A complete meth of drug policy


Shane Reti says Labour has made a complete meth of dealing with the drug that is doing so much damage to addicts and the country:

Labour’s short-sighted decision in 2018 to scrap National’s highly successful Meth Action Plan – and its outright refusal to accept that New Zealand has a gang problem – is contributing to a surge in gang membership, meth use and misery in New Zealand’s most deprived communities, National’s health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

Ditching something that works because it comes from a political opponent is rank stupidity.

Wastewater testing shows meth use is highest in locations with higher levels of gang membership per capita, notably Northland, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.

“The rise in gang membership and drug abuse go hand-in-hand,” says Dr Reti. “It’s an indictment of Labour’s ‘nothing-to-see-here’ approach to crime, which is now causing lasting damage to communities across New Zealand.”

Meth use is widely recognised as a major factor in domestic violence, social deprivation, crime and social harm. It also helps to enrich criminal gangs, whose membership has ballooned under Labour.

Labour purports to want to address child poverty but its inaction on meth is adding to the problem.

The cross-agency Meth Action Plan introduced under the last National Government implemented policies to crack down on the supply of meth, while providing a health-based response for the victims of the drug.

This is the sensible approach to drug policy – being tough on suppliers and compassionate with addicts.

Using $10 million set aside each year from the proceeds of crime fund – money seized from criminals – the plan gave Police and Customs the resources they need to disrupt supply chains and crack down on gangs.

“This plan was working, with a 50 per cent reduction in usage among adults between 2009 and 2015.

“Labour’s decision to cancel this programme three years ago was baffling at the time, but with meth use and gang membership both climbing, it’s absolutely clear now it was the wrong one.

Rather than hiring gang members to run rehab programmes for their own victims, Labour should swallow its pride, admit it made a mistake in cancelling the Meth Action Plan, and go back to what was proven to be working.

“At the election, National released set of proposals that would build on our past success in reducing meth use, and would tackle the meth problem from all angles, addressing both demand and supply.

“We’re calling on the Government to urgently reinstate the Meth Action Plan, and to commit to tackling both supply and demand for methamphetamine in New Zealand.”

National has a plan to tackle meth supply:

  • Increase funding for drug intelligence to enable Customs and Police to identify drugs coming into the country.
  • Deploy the latest detection technologies at New Zealand’s airports, ports and distribution centres, where the majority of illicit drug shipments are arriving without detection.
  • Improve the use of data and artificial intelligence to analyse drug use, criminal networks and patterns of supply so enforcement agencies can better disrupt supply.
  • Target criminal gangs, their precursor supply chains and drug distribution networks with additional focus and resourcing for Police.
  • Crack down on illegal smuggling of cash and money laundering to prevent domestic gangs and the international syndicates they work with from extracting super profits from meth distribution.

National also has a plan to tackle demand:

  • Deploy the Matrix Methamphetamine Treatment Pilot Programme across several District Health Boards to provide direct support to those recovering from methamphetamine use.
  • Add 13 detox beds for methamphetamine across New Zealand, ensuring every District Health Board has at least one.
  • Ensure at least one methamphetamine specialist per District Health Board is available to assist with in-patient detoxing from methamphetamine.
  • Establish a contestable fund of $50 million to pilot new or scaled-up whole-community harm reduction programmes.
  • Establish best practices for frontline police to refer meth users to DHBs, Ministry of Social Development, education resources and community-based support.

Reducing the harm meth does requires a two-prong approach to reduce supply and help the uses.

Labour’s policy has led to an increase in supply and created more addicts.

Immigration is broken


New Zealand is facing an acute shortage of health professionals while more than 1,000 registered doctors and nurses are facing a  long and frustrating wait in the residency queue:

GPs are urging the Government to urgently re-open residency for healthcare workers to avoid losing them overseas. 

There are more than 1000 registered doctors and nurses stuck in the frozen immigration queue – and Newshub has spoken to one doctor who’s giving up and leaving. 

Nina Fransham’s first New Zealand holiday was a Kiwi classic – travelling in a campervan, she saw how beautiful the country was and knew it would be great for children. 

She moved from the UK to Northland in December 2019. Loving it so much, she encouraged other foreign doctors to move to Northland – but her love has limits.

“Our lives just feel incredibly temporary and that’s incredibly frustrating,” she told Newshub. 

Fransham is stuck in the frozen residency queue for skilled migrants – unable to access KiwiSaver, healthcare or buy a house. So next week, she’s reluctantly moving back to the UK. 

“No one in their sane mind would fly all the way back to the UK in the middle of a world pandemic working in the NHS.”

But she’s far from alone.

When COVID-19 hit last year and the borders were slammed shut, Immigration New Zealand also shut down residency applications, leaving 10,000 skilled migrants in the queue.

Immigration New Zealand figures show among them are 901 registered nurses and 235 doctors – like Fransham. They’re healthcare workers New Zealand desperately needs, already in the country, working in our health system, just waiting on the Government.  . . 

Another doctor, Ann Solomon is facing the same long, frustrating wait:

New Zealand needs doctors like ​Ann Solomon so much the Government granted her a rare border exemption to enter the country after Covid-19, now she is thinking of going back to England because the situation around residency rights is so uncertain.

Facing major shortages in healthcare and education the Government created these border exemptions to fill critical worker shortages. Solomon came to New Zealand on such an exemption in August.

However, the Government did not fix other problems within the immigration system when it did, meaning even someone as highly-paid and sought-after as Solomon, who is a general practitioner, cannot be sure they will be allowed to stay in the country long-term as a permanent resident.

“I know lots of GPs are going to Australia and I know my colleague up the road has just given up and gone, which is just placing more of a burden on our practice. . . 

Solomon thought getting residency would be easy given how the Government made an exception for her at the border, but the process for selecting applications like hers for residency has been paused, meaning she has no timeline for when she might be able to buy a house or start contributing to KiwiSaver. . . 

It’s not just health professionals who are in the queue.

The Fair Initiative founder associate ​Charlotte te Riet Scholten-Phillips says an ongoing survey of 2385 migrants on temporary visas shows 82.4 per cent of them have considered moving to another country, while 69.7 per cent of people said the specific country they were thinking of offered up a clearer path to residency.

“A lot of us had perfectly OK lives ‘back home’. We left them because we believed New Zealand offered better, but it’s not that we can’t return if things here are awful, which they are currently,” te Riet Scholten-Phillips says, a British immigrant who moved from the Netherlands.

National Party Immigration spokeswoman ​Erica Stanford says she is concerned so many migrants are considering leaving while we have little ability to replace them because of border restrictions and low managed isolation (MIQ) capacity.

“It makes it even more important that we hold onto the people that we have in New Zealand, the highly skilled, talented people.

“We have a number of highly-skilled teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers that are onshore that are actively looking to leave because they’re either stuck in a residency queue that is going nowhere or they’re split from their families.

“If we want them to stay here, we need to treat them better.” . . 

Immigration is broken.

