Teachers or truancy ads?

26/08/2022

The government is considering cutting 3000 senior teaching roles  from its budget:

In a surprise move, the government wants to cut a senior teaching role nationwide so it can cover a hole in its budget.

It wants to let 3119 fixed-term “within-school teacher” contracts expire so it can avoid a $12-million-a-year “funding cliff” at the end of the 2022-23 financial year.

The $8000-a-year contracts are part of the Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako scheme which involves 1800 schools and costs more than $100m a year. . .

The roles were part of teachers’ collective agreements so the ministry must negotiate any changes with teacher unions the Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association.

Principals contacted by RNZ said they were not aware of the ministry’s plan and warned the within-school roles were critical to their work.

The lead principal for a Nelson Kāhui Ako, Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson, told RNZ the proposal was “very concerning”.

“We would have significant issues with continuing the Kāhui Ako in any form without the within-school-teacher positions available.

“Our WSTs act in a coaching role that is central to our strategy to improve student outcomes. This would completely fall over without these positions and the work of the Kahui Ako would have to be significantly reviewed and possibly disbanded.” . .

If cuts need to be made they should be in the growing back room bureaucracy, not on the front line where teachers are already over-stretched and under resourced:

Education is going backwards under Labour and things will only get worse if the Government cuts funding for frontline teachers, National’s Education Spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Labour has overseen a shocking decline in achievement and attendance. But rather than do something to turn this around, this Government wants to cut funding for senior teacher roles within Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako.

“Literacy and numeracy achievement rates are plummeting – kids aren’t being taught to read and write. In Term 1 this year only 46 per cent of kids attended school regularly and 100,000 kids were chronically truant, meaning they missed at least three in every 10 school days.

Some of the blame for that can be placed on Covid-19 but there are other contributing factors which cutting teaching roles won’t solve.

“At the same time that Labour wants to cut funding for senior teachers on the frontline, this Government has added over 10,000 bureaucrats to the public service and the number of Ministry of Education staff earning over $120,000 has almost tripled to 955.

“Principals say the senior teacher roles are ‘central to our strategy to improve student outcomes’ and ‘highly valued’. But in typical Labour fashion, they’d rather prioritise bureaucrats in Wellington.

“Jacinda Ardern’s Government is failing a generation of kids. That’s not just a social failure – it’s a future economic crisis.”

There’s plenty to criticise this government for. Education failures are among the most serious and not just for the pupils.

Children, who attend school sporadically if at all,  who don’t get an adequate grounding in literacy and numeracy if and when they’re there, will be adults who won’t be able to do the work that will provide them with fulfilling lives and that the country will need.

The government has, belatedly, decided to do something about the high truancy rates but like so much it does its questionable whether it will be effective.

It’s launched an advertising campaign in newspapers, and on radio and television encouraging children back to school.

How many parents whose children aren’t going to school, and how many children who are truanting will take notice of the campaign, if they even notice it?

It would be far better to spend the money helping schools deal with the truants themselves and helping teachers help the children who are failing and being failed.


Deciles don’t determine outcomes

25/08/2022

Pupils at higher decile schools will do better than those at lower schools – or will they?

Alwyn Poole has the data that shows deciles don’t necessarily determine outcomes:

Last week on Kiwiblog I highlighted the top school in each decile in NZ. Many of these are breaking the link we are told exists that means that schools just can’t succeed with some kids. This week I am contrasting them to the bottom school in each Decile.

I have chosen not to name the bottom schools – not for the adults involved but through consideration for the attending children.

The comparison for schools in each decile is by University Entrance achievement (schools with 75 or more students) and retention. . . 

Using data for leavers across year levels he gives the numbers that show there is a big differences in outcomes between schools in each decile and concludes:

These gaps are astonishing and inexcusable. They cause incalculable harm.
The key systemic takeaways:

  • Socio- is not determinant of school outcomes – we need to bury that excuse.
  • Ethnicity is not determinant of school outcomes – we need to bury that excuse also.

It is about clear vision and aspiration, quality leadership (including engaging parents), quality teachers, a world class programming.

NZ cannot afford this pattern to continue and to be frank, Hipkins and  have shown no interest in changing things – let alone the Teachers Council and Unions. They do not care for the children – they are about mediocrity, power and control. . . 

Failure to change is not just failing the pupils, it’s failing the country’s future.

 


Rural round-up

17/08/2022

Concern about rate of forestry conversions – Sally Rae:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand says the rate of whole-farm sales and conversions to carbon farming in the country is “out of control”.

The Government’s announcement last week that exotic trees would no longer be removed from the permanent category of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) was a step back from addressing the “deeply concerning” sale of sheep and beef farms, chief executive Sam McIvor said .

Overseas Investment Office decisions for June show consent has been given under the special forestry one-off purchase for the acquisition of nearly 2300ha of land, running sheep and beef, for conversion to forestry.

Approval was also granted for the sale of a dairy farm for forestry conversion and an existing forestry block. . .

Kiwifruit returns not so juicy this year as rising costs and fruit quality issues bite – Andrea Fox :

Growers in New Zealand Inc’s sweetheart kiwifruit industry are in for some unusually downbeat news next week as rising costs and fruit quality issues combine to drive down forecast returns.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson has sounded the warning in an update to the global marketer’s 2800 New Zealand growers, saying the next orchard gate returns forecast on August 23 will reflect that fruit quality this season remains a significant issue as previously flagged.

Zespri, which has a statutory near-monopoly on kiwifruit exporting with record net global sales nudging $3.6 billion last year, is a little over halfway through its sales season.
Ongoing rain and cold weather in New Zealand and unseasonably high summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere had led to a crowded fruit market, Mathieson said.

“Fruit quality remains an ongoing and significant issue this season….We are not alone in facing this challenge, with quality issues evident across other global fruit categories this season, and our competitors and colleagues have also battled labour shortages, supply chain congestion and inflationary pressures, all of which impact grower returns. . .

Align Farms CEO Rhys Roberts on Government’s regenerative farming project

While chief executive of Align Farms Rhys Roberts has reservations about the Government’s new regenerative agriculture project, he welcomes another voice on the subject.

