Conservative’s gain NZ First’s loss?

August 7, 2014

The Conservative Party has a new high profile candidate:

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar has decided to stand for the Conservative Party in this year’s election.

The announcement was made today, meaning Mr McVicar will be standing aside as the trust’s co-national spokesman. . .

This follows the weekend’s announcement that Christine Rankin would stand in Epsom.

If the Conservatives gain from this the likely loser will be New Zealand first which usually campaigns on tougher welfare policies and more family-friendly policies which would be Rankin’s territory and  longer sentences and better support for victims which  McVicar promotes.


Eric Roy’s valedictory

August 2, 2014

Invercargill MP and deputy speaker, Eric Roy delivered his valedictory statement on Wednesday:

ERIC ROY (Deputy Speaker – National): Can I begin with an immortal quote from * Ecclesiastes * 3 that says that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens; a time to be born, a time to die, and a time to uproot. And so it is that our family is in their season of uprooting and finding some new challenges.

I have often said that politics is a little bit like a crayfish pot. It takes a bit of energy to find the opening and to get in, but it is even harder to get out, and it is somewhat more difficult to get out undamaged. Whether I am undamaged or not is for others to choose, but certainly for myself I can report I have learnt a lot, I have grown a lot, and I have made some really great friends.

The year 2014 is a significant and pivotal year in our family, but in life’s calendar there have been other pivotal years. I guess this started in another very pivotal year, 1972. Four things happened that were kind of loosely connected: I got married, the * Norm Kirk Government swept to power, I bought a tractor—a David Brown 990, white model—and I joined the National Party. The connection was that the tractor salesman was incensed that Labour had the right, after 4 years of National Government, to assume the Treasury benches. He was able to persuade me, with my new responsibilities of a David Brown 990, white model, and a new wife, that I should join the National Party. Little did I know that that would set me on a course where I actually ended up here. I can now report that the David Brown is, to give it a technical term, * munted and the membership of the National Party has been an interesting ride, but the real winner of that year was certainly the marriage.

You just stand here in your valedictory and you have got an absolute montage of thoughts about what you could do. I thought I might give out a few awards. I will say that these are rhetorical and not material. My first award goes to Elizabeth, who has been my most valued and energetic supporter. Elizabeth has a saying that behind every great man there is a great behind. I am not one to disagree with Elizabeth. At this time I would also certainly like to thank my parliamentary team of Susie, Michelle, Patty, and Pauline. I need to also acknowledge my business managers Felicity, Steven, and Terry, who run our * Te Ānau operation and who have uncomplainingly kept things on an even keel. I could spend some 10 minutes naming, identifying, and extolling a number of people who have assisted me, suffice to say in the confines of time I just want to acknowledge people in a variety of communities, committees, and roles who have been generous in their support, help, and advice and who have been very beneficial to my time here.

It used to be that 21 years was the age of majority, and you got the key to the door. I joined the party in 1972. Twenty-one years later in 1993 I had the key to the door and I came to Parliament. Since then I have represented two electorates, had two terms on the list. I have been in Parliament, out of Parliament, back in Parliament. I have been in Government, out of Government, and back in Government. It is 21 years since 1993. I have got the key to the door; I am leaving. One should not try to interpret any reason for that; it is just a time to uproot and take some new challenges. It may have a lot to do that I want to leave this place before I am subsumed into the fourth stage of manhood. If you are not familiar with that, stage one you believe in * Santa Claus, stage two you do not believe in Santa Claus, stage three you are Santa Claus, and stage four you look like Santa Claus.

But it is great that with my maiden speech there were three generations of Roys in the gallery; today there are three generations of Roys again, but they are different generations. It is good to be able to do this amongst family and friends. Each one of us comes to Parliament representing a kind of matrix of various things that we have been involved with. Certainly for me, there was a variety of community groups and activities across a wide range of organisations, a background in agriculture and farming, a strong sense of Christian values that were steeped in Presbyterianism, and a love of the outdoors. Many people know I have got a bit of a passion for hunting. It was not very long until Bill English gave me the brand that this was the Christian who kills.

If I was to give an award for the most hectic time in Parliament, it would certainly be in my first term of 1993 to 1996. Inside a year, because of a transgression of John “Hone” Carter I was a junior whip. As we neared the first * MMP election, with the advent of opportunities that might persist in places other than the various parties that exist, we had the formation of a number of parties and erosion out of our backbench—the formation of United Future, the * Right of Centre Party, and also the * Conservatives. I ended up as a junior whip with a backbench of 13 people to run the select committees. It was at that time that as a systems person I created a number of mechanisms to actually know where people were and what they were doing. That certainly stood as a mechanism that whips used for some time—I am not sure if it is still used. I also had to have an overlay of Cabinet committees and the agendas of when various Ministers were involved in those committees so that I could pull people out and man select committees. Over that period of about 18 months when I had those numbers to work with we never lost a vote in a select committee. It is interesting that during that time we lost five votes in the House. I think in a way we think that the world will fall down when that happens. I would predict that under MMP that will happen again. We ought not to get too serious about that sort of thing happening.

Why I say it was so hectic is that while I was busy as whip I was also a select committee chair. I ran the Primary Production Committee largely just with myself on one side. The biggest thing we did in that time was a total rewrite of the * Fisheries Act. This was a paradigm shift away from the old to a new sustainable process, giving property rights, quota management, and a whole lot of issues that had never been done anywhere else in the world. Although I was not the architect of that bill, our committee was certainly tasked with making it work and making a number of substantial changes that we put into the bill. It was about 19 months’ work. And so it was that before we actually got there, I did something quite interesting. We were kind of bound up and could not find a way through the maze of submissions and advice and contradictions that were about. So as a committee we put out a position paper. I called in all the parties, who were highly polarised, and impressed upon them what * Chatham House Rules were. I then presented the position paper and threatened them with all kinds of things that probably did not exist in * Standing Orders if they broke ranks.

You have got to remember that in that environment there were sort of the eco-groups represented by * Greenpeace, commercial fishing on the other side, Māori customary, recreational. We put out what we thought were ways forward on deeming, setting of * total allowable commercial catch, and a whole lot of things that we just could not find our way through. Everybody held to the * Chatham House Rules, and on the basis of equal screaming we made some decisions that were put in the bill. The bill came back to the House about exactly the same time in the political cycle as we are now, as we were closing out for 1996. Then putting on my whip’s hat, I was able to persuade the House that a 550-page bill could be taken as one question in 15 minutes in the House in Committee and then dealt with forthwith in another 20 minutes in the third reading.

It is kind of interesting that 18 years on, those substantive things that were put in have not been changed, but of interest further is that last month a report on an audit of fishing systems in 53 different countries around the world was put out and New Zealand came out as best managed and most sustainable.

I cannot give myself an award, but I would certainly give myself a tick for what we did on fishing. That was quite an extraordinary period of time.

The following year the award for greatest adversary appeared. It occurred quite simply. One night I could not eat my tea and later that evening I was walking up Glenmore Street and I collapsed. Sometime later, and I am not sure when, a car picked me up and took me to my flat. That was Thursday night. It was Monday before I could get to the doctor. He pushed and prodded and then got me scanned forthwith, and they found that I had lumps inside me as big as footballs, as my entire lymph system had been taken over by an aggressive lymphoma. The oncologist informed me that I had a 20 percent chance of getting through it, which is a kind of code for “Are your insurance premiums up to date?”. They opened me up, then closed me up, and said that there was nothing they could do. So I went home and I was sitting there—this was Wednesday. So the award for the most surreal telephone conversation I have ever had in my life went something like this. Here I am, sitting at home internalising some reasonably significant issues. The phone goes—ring, ring. “Hello, this is Eric.” “This is Murray McCully.” I think, goodness me. The all-knowing black knight has heard about my predicament and he cares. “What’s on your mind, Murray?”. “Um, I have to give a speech in Invercargill on Friday. It’s July and I’ve got a very bad cold. I don’t think I should be going to Invercargill on Friday. Can you do it for me?”. “Murray—um, do you think I really should be doing this? I’m sorry to hear about your cold, but I’m dying of cancer.” There was a long pause, then “Ha, ha! I’ll send you the notes.”

