How sick is the health system?

06/10/2021

A selection from a few days of the Democracy Project’s Politics Daily gives an idea of just how sick the health system is:

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Auckland Hospital mother, baby deaths: Review reveals ‘toxic’ culture claims, staff struggling with workload
Michael Reddell (Croaking Cassandra): Health spending
Logan Hagoort (Stuff): ‘When will we allow people to have the care they need in all areas of their lives’
ODT Editorial: Too much mental health korero
Virginia Fallon (Stuff): This is no ordinary blue: Trying to hold on through a mental health crisis

Rachel Thomas (Stuff): Sick baby denied surgery as more than 81,000 people face delayed healthcare 
Bridie Witton (Stuff): Meth users add pressure to busy emergency departments during lockdown
Bryan Betty (Herald):  We’d all live longer with more general practitioners (paywalled)
Karl du Fresne: Mental health gets the standard Labour treatment
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Extent of aged care nurse shortage revealed

RNZ: The Detail: Increasing ICU bed numbers is not that simple
Neil Lindsay, Tom Baker, Octavia Calder-Dawe (Newsroom): Apps won’t save us from mental health crisis
Jane Nixon (Newshub): Gumboot Friday offering free online counselling for youth
Malcolm Mulholland (Herald): The value of a New Zealander’s life (paywalled)
Matt Burrows (Newshub): Royal NZ College of GPs speaks out against Ivermectin, says it’s ‘strongly not recommended’ as COVID-19 treatment
Louisa Steyl (Stuff): 200 children on dental waiting list in the south
Emma Russell (Herald): Deadly cancer error: Man dies after ‘unacceptable’ failure by Taranaki DHB
Sarah Rhodes (Newsroom): Covid’s forgotten health care worker
Mitchell Alexander (Newshub): Wellington Free Ambulance Onesie Day street appeal canned again because of COVID-19

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Will the health system cope with Delta? (paywalled)
Nicholas Jones (Herald): Frontline workers under ‘extraordinary pressure’, Health Minister Andrew Little says
Hannah Martin (Stuff): Patient ‘powerless’ after DHBs told private hospitals to defer surgeries
Hannah Martin (Stuff): Kiwis warned not to self-treat with ivermectin as import attempts grow
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Hospital was ill-equipped to deal with cases
RNZ: Patients waiting too long for cancer diagnoses under Covid-19 restrictions – doctor
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Cancer waiting list reduction at risk
Nikki Macdonald (Stuff): Families shuttled around country in desperate search for neonatal beds
Louisa Steyl (Stuff): Health boss raises safety concerns over midwife shortage
Esther Ashby-Coventry (Stuff): PSA takes legal action against South Canterbury District Health Board

Florence Kerr (Stuff): Auckland DHB staff told in memo not to speak to the media
Mitchell Alexander (Newshub): Cancer patient accuses government of playing with people’s lives as surgery cancelled three times due to COVID-19
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Addiction treatment wait ‘unacceptable’
Spinoff: My miscarriage was hard. A stretched health service made it so much worse
Lucy McLean (Spinoff): Why I’ve had enough of mental health awareness
Herald Editorial: We must confront mounting levels of dementia need
Danielle Clent (Stuff): Mental health ‘suffers more every lockdown’ as Auckland’s fifth stint rolls on

Hannah Martin (Stuff): Questions remain about isolation room capacity after Middlemore case
Stephen Forbes (Local Democracy Reporting): Unions united in call for mandatory Covid-19 tests for all hospital patients in Auckland
Dan Satherley (Newshub): Health Minister Andrew Little unsure why private hospitals were told to cancel surgeries
Rachel Thomas (Stuff): Surgeries, scans delayed for 37,000 patients due to lockdown
Richard Simpson (Spinoff): Mapping order in the chaos: a view from the pale blue dot
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Health board misses safe staffing deadline
Oliver Lewis (BusinessDesk): Long wait for new health builds (paywalled)
Hamish Cardwell (RNZ): Shortage of psychologists leaving patients on waitlist for 9 to 12 months

Will Trafford (Māori TV): Critics slam government’s new mental health strategy
Katie Harris (Herald): Calls and texts to mental health line almost double since 2019
Nicholas Jones (Herald): ICU nurses are in demand globally. They can’t get into New Zealand to take up job offers (paywalled)
Tom Kitchin (RNZ): Patient safety endangered at Hawke’s Bay Hospital – union

Vita Molyneux (Herald): Families ‘heartbroken’ by birthing facility closure, director says Government ‘failed’ them

1 News: Pasifika community leader slams health system after horror Covid experience

Mike Houlahan (ODT): 60 breast scans not reliable
Mike Houlahan (ODT): Leading the charge for nurses
Rebecca Macfie (Newsroom): No profit: Home care firm ditches DHB

Katie Townshend (Stuff): Covid-19 impact on healthcare in Nelson-Marlborough could last three years

Health is complex, these problems haven’t just happened and the blame for them can’t be laid only at the feet of the current government.  But a few weeks ago Dr Shane Reti pointed out where blaming the government is justified  :

I now know why we have been caught unprepared for the Delta outbreak. I now know why we have 30,000 people on overdue waiting lists. I now know why we have nursing shortages and pay freezes. And it is revealed in this Treasury document to Andrew Little, released a few weeks ago that talks about this year’s health budget. The Treasury document from Treasury to Andrew Little states that the priority for health funding in Budget 2021 is ensuring that the health and disability system has resources. I want to repeat that: the priority for health funding in 2021 is ensuring that the health and disability system—the reforms—have resources. That is why we have been unprepared and where we are today.

The document goes on to say not to increase the minimal viable package for DHBs. It then goes on to say all manifesto commitments that are not highly time sensitive should be deferred in the future. That’s where the 20 mobile dental clinics that were promised this year have gone.

We don’t have enough ICU specialists because this Government made health restructuring the funding priority. We are building negative pressure rooms in the middle of a pandemic because this Government made health restructuring the funding priority. There are not enough nurses because this Government made health restructuring the funding priority. There are 30,000 people on overdue waiting lists because this Government made health restructuring the funding priority. People have been delayed their cancer treatment because this Government has made health restructuring the funding priority. There is no money for Pharmac cancer medicines because this Government has made health restructuring the funding priority. This Government has put all its money on a Hail Mary pass that is health restructuring. And while they’ve been distracted, we have caught coronavirus.

There are actually two answers to why we’re in the situation we are today. The first is that the Government didn’t secure the border and let Delta in. The second is that they have made health restructuring the funding priority. They have squandered money.

Squandered money and now I want to talk about squandered time. Delta arrived in New Zealand in April this year—five months ago. And from then to now, this Government has squandered the time and we were unprepared. They were too interested in cycle bridges and Mongrel Mob methamphetamine programmes and health restructuring to protect us from Delta. In June, the Government’s own independent Roche report into the Valentine’s Day outbreak made several recommendations, including these three: (1) immediately remove the plus classification for close and casual contacts because they are too confusing—immediately. What has happened? Have they been removed? No. In fact, another criterion has been added called high risk. Immediately in June was what the recommendations were—not carried out: fail. Second, they were told to increase the number of people at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service by 25 fulltime equivalents. I challenge the Government to say whether they have done this. Thirdly, the Roche report said increased system capacity and resourcing for an outbreak. The time frame was three months; that three months has passed—clearly a fail. . . 

 

 

These problems would be serious at the best of times. They are far, far worse now that the government has given up on eliminating Covid-19 which increases the threat that hospitals will be overwhelmed.

The health system is very sick and structural reform could be part of the prescription to make it better. But spending millions on restructuring in the middle of a pandemic rather than on increasing the resilience of hospitals and the health workforce is not the right medicine.


Quotes of the month

01/09/2021

I said, ‘I’m not an activist’. They said, ‘what are you?’ I thought, ‘what am I?’ Somebody that’s concerned about what’s happening to New Zealand, that’s all I am – Bryce McKenzie

This isn’t imagined. If you don’t know about it, we’d like you to try and find out. It’s general — people are hurting. – Bryce McKenzie

They are worried not about themselves as … [much as] what’s going to happen to their kids, their grandkids. The family farm, if we keep this up, is gone.

If New Zealand goes to corporate farming, does New Zealand really want family farms gone? They need to just have a good think about that. – Bryce McKenzie

We have never ever not offered a solution in everything we’ve stood for. We’re not against any of the stuff; we just think there’s a better way to treat everybody far better.

It all comes back to one thing: some of these regulations are unworkable – you cannot get around that. – Bryce McKenzie

There’s not enough hand sanitiser in the whole of Japan to clean that act up. That was just absolutely terrible. – Ruby Tui

What rain? Bring on the thunder, we’re at the Olympics, let’s be happy, let’s compete safely and peacefully, peace and love, love you guys.  – Ruby Tui

First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity.

I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible.

However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.  – Anna Vanbellinghen

So why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage [in competing against women]?

I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense, and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes the whole thing feels like a bad joke.

Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless.

Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people, and that is why the question is never free of ideology.

However, the extreme nature of this particular situation really demonstrates the need to set up a stricter legal framework for transgender inclusion in sports, and especially elite sports.

Because I do believe that everyone should have access to sports, but not at the expense of others.Anna Vanbellinghen

Pushing up wages without driving productivity just adds to inflation.

The cost of living becomes a race between prices and wages. History tells us that this is a race the poorest people always lose.

New Zealand faces a dangerous cycle of inflation in the next few years if we let this labour shortage roll on unaddressed.

It will push interest rates higher at a time when the mortgage debt burden is extreme for young homeowners.

Higher interest rates will also be a handbrake on business investment, putting another handbrake on hopes for boosting New Zealand’s productivity. – Liam Dann

We need a rare and difficult combination of bureaucratic competence combined with pragmatism and flexibility. Liam Dann

Criminalising things is not a good thing, it doesn’t get us anywhere. – Dame Sue Bagshaw

If anything, I’m even more determined we don’t lose our humanity through fear in this pandemic. We have at times. Our authorities have forced our elderly to go without company at the end of their lives. They’ve forced them to die without loved ones. They’ve forced their families to stand outside windows looking in, watching them die, unable to just hold their hands and say something like “mum it’s okay”. They’ve kept families from funerals. They’ve made rules that left a daughter to cry inside the MIQ fence as a mother’s hearse passes. A son resorted to going to court to force the Health Ministry to let him spend the last 36 hours of his dad’s life with him. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Somehow in this pandemic you and I and our families have been turned into numbers. Numbers in MIQ, numbers of Covid cases, numbers of deaths. My Ouma will be just another 1 added to South Africa’s Covid tally that then gets reported to the WHO.

But we are people, not numbers. We must balance risk with humanity. We can’t let the people who held our hands die without us holding their hands. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

New Zealanders returning after a few years abroad might wonder whether they’ve blundered into a parallel universe. A government that is pitifully thin on ministerial ability and experience is busy re-inventing the wheel, and doing it at such speed that the public has barely had time to catch its breath. To quote one seasoned political observer: ‘It seems like a hostile takeover of our country is underway and most people feel powerless to do anything about it’.

The most visible change might crudely be described as Maorification, much of it aggressively driven by activists of mixed Maori and European descent who appear to have disowned their problematic white colonial lineage. Self-identifying as Maori not only taps into a fashionable culture of grievance and victimism but enables them to exercise power and influence that would otherwise not be available to them.Karl du Fresne

 What has been framed as an idealistic commitment to the survival of journalism is, in other words, a cynical and opportunistic bid for control over the news media at a time when the industry is floundering. This is a government so shameless, or perhaps so convinced of its own untouchability, that it is brazenly buying the media’s compliance. – Karl du Fresne

The main reason centralisation fails is culture, “the way we do things around here”. A centralised organisation has to be command and control with rigid rules. It is a culture that crushes initiative and problem-solving. –  Richard Prebble

A university by its nature cannot have a prescribed view about the value of one idea or culture over another. Until recently, a university was an institution committed to free enquiry and rigorous debate. Indeed that was its raison d’etre when I was an undergraduate and graduate student. – Bruce Logan

Science by its very nature can never arrive at a consensus. Consensus is the language of politics, not science.

A university is not a church preaching revealed doctrine. It is an institution given to the support of scientific method; certainly in those faculties that have science in their name. If that is not the case, then the university should pack its bags and go home to the planet of the Wokerati.Bruce Logan

Precisely. Science is a universal tool because it rests on the universal truth that the world is an ordered place. Hypotheses can be imagined, experiments repeated and the findings
found to be true or false. – Bruce Logan

When the university fails to fulfil its traditional function it becomes an institution interested only in its own survival. Western culture loses its confidence. Truth and therefore justice is up for grabs and government policy becomes “the views of the university”. Māori and Pākehā share the common loss.Bruce Logan

But the reality is that countries far better prepared, and better equipped than us, have struggled to cope with the latest outbreaks.

