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Watching Brief – March 2016

Home Insights Watching Brief – March 2016

Matter of opinion

The Dance of Policy

With Parliament now back in action for a month (and this being the first Watching Brief for 2016), it is as good a time as any to consider the likely shape of the political year ahead.

So far, it looks like Groundhog Day. February polls put support for National in the region of 47 / 48 per cent and Labour in the region of 30 per cent. The Green Party range between eight and 14 per cent and New Zealand First between six and 10 (depending on the poll), while the Māori Party, the Conservative Party and ACT are all struggling around one per cent. National’s areas of weakness (arguably, the Flag Referendum, Serco, Waitangi Day and Charter Schools) don’t appear to translate into a drop in support, while Labour still struggles to get traction.

But it is also the year before election year (yes, the election cycle seems too short) which means, at the very least, we will start seeing a corresponding shift in positioning and approaches.

A key policy platform for National will continue to be its social housing reform and social investment initiatives. Interestingly, we are seeing an emphasis on supporting the vulnerable with the traditional cost cutting and benefit reduction themes present but not the headline. National are speaking and referring to the 10 to 20 per cent of New Zealanders who are vulnerable (previous “poverty” policies were targeted at the relatively few). National will be hoping to pre-empt Labour’s appeal to those voters concerned about inequality and child poverty and reverse perceptions that National values business interests over “the 99%”. There is also evidence to draw on (albeit contested) that inequality leads to lower GDP, evidence which Labour can exploit.

Labour, on the other hand, has been holding back on the release of its key policies to ensure maximum impact at election time. It has also indicated it will be focusing on a few policies rather than many, and that these will be drip fed over the next 18 months. The free tertiary education policy being first off the rank provides some assurance Labour is in fact developing its policies and creates an expectation of more to come. The tertiary education policy was relatively well received and John Key’s response (along the lines of why would a waitress want to spend her taxes on education for the middle classes) was an own goal for a myriad of reasons.

Given current polling, much is riding on Labour’s policy roll out and the challenges are manifold. Policy “lite” personality politics is increasingly becoming the new normal. National’s policy platform at the last election was notably thin. Less policy focus seems to beget less policy interest by the media and general public. Even if Labour’s policies are commendable, how does it engage with an electorate increasingly turned off by the details of the issues?

A second problem for Labour is National straying into Labour territory. It is a deliberate strategy on National’s part that forces Labour to establish and explain its points of difference. We are already seeing this happen with National’s presentation of its social housing and social investment policies. It is notable that Bill English has also strongly endorsed the Productivity Commission’s report and recommendations on more effective social services, again with an emphasis on better evidence-based support to improve the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders. From a less sceptical viewpoint, this is democracy in action, with National feeling compelled to remain more centrist in its social policy approaches (and perhaps, a natural position for Bill English). 

More surprisingly, ACT appears to be encroaching on territory traditionally occupied by the Green Party. David Seymour is proposing a sale of Landcorp land in order to fund local conservation areas and is shifting away for the traditional ACT climate change scepticism.   

The Green Party are slipping or remaining steady in the polls: depending on which poll you read. Yet, more than any other party, the Greens have set out policies in a range of areas. Gareth Hughes’ speech in Parliament denouncing John Key’s legacy was an impressive piece of oratory and an internet hit. However, there are still no clear signs that the Green Party and Labour are intending to present as an effective coalition party, instead continuing to rely on their separate strengths (and weaknesses). This could be a mistake.

Finally, Winston will continue to do what Winston does best – be very effective in opposition from time to time. It looks quite possible he will be well positioned to be a kingmaker in 2017, having narrowly missed that chance in 2014.

And who knows, the year might even get interesting. National is struggling to get its zero hours legislation passed (Labour is already claiming a win), opposition against the TPP covers a broad church and is well co-ordinated by way of social media here and abroad (National’s response – to effectively label protesters as troublemakers for hire – is a risky one) and people in New Zealand are getting really worried about climate change (at last). 