Much is often said about the dog-eat-dog bear pit of this place. It is certainly my experience that there are genuine people in here, across the House, for whom I have a great deal of admiration. I will give you an example of that. When I was in this battle, the first two MPs through my door at my farm were Damien O’Connor and Jim Sutton. And afterwards there were numerous acts of kindness and areas of support that really were a big part of the fight that I was in—some of it more helpful than others. Some of it made me smile, like the wonderful words of support from H V Ross Robertson: “You’ll be right, mate. Big strong bloke like you, you’ll be right. But you are lucky. If it’s in your lymph, you’re buggered, you know.” So Ross gets the award for the best or worst backhanded compliment.

In order to truncate the whole story about the cancer, let me just say that it is a small part in a book that I have almost written, called Notes to the Grandchildren, which will be available at all good booksellers presently. There are two ongoing repercussions from this event of a brush with death, and they are not unique to me, but they have impacted me. One is that when you go through medical trauma, your senses kind of get mucked around emotionally. I do not understand it, but I knew it had happened to me when I found myself crying when Nemo got lost. The second one is that you have an increased sense of your own mortality and you are doing all this self-assessment and appraisal about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and where you are doing it, and whether it is the right thing, and that can be a bit of an insomniac or monkey on your back.

But after an absence from Parliament, I came back and was invited to take up a role as a presiding officer. It is quite a simple job, in principle: protecting the rights of the minority and ensuring the will of the majority, but, of course, it all takes place in an environment of wounding, damaging, getting credibility for yourself, and there are layers of passion and all sorts of things come in there. That is what makes it interesting. I think in a way, reflectively, there has been a bit of a change since MMP and the battle now is more party to party because, of course, that is the important vote, and we have changed some things we do. When I came in here, general debates were principally opportunities for individuals to raise matters of concern in their own electorate or elsewhere. It is now largely for most parties a themed debate, and I think we are not as well served by that. Is there an issue for change? I believe there is, and I have for some time, and I have an increasing feeling that we should do this and that is, make all third reading votes a personal vote. Note well that I am saying personal vote not free vote. I think increasingly there is some isolation and dislocation by members in this House from the actual meaning of voting and we see when a vote comes along, sometimes the groupings left and right advise the minor parties what they are doing. We are seeing increasing times when there is redress sought to either amend the vote or to record in the record of the House what actually was the intention. Even more recently we are seeing the veracity of proxies challenged by points of order or by interjection. I do not think that looks too credible in the eyes of the public. It is not what they expect from their representatives in the highest court of the land. I do realise that there would be a time factor involved in actually doing this. I think the Business Committee could think about how that might be done. One suggestion would be to have any third reading votes immediately after question time the following day, or even one more extended hour in a session of a Parliament would cover for any of that time that had been taken up in that personal vote situation.

One of the greatest disciplines about being a presiding officer is curtailing response. Sometimes you people, as you get involved in debate—I am just dying to respond into a debate and I have not been able to do that. The other thing is: curtailing the desire to actually reposed with an interjection at times. That has been so hard. In an emergency I turn to my right-hand man, Roland Todd, and say “Roly, this is how it works” and tell him. Roland always had a three word response that never changed: “Is that so?”. Thank you, Roland.

The cruellest barb award goes to an occurrence that occurred outside Parliament. I was going to give a speech at a field day in Palmerston North, and the best app on my * BlackBerry could not find the memorial hall. I saw this guy in a dirty ute with a tweed jacket and I thought “He’s gotta be going there”. So I asked him where the memorial hall was, and he told me, and then I looked at my watch because I was the opening shot, and he said: “Look. There’s no need to worry. They’ve got a boring old fart from Wellington opening it up.” That is the cruellest barb—as old fart, yes, but boring?

Let me just conclude with a couple of issues that I think it would be remiss of me not to mention, because they are issues that I have as probably my greatest concerns. The first is the sort of ongoing inability of a number of New Zealand citizens to make sensible decisions in relation to their own conduct. I have made some comments about this in my maiden address. I can give you some examples. On 16 January this year in Golden Bay hundreds of people spent 3 nights trying to stop some pilot whales from beaching themselves. So inherently there is good in all of us. On 16 January this year, the same day, Mrs ** Pravit Singh in Papatoetoe was attacked by two assailants and in a crowd of hundreds of people she called for help. No one went.

Worse than that, when she escaped and started to flee, some of the onlookers herded her back to the assailants. There is something inherently wrong with a society that actually cannot make proper and sensible decisions.

It is my view that we have stepped away from reference points that enable us to actually do that. We used to be solidly grounded in Judaeo-Christian values and that kind of worked for us. We have never had the debate about what we put in their place if we actually want to move away from that. I do acknowledge that it is not the role of this Parliament in any way to be a faith promoter and that there should be that separation between religion and politics. This is where I think it does transcend that: when we deal with issues of conscience, how do we actually make those decisions? When we are on the big issues like euthanasia, trading in alcohol, abortion, or any of those issues, do we do it out of convenience, fairness, populism, or do we have a basis for choosing right and wrong, and what sort of a message are we actually sending to the wider community?

The last point that is a big concern to me would be the award for the biggest lesson that I have learnt. Let me reference it a wee bit for a start. Some of you will know that in 1967 I did some volunteer service. I went to Vanuatu and there I, interestingly, learnt about cargo cults. What are cargo cults? “Kago” in Bislama is “possessions”. A phone would be cargo—anything that you have. What happened was that as these people who had lived there and had lived idyllically for a long time were contaminated by a lot of people who came in with a whole lot of cargo, they got to thinking “How do we get this?”. During the Second World War was probably the advent of most of these. On the island of Tanna there is a cargo cult called the John Frum movement. One night in Tanna, as people were talking about how they could get the cargo, a man in a splendiferous uniform arrived and pulled a big scam. He said: “Give you money and I shall return with money for you, but these are the things you need to do to worship. I am John from America.”—hence the John Frum movement. He took their money and left. Four generations on, people on Tanna are still waiting.

We laugh and think that is kind of quaint, but in reality the biggest lesson for me is that cargo cults are very much a part of every part of society. Weekly I have people saying to me: “Why doesn’t the Government do this? Why don’t you do this?” People have an expectation that there is some other way that they can actually get cargo. I absolutely applaud what Paula Bennett is doing—showing people who have got into a dependency mould that there are other pathways.

Here is the real rub, though. As we get into the last 5 or 6 weeks before an election and parties are really, really keen to retain power or earn power, we could use the equity of this country to promise cargo that might be a reward in the ballot box. I think that we need to really ponder the motive of how we actually do all of those things coming up through the election. I will not be here so I just make that little call now.

In spite of much encouragement I have decided not to sing a waiata at this point. However, I have written a valedictory poem, which is quite short. It is called “October”, and with apologies to * A B Paterson:

There was movement up in Welly, for the word had passed around

That a new Parliament was under way,

They gathered from electorates, new faces to abound

And all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

All the tried and noted members from electorates near and far

Had gathered to the Parly for the fight,

For the members love hard talking where the nation’s fortunes lie

And the MPs sniff the battle with delight.

But in a quiet mountain valley, there’s a stream with crystal flow.

A man with fly rod ready, a trout to be his foe,

Recalled his journey forays in the days of Wellington,

He reflected for a moment and times in House and so

Of democracy and friendships, the privileged to serve,

Of bells and whips and caucus, select committees too,

While Standing Orders, Speakers’ rulings, points of order, “Order!”.

