Obrut – to overthrow; overwhelm; bury, cover over.
Trade agreements are tricky animals – Alan Barber:
There’s a lot of activity going on with trade negotiations at the moment, but not much certainty about outcomes.
Ranging from the TPP, the grandfather of them all from New Zealand’s point of view, to the murky negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the only deal signed off this year is the long awaited FTA with South Korea.Although this FTA is good news for our primary sector, it is only a comparatively minor achievement which should have already happened years ago. Even the much vaunted FTA with China appears to have been gazumped by Australia’s more recently signed agreement. . .
Almost half a billion dollars worth of smuggled frozen meat – some of it rotting and more than 40 years old – has been seized in China, reports say.
More than 100,000 tonnes of chicken wings, beef and pork worth up to three billion yuan were seized in the nationwide crackdown, the state-run China Daily newspaper said.
“It was smelly, and I nearly threw up when I opened the door,” said an official from Hunan province, where 800 tonnes were seized. . .
Vegetable growers in the lower North Island may have lost up to 30 percent of their winter crops from the weekend flooding.
The industry body, Horticulture New Zealand, is still trying to build up a clear picture of the damage to market gardens and orchards.
Communications manager Leigh Catley said some vege growers in Horowhenua and Manawatu were reporting heavy losses. . .
Dart Valley track could be closed for moths – Sally Murphy:
The Dart Valley track in Mount Aspiring National park could be closed for the rest of the year after wild weather caused land-slips, and heavy rain and flooding washed away parts of the track.
Hillsides have slipped and trees have been washed away.
Department of Conservation services manager John Roberts said it was frustrating as it had undone months of work on the track.
“In recent months we have toiled to find a new route through very difficult country, we hoped to build a basic track around what used to be Sandy Flat, linking up with the temporary track around a new lake.” . .
The president of Federated Farmers William Rolleston is supporting the Government’s plan for partial return to democracy for the Canterbury Regional Council.
The government is about to confirm its preferred option after consulting on a mixed model of six appointed commissioners and seven elected councillors.
It said the work the commissioners had been doing to bring in a water management plan for the region would be put at risk if there was a full return to democracy. . .
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has awarded funding of $16.65million over the next six years to transform New Zealand’s primary food production into added-value products.
The programme will be hosted by Massey University, with Professor Richard Archer as national science leader, and partner organisations are AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, the Riddet Institute, the University of Auckland and the University of Otago.
National List MP and former member of the FoodHQ board Jono Naylor is delighted by today’s announcement. . .
There are good lessons to be drawn on from the global financial crisis (GFC) for dairy farmers in managing volatility and getting the most from their banking relationship, says Hayden Dillon, Head of Corporate Agribusiness and Capital Advisory for Crowe Horwath.
Major rural banks were expected to support their dairy clients despite many farm budgets indicating negative cash flow positions for the coming year, he said. And post-GFC, banks had undergone significant reforms and were now well-positioned in terms of access to capital. . .
You chose clear and unflashy words that get right to the point. Other writers known for this style are George Orwell and Raymond Carver. Try your hand at a six-word memoir or consider a career in journalism.
The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.
There are more than 4000 in the gallery already.
This is From the Void Civil Ensign by Adrian Powell:
. . . Markets are not about increasing individual profits but about allocating scarce resources. They do so best when property rights are clearly defined. And then they effectively deal with those environmental problems that the pontiff can only preach about.
As a Catholic economist, reading this papal drivel masquerading as an encyclical is both embarrassing and infuriating. Thank God Catholics are free to disagree with this personal position of the Pope. – Oliver Hartwich
1422 Battle of Arbedo between the duke of Milan and the Swiss cantons.
1520 The Spaniards were expelled from Tenochtitlan.
1559 King Henry II of France was seriously injured in a jousting match against Gabriel de Montgomery.
1651 The Deluge: Khmelnytsky Uprising – the Battle of Beresteczko ended with a Polish victory.
1688 The Immortal Seven issued the Invitation to William, continuing the struggle for English independence from Rome.
1758 Seven Years’ War: The Battle of Domstadtl.
1859 French acrobat Charles Blondin crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
1860 The 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
1864 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln granted Yosemite Valley to California for “public use, resort and recreation”.
1882 Charles J. Guiteau was hanged for the assassination of President James Garfield.
1886 The first transcontinental train trip across Canada departs from Montreal.
1905 Albert Einstein published the article “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”, in which he introduced special relativity.
