Word of the day

July 31, 2020

Didapper – a dabchick or other small glebe; a water-bird that is constantly dipping or diving under water.


Sowell says

July 31, 2020


Rural round-up

July 31, 2020

Lessees can be forced to cull tahr – Neal Wallace:

High-Country pastoral lessees could be drawn into the contentious tahr cull issue with plans for a population survey on Crown pastoral lease land later this year.

Federated Farmers high-country committee past chairman Simon Williamson believes lease terms will force some landowners to cull tahr.

The Conservation Department has begun a major cull in Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks but operations director Dr Ben Reddiex says it is not eradication.

“The vast majority of commercial hunting takes place on Crown pastoral lease and private land. . . 

Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need – Janette Gellatly:

Passionate about the rural sector and people’s welfare, Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the best aspect of her role is being there for farmers.

‘‘Our role is to talk to farmers who are having some kind of stress and . . .to connect them with the right people to make a positive difference.’’

These could include various agencies, such as mental wellness providers, financial institutions and other rural stakeholders such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. ‘‘We are here to support all farmers [whether it be aquaculture or on the land] in Southland.’’ As part of its holistic approach, the trustees were also volunteers. Most have been through challenging times themselves, so could relate and understand when others were having difficulties, Mrs Cotter said.

It was about farmers helping farmers. . . 

Pilot kickstarts shearing training – Colin Williscroft:

Almost $2 million will be spent developing and delivering sustainable and integrated training for shearing and wool handling.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says $1.86m from the Provincial Growth Fund will be invested over two years to establish a pilot for the Shearing Training Model programme.

It will use micro-credentialing, earn-as-you-learn training to upskill 150 new and 120 existing shearers.

It will target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, career changers and those already in the industry who want to learn new skills. . . 

Mataura Valley Milk – the zombie dairy company – Brent Melville:

When it started production outside Gore in late 2018, Mataura Valley Milk was greeted with huge excitement by the Southland community, government ministers and dairy farmers alike.

The growth of infant nutritional product sales into China offered the prospect of an export bonanza.

While the growth of New Zealand-sourced dairy formula exports into China lived up to hype – growing by almost a third last year to 120,000 tonnes and generating $1.7 billion in export receipts – Mataura Valley itself was moving in the wrong direction.

It is, after all, a competitive market with well established distribution channels, dominated by Fonterra, Synlait, Danone and GMP Dairy; so growing pains were expected. . . 

Fieldays Online: 2020 Innovation Awards winners announced :

Forward-thinking Kiwis have been celebrated with the annual Fieldays Innovation Awards, with the winners announced today.

Innovation has been at the heart of Fieldays since its inception over 50 years ago, say organisers.

“It is the very reason Fieldays exists and why Fieldays Online was launched. Innovation is not easy, it requires courage and a willingness to take on risk, yet it is also fundamental to the overall sustainability of any business or industry. It is necessary if we wish to solve today’s problems and prepare the ground for solving tomorrow’s.” . . 

A farmer perspective in the boardroom – Stuart Wright:

Deputy chair of Ravensdown, Stuart Wright on why farmers should throw their hat in the ring and join board rooms.

OPINION: The phrase ‘gumboot directors’ came about in the 1970s when co-operatives like Ravensdown were created.

Originally intended as a jibe from the corporate business world, it became a badge of honour as farmer shareholders put their hand up to influence the businesses they own.

These days, New Zealand’s agri co-operatives are multi-million-dollar operations, with complex business models and risk profiles. And the governance of such organisations has never been more important. . . 


Working together for good

July 31, 2020

All parties in parliament have united to pass the first multi-member Bill:

The Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill completed its third reading last night, with support from all parties in Parliament, and is set to become New Zealand law.

The bill is in the names of Jo Hayes MP (National), Priyanca Radhakrishnan MP (Labour), Golriz Ghahraman MP (Greens), and Jenny Marcroft MP (New Zealand First). It is the first time in history a Member’s Bill has been sponsored by more than one MP.

While most forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) were banned in New Zealand in 1996, through an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 when s204A was added, this amendment will align the legislation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifications of all types of FGM and international best practice recommendations.

The bill is part of the work of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) New Zealand Group, who seek to better the lives of women and girls in Aotearoa. CWP New Zealand has collaborated with FGM Education to highlight the need for this legislative reform. Co-chairs Louisa Wall MP and Jo Hayes MP are grateful to have this important legislation complete all of its stages through the House before the dissolution of the 52nd Parliament.

“We are proud to have brought about this law to protect the lives of women and girls in Aotearoa. As women parliamentarians, we have listened to their concerns and are honoured to have contributed substantive legislative change to protect our wahine,” the co-chairs said.

The bill now awaits Royal Assent, this is the last formal step before a Bill passes and becomes law.

We had seen far too much of the worst of politicians and politics in the last few weeks. It is heartening to see parliament at its best, all parties working together for good.

Dare we hope that the new parliament will see more of this?


Word of the day

July 30, 2020

Ulotrichous – belonging to a group of people having woolly or crisply curly hair.


Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.

 

 


Sowell says

July 30, 2020


Rural round-up

July 30, 2020

Fonterra wins right to refuse suppliers – Esther Taunton:

A long-awaited law change means Fonterra could refuse to accept milk from controversial dairy conversions like the Simons Pass development in the Mackenzie Basin.

Changes to the 20-year-old Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (Dira) passed unanimously through Parliament on Friday.

The new rules allow Fonterra to reject milk from new dairy farm conversions and extend its rights to refuse milk from farmers who don’t meet its standards.

The amendments also remove the requirement for the co-op to supply milk to competitors to help them get established and allow it to refuse re-entry to farmers who have switched processors. . . 

Recruitment campaign won’t turn ‘flight attendants into dairy workers’ – Brent Melville:

Pivoting unemployed New Zealanders into the agriculture and primary sector won’t turn former Air New Zealand flight attendants into dairy workers or remove the need for specialist skills across the processing sector, according to a change consultant.

The comments come as the Ministry for Primary Industries rolls out a $4.5 million recruitment campaign aiming to fill a 10,000-job hole across the agricultural and primary sectors left by New Zealand’s extended border closures through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The website and marketing campaign, ‘opportunity grows here’, was developed by ad agency Clemenger BBDO and the four-year project is being funded through a $19.3m allocation under this year’s budget. . . 

Future of New Zealand’s farming should be female – Nicky Hyslop:

 At first glance, farming might appear to be a way of life that is as old as the hills. But when you look closer, it is clear that farming is a modern profession – and one that is certainly not stuck in the mud.

Modern farming practices are increasingly challenging any parochial view that some Kiwis have about the industry.

Gone are the days of simply mucking in and hoping for the best. Farming today involves new technologies and harnessing big data to drive decision-making. And coupling these innovations with an increased emphasis on animal welfare, soil nutrition and environmental stewardship.

Farming has always been competitive. Understanding crop rotation, grazing, nutrient profiles of soil and transport logistics are just some of the factors that farmers have to get right in order to be successful. . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement. . . 

$7.9m for SFF dividend, patronage :

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has declared a dividend and patronage reward for shareholders totalling $7.9 million.

The decision followed receipt of a cash dividend of $12.4 million to the co-operative from Silver Fern Farms Ltd, which is jointly owned by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and China’s Shanghai Maling.

That dividend was generated from Silver Fern Farms Ltd’s 2019 financial year for which it reported a net profit after tax of $70.7 million in April this year.

At the time, the dividend was deferred at the request of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative and Shanghai Maling until the outlook for the global trading environment became clearer. .  .