Ngāi Tahu and the Government are undertaking a seven-year research programme to validate the science of regenerative farming.

The trial will compare a conventional and regenerative farm side-by-side to assess the environmental impacts of their practices.

Roberts, who is also the 2022 Zanda McDonald Award winner, has been running a similar trial at Align Farms for years. . . 

NZ avocado industry warned to brace for lower prices as key Aussie market swamped – Tina Morrison :

New Zealand’s avocado industry needs to brace itself for a period of lower prices and volatility ahead as its key Australian market is swamped with the fashionable fruit, and returns from its emerging Asian market lag behind.

Increased Australian production resulted in an “avalanche” of avocados last year which saw retail prices for the green creamy fruit fall to a record low A$1 and prices this year are 47% below the five-year average, according to Rabobank associate analyst Pia Piggott.

“It’s simple supply and demand – as the supply goes up, the price goes down,” she says.

Strong demand for the heavily promoted “superfood” which features in dishes such as smashed avocado, has prompted Australian farmers to plant more than 1000 hectares a year and after six years those trees are now coming to maturity, which is expected to see Australia’s production expand by more than 40% over the next four years. . .

Course tailored for workers – John Lewis :

The rhythms of the seasons have been taken into account in a new Otago Polytechnic education pathway aimed at refining wine-growing and fruit production skills in Central Otago.

It means those already working in the horticulture and viticulture fields can concentrate their energy where it is needed during peak production times of the year while studying for a New Zealand diploma in horticulture production (level 5).

Delivered online and run at night, it enables students to continue to develop their skills in two focus areas: orchard fruit production (stone fruit, pip fruit and berries); and vineyard wine growing.

When they graduate, students will be able to manage horticultural or viticultural operations to ensure fruit or wine grape quality requirements are met. . . 

Australian Dairy Nutritionals to stop milk and yoghurt production in Camperdown – David Ross :

Camperdown Dairy, a historic Victorian brand, will stop producing fresh milk as rising costs push its owner to turn to better margins on milk powder products.

The ASX-listed Australian Dairy Nutritionals, based in the southwestern Victorian town of Camperdown, on Tuesday said it would cancel its fresh dairy produce due to rapidly rising costs that had eroded margins. Woolworths supermarkets stock Camperdown milk in their stores.

Australian Dairy Nutritionals said the move would mitigate staffing shortages and allow it to focus production on higher-margin products such as infant formula and nutritional supplements, but three staff might lose their jobs.

It said margins on fresh milk products had made it uncompetitive to continue, with nearly all suppliers increasing prices by more than 10 per cent and logistics costs nearly doubling. . . .


Welfare that works

08/08/2022

Christopher Luxon’s speech to the National Party conference yesterday included a firm stand on one standard of democracy, equal voting rights and no co-governance of public services and policy on welfare that works:

The video you just saw told a little about my life before politics. It also gave you a glimpse of the three most important people in my life: Amanda, who you met yesterday, and our children William and Olivia.

The lives of all children, and the circumstances in which they raise their own families, will be shaped by the decisions political leaders are taking right now.

My vision is for a more confident, positive, ambitious and aspirational New Zealand than we know today.

A country with a government that backs those who want to get ahead, manages a more productive economy, respects taxpayers, and actually gets things done.

I envisage a society built on New Zealanders’ rights and responsibilities to each other, and to our country.

A New Zealand where young people go overseas to act on a bigger stage, not to escape the cost of living and lack of opportunities here at home.

A country with welfare and education initiatives that help people flourish.

A country that meets its emission reduction targets.

A country that holds on to its ethos of fairness, including to the generations that follow ours. A country that fosters social mobility, and that encourages government, businesses and communities to work together.

I want New Zealanders who can’t support themselves to know they will always be looked after.

For everyone else, taking personal responsibility, and being proud of it, should be part of what it means to be a New Zealander.

That point was missed by several commentators. There is a difference between people who are unable to support themselves and those who are unwilling to support themselves. The former will always need support, the latter might need temporary support but have the responsibility to support themselves.

Don’t we all want to live in a New Zealand that embraces diversity and multi-culturalism, recognises the Treaty, acknowledges Auckland as the biggest Pasifika city in the world, welcomes needed migrants, but that first and foremost serves the common cause of all New Zealanders.

A country that emphasizes what unites us, instead of what divides us. A country that says absolutely, explicitly, that there is one standard of democracy, equal voting rights and no co-governance of public services.

That’s the New Zealand I want to live in.

Under Labour

However, Labour’s view is for a dependent society where big government squeezes out business and community initiatives.

Labour MPs wouldn’t have a clue how it feels to be responsible for a business whose employees’ jobs depend on that business succeeding.

I know that feeling. I’ve borne that sense of responsibility.

And I say to the Government, let businesses compete.

Stop piling on extra costs, like Fair Pay Agreements dreamed up to appease Labour’s union backers.

Make New Zealand open to the world, engaged and confident in its ability to find solutions.

New Zealanders don’t need the Government to tell them to be kind.

We need the Government to tell us when we’ll get an appointment at the hospital.

We need the Government to keep us safe from gangs and street violence.

We need the Government to get kids back to school.

Being in government isn’t about telling people that you care.

Saying you care, while taking no meaningful action, is empty.

Caring means identifying the problem, devising a solution and getting things done.

That’s what a National Government that I lead, will do.

And it’s what a Labour Government led by Jacinda Ardern, demonstrably cannot do.

Labour has shown time after time that it cannot deliver the things New Zealanders want and need.

From hospital waiting lists to being able to afford a first home. From parents desperate to get mental health support for their kids, to an increasing number of people living in cars and the thirteen hundred more children living in poverty since Labour came to office – the very things that Jacinda Ardern campaigned on are all worse.

Instead of devising solutions, Labour announces working groups.

Maybe they report back. Maybe they don’t. The general sense of Labour being overwhelmed by the burden of office, does not change.

Instead of solving problems, ministers put Band Aids on top of Band Aids.

The Government made up the cost-of-living payment to cover its own mismanagement of the economy which has seen inflation overtake wage growth every quarter for the past two years.