He clears his thought, a trout rises, solitude returns.

I bid you adieu.


Corruption-free status should be celebrated

July 20, 2014

New Zealanders should celebrate having the world’s least-corrupt public sector as keenly as they celebrate the success of the All Blacks, says the chair of Transparency International New Zealand, Suzanne Snively.

She was speaking at a national symposium on new approaches to governance, held at Massey University’s Albany campus recently.

Snively says a colour-coded world map illustrating New Zealand’s place on the spectrum of corruption rankings should be as prized as a poster of the All Blacks.

“We need to share this map on staff rooms and living rooms around the country,” she told the gathering of governance experts from public, private and not-for-profit organisations.

New Zealand scored first-equal with Denmark with 91 out of 100 points on the Transparency International survey on perceptions of public sector corruption in 177 countries and territories around the world.

She says while many people are under the impression New Zealand has high levels of corruption due to media coverage of high level cases, those cases were few and far between in global terms.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat all corruption seriously but it is important to keep it in perspective.

It is also important that we don’t rest on our laurels. Low corruption unfortunately isn’t no corruption.

However this relatively virtuous status has not been achieved deliberately, and she urged public, private and non-governmental sector organisations to be more proactive about preventing corruption.

Recommendations for this in Transparency International New Zealand’s recently published report include improving transparency and accountability systems.

She spoke of the need to reinforce factors that sustain our integrity as a “high trust” society. Among weaknesses identified by her organisation are a lack of transparency in political party financing and donations to individual politicians.

Snively, previously a partner in Public Sector Advisory at Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Wellington office, and a regular analyst and commentator on New Zealand’s comparative economic position for over 25 years, says a “lack of focus” on good governance could lead to “economic crimes”.

As organisations increasingly operate globally, they encounter different cultural values and practices – such as ‘facilitation payments’ – that constitute normal business methods in some countries but are considered corrupt by New Zealand standards, she says. . . 

We must guard against lowering our standards to what might be considered normal elsewhere.

There are moral and financial reasons for ensuring we reduce corruption further.

It isn’t coincidence that countries with less corruption are wealthier and those where corruption is rife are poorer and with a far greater gap between rich and poor.

 

 


For next generation

July 6, 2014

Conor English used his last speech as CEO of Federated Farmers to stress the importance of  keeping up for the next generation: (the bold is mine).

It is a pleasure to be at my final AGM for Federated Farmers. Having spent almost four years in my twenties and six years in my forties, I will not be spending one day at Federated Farmers in my fifties! I technically finish on the 23 July, six years to the day that I started, and then the following day I am lucky enough to turn 50.

There are many things one could talk about on such an occasion, the progress that has been made, the importance of farming families and the rural sector to NZ, but I just want to touch on a few issues and express perhaps a more personal view and take some license.

I was talking to a regional government politician recently, and I asked him if he could look an 11 year old in the eye and say that he was looking after her future with the decisions being made in his region. Reality is he couldn’t. I am of course referring to the Ruataniwha dam. I would qualify this by saying I have not read the final report of the board of enquiry, but my personal view is that this is an unfortunate situation. Hawkes Bay is one of New Zealand’s fantastic regions that has now far less of a future. In simplistic terms the board of enquiry has said you can build the dam but you can’t use the water. In my view unfortunately politics appears to have triumphed over the environment.

We all need to be able to look our 11 year old child in the eye and say that we are looking after their future. The 11 year old girls and boys of Hawkes Bay will now be looking for a future elsewhere. Bad decisions matter.

I am a big believer in trying to make informed decisions. I think it is critical that decisions are made with as many facts as possible. While emotion has its place, decisions need to be made on more than that. Science is very important too, and we need to have objective measures to assist as well. Trade-offs are often required so it’s important we take the time and make the effort to get as informed as possible, so we don’t have unintended consequences. In my view we may not have made fully informed decisions with TAF. So are we making informed decisions on water?

As the father of six children I believe I have as big a stake in the future as everyone else does. I absolutely want a future that sees our environment looked after. Sustainability is a word that is used a lot; indeed Federated Farmers mission is to influence decision makers for more profitable and sustainable farming. I was fortunate enough to represent New Zealand at the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainability a couple of years ago. There were 50,000 people at this conference. I asked as many people as I could what their definition of sustainability was. I got as many answers as the people I asked. In my view it is about being able to do things for generations. That is we need to be able to harvest the environment but not harvest the capital of the environment. Farmers in New Zealand do this every day. If there are some that don’t, they do need to buck up there ideas.

Should we go back to prehistoric levels of biodiversity or other environment indicators? The environment has been changed by human kind and it will continue to do so, but it must be done in a way that does think about future generations. Every New Zealander needs to take some responsibility.

When I look at the issue of water quality, it is puzzling for me because New Zealanders have not had an open and honest discussion about it. There has been far too much emphasis on one element, which is nitrogen, and far too much generalisation about farming, Where has been the examination of the impact of the other things that impact on water quality? A singular focus on only nitrates will mean we end up solving the wrong problem.

There is a river going through the Milton township, and the Otago Regional Council put out a notice that said ‘Please do not swim below the bridge because the e-coli levels are unsafe for swimming’. This was not because of the 28 dairy farms on the catchment but because Milton pumps partially treated sewage into the river. This council however, then chose to put out a further newsletter about a year later calling for public meetings to talk about the impact of dairy effluent storage on water quality. If you had no farms, you still won’t be able to swim because of the sewage situation. We are here in Palmerston North, who apparently has the worst river in the world, really? Is this council investing in its sewage scheme? No I don’t believe it is. Is it talking about dairying being the big polluter? Yes I think it is. Is it solving its own problems? No its not.

My challenge to every New Zealander is that we need to be more up front and honest about these things. My view is until every New Zealander takes responsibility for the impact that they are having on their water quality, and until we have more transparency around the nature of that water quality problem and solutions, we will not make the progress that we need to make.

With issues such as climate change, again it is important that we make informed decisions. It is not good for the global environment to have less farming happening in New Zealand. It is not clear to me how farmers paying someone some money will change the weather. What is clear to me though is that more effort into improving productivity, more effort into innovation, into a collective global effort to look at broader solutions would be practical and useful, as well as more effort into water storage. If you think it is going to get hotter water storage is a useful thing to do. This is why I have been very puzzled by the green opposition to water storage projects. My challenge to them is please explain to New Zealanders how drought is good for the fish, the environment, the economy and society?

I don’t subscribe to the notion that unless you have green in your name you are not green. If that were true, perhaps we should change the name to Federated Green Farmers or FGF. Farmers by the nature of their workplace and what they do are actually the green jobs. Farmers are the ones making decisions at the coalface so to speak, and by and large they do a very good job. As an organisation, Federated Farmers was an instigator in setting up Landcare Research, QEII Trust, tied up with the Balance Awards and more recently has taken over the management of the AgRecovery Trust.

We have done this because the environment matters to farming. People who call themselves “green” could learn a lot from farmers. My challenge to these people is to make the effort. Work with farmers to look for win win practical, fair, economic sensible solutions that actually make a difference in the real world. Please do not just look for some emotional sound bite that’s just about creating fear and raising money for your organisations. Celebrity doesn’t solve environmental problems.

If you do look in the eyes of an 11 year old, one of the things you know with certainty is that the world they will grow up in, in terms of technology, is different to the world when I was 11. This is why I have been extremely passionate about the rural broadband initiative. It is absolutely critical if we want our regions to prosper and to enhance the environment that we have the railway tracks of broadband and cellphone coverage. The world is going mobile.

This government is to be congratulated, that when they didn’t quite have it right they listened to Federated Farmers and changed policy to enable the rural broadband initiative to be far more substantial than what it was going to be. My challenge to this government and future government’s is that there must be far more investment in provincial New Zealand in terms of cell coverage and broadband infrastructure.

