Tough times, tougher border

August 24, 2020

National leader Judith Collins says tough times call for tougher controls at the border:

Five million New Zealanders paid a heavy price to rid Covid-19 from our communities. They paid for it with their jobs, they paid for it with their businesses, and they paid for it with their freedoms.

They did their part and were understandably upset to find out the Government had not been doing theirs. A third of the country is now back in lockdown because of this.

Reducing the need for heavy-handed lockdowns could not be more crucial. After the first lockdown, 212,000 Kiwis were receiving unemployment benefits and 1.6 million jobs were kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

There is a lot we still don’t know about how Covid-19 got back into our community, but let’s be real – this was not the immaculate infection, it didn’t just materialise, it had to have crossed our border at some point.

We know ministers weren’t even aware the health strategy they signed off in June only required voluntary testing of border workers. How is that possible? Did they not read it?

They now blame officials for the miscommunication even though Government is about taking responsibility for national security, not passing the buck.

But it is no surprise there was confusion. The current system requires people entering the border to interact with Customs, primary industries, the health ministry, defence force, private hotels, private bus drivers, private security and so on.

This ad-hoc approach is hampering New Zealand’s ability to respond to outbreaks in a co-ordinated and rapid way. Just as 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, Covid-19 must change the way we prepare for and manage public health threats.

This is why my Government will establish a new Border Protection Agency – Te Korowai Whakamaru, which can be translated as the ‘cloak of protection’.

We see the border protection agency in the same way as a korowai – many threads woven together to make one cloak of protection. It will provide the professional co-ordination that is sorely lacking from our Covid-19 response right now.

It will scale up and down as threats emerge and abate, like Civil Defence does, and it will be resourced with the personnel, technology and decision-making power to do its job right.

But tough times call for tough measures, and more will be needed to keep this virus at bay. That is why my Government will require everyone travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test before boarding their plane. This is a common-sense step that other countries and airlines around the world are taking.

And we will, of course, require compulsory weekly testing of all staff working at the border or in quarantine facilities – something the Government should have been doing from the start.

A strong border needs multiple lines of defence and New Zealand’s second line – our contract tracing systems – must be better. We are too reliant on human memories and honesty right now, the QR code app has only been downloaded by a third of Kiwis. My Government will immediately invest in Bluetooth technology to enhance this, making it compulsory for everyone entering the country and border workers to carry contact tracing technology.

Yo-yoing in and out of lockdown is not sustainable, for our economy or our communities. If our border is strong then locking down 1.7 million New Zealanders can be our last resort, not our go-to option.

You can read national’s border policy here


Many reasons for border failures

August 24, 2020

Steven Joyce has identified three reasons for border failures:

. . . First, the Government and its Covid response is being run by a way too small group. The Prime Minister and her group of three core ministers hardly trust anyone to make decisions outside their inner circle. While there is always a core group, in this instance even senior portfolio ministers are being sidelined.

The whole Government currently seems to come down to the PM, Robertson, Hipkins, Woods, Bloomfield, and the ever-present Brian Roche and Heather Simpson.  . . 

The upper coterie didn’t even trust the then-Health Minister to be in Wellington during the initial lockdown.

Keeping to such a small group is a a dangerous level of control freakery and reinforces the belief that Cabinet has a very few capable Ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs.

. . With something this big, it pays to take advice from all quarters and forget the party politics for a bit. Unfortunately, the current Government has remained intensely political and self-protective throughout the Covid response, while maintaining that it isn’t.

It’s particularly egregious that Ashley Bloomfield is being shielded from fronting up to a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the border breaches and the lockdown. He’s not a politician, he’s a well-paid public servant who currently has extraordinary power over people’s lives. He simply must front.

The government-dominated Health Select Committee has turned down National’s health spokesman Dr Shane Reti’s request for it to reconvene to enable the DG to be questioned and on Q&A yesterday Jack Tame said requests for him to front on that programmer have been refused.

Second, Chris Hipkins has a ridiculous workload. Speaking as someone who has held a few portfolios in my time, the idea that any single individual could successfully manage Health, Education, the State Sector, and Parliament’s business all at once is truly ludicrous. And so it has proven.

Chris Hipkins is a capable individual but he is clearly not completely across his health brief. On top of that, his statements this week suggesting first that conspiratorial rumours on Facebook were themselves a conspiracy, and second that the 1pm press conferences were the single source of truth — a statement reminiscent of Comical Ali of Iraq — suggest someone under a lot of stress.

If the already overloaded Hipkins was the only one capable of taking on Health, It indicates a serious lack of ability in Labour’s ranks.

Finally, the PM and her ministers need to stop thinking that politics is a game of how to spin your way out of absolutely everything. This has been their Achilles heel.

They have been caught too often saying one thing one week, and something completely different a couple of weeks later, all in the hope that the public have the memories of goldfish.

It is a politician’s job to put a positive spin on most things, but you can’t keep arguing that black is white when it obviously isn’t. If you try, people stop believing you.

Sometimes an issue is so serious or the failure so obvious that you have to drop the buzz phrases, quit the dissembling and level with the public. They may even thank you for it, and they’ll be more inclined to believe what you say in the future.

As it is, we are approaching a risky point where the public may stop believing the Government and its spin — which is tricky when you are dealing with a pandemic. . . 

There are more than enough examples of serious discrepancies in what the government and DG of Health have said and what was actually happening to undermine confidence – from the early days of lockdown when they kept saying there was enough PPE and flu vaccines when front line staff were saying there wasn’t to the recent huge gaps between the policy on border testing and its implementation.

Three big reasons for border failures are bad enough, but there are more, among them are the problems created by having 15 different border agencies dealing with different parts of the process:

National’s new policy to delegate or create an agency to be in charge of the border is exactly what is needed right now. Here is a list of all the various agencies doing various different facets of border control, with insufficient overall leadership or governance from any single body. It’s no surprise that the virus has reemerged!  . . 

This complex mishmash of responsibility and authority has been described as a spider’s web. That attributes far more skill and direction than it deserves.

There’s a pattern to spiders’ webs.

The only pattern in the mishmash of responsibility and authority for border control appears to be gaping holes and repeated failure to learn from mistakes.

And if we’re looking for reasons it’s hard to go past this government’s record of mistaking pronouncements for achievements.

Time after time it’s been so much better at talking about what it’s doing, or think it’s doing, than actually doing it or ensuring it’s done.


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?

 


Rural round-up

June 30, 2020

Migrant numbers reduce ‘in silence’ as Kiwis move into farm jobs – Lawrence Gullery:

An agency which helps farms source overseas staff believes the Covid-19 fallout is being used to manage migrant workers out of New Zealand.

Christiaan Arns, the managing director of Auckland-based Frenz, a recruitment and immigration agency for dairy farms, described the state of New Zealand’s immigration rules as a “complete shambles”.

The short term picture is clear, the pandemic has forced borders to close.

But the medium to long-term outlook is confusing, Arns said. . . 

Red meat opportunities ‘if we’re quick enough’ – Sally Rae:

The Covid-19 situation has provided opportunities for New Zealand’s red meat sector to capitalise on — “if we’re quick enough”.

That is the message from Michael Wan, global manager of the New Zealand Red Meat Story for Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Likening it to the equivalent of the panic buying of toilet paper here and in Australia, Mr Wan said there had been a “massive run” on red meat in the United States.

As people hunkered down over lockdown, they were stocking up their freezers, concerned they might not be able to access fresh protein. They had reverted to cooking traditional types of food and wanted to keep well and boost their immunity, he said. . . 

