Nature thwarts all rivers swimmable goal

July 29, 2016

The Green Party’s goal to have all rivers swimable is emotionally appealing but one which will be thwarted by nature.

Some rivers will never be safe for swimming, not as a result of pollution by people or animals but by nature.

Natural pollutants include volcanoes, birds, native and introduced species, and, at least temporarily, storms.

There are however, lots of waterways that should and could be cleaner but the Greens’ every-river-swimmable stunt has already got offside it with farmers the party claims it wants to work with.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon wasn’t impressed with the Greens’ approach – he says the Ruamahanga is perfectly swimmable.

“We’re really disappointed the Greens have picked the Ruamahanga to promote their political statements about swimmability versus wadeability.”

He says the only reason the river has a poor bill of health is the sewage plant upstream, because farmers have fenced off all waterways in the Ruamahanga catchment that are more than a metre wide and permanently flowing.

Mr Falloon says anyone who thinks dairy intensification needs to be reduced must simply dislike farmers, who are unwilling to work with the Greens after their “political stunt”.

 

Not when they use language like ‘the tragic state of the river’ and political stunts like getting schoolchildren to wade into the river in the middle of winter.”

It’s also irresponsible to go wading in the river when it’s in high flow due to rain, Mr Falloon says. . .

Emotion beats facts in politics and stunts get publicity but cleaning up waterways requires a co-operative approach and the Greens can’t even get Labour enthusiastic, in spite of their memorandum of understanding.

Labour leader Andrew Little says cleaning up the rivers wouldn’t be a priority for a Labour-led Government. . .

Improvements in water quality are already being achieved by co-operative efforts from central and local government, communities, farmers and other businesses.

More needs to be done. That requires more co-operation which won’t be achieved if major players like farmers and a political ally aren’t on-side.


Conserving NZ sq metre by sq metre

July 27, 2016

Making New Zealand Predator Free by 2050 is an audacious goal and it will be expensive but we could adopt a cunning plan used in Scotland to help pay for it.

Highland Titles is conserving Scotland one square foot at a time by selling plots of land from 1 square foot to 1,000 square feet in Glencoe Wood and Mountainview Bumblebee Haven.

Buyers get  a personal right to a plot of land, complete with a precise Ordnance Survey grid reference, a certificate, plot ID card,  landowner’s handbook and the right to  call themselves Lady, Lord or Laird of Glencoe.

Highland Titles Limited remains the registered owner of the land which it manages as a nature reserve.

Highland Titles is owned by a charitable trust which ensures that the land can only ever be used for conservation purposes.

The idea of private funding of public conservation land could be controversial but the Highland Titles model would ensure that while owners got personal rights to the land, its ownership was retained by the state.

The campaign to buy Awaroa Beach and gift it to the state shows the New Zealanders are prepared to put their money into public land.

It wouldn’t be hard to sell locals and tourists the idea of conserving New Zealand square metre by square metre and put the money raised towards making the country predator free.

I’d be up for at least one plot in Aspiring National Park.

New Zealand National Party's photo.


Third blue electorate needs new MP

July 26, 2016

Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson has announced he won’t be seeking re-election next year.

This follows the announcement by Waikato MP Lindsay Tisch that he’ll be retiring next year and East Coast Bays MP Murray McCully’s announcement he won’t contest his seat.

That’s three blue electorates which will be seeking candidates to become new MPs and that’s good for caucus renewal.


NZ predator free by 2050

July 26, 2016

Prime Minister John Key has announced the government’s goal of New Zealand being predator free by 2050.

“While once the greatest threat to our native wildlife was poaching and deforestation it is now introduced predators,” Mr Key says.

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them.”

Mr Key says these introduced pests also threaten our economy and primary sector, with their total economic cost estimated at around $3.3 billion a year.

“That’s why we have adopted this goal. Our ambition is that by 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

The Government will lead the effort, by investing an initial $28 million in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand Limited to drive the programme alongside the private sector.

