By Brook Sabin with NZN
Prime Minister John Key has again focussed on the economy in his ‘state of the nation’ speech, announcing that thousands of extra apprentices will be trained for the Christchurch rebuild.
At Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium, Mr Key revealed that the Government will work on a new initiative to expand and improve apprenticeship training.
“As a result of these changes, and stimulated by the boom in construction and other trades that is already underway in Christchurch, we estimate that around 14,000 additional apprentices will start training over the next five years, over and above the numbers previously forecast, “ Mr Key says.
Currently the Government’s apprenticeship scheme, Modern Apprenticeships, is only available for people who begin their training between the ages of 16 and 21.
But the new scheme, called New Zealand Apprenticeships, will be open to anyone, regardless of age.
Overall subsidy payments for the scheme will increase by $12 million in the first year.
The Government will also offer an incentive to get people into the scheme by giving the first 10,000 new apprentices who enrol after 1st April 2013 $1,000 towards their tools and off-job course costs, or $2000 in priority construction trades.
The Prime Minister has also signalled housing as a major issue for 2013.
It follows Labour’s announcement last year that it would build 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years under a scheme called KiwiBuild, and the Green Party’s announcement yesterday which would see an effective rent-to-own scheme alongside KiwiBuild.
John Key says the Government is working on a further stage of Resource Management Act reforms, which will be released in the next few months.
“I want to see big improvements in this area and it’s going to be a high priority for the Government this year.”
But Labour and the Greens say that approach is simply tinkering around the edges.
‘Big opportunities for NZ’
Mr Key is forecasting a drop in employment and says high commodity prices are likely to hold up.
"New Zealand faces some big opportunities […]Trade and investment links are increasingly with Asia, which is the fastest growing region in the world,” he says.
Over the course of this year, Mr Key says the Government will launch new investment initiatives, more funding for research and measures to cut business costs.
The Resource Management Act will also be the focus of the Government axe and Mr Key says changed are on the way over the next few months.
“It's ridiculous that developers can wait six to 18 months for a resource consent [and that] we allow councils to charge whatever fees they want and it's ridiculous that we allow them to demand almost anything as a condition for a consent.”
Main points from Key’s speech
- Apprenticeship training boost with 14,000 new places over the next five years
- Resource Management Act changes to speed up housing development
- Unemployment forecast to fall this year and high commodity prices to continue
- Government will step in if councils don't change their planning processes
- Economy will be "front and centre" of the government's agenda during 2013
- More funding for research and development
- Government aims to make New Zealand "a magnet for investment" and cut business costs
- Plan to partially sell two state-owned energy companies this year
- Domestic construction boom to be centred on the $30 billion Christchurch rebuild.