There may be wild card issues that capture the public’s hearts and minds and benefit one party over another; there may be international events that we can only respond to which influence the public’s political preferences; Auckland house prices might crash (there are always predictions). But within all this, let’s hope New Zealanders stay (or become) engaged with meaningful policies over populist positioning. This is the message the politicians need to receive. The US presidential race is a stark, if an extreme, warning in this regard.


In politics

Auckland Mayoralty the One to Watch in 2016

While October’s local body elections may seem far away, the campaigns for the Auckland mayoralty have well and truly kicked off. Auckland Council and the political infrastructure are readying themselves for a Phil Goff mayoralty – and the business community may want to consider doing this, too. 

The veteran Labour MP seems well placed to win the race, benefitting from 30 years of name recognition, significant and bi-partisan funding and a fractured centre-right field of no fewer than four candidates. The failure of the centre-right to coalesce around one strong candidate (at this stage at least) may be an indication that Mr Goff is seen as someone the National Party is happy to do business with. He is a known quantity – a campaign theme that Mr Goff is likely to push.

However, despite his central government expertise, Mr Goff may face challenges due to the different decision-making dynamic at local government. Whereas a Prime Minister is afforded the luxury of choosing his or her Cabinet and ‘whipping’ its MPs to vote, on the Council, the Mayor is simply one vote amongst the rest.

The difficulties a Mayor experiences around the Council table was demonstrated last week when Auckland Council voted against Mayor Brown's plan by 13 – 8 to abandon its Unitary Plan zoning proposals. Bracing themselves for a voter backlash, the Councillors rejected the “out-of-scope” proposals which were put forward without consulting the public, including a plan to increase housing-density zones in many of Auckland’s leafy suburbs.

By having one vote like the rest of the Council table, maintaining relationships and possessing the skills of the ‘dark arts’ in politics, is especially crucial for a Mayor. Mr Goff would likely push the message that he is a centrist politician who can collaborate and bring people together. His warm reception in the business community so far, especially given the number of centre-right candidates on offer, indicates that he may be gaining some traction in that regard.

Mr Goff’s ability to cross party lines to achieve a pragmatic result will be tested in a number of areas. He has already lined himself up against the Government by publicly supporting toll roads and a potential congestion charge, whereas the Government favours the sale of Council assets to raise capital – a policy Mr Goff has ruled out implementing at this stage. 

Auckland businesses and leaders can take advantage of having a known quantity wearing the Mayoral chains by deepening existing relationships and ascertaining from an early stage Mr Goff’s likely position on issues that are of importance to them.


In the news

Financial Markets Authority updates guidance on fee disclosure and calculating fund refunds

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has published two information sheets on fee disclosure and calculating fund refunds (“How to calculate 0% PIR returns” and “How performance-based fees should be disclosed”). The information sheets respond to the key issues arising from submissions on the FMA’s consultation last year on the draft guidelines for disclosure of certain fees and returns by managed funds.

The purpose of the information sheets is to help managers, supervisors and their professional advisers to better understand their obligations under the Financial Markets Conduct Regulations 2014.

The “How to calculate 0% PIR returns” information sheet provides the formula managers of portfolio investment entity funds are expected to use when calculating a funds return with a 0% prescribed investor rate. This calculation found strong support with submitters and many felt a standardised formula would provide consistency for managers and transparency for investors wanting to run comparisons.

The “How performance-based fees should be disclosed” information sheet provides the disclosure expectations for funds when they adopt a performance-based fee that doesn't include a high water mark. While the FMA is unable to proscribe a high water mark obligation (as the regulations do not limit the types of fees that managers may charge), it has altered the suggested wording to help investors understand the potential impact of a fund not having a high water mark.

As part of this consultation, the FMA also sought industry feedback on the disclosure of underlying fund fees, specifically: (a) whether an investment asset is an underlying fund; and (b) what underlying fees should be included as management and administration charges disclosure. The FMA has flagged that it may have a targeted consultation with the industry before finalising its guidance in this area.

The two information sheets can be accessed here. The consultation update can be found here.


Auditor-General finds Defence Force breached conflict of interest rules

The Auditor-General has found that the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) broke conflict of interest rules and public sector procurement guidelines when it awarded a maintenance contract to a company (Miltech Limited) owned by senior serving personnel in February 2014.