Our population is growing but a lot of that growth is in Auckland, which is creating challenges for that city. People will simply not live in the regions unless they can be connected. If the government is going to be involved in these things it needs to prioritise provincial New Zealand. When the RBI initiative runs out, I think its next year at a minimum, then it needs to be continued for another six years.

Also with technology comes new ways of learning and is incumbent on our schools, universities and research institutions to adapt to what I know is a big challenge. I have been on a couple of boards of trustees and I know the teachers in those schools are very good and their hearts are in the right place, but again when we look at the rest of the world we need to ensure that our children can be up with the latest and the greatest in learning techniques if we are to remain competitive with the rest of the world.

As an aside, I would also comment that some of our curriculum needs to be adapted. I asked one of my children what they were covering in their history subjects and it was essentially the same as what I did a decade or two ago. History doesn’t change of course so maybe that’s not so surprising, but the present context in which we study does. In my view, every school in New Zealand should now be looking more east when it studies how other people live and some of the historical events over time. Since I was 11, our trading patterns have shifted dramatically but our curricular hasn’t much. That’s simply not good enough.

I have to say I am very proud of my wife Jo Coughlan who along with Labour MP Raymond Hau is the Co -Chair of New Zealand China language week, amongst other things. This initiative is looking to provide some leadership to not only encourage people to learn another language, but also more about the culture and history of China.

We are part of Asia and we are part of the West. This is a fantastic position to be in.
We are also seeing some other big shifts, as well as the shift from west to east. Demographically on the demand side we are seeing more, older, wealthier people, who can afford to pay more for protein. This is great for New Zealand. The challenge is how do we capture as much of this opportunity for the benefit of New Zealand? However, on the supply side in New Zealand we have a bit of a challenge as the farms are getting bigger and the families are getting smaller.

Succession is an issue. The family farm needs to be exempted from any capital gains tax, just as the family home is proposed to be. We need more human capability, and governments who want to double exports should be prioritising more resources into agricultural and food education.

Speed is increasing and by definition things are happening quicker. In the geo political space the changes taking place in countries such as Ukraine and Iraq seemed to happen extremely quickly. We have seen changes take place right through North Africa, where 40 year old regimes were toppled quickly.

It’s the same in the supply chain, commodity and financial markets. This increase in speed increases volatility and heightens the requirement for us to manage risk. Farmers have incredible risks as they operate in a biological farming system, with weather, exchange rate and international market volatility. There are a lot of variables changing on a daily basis. Farmers need to manage risk more. Federated Farmers plays its part by helping to manage regulatory risk.

My challenge to all farmers is to front up with that crunchie bar a day and financially support your organisation.

Probably one of the most fundamental changes there has been in the last couple of thousand years has been what I have termed a change from people being “readers” to “writers”. For most of my early childhood I read and listened to what my parents or the government told me, or what people trying to sell me things told me. Now however, with capability of the internet and social media, we can write about that. When I book a hotel now I don’t read what the hotel says about themselves, I read what other people have written about it.

This has fundamentally changed some of the relationships in our society and in a way has democratised countries that may not have the traditional traits of democracy. It means that things are more visible, it means that agriculture is more visible. Farmers are on a stage and they need to understand that what they do and how they behave can go global in a very short space of time. This is an opportunity as well as a challenge. Unfortunately we may be defined by our weakest link so all farmers need to get it right.

I was at Alibaba HQ recently and on just one of their platforms, by 1pm in the afternoon, they had transacted over 10 million transactions. That means change.

I could talk all day about change and a few other views I might have but this is my last speech at a Feds AGM, so I actually want to say thank you to a few people.

You cannot be in the role I have been in without having a lot of support from a lot of people. Federated Farmers is a big team effort, and I have always believed that our model of elected farmers working alongside paid professionals is a very powerful and effective one. I hope it continues.

I do want to thank the magnificent staff at Federated Farmers. They are a very dedicated and passionate bunch of people. It has been my privilege to be your boss. I am a huge believer that life is about being happy and successful. I would like to think that the staff feel that way about the contribution they each have made over the past six years. In particular I would like to mention the senior management team and my PA’s that have had to put up with me. They have done a great job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. So thank you.

Farmer engagement is critical to organisations like Federated Farmers, but more importantly it is critical to the running of the country. If New Zealand’s biggest sector does not engage through Federated Farmers and our voice is not heard, then the outcomes for the country would be less than they might be.

It has been hugely satisfying for me to see the calibre of elected people coming into Federated Farmers. As they say, success breeds success. I would like to thank all those office holders and in particular the two boards I have served under over the past six years. I have learnt a lot and I have enjoyed their friendship and stimulation of some, at times tense, discussions on various issues.

It has always been my view that it is unprofessional to expect people to read your mind. My hope going forward is that the farming community will continue to stand up and say what it thinks about issues. Our urban people do actually want to know, and they want to know from the horse’s mouth. I think it is unfair to expect others to know what we are thinking without articulating it. Some of these issues are difficult and are complicated but we need to get the views on the table. We need the contest of ideas. I like people to think. This is why I say some of the things I say from time to time.

My focus has very much been on articulating solutions rather than just problems. You cannot implement a problem. One thing I would say though is while often farmers can focus too much on problems and not enough on solutions, NGO’s can often focus too much on a solution, or a perceived solution without actually analysing the problem. Jumping to solutions isn’t always the smartest thing to do without fully understanding the practical, as well as political, problem. The “least worst outcome” syndrome is one I personally dislike enormously.

In my view, with water quality this is possibly the case. I am very nervous about solutions that would see diffuse nitrates allocated to individual farms and then a cap and trade regime introduced. Overseer as a regulatory tool is a mistake. There is a reason why no one else in the world has done this. I think there needs to be caution when the changes are going to impact the social fabric of rural New Zealand over the next couple of years and the agricultural fabric for the next couple of hundred years.

As well as the staff and elected people of Federated Farmers I do want to thank the membership of Federated Farmers, and all those in the rural community. It has actually been my privilege and pleasure to serve you in the capacity I was so fortunate to have been given six years ago.

Almost finally, I would like to thank the two presidents I have served under, Bruce Wills and Don Nicholson. The relationship between the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Board is absolutely critical and I have been fortunate that most of the time that has been a very good relationship. Yes at times there have been differences, but that is a good thing. It is good to have a contest of ideas, so to Bruce and Don, thank you both for the support and the learnings I have had from each of you.

I would just like to thank my family and in particular my wife Jo. This role can be demanding of your time, especially the cocktail circuit, and Jo I would have to say, has been incredibly supportive and patient and I want to publicly acknowledge her for that. She is amazing and she deserves me, so I am happy for her on that score!

Having mentioned my wife, before I finish, I do want to acknowledge the role and contribution that the fairer sex make to agriculture. When my mother went to finance the purchase of a farm in 1972, Wrightson at the time didn’t finance it, not because the proposition didn’t make sense, but because it was a woman making the proposition. Thankfully we have moved on from that.

Women make a huge contribution to agriculture and New Zealand. Rural New Zealand understand this. Now when winners are announced at the dairy awards, mostly it is a couple who come to the stage to receive it. Everyone knows that makes sense. I think the gender partnership in the rural community is a real strength and I would encourage more women to become involved with Federated Farmers just like our two current excellent woman board members.

I am very proud of what Federated Farmers and our rural community has achieved. There is a still lot to do. Collectively farmers are a fantastic group of kiwis who want the world to be a better place, who take risks and do the work to enable this to happen. I salute you.

Finally, what is next? Well it isn’t politics, its business again. I have set up an organisation called Agribusiness New Zealand. We will be focusing on exporting, investment and projects, both domestically and internationally. It’s a different way of making a difference. Well I am not 11 anymore, I turn 50 in 20 days and I can say I am very happy with my lot and very excited about where my life is going. Watch this space. Thank you.