1908 The Tunguska explosion in SIberia – commonly believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3.1–6.2 mi) above the Earth’s surface.
1912 The Regina Cyclone hit Regina, Saskatchewan, killing 28.
1917 – Susan Hayward, American actress, was born (d. 1975).
1917 – Lena Horne, American singer and actress (d. 2010)
1934 The Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler’s violent purge of his political rivals took place.
1935 The Senegalese Socialist Party held its first congress.
1936 Emperor Haile Selassie of Abbysinia appealled for aid to the League of Nations against Mussolini’s invasion of his country.
1939 The first edition of the New Zealand Listener was published.
1941 World War II: Operation Barbarossa – Germany captured Lviv, Ukraine.
1943 Florence Ballard, American singer (The Supremes). was born (d. 1976).
1944 Glenn Shorrock, Australian singer-songwriter (Little River Band) was born.
1944 World War II: The Battle of Cherbourg ended with the fall of the strategically valuable port to American forces.
1950 Leonard Whiting, British actor, was born.
1953 Hal Lindes, British-American musician (Dire Straits) was born.
1953 The first Chevrolet Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.
1956 – A TWA Super Constellation and a United Airlines DC-7 (Flight 718) collided above the Grand Canyon killing all 128 on board the two planes.
1959 A United States Air Force F-100 Super Sabre from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, crashed into a nearby elementary school, killing 11 students plus six residents from the local neighborhood.
1960 Murray Cook, Australian singer (The Wiggles) was born.
1960 Congo gained independence from Belgium.
1962 Julianne Regan, British singer and musician (All About Eve), was born.
1966 Mike Tyson, American boxer, was born.
1966 Marton Csokas, New Zealand actor, was born.
1968 Credo of the People of God by Pope Paul VI.
1969 Nigeria banned Red Cross aid to Biafra.
1971 – Ohio ratified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lowering the voting age to 18, thereby putting the amendment into effect.
1972 The first leap second was added to the UTC time system.
1985 Thirty-nine American hostages from a hijacked TWA jetliner were freed in Beirut after being held for 17 days.
1986 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults.
1987 The Royal Canadian Mint introduced the $1 coin, known as the Loonie.
1990 East and West Germany merged their economies.
1991 32 miners were killed when a coal mine fire in the Donbass region of the Ukraine released toxic gas.
1992 Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher.
1997 The United Kingdom transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
2007 A car crashed into Glasgow International Airport in an attempted terrorist attack.
2009 Yemenia Flight 626 crashed off the coast of Moroni, Comoros killing 152 people and leaving 1 survivor.
2013 – – 19 firefighters died controlling a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona.
Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia
Assart – a piece of land converted from forest to arable use; the act or offense of grubbing up trees and bushes, and thus destroying the thickets or coverts of a forest; to grub up trees and bushes to make land arable.
Snow does little to blunt Hurunui drought – Tim Cronshaw:
Melting snow has combined with the first decent rainfall in six months to provide some relief for dry Hurunui but it would be a stretch to call it a drought breaker.
Much of the snow over the last week has thawed and gone into soils to go some way to replenishing ground moisture that has taken a hammering in the district particularly extending from Hawarden to Cheviot.
The problem is that it’s arrived too late for farmers as winter pulls the plug on major grass or winter crop growth.
Snow, sleet and rain topped up gauges by 20mm to 50mm over Hurunui farmland in the first major rain of the year.
Federated Farmers North Canterbury Meat & Fibre chairman Dan Hodgen said the snow and rain event would be of little initial help for farmers. . .
US likely to force pace on TPP with fast track in place – Pattrick Smellie:
(BusinessDesk) – The United States is likely to try and force the pace of negotiations to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the next few weeks, following a vote in the US Senate last night that all but ensures President Barack Obama will gain so-called ‘fast track’ authority to complete the controversial agreement.
One more Senate vote is expected overnight tonight, New Zealand time, to confirm Trade Promotion Authority – an essential component to resuming the 12 nation talks that have been stalled for months while Obama cobbled together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans large enough to support the measure. . .
The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is firm in its view that a good deal on dairy in TPP is necessary for any deal to stack up for New Zealand.
