Moa siting

July 22, 2014

Trevor Mallard’s suggestion of bringing back the moa is being regarded as a dead duck by his leader but the topic is refusing to die:


Front facing it

June 30, 2014

The National Party team in Dunedin is front footing – or more literally front facing – the election campaign in the city.

They’ve rented a corner site in a main thoroughfare that just happens to be diagonally opposite the opposition MP’s electorate office.

This is what she’ll see every time she looks across the street:

#teamkey #teamdunedin

It looks even better close up:

It's even better with the lights on!

And who wouldn’t want to tick National twice when it would mean getting Michael Woodhouse and Hamish Walker into parliament and into government?


What about the workers?

May 28, 2014

The xenophobia being demonstrated by NZ First and Labour in their anti-immigration campaign ignores the fact that we need the skills many bring.

 

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. The Government is ensuring that our demand-driven policies deliver the right skills in the right places, when they are needed, as well as meeting family and humanitarian obligations. I note that this has resulted in a reduction in the number of immigrants gaining residence from more than 51,000, when David Cunliffe was immigration Minister, to less than 39,000 last year. I would also be interested in whether that member believes, as is implied in the question, that the inflow should be reduced further, and whether that reduction should come from engineers, medical specialists, IT experts, or the construction workers whom we need to assist with the Canterbury rebuild, because that is the practical implication of reducing the inflow further. . .

Many of the unskilled people who gain visas are connected to the skilled ones:

Tracey Martin: As the Government claims that New Zealand needs more skilled migrants to sustain economic growth, why were close to 50 percent of the migrants granted residency last year not identified in the skilled worker category?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: It is important to understand the context of those figures. The Government has, as there was under the previous Government, a loose target of up to about 150,000 over a 3-year period. I think the last 3 years have seen about 123,000 residence visas granted, so it is below the lower limit of the 3-year target. The balance of those includes the spouses, partners, and children of skilled migrants, the partners of people who are Kiwis coming home, having done overseas visits, and our humanitarian Pacific and Samoan quota obligations. So it is absolutely appropriate that between 50 and 60 percent of those people gaining residence are skilled and the balance are connected.  . . .

Contrary to the opposition rhetoric, immigrants aren’t to blame for the housing shortage – which is largely confined to Auckland and Christchurch anyway.

Tracey Martin: Why is the Government ignoring Treasury’s warnings around the impact on housing of 41,500 extra people entering New Zealand in the 2014 year?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I preface the answer to this question by pointing out that in 1999 to 2001, when there was large negative net migration, house prices still went up materially, particularly in Auckland. The report that the member refers to is a report on the question of the positive impact that immigration has on macroeconomic policy. In respect of housing, it said that there was a tension there, but that the dominant tension is in supply-side inelasticity—a pointyheaded way of saying that we are not building enough houses. We are fixing that by increasing land supply, reducing the consenting barriers, and reducing the cost of materials.

And contrary to the rhetoric, even when it’s difficult to find New Zealanders to fill job vacancies, it’s not easy to employ immigrants:

Tracey Martin: How would the Minister explain to an unemployed worker in Porirua, Ōpōtiki, or South Auckland why his Government is allowing record numbers of migrant workers into New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: If there is a record, it is the record low in the residence programme, particularly in recent years. As I said in an answer to an earlier question, there are far fewer numbers being given residence than there were under the previous Government, and that is because we have demand-driven policies. Ask any employer in this country about how hard it is to employ a migrant and to ensure that they pass the labour-market test, and I think they would say that there are plenty of opportunities for those New Zealanders to get work. . .

There are opportunities but, in dairying for example, New Zealanders don’t always want to take them up.

Cropping farms and orchards also depend on immigrants.

The hospitality industry in the provinces has problems attracting locals and depend on overseas workers, many of whom are on working-holiday visas and won’t try to become residents.

 


Good policy not developed in isolation

May 12, 2014

Michael Woodhouse, Minister for Immigration, Veteran’s Affairs and Land Information and Associate for Transport,  was interviewed on Vote Chat on Friday.