A small part of the problem could be lack of capacity in the Ministry of Immigration but most of the blame lies with the policy and the Minister who could change it with little if any delay.

How hard would it be to alter the current settings to allow anyone with a proven work record, stable employment and no criminal history to be granted residency?

While doing this, the Minister should also open some MIQ spaces to enable the family members to join migrants who are here. Keeping them apart as the government does is inhumane.

That would of course mean sorting out the MIQ debacle:

Anything is tolerable if it is temporary, especially if you are living to the promise of “building back better”, but what if the pain isn’t fleeting but permanent, or what you are building isn’t better, but worse? . . 

 Immigration New Zealand relationship manager Paul Millar certainly seems to think systems around MIQ bookings are unlikely to improve anytime soon and that costly tools could give people an advantage in securing spots.

“The one thing we can’t control is MIQ. A lot of people think that’s an immigration thing. While it is inextricably connected to the immigration process. MIQ is a beast all of its own making,” Millar told a gathering of exporters this week.

“We do say to businesses that you have to allow for that, for the MIQ process and timing and being able to either have a really quick finger or know a very tech-savvy company that can help you, and pay a premium to get a space.” . . 

This is a public servant suggesting people use virtual scalpers to get into MIQ.

Hastily set up systems, like the one created for managed isolation bookings, are fine if they are some sort of pit stop on the way to a new normal, but not if they are where we are supposed to end up.

Yet there is a real fear disruptive elements of the pandemic, like the chaos in international shipping, are set to become permanent fixtures.

Even if/when New Zealand gets sufficient people vaccinated to establish herd immunity, the borders won’t be opening as they were. Fully vaccinated people from countries with no community transmission of Covid-19 should be able to come in without needing a space in MIQ, but people who aren’t vaccinated and those from countries where the disease is in the community will still have to quarantine.

Limited managed isolation capacity, and the way it is allocated, is not just a humanitarian issue but an economic one.

Earlier on in the pandemic many criticised the use of managed isolation for “business trips”, but we will need to accommodate a certain level of business travel to maintain our country’s economic growth.

Exporters need people to buy their exports, even if those products are digital. And when you are negotiating across borders or competing against competitors who can meet buyers in-person an echoey Zoom connection won’t always cut it. . .

Yet it is clearly going to be unconscionable to use the MIQ system for business travel while citizens in need are effectively locked out of it and families of critical workers like teachers and healthcare professions are not able to use them either.

Surely this will all be fixed soon, you say? You would hope so, but if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we shouldn’t assume it will be fixed either. . . 

The need for a better MIQ system and facilities won’t go away in the short term. It is at least a medium, possibly long, term, problem and it needs medium to long term solutions.

But part of the solution to the worker shortage could be fixed almost immediately by making it far, far easier for those already here to gain residency so they and their families can stay.

It would also be paying heed to the be-kind mantra we’re all exhorted to follow but which the government is far better at preaching than practising.

Look, listen and learn


Has Groundswell become the Prime Minister’s Voldemort?:

 Organised by lobby group Groundswell NZ, the Howl of a Protest against the government’s environmental regulations — including the “ute tax” — saw convoys of tractors, trucks and utes rumble through main streets from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

The fact the protesters were well behaved and the protests had such a huge turnout made it impossible to dismiss them as the actions of a small number of radicals or perennially disaffected farmers. It was a big swathe of grassroots New Zealand on the move.

A very subdued Ardern spoke directly to voters on Friday evening on her Facebook page. She opened by euphemistically referring to the day’s protests as “activity around the country that broadly relates to our farming community and our primary sector”.

Tens of thousands of people protesting in more than 50 towns and cities is activity? That’s shades of Harry Potter and Voldemort, or he who must not be named.

Defending her government policies, she asserted that “We can’t stand still” in implementing commitments to climate change and freshwater because our trading partners demand it of us. Of course, farmers are not asking to “stand still” but rather believe that the changes are happening too quickly and they are not being adequately consulted. . . 

She said she’d listen but she’s not hearing what’s being said: that the answer to the problems must be practical and should follow models that are already working with farmers and councils working together.

Will she hear what Alice Sanders is saying:

Hey Jacinda Ardern,

I think it’s time to chat.

You see I’ve done a lot of thinking the last few days (moving breaks and pushing sheep up will do that to you). I thought a lot about the farmers at the Groundswell NZ protests (which we couldn’t attend, funny how you tax the people who can’t leave work for the protests isn’t it), I thought a lot about my life and upbringing and I thought a lot about you.

I wondered what your upbringing was like, I wondered if you’d ever spent time on a farm before you were in politics, before anyone knew who you were and it was a photo opp.

My upbringing was great, a real kiwi farming life, we didn’t have heaps but we had everything we needed and we were very loved. But I wondered if you watched your dad come home soaking wet, well after dark, exhausted night after night with his head in his hands after a weather event caused havoc on farm and animals?

Yet he still had the time to give you a cuddle, kiss you and tuck you and your siblings in at night. Do you watch your dad now in his 60’s sitting again with his head in hands as yet another raft of regulations are announced.

Regulations that will cost more and more or even worse in the case of the Crown Pastoral Lease bill could let you take our well loved, well managed land off us if you so desire. None of these regulations have an off set that means there will be further income to fund them, this is to be done with whatever money (if any) in the farming budget.

Do you wonder what the chain of these regulations is? Instead of retirement farmers now have to keep going. Those who have managers have to lift their expectations of those managers who then have to lift the expectations of their staff. This is causing stress beyond anything you could expect any person to endure.

Don’t forget a farmer never leaves the “office” they close the curtains and open them everyday and they are there. What do you think happens when this stress stacks up? You know of course, what happens to families, what happens to relationships, what happens to people. Divorce, domestic violence, suicide happens, all the time!

Let’s ignore that for a minute though (how you can I don’t know, neither does Mike King).

So regulations cost money and don’t make any, how do we free up the money in the farming system? Not lose animal health costs we never would do that.

Lose a labour unit, so instead of Dad coming in at 8 in the dark, it’s 10 in the dark and 6 in the morning start time And what happens to that labour unit who has lost his job and his home (most farm jobs provide accomodation to staff remember).

Well he moves to town, can he find a rental? Of course not, you’ve upped all the healthy home standards and bright line test so that mum and dad investors who make up most of our property “investors” have decided to sell. And who buys those houses? Well middle class white people (like me), so what happens to our most at risk people?

They end up in emergency housing aka motels. These are the people you campaigned to save!

My goodness.

And those farm owners who can’t afford to carry on, they sell up.

But land prices and debts as high as they are, guess who will purchase it. Yup overseas investors, and they are already doing it. Isn’t that who you were trying to stop?

Now going back to those protests, did you show yourself? No. Did your so called agricultural minister Damien O’Connor MP show himself? No.

And what did you say to the farmers who are proven to be the most advanced, most sustainable, forward thinking farmers in the world, who provided for the country not just with food but with export to support the economy and pay for your COVID relief package!

