Can NZ really be ‘a bridge’ between US and China?

I still don’t know. Jacinda Ardern was asked by RNZ how New Zealand can act as a bridge between China and the US. She doesn’t seem to have really answered.

On The Nation in the weekend: Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker says New Zealand is trying to position itself as the bridge between the United States and China. “We have a bit of a reputation for the honest broker, and it’s times like this that we should draw upon that reputation”.

Nation: David Parker on trade, APEC and globalisation

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker: Inclusive Trade Action Group meets in Port Moresby

New Zealand, Chile and Canada today reaffirmed a commitment to work together to advance trade that benefits all their citizens.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker joined Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero and Canadian Deputy Minister for International Trade Tim Sargent at a meeting of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) during APEC Leaders’ Week in Papua New Guinea.

Trade is crucial to our economies but so is ensuring that the benefits that come from trade are shared by all,” David Parker said.

“The New Zealand Government’s Trade for All agenda ensures that our trade policy delivers for all New Zealanders.

“The meeting of ITAG members recommitted us to this goal and set out some specific objectives to advance inclusive trade in 2019, including building support among our CPTPP partners, and in the WTO and APEC.”

It follows the three countries’ Joint Declaration on Fostering Progressive and Inclusive Trade issued at the signing of the CPTPP in March this year.

https://twitter.com/NewshubNationNZ/status/1063532842372673536

 

Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality”

The quality of rain water in New Zealand is pretty much pristine, but after it falls and flows past our towns and through our farms and industries it deteriorates, sometimes to an alarming degree.

The is probably near universal support for improving the quality of water in our creeks and rivers, lakes, inlets and lagoons, and on our beaches.

Actually water quality does not need to be improved so much as degradation needs to be drastically reduced.

Aims are a bit vague – “promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years” – but should be widely supported.

Minister of the Environment David Parker:


Taking action to improve water quality

The Government today is announcing its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

“Clean water is our birthright. Local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

“New Zealanders value our rivers and lakes. More than 80 per cent are committed to improving water quality for the benefit of future generations and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” David Parker said at a function in Parliament to launch the new work programme.

“New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard.

“The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices. Our remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.”

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits,” David Parker said.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said both Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai.

“We are committed to a substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development.”

David Parker said the Government’s approach to solving these issues is engaging leading New Zealanders who care about our freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others.

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

Alongside work to tackle climate change, reduce waste, and protect our natural biodiversity, today’s release of the freshwater work programme shows this Government is determined to protect our environment for future New Zealanders.

Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders all agree our natural resources must be used wisely.

“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater Agenda and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-agenda

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.


See also: Freshwater plan to explore Māori and Crown shared interests

The Government plan announced today to improve freshwater quality acknowledges that water quality cannot be addressed without a concurrent and substantive discussion with Māori, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said

Q+A: David Parker on taxing bottled water

David Parker as Trade and Growth Minister was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Parker was asked about this from the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • No resource rentals for water in this term of Parliament
  • Introduce a royalty on exports of bottled water.

Winston Peters via Stuff (June 2018):

A coalition commitment to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports appears to have stalled, with the Government still trying to find a workaround that won’t breach its free trade deals.

Environment Minister David Parker told Newsroom the Government had not “got a lot closer to an outcome” on an export royalty since MFAT’s concerns were raised, and was instead focusing on how to tackle carbon emissions.

“The Government makes agreements as you go into coalitions as to what it is that you prioritise, and we prioritised emissions pricing over water pricing in the coalition agreement and both the Greens and New Zealand First agreed to that.”

Unless there is significance in the order that priorities are listed in the agreement this is not clear.

However, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says he is confident a solution to implement a royalty on bottled water will be found before the end of the year.

“I think New Zealanders think it’s unfair that people who bottle water and send it offshore without any return to the public, they don’t think that’s fair – I agree with them, I think that’s also true of other water bottling as well. We’re working through that.”

“Let me tell you, we’ve had so many other things on that it’s not been the priority we’d have all liked, but it certainly is now.”

Asked whether the Government still planned to introduce an export royalty on bottled water this term, Peters said: “I think I can confidently say, this year.”

Parker:

I’ve got a Cabinet paper coming through soon, in fact I’ve seen a draft of it looking at the different options. We’ve agreed in the coalition agreement that we won’t have a price on water generally during this term in Parliament.

