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Minister ignores issues as Bill passed

10 May 2017

The Bill creating Fire and Emergency NZ has passed its third and final reading with Minister Dunne saying criticism is from ill-informed sources with vested interests.  Others disagree with his dismissive approach.

As well as restructuring the Fire Service the legislation which becomes law on 1st July 2017, will change the way it is funded.  It has taken 17 attempts to reform the legislation however not everyone is happy with the final outcome.  

Introducing the Bill for a third reading Minister Peter Dunne said “There has been a bit of criticism in recent days, largely from ill-informed sources, about the fire levy. Vested interests and ill-informed sources will always oppose an insurance-based levy system.”

Labour MP, Ruth Dyson, who chaired the Select Committee, noted that Minister Dunne had acknowledged the levy system was one of the most contentious issues.  She said “I do not think we have got it right”.  “I would not be as dismissive of the people who are concerned about it as the Minister was, but I certainly hope that their fears are not realised. I certainly hope that they are wrong in the description of the concerns they have, because they think they are genuine. They raised them with the committee, and we were unable to progress that.”

“This is a huge step, but for me it is still a job not finished”. “I think we can just go further, after what has been a very big and important step forward. I think we can develop a fairer levy system, and we should try to do that on a cross-party basis.” said Dyson.

Jan Logie from the Green party is concerned the legislation does not resolve levy issues “I would like to again reiterate our hope and understanding and assurances that are on record around the levy process. I do hope that we will see a very simple and transparent system set up via regulation.”

NZ First has been the most vocal opponent of the legislation and have spoken out against the funding proposals.  Deputy leader Ron Mark expressed their original hope that the new levy regime “would not unduly and unfairly hit people with levies while at the same time allowing others to sit on the sidelines and contribute nothing.”

He went on to note that “96 percent of the submissions opposed the levy proposals. Not opposing a levy at all, but this levy proposal.”  Mark said Mr Dunne might consider interest groups are focused only on self-interest, but  “I read a media release and a comment that said: "New Zealanders will have to pay an extra 40 percent in their insurance fire levy from July, despite the assertions that this amalgamation of fire services is about efficiency. This Government's reform package will result in an immediate cost increase of $80 million for little or no increase in services.”

The NZ First MP concluded “this Government, purporting itself to be business-friendly, is foisting upon commercial operators, commercial building owners, and even residents who rent properties, massive compliance costs.  There is word for that, and you cannot use it in this House, but it rings in the ears and it simply says that if you truly believed that when people voted this Government in, they were going to get a reduction in compliance costs in the business sector, forget it.”

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