 And thank you Conor, for the positive difference you made as CEO and your strong advocacy for farming, farmers and the wider rural community.

 


Lifting educational achievement

July 5, 2014

It’s risky for government’s to set targets.

National took that risk with its Better Public Service Targets and is making good progress towards them.

One of the targets was lifting educational achievement  and pupils and students are making good progress:

Education Minister Hekia Parata says thousands more young people are on the road to success as a result of continued improvements in NCEA achievement and early childhood education participation.

Ms Parata says the improved results for the Better Public Service Targets in both areas highlight the impact of extensive work to make sure that all kids get the chance to do their very best.

“We’ve now got 78.6 per cent of 18 year olds with a minimum of NCEA level 2, which is up 4.3 percentage points in just two years and up more than 10 percentage points since 2008.

“That means in the past two years alone, nearly 1600 more kids getting over the line. That’s an outstanding achievement that gives them many more options in life and better prospects.

“It is especially heartening in that period to see a 6.2 percentage point increase for young Maori, and an increase of 5.9 percentage points for our Pasifika students.

“We know there’s more work to do, particularly for the target groups, to ensure we have 85 per cent of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017 and we’re doing it. The targeted approach our Government is taking to education works.

“Over the past five years we’ve focused on collecting data from across the whole education system so we can see how it’s performing at every level and where we need to target resources.

“That has helped identify which students need what kind of support through programmes such as Pasifika Power Up, Youth Guarantee, Achievement 2013-17, and Trade Academies.”

Ms Parata says the $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative is designed to lift student achievement further through improved teaching and leadership in school and will also mean better outcomes.

“We know those are the two areas that have the biggest in-school impact on student achievement, and that’s why this investment is being made.

Ms Parata says the increase in early childhood education (ECE) participation to 95.9 percent is exciting because it gives so many more children the right start in life.

“We’ve seen growth for all groups in ECE participation including Maori and Pasifika, and overall it represents another 3,839 kids since mid-2011.

“We are committed to continuing all efforts to make sure that by 2016, 98 per cent of all new school entrants will have been in ECE.

“In Budget 2014, we invested a further $155.7 million over four years in early childhood education, which means Government spending on ECE has almost doubled, from over $800 million in 2007/08 to $1.5 billion in 2013/14. “

Ms Parata says changes across the education system and funding boosts will allow generations of children more promising futures.

“We have made big strides. We are going to continue building on that by looking at further support in particular for children with special needs and working to make the whole education journey more seamless and successful. In both of those areas we’re already making significant investment.

“We have increased funding for special needs by 26 per cent over the past five years and have given schools a $600 million increase in operational funding that covers areas like teachers’ aides.

“There is of course more we want to do in special needs. That will be of the focus of more work over the coming months, as will Investing in Educational Success so we have communities of schools and the new roles for teachers and principals in place from next year,” Ms Parata says.

 

Figures for NCEA Level 2

National’s determination to lift educational achievement is working for the pupils and students, prospective employers and it’s #‎Working4NZ‬:

 

We’ve been working on lifting achievement in education and it’s delivering great results. http://ntnl.org.nz/1lYaAnw #Working4NZ


#statsfacts

July 4, 2014

Sins of omission and commission

July 1, 2014

Nick Leggett writes of Labour’s sins of omission:

. . . The biggest crime a Labour Party caucus, activist base and affiliated unions can commit is to not put their party in a position where it can realistically when an election. They can claim all they like to want to bring new talent into parliament through the list, but on current polling, it’s rhetoric – no new faces will make it come September. . .

It seems the underlying premise of recent comments by some “outsider” activists and politicians like myself are correct: Labour isn’t
 aiming for 40% plus of the vote because they neither want – nor know how – to go about winning it. Those in charge of the party know the only way to keep the agenda and the caucus small is by keeping the vote low and encouraging the Greens and Mana-Internet to grow their support in the next Parliament. “Hopefully,” they say, “we can stitch together a rag-tag coalition of the weird and the wonderful.”

As a life-long (moderate and pro-enterprise) Labour supporter, I would rather the party win significantly more people like me and get the vote to say 38%, than appear as they do, which seems to be a preference for Hone, Laila and the Greens to be elected to the next Parliament instead of good candidates further down the Labour list. . . .

If this is the strategy it’s a very dangerous one.

People in the middle who might swing towards national or labour don’t want a lurch to the hard left.

. . . A talented Wellingtonian, with proven electoral appeal told me that last year he offered himself up as a prospective Labour candidate for Ohariu. He was advised however by the senior party person he asked not to bother because he wasn’t a woman. If I revealed who he is, I’m sure most people would agree that had he been selected, Peter Dunne would now be looking down the barrel of voter-enforced retirement. . .

The female quota is a sin of commission rather than omission and this example illustrates its dangers.

. . .  The party appear not to care about re-establishing bases in and amongst communities in provincial and suburban New Zealand by selecting candidates who god forbid might actually win some votes. . .

For all the rhetoric about the regions, Labour MPs just pop in to hunt a headline and leave again with locals feeling we just don’t matter to them.

Meanwhile there are list MPs approaching their third and fourth election this year in seats that should be winnable but somehow they have never managed to win. Some of these MPs have again been rewarded with high list placings, so where is the incentive for them to win those electorates? The bigger question is, why doesn’t the party appear to care?

It seems Labour has given up on gaining votes from aspirational workers who want to own their own home, those who strive to run a small business and the people pottered throughout every class, culture and community in New Zealand who care deeply about reforming the systems and policies that continually fail our children. . .

These are the people in the middle of the political spectrum and they are much likely to feel at home with John Key and National than they are with the muddled messages coming from Labour.


BOI conditions damn dam?

June 27, 2014

The Board of Inquiry on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal has granted consent for the Ruataniwha Water storage project with strict conditions.

The Board’s decision is to allow the Plan Change request with amendments, grant the 17 resource consent applications, and confirm the Notice of Requirement (NoR) for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS) subject to the conditions.

The Board of Inquiry adopted a ‘dual nutrient’ approach in the Plan Change to manage both phosphorous and nitrogen in the Tukituki catchment. This included setting an in-stream dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) limit/target, as well as on-land [maximum allowable] leaching rates for nitrogen, based on the Land Use Capability Classification System (LUC).

Following comments received on the Draft Report and Decision, the Board has, in addition to other drafting changes:

• Corrected an error and amended the rule that would have required individual farmers to observe the DIN limit/target in receiving waters. If an individual farmer complies with the LUC leaching rates (and meets the other requirements of the rule other than the DIN limits) the use of production land is a permitted activity;

• Resolved an anomaly in the rules relating to the use of production land by raising the upper threshold for exceedences of LUC leaching rates (from 10% to 30%) before a restricted discretionary activity becomes non-complying; and

• Clarified that compliance with the LUC leaching rates should be determined using a four year rolling average of either measured or estimated leaching rates derived from annual nutrient budgets. . .

These conditions don’t only potentially damn the dam, they will severely curtail existing farming activities.

The Hawkes Bay Regional Council might appeal the decision:

. . . Radio New Zealand News understands HBRIC has been preparing a High Court challenge to the Board of Inquiry’s final decision. These decisions can only be challenged on points of law, and it is unclear whether the nitrogen limits can challenged on this basis.

Mr Wilson said on Wednesday he would not comment on whether the council would challenge the board’s decision. It was waiting for the final decision and was seeking to find a balance between environmental protection and economic growth. . .

That balance is important and it is possible to get economic growth without environmental degradation but this decision doesn’t appear to do that.

The BOI’s decision is here.

