Economic opportunities for East Coast

April 23, 2014

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce have released a study of the East Coast region’s economic potential over the next 30 years.

The East Coast Regional Economic Potential Study assesses the region’s economic performance and barriers to development, and models five economic growth scenarios along with their implications for transport infrastructure and the skills needed.

Mr Brownlee says the study shows the economic importance of maintaining and boosting the road network in the East Coast, particularly in Gisborne.

“There will be an increase in logging freight over the next decade and improved roading will be vital to support that and other industries,” Mr Brownlee says.

“The study illustrates the need to develop further capacity for heavy vehicles on State Highway 35 north of Gisborne and to maintain the quality of State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Napier, and northwest of Gisborne to the Bay of Plenty.

“I will be asking the New Zealand Transport Agency to review its plans for these highways in light of this study.”

The report also concludes there is little evidence to support the case for reinstatement of the damaged rail line from Gisborne to Napier.

“When operational, rail only accounted for 2 to 3 per cent of freight from the region and the report finds no clear evidence of a significant economic impact following its closure,” Mr Brownlee says.

Mr Joyce says the East Coast already has a strong primary sector ranging from forestry, livestock farming and meat processing to horticulture, viticulture and food and beverage manufacturing, and the report shows there was potential to develop more innovative, higher-value processing to support these industries.

“The report also notes other economic opportunities such as the untapped potential to attract international tourists, and the development of the oil and gas industry. Large scale oil and gas production would result in the local economy growing by 27 per cent with an additional 3,300 jobs,” Mr Joyce says.

Mr Joyce says up-skilling the existing East Coast workforce and attracting skilled workers to the region were fundamental to economic growth.

“The study has shown emerging skill shortages across the spectrum, without which the region cannot grow. Over the next decade there is expected to be greater demand for managers, engineers, transport specialists, machine and plant operators, and labourers in forestry and wood processing. Some of these skills will need to come from outside the region but there are excellent opportunities to further lift training, particularly for young Maori,” Mr Joyce says.

“The Government is in the process of rolling out its $43 million investment in the Maori and Pacific Trades Training initiative, with groups in the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay that involve iwi already signed up. This will help industries on the East Coast get employees with the skills they need.

“This report will help the East Coast to assess whether it wants to take up the opportunities for jobs and economic growth in its region.”

The study was jointly commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in collaboration with the Gisborne, Napier, Hastings and Wairoa District Councils, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou, Te Rūnanga o Turanganui a Kiwa and Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.

It forms part of a series of regional economic growth studies that will be commissioned by the Government in partnership with regional stakeholders. A request for proposal the Northland study was announced earlier this month.

The report is here.

The report found little evidence to support the case for reinstating the damaged rail link between Gisborne and Napier.

But Wayne Walford, National’s candidate for Napier, has a plan for the line:

The mothballed Napier to Gisborne railway could get a facelift and become a cycling track.

National’s Napier candidate Wayne Walford is seeking online public support for a “Sunrise Rail Trail” cycling track linking Napier and Gisborne.

“I think a cycleway down the east coast would be simply stunning,” Mr Walford said yesterday , adding it would be the only fly-in and fly-out cycling trail in the country as there were airports at both ends.

“I’ve launched the Sunrise Rail Trail [Facebook] page to gauge support for the idea.” . . .

That’s a much better, and less expensive plan, than Labour’s which is to reopen the line even though the case to do so is weak.

The Sunrise Rail Trail Facebook page is here.

 


A stupid, stupid man

April 17, 2014

Think about Labour policy announcements this year and what comes to mind?

Debacles.

Wrong figures, wrong impressions, wrong strategy.

The latest is what has been dubbed a clustertruck – the proposal to restrict trucks to the slow lanes of three and four-lane highways.

Truck drivers said preventing them from using the outside lane on three- and four-lane highways would be unworkable and unlikely to reduce congestion.

The Automobile Association (AA) also questioned the policy, saying its members had never cited trucks as a cause of congestion. . .

Then there’s another problem with the transport policy:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Labour leader David Cunliffe has got himself in the most astonishing predicament on TV3’s Firstline this morning, by claiming the National Land Transport Fund is “going to be in surplus very soon,” so it’s time to give some of it back to taxpayers.

“We know Mr Cunliffe is under significant pressure from his own caucus, having announced policy on the hoof yesterday without telling the team back at Labour’s war room,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Now, when asked by the media this morning to explain where the forgone revenue from this policy would come from, Mr Cunliffe has resorted to making things up, presumably thinking no one would call him on it.

“The fact of the matter is the National Land Transport Fund is by its very nature incapable of achieving a surplus, or a deficit – it is what it is.

“This is an ongoing fund which is used to fund the National Land Transport Programme, which for the years 2012-2015 will see $12.3 billion invested in road building, road maintenance, public transport, and which includes $300 million a year for targeted on-road Police enforcement.

“The fund might be above or below forecast at any point in time due to factors like the performance of the domestic economy, or fuel prices, but this is a dedicated fund, with all its money coming from Road User Charges and Fuel Excise Duty on an annual basis.

“All of that money is spent on New Zealand’s roads and public transport through the National Land Transport Programme; the question of surplus or deficit simply never arises.

“What’s more, thanks to changes in driver behaviour – in particular more efficient use of vehicles by large transport fleets using GPS technology – and increasingly fuel efficient vehicles, there has been greater financial pressure on the National Land Transport Fund in recent years, not less.

“Despite that, over the past six years this government has invested more in our land transport system, following a sustained period of under investment, and that’s just starting to pay off for all New Zealanders.

“We know this is increasingly difficult territory for Labour.  They don’t want to talk about building roads because they don’t want to offend their Green coalition partners.

“But if Mr Cunliffe believes there is a surplus to be had in the National Land Transport Fund, he needs to explain what bits of the fund’s programme he is going to cut.

“If there’s some mystical way of creating a surplus inside the National Land Transport Fund without cancelling planned investment, David Cunliffe needs to tell us.

“I’d love to know what document he has seen that suggests this fund has, or will soon have, more money than it needs.”

Paul Henry says it all:


Saying it with flowers

February 20, 2014

Cameron Slater sent Annette King a bunch of flowers for publicising his blog in parliament yesterday.

Her response was less than gracious:

. . . “I’ve always enjoyed receiving flowers, and it was nice to be thanked by Cameron for promoting his blog. But I think his blog must be in financial trouble because it’s the most miserable bunch of flowers I’ve ever received. The flowers will not require me to put them on my Pecuniary Interests register.” . . .

Ms King said it did show that Mr Slater at least had a sense of humour.

Apropos of flowers and humour, Duncan Garner attempted to end Gerry Brownlee feud, sends Valentine’s Day flowers:

The year started sour between Duncan Garner and Minister Of Lots Of Things Gerry Brownlee. The Earthquake Recovery Minister flatly refused to appear on Drive.

When pressed in Wellington, Brownlee replied there was no issue with Garner.

“I think it’s a lover’s tiff, I’m expecting champagne and roses any time,” he smirked.

So today, being Valentine’s Day, Duncan sent him a gift (picture 1 below). Gerry received the present and is very happy about the present.

He has also sent us a picture of him with his gift for Garner. Though, the gift itself is yet to arrive.

Happy Valentine’s Day Gerry!

The photos show the bunch of red roses and box of chocolates Garner sent the Minister and him with the single bloom and heart-shaped chocolate he was sending in return.

 

 


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2013

“It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. . . “ Prince Harry.

. . . Whether it is in sport, business, agriculture, the arts, science and the creative industries, or in international fora such as peacekeeping, New Zealanders have repeatedly shown their talent, tenacity, flair and commitment.