So in the end, it will be down to us, and how we respond as individuals, that will make the difference – just as it did last time. – Tracy Watkins

This is a government that has been good at reacting to a crisis, but then useless at dealing with a strategic plan for the longer term. Mike Moore

Many advantages become ingrained. Subsequent hormone therapy may well take the edge off performance, but bones will always be stronger, muscle will not revert to the female level, nor will hearts and lungs shrink. It is hardly fair for someone who retains such advantages to compete against women. – Debbie Hayton

I largely think it’s because cookbooks are associated with the domestic sphere, and they’re associated with women,” she says. “Any books written specifically for a female audience are thought of as not very clever; written with lots of pictures and small words, so women with our small brains can understand them. It’s a bit like the genre formerly known as chick lit. You know, they’re pretty stories for ladies. Cookbooks are the same. – Lucy Corry

Whenever something is perceived to be for women, it very quickly gets perceived to be frivolous and something that you can make fun of and something of very low value. I’m just going to call that out as out-and-out classic, dirty old sexism.

You can’t on the one hand task 50 percent of society for centuries with feeding their families and make that part of their identity and then have a go at them when they buy books to help them do it and get some inspiration. – Claire Murdoch

I think cooking connects you to nature, because practically everything you might want to eat starts out as a seed or a spore, and it’s going to take weeks or months or sometimes years before it’s ready to harvest or be eaten. And it connects you to your own culture and other cultures; and it connects you to your family and friends. And it also connects you to your creativity. It’s a very nourishing thing.  Annabel Langbein

I think it is really difficult for lots of people to feel successful in their daily lives because of pressures and money and resources and all sorts of other things. But cooking is a very simple way to have a sense of ownership of your life; of sharing and connecting and feeling validated and useful. – Annabel Langbein

The answer as to why the government is moving so slowly on so many fronts, including the vaccine roll-out, is that it fundamentally doesn’t believe in incentives and the private sector’s ability to deliver. It has relied on bureaucrats and central planning, which isn’t working.  – Robert MacCulloch

Ministers should not be moaning about why things are not happening more quickly, and waiting for advice from officials. They should be making them happen. – Claire Trevett

I have never seen in my time, and I go back to Muldoon, a more lacklustre, aspiration-less, myopic, and isolationist government. –  Mike Hosking

Are we gonna have police in the church hall deciding whether people are saying the right things? That’s where this gets incredibly messy – David Seymour

We really do not want to go down the route of state intervention every time there are complex medical or wellbeing matters to be discussed in families.Simon Bridges

It is equally obvious that a cause can triumph without being good: it has only to inspire the belief that it is good and is worth fighting for. Indeed, a cause can be profoundly evil and triumph, at least in part through the strength of belief in it.

The lengths to which people go to promote a cause are often held up as some kind of evidence of the value of that cause, but they are nothing of the kind. People may go to great lengths to promote good causes, but those lengths are not in themselves evidence of goodness. After all, even Nazism had its martyrs whose deaths were exhibited as proof of righteousness. – Theodore Dalrymple

Everyone associated with the introduction of the RMA should be ashamed. Despite its worthy intentions, it was plainly naïve from the beginning about human nature and how people would respond to getting power to interfere in decisions on land use changes. A hostility to individual right to decide how one’s own property should best be used, without compensation from those who’d benefit from stopping change, was baked into the RMA. – Don Brash

There is no point in pretending to treat seriously a Bill that is little more than a series of conflicting aspirational claims, dressing up an intention to control future land uses by Ministerial and Planning Committee decree. – Don Brash

It has long been very obvious that environmental protection has been a spurious excuse for endless interference in routine land use decisions with little or no benefit for the natural environment. – Don Brash

The Bill is remarkable for omitting nearly everything that might end the damaging power of NIMBYs and planners, and the green idealists who have empowered them. The Bill contains more puffy slogans, lists of competing, unranked and contradictory purposes, goals and weasel words than the RMA. The lawyers, planners and other vested interest beneficiaries of the status quo rely on the powers they get from the naïve “principles” of the RMA. They will be even more confident of being able to exploit the regime foreshadowed by the Bill. – Don Brash

Ambiguity in law delivers power and profit to lawyers. lawyers notoriously resist normal cost disciplines. they believe that what they do is all about “justice” so that it is improper to demand that they trade off their rolls royce procedures for economy speed and certainty. they can be indifferent to the costs borne by the rest of the community. Don Brash

Are flip flops, false promises and knee jerk reactions good for us?

Well not if you want some stability and consistency from your leadership, some long term strategic management. I would’ve thought good leadership is about properly doing the work up front before you leap into announcements.

Costing and canvassing something to the hilt, before you throw out the press release and roll out the Minister. And then once you have your plan, sticking to it. – Kate Hawkesby

So what we’re seeing here, therefore, is less of a government governing, and more of a reactive popularity contest based on poll data.

Is that good solid leadership? Or is that just amateurs winging it?

Sadly I think it’s the latter. – Kate Hawkesby

What people hear from the government’s silence is: ‘We’re going to make some things that you say illegal but we’re not going to tell you which ones.’ And that’s the kind of uncertainty … that makes a lot of middle New Zealanders feel a little uncomfortable. – Ben Thomas

his government is full of people who don’t get it, who wouldn’t pass NCEA Economics Level 1, and most embarrassingly don’t seem to realise that saying this stuff out loud leads to 10 point drops in polls.Mike Hosking

So, what I’m saying is how can we possibly have pumped in billions of extra dollars, and it not appear to have made a difference? – Andrew Little

These organisations are not just “community support groups” or “surrogate families”. They aren’t “motorcycle clubs”. Or – as I like to say – they’re not “Rotary in Leather”. They are organised criminals.Judith Collins

My husband and I regularly talk to farmers and growers, young and old, involved in horticulture, cropping and livestock. Whether they are more traditional or progressive, the main frustration is not the “why” something should be done – everyone, bar a few stubborn ones, agree on our country’s environmental issues. It’s the “how” that they’re frustrated about.

The crux of it is that farmers feel they’re being made to be entirely responsible for reversing our environmental problems, in a comparatively very short space of time, with what they feel are unworkable solutions. – Nadia Lim

New Zealand is not a team of 5 million. New Zealand is a team of 6 million.

Rhetoric around a team of 5 million implies that the object of security is geographical New Zealand, as opposed to New Zealanders. It has created an ‘us and them’ mentality where Kiwis can simultaneously tut at nationalistic policies abroad while refusing to acknowledge the wall built around their own interests. The government’s responsibility is to its people – all its people.Guest at One Sock

We are all connected; kotahitanga, whakapapa, whanautanga and kaitiakitanga. The price of the situation at the border isn’t just economic, or even humanitarian – it’s our principles. We can choose to ‘be kind’ to some, but not all. We can choose to shut the gates to the village and leave our children and siblings outside. We can choose not to risk the many for the few. Most outside would understand this. But when but the government on our behalf chooses to make space for the rich, for profit-seekers, sportspeople and others to entertain us (Larry Page, 401 Dubai Expo attendees, Wallabies, the Wiggles, to name a few) we have declared what our priorities are, and what they are not.

Perhaps it is rash to presume the government is espousing compassion but pursuing profit with its management of the border. In that case, there is a fine line between caution and cowardice, just as there is between bravery and stupidity. But history teaches us that the outcomes of each are seldom a matter of deliberation, but principle.

One day the border will open and, like the rest of the world, we will have to learn to live with this virus. We will also have to live with the memory of how we treated each other. – Guest at One Sock

One of the most disappointing features of this era of late-stage capitalism is the moral cowardice of those running our civil institutions and their failure to uphold the values of a liberal capitalist democracy. –Damien Grant

Much good has come from this focus on the primacy of the shareholder. A firm succeeds by meeting the needs and desires of its customers and winning business over decades. A solvent, well-run business provides employment not only for its staff but those who toil for its suppliers, as well the positive externalities enjoyed by its customers and even a healthy bounty to the local tax authority. – Damien Grant

No longer are boards responsible for the dreary task of making an honest profit. Now they could be actors in the great game of state, using the capital and networks at their disposal to grandstand on the vital issues of the day.Damien Grant

Between the decision to rip up the rules on the gas market, to the difficulty consenting renewables projects, to the threat to build hydro storage at Lake Onslow, the market is simply responding to the signals that the Government is sending it. – Hamish Rutherford

The Government’s ban on new gas exploration and consequent destruction of the gas industry was a major contributor to the lack of gas. This will only get worse as fields rapidly run down. We should be enthusiastically drilling for gas, including shale gas in the North Island and the South Island.Bryan Leyland

The Maritime Union says its members are angry that they were put at risk by going on board a ship with Covid cases. Maybe I am the first to tell the union, the country is angry that its members have put everyone at risk by willfully refusing to be vaccinated.

The Maritime Union is affiliated to the Labour Party. Is this the reason ministers have not insisted port border workers be vaccinated? This is the fourth ship with Covid in a month.

Chris Hipkins, the Covid Response Minister, has been in politics all his life. He joined the Labour party as a schoolboy. You have to be highly political not to have acted on the Simpson/Roche report. Last weekend he was even denying the MIQ booking system is a failure. – Richard Prebble

The MIQ system is a shambles. The government’s Covid policy relies on luck. – Richard Prebble

The failure of education standards will prove to be a far greater catastrophe for New Zealand than Covid. Without the next generation of well-educated school leavers we are destined to be a failed state.

For Maori and Pacifica students, it is already a tragedy. The majority are leaving school after 16,000 hours of tuition unable to read or do math at a level required by the modern economy.- Richard Prebble

It is hard to learn if you are not at school. Paying state schools for their average daily attendance instead of the nominal roll would make attendance every school’s top priority.

The teachers’ unions would go nuts but educational achievement would improve immediately. – Richard Prebble

Will a future Labour government make a formal apology for the Ardern government’s failure to give today’s pupils a world class education? Hopefully there will not also need to an apology for leaving our ports wide open to Covid. – Richard Prebble

Governments work best when officials understand and are in sync with Ministers’ policy expectations. Ministers start to look shaky when they seem unable to impose their will on their respective departments, or when their public pronouncements begin to sound more and more like the bureaucratese officials can so quickly resort to, to cover inaction.Peter Dunne

Indeed, there are at least three other current examples where ministers seem to be struggling to get the response they want from public agencies for which they are responsible, or where they are starting to look no more than mouthpieces for their departments. – Peter Dunne

A less overworked and consequently more focused minister might well have questioned from the outset the wisdom of relying on the cumbersome and largely incompetent district health board structure, and the exclusion of other community resources, to deliver the vaccination programme with the rapidity and flexibility required, if New Zealand is to be in a position of safety where it can consider returning to somewhere near normality any time soon.

Similarly, Hipkins’ recent public frustration at the lack of response from officials to his request to look at new more patient-friendly Covid19 testing systems – like saliva based tests, for example – to replace the current intrusive nasal test is illustrative of a minister increasingly unable to get officials to implement his agenda, suggesting he is now working more at the officials’ behest than the Government’s intent.Peter Dunne

All this means New Zealand’s recovery from Covid-19 now rests more with the convenience of cautious bureaucrats than the insistence and any urgency of the Government. – Peter Dunne

Hipkins’ colleague, Immigration and Justice Minister Kris Faa’foi has, over recent weeks, almost destroyed any reputation for effectiveness he had built up during his first term as a minister. His weak handling of the hate speech and conversion therapy issues, and the extraordinary inconsistencies in the way migrant workers and their families are being treated during the pandemic have been astounding. Faa’foi, who is apparently keen to leave politics, looks increasingly uninterested, and out of touch with the major issues affecting his portfolios. His media performances on the hate speech and conversion therapy issues have given the impression of someone who neither understands the complexity of the issues involved, nor wants to get too heavily involved in clarifying some of the challenging issues being raised.Peter Dunne

Whatever the explanation, it is a sad day for New Zealand when free speech is considered to be politically risky. An institution that cannot deal with diversity of opinion is a priesthood; it has no right to call itself a university. – Martin Hanson

Claiming people are “hurt” as a rebuttal to another academic’s argument is surely at odds with what academics do — debate ideas logically in the hope of finding the truth. Why is it relevant that some people felt “hurt and dismay”? It is possible to be hurt and still wrong.Matt Heath

Instead of weaponising people’s hurt, we should encourage hurt people to concentrate on why they are hurt. Taking offence is a choice. Choosing not to be offended is a win-win. If your opposition’s claims aren’t valid, they will be easy and fun to refute. If the claims are correct, even better, you have been gifted truth. In which case, the honourable emotion is gratitude. Either way, you don’t need to feel “hurt and dismay”.