“The facts are that dairy accounts for 35% of NZ exports. You can’t even come close to achieving an acceptable deal for New Zealand without a good deal on dairy” says DCANZ Chairman Malcolm Bailey.
DCANZ which represents the common policy interests of 11 New Zealand dairy companies, accounting for 98% of milk processed is following the negotiations carefully. . .
Landcorp sees NZ dairy conversion rate slowing – Tina Morrison:
(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp Farming, which has almost tripled its milk production over the past decade, expects the rate of dairy expansion will slow as environmental restrictions, and higher land and labour costs make it less viable.
Large tracts of flat land in New Zealand once used for sheep farming have been converted to dairy as farmers were lured by higher prices for dairy products while demand for sheepmeat and wool waned. The number of dairy cows has jumped to a record 6.7 million, while sheep numbers dropped below 30 million for the first time in more than 70 years, according to data published by Statistics New Zealand last month, covering the 2014 agricultural year. . .
John and Catherine own 1240ha Highlands Station – a productive and well-maintained hill-country farm south of Rotorua. Sitting within the Lake Tarawera and Rotokakahi catchments, the farm’s distinctive contour was shaped by volcanic activity which flattened forests, carved out hill faces and left the area covered in Phosphate-rich mud.
John’s father Allen began developing Highlands Station in the early 1930s and award judges noted the Ford’s “strong family history of commitment to agriculture”.
Highlands Station has a “much loved feel” and its outstanding meat and wool production puts it among New Zealand’s leading sheep and beef farming operations. . .
Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner today announced 41 appointments to the 14 Conservation Boards across New Zealand.
“I want to congratulate each of the community representatives who are being appointed in 2015, particularly the 14 who will serve for the first time. I would also like to thank the outgoing representatives for their contribution to conservation in their region,” Ms Wagner says.
“A third of Conservation Board positions were open for renewal this year. The diverse range of appointees will bring a wide array of knowledge and skills to conservation management in the communities they represent. . .
Nobody’s happy with manuka honey definitions: MPI – Suze Metherell:
(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s lack of definition for what constitutes manuka honey has overseas regulators worried about forgeries, with China likely to introduce a certification scheme for the honey imports, the Ministry for Primary Industries is telling the country’s beekeepers.
There is no industry-wide consensus on exactly what constitutes manuka honey, with MPI working to come up with a formal definition and a method for identification. While it isn’t a food safety issue, MPI “takes concerns about the authenticity of New Zealand products very seriously and is acting to address these,” according to its website. . .
Compressing photos is advised for posting on blogs or Facebook.
For years I’ve done this with Microsoft Office Picture Manager but my old computer was dying and its replacement has a new operating system which omits this feature.
I googled and followed the suggestion I found to download Microsoft Picture gallery but that doesn’t enable compression.
If there’s any technically minded person out there who knows how to compress photos I’d welcome your advice.
While I’m seeking advice, I haven’t found a way to compress photos on an iPad either and would appreciate advice on that too.
The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.
There are more than 4000 in the gallery already.
This one is Barking with the Stars by Warren Mara:
North Otago helicopter John Oakes received a Royal Humane Society award last week for risking his life saving those of others in Antarctica.
Rebecca Ryan tells the story of that rescue which John said was just doing his job:
On December 1, 2013, John Oakes saw the helicopter in front of him crash in a remote, heavily crevassed area in the Antarctic.
Mr Oakes was flying the other of two helicopters returning from a mission to survey a penguin colony.
Landing about 15m away in whiteout conditions, about 240km from Davis Base, Mr Oakes turned to his passenger and said:
”I hate to say it, but I don’t think anyone could’ve survived that.”
Then they saw movement.
One woman crawled through the snow away from the wreck and the pilot also appeared.
The other Australian expeditioner was found trapped in the wreck, hanging upside down, held by her seatbelt, with her foot caught in the seat panel.
They had all suffered serious injuries and Mr Oakes raised the alarm.
Two aircraft arrived overhead within an hour and a-half, but due to the deteriorating weather and the surrounding area of bad crevasses, they were unable to land and returned.
Frequent snow showers and blizzard-like conditions continued as Mr Oakes and his passenger tended to the injured, making sure all the three were protected from the elements, one in a bivouac shelter and the others in the rear of Mr Oakes’ helicopter.
They waited on the ice for 20 hours before there was a suitable weather window to fly to Sansom Island, where another plane was waiting to help return the injured to Davis Base.
