Kate Wilkinson’s valedictory

July 24, 2014

Hon Kate Wilkinson delivered her valedictory speech yesterday:

Hon KATE WILKINSON (National – Waimakariri): When I first entered this House 9 years ago I was a list member of Parliament in a Labour-held safe seat. I leave this place as the electorate member of Parliament for Waimakariri in a National-held seat. This just goes to show that anything can happen and one should never ever take one’s electorates for granted. Now I will leave this place, never ever to suffer defeat as an electorate MP. I especially want to thank the 16,787 voters of Waimakariri—well, actually, one of them was me—who entrusted me with their electorate vote and with the responsibility of representing them in Parliament. What a tremendous honour and a privilege. Constituency work has always been, for me, the most satisfying aspect of the job. There is nothing better than seeing a constituent come into my office with a problem and leave without it. Of course, not all problems are able to be solved. To the 20,489 Waimakariri voters who had the common sense and wisdom to give National their party vote, well done, thank you, and long may that trend continue, and long may National be the party of choice for you. By the way, when I first stood, our party vote in Waimakariri was in deficit by 6,790 votes. We won the party vote that election by 81 votes, a good reflection that indeed every vote does count. In total that is a turn-round of about 20,000 party votes during my tenure. I have been an Opposition backbencher and a Government backbencher. I have been a list member of Parliament and an electorate member of Parliament, and I do not need to comment on which is better. I have been given the absolute privilege of being a Cabinet Minister. That is like being selected for the * All Black team. Not everyone gets to be an All Black, and not every All Black gets to play 100 test matches. So I feel very honoured and privileged to have been selected for the team and to have been able to play my part. Thanks, in particular, to our Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key. Without a doubt, he is one of the best Prime Ministers in New Zealand’s history. I will certainly take some reflected glory in having been selected as part of his Cabinet team for just over 4 years, and for his caucus team. For those who have not yet read the biography, I feature on pages 194 and 215.

Hon Member: It’s a good read.

Hon KATE WILKINSON: It is a good read. The stewardship and governance of New Zealand, shown especially by both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, Bill English, throughout what has undoubtedly been some of our most challenging times has been outstanding, and I will always be proud of being part of that team. Special thanks must go to my electorate team over the years—my National Party volunteers, friends, and family, many of whom are here today and who have travelled so far just to be here.

[Continuation line: It is a bit embarrassing, really]

Hon KATE WILKINSON

It is a bit embarrassing, really. If they had not believed in me, supported me, befriended me, advised me, fed me, and looked after me, I would not have been here in the first place, I would not have been able to be here for 9 years, and my tenure here would not have been so fantastic. Thank you also to them and to the National Party for honouring me with this opportunity. To my class of 2005, thank you. To my caucus colleagues, it has been a fantastic journey together. Those remaining do have a huge responsibility to keep looking after our country, making sure it does not get into the wrong hands, protecting both our economy and our environment. I know that you will do this well. To my fellow valedictors, if that is a word, all the best with your post-parliamentary lives. To Natalie, Nat, Natto—she hates that—my executive assistant and then my senior private secretary, you are the best person I have ever worked with. You seemed to understand me, which was no mean feat. You held our team together in room 4.3. I will not embarrass you by tabling in the House your long-awaited reference from me, but here it is. Pick it up later over drinks. To all my team, who are all here except for ______,

[Ms Wilkinson, please supply name. Thank you.]

who I understand is, hopefully, watching this from Russia, thank you for all your support and friendship over the years. They say things happen in threes. Well, I was a member of Parliament in Canterbury. Under my watch the worst natural disaster, the earthquakes, happened. I was Minister of Conservation. Under my watch the worst environmental maritime disaster, the * Rena, happened. And I was Minister of Labour. Under my watch the worst workplace safety disaster, Pike River, happened. Can I say that at least as * Associate Minister of Immigration I did not let ** Mike Tyson into the country. Like every Canterbury member of Parliament, the earthquake events will always stand out for me. What a remarkable time to be a member of Parliament for an electorate and in a home town that was devastated by the earthquakes. I feel honoured to have helped our district in my capacity as MP through what has surely been its darkest time, from shovelling silt during those early days to informing residents of each and every new service and funding the National-led Government provided towards our recovery, as well as the hours and hours of work helping our residents navigate through the repair and rebuild of their homes. We have all learnt so much together, developing a new vocabulary along the way and learning about resilience and community, concepts we lived and which held us together so well. To the Hon Gerry Brownlee, Canterbury and Christchurch owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Your legacy will be remarkable. I have always believed that New Zealand is the best country in the world, and that was certainly borne out during my nearly 4 years as Minister of Conservation. What a fantastic portfolio to have had the privilege of holding. I remember to this day my very first kiwi release. To hold one of those iconic, beautiful birds was a treasure I shall always remember. On this first occasion I was given some very sage advice as I was holding the kiwi firmly, fondly, and possessively. I must admit that the advice was not that welcome. Basically, I was advised in no uncertain terms. They said: “Minister, the idea of a kiwi release is you actually let go of the kiwi and release it.” Thank you, Gavin. One of the absolute highlights, apart from naming one of our * kākāpō Jack—who, by the way, is now 3 years old, fit, well, and starting to boom—

Hon Members: Oh!