There’s two reasons why you might in the longer term there’s the Tax Working Group suggests. One is fairness between the public and private, if private people for their own profit arre using a public resource then maybe they should…

And the second goes to the efficiency of the use of the resource. If there is a price for scarce resources then they’re inclined to be used more efficiently and so there’s less waste which is environmentally good.

He avoided saying when a decision was expected.

On issues with trade agreements and water – “Can you actually implement a tax on that?”:

Ah you are restricted by your trade agreements. There are still things you can still do, um, ah, they are very, some of them are quite complex, ah it doesn’t kick up a lot of money…

Levies or taxes in various forms are possible, but there is a sense of umbrage on the part of New Zealanders who think that it’s wrong that we export water to the rest of the world without anything coming back to the public for that privilege.

Can you do something without breaching these agreements, and this year?

Ah yes you can do some things, ah, you clearly can do some things, ah, you could also change the rules related to foreign direct investment to make it clear criteria when people are investing from overseas which is something we might consider in the second part of our…

What does he prefer?

Ah I’m not going to express a preference on this.

Can you do it this term or is it in the too hard basket?

Um, yes we can.

So it will be done this term?

I didn’t say that.

You want to do it this term?

Well I, you know, I think the principle where private people are exporting a public resource for their own profit, that something should come back to the public, is a fair play.

So Parker avoided giving any indication of when something may happen on taxing water being exported.

Then he was asked about the complication of claims of Maori ownership. “Is that going to be resolved this term?”

(Big breath) Well, no one’s been able to resolve that until now. Ah, I think there’s considerable goodwill on the part of all sides of these water debates. Ah the public made it clear they want water quality improved. You can’t do that without resolving some of the water allocation issues relating to nutrient discharge rights.

That does throw up Maori rights and interests because Maori disproportionately hold the underdeveloped land that wants the right to…

But you can avoid a foreshore and seabed mess which Michael Cullen was talking about earlier?

I think so.

And Parker was let off the hook there after avoiding committing to any time frame for taxing bottled water, and without giving any indication how Maori claims on water rights might be dealt with.

 

 

David Parker’s and Parliament’s reputations enhanced

Last week David Parker was under fire for alleged, with claims he had a ‘close personal relationship’ with property  developers given a Government exemption for overseas investment in a development at Te Arai.

Matthew Hooton said that Parker should stand down pending an inquiry, and made allegations that he later retracted and apologised for. A Facebook post and an NZ Herald article are no longer online.

On Thursday Hooton tweeted:

‘Entirely blameless’ is a major retraction.

Audrey Young writes:  David Parker emerges with reputation not just intact but enhanced

When things get really bad a fog can sit over the whole Government for weeks. Sometimes it results in a political scalp, sometimes it just damages the individual.

Rarely does it enhance the reputation of the minister involved. But in the case of the exemption for Te Arai development to the foreign-buyers ban, that is what has happened to David Parker.

The only other occasion in which a political reputation was clearly enhanced in the face of a ministerial crisis also involved David Parker, in 2006.

He shocked everyone including his own Prime Minister when he resigned as Attorney-General the day allegations were published in Investigate magazine over some historic filing of returns to the Companies Office.

Parker was reinstated to cabinet a few weeks later when evidence turned up at the Companies Office disproving the allegations. He returned a more honourable minister than when he resigned.

In the 10 days since the select committee recommended the controversial 15-year exemption for Te Arai development at Mangawhai, events have moved more slowly, but no less honourably.

And most of the stunning relevant revelations exonerating Parker occurred in House itself as National has put the heat on Parker.

National had legitimate questions for Parker about the background to an exemption for one development at Mangawhai involving settlement funding of two iwi – and Parker more than answered them, which he did so at length, and with reasoned and passionate argument.

It is National’s job to hold the Government and Ministers to account. In this case Parker responded and showed there was no cause for concern about his involvement.

What has emerged is that although the Treasury advised against any exemption for any development, it was done after Parker took a paper to cabinet and sought its approval.

Parker refused to listen to any private pleadings of any developer during the course of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill banning foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses.

He made it clear they should make to the committee.

When select committee members and cabinet colleague Shane Jones (at the behest of John Key) raised the potential injustice, Parker did the proper thing and took it to cabinet.

So Parker acted properly.

Disarmingly, Parker did not defend every aspect of what has occurred.

He conceded in the House it was fair enough that National question whether he and select committee should have looked into details about the level of the iwi involvement in the development before recommending the exemption.

