Quotes of the month

August 1, 2020

Nearly every day….I get a random stranger go out of their way to walk up to me in the street and say ‘I want to let you know I’m very grateful for what you do’. So at some point you decide do you want to listen to the one negative person, or 50 positive people?.’ – Paula Bennett

Homeowners in Kelburn who like the idea that we lead the world in banning plastic bags (we don’t) and seeing statues of Captain Cook replaced with Pohutukawa trees are going to spill their almond milk at the prospect of paying an annual two per cent tax on their unrealised capital gains. Wealthy Green voters, I am willing to wager, prefer looking good to doing good.Damien Grant

Let’s understand that dying is an intrinsic part of life. Let’s talk about what end-of-life care actually is and strengthen, extend and improve what we already have in our palliative care. Such care is a commitment, one we need to make. Euthanasia is an avoidance of this commitment. – Serena Jones

Without food, there is no life. The trick is to produce it in ways that also yield rich soils, thriving forests, healthy waterways and flourishing communities. As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment pointed out 10 years ago, in tackling climate change, it’s vital to avoid perverse incentives and bad ecological outcomes. he farmers are right. At present, the incentives in the ETS are perverse, and they’re taking us in the wrong direction. It needs to be fixed before it’s too late. – Dame Anne Salmond

 Don’t jack up taxes during an economic crisis. Don’t add to the burden. Give us a break. What’s the better alternative? Blitz the low-quality spending and accelerate economic growth to generate the revenue to deal to the debt. – Mike Yardley

If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” – J.K. Rowling

When transgender women and women are indistinguishable, women are unable to access the rights they would have if they were distinctive. . . Yet being tolerant of transgender women does not mean that one loses the ability to defend the rights of women who were born female. . . The main reason for this silence, as I see it, is the twisted logic of identity politics and its adherents. This ideology promotes a worldview that is wholly based on power structures and relationships. All of society is viewed through the prism of oppressors and oppressed. The ideology focuses on traits, such as race, gender or sexual orientation, some of which are deemed unalterable, others a matter of personal choice. Yet individual agency is generally devalued, to the benefit of collective identities that are increasingly ideologically fixed. An individual has less and less room to carve out room for her own views within each collective. A matrix has formed where those who have a higher number of marginalized traits rank higher on the victimhood ladder; their “truth” therefore counts more. – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

More funding does not address the issues of choice, accountability, value for money, and individual and community needs.Brooke van Velden

If your test is, it doesn’t matter whether someone is nice to the Labour Party, it matters if they are nice to the waiter, then Judith Collins is a very nice person. – Ben Thomas

Collins does not deal in ambiguity and nor is she likely to deliver it.Liam Hehir

You can’t be focussed on New Zealanders when you’re busy playing politics.One of the things I’ve learned over the years is you only ever learn from your mistakes, you don’t learn from your successes. The National Party is very focussed on not repeating any mistakes.” – Judith Collins

Elections are the means by which the Government has legitimacy and power; not minor inconveniences on the path to Covid-19 recovery.Henry Cooke

Collins, like Muldoon, speaks to a New Zealand that sees itself above class and race. She imagines a country where the language of political correctness has no place and anyone who works hard can get ahead. Don’t underestimate how many New Zealanders share that vision. – Josh Van Veen

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative. – Bari Weiss

To me, the point of a strong economy is to enable New Zealanders to do the most basic things in life well. A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have. A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed. – Paul Goldsmith

Here we had intimations at least that the prim, prissy, prudish neo-Puritanism, the Woke-Fascism unleashed on the nation by the Marxist Jacinda Ardern might have met its match. – Lindsay Perigo

She is creating a climate of terror designed to keep people cowed and bowed. It’s cynical, and I believe she was acting in the best interest of the country in the beginning, and now it’s become almost a mania. – Kerre McIvor

National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.Judith Collins

It wasn’t that long ago when much of the global elite had conclusively decided that climate change was our world’s top priority. Then came a massive sideswiping by a global pandemic, of which we have only seen the first wave, along with an equally massive global recession. It serves as a timely reminder that an alarmism that cultivates one fear over others serves society poorly. – Bjorn Lomborg

I have no doubt that in the ranks of both main Parties there are numerous MPs with a strong Green personal agenda. If the Greens see a Parliamentary role then that should be to go into coalition with any majority Party so as to push their agenda. The indisputable fact is they’re frauds. – Sir Bob Jones 

A wealth tax is far more punitive than a capital gains tax, since rather than being raised on profits after an asset is sold, it must be found each year by people who may be asset rich but cash poor. It would become an unaffordable burden on many New Zealanders, especially those who are retired. – Dr Muriel Newman

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.-  Lindsay Mitchell

My warning, however, would be that it’d be dangerous for National to become a conservatives’ party rather than a party with conservatives in it. It’s better to share power in a party that governs more often than not than it is to be the dominant force in a party that reliably gets 35% of the vote. . . The National Party is not an ideological movement. It is a political framework that allows members unified by their opposition to state socialism to pursue their various goals incrementally and co-operatively. Nobody ever gets everything they want but that’s a fact of life. – Liam Hehir

And that defines the New Zealand First dilemma. They must now campaign on the basis that they were part of a Government so they can’t credibly attack it, but they were not a big enough part to have a major influence. Richard Harman

We think it’s very important that we have everybody involved in it (planning). But I think it’s really important too is that consultation actually should be consultation, not the farce we have at the moment where everybody gets a say, and nobody gets the answer. –  Judith Collins

For me every day is now what they refer to as ‘Blursday’ because I really wouldn’t know. – Melina Schamroth

Properly funded end of life care is what needs to happen before, in my opinion, we push the nuclear button on the option of euthanasia. – Maggie Barry

It is about this time in the election cycle that the media starts crying out for policy. They want to know exactly what a party will do if elected. The problem for parties has always been that the amount of effort that goes into writing an election policy is not reflected in the amount of consideration given to it by voters. – Brigitte Morton