 

Five farmers revitalise soil health while remaining profitable:

Scottish farmers are getting their heads together on one of the most fundamental concerns – how to revitalise soil health to achieve more sustainable farming and profit.

The Soil Regenerative Group has been created to explore which techniques, treatments, crops and rotations best establish resilient soils and how to integrate these into profits.

From growing linseed to broadcasting seed on the day of harvest, grazing sheep on oilseed rape to direct drilling, each farmer is experimenting differently and is at varied stages of adopting “regenerative”, or conservation, farming. . . 


Alastair Scott’s valedictory statement

July 30, 2020

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott delivered his valedictory statement yesterday:

ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa): Thank you, Mr Speaker. In preparing for this speech, I did some research on other valedictory speeches. Most give thanks to their supporters. Some talk about what they’ve achieved. Others talk about what they’ve not achieved and wish they had. Some talk about what should be done in the future. But all of them will talk, at some point, about their favourite subject, and that is themselves, so I will do the same.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been the member of Parliament for the Wairarapa for the past six years. In fact, it is a privilege to give a valedictory speech. Some of us who arrive here don’t get that opportunity, so I’m grateful to be able to sign off with this speech today. Six years has flown by. This experience has been like no other. Today marks the end of my parliamentary career. For me, it is a time to move on to the next challenge and adventure. Reflecting on the time I’ve been here, I realised that I’ve learnt quite a lot. For example, I’m more convinced now that the democratic process is a good one.

Like all democracies, the system is run by the people. As politicians, we think we run the place, but the system, thankfully, ensures that we do not. I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter if you have a good idea that might change the world. On their own, good ideas don’t count. There must be support with numbers to get the idea across the line. There needs to be a pressure to squeeze that idea towards its destination. Of course, I’ve had at least 101 very, very good ideas, but don’t worry, I won’t go through them all. Most of them, unfortunately, did not have the support of the numbers, either in caucus or in the general public. So the idea fails, at least for the moment. This is the nature of democracy—slow moving and frustrating for me at times, but democracy ensures that my crazy ideas are not instituted simply because I sit in this place as a member of Parliament.

So what ideas have I failed to move forward? The elephants, for me at least, that should be addressed, but are difficult to change—ideas that I’ve discussed with various Ministers in the previous Government. That is not a criticism of the previous Government, but more an understanding of the way the system works. In fact, the National Ministers mostly agreed with me, but as one Minister said, “Alastair, you’re absolutely right. I agree with you, but in reality, I’m only middle management, and you are a junior’s assistant.” In fact, middle management or not, a previous Prime Minister said the same thing: “Look, Alistair. I just won’t be hard to get this past the kitchen Cabinet.”

So what were those elephants that I couldn’t get movement on? Remembering these issues are not new; they are just the ones that are important to me. The first is abatement rates and our welfare system. Of course, we need a system to support those that find themselves in difficult situations. My elephant relates to tax credits that support working families, but, in fact, penalise those same families when they earn an extra dollar. The abatement rates that are so punitive that it is no wonder that some choose not to work, or restrict themselves, at least. The effective tax rate for some people can be as high as 100 percent. That is, for every dollar earned, the tax man takes the entire dollar. For me, that is not right or fair.

The second elephant is similar, but more specific, and that is the Income Related Rent Subsidy. I see in recent weeks, the Minister of Finance has discussed the issue with the Wellington City Council. The intention might be good. However, the subsidy is an incentive not to work. The more the tenant earns, the more rent the tenant must pay. Again, this is an abatement issue. The housing allowances also create problems. These subsidies encourage people to stay at home, not to work, not to relocate, and not to get ahead. It is a bad policy. A universal basic income could be part of the solution. After all, we already have a universal basic income for those over 65, without the punitive abatement rates. My last elephant is the huge underutilised State-owned asset of 65,000 houses managed by an agency that doesn’t know if it’s a landlord or a social welfare provider, an asset that could do so much better for the people that live in them, and for the landlord—don’t forget, the taxpayer.

What else have I learnt? I think that the bills in the ballot should be given more attention by the Government of the day. There are some good ideas and policies sitting in there that don’t get any attention until they’re drawn. This, to me, is a wasted opportunity. Of course, there are a couple that I would like to mention today, and, yes, they are my bills.

First, there is my drug driving bill that was drawn and rejected by the Parliament. It is unfortunate that it was not at least sent to a select committee at the time, but that is politics. I am pleased to say that the issue will be dealt with by a National Government as a road safety priority.

Another is the issue of child sex offenders, the ones that are on the Child Sex Offender Register that unfortunately are able to travel overseas without Customs being able to alert police when those registered offenders leave New Zealand for a foreign country. The registered offender is supposed to tell the police of their international travel plans. Yeah, right! As if they’re going to do that. There is no automatic check at the border so, unfortunately, the recipient country is unaware of who the nice man from New Zealand is, and is unaware of his history. To me, that is a no-brainer that should be combined with Greg O’Connor’s member’s bill dealing with a similar issue.

The last of my bills in the ballot relates to company directors and when a company may be trading insolvently. This has become more important since COVID-19, and I acknowledge the changes the Government has made in this regard. However, it’s a temporary fix, and while it is a complex part of the law, it needs to be clarified to give confidence to directors so that they can continue to act in the best interests of the company, rather than taking the easy, personally safer pathway to resign and liquidate the company. The changes made in Australia two years ago have been positive. I’m sure there are many other good ideas in that ballot box that a Government of the day can pick up and should pick up.

When I arrived, I had been told that a select committee is the place where the Government is held to account, where Ministers are brought in and questioned by the members to satisfy themselves that the Minister is doing his or her job. I had done this sort of thing before, sitting at boardroom tables and questioning the CEO and questioning the status quo. It must have been my first opportunity to question the Minister of Finance. I’d been given a few patsy questions to ask, but I wanted to ask some proper questions, the ones that were really on my mind at the time. So I did, and I thought I’d done a pretty good job. The Minister had to finally answer a couple of tough questions. Later that evening, Todd McClay and then David Bennett pulled me aside. “Mate, what were you doing?”, they said. “We’re in Government, not Opposition. It’s the Opposition’s job to rip into the Minister. We’re here to make him look good.” So that was something else I learnt.

We are certainly living in different times to when I arrived in 2014. Then the economy was strong and Kiwis were returning home, creating higher demand for housing and kept Aucklanders flocking to provincial New Zealand. Today, we are in an economic crisis. COVID-19 has resulted in greater quantitative easing across the globe. Our own Reserve Bank is starting to print New Zealand dollars. Modern monetary theory is in full swing, as deficits balloon to stimulate and try to give confidence to slowing economies. The way we deal with this crisis will have long-term consequences for all of us. It is important that the stimulus packages are not directed to unproductive work schemes that simply postpone the inevitable and waste real money. We cannot simply print money and spend it to solve the problem. Eventually, international markets will judge the management of any economy and ruthlessly punish countries that print and spend where no productive output is created. It is important that we make sound economic judgments for every dollar that we invest.

There are many sensible opportunities that can be taken to catch up on infrastructure spending that has not occurred, to change the funding model of local government so that they might create better value, and to rip up the Resource Management Act (RMA) that puts a handbrake on projects that could and should be delivered by the private sector, and it is good to hear Judith Collins announce a rewrite of the RMA so that New Zealanders can be relieved of the colossal burden that the RMA has put across every household and business while also rewriting the legislation that protects the environment that is so important to us all. If we want the New Zealand waka to travel effectively and efficiently, we should not drag the anchor and anchor rope behind it. We should do everything we can to allow people to operate with the least amount of resistance, the least amount of bureaucracy. We can trust people to build businesses and support their communities themselves without a nanny State. We do not need the State to own and control so much of the economy. Governments from both sides have proven to be poor landlords, poor property developers, poor farmers, poor IT developers, and poor managers of buildings and infrastructure projects. The less interference a Government has in our lives the better off we will all be.