 

 


Divided they’re falling

June 27, 2014

Two Labour MPs crossed the floor to support the windblown timber bill being debated under urgency yesterday:

Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene backed the Government’s bill to allow the retrieval of trees felled in Cyclone Ita from some parts of the West Coast conservation estate, while their colleagues opposed it.

O’Connor attacked the bill during the debate on the first reading, but the debate was completed by 72 to 46 with National, NZ First, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

At the beginning of the debate Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the damage done by Cyclone Ita was substantial and an environmental tragedy. It left a dilemma about what to do with the wood.

The West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill
had to be passed urgently as the beech which could be recovered would be too rotten by spring, other wood would last longer and this could be recovered over the five year life of the bill.

It would have been complex to allow the timber retrieval under existing rules and the bill would exclude the high conservation value areas such as National Parks, but it would be allowed in some of the conservation estate. There would be conditions over safety and environmental protections.

Smith said arguments the removal of timber would prevent regeneration was wrong because only a small amount would be recovered. He said Labour was split on the issue and claimed West Coast MP Damien O’Connor could cross the floor.

The wood would provide jobs in the West Coast, Smith said.

Labour’s Ruth Dyson said the bill was not a serious attempt to help West Coast, but a political stunt. The Conservation Act provided for storm felled timber to remain on the ground, so forests could regenerate.

If the bill would provide long term jobs on the West Coast, Labour would support it, but there was no commitment in the Bill to this.

Dyson said the bill would rule out Resource Management Act provisions and it would “devastate” the timber sector who had permits to log native timber as the market would be flooded.

West Coast MP Damien O’Connor said he would support the bill if it guaranteed the jobs created by the log retrieval would stay on the West Coast. The Government wanted the logs exported from his electorate, he said.

There was potential from the logs on the ground, but it would be dangerous to retrieve and much of it would have to be helicoptered out.

He had some “interesting and robust” debates with his colleagues; he believed the logs could be removed without environmental damage. O’Connor said he believed only the rimu would be worth extracting and they would be extracted by logging crews from outside the West Coast and processed elsewhere.

The Greens totally opposed the bill as it believed all the conservation estate should be protected, Eugenie Sage said.

NZ First MP Richard Prosser said the bill should not be passed under Urgency, but it would be supported to committee stage where it wanted changes to made. NZ First wanted the jobs created to go to New Zealand companies and preferably West Coast ones with no logs exported and 25% of royalties to go back to the region. It also wanted the RMA to apply to the operations.

Maori Party Leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the cyclone had caused terrible damage, but this was nature at work. Local Maori felt the felled timber should be used without wasting it. The timber would not be taken from National Parks or other high value conservation land and the conditions would ensure a small proportion of logs were removed in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

After the vote on the first reading MPs moved immediately to the second reading.

The bill completed its second reading by 65 to 51 with National, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

NZ First reversed its initial support in the first reading. . . . 

O’Connor  noisily declined a place on Labour’s list before the last election, he’s back on it this time but if he’s prepared to demonstrate the internal divisions in the party so dramatically he would have been better to keep off it again.

The two Labour votes weren’t needed to pass the Bill so the floor-crossing was playing to the gallery in the electorates they hope will vote for them.

That might help them stay in parliament but confirmation of disunity  will make it more difficult for them, and their party, to get into government.

National is united and standing tall, Labour is divided and falling in the polls:

Support for the Labour Party has dropped 2.2 percent to 27.3 percent in the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll – lower than its share of the vote at the last election.

The poll surveyed 750 eligible New Zealander voters between June 19 and 25, amid the controversy over businessman Donghua Liu’s alleged donations to Labour.

Labour leader David Cunliffe received his lowest rating since taking over the role in November last year. Only 26.3 percent of those surveyed think he is performing well as leader of the Opposition.

National is meanwhile polling at 49.7 percent, down 0.6 percent from the last poll – but still indicating it could govern alone with a 63-seat share of a 122-seat Parliament.

John Key has been given his highest rating as preferred Prime Minister since November 2011, with 46.7 percent support.

On this question Mr Cunliffe is polling in single figures, down 0.2 percent to 9.6 percent.

Mr Key has also received his highest rating since November 2011 when it comes to people who think he is a capable leader – 82.3 percent say he is.

NZ First received only 3.6 percent of the vote, dropping 2 percent from the last poll and placing them under the 5 percent party vote threshold for getting into Parliament.

However the Green Party are up 2.5 percent to 12.7 percent, and the Conservative Party are back up at 2.8 percent – equalling their highest-ever poll result so far.

Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom’s project Internet Mana debuts at 1.8 percent.

The full results are here and give a total of 69 seats to National and its coalition partners and only 53 to the combined left.

It is very unlikely the results will be this good for National in the election but with less than three months until the election there’s not much time for Labour to get better.

And if they keep looking divided they’re more likely to continue falling than start climbing.


Left and Right agree

June 18, 2014

Danyl Mclauchlan and Bob Jones both have a way with words.

Although they’re from opposite ends of the political spectrum they have come to a similar conclusion:

Mclauchlan opines at Dim Post:

. . . Labour are trending down, just like last time – but now their votes are (mostly) going to National, not the Greens. Which makes sense to me: we have no idea what National plans to do in its third term, but that lack of vision is still preferable to being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones at the Herald:

. . . If anything, his efforts will hugely harm the Opposition cause in Balkanising and confusing its message, thus presenting an electoral option with, on one side, a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history. . .

Yesterday’s Herald-DigiPoll, on which Mclauchlan was commenting shows National well above the combined left bloc which is swapping votes among parties at that end of the spectrum but not getting any closer to a majority.

However, the poll gives no comfort to National.

. . . And yet nobody in the National Party appears to believe they can win a clear majority of the vote on September 20. Though Labour and the Greens together have amassed not much more than 40 per cent in our latest poll, and New Zealand First are well below the 5 per cent threshold for contention, interest still centres on National’s need of viable partners. . . .

Gaining 50% or more of the votes under First Past the Post was rare, it’s never been done under MMP.

National is a victim of its own success, it’s strength has weakened potential coalition partners.

But while commentators worry about potential partners, the task for the party is to  maximise its own vote and ensure supporters aren’t complacent about the risk the left poses.

McLauchlan is wrong about National not having a vision, but right that the alternative is being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones clearly articulates the contrast between  a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history.

There’s a clear choice but the big difference between National and the left bloc which shows in successive polls is very unlikely to be maintained on polling day.


Riverstone features in Cuisine awards again

June 10, 2014

Riverstone Kitchen, the first regional restaurant to win Cuisine’s restaurant of the year, features in the awards again this year as runner-up for the regional award.

Auckland fine-diner Sidart is Cuisine’s Restaurant of the Year 2014, heading off a string of strong contenders in the highest restaurant count in the 10-year history of the awards.

Winners of the prestigious Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards, held in association with Vittoria Coffee, were announced last night at a glitzy who’s who of the restaurant industry at St-Matthew-in-the-City.

Sidart also took out the title of Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant, with head judge Kerry Tyack describing the degustation-only menu of inspirational and innovative chef Sid Sahrawat as “art on a plate”.

The picture-perfect presentation of superbly flavoured dishes, a complementary drinks list and seamless service made dining at Sidart an experience to be savoured in every way, Tyack says. “Good chefs never stand still – they continuously experiment, evolve and adjust. Over the past year, Sid Sahrawat’s food at Sidart has come into its own and truly excelled.”

Adds Cuisine editor Sarah Nicholson, “This year it’s been tougher than ever before to create a dining experience that stands out from the exceptional group of restaurants in New Zealand. Sid Sahrawat’s food is clever and technical, and looks amazing, but at the end of the day it is absolutely delicious, and that is the most important thing.”

Sixteen new eateries made the cut in the nationwide awards this year, with the total number of coveted chef’s hats increasing to 30 from 2013’s twenty.