The Auditor-General’s report (dated 19 February) was prepared after the former Minister of Defence, Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, asked the Auditor-General to inquire into the matter following revelations in Parliament in June 2014 that the Auckland based company was owned and run by senior Air Force non-commissioned officer Graham Berry.

The report found that while there was no evidence of illegality in awarding the contract, the arrangement between the NZDF and Miltech Limited did not meet NZDF rules of secondary employment.

The report also criticised Air Force senior leadership and said that if secondary employment rules and procedures were followed, the contract would not have been awarded to Miltech Limited. The contract was also found to have broken public sector procurement requirements and good proactive principles due to the rushed, informal, and undocumented manner in which the contract was awarded, and the failure to take into account alternative providers.

The report recommends the NZDF increase training and familiarisation procedures to ensure staff are comfortable with procurement and conflict of interest procedures, and that it reviews its approach to documenting and managing secondary employment situations.

In responding to the report’s recommendations, and an earlier set of draft proposals, the NZDF is currently reviewing its conflict of interest rules and training procedures.

A copy of the full report is available here.


Open Government Partnership report finds New Zealand falls short

The Open Government Partnership (OG Partnership) released its 2014-15 Independent Reporting Mechanism Progress Report for New Zealand (Report) on 19 February which outlines New Zealand’s progress toward fulfilling its commitments to transparency, accountability and participation. The findings conclude that there is a lack of public consultation and ambition in opening up the New Zealand Government. 

The OG Partnership, made up of government and civil society organisations, aims to promote government accountability through commitments to greater transparency made in bi-annual National Action Plans (Action Plan) which are monitored by the OG Partnership through annual reports.

The Report found that New Zealand’s 2014 Action Plan largely consists of programmes that were already underway, were not primarily designed to improve open practice, and lacked ambitious targets. 

The Report also highlighted issues with New Zealand’s Action Plan process. While Action Plans are required to be jointly created by government and civil society, in New Zealand, public consultation leading up to the 2014 Action Plan was very limited, poorly resourced, unresponsive to stakeholder priorities, and the information received was ignored. 

For the upcoming June 2016 Action Plan, the Report called on the Government to:

  • show an increase in ambition;
  • make greater progress on official information law reform issues identified by the Law Commission;
  • create public consultation guidelines for new bills, regulations and policies;
  • implement regular, standardised, technically independent “state of the nation” reporting on social policy and the environment;
  • develop a clear cross-government policy to allow public servants and those receiving public funding to speak out on significant public issues without facing any form of retaliation; and
  • design political party funding reform to increase transparency around donations and Parliamentary revenues.

A copy of the full Report is available here.


Office of the Ombudsman 2014/15 annual review

The Government Administration Committee (Committee) has released its report “2014/15 Annual review of the Office of the Ombudsman” that addresses the performance and current operations of the Office of the Ombudsman (Office) for the 2014/15 period. The current Ombudsmen are: the Chief Ombudsman, Judge Peter Boshier (appointed 10 December 2015), and Ron Paterson.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The Office did not meet its timeliness targets for completed complaints, and the Committee is concerned that the backlog of complaints may have a “chilling effect” on new complaints lodged with the Office. The reason provided for this backlog is that, in 2014/15, the Office received the second highest number of complaints (12,151) and other items of new work to date. That amount is 10 per cent higher than in the 2013/14 period. The Committee also noted that Office staff caseloads are too high; currently sitting at 35 cases per person (the international standard to ensure adequate attention and follow-up is 25 cases per person).
  • Delays in responding to Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) requests often stem from systemic issues or procedural matters (ie the lack of dedicated units in agencies to deal with requests efficiently, and out-of-date information management systems that slow down information retrieval).
  • The previous Chief Ombudsman (Dame Beverley Wakem) considers that, although suspicions about politicisation of government agency’s responses to request under the OIA may be legitimate, the Office can only work with “hard evidence”, not “mythology and hearsay”. The Office believes that gaps in the OIA’s implementation result predominantly from public servants’ lack of understanding about the OIA’s proper use and operation, rather than active malevolence.
  • The previous Chief Ombudsman considers that ministers and chief executives have a good understanding of their agencies’ responsibilities under the OIA, but that these individuals should continue to spread this awareness throughout their agencies and offices.
  • The Office continues to encourage departments to operate a policy of proactively disclosing information.

