Whose $500 is it?

November 4, 2008

The Maori Party wants a tax payer funded $500  present for pensioners and low income families.

That is a lot of money for someone who doesn’t have much and some would spend it wisely.

But it’s a lot of money for taxpayers too – $136.5 million – and when we’re facing 10 years of deficits the government has to apply the same sort of rigor to its spending as households do.

That means giving up luxuries then reassessing necessities.

If they do that they’ll have many more pressing needs for the $136.5 million.


Feds’ wish-list pt 5

November 4, 2008

I’m coming to the end of Federated Farmers’  42 page election wish list which continues with transport:

* The driving age to remain at 15 but with an increased learner licensing period.

* An amendment to the Driver Licensing Rule allowing tractors and harvesters to be operated on a Class 1 License.

* An amendment to the Mass and Dimension Rule to remove the requirement for permits for agricultural vehicles to be used on roads at certain times.

* Councils be required to ensure that their stock movement bylaws do not impose unreasonable restrictions, impositions or costs on farmers.

* The use of education, rather than regulation, to encourage farmers to stand their stock with more investment in stock effluent disposal facilities by councils and the NZ Transport Agency.

 

 Keeping the driving age at 15 but increasing the learner licence period takes account of the impact raising the age would have on rural families while recognising there is a safety issue with young drivers.

From driving to walking:

* Public access to private land to remain subject to negotiation with, and agreement by, the landowner.

* A simplified and lower cost method to ‘stop’ unformed roads not required by councils, and that such ‘stopped roads’ may only be offered to the adjacent landowner.

Both of these recognise property rights.

 

Then on to water:

 

 * Water policies based on sound scientific information.

 

* Simple and cost-effective policies for both the regulator and the user.

 

* Security of tenure and clear specifications for water use.

 

* Flexibility to suit local needs and circumstances.

 

* Water harvesting and storage to be prioritised.

 

* Recognition that efficient use of water is best determined by water users.

 

* Accommodation for the voluntary transfer or exchange of water permits.

 

Science-based policies are to be encouraged.

 

Investments are made and businesses built around water so security of tenure is important.

 

Recognising that local needs and circumstances differ is sensible.

 

Water rights transfer with land so allowing the voluntary transfer isn’t a great leap to make.


Feds’ wish list pt 4

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers’  election wish-list moves on to property rights from page 31:

* The maintenance of private property rights to be recognised in legislation.

 

* An amendment to the Resource Management Act requiring full market compensation for landowners if land use is restricted under the RMA.

 

* Enactment of a Regulatory Responsibility Act, requiring market compensation be payable where private property rights are taken or extinguished.

 

Private property rights are one of the foundation stones of democracy. If the greater good impinges on those rights then compensation must be paid.

Feds then moves on to security: 

* Recognition of the specific security issues and needs faced by rural communities by way of a Rural Police Strategy.

 

Then the need for improved rural-urban relations:

 * The establishment of an interdepartmental rural task force with Federated Farmers and other related groups, to develop practical solutions to build closer relations between town and country.

 * Financial support for Federated Farmers initiatives to improve urban and rural relations.

 

The rural-urban divide is widening but given the deficits we’re facing I don’t think supporting Feds in these initiatives is a priority for public funding.

Sustainability comes next and Feds wants: 

* A collaborative approach with the Federation to define economic and environmental considerations for New Zealand.

 

* Scientifically verified metrics for sustainability.

 

* The international effect of policies to support sustainability is assessed before adoption.

 

* The economic viability of farming given equal weighting to environmental factors in policy setting.

 

When people say sustainable it often just means environmental and forgets the economic and social legs of the sustainability. 

 

Feds then moves onto telecommunciations and wants:

 

* Funding the roll-out improved telecommunications services and broadband for all by way of fixed wire, satellite or wireless means.

 

Yes please.

 

Then trade:

 

* Conclusion of a comprehensive WTO Doha round that includes liberalisation of agricultural trade. 

 

* Negotiation of comprehensive and WTO consistent bilateral and plurilateral free trade pacts, which include liberalisation of agricultural trade.

 

* Elimination of New Zealand’s remaining tariffs on imported goods.

 

* New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade specifically tasked to combat misinformation on issues such as ‘food miles’ in overseas markets.

 

Growing food and fibre is just the start, we have to sell what we produce and the only fair trade is free trade.

 

Then transport:

 

 * Efficiency to be the primary determinant for transport funding decisions.

 

* Roading costs to be allocated so road charges are efficient and equitable by way of targeting actual commercial road users.

 

* The Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008 be amended to repeal provisions for regional fuel taxes.

 

* A significant reduction in the reliance of local authority rates to fund the maintenance of local roads by greater access to hypothecated funds.