Hon KATE WILKINSON: Exactly. One of the highlights has to be taking Prince William to * Kāpiti Island. What a delightful young man. I would not mind hanging him up in my wardrobe. I have a photo hanging in pride of place on my wall of the prince flanked by the Prime Minister and me. I must admit there was a fleeting moment when I considered cropping the photo, but I did not. The trick, as we all know, with photos is to try to stand in the middle so there is no possibility of being cropped out. Sorry, Nathan. I also remember, when I was Minister of Conservation, having to do a media stand-up with my colleague Gerry Brownlee, who was then * Minister of Energy and Resources. There were some critics who said I was not even there, so I just want to put it on the record once and for all that I can assure them I was there; it is just that the camera lens maybe was not wide enough for the both of us. In my time as Minister of Labour there were good times and bad times. The ink on my warrant barely had time to dry when I was told that my 90-day trial bill would be one of the first in our term to go on the * Order Paper. It has now been in place for just on 6 years. The protections we built into the legislation worked, and in that time there has been no amendment needed apart from, of course, extending it from small businesses to all businesses. Indeed, that one piece of policy and legislation was credited with having provided 13,000 new jobs in its first year. We had finally caught up with what had happened in most jurisdictions throughout the world. It would be sad if ideology reversed all this. It has helped so many and hurt so few. Most memorable, sadly, was the Pike River mining tragedy. I cannot resile from the absolute fact that 29 men died under my watch. Although I was not personally responsible, I was the responsible Minister, and it happened under my watch. We all wish we could turn back the clock and prevent such a disaster and keep those men safe. We cannot, but I am proud of the setting up of the Royal commission inquiry and now implementing its recommendations, putting the spotlight on workplace safety. We often have a national culture of “she’ll be right”, but it too often is not right. We lose a worker about once a week and a farmer once a month, and a farmer is hurt about every 30 minutes. So often those deaths and injuries could have been avoided. We need to change that culture and simply look after our workmates. Governments can only do so much and can only be so effective. Workplaces and workmates can do more. The food safety portfolio is a fascinating one, although when I was first given the portfolio, a good friend of mine did comment that if the Prime Minister had looked inside my fridge, he would not have given me food safety. Anyway, it started for me with the folic acid debate—not the most memorable one for me. Throughout all the discussions as to how many slices of bread one would need to consume to get the daily intake of folic acid, it remarkably went unnoticed that, actually, I cannot even eat bread. However, the portfolio ended for me with a success, having negotiated with our Australian counterparts on a joint health claims standard. I even had the Australian Minister who chairs the forum make a special trip over here to see me, not particularly happy about trying to convince New Zealand to go with the Australians and not opt out of a joint standard. We won through in the end; otherwise it would had stifled innovation and cost our businesses millions, if not billions, of dollars. There are two lessons from that. Firstly, we have definitely not lost our sovereignty to Australia, and, secondly, if it is good news, it does not always get the good publicity it deserves. In fact, more column space was spent on my being mistakenly referred to as “**“ Kate Middleton” than on this food treaty success. Our work in select committees, as has been said, often goes unnoticed by the public. They do not often see the collaborative approach to make good law, whatever our respective ideologies and beliefs. My first success in a select committee was changing the word “the” to the word “a”, and one of my last successes was changing “can” to “may”. Words can, indeed, make a difference. Yet we still have some really, really stupid laws, or maybe it is just that we have enabled some of our laws to be interpreted stupidly. Why, for example, can I no longer use my business card in the regulated period? Apparently that is deemed electioneering. It is a business card, for goodness’ sake, and I am not even standing for re-election. Local successes are always the sweeter. I am particularly proud to have been instrumental in obtaining our health hub in * Rangiora, and thanks must go to the Hon Tony Ryall for his support for this and for making it happen.

[Continuation line: This is a milestone eagerly and long awaited]

Hon KATE WILKINSON

This is a milestone eagerly and long awaited by residents to supplement our world-class St John paramedic team serving residents after hours, an award-winning response model. It is so much more worthwhile and responsible to look pragmatically and objectively for solutions rather than negatively focusing on the problems. I always preferred to work hard behind the scenes and help solve problems in priority to trying to attract any headline. We all have a best-before date and a use-by date, although I believe that some do not recognise either. But I was reminded of that at a university club day I was attending, to help out and support our wonderful, energetic, and enthusiastic * Young Nats. A student coming up to our stand made the comment to me: “You look familiar. Do I know you?” Not being one to ever use the phrase “Don’t you know who I am?”, one of our helpful Young Nats started to say “Oh, she is a local MP. She is a Minister.”, etc., when the inquirer interrupted and said: “I know. You remind me of my grandmother.” That was a reality check. Still, the alternative to getting older is worse, but it does serve to remind us that this is not a job for life. It goes very quickly and we must make the most of each and every day. Most of us come to this place to make a difference, to make New Zealand a better place. Some do it better than others, some have different views on how to make that difference, some do it differently than others, and probably some do not make any difference at all. I hope in my small way that I have made some small difference to some people. It is a remarkable thing, though. As soon as I made the decision not to stand again, my bucket list magically got bigger and bigger. So now it is time to start emptying that bucket. A big job, I know, but I am up for it. Until 20 September I have a job to do, but then I am away to tick off the first agenda item on my bucket list. It will be the first time in 9 years that I have not had to ask the permission of our whips. Obviously, there will be some things I miss about this place, but there are also things I definitely will not miss. No longer will I have to ask for leave to go to the * Christchurch Show Day or to go on holiday. I will always cherish my time working with and for our residents of * Waimakariri as their MP. I have loved the job. I have valued the opportunity. I have been humbled by the privilege. But now it is time to step away and tread a different path, or, as my GPS frequently tells me, “route recalculation”. As some have been known to say, I have been around for over 30 million minutes so far—not all in this place, although nearly 5 million minutes have been spent here. It is time for me to use those remaining minutes differently. There are now more restaurants and bars in Christchurch than before the earthquakes—more than 120 news ones. I have not tried them all, so I can start working my way through them. Bucket list, here I come. In closing, can I say that in 2005 I was so excited to be here, and now, 9 years later, I am so excited to leave.


Valedictory roster

June 19, 2014

Parliament’s Business Committee has released the roster for valedictory speeches from retiring MPs:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Cam Calder

4.15pm – 4.30pm John Hayes

4.30pm – 4.45pm Chris Auchinvole

4.45pm – 5.00pm Colin King

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Chris Tremain

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Kate Wilkinson

Thursday, 24 July 2014

4.45pm – 5.00pm Dr Rajen Prasad

5.00pm – 5.15pm Darien Fenton

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Dr Pita Sharples

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tariana Turia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Paul Hutchison

4.15pm – 4.30pm Hon Phil Heatley

4.30pm – 4.45pm Eric Roy

4.45pm – 5.00pm Shane Ardern

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Tau Henare

5.15pm – 5.30pm H V Ross Robertson

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tony Ryall

The Herald opined that valedictories should be the preserve of “deserving” MPs:

No fewer than 14 National MPs are retiring at the coming election, plus a couple from other parties. While the turnover is refreshing for public life, it carries a cost if every departee gives a valedictory address. . . .

Few voters could name many of those retiring this year. Many are leaving because they have not been able to make much impact and accept that they should give others a chance. More credit to them, but valedictory time should be reserved for those who have made their mark and will be missed.

That is very ungracious and also shows a depressing level of ignorance about the role of MPs.

Most of the good work MPs do never makes the headlines, much of it can’t because it’s helping people over matters which must remain private.

Maiden speeches and valedictories are among the best speeches given.

All MPs deserve the opportunity to do one and in doing so show their work and parliament in a far better light than it’s normally portrayed.


Doocey for Waimakariri

March 17, 2014

The National Party has selected Matthew Doocey as its candidate for Waimakariri.

Mr Doocey was selected by a meeting of local party members tonight.

