Deputy PM Grant Robertson questioned on Cycling NZ, Budget and Emissions Reduction Plan at post-Cabinet press conference

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says “we must do better, and we must change” , after the recently released report on Cycling NZ following the death of Olivia Podmore.

Robertson is stepping in for PM Jacinda Ardern at this week’s post-Cabinet press conference.

Ardern had moderate Covid-19 symptoms today, Robertson said.

“She’s doing OK and has managed to provide some feedback to me throughout the day.”

As Sport Minister, Robertson paid tribute to Podmore after today’s report found a litany of cultural and structural deficiencies at Cycling NZ – the sporting organisation where the 24-year-old Olympian spent her entire adult life.

“Olivia’s tragic death is what precipitated this report.”

That report found Cycling NZ’s high-performance system had prioritised winning medals over the welfare of athletes, and mentioned the funding model as a possible issue – including the competitive way Government funding was allocated.

He said mental health and wellbeing was crucial to ensure people could perform at their best.

“We must do better, and we must change,” Robertson said.

He said many inquiries into the wellbeing of female athletes had found glaring shortcomings.

Robertson said the experiences of Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and other high-profile female athletes showed much work was needed worldwide to better support sportswomen.

He said High Performance NZ’s funding model had been greatly overhauled in recent years.

The agency now had a dedicated wellbeing manager.

“So change is coming. But I am never going to defend some of the things I have read in that report.”

On the recent number of ram raids, the Robertsonsaid the Government was working on ways to directly support businesses to protect themselves.

The Deputy PM said it was “devastating” for people who were repeat victims, but the Government was doing what it could and police would help wherever possible.

Robertson said there’d be a strong focus on the economy this week, with the Budget to be released on Thursday.

“Our focus is on economic security for all New Zealanders.”

Robertson said in the long run, a high-wage, low-emission economy should be developed.

On the unveiling of the Government’s carbon emissions reduction plan, he said the Government would accelerate its plans to cut New Zealand’s carbon emissions.

Robertson blasted the National Party’s record on climate change and emissions.

He said National needed to front up and explain what if any plan it actually had to meet emissions targets.

The Deputy PM said combating climate change would help improve standards of living.

Robertson said the Government was working with the agricultural sector on climate change issues.

“There is tremendous possibility and opportunity with the technology being developed…every sector is expected to pull its weight.”

“Every sector needs to contribute to reducing emissions,” he added.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 and was too unwell to chair Cabinet today or present a virtual speech at the pre-Budget announcement of a $4.5 billion in funding for climate change.

She is set to decide from day to day whether or not she will take part in Parliament’s proceedings by the virtual system, as other MPs have done while isolating and as Ardern while she was isolating before she fell ill.

Today’s climate change announcement included about $500m to help low-income families shift to electric and hybrid vehicles and a $710m package to invest in technology solutions for agricultural emissions.

Robertson will deliver the Budget on Thursday.

Robertson is likely to be asked about National leader Christopher Luxon’s response to the plan. Luxon has backed the Government’s emissions budgets – the amount by which emissions are set to reduce over time. However, he said he was concerned the steps set out to achieve that in the emissions reductions plan would be a “a poor use of taxpayers’ money.”

“Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups,” Luxon said.

“The Government is proposing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies for investments they should be making anyway,” he said.

Luxon did back the Government’s decision to invest in reducing agricultural emissions.

Earlier, Robertson said it was the “most significant day in our country’s history on climate action”.

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