Anger, hurt and dismay are gut reactions. You have to act fast before negative emotions take control of your words and actions. An excellent place to start is empathy. – Matt Heath

If you ask me (no one did), academics who hide from uncomfortable discussions by claiming they or others are “hurt” are taking the easy way out. Argue the points, not the emotions. If you disagree with me, come at me. I won’t get hurt. I’d love to be proven wrong; it would be the gift of knowledge. – Matt Heath

We heard as we travelled around the countryside submitters from far and wide. Many of the leaseholders came to speak to the select committee during our hearings in Wellington, in Queenstown, and in Christchurch, and they were amongst some of the most heartfelt submissions that I’ve heard in my time in Parliament. These were representatives of families who had farmed sensibly, pragmatically, with conservation and environmental values at their heart for several generations, and they were distraught, they were hurt, they were confused and unconvinced by the need or the desire for why this Government would want to treat them so harshly, so poorly, and so insultingly. – Scott Simpson

This seems to be a bill that is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. High country farmers, the leaseholders, can feel rightly upset and angry with the moves that this Government is making, because at the heart of this piece of legislation, it undermines the generations of goodwill that have been established between the Crown and the leaseholders. It undermines the good work and the faith that they have invested, not only in terms of their emotion, their hard work, their blood, sweat, and toil but also millions, tens of millions, of dollars of improvement, enhancement, and careful, prudent management of the high country leases. I felt very, very sorry for those submitters who came and, in many cases, were emotional, understandably emotional, about the way that they were going to be treated under this piece of legislation, because at its core, it changes the relationship that they have entered into. – Scott Simpson

When the Prime Minister and the Health Minister go out of their way so obviously to avoid directly answering a question, it is a flashing sign they understand a truthful answer would be highly damaging. – Graham Adams

“Bi” is Latin for two. It therefore inevitably throws emphasis onto the differences, real and imagined, between Maori and Pakeha.

It’s this focus on separateness, rather than the things that draw us together, that has enabled a political culture to flourish in which people of Maori and Pakeha descent are increasingly at odds. – Karl du Fresne

On the contrary, silencing people will almost certainly magnify resentment due to the perception that only one side of the debate is allowed to be heard.

Besides, we should admit that underneath what appears to be crude anti-Maori rhetoric, there is a legitimate grievance: namely, a feeling that the political agenda is largely being driven by people who represent only 16.5 percent of the population, and that other voices are increasingly excluded from the public conversation – or at least that part of the conversation controlled by the media and the government. A situation in which a minority group is perceived as wielding disproportionate power and influence is plainly at odds with fundamental notions of democracy.Karl du Fresne

This doesn’t mean denying that many part-Maori people are disadvantaged in many respects, or prevent us from doing whatever we can to put them on the same footing as the Pakeha majority. As a Pakeha, I can’t see how it could possibly be in my interests for Maori to fail. On the contrary, we would all benefit if Maori health, education and imprisonment rates were improved.   But I don’t see how this can be achieved by setting up a potentially destructive contest between the two main population groups. – Karl du Fresne

The runners with Down Syndrome always bring tears to my eyes. I remember seeing a race in which the two leaders stopped to hug each other instead of crossing the finish line.

Heroic and magnanimous are the words that came to mind when I witnessed their elegant gesture of camaraderie.

Winners. Raising the bar of being wholly human. – Robert Fulghum

Calling someone a racist seems to be the first thing that comes to mind for certain parts of NZ when they don’t agree with something that is said. That’s actually the problem here. Hence my call for NZ to wake up to the danger of the insipid cancel culture that is doing a lot of damage to NZ. – Peter Williams

If a country wants to change its name officially it should do so in a democratic and measured way.  We all know very well why the political class don’t want such a democratic activity – they know what the result will most likely be. The majority will want to retain New Zealand. And there is a certain group of people in this country who are just not prepared to accept democratic outcomes anymore. And that is the most worrying aspect of this entire episode. Peter Williams

To adapt an old aphorism, everyone is an environmentalist until the lights go out. Then we discover a deeper and more immediate concern – a drop in our living standard. – John Roughan

Climate science does not have much luck. The latest dire report from the IPPC was scheduled for release on the same day we awoke to news of the previous night’s blackout in Hamilton and other places. The report duly came out on Tuesday. You might have heard people worrying about what it contained. I didn’t. I heard plenty of concern about the power cut.

The problem for governments that make it their overriding mission to tackle climate change is that most people will not lower their living standards. They will not and nor should they. Human ingenuity can do better. If a government gives climate change greater importance they will change the government. – John Roughan

I began to feel I was too Māori to be Pākehā and too Pākehā to be Māori. Not a proper one at least… If you can’t speak te reo you ain’t a real Māori. And real Māori are Labour. – Simon Bridges

Just as all Scots don’t wear kilts, we can’t put Māori over there as the ones with te reo, moko and marae. – Simon Bridges

I’ve been prone to look down on stay-at-home dads, because our conception of masculinity, whether we like it or not, is of breadwinners.

It’s some deep evolutionary thing. We’ve been hunting animals, and then we’re meant to be out working.

And as I say in the book, whilst I’m not the tough guy playing rugby, for me masculinity I have always associated with work. Long hours is what real men do.

But of course, in 2021, we need to be clear that a real man can be a guy who’s at home with his children while his partner is out as the breadwinner. And I’m glad I’ve woken up to that reality. – Simon Bridges

I’m not gonna suggest that there’s been no moments in my life where the gamesmanship has meant I’ve done something. But if that’s all it is, that’s a real problem,” he says.

“We’ve got this narrow political culture where Red and Blue are actually pretty similar. They’re all professionals.-  Simon Bridges

I could spend a long time trying to do something about it. But no, that would feel like a betrayal of who I am. And in a world where identity and authenticity are such big things, it just wouldn’t be any of that. – Simon Bridges

New Zealand should be very concerned about the possibility that a major event occurs and we simply can’t scramble our Defence Force quick enough; really highly professional people, well trained, have always responded well in the past.

But at the moment … there’s a real shortfall if something was to happen in the Pacific, or further afield that they need to respond to – Chris Penk

Rimmington has correctly analysed that Labour will happily waste $10 million on a train no one uses, but National would not regard $10 million for 30 commuters as sensible spending. – David Farrar

The Green Party stands for many things, a great many things indeed, some of them real, some of them quite fanciful and yet wonderfully appealing in their innocence, but one thing we won’t tolerate is a painting of someone who galvanised a nation in the fight against the Nazi regime and the threat it posed to democracy, freedom, and, you know, life. – Steve Braunias

So many things that probably could have got to me and should have got to me, didn’t get to me. That really got to me, the accent stuff. . . I do think that the book will, in that portion, stop it. I reckon media will read that and appreciate it’s a pretty narrow, parochial snobbism – that if they’re worried about gender and race and all the other things, which they should be, they should be about that as well.Simon Bridges

I realised, getting vaccinated was not actually exclusively about me. It’s actually about those in our community who’re vulnerable and immune compromised, and how would I feel if I passed it onto them? Also, it’s a collective effort to help our country get back into a connected functioning part of the world. We cannot remain an isolated hermit kingdom forever. – Kate Hawkesby

Now I understand being lean isn’t a priority, being strong is,” Donoghue says. “It doesn’t matter what I sit at on the scales. It’s opened us up to understand it’s not about a number but more about a good feeling, knowing we’re fuelling well. – Brooke Donoghue

So we changed the wording. Where we would usually say ‘If you don’t fuel enough, this is the result’, instead every communication became ‘If you fuel according to the work you’re doing, this is the result you’ll get’. It was an excellent approach to behaviour change.Christel Dunshea-Mooij 

Ideal race weights were really a proxy in the past for being healthy and in a good position. You heard stories that ‘leaner is better’. But we’ve got better insight now, so we don’t use those terms. – James Coote

It used to be you ate less to stay a lightweight. But to be able to see I could eat a lot more and then train harder – and stay at the same weight – was eye-opening. It made a huge difference to the way I trained, because I could work harder. – Jackie Kiddle

Being strong has often been seen as a masculine thing in sport. But in rowing, throughout our athletes and staff, the push to be stronger is a positive thing for women too.

As a female athlete, I want to be strong, so I’ve made some massive gains in the gym. I can see my strength performance getting better as well. Our physiologist helped us change the way we look at ourselves. Jackie Kiddle

I’d like to see this support expanded down to high school girls, to take away the stereotypes of strength being masculine, or not eating because you need to look a certain way.

We want to be good role models when it comes to female health. To show girls at high schools that you can row and be healthy – Jackie Kiddle

The surest way to a space in MIQ, for the past 16 months, has been political influence. Those with political influence get spaces. Those without it are forced into a broken room booking system. Getting a room through that broken system seems to be a full-time job all on its own: some would-be travellers have even hired people to sit at a computer and hit the refresh button, all day long, on their behalf.

But for those with political pull, things are a bit easier.- Eric Crampton

The rules ensure that those with political pull can find a way through. Longstanding insiders have political pull. More recent migrants who have not seen their families for a year-and-a-half do not.

The system seems corrupt – but not in any bribe-taking sense. Instead, it is corrupt in what seems a particularly Kiwi sense of the term. No money changes hands. No officials or ministers are bribed. None need to be. The corruption instead is baked into the rules of the system providing a fast-track for those with political pull.

Officials follow the rules of a game that was rigged from the outset.Eric Crampton

Political influence determines who gets fast-tracked entry through MIQ, who is denied any access to the MIQ system, and who is relegated to a broken booking system where the rooms are officially free but come at terrible cost.

The cost of a free room is the time spent trying to secure a space – which can be weeks of dedicated effort. It also includes the terrible uncertainty faced by everyone who fears a sudden turn of events could require them to travel, but that that travel would prove impossible. If you do not have pull, there are currently no rooms available through November.

For many people desperate to rejoin their families, the real price of entry is infinite: there is simply no way they can enter, because they do not have the required political pull. – Eric Crampton

It has been considered unfair for prices to have any role in allocating scarce MIQ spaces. But allocating spaces by political influence and a broken booking system has been worse. If MIQ will be required, for at least some travellers, even after the vaccine roll-out, the Government needs to stop allocating scarce spaces through the aristocracy of pull.Eric Crampton

Some words, in their modern usages, either invite lies or are in themselves implicit lies. One such word, of course, is diversity. Another is inclusion. Just as the Ministry of Love in Nineteen Eighty-Four was responsible for repression and torture, so the word diversity promotes the imposition of uniformity and inclusion promotes exclusion.  – Theodore Dalrymple

No doubt sheer cowardice had much to do with it, for cowardice is often the midwife of lies. Theodore Dalrymple

We are about to witness one of the worst tragedies for women and girls in modern history. From now on, once more, young girls, pre-teens, will be married off too much older men, often enough with multiple wives. Young girls won’t be allowed to go to school, they won’t be allowed to learn to read and write, let alone sing, they won’t be allowed to practice most careers, they won’t be allowed to go the bazaar without the permission, and generally the presence, of their controlling male relative. – Greg Sheridan 

Te Huia is doomed to be yet another spectacular fail from this government, but they have too much political capital at risk to admit it. – Frank Newman

In recent years with the public renaissance of Māori culture, most public events will have a religious dimension in a Māori prayer or karakia. I love this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it brings some life and culture to our otherwise arid secularism. Secondly, I believe our tangata whenua are spiritually set apart and important to our country.

There is an exquisite irony in what’s happened here. Our public servants and civic leaders, who’d spit on the ground during a Pākehā’s Christian prayer, beam like Cheshire Cats when the same is done in te reo. I love this. God works in mysterious ways and he clearly has a sense of humour. – Simon Bridges 

None of this means I hold any Messiah complex. There have been long periods of my life where I have sought answers through prayer but the phone to the Big Guy has seemed off the hook. Despite my stories, I don’t believe in dial-a-God. It’s simply that I believe God is there wanting a personal relationship with everyone. I am not special. – Simon Bridges

The Government’s vaccine purchase of late last year is a microcosm of what’s wrong with its priorities, and a worrying indication that ‘getting the message right’ trumps real world achievement. – Kate MacNamara

There’s no reason to question the spending on contract negotiation, it’s specialised and its consequences were staggeringly large.