“Matthew proved himself an effective campaigner in the Christchurch East by-election, with a real passion for advancing and rebuilding Canterbury. He will be a strong, fresh, and energetic local MP if elected in September,” said Canterbury-Westland Regional Chair Roger Bridge.

“Kate Wilkinson has served the electorate well, winning the seat for National in 2011. However we are taking nothing for granted this election and will be running a strong campaign in Waimakariri.”

Mr Doocey said he was honoured to be selected and looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“It’s an honour to be selected as National’s Waimakariri candidate,” says Mr Doocey.

“North Canterbury has been well-served by a Government which is making the rebuild a priority, investing in infrastructure, and backing rural communities.

“Having a strong local voice inside National has been crucial for Waimakariri. I will be working hard to carry that on if I have the privilege of being elected to serve these communities inside Parliament.”

Matthew Doocey – Biographical Notes

A born and bred Cantabrian, Matthew Doocey (41) lives in Redwood with Hungarian-born wife Viktoria and their new-born daughter Emily.

After pursuing opportunities in the UK, Mr Doocey decided to return home last year to give something back after the earthquakes.

He currently works at the Canterbury District Health Board as a manager in its surgical division.

Mr Doocey went to St Bedes College before studying counselling psychology at WelTec (Wellington). He has a Bsc (Hons) in Social Policy, an MA in Healthcare Management from Kingston University in London, and an MSc in Global Politics from Birkbeck College – University in London. He is also studying towards a Doctorate in Health by distance with Bath University in the UK.

Matthew Doocey has a long career in healthcare management including in the delivery of community health, mental health, and social care services both in voluntary and Government settings.

Kate Wilkinson won Waimakariri from Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove.

If proposed boundary changes are confirmed, the electorate will be a bit bluer than it was.


No room to splash cash

March 12, 2014

Parties on the left like to think the government is the answer to most problems.

By contrast, National recognises the importance of individuals, households and businesses, and careful management of government resources.

Hon KATE WILKINSON (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the focus of the Government’s economic programme going into the election on 20 September?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government will focus on building on the recovery that is now under way to support New Zealand households and businesses, to create more jobs, and to earn higher incomes. Now that we have been able to manage through a very significant recession and the impact of the earthquake, and clean up some of the damage done by the last Labour Government, we will look forward to helping New Zealanders organise the capital and the skills required to take advantage of the very substantial opportunities offered by a growing Asia- Pacific region.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: What progress is the Government making with its economic programme and how is this helping households and businesses?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, the recovery in the economy is principally the work of New Zealand’s households and businesses, supported by Government. Government policy that has helped to support that has been to get the Government finances under control and get back to surplus; and to focus on all those areas across the economy that support growth, such as better infrastructure investment, a tidier, more effective, and more efficient system for giving young New Zealanders skills, reducing welfare dependency, re-regulating the use of our natural resources so that we can be a prosperous economy as well as a clean, green economy, and, of course, there are many other ways we have been supporting New Zealand households and businesses.

Reducing the burden of government is one of the bests ways to help people and businesses.

Hon David Parker: Why is he claiming that everything is going swimmingly when the $1 billion deficit to 31 January in his Government’s accounts is $637 million worse than he forecast in just December?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I have pointed out regularly in this House, we can control expenditure to a significant extent but revenue can fluctuate. In this case—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, bear in mind that in the previous financial year we finished about $3 billion ahead of budget. On the most recent figures in this year tax revenue is about $800 million

behind budget. The people who should take the most notice of that are the Opposition parties, because it makes it pretty clear there is not room to splash cash everywhere in election year.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: What are some of the ongoing economic challenges the economy faces, and how will the Government work to overcome them?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably the main economic challenge is to manage our way through the next growth cycle, avoiding the excessive damage created during the last growth cycle under the last Labour Government. For instance, it is inevitable that interest rates will rise some time this year, according to decisions of the Reserve Bank. We want to make sure that interest rates are not driven to 10.5 to 11 percent by bad Government policy and excessive Government spending. That is probably one of the best things we can do to support New Zealand households.

Government spending has a significant influence on interest rates.

Labour’s profligacy was a major cause of high interest rates, National’s Presbyterian approach to other people’s money has helped to keep them low.

Hon David Parker: Is it correct that having inherited close to zero net Government debt he is soon to clock over $60 billion of borrowings; and is this more than any other Minister of Finance in New Zealand’s history in nominal terms and the worst in real terms since Muldoon?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but it is another symptom of “Planet Labour”, a place where the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes never happened. Voters will increasingly see a party marooned on “Planet Labour”—1970s Fabianism at its worst.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: Going into the election on 20 September, what economic policies will this Government reject because they would impose costs on households and cost jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is pretty clear from lessons learnt from the last cycle through the early 2000s up to 2008 what policies to avoid. One of those is a sharp increase in Government spending, because that will push interest rates up much faster than they need to go. The second one would be imposing a costly emissions trading system, which is guaranteed to put power bills up by around $500 per year and, in combination with a single-buyer electricity authority, would make household electricity bills significantly more expensive, not cheaper, as the Opposition claims.

Labour and Greens both plan to tax us more, directly and indirectly, and then splash the cash around.

Not only will that leave us with less of our own money, it will fuel interest rates and inflation.


Wilkinson, Shanks won’t seek re-election

November 7, 2013

National MPs Kate Wilkinson and Katrina Shanks have announced they won’t be seeking re-election.

Kate entered parliament as a list MP and won the Waimakariri electorate in 2011.

She was Minister of Labour and Conservation until earlier this year.

“It has been a fantastic privilege to have been both an MP and a Cabinet Minister in the John Key-led Government,” Kate Wilkinson said.

“It has been humbling and satisfying being able to help constituents in the area – especially following the Canterbury earthquake events, when we all learnt so much as a region and as a country.

“One of the most satisfying achievements was obtaining funding for the North Canterbury Health Hub and I certainly want to see that through.

“I first stood as the National Party candidate for Waimakariri in 2005, taking Waimakariri from being a Labour stronghold to ultimately becoming a National seat. Winning the electorate vote in the 2011 election was an absolute thrill.

“I had in mind in 2005 that I would stand for election for three terms. I feel that it is now time to consider fresh challenges and opportunities. I will remain focused on working for the people of Waimakariri until the election and look forward to supporting National’s new candidate.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Waimakariri for their ongoing support and for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of so many exciting projects which have assisted in making Waimakariri such a special place.”

Katrina has been in the unenviable position of standing in Ohariu but not seriously contesting the list vote in order to help Peter Dunne hold the seat.

“It has been an incredible privilege to serve in the John Key-led Government,” Katrina Shanks said.

