Science not scientific any more

27/07/2021

Is science teaching not to be scientific any more?

Proposals for NCEA science risk taking our curriculum down a rabbit hole at a time when the Government should be focused on turning around our declining achievement in science, National’s Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

The proposals divide science into ‘mātauranga putaiao’ (Māori understanding of the natural world) and ‘western science’.

“Western science’? Since when has science been defined by geography?

Mr Goldsmith says he would like to see Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins call it ‘western science’ to the leading rocket scientists or specialists in artificial intelligence in China and India.

“It suggests the curriculum leaders don’t know the first thing about the subject. Science is universal no matter where you come from. Calling it ‘western science’ is an insult to half the world.

“But more importantly, how will these sorts of muddled distractions help turn around our declining achievement in the subject?

“International studies show Kiwi kids are falling behind the best in the world in science and in the latest National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement of Science just 20 per cent of year 8 students were achieving at or above expectations.

“An equally important question is what is meant by the statement, ‘the two world views and bodies of knowledge (mātauranga putaiao and so-called western science) are separate and need to be considered separately. One should not be given greater status than the other – both have authority.’

That doesn’t appear to be a statement based on science.

“Is the Government telling our children that the collective wisdom of all the cultures of the globe, over millennia and up to today, what we might call modern science, should be given no greater authority in the subject of science than the insights and traditions of one culture?

“In practical terms, and in terms of limited class time, what does this mean? How will this help us reverse our declining relative performance in the global endeavour that the rest of the world calls science?

“Our nation’s prosperity depends on Kiwi kids receiving a world class education in science.

“This Government has lost sight of the basics in education: getting the kids to school, teaching them a world class curriculum and measuring performance to ensure they’re making progress.

“If we want our kids to succeed globally, we need to educate them to the highest global standards.”

Two of the major problems facing the world at the moment are Covid-19 and climate change. Solutions to both require the best science. New Zealand farming is world-leading but faces myriad challenges. Addressing those will require the best science. We have a shortage of health professionals, engineers and scientists, their training must be based on the best science.

That’s real, universal science which the Science Council defines as:

Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.

Scientific methodology includes the following:

    • Objective observation: Measurement and data (possibly although not necessarily using mathematics as a tool)
    • Evidence
    • Experiment and/or observation as benchmarks for testing hypotheses
    • Induction: reasoning to establish general rules or conclusions drawn from facts or examples
    • Repetition
    • Critical analysis
    • Verification and testing: critical exposure to scrutiny, peer review and assessment

No single culture’s understanding is included in that definition of science, nor of any other I could find and nor should it be.

You’d think that science would be one subject where scientific rigor rather than a political view would apply to its teaching.

Alas, science education isn’t going to be strictly scientific any more.


Rural round-up

18/07/2021

Rural living: the good, the bad and the glorious – Nicky Berger:

I never wanted to be a farmer. Growing up on a small sheep and beef farm north of Auckland, I spent many sunny afternoons in the “Pooh Bear Forest” below our house, and others learning how to handle wool from eternally patient shearers.

But I never believed it was my destiny to grow food. Instead, I spent my teenage years imagining myself working in one of the skyscrapers we would see on occasional trips into the city. When I was old enough, off to the city I went.

However, the unexpected death of my dad one sunny evening in 2004 changed everything.

Sitting at the kitchen table in my family home the following morning, I stared in wonder at ute after ute coming down our driveway, past our house, and heading over to the woolshed. . .

Images of distressed animals misleading council says :

Recent publicity surrounding intensive winter grazing in Southland has been unhelpful, the regional council says.

Images of distressed animals deep in mud have circulated on social media in recent weeks.

But Southland Regional Council chief executive Rob Phillips said some of them were not from this winter and many appeared to be taken outside of Southland.

“We want to follow up and address any poor practice, but when those circulating the images aren’t prepared to tell us where the properties are, it lets everyone down and certainly doesn’t help to improve the situation, he said. . . 

Farmers a cut above DOC in caring for Crown land – Jacqui Dean:

There’s some people who are firm in the belief that Crown land can only be properly looked after if it’s under Department of Conservation (DOC) control. In my opinion, that view is misguided and fails to recognise the state of vast tracts of land across the South Island.

I’ve spent the first half of this year visiting Crown pastoral leaseholders in the South Island to better understand the implications of the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill that’s making its way through Parliament.

This piece of legislation is touted by its proponents as a way to improve environmental outcomes. It puts an end to tenure review and places heavy-handed restrictions on the most basic of farming activities on crown lease land.

During my visits to these rugged and remote areas I’ve been able to compare high country land being farmed under a pastoral lease with nearby land under DOC administration. . . 

Farmers sent a clear message, Labour should listen:

The immense turnout to yesterday’s nationwide protests by the rural sector sent a clear message to the Government, they are fed up with Labour penalising them at every turn, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“Yesterday farmers up and down New Zealand told the Government they wouldn’t be sitting down and taking the hits Labour is dishing out. All National MPs were with them, showing our support and how much we value the work our farmers do.

“Farmers helped New Zealand get through Covid-19, and Labour is repaying them through unworkable freshwater regulations, failing to deal with serious workforce shortages and now it’s hitting them in the wallet with a Ute Tax.

“The rural sector has rightly had enough. They’re not alone though, almost every other New Zealander is being hit in the back pocket through new taxes, rent increases and costs on businesses. . . 

 

Malaysian firm to convert Southland farm into forestry block – Shawn McAvinue:

A Malaysian company has been given consent to buy a nearly 460ha sheep and beef farm in Western Southland.

The Overseas Investment Office gave the consent to the 100% Malaysian-owned company Pine Plantations Private Ltd to buy the farm – near Tuatapere – from vendors Ayson and Karen Gill for $4 million.

The consent states the company intends to develop about 330ha of the land into a commercial forest, principally in pine trees.

Planting was intended to start in 2021-22, for the trees to be harvested in up to 30 years. . . 