Dunedin geneticist looking to Africa – John Gibb:

When the world starts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, big agribusiness opportunities will open up for New Zealand, Dunedin geneticist Dr Bruno Santos believes.

Brazilian-born Dr Santos has welcomed his recent promotion to partner at AbacusBio and said that would increase his ability to provide input into the international company’s future.

The agribusiness consulting company was ‘‘hugely passionate about making a difference to agriculture and has great scientific credentials as well as on-farm pragmatism’’.

‘‘Bruno leads projects for AbacusBio in the genetics of many species from sheep to rice,’’ the company said. . . 

Great to meet ewe: Introducing sheep via Zoom to fans worldwide :

A sheep farmer who is making money from virtual tours of her farm does not believe people will give up on the idea of visiting New Zealand to experience things for themselves.

With the world in lockdown, people are having to get creative in their pursuit of overseas adventures.

Sheep farmer Angie Hossack who used to host visitors from all over the world via the Farmstay programme, has discovered another way to make money.

Her popular online farm tour ‘Meet the Woolly Sheep on My Farm‘ takes place on her 10-acre block south of Rotorua. . . 

Fermenting for good :

Three and four-year-olds in the rural village of Clevedon have developed a taste for sauerkraut.

The kindergarten children have been making sauerkraut under the guidance of Kelli Walker who has set up a fermentary just out of the town.

Clevedon is about 35 minutes south-east of central Auckland.

Under Kelli’s supervision, kids there squeeze out cabbage and watch the sauerkraut ferment and burble away before taking it home in jars to devour – much to the surprise of their parents. . . 

North Queensland photographers acknowledged among world’s best – Sally Gall:

Townsville-based freelance photojournalist Fiona Lake has been acknowledged as one of the best in the world in the field of agricultural photography.

In the early hours of Saturday morning Australia-time she was announced as the winner of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalism 2020 Star Prize for Photography for her exquisitely-composed aerial image of a bullock team published by the Queensland Country Life last September.

Ms Lake’s entry had earlier in the evening been announced as the winner of the nature/landscape category.

Commenting on the news, she said the win highlighted the affinity that rural Australians have with their animals. . . 


Some more welcome than others

June 9, 2020

The move to alert level 1 takes us back to nearly as life was pre-Covid-19, except that border are closed, at least to some though not others:

With calving season about to kick off, calls are mounting for critical migrant workers to be allowed back into New Zealand.

Going into calving short-staffed isn’t how Waikato’s Duncan Scott wanted to begin the new milking season.

But like many dairy farmers around the country, Scott’s without key staff who are unable to return to New Zealand because of border restrictions prompted by the international Covid-19 pandemic. . . 

His herd manager has been on the farm for three years and can’t be replaced by someone inexperienced.

Scott said he understood the current drive to employ Kiwis and he had taken on people who were previously out of work because of the economic fallout of Covid-19.

“But you also need some experienced people to lead the new staff,” he said.

He gave an analogy of what it might be like replacing the herd manager with an inexperienced person.

“If you can imagine someone turning up to Waikato Hospital to give birth and finding the midwife is an airline pilot who has been out of work for the past three weeks.

“That’s the situation we are in and that’s why we need these guys (migrant workers) back in the country.” . . 

Federated Farmers immigration and labour spokesperson Chris Lewis also farms near the Scott family in the Pukeatua district in the Waikato.

He is aware of the labour shortage but said it appeared only movie stars were allowed in the country, referring to the crew of the Avatar sequel. . .

Experienced dairy staff with work visas aren’t allowed in, but relatives of film crew are:

Ten of the 200 high-value foreigners – such as the Avatar film crew – allowed entry into New Zealand during the border restrictions were relatives of the workers.

The news comes as work visa holders and their families – already settled in New Zealand but out of the country when the border closed in March – clamour for permission to return.

The immigration industry has added its voice, saying urgent applications from New Zealand employers for vital overseas staff are languishing in a ‘deep dark hole’.

The government has faced criticism for the opaque process behind the exemptions, including initially that they even existed. . . 

Getting to level 1 and having no active cases of Covid-19 has come at a very high economic and social cost.

We can’t afford to undo the gains with lax border restrictions.

But providing people who come in agree to managed isolation and, where needed, quarrantine at their own expense people with work visas, family of residents and citizens and anyone else who will make a positive contribution to the economy, for example foreign students, should be allowed in.

Like several other government policies current border restrictions are arbitrary and unfair, making some people more welcome than others with no fair grounds for discriminating.


Govt hasn’t learned

June 4, 2020

The government hasn’t learned from mistakes it made in deciding which businesses could operate at alert level 4:

Dozens of marine engineering jobs in Nelson are at risk over a Government policy to refuse entry to ships during the Covid-19 pandemic, delivering a hammer blow to the international repair and refit industry.

Aimex Service Group managing director Steve Sullivan said about 40 jobs were under threat at the Port Nelson-based company he founded in 2009.

“Forty per cent of our revenue comes from the international refit business,” Sullivan said. “It’s all under threat.”

Two major contracts were cancelled just before the alert level 4 lockdown, leading to a loss of about $4 million to the wider Nelson economy, Sullivan said.

“We … will have to put more people out of work if the policy does not change,” Sullivan said, referring to the 40 jobs at risk.

Both he and Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith urged the Government to lift the blanket ban and consider the entry of each ship on a case-by-case basis.

The catalyst for prompting Sullivan to speak out publicly was the Government refusal to allow entry to the Captain Vincent Gann, a tuna boat now at sea in the eastern Pacific and in need of urgent repair.

A fault with the Captain Vincent Gann’s reduction gear that provides propulsion meant it was able to travel at half its usual speed only. It was also at risk of further damage. The repair work was expected to take about six weeks and would deliver about $600,000 to the wider Nelson economy – $400,000 to Aimex and $200,000 to associated businesses.

The Captain Vincent Gann’s last port of call was American Samoa, which had no reported cases of Covid-19 and had closed its borders in late March.

TNL International shipping agent John Lowden said the American-owned Captain Vincent Gann had been fishing out of Pago Pago for the past 18 months.

“The crew has been at sea since … 15th May and by the time it gets down here, they would have been at sea for a month,” Lowden said. “They don’t pose any threat at all.”

Sullivan said the crew members could easily be tested for Covid-19 and were prepared to be quarantined on arrival, if necessary. . . 

This exchange in parliament yesterday gives no hope that common sense will prevail:

 Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Customs: Does she agree with the statement by Steve Sullivan from Nelson’s marine engineering company AIMEX that “The Government’s policy to refuse entry of vessels for engineering and maintenance work is costing jobs and millions of dollars in work”, and does she stand by her department’s decision to refuse entry to the fishing vessel the Captain Vincent Gann?

Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister of Customs): I do stand by Customs’ decision to give effect to immigration rules. This Government’s position has continued to be that the best economic response is a strong public health response. While I appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time for many businesses in New Zealand, our Government has made unprecedented support available for businesses like AIMEX. I encourage them to take up any and all support that they are eligible for from the Government during this unprecedented time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister saying it’s better for New Zealand for companies like AIMEX to take a wage subsidy rather than actually letting them do the work that earns the company and the country income.