He was asked about the link between donors and policy and replied (12:35):

. . . Very few of the policies I came up with since becoming Minister are my own original ideas. I’d like to be able to tell you I’ve come up with great revelations having sat on a mountain contemplating my navel but actually those policies are the sum of a whole pile of thinking with officials, with advocates, with industry association groups like the association of immigration advisers, and with people who’ve had experience in the process . . .

Party members also have input into policy, that’s one of the privileges of membership.

At the weekends Mainland conference we had remits, break-out groups on particular issues and a pitch-a-policy session.

The party also has very active Policy Advisory Groups which develop policy ideas in consultation with members and with input from a variety of other people.

Policy dreamed up by a Minister in isolation or just on advice of officials in parliament would almost certainly not be the best policy.

Better policy is often like a good soup with lots of ingredients from different sources and those involved in the issue ought to be able to have input into the recipe whether or not the ingredients they suggest are part of the final product.

 

 


Wagner new minister

May 5, 2014

Nicky Wagner is to become a Minister outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister John Key has today reallocated the portfolios made vacant by the resignation of Maurice Williamson as a Minister.

Christchurch Central MP, Nicky Wagner, will be made a Minister outside Cabinet and take on the portfolios of Customs, Statistics, Associate Conservation, and Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.

“Nicky has been an MP since 2005, and has done a great job in Christchurch and in chairing the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

“As a Minister I expect she will treat her new portfolios with the same hard work and enthusiasm.”

In other changes, Nick Smith will take on the Building and Construction portfolio, and Michael Woodhouse will take on Land Information.

“I would like to thank them for taking on the extra responsibilities,” says Mr Key.

The Governor General will swear in Nicky Wagner on Wednesday 7 May. . .

Nicky won the Christchurch Central seat at the last election after serving two terms as a list MP and is currently a parliamentary Private Secretary.


Farmers angry with AgResearch

March 18, 2014

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson said last week’s meeting with farmers in Gore was constructive over plans to move scientists from Invermay to Lincoln was constructive.

The meeting was initiated by the Southern Texel Breeders and hosted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Eighty seven people attended the meeting, of which about 50 were farmers.

“It was good to be able to speak to concerned farmers directly about our plans to deliver them better science and higher returns. It was a good wide-ranging discussion, and wasn’t solely focused on our reinvestment plans for AgResearch campuses,” says Dr Richardson.

“There was also discussion on government investment in science, industry support for science and how to take research forward.

“Regards our campus reinvestment plans, we understand the concerns of Southland and Otago farmers, and it was an opportunity to reinforce the fact we are not closing Invermay – in fact we’d like to increase the numbers of staff there who are dealing with on farm and regional environment issues.”

AgResearch’s Future Footprint plan will position the organisation for the long-term to deliver better science, more effectively, to New Zealand farmers, the pastoral sector and the New Zealand economy.

The Southern Texel Breeders passed a motion requesting an independent review of the plan, which will involve the co-location of scientists into science innovation hubs, allowing for a more effective collaborative approach to tackle national science ‘big issues’.

Dr Richardson says the plan will see $100 million reinvested to create modern facilities that are functional, adaptable and fit for modern science.

“Future Footprint will see us maximising the use of our facilities and specialist infrastructure to achieve better returns for AgResearch, our clients and the pastoral sector,” says Dr Richardson.

“We remain committed to find the best solution to continue to deliver the science all New Zealand farmers rely on to stay ahead of their international counterparts.”

Farmers aren’t convinced and they’re angry.

They pay levies which provide a good part of AgResearch’s funds and they want scientists to stay based where the bulk of sheep and beef farming takes place – in Otago and Southland.

Immigration Minister and Dunedin-based MP Michael Woodhouse isn’t convinced AgResearch has yet made its case for shifting scientists from Invermay to Lincoln.

As the debate about the merits of an AgResearch hub being established at Lincoln, Mr Woodhouse confirmed to the Otago Daily Times yesterday he had visited Invermay and talked to the staff.

There had been a fear that leaving just 20 scientists at Invermay to deal with farming services and animal services was a ”death spiral” number. But Mr Woodhouse had been ”assured” by AgResearch 20 was the absolute minimum number of scientists and it was hoped to lift the number to 50 scientists at Invermay in the future.