City kids go bush – Sally Blundell:

It’s called real world learning: pine nut pesto, bush tea and home kill. Bush Farm Education is taking kids out of the classroom and into nature.

The classroom is a place of puddles and hay bales, trailers and tractors. Today’s lessons – fire safety, edible mushrooms and the reality of home kill.

“Just imagine if every kid in Ōtautahi Christchurch, or even New Zealand, could have a day a week out on the farm, in nature, learning about it,” says Katie Earle, founder of Bush Farm Education on Lyttelton Harbour. “It would just be incredible.”

Incredible but unlikely. A Sport New Zealand survey in 2019 found that only 7 percent of children and young people aged five–17 met the Ministry of Health guidelines of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. Recent research by Ara Institute of Canterbury into education outside the classroom found a third of schools struggle to get students outside, citing time constraints, added paperwork, education regulations and health and safety rules. . . 

Increased demand for softwood lumber in the US and Asia will change the global trade flows of wood in the coming decade:

Softwood lumber has been in high demand in the US and Europe throughout 2021. The limited supply resulted in temporary price surges to record high levels during the spring, followed by substantial declines in early summer. The outlook for lumber demand is likely to be strong worldwide in the coming decade in most world regions, including North America and Asia. Both these regions are consistently dependent on imported wood.

Few countries in the world can significantly expand lumber exports, and Europe will play an increasingly important role as a wood supplier in the future. Tighter lumber markets will impact not just the sawmilling industry but also forest owners, pulp companies, wood panel manufacturers, and pellet producers.

The latest Focus Report: Global Lumber Markets – The Growing Role of European Lumber from Wood Resources International (WRI) and O’Kelly Acumen examines the forces driving the tightness of global lumber markets, including the demand outlook in the US and China and the supply potential from Europe, Russia, and other regions. It also analyses the possible implications of near-term changes in the lumber markets for all players in the value chain. . . 


Unscientific science

06/07/2021

A concerning thread from Michael Reddell:

Perhaps the people who are campaigning to get religious teaching out of school could extend their efforts to this.

Science is defined as: the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena; the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding; a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.

There is no place for myths in any of those definitions nor should there be a place for myths in the science curriculum.

They might fit in literature, social studies and perhaps in history, but including them in science is anything but scientific.

 


Sowell says

03/06/2021


Keep the boy in school

29/05/2021


Political claptrap infects education system

28/05/2021

“White privilege’ is infecting the education system:

It is right to have important conversations around inequities, but it is wrong to peddle crude, simplistic, stereotypes imported from America which are more divisive than constructive, National’s Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Teachers are being shown videos that instruct them to list their ‘privileges’ and view their students in terms of racial groupings. The training modules we have seen state that ‘education is a form of symbolic violence’ and that the structure of school day doesn’t work for Pacific learners who ‘are not tuned into the different parts of the day’.

“The ‘white privilege theories’ being imposed upon teachers, at what I am sure is a considerable cost to the taxpayers, are woeful. For example, citing the ownership of a beach house and the ability to have a ‘Kiwi holiday’ as a matter of ‘white privilege’ rather than one of socio-economic factors.

“It is alarming to learn how much of teachers’ time and resources are being directed to so-called diversity programmes rather than on ensuring every Kiwi kid receives a good education.

“One of the very best things society can do to resolve inequities of any kind is to ensure that access to education is equal and that any child can gain the knowledge and skills to succeed.

“There are huge issues to be addressed in education currently, including falling maths and science grades and major truancy problems. The Government is allowing imported culture wars to distract us from the basic challenges that if resolved would improve things for all children.

“New Zealand’s teachers work incredibly hard and deserve to feel supported by the Government rather than put through multi-day workshops that require them to interrogate their race, sex, sexual orientation, and any other personal factors the Ministry of Education deems appropriate.

“The Government needs to get some perspective and focus on the issues that have the most consequences on children’s futures.

“They need to set clear priorities and be transparent about them with New Zealanders. They also owe taxpayers a summary of just how much these kinds of cultural engineering training schemes have cost the country.”

This is outrageous.

New Zealand pupils are falling behind in maths and science and teachers don’t feel confident teaching maths and yet time and resources are being wasted on this political claptrap.


Was normal, now privilege

17/05/2021

Anyone else sick of what should be normal being called privilege?

A student at a Whangārei primary school had to stand up in front of their classroom and say what they had done to acknowledge their white privilege. . . 

When did it become okay for teachers to be so political?

And when did what ought to be normal become privilege?

That’s normal as in being a child with parents who love each other and their children; living in a family where parents set boundaries and impose consequences when they’re breached; having a warm, clean home where there’s enough food.

That isn’t privilege. It’s what should be normal for all children and has nothing to do with ethnicity.

Calling it privilege, with or without the qualifier white, is a political construct.

It takes no account of effort and will.

It carries the message that where you are and what you have is all due to circumstances beyond control..

It is behaviour that would be punished if a child subjected another to it in the playground and it has no place in a classroom.

To make a child stand in front of a class and speak like that is bullying that should not be tolerated at school, let alone from a teacher who is in a position of power to a pupil who is not.


Rural round-up

16/03/2021

Forestry issues still need much debate – Keith Woodford:

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

In my last article on forestry, a little over two months ago, I ended by saying that “there is a need for an informed and wide-ranging debate as we search for the path that will lead to the right trees in the right place, planted and owned by the right people”. Here I take up that issue again.

In the interim, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has published its draft report on how New Zealand might meet its Paris obligations through to 2050. A key message in the report is that forestry must not be used as the ‘get out of jail card’ (my term) that avoids facing hard decisions elsewhere in the economy.

The CCC estimate is that under current policy settings and with carbon priced at $35 per tonne, then new forests will increase by 1.1 million hectares by 2050. If the carbon price rises to $50 then the CCC thinks new plantings will increase to 1.3 million hectares. . . .

Small steps boost farm’s biodiversity:

Farmers discovered that there are many ways to protect and enhance mahinga kai and biodiversity values while visiting Waimak Farm in Eyreton recently.

