Waste tax tackles wrong end of problem

August 21, 2018

The Green Party wants to increase taxes on waste at landfills.

. . There have been calls to increase the $10 a tonne levy, which applies to only around 11 per cent of waste disposal facilities, to as much as $140 a tonne. The levy in New South Wales for example is more than $A120 a tonne. Sage would not say what she would like to see the levy go up to, saying she wanted to see what the Ministry for the Environment work produced. . . 

This is yet another policy that is long on emotion and short on science.

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the environmental mantra.

Reducing waste in the first place would be a much better strategy than either recycling or higher taxes for disposing of it.

Recycling isn’t necessarily a greener option and higher landfill levies would provide an incentive for illegal dumping which would pose far greater environmental problems than disposal in landfills.

A tax would be tackling the wrong end of the waste problem, potentially increasing greenhouse gases and diverting rubbish from landfills without reducing it.


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.


MPI gets more power than police under urgency

August 17, 2018

The government has given MPI more power than police, and done it under urgency:

While some changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act (NAIT) are needed, Parliament has been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise Government amendments which may not be in the best interests of farmers, National’s Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has had months to introduce this Bill into Parliament, but instead he expanded wide-ranging search powers under urgency.

“Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will be able to turn up to farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause.

This gives MPI more power than the police.

National asked Mr O’Connor to send the Bill to select committee during the two-week recess to allow public input and ensure there are no unintended consequences for farmers, but the Minister refused.

“National proposed amendments during the debate that an officer needs reasonable cause to suspect non-compliance with NAIT before entering the property.

“We also proposed that these wide-ranging warrantless powers being curtailed, so a NAIT officer can’t seize property without obtaining a warrant.

“Unfortunately, both of these safeguard amendments were voted down by the Government.

These safeguards are given to suspected drug dealers, gangs and thieves and but not to farmers.

“However, National did successfully move an amendment that requires the Minister to report to Parliament next year on how these expanded powers are being used. We will await this review with a great deal of interest.

“National reluctantly supported the legislation to improve NAIT’s performance but remain gravely concerned about the process and invasion of farmer’s privacy.”

A serious biosecurity incursion is one of the greatest risks New Zealand faces and the difficulty tracing stock with the Mycoplasma bovis has highlighted deficencies in the NAIT system.

Change and improvements were needed but that doesn’t justify forcing through such draconian law under urgency.

 


All power no trust

August 17, 2018

How has New Zealand First got away with a $300,000 gagging contract for its MPs?

Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.

“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.

“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.

“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.

“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.

“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.

“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.

“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.

“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.

“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.

“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”

NZ First leader WInston’s Peters response that no one is entitled to . . . just walk off without any regard to the proportionality of the vote at election time is another example of his double standards.

When he won the Northland seat from National a couple of years ago, NZ First got another list MP leaving parliament with one fewer National MP and one more NZ First one than voters delivered at the election.

But such sauce for the goose not the gander is standard behavior for him as is the attempt to control his MPs with a contract.

It shows again that he has all the power in his party but no trust in his MPs.

It also shows a gap in electoral law that allows the acceptance of a party’s constitution with a gagging clause.

 


Working groups breeding working groups

August 16, 2018

First the good news – the government is providing $8.5 million to better manage freedom camping.

 . . .Recycling collection facilities, infrastructure and operating costs in Grey District will receive a $850,000 funding boost.

Westland District Council has been allocated about $780,000 for new camping facilities and to cover operating costs, education and enforcement.

Tasman District Council is set to receive $660,000 from the fund to improve tourism infrastructure in the lead up to summer.

Queenstown Lakes, Buller, Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils will receive more than $500,000 in the lead up to the tourism season, with Mackenzie and Waitaki receiving a joint payment. . .

Visitor numbers are well in excess of ratepayers’ ability to fund infrastructure for tourists. This money will be thinly spread in areas with great and urgent need but it is a good start.

But then there’s the bad news.

The working group set up to review freedom camping wants five more reviews.

One of the Government’s infamous 140 working groups has, incredibly come back with a recommendation to have five more reviews, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis’s Responsible Camping Working Group has reported back not with a plan but with a recommendation the Government reviews the Freedom Camping Act, the compliance regime, the administration system, the camping-grounds regulations and the ‘responsible camping rules’.

“That’s right. Five more reviews leading us to the extraordinary situation where we have working groups calling for working groups.

These working groups are like mushrooms, breeding more of their kind in the dark.