One of the pleasures of this job is to meet young people who come to Parliament on school trips. They think we’re some sort of special group of people, and of course some of us think we are more special than others, but I let the kids know that we MPs are the same as them. We come from various backgrounds, like them, and we get nervous about certain aspects of our day, like them. And, of course, we have good days and bad days, just like them. I ask them a question. I ask: what is the most important thing you can do to achieve your goals? Some kids say it is to do your best, to work hard, to be determined, to study, to do your homework—all those things that we get told at school. And those things are all fine, but it’s not what makes the difference, in my view. I say to them that the most important thing is to take a risk, to consider options and then give it a go, give it a real crack, go to where it feels uncomfortable, take the risk that you might fail, and then roll the dice. Opportunities are there to be grabbed. Life is short. We need to back ourselves and take those risks.

We’re an unusual bunch of people here in Parliament. Although we are here as a House of Representatives, we are not your typical bunch. We are extroverts. We like to hear the sound of our own voices. We love to be heard, and of course we all know what is best for ourselves and for others! We’re always right, and we will stand here for days arguing about how right we think we are. And we are all here to make a difference and to contribute to this place and to our communities by being here. The flip side, and another reality, and potentially a surprise to some of us, is that we are not indispensable. Parliament will work just fine once we are gone. When we leave, the system’s wheels will continue to spin. Usually they spin faster as we learn and progress as a country, and so I am satisfied with my time spent here as a member of Parliament, having an opportunity that most don’t get and saying what I’ve wanted to say in the time that I’ve been here.

Some friends said I was mad going into politics—it was a thankless task and I would not have the patience—and they were generally right. However, I would not change a thing. I have had some many, many wonderful experiences and have met some great people along the way. There are many people who have backed me. I know and appreciate that I could not have done or been here without the help and support of those people: my party supporters in the Wairarapa, my staff here and in the electorate, my friends, and especially my family. I thank them all, and to you, the members to Parliament, I wish you all the best for the job you have ahead. Thank you.


Sarah Dowie’s valedictory statement

July 30, 2020

National MP Sarah Dowie delivered her valedictory statement last night:

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill): When I started my parliamentary career, I would have done anything to make it to the caucus room. The drive was immeasurable. I would have clawed at the windows or walked across hot coals to get in. It was on that premise of motivation that I ran my campaigns and worked with gusto in Parliament and in my community. On leaving, I have the same level of intensity: I could claw at the windows or walk across hot coals to get out.

It’s with that amount of passion that I believe one should act and make decisions. Today, I look back on my six years with humility and pride, being so honoured to represent our mighty and southernmost seat of Invercargill. At the heart of all of my work has been the mantra to improve my constituents’ lives, from the battle with a doctor who was refusing to offer free medical visits for children, to lobbying for aquaculture expansion and gaining funds for feasibility studies, developing conservation policy and my shark cage diving bill, or leading the charge for Southland DisAbility Enterprises—one of my favourite charities—to win back our local WasteNet contract.

I believe, however, that some of my greatest achievements have been local and private. As the local MP, you are uniquely attached to the people, helping constituents no matter what their political beliefs or backgrounds, from the pregnant mother with toddler who was unable to find accommodation via Work and Income at 4.55 p.m. on a Friday, to navigating through ACC cases; and the heart-breaking, from those who have experienced severe abuse over their lifetimes, and parents just simply trying to protect their children—countless numbers of cases, never publicised but a significant and important part in our service as MPs.

There’s a lot to be said for being in an MMP environment. Equally, there’s a lot to be said for being a backbench MP in a stable Rt Hon Sir John Key Government, where discipline was almost a monotheistic religion. In the House, the whips would regularly blow their whistles, and we would head over the metaphorical trenches to present our views in the first, second, and third readings. Sometimes National’s position on issues would stick in one’s craw, none so much for me as voting against Sue Moroney’s paid parental leave member’s bill on the basis of fiscal prudency, only to later campaign on it in the 2017 election. I remember being nervous about speaking, because of my views, and, of course, Labour were in full rampage. Their tongues cracked against our skin like electricity.

My speech was a little more moderate than most. Mr Speaker said to me afterward that he couldn’t tell whether I was supporting the bill or not. In Copperfield’s, the Hon Annette King complimented me on my delivery. I think it’s safe to say I’ve never had a pokerface as a politician, and it’s still sad to me, despite understanding why, that major parties can’t come together on good policy more often than we do. In saying that, my colleagues still give me gyp about getting a standard operating procedure regarding the extension of keeping-in-touch hours, voted in by Labour in 2017, but I’m uniquely proud of it. Paid parental leave, including having workable conditions governing it, resonates. I am, of course, before a politician, first and foremost a mother, and it just goes to show what happens when a bit of common sense gets injected into parliamentary debate. I thank Iain Lees-Galloway for picking it up.

It’s easy to get embroiled in domestic politics, but when we go overseas, party colours go out the window. I came to realise this more so in 2017 while travelling with Peeni Henare from Labour on a trip that will forever remain with me: the 100th commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele. It had extra significance for me. My great-great-uncle died at Passchendaele and was awarded a VC for his efforts. Peeni joined me in visiting his grave, and from there the raw, visceral emotion continued to build. Passchendaele is unreal. I have never felt emotion like it. It wasn’t just sorrow or pride; whatever it was sat in your gut for days and manifested in the physical and, of course, tears. The services were so powerful you could literally feel the spirits of the dead rising. That’s how intense it was.

From there, we went on to St Petersburg to join the Inter-Parliamentary Union. And when you’re away from home, it’s pretty standard to get your kids some sort of trinket. While sauntering jauntily on my lunch break, I espied a fake Fabergé egg in blue and gold in a shop near my hotel. Expectations were high because I knew that my daughter, Christabel, would be expecting a National Party blue. The surly Russian shopkeep deliberately informed me via “nyet” that the blue was unavailable. I then scrutinised the Labour red and Greens green fake Fabergés. Unable to decide, I tried to explain to the shopkeep that if she knew me, deciding between red and green was an issue. She then warmed and suggested, “You’re not choosing a husband. Make a choice.” I retorted with “I’m no good at that either.” She looked at me with a grave sense of disappointment and despair. I then asked, “Do any of those colours signify anything special in Russia?” And she responded with “Blue is best but green for hope.”

According to the more experienced politician, everyone has an annus horribilis. Mine hit full peak in January 2019, and I didn’t think my personal life was too out of the ordinary until my name scrolled across The AM Show’s newsreel, bumping Brexit as the lead story. While it’s clear I had made some poor choices, the fact that a press gallery reporter was live providing analysis brought the whole sorry affair to a new level. In my eyes, it can only be described as comical. She was maniacal, could hardly get her words out, and she didn’t have the nous to work out the difference between a complaint, investigation, charge, and proceedings. What followed was worse: a litany of diatribe from even the so-called reputable outlets. At best, some comments could be called wide of the mark. Others were just downright lies. In hindsight, I question whether I should have sued some publications.

One article claimed I ran on family values in 2014. I absolutely did not. The journalist wrote that story without seeking confirmation of facts. It’s irresponsible, lazy, and just downright wrong. A subsequent article on the Politik website suggested I only got promoted because of my alliances—nothing about me holding a law or science degree, having practised and worked for the Department of Conservation. One other paper said I’m not a conservation naive, but for some reason, in 2019, my qualifications and experience were overlooked in favour of the salacious. These stories made taking the high road a very bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, I rose above it, continued to front and show up to work.