And given that New Zealand’s first receipt of the Pfizer vaccine was months behind other countries, and very low for months more, there’s a strong argument to be made that more money should have been spent on advice.

There’s no such rationale for coughing up large sums out of that kitty for communications advice, however: the services MBIE bought with the second largest chunk of that $700,000 were for PR.Kate MacNamara

To give a sense of the priority, that spending trumped the $38,000 that went on the Science and Technical Advisory Group, the $49,000 that went to a research advisor, the $12,000 paid to Horizon Research to study potential Covid-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake, and the $5,500 spent went on translation services.

The breakdown is instructive because it points to how the government, and by extension, its political masters, weighs messaging. – Kate MacNamara

As Auckland University economist Robert MacCullock has estimated, it’s likely New Zealand could have paid an extra $40m (in the order of $4 more per dose) to receive early vaccine delivery.

If it had done so (combined with a competent rollout) we would now be in the position of having already offered inoculation to everyone in our small population, or close to it. – Kate MacNamara

When asked by the Herald last month why the Government didn’t pay more to get Pfizer vaccines early, Hipkins claimed such a move would have been “unethical”.

It was a fatuous remark that sidestepped the Minister’s primary responsibility, which is to the New Zealand public. All the more so now that the public is again housebound in a level 4 lockdown, and footing what Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, has advised is a weekly bill of some $1.5 billion, a tally that notably excludes a host of costs, not the least of which is lost education to school children.

Minister Hipkins needs a new moral compass, if he ditched the spin doctors he could no doubt afford one.- Kate MacNamara

We want to be able to care for our patients – we want to care for them in a safe environment, and it’s so unsafe because of a lack of staffing. Di

Nurses are the ones who move forward and say, ‘I’m happy to do this. We’re here to help, and we’re doing it differently. We’re working outside our normal areas, and normal hours – we’re doing it again.- Geraldine

I understand lockdown had to be done fast, but it’s significantly harder for people whose pay is not consistent. I was lucky enough to get paid the night we went into lockdown and worked 45 hours last week so had enough money to buy groceries but that’s not the case for everyone.

I know people who get paid Wednesday/Thursday and they won’t get paid for their hours this week. They’ll have to go without the essentials because they didn’t have enough money to go to the doctors for their prescriptions renewed. – Ellsie Coles

“We had all these customers desperate to get back to their local cafes and bars, but the way [customers] treated us was appalling. Before lockdown, customers were dismissive, abusive and rude but it was almost like they had completely forgotten their manners. It was also how drunk they were getting. – Ann King

Xenophobia is, regrettably, not a new strain in the national psyche, more an endemic seasonal virus that has circulated since time immemorial. However, the prevailing attitude, expressed through policy and the rhetoric of our leaders, to New Zealanders outside the border – ranging from frosty indifference to outright hostility – is very much a new development. Ben Thomas 

However, since Covid, New Zealanders’ circle of empathy seems to have been pulled tight, like a knot, around the territorial boundaries of the country.

New Zealanders caught outside, or the families of foreign visa holders here doing often essential work including nursing and teaching, feel very much like they are looking in. In some respects, the pandemic has made the country smaller. Our families, our co-workers’ families, our friends, now show up in the public discourse mainly as risks to be managed or, more likely, excluded.

While government surrogates criticise “lifestyle” travellers and those who “chose” to live overseas, stories mount of partners who have not seen newborns. – Ben Thomas 

The New Zealand state’s efficiency and wraparound service, seen in the dispensation of wage subsidies and (ironically) passport processing speed, is experienced by offshore New Zealanders, setting regular alarms to stay online and wait to click hopelessly for hours to book non-existent spots in MIQ, as uncaring and capricious.

In order for values to count as character, they have to endure in good times and bad. Is the New Zealand national identity we treasure a reflection of who we really are, or of the benign times we have lived through until now? With the imminent effects of climate change and the movement of mass refugees from the hell of Afghanistan under the Taliban, these are questions we may be answering soon. – Ben Thomas 

Education is more than just a pathway to a job. It’s about growing young people who are filled with aspiration, with capabilities, with vision for themselves and the world around them.

The focus of education has definitely shifted … there’s been a focus on what can be measured, and evaluated.

The arts play an important part in developing creativity, engagement with the world around them … it’s more than a skillset  – Esther Hansen

Like any mother, it doesn’t matter how old your children are, you want to be with them. I’m sure there’ll be lots of other families around the area who identify with how we’re feeling at the moment.Anne Tolley

I think it’s time that these modern day politicians showed the great man a bit of respect. He was not perfect, but then again, who is? He was a man of his age and his opinions and actions reflected that. Indeed, attempting to impose today’s opinions on historical figures, as many on the left do, is just childish.

What is not up for debate, however, is that the world, including New Zealand, owes Churchill a great debt. And he will be revered long after this obsession with wokeness has passed and politicians like Ardern have thankfully left the stage. – Paul A. Nuttall

No other country has achieved lockdowns as tough as New Zealand’s, and thereby executed an elimination strategy. Especially with the Delta strain, almost everyone else has accepted that Covid is here to stay. Instead of being preoccupied with national self-congratulation, they have focused aggressively on early vaccination. Matthew Hooton

Even once we reach the undefined level of vaccination Ardern says would lead to the borders reopening, Covid will keep arriving, spreading, making people sick, putting some of us in ICU and even killing a few.

If Ardern’s definition of elimination means lockdown every time, then her strategy will have run its course not long after we emerge from this one.

Meanwhile, her Government’s shameful performance in preparing the public and the health system for that imminent reality should be a national scandal.

More than a year since Ardern was forced to switch from flattening the curve to elimination, the Ministry of Health reports no material improvement in ICU capability. – Matthew Hooton

There were 334 ventilators and 358 ICU beds at the end of the first lockdown. The Ministry of Health says there are just 284 fully staffed ICU beds across public hospitals. While there are 629 ICU-capable ventilators, including 133 in reserve, the number of nurses trained to work with them improved by just 1 per cent. The problem that forced Ardern to opt for her ultra-tough strategy is as bad as ever.

Little new can be said about the vaccination fiasco. We have the slowest rollout in the developed world, not all frontline border and MIQ workers are yet vaccinated and there was no chance of reaching population immunity until mid-December, even without this week’s pause.Matthew Hooton

Yet Ardern and her Beehive should not be let off so easily. For months, ministers and strategists have privately pointed the finger at the bureaucrats for every failure while claiming success for Ardern’s rhetorical achievements.

But those bureaucrats report to ministers. If their performance is as poor as claimed, then the buck stops at the top and the time for whispers is past. If the Beehive does not believe senior bureaucrats are capable of preparing the health system for a post-elimination strategy, it should say so publicly and get in people who are. – Matthew Hooton

While we continue to have low deaths and infections, we have a woefully low rate of vaccination, which currently languishes among Romania, Albania, and Bolivia. If other parts of our public infrastructure were ranked so poorly, you’d expect ministerial resignations. Thomas Coughlan

The idea that most DHBs could be “hitting” their targets, while the population eligible for the vaccines is still roughly 60 per cent unvaccinated shows the targets for the sham they are – the emperor has no vaccine.

The Government has some serious questions to answer to the people put at risk by the latest Covid outbreak, which appears to include a large number of under-30s. – Thomas Coughlan

No one’s kidding themselves about a return to what things were like before, but for our Northern Hemisphere friends, two doses of vaccine and a bit of mask-wearing seems to buy an alternative lifestyle that has significant benefits to our own.

This somewhat upends the politics of Covid in New Zealand. Should this outbreak worsen, and modelling suggests it might, it will no longer be clear that our approach is the right one.Thomas Coughlan

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response was idealised last year. The small island nation eliminated the virus – with short lockdowns, closed borders and effective contact tracing – and largely lived without restrictions. Economic growth has been high and mortality has been low. But what worked in 2020 is not the same as what makes sense in 2021.

We now have vaccines. The ingenious jabs substantially reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death from the virus. They do not mean zero risk or, for that matter, zero cases. But they change the calculation: elimination becomes a costly strategy with very limited benefit. What’s the point of lockdowns and maintaining closed borders for a virus that, with vaccines in the mix, no longer causes much harm to individual people?

New Zealand has not come to this realisation. It has fetishised “zero risk” for the past 17 months and show little interest in updating its strategy. – Matthew Lesh

New Zealand’s zero Covid strategy has had frightening consequences. A once-welcoming nation is turning into an isolated dystopia, where liberties are taken away in a heartbeat and outsiders are shunned. Living under the constant threat of disruptive and psychologically crushing lockdowns. Being closed off to the world, with citizens’ ability to travel curtailed and foreigners largely prevented from entering. So much for the open, welcoming liberal nation projected by Ms Ardern. Matthew Lesh

The implications of New Zealand’s strategy stretch well beyond Covid. “Zero risk” gives the state limitless justification to interfere with our lives in the most extreme of ways. Individual choice, bodily autonomy and basic privacy become subsumed to the goal of taking away anything that could do us even the smallest level of harm. Fear breeds tolerance for the most extreme actions. A liberal society becomes impossible to maintain.

This pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways. We have sacrificed so much in the name of public safety. But at some point, we have to declare “enough is enough”. Snap lockdowns over small numbers of cases and constant state interference in our lives is simply no way to live. – Matthew Lesh

The Government are in charge of this, they are the ones that are setting the rules. They are the ones that need to make sure it’s working properly. They can’t delegate responsibility to others.

“It’s them that I expect to make sure the that vaccination is working everywhere in the country when they say it is.Todd McClay

The conceit is in thinking that we can come up with a completely 100 per cent water-tight border. Short of letting no goods or people cross it at all, which would truly mean North Korea, there is always a risk. Fortification is effective but not failsafe. And so it proved.

Still, hopefully some good can come from this new reality. Perhaps we could collectively use the time to develop some greater clarity of thinking on our response to this pandemic, knowing what we know now. – Steven Joyce

The word elimination has become Orwellian and unhelpful. Covid is not eliminated when we keep it out of the country. It is simply shut out and we have barricaded ourselves in.

And all the evidence suggests the world won’t be eliminating it, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Kicking the term elimination to touch is important because its use by our politicians has bred smugness and complacency, particularly in them. They have acted as if Covid has been eliminated, and signalled the same to the public with their actions. – Steven Joyce

The vaccine rollout has been accurately described as a strollout.

There has been scandalous negligence in preparing our hospital facilities for another wave of the pandemic, as alluded to in the Skegg Report last week.

The Government has instead busied itself looking down its nose at the outbreaks in Australia, reorganising hospital administration (during a pandemic?), and paying for things like school lunches for kids whose parents don’t want them, or putting cameras on fishing boats, all out of the Covid emergency fund.

This is not the sort of stuff on the top of your to-do list when there is a war on.

And it is a war, with a tricky and persistent invader. – Steven Joyce

Fortifying our defences and using our moat to protect ourselves is a legitimate tactic and I support it.

Where we have fallen down is in not using the time those fortifications have given us to urgently vaccinate the population and prepare our hospital facilities to cope better with another outbreak.

When one occurs, there is no alternative to locking down.

Which brings us to the second thing we can take out of this lockdown. A new urgency for vaccination for everyone.- Steven Joyce

Vaccinations don’t prevent transmission, but they do suppress serious illness. It should by now be clear that vaccination is the only known way out of this pandemic. Frankly, it was apparent months ago, but at least with the clear and present danger we have now, the Government and all of us should have the impetus to rapidly get it done.

Temporarily halting vaccinations at the start of lockdown was not a good first step. You mean you hadn’t prepared vaccination centres for operating under Level 3 or 4? Steven Joyce

If ministers start admitting that people won’t need to be locked down once we are all vaccinated, it’s a short step from there to blaming them for the current lockdown, given that they have been supervising the world’s slowest rollout.

Alternatively, they really believe our hospital system won’t cope with even a small increase in Covid-related hospitalisations next year alongside our regular flu season. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes if that proved to be the case, having by then had two years to prepare. – Steven Joyce

We did well in the early stages of Covid but this outbreak should remove any remaining temptation to rest on our laurels. Hopefully it teaches some humility to our politicians and senior public servants and a much-needed reassessment of our plan forward from here.

We only need to lock down now because we are not vaccinated.