”We need to test that plan and make sure it is the right thing to do for New Zealand Inc and New Zealand agriculture. Can we be confident moving 50 scientists out of 80 from Invermay is better than moving the 30 from Christchurch to Invermay? I am not convinced AgResearch has met the test set them by Minister [Steven] Joyce.” . . .

The plan hasn’t met the farmers’ test.

Dr Andrew West tried to merge AgResearch and Lincoln when he headed AgResearch and failed. Farmers think he’s trying to achieve the same thing by another route now he’s vice chancellor of the university.

They wonder if the plan has more to do with shoring up Lincoln than what’s best for the industry.

AgResearch gets a lot of their money and they are worried that much-needed research will suffer from the loss of institutional knowledge and distance from the main concentration of sheep and beef production.

Whether or not the move goes ahead, one option for any spare buildings no-one has mentioned is as the headquarters for the Otago Regional Council.

The ORC has been looking for a new home and had expensive plans for one in the city. That was torpedoed but they still need a bigger base.

Invermay, with or without the current AgResearch staff, could be an option.


Minor ministerial changes

January 21, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced some minor changes to his ministerial line-up which includes the reinstatement of Peter Dunne as a Minister outside Cabinet.

Internal Affairs and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain, who has announced his intention to retire from Parliament at the upcoming general election, will be resigning from the Ministry.

Peter Dunne will be appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. Mr Dunne will be a Minister outside Cabinet as he was prior to his resignation in June last year.

Michael Woodhouse will be promoted to the vacancy in Cabinet, and will retain all of his current responsibilities.

Paula Bennett picks up the role of Minister of Local Government, in addition to her current portfolio responsibilities.

The new Minister outside Cabinet will be Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, who will be appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and Associate Minister of Local Government. Mr Lotu-liga is the MP for Maungakiekie and was first elected to Parliament 2008.

“I want to thank Chris Tremain for his work as a Minister, and previously as Senior Government Whip,” Mr Key says.

“Chris will be a real loss to the National caucus when he retires at the election and I wish him well for the future.

“I am pleased to welcome Peter Dunne back as a Minister. We have worked together well in the past, and United Future continues to be a valued partner in government.

“While 2013 brought its challenges, both Peter and I start this election year looking forward, not back.”

Mr Key also congratulated Mr Lotu-liga on his elevation to the Ministry.

“Sam has very strong ties with the Pasifika community and has represented their interests in caucus well.

“He is well placed to build on the work that Hekia Parata has done in this portfolio this past term.”

In other changes, Todd McClay will take up the role of Associate Tourism.

The Governor-General will swear in the new Ministers on Tuesday 28 January, prior to Parliament getting underway for the new year.

“The National-led Government’s strong Ministerial team will continue to take New Zealand forward and deliver on what we have promised,” Mr Key says.

Chris Tremain has done good work as a Minister but his decision to not contest this year’s election has provided an opportunity for promotion and re-jigging of some roles.


Mistakes

January 9, 2014

A new road safety advertisement has gone viral:

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse has welcomed the unprecedented response to the latest road safety advertisement from the NZTA.

“Mistakes, is a powerful new ad that helps drivers understand that no matter how careful they are, other people will always make mistakes, and if we slow down fewer people will pay for mistakes with their lives,” Mr Woodhouse says.

Mr Woodhouse says the clip has had more than 2 million views on Youtube since it was first launched just four days ago, and the message is resonating both in New Zealand and around the world.

“It’s a terrific sign of success that this message has gone viral and got people talking about road safety around the world. We have had requests to use the advert from as far afield as Brazil and Poland, and had questions and positive feedback from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Sweden.

“Educational campaigns that invoke a strong emotional response can be far more effective in changing behaviour than simply telling people to obey the rules.

“It really brings home the point that the faster you go, the less time you have to react if someone makes a mistake on the road – even if you feel in control.” . . .

Most advertisements focus on people’s own driving, this one makes you think about other people’s mistakes.

“Mistakes was developed as part of the Government’s effort to change the conversation around speed, which is a key plank of the Safer Journeys strategy.

“While the road toll has been reducing in recent years, there is no silver bullet when it comes to improving road safety, and success will ultimately be measured by a society increasingly free of death and injury on our roads.”