He took two of the injured there, refuelled and returned to the crash site with a doctor and an engineer on board.
On the return to Davis Base, storms started to hit again, Mr Oakes said.
”We were back into 58 to 60 knots, the aeroplanes were getting a hammering, we were getting a hammering, so we were pretty happy to land back at base,” he said.
Arriving at Davis Base, Mr Oakes was totally exhausted at the end of what had been a harrowing 36-hour stretch and said it was his 28 years of North Otago Search and Rescue experience that had kicked in to get him through.
Last week, he was presented with a Royal Humane Society medal for his efforts in the rescue, which was a ”pretty humbling” experience.
The medals are given for acts of bravery in which rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.
Mr Oakes said he was ”just doing his job” – he was in the Antarctic, working for the Australian Antarctic Division, as helicopter support flying people to isolated places to assist in scientific studies. . .
This honour is well deserved.
It isn’t the first time John has risked his life to save people but you’d never hear that, or any of the other extraordinary stories of just doing his job from him.
. . . It’s not Craig’s inappropriate behaviour, whatever it was, that’s the problem.
It’s everything else.
A man that desperate to have a party that will have him, and give him power, is a man who should never have it.
It’s news all right. And we should care. – Rodney Hide
1149 Raymond of Antioch was defeated and killed at the Battle of Inab by Nur ad-Din Zangi.
1194 Sverre was crowned King of Norway.
1444 Skanderbeg defeated an Ottoman invasion force at Torvioll.
1613 The Globe Theatre in London burned to the ground.
1659 Battle of Konotop: Ukrainian armies of Ivan Vyhovsky defeatedthe Russians, led by Prince Trubetskoy.
1749 New Governor Charles de la Ralière Des Herbiers arrives at Isle Royale (Cape Breton Island).
1786 Alexander Macdonell and more than five hundred Roman Catholic highlanders left Scotland to settle in Glengarry County, Ontario.
1850 Coal was discovered on Vancouver Island.
1850 Autocephaly officially granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Church of Greece.
1861 William James Mayo, American physician, was born (d. 1939).
1864 Ninety-nine people were killed in Canada’s worst railway disaster near St-Hilaire, Quebec.
1874 Greek politician Charilaos Trikoupis published a manifesto in the Athens daily Kairoi entitled “Who’s to Blame?” in which he laid out his complaints against King George.
1880 France annexed Tahiti.
1891 Street railway in Ottawa commenced operation.
1895 Doukhobors burned their weapons as a protest against conscription by the Tsarist Russian government.
1900 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer, was born (d. 1944).
1901 Nelson Eddy, American singer and actor, was born (d. 1967).
1914 Jina Guseva attempted to assassinate Grigori Rasputin.
1916 Sir Roger Casement, Irish Nationalist and British diplomat was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising.
1922 France granted 1 km² at Vimy Ridge “freely, and for all time, to the Government of Canada, the free use of the land exempt from all taxes.”
1925 Canada House opened in London.
1926 Arthur Meighen returned to office as Prime Minister of Canada.
1927 First test of Wallace Turnbull’s Controllable pitch propeller.
1937 Joseph-Armand Bombardier of Canada received a patent for sprocket and track traction system used in snow vehicles.
1943 Little Eva, American singer, was born (d. 2003).
1945 Carpathian Ruthenia was annexed by Soviet Union.
1972 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty could constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”.
1974 Isabel Perón was sworn in as the first female President of Argentina.
1976 Bret McKenzie, New Zealand musician, (Flight of the Conchords) was born.
1976 The Seychelles became independent from the United Kingdom.
1990 Dr Penny Jamieson became the first woman in the world to be appointed an Anglican bishop.
1995 The Sampoong Department Store collapsed in Seoul, killing 501 and injuring 937.
2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President George W. Bush’s plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law.
2007 Two car bombs were found in the heart of London at Piccadilly Circus.
2012 – A derecho struck the eastern United States, leaving at least 22 people dead and millions without power.
2014 – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant self-declared its caliphate in Syria and northern Iraq.
Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia
Rime – frost formed on cold objects by the rapid freezing of water vapour in cloud or fog; an accumulation of granular ice tufts on the windward sides of exposed objects that is formed from supercooled fog or cloud and built out directly against the wind; a white incrustation of ice formed when supercooled water droplets freeze almost instantly on contact with a solid surface; a coating, as of mud or slime, likened to a frosty film; to cover an object with hoar frost; archaic variant of rhyme.