Laying hundreds off is no different to laying one off if you’re that one. And the reason this will play into the way we vote is because the halcyon days of the lock down are well past, and we have moved on with the inevitable, what next scenario. . .If The Warehouse, having taken the wage subsidy, can still lay off the numbers they are, and they’re far from the only ones, how many more join that queue come September 1st? And how many of those jobless quite rightly ask themselves whether teddy bears in windows, closed borders and a tanked economy with no real answer outside welfare is really worth voting for. – Mike Hosking

Hypocrisy is a normal but irritating aspect of human behaviour. We’re all hypocrites to some extent, but true hypocrites are almost admirable in their chutzpah because, unlike hypocrites who are caught doing what they try to hide, real hypocrites are outraged by vices which they themselves do in public. Their hypocrisy is so blatant that, after a while, nobody notices – it fades into the background like muzak in a shopping centre. – Roger Franklin

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.  – Michael Shellenberger

Peters can only win if voters see only his crafted image and ignore the reality of who he really is. But once the tricks become obvious – when the threadbare curtain concealing him is pulled back – the show man can no longer pass himself off as the Wizard of Oz. – Andrea Vance

By any measure it is the coming together of the narcissist and the plain wacky coated in self-delusion. – The Veteran

A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have.
A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed.  
Paul Goldsmith

Just think about it, when you step into a polling booth on September 19 you will be a bit like a practising Catholic going into a cathedral, dipping your fingers into the holy water font and blessing yourself.

After you’ve washed your hands with the sanitiser, you’ll bow over the ballot paper in the booth and be reminded how lucky you are to be alive.  – Barry Soper

Those on welfare don’t need sympathy. They need to be backed, encouraged, and supported to plan their future and see a path off welfare dependency. . . . I have always believed the answers to long-term dependency, child abuse, and neglect, and violence are in our communities. There is no programme that a politician or a bureaucrat can design that will solve these complex issues – Paula Bennett

Money is currently being thrown around but with no accountability. We have to be bold, brave. How can throwing millions and millions of dollars around and hoping some gets to those that need it most, through Government agencies and community organisations, and yet watching more people in despair be OK. – Paula Bennett

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

Why is it through the toughest moments of our lives we learn the most, we feel the most, we have the greatest power to contribute and experience beauty? Through COVID, we saw this. Through fear, desperation, and hardship, heroes emerged. Teachers taught children from their living rooms while supporting their own families. Nurses, doctors, and checkout operators had the courage to turn up even when they were petrified. The lesson is: character and courage emerge out of trauma and hardship. The question for any generation of political leaders is: have we had the courage and character to step up and solve the hard economic and social issues of our time?  – Nikki Kaye

The National Party has been a strong force in New Zealand politics because of its values of freedom and personal responsibility—a place where social conservatives and social liberals can work for the common good. As a party, we are at our best when there is balance. That is when we are truly representative of this great nation. – Nikki Kaye

To the parliamentarians: I’ve always said I believe there are two types of parliamentarians in this place. Those that are in it for themselves and those that are in it for the country. Be the latter. Be brave and have courage. Don’t leave anything in the tank. – Nikki Kaye

In my three years as justice Minister, it very quickly became clear to me that the best thing we could do to reduce crime was to intervene many, many years before the offenders ever turn up in court. That was the basis of my absolute adoption of the importance of social investment as championed by Sir Bill English. Yes, it’s early intervention but it’s so much more and involves radical change to our delivery models if we’re going to make progress on the hard intergenerational issues.  – Amy Adams

Colleagues, the jobs we hold matter. They matter so much more than any one of us. We need good people to want to step into this arena, and we need them to do it for the best of reasons. I worry that increasingly the scorn and the vitriol that is heaped on politicians—often fairly—discourages those good people from stepping up. These jobs are tough. The life is brutal, and the public will never really see the hours, the stress, the impossibility of the perfection that is required, and the impact that life in the public eye has on our families. While you are here in your political role, it is your life. Friends, family, and our health get what’s left over, and often that’s not much. But this job deserves that level of devotion. – Amy Adams

If I have any advice for those who follow me, it would be pretty simple: do the right thing and let the politics take care of itself. Be brave, stand up on the divisive issues, and never lose sight of the difference you get to make in the time that we are here. – Amy Adams

I had the privilege of sharing a breakfast with Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time. Neither of us were into cold pastries or cold meat, so she ordered toast. I thought, “What are we going to put on this toast?” She said, “Don’t worry, Nathan. I’ve got it in hand.”, reached down—”Craft peanut butter. Vegemite.” We had a great discussion. The Anzac bond is incredibly strong. – Nathan Guy

It’s easy to sit on the side lines and criticise. It’s a lot more difficult to stand up and be counted. – Nathan Guy

While everyone is in recession it is a wee bit difficult to believe that we are going to be out of it. . . . We are heading into massive deficits. Households will tend to buckle down in the face of that and eventually government will have to tighten up as well. One of the things about this recession is the way it cuts across your usual categories of who is hit and who isn’t. Get ready for a long haul.- Sir Bill English

You should be concerned about systems that randomly allocate public resource to businesses under pressure. – Sir Bill English

 


Chemistry

July 25, 2020

“Organic” is good, chemicals, pesticides in particular, are bad?

Chemistry is not that simple.

 


Better medicinal cannabis Bill

July 24, 2020

National MP Shane Reti has had his Members’ Bill on medicinal cannabis drawn from the ballot:

My Member’s Bill to implement a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that would widen access to medicinal cannabis and license high quality domestic production, has been drawn in Parliament, MP for Whangarei Shane Reti says.

“New Zealanders deserve greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering, but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place.

“My bill is a more comprehensive alternative to the Government’s cannabis bill. The Government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That’s typical of this Government but it’s not acceptable.

“The Government declined the bill 18 months ago, if they hadn’t New Zealanders would have access to affordable medicinal cannabis right now.

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill (No 2) will achieve the following:

  • Medicinal cannabis products will be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe. No loose leaf cannabis products will be approved.
  • Medical practitioners will decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.
  • Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.
  • Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production. Licence holders and staff will be vetted to ensure they are fit and proper persons.
  • A licensing regime that will create a safe market for medicinal cannabis products. Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land, or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
  • No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.
  • The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.