The 612-hectare farm includes the largest remaining kanuka stand in North Canterbury. Due to its important biodiversity values this area is being protected by farm managers Richard and Susan Pearse.

Richard Pearse says the kanuka stand provides an important seed source and seedlings have been taken from the area to try and recreate a similar ecosystem in other dryland areas. He is aiming to plant approximately 1000 native trees per year throughout the entire farm.

“It’s important for us to protect this area as there are hardly any of these dryland areas left. It is easier to protect what you already have on farm than starting from scratch.”

Arts approach to rural mental health in Tairāwhiti – Alice Angeloni:

A mental health service that uses mahi toi (the arts) to create culturally safe spaces will reach into rural Tairāwhiti.

The primary mental health service will support west rural and East Coast communities and is expected to start between April and June.

A report before Hauora Tairāwhiti’s district health board last month said $900,000 left over from another Ministry of Health contract would fund the service over two years.

But as it was a “finite resource” to 2022, with no guarantees of funding being extended, building leadership capability within the community would be key to making the service sustainable, the report said. . . 

Nature school demand grows post lockdown – Emma Hatton:

The demand for one-day nature or forest schools is on the rise, with advocates saying if schools do not provide more outdoor-based learning, the demand will continue to grow.

At Battle Hill farm in Pāuatahanui in Wellington, about a dozen children aged between four and 12, gather every Wednesday for nature school.

They start the morning with a hui to decide what the day will look like, possibly geo-caching, tree climbing or making damper to eat over the fire they will build. They also check the weather and debrief on any safety issues. . .

2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards winners announced:

The 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winner is excited to be part of the New Zealand dairy industry, producing dairy products with the lowest carbon footprint in the world and is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy. 

Women achieved a clean sweep, winning all three categories in Auckland/Hauraki. Rachael Foy was named the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmer of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Thames Civic Centre on Thursday night and won $10,300 in prizes and four merit awards. The other major winners were the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year Stephanie Walker, and the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Emma Udell.

Rachael was named the Auckland/Hauraki Dairy farm manager of the year in 2017 and placed third at the National Finals.

“The benefits of entering the Awards are numerous, including networking, benchmarking my business, the prizes, raising my profile and the National finals week,” she says. . . 

Carbon bank – Uptown Girl:

Everyone is all paper straws, and bicycles, and reusable grocery bags and water bottles, and then we’re over here like, “Here’s our dirt.”

Actually, we call it soil. And we have to make that clarification or our college soil professor will drive down here and make it for us.

But seriously. Did you know our soil, when managed right, is a massive carbon bank? That’s right – we are storing carbon right here, right below our feet!

What you’re looking at is a crop field where we grow grains to harvest every year. You’re seeing green cover crop, that was planted in the fall before harvest of our corn to make sure our soil was never bare. . .

 


Rural round-up

09/02/2021

Environmental reforms putting more pressure on struggling farmers – Nadine Porter:

More mental health resources and shorter waiting times to access help will be needed to support dairy farmers trying to follow proposed new environmental rules, industry advocates say.

Rural Support Trust Mid-Canterbury wellbeing co-ordinator Frances Beeston said there had been at least a 30 per cent rise in farmers seeking support since Christmas, and she believed that would increase further as more environmental reforms were introduced.

The Climate Change Commission released a draft plan last week designed to help the Government meet its promise of reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases by 2050, and reducing biogenic methane emissions by 24 to 47 per cent by 2050.

The plan noted current policies would lead to an 8 to 10 per cent reduction in New Zealand’s livestock numbers, but said a 15 per cent drop would be needed to meet the Government’s targets. . . 

More trees less stock – Peter Burke:

More science and technology, more trees and fewer livestock is the prescription that the Climate Change Commission has offered up in its draft report on how to reduce greenhouse gases in the agriculture sector.

The report covers all aspects of New Zealand society and includes agriculture. In the 200 page chronicle, the Climate Commission sets out a plan for NZ to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2050.

It is a draft report, based on the commission’s own research and submissions from a wide range of organisations and individuals. It is now out for consultation before a final report is prepared by the end of May.

Commission chair Rod Carr says to achieve the Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, there needs to be transformational and lasting change across society and the economy. He says the Government must act now and pick up the pace. . .

Will wool go the way of whalers? -Pete Fitz-Herbert:

“Being the best whale hunters in the world didn’t protect the whaling fleets.”

That comment from Climate Commission chair Rod Carr about New Zealand’s low-emission beef and dairy production, has Manawatu farmer Pete Fitz-Herbert thinking about the future of the wool industry:

In the future – will farmers be seen as whalers are now?

How long, before the last whale was harpooned off the coast, was the writing on the wall that it wasn’t the career choice that it once was? . . 

Why you should eat your heart out for ‘Organuary’ – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Encouraging people to eat more animal organs for Organuary may seem like a light-hearted response to the vegan movement, but research shows it could reduce greenhouse gases, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth investigates.

Eating the heart of your enemy might seem a bit extreme these days but in the past it was an acceptable part of a surprising number of cultures – surprising until one considers food scarcity, that is.

Eating whatever was available was a matter of expediency and the lore that arose around what each part of the body signified shows an early awareness of basic function.

Eating the brain and tongue gave knowledge and bravery; the heart gave courage and power. . . 

MBIE funds hemp research :

A Taranaki-based medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp venture is part of a group that will investigate ways to turn hemp seed hulls into products for the global market. Greenfern Industries is part of a partnership that was awarded $145,000 in cash and in-kind funding for research into products created from the by-products of hemp seed oil processing. Greenfern will work alongside industry partners Callaghan Innovation and Hemp Connect as part of the project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA).

BPA invests in research and development projects with the aim of generating additional export revenue for New Zealand by working with the primary sector to get better value out of biological by-products.

Boarding school parents sick of borders closing ‘at the drop of a hat’ – Jamieson Murphy:

THE parents of interstate boarding school students are constantly worried that when they drop their children off at school, they may not be able to get home, with state borders slamming shut “at the drop of a hat”.