A copy of the full report can be found here.


Progress of legislation

New Bills

Land Transfer Bill
Type of Bill: Government
Member in Charge: Hon Louise Upston
This Bill seeks to reform and modernise the land transfer system in New Zealand by replacing the current Land Transfer Act 1952. While the Bill retains and consolidates many of the core principles of the Torrens land registration system from the current Act, the Bill intends to make two amendments to the doctrines of indefeasibility of title and compensation. In particular, clause 57 of the Bill would enable a court to amend the register in circumstances where immediate indefeasibility would result in manifest injustice, while clause 68 provides that the value of compensation to be paid to innocent owners may be based on the value of land as at the date when a claim is discovered, rather than on the land value at the date of loss (as it is currently). The changes in the Bill intend to implement the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s 2010 report, “A New Land Transfer Act.”

Ngāti Pūkenga Claims Settlement Bill
Type of Bill: Government
Member in Charge: Hon Christopher Finlayson
This Bill would give effect to the deed of settlement signed on 7 April 2013 by the Crown and Ngāti Pūkenga, and provide for the final settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims to Ngāti Pūkenga. The Bill seeks to formally record a Crown apology to this Northland, Coromandel, and Bay of Plenty based iwi and provides a range of commercial and cultural redress, including the transfer of commercial property and granting iwi rights of first refusal over certain lands vested or held in fee simple by the Crown.


Bills awaiting first reading

Appropriation (2014/15 Confirmation and Validation) Bill
Land Transfer Bill
Legislation Amendment Bill
Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Bill
Ngāti Pūkenga Claims Settlement Bill
Remuneration Authority Amendment Bill
Te Atiawa Claims Settlement Bill


Bills before Select Committee

Submissions open

Bill

Select Committee

Closing date for Submissions (2016)

Civil Defence Emergency Management Amendment Bill

Government Administration

24 March

Papawai and Kaikokirikiri Trusts Amendment Bill

Māori Affairs

Not yet called

Patents (Trans-Tasman Patent Attorneys and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

Commerce

24 March

Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act Repeal Bill

Health

Not yet called

Resource Legislation Amendment Bill

Local Government and Environment

14 March


Submissions closed

Bill

Select Committee

Report Due (2016)

Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Amendment Bill

Primary Production

15 April

Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill

Social Services

2 June

Building (Pools) Amendment Bill

Local Government and Environment

14 April

Canterbury Property Boundaries and Related Matters Bill

Local Government and Environment

3 May

Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill

Social Services

15 March

Education Legislation Bill

Education and Science

8 June

Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill

Health

23 September

Keep Kiwibank Bill

Finance and Expenditure

14 April

Māori Purposes Bill

Māori Affairs

15 March

Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill

Transport and Industrial Relations

29 April

New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Southern DHB) Elections Bill

Health

11 April

Ngāruahine Claims Settlement Bill

Māori Affairs

24 March

Official Information (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Amendment Bill

Government Administration

14 April

Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave and Work Contact Hours) Amendment Bill

Government Administration

16 March

Public Collections and Solicitations (Disclosure of Payment) Bill

Social Services

12 August

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill

Social Services

8 June

Riccarton Racecourse Bill

Local Government and Environment

7 March

Riccarton Racecourse Development Enabling Bill

Local Government and Environment

7 March

Shop Trading House Amendment Bill

Commerce

3 May

Statutes Amendment Bill

Government Administration

9 June

Taxation (Residential Land Withholding Tax, GST on Online Services, and Student Loans) Bill

Finance and Expenditure

8 June

Taxation (Transformation: First Phase Simplification and Other Measures) Bill

Finance and Expenditure

13 April

Bills awaiting second reading

Bills that have recently been reported back to the House from a Select Committee are in bold and the Select Committee reports on these Bills are linked.