“National is determined to be a constructive opposition working on new ideas and new policies. This bill is the result of significant work, including a study I conducted overseas and reflects a blend of international best practice, tailored to New Zealand.

“I recognise there is a delayed medicinal cannabis process underway by the Government, but I encourage them to pick up the enormous amount of work done by National in Opposition and implement our comprehensive reforms to ensure this is done once and done right. So that New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.”

During one of the leaders’ debates before the last election, Bill English and Jacinda Ardern were questioned on legalising medicinal question.

The former correctly answered that it wasn’t simple and needed to be based on good medical science. The latter said yes and in this government’s first 100 days legislation was rushed through that wasn’t based on good medical science.

It resulted in legislation that has created difficulties for doctors and  expensive and inferior medicine for patients.

Leading author Karen Oldfield, of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said cost, special approval, and a lack of strong evidence put most doctors off.

“Those who have looked into prescribing it are coming up against some problems around access and the process, and those who aren’t necessarily prescribing it have issues around the evidence base for it and the products that are available in New Zealand.” . . .

“If it’s going to be treated as a medication it needs to be tested as a medication, trialled as a medication, then it would go into the pile of medications that can be trialled for people in specific medical conditions.” . .

These problems will not be solved if the referendum of legalising cannabis is passed.

Dr Reti’s Bill will rectify the shortcomings in existing legislation and result in patients who will benefit from medicinal cannabis being able to get what they need, safely and less expensively.


Need cheaper option for MIQ

July 22, 2020

Charging returning citizens and permanent residents for some of the cost of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) isn’t simple.

These people have a right to return to their homeland.

The BIll of Rights also allow freedom to leave and enter the country and freedom from detention.

Prisoners don’t have to pay the costs of their imprisonment.

However, these people, some who have never lived in New Zealand, some who have lived in other countries for far longer than they’ve lived here and some who are just coming in temporarily, are collectively costing the rest of us hundreds of millions of dollars.

We all incurred significant costs in personal and financial terms through levels four, three and two of lockdown to eliminate Covid-19, is it not fair that those returning contribute something towards the costs of keeping the disease at the border?

The trouble is there is no choice about going into MIQ and no choice about the standard, and therefore the cost.

Three thousand dollars for an adult, which is what’s proposed, is a lot of money for many people, in some cases too much to enable them to come home.

If they are going to be charged they should be able to choose cheaper options than the up market hotels most are sent to.

The last intake of refugees per-COvid was in March and they are now being resettled.

No more are scheduled to come here while border restrictions are in place, couldn’t the refugee resettlement centres be repurposed as a less expensive option for MIQ while the border remains closed?

 


Feeding on fear no substitute for policy

July 16, 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a press conference yesterday morning.

A quick look at main New Zealand news websites had several, by and large positive, stories about Judith Collins the new leader of the Opposition but I had to look hard to find anything about the PM’s speech.

That was a good thing because if you go to the Beehive website and read the speech you’ll find it was a cynical attempt to feed fear about Covid-19.

It speaks about the risk of the disease spreading in the community and what will be done should that happen.

That didn’t tell us anything new.

Anyone who follows international news doesn’t have to look far to understand that in spite of more than 70 days with no cases of community spread, it could still happen when New Zealanders who are infected are coming home and what the response would have to be.

So why make that speech and why yesterday?

It was a cynical and deliberately timed attempt to take media attention away from new National leader Judith Collins, feed the fear many still have of an outbreak of Covid-19 and distract from Labour’s lack of policy.

Then Ardern had the gall to pretend she wasn’t politicking:

After a speech setting out how New Zealand would respond if another Covid-19 outbreak was to occur, the Prime Minister was asked about the front-page news of the day: Judith Collins.

Jacinda Ardern demurred, offering neither congratulations nor commiserations for the National Party and its new leader.

“I’m spending more time about New Zealand’s response and economic recovery from Covid-19,” Ardern said.

“I accept there will be politicking this year. I accept we have an election. But if I’m being brutally honest, my mind hasn’t been focused on that to date.”

Honest? That is anything but.

“I absolutely accept that there is an election this year – and there is no avoiding that – but at the moment it’s taking up a bare minimum of my attention.”

Is this an admission that she can deal with only one thing at a time?

It’s also quite an odd way of putting it. Ardern doesn’t have the choice to “accept” whether there is an election this year. Elections are the means by which the Government has legitimacy and power; not minor inconveniences on the path to Covid-19 recovery.

This kind of language plays into a wider strategy that is emerging from Ardern and Labour to basically pretend there isn’t an election. With the global pandemic continuing to dominate the news cycle it makes total sense to stick to governing, or at least look like you are. “Politicking” is something other parties who are in trouble do, what with their leadership changes and leaking drama, you just get to govern. After all, people like Prime Minister Ardern much more than Labour leader Ardern, and the best campaign is a well-governed country. . . 

The response to the pandemic, particularly the claim about going hard and early, can be debated but the result that allows most of us to live life as normal, bar international travel, can not. However, government’s success in many other areas, in particular Labour flagship policies such as KiwiBuild and reducing child poverty, are open to attack.

That’s why Ardern wants to keep the attention on Covid-19 and away from other issues which she and her largely lacklustre team are ill-equipped to handle.

Thus far Labour has released a single election policy, which deals with afforestation of farmland and seems mostly engineered to give Kieran McAnulty a good shot in Wairarapa. When you ask about other policy areas, MPs either say “maybe soon” or point to wider government policy on an issue. But the Government is not the Labour Party, it is a set of compromises between Labour and two parties with wildly different views. Kiwis can’t vote for “the Government” – much like they can’t vote for Ardern herself. They can vote for a party, and they deserve a coherent set of values and promises to make that decision on. . .

A coherent set of values and promises to make a decision on would only remind voters that three years ago Labour campaigned on let’s do this and has been much better at speeches and media releases than actually doing anything.

Collins promised to not underestimate Ardern as a foe. Ardern is unlikely to be underestimating Collins in return. But she can only float above the partisan fray for so long. At some point she will need to dig in and fight a real ideological battle with the National Party – especially as its leader is now making promises to “take our country back”. That’s what elections are for.