That legacy of the new way of doing things was well put by New Zealander and Saatchi and Saatchi worldwide chief executive Kevin Roberts a few years ago when he said: “We were the last to be discovered and the first to see the light. This makes us one of the great experimental cultures. We try things first. Whether it’s votes for women, the welfare state or the market economy, powered flight, nuclear physics, anti-nuclearism, biculturalism. First-isms. The New in New Zealand is our reason to exist.” Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

”I like to cook meat, except for chicken. To me chicken’s like a ladies’ meat, so it’s more of a vegetable.” Jonny Trevathan, Master Chef entrant.

By 1984 the economy was in a mess, and I hope history will record more positively the decisive actions of both the Lange-Douglas Labour Government and the Bolger-Richardson National Government that followed. The resilience of the New Zealand economy during the recent global downturn owes much to the courage of those Cabinets, at least in their early years, putting New Zealand’s very real needs ahead of political considerations in pursuing necessary reform. – Lockwood Smith

As a former Commonwealth Scholar in Science, I have often regretted that I never got involved in that area during my time here. Science and technology have been so crucial to the advancement of human well-being, yet scientists are a rare breed in politics. Internationally, there is something of a disconnect between the two. In politics, for example, green is the claimed colour of sustainability. Yet in science, the very reason we perceive plants to be green is that they reflect green light. They cannot use it. It is red and blue light that sustain most of our living world. Lockwood Smith

Some commentators assess members on how successfully they play the political game. But to me what sets a member of Parliament apart is how much they care about the impact of the State on an ordinary person, and how far they are prepared to go in representing people whose lives can be so knocked around by the actions of the State. Lockwood Smith

This House, in so many ways, has become a place of political parties rather than a House of Representatives. I am not for one moment trying to make a case for the old system, but I do believe there will come a time when we will need to re-examine that balance of accountabilities. Representation is enhanced when members have to help ordinary people in their local communities, many of whom may never have voted for them. Lockwood Smith.

We aren’t scientists we are farmers, we choose not to debate the science but work hard to deal with changing weather patterns. Bruce Wills.

Anyway, credit where credit is due. The Labour Party has finally adopted one of the very sensible policies of the National Government, and that is the mixed-ownership model. That is right. These days, the Labour Party is 51 percent owned by Labour and 49 percent owned by the Greens. Yes, these two parties have come together in this happy little place, where fruit meets loop. John Key.

. . . Kids who read stay out of jail (unless they grow up to be financial investment directors). Reading gives them words. Words give them the ability to express and clarify themselves to others. How many young guys end up in strife because they don’t have the vocab to explain what they’re doing, and so they move from incoherence to frustration to violence?

Reading helps young people come to terms with themselves and their issues. . .  David Hill

“Oh my god, another cross to bear,” Tim Shadbolt on being told  he was the most trusted mayor in the country in a Readers Digest poll.

. . . The response that students gave to Christchurch is phenomenal, and it only was thanks to a really strong team of people who all were able to bring their individual skills to something.  . . .  just like young people right around New Zealand – all specialising in different areas, focusing on what they’re good at, being willing to be wrong, being willing to ask for help and fundamentally believing that change is possible, that you can look at things in a different way, no matter what level of society you’re on.  It’s our philosophy – the skill of the unskilled.  I sit at a lot of conferences, and I’m the only one without a PhD, but we say, ‘What about this idea?  What about this idea?  Where are we going?  Are we fundamentally doing things that are right and taking our country and world in a good direction?’ . . .Sam Johnson

. . . You know, Christchurch is still in a position that it’s hard there for a lot of people, but it’s also— the group of people that I am with every day through Volunteer Army Foundation, the Ministry of Awesome, we are— we love Christchurch, and you couldn’t pay us to move anywhere else, because of the innovation, the excitement.  You know, population numbers are up in Christchurch, and we are going to be a— it’s a strong place to be. . .  Sam Johnson

. . . I focus on doing things that I love.  I focus on surrounding myself with people much more intelligent than myself and people who can really make things happen, building strong teams.  I think that’s the philosophy we take in Christchurch.  We specialise in different areas with what we’re good at and focus on that. Sam Johnson

One witness was asked to identify an accused by describing the man’s tattoos. I applauded his response. “I can’t really describe his tattoos. They were a load of rubbish. They looked like the graffiti on a public dunny wall.” District Court Judge Russell Callander

“You’ve got to have a reason for getting up in the morning and I firmly believe retirement has killed more farmers than farming.” – Ted Ford

A Government should not be relied upon to create jobs. To bolster our economy and growth, we need the private sector to be creating jobs in the tradeables sector.

Whether they are high-earning export roles, or an entry level company, it is the job of entrepreneurs. Government’s role is to put in place the right conditions for economic growth, so companies can feel comfortable about expanding, growing, or just starting out in the business world.

Local government also has a role, through having plans for economic growth and development that encourage businesses and don’t stifle their creativity. Eric Roy

Politics is a two-stage process: first you’re sworn in, then, inevitably, eventually, you’re sworn at. Denis Welch.

There is rarely any danger of overestimating Labour Party stupidity. Having described myself recently as ‘a sentimental socialist’, I’m inclined to think that sentiment may be the main, and possibly the only reason for my ongoing belief in an organism genetically predisposed to push the self-destruct button when faced with the slightest glimmer of electoral success. . .   Brian Edwards.

. . . within 48 hours it looks very much to us as if it is just another David, another day, and another step to the left, as we see the disloyalty in the Labour caucus slowly beginning to foment. Gerry Brownlee.

But now, of course, under the new leader of the Labour Party, the pledge card, like his CV, will be a living document—kind of like the Treaty but without the principles.Bill English

“We were given opportunities in Mangere. Education unlocks opportunities you would not otherwise have.” - Sam Lotu-Iiga MP

The big, bad thing is that large parts of the Left have never faced up to the failure of socialism. The nicer Leftists, often very belatedly, deplored Stalin and Mao – the purges, the Gulags, the famines, the invasions. The more intelligent ones detected certain (let us put it gently) problems with state ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Yet when, in 1989, the Berlin Wall was knocked down by the citizens in whose name it had been erected, few could admit that this was a defeat for socialism as fundamental as that of Nazism in 1945. . . Charles Moore

Arts degrees are awesome. And they help you find meaning where there is none. And let me assure you, there is none. Don’t go looking for it. Searching for meaning is like searching for a rhyme scheme in a cookbook: you won’t find it and you’ll bugger up your soufflé. Tim Minchin

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts. Tim Minchin

Parliament applauded Eleanor Catton winning the Man Booker Prize for her book ‘The Luminaries’ when it resumed today.

Prime Minister John Key said the success should be celebrated by New Zealanders as much as they did sporting victories. Catton’s feat in becoming the youngest winner of the prize at 28, came as 16 year old Lorde topped the US charts with her music showing New Zealand was blessed with strong, creative young women. Parliament Today

“You guys have spent your careers trying to analyse what he says and you’ve got more sense out of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. He talks in riddles, he doesn’t stick to what he says, it’s a waste of time having discussions that are about a bottom line.

“There are no bottom lines with Winston Peters. He will do a deal with who he feels like doing a deal with.” John Key

Not so much a political honeymoon as a naughty weekend with the floating voters. – Vernon Small on David Cunliffe.

. . . Girls dress for other girls. They dress to fit in. They dress to be part of a group. They want to be respected and they want to be liked. They want to be beautiful. They dress to impress. They copy their celebrity idols. These might well be fashion crimes, but short skirts and cleavage don’t signal a willingness to be victimised.