Mr Woodhouse acknowledges the collaborative efforts of the NZTA, Police and Clemenger BBDO in creating the advertisement. The previous record for a NZ video passing two million views was Blazed, which took nearly two weeks, and prior to that was Ghost Chips, which took over a month to hit the mark.


Spot the irony

December 5, 2013

Facebook posts of the day:

Michael Woodhouse MP
Definition of irony #1: an opposition that rails against any form of educational measures that compares pupils or schools, but bows down before a report that compares countries.
Michael Woodhouse MP
Definition of irony #2: an opposition that fails to realise that the real value of National Standards is the measurement of an child’s progress over time, but values the PISA report for doing just that.
Definition of irony #3: an opposition that criticises the Government for not having measures of poverty at the same time as criticising the Government for its measures in educational achievement.

Childish people trying to play grown-up

November 15, 2013

Quote of the day:

”. . . As much of an attraction as the Moeraki Boulders are, I’m happy to lay a sizeable wager that when the first boat does arrive in New Zealand waters, it won’t be sailing past the West Coast, rounding Stewart Island, and making its way up to Oamaru.

”These are childish people trying to play grown-up. If they want to spend their days walking up and down the beach staring at the ocean, perhaps they could do something useful and bring a rubbish bag to tidy up while they’re at it.” Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

He was responding to reports that Right Wing Resistance New Zealand (RWR) had delivered pamphlets seeking men to form ”armed coastal patrols” to ”protect” the coast from ”people smugglers” and ”illegal foreign fishing”.

The Minister was supported by Waitaki Mayor:

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said Mr Chapman and his group were ”a joke” and the idea of armed boat patrols was ”just more idiocy from a group of people that are really not bright enough to know what they are doing”.

Quite.

If #gigtownoamaru becomes the southern hemisphere’s first gigatown  it will be even more attractive to immigrants but it is not in need of this sort of defence.


One of those beneficiaries

October 23, 2013

The Veterans’ Support Bill unanimously passed its first reading last night.

“The Veterans’ Support Bill enables the Government to better meet the needs of both older veterans who require assistance to remain in their own homes and veterans of modern-day deployments,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“The Government recognises the significant sacrifice and contribution our veterans have made for our country. Replacing the outdated War Pensions Act 1954 with this modern bill demonstrates our commitment to those who have given service.”

The Veteran’ Support Bill follows a Law Commission report that provided the most comprehensive review of veterans’ entitlements in 60 years.

“The Government has adopted 132 of the 170 recommendations reported by the Law Commission as part of a $60 million package of changes of which this Bill forms the material part.

“I have received positive feedback from a number of veterans on the changes, and have confidence the Veterans’ Support bill will better meet their needs and provide the support they require going forward.”

The Bill contains many of the same provisions as the current Act. The service eligibility criteria remain the same and all veterans currently covered under the 1954 Act will have coverage under the new legislation.

Veterans from the Korean War are among those who will benefit from this legislation.

Most of us haven’t got any closer to that war than watching MASH on TV.

But National MP Melissa Lee is Korean and made a moving speech in parliament last night. She spoke of what our service people did, how it helped the people and describing herself as one of those beneficiaries:


Employing Kiwis first

August 27, 2013

Why do we need immigrant workers when there are so many New Zealanders unemployed?

One answer to that question is that sometimes immigrants are better than locals.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse broached the issue in a speech last week:

. . . I want to share with you my thoughts on the ‘Kiwis first’ policy in the context of migrant labour because there is debate about the number of overseas workers in our workforce and this raises a number of issues.

The broader context to that debate is simply this: the opposition often cries “Where are the jobs?” And they do so at a time when, for every Kiwi receiving an unemployment benefit there are between 3 and 4 foreign nationals working in New Zealand on various types of visas. So what many of those who ask “where are the jobs?” are really saying is “where are the jobs that are in exactly the place I want, doing the type of work I want, paying what I think I should earn and tolerating all of my shortcomings”.