Our businesses, our kids missing their schooling and friends, our families missing life events, elderly neighbours prevented from talking to each other, those who feel life and its opportunities are passing them by, can’t put up with much more of “lockdown is the only solution”. Steven Joyce

Certainty is really helpful for people – not only people in business and small businesses but also for people just trying to go about their lives. A lack of certainty, waiting for a one o’clock announcement every day, this actually adds to the anxiety – it doesn’t actually help people that much. – Judith Collins

We are in lockdown because the government did not act with urgency to protect New Zealanders. Their complacency and inability to ensure supply and delivery of the vaccine roll-out has left New Zealanders as sitting ducks; completely vulnerable to the Delta variant when it inevitably got into the community.

It is not enough for the prime minister to lock us in our homes and speak from the podium once a day. New Zealanders don’t need sermons, we need vaccines in arms right now. – Judith Collins

New Zealanders are right to be very frustrated. We understand we need to have a level 4 lockdown because of the seriousness of the situation … that is taken as a given.

But what is not acceptable, is the government has been absolutely warned about this situation for many months, then only now talking about bringing in, for instance, saliva testing and rapid antigen testing … it’s like they’ve been asleep at the wheel and complacent and sitting back and saying ‘aren’t we clever?’ when ultimately, we’re not. – Judith Collins

The plan should have been in place and able to be activated at literally a moment’s notice.

Indeed, it is unimaginable that any responsible government would not have a contingency plan well in place for such an emergency, suggesting that the real point of the contrived urgency was more about showing the government was bold, decisive and in control. If, as the Prime Minister has implied, they were awaiting further information before reaching a decision, then that suggests the government and the Ministry of Health were hopelessly ill-prepared for such eventualities, something the public should be extremely concerned about. It must be hoped that the Prime Minister’s hints were yet more spin, not an accurate reflection of the real state of play. – Peter Dunne

And when the announcement was eventually made, the sanctimony and arrogance were palpable. All New Zealanders wanted to know was when we would be going into lockdown and for how long. Even then, they were kept in suspense when it was announced that the Prime Minister was running ten minutes late – a deliberate ploy to attract attention if ever there was one. Worse, when she eventually deigned to appear it was to be a further twelve minutes of generalities and slogans before she eventually got to the point we had all been waiting to hear.

All the appeals to live in your bubble, remember you are part of the team of five million, and to be kind are so much humbug. All they do is raise the hairs on the back of the neck more rigidly. Peter Dunne

Delaying the announcement several hours until the 6:00 pm television news and then not even turning up on time to deliver it suggests the process was more about keeping the focus on the government, than meeting the public’s concerns.- Peter Dunne

I would prefer the government when dealing with complex but not unexpected situations like this week’s outbreak to keep its focus solely on the facts, without the extraneous, embellishing drama. People simply need to know what is happening, how it affects them, and what they need to do. They can work the rest out for themselves without the saccharine laced platitudes masquerading as announcements that have become so much a part of the process. – Peter Dunne

We will get through the current situation for no other reason than people’s focus on their own and their families’ wellbeing. It has nothing to do with being kind, staying in bubbles, or being part of some mythical team of five million. That is all just so much unctuous poppycock. People will respond because they appreciate it is in their best personal interests to do so. Anything else is just puffery. Therefore, we deserve to be respected as mature and responsible beings, capable of sound decision-making, not errant children to be given morality lectures at our leaders’ convenience. – Peter Dunne

The greatest absurdity of this week’s announcements, in response to a situation brought on almost entirely by our poor vaccination rates, was the abrupt decision to suspend vaccinations, only to be just as abruptly overturned less than 24 hours later. It suggested a complete lack of forethought, planning and organisation. Or, as the ever-curmudgeonly Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame would say, “They haven’t got Brains any of them, only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think.” – Peter Dunne

The rest of the world is embracing its post-pandemic future while New Zealand enters a March 2020 time warp.Andrea Vance

We were overconfident about the elimination strategy and our ability to keep the virus out. But whereas the virus got more sophisticated, more “tricky” to use Ardern’s own parlance, we did not.

While New Zealand was free of community transmission, the Government took a leisurely approach to vaccination.- Andrea Vance

If only Ardern had applied the ‘go hard and go early’ approach to her Government’s vaccination strategy. – Andrea Vance

These are failings that were foreseeable and are unforgivable. We are yet to learn how the variant penetrated New Zealand’s defences, but the most obvious pathway is a border incursion.

So for now, we will do our bit. Stay home, mask up, relinquish our freedoms and hope the consequences of a lockdown are not too severe.

The responsibility to stop the spread is once again on us – because the Government failed to play its part. – Andrea Vance

The truth is we can’t maintain zero-Covid forever. We all know that. We’re only delaying the inevitable by carrying on with it.

At some point we will have to open the borders again to the world. Pretending there is a choice not to do that is a fallacy. There simply is no other option. We must rejoin the world if we want to be part of it.Heather du Plessis-Allan

So at some point Covid will come into New Zealand. We will be jabbed, there will be outbreaks, some people will die, some won’t even know they’re crook, most people will get a touch of something then get better. That will happen. We don’t get to choose if it happens, we only get to choose when it happens.

So, knowing that every lockdown only delays the inevitable, ask yourself how many more level 4s you’re happy to do before you’ve had enough. Heather du Plessis-Allan

The truth is we can’t maintain zero-Covid forever. We all know that. We’re only delaying the inevitable by carrying on with it.

At some point we will have to open the borders again to the world. Pretending there is a choice not to do that is a fallacy. There simply is no other option. We must rejoin the world if we want to be part of it.Heather du Plessis-Allan

So at some point Covid will come into New Zealand. We will be jabbed, there will be outbreaks, some people will die, some won’t even know they’re crook, most people will get a touch of something then get better. That will happen. We don’t get to choose if it happens, we only get to choose when it happens.

So, knowing that every lockdown only delays the inevitable, ask yourself how many more level 4s you’re happy to do before you’ve had enough. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The reason the Police weren’t jabbed properly was because they didn’t have the supply. At last, Ardern admits it. We asked that very question six hours earlier yesterday when talking to Ashley Bloomfield, but he wouldn’t admit it.

The Police, of course, who have this week talked of taking legal action, have every right to be angry. The supermarket workers have every right to be angry. By weeks end, we all have every right to be angry because we have been shockingly let down. Mike Hosking

Their plan, such as it ever was, is now officially a scandal, it’s a bust. As Scott Morrison and his smug lot across the Tasman had to admit and apologise for.

So too will this lot, who suffered the same smugness, who refused to listen, who refused to accept that it was a race, the borders don’t keep out the virus, and zero Covid is a joke.

It’s a hopelessly idealistic joke believed in by people who are not remotely connected to the real world. – Mike Hosking

So, to the supply, we have been conned.

We didn’t pay the premium for early delivery, we didn’t have any urgency, we were blinded by the dumb belief that a locked border was all we needed, and we could take all year no worries. What a farce.

We could have jabbed everyone if we started in February by June. And yet here we are in August 118th in the world locked down, everything shut, and yet again going nowhere.Mike Hosking

That’s where this Government’s plan, or lack of plan has landed us. Front-liners not protected because of lack of supply, 118th in the world, locked down like nowhere else apart from the other inept idiots across the Tasman.

The scam is up. The con is exposed. The Ardern Show was as shallow as ‘be kind’ and stick a teddy in the window.

You think they’re going to put this on the cover of Vogue or Time?  – Mike Hosking

So in a year and a half, we haven’t come very far at all, in terms of mitigating the damage the virus does and in terms of treating people when the worst does happen. All the time we were rocking on at Six60 concerts and cheering on the All Blacks, there were people whispering “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. And they were right. –  Kerre McIvor

There is much that has been done well by New Zealanders and the Government in response to Covid-19. But lockdowns also remind us there is much that could be done better, particularly by the decision makers at the Ministry of Health. – Kerre McIvor

Despite her butter-wouldn’t-melt image of kindness and care and concern for others, Ardern is a ruthless politician who is cunning as a fox and quick to change tack in response to public criticism.

She is also shameless at stage-managing her public appearances for maximum effect — whether it is showcasing her government’s actions at her 1pm press conferences or being covered by a Polynesian ceremonial mat during an official apology for the Dawn Raids in a highly choreographed piece of political theatre.Graham Adams

Eventually her adherents — no matter how fervently they believe in their leader’s righteousness — will come to see that the fabled destination will always remain out of reach. They are steadily drifting away as it becomes more and more apparent her government is seriously incompetent in battling the scourges that afflict New Zealand — including overburdened infrastructure, crippling house prices and children living in poverty. – Graham Adams

Despite her butter-wouldn’t-melt image of kindness and care and concern for others, Ardern is a ruthless politician who is cunning as a fox and quick to change tack in response to public criticism.

She is also shameless at stage-managing her public appearances for maximum effect — whether it is showcasing her government’s actions at her 1pm press conferences or being covered by a Polynesian ceremonial mat during an official apology for the Dawn Raids in a highly choreographed piece of political theatre.Graham Adams

Eventually her adherents — no matter how fervently they believe in their leader’s righteousness — will come to see that the fabled destination will always remain out of reach. They are steadily drifting away as it becomes more and more apparent her government is seriously incompetent in battling the scourges that afflict New Zealand — including overburdened infrastructure, crippling house prices and children living in poverty. – Graham Adams

As is the case with so much in life, the wealthy in New Zealand and Australia have the resources to ensure their families come out of the current lockdown (and future lockdowns) relatively unscathed. The countries’ least privileged citizens aren’t so fortunate. They’re the ones that suffer the most from this strategy and the costs they’re being asked to bear will be with many of them for life. These lands down under are failing their most vulnerable with a policy of COVID-zero.Nicholas Kerr

Failing a knighthood, as a farmer there’s only one way I want the public to thank me: by happily paying a fair price for what I produce and not begrudging how I make a living. – Craig Hickman

The Prime Minister doesn’t need to hog all the media space. She already gets up to an hour a day any day she likes beaming straight into Kiwi’s lounge rooms. She already gets to pick and choose which media outlets she goes on in a bid to avoid hard questions.

When she stops meetings from taking place via zoom It goes beyond a health-based decision and becomes a political decision. She is playing politics here while she pretends to rise above that. It is impossible to respect this decision and her for making it. Heather du Plessis-Allan

Jacinda Ardern consistently calls for Kiwis to “be kind”. In today’s 4pm stand-up, the record hadn’t changed. How would she respond if asked what cruelty she had exercised in the pursuit of kindness? Because she has inflicted cruelty on New Zealanders through lock down. – Lindsay Mitchell

If she is asking people who barely tolerate each other in normal circumstances to transform under lock down, you know she lacks any understanding of the human condition under extreme stress.

She must. Or she wouldn’t be pig-headedly pursuing the same pathway she led us down in 2020.

“Be kind” is a hollow platitude. That’s all it has ever been.Lindsay Mitchell

Any confidence that we learned our lessons from last year’s lockdown regarding mass virus testing should be thrown out the window. Having been through this process before, one would assume the Ministry of Health and its various providers would have a clear and concise plan to efficiently deliver mass Covid-19 testing to as many people as possible.

Instead, close contacts and essential workers were made to wait more than 10 hours for a test – some were even turned away as demand trumped capacity. Queues of cars wreaked havoc with what little traffic was on the roads under alert level 4 restrictions, indicating a clear lack in appropriate facilities for such efforts. – Adam Pearse

The question remains; how did we let this happen again?Adam Pearse

The frustrating aspect is that we’ve been through this before. We know what happens when calls for mass testing are sounded and yet nothing seems to have changed in the 17 months we’ve had to prepare. – Adam Pearse

What is most disappointing is that it’s our nurses who are bailing us out again. They have no choice but to rise to the occasion. They know their communities need them, rain or shine, swabbing every nose possible. The hope is – likely a naive one – that their sacrifices will not be forgotten by those who hold the keys to better pay and improved working conditions. – Adam Pearse

But if the past week has signalled anything, it’s that we will never be able to successfully operate mass testing without addressing the historical issues in our health workforce.

If you head to a well-resourced medical centre, you will see how mass events should be run and what they all have in common is sufficient staffing. Without the necessary numbers, people’s anxieties will continue to defeat efforts to prioritise testing for those who need it. – Adam Pearse

Until the world is willing to admit the obvious truth—that radical Islamism sanctions atrocities against women—these atrocities will continue to happen. – Yasmine Mohammed

The New Zealand Government can take a lot of lessons from its Covid leadership.

Firstly, and most importantly, leadership should always get in the weeds and into the detail on the mission critical matters. The best business leaders in the world are always on the dance floor, not on the balcony.