New Zealand is internationally rated as one of the best countries to be a woman. This year, we celebrated 120 years of women winning the right to vote.

With that goes the right to not be abused. Judith Collins

. . . considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now?

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. Farming Show host Jamie Mackay on Labour after its leader refused to appear on the show in case he was laughed at.

. . . For the farmer, the business person, the property owner, and the financial investor it’s all pretty straightforward. What’s in it for National’s electoral base is economic growth, low inflation, reduced taxation and a reasonable rate-of-return. What they’re not looking for is more economic regulation, higher taxes, rising prices or inflationary wage demands.

Getting the attention of those who feel that their stake in New Zealand society is much too meagre to matter is a considerably more daunting task. - Chris Trotter

There is a saying that you do not beat New Zealand – you just get more points than them at the final whistle. – Sir Ian McGeechan

“I don’t really believe in Great — insert a country — Novels,” she said. “I don’t see how you can reconcile that with diversity, and I think the diversity is the most important thing in any national literature.” Eleanor Catton

I knew it would never be about zeroes. I’m not a spreadsheet with hair; will never be. I am an artist, an author, with a hunger for showing people what I can do and a talent for making people turn my name into a call while they’re waiting front row. It’s me. I’m here. - Lorde

Imagine if Nelson Mandela was as angry as John Minto when he got out of prison” – Josie Pagani on ‘The Huddle

Beyond the All Blacks being unbeaten for a whole season, and Emirates Team New Zealand coming second in a two-boat race, what put New Zealand on the world’s front pages in 2013 was a novel, a song and a film. – Hamish Keith

It’s one of the oldest cliches in politics - that perception is reality. In other words, if enough of us are convinced that what we think we see is real, then it may as well be real. Even if it’s not. - Tim Watkins

I find it fascinating that if you dig a hole and plant a tree in it, you are a greenie; if you dig a big hole, take the gold out of the ground and plant a forest, suddenly you’re an eco-terrorist. There’s no consistency in that. – Colin Craig

“Tasmanian Devils are renowned for their big mouths, bad behaviour and noisiness, so they will fit in well with the nation’s politicians in the capital,” - Nick Smith

I totally disagree with it. If you’re going to earn money, you earn it. You’re given it by your productivity.” - Sir John Walker on the living wage.

Science is not a bunch of facts. Scientists are not people trying to be prescriptive or authoritative. Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organising our curiosity. It’s easier, at a dinner party, to say ”science” than to say ”the incremental acquisition of understanding through observation, humbled by an acute awareness of our tendency towards bias”. Douglas Adams said: ”I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”

Science is not the opposite of art, nor the opposite of spirituality – whatever that is – and you don’t have to deny scientific knowledge in order to make beautiful things. On the contrary, great science writing is the art of communicating that ”awe of understanding”, so that we readers can revel in the beauty of a deeper knowledge of our world. Tim Minchin

. . . Remember the Government’s $30 million cash injection to secure the immediate future of Tiwai Point?  That helped to protect 3,200 jobs and the smelter’s $1.6 billion annual contribution to the Southland economy. Dairying doesn’t need such support, but in 2009, it injected over $700 million into the Southland economy and employed over 2,300 people.  Dairying may not be number one here but we’re a pretty important second that’s become more important over the past four years. . . Russell MacPherson

All of us pay for some of us to indulge romantic dreams about trains or to feed fanciful beliefs that the government owns these “assets which are valuable”

This stuff is not silver its rust… the best performers can’t perform without laws which force revenue into their pockets, the worst performers are a receivers dream.

Genuine concern for the poor would not see government owning commercial assets. - Eye to the Long Run

. . . If from the time their children could read, parents had introduced them to newspapers, as certainly happened when I was young, rather than addiction to idiotic texting, they would, instead, be addicted to the world in all of its wide-ranging fascination and zaniness (the human factor), as delivered to us daily in the newspaper.

It’s a shame as nothing matches the daily newspaper for sheer stimulation, education, and entertainment value for money. Take a recent Dominion Post. First the pleasure of its crosswords and tussling over the wordgame, this after quickly scanning the front page for later reading. Each news item induced a full spectrum of emotions, from rage to delight, in the latter case from the splendid heading, “Mr Whippy frozen with fear by chainsaw wielding cross-dresser”. That alone was worth the price of the paper and was promptly dispatched to friends abroad. These texting obsessives don’t know what they’re missing. . .  -  Bob Jones

. . .  Seemingly the first duty on rising every morning for Remuerites is to go outside and rake up the $100 notes that have fallen like confetti on them overnight. It must be very tiresome.  . . Bob Jones

. . . But as you go through life when you run into a brick wall, you’ve just got to knock the bastard over. – Sir Peter Leitch.

 


Parliamentary productivity

December 12, 2013

Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says the Government is very pleased with its busy and productive legislative year, which ended with Parliament’s adjournment yesterday.

“The House sat for three fewer days this year, but passed more legislation,” Mr Brownlee says.

“We saw a 45 per cent increase in Government bills passing their third reading and becoming law, with 145 bills passed, up from 99 in 2012.

“Another 57 Government bills passed their first reading and were sent to select committee, compared to 66 in 2012, and 67 Government bills received their second reading, compared to 56 in 2012.

“A continuing priority for the Government is the settlement of Treaty grievances, a process being superbly led by the Minister for Treaty Settlements Christopher Finlayson.

“This year eight settlement bills were sent to a select committee, and two passed their third reading into law.

“Parliament’s Business Committee has enabled extended hours to progress Treaty Legislation on five occasions this year and the Government has made use of the extended hours provisions on nine occasions.

“I’m very encouraged by the enhanced importance the Business Committee plays in organising Parliament’s business and I want to thank all members of the committee for their work.

“Parliament sat for 31 weeks in 2013; there were 90 question times with Ministers answering 1059 oral questions and thousands more supplementary questions.

“There were four bouts of urgency for a total of 93 hours out of the 596 hours the house sat for during 2013.

“Over 41 per cent more written questions were asked this year, rising to 16,946 from 11,899 in 2012.

“More papers were presented this year – 1330 compared to 1222

“Oral questions answered were similar to 2012, with 1059 in 2013 compared to 1100 the previous year.”

Parliamentary productivity is only one measure of politicians’ work.

The good ones do a lot of work outside the House much of that is working to help people and has little or nothing to do with politics.


Bill English politician of year

December 2, 2013

Trans Tasman’s annual roll call of MPs’ performances named Bill English politician of the year.

The star performer, however, is Finance Minister Bill English – he won the title of politician of the year. The judges said it was no contest. . .

This is well deserved.

Prime Minister John Key: Still remarkably popular for a second term PM, but not as bouncy and spontaneous as he was. 8.5/10

Mr English: Politician of the Year: He is restoring the Crown Accounts to surplus, getting the economy “set to fly” and he does more than his fair share of the heavy lifting on policy.

“He and John Key make a formidable team, with English’s intellectual grunt complementing Key’s instinctive political feel.” 9/10

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee: Being responsible for rebuilding a quake-stricken city would severely test anyone. Frustration showed through as he fielded EQC blunders and dealt with the shortcomings of cumbersome bureaucracies. 7/10

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce: If it’s too hard for anyone else, give it to Joyce and he’ll fix it. 7.5/10.

The full roll call will be published by Trans Tasman    later today.

 

 

 


Lower speed tolerance for Dec & Jan

November 26, 2013

The maximum speed limit on open roads is 100 kph but police generally let drivers away with a 10 kph tolerance.

It’s been the practice to lower the tolerance to 4 kph over holiday periods but this summer that will be policed for the whole of December and January.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Police Minister Anne Tolley have launched this summer’s road safety campaign, which will focus on preventing deaths and injuries by reducing speed, alongside greater visibility of Police.