Hon JENNY SALESA: The question is mainly about whether or not we allow a fishing vessel like this to come through. The decision made by the Government has not been to open up our border. We are 12 days into having zero COVID-19 cases, with only one active case. In terms of foreign ships, on 26 May a foreign fishing boat emerged as one of the points of transmission where a foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed vessel with 29 members of its crew being COVID-19 positive was heading towards the Pacific. A vaccine is not yet available for COVID-19, so the fact is that we are focused on saving lives and focused on public health. We are now looking at the recovery of our economy, but I stand by our Government and our response.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Why did she state yesterday in this House that the Customs refusal to allow entry of the Capt. Vincent Gann from American Samoa to New Zealand was based on advice of the ministry and Director-General of Health, when her department has admitted it never sought any advice from the Ministry of Health or the director-general on that vessel from American Samoa. . . 

Hon JENNY SALESA: The question that the honourable member asked me yesterday was whether I stand by Customs’ policies and actions—a very general question. Then he followed up with the question about this particular vessel. Had he put down a specific question like that, I would have been able to answer in specific ways.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does she accept that the COVID-19 risks for the fishing crew from American Samoa are far less than from the film crew that’s been allowed in by the Government from California, when American Samoa has had zero cases and zero deaths, and California has had 115,000 cases and 4,200 deaths?

Hon JENNY SALESA: I reiterate that this particular ship was a foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed ship. They were not all Americans or American Samoans on that particular ship. Customs enforces the rules and laws that Parliament and Cabinet set. The exemptions for visas are by the Minister of Immigration and the exemptions for jobs are by the Minister for Economic Development. The honourable member who has been a member for many, many decades—more than me—should know if he was to put down this kind of question who the right Minister is to ask about these sorts of issues. . . 

The government’s insistence on its own arbitrary and inconsistent definition of essential during the alert level 4 cost more jobs and did much more damage to the economy than had any business that could operate safely been permitted to do so.

Its refusal to let this boat when the crew has been isolated at sea for more than two weeks, are prepared to be tested and if necessary quarantined, shows it hasn’t learned from that.

There are plenty of other examples of the immigration lottery:

The Avatar film crew has been allowed in but there’s still no certainty over whether America’s Cup crews will be.

Dairy farmers are desperate for migrant staff to return:

. . . Ryan Baricuatro has worked on McFarlane’s 550-cow family farm near Carew, west of Ashburton, for seven years.

In early March, with no cows on the farm following the cull and Baricuatro’s wife due to have a baby in the Philippines, McFarlane encouraged him take some leave and return to his home country.

“We didn’t expect him to be gone for two months and not knowing when he’ll be back is tough,” McFarlane said.

“With his knowledge of the farm and the way we operate, he’ll be integral to getting us back and running after Mycoplasma bovis and at calving. He’s virtually irreplaceable for us, we’re desperate to get him back.” . . 

Geraldine farmer Tom Hargreaves shares McFarlane’s concerns.

Last May, his sheep and beef farming family bought the property next door and hired two staff, including Uruguayan Patricia Grilli, to run a 420-cow dairy operation.

After a successful first season on the farm, Grilli took time off to return to Uruguay for her father’s surprise birthday celebrations. . . 

Despite their best efforts, including providing Grilli with a letter from her employer and a lawyer, she was turned away by customs officials at the airport in Uruguay.

That’s left Hargreaves worried and his team stretched thin to cover Grilli’s role through winter.

“We don’t really know what’s happening. Nothing has been shown to us, so we’re really in the dark and getting more and more nervous,” he said.

“The dairy farm should start up from August 1, but we really needed her over winter as well. Our dairy farm manager didn’t have a day off and the sheep and beef guys would help out but only he and Patricia know the milking shed.” . . 

As of Wednesday, DairyNZ was aware of at least 40 skilled workers who had taken ill-timed holidays and are now unable to get back into New Zealand. 

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle agreed it could become a human and animal welfare issue if dairy farms were understaffed or had staff with the wrong skill-sets come calving.

As well as the workers stuck offshore, the industry was facing a much bigger problem if lower skilled workers already in the country couldn’t get their visa extended, he said. . . 

It’s not just workers who can’t get in.

Schools and universities could be attracting foreign fee-paying pupils and students from the northern hemisphere to start study in July but they too have yet to gain permission for entry.

Eric Crampton discussed why getting safe entry at the border matters:

The government seems to have everything backwards currently. It results in horrible inequities and the usual amounts of muppetry because they’re starting at the thing from the wrong end.

Right now, if you want to enter New Zealand and you’re not a returning resident or citizen, you have to convince the Minister that you’re important enough to be let in. That kind of regime was hard to avoid during the worst part of lockdown because you also needed exemptions from piles of other mobility restrictions if you were coming in as an essential worker to fix Wellington’s sewer pipes. But it’s got things the wrong way around now that lockdown is over. Instead, the principle should be that if you can enter safely, you’re allowed in – with no sign off from the Minister unless that were somehow already required for whatever visa you’d be coming in on.

Starting from the economic necessity of getting particular people in has the government picking winners – it’s the aristocracy of pull all over again. James Cameron has pull; some poor guy whose pregnant wife is here in New Zealand while he’s in Australia doesn’t. Because being allowed in is a function of their having the Seal Of Approval, safety gets less consideration than it should. Tom Hunt’s story from yesterday of quarantine-bound Avatar film crews mingling in hotel reception with regular guests – that kind of muppetry absolutely cannot be allowed to happen. And maybe it didn’t – the story relied on a non-quarantined guest’s reckon that the crowd she went through at reception was that film crew. But it is the kind of thing that’s more likely to happen if the guiding principle is “Movies are important and Avatar Sequels about that main Avatar and the other Avatar – that’s what matters and it matters so much that we’ll pay them tons of money to make those movies here”

You need to flip it.

If people can come in safely, they should be allowed in. . . 

The government was too slow to close the borders before the lockdown and too slow to insist on quarantine for anyone who came in.

Now it’s gone to the opposite extreme with arbitrary and inconsistent exemptions instead of working on the safety principle.

There would be a slight risk of someone bringing Covid-19 with them but providing everyone who comes in was required to quarantine at their own expense, the risk and cost would be minimal when compared with the benefits of businesses and jobs saved.

It would also give us some hope that it was able, and willing, to learn from its mistakes.


Rural round-up

December 19, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly – 2019 in review:

As we approach another year’s end we again highlight our annual review of 2019 in the primary sector as seen by Rural News’ editorial team.

THE GOOD

Good messaging award: Dairy Women’s Network’s new chief executive Jules Benton for her clear, confident and articulate communication of the network’s aims and aspirations, but in a real and down-to-earth manner.

Celebrating success: A lot of excellent events and conferences this year with a focus on celebrating the success of old and young people. The Massey Ag students’ dinner is a great example of this where some very smart future leaders come to the fore. The same for the Ahuwhenua Awards where Maori agri success is also celebrated in style. Feds, HortNZ and the dairy industry and others all did their bit to show NZ that the ag sector is well placed for the future.  . .

Phosphate vital, industry says – Brent Melville:

With the recent spotlight on importation of phosphate sourced in the Western Sahara into New Zealand, Brent Melville takes a closer look at the phosphate issue and why we rely on it for our food production.

Blocking  the importation of phosphate into New Zealand could have a $10 billion knock-on effect into the country’s food production and export sector, the fertiliser industry says.

The industry, dominated by the farmer co-operative duopoly of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said without access to phosphate rock, rural production would fall by “at least” 50%.

Phosphate rock is the key ingredient in the country’s production of superphosphate, used primarily as a nutrient by sheep and beef and dairy farmers to boost phosphorus and sulphur levels in the soil. . . 