They are, and National’s chances of winning have been greatly enhanced by the leadership change. Heather du Plessis-Allan says Collins nailed her first day as leader:

You can see the strategy. Collins is going to try to show Ardern how the job should be done.

And if she pulls it off, it could well look like the grownups have finally arrived.

That would be grown ups who understand there’s a lot more to governing than good communication, it takes a lot more than three or four people to run a country and feeding fear of a pandemic is no substitute for robust policy and the ability to deliver it.


Covid-19 – who’s most at risk?

July 15, 2020

From Information is Beautiful:


Average deaths per day

July 14, 2020

From Information is Beautiful:


Covid-19 activity risks

July 13, 2020

From Information is Beautiful:

 


The Unwelcome Party Guest

July 12, 2020

A metaphor for Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT).

You can learn more about ACT here.


How hard is it?

July 9, 2020

Two people are being charged with breaching isolation requirements.

The first is a woman who climbed a fence to escape.

.. . . Police said the 43-year-old will appear in the Auckland District Court once she has completed her managed isolation obligations.

She faces a charge of a breach of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.

The woman arrived from Brisbane on 27 June and returned a negative Covid-19 test three days later. . . 

She had passed a Covid-19 test, the second case is more serious, he has tested positive:

The country’s latest case of Covid-19 will be charged for visiting an Auckland supermarket last night, Health Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.

Hipkins said the 32-year-old man, who arrived from India on July 3, left his managed isolation last night to go to the Countdown supermarket on Victoria Street in central Auckland.

The man was outside the facility for 70 minutes.

Hipkins said after CCTV footage was viewed and the man was interviewed, the current assessment of the risk to the public was low.

“The person wore a mask although indicated that was removed for short periods of time.”

The Countdown remained closed today in order to be cleaned thoroughly. . . 

Who pays for the day’s closure and cleaning?

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said the smoking policy – as well as the security policy – will be looked at.

He said there was a robust system in place “however, as we’ve seen, we can always do better”.

Webb said there was a guard outside Stamford Plaza when the man left.

The security guard watched the man leave but wasn’t sure if the man leaving was a contractor, Webb said.

“They don’t have the powers of police to apprehend … clearly it’s about communicating … if it’s logical that they take chase then that’s what they do. . . 

Shouldn’t a guard who was unsure about someone leaving at least have question have questioned him to find out whether or not he was a contractor?

If the government can pass a law that allows police to enter any home without a warrant can’t it pass a law to allow security guards to stop apprehend people who abscond from MIQ?

The absence of community transmission has left the government with just one job – keeping Covid-19 at the border.

To keep it in perspective there’s only been two cases – at least two that we know of, but  every breach not only risks the spread of disease it increases the time before the border opens any further.

How hard is it with all the resources being thrown at MIQ to ensure people do what they are required to do?

If it’s too hard they need to look at their systems and processes.

People in MIQ in Australia are locked in their rooms. That is a very draconian measure when most people are doing what’s required and if the government can’t find a way to allow people some fresh air and exercise, and to smoke, without the risk of them absconding, it’s time for a government that can.


Are You Bogged Mate?

July 7, 2020

Warning: this video has references to suicide.

The stigma around talking about mental health is proving deadly in rural australia – particularly with young men.

Mary O’Brien is the powerhouse behind Are you bogged mate?, and she’s making change where it matters. 

If you need help in New Zealand:

Rural Support Trust : Contact us any time. Call 0800 RURAL HELP

Contacts for local Rural Support Trusts are here.

More information and other contacts:

For counselling and support

For children and young people

For help with specific issues

For families, whānau, friends and supporters

  • Skylight – 0800 299 100
    (for support through trauma, loss and grief; 9 am to 5 pm weekdays)
  • Supporting Families In Mental Illness – 0800 732 825
    (for families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness)
  • Common Ground – a central hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who’s struggling
  • Mental Health Foundation – for more information about supporting someone in distress, looking after your mental health and working towards recovery

 


Virtual Dundee Kiltwalk

July 3, 2020

White isn’t the most practical colour for walking shoes when most of my daily perambulations are on farm tracks and unsealed roads.

But they were the only ones selling at a 30% discount that fitted me and the bargain trumped the colour.

Besides, they’re comfortable which is especially important today because they’ll be doing a lot of walking.

My daughter and I are doing the virtual Dundee Kiltwalk.

Our media release says:

While Scotland sleeps on Thursday night, two women will be starting the virtual Dundee Kiltwalk almost as far from the city as it is possible to get.

Jane Ludemann and her mother Elspeth will be walking up Signal Hill in Dunedin, New Zealand, three times. They will begin at 9:30am on Friday New Zealand time, which is 10:30pm on Thursday GMT.

Signal Hill is 393 metres (1289 feet) high.

They chose this  hill because the monument at its summit is hewn from the rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands and they are doing the Kiltwalk to raise money for research into low grade serous ovarian carcinoma at Edinburgh University.

When Jane was diagnosed with this rare form of cancer at the age of 32, three years ago, she discovered that there was very little research on the disease and no way to fund research into it anywhere in the world.

That spurred her to establish Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, a charitable trust dedicated to increasing awareness of LGSOC, supportIng  women with the disease and raising funds for research into better treatments and an eventual cure. The University of Edinburgh is their UK charity partner. Since 2019, Cure Our Ovarian Cancer has raised  £10 000 of their £25 000 target. They hope to part fund a researcher at the University of Edinburgh to develop better laboratory models of the cancer to help find new treatments. 

“University of Edinburgh’s Professor Charlie Gourley has provided national leadership of low-grade serous clinical trials in the UK.  Furthermore the work of his research team is world renowned,” Jane said.

Historically low-grade serous ovarian cancer has been overlooked. It disproportionately affects young women and the overall survival rates are really poor.” “It’s really confronting to stare death in the face at such a young age.” “If I don’t survive, the thing I want most in the world is to know this won’t happen to someone else.” “Knowing that Professor Gourley is on the other side of the world, working hard to improve survival, makes life that bit easier”, says Jane.  

Elspeth said that when Jane was diagnosed she and her husband said they would do anything they could to help her.