And then they so mismanaged delivery of the payment, that your taxes are being given to investment bankers in London, French backpackers, and dead people.

Labour cannot deliver anything.

They conflate spending more with doing more, when those are two very different things.

Labour doesn’t understand the difference between the quantity of spending and the quality.

Since Labour came into office, 50,000 more people are dependent on the Jobseeker benefit than when National was in office five years ago. It’s a Government failure that I’m going to talk more about in a minute.

That would be bad enough at any time, it’s inexplicable when so many employers are desperate for staff.

Since Labour came into office, there are four times as many people living in cars, four times as many on the state house waiting list, and 4,000 kids in motels – at a cost of a million dollars a day.

The Government is spending $5 billion more a year on education, but now only 46 per cent of our children are attending school regularly.

These are economic and social failures under Jacinda Ardern’s watch, yet she never holds herself or her ministers accountable for them.

It’s shameful.

It’s not only shameful it comes witha very high cost that we will be paying for years, possibly decades.

Government Spending

A massive increase in government borrowing and spending over the last few years has overheated the economy and super-charged the cost of living crisis.

This year, the Government will spend $51 billion more than National did only five years ago.

That equates to about $25,000 per household of additional new spending this year alone.

This year’s Budget included by far the most new spending of any Budget in New Zealand’s history, and it was delivered when the economy was already overheated and inflation was rising.

Grant Robertson is addicted to spending. He was overspending long before anyone had even heard of Covid. He has missed every new spending limit he has set for himself over five Budgets.

So, it’s not surprising that, as Nicola said yesterday, to pay for all this spending during Covid, New Zealand has borrowed more than any OECD country, apart from the United States.

You couldn’t run a household or business like this, and you shouldn’t run a country like it either.

None of those doing this spending have run a business and their reckless spending is a result of that.

If you think of the economy like a car, then the Government and Reserve Bank have been squashed together in the driver’s seat, pushing the accelerator flat to the floor. Now, like some terrified passenger realising the car’s going too fast, the Bank’s pressing down hard on the brake. The car’s got the wobbles and there’s a very strong likelihood it’s going to crash.

The impact of this hair-raising mismanagement of the economy is that homeowners, some who bought during the record house prices reached under Labour, are lying awake at night fearing that the next interest rate rise will be the one that forces them to sell up, likely at a huge loss.

Worst of all, for all this government spending, nothing is being achieved.

Economic Management

It can be different. I know it can.

The last National government came into office in 2008 inheriting a set of Treasury forecasts showing deficits stretching out for a decade.

In fact, every incoming National Government since 1960 has inherited an economic mess from Labour. In 1975. In 1990. In 2008.

We certainly know what to expect in 2023.

But the last National government got the country’s books back in order very quickly.
Its Ministers managed public spending with the same care that people manage their own household’s budget.

And did it by reducing backroom waste without cutting frontline services.

The contrast between National and Labour’s approach to economic management could not be starker.

National knows how to turn things around.

We have a five-point plan to beat inflation, and another five-point plan to make New Zealand wealthier so Kiwis don’t have to work for an hour to earn what an Australian earns in 45 minutes. National’s plans will be implemented by a capable administration that holds itself accountable.

National will not only lift New Zealand’s economic performance, it will restore New Zealand’s confidence too.

Bureaucracies & Centralisation

Labour believes in an over-bearing State that thinks people need to be told what to do and how to do it. They believe in centralisation and control.

Just look at the mega-mergers of our polytechs, health system and Three Waters. It’s always the same story. Labour thinks that Wellington knows best, and better than the rest of New Zealand. They’ve spent more money, hired 14,000 more bureaucrats, and got worse results.

Only Labour could spend so much to achieve so little.

I reject that approach.

National believes those closest to the problems should be closest to the answers. That’s why we back community-led solutions. For example, the Covid vaccine roll-out showed that bureaucrats in Wellington don’t always know best how to reach people. Just ask the Maōri organisations who had to take the Government to court so they could get people vaccinated.

National also believes in personal responsibility. We back Kiwis to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and whānau.

Welfare

I want to come back to welfare because New Zealand is rightly proud of its history of supporting people through adversity and a government I lead will build on that legacy.

In fact, we will do more, using the social investment model that Sir Bill English introduced. It uses long-term data to work out where and when targeted actions should occur to change the course of a person’s life – and taxpayers’ liability – for the better.

That is so much more effective than this government’s spray and walk away approach.

National wants all New Zealanders to be able to pursue their aspirations. A good education, followed by a job, is the best and usually the only long-term path to achieving this.

When it comes to welfare, every New Zealand government, Labour or National, will always support those who permanently cannot work and those who are temporarily unable to work.

Making the point again that too many commentators have missed. national agrees with the need for support for people who can never work and those who are temporarily unable to work.

But when it comes to those who can work, Labour and National’s approaches differ.

Having a job in early adulthood sets you up for success throughout your working life. Conversely, if you’re on a benefit before you turn 20, across your lifetime you’re likely to spend 12 years on welfare.

I know people are worried about this. I was talking to a mum in Wellington whose son has been absent from school for so long that he’s been unenrolled, and now he’s going to go on the benefit and she’s worried sick about what his future will look like.

She’s right to be worried.

Welfare dependency pushes people further away from the rungs of social mobility. It locks them out of the opportunities, sense of purpose and social connections that jobs provide.

Benefit dependency not only harms the person trapped on a benefit, but it also can harm the children who grow up in benefit-dependent households. And under Labour, there are more of them. There are now one in five children in New Zealand growing up in a household that depends on welfare. One In Five.

That comes at a high social and financial cost.

As a nation, we all bear the costs when welfare becomes not a safety net to catch people if they fall, but a drag net that pulls the vulnerable in.

I will not be a Prime Minister who allows young people’s lives to be going to waste when there is something more that could be done to propel them along a more fulfilling life path.

I will not be a Prime Minister who thinks it’s okay that the numbers of young people who are able to work, but who instead are on a Jobseeker benefit, is growing during a period of almost full employment.