Compared with recent events where media analysis lasted only a couple of news cycles, the speculation and rubbish continued for me for weeks on end. One woman said to me recently, “Sarah, you were absolutely trashed in the media in 2019, and yet these other MPs experience a couple of media cycles of scrutiny and hide behind mental health issues for their bad behaviour.” The antithesis is the hypocrisy of the media calling for a clean up of politicians. Yes, we are representatives and should take responsibility for poor behaviour, but we are not elected as angels. We too are human and make mistakes, just as journalists do and have. But when a predator is able to manipulate the media for his agenda and the media is directly party to it, it is the media fraternity that needs to audit themselves as to their ethics and their conscious peddling of sexism and patriarchy. If it takes me to be New Zealand’s scarlet woman to highlight this, then so be it.

New Zealand has a long way to go with how we view women. Successive Governments have been concerned with eliminating all forms of violence against women. Violence does not stop at the physical and sexual, and from what I’ve seen and experienced, it seems that unless a woman loses her life, they are afforded very little sympathy for situations or circumstances they find themselves in—ones in which they can’t control.

It’s that underlying patriarchal view that persists in New Zealand that stimulates this. “She shouldn’t have been travelling alone.” “She shouldn’t have led him on.” “She should have seen the signs earlier.” “She should not have been wearing that skirt.” What about: “No, she deserves justice and an environment where she feels safe to report abuse.

What is surprising and deeply disappointing to me is that in some cases these views are held by women who can be most vicious in their criticisms. You cannot legislate for a women’s code, but policy can re-educate. We should encourage everyone to encourage women to contribute to our communities, and we should build a society that enables our daughters to achieve all their hopes and dreams and to do so without judgment or guilt.

Therefore, I am not unchanged from the experience of being an MP. People often say to me, “Why on earth would you want to be an MP?” referring to the endless criticisms—some fair, some not; the hours of work; the arduous travel schedule; endless days away from family and your home; and, even when you are at home or off the clock, eagerly watching for media alerts. Being an MP is all consuming; it’s not like normal employment where you get to switch off at the end of the day.

But we do not walk alone. We seek out a pack for camaraderie and support, and I have been so fortunate during my lifetime in politics to meet some of the very best men and women in New Zealand, to call them my friends, and I will be eternally thankful for their care. In particular, I mention four colleagues who came in with me in 2014. We have spent countless days and nights in each other’s company, experiencing the highs and lows of Parliament and life. Brett Hudson, Stuart Smith, Matt Doocey, and Todd Barclay. We are the self-proclaimed breakfast club of misfits, acutely comfortable in our own skin, never actively seeking limelight—[Member hands Dowie a box of tissues] Thank you—but quietly going about our jobs, doing them well and with skill. That shouldn’t be underestimated or underrated.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart for being there in the dark times, for taking me under their wings like a sister and protecting me. I also thank you for the endless laughter and gibes and the ability not to take ourselves too seriously. These friendships are what restore my trust and faith in people. To the class of ’14, a family of alphas, each in our own niche, yet a group that has fitted together like a jigsaw and now withstood two terms without any falling outs, you are talented, kind, and compassionate, and I value each and every one of you.

To the Simon Bridges administration, including Rachel Morton and Jamie Gray, thank you for your faith in me and being my defenders. To all of the National Party women who circled the wagons and to the National Party men who rallied and, finally, to my staff who have helped me day in and day out to be a better MP. To Roger Bridge, Peter Goodfellow, and the rest of our board, including the team behind the scenes at National House, thank you for your words, often received at moments in time that were poignant. To Jon Turnbull, Deborah Turnbull, and Kim Forsythe, the people who have become my Invercargill family. Mary Street has become a haven of solace, a place to let off steam and to, most importantly, celebrate.

To Rachel Bird, my southern sister, rising star of the National Party, our regional chair and board member—I put the regional chair first because, in my mind, it is the most important role. No one can truly quantify how valuable it is to have a strong link between the parliamentary and party wing. It’s people like you who galvanise that partnership. Rachel and I once had a conversation about our political legacies, and, while Rachel certainly has goals, it is the unwavering, unconditional, and tireless support that you have shown me and that you show other MPs, some not even in your region—this is your legacy. I am also proud to call you my friend.

Mum and Dad, who, despite being retired, put themselves back into the parenting game to help with the care of my children so that I could continue for as long as I have and for having the strength to ride a storm of epic proportions with me. Never underestimate a Dowie; we are as tough as nails. To Christabel, my beautiful 10 year old, who is fast going on 16. A classic all-rounder, who is a singer, an actress, a speaker, and an artist. She is an old soul who has walked this earth before. She has compassion for others and is wise beyond her years, and I can’t wait to be there to see her develop into the strong, capable woman she can be. And Hunter, the once – 18 month old that hung like a monkey over this balcony of this House, yelling “Mum, Mum!”, now 8 years old. A mathematician, a sports nut, a musician, and an ambidextrous Fortnite player with haka capability. You were just a baby when I arrived, and I am pleased that I will get more time to spend with you to watch you apply your talents to whatever you choose for yourself.

If you were a fatalist, you would believe that my journey has been set from the beginning, and it would make no difference as to the decisions I made, even if I thought I was acting with free will. I believe that the outcome of my tenure is a woman who loves to see the best in people and to help others where she can. A fierce advocate, a mother, a good friend, and a lot of good fun, and a woman who is passionate about conservation and justice. None of that has changed from my maiden speech.

In conclusion, I refer to the lines of The Breakfast Club, and I tailor them for the context of Parliament. Dear media, we accept that we had to sacrifice part of our lives in your scrutiny for whatever it is we did wrong, but we MPs think you are crazy to make us write a valedictory telling us who you think we are. You see us how you want to see us—in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. But what each of us found out is that one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the breakfast club.


Soft bigotry not kind

July 30, 2020

The government is planning to end the requirement for people on a benefit to return to work 12 months after they have a subsequent child:

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni on Wednesday said the Government planned to change the law to remove the policy in November 2021, as part of a “overhaul” of the welfare system. Labour would have to win the election to bring this policy into effect.

Under the policy, a parent who is on the benefit and has another child is obliged to find part-time work when the child is 12-months old. It was introduced in 2012 by a National Government. . . 

It is ironic that this was announced on the same day former National Minister Paula Bennett said this in her valedictory statement:

. . .As we were well into the global financial crises and many people were losing their jobs, we needed an immediate plan. We quickly implemented the ReStart, redundancy support and job support scheme to respond to the recession. These temporary financial packages have been recently put in place in various iterations to help us during the COVID economic crisis. We also introduced the job opportunities and Community Max programmes to specifically assist young people. Even though these were the hardest times that we had seen for a long time, we were able to see many positive results. Nearly 10,000 young people were helped with the Community Max and job support programmes and 73 percent did not go on benefit when they finished. One third of jobseekers were being exited into jobs before entering the benefit system, but more had to be done. These short-term measures were important, but our welfare system was part of the reason we were seeing intergenerational welfare dependence and too many people stuck in a cycle of hardship, reliant only on State assistance and a belief they would be there for decades.

The system seemed to throw people on welfare and then largely ignore them, and not offer them a path out. Sole parents were not expected to look for work until their youngest child was 18 years old. We too quickly wrote those with disabilities off; ignoring the huge potential many had and their desire to work. We designed a plan to make significant changes to the system that would look at what people could do, to believe that they had a contribution to society that would improve their lives, and also mean that we could reduce the huge welfare bill to taxpayers. I have been truly inspired by sole parents in this country. I understand how difficult it is to raise a child on your own and believe you don’t have the experience or skills to enter the workforce.

