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Governor-General sets out new Government's agenda

Claire Trevett, Adam Pearse, Michael Neilson, and Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 11:00am

Governor-General sets out new Government's agenda

Claire Trevett, Adam Pearse, Michael Neilson, and Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 11:00am

Labour leader Chris Hipkins and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will speak in the opening debate in Parliament from 3pm today.

Their speeches will follow two maiden speeches by new National MPs James Meager and Katie Nimon. The debate follows the ceremonial opening this morning, including the Governor General reading the Speech from the Throne.

That speech sets out the government’s promises and agenda for the year ahead. The new Government says it will drive down Government spending levels and focus on law and order.

The commitment was read by Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro in her speech from the throne, a speech written by the incoming Government setting out its priorities for the next term. The speech is read by Kiro at the state opening of Parliament.

Despite being read by Kiro, the speech should really be understood as the work of National, Act, and NZ First. The commitments in the speech are also found in the coalition agreements between the three parties.

Kiro said that the Government would achieve its spending promises by “restoring discipline to government spending”.

She said the Government would “reduce Core Crown expenditure as a proportion of the overall economy – with savings in government agencies targeted to deliver tax relief for hard-working, low-and-middle-income workers”.

The savings would be “informed by” the increase in back-office head counts in each agency since 2017, but Ministers will be expected to work with individual chief executives to achieve their respective savings targets.

State Opening of Parliament in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
State Opening of Parliament in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell


Kiro said the Government had already axed projects like the Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme. She said other projects would also be axed.

“The Government will also stop work on Industry Transformation Plans, the costly Income Insurance Scheme, Auckland’s Light Rail project, and Let’s Get Wellington Moving,” she said.

She said the new Government promised fuel taxes would be frozen, and landlords would have their ability to deduct interest costs from their tax bills restored.

“The Government will provide income tax relief to compensate for the increase in the cost of living, increase Working for Families tax credits, introduce the FamilyBoost tax credit to support young families with the cost of childcare, and widen eligibility for the independent earner tax credit,” Kiro said.

“These changes will see a median wage earner better off by at least $50 a fortnight - and more for many with children,” she said.’

Law and Order

Kiro reiterated the new Government’s promises on law and order. She said New Zealanders were “wearied and worried by brazen offending, particularly against retailers”.

“All New Zealanders are paying for this offending but those working in fear are bearing the highest personal cost,” she said.

Kiro said the Government would: ban gang patches; give Police the power to issue dispersal notices requiring gang members to immediately leave a public area; allow Police to issue Consorting Prohibition Notices to stop known gang offenders committing serious offences, and give Police power to issue Firearms Prohibition Orders.

The Sentencing Act would be made more punitive, and the “three strikes” rule would be restored, although with a “tighter definition of offences that qualify as strikes”.


On Education, Kiro said the Government would “require every primary and intermediate class to be taught an hour of reading, an hour of writing and an hour of maths, every day, because a good grasp of the basics is the essential foundation on which to build further education”.

The speech was critical of the previous government’s record on education, saying the new Government would “not stand by as cohorts of young people see their life horizons shrink because of a lack of schooling”.

Kiro reiterated a commitment to structured literacy for all students, the reintroduction of charter schools, and the disestablishment of Te Pūkenga.


The health section of the speech said that the sector had been under “enormous ‘pressure” and needed more support on the front line.

She reiterated National’s campaign pledge of helping nurses with study costs if they pledged to remain in New Zealand after study.

“[T]he government will establish a system to pay their student loan repayments, up to $4,500 year for five years, in exchange for them agreeing to work here for at least five years,” she said.

She also promised boosting training of other health professionals.

The speech promised $280m to Pharmac over four years for 13 cancer treatments, and an increase to the breast cancer screening age to 74.

The speech said the Māori Health Authority will be disestablished and that there would be ‘no co-governance of public services “.

“Services will be delivered on need, using a range of effective providers, including iwi and community groups who have the best reach into the communities they serve,” she said.

Welfare and work

The speech was critical of the number of people on welfare.

“Having 11 per cent, or one in nine New Zealanders of working age on a main benefit, means too many people are dependent on the effort of their fellow citizens instead of being self-supporting,” Kiro said.

It promised the reintroduction of benefit sanctions, the return of 90-day trials, and the abolition of Fair Pay Agreements.


The speech promised no big changes to seniors. The superannuation age of entitlement would stay at 65 and the winter energy payment would be maintained.

“The Building Act and resource consent system will be amended to make it easier to build granny flats or other small structures up to 60sqm,” the speech said.


The speech promised that the Government would make housing “more affordable”.

This would be achieved by repealing the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts - Labour’s RMA reforms.

The Medium Density Residential Standards, better known as the sausage flat law, will become optional for councils.

The Government will review Kāinga Ora’s funding and performance, and making it easier for the agency to evict tenants.