I will not be a Prime Minister who thinks that work is punishment and that it’s kinder to people to prioritise their entitlement to a benefit over their responsibility to work if they can.

Right now, with businesses crying out for workers, there are 50,000 more New Zealanders on a Jobseeker benefit than there were under National.

As you know, their benefits come from the taxes paid by other New Zealanders who would gratefully have kept that money, if they hadn’t had to pay it in tax.

Every measure of dependency on the Jobseeker benefit has increased under Labour.
Disturbingly, 34,000 under-25 year olds are on it – a 49 per cent increase under Labour’s watch.

Worse still, the number of young people who’ve been receiving the Jobseeker benefit for a year or longer has almost doubled.

That’s right. The number of under 25s who’ve been on the Jobseeker benefit for more than 12 months has just about doubled – in a time of acute labour shortages.

This doesn’t make sense to anyone.

It’s not a sign of a Government that cares. It’s a sign that this Government talks itself up but doesn’t know how to deliver. It’s a sign that this Government has no ambition for the people who most need help. And it’s a sign the Government is abandoning young New Zealanders.

But National cares. National cares deeply. A Government I lead will do more to steer young people away from a life of isolation and dependence on welfare, and towards a life of independence and participation through work.

National thinks that if you’re young and you can work, you should. And if you can’t find a job, you need encouragement to keep taking active steps till you get one.

Some young people have barriers to employment like, say, not having a driver’s licence, or having an addiction.

Whether they are simple or complex, the earlier problems are identified and tackled, the sooner they can be addressed.

What we’ll do

So, today I’m announcing a new approach to getting young people at risk of long-term welfare dependency into work.

The increasing numbers of young people on welfare shows that the Ministry of Social Development is not giving them priority.

A National Government will not keep funding failure by government departments. If government departments can’t deliver, we’ll find someone else who can. So, in this case, we will bring community providers into the mix, redirecting some funding from the Ministry of Social Development, and getting community providers to do the job instead.

We’ll contract them to provide under 25 year olds, who’ve been on a benefit for three months or more, with a dedicated job coach to help them get into work.

Young jobseekers will get more support, with a proper assessment of their barriers, and an individual job plan to address those barriers, and find a job.

If we don’t do that, they’ll be on and off welfare for years.

A Government I lead won’t waste human potential and we won’t give up on people who could and should be contributing.

Currently people are not, as standard practice, required to have a plan to obtain employment until they’ve spent 12 months on a benefit. That is far too late.

And you don’t have to have a case manager, though you can call an 0800 number if you want one. That is far too casual.

Under a National Government, if you’re young and on the Jobseeker benefit for longer than three months, whether or not you ask for it, you’ll be getting help.

The very clear expectation is that your responsibility is to find a job and become independent. I know that there are many parents, just like that mother in Wellington, who don’t want welfare to be the easy option for their kids that it is today.

Unfortunately, the course for many young people is that they find a job, work for only days or weeks before quitting or failing, and going back on the benefit.

So National will offer a $1,000 bonus to a person who is under 25, has been on the benefit for 12 months or longer, and who then starts work and stays off the benefit for the next 12 consecutive months. In other words, they have successfully broken their welfare dependency.

On the other hand, those who blatantly do not follow their agreed plan – meaning they don’t turn up for courses, don’t apply for jobs or don’t engage with their jobs coach – will face sanctions.

Under Labour, the use of sanctions has fallen dramatically, so perhaps it’s no surprise there’s been a big increase in the numbers on a Jobseeker benefit, and in how long they stay on it.
If Labour thinks it’s being kind to set young people up for a lifetime of dependency, even when there are jobs they could be doing, National doesn’t.

National’s approach will be about people’s potential to contribute, not just their entitlements. That’s what a society built on rights and responsibilities is all about.

Any changes need to be fair to jobseekers, and fair to taxpayers. I believe this policy has that balance right.

In summary, I have messages for three groups of people.

First, to young people trying to find a job: That is a hard place to be and, if there was a National Government, you’d get more support and encouragement from your own job coach.

Second, to young people who don’t want to work: You might have a free ride under Labour, but under National, it ends.

Third, to taxpayers: National is on your side.

Fellow National Party members, this is a great country and all of us are so, so lucky to live here.

But under Labour, New Zealanders can see and sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction. Today, we feel insecure about things we once assumed were solid. Things we’ve taken for granted now seem uncertain.

I sense it. I see it. And that’s why I came to Parliament. What I’ve seen in the short time I’ve been in politics only motivates me more to win the next election so that a National Government can take New Zealand forward.

The election is going to be incredibly tight. Labour knows we’re back and they’re under threat. They’re trying to spin, deflect and distract from their own inability to deliver.
New Zealand needs a turnaround. And a National Government I lead will deliver it.

Only National can provide the hope that things can be different. Only National can deliver the prosperity New Zealand deserves. Only National can build the strong economy New Zealand needs.

National Party members, my enduring promise to you all is that, under my leadership, National will be the government that New Zealand needs, and National will take New Zealand forward.

Thank you all – let’s get to work. Let’s go and make it happen!

The all carrot-no-stick approach to welfare that Labour has adopted has had the inevitable result of increasing welfare dependence.

National’s plan has plenty of carrot to help young people get into work and stay there.

It also has some stick to apply to those who could work but won’t.

National accepts the government has a responsibility to help people through welfare but it also accepts that those who can work have a responsibility to do so and that there must be consequences for those who can but won’t.

This is good policy and also good politics.

After all how could anyone with both a wise head and good heart think this government’s policy of encouraging welfare dependency in young people who could work if given some help is the right thing to do?


‘Tax is love. Enjoy its fruits.’

18/07/2022

Dr Oliver Hartwich writes, we are paying the price for economic mismanagement:

We can reasonably expect New Zealand’s economy to enter recession after the Reserve Bank raised its Official Cash Rate again by 50 basis points.

No one likes being in recession, but current circumstances make it almost desirable. Accelerating price increases and tight labour markets are both signs of an overheated economy. 

The Reserve Bank therefore wants to engineer an economic downturn to let off some steam. This would relax both the labour market and consumer price inflation. . .

