What's in the Labour/NZ First agreement for businesses? Not much, so far

Details on the formal coalition deal signed between Labour and NZ First today.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and NZ First Leader Winston Peters signing their coalition agreement

A $1 billion regional economic development fund, a review and reform of the Reserve Bank Act and a $4 an hour minimum wage increase are just some of the policies the Labour/NZ First government plans.

NZ First and Labour will also work on a mechanism to clamp down on foreign buying of existing housing.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and NZ First leader Winston Peters this afternoon formally signed a coalition deal.

Ms Ardern – who will be sworn in as prime minister on Thursday – says the deal outlines a clear agenda – to prioritise regional development after “nine years of neglect.”

This will be done through a $1 billion per year Regional Development Fund.

Ms Ardern says the money from this will come from the $10 billion of unallocated spending Labour made room for in its fiscal plan.

“We are committed to rebuilding the regions,” the incoming prime minister says.

The fund will include “significant investment in regional rail” as well as other “large-scale capital projects” and “heavy investments” in forestry.

Ms Ardern also says there could be projects that require infrastructure bonds to fund them.

The new government will also “commission a feasibility study on the options for moving the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration.”

There is also a plan to increase the minimum wage from its current $15.75 an hour to $20 an hour by 2020.

“In our first 100 days, the first change that will be legislated is a $16.50 minimum wage starting in April 2018. From then we will use our discretion as a government to ensure the step changes are done in an appropriate time and appropriate way.”

One of the major hot button issues during the election campaign was on foreign ownership of New Zealand houses.

On this, Ms Ardern says the parties have come to an agreement on banning the purchase of existing homes by foreign buyers.

She says there are also plans for farmland and other critical infrastructure.

Pressed for details, she says one option would be using the Overseas Investment Office to query sales of over 5ha.

Asked about his perspective on this, Mr Peters says the NZ First and Labour perspectives on this matter line up “pretty closely.”

Ms Ardern indicated this was one of the reasons Kiwis were finding it hard to buy a house.

“We will make sure New Zealanders will have the ability to buy a decent, dry, affordable home in New Zealand – one of the steps towards that is making sure we deal with some of the demand,” she says.

That means clamping down on foreign buyers’ ability to buy in the housing market.

“We will find a mechanism to deliver that goal.”

On the Reserve Bank Act changes, Ms Ardern says that will come in the form of mandating the central bank to target employment as well as price stability, as well as establishing a governance board.

On immigration, the two parties will introduce measures to cut back the number of migrants by ensuring work visas reflect skills shortages and reducing low-quality international education courses. Though no numbers were included in the announcement, Ms Ardern confirmed the target was a reduction of up to 30,000 migrants - the same as Labour campaigned on but higher than NZ First had wanted.

Details in the NZ First coalition agreement with Labour, at a glance:

• Regional development: A $1 billion per year Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund
• Rail: Significant investment in regional rail
• Forestry: Re-establish the New Zealand Forestry Service, and plant 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme
• Auckland Port: Commissioning a feasibility study on moving the Ports of Auckland to Northport
• Biosecurity: A funding increase to Biosecurity NZ and a select committee inquiry into biosecurity
• Irrigation: Honour existing Crown irrigation investment commitments
• Foreign ownership: Changes to Overseas Investment Office criteria and sale of farm land (the 5ha limit). Confirmation of ban on foreigners buying existing houses, Create a register of foreign-owned land and housing
• Housing: Re-establish a Housing Commission
• Auckland Port: Commissioning a feasibility study on moving the remaining port to Northport
• Monetary policy:  Review and reform the Reserve Bank Act
• Minimum wage: Increase to $20 an hour by 2020, with the final increase to take effect in April 2021
• Tax: Increase penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion, and introduce a tax on exports of bottled water
• KiwiBank: Investigate KiwiBank's capability to become the government's bank on renewal of that contract
• Superannuation: Keep age of eligibility at 65 years
•Environment: Move to an emissions-free government-vehicle fleet by 2025/26, introduce a Zero Carbon Act and independent Climate Commission, which will consider including agriculture into the ETS, establish a tyre stewardship fund, pilot alternatives to 1080, work toward a Kermadec ocean sanctuary
• Immigration: Ensure work visas reflect skills shortages and cut down on low-quality international education courses, and take action on migrant exploitation, particularly international students
• Pike River: Commit to re-entry to Pike River mine
•Research and development: Increase R&D spending to 2% of GDP over 10 years
• Health: Re-establish the Mental Health Commission, annual free health checks for seniors with SuperGold cards, free doctors' visits for all under 14s, increasing the age for free breast screening to 74
•  Education: Restore funding for gifted students and Computers in Homes, pilot counsellors in primary schools, free driver training for all secondary school students, restart Te Kotahitanga teacher professional development
• Defence: Re-examine the Defence procurement programme
•Democracy: No new parliamentary building this term, an independent review of electoral processes and enrolments, a review of the parliamentary processes, and pass a 'Waka Jumping' bill
•Conservation: More funding for the Department of Conservation
•Law and Order: Work toward 1800 new police officers over three years, investigate a volunteer rural constabulary programme, increase funding for community law vntres, establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission
•Social Development: More funding for family violence networks, including Women's Refuge and Shakti, pilot a youth education, training and employment programme and provide 800 extra places for the LSV scheme. Introduce Ready for Work programmes.

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