Those on welfare don’t need sympathy. They need to be backed, encouraged, and supported to plan their future and see a path off welfare dependency. We are currently taking backward steps, and that’s before COVID. Sympathy and kindness do not put food on the table or pay your bills. We need to understand dependency. We need to understand decades of despair and marginalisation that in too many people’s lives turns to violence, welfare dependency, and a pretty crappy life. But equally we have to be careful that that understanding doesn’t turn into an excuse and we lose our belief in people and their ability and their sense of self-responsibility.

We undertook the biggest welfare reforms that the country had seen. The emphasis was on people being available to work and on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t. We invested more on those that were at the highest risk of staying on welfare long term. We spent more on job support and training, and worked directly with employers and subsidised employment so they would give people a go so they could prove themselves. We saw over 30,000 fewer people on sole parent support because of these changes. I met remarkable people who are living bigger and better lives because they were in worthwhile work and had a huge sense of self-worth.

Working with and for teen parents was personal for me. I met some of the most incredible young people raising their children, studying in teen parent units and being supported by amazing people running homes and programmes. We extended support to them. We changed the welfare system so they received more support, but weren’t just handed hundreds of dollars a week and then ignored like they had been previously. Instead, we paid their rent and utilities, insisted that where possible they be in training. We helped look after their babies and supported them to budget and plan a life that wasn’t welfare dependent. It’s some of the work I am most proud of. And to all those parents, thanks for the baby cuddles. Most days that I was out and about, I insisted that a childcare centre or school be in my diary as I needed children to remind me why we do what we do and just to make my day a bit better.

I have always believed the answers to long-term dependency, child abuse, and neglect, and violence are in our communities. There is no programme that a politician or a bureaucrat can design that will solve these complex issues. Our community and Māori organisations, I believe, are best placed with support from the State to assist those that are living hard lives. We have to set targets and accountabilities, bring in Māori, community leaders, beneficiaries, workers, and the business sector, and know it will take some time but we can improve people’s lives. We need to set communities up to succeed.

Money is currently being thrown around but with no accountability. We have to be bold, brave. How can throwing millions and millions of dollars around and hoping some gets to those that need it most, through Government agencies and community organisations, and yet watching more people in despair be OK? Where is the accountability to the taxpayer, but, more importantly, where is the accountability for those people that so desperately deserve more help? Targets, measures, and accountability have gone. I regret, Bill English, that we didn’t get another three years to truly implement social investment into our bureaucracy and into our communities. We had tested and trialled, had seen people’s lives changing, and we were ready to scale it up significantly. . . .

The measures National introduced were working, rescuing people from long term benefit dependency and all the negative health, social and financial consequences of that.

As Lindsay Mitchell says:

. . .There is a wealth of data analysis showing children added to benefits stay there the longest and have the worst outcomes. But she doesn’t seem to have given the research a second thought.

Last year one in ten babies was added to an existing benefit at birth. For many of them it’s a life sentence to neglect, abuse, transience, involvement with OT and eventually their own criminal offending and custodial sentences.

The proposed policy looks as if it is being kind to beneficiaries it is not.

It is demonstrating the soft bigotry of low expectations that is anything but kind.

Really kind welfare policy gives support where it is needed but also works with all beneficiaries who could work to help them do so for their sakes, that of their children and the rest of us who pay the high costs, in financial and social terms, for long term benefit dependency.


Paula Bennett’s valedictory statement

July 30, 2020

National MP, and former deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett delivered her valedictory statement last night:

Hon PAULA BENNETT (National—Upper Harbour): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you for your patience of allowing everyone to come in—

SPEAKER: I wouldn’t go that far.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: OK. I thought you were very patient for you. Fifteen years ago, nearly to the day, I walked into this building as an MP. I loved walking up the outside library stairs into that incredible building. I would drink it in, take a moment, pinch myself, remember what I was here for, and then head to the smallest office in this precinct. I was last in on the National Party list in 2005. I ran for the experience, not expecting to be an MP that year, but National’s result meant I quietly snuck in. Of course, for the next 15 years I didn’t do anything quietly, but we’ll get to that a little bit later.

The Christmas of 2004—while deciding with my family whether to put my hat in the ring—my uncle Mike sat me down. He said, “Go for it, but promise you won’t stay more than three terms—no longer than nine years.” In his mind, MPs lost their way after that and got too full of themselves, and anyway, as a farmer, “It’s not real work”. So last year, as he was sick and dying, I said to him, “I’m sorry I broke our promise.” He laughed and, in his straightforward way, said to me, “Let’s be honest, Paula, when I made you make that promise, none of us actually expected you’d do so well.” It’s been a hell of a ride from list MP to Deputy Prime Minister to deputy leader of the National Party. I know how proud my uncle was of me. In fact, I know how proud all my family are of me.

My Alan has been my rock since I was 19 years old. I often think he is the first feminist I ever met. Even for the couple of decades or so since then that we weren’t together, he was still my rock He believed I could do anything I set my mind to and then has had my back. We married while I was in Parliament. He knew who he was marrying, but I don’t think anything could have prepared him for the toll this job takes, but he has unconditionally loved and supported me. The other week he informed me that he feels unshackled, yeah? He no longer has to come under the scrutiny because of my public profile, and he’s going to go out there—and I’ve got to say, it scared me. And then I thought about it, and thought, stuff it, I’m joining him on the wild side, honey; although, at our age, that is probably coffee after midday and the odd night at 11 p.m. I can’t do justice to my bloke in this speech, and anyway, it’s our private lives that speak louder than any speech I give ever will. Oh, and happy birthday, Alan.

My parents are here today. My mum is a woman of grace and dignity. I got the street-fighter from my dad. They have both put up with a lot over the decades. I am so grateful to them and my brothers, and my close family and friends for always reminding me what is important, and for forgiving me when I missed yet another family event. I am sorry for the intrusion my being an MP has had on their lives at times. One of the major bonuses of marrying Alan—and I remind him of this often—was that his daughter, Willoe, came into my life. I am so lucky to have such a strong, independent, opinionated, and gorgeous woman as you. So go hard, Willoe; I have got your back.

Now, I don’t know how to talk about my daughter Ana in a speech like this without getting really emotional. So holy moly, yep, our journey has been quite something so far. I used to think that you are my biggest accomplishment, and then I realised that that gives me far too much credit. Quite frankly, you are the staunch wahine; the loving, giving, caring, kick-arse woman you are today because it is simply all of who you are. So when I see you with my three beautiful grandchildren, it just blows me away. To our Tia, and our Nate, and Hunter—all that you and Ray are as awesome parents, I am just so damned proud of you.

So I stood for Waitakere, a Labour seat, in 2005. I didn’t win, but came back in 2008 and took the seat off Labour, and man I loved that electorate. It was hard work and I never took it for granted. My westies never hold back. They tell you exactly what they think, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve had to break up fights on the streets, avoid a few punches myself, and been owned by them, in a good way. Notoriously, I won Waitakere on election night 2011, lost it on the specials, and won it by nine votes on a recount. I’ve got to say, hats off to Carmel, because she fought hard and I’ve always secretly admired her for it.