Strategic positioning down on the dairy farm – Keith Woodford:
Right now, everyone in the New Zealand dairy industry is figuring out how to get through the next 12 months without too much pain. But eventually events will turn and we will be able to think more strategically about where the industry is going.
Down on the farm, the big long term issue will be how to remain profitable while living in the new world of nutrient emission limits.
There are two ways to go. One is to farm within an all-grass system, but pull back the stocking rate and other inputs such as nitrogen fertiliser and supplementary feed. Some of the environmentally-focused people are arguing that this is the way to go, and within industry organisation DairyNZ there is a strongly held viewpoint that all-grass is where our competitive advantage lies. . .
Federated Farmers is pleased the Tukituki Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry has released a decision that has allowed for both the environment and economy to prosper.
The Catchment Proposal Board of Inquiry has decided to let the Ruataniwha Dam go ahead with some amendments to the conditions around nutrient management.
Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water and environment spokesperson says “We are pleased the process is finally over and are 100 percent behind the Ruataniwha Dam project going ahead for the reasons that water storage is good for the environment and the economy.” . .
In an unprecedented first, a group of North Canterbury stock agents and meat processors have agreed to collectively work together with Federated Farmers as the coordinator and the Rural Support Trust to help farmers affected by the drought for the good of the industry.
As feed supplies in the province dwindle large numbers of stock have to be relocated elsewhere or other solutions need to be found.
Dan Hodgen, Federated Farmers North Canterbury Meat & Fibre Chair says “The commitment from these groups to work together to help drought affected farmers is really encouraging and I thank them for it. This hasn’t happened before and it reflects how serious the situation is heading into lambing and calving.” . . .
Fudge (girl) and Fritz (boy) are the winning names for two new biosecurity detector puppies that have been especially bred to stop pests and diseases from entering New Zealand.
The Ministry for Primary Industries announced the beagle names today after running a public competition to name two puppies from its “F-litter”.
“Both names were popular choices among the entrants, and they meet our requirements for names that are short and easy to remember,” says MPI Detection Technology Manager Brett Hickman. . .
More than 280 people from around the horticultural industry came together last night to celebrate the 2015 Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition which saw 26 year old Craig Ward from Apata take out the 2015 title at a sold-out gala dinner.
Craig beat seven other competitors in a series of competitive events and tests during the day and a quiz and speech competition in the evening. Craig will now go on to represent the Bay of Plenty at the national competition run by Horticulture New Zealand in Christchurch on 12-13 August.
This year’s competition received a huge amount of support from the horticultural industry through sponsorship and other contributions. . . .
Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us…. One of Us ©2015 Brian Andreas
The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.
There are more than 4000 in the gallery.
A design website, Freelancer, ran a competition to design a flag. It was won by Christchurch design student Denise Fung with this entry:
Her winning design kept the traditional colours and southern cross motif of the current flag, but added a modern twist with a stylistic fern cutting diagonally through the middle.
“Instead of the Union Jack, I used the colours White, Blue [and] Red, to represent that New Zealand is part of the commonwealth,” Ms Fung wrote in her entry description.
“The key elements on the new flag is the Silver Fern, which has a Kuro (sic) on the top as well.
This combination of the two main icons of New Zealand not only could represent the personality of New Zealanders and the culture of Maori, but also creates a unique impression for the people outside New Zealand.”
Our deputy PM and Finance Minister, Bill English delivered the John Howard Lecture to Menzies Research Centre last week:
Thank you for inviting me tonight.
It’s a pleasure to be here in Australia.
What happens over here, and what people are thinking, affects New Zealand profoundly.
That’s why I try to visit here regularly and talk to as many people as I can.
I want to acknowledge the warm relationship shared between our respective Governments – and the constructive engagements we have with Prime Minister Abbott and Joe Hockey in particular.
Australia has enjoyed 25 years of solid economic growth. Following the end of the mining boom, I believe you are well placed to make the necessary adjustments and continue that run of solid growth.
Australia is New Zealand’s most important trading partner and biggest source of overseas investment.
It’s also where many New Zealanders have come to live.
That is, until the last couple of months when – for the first time since 1991 – there was a net migration flow from Australia to New Zealand.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, a net 130 people moved from Australia to New Zealand last month, and I’d like to welcome each and every one of them to our country.