And the employers who say that prospective kiwi employees are too hard to train, have bad attitudes and are generally unhappy with the quality of some of the New Zealanders they have been offered by Work and Income need to also reflect on their efforts. I appreciate that employers might not always get exactly what they want, and I acknowledge that for some young New Zealanders there are barriers to employment.

Four barriers spring to mind: education and skills, mobility, attitude and recreational drug and alcohol use. But they are barriers to overcome, not immoveable impediments. In the short term migrant labour will ease this problem, but I get the feeling that some employers and some industries have become overly reliant on this as a long-term salve.

In the future I expect industries that are successful in having an occupation added to a Skills in Demand list, or an employer granted an Approval in Principal to employ temporary migrant labour will, as a condition of the continuation of that status, be more energetic in working with Government to find a long term solution, and more diligent in demonstrating to me that they are doing all they can to ease their labour shortages domestically.

I won’t constrain a firm’s ability to grow in the short term, but I will be encouraging and expecting them to invest in New Zealanders by up skilling and training them so they have an opportunity to maximise their potential. . .

When were were applying to employ an immigrant the Immigration Department told us that WINZ had several people on their unemployed list who could work for us.

We went into WINZ to discuss the possibilities. This was a few years ago when unemployment was low. I said we could manage someone without experience but doubted there was anyone on WINZ’s books who would have that attitude we were looking for.

The consultant agreed with me and signed the immigration form saying there was no-one suitable on her books.

Unemployment is higher now so this shouldn’t be the case.

Unfortunately it sill is.

Some people don’t just want a job. As the Minister said, they want a job in a particular place, doing what they choose, paying what they think they’re worth and accepting of their shortcomings.

This isn’t just difficult for employers it makes work difficult, sometimes dangerous, for other employees.

However, while employers’ first responsibility is to their business, employees and customers, we can’t always expect to get exactly the employees we want.

We shouldn’t be expected to take on the unemployable but we can’t expect the government and other employers to do all the training and upskilling of those who, with a bit of time and effort, could be employable.

That said, maybe there’s a role for Landcorp in training agricultural workers:

Outgoing chief executive of the state owned farming enterprise, Landcorp, says it could play a greater role in industry good functions such as training and technology transfer.

But that would require the agreement of Landcorp’s sole shareholder, the Government. . . 

Chirs Kelly . . . says under the SOE Act, Landcorp is required to operate profitably. . . 

“I think if Landcorp can pass on some of its successes and help lift farming generally in New Zealand that will do a lot for the country itself ,so I see we do have a bit of an industry role as well, but it is a bit of a dichotomy with the SOE Act.”

There is such a thing as a social dividend and that would include training, for which Landcorp has a good reputation.

But there’s an awful lot of money tied up in the company which makes very low returns on capital.

Rather than making even less to fulfil a social role it would be better to sell the farms and invest at least some of the proceeds in education and training.


Better protection for migrant workers welcome

June 24, 2013

Different cultures have different rules and different ideas of what is acceptable including over the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.

In New Zealand it isn’t acceptable to exploit workers and changes to the law protecting migrants are welcome:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced measures to combat the exploitation of migrant workers, and make it clear that unlawful and exploitative behaviour will not be tolerated in New Zealand.

“By breaking the law, unscrupulous employers not only harm their staff but they also gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors.

“New proposals will see exploitative employers face lengthy prison time, hefty fines, and in some cases deportation back to their country of origin. Changes have also been made to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward.

“I plan to amend the Immigration Act to make it a specific offence to exploit migrants who hold temporary work visas. The proposed penalty will reflect the seriousness of the offence – imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both.

“Unlawful migrants are already protected by the Act in this way, and it is only right that lawful migrants have the same protections,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“I also propose to make exploitative employers with residence visas liable for deportation if the offence was committed within 10 years of gaining residence. We are seeing an increasing number of cases where the crooked employer is themself a migrant, taking advantage of vulnerable people from their own community.

“Changing the law to make such employers liable for deportation sends a strong message that the government will not tolerate such behaviour.”

This is a good move. Not all expoitative employers are immigrants but those who are must learn what is and isn’t acceptable practice here regardless of whether it might or might not be in their home countries.

Mr Woodhouse says that the legislative changes are likely to be introduced by August, and are in addition to a number of other steps being taken by the government to address the issue of migrant exploitation.

