Whoops

June 20, 2019

Whoops:


Priorities

June 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

It can only be spent once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


They’ll know where we are

June 19, 2019

Stats NZ  is going to be working with phone companies to track our movements every hour:

The population density programme will launch next month and Statistics Minister James Shaw said he was aware there would be perception issues around every step being recorded.

Mr Shaw said cellphone companies and credit companies already held that level of detail, but for the first time Stats NZ was able to act as a data broker to identify trends and patterns with the anonymised information.

I find this a wee bit creepy.

Phone and credit card companies aren’t the government and we have a choice about whether or not we use them.

He told MPs at a select committee today, there would be concerns about people being able to hack into the system and get hold of people’s private details.

“It is very rigourous and we’ve had criticism in the past of people saying it’s really difficult to get access to that information to be able to use it for research purposes – well that’s because it’s under lock and key,” he told RNZ following the committee.

It was supposedly difficult to get Budget information last month.

However, Mr Shaw said the security of the information would require increasing attention over time.

The programme has been assessed by the Privacy Commissioner and a data ethics panel is being set up to keep watch.

Mr Shaw said the Census already asked New Zealanders where they were on a particular night and the tracking just an extension of that using information that was already collected.

I don’t go anywhere that would cause me any concern should the government know about it, but that’s not the point.

Filling in a census form once every six years is very different from tracking our movements every hour.

We’re required to fill in the forms, but are phone companies required to give this information and whether or not they are, shouldn’t they be telling us what they’re doing with any information they hold on us.

Are they going to ask us for our permission to share our information and can we say no?

 

 

 


Thatcher thinks

June 19, 2019


One rule for councils

June 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

The council has been fined for previous discharges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Petty politicking in lieu of policy

June 19, 2019

Minister of Shane Jones has no good policy answer for 50 Shades of Green’s concerns about favoring forestry over farming so has resorted to getting petty politicking:

Minister Jones is both wrong in fact and totally out of court with his accusations against the conservation lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

To claim, as he did, that we’re part of the National Party is a little like suggesting James Shaw is about to join Act 50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick said.

“I find this type of political loquaciousness offensive and cheap,” Mike Butterick said. “If Minister Jones has any hard proof maybe he’d like to share it.

“50 Shades of Green is a non-political organisation committed to maintaining prosperous provinces.

“Minister Jones obviously wants to achieve the opposite.

“Anyone is welcome to join our organisation regardless of colour, class, creed or political persuasion,” Mike Butterick said.

“All they need is a strong belief in provincial New Zealand and be prepared to work to maintain its prosperity.

50 Shades of Green was born of concern about the threat subsidies for forestry pose to the future of rural communities and food production.

It’s a political issue but it’s not a partisan one.

That the Minister is resorting to political attacks shows he’s not really listening to the concerns being expressed by farmers, local body politicians, real estate agents, stock agents and others who understand how serious the rapid afforestation of productive farmland is.

If nothing is changed rural communities with be even harder hit than they were by the ag-sag of the 1980s.

Serious concerns deserve a far more considered response than petty politicking from the Minister.

You can read more about the issues at 50 Shades of Green

You can sign the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected


Sowell says

June 18, 2019


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