As a Government it is important we find the right balance between supporting our businesses and also boosting jobs and looking after our most vulnerable. That is why we have raised the minimum wage every year we have been in Government in a gradual and sustainable way to ensure our lowest-paid workers are protected but not at the expense of jobs. Last week, it was great to continue this trend by announcing that on April 1 the minimum wage will increase by 50 c to $15.25 an hour. This will directly benefit around 152,700 workers and increase wages throughout the economy by $75 million per year.
New Zealand already has a very generous minimum wage compared to other countries. This latest increase will keep the minimum wage at around 50 per cent of the average hourly….. rate, which is one of the highest proportions in the OECD. In other good news for the economy, I recently returned from Sri Lanka where we reached an agreement with the Sri Lankan Government to reduce tariffs on our dairy products. Once implemented, this will mean significant savings for New Zealand farmers. The opportunities for NZ and Sri Lanka to work closer together are immense, and it’s important we take advantage of these to continue growing the economy and to create more opportunities for Kiwis. I was also pleased to see an agreement between Auckland Zoo and the Sri Lankan Government which will see the zoo gifted a new elephant in exchange for helping Sri Lanka improve its own wildlife management. This will be a great addition to Auckland Zoo and I look forward to getting the opportunity to meet Nandi once she has settled into her new home.
Lastly, I want convey my thoughts to the people of Fiji following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston. New Zealand is standing alongside our Pacific neighbour and we have so far committed $4.7 million towards the relief effort. We have provided more than 160 tonnes of aid and equipment and we are developing a wider package of support focused on helping affected communities rebuild. New Zealand will continue to support the people and the government of Fiji as they work to recover.