The Isolated Children’s Parents Association has called for a nationally consistent and long-term approach to border restrictions for boarding students.

ICPA president Alana Moller said while urban schools were closed for weeks during COVID outbreaks, many rural students were not able to return to their boarding school for months, even several terms due to border closures.

“Students from western NSW who board in Victoria weren’t able to go, because they weren’t sure if they could come back,” Ms Moller said. . . 

 


Just wondering

03/09/2020

Just wondering:

Why did James Shaw decide the Taranaki Green School was of sufficient merit to prompt him to issue an ultimatum?

. . .Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office and it included a stark ultimatum.

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

“Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

“Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he’ll sign everything this afternoon,” the email said. . . 

Just wondering:

After all the dead rats he and his party have had to swallow in contravention of their policy in the last three years, why on earth would he make such a strong stand over  this?

Just wondering:

Who leaked the email, and why?

Just wondering:

Why did the other Ministers give in to the greenmail?

Just wondering:

What does it say about a party leader who didn’t remember his party’s policy against all state funding of private schools and what else has he forgotten about his party policy?

Just wondering:

If he’ll read this from the Villa Education Trust:

There are more reasons for dismay than immediately strike home with the Green School $11.7million debacle.

Plenty has already been said about the “greenmailing” of James Shaw over signing off on the rest of the $3 billion. The hypocrisy of the move. The passing the buck by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Education. Etc. We then had Chris Hipkins – Minister of Health, Education, State Services and Leader of the House – reverting to nonsense around Charter Schools and stating that at least the Green School kids won’t be learning in shipping containers.

The first missed point of despair is that the entire response to this spend from the perspective of other schools has been around property. One question you can always ask the Boards of dilapidated schools is how have managed their maintenance budget over the last 12 years. If they are honest you will get a range of answers. The second point is that our genuine crisis in education is student achievement and it is not highly correlated to the buildings they learn in (within reason of course). We have gone educationally insane of we think that flash buildings with close the MASSIVE U.E. gaps for Maori and Pasifika (compared to Asian and European) and reverse the decline against international measures. The NCEA results have already started to slide after 2 years under Labour. With the amount of absenteeism currently happening and the level of online engagement for many this year’s results could be a massive disaster for marginalised groups. However – educators are prepared to make a spectacle of themselves for spouting and a dab of paint.

What’s more important, flash buildings or student achievement?

The injustice our Villa Education Trust feels is around a second hidden effect. In the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025, Minister Hipkins acknowledged “one in five children and young people need some kind of extra support for their learning. This might be because of disability, learning difficulties, disadvantage, physical or mental health or behaviour issues” and “New Zealanders want an education system where all children and young people can take part in education and can learn and achieve, whatever their needs.”

In the Plan, Minister Hipkins goes on to say “This Government has a vision for an inclusive education system where every child feels a sense of belonging, is present, makes progress, where their wellbeing is safeguarded and promoted, where learning is a lifelong journey, and where children and young people with learning support needs get the right support at the right time.”

During 2019 we took the Minister at his word – as we are – according to all external reviews (e.g. “In summary we find and conclude that in both schools, the management and staff are actively involved in continuous development, and the delivery, of a unique programme of teaching and learning which is based on a comprehensive ‘local’ curriculum that is aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum, and which provides for the personalised needs of priority learners ‘many of whom have been failed by the current education system” Cognition Education) Hence we proposed to close our small private school and open a non-zoned, 240 student State Designated Character School, near a transport hub for a wide range of Auckland families to access. The Prime Minister had told the country she wanted more options like this and the “work was being done.”

Our school community has been exceptionally poorly treated by Ministry through a process that, so far, resulted on July 7th with Hipkins saying “no” with him blaming his officials and his officials blaming him.

So – while 25 students benefit by $11.7 million at The Green School … 240 students per year with diverse needs will miss out. To rub salt in Minister Hipkins publicly mocked our efforts in the House yesterday. Class, kindness and compassion.

This whole debacle illustrates the problem with politician’s making individual funding decisions:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for the abandonment of grant decision making by politicians and Cabinet committees, and a return to the tradition of these being made by officials using objective and transparent criteria.

The following can be attributed to Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union:

“The spectacle of politicians horse-trading individual funding decisions is something we expect to see in smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, not a modern day New Zealand with a reputation of being corruption-free.”

“The Provincial Growth Find, and now the COVID ‘shovel ready’ fund, are normalising a process of decision making that rewards companies which are politically connected. It is a dangerous path.”

“Steven Joyce reintroduced the sort of corporate welfare largess not seen in New Zealand since the Muldoon Government. But instead of fixing the problem, the current Government has doubled down and we have now returned to politicians making funding decisions for individual projects and pet causes.”

“Enough is enough. Now we are seeing the warts and all flaws in the process, New Zealand should return to a transparent process of the politician’s job being limited to setting criteria and objectives, and leaving it to officials to make the individual grant decisions.”

There is a case for Ministers to have a role when decisions are finely balanced.

This wasn’t.

Treasury opposed the grant:

The Treasury advice to Shaw and the others ministers who signed off on hundreds of projects for infrastructure investment says the Green School does not have “full private school registration” and would be unlikely to get that until mid 2021.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals,” the advice says.

Furthermore, it says even if it had the “necessary” approvals, “we do not recommend funding for this school”.

Treasury also objected to the project being overseen by the Provincial Development Unit saying it was not the “appropriate agency for this school”. . . 

Shaw has accepted responsibility for the debacle but whoever gave into his greenmail is just as culpable.

This isn’t just a waste of money, it’s also a poor reflection on the whole government  its processes and priorities:

The murky brinksmanship revealed in the decisions to fund the Green School suggest the $3 billion shovel ready fund is operating like a slush fund by the Government, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Grant Robertson needs to come clean about the deals being done between Ministers. How is it that one Minister could hold up shovel ready projects unless the Green School was signed off?

“It’s clear the Government doesn’t have its priorities in order. These projects are supposed to be about investing in infrastructure to create jobs and grow our economy.

