Prime Minister's Statement at the Opening of Parliament

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister

Fifteen months ago, in the Speech from the Throne, the Coalition Government outlined an ambitious programme designed to build a stronger and fairer country for all New Zealanders. Looking back over that time, we are proud of what has been achieved. There remains much to do.

We have begun putting children and families at the heart of our programme, lifting family incomes, backing the regions, making doctors’ visits more affordable, rebuilding hospitals and schools, and beginning the shift to an environmentally sustainable economy.

As 2019 begins the economy is performing above expectations, with near historic low unemployment, and rising wages and targeted support through the Families’ Package.

It is a programme that represents the shared vision and priorities of three parties – Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party – dedicated to acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders. Together the Speech from the Throne and the commitments in the Coalition agreement and confidence and supply agreement continue to underpin the Government’s work programme.

The Government has demonstrated a new kind of leadership, proving that it is possible to be responsible stewards of the economy, while advancing concepts like compassion and kindness.

We have strong fundamentals and are well prepared, but we need to be realistic about the risks to the global economy. Now is the time to take the foundations we have and to build on them. Now is the time to ensure we not only build greater resilience into our economy, but that we modernise it too. That is what the Government’s policy agenda for 2019 delivers.

As we enter our second full year we continue to advance the Coalition Government’s long- term blueprint for a better New Zealand built around three key themes:

  • To build a productive, sustainable economy that works for everyone and is fit for the 21st Century.
  • To improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and their families.
  • To take a new approach to leadership, focussing on long term issues.

New Zealand today has solid underlying economic fundamentals. The Coalition Government is on track to deliver better outcomes for all New Zealanders through more productive, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Treasury forecasts GDP growth on average of about 3 per cent in the coming couple of years. We have begun to rebalance the economy away from its undue reliance on speculation and immigration. Net migration, previously a key driver of growth, has fallen by more than 20,000 from its peak in 2016. The property speculation market has cooled and this has resulted in a steadier housing market.

We are ensuring New Zealanders are better off. Inflation remains low and steady. Wages are rising faster than the cost of living, but we acknowledge many New Zealanders are doing it tough. More families will benefit from the Government’s Families Package as the Best Start payments are available for the first full year and full entitlement for the winter energy payments will be available for the first time. Raising the minimum wage means those hard- working Kiwis on the lowest incomes will share more in our growth.

Unemployment of 4.3 per cent is the second lowest in a decade, and it is forecast to remain at this low level. But while hiring intentions point to continued strength in the labour market in 2019, the market overall remains tight and some firms are facing challenges in finding both skilled and unskilled workers.

There are economic risks though from beyond our shores. The IMF is warning of an increased risk of a decline in global growth amid international trade tensions, a further slowing in China and the uncertainty caused by Brexit. Global trade growth has eased, with rising trade protectionism having adverse effects on confidence and investment plans around the world.

The Coalition Government is acutely aware of the risks posed by the global economy, and the need to ensure we are well prepared to withstand global uncertainty. The Government’s agenda ensures the country is well positioned to navigate these headwinds. For example, to help safeguard New Zealand against any risks we are continuing to progress an ambitious trade agenda that will benefit all New Zealanders.

Careful management of the government books also helps provide a buffer against any external shocks. We are meeting the Budget Responsibility Rules, which show that a healthy fiscal surplus is being maintained and net debt – which peaked at over 25 per cent under the previous Government is now forecast to be down to 19 per cent of GDP by 2021/22 - is being reliably managed.

Our prudent supervision of the books provides us with the ability to make important investments in vital public services and aging infrastructure. This has been recognised by the rating agencies with S&P recently delivering their strongest assessment on New Zealand since September 2011, upgrading their outlook on New Zealand’s AA foreign and AA+ local currency credit ratings up to ‘positive’ from ‘stable’.

The work of this Government is split into three key themes: a growing economy, the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families, and the type of leadership we are committed to providing. Each theme is underpinned by four priorities, which this year will continue to provide the focus for our policy and legislative programme.

The Coalition Government wants this country to be smarter in how we work. The aim is an economy that produces and exports higher value goods and that makes sure that all New Zealanders share in the rewards of economic growth.

That is why the first priority of our economic theme is to grow and share more fairly New Zealand’s prosperity.