As they haver a right to do this, and a responsibility to do this if they think that things warrant proper scrutiny. It was a proper use of Parliament. And Parker responded properly and showed that he had acted properly.

There are still things to be asked over the Te Arai development, but both Parker and Parliament have had their reputations enhanced over this.

Parker stands out as probably the Government’s most capable looking Minister.

Labour, David Parker and a property developer

Questions are being asked over claimed favouritism involving Labour, David Parker and and a Queenstown based property developer.

The story was broken by Politik:  Labour and the Queenstown property developer

Questions are being asked about how a group of Labour MPs on a Select  Committee agreed to grant an exemption from the  overseas buyers  ban to a luxury Northland property development where sections are valued at up to $4.5 million each.

The exemption has now been removed for procedural reasons  but how it  got where it did raises some intriguing questions.

They are accentuated because the inclusion is so unusual, particularly for a Labour Government, to grant what in effect was a special favour to wealthy property developers.

Labour disputes that and says it was actually granting a favour to the local iwi who stood to be substantially disadvantaged if the development did not go ahead.

But POLITIK has found that the iwi have only a minority interest in the development.

On the face of it, the exemption flew in the face of everything Labour has been saying about property development since it became the Government.

You may not have access to that if you have passed your number of reads there, but if you get a ‘Don’t Panic message close that Window (X in top right of the Window).

Matthew Hooton picked up on it:

Kiwiblog covers it: The Government’s attempt to waive the law for a friend

his should be, as Matthew says, a major news story. I hope National pursues this further as the conflicts of interest in this are huge, as well as the hypocrisy.

 

And NZH has Hooton covering it: Why David Parker should stand down pending inquiry

As Economic Development Minister, he leads the mammoth Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, with its extraordinary regulatory powers and corporate-welfare schemes.

As Minister for the Environment, he directs everything from planned reform of the Resource Management Act to expanding the Emissions Trading Scheme.

As Trade Minister, he oversees New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and negotiations for post-Brexit free-trade agreements with the European Union and United Kingdom.

Parker even chooses which cases the Government will take to the World Trade Organisation on behalf of New Zealand exporters.

This is not all. As Attorney-General, Parker is the Crown’s senior law officer with responsibility for the Government’s administration of the law.

He decides whether the Government will appeal cases it loses to private interests in lower courts.

In effect, he appoints all new judges, has ministerial responsibility for the Crown Law Office and the Parliamentary Counsel Office and decides whether legislation is compliant with the Bill of Rights Act.

Parker is also an Associate Finance Minister, working with Grant Robertson on the Government’s $80-billion-a-year budget. He is one of Jacinda Ardern’s closest political advisors and a vital link to Winston Peters.

One of Parker’s key projects is the Overseas Investment Bill to implement Labour’s pre-election promise to get foreigners out of the residential property market.

According to Parker, the Bill is about values. It will ban overseas buyers of existing houses and ensure the property market is a New Zealand and not an international one.

Despite that, Labour MPs — against advice from parliamentary lawyers — inserted a clause in the Bill at the last minute to protect a single development from the new rules.

As revealed by the influential political newsletter Politik, the project is one by Los Angeles billionaire Rick Kayne and celebrity Queenstown property developer John Darby, with whom Parker was associated when working with the late Howard Patterson.

To some observers, this could look like a possible attempt by either the Government or naïve Labour backbenchers to personally favour a former business associate of the Government’s most powerful minister by exempting him from Labour’s flagship ban on foreign house buyers.

In 2006, he stood down as a minister after allegations he had filed false companies returns, for which he was cleared by the Companies Office. Now, though, he is exponentially more powerful and the Te Arai situation is far more sensitive.

The Acting Prime Minister should invite the proper authorities to investigate and Parker should again stand down in the meantime.

But the Acting PM jumped to parker’s defence in Parliament today. Question 1:

Hon Paula Bennett: How can he have confidence in the Minister in charge of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, David Parker, when it has been reported he has close personal relationships with high-end property developers who have sought exemptions from the bill?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that we inherited that deal from a former Minister Steven Joyce, who did not go through the consultation process, and if Amy Adams knew anything about the law she would know that full well. That being the case, Treasury gave us one set of advice, and the Speaker referred to a separate set of advice. As a consequence, we’ve acted on the Speaker’s advice.

The issue also came up in Question 3:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister: under this visionary and responsible policy, what proportion of New Zealand homes will no longer be able to be purchased by a foreign buyer outbidding a New Zealander?