Electronic Monitoring of Offenders Legislation Bill
Employment Standards Legislation Bill (as reported by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee)
Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill (as reported by the Local Government and Environment Committee)
Environmental Protection Authority (Protection of Environment) Amendment Bill
Evidence Amendment Bill
Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill
Ngāti Hineuru Claims Settlement Bill
Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill
Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill (as reported by the Māori Affairs Committee)
New Zealand Business Number Bill
Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill
Social Security (Extension of Young Persons Services and Remedial Matters) Amendment Bill
Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill
Wellington Town Belt Bill (as reported by the Local Government and Environment Committee)


Bills awaiting third reading

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill
Christian Churches New Zealand Property Trust Board Empowering Bill
Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill
Coroners Amendment Bill
Drug and Alcohol Testing of Community-based Offenders, Bailees and Other Persons Legislation Bill (formerly the Drug and Alcohol Testing of Community-based Offenders and Bailees Legislation Bill)
Health (Protection) Amendment Bill
Human Rights Amendment Bill
Insolvency Practitioners Bill
Judicature Modernisation Bill
Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill (formerly the Natural Health Products Bill)
Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill
Radio New Zealand Amendment Bill
Radiation Safety Bill
Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Amendment Bill


Acts assented

Home and Community Support (Payment for Travel Between Clients) Settlement Act 2016
This Act implements a settlement agreement reached between the Crown, District Health Boards, providers of Home and Community-Based Care Services (HCS) and certain unions, following a claim by HCS employees to the Employment Relations Authority that travel between clients receiving HCS is “work” for the purposes of the Minimum Wage Act 1983. In implementing this agreement, section 14 of the Act requires HCS employers to pay HCS employees for the time spent travelling between clients after 1 July 2015 using a predetermined sum. Sections 15 and 16 of the Act provide a number of methodologies for determining the quantum of this remuneration following the end of a transition period of graduated implementation that ended on 1 March 2016. 

Taxation (Annual Rates for 2015–16, Research and Development, and Remedial Matters) Act 2016
This Omnibus Act makes a number of amendments to taxation legislation and is designed to improve the current tax settings within a broad-base, low rate framework. In particular, the Act amends the Child Support Act 1991, the Child Support Amendment Act 2013, the Income Tax Act 2004, the Income Tax Act 2007, the Tax Administration Act 1994, and the Goods and Services Tax Act 1985, as well as making minor and consequential amendments to a number of other tax administration and collection acts.

The following Acts were formerly part of the Social Housing Reform (Transaction Mandate) Bill, and each respectively makes a number of technical amendments to the principal acts. The new Acts are:

  • Housing Amendment Act 2016
  • Housing Corporation (Social Housing Reform) Amendment Act 2016
  • Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters (Social Housing Reform) Amendment Act 2016.

Legislative instruments

Accident Compensation (Earners’ Levy) Regulations 2016
Accident Compensation (Experience Rating) Regulations 2016
Accident Compensation Amendment Act 2015 Commencement Order 2016
Civil Aviation Charges Regulations (No 2) 1991 Amendment Regulations 2016
Companies Act 1993 Liquidation Amendment Regulations 2016
Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Regulations 2016
Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Amendment Regulations 2016
Education (Disestablishment of Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology and Incorporation into Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic) Order 2016
Employment Relations Amendment Act 2015 Commencement Order 2016
Financial Markets Conduct (Wholesale Investor Exclusion – $750,000 Minimum Investment) Exemption Notice 2016
Governor-General (Allowance) Order 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016 Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Infringement Offences and Fees) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Petroleum Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Rates of Funding Levy) Regulations 2016
Health and Safety at Work (Worker Engagement, Participation, and Representation) Regulations 2016
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Auckland – New February 2016 Areas) Order 2016
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Nelson) Order 2016
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Selwyn District) Order 2016
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Tauranga – New February 2016 Area) Order 2016
Income Tax (Fringe Benefit Tax, Interest on Loans) Amendment Regulations 2016
Insolvency (CPI Adjustments) Amendment Order 2016
Insolvency (Personal Insolvency) Amendment Regulations 2016
Land Transport (Motor Vehicle Registration and Licensing) Amendment Regulations 2016
Major Events Management (Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games Emblems and Words) Order 2016
Non-bank Deposit Takers (Credit Ratings Minimum Threshold) Exemption Notice 2016
Parliamentary Annuities Determination 2016
State Sector (Application of Certain Provisions to Transfer of Functions from Ministry of Social Development to Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment) Order 2016
United Nations (Iran – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) Regulations 2016
Veterans’ Support Amendment Regulations 2016
WorkSafe New Zealand Amendment Act 2015 Commencement Order 2016


