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It has been a rather intensely busy few weeks as Parliament resumed. I have undertaken several work trips as Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade and of course, more recently, I have fielded a lot of questions about the crazy recommendations to introduce even more taxes to New Zealand, most notably a capital gains tax.

Locally, around Tamaki, much of my time has been taken up with transport related issues that constituents are having.  There are a number of changes afoot and I have been working with the likes of the Eastern Bays Gymnastics Club who have had issues with Auckland Transport proposed bus layers, or the Meadowbank St Johns Residents Association who are keen to see better safety measures on, and around, Gowing Drive.  

Speaking of transport, and particularly for those in St Heliers, there are some major changes being proposed by AT to our Village so I want to give you an early heads up.  In short, thirteen new proposed zebra crossings around the Village, the loss of around 30 carparks, and other changes.  I am still getting my head around this and will update you once I know more. 


Tax, tax, and more tax

It was no surprise that the Tax Working Group, led by Sir Michael Cullen, came back with new tax proposals.  If the left wing is ever consistent, it is in the belief that they can tax their way to prosperity!

The biggest headline is the proposal to introduce a capital gains tax (CGT) on pretty much everything from homes to shares, and businesses to farms, though not art work oddly enough.  Granted, I am someone who enjoys the arts but found this a rather peculiar approach.

There is no need for a CGT in New Zealand and any introduction will be detrimental to our businesses, investments, and families.  Kiwis work hard and aspire to always do better.  When people start a business, buy a house, invest in shares it is because we have worked hard, paid all our taxes, made a little profit (but also absorbed many losses) and we are then keen to protect this for our families and future generations.

The idea, being peddled by government advocates, is that those investing have not paid enough tax.  This is completely wrong.  Kiwis who invest have paid their incomes taxes, their GST, taxes on interest, you name it.  In fact, many have had to struggle in work and business to get where they are today. 

So, of course, I will oppose the CGT proposals and any others they may have up their sleeve.  These include further taxes on agriculture, water, the use of fertilizer, and vacant land.  It is also recommended that iwi assets be treated differently!

However, let us not get completely caught up in the initial recommendations.  I cannot help but think the aggressive initial positioning by Sir Michael and others is to allow the government to come out, in a few weeks, with some changes and then seek to argue they are very moderate proposals.  They are not, but this will be something to watch out for.


Antarctica

Recently, Antarctica NZ asked me to visit Scott Base in my capacity as Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Committee. They are currently making a large budget bid to redo the base and I wanted to better understand why they’re seeking this money. The base was set up from the 1950s and has been expanded since then. While it’s an amazing place, it’s getting old and tired and there’s growing tension around how much is needed to fix up old infrastructure or build something new and fit for purpose.

Boxing at Capt. Scott’s Base in Antarctica. The hut remains as it was the day he and his party left.

 

Just outside Scott’s Base in Antartica with Mt Erebus in the background.


The visit was a welcome chance to see the science funding we provide in action. From monitoring ice melting, to fish stocks, to the health of whales and penguins, the base is always busy. New Zealand’s presence there is important as a leader in Antarctic science but also because it enables us to engage with foreign countries (the US, Australia, Italy, China, and Britain to name just a few). We also have around 180 defence personnel located there working in logistics and operations so it was great to express my support for them.  I did not want to distract them for too long however, as they were busy working hard to unload a cargo ship carrying their annual supplies!

The supply ship to our Antarctic base (and the US Base) iced in. This ship only comes once a year.

 

This shot was taken around 1am, and of a killer whale swimming along the ice shelf of Antarctica.


It was an incredible experience and one I am still struggling to put into words.  It is just such an amazing environment and I am very grateful to everyone who welcomed me and took the time to explain the important work they are leading on New Zealand’s behalf.


London

After returning from Antarctica, I immediately set off to London to be part of a conference on trade in parliament with British and other Commonwealth MPs.  It was a chance to question and discuss the roles of select committees, particularly around trade treaties progressing through Parliament. As you might imagine, a lot of the meeting was spent talking about Brexit and the UK needing to negotiate free trade agreements once it leaves the EU. I was able to offer insight into how NZ’s Parliament deals with trade negotiations and treaties which was gladly received.

Chairing a committee in Westminster as part of the conference on trade treaties.

 

Addressing delegates at the trade conference in London.


But now for the most important place in the world ...


Tamaki

Good news for Nataliya and the Shchetkova family and the wider community - the Associate Minister of Immigration has agreed to my request to formally review their case.  As you may have heard, I have been working quietly behind the scenes on this matter for some time.  I wrote to the Minister of Immigration some time ago requesting special consideration be given to the Shchetkova family’s case.  I was pleased that my request was granted and I look forward to the outcome of the review and will keep a close eye on the process.

It’s very good to see progress in the redevelopment of the Meadowbank Community Centre. The calls for a new community centre in Meadowbank have been loud, and rightly so!  The seeking of a development partner is a good step forward and I am optimistic that these efforts will be rewarded soon.

Thanks to those who turned up at the Auckland Sailing Club to hear more about where freedom camping might happen in our area and have their say. The Auckland Council is looking at where freedom camping is allowed including at parks throughout our electorate - it is important to note that the Council cannot make a blanket ban, so they must identify locations where it will be permitted.  Fortunately, our Local Board has recommended that there be no freedom camping in our area.

Finally, we want to hear from young Kiwis across New Zealand! If you’re under 30, please take our quick survey and put forward your ideas for the future of our country. Or, if you have children or grandchildren from 18 - 30 please forward them the survey on to them.

Best Regards

Simon O'Connor

Member of Parliament for Tamaki
Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Committee

 

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