Land champion: it’s hard to find time to retire – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers high country champion Bob Douglas has contributed to the smooth running of South Island high country farming businesses for 25 years but next year his visits to the back of beyond will be as a tourist. He talked to Annette Scott about his high country office.

Endless dedication to Federated Farmers high country business will come to an end for Bob Douglas in the next few weeks.

By the end of January the South Canterbury Feds stalwart will be waking each morning to a new life.

“And it will be one that will now mean when I go to the high country it will be as a tourist,” Bob said. . . 

Migrant workers worth the effort :

Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.

Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here.

Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run.

Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 . . 

Routine border checks detect unwanted fruit disease:

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland following a border detection of an unwanted fruit disease.

Biosecurity New Zealand detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on Friday of a consignment of watermelons from Queensland Australia, says Peter Thomson, Biosecurity New Zealand’s plants and pathways director.

CGMMV does not pose a risk to human health. It affects cucurbit fruit, including watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin. . . 

EPA’s Annual Report on aerial use of 1080 released:

The 2018 report on the aerial use of 1080 for pest control provides greater detail than previous years, giving more information on operations and research.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report on the aerial use of 1080 during 2018 shows a near halving of activity compared with the previous year, in terms of both the number of operations and total area treated.

There were 29 operations covering 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 50 operations across 877,000 hectares in 2017. This was due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) using less 1080, as there were no mast events in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive rat populations up, threatening native species. . . 


More immigration isn’t what they campaigned on

September 18, 2019

The government has announced changes to immigration policy with a streamlined temporary work visa.

It’s been greeted positively by Federated Farmers:

“Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has  been taken on board – we congratulate the government,” Feds employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted.”

By ditching the ANZSCO skill level classifications, there is much greater scope for a migrant worker to achieve career progression on our farms.

“The changes incentivise farmers to invest in training and supporting migrant employees because there’s a greater chance of keeping them than currently exists.

It’s such a waste of time and effort to train people only to have them forced to leave the country when their visas run out.

“We also acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach in reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders.  The migrant worker’s children can be educated here, and their partner can get an open work visa,” Lewis said.

“It’s a positive for rural communities to have settled and content families, not just single men who may well be sending all their money home to their family.”

It’s far better to have families together here, participating in the community, than to separate them with the worker isolated and sending money home.

The government has indicated the dairy industry is a likely early target group for one of the new sector agreements, containing specific terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers.

“Federated Farmers looks forward to working with other Team Ag  partners and the government to help get this sector agreement right,” Lewis said.

DairyNZ and the tourism industry are among others who are pleased with the changes and I agree with them.

Unemployment levels are low throughout New Zealand and out of the main centres are down to the unemployable. It is at least difficult, and often impossible, to get locals who are capable of working on farms, orchards, hospitality and tourism in the regions.

But what do all the people who voted for the governing parties, Labour NZ First and the Green Party think?

All three parties criticised immigration levels when they were in opposition and campaigned on cutting it back.

We can be grateful that now the anti-immigration rhetoric has met the reality of worker shortages it’s the voters who believed the talk who are disappointed but businesses will find it easier to get the staff they need.


New nesters

July 14, 2019

Stories from migrants to the Waitaki District:


Would we want them?

May 21, 2019

Immigration NZ registered a surge in website visits on Sunday, the day after the Australian election.

More than 11,500 people logged onto the Immigration New Zealand website and its information site New Zealand Now on Sunday, compared to fewer than 2500 the previous Sunday.

Google analytics also showed a spike in Australians searching the words ‘moving to New Zealand’, particularly those from Queensland.

The true level of interest in emigrating is difficult to gauge as Australian citizens do not need a visa to travel to New Zealand, although its visa-holders do.

The number who started the visa process, through registrations of interest, jumped from 20 to 715. . . 

We don’t, and shouldn’t, discriminate on political views.

If we did, would we  want more people who appear to be upset they’ve got a government that priorirised economic management, lower taxes and a more moderate approach to climate change than the opposition which proposed the opposite?


Rural round-up

May 5, 2019

Sensible immigration will allow rural communities to flourish – Nick Hanson:

A big shakeup could be coming for New Zealand’s immigration policy.

Many of the proposed changes are sensible and will lead to a simplification of the immigration system, but there is also concern that while the system might be easier to understand, it will be harder, longer and more costly to employ workers from overseas.

Under the proposals, every employer who wishes to employ a migrant must become an accredited employer. In theory, this is good  migrants deserve to come to New Zealand to an employer who treats them well and complies with New Zealand employment law.  . . 

Fonterra could learn lessons in enterprise and growth from Australia’s Wesfarmers – Point of Order:

NZ  co-ops have been  getting  a  bad  media  rap   lately.  Take  Fonterra, for example.  Andrea Fox, one of the  country’s  best-informed journalists  specialising  in agriculture  issues,  started   a  new series in the  NZ  Herald  with the  headline:  “Fonterra: Disappointment and soured  dairy dreams”.

Noting   the dairy goliath had a silver-spoon  birth   nearly  18 years ago she  wrote:

“Today the  co-operative  is looking a bit like  the family’s overweight, lazy teenager  hogging the remote  on the biggest couch in the room And the  credit card bills are coming in”.

After Fonterra posted a historic first net loss of $196m, Fox  says  calls  are heating up  for  the company to be split up  and a  company, perhaps  listed, spun off it, open to outside capital  investment to  chase  high-value product  markets. One of the country’s investment  gurus, Brian Gaynor, says even major shareholders  are telling him it’s  time for  change. . . 

Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan – David Williams:

The legal battle over a large dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin is heading to the High Court. David Williams reports.

The future of the Mackenzie Basin’s Simons Pass Station – a lightning rod for national environmental opposition – remains as unclear as a swirling effluent pond.

Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine has spent 16 years and millions of dollars gathering approvals, court settlements, and building infrastructure for a $100-million-plus dairy development at Simons Pass, near Lake Pukaki. Valentine told Newsroom last year he plans to irrigate 4500 hectares at the property – some of which is Crown lease land – and stock more than 15,000 animals, including 5500 cows. (The average herd size in New Zealand is 431 cows. The national herd is five million milking cows.)

As of late last year, 840 cows were being milked and Valentine says the development is about a quarter finished. . . 

Regional wrap:

Confident sheep and beef farmers are paying top money and have out-bid foresters for land on the North Island’s East Coast. In the South Island apple harvesting’s almost finished in the Nelson Motueka region.

Kaitaia, in Northland’s north, needs a good dose of rain – the five or six millimetres at the weekend didn’t help much.  Where there are wet spots in paddocks new grass is germinating well.

Around Pukekohe it’s been quiet in market gardens because of the school holidays and the working week being interrupted by statutory holidays. Many staff have taken time off. It’s been warmer this week than last and Monday’s 15mm of rainfall has been enough for most crops. . .

Bumper crop of Young Vegetable Growers:

Seven of New Zealand’s best and brightest will vie for the title of Young Vegetable Grower of the Year in a competition in Pukekohe next Friday, 10 May.

The victor will be crowned Young Vegetable Grower of the Year, and move on to the Young Grower national final, to be held in Tauranga in October. There, they will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and Gisborne regional fruit-grower events, to compete for the national title of Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Contestants will demonstrate their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful horticulture business, including tractor proficiency, sales and marketing, and health and safety. The winner will be decided at an awards dinner on Friday night, where they will speak to an audience from throughout the industry about growing in a climate of change. . . 