In the week ahead

What’s coming up in the House

The House resumed on Tuesday 1 March after a one week recess. The Government concluded the Debate on the Prime Minister’s Statement, and will now look to progress a number of pieces of legislation including the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill and the Radiation Safety Bill.


In committee

Recent Committee meetings

Select Committees met over the last two weeks.

The Commerce Committee considered the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, and the 2014/15 annual reviews of Public Trust, and the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited (MetService).

The Finance and Expenditure Committee considered the Report of the Controller and Auditor-General, Central Government: Results of the 2014/15 audits.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee conducted its international treaty examination of: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement; the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure; the WIPO Copyright Treaty; and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

The Primary Production Committee considered the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Amendment Bill.

The Health Committee considered the New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Southern DHB) Elections Bill and the 2014/15 annual review of the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

The Local Government and Environment Committee considered the Building (Pools) Amendment Bill.

The Social Services Subcommittee considered the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, and the Report of the Attorney-General under the Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill.


Speeches of note

Minister of Finance speaks on the Government’s Social Investment programme

Hon Bill English, Minister of Finance, addressed the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) on 18 February to provide an update on the Government’s Social Investment programme.

In 2012, the Government set ten challenging results for the public sector to achieve over the following five years (Better Public Services Results). The Government reports every six months on how the targets (within the Better Public Service Results areas) are progressing. The targets focus on reducing welfare dependency, recidivism and lifting educational achievement and the Minister emphasised that Social Investment is one of the key tools the Government has to drive the systemic changes necessary to meet these targets.

Key points from the Minister’s address include:

  • Social Investment Unit: The Government has established the Social Investment Unit to identify which elements of Social Investment need to be centralised and which operational matters will stay within agencies. This Unit is tasked with setting data and evaluation standards and developing methods for estimating return on investment for selected spending and is currently creating an information exchange that aims to allow safe sharing of data between agencies to support better decision making. 
  • Government use of sensitive information: The Minster commented that social Investment raises questions about which licence the Government has to use sensitive information. Accordingly, the Government plans to hold a discussion with the New Zealand public lead by the Data Futures Partnership (the independent cross-sector group created by Government to develop innovative solutions to data-use issues), about the acceptable use of sensitive information later this year.
  • Modernising Government: The Government is setting up systems which generate data to inform the Government’s decisions on where to invest, and evaluate the projects that are invested in. Further, the Minister commented that having a rolling programme of major transformation projects is the “new normal”, and predicted it will stay this way for years to come. The current pipeline of work includes the Inland Revenue Department’s billion dollar Business Transformation programme, and the simplification programmes at the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Ministry of Social Development. Further, there is now a Government Investment Portfolio team in The Treasury that provides investment management support across the public sector.

A transcript of the address can be found here.


Prime Ministers speak at the Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting

The Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, Hon Malcolm Turnbull and Rt Hon John Key, met for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ meeting in Sydney on 19 February.

The Prime Ministers addressed immigration, defence, cyber security and trade matters in their Joint Statement following the meeting.