Less time on PR. More time on solving problems and practical decision making. More time being proactive not reactive. – Nick Mowbray

Helicopter management simply does not work. It’s a “hit and hope” approach.

Leaders need to first understand at a macro level what needs to be prioritised and then move swiftly into action, getting into the detail, solving problems and building actionable frameworks. Unfortunately this government’s record reads poorly in this regard.Nick Mowbray

Unfortunately I fear a lack of understanding at a macro level. A good example was the wage freeze on nurses for three years in complete disregard to mass inflation (consumer/houses/assets) – so basically a wage reduction.

No one is more mission-critical than nurses. We need every single one. Our health system is already vastly understaffed regardless of Covid. We should be prioritising our health professionals now more than ever. – Nick Mowbray

Complacency kills companies. It’s also what got New Zealand into this spot. Like in business if you don’t keep moving, evolving, improving and being proactive every single day you get left behind and eventually you lose.

NZ’s Covid response flat-lined a long time ago.

I hope our Government is learning from this and evolves so we can move quickly join the world again. – Nick Mowbray

These people, who ask questions, challenge the government’s response, probe and probe again after detecting inconsistencies, play a vital role in improving the Covid-19 response.

Because being part of the team doesn’t mean mindlessly accepting information at face value. And being kind doesn’t mean sitting down and shutting up.Laura Walters

Questions and challenges should be rooted in fact, with the express aim of improving public understanding and access to information, as we all work towards the same goal: keeping New Zealanders safe. But there is plenty of space between whipping up hysteria and essentially becoming part of the government communications machine. It is not the job of the New Zealand media or the opposition to make the government look good.

Unfortunately, many of those who do play the vital role of questioning the government’s handling of some aspects of its pandemic response are vilified. – Laura Walters

Watching the sausage being made can be surprising, confusing and sometimes off-putting. Repeated questioning on the same topic might seem unnecessary or even a form of badgering, but it’s also how a subtle inconsistency in a comment from the country’s leadership can reveal a wider issue. Laura Walters

So, when we talk about the team of five million, it’s important to remember there are many roles within the team, and they often look quite different.

Good science has been at the core of New Zealand’s successful Covid-19 strategy. Good science is not born out of acceptance or complacency; it’s reliant on the constant challenging and questioning of ideas and approaches, in order to get the best possible outcome. The same is true for public health policy and political responses. – Laura Walters

This is a very shonky and incompetent government. Make no mistake.Lindsay Mitchell

Isn’t it interesting how much lower the bar is for bureaucrats than the private sector?  Even our sports teams get more scrutiny. Imagine if Ashley Bloomfield was an All Black coach.

Bear in mind, this guy is our number one, head and shoulders above the next best suitable candidate. That’s the worryingly low benchmark we’re setting and accepting across the state service for where performance expectations sit. –  Kate Hawkesby

If this were the private sector, we’d score KPI’s, canvas high and lowlights, and grade performance. The only conclusion we could draw would result in a small chat with HR in which Bloomfield be invited to bring a support person, followed by a press release about spending more time with his family, and, if he’s lucky, a small pay-out.   

But this isn’t happening with Teflon Bloomfield, NZ’s highest profile bureaucrat. Kate Hawkesby

On numerous occasions he’s at best withheld or obfuscated material information – and at worst has bare face lied to Cabinet, a Select Committee and the public. On testing, on flu vaccines, on PPE, on the critical vaccine procurement and rollout, on saline injections, on text messages to Foreign Affairs.

He continues to defend the indefensible.  – Kate Hawkesby

We’ve been caught short – and he’s not fronting that with a mea culpa, or even highlighting areas where things could’ve been better, nor is he being put under scrutiny or held to account by his employer. 

He has not demonstrated the light-footed dynamism of thought that’s required in managing the risks of an ever-evolving pandemic. In the private sector he’d be toast, and yet, we have deified him.Kate Hawkesby

If these really are isolated incidents, then the only conclusion one can make is that Labour volunteers are pathologically stupid. – David Farrar

Meanwhile, my mother and I still cry a storm of tears on twice-weekly video calls and our daughter gets further and further from the place of her birth. For those Australians who say expats had all the time they needed to come home, I hope you never have to watch a loved one’s funeral on a video call or lose a job without a way to find another. I hope you never have to take out a mortgage to hug your mother. The financial cost has been enormous, but it’s the emotional toll that hurts the most. That and the realisation that what you thought was “home” was just an illusion.Gaynor Reid

The role of Opposition in our Westminster parliamentary system is vital to a properly functioning democracy. Our system is adversarial not simply because the Opposition want to win the next election, but because of the serious part we must play in scrutinising the Government and having them justify their actions to the New Zealand public.- Judith Collins

They like us to give them eight days’ notice if we’re increasing our capacity, but as I said to them, Jacinda didn’t give us eight days’ notice for the lockdown.Annabel Turley

You just completely blow up with Delta if you have got an unvaccinated population. So this [outbreak] is a consequence of being too slow on the vaccine and not buying up aggressively at the start of the year, and there’s actually not a lot of excuse for that. We have to put ourselves first, and we didn’t. – Rodney Jones

The system appears to be bursting at the seams and the Government’s only response so far has been to shrug off criticism because this outbreak is bigger than what they had prepared for.

But that ignores four stark warnings that the Government has received over the past 18 months about the state of the contact tracing system. Each of these critical reviews found that the system would struggle to handle a medium-sized outbreak. Now such an outbreak has arrived and it has been spurred on further by the fact that it involves the highly transmissible Delta variant. – Mark Daalder

It’s the struggle that Ardern has been waging for 18 months – not wanting to politicise the pandemic but having to grapple with the fact that these decisions are by necessity political. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that the government makes its decisions solely on the health advice. – Marc Daalder

It’s bad enough that Delta arrived on these shores at a time when our vaccination rates were among the lowest in the developed world. It’s appalling that our frontline workers in hospitals, ports, supermarkets and police were largely unvaccinated. – Bruce Cotterill

Training testers and contact tracers now is like training your army after the enemy has invaded. – Bruce Cotterill

In the meantime we have 2000 supermarket workers in isolation and six supermarkets closed in Auckland alone as a result of a lack of staff. If you think lockdowns are frustrating people, just wait until they can’t get to the supermarket.

It gets worse. Life-saving surgeries, including a kidney transplant, have been cancelled because of a shortage of nurses. Where are the nurses? Isolating of course. – Bruce Cotterill

This crisis is far from over and we desperately need to change the way we are going about it. We need a sense of urgency. We need to put people in places with the ability to get things done and authority to make decisions.

Government departments and their servants provide adequate resource when life is normal. But in a crisis you need different skills and different strategies. You need rapid response, something government departments are not typically known for. You need people who can put teams together quickly and get things done. Political affiliations don’t matter. It’s all hands on deck. Just like the wartime that most of us are too young to remember.

And we need to be thinking ahead. Someone needs to be asking what the worst-case scenarios are and how we should prepare in case they happen. – Bruce Cotterill

The starting point in solving any problem is to admit that that you have a problem.

Instead of making excuses, let’s admit that our vaccination programme has been too slow and make a plan to get ahead of the game. Order booster vaccines now (we haven’t done this yet!).

How do we speed up testing? And how do we speed up getting test results? It’s six days in some places. Too long. We need next-day results. – Bruce Cotterill

We need a plan to vaccinate as many people as we can, as quickly as we can. We then need to plan our re-opening. We need to share those plans with the people and businesses so they can make their own plans. – Bruce Cotterill

Meeting surge capacity isn’t just some gold standard target to make the Government and health officials feel a sense of achievement, it’s pivotal to ensuring lockdown is actually working and Delta is being stamped out.

Based on the woefully low current capacity of contact tracers, not to mention the fact 600 contact tracers are being sought in the middle of an outbreak, it’s difficult to see what stress-testing was carried out ahead of Delta arriving. – Jo Moir

Either the Ministry of Health did little to no scenario-planning or wildly overestimated its own abilities.Jo Moir

Knowledge is power and contacts of positive cases not getting tested immediately makes it difficult to gauge how big the outbreak is and, in some cases, results in more people getting infected.

In addition to that there’s now issues of people who have tested positive not being moved into quarantine. – Jo Moir

It’s becoming increasingly unclear what exactly about this outbreak was planned for. – Jo Moir

So, then, reasonable decisions about the lockdowns are being made with the information available at this moment. But it would be remiss not to point out that we find ourselves in at this moment because of decisions made by the same people and their officials earlier in the pandemic.

For whatever reasons – and I think there are like many, some of which were out of officials’ control and some of which weren’t – we have found ourselves woefully behind in the vaccination programme. Ministers are incredibly defensive whenever they are challenged on this. But you can’t take credit for one part of the response and shirk all responsibility for another. – Jack Tame

Even once everyone had the opportunity to be vaccinated, the government will not remove all Covid restrictions. The government will build its own MIQ facilities. It will take at least a year to complete. The ability to travel wherever we wanted and return whenever we wanted will be a treasured memory for many years to come.

We will be unable to take international holidays. We will not be able to visit our friends and family overseas. Doing business worldwide will remain difficult.

Meanwhile, life in New Zealand will change. We will always be bound by rules. Covid outbreaks will be a constant concern, shutting down parts of the country without warning. Any plan will always be subject to change. There will be no certainty.

The power balance in our country will have shifted in favour of the state. We will live in a world where the state is in charge of our well-being and security. A state that, by the way, consistently fails at basic tasks. No matter how grateful we are to be alive, who would want to live in such a dystopian society?

For Covid’s sake, how much freedom will New Zealanders sacrifice? The answer to that question will determine the future of our country. – Oliver Hartiwch

We are short of nurses, not just in aged care facilities but all across the country. Yet I saw the Prime Minister saying that we were prepared for Covid-19 – but that Delta had a head start on us.

Nonsense – we had a head start on Delta but the government didn’t prepare for it by bringing in the thousands more nurses needed throughout the health system. We have had only 20 per cent of the population vaccinated and there are only enough vaccines in the country right now for another 375,000 (750,000 vaccines in all, two doses per person).

That’s not ‘prepared’; that is the slowest vaccination rate in the whole OECD. It’s a joke for Jacinda Ardern to say Delta had a head start.Brien Cree

So now we have overworked nurses working for six and seven days a week. They are asking for more pay and fair enough – but this isn’t a pay issue, it’s a supply issue. Instead of allowing nurses in from overseas, they have decided to burn out the nurses we have here.

There are over 2000 nursing vacancies in DHB hospitals and over 1000 in residential care. Then there’s natural attrition as people leave for all sorts of reasons – now including exhaustion. So who knows what the real number is? – Brien Cree

Why do we have 11-hour queues for vaccines? Not enough nurses. Why are we the lowest-vaccinated country in the OECD? A shortage of nurses.

We have been asking and asking for overseas nurses to be let in here – refused at every turn. We should have been building capacity in our health system, planning for when the virus came back. We all knew it was coming and the government kept telling us it would – yet they did nothing.

The government is making it sound like they have prepared for the crisis – but the real crisis is yet to occur. That will happen when the severely stretched health system can’t cope with the lack of specialist services not bringing in overseas nurses has caused.

They should have realised we were in the eye of the storm and brought in thousands of nurses in the past year, settled them in and got them working so the system could stay robust. They didn’t, although sports teams and entertainers got in, and now they have made us vulnerable. – Brien Cree

The government short-sightedness in keeping essential workers out is mystifying. They had an opportunity and they blew it.
The health system is in crisis now and the real crisis hasn’t even arrived yet.

Let’s learn from our mistakes – when this lockdown is over, let’s get much needed nurses into the country and build some capacity back into our health system. – Brien Cree

Empty streets, shuttered businesses, and people physically avoiding each other are bleak reminders that our ‘normal’ way of living is now fragile.

That, and the ‘us vs them’ group think mentality.

Us being the ‘team of five million’ and ‘them’ anyone who dares criticise the Government’s approach. – Andrea Vance

We are complying with restrictions on movement, gatherings, and even trading.

But that does not mean we gave up on freedom of expression.Andrea Vance

Government supporters aggressively insist critics should shut up and trust the experts. That anyone questioning the prevailing approach is recklessly anti-science, undermining the response or indifferent to a higher death toll.

This is too crude. It is perfectly logical to accept the need for current restrictions, while criticising the Government for how we got here and the failings that led to it, not least in the vaccination roll-out.

Delta got in – there should be hard questions about why so that the gaps are plugged. People are being denied the right to come home – it’s only fair they get to question the managed isolation procedures keeping them out. – Andrea Vance

It is right that the decisions coming from the Beehive are informed by complex scientific evidence.