I didn’t think that would entail climbing a steep hill three times, but thankfully the Kiltwalk is about distance not speed.”

The rock at the top of the hill isn’t the only link between the Ludemann’s Kiltwalk and Scotland. Elspeth’s father, Charles Sime, was born in Dundee and lived there until he immigrated to New Zealand in his 20s.

“Although Dad ended up living in New Zealand longer than he lived in Scotland, he retained his accent and took great pride in wearing his kilt,” Elspeth said.

“He would be very sad that his granddaughter has cancer but so proud of what she is doing to raise awareness and funds. He loved tramping and would be tickled pink that we are doing the Kiltwalk with its link to him home town.”

The Dundee Kiltwalk has raised millions of pounds since it started in 2016. Covid-19 means people can’t walk together so this year’s will be the first virtual Kiltwalk. All funds raised will be matched by 50% donations from Sir Tom Hunter.

If you would like to help fund this lifesaving research you’ll find all the details here.

 

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Let people with skin in game take over

June 25, 2020

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

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

That would require strict isolation and quarantine for two weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let’s not blame the messenger

June 24, 2020

Jack Vowles thinks some in the media are overreacting in their coverage of the isolation omnishambles:

In the wake of a scattering of new cases from overseas, Stuff journalist Andrea Vance has slammed the Government for setting “allegedly unrealistic expectations” that Covid-19 would be eliminated in New Zealand. She believes the public feel they have been lied to.

Fellow Stuff journalist Tracy Watkins says the “border fiasco” has caused “incalculable damage” and “a massive breach of trust”. John Armstrong, in a column for the 1 News website, describes the situation as “calamitous”.

All are over-reacting. . . 

Social media also has plenty of posts mistakenly blaming the messengers and trying to dampen down the message too.

It must come as a shock to those who are used to a very soft approach, sometimes bordering on adulation, of Jacinda Ardern that the shine has come off her halo and her clay feet are showing.

But if the media and opposition MPs hadn’t been telling us about the omnishambles, she and her government wouldn’t have taken any action to deal with it.

The fourth estate and opposition are doing what they’re supposed to – showing us that the government has not been doing nearly as well as it should be in isolating incoming travellers to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread beyond those who have it when they get here.

In spite of protestations that everything is under control, there are obvious shortcomings in systems and processes:

No hold ups, oversights or obstruction. It actually takes this long – over a week – to find out how many of the 55 people granted compassionate leave weren’t tested when they should have been.

Since June 9, a negative test and at least a week in isolation were meant to be mandatory before compassionate leave from managed isolation could be granted. But that has only been the practice since June 16.

Both of those rules were bent for two Covid-infected sisters who drove from Auckland to Wellington , but who weren’t tested until after they arrived in Wellington.

The subsequent outrage was understandable, given what should have happened, the sacrifices everyone has already made, and the obvious risk of one case quickly turning into dozens.

That outrage then heightened as stories of broken protocols came forward. Mixing and mingling at isolation facilities. Testing being voluntary when it should have been compulsory. Leave for a funeral when that was meant to be banned . Even runaways .

The case of the two sisters begged the obvious question: How many others have been let out early without a test? Each of them could pose a risk of a second wave.

That question has been asked everyday – by journalists, the Opposition, even Ministers’ offices – since June 16, when the sisters’ positive results were revealed.

The answer isn’t just about giving us a better sense of the health risk. It’s also about the depth of failure that has occurred at the border, which feeds into the level of confidence in the ministry, health chief Ashley Bloomfield, the Government and the Prime Minister.

Those border measures are critical. With no signs of community transmission, the greatest Covid danger to New Zealand are the thousands of people returning home from overseas.

You’d think it would be essential to collect their information and put it all into a single database or an integrated system – contact details, symptoms, daily health check results, test results, if any.

That hasn’t happened.

Bloomfield was clear today that there hasn’t been a cock-up. It has taken so long because health officials have had to match names and dates of birth from their systems with information at isolation facilities.

Does this mean there was no proper record of who was in isolation, who was tested and when?

There was another simple way to find out that appears to have been overlooked.

All of the 55 people granted compassionate leave have been tracked down and referred for testing. Yet Bloomfield had no answer when questioned why they hadn’t been asked, when contacted: “Were you tested before you left managed isolation?”

This isn’t the first information failure for the ministry. They don’t know how many healthcare workers were infected in the workplace . Their regional public health units all used different IT systems . . . 

News of the omnishambles has led in a spike of people seeking tests for Covid-19 which isn’t surprising.

People who’ve lost trust in the government to contain Covid-19 at the border are taking responsibility for themselves. Although there is no evidence of community spread that appears to be due to good luck rather than good management, and anyone with possible symptoms will want to make sure a cold is only a cold.

It’s better to be tested as a precaution than to harbour the virus in the belief that it is no longer here and we have the media and opposition MPs to thank for giving us the information to make that call.

Contrary to what the critics are saying, they’re not overreacting, they’re simply holding the government and the ministry to account.


Rural round-up

June 22, 2020

Agriculture Minister is missing in (in)action while climate change warriors harry NZ’s dairy industry – Point of Order:

The  world stands  on  the  brink of a  food crisis worse  than  any seen  in the last  50 years, the  UN has  warned  as  it  urged  governments to  act swiftly to avoid  disaster.

So what  is the  Ardern  government  doing about  it?   Shouldn’t   it  be working  to  ramp  up  food production?  After  all,  NZ   prides  itself  on being  among  the world’s  leaders  in producing  high-quality  food.

Instead,  Climate  Change  Minister  James  Shaw is celebrating  being  “ ambitious” in tackling  what he calls the climate crisis with,  he   says, . . 

Carbon farming ‘a waste of land’ driving rural residents away – farmers – Lisette Reymer:

There are warnings that New Zealand’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 is destroying rural communities.

Productive sheep and beef east coast farmland is being blanketed in pine trees that may never be harvested in a mission called ‘carbon farming’, where trees are grown for carbon credits, not for sale.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) makes carbon farming a financial windfall for landowners – often making it more lucrative than farming stock or milling the trees for export.