“But the impression left is that the shovel ready fund is operating as yet another $3 billion slush fund with different projects carved out by Government parties for their political wins.

“No matter how hard he tries, Grant Robertson cannot wipe his hands of this decision. He is the Minister of Finance, it is his job to make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. Instead he signed off on a private school receiving millions of taxpayer dollars.

“With the scale of debt-fuelled Government spending right now, it is more important than ever that the Government demonstrates to New Zealanders that decisions are made on the basis of need and effectiveness rather than ‘wins’ for different Government parties.

“The whole episode makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claim there is no politics in Covid.

“The Government can’t claim ignorance, Treasury told it not to give any funding to the Green School because it didn’t have the full education approvals needed for a private school.

“Grant Robertson needs to front up and explain exactly what happened and why he’s allowing himself to be held to ransom by his own Associate Minister of Finance.”

Just wondering:

Does Grant Robertson need reminding of his own words: that every dollar the government pays out is being borrowed?

Just wondering:

What were the merits of the ‘shovel ready’ projects that were put forward for grants and missed out?

It would be difficult to believe that at least some didn’t have a much better cost-benefit ratio than this one.


Borrowing every dollar

31/08/2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson justified not extending the wage subsidy to cover the longer period at alert level 3 by saying: we are borrowing every single dollar that we are paying out.

Did Cabinet take that into account when it signed off the $11.7 million paid to the Green School which has raised the ire of  principals, teacher unions, the Opposition and Green Party members?

Green co-leader James Shaw has copped most of the criticism and warrants it for the hypocrisy in backing the payment when his party policy opposes private schools.

But the decision must have been signed off by Cabinet.

Labour is no doubt enjoying watching Shaw squirm. But it is just as guilty of hypocrisy for agreeing to fund this small, private school with fees of up to $43,000 a year after scrapping the partnership schools which did so much for disadvantaged pupils failed by the conventional education system.

New Zealand First has been uncharacteristically quiet about this but it is in no position to criticise when so many of the projects it has funded with taxpayers’ money would not have passed the cost-benefit test.

That was bad enough when the government books were in surplus.

It is far worse now that every dollar that is spent is borrowed, accruing interest and will have to be repaid.

Robertson reminded us of that in defending his decision to not extend the wage subsidy.

If he, and his government,  took that approach to all other spending the Green School would not have been funded and the country wouldn’t be facing such a mountain of debt.


How are going to get out of this mess?

03/08/2020

Sir Bill English is warning businesses to prepare for a W-shaped downturn:

Former prime minister Sir Bill English has issued a bleak warning to businesses to prepare for the worst case scenario as “cracks” created by the economic earthquake of Covid-19 become more apparent.

Just like the damage caused to Wellington’s buildings by the Kaikoura earthquake, the true damage to the economy might not emerge immediately, he said.

Wage subsidies had “bought time for thousands of businesses” and there was a sense just from the amount of traffic on the streets of there being a “bounce”, he said.

But the return in consumer confidence would not last and businesses are “reluctant to deal with the fact” that the economy might drop back again, he told a webinar hosted by accounting firm BDO. . . 

Businesses might find by the middle of next year that they had 20 per cent less revenue as a “W”-shaped downturn took shape, and needed to ask if they could survive on that, English said.

“This is going to be marathon not a sprint. It could be really tough.” . . 

Job losses are already piling up:

Today’s troubling revelation that another 1500 Kiwis lost their jobs this week highlights the need for a sound economic plan to get us through the current jobs crisis, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is now up to 212,000 – an increase of 67,000 since New Zealand went into lockdown.

This week alone, 1500 more people went on the dole. Another 450,000 Kiwis are also in the precarious position of relying on the wage subsidy scheme that will run out on September 1.

“New Zealand is facing its worst economic downturn in 160 years,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“This incompetent Government’s big idea is simply to increase government spending, which will just lump the country with more debt for future generations to repay through higher taxes. . . 

The government’s response so far is not going to help the economy:

Massive debt-fuelled spending and keeping the border tight are necessary but insufficient to restore our economy and create jobs, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

Mr Goldsmith was reacting to Grant Robertson’s “Q & A” interview this morning, where the Minister played down projected job-losses when the wage subsidy ends and emphasised more government spending and tight border as the government’s primary economic response.

“The reality is that the spending has not always been well targeted or effective and the so-called tight border of Labour has been shown to have holes.

“The missing piece in the job creation story – the third trick – is bold moves to enable private sector investment,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“The government can buy temporary jobs, such as it is with its $1.1 billion programme to hunt possums and plant flax bushes, but it is the free enterprise economy that creates the most sustainable jobs.

“We need to be making it easier for firms to hire workers and expand their business.

“As well as its JobStart and BusinessStart programmes, which help businesses hire additional workers and redundant workers start a business, National has announced substantial tax changes to encourage businesses to invest. Firms will be able to write off $150,000 per new asset immediately.

“National would also extend 90 day trials to all firms – making it easier for companies to take a chance on new employees, and reverse recent further restrictions on inward investment.

“The government, meantime, is still in the mind-set of adding costs and regulations to business, such as last week’s higher waste levy charges,” Mr Goldsmith says.

Debt will increase whichever parties are in government after next month’s election.

A responsible one needs a plan to minimise  the borrowing and to pay it back.

Without that, Damien Grant says, the Government’s Covid-19 spending will be an economic albatross for decades:

 The true extent of the intergenerational crime that is being committed is becoming clear.

Today’s young are being robbed of opportunities and may be the first generation in our nation’s history to be significantly poorer than their parents.

Let’s start with the easy part: government debt. We spent $12 billion on the wage subsidy, the vast majority going to boomer-owned businesses to ensure they did not have to pay the full cost of their firms being shuttered.

Think about this for a moment. Almost every firm that got the money would have survived. This was a freebie to the capital-owning class; paid for with borrowed money that will not be re-paid by them, as their tax-paying days are coming to a close in the next decade. . . 