“New Zealand now has one of the strongest economies in the world, an education system which focuses on every child, a healthcare system which is responsive to patients’ needs in a timely manner, and most importantly considers families to be the cornerstone of this great country.

“Working as an MP it has been an honour to be able to meet so many great New Zealanders, especially those who give to our communities through their volunteer work and make a real difference to so many people’s lives.

“I came into Parliament wanting to put the spotlight back on families and highlight the important role which they play in our society today. The work I have performed both in my select committee roles and policy development has allowed me to contribute greatly in this area.

“Working across three Wellington electorates has meant that I have made many friends and been supported by many people. I thank these people for their support of the work that I have undertaken.

“I have decided that now is the right time to leave my career in politics, and look to spend more time being closer to my young family. I look forward to taking up new challenges outside of Parliament.”

These announcements follow similar ones from Chris Tremain, Chris Auckinvole, Paul Hutchison, Cam Calder  and Phil Heatley, and Bill English’s decision to seek a list spot rather than contesting the Clutha Southland seat.

National lost a lot of MPs in 2002 but had big intakes in 2005 and 2008 as well as some new MPs in 2011 and two since then.

This is providing good opportunities for renewal which is healthy and will enable National to campaign with a lot of fresh faces.


Kaye, Woodhouse in, Heatley, Wilkinson out, Smith back, Carter Speaker

January 22, 2013

Prime Minister John Key has announced a bigger Cabinet reshuffle than anticipated:

Mr Key confirmed the Government’s nominee for Speaker to replace the departing Lockwood Smith will be long-serving National MP and Cabinet Minister David Carter.

“I’m pleased to announce David Carter as the Government’s nominee for Speaker and I’d like to thank him for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

“I have taken the opportunity presented by the change of Speaker to look at the Cabinet line-up as a whole, in the context of the Government’s priorities.

“As we begin a new year I am optimistic about the progress we can make, while being mindful of the challenges created, in particular, by the uncertain international economic environment.

“New Zealanders expect their elected Government to get on, and not only do what it has promised to do, but to do so with a sense of urgency and purpose, with real energy and new thinking along the way.

“It is in this context I have decided to make changes to the Ministry.”

Two other Ministers will also be leaving Cabinet on 29 January – Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson.

“Phil and Kate have both made a real contribution to the Government in their four years as Ministers and I’d like to thank them for that,” Mr Key says.

“I have made the judgement that it is time for fresh energy and ideas, and for other members of our talented 59-strong caucus to be given an opportunity.”

Returning to Cabinet is Nick Smith, who will take on the Housing and Conservation portfolios. Mr Key says Dr Smith will bring his trademark energy to housing market and social housing issues, which are of real public interest.

“I have also asked Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to work with Nick as Associate Housing Minister, reflecting the strong links between these two areas. Tariana Turia will remain as Associate Minister and a part of that housing team.”

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye will be appointed to Cabinet where she will become Minister for Food Safety, Youth Affairs and Civil Defence. She will also be Associate Education Minister, reflecting her work as Chair of the Education select committee.

Senior Whip Michael Woodhouse will be the third new Minister, serving outside Cabinet as Immigration and Veterans Affairs’ Minister as well as Associate Transport Minister.

“I’d like to congratulate Nikki and Michael on their promotions, which are both well deserved,” Mr Key says.

The remaining position inside Cabinet will be filled by Simon Bridges, who will be promoted from outside Cabinet and take on the Labour and Energy and Resources portfolios.

“Simon has had a very good first year as a Minister and is ready to step up and take on more responsibility,” Mr Key says.

Nathan Guy will pick up the Primary Industries portfolio to be vacated by David Carter, with Jo Goodhew assisting him as Associate Minister.

Mr Key says Chris Tremain will be appointed as Local Government Minister and is well placed to work with the sector on the Government’s well-advanced reforms.

Mr Key says he had also decided to make a change in relation to Novopay.

“I share the concerns of teachers and principals at continuing problems in the operation of Novopay, and fixing this as quickly as possible is a priority,” he says.

“A fresh set of eyes is needed and I have asked Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to take on this responsibility.”

The change will be done through a transfer of responsibility to Mr Joyce under section 7 of the Constitution Act.

“Getting Novopay working as it should may take some time, given what appears to be the systemic issues involved. I can assure teachers that we want to get Novopay sorted as soon as possible.

“With this change and Nikki Kaye’s appointment, there is no need for Mr Foss to remain as Associate Education Minister. I have instead asked him to pick up the role of Minister of Consumer Affairs, which will link in with his existing responsibilities as Commerce Minister.”

Mr Key says there are also two notable promotions in terms of Ministerial rankings in the Cabinet changes – with Jonathan Coleman rising to 10, and Amy Adams to 15.

The resignations of Mr Carter, Mr Heatley and Ms Wilkinson will take effect on 29 January, and all the other changes will take effect on Thursday 31 January, when the Governor-General appoints the new Ministers, and the necessary paperwork will have been completed.

Mr Key says it is anticipated that a new Senior Whip will be elected at National’s first caucus meeting of the year on 29 January 2013.

“This refreshed Ministerial team is ready to continue the Government’s focus on its four key priorities for this term – responsibly managing the Government’s finances, building a more competitive and productive economy, delivering better public services within fiscal restraints, and supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch,” Mr Key says.

“I will have more to say about how we intend to meet these priorities in coming days.”

The promotion of David Carter to speaker and Nick Smith’s reinstatement aren’t a surprise.

The other changes are unexpected but refreshment is a good.

Nikki Kaye and Michael Woodhouse have earned respect as chair of the Education Select Committee and Senior Whip respectively.

Promotions always cause disappointment for those who miss out but these two are deserved.


Rural round-up

December 14, 2012

Food and beverage stars for NZ to hitch its wagon to – report – sticK:

There’s not that many reports you can sit down and study and go – uumm, interesting.

But Auckland-based Coriolis has done it (again), and their ‘Investors guide to emerging growth opportunities in NZ food and beverage exports’ is, and I don’t say this lightly, quite fascinating.

The company has deliberately taken its methodology and report-back from a (potential) investor’s point of view.

The simple objective was to find the next ‘wine’ – such as that fledgling industry existed 25 years ago.
Over 500 food & beverage items, based on export trade codes, were screened down to 25 candidates for stage II in-depth investigation. . . .