That’s what it wants, but it won’t be easy with a very tight labour market.

With Kiwis leaving and fewer migrants coming here, labour constraints could therefore remain, even in the face of a recession. That would make the Reserve Bank’s job much harder.

However, our central bankers will be concerned about more than just the labour market.

Because next year is an election year, the Government will be tempted to soften the downturn. This might take the form of fiscal stimulus and transfer payments – but both would counteract the withdrawal of aggregate demand the Reserve Bank wants to achieve.

It is possible that the Reserve Bank would struggle to meet its goals despite sustained increases in the OCR. 

Instead, it would see the economy showing simultaneous signs of overheating in the labour market, declining economic activity and consumer price inflation. In a word: stagflation.

Some will argue that it is mainly the Reserve Bank’s fault for having led us into this mess. And they would be right. This is a recession we did not have to have. . . 

It could have been avoided had the Reserve Bank not flooded the country with cash, and the government been disciplined in its spending.

The Reserve Bank can only do so much. The best it can do is emphasise the return to price stability as its main goal.

The remaining responsibility for economic management, however, rests with the Government.

Demand-side management must be avoided, no matter how tempting it may seem. And in order to boost the supply side, the Government must make doing business easier and cheaper.

The Government’s economic competence will determine how long and how deep our economic downturn will be. 

How much confidence can we have in the government’s economic competence?

Worry not, Dr Bryce Wilkinson writes ‘from’ the Beehive to rebut our misplaced fears:

We in the Beehive are aware of some unfounded dissatisfaction amongst the great unwashed.

There are stories of a health system in crisis. This is not so. If it were, we would have told you.

The real emergency is, as everyone knows, climate change. Think not of hospital shortages today. Think instead of all those who are going to drown in 2100 because they did not notice sea-level rise. Subsidies for electric cars are more important than yet more money for hospitals.

There are also stories that the amalgamation of Polytechnics has destroyed their creativity and independence.

This is absurd. Our new structure has at least 21 people with “chief executive” in their titles. The 21 oversee the chief executives of the 16 polytechnics. What chief executive would not welcome such support?

Some are complaining that the top boss is earning $13,000 a week while on ‘special’ leave. That is what we call a fair go for the ordinary bloke. Others can learn from it.

School truancy. Another problem inherited from the other lot. What everyone is missing is how much worse it would be if parents were paying directly for their truant children. Private schools are the pits.

Some are concerned that around 40% of school leavers are barely literate. Will they be able to pay enough in taxes to support our retirement? Perhaps not, but again think of how much worse it would be if parents had greater school choice.

We had to shut down partnership schools because too many parents did not understand that state schools were best. Imagine if we told parents which schools were poor performers. There would be chaotic disruption. People need government to protect them from themselves.

There are stories that people are feeling unsafe in the streets. There are shootings. It is said that police are powerless to prevent reoffending by ten-year olds because of the laws protecting minors. Nor can they do much about hardened criminals given our lenient courts. Our judges even struck out Parliament’s three strikes legislation, before we did. If they do not understand our constitution, who does?

All such complaints are unkind. You are paying for approaching 450,000 public sector employees who wake up each morning thinking only of how they can best help you each day.

Our excellent governance arrangements ensure nothing stands in their way.

Tax is love. Enjoy its fruits.

Feeling reassured now?

Enjoying the fruits?

Or worried that the fruits are rotten?


Sowell says

21/06/2022


Award for most incompetent Minister goes to . . .

07/04/2022

Who is the government’s most incompetent Minister? There’s plenty to choose from.

Transport Minister Michael Woods is a contender for the $50 million spent on the Auckland bike bridge to nowhere and for continuing to work on the far too expensive light rail project:

While New Zealanders are in a cost of living crisis with record inflation, it is unjustifiable and irresponsible for the Government to steam ahead with their plans to build their light rail vanity project, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Documents released by Treasury today show Michael Wood’s commitment to light rail could explode to an eye watering $29.2 billion – nearly double the cost of what was announced in January, which was already a staggering amount of money at almost $15 billion.

“Treasury’s advice was scathing of the project, saying the Government should not pick a preferred option for light rail until further analysis could be undertaken – advice the Government has clearly ignored.

“Labour’s commitment to this vanity project will cost taxpayers a whopping $100 million before the next election, with no guarantee of spades being in the ground.

“The cost for this project is entirely unjustifiable and the Government needs to accept that this project is simply not worth it. Especially when New Zealanders are dealing with a cost of living crisis, which will only get worse if the Government doesn’t rein in its wasteful spending.

Kris Faafoi is a contender for the way Immigration treated families of essential workers stuck overseas and for failing to fast track residency for essential workers already here.

Immigration policies are also likely to lead to job losses in the tertiary sector:

The Government urgently needs to get international students into the country to prevent looming job losses in the tertiary sector, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

“Universities and polytechnics are currently considering staff redundancies as a way of coping with declining enrolments this year.

“Labour is allowing 5000 international students into the country next month – but universities and polytechnics can only access 2150 students, or 43 per cent, with the remainder of students heading to high schools, Private Training Establishments and English language schools.

“This will do little to ease the urgent staffing issues facing the sector.

“Given that student visas are currently taking Immigration New Zealand three months to process, students applying in April won’t be processed in time for semester two, putting further stress on our valuable tertiary teaching staff.

On top of that, international research now shows New Zealand is falling out of favour with international students, being ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations in a survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

“And the effects are obvious – according to the Ministry of Education in 2019, New Zealand had about 22,000 fulltime international students paying total tuition fees of $562 million. The figures for 2021 and 2022 are estimated to be 70 per cent of that 2019 figure.

“The Government must explain what the rational is for limiting international student numbers, our fourth biggest export earner, when the border is reopening.

“It is appalling that this Government has allowed international education in this country to decline to this level. We must act urgently to prevent further deterioration in this sector and that means not restricting international student numbers coming here.” . .

He’s also fallen short as Justice Minister:

Victims of crime missed out on support they were entitled to because Justice Minister Kris Faafoi failed to sign off the criteria for a $3 million victim support fund for more than five months after the fund was announced, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Earlier this month it was revealed that zero victims were supported by the fund announced in Budget 2021, despite applications being open since July 2021.