 

* The Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2008 be further amended to prevent cross subsidisation of other modes from hypothecated funds.

 

Main roads in the southern South Island are generally pretty good but the cost of maintaining local roads is already getting to great for rate payers.


Feds’ election wish-list pt 3

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers 42 page election manifesto is certainly comprehensive.

I looked at the first 16 pages a couple of posts back and pages 17 – 24 in the last post.

Page 25 continues with a list of what it wants local and central government to do:

Local government should:

* Take better account of inter-generational equity through prudent use of debt . .

* make greater use of uniform annual charges.

* Make greater use of targetted rates to ensure that there is a better link between the funding of services and a resident’s acces to an benefit from such services.

* Provide ratepayers with itemised tates assessments.

*Report financial information consistently to enable comparisons.

*Participate in performance benchmarking.

Central government should:

* Enable councils to move away from having to fully-fund depreciation.

*Provide more revenue from petrol taxes and road user charges to ensure that local roads (like state highways) are funded according to road use rather than property value.

Given how little use some country roads get this might mean very little funding for them.

* Commit funds to councils if it is imposing increased roles, responsiblities and costs on them.

* Commit one cent of the 12.5 cents of GST as a general revenue share for local government to recognise new legislation obligations.

* Remove all rating exmpetions on land, including Department of Conservation land.

* Issue a clear policy direction that central government retains all responsbilitiy for income redistribution and that this is not a role for councils.

Rates have increased far more than the rate of inflation and one of the reasons for this is the imposition of extra responsbilities by central government without any extra funding.

The policy then moves on to pest management and asks for:

* Management plan to deal with bee pests not currently in New Zealand.

* The removal of restrictions on management of Canada Geese.

* Action plan to make New Zealand TB free and reduce rabbit population.

* The continued use of 1080 poison and public information campaign spearheaded by government.

* Research into alternatives to 1080 to ensure the msot effective tool is being used.

* Remove all rating exemptions on land, including Department of Conservation land, to fully fund pest management at a regional level.

I don’t think any party is prepared to remove the rating exemptions on government land so an alternative would be central government funding for pest management in lieu of rates.

* A Regulatory Responsibility bill to be introduced and passed in the next parliament.

* An independent agency, modelled on the Toronto Red Tape Commission, to revisit all primary legislation, statutory instruments and by-laws for unnecessary compliance cost implications.

I’d add unnecessary rules and laws, especially those eneacted nationally to solve a local problem, to the last point.

* A staged uplift in science and research from 1.2% of GDP to 3% of GDP by 2029.

* A focussing of research funds into the primary sectors which underpin the New Zealand economy.

* Flexibility for Crown research Institutions to reward the best scientists commensurate with their abilities.

* A ring fencing of investment to prevent its access by social scientists and related practitioners.

 If we want to retain our place as one of the world leaders in agriculture adequately funded research is essential.

 * Full market compensation for landowners if land use is restricted under the RMA.

*  Compulsory consultation with affected landowners.

* Clear policy direction for the Department of Conservation in respect of its advocacy role.

* The streamlining of resource consents and the plan processes to minimise activities that need consents and to clamp down on vexatious submitters.

* Long-term economic viability enabled by using transferable development rights, trade offs and creative subdivision policies.

*The changing nature of landscapes acknowledged by reworking the Act’s

emphasis on the protection of amenity.

The theory behind the RMA is good but it needs an overhaul to ensure it works more fairly, effectively and less expensively.


Feds’ election wish-list pt 2

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers’ election manifesto is 42 pages long.

I looked at the first 16 pages a couple of posts back, and continue from page 17:

* Employment legislation particularly the Employment Relations Act and Holiday Act, to be reviewed with a view to reducing compliance costs and encouraging labour market flexibility and productivity.

* The minimum wage retained at its current level (ie adjusted only for inflation).

* Paid parental leave to remain unchanged.

I agree with the first two points, but have philosophical difficulties with PPL because I don’t believe having a baby by itself is sufficient reason to require tax payer assistance. Giving money to a couple earning six-figure salaries when so many people are in desperate need of help shows the government has its priorities wrong.

* A robust efficient regulatory regime that provides assurances to consumers, both in New Zealand and overseas, of food safety.

* A continuation of voluntary country of origin food labelling.

Our reputation for producers of safe food must be maintained.

A growing number of consumers, and I’m one of them, want country of origin labelling  (COOL) where practical but I think that should be driven by consumers. If we opt for COOL food the people who sell it will soon get the message but that doesn’t need government intervention.

*  Acceptance of the principle and application of gene technology in agriculture, providing appropriate controls exist.
* Support of the regulatory frameworks established to scientifically assess and manage any risks to the health and safety of people and the environment from the application of gene technology.