And east coasters fear an impending forestry boom will turn more of its communities into ghost towns. . .

Rural women missing out on vital pregnancy ultrasounds – Conor Whitten:

Maternity care is supposed to be free and available to every woman – but that isn’t the case. 

Senior doctors have told Newshub Nation that funding for maternity care is broken and pregnant women are missing out on ultrasound scans – and Health Minister David Clark has known about it for at least two years.

Lack of access to healthcare for pregnant women can see them miss out on crucial scans, including some that should be offered to every pregnant woman. Going without can have tragic consequences, as Kaitaia midwife Shelley Tweedie told Newshub Nation. 

“The worst outcome you could look at is having a foetal demise, a baby dying. That would be the worst outcome that could happen from a lack of access to ultrasound services. It is absolutely devastating. Nobody would want to go through that.” . . 

Action, not old news, needed now – Neal Wallace:

There is plenty the Rural General Practice Network likes about the just released review of health services. 

Now it wants to see action to address the issues.

The Health and Disability System Review said the inequitable access by rural communities to health care is unacceptable, Network chief executive Grant Davidson said.

Rural health in New Zealand is at breaking point. . . 

Art raising money and awareness – Colin Williscroft:

A painting created in support of farmers’ mental health will raise funds for the Rural Support Trust and reduce the stigma of depression.

Taranaki artist Paul Rangiwahia wrote and produced Top Six Inches in a collaboration with Taranaki Rural Support Trust chairman and national council member Mike Green. 

Green says art is a great way to break down the stigma of mental health while helping people talk about what they are experiencing and feeling.

“Two things which make depression much more likely are having long-term sources of stress and an insecure future,” he says. . .

Working in cheese a world-first for TIA student :

In a world first, a PhD student at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is developing predictive tools to influence food safety management decisions for the soft cheese, paneer.

Paneer is a fresh, unaged, soft cheese that is particularly popular in South Asia, but is made and sold around the world.

In Australia, there are currently eight major brands producing paneer, across NSW, Victoria and northern Tasmania.

Not a lot is known about how pathogens behave in paneer and this information is important for refining food safety regulations. . . 

 


It’s still an omnishambles

June 22, 2020

The Minister of Health, David Clark,  is Minister in name only, the oversight of border controls has been passed to the military and another Minister, Megan Woods, but it’s still an omnishambles.

A friend arrived in New Zealand 11 days ago, she still hasn’t had a test for the virus.

She has asked for one, as have others on her flight who are at the same isolation hotel. None of them has been given one and none has been told when they’ll get one even though everyone is supposed to be tested on days three and 11.

She said her hotel is probably one of the better ones for protocols with social distancing but new intakes are arriving each day so even if everyone is careful about social distancing, there’s a heightened risk of arrivals from different cohorts infecting those who’ve been there longer.

She’s in Auckland but a friend of hers was one of those who was put on a bus and only when they were well on the way were they told they were going to Rotorua.

Were those in control scared of a revolt if they announced the destination earlier?

If there is not enough accommodation for isolation and quarantine in Auckland people have to go somewhere else but surely they should be told where they’re going, especially if they’ll be on a bus for four hours as those going to Rotorua were.

There is a health risk for people sitting still on a long flight that is exacerbated if it’s followed by sitting still for a long time soon after. Several years ago a friend flew from New Zealand to London then drove three hours, got deep vein thrombosis and died as a result.

I supposed we should be grateful that even though everyone is still not getting tested on days three and 11, more people are being tested before they leave isolation and tests are catching people.

There’s been at least one more case since yesterday’s announcement of two more cases:

That makes eight cases caught in the past few days.

Had it not been for the agitation from National MPs and the media at least some of these people could well have been leaving isolation without a test.

As Point of Order says:

. . .The management of people arriving at the border has cost the government $81 million so far.

That’s a lot of money to spend on a sieve when you needed – and thought you were buying – a top-quality bucket. . .

We can’t know how many people with the disease have slipped through the sieve, but if there have been eight cases detected among people coming in from overseas in less than a week, is it possible there were absolutely no cases among all those people who have come into the country and not been tested in the past couple of months?

More than 200 people a day for a couple of months is a very big number to have no infections.

Given how rife the disease is overseas, it is almost impossible that there has been not been people with the disease, asymptomatic or not, who came in, went through isolation and were released without a test.

We have been very, very badly let down by the government and the agencies that were supposed to be keeping the border secure.

And while the military and another Minister have taken charge, the management of isolation still seems to be an omnishambles when people who ask for tests aren’t getting them and don’t know when they will.


Feeling reassured?

June 19, 2020

On Wednesday when the omnishambles over border bungles and quarantine mismanagement was exposed, Jacinda Ardern told us that it wasn’t acceptable and she was sending in the military:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has sent in a military leader to review and oversee border quarantining following the bungle which saw two women granted compassionate leave without taking Covid-19 tests. . .

She appointed assistant chief of defence Air Commodore Darryn Webb to review and oversee border management from here on out.

“We need the rigour, we need the confidence, and we need the discipline that the military can provide,” Ardern said.

He would be able to use the military to make sure the border was being properly handled. . . 

We ought to have been reassured by that but last night Newshub told us he had already been in charge:

Newshub has learned Air Commodore Darryn ‘Digby’ Webb, who was recently appointed to manage the border, isn’t so new after all.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Webb would take charge of protecting New Zealand’s borders on Tuesday.

However, he has actually been “responsible” for a while. A spokesman confirming, he “started four weeks ago”. 

Therefore Webb was already in charge when the two women with COVID-19 were allowed to leave quarantine under a compassionate exemption. . .

Why didn’t Ardern tell us this on Wednesday?

Did she forget? Did she deliberately omit the relevant information? Did she mean to mislead us?

We keep being told what a good communicator Ardern is but this is at the very best very poor communication.

It might be a stretch too far to say she lied. But what she did could be called lying by omission and whether or not it was intentional the very clear picture she gave was that Webb’s appointment was new.

Webb is now the “senior responsible officer for isolation, quarantine and repatriation” for the “all of Government response”, the department in charge of fighting COVID-19. . . 