But that does not mean that only those with expertise have the right to an opinion.

No political decisions are based solely on pure science.Andrea Vance

Political decisions always involve trade-offs, moral values and priorities. – Andrea Vance

It’s not defeatism, just debate. We can reject that which does not work or apply.Andrea Vance

Expert knowledge reflects the assumptions and blind spots of the giver. Scientists disagree, evidence shifts (last year masks were ineffective, this year they are essential. Mandatory scanning couldn’t be implemented at a meaningful level, now it can. All advice is, and should be, challengeable).

Obviously, there are caveats. Misinformation, especially when it is harmful, should be vigorously challenged.

The need for debate is vital.The normal checks and balances of our democracy are suspended at a time when they are most needed.

The 1pm briefings skew the discourse in favour of the Government, at the expense of Opposition voices, which are already weakened. – Andrea Vance

Sweeping decisions on fundamental rights are being made on a daily basis without any kind of scrutiny. They might be right and justified, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be examined and debated.

Of course, she must exude confidence in the strategy and maintain consistent and clear messaging. But it’s troubling when she says she doesn’t want a debate.

And that makes it even more crucial to have robust scrutiny from outside her inner circle.

Because if they are the right decisions, then they remain the right decisions. Questions and alternative viewpoints won’t change that, and we can be more confident we’re on the right course.

We shouldn’t run from transparent and open debate – scrutiny can only improve the decision-making. – Andrea Vance

This lockdown feels much harder than the first big one last year.

The mood has changed. People – especially Aucklanders who are on their fourth stay-at-home order – are grumpier. Commentators and columnists are scratchier.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Most of it, though, is driven by an enormous sense of disappointment. We thought New Zealand was exceptional. The world raved about our world-leading Covid response. But now, the world is ridiculing us at worst, shocked at best.

Our national pride is at stake, says economist Robert MacCulloch. This outbreak threatens to break our spirits and he worries that if we fall into despondency at the thought of being left behind by the world it could lead to an economic slump.

It’s likely dawning on a lot of people how unprepared our leaders were for this outbreak. Little in our Covid response has changed between March 2020 and today. That’ll come as a shock and disappointment to many who put so much faith in Jacinda and Ashley. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The pair have been touted globally as remarkable leaders, but it may be starting to feel like our remarkable leaders only have one trick and that’s locking down. They haven’t been successful at much else in this pandemic response.

They haven’t got enough contact tracers: they’re now doubling that number from 600 to 1200, showing how underprepared they were. They haven’t prepared a good testing system: people were lining up from 4am some days. They are so far behind on the vaccine rollout we are still the last in the developed world. We now face the prospect of running out next month unless we slow down the rollout.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Our tolerance for the usual explanation has dropped. Back in March 2020, Jacinda and Ashley were able to – reasonably fairly – frame themselves as the victims of events beyond their control. This is a textbook crisis management technique. And we accepted the explanation because none of us expected Covid. How could they? We accepted they were building the plane as they flew it. We gave them latitude.

They tried to roll out that narrative again this outbreak. It won’t work nearly as well this time. We’re too clued up on Covid now to buy that.

For the past eight months, we’ve watched the news as the Delta variant spread, from India to the UK to NSW. We watched it evade the legendary NSW contact tracers. We watched it leak over Australian borders throwing state after state into lockdown. We knew it was coming here and we knew it would take a stepped-up response to tackle it.

So, we expected our world leading PM and world leading Health Ministry to also have watched Delta and been ready for its arrival. They clearly aren’t. Which means we’re not buying the same old explanation run out from the 1 o’clock press conferences.

That makes us more grumpy. It shakes our faith in them and their ability to handle future outbreaks.- Heather du Plessis-Allan

That criticism stunned Professor Sir David Skegg. He said he was surprised how this level 4 lockdown has shaken the faith of some commentators in the elimination strategy. But he’s mistaken about what’s shaken our faith. It’s not just the lockdown. It’s really also our leaders. We expected them to be more prepared.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow accepting this might be the only tool they know how to use. Lockdowns are proving harder and harder to live through. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

In no small measure, the Government has successfully used fear as a big motivating factor for people over the past 18 months. Now fear could work against it. As with a lot of things in this world, the Government can’t “fix” Covid, and will essentially have to level with the public about this fact. – Luke Malpass

But this all turns on the vaccine rollout working and getting through basically everyone who wants a jab by the end of the year. That’s precisely the reason Ardern has turned the top of the 1pm update into a misleading advertorial about the vaccine programme, in which she or the minister fronting produces a huge headline figure of the number of New Zealanders who “have either booked or had at least one vaccination”. It’s a nonsense number.

Being booked and being vaccinated are not the same thing. Trying to pretend that the rollout is quicker than it is by blowing up a concocted headline number does no-one any favours and hurts the Government’s credibility.

But it does speak to the political vulnerability of the Government. Elimination is still the strategy, and it needs to hold until the population gets vaccinated. Luke Malpass

All of that means this is the last-gasp lockdown. Delta is going to be here, it is going to have to be managed, but lockdowns won’t be how it is done. They are too tough, too costly and, ultimately, compliance is unlikely to remain as high in the future.

Elimination via lockdowns was arguably the best strategy. But in a world of Delta, the economic juice won’t be worth the squeeze. Now the Government has to remind Kiwis that it can’t save every life, and also realign its messaging around the fact that health outcomes are never the only consideration in policy-making.

This lockdown may drag on, and there may still be others before the end of the vaccine programme, but it is now clear that its time in the Covid toolkit is coming to an end. – Luke Malpass

To suggest that the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi in some way obviate the Crown’s need to obtain the consent of the New Zealand electorate before changing the way justice is administered, and by whom, is tantamount to suggesting that the Treaty legally entitles the Crown to extinguish democracy in the Realm of New Zealand without reference to its citizens and in defiance of its laws.

Such action would constitute a declaration of war upon the people of this country. Any government participating in such an open attack on the civil and political rights of its citizens would immediately identify itself as their enemy, and forfeit all claims to their continuing loyalty. It would be responsible for unleashing civil war upon New Zealand.

The Labour Government’s silence on these matters is indefensible. A clear statement of its determination to uphold the Rule of Law and protect the democratic rights of all New Zealanders is long overdue. Chris Trotter

The border closure followed by the smugness that led us to do nothing comes at a massive economic price.

Smugness and complacency don’t pay the bills – Mike Hosking

An ICU bed is a physical structure alone. It cannot provide care or compassion and cannot save your life. To do all these things, a bed must come with staff who literally stand next to it every hour of every day.

Although doctors are able to provide support for several patients at once, individual care is provided almost exclusively by ICU nurses. Such expertise does not grow on trees; nurses only acquire these skills after five years of (intensive) training. Trans-Tasman wage gaps ensure a significant ongoing turnover. – Dr Alex Psirides

A single ICU bed costs well in excess of one million dollars per year. There are convincing arguments to be made that investing similar sums in either public or primary health will produce greater benefits for more New Zealanders, including addressing healthcare inequities. Building a cheaper fence at the top of the cliff is surely preferable to funding more expensive ambulances at the bottom.

These difficult decisions are for politicians and health economists, but should be informed by clinicians and the expectations of the public who should simultaneously hope that they never require an ICU bed, yet that one be readily available for them should they need it. – Dr Alex Psirides

If PR spin was all we needed to defeat a virus, Covid-19 might have been vanquished by now. But there comes a point when the Beehive communications wizards run out of snappy lines and the government’s vulnerability is exposed for all to see. Perhaps we’ve reached that point. Karl du Fresne

On three key metrics – testing, vaccinations and contract tracing – the government’s performance has been, to put it politely, tardy and sub-optimal. Protection at the border has been slack and the MIQ system appears to be a shambles. Meanwhile vulnerable essential workers, from police to port employees, have inexplicably been left unvaccinated.  – Karl du Fresne

Myself, I’m conflicted on Covid-19 and the lockdown. I instinctively bridle against the government’s gloss and spin. I’m over Ardern’s patronising entreaties from the Beehive Theatrette and I know lots of people – apolitical people, in many cases – who feel the same.

I also take the cynical view that the Covid-19 outbreak gifted a floundering government with a priceless publicity opportunity and a rare chance to give the appearance of being in control of something. But while the crisis initially looked good for Labour, it turned out not to be, because it served to cast light on the multiple glaring deficiencies in its preparedness. – Karl du Fresne

 

In April 2020, the Government banned all point-of-care tests unless they are approved by MedSafe, and MedSafe has not seen fit to approve any tests. Pedants might argue that this does not constitute a ban, but banning anything that has not been approved while deciding not to approve any options sounds an awful lot like a ban. – Eric Crampton

Whatever the merits of the ban prior to Delta, it makes little sense in the context of a Delta outbreak with transmission among essential workers. Providing rapid antigen tests to essential employers, such as hospitals, care homes, and supermarkets, would provide an additional layer of protection. If the Government did not want to purchase the tests for those employers, it could at least ease the ban on them.Eric Crampton

The effective functioning of any army has forever been based on instant obedience and strict unquestioning discipline – attributes now seriously out of fashion, especially with the liberal left. Why, these good folks demand, should soldiers be required to behave like automatons, just because they enlisted in an army? This kind of stricture, they maintain, is scandalously undemocratic, and before risking being shot or blown to bits, every trooper should be allowed due process and adequate consultation. – Dave Witherow

But the armed forces, no matter how they are viewed, ARE exceptional. They are not at all like other institutions, and the nature of their role immediately precludes many people whose merits, otherwise, might be undeniable. The blind and stone deaf, for example, are of limited utility as tank drivers or fighter pilots, or even as basic infantry. Paraplegics, pacifists, octogenarians, hemophiliacs, epileptics – whole categories of estimable people, however meritorious, need not apply.Dave Witherow

Can we just stop and think about how crazy this is:  In the middle of an outbreak – our government is seriously talking about slowing down our vaccination rate, because otherwise they will run out of supply.

Surely, it’s better to have those vaccines in arms rather than the freezer?  Surely, it’s better to simply jab until you run out?  – Heather du Plessis-Allan

There is only one reason that the government would rather slow down and that’s so they don’t’ have to say the embarrassing words ‘we’ve run out’.  

Because that make global headlines “New Zealand runs out vaccine”.Heather du Plessis-Allan

So, what they’d be doing is telling up to 40K Kiwis every day that they’re not going to get vaccine protection from delta, during an outbreak, because Labour needs to avoid an embarrassing headline. That is literally the calculation that’s happened.

If Labour does this then it has made the decision that it is more important to save face globally than it is to get you jabbed if you’re one of those 40K kiwis who miss every single day.  And by the way 40K a day is 280K a week is 1.1m a month. That’s a lot of us who go unprotected to save face. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Labour putting its political reputation ahead of you staying protected from Covid is frankly outrageous. 

Get it out of the freezer.  Get it in arms.  If we run out, we run out, but at least more kiwis have protection that way.   – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Comparing a fictional TV series set in the context of a world war against an invading army may be seen by some as trivialising what is a real threat against an aggressive virus. However, there does seem to be a Dad’s Army element to the manner in which New Zealand has responded to the pandemic and a Home Guard feel about the way our government has managed the Delta variant. – Frank Newman

The most important chart right now, the only one that matters, is how many New Zealanders have received a Covid-19 vaccination. The Prime Minister may like to point to other charts each day, but all they show is a lack of direction from her and her GovernmentJudith Collins

 


‘Had a guts full’

13/08/2021

Jamie Mackay got a very straight answer when he asked National Party leader Judith Collins about her future as leader:

You can listen to the recording of the interview by clicking the link above and hear the vehemence with which Judith responds at 2:49.

Judith Collins, leader of the National Party, says she has “had a gutsful” of people speculating that she won’t be leader for much longer.

“I’m actually sick and tired of people talking about me and who is going to be the leader of the National Party – I’m the leader of the National Party – why don’t they just get their heads around that and get on with the job?” she told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Casting doubt over her leadership benefited nobody except her opposition, Collins said.

“Every time people talk about that sort of crap, all they do is that they give comfort to the Labour Party left.

“So don’t moan to me because I’m doing my job – everyone needs to get on and do theirs – and I’m actually not putting up with it anymore.” . .

In the not so distant past, few in the media thought it was their job to undermine party leaders. Now it has become routine for some.

Doing that isn’t necessarily partisan – the media needled Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little with speculation on their prospective demise.