“Labour was content to let Victim Support take the blame for this lack of delivery, but it turns out Minister Faafoi didn’t bother to sign off the eligibility criteria until November 2021 – more than five months after the fund was announced and four months after applications opened.

Rather than letting Victim Support take the rap, Minister Faafoi should have fessed up that his incompetence is the real reason why victims are missing out on support the Government promised them.

“Governments spend months finalising the Budget every year so he would have known well in advance that this fund would be open for applications from July. What is his excuse for doing nothing for over five months to ensure victims could access the support? 

“Even worse, the Police Minister has conceded agencies who are meant to advise victims of support they are entitled to were not provided information about the fund until February 2022. . .

That Police Minister Potu Williams is another contender for the silence when police were facing the protesters at parliament, silence over repeated examples of policing by consent that let gangs disregard lockdown rules and terrorise the law abiding while doing it; and her refusal to allow National police spokesman Mark Mitchell to meet the Commissioner or district commanders:

. . . He said: “I don’t think she’s [Williams is] very good at her job and I don’t think she’s across her portfolio, but for her now to use her political power and position in government to start blocking me from meetings – that’s Third World stuff … she may as well go and join the Cabinet in Somalia.” . . 

Trumping that is her denial of an increase in gang violence:

. . .Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament on Wednesday if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: “I reject the premise of that question.”  . . .

And this:

Then there’s waste in health with expired vaccines:

Thousands of meningococcal vaccines have been left to expire instead of being given to those most at risk, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It has been revealed that 17,122 meningococcal vaccines have expired in the last two years, at a cost of $1.6 million, and who knows how many lives.

“The Ministry of Health has a strict eligibility criteria for the meningococcal vaccine, but these vaccines that were left unused could have been made available to those most at risk, to help protect them from this deathly disease.

“The lost opportunity to protect people is a tragedy and that $1.6 million that ended up being wasted could have been spent on other areas of health that desperately need it.

“Last week a meningitis petition was presented to Parliament, pleading to the Government to fund vaccines against the disease. This news will be a cold comfort to those petition supporters.

“This is becoming a concerning pattern of behaviour from Health Minister Andrew Little who has already wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccines in a botched catch-up campaign, and now he can add this one to the growing list.

“Minister Little needs to commit to making expiring meningococcal vaccines available to primary care for use inside and outside of the strict criteria to avoid a tragedy like this happening again.” . .

And the botched measles programme costing $1900 per person:

The botched $20 million measles vaccine catch-up programme is worse than it appears, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The other week it was revealed that $8 million of measles vaccines were left unused and had expired.

“However, information shows that only 11,206 people of the targeted 300,000 received the vaccine – representing a cost of nearly $1900 per person and reaching only 3 per cent of the targeted population.

“It was also revealed that Labour spent $1.8 million on public relations to frame a campaign ‘with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific people’, yet only 1181 Māori received the vaccine – a PR cost of $1,500 per person.

“Worse still, to date the programme costs show that $2.2 million has been spent on public relations while only $1.61 million was spent on actually delivering the vaccine to Māori.

“Andrew Little seems more interested in PR and spin than actually delivering measles vaccinations to Māori.

“The list of health failures is mounting under Andrew Little’s watch. He failed to deliver any extra ICU beds during a global pandemic, has completely missed every health target set and now he can add a botched measles campaign to his growing list.”

The government put so much effort, and spent so much money, justifying locking us down and persuading us to get vaccinated so that the health system wasn’t over whelmed yet did little or nothing to retain existing staff and recruit more.

That’s left  hospitals understaffed and health professionals overworked :

Their employers have warned them not to speak out but nurses say they won’t be silenced. Overworked and understaffed, they’ve told Sunday that they’ve had enough of a health system under real pressure.

The Omicron surge hasn’t helped, but there was a serious nursing shortage long before Covid struck, and now burnout and resignations are high while the pandemic shut off the supply of overseas nurses.

Nurses still on the job worry patient safety may suffer because they are so short-staffed.

Is the government listening?

No it’s not. Instead it’s going ahead with the complete restructure of the health system that will do nothing to improve pay and conditions for health professionals and nothing to improve services, and outcomes, for patients.

That would be bad enough at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it’s a complete waste of scarce funds and people’s focus.

While on health and the pandemic lets not forget the shortage of PPE, the delay in securing vaccines which left the rollout starting late and the RATs debacle.

Then there’s paying more and getting less in several areas.

Carmel Sepuloni has overseen an increase in MSD staff and deterioration in performance:

Our welfare system is less responsive than ever as phone wait times for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) surge, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Whether it’s superannuitants, students, people out of work, or a family who needs help to cope with soaring living costs, New Zealander’s deserve timely answers from the department responsible of administering the welfare system.

“Since 2017, the number of MSD staff answering calls has increased from 650 to 1220 people, yet the average wait time has also increased from 4 to 18 minutes, even reaching close to 40 minutes some weeks this year.

“That’s an 88 per cent increase in staff numbers, a large deterioration in performance and no better outcomes for Kiwis.  

“Appallingly, some people have waited longer than three hours while others have reported it took weeks to receive a call back.

“The cost of living crisis has increased demand for hardship grants and there is almost an extra 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit, which means preparations should have been made to cope with more inquiries.

“New Zealander’s deserve a better service given the substantial taxpayer dollars poured into MSD. Simply increasing staff numbers is not going to cut it.

“Minister Sepuloni needs to hold MSD accountable for their plummeting performance and ensures it fulfils its core responsibility to answer New Zealander’s questions and help people access their entitlements.”

Corrections is spending more money on prisoners with worse outcomes:

Taxpayers are spending more money on prisoners, yet violent crime continues to go up, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“New Zealand taxpayers are now spending $151,000 per prisoner, per year – an increase of over $30,000 per prisoner from 2018/19.

“Overall, there has been an increase of $139 million poured into the Corrections system over the period between 2018/19 and 2020/21, despite fewer prisoners.