Stuart Varney is proud to be a farmer the Fox business star sees a Chinese trade deal coming soon – Betsy Freese:

Stuart Varney has a top-rated market program on television, but he is happiest when he is working on his 1,100-acre tree farm in upstate New York. The host of Varney & Co., weekdays 9 a.m. to noon EDT on FOX Business, is in the midst of his first timber harvest this spring. Born and raised in the U.K., Varney, 70, helped Ted Turner launch CNN in 1980. He became an American citizen in 2015. I caught up with Varney to talk about agriculture, trade deals, and the media.

SF: Tell me about your farm.

SV: It’s lovely rolling hills and forests, a delightful piece of land. It reminds me of my native England. I bought it 18 years ago because I wanted a big piece of land within a reasonable drive of my home in New Jersey. In England, the idea of owning 1,000 acres, or even 100 acres, is out of the question unless you are a billionaire. But in America, you can do it. We found this property for a reasonable price. It was my piece of America. I fell in love with it. The idea of creating a tree farm came later. I didn’t know anything about logging and didn’t buy it for that purpose, but we hired a forester and he created a plan. Our first harvest is this year. We will harvest 1,088 trees. . . 


Immigration criteria must change

February 12, 2019

Nelson firefighter, Steve Webster,  and his family are facing deportation:

An online petition is pushing for a firefighter fighting the Nelson blaze to be spared deportation.

The petition ‘Stop the Deportation of Steve Webster from NZ’ was set up on Change.org yesterday by friend and former volunteer firefighter Ken Mahon.

Mahon said he began the online petition at 3pm yesterday – without telling Webster – after he saw new social media photo of Webster all dirty from fighting the Tasman fires and decided he had to do something. . . 

Steve and Gail Webster moved to Nelson from the United Kingdom in 2012 with their two teenage daughters.

As well as being a volunteer firefighter, the couple own Earthbloom Flower Shop in Nelson and Steve is a car salesman.

In 2016 the Nelson Weekly reported the family had their bid for permanent residency turned down in early April that year. They were told they had to be out of the country by midnight on Friday May 20.

Just 48 hours before that deadline, Steve received an email at midnight on Wednesday saying they had been given a 12-month essential skills work visa, Nelson Weekly reported.

However, Mahon said the family had again landed themselves in a fight against immigration after they had been given until June this year to leave the country.

“They have worked very hard at getting their business up and running but unfortunately it hasn’t met the requirements by immigration in the timeframe,” he said.

“It is a bit rough really. They give a lot to the community, have a lot of support out there, and are well liked.

“It is just not fair. Why does this always happen to the good people in life?”

Aucklanders have rallied to support another business person facing deportation:

The community is fighting to save the family of seven from being sent overseas. Credits: Newshub.

Hundreds of people have rallied in Auckland on Sunday in support of a Ukrainian family facing deportation.

Nataliya Shchetkova and her family thought New Zealand would be their home forever.

After they arrived here six years ago, they bought La Vista, a popular restaurant in Auckland’s St Helier. They now employ 17 full-time staff – up from nine when they bought it.

But Immigration NZ says the business does not add enough benefit to New Zealand by creating sustained and on-going employment over and above the existing level of employment.

The family of seven have been denied residency and told they should start planning to leave by July 1 – including selling their restaurant if necessary. . . 

She has almost doubled the staff employed and that’s still not enough?

These two cases are particularly troubling when only after political and public pressure did Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway reverse his decision to give residency to a convicted criminal.

If immigration criteria doesn’t allow families like the Websters and Shchetkovas who are making positive contributions in business and the community to stay then the criteria is wrong and must change.

 


Immigration good but

December 5, 2018

National is generally supportive of immigration, but not without limits:

 National would pull New Zealand out of the UN’s Global Compact on Migration because of its potential to restrict New Zealand’s ability to set its own migration and foreign policy, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“National is supportive of global action on major issues and of migration into New Zealand because it brings skills, capital and connections and makes New Zealand a better, more diverse place. And we support the ability for New Zealanders to travel and live and work overseas should they choose.

“But immigration policy is solely a matter for individual countries and must take account of their individual circumstances – and New Zealand’s policies are already held up as international best practice. There is no automatic right to migrate to another country without that country’s full agreement, a view which the United Nation’s Global Compact on Migration, set to be signed next week, seeks to counter.

Immigration is generally positive but not without limits.

“While not binding, the Compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren’t. While National is the party most open to immigration, we cannot accept this.

A government must have the right to say which and how many immigrants cross its borders.

Any restriction on that is a restriction on a country’s sovereignty.

”This Government’s own immigration policy is weak and confused, including its unfulfilled campaign promises to slash immigration. Signing up to this only clouds things further – like its working groups the Government appears to be relying on the UN to set its migration policy rather than making its own decisions.

“While a number of countries are pulling out of the agreement as the extent of its potential impact on the decision-making of individual countries is realised, our Government is refusing to outline its own position.

“For these reasons, National will not be supporting this agreement and we will reverse the decision if this Government signs up to it.”

The government has yet to decide whether or not it will sign up to the compact.

Several countries including Australia, the USA, Hungary, Austria Poland and Switzerland have declined support.

 

 


Lees-Galloway changes mind

November 28, 2018

Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway has changed his mind about Karel Sroubek:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has reversed his decision to grant conviction drug smuggler Karel Sroubek residency.

An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) probe into the drug smuggler found he was liable for deportation on grounds not previously considered. These included Czech convictions under his real name.

“He is being removed because he never had a visa in the first place.”

Lees-Galloway said public trust and confidence had been damaged and he took responsibility for it and for fixing it. He apologised to the prime minister but did not offer his resignation. . . 

The Minister is responsible for the damage to public trust and confidence in both the system and him.

How on earth he could have given residency to anyone who had been convicted of crimes when so many worthy, law abiding would-be residents are turned down defies logic.

 


Incompetent or ?

November 9, 2018

A decision to deport a convicted criminal could be made in a very few minutes.

A decision to give residency to one needs a lot more time than it got:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway made the decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency in less than an hour.

The revelation has led to calls from the Opposition for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack her Immigration Minister.

Lees-Galloway said he did not read the full file on the Czech drug smuggler, and instead “read the aspects of the file that I thought were necessary to make the decision that I made”. . .

How can you know what you need to read to make a decision if you don’t read all the information you have?

“I took the information that I had and I took the time that I felt was necessary. I read various aspects of the full file. I didn’t rely solely on the summary.” . . 

Various aspects? That’s not the full file and it defies belief that he could have read even some of the information that has made this decision so inexplicable and granted residency.

National Leader Simon Bridges has renewed his call for the Prime Minister to sack Lees-Galloway over the “careless decision” after Lees-Galloway claimed he carefully considered all the relevant information.

He allowed a drug dealing gang associate to remain in New Zealand without reading all the information available to him, Bridges said.

“Either Lees-Galloway has misled the Prime Minister or she’s misled New Zealanders.

“The Prime Minister has defended that decision for the past two weeks, telling New Zealanders it was a ‘difficult decision’ but that she had been assured by Lees-Galloway he had given it ‘careful consideration’.

“We now know he hadn’t.”

An hour was not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision and it was not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister, he said.

“Lees-Galloway’s credibility is now shot. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Sroubek’s residency.

“The Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Lees-Galloway from Cabinet immediately.”

Woodhouse said Lees-Galloway had arrogantly refused to reveal the evidence upon which he made his decision, saying it was not in the public interest.

“He insisted it was a complicated decision not taken lightly.

“The Prime Minister even went as far as saying Lees-Galloway ‘shared with me the careful consideration that he gave this case… it was clearly a very difficult decision’. Only clearly it wasn’t,” Woodhouse said.

