Priorities

June 20, 2019

Last month’s Budget was supposed to be focussed on wellbeing, but some of its priorities suggest otherwise:

Hon Amy Adams: Why, when Budget 2019 allocated $15.2 billion of new operating spending over four years, couldn’t he find enough funding in the Budget to ensure that Pharmac’s funding at least kept pace with inflation?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As has been traversed in the House last week, Pharmac did receive an increase in funding. In this Budget, in the health area, based on the evidence, mental health received a massive injection of funding after being neglected for many, many years. The overall health budget has received a significant increase. On this side of the House—as I said in answer to the last question—we can’t make up for nine years of neglect in one year or even two years, but we’re making a good start.

Hon Amy Adams: How can he say that he’s used “evidence and expert advice to tell us where we could make the greatest difference to the well-being of New Zealanders”, when the Government has chosen to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into fees-free tertiary at the expense of giving Pharmac enough money to keep pace with inflation?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The premise of that member’s question is incorrect. Money that supports education, money that supports health, and money that supports housing are all part of the Budget; one is not at the expense of the other. What we’re doing is actually making up for the enormous under-investment of the previous Government.

Money spent in one area is not at the expense of money that can’t be spent in another?

It can only be spent once.

Even if you look at different categories, you can question priorities.

Extra resources for children who get to school without the necessary pre-learning skills and for those at school and failing are only two areas of much greater need, and that would make a far greater contribution to wellbeing, than fee-free tertiary education for all students, whether or not they need that assistance.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he think the refusal to even keep Pharmac funding in line with population growth has affected the well-being of New Zealanders like 14-year-old Stella Beswick, two-year-old Otis Porter, or Bella Guybay’s four-year-old daughter, who are all waiting desperately for the funding of lifesaving medicines that are funded in almost every other OECD country?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member well knows, and as with the time she was in Government, Pharmac make those decisions. We now spend nearly a billion dollars on the Pharmac budget, and we will continue to invest in that. But we will also continue to invest in the areas which the last Government completely ignored—such as mental health—because that is what New Zealanders asked us to do.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he respond, then, to Troy Elliott, whose wife is suffering from serious breast cancer, and has said that New Zealand’s medicines funding is starting to make us look like a Third World country and that “this Government has to wake up; we’re going backwards.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I understand that for any family that is going through a situation where they have a family member with cancer, that is traumatic. What we know in this country is that Pharmac makes the decisions about what drugs it invests in. . . 

Pharmac makes the decisions but the government allocates the funds which determine how much, or little, it can do.

Health inflation is many times greater than general inflation and this year’s Budget funding for Pharmac isn’t even keeping up with general inflation.

 

 

 


One rule for councils

June 19, 2019

Queenstown Lakes District Council is seeking consent to spill waste into Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka Hawea and Hayes, the Kawarau, Shotover, Clutha, Hawea, Cardrona and Arrow rivers and Luggate Creek. :

The Queenstown Lakes District Council wants permission to discharge wastewater overflows into freshwater, or on to land, for 35 years.

The Otago Regional Council has publicly notified the consent application, at the district council’s request, seeking to authorise district-wide wastewater network overflows, which happen occasionally and cannot be entirely prevented.

The district council’s application said despite overflows not being a “new or proposed occurrence” they are not presently authorised under the Resource Management Act 1991. . .

The council has been fined for previous discharges.

The council’s consent application said overflows were primarily caused by things like fats, sanitary items, wet wipes and building materials incorrectly put into the system, containing 421km of pipes and 65 pump stations, or from root intrusion from trees growing near pipes.

They caused blockages and breakages the wastewater network, which carries more than 4.65 million cubic metres of wastewater a year, restricting it from flowing freely.

That could result in a build-up of pressure in the system and if overflows could not occur at manholes or pump stations, there was a risk the wastewater could “blow back” into private property, through toilets, showers and sinks. . .

Overflows typically happened at manholes and pump stations where they either flowed overland directly into water bodies, or overland into “catch pits” and the stormwater network, before ending up in water bodies.

“This is reflective of all wastewater networks and illustrates that overflows cannot be entirely prevented, or their locations know prior to their occurrence,” the application said.