Hon DAVID PARKER: There are currently 1.8 million homes in New Zealand, and more than 20,000 new homes will be built over the next year. Under this law, foreigners cannot buy any of the 1.8 million existing homes and can only purchase a fraction of the 20,000 new homes that would be built and would then have to either on-sell them or lease them to New Zealanders. The bill as reported back from select committee ensures that more than 99 percent of New Zealand homes will not be able to be sold to foreigners.

David Seymour: Was the bill’s process subject to any time pressure due to the need to pass it before the CPTPP is ratified?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that notwithstanding his proximity and the Government’s proximity to Mr Thompson, this is evidence that the Government is not corruptible on this matter and would somewhat suggest that Mr Thompson was far more successful with the previous Government?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to allow the Minister to answer the question. I am going to deduct two supplementary questions from the Opposition for the interjections from the acting shadow Leader of the House and the finance spokesperson.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The involvement of either Mr Thompson or Mr Lewis in this had no effect on my decision. The advice we had received from Treasury to the select committee, based on public submissions that were heard by all, was that this was an iwi-based development that had suffered interminable delays, and we had some sympathy for their position—

Hon Amy Adams: Iwi-based?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, that is as it was described to me, Amy Adams, and the paper trail will show that. The paper trail will show that. We had some sympathy for that position, and so we were willing to agree a transitional provision. We wanted it to be tight because we didn’t want there to be exemptions up and down the land, which is why the other regulation-making power is narrow, so that if future Governments want to unwind the ban on foreign buyers, they’re going to have to do it by primary legislation and not sneak it through by ministerial discretion.

Most ordinary people will roll their eyes at this if they take any notice at all, but some seem to thing it could be a big deal.

 

Foreign buyer rules relaxed

Prior to getting into Government Labour talked up the effect of foreign buyers on the New Zealand housing market, and copped a lot of criticism for their ‘Chinese sounding names’ claims. They were also accused of exaggerating the impact of foreign buyers – and this has turned out to be true with foreign buyers being just 3% in recent statistics.

Once in power Labour restricted foreign buyers despite warnings of what that would do to discourage new housing developments. They have now partly backtracked.

RNZ:  Government relaxes rules on foreign buyer ban

The government’s overseas buyers’ ban on New Zealand homes has been softened, with some multi-storey apartment buildings now being exempted.

New Zealand officials and minister have also been negotiating with Singapore as the ban contravenes agreements between the two countries – that has now been resolved with Singapore securing an exemption, along with Australia.

Since the legislation has gone through select committees the government has acknowledged some fish hooks, that may have actually put the brakes on housing supply in Auckland.

Broadly, they apply to developers concerned about not being able to complete big projects if they can’t sell individual apartments to foreign buyers.

Another issue was overseas corporates getting caught up in the ban when they wanted to buy residential land – for example to build cell phone towers.

They were valid concerns, Trade Minister David Parker said.

“The advice we had from officials was that if we didn’t allow investment in apartment buildings then the whole complex was more likely not to proceed so there would be fewer purchase choices for New Zealanders,” Mr Parker said.

Parker has admitted they rushed to implementation of the changes and have had to reconsider when it became apparent it was having an adverse effect on trying to get more houses and apartments built.

Under the new regime, overseas investors would be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

The new rules allowed foreign buyers to purchase apartments ‘off the plan’ but they had to sell them once built. They can now retain ownership, but can’t live in them themselves.

This seems weird, especially when the government says they want to get more Kiwis into home ownership.

And the changes announced yesterday are still being criticised.

Phil Twyford in Opposition in 2016: Foreign buyers’ data selective and ineffective

The Government’s newly released foreign buyer data doesn’t give an accurate picture because it was collected at a time when offshore speculators had temporarily deserted the market, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says.

“The Government is out of touch with the 70 per cent of New Zealanders that support Labour’s policy to ban offshore speculators from buying existing homes. National should back my Bill when it comes before Parliament next month, instead of supporting foreign speculators against the interests of Kiwi first homebuyers,” Phil Twyford says.

Twyford as Housing Minister in December 2017: Ban on overseas speculators a step closer

“This Government welcomes foreign investment in houses to add to our housing supply,” Phil Twyford says.

“However, purchases of homes by offshore speculators push first home-buyers and families out of the housing market.”

Phil Twyford says the legislative changes demonstrate the Government’s determination to make it easier for New Zealanders to buy their first home.