This funding is on top of the $60 to $80 million already invested in pest control by the government every year and the millions more contributed by local government and the private sector.

Predator Free New Zealand Limited will be responsible for identifying large, high value predator control projects and attracting co-investors to boost their scale and success.

The Government will look to provide funding on a one for two basis – that is for every $2 that local councils and the private sector put in, the Government will contribute another dollar.

“This ambitious project is the latest step in the National-led Government’s commitment to protecting our environment.

“We are committed to its sustainable management and our track record speaks for itself.

“This includes the decision to establish the world’s largest fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, better protection in our territorial sea and our efforts to improve the quality of our fresh waterways.

“We know the goal we have announced today is ambitious but we are ambitious for New Zealand.

“And we know we can do it because we have shown time and again what can be achieved when New Zealanders come together with the ambition, willpower and wherewithal to make things happen.”

This is a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry is right when she says it will take a team effort to achieve it.

“New Zealand’s unique native creatures and plants are central to our national identity. They evolved for millions of years in a world without mammals and as a result are extremely vulnerable to introduced predators, which kill around 25 million native birds every year,” Ms Barry says. 

“Now is the time for a concerted long-term nationwide effort to rid ourselves of the introduced rats, stoats and possums that have placed so much of our natural heritage in jeopardy.”

Under the strategy the new government company, Predator Free New Zealand Limited, will sponsor community partnerships and pest eradication efforts around the country.

“By bringing together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, and community groups, we know that we can tackle large-scale predator free projects in regions around New Zealand,” Ms Barry says.

“Project Taranaki Mounga and Cape to City in Hawke’s Bay are great examples of what’s possible when people join forces to work towards a goal not achievable by any individual alone.”

The Predator Free 2050 Project will combine the resources of lead government agencies the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries to work in partnership with local communities.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the goal of a Predator Free New Zealand by 2050 will have major positive impacts for farmers and the wider primary sector.

“Possums and ferrets are the main carriers of bovine TB, which is a very destructive disease for cattle and deer. In this year’s Budget the Government committed $100 million towards combined eradication efforts with industry starting with cattle and deer by 2026,” Mr Guy says. 

“By pooling our resources and working together we can jointly achieve our goals of both eradicating bovine TB, and achieving a predator free New Zealand.”

Not all the technology to make New Zealand predator free yet exists, and the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge will have an important role in developing the science to achieve the predator free goal.

“New Zealand is a world leader in conservation technology and research,” Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says. “The Biological Heritage Challenge has an established network of scientists who are ready and willing to take on the Predator Free Challenge. For the first time technology is starting to make feasible what previously seemed like an unattainable dream.”

Predator Free New Zealand Limited will have a board of directors made up of government, private sector, and scientific players. The board’s job will be to work on each regional project with iwi and community conservation groups and attract $2 of private sector and local government funding for every $1 of government funding. 

Four goals for 2025 have been set for the project:

  • An additional 1 million hectares of land where pests have been suppressed or removed through Predator Free New Zealand partnerships
  • Development of a scientific breakthrough capable of removing at least one small mammalian predator from New Zealand entirely
  • Demonstrate areas of more than 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences
  • Complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves

“These are ambitious targets in themselves, but ones that we are capable of reaching if we work together,” Ms Barry says. 

“New Zealanders have rightly taken great pride in our conservation efforts to date. If we harness the strength of everyone who is keen to be involved in this project, I believe we will achieve the vision of a Predator Free New Zealand by 2050 and make our landscape a safe haven again for our native taonga species.”

 

Predator free in 34 years is a BHAG but Forest and Bird says it’s possible:

“A country free of predators would allow forests, towns and cities to fill with native bird life such as kiwi, kākāriki (parakeets), pīwakawaka (fantails), tīeke (saddleback), kōkako, and kākā. Other species like tuatara, hihi (stichbirds), toutouwai (robins), insects, and native snails would repopulate forests and other wild places,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The objective of a predator free country is one that many environmental groups, large and small, have been tirelessly working towards for a long time. However, Forest & Bird intends to look very closely at the detail of how the Government is planning to roll out their vision. For example, if the proposed Predator Free NZ Ltd. company is set up to deliver this programme, what will the role of the Department of Conservation be?”