“Last week I signed off on an immigration policy change to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward so that action can be taken. There are currently few incentives for migrants to report exploitative practices by employers – particularly when the worker is in breach of their visa conditions, or is unlawful.

“The new policy means that in cases of serious workplace exploitation, migrants who come forward will be allowed to remain in New Zealand while they apply for a new visa. This will also help us better understand the true extent of migrant exploitation in New Zealand.

“I am also working closely with the Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges, to ensure cross-agency collaboration on this important issue. He is looking at operational and legislative mechanisms to improve enforcement of minimum employment standards, including proportionate and severe sanctions for serious breaches.”

“Ministers have made it clear to agencies that we expect a whole-of-government response to combating migrant exploitation, and MBIE’s Labour Inspectorate and Immigration New Zealand are undertaking joint enforcement actions targeting the fishing, hospitality, horticulture and viticulture industries.

“The decision last year to require the reflagging of foreign-owned fishing vessels clearly demonstrated that putting a stop to illegal exploitation is a priority for the Government. These new immigration changes are another important step towards achieving that goal.”

Migrant workers who may not have good language English and an understanding of their rights are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

There is no excuse for migrant employers who exploit their workers and there is even less for local employers who should be familiar with their responsibilities to staff.

The main victims of exploitation are the workers who are being exploited. The exploitation also creates unfair competition for other workers and employers who follow the law.

A transcript of the interview of the minister on Q&A is here.


Was it MMP’s fault?

May 13, 2013

MMP has been given some of the blame for the inability to kick Aaron Gilmore out of parliament.

Is that fair?

No.

Both list and electorate MPs can be sacked from their caucus and party but if they don’t resign they stay in parliament until the next election when voters give their verdict.

However, while a voters can ensure an MP doesn’t win an electorate they have no influence on where a candidate is on their party’s list. That means they can vote for someone else in the electorate but still find the person they rejected has got into parliament.

This is an aspect of the system on which many people submitted to the review of MMP, arguing that if an MP loses a seat, or contests it and fails to win it, s/he should not be able to enter parliament on the list.

I disagree with that.

Standing in an electorate ensures candidates face the voters and get to know the people whose support they are soliciting and learn about their concerns.

If they take it seriously, and given it’s the party vote which really counts they’d be stupid not to, they gain an understanding of the individuals, groups and communities on whom their policies will impact.

The goods ones don’t just stand in an electorate they stay in touch with it, working with and for the people in it. And failing once or twice doesn’t prevent later success.

Eric Roy* and Nicky Wagner, for example, failed to win electorates but got in on the list, worked hard, earned the support of the people and won Invercargill and Christchurch Central respectively.

Others like Chris Finlayson and Michael Woodhouse have stood in dark red seats they have little hope of winning, but even those who don’t share their political views would be hard pressed to criticise their performance as MPs and Ministers.

I have no doubt that standing in electorates has helped them in their work.

That not all list MPs who stand in seats perform well in parliament is not a reason to change the rules to prevent dual candidacy.

MMP is not my preferred electoral system but the advantages of dual candidacies outweigh the disadvantages.

One valid criticism of the system is that list MPs aren’t directly answerable to constituents. Dual candidacy at least means they have to front up to voters.

Good MPs will ensure they don’t squander the goodwill they earn by doing so by continuing to work in electorates whether or not they have any chance of winning them.

But to return to the original question of whether it’s MMP’s fault that Gilmore could have stayed in parliament had he not chosen to resign.

It’s not. But it is the system which enabled him to be there in the first place and that system has given less power to people in electorates and more to parties.

If parties get an electorate selection wrong, voters can ensure the candidate doesn’t get into parliament. They can’t do that with an individual list MP.

* Eric first entered parliament in 1993 by winning the seat of Ararua which disappeared when MMP was introduced. He stood unsuccessfully for Invercargill twice but stayed in parliament as a list MP. He missed out on the electorate and list in 2002 but won the seat in 2005.


What will they be doing?