While wages overall are growing, inequality in incomes persists. The bottom 40 per cent of households earn only around 20 per cent of income, and hold five per cent or less of household wealth.

Last year the Families Package came into effect and by the time it is fully implemented in 2021 it will boost the incomes of 385,000 families by $75 a week. This year we will continue focussing on creating jobs and growing incomes.

In April the minimum wage will rise to $17.70 an hour to ensure 209,200 workers and their families benefit from the growing economy. This is another step towards a $20 an hour minimum wage from April 2021.

The Coalition Government will also pass the Equal Pay Act this year to address historic inequities in pay for women, and will consider the recommendations of the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group, which was set up as part of our commitment to improving the incomes and working conditions of those New Zealanders who earn the least.

We will be addressing structural issues in our tax and welfare systems.

The Tax Working Group, set up to improve the structure, fairness, and balance of the tax system, has delivered its final report. It will be released on 21 February, and the Government will respond in April.

Independent experts have also been looking at reform of the welfare system, with the broad objective of reducing inequalities by ensuring all New Zealanders have an adequate income and standard of living. The report of this Welfare Expert Advisory Group is due shortly and we will carefully consider their recommendations.

We will continue improving the competitiveness and productivity of our economy, by progressing the Reserve Bank Act review, the second phase of reforms to the Overseas Investment Act regime, competition law reform, and regulatory reform of insurance contracts and responding to the recent Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Financial Markets Authority reports on conduct and culture in the banking and life insurance industries.

A review of retail electricity pricing will report back this year with options for reform. The Government is committed to affordable power for families and these options will be a step towards that goal.

The Coalition Government will further stimulate economic growth through the introduction of a research and development tax credit in April, aimed at lifting research and development expenditure. The 15 per cent tax credit will benefit an estimated 2,000 businesses and the wider economy by spurring innovation and fostering new ideas.

A sustainable, clean transport system is essential to supporting a more modern and growing economy.

This year our $4 billion package in public transport, rapid transit and rail will continue to be advanced. We will also complete the Future of Rail review to provide a new vision for rail over the next decade and beyond, and partner with local government to invest $1.4 billion to make more local roads and state highways safer through the Safe Network Programme.

We will keep working to modernise transport services in Auckland, by progressing rail from Māngere to the inner city, to give our largest city a world-class, environmentally friendly transport network. Central government and Auckland Council will maintain their joint efforts to provide vital transport infrastructure through the Auckland Transport Alignment Project.

And we also expect to make further headway on the Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail project and to investigate other regional rail opportunities.

As part of our commitment to industries that contribute significantly to the economy, the Coalition Government will ensure that the future of the racing industry is secured so that it can flourish. After a ministerial advisory committee reports at the end of February on the Messara Report, the Cabinet will consider legislation to modernise the industry.

Our economic theme’s second priority, supporting thriving, sustainable regions, will see us continue to work this year with the regions to help them succeed.

The Provincial Growth Fund, one of Labour and New Zealand First’s coalition agreement commitments, is a game changer for long-neglected parts of New Zealand. It is helping to boost regional economies through the fund’s $3 billion investment in new jobs and opportunities. Currently, the Provincial Growth Fund is investing in 166 projects at a cost of $700 million so far. It is estimated more than 10,000 jobs will be created by these projects.

We will continue to implement our One Billion Trees programme, which is supported by the Provincial Growth Fund. In addition to protecting the environment and mitigating climate change, this programme has other important objectives such as creating jobs, optimising land use and supporting Māori aspirations.

The Coalition Government will continue investing in extending the reach of fast broadband to those on farms and more remote parts. And a recently announced initiative to improve internet connectivity for marae and rural areas will start to be given effect to this year.

Reliable transport routes are critical in our regions, some of which are hampered by difficult terrain. Under the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme, our neglected regional roads are receiving $5.8 billion of funding over three years, a $600 million increase compared to the last Government. A further $300 million is being invested in other regional transport projects to create new economic opportunities and make travelling safer.

The working group on the Upper North Island supply chain strategy will report back to the Government this year on priorities for investment in rail, roads, ports and other supporting infrastructure over the next 30 years. This report will inform decision-making on the infrastructure needed to support growth in the wider Auckland-Northland region, the country’s most populous.