It’s also a pleasure to be following in the footsteps of Prime Minister John Key, who gave this lecture in 2012.
He is the outstanding New Zealand political leader of recent decades.
He brings to bear a remarkable combination of analytical and political skills with the confidence and aspiration New Zealand has needed in tough times.
I know John Key has a huge amount of respect for John Howard.
So do I.
I followed his career for many years through the pages of The Bulletin, which I read in my farming home in the far south of New Zealand.
My first substantial conversation with John Howard was in extraordinary circumstances.
I came over to Australia to meet him in May 2003, as the leader of the opposition National Party.
Unfortunately my visit coincided perfectly with the resignation of the Governor-General.
John Howard obviously had a great deal on his hands dealing with this critical constitutional issue.
However, after watching the Prime Minister answer questions in a very sombre Parliament, I was summoned to his office, greeted warmly and treated to a 45-minute, relaxed, wide-ranging discussion on politics.
That afternoon, I could not have been less relevant to his considerations. But I could not have been treated more warmly and respectfully.
It was a real boost for a young, struggling opposition leader, and I have always remembered his generosity.
Unfortunately, his wisdom and guidance was not sufficient to prevent me from losing my job a few months later.
But John Howard’s example showed me that in politics, persistence is rewarded.
Here I am part of a successful government, now into its third term and hopefully with more to come.
I want to offer some thoughts tonight about the business of government, from a centre-right perspective.
Others can determine whether those thoughts are applicable elsewhere. Each country has its own set of circumstances and its own unique challenges to deal with.
A guiding principle of the John Key-led government has been to take the public along with us as we make changes, explain the reasons for them well in advance, lay out the logic, adjust expectations and implement those changes competently.
Over time, that builds up a popular support for our changes so they will stick.
This approach was developed partly from the experiences of the 1990-1999 National government.
The early 1990s were a time of extensive and sometimes unexpected changes in New Zealand. We implemented sound policies, but we failed to build broader constituencies for those changes.
As a result we lost support, the electoral system was changed to MMP, and many of our policies were undone by the subsequent Labour government.
Since our election in 2008, we have taken a different approach.
Over the past six-and-a-half years the National-led government has been able to implement sound centre-right policy which is now sufficiently embedded with public support that I am confident it will remain in place.
Our approach has been dubbed ‘incremental radicalism’. This differentiates it from another approach to centre-right reform which I call ‘crash or crash through’.
The elements of the ‘crash or crash through’ method include creating a burning platform, initiating rapid change, and spending large amounts of political capital which you hope you will recoup when the expected benefits flow through sufficiently strongly for the government to be re-elected.
In some circumstances this has worked. In the 1980s it was probably necessary.
We didn’t have that choice this time around – nor did we want it.
Our MMP system ensures that electoral success always comes down to a few seats in Parliament.
In last year’s election we beat our main opponents by 47 per cent to 25 per cent of the vote, but our four-party coalition has only a slim majority in the House.
This means we have had to build and maintain continuous public support for our policies.
We have kept a tight rein on new spending – including delivering two budgets in a row with no net new discretionary spending – but it hasn’t felt to people like fiscal austerity.
For instance we increased welfare benefit rates for families with children in our most recent budget – the first time this has happened in more than 40 years. But it was within an overall spending increase that was very slim by historical standards.
In 2010, we implemented a revenue-neutral tax switch which cut all income tax rates and the company rate, funded by an increase in GST and property taxes.
We spent a long time working publicly through the issues so the changes were largely uncontroversial by the time we finalised them, and people could see that the package of measures was balanced and fair.
We also sold 49 per cent of three government-owned electricity companies.
We laid that plan out to the public at the beginning of election year 2011 and campaigned on it, because the legacy of previous asset sales in New Zealand is one of distrust when the public feels assets are sold without a mandate.
While opinion polls showed people didn’t like the policy, there was no evidence of a backlash against us in the 2011 election, and no question that we had a mandate.
In the right circumstances, I believe people can grasp long-term policy trade-offs, so we’ve tried very hard to be predictable, consistent and upfront with voters.
Our fiscal policies and microeconomic reforms are familiar centre-right approaches adapted to New Zealand’s particular circumstances.
But it’s the third part of our policy programme I really want to talk about tonight, and that’s our public sector reforms.