“At the same time, there has been a steep decline in the number of prisoners accessing rehabilitation services. Prisoners accessing alcohol and drug programmes alone has dropped from 6311 in 2015/16 to 1065 in 2019/20 – a decrease greater than the drop in prisoner numbers.

“More money is being spent, but we’re getting worse outcomes.

“Rehabilitation is a key way for prisoners to turn their lives around, but in 2019/20 the number of prisoners taking part in rehabilitation programmes plummeted to 2399, from 5845 in 2015/16.

“It can hardly be a surprise then that violent crime is up 21 per cent since 2017, as reported by the Salvation Army, and that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the OECD.

“This is typical for a Government who are experts at spending taxpayer money with no expectation of results.

“On top of this, Labour is taking soft-on-crime approach which is clearly not working.

“Without effective rehabilitation, re-imprisonment rates and violence will only keep climbing.”

And more is being spent on mental health for no positive results:

The mental health monitoring report out today shows that the Government’s $1.9 billion investment in mental health has delivered no benefit to Kiwis, National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

“This is emblematic of a Government that is all spin and no delivery. Labour’s only measure of success is how much it spends on things. But it needs to be about the outcomes that we achieve for New Zealanders.

“The report released today by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission reinforces what many mental health groups and services have been telling me for some time – that they’re not seeing any of the money promised for mental health and can’t point to where it’s gone.

“They have been raising these concerns with the Government for months about staff shortages and growing waiting lists, but have not received a response.

“The findings in the report also show that our specialist services are facing increased demand since the beginning of the pandemic, especially from younger people seeking mental health support.

“The Government says it has invested in the sector, yet services are harder to access. They must explain where the money has gone and why it hasn’t made a difference to improving people’s mental health.

“Making announcements with good intentions isn’t going to solve the growing mental health problems that New Zealand is facing, but strong leadership and a well-managed plan to execute change will. We need targeted spending that delivers outcomes for Kiwis.”

Then there are virtue signalling environmental policies that are nothing more than taxes that increase costs but do nothing at all for the environment:

The Government’s car tax comes into force today, piling on yet another cost for Kiwis facing a cost of living crisis, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Hardworking Kiwis will be hoping that this is just an April Fool’s joke, but sadly they will still have to live with Labour’s new car tax after today.        

“The so-called ‘Clean Car Discount’ gives a rebate for expensive electric vehicles while imposing fees of thousands of dollars on many other vehicles. For example, buyers of a Toyota Hilux* will face a $5175 tax when they first register the vehicle.  

“This will have a negative impact on our farmers and tradies who need utes to do their jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.   

“The Government is penalising farmers and tradies for their choice of vehicle despite there being no viable electric ute available. Even Toyota had to correct the Prime Minister last year that it has no plans to bring an electric ute to New Zealand within the next two years.

“LDV will have an electric alternative, the EV-T60, coming from China later this year. But it is two-wheel drive and can only haul a max of 1,000 kgs for 162km. This is not enough to meet farmers’ needs, who need strength and reliability.

“While the Government gives with one hand, by temporarily reducing fuel taxes, it takes with the other by imposing the Auckland regional fuel tax, a car tax, and is now proposing a biofuels mandate which will further increase the cost of fuel. 

“All of these policies drive up the cost of living for motorists struggling to get by under rapidly rising inflation and fuel prices.

An environmental and transport failure is the train from Hamilton to Auckland:

The Te Huia train today marks its first birthday with news that it has spent more time off the tracks than on them, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There is not a lot to celebrate about this service which has failed from day one.

“Not only has the train spent more time off the tracks than on them over the past 12 months, taxpayers have poured $98 million into a service which very few people use and which takes much longer than driving between Hamilton and Auckland.

“Furthermore, research produced by the Waikato Chamber of Commerce shows that based on current passenger numbers the train actually emits more carbon emissions than someone who drives their petrol or diesel vehicle between these two cities.

“Patronage is significantly lower than what it was when the service started despite repeated calls to ‘build it and people will come’.

“This painfully slow train is simply not fit for purpose. It doesn’t achieve the outcomes that the Government claimed it would one year ago.

“The Transport Minister is so completely focussed on his legacy projects, he is prepared to waste almost $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a train that isn’t fit for purpose and hardly anyone wants to use.

“Quite frankly this is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent on extending the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.”  

If all this isn’t bad enough, there’s the incompetence with funding the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) 

The Auditor General’s Report on the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) confirmed what many businesses have been saying – that this Labour Government has been biased and unfair, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Every tourism business in New Zealand has done it tough over the last two years and this report has shown that this Labour Government favoured some and left others to suffer.

“In May 2020 the Government and former Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis opened a $290M fund for struggling tourism businesses. When applications opened, some businesses were accepted without any evidence that they were in financial difficulty, and didn’t have to go through the same process as other businesses.

“The Government seems to believe that only Queenstown exists when it comes to tourism in New Zealand, when in reality there are tourism operators up and down the country who are suffering just as much.

“In typical Labour fashion, they simply threw money at a problem without having a well-managed plan. Current Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has blamed the uncertainty of Covid-19 for these mistakes, but the reality is they failed to think things through at a time when tourism businesses needed them most.

“New Zealanders deserve to have a Government who are responsible with their spending, but this Labour Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to make wise or fair spending decisions.

“I am calling on Minister Nash to find those funds that were given out incorrectly, take them back and redistribute them to all Kiwi tourism operators so that they can open up quickly for international tourists.”

Bryce Edwards says the report raises questions of integrity:

Was political favouritism involved in the dishing out of millions of dollars by government ministers to tourism businesses? We can’t know, because the Government didn’t keep sufficient records or have proper processes for the handouts. That’s the obvious question arising from a scathing report released by the Auditor General on Thursday, which has received far too little attention.

The Auditor General’s report investigates a scheme set up by the Government early in the Covid crisis (May 2020), called the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The report is one of many that have criticised government procedures during Covid for their lack of integrity. . . 

Harman draws attention to the fact that there have been a number of other reports from the Auditor General’s office that have pinged the Government for poor processes in regard to government departments dealing with private vested interests during Covid – especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

Of course, one of the most problematic has been the multi-billion-dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme, which was seen to be poorly designed and administered.

