing new policy changes.

Apartment construction in Auckland
Construction site in Auckland (file picture). Source: istock.com

The Government have proposed a raft of employment changes, including Fair Pay Agreements which would set particular industry-wide standards for pay and conditions through union negotiation.

"We're going to support it, but the full range of provisions… are only understood when you’ve had a chance for the various parties, unions and business to describe how they’re going to be affected," Mr Jones said.

Q+ A host Corin Dann asked Mr Jones if further industrial relations reform needed to be watered down, so that business was more in favour of the changes.

"Our caucus is going to be an account of what was the overarching tone and theme of the submissions, and let's call a spade a spade, this is one of the causes to why people in the business community are saying they’re not totally confident... so there’s no guarantee what will happen," Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said this was one of the reasons those in the business community were confident about investment decisions, hiring decisions.

"I'm a politician from New Zealand First. I'm entitled to hear the concerns of provincial employers; I’m entitled to hear the concerns of regional leaders."

He said in a full-scale MMP environment, "you don’t get all the things you want".

However, when asked about the possibility of lengthening the time period of NZ First's policy of the minimum wage boost to $20 per hour in 2020, which many in the business community were concerned about, Mr Jones said they knew workers need to be paid more.

"Unless you’re a particularly cold-hearted, malodorous businessman or woman," Mr Jones said.

"I've had a gutsful of seeing ordinary Kiwis in the region who can’t even live from one week to the next."

The Employment Relations Amendment Act is currently in the Select Committee stage, and expected to come in next year. 

The Regional Development Minister said NZ First will support the Amendment Bill, however, the impact on business and other parties needed to be understood. Source: Q+A



Chair lift damaged on Mt Ruapehu after 'significant' controlled avalanche goes wrong

A chair lift was damaged on Mount Ruapehu this morning after a controlled operation went wrong.

Routine control measures involve intentionally triggering avalanches when the snow builds up too much in unstable areas, and such an operation took place this morning.

"A significant avalanche was triggered," the official Mount Ruapehu ski area Twitter account tweeted.

Avalanche at Turoa ski field.
Avalanche at Turoa ski field. Source: David Watson.

The avalanche came down about 8.30am through the "Gliding Gladys" area and hit the High Noon Express lift.

The damaged chairlift tower needs replacing and will be inoperable for at least one week.

However, there is the possibility a new haul rope will be needed to be imported from Europe, that would take months.

No one was in the area or injured at the time of the avalanche.

"Engineers are responding to assess the extent ... the upper mountain is closed at both ski areas today."

Those venturing into the back country are advised to check avalanche advisories before setting out.

Good news for skiers and snow boarders as a $10 million grant helps the project get off the ground.
Source: 1 NEWS


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Auckland school growth hitting upper limits of forecasts

The number of school children in Auckland has grown at the upper limit of official forecasts this year and some schools are struggling to find enough classrooms and teachers, principals say.

The Education Ministry said provisional figures indicated the number of five to 17-year-olds in Auckland had grown by fractionally less than Statistics New Zealand's high-growth forecast of 3455 children in 2017-18.

It said most of the increase had occurred in the city's primary schools.

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Helen Varney said some schools were growing a lot faster than expected this year.

"It's happened much quicker than expected, it's happened with a certain age group, so five-year-olds, much much higher numbers than expected, and it's come at a time when it's really hard to staff your schools," she said.

Mrs Varney said a lot of the increase was happening in the number of five-year-olds starting school this year.

Her own school normally had two new entrant classes at this time of the year, but it already had four and was planning a fifth.

Mrs Varney said it was harder to predict how many school-age children might be living in a particular area because more families were living together in a single home, sometimes for financial reasons but often because it was their preference to live together.

"Rental costs can be one of the factors, but other factors are mainly because they're keen to live with their families and they've got the support there for their children while they work," she said.

The principal of Albany Primary School, Maree Bathurst, said her school had 784 children compared to 707 at the same time last year and she expected the roll to reach 810 by the end of the year.

"Our next class will have to go in the library so we have actually no extra spaces at all. We're currently using a room that is less than ideal for a new entrant class but that is what our Education Ministry deem our capacity is so we're actually over capacity now," she said.

Ms Bathurst said the school had expected a lot of new enrolments because of new developments in the area including six apartment blocks, but it was hard for the Education Ministry to plan for growth.

"For example there's a subdivision in our zone which five years ago could have had 600 townhouses on it. It took a long time for that development to be approved by council and then there were construction problems so that growth could have had a huge impact on our school and the three local schools, but as it turned out it was very much a progressive subdivision."

At the other end of Auckland, Manurewa South School principal Tone Kolose said his roll had jumped from 320 children last year to more than 380, and it was still growing.

"We were surprised that the school's roll had grown dramatically, we weren't expecting the 20 percent increase of students. We are kind of expecting to hit the 400 mark, maybe 410 by the end of the year," he said.

Mr Kolose said the increase had forced the school to use half its library as a classroom and he expected it would have use the other half of that building and the school's hall for teaching space.

About 30 or 40 children were coming to the school from other neighbourhoods, but even with an enrolment zone the growth was unlikely to stop because other factors were driving more people into the area, he said.

"We're noticing that more families are moving in with families, so we have bigger numbers of people living in the same houses," he said.

In addition, there were new state house developments and more people buying homes in the area, Mr Kolose said.

The Education Ministry's deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the Auckland school network grew by 8 percent or 19,500 students in the past 10 years, reaching a high of 275,465 students last year.

"The region is growing faster and at a more sustained rate than ever before and we expect over the next decade it will continue to grow at the fastest rate since 2001," Ms Casey said.

"We could see between 30,000 and 60,000 more school-age students in the network by 2030. We are working to meet this projected growth in a range of ways including optimising the current network, expanding current schools and building new schools."

Ms Casey said the ministry was working on an Auckland growth plan and a national network plan for growth to 2030, which would go to the government later this year.

She said since the 2014 government Budget the ministry had been allocated funding to provide an additional 25,000 student places in Auckland, of which 9300 had been completed and a further 3000 were expected in the next 12 months.

- By John Gerritsen

Classroom generic. Source: Breakfast