Strong Finish To Spring Selling Season:

Summary

Farm sales increase 9.8 per cent compared to October
Median $/ha price rose 11.9 percent compared to November 2011
After noticeable period of absence first farm buyers active in Waikato and Taranaki
Lifestyle property sales lift 24% compared to November 2011

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of NZ (“REINZ”) shows there were 25 more farm sales (+9.8%) for the three months ended November 2012 than for the three months ended October 2012. Overall, there were 281 farm sales in the three months to end of November 2012, compared with 315 farm sales in the three months to November 2011, a decrease of 34 sales (-10.8%). 1,417 farms were sold in the year to November 2012, 23.4% more than were sold in the year to November 2011. . .

Cheese first made at least 7,500 years ago – Maria Cheng:

Little Miss Muffet could have been separating her curds and whey 7,500 years ago, according to a new study that finds the earliest solid evidence of cheese-making.

Scientists performed a chemical analysis on fragments from 34 pottery sieves discovered in Poland to determine their purpose. Until now, experts weren’t sure whether such sieves were used to make cheese, beer or honey.

Though there is no definitive test for cheese, Richard Evershed at the University of Bristol and colleagues found large amounts of fatty milk residue on the pottery shards compared to cooking or storage pots from the same sites. That suggests the sieves were specifically used to separate fat-rich curds from liquid whey in soured milk in a crude cheese-making process. . .

Debt is good under some circumstances – Allan Barber:

After my column last week about meat industry debt levels, Keith Cooper, CEO of Silver Fern Farms, took me to task for incorrectly reporting the situation with Silver Fern Farms’ debt facility.

I stated that these expired in September 2012 and therefore the company was operating on a temporary extension. The correct position was that the debt facility was originally negotiated for two years from September 2010 and consequently due to expire in September 2012. This remained the position at balance date in September 2011. However in the 2012 annual report, the facility was stated as expiring on 31 December 2012. . . .

Farmgate raw milk sales to continue:

Farm gate sales of raw milk will continue and the amount that can be purchased is likely to increase, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said today.

Farmers will also be exempt from the current requirement to have a costly Risk Management Programme for farm gate sales of raw milk and will instead need to adhere to certain animal health and hygiene requirements.

“The current Food Act allows people to buy only up to five litres of raw milk at the farm gate to drink themselves or give to their family,” Ms Wilkinson says.

Consultation carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on possible changes to rules for raw drinking milk sales attracted nearly 1700 submissions. . .

ANZCO embarks on group-wide energy management programme:

One of New Zealand’s largest exporters is set to save more than $2 million a year and enhance its global reputation as a sustainable producer through a company-wide energy management programme.

EECA Business today announced it would support the initiative over two years to help ANZCO generate long-term energy savings in its New Zealand plants.

With annual sales of NZ $1.25 billion, ANZCO Foods Ltd processes and markets New Zealand beef and lamb products around the world. The firm employs over 3,000 staff world-wide and has 11 meat processing plants in New Zealand. . .

Feedback sought about regulation of dairy herd improvement

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is looking for feedback on the rules surrounding the New Zealand dairy herd improvement industry.

The New Zealand dairy industry has been a world leader in herd improvement, and its ability to trace the performance of the national herd – through the dairy core database – has been central to that success.

Studies have shown that genetic gains through dairy herd improvement have accounted for about two thirds of the sector’s productivity over the last decade. . . .


Pike River report

November 5, 2012

The Royal Commission into the Pike River mine tragedy lays most of the blame on management.

But it also found faults in the regulatory environment.

Prime Minister John Key said:

“I speak on behalf of the Government when I say I regret deeply what has happened, in terms of the lives lost and suffering caused.

“The Royal Commission made it very clear that much of the fault for the tragedy lies with Pike River Coal Ltd. Because it did not follow good management and best practice principles, its health and safety systems were inadequate.

“However, the Royal Commission also says the regulatory environment was not effective over a long period of time.

“On behalf of the Government, I apologise to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased men for the role this lack of regulatory effectiveness played in the tragedy.

“Following the findings of the Royal Commission, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has tendered her resignation from that portfolio.

“Ms Wilkinson’s decision to resign is a personal decision in response to the magnitude of the tragedy. It is the honourable thing to do.

I considered it proper for me to accept her resignation from the Labour portfolio.

Chris Finlayson has taken over the Labour portfolio.

The Government broadly accepts all 16 of the Royal Commission’s recommendations that cover administrative reform, stronger regulation, changes to mining legislation, improving workplace health and safety, and emergency management.

“I believe it is our duty to the 29 miners who died and their families to oversee the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations,” Mr Finlayson says.

The Royal Commission’s report is here.


Left don’t learn from history

October 10, 2012

The statistics on the youth unemployment rate are unequivocal – it increased far more steeply than rate for older adults when the youth minimum age was axed by Labour.

But have people and parties on the left learned from that? No.

Yesterday Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced a starting-wage for young people and immediately got this response:

Lower wages no solution – from the Council of Trade Unions.

Poverty pay won’t give young people skills or jobs - from the Service and Food workers Union.

More youth to pack for Australia – from  Hone Harawira.

National offers young workers a hefty pay cut – Metiria Turei.

And low wage no future at all from David Shearer.

None of these people have joined the dots between increasing the cost of employing young people and the sharp increase in the unemployment rate for that age group.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association has a far more positive view of the starting-wage:

Everyone concerned about our alarming rates of youth unemployment should be celebrating today’s announcement on the Starting-out wage, says David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Then they will be looking out for more ways to help, he said.

“Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time,” Mr Lowe said.

“Though there is no silver bullet for creating jobs for young people, the Starting-out wage offers a vital first step up the employment ladder.

“Unless there is an incentive for taking on the added issues of employing youth workers, young people will continue to be over represented in the unemployment numbers.

“The Starting-out wage will restore a form of youth rates that were abolished in 2006 and which proved, as predicted, to hurt the very people its supporters were trying to help.

“Independent research from Pacheco at the time found job opportunities for youth would fall by nearly 20 per cent for all teenagers if youth rates were abolished, but that turned out to be very conservative.”

BusinessNZ also sees the starting-wage will benefit the economy and communities:

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says having to pay unskilled teenagers at adult rates makes it hard for many young people to get a job.

“Not being able to get that initial job prevents many young people from gaining workplace skills, further reducing their future employment chances.

“A starting-out wage at 80 per cent of the minimum wage for the first six months’ employment will make it easier to employ a young person so they can gain those vital workplace skills.”

Mr O’Reilly said the policy announced today would particularly benefit teenagers who were vulnerable to being trapped on a benefit through being unable to compete effectively for a first job.

Costings indicate that with accommodation and other applicable subsidies unaffected, a teenager on a starting-out wage would earn more than if on a benefit.

“Getting more young people into jobs – especially including those currently on a benefit – will benefit the economy and communities all through New Zealand,” Mr O’Reilly said.