The evidence was now overwhelming that Lees-Galloway didn’t do his job, he said.

“It is now clear he made that call without asking questions and without proper consideration of the facts or the track record of the convicted criminal he was allowing to stay. Sroubek needs to go and Lees-Galloway does too.” . . 

To have read all the relevant information and made that decision indicates gross incompetence or something conspiracy theorists would delight in.


People we want

October 31, 2018

They came to New Zealand in their early 20s.

She was on a student visa, they had a daughter while they were here then had to leave when their visa ran out in spite of several attempts to stay.

They returned he gained a visa to work on a dairy farm, bringing their young kiwi daughter and a son born overseas with them.

Each time they could they applied for residency but were turned down although his work visa continued to be renewed.

FInally last year, after a change of rules by National, they were granted residency.

By this time they’d lived here for 12 years, both had worked hard and their children had gone through school and on to university.

They are good people who have contributed and will continue to contribute positively to New Zealand.

The second couple are professionals who had worked in several countries, gained business visas and invested a lot of money in a high-end tourism business.

Both joined community organisations and one, used his many skills to do a lot of work marketing New Zealand overseas.

They nearly lost their investment and their home when their application for residency was turned down.

After a lot of stress and a lot of work, they gained residency.

They continue to run a successful business, play an active role in local organisations and promote New Zealand internaitonally.

These are good people who will more than repay New Zealand through the positive contribution they make to the community and economy.

Both of these couples are the sort of people New Zealand needs and are only two of many who would make wonderful citizens but can’t get residency.

Why do people like this have to struggle so hard to stay here when   a convicted criminal has ministerial dispensation to stay?

. . .Jan Antolik, whose real name is Karel Sroubek, was jailed for five years for importing nearly 5kg of MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, with a street value of $375,000.

Mr Lees-Galloway said the decision to grant residency was made after careful consideration of all the information available at the time and that the man’s stay in the country was subject to significant conditions.

He said he can’t discuss the reasons he granted him residency for privacy and legal reasons.

But he has released a letter he wrote to Mr Sroubek, outlining the conditions he must abide by in order to stay in New Zealand.

They include not reoffending, not using a fraudulent identity or misleading a government agency within the next five years.

The letter also noted Mr Sroubek had been given a residency visa previously, but that was under a false identity.

Mr Lees-Galloway says he made the decision in light of the “full view of information” presented to him, and was not made lightly. . . 

David Farrar give his full background and the parole board’s reasons for declining his application for early release.

If he was being returned to a country without the rule of law it would be easier to understand the decision.

But the Czech Republic is in the EU and if he’s unsafe there he could go to any other EU country.

This decision is a slap in the face to the many deserving would-be residents who are turned down and poses a potential risk to us all.


When locals won’t work . . .

August 18, 2018

The Meatworkers’ Union isn’t happy that Alliance Group is bringing in  100 overseas workers for its Southland plants.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union said there were plenty of local workers vying for jobs that could now be going to overseas workers.

However, the company is standing firm. It said it was recruiting abroad to cover a worker shortage. . . 

The union’s Otago-Southland secretary Gary Davis said the decision would hit some Southland families hard.

The seasonal work often meant workers would finish at one plant and go to the other for additional work, Mr Davis said.

“If these people are brought in from overseas they’ll get a job there so they’ll fill in those positions.”

About 30 people could miss out on the additional work, he said. . .

Good local workers were applying to work at the plants, but they were being rejected, he said.

There was not enough education, training or support to assist more Southland workers to enter the industry, he said. . . 

The company has a different story.

Alliance Group refused to be interviewed today but in a statement, manufacturing general manager Willie Wiese said employing and upskilling New Zealanders was always their preference.

Sourcing seasonal workers remained one of its biggest challenges, despite running extensive recruitment campaigns.

Unemployment is now down to a level where most of those out of work don’t want to, or can’t, work.

Challenges in the meat industry include getting enough workers who are drug and alcohol free and who want to work the whole season.

Meat company workers earn big money for a few months and some of them decide they have earned enough part way through the season and no longer want to work full time, if at all.

The company might prefer to employ and train locals but it they won’t work it has to look for overseas workers who will.


If locals won’t work

March 15, 2018

An urgent call for fruit pickers in Hawkes Bay attracted just 14 applicants.

A concerted effort to find fruit pickers in Hawke’s Bay saw just 14 people express an interest and has resulted in the declaration of a regional labour shortage . . .

Gary Jones of Pipfruit NZ said the low unemployment rate meant there was strong competition for workers.

“There are at least 350 registered vacancies at the moment. The real number is likely to be higher than that,” Jones. . . .

Monday’s declaration means visitors presently in the country who did not have a work visa would be able to apply for a variation to their visitor’s visa allowing them to undertake seasonal work in the horticulture/viticulture industries for 6 weeks.

“This will now enable us to access as many available seasonal workers as possible to help harvest our fruit crops in Hawke’s Bay. Once the season is over, employers will be looking to offer permanent jobs to suitable New Zealand workers,” Jones said.

Jones said pickers were paid “well above the minimum wage” ($15.75 an hour) and the pay for those working in the packhouses depended on experience. . .

Hawkes Bay isn’t the only place where orchards can’t get local staff.

An employer in another region offered transport for staff from neighbouring towns and provided a creche. He also offered bonuses to those who would work five days but still couldn’t get enough locals.

One reason some didn’t apply or started and didn’t stay was drug testing.

What to do about them is another issue for which there are no simple solutions.

But the business couldn’t afford the risk of accidents from drug impaired staff and the only way to ensure workers were drug-free was testing.

There may be other reasons locals won’t work but the employer had done everything he could to attract them.

That left him dependent on immigrants.

His business couldn’t survive without them and as the Hawkes Bay orchard experience shows it’s not an isolated problem.

If businesses can’t get locals who are willing and able to work, they need immigrants to keep their businesses in business.


Rural round-up

October 21, 2017

Farm life and environment important for the Laugesen family – Kate Taylor:

A Central Hawke’s Bay farming family has fenced, leased and worked its way to farm ownership. Kate Taylor reports.

Young pheasant chicks will be making their new home on an Elsthorpe farm dam this Christmas.

But the Laugesen kids might not be there to see much of them. They’re hoping to repeat last year’s summer holidays and camp out the back of the farm.

Planting native trees, regenerating wetlands and restoring birdlife is a huge bonus of farming for Graeme (who’s known by all as Logie) and Kate Laugesen and their children – Phoebe, 15, Maddy, 13, and Jack, 9. . .

Finalists announced for the 2017 Enterprising Rural Women Awards :

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is proud to announce the category winners and finalists for the Enterprising Rural Women Awards 2017.

The four finalists are vying for the Supreme Enterprising Rural Women Award, which will be revealed on Saturday 18 November at the RWNZ National Conference at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill. . . 

Enterprising Cromwell winemaker up for Supreme Rural Woman Award

A Cromwell woman has been recognised for her business success, creating a niche market for port and providing solutions for fast-growing boutique vineyards.

Debra Cruickshank, of Tannacrieff Wines, is one of four finalists to be announced for the Enterprising Rural Women Awards 2017 after taking out a category win – the SWAZI New Zealand Entrepreneurial Enterprising Rural Women Award.

She joins Kylie Davidson and Emma Hammond, of Hammond and Davidson Accountants, in Riversdale; Jo Kempton, of Happy Belly Ferments, in Greytown; and Kiri Elworthy and Jenny Bargh, of Tora Coastal Walk, Martinborough. . .