Excluding transfers, government makes up around a quarter of all economic activity in New Zealand.
Government is a huge, diversified business and we can make a big contribution to the country’s prosperity by running that business more effectively.
Centre-right parties tend to want to limit the role of government, which they believe holds back growth in the economy and undermines individual and community liberties.
I share that view – the more so the longer I am in politics.
However because of their scepticism about government, centre-right parties can underestimate their ability to improve the economy by understanding and improving government.
I believe in smaller government.
I also believe the best way to achieve smaller government is to deliver better government.
The centre-right toolkit has traditionally focused on reducing levels of spending, rather than addressing the long-term drivers of that spending.
But too often, spending cuts are only temporary, as they are reversed in the face of public opinion or reinstated by an incoming government.
What is less intuitive for a centre-right party is to better understand the lives and needs of the government’s regular, long-term and most expensive customers.
When government does its job well and intervenes effectively it enables vulnerable people to increase their resilience and social mobility, and it helps them make positive changes to their lives.
It also reduces demand for public services over the medium to long term, and therefore saves taxpayers money.
What works for the community works for the government’s books.
If you compare it to the private sector, a business needs to understand its customers because they drive its revenue. We need to understand our customers because they drive our costs.
It makes sense to get to know our most expensive customers.
Their lives are complex and often challenging. Their interactions with government agencies can be chaotic and crisis-driven.
The result is a loss of human potential and long-term harm to families and communities. And there are big costs for taxpayers.
We are starting to dig into those costs, and the information is proving to be a powerful driver for institutional and policy change.
We can now pretty accurately know the likely life path of different groups of children. For example, there is a relatively small set of children with multiple problems for whom we can expect that:
- three quarters will not get a high-school qualification,
- four in ten will have been on a benefit for more than 2 years before they are 21, and
- a quarter will have been in prison by the time they are 35.
Each of these children will cost taxpayers an average of $320,000 by the time they are 35, and some will cost more than a million dollars.
Front line workers in the community will know most of their names. We can deal with them one by one.
The ideal outcome for us is fewer customers, not more. Fewer dysfunctional families. Fewer parents who spend decades on welfare. Fewer people who commit crimes.
Part of our response is to recognise that people can do more for themselves, and often want to.
We expect more from people, because ultimately they are responsible for their own lives and responsible for their own families.
We expect parents to actively support their children at school. We expect prisoners to get off drugs and gain work skills. And we expect young sole parents who are on benefits to get qualifications.
We’ll help them do that.
We don’t believe that people whose lives are difficult are automatically helpless and will stay that way forever.
But reducing misery, rather than servicing it, requires us to organise responses around these individuals, with them at the centre of public spending.
Inconvenient as it might seem, people don’t live in government departments, they live in families and communities.
Last year we got officials from the health, education, welfare and justice sectors to bring along a summary of analysis about at-risk children and youth.
What we saw were four well-crafted ways of analysing exactly the same people. But they were all quite different because of each agency’s own institutional and professional history and culture.
One agency, for example, used a deprivation index that goes from 1 to 10, while another used one that goes from 10 to 1. Same kids.
That sort of issue is at the easier end of the scale to fix, or at least it should be.
It’s more difficult to set up structures that recognise people’s problems are connected.
Take the case of five-year-olds in state care.
In New Zealand, there are 1,500 of them each year and by the time they are 35 they will incur prison and welfare costs totalling $550 million.
Traditionally we’ve looked after those kids on a shoestring budget, through the valiant efforts of foster parents and front line social workers.
The question is, what can we do differently now, and spend up front, to save those children from such a life and save a good portion of those $550 million in future costs?
When we ask that question, departments usually don’t know the answer because they haven’t tried to solve that problem.
Instead, governments have simply serviced the system for caring for children, and serviced the prison system, and treated those as two separate issues. They are not.
We are starting to link these issues of foster care, education, welfare dependency, youth justice and prison sentences through analysis that shows the costs and potential for more effective intervention at multiple points in a child’s path to adulthood.
We are prepared to spend money now to secure better long-term results for the most vulnerable New Zealanders, and lower costs to the government in the future.
We call this social investment.
It challenges a lot of the structures that have been set up to manage government spending on an annual basis.
If there’s enough good-quality data, the investment approach can look out 20 or 30 years and model the costs of dysfunction, and the benefits of intervention, for particular communities and populations.