“Reversing centuries of misguided predator releases and their ongoing devastating effect on our native species and habitats will take commitment, investment, and collaboration, but is entirely achievable by 2050, with the right resources, experts, and framework in place,” says Mr Hackwell. 

“A predator free country will also be of huge value to public health and our agriculture industries which currently spend many millions every year combating waste, contamination, and disease due to pests like rats and possums.”

We spent five days sailing round the Fiordland coast last year, landing occasionally to see native bush much as it would have been when Captain Cook first saw it in 1773. He would have been greeted by bird song but the bush through which we walked was almost silent.

Human and animal predators decimated the bird population and in too many places pests are still winning the battle against the birds.

The Department of Conservation is making a concerted effort to eradicate pests and re-establish species like the kakapo.

That’s not easy on islands and it is even more difficult on the mainland with possums, stoats, ferrets and rats breeding freely and preying on eggs and young birds.

Predator-free fences around bush have been established in several places but the Predator Free New Zealand by 2050 strategy recognises a lot more needs to be done.

It also needs to be done carefully with regard to the whole food chain. Rats prey on mice which prey on birds’ eggs. Eliminating rats would not be enough if that allowed the mouse population to explode.

It will take a lot of money and a lot of work but it will be worth it if it results in burgeoning bird populations with better public and animal health as a bonus from the eradication of pests which wreak havoc on native flora and fauna, and carry diseases.


Mallard makes it easier for Bishop in Hutt

July 25, 2016

POLITIK reports Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard won’t contest his electorate at the next election but will seek a list seat:

He says he is doing this because Labour will nominate him as Speaker and he told them he had come to the view that it is very hard to be both an effective electorate MP and chair the house in an unbiased manner.

And he says the move will help the party with its process of renewal by bringing in a new MP.

That means that he is not expecting Leader Andrew Little  who does not have an electorate, to stand in the seat.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Annette King appeared to confirm this last night when she told POLITIK that she did not expect Mr Little to stand in any seat.

A leader’s workload is one reason for Little to continue to be a list MP. But that also makes it easier to say he lacks the on-the-ground experience of people and issues that electorate MPs  gain working in a seat and for its people, in contrast to list MPs who can pick and choose more.

This decision also makes an already task more difficult for Labour’s list selection if the party can’t get a substantial boost in its support.

Wallowing in the popularity shallows as it is just now would give Labour very few list MPs.

But the move also opens the way for one of National’s young rising stars, Chris Bishop, to possibly win the seat. . . 

Some list MPs don’t try to win electorates, some do and Bishop is one who has been working very hard in Hutt South.

Little would have a much higher profile than a newcomer should he stand in the seat but Bishop would also be able to argue that he (Bishop) would be able to devote much more time to the electorate than a party leader.

Should Little not stand, a newcomer would have to work much harder to gain profile that Bishop’s service in the electorate has given him.

Either way this makes it easier for Bishop, who lost by only 709 votes to Mallard in 2014, to gain the seat.


A snap in time

July 22, 2016

This month’s Roy Morgan poll shows a big jump in support for National and a slump in support for Labour:

During July support for National jumped a large 10% to 53%, now well ahead of a potential Labour/Greens alliance 37% (down 5.5%). If a New Zealand Election was held now the latest NZ Roy Morgan Poll shows National, with their biggest lead since May 2015, would win easily.

However, support for the National partners was down slightly with the Maori Party down 1.5% to 0.5%, Act NZ was up 0.5% to 1% and United Future was 0% (unchanged).