Whether or not most firms would have survived is debatable, as is the question of whether they were in trouble before the lockdown.

Wellington has decided, with overwhelming community support, to smash our economy in order to temporarily eliminate what has proved to be a virus with a far lower level of mortality than first advertised.

Fine. This isn’t something that I support, but OK. Let’s do this. However, if you are going to destroy tourism, damage hospitality and cripple construction, we need to be honest with ourselves; we are going to have to get by with less.

But we don’t want to do that. There is a collective refusal to accept that we are considerably poorer today than we were in January. There is an illusion of economic normality being created by enough ink to re-hydrate the Red Sea. . . 

National Party finance spokesman and putative post-election leader Paul Goldsmith estimates the projected $140b of future borrowings is equal to $80,000 per household.

Yet, no one seems to care. We’re in a panic over the fairness of charging people $3000 to cover the costs of an enforced stay in a quarantine hotel and the antics of school kids playing at being Nazis, but were heading off the edge of a fiscal cliff and … nothing.

The cost of borrowing will be paid for in two ways. Not only will this money need to be paid back; either through higher taxes, reduced government services or by the pernicious and economically destructive hidden tax of inflation, there is the opportunity cost of lost growth.

When you borrow to maintain consumption you are stripping resources from the economy that could have been deployed elsewhere for more productive activity; investment, primarily.

People wanting to borrow find they cannot get access to capital because the state is sucking up all available cash.

It isn’t just the cash available for lending either. It is the physical and human resources that entrepreneurs require to trade that are being diverted by the states’ uncontrolled spending. . . 

This government thinks it’s better at spending our money than we are and it’s spending is making it more difficult for private enterprise to flourish.

The lockdown produced a very good health response but the government response to the economic crisis will make it worse.

The problem isn’t just that sooner or later the debt will have to be repaid. It’s that every cent needed to repay it is a cent not available for essential services and infrastructure unless the economy starts growing, and growing well, again and there is no sign of anything from the government that will help us get out of this mess.


Planning to fail

03/07/2020

Ensuring Covid-19 doesn’t get past the border has widespread support, but it’s time for a plan that keeps it there and lets more people in:

The Prime Minister needs to stop misrepresenting the border issue and tell New Zealanders what her strategy is to protect the economy long-term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Government’s clumsy and incompetent management of our quarantine procedures means it is impossible for New Zealand’s border to open tomorrow, next week or even next month.

“That simply would not be safe.

“However, New Zealanders also need to know how and when the border will progressively be reopened, because not doing that is untenable.

“New Zealanders deserve the highest standards to protect them from getting Covid-19, both at the border and when it comes to tracking and tracing in the event of cases in the community.

“We need to know when those standards will be in place so that New Zealanders have confidence to progressively and safely open the border and grow the economy.

“Locking down what’s left of the economy and waiting for a vaccine isn’t an option.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response ignores the issue:

 . . .”It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19.

“In some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they are not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month,” Ardern said.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous.” . . .

No-one is asking for the borders to open at this point.

A lot of people, businesses and organisations are asking for information on the plan for when and how the borders will open at some point in the future.

Farmers and contractors need experienced workers, principals facing teacher shortages are looking for staff, secondary schools and tertiary institutions want to be able to host foreign students again . . .

None of these is asking for anything that would risk Covid-19 getting past the border, but all want to know the government’s plan for safe entry of more than returning New Zealanders and the heavily restricted number and categories of people deemed essential workers so they can plan.

Any half competent government would have had people planning ahead months ago.

The omnishambles at the border that required the military and another minister to take over running it, shows that wasn’t done.

The current situation needs a strong focus but the inability for someone in government to look further ahead while others deal with immediate priorities reinforces Todd Muller’s observation there are three or four competent ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs in Cabinet.

Had there been anyone with more ability in any of those chairs, perhaps one of the three deputy Health Ministers for example, Chris Hipkins who already had a very heavy workload wouldn’t have been the only one capable of taking over as Health Minister yesterday after David Clark resigned.

That appointment highlights the shallowness of the Cabinet pond and explains why Muller’s request for details of the strategy for opening the border is being ignored.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the government with the time and ability to plan that far ahead which is a very serious problem because as the adage says, if you fail to plan then you’ll plan to fail.


Let people with skin in game take over

25/06/2020

Schools and tertiary institutions have lost a lot of income from foreign students locked out of the country by Covid-19.

They have an opportunity to recoup some of that by attracting northern hemisphere students for the second semester.

That would require strict isolation and quarantine for two weeks.

Given the omnishambles at the border and the bottle neck with returning citizens and residents, there’s no hope of that being done at facilities being run by the government.

Why not let the the host institutions run their own isolation and quarantine places?

They would have a lot of skin in the game – money to be made if successful and the knowledge that they’d not only make significant financial losses, their reputations would also  be at risk if they failed.

Providing all the costs of isolation, quarantine and any treatment of people who had Covid-19 were met by the students directly, or through the institutions, the taxpayer would not have to pay.

If they were coming to southern institutions students could fly in to Queenstown or Dunedin so they wouldn’t add to the congestion in Auckland.

Schools, polytechs and universities would earn some much-needed income for themselves and foreign exchange for the country.

Students, and their families, would have to trust that the private sector would do better than the public one has but proving that shouldn’t be hard.

People, and organisations, with skin in the game will almost always do better than those, like bureaucrats and public providers, whose income isn’t hurt by their incompetence and they would have to ensure they had the right systems and procedures from the start.

They have the very real incentive of so much to gain from getting it right and too much to lose from failing to risk getting it wrong.

The only sticking point is the government which has shown it can’t trust its own agencies and probably won’t risk trusting private institutions.


Not essential not safe

20/04/2020

Last week the Prime Minister announced schools and early childhood centres would be open for anyone from year 10 down if we move from level 4 to level 3.

That was a confusing message given that schools haven’t been considered essential and opening them like that wouldn’t be safe.

An uproar from schools caused a swift back track and now the message is that only children who cannot stay at home should come to school.