April 21, 2013

Question of the day:

mw 2

Apropos of which is the quote of the day:

mw


Rural round-up

April 12, 2013

New vehicle rules will reduce cost for rural sector:

New rules for agricultural vehicles will reduce compliance costs while maintaining safety standards, says Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Mr Woodhouse has signed changes to Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999 and seven other Land Transport Rules that will offer agricultural vehicle owners improved compliance and greater operational flexibility from 1 June 2013.

“This Government recognises that the primary sector remains the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy and we want to remove unnecessary costs and red tape,” says Mr Woodhouse.

The Ministry of Transport estimates that changes will result in a net benefit of $51 million over 25 years. . .

Great white butterfly not pretty - RivettingKate Taylor:

Federated Farmers has put out a warning about a significant new pest threat – the great white butterfly.

What is it?

It is a significant pest of brassica vegetable crops. Its caterpillars feed voraciously on host plants reducing them to a skeleton. In New Zealand, it poses a major threat to commercial and animal forage brassica vegetable crops.  It could also have serious consequences for the survival of many of New Zealand’s 79 native cress species. . .

86% vote supports forest levy:

A referendum of forest growers has shown strong support for a levy on harvested forest products.

“We have been given the thumbs-up to introduce a funding system that will provide greater certainty, equity and commitment for activities that benefit all growers, such as research, promotion and forest health,” says Forest Growers Levy Trust chair Geoff Thompson.

“At this stage, we expect the levy to be introduced on 1 January 2014.” . . .

Building innovation into Marlborough’s food and beverage sector:

The untapped potential of Marlborough’s primary sector, if cleverly exploited, could take this region out in front of the field as an export earner according to a report prepared for the Marlborough Research Centre (MRC).

The research, examining the prospects for innovation with existing primary products, suggests that these industries could be transformed, said MRC chief executive Gerald Hope.

“There’s enormous scope for products which are health and performance oriented. It’s about turning smart ideas and clever science into new products and processes which will meet the expectations of the future,” said Mr Hope. . .

After A Hot, Dry Summer Green Beans Up There With Tomatoes And Wine:

Wattie’s Canterbury green bean crop has, like its sister crop of tomatoes in Hastings, relished the benefits of the country’s hot, dry summer, which has also been experienced by the wine industry.

Harvesting and processing of the beans is scheduled to finish this week, and Wattie’s South Island Agricultural Manager Mark Daniels reports excellent yields and blemish-free quality.

“Our bean crop has thrived under the hot dry conditions and we are finishing slightly ahead of schedule compared with recent years. . .

GIMBLETT GRAVELS – the best of both worlds?:

Is it possible to make world class wines from Syrah and Bordeaux varietals grown in the same area?

In France, you would have to drive almost 500km between Bordeaux and the Northern Rhone. Yet in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, GIMBLETT GRAVELS wines from these grape varieties – growing, literally, side by side in an area less than 800 hectares (2000 acres) – continue to receive acclaim from leading international wine critics.

Each year, the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association (GGWA) releases to key wine influencers a limited number of their Annual Vintage Selection, comprising an independent selection of the members’ red wines that best represent the given vintage. The current 2010 vintage, selected by Andrew Caillard MW, comprises nine blended reds (from Bordeaux varieties) and three Syrah’s. . .


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.


Building in Fantasyland

November 28, 2012

Questions are being raised about the practicality of Labour’s plan to build 100,000 houses for around $300,000.

Acting Minister of Finance Steven Joyce explains some of the flaws in the proposal:

One of the big issues in Auckland is the availability and price of land. The median cost of an Auckland section is nearly $320,000, which is around 60 percent of the cost of the house, and that compares with around 40 percent in the rest of New Zealand. That is why the Government is putting a big emphasis on land section availability in our biggest city. I have heard there are some people who believe there are thousands of sections around Auckland available for around $50,000, apparently. That is news to most people. I actually suspect we would have to zone all the land to Taupō as residential before we would get to that sort of price.

John Hayes: Has he received any other proposals on housing affordability?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received a proposal that would take $1.5 billion of borrowed money, magically build $30 billion worth of houses with it, provide those houses to people at low interest rates but apparently at no cost to the Government, and then get the $1.5 billion straight back again. Under this particular “back of the envelope” plan, apparently, two-thirds of these houses will be built in Auckland on all those widely available sections that sell for $50,000. A very esteemed colleague of mine has referred to this plan as Fantasy land.