For the first time, the reduced speed tolerance is being extended beyond an official holiday period.

A 4km/h speed threshold will be enforced by Police throughout the whole of December and January.

“We want New Zealanders to enjoy their holidays, and to be around to celebrate many more in the years ahead,” Mrs Tolley says.

“The lower road tolls in the last couple of years show that drivers are getting the message, but just one death is too many.

“The evidence shows that reducing speed can play a major part in making our roads safer, and in ensuring that fewer Kiwi families have to suffer the trauma of losing a loved one or being involved in a serious crash.”

Police will also be increasing their visibility to raise awareness of road safety, with a nationwide trial of red and orange highway patrol cars.

28 coloured cars will be rolled out across the country over the next year, as existing vehicles come up for replacement.

“Police and their partner agencies will be working hard over the holidays to ensure that our roads are as safe as possible, and we want drivers to play their part too,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Police will be out in force – so speeding drivers and drink drivers should beware.”

The first orange car will be going to the Tasman district, with a red vehicle on patrol in Northland. The next three coloured cars will be going to Eastern, Waikato and Canterbury districts before Christmas.

Mr Brownlee says the holiday campaign aligns with the government’s Safer Journeys Road Safety Strategy – an across-the-board approach to road safety, looking at all aspects of the road system.

“In recent years we have changed give way rules, lowered alcohol limits for young drivers, launched targeted education for young drivers, strengthened driver licence tests and progressed work on building safer roads.

“Last week I introduced the Land Transport Amendment Bill 2013 to Parliament, which will lower the adult breath alcohol limit from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg.

“Across the board this government takes road safety extremely seriously,” Mr Brownlee says.

It’s very easy to creep a few kilometres above 100 kph. I’m glad I’ve got a digital odometer and cruise control which make it easier to stay at the right speed.

Well marked cars are good deterrents to speed and the  red and orange cars will be easier to spot.

Speed does kill but slow drivers can be a menace on the roads too.

I hope police on the watch for speeding vehicles are also active in ensuring slower drivers are considerate and don’t hold back other traffic.

 

 


Labour’s left lurch shows hasn’t learned

November 3, 2013

Labour’s leftward lurch continues:

The Labour Party seems determined to continue ignoring all the evidence that New Zealand is on the right economic track, by promoting a radical shift into a state-controlled economy reminiscent of the 1970s, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

After another month when business confidence, employment intentions, consumer confidence, and net immigration continue to rise, Labour’s leadership are keeping their heads in the sand and suggesting what the country needs is a radical step back to the past with less opportunity, fewer jobs for New Zealanders, and more state control.

“They haven’t learnt. It was a Labour Government that drove New Zealand into a recession before the GFC, while it is the National Government that is lifting New Zealand out ahead of most of the developed world,” Mr Joyce says.

“And yet Labour’s leaders want to drag New Zealand not just back to 2008 but all the way to the 1970s.

“According to Labour, the Government should take political control of electricity, house building and now insurance. They want to remove the independence of the Reserve Bank, and they want to go back to a rigid national pay system, where everyone gets the same no matter who they work for or how hard they work; and they want to increase taxes on productive businesses that grow jobs.

“With the IMF saying that New Zealand is on track to be one of the strongest developed economies in the next few years; with businesses growing and adding jobs, and with low cost of living increases and low interest rates; New Zealanders are entitled to ask which planet are these people on?

“With the Government’s careful, conservative, and sensible economic policies starting to pay off for New Zealand, this is no time for Mr Cunliffe and Mr Parker to start trying their pet socialist theories out on the finely-tuned and increasingly strong New Zealand economy.”

The Minister with most experience in Christchurch, Gerry Brownlee says Labour’s insurance company would ratchet up the risk for everyone:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister and Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee says Labour’s policy of establishing a state-owned insurer is no different than its other half-formed ideas – it’s emotive, shows a hopeless grasp of economic realities, and raises questions Labour won’t be able to credibly answer.

“Labour might hate private insurance companies, but the reality is they’re paying for $20 billion of the Canterbury rebuild – twice New Zealand’s annual corporate tax take,” Mr Brownlee says.

“The fact of the matter is you can only undercut insurance competitors if you’re prepared to take greater risk.

“Two insurance companies were doing that when the Christchurch earthquakes struck – both of them New Zealand owned – and they both collapsed.

“The reason insurance businesses tend to be internationally owned and operated, by big companies, is because they’re able to hedge their risk across a range of markets.

“Labour’s insurer would be completely exposed to the New Zealand market, which every citizen knows is at major risk of incurring heavy losses from natural disasters.

“So what Labour is saying is it’s prepared to increase the financial risk to every New Zealand taxpayer by entering a market in which it has no expertise and cannot offer any competitive advantage without ratcheting that risk up even higher.

“Insurance only works because big capital calls are available to back it, which is why insurers work very hard to price that risk accordingly, and smart governments limit their exposure on behalf of taxpayers where possible.

“With $600 billion of insured assets, New Zealand has a competitive insurance market for its size, with a more comprehensive range of cover than in many other jurisdictions.

“Ironically, given Labour’s apparent concern at foreign owned insurers’ profit levels, the chance of adverse selection occurring and simply increasing those profits further is very real.

“Again, insurance is priced to reflect risk, and the only way a state insurer could offer lower premiums is by managing risk unsustainably and becoming a magnet for bad risk.

“And the only way that ends is badly.”

Mr Brownlee says it’s simplistic and unfair of Labour to use the example of the Canterbury earthquakes as a reason to launch this policy – but then simplicity and negativity has been the hallmark of Labour’s response to the earthquakes.

“These events were like no others, and they were massive. Canterbury is the fourth largest natural disaster insurance event in history.

“But by working together, the Government, local government and the private sector are spending $40 billion putting the region back on its feet and creating a modern city all Cantabrians, and New Zealanders, can be justly proud of.”

And Minister Chris Finlayson gives a history lesson:

New Zealand was in recession long before the rest of the world because of mistakes the Labour-led government made.

Policy its announced so far show it hasn’t learned from those mistakes and is planning to make more.

#gigatownoamaru isn’t making any mistakes.


Taking the shaking with you

September 4, 2013

Earthquake recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee wouldn’t need any reminders that today is the third anniversary of the first Canterbury earthquakes, but he got one anyway.

On Facebook he wrote:

Landed in Japan just in time for a 6.5 earthquake. While I do always take work with me on trips, this was a little unexpected
Fortunately since the 1980’s Japan has had very tight building codes and its citizens and media are well trained in reaction to quakes.

Sounds like a song: Taking the Shaking With You.


Absent with leave

August 30, 2013

Trevor Mallard scored an own-goal when trying to distract attention from Labour’s leadership contenders using taxpayers’ money to fly round the country campaigning.

It provided Gerry Brownlee with the opportunity to ask whether David Shearer should be collecting the leader’s pay while taking three weeks leave to lick his wounds.

But Shearer isn’t the only Labour MP who’s going to be on full pay while absent from parliament:

Next week all three contenders will be absent from the House as they go on a roadshow as part of the leadership contest which winds up with an election on September 15.

That means we’re not only paying for David Cunliffe, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson to fly around the country, we’re paying them to campaign instead of attending to their duties as MPs in the House.

They might have leave from their whip to be absent but in what other job could they take off to further their own ambitions on full pay?


Hey, look over there

August 29, 2013

One moment, Labour’s three leadership aspirants are being criticised for using tax-payer funds to fly around the country campaigning.