The Grove, plus its buzzing new Italian offspring Baduzzi, earned executive chef Benjamin Bayly the title of Vittoria Coffee Chef of the Year. Baduzzi was crowned American Express Best Specialist Restaurant, with Wellington’s popular Ortega Fish Shack & Bar the runner-up.

Nic Watts’ chic Japanese eatery Masu at Auckland’s SkyCity was named Electrolux Best New Restaurant, with the intimate Roots in Lyttelton as runner-up.

The KitchenAid Best Regional Restaurant title went to the smart, laid-back Chim Choo Ree in Hamilton, with North Otago’s awards stalwart Riverstone Kitchen the runner-up. The House of Travel Best Winery Restaurant was Hawke’s Bay’s elegant Elephant Hill, with Central Otago’s picturesque Amisfield Bistro the runner-up.

Proprietor Chris Upton’s long-standing dedication to wine service earned Auckland’s O’Connell Street Bistro the Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience award, a new category this year, and the captivating Mojo Horiuchi, manager-sommelier at Auckland’s Kazuya, was named European Foods Restaurant Personality of the Year.

Find full profiles of the winners and other successful restaurants in the Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2014 on cuisinegoodfoodguide.co.nz, or get the Cuisine Good Food Guide 2014 free with the July issue of Cuisine, on sale 16 June 2014.

Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2014 winners:

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR 2014: Sidart, Auckland

Vittoria Coffee Chef of the Year: Benjamin Bayly, Baduzzi and The Grove, Auckland

Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant: Sidart, Auckland

KitchenAid Best Regional Restaurant: Chim Choo Ree, Hamilton
Runner-up: Riverstone Kitchen, North Otago

Electrolux Best New Restaurant: Masu, Auckland
Runner-up: Roots, Lyttelton

American Express Best Specialist Restaurant: Baduzzi, Auckland
Runner-up: Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, Wellington

House of Travel Best Winery Restaurant: Elephant Hill, Hawke’s Bay
Runner-up: Amisfield Bistro, Central Otago

European Foods Restaurant Personality of the Year: Mojo Horiuchi, Kazuya, Auckland

Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience: O’Connell Street Bistro, Auckland

2014 Hat recipients
Scores out of 20 determine a restaurant’s hat rating. One hat is considered very good, two hats are great to excellent and three hats (18-20) mean a restaurant is consistently amazing and among the best of the best.

3 HATS
Clooney, Auckland
Sidart, Auckland
The French Café, Auckland
The Grove, Auckland

2 HATS
Baduzzi, Auckland
Kazuya, Auckland
Logan Brown, Wellington
Masu, Auckland
Merediths, Auckland
The Grill by Sean Connolly, Auckland

1 HAT
Amisfield Bistro, Queenstown
Bracu, Auckland
Cazador, Auckland
Charley Noble, Wellington
Chim Choo Ree, Hamilton
Depot, Auckland
Elephant Hill, Hawke’s Bay
O’Connell Street Bistro, Auckland
Orphans Kitchen, Auckland
Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, Wellington
Ortolana, Auckland
Pegasus Bay, Waipara, North Canterbury
Pescatore, Christchurch
Ponsonby Road Bistro, Auckland
Rata, Otago
Riverstone Kitchen, Oamaru
Roots, Christchurch
Soul Bar & Bistro, Auckland
Taylors on Jackson, Petone
The Larder, Wellington

One of the benefits of tourism and provincial development is the improvement in the quality of food in smaller towns.

In North Otago we’ve got Riverstone Kitchen just north of Oamaru,  Fleurs Place at Moeraki to the south and in Oamaru for the finest of dining there’s Pen-y-Bryn Lodge.

Portside, at the harbour and Northstar are also worth a visit and for more casual dining Fat Sally’s is also good.

There’s others featured here.


Making NZ home

June 9, 2014

One of the defining images of the 2008 election campaign was the empty stadium illustrating the number of people heading across the Tasman to live.

It got worse after that as the global recession bit, but now it’s getting better.

 

Our growing economy means fewer New Zealanders need to look across the Tasman for job opportunities.
There’s nothing wrong with people going overseas to learn and work.

There’s nothing wrong with people who do so choosing to stay because they want to.

The problem is when people feel they have to leave and/or can’t come back.

Thankfully we’ve got a government that understands that and has policies that give people something to stay for and return to.

They’re policies that make them able to choose to make New Zealand home.

In a global world where they are free to call almost any country home, they choose New Zealand.


D-Day landing sites then and now

June 8, 2014

The Huffington Post has several photos of D-Day landing spots mixing then and now.

And From Twitter:

 

 

 


Saturday soapbox

June 7, 2014

Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse.

:) kindest, Boris


Once were youngsters

June 2, 2014

Among the many ironies of the Internet Mana Party is the aim to attract young voters when its candidates are middle-aged and older:

David Farrar said  Laila Harre leading the internet party because she uses the internet, would be like him leading the Greens because he sometimes eats them.

I think that’s the sort of logic these baby boomers are using – they can attract young voters because they once were young.

National, by contrast, has young MPs and candidates.

Among them is Cabinet Minister and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye who is in her early 30s.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross was only 11 when Harre first entered parliament so was National’s Dunedin South candidate Hamish Walker.

The party’s Clutha Southland candidate Todd Barclay, was only just at school when she first became an MP.


Left’s getting crowded

May 30, 2014

National has been a victim of its own success as its popularity makes it difficult for potential coalition partners to gain traction.

Labour has the opposite problem, the left’s getting crowded and the Internet Mana Party has added to the crowd on the far left:

Although the IMP’s aim is to get rid of National, it is competing with other parties trying to do the same thing and the Green Party is most at risk.

. . . Ms Harre has been a Labour Party member, a founding member of the New Labour Party, an Alliance Party MP and was a Green Party staff member up until last December.

She has most recently worked for the Council for Trade Unions on their get out and vote campaign – experience she will take to her new role.

Ms Harre says getting young people to vote is a key reason she is returning to politics.

That puts her and her new party in direct competition with the Greens for that vote. Every election campaign the Greens run their own Get Out The Vote campaign, and their support base has always included a lot of young people.

The slick branding of the Internet Party, and the cult status of Kim Dotcom, must surely have some appeal to the voters that both parties want.

When asked for comment on Ms Harre taking on the Internet Party leadership, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei was diplomatic, saying Ms Harre could do what she liked and that the Greens are focussed on their own party.

But there will be some nervousness within the Green Party ranks about Internet-Mana eating into their party vote. . .

The Internet-Mana alliance poses a threat to at least part of their support, and they’re disappointed at Ms Harre’s decision to opt to stand for a rival political party. . .

Once more the Green party is a victim of its radical left agenda.

If it was strong on environmental issues but moderate on social and economic ones it would be in a powerful position in the middle of the political spectrum able to work with National or labour.

But its radical policies put it at the far left where it’s now got another competitor.

The flipside is that she also has experience of being part of a political alliance which spectacularly blew itself apart; she admitted to Mary Wilson on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme that alliances can be tricky things.

However, she says she and her new colleague, Mana leader Hone Harawira, have a strong mutual respect for each other. That may be so but there is a third person in the relationship – Mr Dotcom.

Ms Harre says she initially turned the job down but a meeting with Mr Dotcom made her rethink her decision.

She says she already had an impression of Mr Dotcom as a thoughtful, intelligent man and meeting him confirmed that. She insists she has no view on the fact that he is wanted in the United States on piracy charges.

It’s hard to believe someone with strong opinions like hers has no view on this and it calls into question her principles and judgement.

This is where the credibility of the new political vehicle falls down. It looks too obviously like a marriage of convenience. Mr Dotcom wants to bring Prime Minister John Key down, the Mana Movement needs resources and Ms Harre has unfinished business in politics. . .