Oh just that you are carrying on with the regulations and in saying that you are saying you just don’t care. We are forever moving forward as a farming community, always working to nourish our lands and our animals so it continues on for our children, our country and I guess your wages and you can’t see that and neither can your party.

It’s not about utes, it’s not about money. It’s about our people, our lives, our country and our economy.

So yes Jacinda, let’s chat. 

 And while farmers chat, look, listen and understand that what works can’t be designed and dictated from desks in Wellington.

What works is already being done on the best of farms and the recipe can be replicated, adapted and applied to others, without the big stick regulations so beloved by this government.

Shane Reti on vaccines, travel bubble, and cyber security


Nathan Rarere interviewed National’s Deputy Leader, Shane Reti.


It’s good to hear from someone who understands what matters and knows what he’s talking about.

‘”meh, we’ll go whenever” approach’ costing us all


Tim Watkins says the government’s lax approach to vaccination is costing us:

From “go hard and go early” in March last year, we seem to have slumped into a “meh, we’ll go whenever” approach.

The argument is made by some that we are taking a measured approach, waiting to see how the vaccines work elsewhere, waiting our turn as a relatively healthy patient in a sick world.

And it’s true we can’t – and wouldn’t want to – demand more of Pfizer when the rest of the world is in such desperate need.

That is debatable. Eric Crampton explains:

For those who worry about stealing vaccines from places that might need it more, fear not. The Government could contract for twice as much as New Zealand might need, with extra doses to be sent to poorer countries via COVAX.

Richer countries paying now helps build more production lines for delivering a lot more vaccine to the whole world in a far bigger hurry. It would leave the world much better prepared for new variants as they emerge. Far from being stingy about such things, economists have urged governments to spend a lot more to get vaccines rolled out and broadly distributed far more quickly.

Back to Watkins:

As far as the Pfizer drug goes, we get what we’re given when they’re ready to give it.

But that doesn’t stop us from doing what we can do much better and with much more urgency. Like preparing for the next vaccine. Or testing properly. Or getting the highest risk New Zealanders vaccinated pronto.

Urgency matters, leadership experts will tell you, not because fast is always best. Urgency creates a focus and discipline. It means moving towards a priority, an end goal with a clear plan and markers of success along the way.

The point of operating with urgency is to work with intention and to inform your priorities. And it helps make clear to people that there’s danger in the status quo and value in change. That attitude will help build national unity and dissolve vaccine hesitancy.

Yet in response after response, urgency is lacking. The trend is clear. And while we can be grateful New Zealanders aren’t dying, many are suffering as a result.

More and more this looks at least as much as if it’s due to good luck rather than good management.

After initial promises of urgency, saliva testing has slipped by the wayside.

Last year the critical Simpson-Roche report (initial report delivered September, final report only made public in December) urged the government to get on with it “as soon as possible”.

Saliva testing provides for more and easier Covid-19 testing.

In May, Asia Pacific Healthcare Group (APHG) was given $50 million to do 20,000 saliva tests of MIQ staff per week. How many had it done as of July? The NZ Herald says 394 and Newshub 386, but either way it’s hopeless. The company is keen to go but the government seems to be holding it back. . .

Then there’s the shortage of workers:

New Zealand companies are in dire straits, to the point where this week restaurants turned off their lights as a protest in frustration at the lack of help getting immigrant workers into the country.

Many businesses need workers or will close. Existing staff are being over-worked and fear losing their jobs.

It’s a pressure we’ve known about since borders were first closed, yet still, the shortages remain unresolved.

One place we could have housed newly arriving migrant workers – and refugees and more returning New Zealanders – would have been in purpose-built quarantine centres. If they had been started last year.

The idea of building special centres was debated as far back as last year’s election; I argued on the Caucus podcast at the time that it was probably inevitable and it made sense to make a start.

Yet this week has Hipkins suggesting the government are only now considering taking a look at acting on this idea.

Only taking a look and only doing it now? That’s late and lax again.

What about New Zealanders aged over 60, who were placed firmly at the front of the queue when it came to vaccinations?

This week the NZ Herald reported that “62.8 percent (696,198) of older Kiwis [60 and over] haven’t received a vaccine, 15.4 percent (171,379) have only had one jab and 21.8 percent (241,843) have had both.”

I phoned to make a booking for a 91 year-old yesterday after finding he’d had no notice and no help from his GP’s surgery where he was told they knew no more than he did. The woman who answered the phone couldn’t be faulted for her determination to help but the first available spot was on September 1.

The vaccination itself, by most reports and in most parts of the country, is a simple and quick experience. But the macro picture doesn’t look good.

And as if to underline this lack of urgency, the Canterbury DHB has just said it intends to vaccinate group 4 in September, rather than late July as nationally planned.

From ‘go hard and go early’ to ‘too little, too late’

The government has lost its sense of urgency and in doing so has lost its way with its response to the pandemic.

Its “direction of travel” has become slow and unclear.

And in this case, the political is personal.

Kiwis ranked in group 3 are eligible for vaccinations now and I’ve understood that to be those 65 and over, pregnant women, disabled people and those with underlying health conditions.

But I’ve never seen or heard those “underlying conditions” spelled out.

If you go on the Ministry of Health website it says it is for those eligible for the publicly-funded flu vaccine. That means nothing to me, so imagine my surprise when I was on RNZ’s Sunday Panel with fellow-asthmatic Penny Ashton and she said she was off for her jab. It turns out that if you use a daily inhaler, as I do, you’re eligible.

But I have received no text or email telling me I’m group 3, even though the Auckland DHB’s website says people like me are meant to be sent “invitations”.

I had to ask my GP if I fit the bill because I’d had no information from him, as some reports say I should, and as the only health professional who knows my medications.

In this, however, I seem to be in good company, with many eligible people not being contacted. While some ineligible people are.

So far this increasingly lax approach has not cost us lives, but it is costing us.

As examples of complacency build up, it is time Labour rediscovered the sense of urgency it showed in those first hectic weeks of the pandemic last year.

Could it be, as Peter Dunne says:

Since it won a stunning election victory last year on the back of Covid-19, is the government now looking to keep the spectre of Covid-19 well and truly alive until 2023?

We are certainly not at the front of the vaccination queue as the government boasted last year.

I can think of only two reasons for being so far towards the back of the queue: either, as Dunne suggests, a deliberate political ploy, or plain and ismple incompetence.

Whichever it is we’re all paying a very high cost for the slow and shambolic rollout of the vaccines and the lack of a plan for what happens once most of us are vaccinated.

If 12 weeks is better . . .


Research from the UK suggests a 12 week gap between the first and second doses of the Covid vaccine is better than a shorter time:

Experience from the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout suggests 12 weeks may be the optimum gap between first and second doses, giving a better immune response than when the doses are closer together. So why are so many New Zealanders being offered their vaccines three weeks apart?

When the British Government launched its vaccination programme, the big gap between first and second doses was more a function of necessity than science.

The strategy was primarily focused on getting one dose in the arm of as many citizens as possible, with the second dose coming later, when supply ramped up.

Isn’t that the scenario here? We don’t have enough vaccines to give enough people, including those deemed to be more vulnerable to Covid-19, the first dose.

That gap between doses mostly ended up being two to three months apart.

But as researchers looked at the results, they found that the delay turned out to have another major benefit. “The bigger the gap you can leave between vaccines the better the immune response”, Cambridge University consultant clinical virologist Dr Chris Smith told RNZ. “Twelve weeks was de rigueur.”

Same message from a June 2021 study from the University of Birmingham and Public Health England: “Antibody response in people aged over 80 is three-and-a-half times greater in those who have the second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine after 12 weeks compared to those who have it at a three-week interval.” . . 

The World Health Organization recently talked about 21 to 28-day intervals between Pfizer doses, but says the second dose can be extended to 12 weeks to gain coverage for high priority populations.

In contrast to the UK, New Zealand has adopted a different strategy, focusing on optimising two doses for our most vulnerable citizens and minimising the gap between doses, in some cases, to as few as three weeks.

The UK research tells us that a more successful rollout strategy for New Zealand should look less like New Zealand in June 2021 (above).

Instead, it should look more like the UK in March 2021 (below) . . .

Is it better to have more people partially vaccinated or around half as many fully vaccinated?

What we do know is that New Zealand is a country with zero-community cases, and as Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett of the University of Newcastle’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy put so clearly: “The improved immunity conferred from waiting longer must be weighed against the risk of contracting Covid in the meantime.”

As there is little to no risk of contracting Covid-19 in New Zealand, it seems logical that New Zealand should focus on improving immunity over the longer term – and that currently suggests a longer gap between doses. . .

If 12 weeks between doses gives better protection than a shorter gap a change in strategy to delay the second dose for most people could provide two benefits.  More people could get the partial protection from a first dose and then get better long term protection from a bigger gap before the second dose is given.

Given we have no community transmission at the moment and a shortage of vaccines, using the supplies scheduled for second doses to give more people a first dose seems to be better than double dosing fewer people sooner.

Mixed messages


The messages in advertisements about Covid-19 are clear: get tested if you have any symptoms; stay home if you have symptoms; self isolate if you’ve been somewhere someone with the disease has been; use the tracer app.

The message from the reaction to the discovery that a Sydney man has the disease after a wandering round Wellington for a weekend isn’t so clear.

People who were at the places the visitor visited have been told to stay home and get tested on day 5 and stay home until the test result comes back.

That’s clear enough but what makes the message appear mixed is the  lack of urgency in alerting people about which places the visitor had visited.

When Hipkins was asked on Wednesday why it had taken 10 hours between being notified of a Covid case in Wellington and telling the public, he responded: “There was a night-time in between’’.

How would they react if ambulance, fire of police services waited 10 hours to respond to a 111 call because there was a night in between? Shouldn’t the response to a potential Covid-19 outbreak be treated with the same urgency with which emergency services respond?

When Bloomfield was asked why business owners were informing the public about locations of interest faster than the Ministry of Health, he responded: “Our preference is to notify businesses or places of interest before the information becomes public.”

Why? The delay meant that people who ought to have stayed home had gone to work, school and other places where they could infect others if they were infected.

When Ardern was asked why the Ministry of Health had used complicated case categories that were meant to have been discarded, she responded: “Ultimately, the most important thing is there’s clear advice for people and what they need to do, and that was there.”

But the use of the complicated case categories meant advice wasn’t clear.

None of these answers pass the public expectation test that information is passed on as quickly as possible and in a way that can be easily interpreted.

The idea that the Ministry of Health doesn’t operate overnight when the country is potentially exposed to a new outbreak is baffling.

Claiming a business needs to be told it’s a location of interest before the people who visited it only makes sense if the working theory is that staff are somehow at greater risk than customers.

Even if that was the case, every applicant for a Covid-Tracer poster has to give email addresses and phone numbers. It shouldn’t take 10 hours to contact them.

In the case of the confusing category names, they were eventually deleted by the Ministry of Health after Bloomfield asked his staff to get rid of them.

But they’d already been released publicly with the first tranche of locations of interest on Wednesday morning, putting some people into a spin about what was required.

Ardern was dismissive when asked by Newsroom why the lessons hadn’t been learnt, saying the action people needed to take was also publicly available.

That assumes everyone is monitoring the Ministry of Health website, when the reality is many New Zealanders rely on word-of-mouth or snippets of news, which often would be limited to just a case category. . . 

Criticism doesn’t stop there.

People faced long delays and queues at testing stations.

. . .But a woman who was at the Jack Hacketts and Four Kings bars between 7pm and 9.30pm on Saturday, said she was turned away from a Lower Hutt testing centre because it was too busy: “We’re all in limbo. We can’t get a test. We can’t even get through to someone to book a test,” she said. . .

If you think this sounds horribly familiar, it’s because there were similar problems in Auckland during the last lockdown there.

I’m not sure which is worse – mixed messages or failure to learn from previous mistakes.

Both undermine confidence in those who are supposed to be in charge and make it less likely people will do as requested.

Better luck than management


New Zealand’s success in keeping Covid-19 at bay has been due at least as much to good luck as good management.

If that luck continues, the Sydney man who tested positive for the disease after a weekend enjoying some of Wellignton’s delights will have kept it to himself.

If it doesn’t we’re in for some, possibly many, cases here.

Until most of us are vaccinated we’ll need a lot more luck, because good management seems to be lacking in the vaccine roll out.

A friend who lives near a small town told me that the health centre had booked the elderly and vulnerable for vaccinations then had to postpone them after the Ministry told them that they’d get no more vaccines until August.

Meanwhile, other friends who live in a small town not far away from the first one, got a phone call from their GP.

She told them that a vaccination centre had been set up for Maori. It wasn’t  getting many takers and if they popped in, even though neither is 65 and both are in good health, they’d get their first dose.

They took her advice, popped in, were greeted with enthusiasm and vaccinated.

These aren’t the only such cases.

Vulnerable people in Bluff are being told they’ll have to wait until the end of July to get vaccinated  but in Dunedin Te Kaika  pop-up clinic is for Maori, Pasifika, over 65s and the vulnerable, but anyone is welcome to come.

There might be good reasons that Te Kaika is welcoming anyone when people who ought to take priority aren’t getting their shots, but it sends the message that getting vaccinated owes more to better luck than management.

Rural round-up


Rising stars of primary industries acknowledged:

A 50 percent jump in the number of nominations for the 2021 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards underpins the amount of innovation and leadership going on in the sector and growing awareness of the need to celebrate it, Terry Copeland says.

The Federated Farmers of NZ chief executive said from 65 nominations, up from just over 40 last year, judges have had the tough task of selecting finalists in seven categories. Winners will be announced at the PINZ Summit in Christchurch on 6 July.

“With a whole set of gnarly challenges in front of us – from global warming, biosecurity threats, cost pressures and demand for more community water storage, to name a few – robust science, entrepreneurial spirit and cross-agency teamwork is needed,” Terry said. . .

Farmers need to better prepare to deal with the barrage of regulations aimed at the sector – Mike Cranstone:

Farmers need to consider how they can have a stronger voice to represent their industry as it faces an endless barrage of regulations.

To be effective, agriculture must identify who it should be lobbying, and what messages are going to garner support. It needs a strategy rather than ad hoc responses, and we need to resource it properly, so we have a serious crack at defending the future of our industry.

The threat is not only to agriculture but to New Zealand’s future prosperity, this is too important for us to continue bumbling along.

Agriculture is facing rules and restrictions on many fronts; Freshwater, biodiversity, animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions and also bearing the brunt of rampant local government rate rises. . . 

Maple syrup in New Zealand: Trial aims to test sap production :

A trial near the Canterbury village of Hanmer Springs aims to see if maple syrup can be produced in New Zealand.

A small plantation of maple trees was planted there last autumn by the University of Canterbury.

Despite Canada’s freezing winters playing a pivotal role in its maple syrup production, research team lead Professor Matt Watson believes sap production can happen here.

“We planted our first maple saplings near Hanmer Springs last autumn and will coppice-prune them to keep them small. . . 


Vero urges Canterbury farmers affected by flooding to use mental health benefit on their insurance:

Vero insurance has today urged its rural customers affected by flooding in the Canterbury region to make use of the mental health benefit available on their rural insurance policies.

“The flooding in Canterbury is having a significant impact on our rural insurance customers, with inundation and damage to farming infrastructure like fences, pump and other farm assets and buildings,” says Chris Brophy, Executive Manager SME and Rural Insurance.

Brophy says that a large number of the 350 claims Vero has received due to the storm so far have been from rural customers, and that it expects the number of claims to increase further. . . 

Tough times for wine tour guides ’it is what it is’ :

The border opening with Australia has done little to re-invigorate the fortunes of Marlborough wine tour guides.

Marlborough Wine Tours used to take about 3000 mainly international guests around the region’s vineyards and cellar doors each year.

But this season it was down to less than a fifth of its normal clientele.

Guide and operator of the business Jess Daniell said guides were having to find other work. . .

Premer and Tambar Springs growers unite to tackle alarming wild pig problem – Lucy Kinbacher:

Growers on the Liverpool Plains have eradicated at least 1500 wild pigs in just four months, saving the district around $100,000 in damage.

While the mouse plague dominates headlines right now, this year local farmers around Premer and Tambar Springs faced an even bigger threat to their high yielding crops.

But when Local Land Services surveyed the district about the issue they found they lacked a combined pest management approach against pigs.

It wasn’t until 20 landholders gathered at the Premer pub to hear from Central West Local Land Services biosecurity officer Will Thorncraft that they decided to establish a pest management group and join with National Parks and North West LLS to tackle the problem. . . 


Slack and late


Oh dear, government rhetoric isn’t matched by performance yet again:

Newshub can reveal just over 60 percent of a group labelled ‘high-risk’ by the Government are yet to receive their first vaccination to protect them against COVID-19. 

They include frontline health workers, those in long-term care, and older Māori and Pacific people. 

And only half of another high-risk group – those who live with border workers or managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) employees – have received their first jab. . .

When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. . . 

But Newshub has obtained Ministry of Health data that tells a different story when it comes to some of our highest-risk groups. 

“I think we’ve seen a lot of self-congratulatory talk by the Government,” said Otago University public health professor Nick Wilson.

“We should be really pushing the vaccination programme at a much faster rate.” . . 

The government’s claim to have gone hard and early in its response to Covid-19 was debatable.

The glaring gap between what they say and what’s happening with the vaccination roll-out is even worse – it’s both slack and late.

That poses a health risk to everyone who is unprotected and leaves us all with the threat that, like Taiwan and Victoria, we could be subjected to another lockdown.



Happy World Milk Day


Raise a glass to milk* for its contribution to nutrition and the economy on World Milk Day:

In 2001, World Milk Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to recognize the importance of milk as a global food, and to celebrate the dairy sector. Each year since, the benefits of milk and dairy products have been actively promoted around the world, including how dairy supports the livelihoods of one billion people. 

To help create a positive stream of conversation, the 2021 celebrations will begin with the Enjoy Dairy Rally May 29 – 31, culminating with World Milk Day on Tuesday, June 1. This year, our theme will focus on Sustainability in the dairy sector with messages around the environment, nutrition and socio-economics. In doing so we will re-introduce dairy farming to the world. . . 


*Or if like me, you don’t’ drink milk, celebrate the day by using it in your cooking or with butter and/or cheese instead.

How many more broken promises


John Roughan writes:

It was hard to give the Budget much credence after reading the Auditor-General’s report on the Covid-19 vaccination programme this week. The gulf between word and deed in Government has probably never been greater.

From the moment the Cabinet gave the vaccination programme entirely to the Ministry of Health you just knew it wouldn’t turn out well. Ministries these days do what the Auditor-General calls “high-level” planning. He doesn’t mean high quality, he means the plans made on high that do not get down to the harder work of deciding exactly who will do what, when, where and how. . . 

“High-level” planning isn’t just disconnected from practice on the ground, it thinks up needless things that get in the way of practical work. But mostly it just wastes time and high salaries thinking of the bleeding obvious.

The Auditor-General reports that a Cabinet paper in December set out four principles: that vaccines would be free and safe, the roll-out would be sequenced as vaccines became available, the sequencing would be based on need, and would continue until there was confidence the population is sufficiently protected.” Well, yeah.

He concludes those principles were not sufficient to guide even “high level” design decisions, with the result “some decisions were relitigated late. Other decisions are being made later than is desirable …” This not going to end well.

If, as is likely, the vaccination programme doesn’t go as promised, it’s not just our physical health at risk, it’s the country’s economic wellbeing and everything that relies on that is too.

Closed borders and the risk of further lockdowns carry significant financial and personal costs.

Whether or not you think it’s fair to link problems with the vaccination rollout with scepticism about other government promises, there are several heroic assumptions in the Budget, about which Steven Joyce writes:

. . .It’s no secret we are living on borrowed money — much of the world currently is.

Australia’s core debt as a result of all their extra pandemic spending is going to peak at 40 per cent of GDP.

Ours is predicted to top out at 48 per cent, an uncomfortably high number for a small internationally exposed seismically-active country with high levels of private debt.

And stopping at 48 per cent only happens provided we grow faster than Australia, inflation doesn’t appear, interest rates don’t go up, commodity prices remain high, the border is open at the end of this year, house prices are tamed perfectly, the Finance Minister rediscovers his fiscal restraint, and the Government’s move to remake the New Zealand economy in its own image doesn’t have any negative effects on business investment here.

If you believe all of that will happen, then I have a bridge to sell you. . . 

Anyone want to bet on a lot of things going right and few or none going wrong?

It would be a very risky bet given the gulf between announcements and achievement from this government and the last one:

Labour is big on promises but short on delivery. Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s Budget Day speeches make for sobering reading when it comes to the scale of failure to deliver under Labour.

Here are just a few examples from Labour’s previous Budgets:


Labour promised KiwiBuild in 2017’s ‘mini-Budget’ with a $2.1 billion allocation to get it started. The scheme was supposed to build 16,000 houses in its first three years and 100,000 over ten. In reality Labour has delivered just 871 KiwiBuild houses and scrapped the targets promised to New Zealanders.

Stuff projected last year that, at its rate of construction at the time, KiwiBuild would take more than 400 years to reach its target.

KiwiBuild – Labour’s flagship policy – has become the biggest public policy failure in New Zealand history.


Robertson also used the 2017 mini-Budget to describe Labour’s ‘fees free’ policy as:

“one of the most transformative policies for the productivity of the New Zealand economy that we will see in many, many years.”

Despite being what Labour described as one of the most transformative policies ever, fees-free attracted less than two thirds of its projected student numbers and Labour dumped the promised extension of the scheme last year.


While these days Labour might like to blame the murky Provincial Growth Fund on former coalition partners, Grant Robertson was pretty glowing when he was allocating funding to it as Minister of Finance.

In 2017’s mini-Budget debate, he went as far as to say:

“When we look at the criteria in that Provincial Growth Fund, it says everything about what I want this Government to be marked out for.”

This is the same Provincial Growth Fund criticised by the Auditor-General for having vague criteria that often wasn’t met by projects it funded.

Labour went on to axe the Fund but not before spending $100 million on a marae upgrade programme promised to create more than 3000 jobs. With half the money spent, it has created just 158.


Grant Robertson made sure to use his Budget 2018 speech to trumpet Labour fulfilling its promise to “stop the state house sell-off.”

The only problem? It didn’t.

Newshub reported just last month that Labour has sold or demolished almost 2000 state houses since Robertson’s speech and the number of state houses managed by Kāinga Ora has actually fallen.


Robertson also used his Budget 2018 speech to announce funding for Labour’s Chief Technology Officer. Labour said the Chief Technology Officer would play a ‘key role in our technology future’ and develop a ‘digital strategy for New Zealand.’

The recruitment process turned into a massive trainwreck and the Government ended up dumping the whole thing, failing to deliver on yet another promise.


Budget 2018 also saw Robertson claim the Government wants to be “a leader in urgently reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

In the year following Robertson’s speech, emissions increased by 2 per cent and last year, New Zealand imported more coal than in any year since 2006.


Robertson set aside $100 million in 2018 for the Green Investment Fund which he said would “kickstart investment in assets and technology to reduce carbon emissions.”

17 months later, the Fund had not invested a single cent.


Jacinda Ardern has described child poverty as the reason why she got into politics. Grant Robertson has also mentioned the issue in his Budget Day speeches, including the various measures and targets Labour will use to hold itself accountable.

In his Budget 2019 speech, Robertson reaffirmed the Government’s promise to halve child poverty over 10 years, a back-down in itself given Labour promised Kiwis it would lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020. This original promise would have been a 63 per cent reduction over three years.

Using the same measure Ardern based her promise on, her Government has actually overseen an increase of 1,500 children living in poverty between 2017 and 2020 according to official Stats NZ child poverty data.

Promised a 100,000 reduction. Delivered a 1,500 increase.


Grant Robertson stated in his Budget 2019 speech that “it is time to finally take mental health seriously” and said “the investment in our mental health priority is worth $1.9 billion.”

Despite this, a report from The Guardian notes mental health outcomes have worsened under Labour. And Stuff revealed in April that the Government had underspent on several mental health initiatives announced in 2019 and “had not yet spent a single dollar of a $25m fund for student mental health announced in 2020.”

A lot of promises, not much delivery.


Labour has failed to deliver on pretty much every infrastructure promise it has made. Don’t forget Jacinda Ardern’s first major announcement as Labour Leader: that she would build light rail from Auckland’s CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021 and that she would start it “straight away.”

It is now 2021 and not one centimetre of light rail has been built.

The Finance Minister used his Budget 2020 speech to refer back to the “significant start” Labour had made on infrastructure with the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced a few months before.

The Programme included several of the roading projects that were underway under National and cancelled or delayed by Labour.

But now that the election is out of the way, Labour is refusing to say if these projects will even go ahead.

Like Labour’s other budgets, this year’s is full of more promises to deliver ‘transformative’ policies that won’t be delivered.

Time and again the government has been long on announcements and very, very short on delivery.

I too have a bridge to sell anyone who believes that what’s been promised in the Budget and what will be delivered is any different.

Are we surprised?


We might have sympathy for a ‘technical anomaly’ that requires a law change because the government’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine went beyond what the Medicines Act allowed.

But that sympathy doesn’t extend to two other health related news items:

Auditor-General John Ryan has raised major doubts about whether everyone will be vaccinated for Covid-19 by the end of the year.

He has released his review of the government’s roll out plan, outlining several shortcomings in the government’s plan.

He outlined worries about enough supply, about the number of vaccinators, about reaching remote communities and about confusion among district health boards.

“Problems were inevitable for a rollout of the scale and complexity of this one,” Ryan said.

“I am not yet confident that all the pieces will fall into place quickly enough for the programme to ramp up to the level required over the second half of 2021. There is a real risk that it will take more time than currently anticipated to get there.”

The lack of vaccinators posed a “significant risk” to getting the rollout done on time, and the Ministry of Health should get moving on the non-regulated workforce – non-medical workers who would be trained to immunise, Ryan said. . .

It’s not difficult to share the AG’s lack of confidence when persisting issues with our contact tracing capacity, with staff during the so-called Valentine’s Day cluster at risk of burnout despite dealing with just a handful of cases.

Emergency planning documents from the February outbreak have been obtained, which show concerns were flagged about “limited resources” almost immediately. 

At the peak of the outbreak, with just 15 active community cases and 160 people to follow up within a day, the majority of staff were not working sustainable or appropriate hours. 

It’s raised concerns with how we’d cope with a significant outbreak – like what Taiwan is currently experiencing, with 700 local cases over the past week. . . 

It’s also raised concerns, added to by the AG’s report, that assurances that everyone who wants to be vaccinated by the end of the year will be.

If the Ministry can’t cope with a relatively small and localised challenge, how can we have confidence it will cope with a nationwide roll-out of the vaccine?

And are we surprised this looks like another government initiative where the promise won’t be matched by the delivery?

From success to shags


For a while there we were first, or nearly first in the world for our response to Covid-19.

That relatively relatively few people contracted the disease, relatively few died from it is cause for congratulations.

We were also going to be first in the queue for vaccines but the slow roll-out is putting us well down the success-list and there is a human and economic cost to that.

Dr Gorman said without widespread vaccination we remain “isolated”. 

“Yes there is an argument that vaccination has most application in countries with rampant disease, but there’s an equally strong argument we’re like a shag on a rock, and we’ll be a shag on a rock until we’re vaccinated, and our economy suffers. The next GFC, the next earthquake in Christchurch, we can’t buffer it.”

From success to shags because once more the government has shown it’s much better at announcing than delivering.

Only front of signing queue


Remember being told we’d be at the front of the vaccine queue? Now we’re told that’s not what the government meant:

The Prime Minister’s comments today in Question Time that Chris Hipkins’ promise that New Zealand would be at the “front of the queue” for Covid-19 vaccines actually meant that we would be at the front of the queue in terms of signing contracts are baffling, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Her assertion that ‘distribution is secondary’ demonstrates how woeful the Government’s vaccination programme is. Signing a contract does not protect Kiwis from Covid-19.”

Distribution is secondary?

Tell that to the people who can’t reunite with their families. Tell that to people whose businesses are compromised because they can’t travel or who live in fear of another lockdown. Tell that to people who fear for their health or that of their family and friends.

“When Chris Hipkins told New Zealanders that we were ‘at the front of the queue’ for Covid-19 vaccines, we rightly thought that meant New Zealand would quickly roll-out the Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet again the Prime Minister is moving the goalposts. Faced with a very slow roll-out where New Zealand is the 120th slowest in the world and the second slowest in the OECD, the Prime Minister’s new line is that ‘front of the queue’ just means speed of signing contracts.

Front of the queue for signing contracts? Why would that be cause for celebration? Does she really expect us to believe that?

“Why would the Government celebrate being first in line to sign a contract to ensure slow delivery, and consequential slow roll-out of vaccines? It beggars belief.

“The vaccine roll-out is a mess.”

We’ve received pamphlets in the mail, we’ve seen advertisements in the paper and we keep hearing them on the radio reassuring that the vaccine is safe and that we’ll get it.

What we’re not getting is when we’ll get it nor are we getting confidence in the roll-out. Playing word games trying to get us to believe that front of the queue doesn’t mean now what it meant a few months ago isn’t helping.

Mike Hosking asks, when will we start demanding better from the response?

. . . Vaccinated travellers all over the world are now starting to get on planes and fly and we as of now are missing out. . .

Our issue, according to our esteemed leader who told us a few weeks ago when we asked when the borders would be opening to vaccinated travellers, said that was an open question, which is code for she hasn’t thought about it. . . 

Any mountaineer knows getting to the top of the mountain is only half way.

Other countries who were well behind us in stopping the spread of the disease are already well down the mountain while we still don’t know the plan for the descent.

At some point a level of normality will have returned and places like Britain and the states are seeing their vaccination programmes as being comprehensive enough to be able to do that

Is it really possible the fear instilled in us by a government bereft of a plan beyond a closed border is really going to let the world get back to life and keep us locked up? . . 

As each day passes it becomes clearer where this story is heading. Vaccines work, the quicker you complete your programme, the more normal you can become, the world is clearly more than happy to drop restrictions lower borders and get life on a new track.

We sit here unvaccinated, borders closed, and no decision around what is next how and when.

It seems odd and increasingly criminal we can be recognised for a solid Covid response but because of our own fear and lack of planning cut ourselves out of the joining the rest of the world.

When do we start demanding better?

There’s no doubt the government was good at stopping Covid-19 causing the devastation it did in many other countries.

But repeated mistakes and repeated breaches at the border show that at least some of the success was due more to luck than management.

It will take a lot more good management than luck to make a success of the roll-out and trusting us with the truth, rather than trying to make us believe what was meant wasn’t what was said would be a good start.

Rural round-up


McBride leads Fonterra with the heart – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra chair Peter McBride has jumped into the biggest job of his considerable co-operative governance life – changing the giant dairy processor’s capital structure to suit the times.

“The issues raised through this review need to be addressed early,” McBride said.

“We have a misalignment of investor profiles and we have to avoid a slippery slope towards corporatisation.

“Waiting for the problem to be at our feet will limit our options and likely increase the cost of addressing them, at the expense of future opportunities for us.” . . 

Meat collaboration benefits all – Hugh Stringleman:

Resilience and collaboration within the red meat industry underpinned the response to covid-19 and managing drought issues across much of the country, according to the latest Red Meat Report.

It is the second in a series by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, after the first was published last August.

Respective chief executives Sam McIvor and Sirma Karapeeva said collaboration had never been stronger and the recently renewed sector strategy was a strong platform to maximise the contribution to the New Zealand economy.

The report contains sections on the Red Meat Profit Partnership, Mycoplasma bovis, global trade worth $9.2 billion in 2020, free-trade agreements, the Taste Pure Nature origin brand, industry efforts in the environment, innovation and research and the 90,000-strong workforce. . . 

Rabbits: a seaside town over-run – Melanie Reid & Jill Herron:

A small South Island town is under siege from a plague of rabbits that has taken up residence over the entire area

The seaside village of Mōeraki in North Otago paints a pretty picture from a distance but up close, under the buildings, on the hills and along roadsides, things quickly get less attractive.

The place is infested with thousands of rabbits and residents are fighting a losing battle.

“They’re living under houses, they’re living under trailers, water tanks, boats, they’re literally everywhere. It’s ridiculous,” says local resident Ross Kean. . .

Champion of Cheese Awards 2021:

This year’s New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards has recognised long term favourites as well as newcomers among its 27 trophy recipients.

The four Supreme Champion awards went to Kāpiti and Mahoe, two highly awarded cheesemakers with a proud history; The Drunken Nanny with 11 years of cheesemaking, as well as Annie & Geoff Nieuwenhuis of Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese who were named MilkTestNZ Champion Cheesemaker after only three years of commercial cheesemaking.

The trophies were awarded at a Gala Awards Dinner at SkyCity in Hamilton last night (Wednesday 05 May 2021) and followed judging of more than 310 cheeses from 35 cheese companies at Wintec in February. Chief Judge Jason Tarrant led a panel of 32 judges to assess the cheeses. . . 

2021 Peter Snow Memorial Award Goes To Kerikeri GP:

Kerikeri GP Dr Grahame Jelley has been announced as the 2021 recipient of the Peter Snow Memorial Award.

The award was announced at the National Rural Health Conference at Wairakei Resort in Taupō on Friday 30 April 2021.

The Peter Snow Memorial Award honours Dr Peter Snow and his contribution to rural communities as well as recognising an individual for their outstanding contribution to rural health either in service, innovation or health research.

Grahame, currently a GP in Kerikeri, was nominated for his service as a rural General Practitioner and his dedication to rural health for more than 30 years. . .

Stunning high-country grazing farm with multiple recreational benefits placed on the market for sale:

One of the most picturesque livestock farms in the South Island – with landscape for hosting a plethora of recreational activities and stunning views in conjunction with a sheep and beef grazing operation – has been placed on the market for sale.

The Larches – located at the entrance to the Cardrona Valley some seven kilometres south-west of Wanaka in Central Otago – is a 976-hectare farm spread over a mix of irrigated Cardrona River flats, along with lower north/north-west facing terraces and rocky outcrop hills climbing up to the skyline of the Pisa Range.

The Larches currently runs half-bred sheep and Angus-cross cattle. Located at 446 Cardrona Valley Road on the outskirts of Wanaka leading into the Crown Range, The Larches freehold farm is now on the market for sale by deadline treaty through Bayleys Wanaka, with offers closing on June 4, 2021. . .

Saturday soapbox


Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse but not to abuse.

For every fight won, for each battle lost, for those still fighting, I proudly wear teal.

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day.



School buses need seatbelts


Phillipa Cameron is driving many extra kilometres to keep her children safe:

Philippa Cameron will continue driving a 64km round trip to Kurow twice a day until she can be assured her young daughters will be safely belted in on their school bus ride.

The Otematata mother, who has more than 16,900 followers on her Instagram page What’s for Smoko, has launched a petition to get seatbelts on school buses and has managed to collect about 3000 signatures so far.

The issue made its way on to Mrs Cameron’s radar about a year ago, when her eldest daughter Flora was about to turn 5.

“I was that new mum who was looking at how my daughter was going to get to school,” she said.

It was unacceptable to Mrs Cameron that her small child, who was legally required to be in a carseat when travelling by car, could climb on to a school bus and travel along country roads at high speeds, without any type of restraint.

It is risky enough in town at speeds up to 50kph, it’s much more dangerous on country roads and highways at much higher speeds.

She was not the only mother concerned about the issue, but she was one of the lucky ones who had the time to drive her children to their Kurow School, from Otematata Station, where her and husband Joe live.

“Then you’ve got the mothers who are in a position that they can’t take their children. And then they’ve got this terrible mum guilt, you know.

“They have to put their kids on the bus and put their faith and trust in a driver, who gets to have a seatbelt, by the way.

“I feel their pain, because I understand why they have to put their children on the bus.”

In August last year, then Minister of Transport Phil Twyford had told her there was no change in sight for the laws, Mrs Cameron said.

Now new Transport Minister Michael Wood was saying the same thing, citing cost as the biggest hurdle. . . 

What cost do you put on a child’s safety?

Given the law that puts so much responsibility on a person operating a business or enterprise to ensure all workers and customers are safe, how can it be legal to not have seatbelts on school buses – or any bus, come to that?

The petition has the support of Rural Women and Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers transport and health & safety spokesperson Karen Williams is asking rural residents to sign a petition calling for a law change requiring seat belts in school buses. . . 

Karen also believes the current situation is unacceptable.

“When our children are babies we invest in baby capsules, then car seats with 5 point harnesses, both rear facing and then forward facing as the baby’s neck gets stronger, and then lastly booster seats until they are tall enough to safely fit in the seat belt.”   

“But when they turn five and get on a school bus, suddenly having a restraint doesn’t matter?  

“School bus routes can include narrow, windy gravel roads, often busy with heavy trucks.  The bus driver will be secured in a seatbelt, but one row back there’s nothing to buckle in the child passenger,” Karen said.

Radio NZ reported that two children were seriously injured and six others suffered minor injuries after a school bus crashed near Murchison last month.   A week earlier four school students were injured after two buses crashed in Christchurch.  In 2018, St John urged the government to make wearing seatbelts compulsory on some bus services after two people died and many others were injured in a spate of accidents. . . 

The petition closes tomorrow.

You can sign it here.



Something missing


A full page advertisement in yesterday’s Otago Daily Times told me how important the Covid-19 vaccine is.

I already knew that.

What I didn’t know was when any of us will be getting the vaccine and I still don’t. The advertisement was silent on that.

It also didn’t mention that rather than being at the front of the queue as was promised last year, New Zealand is well down the rankings of doses administered.

United States
215 950 000 11
16 270 000 21
7 420 000
204 190 000 12
15 000 000 22
6 550 000
129 650 000 13
13.54 million 23
4 870 000
United Kingdom
43 920 000 14
13 500 000 24
4 580 000
34 060 000 15
10 800 000 25
4 490 000
23 660 000 16
10 370 000 26
3 980 000
20 480 000 17
United Arab Emirates
9 900 000 27
3 200 000
17 870 000 18
9 500 000 28
3 140 000
17 640 000 19
8 900 000 29
2 780 000
16 820 000 20
Saudi Arabia
7 610 000 30
2 650 000


Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
2 650 000 41
1 700 000 51
1 310 000
2 640 000 42
1 660 000 52
1 240 000
2 620 000 43
1 610 000 53
1 210 000
2 350 000 44
1 570 000 54
Hong Kong
1 170 000
2 330 000 45
Dominican Republic
1 510 000 55
1 140 000
2 210 000 46
1 480 000 56
1 130 000
2 090 000 47
1 390 000 57
South Korea
1 960 000 48
1 370 000 58
Sri Lanka
925 242
1 780 000 49
1 370 000 59
893 164
1 720 000 50
1 320 000 60
842 521


Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
822 085 71
604 861 81
372 075
800 000 72
601 229 82
365 83
726 315 73
577 211 83
349 702
Costa Rica
698 327 74
574 212 84
342 379
676 501 75
543 708 85
335 610
666 21 76
491 88 86
332 996
665 226 77
479 333 87
300 369
651 65 78
430 000 88
South Africa
292 623
637 415 79
380 665 89
288 797
621 822 80
376 276 90
263 931


Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
91 Venezuela 250 000 101
166 724 111
108 897
92 Uganda 245 939 102
164 534 112
Northern Cyprus
107 365
93 Angola 245 442 103
160 37 113
100 168
94 Latvia 230 848 104
160 000 114
100 01
95 Cyprus 219 654 105
137 026 115
99 639
96 Oman 217 582 106
135 473 116
Cote d’Ivoire
94 818
97 El Salvador 200 000 107
120 000 117
93 111
98 Iraq 197 914 108
117 323 118
86 653
99 Palestine 192 315 109
116 957 119
75 000
New Zealand
183 351 110
116 113 120
73 600


Being down at 100 might not matter so much if we could have confidence that the vaccination roll-out was going as planned, but how can we when we don’t know what the plan is?

We know that border staff and essential workers come first, people aged 65 and older will come next and then the rest of us. Vaccination of the first group is under way but there hasn’t been a word about when those in the next two groups can expect to be immunised.

Does it matter?

Yes, because as the advertisement said:

Our immunity against Covid-10 is incredibly important. Because it brings more possibilities for us all.

Possibilities like keeping our way of life intact; our kids being able to learn without worrying about interruptions; or being able to plan gatherings with whanau, or team trips away, without fear of them being cancelled.

Immunity can bring us all this, as well as more certainty is our jobs, and more confidence in our businesses. With the strength of an immune system made up of all of us, together we can, and will, create more freedom, more options, and more possibilities for everyone. . . 

I have no argument about any of that. But something very important is missing from the advertisement.

Why, if the government is making such an effort to convince us of the importance and benefits of being vaccinated, won’t they tell us when we will be?

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