If employers have to pay people the same rate they are almost always going to favour age and experience over youth and inexperience.

Enable them to pay younger people a bit less in recognition of the bigger investment required in training and the bigger risk with people with no work experience, and they will be more willing to take them on.


What’s changed?

October 10, 2012

Convicted rapist Mike Tyson has reapplied for a visa to visit New Zealand.

Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson revoked his visa last week because the letter of support was from an individual not the Life Education Trust.

What’s changed?

Ms Wilkinson said on Tuesday her office has received a new application and it is being looked at. She says she has not seen the application, but understands it is backed by an organisation.

The Manukau Urban Maori Authority said last week it would formally back Tyson and help his tour’s promoter reapply for the visa.

He might have the support of an organisation but he’s still a convicted rapist who continues to deny he committed the crime and who shows no remorse.

Is this really the sort of man the authority wants to be helping?

Is this the sort of man we want in New Zealand, billed as a champion?


Starting-out wage to address youth unemployment

October 9, 2012

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has confirmed the introduction of a new starting-out wage.

It will help provide young people, whose employment prospects plummeted after the abolition of the youth minimum wage, with more opportunities to get into the workforce.

“The new starting-out wage will create demand for young people by giving employers a real incentive to take them on,” Ms Wilkinson says.

The Minimum Wage (Starting-out Wage) Amendment Bill provides for eligible 16- to 19-year-olds to be paid no less than 80 per cent of the minimum wage.

“The new starting-out wage will help some of our youngest and most inexperienced workers get a much-needed foot in the door, in what is currently a tight labour market.

“The starting-out wage was one of National’s 2011 campaign promises, and designed to provide 16- to 19-year-olds with the opportunity to earn money, gain skills and get the work experience they need.”

Three groups will be eligible unless they are training or supervising others:

  • 16- and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  • 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after more than six months on benefit
  • 16- to 19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Those who are training or supervising other staff must be paid at least the adult minimum wage.

The starting-out wage will be simple for employers to implement, and will apply for a blanket six months after starting work with a new employer.

“The youth minimum wage was abolished in 2008 by Labour in a move that resulted in the loss of up to 9000 jobs,” Ms Wilkinson says. . .

Labour ignored the warnings that the abolition of the youth minimum wage would make it more difficult for young people to get work.

The steep increase in youth unemployment, proved those who made the warnings right and young people have paid the price for the misguided policy.

This initiative will address that, making the employment of young, unskilled workers less expensive and therefore offsetting some of the cost and risk of employing them.

 


Tyson visa cancelled

October 3, 2012

The visa which would have allowed convicted rapist Mike Tyson to visit New Zealand has been cancelled by Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson:

Ms Wilkinson says the original decision to grant a Special Direction to Mr Tyson was a finely balanced call and a letter of support from the Life Education Trust, that would have been a benefactor from the visit, was a significant factor in approving the application.

“Yesterday evening the Life Education Trust contacted my office and asked for that letter to be withdrawn, making it clear that the Trust no longer wants to have any involvement with Mr Tyson’s visit.

“Given that the Trust is no longer supporting the event, on balance, I have made the decision to cancel his visa to enter New Zealand for the Day of the Champions event.”

Life Education Trust does a lot of good work in the community and it seemed odd that they’d supported this visa application.

Keeping Stock has a tweet from Sean Plunket which says they didn’t - the letter of support was an unauthorised one from a volunteer.

The world is full of inspirational speakers without criminal convictions who would be much better role models.


Rural round-up

September 12, 2012

 

We’re the only protein production system that can say VISIT – Pasture Harmonies:

Forget the science, briefly, about our agriculture, even though that’s the wonderful legacy that has got us to where we are today.

Forget the rational.

Forget the food safety, the genetics of plants and animals, the fertiliser….all those things that are objective or measureable in their input and output.

For many of us, myself included, that’s a difficult thing. We’re programmed, almost obliged to look at the facts, to deal with what’s real.

Instead think emotions, hearts and minds, soul even when it comes to our farming.

Because that’s the trigger, hook, main consideration (even if they don’t realise it) for consumers. . .

Loder Cup awarded to Dunedin ecologist:

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson has announced Dunedin Ecologist Dr Ralph Allen the 2012 winner of the prestigious Loder Cup for his outstanding achievements in plant conservation work.

A professional plant ecologist for 30 years with the former DSIR and then Landcare Research, Dr Allen has been pivotal in protecting thousands of hectares of native forest, shrublands, and coastal vegetation throughout Otago, Southland, and the Kapiti Coast.

“Dr Allen’s efforts have inspired others to cherish the native plants and ecosystems around them,” Ms Wilkinson says. . .

Very unlikely NZ bees have CCD

The National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand’s co-chief executive, Daniel Paul, doubts New Zealand is seeing the first signs of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder).

Mr Paul was commenting on a NZ Herald article that indicated CCD may be occurring in NZ.

“It’s very unlikely,” he said.

“We’re probably seeing the effects of the increasing resistance to the treatments that are used to control the varroa mite and while that’s not unexpected, it is still a concern.” . . .

Last farmer out turn out the lights – Willy Leferink:

Here is a typical media scenario: anything to do with farming and water,they pull stock video of cattle shitting in water.

Instead of rational discussion on complex water policy, it is boiled down to images that yell stock exclusion. This misses the real story by the proverbial country mile.

Case in point was the 3News story about the Environment Court kicking the guts of independent hearings commissioners over Horizons One Plan. Now, these commissioners reached a quite different view in 2010 and after months of sitting through detailed evidence. On the evidence, they tended towards the arguments of Federated Farmers and those in the primary industries over that of the council

So did 3News show images of stream plantings, lysimeters and the marked improvement in dairy compliance? No, instead they showed beef cattle shitting into a river. . .

Ballance Supports Rural Leadership:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is backing a rural leadership programme to foster governance and business capabilities for women in the sector.

The Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) Escalator programme is designed to build the skills already accumulated by rural women within their businesses and communities.

Ballance supports the Escalator programme through sponsorship of one of 14 places on the 10-month programme.

The recipient of the Ballance-supported spot is Ekatahuna sheep and beef farmer Lisa Sims. . .

Please ask dairy farmers to contribute to your research by using social media – Pasture to Profit:

Low input pasture based dairy farmers are generous with their practical information. In my experience they want to contribute to research that they help fund. However agricultural researchers rarely include farmers to the detriment of the research results & the practical usefulness of the project.

Farmers can easily respond through Facebook & Twitter networks greatly enriching research outcomes. Farmers are often the leading researchers in their field of expertise. Come on we all want good quality research outcomes so include farmers in your research team. . .