We will continue to pursue the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis. It is critical that we deal effectively with this devastating disease and protect the productivity of the country’s vital beef and dairy sectors. In the wake of this issue, the Government will continue its efforts to overhaul New Zealand’s biosecurity legislative settings to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The third priority in the Coalition Government’s economic toolbox is to govern responsibly with a broader measure of success.

This year we will continue to manage the books in accordance with our Budget Responsibility Rules. As described above, these rules help to cushion us against any international uncertainty. The rules mean that we will continue to meet our debt, spending and surplus targets.

A key focus this year will be the first wellbeing Budget in May. The objective of the wellbeing Budget is to put people at the heart of government decisions. Economic growth, as important as it is, will not alone guarantee improvements to New Zealanders’ living standards. We want to take a broader approach that uses the full range of factors that affect the quality of people’s lives. We want to ensure the Government is measuring what matters to New Zealanders. It also ensures we are targeting taxpayers’ money to where it will have the greatest benefit.

The wellbeing Budget will require Ministers and departments to change their thinking away from appropriations and outputs, toward outcomes for New Zealanders. For the first time, they will have to work together to show that their Budget bids lead to intergenerational benefits.

It introduces new ways of setting targets and tracking the progress of our country based on what enables us to live fulfilling lives – our material wealth; our capability as individuals, families and communities; the health of our environment; and the strength of our communities.

With this in mind, the five Budget priorities this year are at the heart of embedding a wellbeing focus. They are:

  • create opportunities for transitioning to a sustainable low emissions economy;
  • lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;
  • supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation;
  • reducing child poverty, improving child and youth wellbeing, including addressing family violence; and
  • supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, particularly those under 24.

Options to reform the State Sector Act and the Public Finance Act will also be advanced to embed the wellbeing approach into the policy process and machinery of government.

The fourth priority underpinning our economic theme is the transition to a clean, green and carbon neutral New Zealand.

A key policy priority will be to support a just transition for workers in industries that need to reduce emissions. Initiatives will continue to be developed to support the creation of jobs in sectors that are carbon-free or carbon sinks, such as forestry.

The Coalition Government is part of a global consensus that ranks climate change as the greatest environmental challenge facing the planet. There is a pressing need to cut our emissions of greenhouse gases, or warming will disrupt the climate which our primary industries depend upon, and sea-level rise will affect our coastal communities as well as other profound changes.

As part of the confidence and supply agreement, this Government will introduce legislation to set a target of a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050, with legally binding emissions reduction targets and a framework for establishing carbon budgets to keep New Zealand on track to this goal. An independent Climate Commission will be established to provide advice, focusing on policy development and initiatives in transport, energy and primary industries.

We recognise the need to take tangible action now to meet the challenge of climate change so we will also progress work to lower the emissions of our transport fleet, consider including agriculture into the ETS framework and develop options to assist in meeting our renewable electricity target.

The Government will also stimulate new private sector investment in low-emissions industries through the newly established Green Investment Finance Limited, with $100 million start-up capital. More and more investment dollars globally are looking for clean, sustainable ventures to invest in. We want New Zealand to attract its share of that investment capital. The fund will also provide businesses with a pathway to being part of efforts to confront the greatest environmental challenge facing the planet.

This ambitious plan to take real action on climate change will involve all New Zealanders.

This Government will act as a role model, showing leadership by requiring state-owned enterprises and other government organisations to pursue low-carbon options and technologies, including electric vehicles for government fleets.

The Government will continue to progress measures that tackle the other environmental challenges that we face. We are increasing the area of land that is subject to pest control to better protect our native forests and wildlife. We are also focussed on improving the quality of our waterways and this year will progress a freshwater National Policy Statement and National Environment Standard. Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs, and additional waste minimisation initiatives. The Government will also advance public consultation on our objective of no new mines on conservation land.

From 1 July supermarkets and other retailers are required to stop supplying single-use plastic bags. They are an environmental menace and too often end up polluting our oceans with disastrous consequences for marine life. The Government will also continue to advance proposals to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries.

The work on our plan’s second theme, improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families, is also supported by four priorities. The first of these is to ensure everyone, who is able to, is earning, learning, caring or volunteering.