“We expect the law to be passed early next year fulfilling a key pledge in our 100 Day Plan. The previous National government said it couldn’t be done without breaching trade agreements. They just didn’t try and in doing so, they put foreign buyers ahead of New Zealanders.

“This Government prioritises home ownership and housing affordability for all New Zealanders. This Bill will ensure that house prices are set by New Zealand-based buyers, not international buyers,” Phil Twyford says.

The National opposition now say: Twyford’s numbers badly wrong on foreign buyers

“When challenged on the AM Show today and faced with official statistics, Phil Twyford failed to defend his previous stance that foreigners – particularly Chinese – dominated New Zealand’s property market,” Mrs Collins says.

“He originally claimed that 30 per cent of homes in New Zealand were being sold to foreigners. In the face of irrefutable evidence – he could not defend those numbers.

“Official statistics released yesterday show foreign house buyers make up just three per cent of New Zealand’s residential property market, exactly what the previous National Government maintained.

“In the lead up to the election Labour and Phil Twyford ran a scare campaign claiming buyers with ‘Chinese sounding names’ were not real New Zealanders deserving of a home and were responsible for ‘pricing first-home buyers out of the market’.

RNZ: Overseas house buyer problem ‘was never real’

Many developers are still opposed to a ban on the sale of existing homes to foreigners despite a slackening of the proposed new rules.

Only a fraction of New Zealand’s housing stock is foreign-owned and there are developers who think banning or restricting that investment discriminates.

In the first draft of the Overseas Investment Amendment bill, overseas buyers could buy apartments off the plans, but would have to sell them once the building was completed.

The new draft has softened that, now allowing developers to sell up to 60 percent of their apartments off-plan, without the requirement for buyers to sell within a year.

Official figures show nationally 3 percent of people who bought residential property in the last quarter didn’t hold New Zealand citizenship or resident visas.

Mr Church and other developers believe these figures prove the whole law should be scrapped.

“It indicates that the hyperbole around this issue being a much larger problem is just that, it was never real.”

Interestingly Twyford didn’t feature in yesterday’s announcement, it came from David Parker as Associate Finance Minister.

Foreign buyer screening law reported back

The Bill putting in place the Government’s policy of banning overseas buyers of existing houses has been reported back to Parliament by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Under the new regime, overseas investors will be able to invest in new housing, particularly apartments, new rentals, and homes available to purchase under rent-to-own or shared-equity arrangements.

“This will help first home buyers to get their foot on the property ladder,” David Parker said.

All permanent residents and resident visa holders who spend the majority of their time in New Zealand will be able to purchase homes under the regime without obtaining consent.

Australian and Singapore citizens and residents will be treated the same as New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Australia was always a special case. Singapore was not happy with the initial changes and also pushed for an exemption.

 

 

 

EU to start trade talks with New Zealand, Australia

The European Union has announced it will open trade talks with new Zealand and Australia in June.

Reuters: EU agrees to start Australia, New Zealand trade talks

European Union countries cleared the way on Tuesday for the bloc to begin free trade talks with Australia and New Zealand in a drive to forge new alliances as trade tensions with the United States increase.

The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 28 EU members, said EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom would visit both countries to open talks in June before negotiators convene in Brussels in July for a first round of discussions.

The EU forecasts that ambitious and comprehensive agreements could boost its exports to the two countries by a third in the long term, although there are caveats about opening up EU markets to farm produce such as butter and beef.

The bloc is the third largest trade partner of both Australia and New Zealand.

Trade Minister David Parker: EU and New Zealand to start free trade talks

A free trade deal between New Zealand and the European Union (EU) has taken a major step forward with the announcement overnight that the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council has approved its negotiating mandate.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker has welcomed the news, saying it opens the way for a free trade deal with one of the largest economies in the world that will boost jobs and incomes.

“Credit must go to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern whose strong advocacy for New Zealand’s interests during her recent trip to Europe helped tip the balance,” David Parker said.

“It is also an endorsement of our strong backing for the talks as the next priority on our extensive free trade agenda, that includes the CPTPP, the Pacific Alliance and RCEP.

“These negotiations offer significant economic gains for New Zealand and the EU. They are an example of like-minded countries working together at a time when the world faces a rising tide of protectionism,” David Parker said.

“The EU is our third largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth more than $20 billion. Even excluding the UK, our trade with the EU is worth about $16 billion annually.