There’s a theme building up from these reports – that of crony corporate welfare getting out of hand in recent years. This is one of the blind spots in New Zealand politics and society. Recent governments are prone to giving generous subsidies to business interests, often without any great systems of integrity or best practice. And unfortunately, the public never seems to mind much when it becomes apparent.

It could well be that New Zealand is just too eager to believe the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index results that show this country to be the least corrupt nation on earth. In ignoring reports such as this latest from the Auditor General, the Government is undermining that status.

On the subject of Ministerial oversight of money wasted, there’s plenty to choose from :

So much incompetence, it’s hard to choose which is worse but there’s one person who is supposed to be on top of all the portfolios and those presiding over them. That’s Jacinda Ardern.

Would any other recent Prime Minister have tolerated this litany of laxness from Ministers? Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark? No.

There’s a lot more to leadership than announcing announcements and serving word salads no matter how caring they sound.

Ensuring Ministers are up to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing and holding them to account if  and when they fall short is a very important one by which measure of competence this PM falls short.


Bright ideas needed

28/03/2022

Reducing the excise tax on fuel shows what happens when politics meets climate change policy – politics wins.

That’s a very good illustration of what’s wrong with so much of the response to climate change – it’s focused far too much on taxing more and trying to force us to do or have less.

That’s not attractive to the wealthy,  it is unaffordable for the poor.

The economic and social costs of too much climate change policy are too high with little, if any environmental benefit.

There is a better way – bright ideas based on the research and science. That’s what’s solved so many other problems.

 

 

You can watch the clip on YouTube here.


Rural round-up

13/12/2021

Hands on training to develop future farmers – Colin Williscroft:

AS MOST farmers know, sometimes if you want something to happen you’ve got to get in there and give things a push yourself, rather than wait for action from elsewhere.

That was certainly the case for the Growing Future Farmers (GFF) programme, which recently signed a funding agreement with Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) to help it attract and train more young people in the red meat sector.

After winning the B+LNZ Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year award in 2016, Dan and Tam Jex-Blake realised that if they wanted to do something about the skill shortage facing the sector, they had to be proactive themselves.

Jex-Blake says there was and still is an absolute need to get more skilled people on-farm and the pipeline of young people wanting to enter the industry was drying up. . . 

 

Passion for growing agri-business education – Kate Taylor:

The introduction of agribusiness to New Zealand’s secondary school curriculum was a team effort, but continues to be driven by the enthusiasm of Waikato teacher Kerry Allen.

Kerry grew up near Rotorua on a dry-stock farm that has been in her family for more than 100 years. She worked in a plant nursery at weekends, did a horticulture degree at Lincoln University and then teacher training in Christchurch. After teaching horticulture and then science at Hillcrest High School for 18 years, Kerry took a new curriculum and resource writing position with St Paul’s Collegiate School in 2014.

The idea of an agribusiness curriculum grew from parent feedback that general education wasn’t meeting the needs of the primary sector. St Paul’s introduced agricultural and horticultural science classes, then expanded into agribusiness by using standards from other subjects, re-contextualised in a primary sector context. That worked, but they wanted to take it further as its own subject. They started getting other schools on board and began the process of asking the Ministry of Education to introduce it as a new subject. . .

Deer venture enters new territory – Sally Rae:

“We live it. We love it.”

North Otago farmer Bryce Burnett is talking about his family’s passion for the deer industry and venison which they have been producing at their Kauru Hill property for nearly 40 years.

It was his father Russell who made the move into deer, during the early stages of the industry, buying 30 hinds from Mark Acland in 1982 to add to his sheep farming operation.

Bryce took over in 2000 with his wife Janice, and, two years later, the couple decided to focus solely on deer on the 360ha property, inland from Oamaru. . . 

Bird highway takes flight – Country Life:

There’s a new highway taking shape at the southernmost tip of the North Island but not for sheep trucks or milk tankers.

Farmers like Stu Weatherstone, who operates one of Wairarapa’s largest dairy farms, are getting in behind the scheme to create a bird corridor across the valley.

The four year Tonganui Corridor project linking the Aorangi range in the east and the Remutaka mountains in the west involves planting and protecting tens of thousands of trees on strips and pockets of farmland in the South Wairarapa valley.

It’s hoped the corridor will eventually link the ranges and allow birds, insect life and other native species to flourish across the basin. . . 

Wine industry commences major research programme to protect and enhance New Zealand sauvignon blanc :

Bragato Research Institute (BRI) is excited to announce today that through a partnership with the government, work has begun on its Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement Programme. The research programme will develop new variants of New Zealand’s premier wine varietal, Sauvignon Blanc, to make the wine industry both more resilient and more sustainable. More resilient by identifying traits such as drought and frost resistance, and more sustainable by seeking natural resistance to pests and diseases.

“The New Zealand wine industry has a substantial track record of coming together to create large R&D projects for the benefit of the industry as a whole. This will be the first national grapevine improvement programme in the country,” says BRI CEO, Jeffrey Clarke.

BRI has designed an accelerated 7-year research programme that will apply the latest genome sequencing technology, after using established tissue culture techniques. This will allow BRI to create up to 20,000 entirely new variants of contemporary New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and then screen them to identify plants that exhibit the most useful traits selected by the wine industry. . . 

‘Replacing meat with highly processed food would repeat the health disasters of the 1970s’ – Dr Gary Fettke:

Wading through decades of nutrition research led orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke and his wife Belinda to discover how health concerns over meat consumption have been falsified by statistical manipulation, misinformation, and biased promotion, and underlined the propaganda war designed to create a fear of meat and  drive its replacement with highly processed plant products. Dr Fettke outlined the outcomes of his extensive research in his opening statement to the Senate Inquiry into definitions of meat and other foods earlier this week, which appears in full below.

THE 1970’s saw the blame pointed at saturated fat and the introduction of low fat, sugary processed foods.

That was a health disaster.

We cannot repeat that with the demoniSation of meat and replacement with more highly processed and fortified foods. . .


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.


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