In a damning indictment on its lack of work in Opposition this Government came to power with so few ideas it’s launched 140 working groups and inquiries costing $170-odd million, to tell it what to do.

“Now it turns out not even those working groups have any answers and decisions are being kicked further down the road, with Mr Davis saying his ‘cross-Government plan of action’ is still off somewhere in the never-never. We’re talking two years before any major legislative change will bring relief to most popular tourist destinations, and to the communities in those areas.

“Worryingly, Mr Davis also says even those recommendations the Responsible Camping Working Group did make won’t all be ready in time for this summer’s peak influx of tourists.

“That will be hugely disappointing for a sector which generates $14.5 billion of export earnings.

It’s not just disappointing for tourism, it’s frustrating for locals who have to put up with rubbish and human waste left behind and councils who have to pay the bills for cleaning it up.

New Zealand’s natural beauty and relatively unspoiled countryside are among the reasons tourists want to come here.

Too many freedom camping, washing themselves, their dishes and their clothes in rivers and lakes, and leaving their rubbish and waste behind are damaging the environment and posing health risks.

An answer to the problems needs to be found and acted on in the next few months before the summer tourism rush starts.

“This is symptomatic of a Government that loves to set up reviews and working groups rather than actually get on and do the job. At a time when businesses are crying out for certainty this Government gives them less.

“What is Mr Davis actually doing? Tourism is a full-time profession and it deserves more than a part-time minister.

“In the meantime, the Government could pick up National MP Anne Tolley’s Freedom Camping Bill which would prohibit Freedom Camping more than 200 metres from public toilet facilities, provide more organisations with the right to restrict freedom camping, and provide for instant fines that have been issued to be collected by rental car companies. That will make an immediate difference.”

All of this could be easily implemented, could take effect and make a difference immediately.

Tourism competes with dairying as our top income earner.

We owe it to the people who contribute to that to provide them with facilities and infrastructure they need to visit without despoiling our country.


The real rort

August 15, 2018

The furore over the leaking of  Simon Bridges’ expenses has highlighted the real rort:

. . the fact that Crown limo’s for the Opposition leader are charged out at a higher rate than is charged to Government . . .

If there is a reasonable and responsible reason for that, please tell me.

The only one I can think of is neither reasonable nor responsible – it’s a political decision to somehow disadvantage the opposition.

Ministers are running the country and they need to get around the country to do that. The opposition is there to hold the government to account, it can’t do that sitting in Wellington. Its leader’s travel is essential to the role, in the public service and making it more expensive is adding to the cost of democracy.

Why should taxpayers pay more for the opposition leader’s travel than that of government ministers?


Fonterra forced pick-ups environmentally and economically costly

August 15, 2018

Fonterra chair John Monaghan says the regulation forcing the company to pick up all milk, anywhere is no longer needed :

We will push to get rid of the open-entry and open-exit provisions of DIRA; it’s well past the use-by-date.” 

Fonterra believes open-entry provision is no longer needed because the industry has become competitive.

Monaghan points out that main purpose of DIRA was to promote competition and to give farmers and Kiwis choices: today New Zealand farmers can choose from roughly 10 independent processors, only five of which are New Zealand-owned.

Farmers have more than enough options when they are looking for a company to take their milk.

They no longer need the safe-guard that forcing Fonterra to pick up milk from any farm, anywhere provided.

“Competition is a good thing for Fonterra and we believe competition is here to stay; Fonterra’s milk share has dropped from 91% to 82% because of competition.”

Monaghan says if the open-entry provision is left in place it will “wipe out the progress that’s been made.’

“Because once you have a few processors who’ve made inefficient investment decisions that only stack up with open entry, it has the potential to lead to significant excess manufacturing capacity in the industry.

“This creates a risk of a downward spiral of low-margin competition that will hold back moves up the value chain and ultimately result in business failures.”

Fonterra, and its shareholders, are forced to subsidise competitors and to prop up the inefficient ones.

Fonterra also points out that it can’t refuse a farmer joining the co-op based on environmental or animal welfare issues.  . .

A dairy company must have the ability to refuse to take milk from any farm which doesn’t meet its environmental and animal welfare standards.

Forcing Fonterra to pick up milk from anywhere has led to dairy conversions in places where it isn’t environmentally sustainable.

It also adds costs which have to be borne by all shareholders.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) under which Fonterra was established is up for review now.

Changing it so the co-op is no longer forced to take milk from any and every farm that applies to supply it will bring environmental and economic gains.

It will also enable Fonterra to sanction suppliers who breach its standards.

 


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