Three generations working together – Sally Rae:

There’s a bit of a family affair going on at Waipori Station.
In fact, Pete Ronald jokes he has warned manager Dave Vaughan there could well be a takeover.

Mr Ronald (61), his daughter Nicky Adams (41) and his granddaughter Shelby Wilson (19) — who is Ms Adams’ niece — all work on the 12,000ha Landcorp-owned property which surrounds Lake Mahinerangi.

There’s a reasonable amount of good-natured banter when the three gather over lunch, with Ms Adams wearing her trademark cap emblazoned with Auntie. . .

Pneumonia, parasites something to get excited about – Sally Rae:

Kathryn McRae jokes that she is ‘‘one of those strange people’’ who gets excited about parasites and lungs.

Farm staff at AgResearch’s Invermay campus always know that if an animal dies from pneumonia, she will want to inspect its lungs.

Animal health is a particular interest for Dr McRae, who grew up on a sheep and beef farm at Mokoreta in eastern Southland.

The property has been in the McRae family for more than 100 years and has been the recipient of a Century Farm award. . .

Strong leadership needed on climate change:

The dairy sector is calling for the future Government to provide the strong direction necessary for New Zealand to move toward a low emissions future, says DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.

His comments came following the release of the Our Atmosphere and Climate 2017 report.

The report confirms that global emissions of carbon dioxide topped 400 parts per million in 2016, the highest for 800,000 years. . .

Visa changes for workers will leave gaps – Jemma Brackebush:

A Filipino leader in the dairy industry is worried tighter restrictions to visas could leave huge holes in the farming workforce because they do not accurately reflect what happens on farms.

In late July, the government announced that workers in low-skilled jobs earning below $41,500 a year would after three years have to leave New Zealand for 12 months before returning on a new visa.

Roberto Bolanos is a New Zealand citizen with more than a decade’s experience in the industry, and feared the changes could leave gaps in the workforce if immigrants had to leave after three years. . .

 

 


Bring dreams alive, see small hopes grow bigger

August 27, 2017

National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English’s speech to the party’s campaign launch today:

It’s great to see such a marvelous crowd. And a sea of blue.

Welcome to National’s campaign for Election 2017!

Thank you Nikki and Paula for those wonderful introductions.

And a special thanks to my daughter Maria for the way she sang our national anthem.

Maria, everyone here was glad it was you instead of me. I did offer!

Can I also acknowledge my son Xavier who is here today. Also my sons Luke, Tom, Rory and Bart. You all make be very proud.

I also want to thank my wonderful wife, Mary – thank you for everything. 

Mary’s worked out that the best way to spend time with me these days is to join me on stage at our campaign launch.

Hers is the story of many new New Zealanders.

Her families came to this country from Italy and Samoa on the promise of a better life. And they found it through community and family.

They instilled in their 13 children the value of hard work and personal responsibility.

Mary is now a doctor, a business owner, a volunteer and a fantastic mother of six kids.

Like most parents, Mary’s mum and dad worked hard to ensure their children had better prospects than they did.

Their success makes me proud of my country.

And that’s what this election campaign is all about.

It’s a campaign for every New Zealander who wants to bring their dreams to life.
Who wants to see their small hopes grow bigger.

Who wants the New Zealand of the 2020s to be confident, successful and prosperous.

It’s a campaign for Kiwis who are prepared to work hard and back themselves.
To all of you, I say this:

National…stands…with you.

We’re a party delivering for New Zealanders.

We share your ambition for the future.

We have always known this election would be close. That’s how it is under MMP.
On our side, we have a strong record of proven success and a confident vision to take New Zealand forward.

We have the best team.

We have MPs who listen to their communities.

We have Ministers with great ideas for making this country even better.

And we have new candidates passionate about our future.

But most importantly we have you – our volunteers and supporters.

You make us strong.

You make us united.

And you’re making New Zealand a better place.

Together, we’re creating a strong and growing country.

We are now a nation of opportunities for all.

Opportunities to build success for our families.

Opportunities to deliver on the potential of each and every New Zealander – providing we stay on track.

We will not squander these opportunities New Zealanders have worked so hard to create.

Remember just how far we’ve come together.

Since 2008 we’ve faced a recession, the global financial crisis and devastating earthquakes.

The economy shrank, unemployment rose sharply, and we faced large deficits and spiralling debt.

Fast forward to 2017. We now have one of the best performing economies in the world and the books are in surplus.

Under National, families up and down New Zealand are reaping the deserved rewards of that turnaround.

Over 180,000 new jobs have been created in the past two years and unemployment is the lowest since the GFC.

The average annual wage is up $13,000 since we took office, that’s twice the rate of inflation.

New Zealanders recognise progress when they see it.

In 2008, a stadium full of New Zealanders was leaving for Australia every single year.

Our children and grandchildren were heading for the departure lounge in search of better opportunities.

Not anymore. 

For the first time in a generation, more people are moving to New Zealand from Australia than going the other way.

That’s what success looks like and I’m proud of it.

New Zealanders’ hard work is helping the economy to grow.

But on its own, a growing economy is not enough.

Because National understands the pressures of running a household, paying the bills and saving a bit for a rainy day.

We’re making sure families are rewarded for their hard work and can see the benefits of growth flowing into their households.

And National is focused on making that happen.

Take a young couple, each on the average wage and looking to buy their first home.

Since 2008, their joint income has gone up by $26,000 a year.

And next April, they’ll get another $2000 boost from our Family Incomes Package – something Labour opposes.

And if we get re-elected, we want to do that sort of package again.

We’re also helping them get into that first house.

If they’ve been in KiwiSaver for five years, a combination of government grants and their own KiwiSaver would mean they have $50,000 to put towards a house.

Add in our Welcome Home Loan programme, and they would need to save another $10,000 to have enough for a deposit for a $600,000 home.

Or take a retired couple on New Zealand Super.

Since National came into office, their Super payments have gone up by 25 per cent – or $6000 a year.

From next April, they’ll receive another $680 a year on top of the normal increase as a result of our Family Incomes Package – cash Labour would take away from them.

Superannuation is based on after-tax income. When taxes go down, superannuation goes up.

And if they don’t have much other income on top of Super, they’ll now be eligible for an $18 GP visit from next July – saving them money every time they go.
That’s how National really is helping families.

Under National’s strong economic plan, we’re also building the houses, roads, schools, hospitals and broadband needed by our growing communities.

We’re investing to get our school leavers ready for work and to ensure our health services are world class.

We’re providing more police on the beat to keep our communities safer.

We’re lifting thousands of children out of poverty every year. And by one measure, our Family Incomes Package will reduce child poverty by 30 per cent.

We’re investing to improve our environment and protect our beautiful landscapes and fresh water and meet our climate change targets.

And we’re backing Kiwis to succeed on the world stage.

That’s why we’re leading the charge to finalise the TPP – because our exporters are world beaters when they’re given the chance.

The great thing is, if we stay on course we can do even better.

New Zealanders are ambitious for themselves and National is ambitious for them.
So in 27 days, voters will have an important choice.

A choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.

National’s plan to keep New Zealand moving forward – a confident plan for a confident country.

A strong National team energised by new ideas. A team that’s open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works.

Or an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.

Take the Labour Party, their policies have two things in common – working groups and more taxes.

Do you want a water tax?

Do you want a new petrol tax?

Do you want a new capital gains tax?

Do you want higher income taxes?

And nor do I.

