In the past few years, we’ve all faced the crisis of a century. New Zealand navigated Covid better than most because our response put people first. But we know it’s not just how you lead a country through a crisis that matters, it’s how you lead a country out of one as well.
We’ve supported more than 200,000 Kiwis through our free apprenticeships and trades training programmes, and we’re seeing more people move into jobs through successful initiatives like Mana in Mahi and Flexi-wage. We’ve also rebalanced the country’s immigration settings, ensuring we have the skilled workers needed to get the job done now, as well as setting us on a more resilient path forward. With our re-opening to the world and with Kiwi exports in high demand, we’re continuing to position New Zealand globally as a place to visit, trade with, study and invest in.
And with borders opening up again, it was a real privilege last month, after more than two years of zooms and online events, to lead a delegation of cross-party MPs to visit four national parliaments (Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and Czech Republic), one Federal (Bavaria) and the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Our exchanges covered a wide range of topics from trade agreements to protection of the environment, climate change and the importance of collaboration and sharing of best practices, especially in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and global pressures that are leading to rising inflation rates and other tensions. New Zealand’s contribution in supporting Ukraine was acknowledged and appreciated in all the Parliaments we visited.
This was a great opportunity to continue strengthening our relationships with like-minded countries.
The visit coincided with the Prime Minister signing-off on the free trade agreement with the European Union, which will boost our economy, enable NZ businesses to grow, and unlock one of the world’s biggest markets of 450 million people.
Our visit also showed that New Zealanders are not alone in facing challenges from global pressures. Right now, inflation is pushing up prices around the world. The annual inflation of the European Union: 9.6% (up from 2.2% last year), Lithuania 20.5%, Latvia 19.2%, Czechia 16.6%, Netherlands 10% and Germany 8.2%.
Times are tough for many Kiwis, but it was good to see that our median weekly earnings from wages and salaries jumped by 8.8%, the largest annual increase in nearly 25 years and well ahead of inflation at 7.3%. There’s no easy fix for the cost of living, but we’ve taken a range of actions to ease the pressure everyone’s feeling and will continue to do so.
I welcomed the decision of the Minister not to grant the North Shore Aero Club airport authority status. Having raised the concerns of the community, including those of the Dairy Flat School, I found the Minister to be receptive and willing to listen. Also listening is the Environment Court where mana whenua and community groups like Fight the Tip Save the Dome are presenting evidence on the concerns about the environmental and cultural impact the proposed landfill would have on this area. Let’s hope for a good outcome here too.