The next, Trevor Mallard comes up with a distraction:

. . . Hon Trevor Mallard: Has Housing New Zealand given any advice to Ministerial Services as to how to recover approximately $10,800 which was not paid when he squatted for over 6 weeks in a $2 million house owned by Ministerial Services?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: When I resigned as a Minister last year, myself and my family stayed in the ministerial house until the end of that term for my kids who were attending school in Wellington. Ministerial Services gave me consent to leave my personal belongings there until I established a new flat in Hill Street. I would note that it has long been the practice where Ministers resign—and as occurs when there is a change of Government, such as after the 2008 election—that families are given a reasonable amount of time to move. The time when my family moved out was less than 2 weeks after I resigned. . .

Mallard is entitled to be called Honourable but there’s nothing honourable about his behaviour.

A farm worker who lives on the job and is sacked, or resigns, is entitled to a period of grace to find somewhere else to live.

MPs families put up with a lot and expecting them to find and shift to new accommodation immediately upon a change of circumstances is ridiculous.

As the supplementary question which followed from Prime Minister John Key showed, he extended far more courtesy to his predecessor than Mallard’s questions suggests should be permitted:

Rt Hon John Key: Is it true that when National became the Government in 2008, I said to the outgoing then Prime Minister that she should feel free to stay at Premier House as long as she wanted, without rent, to allow a smooth transition and to allow her to pack up with her family?

. . . Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The attitude I have felt consistently from the Prime Minister, whether it was for the families and members opposite when they ceased to be Ministers or my own experience, was one of sympathy for Ministers’ families. I had children at school in Wellington, and I appreciated the Prime Minister’s office allowing those children to stay at school for the 2 weeks to the end of term.

The question also provided the opportunity for a finger to be pointed back at Labour:

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you would be able to assist the Opposition in its quest to gain these efficiencies for the State by perhaps ruling that if a Leader of the Opposition publicly announces their intention to relinquish that position, and then fails to turn up to Parliament, that they may not also claim the ministerial salary and various other entitlements that go with that job?

Nick Smith did the honourable thing by resigning when he did and his behaviour following that resignation was exemplary.

Unlike David Shearer who has announced his resignation as Labour leader and who’s taking three weeks holiday to lick his wounds, the Nelson MP carried on with electorate work and parliamentary duties on relinquishing his ministerial warrant. He also earned his reinstatement.

Mallard is just playing hey-look-over-there in the hope that it will distract attention from Labour’s prolonged leadership campaign and the costs of that which are being foisted on the taxpayer.

In doing so, he’s once again shown that Labour wants tough protections for workers because it judges employers by its own low standards.

He’s also crossed the line, which MPs do at their peril, by bringing family matters into House.

Keeping Stock has a video of the exchange.


Centre right vs far left

August 12, 2013

Prime Minister John Key’s speech to the National Party conference yesterday included a rallying call for next year’s election.

National has a clear plan for New Zealand. We are delivering on that plan, and we are seeing the results.

The fundamental difference between us and the opposition is that we are about doing things, and they are about stopping things.

As we prepare ourselves for the election next year, I can tell you that I’m as fired up to win now, as I first was in 2008. . .

He paid tribute to his deputy and Finance Minister Bill English then listed some of National’s achievements:

Bill has delivered five Budgets – all in tough circumstances. But that’s what growing up in Dipton prepares you for.

Each Budget has laid out further stages in our plan to deliver a brighter future for New Zealand.

Under our plan, we have protected the most vulnerable New Zealanders through difficult times, set a path back to surplus, and built a solid platform for growth.

Under our plan, the economy is growing, wages are rising, the cost of living is well under control and there are 65,000 more jobs in the economy than there were two years ago.

Under our plan, business confidence is the highest it has been since 1999, we are delivering better public services for Kiwi families, and crime rates per capita are at their lowest level in more than 30 years.

Under our plan, we are overhauling a welfare system that is trapping thousands in dependency and giving people more support to get off the benefit.

Under our plan, more kids are getting early childhood education and every child’s going to get breakfast.

Under our plan, more young people are achieving NCEA Level 2, and National Standards are letting parents and schools see how children are really doing in reading, writing, and maths.

And finally, ably led by Gerry Brownlee, we are standing behind the people of Canterbury and supporting the rebuild of our second-biggest city.

These are real achievements, of which we can be very proud.

And I can promise you that through good, sound policy and economic management we will continue to make New Zealand a better place. . .

Former Prime Minister hoped to leave New Zealand no worse off than he found it, and failed.

The current one aims to make it much better and is already succeeding.

This is even more noteworthy when it’s being done in the face of tough financial times and natural disasters.

. . . The Party is in great shape as election year approaches.

We will have to redouble our efforts next year to ensure we keep the hard-won gains New Zealand has made over the past four-and-a-half years.

All of us will have to work extra hard to earn every vote.

Under MMP, all elections are close elections.

And they are not just about National versus Labour, but about the centre-right versus the left.

And it’s clear for everyone to see that Labour has hitched their wagon to the Greens, lurching the opposition to the far left.

Make no mistake, our opposition comes from the far left of politics.

That is a very scary prospect, not only to National supporters but also many swinging voters in the centre and more than a few on the centre left.

It’s important that New Zealanders understand what a Green-dominated government would look like.

They want to tax you more, rack up more debt and make you work two more years before you can retire.

They want a government department to run the entire electricity system, just like it did in the old days when we had blackouts.

They want to stop oil, gas and mineral exploration that would create jobs and growth.

They blame foreigners for all the ills of the country when our future prosperity lies in being open and connected to the rest of the world.

They even characterize businesses relocating jobs from Australia to New Zealand as ‘deeply worrying’.

And they take petty, opportunistic political positions on national security in the face of the obvious need to clarify the GCSB law – a law they passed in the first place!

Well, I can tell you that as Prime Minister, I take the role of our agencies and my responsibilities in terms of national security, very, very seriously.

And I always will.

It’s bad enough for the wee parties to play political games over national security, it is even more stupid for Labour to do so if it wants to be taken seriously as lead party for a government in waiting.

For our part, the National Party has a track record of sensible economic management and policies that actually make a difference to peoples’ lives.

We are guided by the enduring values and principles of the National Party.

They run through the 77 years of our proud history.

We believe in a supportive government but also in personal responsibility.

We understand that businesses large and small create jobs and prosperity in our country.

We believe in supporting people’s hard work and enterprise.

We have tolerance and respect for all New Zealanders and we don’t favour one group over another.

We believe in supporting families – they are the most important institution in our society.

And we have always been the party of home ownership, because we know it provides stability for families, strength for communities, and security for retirement. . .

This message was given to the party faithful at the conference.

But it was of course also aimed at voters.

This is an extraordinarily successful government.

In opening the conference on Saturday, Minister & Nelson MP Nick Smith noted where other parties had been five year into government.

Muldoon was facing internal revolt and external division over the Springbok tour. David Lange was falling out with his Finance Minister Roger Douglas. Jim Bolger faced a similar situation with his Finance Minister Ruth Richardson. Helen Clark was mired in controversy over foreshore and seabed legislation which led to Tariana Turia’s resignation and the formation of the Maori Party.

This government in its fifth year has a united and strongly performing caucus, coherent policy which is making a positive difference, and polls consistently show support at more or less the same level as in the last election.

In spite of that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.

No party has managed to get 50% of the vote since MMP was introduced and, popular as this government is, it is unrealistic to hope that National could do it next year.

That means we’ll need coalition partners, none of whom are in a particularly strong position at the moment.

The alternative to that on current polling is the Labour Party dependent on the Green Party and at least two others.

That gives voters the option of a centre-right government led by a strong and united National Party or a far-left one led by a weak Labour Party beholden to the Greens.

