Article – Liana Pantaleo
Prime Minster Bill English began todays press conference with an announcement to extend support for earthquake effected Kaikoura, Hurunui and Marlborough. The State Highway coastal route is progressing and expected to be open by the end of …
PM Press Conference 27/02/17:
Kiwi workers not passing drug tests
Prime Minster Bill English began today’s press conference with an announcement to extend support for earthquake effected Kaikoura, Hurunui and Marlborough. The State Highway coastal route is progressing and expected to be open by the end of the year. Tomorrow he will host Prime Minister of Timor-Leste in Auckland and intends to discuss trade and business. Mr English wanted to focus on the government’s school initiatives including upgrades and infrastructure, more children enrolled in ECE, Maori and Pasifika student achievement, new schools, specifically the Haeata school opening in Christchurch.
Questions from the gallery involved the Auckland housing shortage and whether the emergency housing grants will put pressure on the accommodation sector. The Prime Minister assured that this is a short-term plan. He also said that there is not much past data on the housing issue, including on wait times for housing. Later, a member of the press inquired as to whether homeless people who are staying in motels are counted as a tourist statistic. They are considered as “having accommodation” in the same way that business travelers are.
When the issue of migration arose, Mr English mentioned how there are a large number of New Zealanders coming back to New Zealand, which is a positive sign for the economy. The other large category of migrants are skilled workers. The Prime Minister was questioned whether or not Kiwis have those skills to fill the jobs, and he stated that he has been hearing from employers in the hospitality and agriculture/horticulture industries that they are struggling to find workers. His answer to why 14 000 Kiwis are out of work was that it is due to many hopeful employees not passing the drug test, and that he has heard this, anecdotally, from all sectors and quite frequently. Mr English is not aware of what specific drugs people are using, and that the government intends to get people on track. He insisted that it is a workplace safety issue and that his government will not loosen the rules to allow drug users to be employed.
Other questions included whether the funding for Kaikoura is enough, and if Wellington and the Hutt need more funding. Mr English was asked if he will send someone to the USA to discuss trade, and he made a brief comment on the ACT Party’s prisoner rehabilitation policy.