Section prices in Fantasy land must be considerably cheaper than those in Auckland.

However, the Prime Minister has found somewhere else it would be possible to build a less expensive house:

Michael Woodhouse: Has he heard of any reports that would encourage the building of at least one house for $300,000?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. I have seen the reports that there would be interest to build one house for $300,000 in Lumsden. The advice I have had is that it is possible to build a house for $300,000 in Lumsden. That house would contain David Cunliffe and it would be called the doghouse.

I suspect it would be possible to build a house for less than that in Lumsden, and of a much higher standard than the average doghouse.


Labour is getting its policies from . . . ?

October 25, 2012

Those of us who’ve wondered where Labour is getting its policies from have an answer:

David Shearer: Is the Prime Minister aware that Kurdistan recently postponed selling its state-owned mobile network, Russia recently cancelled three State privatisations, Hungary is preparing to renationalise a gas company, and Croatia has cancelled selling off its State bank?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but now it is all starting to become clear where Labour is getting its economic policies from!

Those who wonder why the government wants to sell minority shares in a few energy companies also got an answer:

Michael Woodhouse: Why is it important that the share offer programme goes ahead?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is important, firstly, because the Government can use the proceeds of the share offer to invest in new public infrastructure without having to borrow so much to do so. This is exactly the same situation as in 2005 when the previous Government took $600 million from the sale of publicly owned asset Southern Hydro and used it to invest in roads. The share offer also gives New Zealand savers the opportunity to invest either directly or indirectly in big New Zealand companies, and being publicly listed will be good for the companies themselves. . . 

I do believe bringing these companies to the market through the mixed-ownership model is a good, sound economic approach, and actually I think it will deliver a better result for New Zealand without having to borrow more money. . .

Those who wonder who will benefit from the investment got an answer too:

David Shearer: Is it his aim in selling off assets to maximise return to the New Zealand taxpayer or, given that the value of shares is likely to slump as result of the sales, is it to give enormous bargains to those buyers rich enough to buy shares?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member will be aware, because of the Securities Act, that I cannot offer a comment on whether the share sales are likely to be successful or not. What I can say is that if one goes and looks at TradeMe as an example, they will see it was brought to the market under what can really only be described as the mixed-ownership model, and that has proven to be very successful. I think if one also looks at the number of KiwiSaver accounts, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, the other pension funds in New Zealand, and mums and dads looking for investments, they will find those to be attractive investments. . .

And those wondering about alternatives to the partial sales also got an answer:

Michael Woodhouse: What reports has he seen on any alternative approaches to paying for new public infrastructure?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am aware of a couple of approaches. One is simply to go out there and print money in the misguided belief it will make a country wealthy. Today I have with me actually a $500 million Zimbabwean note. Members might be interested to know that when this was issued in May 2008, you needed 100 of these to buy—

. . .

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I say, one option is to print money, and you would have needed 100 of these when it was printed, 100 $500 million notes, to buy an egg—poached, boiled, fried, scrambled, or any other way. The other option—

. . .

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The second approach I have seen is to go out and borrow $5 billion to $7 billion, at a time when countries around the world are trying to reduce their debt. We know that that policy belongs to the big spending, big promising Labour Party.

We’ve sold non-core assets several times to allow us to reduce debt or reinvest in core assets. It’s normal and sensible business practice in countries with free markets.

The concept might be harder to grasp for those who get their policies and business practices from places still struggling from the aftermath of communism.

 

 


MP challenges city to say yes

July 26, 2012

Dunedin has joined some other councils in calling moratorium on fracking – hydraulic fracturing.

National MP Michael Woodhouse, has responded by challenging the city to say yes.

He’s calling on Dunedin’s city leaders to publicly state their support for oil and gas exploration as long as environmental risks can be managed.

Speaking in yesterday’s General Debate he compared the national GDP per capita of $46,000 with that of Taranaki where the GDP per capita is $88,000.

In that province agriculture, tourism and oil and gas exploration co-exist. The latter adds significantly to the economic and social benefits without environmental problems.


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