* Recognition by the state that gene technology can provide benefits to New Zealand producers.

* Endorsement of individual farmers’ right to determine what technologies are used in their farming systems.

* Enshrining consumers’ right to information relating to the products they are purchasing by way of active risk communication by regulatory bodies and the supply of information to underpin consumer confidence.

* Recognition gene technology involves significant issues of intellectual property and the need to ensure this property is protected globally.

Gene technology is an area where emotion often beats science. This policy rightly recognises the need for regulation, safeguards and communication.

* Recognition of the property rights of affected land owners and lease holders.

* Continuation of the Tenure Review process with objective evaluations of Significant Inherent Values (SIVs).

* More recognition given to the use of protective mechanisms for SIVs as provided for in the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 (CPLA).

* Where large areas of land have both productive and environmental values, greater use of ‘sustainable management covenants’ under freehold titles as provided for in the CPLA.

* Amenity values be excluded from pastoral lease rent reviews.

They’ve got my vote on all of these points which address areas where Labour has caused hassles and heartache.

* Recognition that farming is a skilled occupation by Immigration New Zealand.

* Increased flexibility in immigration policies.

* Inclusion of more farming categories on the occupational skills shortage list.

Immigration policy needs to acknowledge that overseas experience isn’t necessarily helpful here and that attitude and work ethics are often more important than relevant experience.

* Review of the Local Government Act 2002 and local government funding to define council core functions.

* Councils to be given the flexibility to decide representation arrangements.

* More consistency in the process of setting user charges (eg dog registration).

* Any changes to dog control laws not to impose unreasonable impositions and costs on responsible owners of farm working dogs.

Yes again to all of these points.


Photo finish for Melbourne Cup

November 4, 2008

The 2008 Melbourne Cup winner was a photo finish.

Viewed, trained by Bart Cummings and ridden by B. Shinn, was 1st.

Bauer trained by Luca Cumani and ridden by C. Brown came 2nd.

New Zealand horse C’est La Guerre trained by John Saddler ridden by B. Prebble was 3rd.

UPDATE: The official results are here.


Feds election wish-list part 1

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers is often described as the National Party in gumboots.

That’s not right because the organisation is not aligned to any political party. However, given its members are mostly self-employed in small businesses there is no surprise that its election wish-list is more likely to be greeted favourably by parties on the right of centre than those on the left.

It includes:

* The reintroduction of competition for ACC.

Farming is a high risk occupation and levies reflect that but the current system is a one-size fits all one which doesn’t reward those with safer workplaces who make fewer claims.

* A revised needs analysis for trade access and biosecurity and food safety to determine what is required to satisfy customers.

Biosecurity and food safety requirements could be used as non-tariff barriers to restrict market access so it’s important we understand what our customers need.

* Reasonable animal welfare requirements based on sound scientific analysis and an understanding of farm practices.

Animal welfare is paramount. But emotion and ignorance sometimes fuel criticism of practices that are safe and humane.

* increased funding for biosecurity at the border and behind the border (eg regional pest management strategies).

I’d like a return to local pest management boards. Individual responsibility only works if everyone is responsible, if they’re not those who take pest destruction seriously have their efforts sabotaged by neighbours who don’t. 

* Investment in climate change technologies reflecting that farmers are operating at ,or near to, the limits of existing technologies.

* A renegotiation of the Kyoto Protocol to exempt all animal emissions.

* Climate change policies aligned ot those of our key trading partners.

* A delay in the start of the NZETS to enable a full review and ammendment.

There is no use sabotaging the economy and adding to world food shortages for little if any environmental gain.

* Young people, urban and rural, to be encouraged to consider careers in the primary sector, including farming.

We’re still suffering from the fallout from the ag-sag of the 80s when farming and other primary industry occupations weren’t popular.

* Adequate funding for providers of agricultural education and training.

* Recognition farming is a skilled occupation by the Minsitry of Education.

* Financial support for leadership development in the rural sector.

I agree with the first two points but if we want lower taxes it might be better to look to our own resources and sponsorship rather than the government for things like leadership development.


$1.7billion loss

November 4, 2008

The crown accounts were in deficit by $800 million at the end of the September quarter, a $1.7 billion turn around from the $900 million surplus that was forecast.

So where did it go?

Labour was happy to take the credit for the surpluses, they can’t blame all of the $1.7 billion on the international financial fallout.

National finance spokesman Bill English  says the deterioration makes it even more important to get a government that’s focussed on growth.

‘National has released a fully costed set of policies which promote economic growth and start the job of lifting New Zealand out of deficits earlier.

‘Labour has delivered a decade of deficits that the next generation of Kiwi voters will still be paying for.

‘They haven’t told New Zealanders before the election how they plan to pay for the 30 or so uncosted promises Helen Clark has made since the pre-election opening of the books.