Support fell for all three Parliamentary Opposition parties; Labour’s support was 25.5% (down 2.5%) – the lowest support for Labour since May 2015; Greens support was 11.5% (down 3%) and NZ First 7% (down 2%). Of parties outside Parliament the Conservative Party of NZ was 0.5% (down 0.5%), the Mana Party was 0.5% (unchanged) and support for Independent/ Other was 0.5% (down 0.5%).

rmp

The NZ Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has increased to 127pts (up 6.5pts) in July with 57.5% (up 3%) of NZ electors saying NZ is ‘heading in the right direction’ compared to 30.5% (down 3.5%) that say NZ is ‘heading in the wrong direction’. . . 

Any poll is only a snap in time.

Last month’s snap showed a larger drop in support for the government, this month’s shows a larger increase.

This result indicates those snapped are more confident in the government and its direction in spite of the slew of negative headlines in the last few weeks.

It could indicate that people accept that problems a long time in the making will be a long time in the solving and aren’t looking to the government for miracles.

It could indicate that people looking at instability in so many other parts of the world are opting for stability here.

Whatever it indicates, it is only a snap in time and the next snap could be very different.


Reduce rules, change culture

July 19, 2016

The government has accepted the majority of the recommendations in the “Loopy Rules” report:

Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga today released the Government Response to the Rules Reduction Taskforce (RRT) “Loopy Rules” report.

The Taskforce was set up in 2015 to hear from people about what property related rules and regulations stop them from getting on with the job.

“The Taskforce report published in September 2015 provided a wealth of information about rules that New Zealanders found did not make sense or were inconsistently applied,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga.

The report identified 75 opportunities to improve the way rules and regulations are developed and implemented at a local level. Of those, the Taskforce highlighted ‘Top Ten Fixes’ that needed action.

“The Government accepts 72 of those opportunities and work is underway across Government to address them,” Mr Lotu-Iiga says. “The Government Response provides detailed analysis of what actions are being taken now and in the future”.

“Customer service was identified by the Taskforce as an issue for many New Zealanders seeking building and resource consents and generally dealing with property related matters. Many of these customer service issues require culture change at local level and we will work with councils to address this,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga.

“We received valuable feedback from a wide cross-section of New Zealanders. Too many rules and regulations hold our communities back. . . 

The government’s response is here and includes the actions needed to implement top 10 fixes:

Top ten fix #1: Make it easier to get building consents The Taskforce identified building consents as the first of its ‘top ten’ issues. The concerns identified included the speed with which consents are issued, and that the hurdles imposed on minor structures can be disproportionate to the risks involved. The Taskforce considered that submitters would find valuable: progressive building consents; risk-based consenting; a streamlined determinations (dispute resolution) process; and the quick completion of work that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has currently underway to improve building fire upgrade regulations.

3.2. The Government supports all the opportunities identified by the Taskforce to make it easier to get building consents. Unnecessary barriers to consenting should be removed and processes streamlined. A risk-based consenting approach is being explored. The actions underway also include providing councils with guidance about the use of discretion when assessing what work does not need a building consent and the use of staged consents so that structural work can get under way before non-structural work is approved. . .

Top ten fix #2: Get serious about lifting the skills of the building sector The Taskforce considered that the considerable financial risks councils are exposed to through their role as building consent authorities (e.g. from leaky buildings) creates an incentive for them to be risk averse. Council risk aversion is the driver behind many submitters’ complaints such as arguments with designers and builders over, for example, acceptable solutions, as well as detailed and repetitive inspection processes. The long term solution to this suggested by the Taskforce is for the building sector to upskill so that it can eventually carry responsibility for its own work.

3.5. The Government agrees that the capability of the building sector needs development. This is an important objective in its own right. The Government has further increased its investment in the apprenticeship scheme this year, with additional funding announced in Budget 2016. The Government does not consider that the building sector is ready to certify its own work, as there is a great deal of work that needs to take place in the occupational regulation and liability areas before this could happen. Currently no changes are proposed to the ability of the building trades to certify their own work. . .

Top ten fix #3: Make it easier to get resource consents The Taskforce reported that submitters found the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) complex with difficulties in its implementation. Developers, building professionals and the public told of their frustrations in dealing with the complexity of the RMA and the regime of resource consents, district plans, regional plans, national policy statements and national environmental standards.