Anyone not clear on exactly how bad that would be should think about the Finance Ministers.

It’s a choice between Bill English’s steady hands and proven record  or Russel Norman who still believes printing money is a viable option.

That’s a choice between leading New Zealand forward or taking it back and a clear choice between the centre right or the far left.


Promotion for Dean and Wagner

August 5, 2013

Prime Minister John Key has appointed two parliamentary private secretaries.

Nicky Wagner will be Parliamentary Private Secretary to Gerry Brownlee in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery portfolio and also Parliamentary Private Secretary to Nick Smith in Conservation.

Jacqui Dean will assist Chris Tremain in Local Government and Prime Minister John Key in Tourism.

Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) are MPs appointed to assist Ministers but, unlike Under-Secretaries, they are not part of the Executive. They receive no extra remuneration.

“This is an important position that ensures a strong link between the Minister and the caucus and gives back-bench MPs valuable experience,” says Mr Key.

“Nicky Wagner, as the MP for Christchurch Central, is already heavily involved in the recovery of Christchurch and is an ideal choice to assist Mr Brownlee. Her experience as a former Environment Canterbury Regional Councillor will be valuable to Dr Smith in Conservation.”

A Minister cannot delegate any statutory roles or function to a PPS, however it is expected that the PPS represent their Minister at public events and deliver speeches on occasions when the Minister is not available.

“Jacqui Dean has extensive Local Government experience from her time as a Waitaki District Councillor and as Deputy Mayor and I expect her to ably assist Mr Tremain. It is also fitting that an MP based in the South Island where so much of our tourism is based, will be part of the Tourism team. . .

Congratulations to both women.

They are very effective MPs in their electorates and will ably assist the ministers.

Information on a PPS is here.


Govt losing patience with CCC

June 13, 2013

Dame Margaret Bazley described the Christchurch City Council as incompetent, the government obviously has a lot of sympathy with her view:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the time has come for the Government to take urgent action to address the Christchurch City Council’s repeated inability to meet statutory timeframes for processing building consents.

This follows a letter dated 30 May from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) to Christchurch City Council which gives the council till June 28 (16 days from today) to improve consenting processes or lose accreditation as a Building Consent Authority.

“This is to say the very least alarming and, in the circumstances of the massive rebuild we face in Christchurch, a crisis point,” Mr Brownlee says.

“For some time now we’ve had grave concerns about consenting processes at the Christchurch City Council.

“When I’ve asked for information about that in recent months I’ve been assured things were changing, and improving.

“Because of our concerns the Government has had the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (formerly the Department of Building and Housing) involved on a number of occasions since 10 February 2010 in trying to assist Christchurch City Council to improve and speed up their building consent processes.

“We have provided considerable support and advice, but still the council has failed to adequately address its systems, resources and improve the culture of its consenting staff.

“As a result Government Ministers of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Building and Construction are now working on a contingency plan for implementation ahead of the IANZ deadline of June 28 for a decision to be made on whether Christchurch City Council maintains its Building Consent Authority accreditation.

“I note from the agenda of the council’s Planning Committee meeting on June 5 that in March and April the council was receiving an average of 35 building applications a day, a workload which led council officers to report: ‘we have seen backlogs develop across all process steps – from pre-processing initial data entry through processing and into typing. The sheer volume exceeds capacity and applicants are expressing a significant level of concern at this.’

“The council knew this workload was coming and hasn’t adequately addressed it. We can’t let that continue and will be discussing the Government’s approach with councillors soon,” Mr Brownlee says.

The council is facing an unprecedented work load but if it’s not coping it needs to get help.

The rebuild is a priority not just for the city and its people but for the rest of the country.

We need the South Island’s biggest city to be back to normal as quickly as possible.

The letter to the council is here.


Rural round-up

February 5, 2013

ECann Rakaia River recommendation accepted:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Government has accepted Environment Canterbury’s recommendation to change the water conservation order that covers the Rakaia River.

The change will allow TrustPower to release water from Lake Coleridge for irrigation when the river is low, increasing the reliability of the water supply.

“Environment Canterbury’s report and recommendation is a good example of both environmental considerations and the needs of the farming community being taken into account,” Mr Brownlee says. . .

Why wash clean linen in public – Alan Emerson:

Farming is certainly in the mainstream media. 

Most outlets are covering the DCD saga and they weren’t helped by some woolly statements from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Fonterra.

I thought the two fertiliser co-operatives, Ballance and Ravensdown, handled the issue well, with their media releases being factual and unemotive. Both withdrew their DCD product and that, in my opinion, should have been the end of the story.

The issue is simple – DCD is safe. It has been around since the 1920s and used in its current form since 1981 and that is the problem.

Because it isn’t a new product but an adaption of an existing chemical, it is not classified under the international Codex Alimentarium. For that reason there is no minimum or maximum allowable level.

The problem is technical and procedural – it is not a chemical or health issue. Googling DCD you can identify all the many countries using it. You can also read glowing references about the product’s ability to increase yields in tomatoes, wheat, barley, rice and grass. . .

Lessons learned on managing perception – Alan Williams:

THE DCD issue has thrown up some lessons on how to manage market perceptions when the debate gets away from the science, Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director general (Standards) Carol Barnao says.

MPI’s risk assessment team discovered quickly there were no food safety concerns from traces of DCD found in whole milk powder, but the time taken for action was seen by some people as too slow and the presence of an unexpected compound was linked with tainted food in some markets.

More than three months passed between Fonterra’s product testing and the withdrawal from the market of the fertilisers containing DCD.

If there had been food safety concerns action would have happened much sooner, Barnao said.

Working groups were set up as soon as MPI was alerted in early November but it took time to complete the testing methodology and the why, when, and how of what happened, she said. . .

Happy to break new ground - Hannah Lynch:

Primary industries might be getting a new minister, but it’s in the associate role where a woman will be getting to make a mark for the first time. Hannah Lynch reports from Parliament.

The first woman appointed to a ministerial role in agriculture is not afraid of bringing a touch of femininity to the job, revealing she wears high-heeled boots on the family farm. 

Jo Goodhew has just been made Associate Primary Industries Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle that elevated the previous associate, Nathan Guy, into the main role.

“It is exciting but it is part of the general trend we are seeing where women who have the right skills are doing anything,” Goodhew said. 

“Women are going into roles that were previously held by men but now it’s just recognition that if you have got the skills it doesn’t matter what gender you are.”  . . .

MyFarm expanding to sheep and beef farms – Hugh Stringleman:

MyFarm intends to use its farm ownership syndication model for sheep and beef farms as well as dairy farms.

It put together one sheep and beef farm syndicate in 2010, for Kaiangaroa farm east of Taihape, and during this year will offer several more.

MyFarm director Andrew Watters would not specify the locations but gave parameters for the suitable properties and regions.

They would be mainly sheep-breeding and lamb-finishing properties, with beef cattle only additional. . .

Farmers Preparing to Steak Their Claim :

Farmers across the country are selecting their entries for the 2013 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin.

The competition to find the country’s most tender and tasty steak is entering its 11th year and is keenly contested nationwide.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO, Dr Scott Champion, says the competition is taken very seriously and winning has become a badge of honour.

“The Steak of Origin rewards farmers for their efforts and showcases the skill in the New Zealand beef farming industry,” says Champion. . .

Freshman Sire Highlights Final Day of Karaka 2013:

New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2013 National Yearling Sales Series has drawn to a close today at Karaka with the final 212 yearlings of the Festival Sale concluding a bumper seven days of selling that has seen a total of 1021 lots traded for $72,387,700.