Mr Key says Mr Dotcom is using the vehicle of the Internet Party and MMP to get a few MPs into Parliament so they can overturn his extradition charges, and he believes New Zealanders will see through that.

Mr Key continues to paint Labour and the Greens as the radical far-left opposition, and the addition of the Internet-Mana Party, will just add more fuel to those accusations.

What it does mean for the left, even though there’s likely to be some shifting around of support, is that there is the potential for a Labour-Green-Internet-Mana block to present a Government in waiting. . .

To oust National there’s no point swapping votes round the left. They have to grow the left block.

That is very hard to do from the far left and the addition of the IMP – and thought of David and the GIMPs – could well do the opposite.

It could  scare people from the right of Labour and centre over to National.


Oddest political coupling

May 27, 2014

The oddest political coupling is likely to become official today:

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is expected to announce he’s struck a deal with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is expected to announce he’s struck a deal with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party.

He’s holding a joint press conference with Internet Party chief executive Vikram Kumar in parliament at 11am on Tuesday.

Mr Harawira has previously been optimistic about achieving an election alliance with the Internet Party.

“The negotiations for Mana have involved a number of important considerations from policy to personnel, and of course liaison with Mana branches and members up and down the country,” he said. . .

Dotcom is promising to pay all his party’s candidates an MPs salary while they’re campaigning – will he extend that largesse to Mana candidates too?

The Internet Party has policies but no principles.

Mana Party used to have principles but it would appear it’s sold them.

They have nothing positive in common, the only thing that unites them is negative – a hatred of John Key and the National Party.

There’s more than enough competition for that and it is those other opposition parties which are likely to lose from this very odd coupling.


Dropping Like flies

May 25, 2014

Open large picture

 I like people until they give me reason not to, she said.

Some days they just drop like flies, though, she added.

Dropping Like Flies – ©2014 Brian Andreas

Published with permission.

If you’d like to sign up for a daily dose of email whimsy like this from the delightful folk at Story People you’ll find how to do it by clicking on the link above.


ACC proposes across board cuts next year

May 20, 2014

ACC is proposing significant cuts to motor vehicle levies, including the ACC petrol levy, next year, as well as further reductions to work and earner levies.

The corporation is seeking feedback on these and other proposed changes as part of its annual levy consultation process, which starts today. . .

“On average, we’re proposing a forty per cent cut to motor vehicle levies, which are paid when relicensing a vehicle and through the petrol levy paid at the pump,” says ACC Chair Paula Rebstock.

“We’re also proposing an average twenty-one per cent cut to work levies, and a five per cent cut to the earners’ levy in 2015.”

This would have a similar effect to tax cuts, leaving more money in the pockets of workers and motorists.

This follows the significant reductions to work and earner levies which took effect in April this year.

Ms Rebstock says “This is a significant package of proposed levy cuts, made possible by the fact that the Scheme has achieved its goal of being fully funded.”

Full funding means ACC has sufficient financial assets to meet the lifetime costs of all existing claims.

That is the only way to ensure the scheme is sustainable.

As well as reducing motor vehicle and petrol levies, ACC is also proposing the introduction of ‘risk rating’ for cars in 2015.

Risk rating would see the levy paid by car owners reflect how their vehicle’s design affects injury outcomes in a crash.

Motor vehicle levies already reflect the different risk and cost of injury associated with different classes of vehicle. Risk rating would enable a more sophisticated classification of risk, based on real life crash data, within the ‘light passenger’ classes, which essentially comprise cars.

“Risk rating would mean owners of safer cars pay lower levies, to reflect the fact their vehicle is less likely to cause injury if involved in a crash.

This means the cost would reflect the risk.

The alternative is people with safer vehicles subsidising those whose vehicles are more dangerous.

Wait for the uproar from the usual suspects pointing out that poorer people are likely to have less safe cars and therefore will be paying more.

“While owners of the safest cars may receive the largest levy cut, I’d like to emphasise that all car owners will pay lower levies under our proposed changes.”

Ms Rebstock says ACC is not proposing levy reductions for motorcycles next year. This is because motorcycle-related injuries continue to generate disproportionately high costs for the scheme, and motorcycle levies are already heavily subsidised by owners of other types of motor vehicle.

Proposed changes to levies in 2015/16
• combined average motor vehicle levy reduced from $330.68 to $200 (40% reduction)
• petrol levy reduced from 9.9 cents to 5.9 cents per litre (40% reduction)
• average work levy reduced from $0.95 to $0.75 per $100 of liable earnings (21% reduction)
• earners’ levy reduced from $1.26 to $1.20 per $100 of liable earnings (5% reduction)

Other changes that ACC is proposing for 2015/16 include:
• increasing the minimum and maximum liable earnings limits for work and earners’ levies. . . 

There’s more on the proposed changes here.


Honest conversation needed on waterways

May 15, 2014

Federated Farmers’ Waikato provincial president has responded to a response from Fish & Game NZ to his column on water issues:

Whilst I appreciate Fish and Game taking the time to respond to my article last week, they did not quite get the gist of what I was saying. They have ducked the issue of their lack of accountability and pulled a side angle out of thin air.

I am unsure where they read that I don’t support their investment in wetlands, I just don’t support them touting they’re doing it for environmental reasons when they are clearly in it for the sport. I would rather they spent 100 percent of their budget on wetlands rather than 20 percent, but just don’t pretend you are doing it for the environment. Fish and Game’s wetlands are for breeding game and supporting the population of introduced pests, however I am grateful for the natives that benefit from them.

The fundamental point I made in my article, which has also been misread, is that farmers need to buy licenses from Fish and Game to hunt ducks. Mr. Wilson may need to swot up himself on the nature of duck shooting as a sport and what the season is all about. Whilst he rightly pointed out that you don’t need to have a license if you are hunting on your own farm, he neglected to address the social aspect of hunting where you hunt on friend’s farms, and where Fish and Game makes their fortune. Opening weekend in particular is the height of social events for most farmers. As much as duck shooting is about getting rid of pests it is also about hunting with friends and without their license you would be fined or you could always resort to shooting together over Skype.

So yes we farmers are significant financiers of Fish and Game who, without a mandate, spend our license fees pushing their agenda in court.

One thing I do agree with Mr. Wilson on is that Lake Waikare needs some serious work. The farming community has spent approximately $3 billion on enhancing our environmental performance, but we are well aware there is plenty more to be done. Farmers and regional councils are working well together to rectify water quality issues and will continue to do so. Fish and Game conveniently overlooks the impact Koi Carp is having on Lake Waikare, let alone water fowl, and forgets to mention that Hamilton Lake is one of the worst water quality issues in Waikato with no farmland or stock near it.

This is a prime example of a double standard, where Hamilton Lakes’ deteoriating water quality has had no livestock near it for 50 years, yet hundreds of water fowl and is one of the unhealthiest waterways in the region. There is no shortage of information on where farming has to improve its impact on water quality, and we are, so pointing this out the obvious at this point is just plain petty.

What is left unsaid, or avoided, is why there is deteoriating water quality in rivers and lakes that have no farmland or stock around them. I would invite Fish and Game or anyone to answer that and tell me what investment or planning is happening to rectify those waterways.

Mr. Wilson, we would all do well to consider the water quality in the Waikato. The conversation here should be honest though. Between an organisation that breeds/protects water fowl and the primary industry, we all have our part to play. Let’s be honest in this and what part we are playing.

In the meantime, if the Government won’t make Fish and Game a voluntary subscription organisation, Fish and Game should try and acknowledge all its members in the work it does and part of that is engaging with them in a positive manner. We would welcome Fish and Game to our AGM next Tuesday, on 20 May, at the Hamilton Airport.

Houghton’s original column is here.

My post on it is here and I gave Ben Wilson, Chief Executive Fish & Game Auckland/Waikato Region the right of reply to it here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,312 other followers

%d bloggers like this: