Happy New Year! I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer break. After recharging the batteries, I’m heading into 2016 focused, energised, and full of ideas to keep New Zealand moving in the right direction. It’s fantastic to lead a team of Ministers and MPs who are feeling the same way. Although Parliament doesn’t officially resume until 9 February, the National-led Government is already hard at work. We start the year with New Zealand in good shape. The economy is continuing to perform well after the Government achieved its target of returning to surplus in 2014/15, a target we first set back in 2011.
New Zealand’s annual economic growth rate for the year to September 2015 of 2.3 per cent is roughly in line with Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – and is in the…. top half of all OECD countries. In 2016, the economy is on track to continue to deliver ongoing wage rises and more jobs opportunities for Kiwis. The average annual wage is now over $57,000 – an increase of $10,000 since National first came into office in 2008. Wages are forecasted to continue growing faster than inflation, which will help Kiwi households to get ahead.
Around 180,000 jobs have been created in the past five years and a further 195,000 people are forecast to be in work by mid-2020. This aligns with Treasury’s latest forecasts, released late last year, which showed unemployment is forecast to drop to 4.5 per cent. We’re continuing to see improved results from our public services in areas that matter to Kiwis– such as better health care, lower crime, higher educational achievement, and more New Zealanders moving off welfare and into work. The Government has also delivered on its plans to reduce ACC levies, with more to come, to help businesses and households, as well as support the roll out of ultra-fast broadband and the continued investment in roads, schools, and hospitals all around New Zealand.
The Korean Free Trade Agreement, which came into force last December, is helping farmers and businesses and in a few weeks we will sign the Trans Pacific Partnership – New Zealand’s biggest ever free trade deal – worth around $2.7 billion to our economy by 2030. The National-led Government is focused on continuing to make strides on things that matter to New Zealanders and their families – health, education, law and order, and building a more productive and competitive economy that can deliver more jobs and higher wages to support Kiwis and their families. All the best for 2016, I hope it’s a fantastic year for you and your family.