I then moved to the new seat of Upper Harbour when Waitakere was no longer. It’s an amazing place. It changes daily with its growth and is one of the most interesting and diverse electorates. So many people have helped me. I have had incredible local National volunteers. I can’t speak highly enough of the people who’ve supported and backed the National Party and have played a vital part. You all deserve a special mention, but that’s too risky, so can I just call out to my electorate chairs Leone Wyatt, Chris Penk, Don Ryrie, and especially to Leigh Morrow. Leigh, we have made quite a team for the last six years. I’ll have the wine ready on 20 September. And those that have worked with me over the years in electorates, I want to sincerely thank you. Constituents have been so incredibly well-served by you. You are professional, understanding, compassionate, and hard working. I thank you all, but make special mention of Jackie Fairweather, who has been with me—she looks terrified at that—for 12 years. She’s tried to leave, but she keeps coming back. And, of course, to Vivienne Brumby, who’s been with me for nearly 10 years. Thank you both so incredibly much.

I have always believed you have to have a plan, and then you need a back-up plan. That goes both personally and professionally. A back-up plan makes you brave. When I entered Parliament in 2005, I left a job in recruitment that I loved. I really got a buzz out of understanding different businesses and then placing people into that business who would help them achieve their goals and fit their culture. So when I came in in 2005, I knew that if politics didn’t work out for me, I could go back to something I loved. The worst thing that could happen is I would end up doing something else that I enjoyed. So I went for it. I gave it everything I had, with the help of some incredible people in those early years like Murray McCully, Katherine Rich, John Key, Bill English, and a very smart, driven staff in the then leader’s office, I took every opportunity that came my way—although help comes in many forms. I remember the first time I got to question a Minister in this House, I was terrified. My knees were shaking, voice was getting quaky. I’m sitting there; I’m literally sweating. The Speaker calls my name. As I’m standing up, McCully leans in and says, “This is big; don’t stuff it up.”—not that helpful.

In 2008, becoming the Minister for Social Development and Child, Youth and Family was daunting and exciting. Nothing can prepare you for a job like that. I was considered by many as the “weak link”. There were bets on around this building as to how many months I would survive—that only emboldened me to prove them wrong.

As we were well into the global financial crises and many people were losing their jobs, we needed an immediate plan. We quickly implemented the ReStart, redundancy support and job support scheme to respond to the recession. These temporary financial packages have been recently put in place in various iterations to help us during the COVID economic crisis. We also introduced the job opportunities and Community Max programmes to specifically assist young people. Even though these were the hardest times that we had seen for a long time, we were able to see many positive results. Nearly 10,000 young people were helped with the Community Max and job support programmes and 73 percent did not go on benefit when they finished. One third of jobseekers were being exited into jobs before entering the benefit system, but more had to be done. These short-term measures were important, but our welfare system was part of the reason we were seeing intergenerational welfare dependence and too many people stuck in a cycle of hardship, reliant only on State assistance and a belief they would be there for decades.

The system seemed to throw people on welfare and then largely ignore them, and not offer them a path out. Sole parents were not expected to look for work until their youngest child was 18 years old. We too quickly wrote those with disabilities off; ignoring the huge potential many had and their desire to work. We designed a plan to make significant changes to the system that would look at what people could do, to believe that they had a contribution to society that would improve their lives, and also mean that we could reduce the huge welfare bill to taxpayers. I have been truly inspired by sole parents in this country. I understand how difficult it is to raise a child on your own and believe you don’t have the experience or skills to enter the workforce.

Those on welfare don’t need sympathy. They need to be backed, encouraged, and supported to plan their future and see a path off welfare dependency. We are currently taking backward steps, and that’s before COVID. Sympathy and kindness do not put food on the table or pay your bills. We need to understand dependency. We need to understand decades of despair and marginalisation that in too many people’s lives turns to violence, welfare dependency, and a pretty crappy life. But equally we have to be careful that that understanding doesn’t turn into an excuse and we lose our belief in people and their ability and their sense of self-responsibility.

We undertook the biggest welfare reforms that the country had seen. The emphasis was on people being available to work and on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t. We invested more on those that were at the highest risk of staying on welfare long term. We spent more on job support and training, and worked directly with employers and subsidised employment so they would give people a go so they could prove themselves. We saw over 30,000 fewer people on sole parent support because of these changes. I met remarkable people who are living bigger and better lives because they were in worthwhile work and had a huge sense of self-worth.

Working with and for teen parents was personal for me. I met some of the most incredible young people raising their children, studying in teen parent units and being supported by amazing people running homes and programmes. We extended support to them. We changed the welfare system so they received more support, but weren’t just handed hundreds of dollars a week and then ignored like they had been previously. Instead, we paid their rent and utilities, insisted that where possible they be in training. We helped look after their babies and supported them to budget and plan a life that wasn’t welfare dependent. It’s some of the work I am most proud of. And to all those parents, thanks for the baby cuddles. Most days that I was out and about, I insisted that a childcare centre or school be in my diary as I needed children to remind me why we do what we do and just to make my day a bit better.

I have always believed the answers to long-term dependency, child abuse, and neglect, and violence are in our communities. There is no programme that a politician or a bureaucrat can design that will solve these complex issues. Our community and Māori organisations, I believe, are best placed with support from the State to assist those that are living hard lives. We have to set targets and accountabilities, bring in Māori, community leaders, beneficiaries, workers, and the business sector, and know it will take some time but we can improve people’s lives. We need to set communities up to succeed.

Money is currently being thrown around but with no accountability. We have to be bold, brave. How can throwing millions and millions of dollars around and hoping some gets to those that need it most, through Government agencies and community organisations, and yet watching more people in despair be OK? Where is the accountability to the taxpayer, but, more importantly, where is the accountability for those people that so desperately deserve more help? Targets, measures, and accountability have gone. I regret, Bill English, that we didn’t get another three years to truly implement social investment into our bureaucracy and into our communities. We had tested and trialled, had seen people’s lives changing, and we were ready to scale it up significantly.

Alongside this work we implemented the vulnerable children’s action plan. We have to do better for the children who are being traumatised and abused in this country. Much of the work that has happened in the last five years was started under my watch. We travelled up and down the country talking to people who worked with or cared for or had been abused themselves, and designed significant changes. Needless to say, there is still much to be done. But can I thank the young people who spoke bluntly about their experiences in the system and the changes needed, the incredible foster parents, grandparents raising their grandchildren, and those that have dedicated their lives to working with the most vulnerable. You have truly humbled me and I salute you. Can I also acknowledge all of those who work in sexual violence. I learnt a lot from you and about the specialised response that victims need. I watched you getting bounced around between different agencies with no one wanting to take responsibility and had to something. I hope me becoming the first Minister to take on sexual violence made a difference

One day, on a busy day of ministerial visits, I was meeting a group of young people. As I turned up I could see the teachers and the parents had put a lot of work into organising the event. As I stepped from the car they said to me how excited the kids were that I was there. I thought, “Yeah, they’d be excited at Richie McCaw. They might be excited at a famous singer. I’m not sure they’re that excited that a Minister is visiting, but we’ll do it, you know.” So inside I speak for a bit and I take questions. I see an adult nudge a young person, and this kid kind of reluctantly stands up and he then asks me the question that every politician should dread: “Minister, can I ask you anything?” So I glue a smile on my face and I nod and say yes, and he stands there and he sort of shuffles his feet and he looks at me and he goes “What did Jesus do as a teenager?”. I’m in my head going: crikey, he was a carpenter, he went walkabout for a while, we’re in a manger—you know. And then it dawned on me—wrong minister!

I have held 14 portfolios and each has challenged me and given me enormous opportunity to change the system to improve New Zealanders’ lives. There are remarkable people up and down the country working in our police. I feel for our tourism industry right now, but also know how positive they are and have the ability to pull through. Social housing was a difficult portfolio, but we were able to reform our State housing into warmer modern homes better suited to New Zealanders’ needs—some of whom are just moving in now.