“The lives of some neighbours of some Kāinga Ora properties are being made miserable because of inadequate action against anti-social behaviour by some Kāinga Ora tenants. Under the new Government, there will be appropriate consequences for tenants who engage in repeated anti-social behaviour,”

Transport and Infrastructure

The speech promised to address the infrastructure deficit, creating a National Infrastructure Agency.

The speech promised to “make it easier to consent new infrastructure including for renewable energy, building houses, and enhancing the primary sector – including fish and aquaculture, forestry, pastoral, horticulture and mining”.

A “fast-track one-stop-shop” will be created to consent certain projects.

Kiro said Three Waters reforms would be repealed, 13 new Roads of National Significance would be built.

She reiterated a promise for a Regional Infrastructure Fund with $1.2 billion in capital funding.

Primary sector / Emissions

The speech promised to cease the implementation of new Significant Natural Areas and said that existing SNAs would be “looked at as part of the reform of the Resource Management Act”.

Kiro namechecked the “ute tax” which she said would be repealed by the end of the year.

The ban on live animal exports would be overturned and a National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 - Labour’s regulations governing the quality of rivers and streams - be overturned and replaced to ensure a “local approach”.


Kiro said the new Government “believes in equal citizenship with all citizens sharing the same rights and obligations”.

She said the Government would “work to improve outcomes for all New Zealanders with public services delivered to people according to their need, and not advance policies that seek to ascribe different rights and responsibilities based on race or ancestry”.

The speech reiterated a promise to introduce a Treaty Principles Bill which would go at least as far as select committee.

“Waitangi Tribunal legislation will be amended to refocus the scope, purpose and nature of the tribunal’s inquiries back to the original intent of that legislation,” she said.

“The Government will also review legislation – except where it relates to full and final Treaty settlements - that includes reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Reference to the principles will be replaced with words that explain what Parliament intends, in the context of that legislation, or will be removed,” she said.

Foreign Affairs and Trade

The speech finished with a section on foreign affairs, promising the new Government would have an “active foreign, defence and trade policy agenda” that enhanced security and signalled New Zealand was open for business.

“The Government will be bold in defending New Zealand’s interests, and vigilant in the protection of the values of democracy, freedom, and security,” the speech said.


NZ First MP Shane Jones says he will talk to the Speaker today about how Te Pāti Māori MPs took their oaths during the swearing-in ceremony for politicians yesterday.

In taking their oaths, several Te Pāti Māori MPs referred to King Charles III as “Harehare” instead of the “Tiare” which was written on the card of the te reo Māori version of the oath. It caused some controversy, because “harehare” is also the Māori word for either something offensive or for a rash or skin irritation.

It could become the first issue the new Speaker has to contend with. The State Opening of Parliament will take place this morning, at which the Governor-General will read out the Speech from the Throne setting out the Government’s agenda before MPs go back into the House to begin the first debate.

However, Jones, who has accused Te Pāti Māori of grandstanding and attention-seeking, said he would ask Speaker Gerry Brownlee this morning if the Te Pāti Māori MPs had met the legal requirement to be sworn in.

“I’m going to see Gerry Brownlee to seek his view on whether it met section 11 of the Constitution Act. If it was good enough for Winston Peters and myself to abide by it, why is there a cultural pass for the Māori Party?”

Jones yesterday said he believed Harehare was close enough to Charles to be valid. He conceded this morning that it was still arguable that was the case, but Brownlee should look at it. Jones said Hare was a transliteration of Charlie, and some also said Harehare. However, the use of it has sparked some debate, because hare is also the Māori word for “rash”.

That section of the Constitution Act stipulates that MPs are not able to sit in Parliament until they have taken the Oath of Allegiance with the required wording. The wording of the Oath of Allegiance set out in the Oaths and Declarations Act only specifies that the name of the reigning sovereign must be used.

Brownlee said this morning that he was not aware of any MPs raising it as an issue yet, and had nothing to say as yet.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer had made it clear ahead of the swearing-in that the party objected to having to pledge allegiance to the King. By way of a compromise, all of the party’s MPs had done personal oaths to Te Tiriti as they walked up to take the official oath of allegiance. Hauraki-Waikato MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke had also mentioned Māori King Kīngi Tūheitia while Mariameno Kapa-Kingi referred to the 1835 He Whakaputanga/United Tribes Declaration of Independence.

Jones was not alone in objecting to Te Pāti Māori’s swearing-in yesterday - Act leader David Seymour also took a veiled shot when speaking after the election of Brownlee as Speaker.

“There will be those who come not to participate in the institution but attempt to make a theatrical point by undermining it.

“That might be the greatest challenge that you face.”

After this morning’s State Opening, at 2pm two National MPs - James Meager and Katie Nimon - will deliver their maiden speeches. Then the party leaders will speak.

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