Key points from the Joint Statement include:

  • Australia will offer a pathway to citizenship for New Zealand long-term residents of Australia who arrived in Australia between 26 February 2001 and 19 February 2016, if they meet certain criteria. The pathway will be implemented from 1 July 2017.
  • Australia remains committed to ensuring the process of visa cancellations, appeals and removals of New Zealand citizens who have been convicted of serious crimes in Australia continues, and is conducted as efficiently as possible. The Prime Ministers indicated that progress has been made to expedite cases, improve communications between authorities, and take into account community ties when considering deportations.
  • Trans-Tasman defence and security cooperation remains strong and the heads of the Australian and New Zealand policy, intelligence and security agencies, are to begin conducting an annual dialogue on national security.
  • Trans-Tasman cyber security ties continue to grow with joint exercises planned to ensure an appropriate response to major cyber-attacks in the future.
  • The Prime Ministers consider there are opportunities for greater trade and economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region and hailed the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

A copy of the Joint Statement can be found here.


In trade

Tariff concessions

The following applications for tariff concessions have been made in the past two weeks:

Applicant

Proposed tariff concession

Tariff item

Closing date for objections (2016)

Asaleo Care New Zealand Limited
Auckland

Baby diaper fluid protection layer, less than 30 micron thickness.

3920.10.01

8 March

In consultation

New

Who

What

By when (2016)

Commerce Commission

Input Methodologies Review: report of Professor Yarrow and emerging views on the airport WACC percentile.

11 March

Input Methodologies Review:

  • Emerging Views Paper on opportunities to improve the way Default Price Paths and Customised Price Paths work together;
  • Emerging Views Paper on form of control; and
  • Comments on asset beta adjustments and Black’s simple discounting rule expert advice.

24 March

Input Methodologies Review: Agenda and materials for working group on information requirements and verifier.

28 March

Department of Internal Affairs

Proposed changes to the Gambling Act 2003 Class 4 Gambling Equipment Minimum Standard.

11 April

Department of Conservation

Intention to grant a 30 year concession to Orion to install and operate a telecommunications site at the Kaitorete Spit Scientific Reserve.

8 March

Application by Rangitira Developments Limited for access to 12 ha of public conservation land on Mt Te Kuha, for the purposes of undertaking open cast coal mining.

9 March

Review of the Paparoa National Park Management Plan.

9 March

Intention to grant a concession to S & L Landridge to construct and maintain a stopbank at Taramakau River.

9 March

Application by Golden Bay Kayaks for a permit to operate commercial tours to view marine mammals in Golden Bay.

10 March

Intention to grant a 30 year concession to the owners of 45 cribs located in the Waitaki Kaik Fishing Reserve.

11 March

Application by Natural History New Zealand to amend its permit to film marine mammals in the Marlborough Sounds.

25 March

Intention to grant a licence/easement to Westpower Limited for telecommunications facilities on the West Coast.

25 March

Intention to grant a 30 year concession to Epic Cycle Adventures to establish a glamping facility at Piropiro in the Pureora Forest Park.

14 April

Proposal to dispose part of conservation land in the Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area.

20 April

New listings and changes to the threatened status of New Zealand sharks, rays, and skates.

20 April

New listings and changes to the threatened status of New Zealand vascular plant taxa.

31 July

Wellington Conservation Management Strategy.

ongoing

East Coast/Hawke’s Bay Conservation Management Strategy.

ongoing

Electricity Authority

Proposed Changes to the System Operator Policy Statement consultation paper.

15 March

Rulings panel procedures.

24 March

Proposal to introduce a default agreement for distribution services.

4 April

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority

Proposed energy performance standards for air conditioners/heat pumps and chillers.

18 March

Environmental Protection Authority

Application to introduce a horsetail weevil as a biological control agent for the weed field horsetail.

11 March

Application to release a parasitic wasp as a biological control agent to combat a psyllid (plant louse).

24 March

Application to import for release Elatus Plus fungicide intended for to control a number of fungal diseases affecting wheat crops.

21 April

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand

Proposal to remove country of origin labelling requirements from the Food Standards Code.

4 March

Application to use glutaminase sourced from bacillus amyloliquefaciens as a processing aid.

4 March

Application to permit food from a genetically modified corn line.

22 March

Application seeking a permit for the use of an agarose ion exchange resin to extract lactoferrin from milk.

29 March

Consultation paper on the existing labelling requirements for irradiated foods.

29 March

Proposed approach to revising the infant formula requirements in the Food Standards Code.