So much from just one source

July 8, 2012

Clayton Cosgrove is in a spot of bother over the coincidence of a donation to his election campaign and a bill he drafted that would benefit the donor, Independent Fisheries.

He says there is nothing untoward in that, the donations were declared as required, and Independent Fisheries say there was no connection between the bill and the donation.

I accept their words on that.

What I do find strange is that a single donor gave $17,500 towards a campaign which has a legal limit of $25,000, including GST.

It is possible he got a lot more money and that is salted away for the next campaign. But if  there wasn’t much more money from other sources it could help explain why he lost the seat to National MP Kate Wilkinson.

Raising money for campaigns is never easy but popular MPs and their campaign teams usually get most of their funds from lots of donations and various fundraising efforts. It would be most unusual for around two-thirds of the campaign maximum to come from just one source.

Coincidences happen and I accept the assurances there’s nothing fishy in the donation.

But accepting so much from a potential beneficiary of legislation he was promoting was unwise and does a raise question over the number of supporters he had in his former electorate.


Trial periods work for businesses and workers

June 28, 2012

Employers are using the 90 day trial  period to reduce the risk of taking on new staff and they are employing more people because of it.

This is one of the findings from research undertaken by the Department of Labour:

The Employers’ Perspectives – Part One: Trial Periods research is based on the findings of the National Survey of Employers of around 2,000 employers and qualitative interviews with 53 employers in Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin/Invercargill from the retail, hospitality, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and manufacturing industries.

The report found:
 

• Sixty percent of hiring employers in the national survey reported using a trial period since its introduction (49 percent in 2010). There is not a significant difference between the level of use in SME’s and larger employers.
• Employers use trial periods to address risk when hiring, for example:
o To check an employee’s ability for the job before making a commitment to employ permanently (66 percent)
o To employ someone with the skills required, but where the business is unsure about their ‘fit’ with the workplace (35 percent)
o To avoid incurring costs if staff are unsuitable for the job (13 percent)

• Employers used trial periods to test the viability of a position (rather than person) within the business, saying they would not have filled their most recently vacant position without a trial period. This was more likely in SME’s (30 percent), compared with 17 percent for larger employers.

• Trial periods improved employment opportunities – 41 percent of employers in the national survey said they would not have hired the most recent employee without a trial period. 
• SME’s were more likely to use trial periods to take a risk – 44 percent of SME’s would not have hired the last trial period employee without the use of a trial period, compared with 28 percent of larger employers. 
• Youth and long-term unemployed are benefitting. Respondents to the qualitative interviews said trial periods were one of the key government initiatives that had improved their willingness to hire applicants from these groups – due to reduction of risk. 
• Eighty percent of employers in the survey reported they had continued employing staff once the trial period had ended. . This is similar to the level found in the 2010 evaluation of trial periods in SME’s.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson, is justified in welcoming this news:

“Research by NZIER has previously told us that 90-day trials led to 13,000 new jobs in small and medium sized businesses,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“This latest research confirms trial periods allow employers to take on new staff, with the majority retaining their staff after the trial period is over. That’s great to see.

“The 90-day trials have been especially beneficial for young people and the long-term unemployed. it’s of clear benefit to both employers and employees.”

The opposition and unions fought against this legislation but these findings show it is working for employers and employees. 

 Businesses  face less risk when taking on new staff and they are taking on more staff including those least likely to get work without the safety net of a trial period, the long-term unemployed and young people, because of that.

Rather than opening the door to exploitation as the left prophesied the legislation has reduced risk for businesses and increased employment opportunities which is exactly what is was designed to do.


Who would oppose secret ballots?

May 10, 2012

Tau Henare’s Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill passed into law yesterday by 61 votes to 60.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said:

“Strikes can be incredibly stressful, both financially and mentally. Workers have differing personal circumstances so it is only fair that any vote on whether to strike is made in private.

“This law will provide protection for any workers who may feel judged by colleagues or intimidated through a voting process that does not use secret ballots.”

Who would oppose a measure which helps protect workers from undue pressure or intimidation?

Well, National, Act and United Future voted for it.

That leaves Labour, the Green and Maori parties and New Zealand First opposing it.

That has to be a case of opposition for the sake of it rather than on principle.


Conference takes priority

April 29, 2012

Co-chairing the National Party’s Mainland conference is taking priority over blogging this weekend.

We’re in Dunedin and in recognition of the importance of education in the city that was the theme yesterday morning.

Former speaker and Clutha MP Sir Robin Gray opened proceedings with his usual warmth, wit and wisdom.

Ministers Hekia Parata and Steven Joyce and director of CORE Education, Derek Wenmouth spoke.

After report back from break-out groups nine members had two minutes to pitch a policy.

It’s a really good way to allow members to contribute and it can lead to action. In 2008 the policy I pitched  (on funding maternity service to enable mothers to stay in maternity centres until breast feeding was established) became party policy and was funded in the first Budget after National became government.

Finance Minister and deputy PM Bill English opened the afternoon then took part in the Mainland Minister’s forum with Kate Wilkinson, Jo Goodhew, Amy Adams and honorary Mainlander for the day, Hekia Parata. (And yes the gender imbalance was noted and approved!).

Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner spoke on winning the unwinnable before Canterbury/Westland and Southern split for our regional AGMs.

Last night Prime Minister John Key and party president Peter Goodfellow joined us for cocktails at Dunedin City Hotel and dinner at Etrusco.

One striking feature of this conference is the number of Young Nats – the best muster for many years and a very good sign of the party’s strength.


Rural round-up

April 26, 2012

Push to reduce workplace injuries on farms:

Farm workers have spoken of their horrendous accidents at the      launch of an initiative to reduce the “unacceptable” number      of workplace injuries on New Zealand farms.   

 Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson released the Agriculture      Sector Action Plan at Parliament today.   

 The plan targets four areas that account for half of all      injuries and deaths in the agriculture sector – use of      agriculture machinery, mental health and wellbeing of      workers, slips and falls, and animal handling. . .

Lawrence farmer top farm-forester – Sally Rae:

When Dennis Larsen bought his Lawrence farm in 1980,    there were no trees – just “a bit of scrub”.   

More than 30 years later, the 611ha sheep and beef property boasts 92ha of forestry .  . .

Farm-foresters called heroes – Sally Rae:

“You’re my heroes.” That is what Prof Henrik Moller, from the      Centre for Sustainability: Agriculture, Food, Energy,      Environment (CSAFE) at the University of Otago told those      attending the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association’s recent      conference.   