I focused a lot on women having equal opportunity and felt we needed to tidy up our own backyard before we lectured others on what to do. Women on State sector boards increased to over 46 percent, and I was privileged to see a number of women succeed in chief executive roles within Government. I like action, so within National I led the charge on us mentoring potential women who could influence National, be they potential candidates or office holders. I turbo-charged our Dame Hilda Ross Foundation, raised money, and financially supported women candidates, and ran seminars. I’d like to acknowledge my fellow women MPs Louise Upston, Jacqui Dean, Nicky Wagner, and board member Pat Seymour for the big part that you actually played as well. Louise, I’m looking at you to keep that going and driving that work.

I signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and worked alongside our agriculture, forestry, and business sectors to plan true change in how we live our lives to better look after our planet. I visited some of our remotest and hardest-hit Pacific islands and saw firsthand the vulnerability they are exposed to because of climate change. While on that visit at a large gathering where New Zealand was acknowledged for the work that they had done, in the Pasifika way they wanted to give gifts to show their respect. So the EU commissioner who was travelling with us was duly—in front of the hundreds that were there—given a framed picture. McCully stood up and he was duly given a carved canoe. And then they looked at me as the most senior Minister on the trip, and the Prime Minister’s face just lit up, aglow. He was so pleased and he said to me, literally, “Because you’re a woman we’ve made you a laundry basket.” The look on the officials’ faces, as they didn’t know what to do—like, I swear one almost wanted to dive in front of said laundry basket. I graciously accepted the gift, of course, and I may have, a couple of months later when Acting PM for a day, actually called those officials and made them stand for an official unveiling ceremony for said laundry basket.

Through State services we implemented the Better Public Services targets. If you don’t have a target and measure against them, then really you’re just drifting and making decisions based on the best headline and not the best result for New Zealanders. I also worked to make changes to our Government agencies that would see their success measured across all of Government, not in individual agencies. As I heard even in the House this week, people don’t live their lives in a tidy little Government box, and I note that that work is continuing.

I managed to upset quite a few people in local government when I was the Minister, and I don’t resile from that for a moment. You guys need to change dramatically. It is ridiculous to have as many councils, local bureaucracy, and doubling up in assets as we do in a country of this size.

Through all of this I have been supported, encouraged, and held to account by some of the best. I have deep admiration for our Public Service. I worked with professionals who were passionate about improving the lives of New Zealanders. I won’t name you and stuff up your careers, but know that I truly admire what you do and thank you for your service.

John Key backed me and believed in me. He didn’t just open the door. He stuck a wedge in it to stop it whacking me on the backside as I struggled through and occasionally tripped. He kept giving me challenging portfolios and he moved me into his kitchen cabinet. I responded well to his leadership style, it would be fair to say.

Some of you will remember when the rules changed in the Beehive and you could no longer just go up and down at will; you had to swipe in. Let me explain why. So I was giving one of my very motivational speeches, and listening to Alastair, it’s similar. Young people in Parliament and they were young people that were in foster care actually and they were getting awards and it was really cool.

I was doing my best motivational, you know, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Grab opportunities, take a risk, open doors.” One on the autism spectrum took me literally. She then managed to get out of the event that we were at, into the Beehive, and convinced people that she was the Prime Minister’s hairdresser. She then managed to go around the building for a good 30 minutes as we’d kind of get sightings and then she would avoid them and managed to scrape through. I thought she was amazing, yeah—I thought she was absolutely cool. She opened doors, man, and that young woman did not take no for an answer. Anyway—sorry, Wayne—and then about half an hour later, the phone goes and it’s John Key, and I’m like, “Oh, this ain’t gonna be good.” He rings and he just sort of says to me, “I’ve just heard about it. Where is she? I’d love to meet her.”, and I thought, yeah, that’s the measure of it. One of the most intelligent, dedicated, funny and frustrating—and yes, I mean frustrating, because he wouldn’t let me get away with anything. He loved a good debate, and it often took him far too long to realise I was right and we could’ve skipped all of that—Bill English. Thank you to both Bill and John for their support during my career.

Simon, these last couple of years have been really something. They have been fun and interesting and, yes, at times challenging. Thank you for making me watch another video of your children being children when we needed a light moment. Thank you, actually, for the respect that you and Natalie have shown to me, to our caucus, to the National Party, to the country. I have in many ways learnt more in the last two years than I have in the last 10, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.

National is in my blood. To Judy Kirk, to Peter Goodfellow, presidents—thank you both so much. To present and past board members, especially Andrew and Alastair and Roger and Glenda and Pat, your dedication to this party and support has meant so much. Peter Kiely: I have needed your help far too often. Advice to new MPs: take his advice. To the wonderful National staff, you are a formidable team I have loved working with, but mostly to all the volunteers that stand out in the rain, turn up every time, deliver brochures, give a damn about this country, I have felt so much stronger for your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In the words made famous from Journey, don’t stop believing. Judith, Gerry, our caucus: you are the best. Many of you have become lifelong friends. Go well—the country needs you, and you have my support. To the media: I haven’t always liked it, I have seldom agreed, but I actually respect you and the role you play in our democracy. I hope that continued Budget cuts in your industry don’t mean that you don’t have time to investigate and challenge.

Lastly, but by no means least, to the many amazing women—and a few men—I have had the privilege of working with and who’ve worked for me. I’m too nervous to mention you all for fear of missing someone out, but you have been the biggest part of any successes I’ve had. A smart leader should never be the smartest person in the room, and when I shared a room with you, I was never at risk of that. You have been the most driven, smart, dedicated people that I am humbled to know and have worked with. We have cried and laughed and, yes, occasionally partied, but mostly we have been completely driven by trying to do our best, respecting the incredibly privileged roles that we had. I’m going to roast the hell out of you later.

I’m far from perfect, and I know that, but my intent, my heart, my integrity has meant that I have slept well. This place is brutal. It will pick up the spade and bury you if you let it. It is relentless, but we sign up knowing that. So I went hard and full-on. For me to have not made a difference and not given it everything I’ve got would’ve been wasted time. So I end this chapter half the size but twice the woman thanks to this experience. I’m so excited about the future, and I wish you all well.


Word of the day

July 29, 2020

Xertz – to gulp something down quickly and/or in a greedy fashion.


Sowell says

July 29, 2020


Rural round-up

July 29, 2020

New farmer training programme being rolled out– Sally Rae:

Wanted — farmers to inspire the next generation of farmers to perform at their best.

That is what Growing Future Farmers (GFF), a training programme for young people interested in entering the sheep, beef and deer industry is looking for — providing a career pathway for farmers of the future.

A pilot programme has been held the Gisborne and Wairarapa regions and it will be rolled out to six regions next year, including two in the South Island.

The aim was to have 10 farmer trainers in each area.

Gisborne farmers Dan and Tam Jex-Blake spoke at information evenings in Winton and Kurow last week, outlining the programme to potential farmer trainers. . .

Ag contractors frustrated – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of skilled workers available.

The frustration comes amid growing concerns for the industry and farm production in the face of a critical shortage of skilled machinery operators.

Industry body Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) is calling on the Government to allow overseas-based operators back into New Zealand to help alleviate the growing problem.

The end of a golden career :

Russell Lowe has spent almost 50 years selecting, observing, propagating and tasting kiwifruit at Plant and Food Research in Te Puke. Earlier this year Russell was recognised for his role in developing Zespri’s SunGold kiwifruit.