17 May

Inland Revenue Department

Whether and when a unit trust can have a single unit holder for income tax purposes.

21 March

Standard practice statement on how the Commissioner will exercise the discretion under section 87 of the Child Support Act 1991 to amend assessments for child support and domestic maintenance.

24 March

Operational draft setting out the Commissioner’s preference for the majority of taxpayers file an IR10 rather than financial statements.

25 March

Implementing the Global Standard on Automatic Exchange of Information issues paper.

31 Match

Whether and when section 6 CB of the Income Tax Act 2007 will apply to land acquired with a purpose or intention of disposal.

7 April

Whether the proceeds from the sale of gold bullion investments will necessarily be income.

7 April

Maritime New Zealand

Draft International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea related amendments 2016 discussion document.

11 March

Medsafe New Zealand

Changes to the data sheet process and Part 10 of the Guideline on the Regulation of Therapeutic Products in New Zealand.

31 March

Ministry for Primary Industries

Proposed reforms to the management of Marine Protected Areas.

11 March

Proposed Pet food Processing Operational Code Chapters 1 and 2.

11 March

A request from the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, on behalf of Ngā Hapū o te Moutere o Motiti, for a two-year temporary closure to the take of all fisheries resources, in the fisheries waters within three nautical miles of a point on Astrolabe Reef, Bay of Plenty.

14 March

Proposed regulatory measures to strengthen the official assurance framework for dairy material and dairy products.

18 March

Proposed direction and work programme for dealing with antimicrobial resistance.

8 April

An application by Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura Inc for three mātaitai reserves at Kaikoura.

4 April

Proposed amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations 1999.

28 March

Information requirements for registration of microbial organisms used as agricultural chemicals.

24 March

Draft import health standards for egg products.

13 April

Next Steps for Freshwater, consultation document on freshwater management.

22 April

Ministry for the Environment

Proposed revisions to guidelines 1 and 5 of the New Zealand Contaminated Land Management Guidelines.

8 March

Proposed reforms to management of Marine Protected Areas.

11 March

Next Steps for Freshwater, consultation document on freshwater management.

22 April

Review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

30 April

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Proposed Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal discussion document.

11 March

Information Disclosure Regulations for Third-Party Fundraisers Making Requests for Charitable Purposes discussion document.

24 March

Exposure draft of the Incorporated Societies Bill.

30 June

Ministry of Health

The Regulation of Natural Health Products consultation paper.

4 March

Ministry of Transport

Imagining New Zealand’s Transport Future discussion document.

ongoing

Productivity Commission

Urban planning issues paper.

9 March

New models of tertiary education issues paper.

4 May

Standards New Zealand

Revision of HB 205-2004: Managing safety-related risk.

17 March

Amendments to DR AS/NZS 3500.2:2015 Plumbing and drainage:

  • Part 2: Sanitary Plumbing and drainage.

28 March

Revision of AS/NZS 1677.2:1998 (in part) Refrigerating systems and heat pumps – Safety and environmental requirements:

  • Part 1: Definitions, classification and selection criteria;
  • Part 2: Design, construction, testing, marketing and documentation;
  • Part 3: Installation site; and
  • Part 4: Operation, maintenance, repair and recovery.

4 April

Revision of AS/NZS 60079.2009 Explosive Atmospheres:

  • Part 14: Electrical installations design, selection, erection and initial inspection; and
  • Part 17: Electrical installations inspection and maintenance.

12 April

Electrical equipment for coal mines – Introduction, inspection and maintenance. Part 3: Gas detecting and monitoring equipment.

12 April

Revision of AS/NZS 4765:2007 – Modified PVC pipes for pressure applications.

28 April

Amendment 3 to AS/NZS 4417.2:2012 Regulatory compliance mark for electrical and electronic equipment:

  • Part 2: Specific requirements for particular regulatory applications.

2 May

WorkSafe New Zealand

Draft code of practice: Extractives – Ground and Strata Instability.

24 March

Proposal to revoke the Safety in Evacuation and Shafts for Foundations approved code of practice.

29 March

Draft good practice guidelines: Excavation Work.

29 March


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