Who is going to police that and just how teachers will juggle pupils in classes and online; and how they and pre schools will manage the social distancing is unclear.

Keith Woodford voices his concern:

. . .We need to think carefully about this. Young children are not particularly at risk themselves from the effects of COVID-19 but they have great capacity to be either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmitters of COVID-19. Also, the idea that they can be in their own school bubble isolated from other bubbles, and with social distancing, is greatly flawed. School and home bubbles will overlap and that provides a big transmission pathway.

If we get it wrong, and there is a new outbreak of COVID-19, then there is likely to be no way back. With our current outbreak, we knew where it was coming from. In contrast, if there is a second wave then it will come at us from within the community and we will have no point of attack. . . 

While seemingly signaling too lax a regime for schools and pre-schools, the government has been too hard on other activities, including hunting:

The Game Animal Council is recommending to government that further consideration is given to allow deerstalking and other large game animal hunting to take place under COVID-19 Alert Level 3.

The Game Animal Council has requested that consideration be given to allow easy one-day hunts under the following conditions:

  • Hunters must stay within their region.
  • Experienced hunters may undertake day hunts close to home and in areas they are familiar with. This is not the time to be learning how to hunt or embarking on overnight hunts.
  • People may only hunt with others in their bubble.
  • Firearms safety must be paramount.
  • Hunters must create a safety plan including location, estimated return time and keep a log of who they come into contact with.

We believe these conditions meet the requirements set out for other forms of recreation currently allowed under Level 3 and allows for compliance with COVID-19 safe practice,” says Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale.

“As we know hunting has many social and community benefits especially when it comes to mental health and wellbeing as well as being an important food source for many people.”

“There are a number of questions we are also asking regarding the inequities when it comes to the recreation activities allowed and those that are not allowed under current Level 3 rules,” says Gale.  . . .

Inequities and contradictions are rife.

A friend lives in Invercargill about 100 meters from a liquor store and a butchery. The former is able to operate, the latter is not.

An email from Dunedin’s University Bookshop told me that I could buy text books and any books for children, but not novels for adults.

My scanner has died. I tried to order one online but found it’s not considered essential, although a printer is.

This stupidity is caused by the government’s mistaken insistence on being guided by what it considers essential rather than what is safe when deciding what can operate and what can’t.

We are paying a very high price for the loss of liberty in an attempt to eliminate Covid-19. Whether or not the attempt is successful, we’ll be facing the costs of the shutdown for decades.

Those costs will include business failures, job losses, high unemployment and the health and social consequences of all that.

The sooner those businesses which could operate safely are permitted to do so, the greater the chance of their survival and the more secure their futures will be.

Cabinet is meeting this morning to decide if we can more out of level 4 this week.

Regardless of what it decides on that, it must change its insistence on allowing only businesses it regards as essential to operate and free up all which can operate safely.

 


Too late, too soft, too slow

26/03/2020

Parliament featured a rare show of unity yesterday after the government declared a state of emergency.

This gives it extraordinary powers which are deemed an acceptable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cross party support doesn’t mean the government is above criticism.

The rapidly increasing number of people with the disease, following the trend of other countries which were ahead of us and with which we are fast catching up,  gives credence to the view that the government’s escalation of alerts came too late.

A six-day delay in results of tests for the disease means testing is too slow. The only way to shorten the period of lockdown is more tracing.

And the tougher border controls are still too soft.

. . . Ardern said the Government would further tighten its already stringent border restrictions, including mandatory screening for the limited numbers of people who are legally still allowed to enter.

Anybody who displayed symptoms of Covid-19, could not demonstrate a clear plan for self-isolation, or could not travel to their usual residence while maintaining physical distancing, would be put into “approved facilities” for a period of quarantine. . .

This is a definite improvement on what has been happening, but it is still not going hard enough.

Everyone who comes into the country must be quarantined.

That is the only way to be as sure as we can be that  no-one coming here could spread the disease to others.

The country-wide lock down is unprecedented.

It gives the government and its agencies sweeping and draconian powers that severely curtail our ability to work, move, socialise, and travel.

It will come at a huge economic and social cost.

Jobs have already been lost, more will be. Businesses will fail. Charities will be over-stretched and some of them will fail too. Education is being disrupted. Liberty has been curtailed.

Domestic violence will increase. Children who depend on school for food will go hungry.

The only justification for this is that the disease chain is broken and dies out in the shortest possible time.

Four weeks lockdown will be hard. Any extension because links in the disease chain are still connected will be harder still.

The only way to be sure all links are cut is to be strict about the lockdown that has been imposed and just as strict at the border to ensure that everyone who could have, or be carrying, the disease, is quarantined.


Planting seeds

04/03/2020

Film showing Inspiring the Future ‘What’s my Line’ made by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission/Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua, the Government’s Crown Agency which provides career services from education to employment across NZ.


What are the parents doing?

21/02/2020

A scheme that will eventually provide lunches in 120 low decile schools has been launched.

School principal Robyn Isaacson said the programme, only recently introduced in Flaxmere, had helped the key aim of raising student achievement.

Isaacson said the programme meant children were able “to open a lunch box, to never actually complain about what’s in it, to know that it is nutritious and is able to fill their pukus so they can learn in the afternoon”. . . 

In his autobiography, *The Good Doctor, Lance O’Sullivan said if children were fed and had any health problems treated at school the chances of them learning and breaking the cycle of poverty were greatly increased.

I can’t argue with that but it begs the question: what are the children’s parents or caregivers doing?

Some will be doing all they can to provide for their children but finding that despite their best efforts the money coming into the household falls short of the costs of providing for their families.

Some will be trying to manage but lack the skills to do so.

And some won’t even be trying.

There is no easy answer to dealing with this but the National-led government was making headway with its social investment initiative. That took some of the money that would be spent on the long term costs for people on benefits and was spending it up front in equipping beneficiaries for life and work.

Not all the people who can’t, or won’t, feed their children will be beneficiaries but they are the ones who get public money to provide for their families. If they can’t, or won’t, look after their children, they ought to be getting whatever is needed to ensure they do.

