2018 has been a huge year for the Government. I’m honoured to be part of a team that stepped up and started to put things right for all New Zealanders. We’re delivering real gains for real people. There’s much work to be done, and we’re getting on with the job.
Locally, you’ll have seen $665m in roading improvements, kicking off with safety improvements on SH2, funding school improvements, and over 1,300 jobs added under our strong economy.
Nationwide, the economy is strong, with the lowest unemployment in ten years at 3.9% and more jobs than ever before with 73,000 extra jobs delivered in our first year of Government (from September 2017 to September 2018). Plus a healthy rainy-day surplus, and the best economic growth numbers in years and higher growth forecasts than the US, UK and Australia. We’re managing the country’s debt responsibly, and making sound investments for the future. We’re building an economy that’s growing and working for all of us.
From the West Coast to the East Coast, from Southland to Northland, we’re working hard in the regions. Provincial Growth Fund initiatives are looking out for communities and the environment – creating jobs, planting trees, supporting farmers, and protecting our waterways, wildlife, and forests. We’ve approved over regional 100 growth projects already and planted over 60 million trees, all of which will help our regions to prosper.
We’re helping businesses innovate across the country with our research and development tax incentive, and we’re ensuring we are equipped to transition to a clean, green carbon neutral economy.
Under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, we’re making sure New Zealand is the best country in the world to be a child. Our Families Package boosted the incomes of 384,000 families by around $75 a week, Jacinda’s own Child Poverty Reduction Bill was introduced, and we passed the Family Violence Bill.
We were excited to be there when the first families moved into their Kiwibuild homes in October. Everyone deserves an affordable, warm, dry home and almost 4,000 more are under contract right now.
Investing in teachers, resources, and fit-for-purpose classrooms will make sure all kids have access to an education that works for them; so they can reach their potential. This year we approved 1,500 new teaching places and started work building or rebuilding over 200 new classrooms. In total, we have pledged over $1 billion for education initiatives since we came into Government.
In health, we’re getting on with fixing the run-down hospitals, looking after nurses and caregivers, and we’ve cut the cost of visiting a GP for around 600,000 Kiwis. We’ve also made visits to the Doctor free for all under 14 year olds. We’re overhauling New Zealand’s mental health system to ensure everyone is able to get the help they need, when they need it.
There’s so much more that I’m proud of. We’ve delivered more police and a lower crime rate. Foreign speculators are out of our housing market. We’re paying into the Super Fund again so New Zealanders can be secure in retirement. We’ve raised the minimum wage. We’ve extended Paid Parental Leave.
Next year we’re planning on doing even more. But for now, I hope you all have a well-deserved, safe, restful, and happy festive break. Enjoy the sun, and bring on 2019!