He has lots of experience coordinating rescue efforts across the Pacific, but his latest job- another rescue mission- is saving the Government’s reputation. 

The reference to reputation is the reporter’s words not the government’s but their reputation is inextricably linked with this omnishambles.

Until recently any criticism of the response to Covid-19 has been regarded little short of heresy, but no longer.

The hard and early phrase they keep repeating is nothing more than spin.

They were slow to act, late at closing the borders, soft on people coming in and later still at requiring people to quarantine or be in managed isolation.

Then they went too hard – using the arbitrary definition of essential in classifying which businesses could operate rather than any that could operate safely to do so.

Complaints over access to personal protective equipment were met with repeated denials but the Auditor General’s report  has subsequently shown they were valid and that The Ministry of Health had no idea how much personal protective equipment (PPE) it had, how much it needed, what had expired and how it should be distributed,

Complaints over the supply of testing equipment and access to tests were also met with repeated denials, as were complaints about inadequate supply of flu vaccines. These complaints too were later proven to be right.

The move down a level was delayed because contact tracing wasn’t good enough.

Media reports of poor practices in isolation hotels went unheeded until this week when the extent of the omnishambles became too great to ignore.

The response to that was the announcement that the military was taking over but any reassurance that should have given us has been undermined by the omission from that announcement of the important piece of information that the military was already involved.

Feeling reassured the government understands the sacrifices we’ve all made, the high cost we’ve all paid and is doing everything possible to ensure that’s not thrown away by poor practices that will allow imported infection to spread?

I’m not.


When is a pandemic over?

June 18, 2020

Consider the following scenario: a highly infectious, sometimes deadly respiratory virus infects humans for the first time. It spreads rapidly worldwide, and the WHO declares a pandemic. The death toll starts to rise and everyone is asking the same question: when will the pandemic end? Alex Rosenthal details the three main strategies governments can use to contain and end a pandemic:


From bad to worse

June 18, 2020

National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse was right: the two latest confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand did have contact with someone after getting lost on their drive from Auckland to Wellington.

After leaving quarantine in a car provided by friends, the two women got lost on the Auckland motorway system.

The friends who lent them the car met with them and guided them to the right motorway, and were in physical contact for about five minutes.

The National Party’s health spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, told Parliament this afternoon that the pair had hugged and kissed someone on their travels.

That was after Dr Ashley Bloomfield said they had no contact with anyone.

The ministry didn’t confirm if they hugged or kissed their friend, and said it received the update this afternoon.

Woodhouse told Parliament a “reliable but confidential source” had informed him that story was “not all as it seems”.

“They did become disorientated and lost their way coming out of Auckland and needed help to get on the right road,” Woodhouse said.

“They called on acquaintances who they were in close contact with and that was rewarded with even more close contact – a kiss and a cuddle.” . . 

The announcement that the women had Covid-19 and hadn’t been tested before being granted compassionate leave from isolation was bad, the new information makes it worse and  this shows things can get even more worse:

Former police commissioner Mike Bush has admitted one person who should have returned to managed isolation after a funeral, is still at large.

The 18-year-old was part of a family allowed a compassionate exemption to attend a funeral. The five other family members are now in quarantine after avoiding their return to managed isolation “for some time”.

Initially all six were evading managed isolation. Then four family members returned and just two – an eight-year-old and 18-year-old were missing. 

The child has since been brought back to managed isolation and the teenager remains at a family property in Hamilton in self-isolation. . . 

Does the fact that it was a gang funeral give confidence that the teenager will self-isolating as required?

But wait, there’s more:

Newshub can reveal another serious blunder by health officials who have failed to follow their own rules.

A group of around 10 people, who were in quarantine in Christchurch, were allowed out early to attend a burial with more than 150 people on Tuesday. 

That’s despite the Ministry of Health announcing nine days ago that such exemptions were no longer permitted – leaving a funeral director and his team thoroughly perplexed. . . 

And more:

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is furious that his staff were forced to mix at a hotel with people who were being put into quarantine.

Boshier told the governance and administration committee this morning that his staff had arranged to stay at a hotel in Auckland before inspecting a prison the next day a few weeks ago.

“Suddenly in the evening, all these people arrived from overseas to be put into quarantine and we weren’t told. So we were all mixed up with everyone else and I was livid.

“I had to cancel the prison visit the next day.” . . 

And in spite of the sacrifices we’ve all made and the dangers of importing new cases,  Covid-19 tests for people in managed isolation are voluntary:

As two new confirmed Covid-19 cases broke an almost month-long streak of no infections, people in mandatory quarantine have been told that swab testing is voluntary.

It goes against what many people believed was a compulsory test for those entering New Zealand – particularly those coming in from countries where Covid-19 has run rife.

Since April, everyone arriving in the country has had to spend 14 days in managed isolation or a higher level of quarantine if they have symptoms.

The Ministry of Health earlier announced that from June 8, all travellers who arrive in the country would be tested for Covid-19 at their respective facilities. . . 

But some guests under mandatory quarantine in Auckland hotels have revealed that they have been told the Covid-19 swab tests are voluntary – not mandatory.

A woman staying at the Grand Millennium, in downtown Auckland, said a pamphlet guests had received said the choice was ultimately theirs.

“I’m worried that they’re not testing everyone,” she said.

“Isolation is so difficult, but this one thing is not compulsory. This country is doing such an incredible job, we can’t mess this up.” . . 

The country has been doing an incredible job but the government and the ministry are letting us down and innocent and grieving families who are paying the price:

The Government has refused to apologise for the strict quarantine protocols, despite leaving would-be compassionate exemption recipients heartbroken.

On Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern announced that compassionate exemptions from quarantine have been suspended after two women were allowed to leave isolation without being tested for COVID-19, and later tested positive. . . 

“The important thing is to fix this problem,” David Clark said. “The director-general [Ashley Bloonmfield] has owned this failing… I have every sympathy for those people, my expectation is it will be fixed.”

Ardern said the case is an  unacceptable failure of the system” that should never have happened and “cannot be repeated”.

“My job is to keep New Zealanders safe, I know the decision to suspend compassionate leave will not be a popular one, but it is the right one,” she said.  . . 