It’s true that not all overflows can be prevented but that excuse wouldn’t wash for farms or other businesses.

The council aimed to reach the location of an overflow within 60 minutes of notification – the median response time in 2017-18 was 22 minutes.

After the site is made safe the crew works to restore the service.

The 2017-18 response time was 151 minutes, compared to the key performance indicator of 240 minutes.

While the council’s wastewater network was relatively young, it planned to spend $105 million between 2018 and 2028 on pump stations, pipes and treatment plants.

However, the predominant cause of wastewater overflows was not age-related infrastructure failure, but foreign objects in the systems.

“This means that it is important to educate the community that the wastewater network is made to transport human waste, toilet paper, soaps and grey water only, and that any thing else contributes to blockages and breakages that cause overflows and may affect the integrity of the system.”

Cooking fat shouldn’t be put down a sink and sanitary protection, disposable napkins and wet wipes aren’t meant to be flushed down loos.

The blockages which result from people doing the wrong thing can’t be blamed on the council but there’s got to be a solution that takes less than 35 years.

Visually, the application said “public perception” of raw wastewater directly entering a freshwater environment from an overflow was not expected to be “favourable or acceptable to those that live, work and play in the Queenstown Lakes District”.

“As such, a wastewater overflow event, regardless of the location, has the potential to introduce adverse visual effects …  while it is acknowledged the adverse effects cannot be entirely avoided, they are mitigated and remedied to a degree that the effects can be considered more than minor, but less than significant.”

Overall, with the implementation of proposed conditions, the adverse ecological effects of “infrequent, short-term wastewater overflows to freshwater environments”, were considered to be “more than minor in localised environments, but overall no more than minor”. . . 

Minor and localised the effects might be but again that wouldn’t wash for other businesses.

When farmers have been taken to court for effluent spillages that could enter a waterway it is difficult to accept that a council could get permission for overflows, even thought they’re occasional, localised and minor for 35 years.

It looks like one rule for councils and another for the rest of us.


Human cost of M bovis

June 8, 2019

A friend got a phone call telling him that a herd from which he’d bought a couple of calves several years years ago had Mycoplasma bovis .

He told the caller that the calves and any of their paddock mates were dead and eaten.

That should have been the end of it but it wasn’t.

He wasn’t able to move any of his stock, including the bulls he’d just sold, and all his cattle had to undergo testing.

The test came back negative.

That should have been the end of it but it wasn’t.

He still wasn’t permitted to move any stock and all the cattle had to be tested again.

The going and froing  went on for months, made worse by communication issues, until his herd was finally declared clear of infection.

It was very frustrating but this farmer was well used to dealing with bureaucracy, there were significant costs but his livelihood wasn’t at stake and he didn’t have to cull his herd.

The  M. bovis saga has been far harder on a lot of other people.

A Newshub Nation investigation has uncovered multiple serious issues.  

We’ve found the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) made mistakes when deciding which animals to kill, there have been long delays in tracing high-risk animals, and there are growing concerns about the wellbeing of affected farmers.  

As the Government pushes for eradication, animals are being rounded up for slaughter – more than 90,000 culled so far.

The disease can cause various illnesses in cattle including arthritis, mastitis and pneumonia, and until recently New Zealand was one of only two nations in the world without it.

MPI has $886 million to eradicate the disease – but what about the human cost? . . .

The video that accompanies this story tells a very sad story.

It’s possible to add up the number of animals culled, jobs and income lost.

It’s impossible to quantify the human cost.


It’s still World Milk Day . . .

June 2, 2019

It’s still World Milk Day in other parts of the world.

Wherever it comes from it’s good for us:


World Milk Day

June 1, 2019

Raise a glass to dairy goodness.

It’s World Milk Day.

🌏 🥛

In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) selected June 1st as World Milk Day, which celebrates the important contributions of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition.

World Milk Day aims to celebrate the important contributions of the dairy sector to:

Good food, health and nutrition
Farmers caring responsibly for their communities, the land and their animals
Sustainability practices in the dairy sector
How dairy contributes to economic development and livelihoods

 


Previewing World Milk Day

May 31, 2019


Lumsden maternity crisis

May 29, 2019

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