Hard working New Zealanders aren’t an ATM for the Labour Party.

Labour wants to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow our economy and make it harder to compete in the world – just when we’re getting good at it.

Here’s the thing: we don’t need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.

National focus on how well spending works, not on how much is spent, aiming for the quality of the spend not the quantity.

When forecasts show on-going taxes there is no need for new or higher taxes.

Unlike them, I back New Zealanders.

I believe in the Kiwi character, that when people make their own decisions and take responsibility they can and will succeed.

Here’s what I mean.

Recently, I met a determined young woman who lives with a condition that means her joints can dislocate with the slightest movement.

Her story had a big impact on me.

Diagnosed at 23, she was contemplating a painful and difficult life ahead.

Then she came across a new programme called Enabling Good Lives – National’s partnership between government and people with disabilities.

It’s about helping people one by one – giving those who want it more choice and control over their support, so they can choose what’s best for them.

It gives them the dignity of being responsible for themselves.

This young woman told me life is 10 times better because she’s living the way she wants.

Today, she is working as an advisor in the disability sector and speaks about the difference this approach has made in her life, and how she wants others have the same opportunity.

There are thousands more New Zealanders like her.

National respects their capacities and will enable them to have better lives.

Through our social investment programme, we’re changing lives person by person, family by family and community by community.

For example, we’ve set a target to reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with preventable conditions like rheumatic fever.

So now when a child turns up at the hospital with bronchial problems, we expect someone will be sent to their house to sort out problems with curtains, insulation and heating.

Another example is young mothers.

Too many don’t get the help offered by Plunket or GPs because they move house, they don’t answer the phone or they’re in hiding because of domestic violence.

I’m committed to changing the system from hoping those young mothers will turn up looking for help, to going out and finding solutions that work for them.
Moving from servicing misery to reducing it.

We’ll continue to expect personal responsibility and accountability.

In return, we’ll treat people with respect.

Our approach is about faster action, more trust and less bureaucracy.

And we can look taxpayers in the eye and tell them we’re investing their money well because it’s getting results.

Results like a 60 per cent reduction in teen parents on a benefit.

And 60,000 fewer children live in benefit dependent households because their parents can get jobs in our strong economy.

This is more than a plan.

It’s a mission.

And I’m committed to it because when we change lives, we change our country.
We reduce child poverty.

We help more families to live independently.

And we keep more children safe from violence.

National is turning ideals into practical results for people.

As proud of I am of getting our country’s books in order and back into surplus, that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning.

What drives me is helping all New Zealanders achieve their goals and improve their lives.

What drives me is ensuring every child who grows up in our country has every opportunity to succeed.

We don’t give up on any of them. There’s always a way forward.

National is especially focused on education.

Isn’t Nikki Kaye doing a fantastic job as Education Minister?

She’s passionate about every child getting the opportunity to reach their potential, no matter what their background.

And she will do whatever it takes to deliver a New Zealand that’s open, ambitious and confident about the future.

We owe it to our children that they leave school equipped to succeed.

Every single child matters – they matter to their family, to their community and to our country.

And they certainly matter to me.

So National has put students at the centre of everything we do in education.

It’s working. Around 85 per cent of 18-year olds now get NCEA Level 2 – up from less than 70 per cent in 2008.

The improvement among Māori students is even better. Three out of every four Māori students now achieve NCEA Level 2. A few years ago, it was around half.

National is working hard for students and parents to build on those achievements.

We’ve increased the number of students who start school ready to learn by increasing early childhood participation to 97 per cent.

We’re sharing teaching expertise through our Communities of Learning.

And last month, we confirmed we’ll replace decile ratings with better targeted funding for kids at the greatest risk of not achieving.

Students from a decile 1 school recently told me what they thought of those ratings.

They said they were tired of having to explain why they aren’t useless.

No young New Zealander’s aspirations should be limited by a decile rating, and we will remove them.

National has also introduced National Standards, allowing parents and teachers to share valuable insights about every child’s learning.

Labour wants to abolish National Standards and prevent parents from getting that information.

I know from personal experience – quite a lot of it actually – just how valuable it was to get feedback about how my kids did at school.

All of these changes are improving achievement by our students.

But we can do even better.

We can do even more to help our young people embrace new technology, find new ideas, create new ways of working and build stronger global connections.

Nothing can replace the thousands of motivated, professional teachers who care for and educate our children.

But we can improve the tools they use and the support we give them.
So today, I’m announcing that National will implement a targeted four-point education package – costing $379 million.

Digital learning for senior students, more resources for maths, and a guarantee that all primary school students will be able to learn a second language if they choose to.

And we’ll make it even easier for parents to track how their children are doing at school, through an expansion of National Standards.

Let me talk you through the package.

First, we want our young people to have the best opportunity to take advantage of new technology – to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Rod Drury or Frances Valintine.

So we’ll invest $48 million to introduce exciting new digital learning opportunities for Year 12 and 13 students.

Each year, new Digital Academies will offer 1000 students specialised, IT-focused learning. They’ll be similar to our Trades Academies, and they’ll be just as successful.

And new Digital Internships will provide mentoring and tailored learning from businesses for 500 year 12 and 13 students, a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and real IT careers.

The second part of our announcement today is a $126 million investment to raise maths achievement for primary school students.

National Standards show we need to lift our game in maths. So we’ll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that.

We’ll help 1200 teachers a year complete extra university papers targeted at teaching maths to primary students.

We’ll also provide intensive classroom support for students, where schools have identified the need to improve their maths.

That’s all alongside extra funding for classroom resources like digital apps.

If we want our children to succeed on the world stage, from this small country at the bottom of the globe, they need to be good cross-cultural communicators.

So the third part of our package is a $160 million investment to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose.

Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.

Finally, I can confirm that a new National-led Government will update National Standards, so families have more comprehensive and more timely information about their children’s achievements in the classroom.

It will be called National Standards Plus.

National Standards has successfully set clear expectations about what every student needs to achieve in reading, writing and maths.

It provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year.
National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you and your child to track their progress in more detail, online, as it happens.

We will show you your child’s progress on your mobile phone.

Some schools have already rolled out tools that support this approach.

I’ve met these children.
It was amazing meeting a little 10-year old who sat me down and showed me how much he’d achieved in the last month and what he would learn next.

I want to see that for every child in every school.

By moving the reporting online, the new system will help our hardworking teachers by streamlining their paperwork and allowing them to focus more of their time on teaching.

And teachers will have better information at their fingertips to help them develop the individual learning paths they already create for students.

National is always looking to the future.

Our teachers and schools work so hard to create opportunities for our children and these measures will further help more of our kids reach their potential.

Ladies and gentlemen.

National is a party of fresh ideas for a confident and outward-looking New Zealand.

A country that’s moving forward and heading in the right direction.

But to be in the National Party is to never be finished.

To never be satisfied.

To take nothing for granted.

And to never stop working.

That’s my pledge to you, and that’s my pledge to New Zealanders: to never stop working alongside you to make our country even better.

So over the next four weeks, I’ll be talking – and listening – to New Zealanders about our country’s future.

National has a strong team with a confident plan to keep New Zealand heading in the right direction.

We will fight hard for every single vote.

Will you join me?

We have a clear message: If you want a growing economy – party vote National!

If you want an economy that can afford world leading hospitals, schools, roads and public transport – party vote National!

If you want higher wages and better jobs – party vote National!

If you want to raise family incomes – party vote National!

And, if you want to secure your future and New Zealand’s future – on 23 September, party vote National!


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