That’s how we are now approaching the welfare system.
We previously had a cash-driven, point-in-time view of the welfare system. This led to a focus on short-term results, like bringing down the number of people on the unemployment benefit.
A couple of years ago we commissioned Australian actuaries Taylor Fry to calculate the lifetime welfare costs of people on benefits.
That liability turned out to be $78 billion – or just under 40 per cent of annual GDP.
And we discovered that those on the unemployment benefit made up only 4 per cent of the future liability.
Groups you never thought of made up a bigger percentage. Like those we call ‘recent exits’ – people who have recently returned to work after being on a benefit.
It turns out that many come back on welfare, and their long-term cost was higher in total than the people currently on an unemployment benefit.
Sole parents had an even larger lifetime liability. So did a large group of people with psychiatric and psychological conditions.
You can drill down further into this information.
Among sole parents, for example, you can then ask “Who is going to cost us the most money?” and it turns out it’s the ones who go onto a sole parent benefit before they turn 20.
A teen sole parent on a benefit in New Zealand is on a benefit for around 20 years, on average, with a net present cost of $213,000 per person. So that helps us know where to focus our efforts.
The next obvious question is “what can we do about it?”
With that group of teen sole parents, for example, we no longer just give them a fortnightly benefit and wish them good luck.
They are now enrolled in a scheme that, among other things, ensures they are in school or training, gives them each a supervising adult, and manages their money for them. That programme is showing promising results.
We are also much more focused on getting sole parents of all ages off a benefit and into work, through extra support and greater work obligations.
The latest welfare valuation, which is updated every six months, shows the future liability of beneficiaries has reduced by $7.5 billion in the last year, with $2.2 billion of this due to steps we have taken as a government.
There are now 43,000 fewer children living in a benefit dependent household than there were three years ago, and the number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest since 1988.
In other areas too, there is a role for better data, and better use of data.
We need to manage privacy and other issues very carefully, but data gives us an opportunity to drive a programme of work firmly focused on getting better results.
That focus is a challenge to public accounting.
The traditional public finance structure is designed to track where every dollar goes, but was never designed to find out whether it made any difference.
Making a difference is the whole point though.
Too often, success has been defined simply in terms of spending money on something. Politicians say “look, we spent more” as though that on its own is what matters.
Public services, which are full of good and capable people, still spend a lot of time not sure of the effects of what they’re doing.
The public think we know, or at least they think we’ve got good intentions.
Borrowing and committing billions of dollars on good intentions has been the post-war model.
Where possible we want to start purchasing results.
We want to buy reductions in recidivism, for example, more educational achievement, and lower welfare dependence.
We also want to broaden the range of organisations and providers we buy these results from.
The more people who worry about New Zealand’s longstanding social challenges, and work on innovative approaches, the better.
The Government doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas, resources and expertise.
So I expect more involvement from not-for-profit and private sector providers alongside government agencies.
We are aiming to make data more open, so people and organisations outside the usual public policy process can analyse it to develop new ways of reducing dysfunction in vulnerable groups.
Individuals will also benefit from more information about what works, because it supports the ability for them to make choices.
Why shouldn’t someone with a disability, for example, have access to comparisons of different employment support services?
Technology is allowing us to develop new tools to take these sorts of ideas and make them a reality.
Our social investment approach is based on common sense, not a profound new theory.
People have talked about having a results focus for years, and taking a cost-benefit approach to social spending is probably taught in all good public policy courses.
But the difficult part is being able to put these ideas into practice in the real, messy and contentious world of government.
The social investment approach won’t be suitable for all public spending, or even a majority of it, but we’re rolling it out as far as we can.
That’s the opportunity for the centre-right.
Parties to the left of us appear to have given up on innovation in public services. Certainly that is the case in New Zealand, where the Labour Party consistently argues for the status quo.
Centre-right governments have the opportunity to achieve smaller government by delivering better government.
Public services should make a genuine difference to those people in our communities who live with the least resources, and the least hope.
In fact, they should make enough of a difference to reduce the number of people who suffer these disadvantages.
If we focus on making that difference, the centre-right can change government for the better.
More importantly, we can build on the resilience and aspiration of those who are excluded from the economy and community by a passive, unaccountable welfare state.
Sunday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.
Take 30 seconds and think of three things you are thankful for today – Zig Ziglar.com