Forty-eight years ago, research scientist Russell Lowe moved to Te Puke to work at the DSIR’s new research orchard.

There was not a crop in the ground and Russell’s first job was to bang in posts so kiwifruit could be planted.

Now there are more than 40 hectares of fruit planted for research, greenhouses, eight coolstores, purpose-built labs, a packhouse and an office block on site. . . 

Pork surplus crisis averted by measures- Sally Rae:

It could have been an unmitigated disaster for the pork industry.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 and 3 restrictions earlier this year meant independent butchers were not allowed to open fully for retail customers.

That meant a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue, the worst-case scenario being the euthanasing of pigs on-farm.

However, such a crisis was averted through various solutions, including an innovative food bank initiative. . . 

Feds applauds carpet maker’s wool focus:

Federated Farmers congratulates the leadership shown by New Zealand carpet maker Cavalier Corporation in announcing last week it will to return to its roots as a wool and natural fibres-only business.

Cavalier said in February that profit margins selling synthetic carpets were getting thinner but sales of its wool carpets were steadily rising.

“Choosing to concentrate on New Zealand-produced natural wool, with its superior durability, warmth, sound-dampening and fire-retardant qualities is a smart decision for any company,” Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Chairperson William Beetham says. . . 

Aroma NZ buys leading NZ flower supplier:

New Zealand’s biggest green-lipped mussel health food company has bought one of the country’s largest flower growing companies.

Aroma NZ has successfully purchased Moffatt’s Flowers, which has been growing roses and other flowers in their Christchurch glasshouses since 1949.

As one of the largest rose growers and flower wholesalers in New Zealand, Moffatt’s grows 35 varieties of roses in a network of more than 20,000 square metres of climate-controlled glasshouses. This results in an annual output of more than three million rose stems, along with other flowers.

Aroma NZ director Ben Winters says they have been looking to diversify into different industry sectors. .  .


Frank conversation on water

July 29, 2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


$30m investigating white elephant

July 29, 2020

The government is spending $30 million investigating a white elephant:

The government is spending $30 million on an investigation into renewable energy projects including a hydro scheme at Lake Onslow in Central Otago which would solve the problem of dry years and the irregular supply of renewable energy sources. . . 

Engineer Dr Dougal McQueen said multiple smaller schemes would work better.

“If we don’t have the need for a dry-year storage, and we’ve invested in it, then of course it’s going to become the white elephant in the room and the Onslow scheme isn’t where the need is, which is in the North Island.”

Generating electricity closer to where it will be used would be a much greener option because it would reduce the amount that is wasted in transmission over large distances.

Sustainable Energy Forum spokesman Steve Goldthorpe said it’s great more renewable energy is being investigated but the scope of the Lake Onslow scheme doesn’t make sense.

“Storing water just for use on occasion, two or three times a year at most, seems to be an awful lot of expense for little return, so using it for that sort of battery capacity seems a little unusual.”

“Using Huntly Power Station as a back-up and for emergencies could make more sense rather than it competing in the market, but the government needs to work out the cost per tonne of CO2 emission reduction,” he said. . . 

It also needs to look at the way the transmission costs are averaged over the country which distorts the price.

If consumers paid the true cost of transmission, it would be much cheaper in the south and more expensive in the north. That could be a significant factor in decisions on locating industry.

National’s energy and resources spokesman Jonathan Young said the Productivity Commission looked into the Lake Onslow idea in 2018 but found it didn’t make sense economically and found the project would struggle to get through the resource consent process.

He agreed there were better options.

“There’s a lot more scope for geo-thermal to be developed and if we had that in the central plateau region we would be closer to the demand which will make it more affordable for the consumers who won’t have to pay huge transmission costs from the bottom of the South Island.”

The government’s claim the hydro project would reduce electricity costs don’t stack up, Young said.

“If we are going to spend $4 billion on our electricity system, then someone is going to pay for it. If it’s not going to come from higher electricity prices then it will come from the taxpayer.” . .

Taxpayers are consumers, either way we can’t afford $30m of borrowed money to investigate a white elephant.


Word of the day

July 28, 2020

Dingle – a deep wooded valley or dell; a deep hollow, usually shaded with trees; a deep, narrow cleft between hills; shady dell.


Sowell says

July 28, 2020


Rural round-up

July 28, 2020

Synthetics out in favour of natural fibres – Sally Rae:

Carpet-maker Cavalier is ditching synthetics in favour of wool and other natural fibres, citing “negative impacts on people’s health and the planet”.

The listed company yesterday unveiled a new transformational strategy, saying it would transition away from the manufacture and supply of synthetic fibre carpets over the next 12 months and existing synthetic stocks would be sold down.

In its strategy, the company said the long-term dangers posed by plastics were becoming clear. Plastic was a global problem and manufacturers needed to be part of the solution.

The impact that plastics had on human health was not yet fully understood, but early studies suggested that microplastics entering the body were a potential threat. The average Kiwi home with synthetic carpet was similar to having 22,000 plastic bags on the floor, by weight, it said. . . 

From lipstick to gum boots :

City girl becomes ‘Gumboot Girl’ and helps introduce sustainable practices on Northland dairy farm.

For years Jo Wood worked as a beauty therapist in Auckland. She was, in her words, “a city slicker”.

But then she “fell into” another job, one about as far removed from the glamour of make-up, manicures and pedicures as it’s possible to get.

Working in gumboots and a singlet, these days she walks the pastures of a 350ha dairy farm located on the coast between the Northland towns of Wellsford and Warkworth – and is known to one and all by her alter ego ‘Gumboot Girl‘. . .

 

Wools NZ elects new chairman – Annette Scott:

Former Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parson has been elected chairman of Wools NZ to lead the organisation in a new direction post covid-19.

The recognised industry leader, well known for his past chairmanship of Beef and Lamb NZ and the NZ Meat Board, Parsons was initially elected to the board by growers at the organisation’s annual meeting in November.    

The grower-owned strong wool marketing and export company has now embarked on a new era post covid-19 to re-orientate its strategic direction.

Parsons, a Northland sheep and beef farmer believes he well understands the industry challenges from a grassroots perspective. . . 

What’s next for the wool industry? – Annette Scott:

Step one of the wool industry’s Vision and Action report has connected the stakeholders now Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor says the next step must lead to real purpose.

“It’s absolutely crucial the next step is real purpose, this report will most certainly not be sitting gathering dust,” O’Connor said.

“The project action group (PAG) has rounded up the situation, connected with industry players and provided some real guidance for the next step.

“With the absence of major initiatives from the industry I have to be responsible to put something up.”  . . 

Alliance to spend $3.2m on upgrade :

Alliance Group is to spend $3.2million on a further upgrade at its Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, to help improve operational efficiency.

The plant’s engine room two, which provides key refrigeration for four cold stores, some blast freezers and several product chillers will receive upgraded safety features, equipment and building structure.

The programme would improve the company’s ability to control the refrigeration system remotely and provide a platform for further investment, Alliance said in a statement.

It would also give an opportunity to have more control points and sensors, improve the ability to provide automation control and result in ‘‘significant’’ savings through energy efficiency. . . 

Welsh unions highlight farmers’ role in fighting climate change :

Wales’ two farming unions have highlighted the vital role of agriculture in helping the UK to address the threat of climate change.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales held a virtual meeting with the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping, who was appointed by the prime minister in January.

In addition to wider discussions around climate change, the roundtable event provided a platform to discuss the ‘Race to Zero’ campaign.

The international campaign aims to strive for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery, which was launched on World Environment Day and will run up to COP26 . . .


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