What does it say about the competence of the people running all this when  the military has been brought in to oversee the border?

As more than 300 close contacts linked to New Zealand’s two Covid-19 cases are “encouraged” to get tested, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is bringing in a military leader to oversee the country’s isolation and quarantine facilities.

Ardern addressed media on Wednesday, as the fallout from Tuesday’s revelations two women were able to leave mandatory isolation six days into their stay on compassionate grounds continues to intensify.

Assistant chief of defence, Air Commodore Digby Webb, has now been called in to oversee border facilities, including how travellers depart from them. . . 

Most of us did as we were told in adhering to lockdown rules, at considerable personal and financial cost. Why hasn’t the government been doing what it should have been to ensure that the hard-won Covid-free status wasn’t squandered by slack systems and protocols with people coming in from other countries?

It took the detection of two new cases of Covid-19 for the government to take border security and isolation seriously yet the media has been reporting people complaining about lax standards at isolation facilities for at least a week.

As Todd Muller said:

“The sacrifice of the ‘team of five million’ cannot be put at risk by a clumsy and incompetent Government that allows bureaucrats to run the show by deciding which of the rules they are going to apply on any given day. . . 

Alex Braae echoes this in writing of an avalanche of incompetence:

It is staggering to see so many stories come out all at once, and many people will feel an uncomfortable sense of deja vu. I realise a lot has happened between then and now, but all of these stories feel deeply reminiscent of the incompetence shown at the border before lockdown started. Systems were theoretically in place, but weren’t being enforced with any sort of rigour or discipline, and it took media reports for those who were meant to be in charge to take notice. Readers might also remember that those blunders were arguably what necessitated lockdown in the first place. It’s not bloody good enough at all.

The government lost its social licence for keeping us at level 2 when nothing was said to deter protest marches.

It needs to get quarantine and managed isolation sorted because this week has shown how soon things can go from bad to worse and it won’t have the social licence to lock us up again.


How many more out there?

June 17, 2020

Very soon after the Christchurch mosque massacres, people started asking how Brenton Tarrant had been able to obtain a gun licence. More than a year later, it’s found he shouldn’t have:

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff.

The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom. 

More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. . .

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) highlighted shortcomings in the system in a submission to the Royal Commission into the killings last year:

COLFO chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.

“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.” . . 

“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.

“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.

“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.” . . 

Not having the resources to handle applications properly might be an excuse for delays, it’s not an excuse for failing to follow the correct procedure and for granting a licence to someone who so obviously didn’t meet the required criteria.

This appalling systems failure led to the death of 51 people and injuries to several more.

It also led to the contentious and expensive gun buy-back scheme that may have done no more than take firearms from innocent people and left more with criminals.

Yesterday we learned that another systems failure led to two people with Covid-19 being grant compassionate leave from managed isolation after arriving from the UK:

Two Kiwi women – one in her 30s and one in her 40s – arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation.

The pair was given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to support grieving family after a parent’s death in Wellington. Officials were adamant the pair travelled in a private car and did not use public facilities during their journey.

Bloomfield confirmed the pair was not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel in Auckland, but had complied with the terms of their special dispensation and underwent testing in Wellington. 

The women are now in self-isolation in the Hutt Valley.

“The relative died quite quickly, the exemption was granted and the plan was approved,” Bloomfield said.

“Again, I just want to support the efforts that these women have gone to abide by the agreed plan,” Bloomfield said. 

But the emergence of the two cases has sparked an immediate change in policy, with the Government temporarily suspending all compassionate exemptions at the border.

It would only be reinstated once the Government had confidence in the system. . .

Yesterday we also learned that two teenagers ran away from authorities after being allowed special dispensation from Covid-19 related quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

They have since been located and one is in managed isolation while the other is in an agreed community arrangement, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon.

He did not know how many days their whereabouts were unknown. . . 

Speaking to Heather Du-Plessis Allan on Newstalk ZB Tuesday evening, Health Minister David Clark did not seem to know about the runaway pair.

“I’m not aware of the details of that case…I have not had a briefing on that, I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark said he was disappointed to see that the measures he thought were put in place to prevent another outbreak didn’t appear to be.

“If it is as you described it, then it underscores my request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure that the system is working as intended.” . . 

Working as intended?

How hard is it to test people when they arrive and again before they are permitted to leave isolation or quarantine?

No wonder National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse is questioning whether the Ministry of Health is following its own protocols:

. . . Both cases recently arrived from the United Kingdom and left managed isolation on compassionate grounds after six days with no Covid-19 test. However compassionate leave to exit managed isolation can only be given after seven days and a negative test according to guidance from the Ministry dated 9 June.

“Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield claimed in the press conference that going forward they will now test on exit in case of compassionate grounds, but the Ministry of Health website said this was already the case and the ministry simply failed to fulfil its own procedures.

“It’s fair to expect there will still be the occasional case of Covid-19 pop up as we recover from the past few months, but we need to be positive that the Government has the appropriate protocols in place to identify and trace these cases so they don’t become a bigger cluster.

“New Zealanders have done the hard yards over recent months in flattening the curve of Covid-19, the Government can’t let this hard work go to waste due to sloppy lapses in procedure.” 

Covid-19 spread through New Zealand because our borders weren’t closed soon enough and people who came in were trusted to self-isolate themselves.

When the disease is still rife in so many other countries it is not surprising that people coming in to New Zealand have brought it with them.

But it is sheer incompetence that allowed people to have compassionate leave without being tested and let a couple of teens to run away after a funeral.

Tackling Covid-19 has come at a huge cost. Opening the border is necessary to help with the recovery and for compassionate reasons but it must be done in a way that doesn’t risk the spread of disease here.

The answer isn’t denying compassionate leave to other innocent people, it’s following the necessary protocols to test people, and get the result of the tests, before allowing that leave.

Police and health are two of the basic public services we should all be able to trust and that requires systems we can all have confidence in.

But the serious failures in these cases undermines confidence and raise another very big question: how many other people have been given gun licenses who shouldn’t have and how many others have come through the border and been let out of isolation or quarantine without testing for Covid-19?


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