The Coalition Government believes that everyone should have the opportunity to contribute to their communities in ways that are meaningful to them. We see economic growth as fundamental to social inclusion, and social inclusion as a contributor to economic growth.

Employment in New Zealand continues to be strong. The number of people working has reached an all-time high, and unemployment has fallen to historic lows. Today there are 75,000 more people in work than when we came into Government. But there is more to do to reduce the number of our young people not in employment, education or training, especially those who leave school with negligible or no qualifications.

This year we will continue to expand Mana in Mahi, an innovative training scheme for 18-24 year olds under which wage subsidies are paid to enable employers to take on apprentices.

Alongside this, we will implement changes to ensure that our immigration system recognises that different regions needs different skills. We will work with industry, and education providers in our regions to ensure that we back kiwi workers and use immigration to support local communities.

An important focus will also be ensuring our education system is better prepared for the disruption we are facing from increasing uptake from technology and climate change.

Access to training and retraining opportunities where the skills provided are directly linked to the needs of the economy will be of even greater importance.

We remain committed to further investments in education and to reducing the cost burden and barriers for New Zealanders seeking to train, retrain or upskill. The Government will also be advancing reforms to the vocational sector to arrest the declining state of the industry and also better position the sector to meet New Zealand’s skill needs for the future.

We will continue to work with business and union leaders through the Future of Work Tripartite Forum to develop future options to deal with the challenges in this area.

Early learning will be an area of focus in 2019. A draft plan, He taonga te tamaiti, sets the direction for the next 10 years and is open for consultation until March. The plan provides a vision that puts the focus back on quality, and ensures we are meeting the needs of all children and their families and whanau.

The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce has proposed far-reaching changes in the way our schools, are run, governed, and managed. Students, parents and educators have the opportunity to provide feedback until the beginning of April and we will make any decisions mid-year.

The second priority driving our efforts to improve wellbeing is supporting safer, healthier, more connected communities.

We are building a nation where people feel healthy, safe, and happy in their homes and wider communities, by improving access to affordable, quality healthcare, overhauling our mental health services and reducing crime.

Since coming to office the Coalition Government has made the cost of visiting the doctor much cheaper for nearly 600,000 New Zealanders, and we will continue to look at ways of making cost less of a barrier. On 1 December last year up to 540,000 Community Services Card holders saw the cost of visiting the doctor fall by an average of $20-$30. And 56,000 13-year-olds became eligible for free primary care.

Protecting the health of New Zealanders by improving the standard of drinking water is being accorded urgency. Following the inquiry into the Havelock North gastro outbreak, we resolved to work with councils to ensure water in New Zealand is supplied safely. This year we will pass the Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Bill, which is a step toward providing safer water supplies.

Mental health issues in New Zealand are a formidable challenge. A distressing number of young Kiwis struggle with anxiety and depression, which too often tragically ends in suicide. That is why addressing mental health is a Budget priority this year. Last November the Government received the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, and we intend to release an initial response in the first quarter of the year. Further initiatives will be advanced through the Budget process.

In 2019 we will also develop a regulatory framework for medical marijuana and continue to develop details to support a referendum on cannabis reform. Finally, a wide-ranging review of New Zealand’s health and disability system, designed to future-proof services, began last year and will provide an interim report by July.

There will be stronger focus on what works in crime prevention and rehabilitation. We will work hard to tackle organised crime which is a major cause of harm in the community. It is a driver of crimes such as family harm, robberies, and supplying and dealing drugs. At the same time combating suppliers and dealers, our approach to drugs will recognise more clearly that, for many users, treatment programmes are the best way forward to reduce the pain and cost that too many suffer as a result of drug abuse.

Some 7,000 fewer people were victims of crime in the year to last October. One of the most effective crime prevention tools is the visibility of Police in the community, so we are striving toward recruiting 1,800 additional sworn officers who will further safeguard our communities. We expect to have almost 40 per cent of the new officers in place by the end of the 2018/19 year.

A national strategy on eliminating family and sexual violence will be released to guide us in tackling these devastating and persistent problems. We have created a dedicated agency to drive a whole-of-government transformation of the family violence and sexual violence system.

The Coalition Government will this year announce initiatives aimed at improving New Zealand’s criminal justice system, moving away from American-style mega-prisons and approaches towards smarter ways to get offenders the services and support they need to come out of prison less likely to reoffend.