3.9. Like the Taskforce, the Government is also concerned about the RMA, and has introduced the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. As introduced, the Bill overhauls the RMA to support business growth and housing development while also ensuring more effective environmental management. . .

Top ten fix #4: Reduce the cost of consenting fees The Taskforce considered that building consent fees are too high, reporting that “Property owners object to the size of the combined fees and levies, regarding them as disproportionate to the cost of projects and to the service received”. The Taskforce recommended that building levies be reviewed and capped.

3.13. The Government agrees that building levies should be reviewed. A review will be completed by MBIE in 2016. A decision on whether the levy will be capped will be made after this. . .

Top ten fix #5: Sort out what ‘work safety’ means and how to do it The Taskforce found that submitters were willing to meet their health and safety obligations but were sometimes unsure how to do this.

3.16. The Government supports the Taskforce’s opportunities identified in the health and safety area. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which has come into force since the Taskforce reported, will help address many of the issues the Taskforce identified. . .

Top ten fix #6: Make it clear what the rules are The Taskforce heard that submitters sought clarity about the rules that they must comply with. In the absence of clarity, myths and misunderstandings can spread.

3.20. The Government agrees that rule clarity is important. Actions have been completed already to give guidance to councils in a number of areas. In the health and safety and building areas improved web content is now available. Understanding the rules is the first step to adherence, and work will be ongoing in this area. . .

Top ten fix #7: Establish a new customer focus for the public sector Lack of a systematic customer-centred culture was a key issue for submitters. The Taskforce heard that people experience confusion and frustration when dealing with councils. The Taskforce also heard of the difficulties councils report when working with government agencies, particularly about how to implement new or amended regulations and standards.

3.23. Customer service is a key ingredient in service quality in both central and local government. As described earlier in this response, the Government considers that the level of customer service that people experience from council staff is primarily a local government responsibility, supported by central government which must provide fit-for-purpose legislative frameworks. This is why the actions below focus on the measures central government agencies will take. . .

Top ten fix #8: Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations The Taskforce heard reports that engagement practices of central government agencies were not consistently good. Councils that submitted were particularly concerned about a lack of involvement when central government agencies consider new or amended regulations that would affect them.

3.25. The Government considers that where possible, people should have the opportunity to express their views on proposed rules. The Government has been encouraging departments to adopt better stakeholder approaches by, for example, promoting greater use of exposure drafts of proposed bills and regulations. The exposure draft process is intended to enable stakeholders to provide feedback on proposed bills or regulations, before they are introduced or gazetted. . .

Top ten fix #9: Reform the Local Government Act 1974 and the Reserves Act 1977 The Taskforce identified that the Reserves Act 1977 and the Local Government Act 1974 need updating. Submissions highlighted, for example, that the Reserves Act is outdated; being overly restrictive, creating duplication, and reducing a council’s flexibility to manage reserve land.

3.27. The Government recognises that the Reserves Act 1977 and the Local Government Act 1974 need to be modernised to address frustrations highlighted by the Taskforce. The Government is working to address issues with some of the provisions in the Reserves Act 1977 and is updating guidance for councils to help reduce other problems that have been identified by the Taskforce. . .

Top ten fix #10: Stop making loopy rules The Taskforce considered that improved collaboration between regulators and stakeholders and greater use of the Code of Good Regulatory Practice would benefit the regulatory framework. A more systematic approach to rule-making, including having greater collaboration with stakeholders, will lead to more robust rules.

3.30. The Government strongly supports the Taskforce’s recommendations in this area. It is giving a high priority to the systematic improvement of regulatory processes, with both further improvements to regulatory systems and practice about to be introduced. . .

Loopy rules cause frustration, reduce productivity, and add time and cost to development and complicate life.

Sometimes the rules are the problem, sometimes it’s the interpretation and implementation of them.

Improvement requires fewer rules, better rules and a culture change at both central and local government level.


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