The 56th annual conference, which was hosted by the South and      Mid Otago branches, was based at Telford, Balclutha.   

With the theme Taking Care of Our Water, it included field      trips to Mid Otago, Lawrence and South Otago.

A once a day milking system needs a different mind-set? - Pasture to Profit:

I wonder if OAD (Once a Day) Milking farmers should be farming like TAD farmers (Twice a Day Milking)?  After all they are completely different farming systems. Or are they really different?

This is potentially a very interesting debate. Should all pasture based farmers farm in the same way or are the systems sufficiently different that they should develop different methods & different objectives? Organic dairy farms have developed different systems & objectives from conventional farms. So should OAD farmers farm as TAD farmers or develop a completely different system? It’s early days so let’s debate the issue. . .
Canadian dairy regulation – a model for Australia? – Dr Jon Hauser:
In the last commentary I discussed the issue of global food security. The view expressed was that this is a legitimate concern of many sovereign nations. In many (but not all) cases, dairy industry regulatory systems have been put in place to address this concern – to ensure that there is a viable agricultural industry with sufficient capacity to meet the population’s needs, and to guard against the strategic risks of droughts, floods, pestilence, trade and physical wars.

The Dairy Industry Restructure Package is now a thing of the past and Australia has almost completely dismantled government regulation and support for the dairy industry. Since this happened: milk production has contracted by 20%; private processors have gained control of the industry; factories are closing; family farms are disappearing; regulations are more complex; cost and quality improvement is essential. 

Was deregulation a good thing for Australia? To provide a point of comparison I thought it might be interesting to look at Canada where, despite raging debate, pressure to deregulate has been vehemently and successfully resisted by the dairy industry. . .

Action plan to reduce farm injuries announced:

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has launched a new action plan to bring down the “unacceptable” number of workplace injuries in the agriculture sector.

The Agriculture Sector Action Plan targets four priority areas that account for at least half of all injuries and deaths in the sector, including:

• use of agricultural vehicles and machinery • the physical and mental health/wellbeing of agricultural workers • slips, trips and falls, and • animal handling.

Agriculture has one of the highest rates of workplace injury, disease and fatalities each year – double the average rate across all sectors. Provisional figures show that 15 agricultural workers were killed last year alone. . .

Winter blocks can be at more risk of nitrate leaching:
Winter blocks can be at more risk of nitrate leaching

Greg Costello of Ravensdown looks at practical steps to reduce nitrate leaching

It’s a familiar picture of winter grazing. Groups of cows feeding on narrow ‘breaks’ of winter forage crops. What’s not so obvious is the potential for nitrogen (N) losses from these activities. Wet, cold soils, pugging and winter rain increases the risk of nitrate leaching and emissions of nitrate oxide from the multitude of urine patches deposited. . .


Countering Food Bill critics

January 16, 2012

The Food Bill, designed to replace out-dated food safety legislation, passed through select committee scrutiny without much fuss.

It will return to parliament sometime this year but opponents have decided it will mean the end of bring and buy stalls and sausage sizzles and that we won’t be able to swap home-grown vegetables with our neighbours.

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson says that’s nonsense:

If it becomes law, the Bill will require those involved in the commercial trade of food to operate under one of three regulatory systems, depending on the level of food safety risk involved.

This means that a high-risk business, such as a restaurant or a baby food manufacturer, would need to meet more robust requirements and operate under a regulated “food control plan”.

Businesses categorised as presenting a medium risk, such as bakeries or pre-packaged food manufacturers, would be regulated under “national programmes”, which would take a more generic and flexible approach.

Those in the lowest risk category – including small traders such as those running roadside stalls or selling their own horticultural produce at markets, charity sausage sizzles and bake sales – would receive free “food-handler guidance” information, and incur no extra costs.

Food born illnesses resulted in an estimated $162m loss to the New Zealand economy last year.
We need to be able to be sure that food we buy is safe; people providing that food need to have simple legislation which enables them to comply without too much cost and not-for-profit groups must be able to continue their cake stalls and sausage sizzles.
The minister’s explanation makes it clear the legislation will do all of that without the draconian approach opponents said the Bill takes.

Politician of year

December 16, 2011

The mood at the National’s Canterbury Westland Christmas Party on Monday night was buoyant.

Amy Adams and Jo Goodhew had been named in the new Cabinet, Minister Kate Wilkinson and MP Nicky Wagner had won their electorates and National had won the party vote in Christchurch.

That was due to the hard work of all the regions MPs but even more so on the government’s handling of the earthquakes and recovery.

The man responsible for that, Gerry Brownlee, was named Trans Tasman’s politician of the year:

Christchurch earthquake Tsar  Gerry Brownlee, the man who is credited for virtually singlehandedly  turning the once Labour stronghold of the Garden City into a sea of  Party Vote Blue in the election, has been named politician of the year by Trans Tasman’s Roll Call, NZ’s number one political newsweekly’s  annual ranking of the nation’s MPs.

Of Brownlee Trans Tasman says – “Without big party-vote majorities in several traditional Labour electorates in and  around Christchurch, National might have fallen behind the  aggregate vote of the parties aligned against it. The man at the  centre of this achievement is Gerry Brownlee.”

He was also Duncan Garner’s Minister of the year.

But this accolade is for Christchurch alone. It is an enormous problem. . .  

It had the potential to sink the Government. It’s a red town – that is now  painted blue.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee got the tone right. Sure there are some  disgruntled people. That happens. But the Government’s rescue packages were bang  on. The initial business rescue grants were extended and that was the right  decision.

The Government’s decision to buy thousands of written-off houses was the  biggest insurance package any Government anywhere in the world had offered its  citizens.

It is a massive extension to the welfare state. The Government acted because  it had to. The insurance companies have been slow to open their wallets. Their  behaviour over the next three years is being closely watched by the  Government.

I called it a silver plated scheme when it was released and I stand by that.

That National won Christchurch Central and Waimakariri is testament to  Brownlee’s work in his home town. I accept some households are not happy, but  given the scale of the disaster Brownlee and John Key have largely got the  Government’s response bang on.

Brownlee was the man at the top and as such he has been on the receiving end of criticism and frustration. The election result is a vote of confidence in him and the government from the people whose city he is helping rebuild.

It is an enormous challenge and he has tackled it while also having to deal with the loss of his home which was one of those severely damaged in the quakes.

The rebuild is a very long-term project, it will take at least a decade, maybe two, the magnitude and cost of the task is already impacting on us all. It is very important to get it right from the start and the people most affected, those in Christchurch and its hinterland, voted to show that, largely thanks to Brownlee, the government has.

 


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