We have had success already, reducing the prison population down below 10,000 which it had exceeded in recent times.

Our third wellbeing priority is to ensure everyone has a warm, dry home.

This government inherited a housing crisis which will take years to resolve. We have begun addressing the national shortfall of 70,000 homes that we faced on taking office, and putting in place measures to provide emergency housing for those who cannot afford rental accommodation.

The Coalition Government strengthened the bright line test for taxing property speculators and introduced a ban on foreign buyers of residential homes. This year we will progress legislation to set up the Housing and Urban Development Authority, a new agency that will bring together land and the necessary infrastructure to increase the number of houses for New Zealanders.

We are seven months into our Kiwibuild programme, with its bold 10-year target of 100,000 homes and already we have over 10,000 homes contracted and committed to be built.

This year more first home buyers will be able to apply for a KiwiBuild home using the HomeStart grant and Welcome Home Loan because house price caps for new builds in areas outside the main centres are increasing by $50,000.

The scourge of homelessness in New Zealand will be further addressed. We have housed 1,900 more families in public homes and we will continue this year. It will take a strenuous effort over many years to end a problem which our predecessors had neglected. There will be further increases in the number of public housing tenancies. And the Government will also make sure that adequate public housing, transitional housing and Housing First places are available for people in need during the winter months.

Finally, we will continue to ensure New Zealanders have access to safe and healthy rentals. We will continue to support people to insulate their homes with the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, building on the $6.9 million we have contributed to homeowners for 3,612 insulation retrofits. We will also reform the Residential Tenancies Act and implement the healthy homes standards.

The Coalition Government’s fourth wellbeing priority is a commitment to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

We are lifting tens of thousands of children out of poverty and making New Zealand an even better place to grow up, and to raise a family.

Now that the Child Poverty Act has passed with near unanimous parliamentary support, the Government Statistician will publish baseline rates of child poverty and we will confirm our short-term and 10-year child poverty reduction targets. Budget 2019 will see the first reporting on the expected impact of the Budget on child poverty, and we will have more robust survey data thanks to our investment in the Household Economic Survey conducted by Statistics NZ.

In February next year we will be able to see the impact that this Government is having, including the impact of the Families Package, on the legislated child poverty measures.

Later this year we will release the first strategy for improving the wellbeing of all children in New Zealand, particularly those in poverty and at greater risk of poor outcomes.

As part of the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group will deliver its recommendations to the Government on an overhaul of the welfare system to ensure it is accessible and fair to all New Zealanders, and the Government will respond to those recommendations. Alongside this we will continue our work to transform Work and Income to improve the service it provides to beneficiaries and create a more compassionate and caring approach.

The Government that I lead is committed to building a better country that all New Zealanders can be proud of through modern, compassionate leadership that recognises the value of all our people. This theme has as its first priority an undertaking to deliver transparent, transformative and compassionate Government.

We want to ensure our institutions continue to be free of corruption. It will be a source of pride for all New Zealanders that we have again been ranked as having one of the least corrupt public sectors and judiciaries in the world, according to the latest scorecard of the Corruption Perceptions Index.

We are working to boost trust, transparency and participation in public services. From this month, Cabinet materials will be released proactively, so that people can see how we come to our decisions. Ministerial diaries will also be released proactively and published on the Beehive website, as part of our efforts to build trust and confidence in government and its decision makers.

Last year, we undertook consultation into a shift in the way the Public Service operates. The aim is to break down the silos and barriers and make it easier to access services, and for it to work as one joined up system to tackle the big, complex challenges facing New Zealand. We will advance this by introducing a new Public Service law, to replace the 30-year-old State Sector Act.

Issues of the past are being addressed.

The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions will begin hearing evidence next month, and will take four years to complete its work.

And we are continuing to prioritise the Pike River re-entry project with the next step being breaching of the 30-metre seal. A safe plan for re-entry and recovery has been progressed because the Coalition Government believes that it is the right thing to do.

We have also made great progress speeding up the Canterbury recovery – we’ve invested

$300 million to kick start the rebuild and solved thousands of outstanding EQC claims, and this year we want to continue the transition back to local leadership – giving Cantabrians power over their own future.