“Our recently-announced inclusive and progressive Trade for All agenda aims to benefit all citizens – an approach in line with the EU.

“At the start of negotiations, we’ll be releasing a package of information outlining our negotiating priorities for this agreement and how we will be engaging with New Zealanders as negotiations progress,” David Parker said.

A good step in the right direction with the EU on trade, but with 28 countries involved it will take some time to negotiate and approve, if successful.

Environment Minister wants to regulate to force cow destocking

Yesterday the Environment Minister David Parker said in a Q&A interview that environmental regulations were needed to push down the number of cows in New Zealand.

Asked whether regulations would force farmers to destock Parker said “In some areas, it will”.

He says that the Government has won the political battle in a representative democracy so can do what they want – but they still may need the support of NZ First.

Corin Dann You did promise a lot, in Opposition, on water and on cleaning up our rivers, making them swimmable. Will you deliver on that?

David Parker Most certainly. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to fight for environmental causes. This is my last time through cabinet, and I’ll have failed as a politician if I don’t use my position now to stop this getting…

Corin Dann So, what does success look like?

David Parker Success, in the short term, looks like stopping the degradation getting worse everywhere; within five years, having measureable improvements; and then, over the succeeding generation, getting back to where we used to be.

Corin Dann So an admirable goal, but the question is — how will you do it? Now, you have a— you’ve talked about beefing up the current guidelines, the national policy statement on water. How far will you go? And I guess the key question is here — will you cap the number of cows that can be in a certain paddock, depending on nutrient levels? In other words, potentially force farmers to destock?

David Parker Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.

Corin Dann But it will have the same effect, though, won’t it?

David Parker In some areas, it will. I mean, that’s one of the really difficult issues that we’ve got work being done on at the moment by both my own ministry, but the Land and Water Forum and various NGOs. How do you allocate the right to discharge nutrient where you’ve got more than the environment can sustain between those who are currently doing it and those who want to do it with undeveloped land?

And Parker said that farmers would not be compensated:

Corin Dann …you’re going to have to force some farmers in some areas, depending on those conditions, to destock. Now, does that open up you do legal action? Do they get compensation?

David Parker No, you don’t compensate people for stopping pollution. Just because you could pollute last year doesn’t mean to say you should be allowed to do it or paid to stop doing it.

This may help the environment, but what about regional economies?

Corin Dann Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

David Parker We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise.

I wonder if they have done an analysis of what the environmental effects would be. Maybe that’s very difficult to model too, so they just do what they think might work and too bad for the farmers affected.

Corin Dann But how are you going to make farmers change if they don’t want to?

David Parker Well, the economics will drive that change where there is a high-value land use. Where economics don’t, regulation will.

There’s only three ways to change behaviour — education, regulation and price.

We fought an election on this issue. We’ve got a representative democracy. We’ve won the political battle. Now it’s about implementation. Most of the farming sector agree with that. There is the occasional outlier. One of the Federated Farmers heads from the Wairarapa during the last election denied that dairy farming caused pollution of rivers. So there are some people who are in denial. Now, those people will have to be regulated to do the right thing, because they may not be willing to do it voluntarily. That’s the purpose of environmental regulation.

I think there is fairly universal agreement that the environment needs to be treated and protected better.

We’ve got a representative democracy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Parker has won the political battle yet.

Labour may not care about forcing some farmers out of business, and the Greens have  wanted lower cow numbers, but National and probably NZ First could be quite reluctant to impact too severely on farming in the regions.

This wasn’t covered by the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. The only related mentions:

Environment

  • If the Climate Commission determines that agriculture is to be included in the ETS,
    then upon entry, the free allocation to agriculture will be 95% but with all revenues from
    this source recycled back into agriculture in order to encourage agricultural innovation,
    mitigation and additional planting of forestry.
  • No resource rentals for water in this term of Parliament.
  • Higher water quality standards for urban and rural using measurements which take into
    account seasonal differences.

So no agreement on destocking regulations. Of course they have kept there more detailed agreement secret.

Q&A – David Parker on farming and the environment

This morning David Parker was questioned about environmental issues, the science involved in addressing problems, and possible effects on farming.

It’s worth checking out on +1 or when it becomes available online. Parker was informative at times, but looked sheepish when talking about tenure reviews.

The panel includes Chris Allen of Federated Farmers, who says that he and farmers share many of the same environmental aims that Parker is talking about. How and how quickly are key questions.