For the third day in a row Westbury Stud’s first season sire Swiss Ace (Secret Savings) provided the top price of the day, this time it was the colt at Lot 1353 from the four-time winning Stravinsky mare Poetic Music bought by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000.
1353 web
Top lot of the day the Swiss Ace colt (Lot 1353) purchased by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000

“He was the nicest horse here today and he proved that because he was the top lot of the day.

http://www.fwplus.co.nz/article/alternative-view-why-wash-clean-linen-in-public?p=6


Greens want to rob Peter to pay Paul

January 29, 2013

Year after year remits at National Party conferences sought to ensure fuel taxes and road user charges went in to roaring roading and not the consolidated fund.

The AA and other organisations with an interest in transport lobbied in support of that too.

Eventually they succeeded.

Fuel taxes and road user charges have been directed at roads and not treated as a general tax since 2008.

Now the Green Party wants to go back to the bad old days:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Green Party Finance Spokesman Russel Norman’s plan to raid the National Land Transport Fund to pay for his “Rent to Buy Housing Scheme”, shows a complete lack of knowledge of public finance in New Zealand.

“Mr Norman seems unaware that roading funding is collected from road users through fuel taxes, user charges and fees. That money is then dedicated to the National Land Transport Fund, to pay for road policing, public transport and road maintenance.

“This dedicated funding or ‘full hypothecation’ was introduced in 2008.

“The Greens can’t have it both ways – paying for houses from road taxes would cause serious problems for the funding of core transport services such as public transport.

“The lack of investment in new roading projects would create long term bottlenecks in our transport system and create congestion, leading to greater fossil fuel use.

“”First it was crank up the photocopiers to print money, now its let’s rob Peter to pay Paul.” said Mr Brownlee.

Cactus Kate found the Green Party housing policy is aimed at people suffering from entitilitis:

Sharissa Naidoo, 25, and her partner have been renting together for four years and say they are desperate to buy their first home.

“The concern is if we’re wanting to start a family and move into a house that’s more than one bedroom, we can’t afford that,” Naidoo said.

Naidoo recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Sociology.

She is now sick of renting and expects the net taxpayer (you) to underwrite a home for her to live in with her “partner” (hate that word) of four years.

All of this, not even one year after her graduation ceremony in May 2012. . .

Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding people’s wants and taxes collected from road users should stay in the transport fund.


Schools’ purpose to educate

September 14, 2012

Proposals for school closures and mergers are always fraught.

Principals, teachers, other staff, pupils and their families have vested interests in their schools, past pupils will also have views and at the best of time suggestions of significant changes to schools is likely to cause angst.

This isn’t the best of times for Christchurch and it is little wonder that the proposals announced yesterday to close some schools and merge others have been met with an emotional response.

But change is inevitable.

Some schools can not be rebuilt and thousands of children have left the city leaving some schools with much lower rolls.

The government’s response must be based on fact not emotion and with the knowledge a limited amount of money must be spent in the way that best provides for the educational needs of the children in the city and the hinterland.

In announcing the government will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to restore the education sector in greater Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said:

“As we move from recovery to renewal we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community.

“In line with community feedback we are taking the time to get this right, because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous.

“Over time the renewed education network can provide greater Christchurch, Canterbury and wider New Zealand with a significantly enhanced asset.”

Education Minister Hekia Parata said schools have been grouped into clusters based on location:

“This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,” Ms Parata says.

The clusters have been grouped into three categories based on the scale of work required, the speed at which it can be achieved, and the engagement needed to finalise decisions.

The categories are:

·         Restoration; ·         Consolidation, and; ·         Rejuvenation.

“Of the 215 schools in the greater Christchurch region, we are proceeding to consult on a proposal to close 13 schools. Another 18 schools will be involved in mergers of some kind,” Ms Parata says.

“Our priority is delivering a network that will meet changing community needs and deliver better outcomes for learners.”

The Government also announced the major projects identified for immediate implementation are the rebuilding of Halswell School, and enhancement of education provision at Pegasus Town and Rolleston.

Schools provide jobs for principals, teachers and support staff, they can be a community hub and the location of community facilities such as halls and swimming pools.

Closures or mergers will result in the loss of jobs and facilities.

But the purpose of schools is to educate their pupils and that must be the focus in negotiations over the proposals.

 


State of recovery

August 31, 2012

The second anniversary of Canterbury’s first big earthquake is just a few days away, Earthquake recovery Minsiter Gerry Brownlee has taken the opportunity to update us on the state of the recovery:

I want to provide you with an overview of the recovery process to date and the significant progress that we are making.

But first, I want to thank the rest of New Zealand for the incredible level of support and assistance that the Canterbury region has received over the last two years. From all ends of the country, New Zealanders came to our aid and continue to support us.

Those of us not directly affected by the quakes can’t really understand what the people of Christchurch and its hinterland have been and are still going through. Nor should we underestimate their resilience.

 And we can all be proud of what we have achieved to recover from this adversity. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, to do things differently and to cope with the strain that these events have caused.

The shared experience since then has come to define the lives of this generation of Cantabrians.

Our challenge is that, in five years’ time, the event that by then defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is not so much the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.

Out of the tragedy comes the opportunity to create the best small city in the world, and there are extraordinary opportunities for anyone who wants to be part of it. . .

Some people have left the city and who can blame them when there have been more than 10,000 quakes and aftershocks since September 4 2010 ?

The vast majority have stayed. They and others from outside attracted by the opportunities will make a better city.

. . . I would like to think that the City Red Zone will no longer be “red” meaning danger – it will be “red” because of the high energy activity and building going on there.

We can plan a better and brighter future. The rebuild is gaining momentum. Nearly $1 billion worth of building consents were approved in Canterbury in the first half of 2012, while the amount of ready mixed concrete produced in the Christchurch metropolitan area has more than doubled since March 2011, to 112 thousand cubic metres. Over the same period, the amount of concrete produced in Auckland actually decreased and in Wellington it stayed roughly the same.

As I said at the outset, the challenge I make to you this morning is to ensure in five years’ time, the event that defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is no longer the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.

We have to make it exceptional – we have to have both public and private sectors – focused on creating only the best of facilities.

To be blunt about it, New Zealand has something of a record of doing things a bit half-arsed. . .

He gives examples of Auckland building the harbour bridge without considering the development that would encourage on the North Shore, the eight years it took to build a bridge to the airport which was too small; the Terrace tunnel in Wellington which can’t cope with the traffic and parliament buildings which were never finished then added to by the ‘dysfunctional round building’.

I am determined that this is not how we are going to recreate Christchurch.

The policy has to be that everything we decide to do in Christchurch is going to be the best. What’s more, we need to do it quickly and – to use the jargon – it must be future-proofed. And will benefit New Zealand as a whole. We have the opportunity to now make it happen.

Partly as a result of the shared experience over the last two years, I think that people in Christchurch and Canterbury have a new respect for one another, and an easy-goingness and tolerance that wasn’t always here before. We must hold on to that.

We’ve had our scraps and bitter words, of course. We’ve been under pressure but it’s made us stronger.

Despite misgivings by some, there is now a unity around the future of Christchurch that I doubt any other city, anywhere in New Zealand, has ever had in recent history.

No-one envies the city the quakes but many would like the opportunity to unite to build something better.

The cost of our new city is predicted to be $30 billion dollars, this is roughly predicted to be the size of our region’s entire GDP. But it will leave us a highly productive and exciting place to live. We can’t build all this overnight, but we must not delay.

Our level of investment will create an economic boom. According to the National Bank, Canterbury is already the fastest growing region in New Zealand. We also need to attract private investment and industry.