The Government will continue to give older New Zealanders the dignity and security they deserve. As set down in the agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, this year we will continue to develop a new generation SuperGold card, along with other steps to provide a suite of entitlements and concessions. Combined with the new Positive Ageing Strategy we will continue to ensure that our more senior New Zealanders are given the attention from Government they deserve

Our second priority under this theme is to build closer partnerships with Māori.

We will continue this year to work towards a closer, more enduring relationship between Māori and the government by listening and working together, and taking concrete steps to improve services and outcomes for tangata whenua.

Remaining Treaty of Waitangi claims are expected to be completed with those who wish to settle within the next three years.

A new agency, Te Arawhiti: The Office for Māori Crown Relations, was launched in December. It will help facilitate the next step in our relationship with Maori - moving beyond the settlement of grievances into what it means to work together in true partnership.

New initiatives will be progressed under the Budget 2019 priority of “lifting Māori and Pacific incomes and opportunities”.

The third priority in our commitment to making New Zealand proud is to value who we are as a country.

The Coalition Government will continue its commitment to celebrating our stories and our history by ensuring there is more quality local broadcast content – made by New Zealanders, for New Zealanders – and by securing the future of Te Reo Māori.

This year marks 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Europeans. A national commemoration for all New Zealanders is taking place. Tuia – Encounters 250 will provide us with a better understanding of our distinctive heritage in the Pacific, traditional navigational history, and the foundations of our nation.

We will continue to promote and support the arts in New Zealand, for the benefit of all New Zealanders, and to provide the means by which we can tell the stories that link our past and present. For example, the launch last year of the digital platform Te Tai Whakaea, means New Zealand’s Treaty settlement stories can now be told more widely – stories that shape our modern identity as a nation.

The fourth priority supporting the kind of government we want to be is to create an international reputation we can be proud of.

New Zealand has a proud tradition of standing up on the world stage and upholding our special values – be it opposing nuclear testing in the Pacific, protesting apartheid in South Africa or demanding and also taking action to halt the catastrophic effects of climate change.

That tradition continues under this Government. New Zealand recently ranked as first by the World Bank as one of the best places to do business and we continue to rank highly in Transparency International results.

This year the Coalition Government will continue to take steps to implement its Pacific Reset policy, aimed at rebuilding New Zealand’s standing in its Pacific neighbourhood, an area of high strategic significance to New Zealand. We have already announced extra staffing for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s posts in the Pacific and an increase in development assistance for Pacific countries.

New Zealand has a long and proud history of involvement in peacekeeping and peace support missions, as part of our commitment to the rules-based international order. Last year the Coalition Government extended deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to June 2019 and September 2019 respectively. This year we will consider options for these and future contributions.

This Government is continuing to build connections for our businesses, including small and medium enterprises, offshore, to increase prosperity. We will continue to make the case for collective action and multilateralism, and for trade barriers to be dismantled so that the benefits of trade are more evenly shared.

With the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) entering into force 65 per cent of New Zealand’s exports are now covered by free trade agreements. This Government has also announced the completion of negotiations on an upgraded Closer Economic Partnership with Singapore, and we’ve secured regulatory continuity for New Zealand exports to the United Kingdom through veterinary and mutual recognition agreements.

We are working to upgrade our free trade agreement with China, and hope to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year. We will also be pushing for additional, progressive free trade agreements to extend our coverage of exports and deliver benefits to all New Zealanders. New quality agreements, including with the European Union, the United Kingdom - when it is in a position to negotiate - the Pacific Alliance of Latin American countries, and Southeast Asian countries, can open up new overseas markets for our businesses and create more jobs at home.

Alongside all of this, we are also working to ensure we share the benefits of trade with all New Zealanders, through our Trade for All agenda.

The three parties that make up the Government believe in the potential of New Zealand. Despite signs of a troubled international outlook, New Zealand starts the year in an enviable position, relative to many.

Our economic fundamentals are strong. More people are in work, earning more for the work they do. We have already begun rebuilding public services, and investing in the social issues that are holding other nations back. And we have a proven economic plan which stands as a buffer against external shocks.

Over the course of the year, more will be put before this House than this statement outlines today.

But everything we do will be designed to fit with Coalition Government’s plan to improve the wellbeing of our people, and our environment, while building a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy that works for all.