And if they still don’t or won’t? There’s no easy answer to that question but we must find one, and it must be one that doesn’t put the children at risk.

*The Good Doctor by Lance O’Sullivan, published by Penguin.


Producing pliant political clones

31/01/2020

Barry Brill asks why is the government brainwashing our children?:

The exploitation of children for political ends is perhaps the worst recent example of how ‘noble cause corruption’ can work.

Every right-thinking person abhors the very idea of state-generated propaganda being employed to manipulate and fashion immature minds, so as to produce a cadre of pliant political clones.

Such malign techniques are firmly associated in our minds with the evil dictatorships of the 20th century, such as the Leninist Komsomol and Hitler Youth. We were nauseated when the details of those depraved processes became known – and swore we would never let them happen again.  

But modern political campaigners have revived an older code : the end can justify the means. The cause is so sacred and so urgent that even child abuse can be tolerated. We must be prepared to censor our collective conscience and stifle our scruples for the ultimate good of the planet! . . 

Even if the prescription they promote is not based on science, would have high social and financial costs, and do little environmental good at best.

In denouncing the claim that agriculture accounts for 48.1% of New Zealand’s emissions, Robin Grieve sees this curriculum as “lying to children”. There is no mention of the now-accepted science that reducing methane emissions will make no difference to peak global temperatures.

While the material also avoids mention of scientific unknowns, it puts forward countless spurious predictions for the future as if they were known facts.

I personally began a list of these factoids for the purpose of comparing them with the official  projections set out in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was all a futile exercise. Almost every future ‘scientific fact’ in this material is either flat-out wrong or highly tendentious.

The entire document is couched in the language of climate campaigners rather than that of scientists. It is a trashy and hopelessly unbalanced catechism of all the fashionable pseudoscience. It is pure propaganda, in the very best Goebbels tradition. . .

The authors of the teaching resource acknowledge it might endanger children’s mental health.

The Education Ministry has accordingly  issued an accompanying 15-page “wellbeing guide” for teachers of the new material. This truly brutal document cold-bloodedly predicts that:

“Children may respond to the climate change scientific material in a number of ways. They may experience a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief, and confusion. When discussing the material, teachers may encounter students who cope through avoidance, denial, diversionary tactics, wishful thinking and a range of other coping mechanisms. Children may need help with understanding, communicating, and coping with, the difficult feelings that arise in relation to the material…”

There would be far, far less risk of mental ill-health if the resource was designed to help teach not preach, if it was based on science not emotion and if it encouraged children to look for practical solutions through technology and innovation rather than inciting them to activism.

 


Preaching damnation without salvation

20/01/2020

Beef + Lamb NZ has responded to the emotion and misinformation in the teaching resource on climate change with facts and reason:

. . . Fiona Windle, Head of Nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand said: “We support providing our children with information on climate change. The basis of this resource is founded on good intention and constructive discussion; however, we are concerned about the simplistic approach that has been taken and sweeping recommendations provided without context. While ‘reduce meat and dairy’ is a popular soundbite to roll out, the implications on our youngest and most impressionable in society could be far reaching and detrimental.”

“The recommendation to reduce meat and dairy consumption comes with no framework as to what represents a healthy diet. We ask the Ministry of Education; what should our children reduce their meat consumption to and what is the actual impact of doing so? There is no reference to the Ministry of Health eating guidelines which recommends consumption of both meat and dairy and no caveat as to the nutritional benefits animal-based foods offer. We know that a third of young girls here in Aotearoa – whose nutrient needs change during puberty – don’t achieve their daily iron intake requirements, a mineral vital for learning and cognition, yet there is a blanket statement suggesting they should just ‘reduce’ their meat consumption.”

It’s putting the health of the planet before health of people without even knowing how much meat and dairy children are eating and how much they need for good health.

Another puzzling recommendation in Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow is to go to ohmyveggies.com for meat-free recipe ideas. Beef + Lamb New Zealand fully supports increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, but questions why children are directed to a USA-based vegetarian website rather than using Kiwi organisations like 5+ A Day or vegetables.co.nz that could provide local, seasonal advice to New Zealanders.

Fiona Windle added: “It was very difficult to determine ohmyveggies.com’s nutrition credentials. The only ‘Tip & Hint’ listed on their website is to encourage people to drink apple cider vinegar for weight loss! This would never be recommended by a registered nutritionist or dietitian as an suitable method to manage weight loss and it’s not appropriate for school-aged children to be directed to this unvetted information.”

Jeremy Baker, Chief Insights Officer for Beef + Lamb New Zealand added: “The sector would welcome an opportunity to discuss the carbon footprint considerations lying behind the advice to reduce meat consumption. Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and beef have reduced by 30 percent since 1990. It is one of the only sectors to have met the country’s Paris Commitments. Given methane is a short-lived gas, the magnitude of this kind of reduction means our sector has not been contributing to additional warming for a number of decades and significantly alters our carbon footprint profile.

The exhortation to reduce dairy and meat consumption is based on the misguided comparisons of emissions as if they are all equal when they are not. If nutritional value was taken into the equation dairy and meat would be far better than many alternative food sources, for example almond juice.

He continued: “In addition, there is 1.4 million hectares of native forest on sheep and beef farms which is offsetting much of the remaining warming. We all need to be taking steps to address climate change. What we are seeking is better context and understanding provided so that the right decisions can be made about the changes that people can make.”

The teaching resource is a disgrace.

Any scientific merit in the contents is more than cancelled out by the simplistic approach it takes to a very complex subject. Some of the content, as Beef + Lamb explains is wrong, some is encouraging activsim rather than educating and some of it is preaching not teaching.

Worse still, like the worst hell-fire evangelists it is preaching damnation without any hope of salvation because it totally ignores innovation and technology.

Federated Farmers has launched a petition seeking to have the resource withdrawn until it has been reviewed and amended to ensure completeness, accuracy, and relevance to the NZ context.

You can sign the petition here 


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