Money, people and ideas are pouring in. But, we need to develop an economy that is built on a fundamentally strong economic base. A good example is the new Fonterra plant that will open at the epicentre of the September 4 quake – Darfield – at the end of this year. Fonterra is investing $500 million and the plant will process 6.6 million litres of milk a day. This highlights the strength of the agricultural base of the Canterbury region.

That economic base is the primary reason why the Central City will be recreated as the CCDU Blueprint lays out. The business community which drives our economy have embraced that vision of a modern CBD which makes doing business easier. More Canterbury businesses want to be based in the new CBD than were based in the old. The people of Christchurch are equally unified around the Blueprint.

The city centre was dying, the rebuild will breathe new life in to it.

According to research used to inform CCDU’s investment strategy, 74% of Christchurch businesspeople, 56% of Christchurch residents and 52% of New Zealanders support the plan, with most others being neutral.

Nearly 80% of Christchurch businesspeople and 61% of Christchurch residents believe things in Christchurch are now heading in the right direction, higher than the benchmark of the 51% of New Zealanders who believe things in New Zealand are heading in the right direction.

Importantly, to get our plan underway and create jobs, 97% of Christchurch businesspeople plan to keep living in the city, and three-quarters of them believe this is a good time to invest.

But a real city will not feel like a business park. The Blueprint is designed to be a place that people will want to live in. It must have the social and cultural fabric that people enjoy being part of.

Not only will the Avon River Precinct attract local and visitor use, it will support the core commercial, retail and cultural activities and become a destination in its own right with cultural, art and historic references.

I want to make it clear we must all agree that these projects and facilities must be the best to be found in any small city in the world.   We should not entertain proposals that fall short of that objective. There are going to be no repeats of the four-lane harbour bridges. 

And we need to act quickly to achieve the vision.

Our city’s children who are five today, were barely three in February 2011 and they will not have full access to their central city until they are perhaps 10.  One important part of the Frame – in the north-east – will be the new children’s playground. We will build them a playground from where they can view the rebirth of their city, through their childhood years. It will be the best playground in the world. Not a fun park, but a playground.

Later in the month, I will announce with the Minister of Education a competition for the children themselves to help envision what that playground will be like and begin to understand what a great place Christchurch will become.

A child friendly city is a family friendly city, what a good idea to plan for and involve those who will be part of its future.

Our goal should be that within a decade, Christchurch is clearly recognised as the best small city in the world in which to bring up kids, open a business, go to an art gallery, study at university, watch the All Blacks, make money, create jobs, build a home.

My officials, and those in the council, have made strong commitments to make all this happen fast. The longer we take, the more opportunities will be missed.

Last year, Christchurch was unable to host part of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and 2011 Festival. In the home of the Crusaders, we missed out on what will be remembered as the biggest cultural and sporting event that New Zealand has ever held. In 2015, New Zealand will host part of the Cricket World Cup. The people of Christchurch can’t miss out again. We need to all go into bat for Christchurch and ensure that not only do we take part – we take a leading role in that event.

Beyond that, our new Blueprint will give us the facilities to be the leading events destination in New Zealand.

My message to the businesspeople and investors of New Zealand; and to the philanthropists who might want to become involved in our new parks, our new arts centres or our new sports stadia is this: Christchurch is the place to be. Everything we do here will be the best.

We have always been a beautiful city, in the most beautiful part of New Zealand; the best part of New Zealand to bring up a family; and the main support centre for the South Island’s most important industries, past and present, including agriculture, tourism, mining and oil, education, the high-tech industries and logistics.

We have a fabulous new airport, a restored port and are building superior roads, connecting us better than ever before with the rest of the South Island and the world.

If we can’t make something extraordinary about the newly recreated Christchurch off the back of such opportunities and such overwhelming public, political and business support, there is something wrong with us.

And we’ve proven this last two years there is nothing wrong with us. We have proven we are among the best and most resilient people in the world, and we can do things fast.

Other parts of the South Island, and New Zealand are watching, some with apprehension – will the city take too many workers from elsewhere? But there are opportunities which can provide work and retain staff outside the city too.

For example, while the city needs tradespeople to rebuild it can’t cope with an influx of people yet so building companies further afield are looking at opportunities for work that can be done elsewhere, for example constructing buildings which can be transported.

There are still hold-ups and frustrations for people wanting to rebuild homes, community facilities and businesses.

But there is also vision, unity and energy.

The sooner that is realised the better it will be for the city and the country.


Chch rebuild gets welcome boost

April 19, 2012

The Christchurch rebuild got a welcome boost yesterday with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee’s announcement of a new business unit inside the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to focus on rebuilding the CBD.

“The Christchurch Central Development Unit will provide clear leadership for the rebuild of the city and work in a positive partnership with Christchurch City Council, which remains the consenting authority,” Mr Brownlee said.

The unit will be led by Warwick Isaacs, who is presently CERA’s operations manager responsible for CBD access, building deconstruction, and the Cashel Mall restart. “This is a great day for Canterbury as it’s another tangible milestone in the recovery process,” Mr Brownlee said.

“It marks a shift in focus from demolition to building the new, vibrant, distinctive and green central city the people of Christchurch told their council they wanted.” . . .

. . .

The new unit’s first task will be preparation of a blueprint for the implementation of the Central City Plan inside the next 100 days. The blueprint will give property owners, developers and business sectors a lead on how the city will look and how they can be involved.

“This blueprint will be vital to achieving a coherent roll-out of a number of anchor projects such as public buildings and strategic city blocks, and will provide important guidance to the market.

“It will also identify how to streamline consents and look at what, if any, land amalgamation is required to support anchor projects and developments.

“An example of an important anchor project is the city’s new convention centre. Delivering certainty about that project will begin the process of reviving the city’s hospitality and tourism sector.

“Hotel developments are unlikely to proceed until the location of the convention centre is resolved.

“Reviving the central city’s hospitality and tourism sector will attract other businesses in and encourage service sector, retail and hospitality development.

“The blueprint will deliver the sort of market intelligence the commercial property and business sectors need to invest with confidence. This is all about getting momentum in the rebuild,” Mr Brownlee said.

The news has been welcomed by the Property Council, business leaders and the Insurance Council.

The assurance that consents will be processed within 14 days is especially welcome.

Prominent businessman Bruce Irvine, chairman of Christchurch City Holdings, the investment arm of the Christchurch City Council, said what was needed was an organisation that had more powers than councils did and that was what Cera had.

“It will enable a more effective execution of the plan that the council has come up with. I’m very supportive.”

The unit would consist of up to 25 staff, with some seconded from the council and Environment Canterbury. The team would identify the most important projects to “pave the way forward”.

The unit would also determine how to streamline the consents process with an aim of processing all resource consents within 14 days. It would attract overseas investment, he said. “Private sector capital is very important, because that’s the majority of the money that will be spent inside the central city.”

If those of us outside the city have been thinking that it’s time for action, people in Christchurch must have been feeling even more frustrated.

Yesterday’s announcement is a much-needed sign of progress.

Dare we hope that the determination on how to streamline the consent process might be something  from which other councils could learn?

The Minister’s full speech is here.


Nokia vs sheep

March 27, 2012

Gerry Brownlee’s response to David Shearer’s desire to emulate Finland has caused a bit of a stir.

As is usual in such stoushes, emotion beats facts, but  Federated Farmers has the numbers to prove sheep beat Nokia:

Federated FarmersFederated Farmers@FedFarmers

@ChrisKeall ‘More money selling a Nokia than a couple of sheep’? Nokia lost €954m in Q4 and sales were down 31%. C/W http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/industry_sectors/imports_and_exports/OverseasMerchandiseTrade_HOTPFeb12.aspx

Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour


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