‘They have been fair-weather economic managers, and they have no new ideas on how to get the country moving forward. It is time for a fresh approach.’


Fed Farmers’ wish list

November 4, 2008

Federated Farmers launched their election manifesto  this morning.

It has three major themes – recognising the importance of agriculture in and to New Zealand; the contribution it makes to our economic environmental and social wellbeing; and farming’s future is New Zealand’s future.

I can’t argue with the themes but will look at the detail and blog on that later.


Bill nails it

November 4, 2008

It was notoriously difficult to win an election under MMP and every vote counted, he said.

“Otherwise you can end up with a real mess, or Winston Peters, which is pretty much the same thing.”

This was National Party deputy leader Bill English’s message  to his Clutha Southland supporters as he warned them against complacency.

He said it was important for National to win as much of the vote as possible, rather than face a cobbled-together government with multiple leaders and different agendas.

“Some Green (Party) person we have never heard of could be a minister in cabinet, like the Minister of Education. Imagine what they would do with the power.”

They’ve done enough damage with concessions dragged out of Labour in return for abstaining on supply and confidence. I’d rather not think what they’d do if they finally got into government and cabinet.


National Parks don’t have to be govt owned

November 4, 2008

The $40 million the government spent buying St James Station is part of many millions of dollars they’ve wasted buying out pastoral leases because Labour’s blinded by their belief public ownerhsip is better than private ownership.

National conservation spokesman Nick Smith has a much better idea:

National would look to provide high country national parks that took advantage of forests and mountains for both recreation and conservation purposes, but they would not necessarily be government owned, National MP Nick Smith said yesterday.

. . . When asked whether it would carry on with Labour’s plan to establish high county national parks, Dr Smith said the party would consider using conservation and recreation covenants to protect the space.

This recognises that protection and access are important but it doesn’t necessarily need public ownership.

This follows a High Court judgement last month which ruled against the Crown for reneging on an offer of a special lease to a group of high country farmers within a conservation area in the Hawkdun and Ida ranges in Central Otago.

Dr Smith said farmers would not be bullied by the Department of Conservation, and he supported the idea of land owners’ groups being consulted, rather than antagonised, by Doc.

Most farmers get on well with the DOC workers they encounter but there is strong suspicion of the people at DOC hq.  One of the reasons for that is they can see land deteriorating under DOC management because insufficient time and money are spent on weed and pest management.

They also resent the amount of tax payers’ money that’s wasted managing land that used to be looked after much better by farmers. That’s because they were there all the time but now the land’s back under public control its care is left to DOC contractors who come and go.


Misplaced confidence

November 4, 2008

The ODT  says:

Prime Minister Helen Clark saved her best for last during the TV3 leaders’ debate last night when she could point confidently to her record of leading a government during the past nine years with five different parties.

That’s the best?

Does it not matter that in leading the government she’s stuck with Winston Peters, allowed him to keep his baubles when she took over his duties, and even now when she’s trying to take his votes because she thinks it’s unlikely he’ll get back to parliament she still won’t rule him out of cabinet if she wins the election?


Feeling foreign in own land

November 4, 2008

Dene Mackenzie, who’s taking the political pulse of the country for the ODT, has reached Botany.

People born overseas (49%) outnumber the locals (47.9%) and the electorate has the country’s second-highest proportion of Asian voters (33.5%).

But the strong competition for Chinese votes in particular has created a backlash among other voters.

Three Chinese-born candidates are seeking election.

They are National’s Pansy Wong, Mr Wang and Simon Kan from the Kiwi Party.

. . . At Jacob’s Cafe, only the staff were Asian as I settled down next to Glad and Allan Jamieson. They are both in their 80s and have lived in the village for most of their married life.

They are committed National voters and will be voting for Mrs Wong and giving National their party vote. But even they are starting to feel a bit peeved about the wave of new immigrants and new housing.

. . . Botany residents are split over whether it is good for candidates to be campaigning in languages other than English.

Some spoken to by Taking the Pulse said it was good that the Chinese candidates could talk to voters in their own language.

Others said they would prefer to have everything conducted in English but could not say that publicly in the electorate in case they were branded racist.

It’s difficult when you start feeling like a foreigner in your own country, but speaking your mother tongue is natural.

A young Chilean woman works in a supermarket I shop at. She always speaks to me in Spanish and I always try to answer her in her language but that is very different from what Dene encountered in Botany.

If I lived in another country I’d learn the language, but I’d also be pleased if others used mine.


Crisis leadership

November 4, 2008


4 more sleeps . . .

November 4, 2008

. . . until the election and two of The Herald’s commentators  gave a narrow win to John Key and the third declared it a draw.


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