Jul 17 2022

Greens, Act respond to extension of transport user relief policies

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The Green Party has welcomed today’s announcement of an extension of half-price public transport until January next year, while repeating its call to make public transport permanently free.

However the Greens criticised the extension of the fuel excise duty cut, also announced today.

“Subsiding fossil fuels by making petrol and diesel a little cheaper for half a year doesn’t make sense in 2022, when we need to make the transition to cleaner transport,” said Greens transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“This is the second time the government has extended the short-term subsidy to fossil fuels, when they could have invested in public transport and regional rail.”

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Meanwhile the Act Party has accused the government of “making it up as they go”, and having “kicked the petrol price discount down the road”.

“Act first called the cost of living crisis in December,” said party leader David Seymour. “The government finally admitted it in March, and the petrol and public transport discounts were rushed together when the government finally admitted there was a crisis. Now they’ve been extended for a second time.

“Labour’s policy also creates havoc with public transport providers. Auckland Transport, for example, had promoters in malls selling discounts designed to smooth the eventual return to full price fares. That marketing effort is now worthless,” he said.

Seymour reiterated his party’s call for the proceeds of the Emissions Trading Scheme to be returned to citizens, calling it “a simple and practical policy that would give the average family a $749 dividend without reducing a cent from any public service”.

Fuel tax cut, half-price public transport extended to end of January

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Cuts to fuel excise duty and road user charges have been extended until the end of January next year, along with the half-price public transport scheme.

First announced in March, the cuts and accompanying half-price transport were initially three-month measures, but they were extended another two months in this year’s budget.

The measures were set to expire at the end of August.

According to price-monitoring app Gaspy, the average price of 91 unleaded petrol nationwide is currently $3.01 a litre, reflecting rising prices for crude oil. The price surge this year has been driven by a number of factors including EU sanctions on Russian oil following the Ukraine invasion and increased demand for fuel as Covid restrictions ease internationally.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Finance minister Grant Robertson said high fuel prices are a global problem affecting both households and businesses in New Zealand, and the government had decided to again extend the relief programmes “because we want Kiwis to have some certainty over the coming months in the face of volatile prices at the pump”.

He said Treasury had estimated their combined impacts will reduce headline inflation by 0.5 percentage points in the June 2022 quarter.

“Even though many commentators are forecasting that inflation will peak in the June quarter, it is likely to stay for some time at levels higher than we have seen in recent years,” he said.

“We know that the rising price of fuel has a direct effect on inflation, and making these changes is a targeted approach to a root cause of the cost of living pressure being faced by Kiwi households.”

The consumer price index, which measures annual household inflation, was at 6.9% for the March quarter, a 32-year high. The June quarter CPI figures will be released tomorrow.

Covid-19 latest: 22 deaths, 733 in hospital, 6,223 community cases

Image: Toby Morris

The Ministry of Health is today reporting 6,223 community cases, 733 current hospitalisations, and 22 deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 9,803. This time last week it was 9,000.

The deaths of all 22 people occurred over the past four days. Five were from the Auckland region, two were from Waikato, one was from Lakes, two were from Hawke’s Bay, one from Taranaki; three from Whanganui, two were from MidCentral, one was from Wellington region, three were from Canterbury/West Coast, and two were from Southern.

Two were in their 40s, one in their 50s, one in their 60s, five were in their 70s, eight were in their 80s and five were aged over 90. Ten were women and 12 were men.

Reminder regarding masks

The Ministry of Health is reminding people that a mask remains one of the best measures to reduce transmission of infectious respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19.

As a general rule, the Ministry urges people to wear a mask in public indoor settings outside the home and in poorly ventilated spaces, or when it is hard to physically distance from other people.

You must wear a mask on public transport and at transport hubs like airports and bus stations, inside public venues like museums and libraries, when visiting a health care service, and inside retail businesses like supermarkets and shopping malls.

Masking up is particularly important when around more vulnerable members of the community, especially those who are older, those in aged residential care and healthcare settings where appropriate.

Nanaia Mahuta responds to ‘toxic trolling’ over nepotism allegations

Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta on Q&A, July 17, 2022

Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta has spoken about online abuse she’s received over accusations that she used her position to secure public service jobs for family members.

Last month it was revealed that Mahuta’s husband Gannin Ormsby, his nephew Tamoko and wife Waimirirangi had been selected for a rōpū convened by the Ministry of the Environment to research a mātaraunga Māori framework on waste management.

The ministry say the three were selected for their expertise in the topic, the Mahuta family connection was disclosed at the outset, and ministers weren’t involved in the selection process.

Nanaia Mahuta being interviewed. She's wearing a black shirt and black leather jacket
Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta on Q&A, July 17, 2022

Speaking to Jack Tame on Q&A this morning, Mahuta said any conflicts of interest arising during her time as a minister had been declared and managed appropriately in accordance with the cabinet manual.

The “toxicity” of the attacks on her had been “really challenging”, she said.

“I’ve stopped looking at them now, but they have been politically aligned advocacy groups that have said things and created a perception that has been harmful, unkind and damaging, leading to cartoons and memes and social media posts in commentary, which you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy actually.”

Asked whether the criticism had been stronger because she is Māori, Mahuta said she believed there were a number of factors, including being a “Māori woman in a space where it isn’t always easy”.

She said that while she was happy to be held accountable on the issues, “when you have criticisms coming from dark corners, closed rooms, people who hide behind pseudonyms, and you know, they’re politically motivated and they are attached to political parties, you just [have] to look to some internal fortitude as to the reason why that’s happening”.