As successive polls showed Simon Bridges was unpopular, they started on him, even though National was polling a little higher or just a little lower than Labour until Covid-19 struck and changed the political landscape.

Todd Muller was leader for just a couple of days before he was attacked for having a MAGA hat but the fact he also had Hillary Clinton memorabilia was ignored.

The media generally agreed that Judith was his only likely successor but within a very short time of her becoming leader speculation on how long she would last and who would succeed her began and hasn’t let up.

Time and time again, reporters and commentators accentuate the negative, ignore or understate the positive and continue to speculate on the security of Judith’s leadership with nothing on which to base it except their own bias.

No leader serves forever so sooner or later speculation about the end to her leadership will be proved right. But that should come at the will of the party, and more particularly the caucus which elects its leader, not media manufacturing discontent, undermining her support and mistaking their own speculation for evidence.

 


The health system is sick

06/08/2021

Covid-19 has become a convenient excuse for government failures:

Health Minister Andrew Little can’t blame Covid for the shocking number of Kiwis overdue for specialist medical assessment and treatment because these wait lists had already blown out well before 2020, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

We have targets to make sure Kiwis are receiving their first specialist assessment in a timely manner, and that they receive treatment in a timely manner too. But at the moment, there are nearly 30,000 New Zealanders who are overdue for hospital treatment.

“When questioned about the huge number of Kiwis not receiving the care they need within four months, Mr Little callously blamed Covid-19.

Four months is too long time to wait in pain, with a disability or a life-threatening illness. An even longer wait makes a mockery of this government’s claims to competence and kindness.

“Andrew Little needs to stop hiding behind the pandemic as an excuse for his failure to deliver.

There is a Covid connection to the waiting lists and it’s the government’s fault.

It could be excused for shutting hospitals to all but emergency admissions at the start of the first lockdown last year.

But once it was clear that the number of Covid cases had peaked, and hospitals weren’t going to be overrun with cases, the government could have designated a few hospitals as those to treat Covid patients and allowed some public and all private hospitals to resume treatment to deal with the most serious cases on waiting lists.

However, waiting lists were too long before Covid arrived.

“In 2017 there were just over 2000 Kiwis missing the four month target for treatment. Even then that was 2000 too many.

“But by 2019 that figure had surged to more than 18,000 people missing the four-month target.

“These are more than just numbers, each of those figures represents a New Zealander who isn’t receiving the care they should within a reasonable timeframe.

“These extraordinary delays mean loved ones are being left to languish on wait lists, and lives are being lost unnecessarily, all because the Government has failed to make sure DHBs are hitting their targets. Waiting list shouldn’t be getting longer, but they are under Labour.

“Every single day since Labour have taken office, an average of 10 more Kiwis have been added to the overdue wait list to see a specialist or receive treatment.

“Labour could fix this if it wanted. Instead, it is spending $486 million on bureaucrats restructuring our health system and handing $2.75 million to the Mongrel Mob.

“Andrew Little needs to step up and make sure his DHBs are hitting their targets, otherwise we will see more Kiwis needlessly losing their loved ones.”

You can find a table outlining the number of Kiwis overdue fir their First Specialist Assessment and overdue for their Treatment in 2017, 2019, and 2021 here.

Waiting lists aren’t the only ailment from which the health sector is suffering.

The whole system is sick and the government’s prescription of two bloated and  centralised bureaucracies won’t cure it.


Demand the debate

12/07/2021

We can quietly accept what the governmet is trying to foist upon us or we can demand a debate:

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says New Zealanders are being left out of important decisions by the Labour Government and today she has launched a campaign for Kiwis to ‘Demand the debate’.

“The Labour Government continues to make policy announcements that were never campaigned on and will have a significant impact on New Zealanders.

“From the Car Tax, cancelling promised infrastructure projects, the $785m Auckland cycle bridge, rushed law changes to deliver Māori wards, to the hastily announced oil and gas exploration ban; New Zealanders are starting to feel left out.

Not just starting to feel left out. We are being left out.

“At the same time more than 4000 children are left to grow up in motels, mental health services are in crisis, the Government is looking to criminalise speech they disapprove of and tell you what car you can drive.

“Let’s be clear, Labour was elected on a Covid-19 mandate and nine months later we are still waiting for border workers to be properly vaccinated and MIQ beds sit empty while migrant families wait in desperation to be reunited. We are still last in the developed world for Covid-19 vaccinations. Kiwis deserve better.

“Every week, I’m contacted by thousands of Kiwis who are worried they just don’t have a say in the future of their country anymore. They’re being kept in the dark and their questions go unanswered by Ardern’s Government. So today, we launch the first in a series of billboards on important issues that Kiwis deserve to have their say on.


“The first campaign relates to the Government’s 2019 He Puapua report. Kiwis were never told about it at the time and it was never campaigned on by Labour. It has recently been considered by Cabinet and is being consulted on with a select few New Zealanders.

“The He Puapua report contains recommendations for fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements. Changes like separate health and justice systems, separate RMA rules, and separate electoral arrangements. These proposals must be taken to an election so all Kiwis can have their say.

“While they claim publicly it’s not their policy, the Labour Government has already started to implement large parts of He Puapua like Māori Wards and a Māori Health Authority, without the wide-ranging public debate that these changes deserve.

“The Government’s parliamentary majority is not a mandate for Labour to promote their ideological wish list. New Zealanders deserve a say on their country’s future and together we must demand the debate.”

Some background on He Puapua:

In 2019, the Labour-NZ First Coalition Government set up a Working Group to devise a plan to give effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The vision laid out by the Working Group, in the document they called He Puapua, makes wide ranging and fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements across New Zealand.

The Working Group behind He Puapua was given two months to draft their plan, and they themselves acknowledged in their plan that they have “been constrained by time, which has hindered our capacity to review and take into account relevant initiatives, policies and laws including recommendations of advisory and other working groups on related kaupapa.”

In line with their terms of reference, the mandate of the working group also ignored New Zealand’s previous position of support for the declaration, our past and present implementation of the Declaration, or whether a Declaration plan or engagement is required. (Pg 1 and 2).

To refresh everyone’s memory of the context in 2010 and the caveats that were put in place, the Declaration was signed in 2010 with the understanding that it:

    • reaffirms the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system, noting that those existing frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration.
    • does not confer the right of veto over Government decisions.

Labour Ministers, and the Working Group, willfully ignored this information, instead choosing to dismiss the context in which the declaration was signed and push their own new agenda.

The Working Group report (He Puapua) was delivered to then Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta in late 2019. Against the advice of the Working Group, He Puapua was never released or acknowledged publicly by the Government at the time, nor was it sent to Cabinet for discussion.

Coalition Ministers in Cabinet were also not aware of it, and it wasn’t raised during the 2020 Election Campaign.

We’ll never know if its release would have made a difference in an election that was both dominated and derailed by Covid-19. But tht it wasn’t suggests those in the know thought it would and would hurt them.

You can find a copy of He Puapua here.

Even though He Puapua has finally been acknowledged as not being official Government policy, nearly two years after it was received by Nanaia Mahuta, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has spent that time implementing numerous recommendations from the report behind your back:

  • Māori Wards in Local Government – Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta progressed legislation under urgency in Parliament, and against official advice, to establish Māori Wards. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 54.

The way this was done suggests a government that thinks democracy is only for some of the people.

  • Separate Māori Health Authority – Health Minister Andrew Little has begun work on restructuring the Health Sector to create a two-tier system based on race. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 90.

Does anyone seriously think that the millions of dollars that will be wasted on the setting up and administration of a separate authority improve health outcomes for anyone?

  • Education Curriculum – Education Minister Chris Hipkins is currently rewriting the compulsory history curriculum to reflect Māori History, colonization and the effects of power. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 38.

History is supposed to help us understand and learn from the past, not indoctrinate us with dogma of the present.

  • Water – The Labour Government established Te Mana o Te Wai, resource management reform that provides a role for Māori in decision-making, and work on Māori rights and interests in freshwater. A recommendation of He Puapua– Pg 66.
  • Land – Department of Conservation (DOC) was consulting on proposals to transfer Public Conservation Land, reform conservation governance to reflect Treaty Partnership at all levels, and provide for the delegation, transfer and devolution of functions and powers within the conservation system to tangata whenua. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 65.
  • Infrastructure – Nanaia Mahuta is working to establish four new super entities to manage drinking water and waste water. She is proposing that each entity is run on a co-governance model where half of entity board members will be elected and the other half represent mana whenua. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has pointed out this will mean the organisation will lack rate payer accountability and risks becoming self-serving.

The proposal is that water infrastructure owned by councils, paid for through rates and uses charges will be taken over by central authorities and half given to Iwi.

These are just a few examples of policy being implemented by Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government. It would seem that He Puapua is Government policy in all but name.

In the spirit of being open and transparent, National has made its position clear on Labour’s plans. We believe many of their ideas are a step too far.

It is right that we acknowledge and address the wrongs of the past, which is why National continues to support targeted programmes based on need. We can also be proud of supporting initiatives like Kōhanga Reo; Kura Kaupapa Māori; Whare Wānanga and Whānau Ora, just to name a few. These initiatives demonstrate the commitment from National and National-led governments to upholding the Crown’s unique and enduring relationship with Māori.

Maori were wronged in the past and consequences of that are still being felt today but that is neither a reason nor an excuse to implement an undemocratic and separatist agenda.

We are better off addressing the flaws within the current systems that aren’t working for Māori. Ethnicity should not divide us. We are better together.

Putting resources – people and money – into addressing real problems of poverty, poor education and health, crime and other areas where Maori are over represented would do far more for all of us than most, perhaps all, the He Puapua recommendations the government is foisting on us.


Rural round-up

30/04/2021

Yes, there will be a cull – it will be aimed at cutting group that launched the “dirty dairying” campaign down to size – Point of Order:

Players in the country’s biggest exporter earner, the dairy and meat industries, would have shown more than a passing interest in two statements from the Beehive yesterday.

Agriculture Minister announced the roll-out of extra monitoring and a range of practical support to help farmers achieve immediate improvements in intensive winter grazing practices.

Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall  released a report outlining recommendations to strengthen the governance and good management practices within NZ Fish & Game, the outfit charged with managing sport fishing and game bird hunting across NZ that persistently harries farmers on environmental issues. . . 

New Zealand’s first farm to have carbon footprint certified is carbon positive:

Lake Hawea Station has been named as the first farm in New Zealand to have a carbon footprint certified by leading environmental certifications provider Toitū Envirocare, proving that farming can be a pathway to healing the planet.

Lake Hawea Station is owned by Geoff and Justine Ross and is pursuing a farming strategy that is both beneficial to the planet and the bottom line. Geoff Ross says “the process with Toitū highlights that farming need not be a problem in climate change. Rather farming can be a solution”.

The certification process Toitū has undertaken on Lake Hawea Station is planned to be the first of many New Zealand farms as New Zealand moves to lower its overall carbon footprint and consumers world-wide demand carbon positive food and fibre.

Becky Lloyd, Toitū Envirocare Chief Executive says Toitū carbonzero farm certification is important as it demonstrates to farmers, their customers, and regulators that pastoral farms can be carbon neutral and at the same time be commercially viable. . .

New National health service should be fit for rural:

We are not averse to having a national health service, however, we are looking forward to seeing the detail says Rural Women New Zealand.

“The Minister of Health, Andrew Little in his announcement of sweeping changes to abolish District Health Boards to have one health entity, said that “the kind of treatment people get will no longer be determined by where they live” – we want to see that in practice,” says National President Gill Naylor.

“RWNZ expects to see a rural health and wellbeing strategy which is fully resourced and funded to ensure rural postcodes aren’t in the losing lottery.

“It is our expectation that the detail will also include a solid mechanism for including the voice of rural women, children, and communities in decision-making by the new national health service. . . 

New Zealand cheesemakers concerned by Eu’s move to monopolise halloumi cheese:

New moves by the European Commission to grant exclusive use of the term ‘halloumi’ to cheesemakers from Cyprus are raising concerns among the New Zealand cheesemaking community.

“Halloumi is a popular cheese for New Zealand consumers, with a thriving and innovative community of New Zealand cheesemakers delivering this delicious product to New Zealand tables” says Neil Willman, President of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association.

“We are concerned at Europe’s continuing campaign to restrict the use of common names in international cheesemaking, at the expense of producers outside of Europe.”

New Zealand’s cheesemaking community is concerned that the European Union is continuing to protect cheese terms that are generic and in common use around the world. . . 

400 delegates to meat in Taupō for national Rural Health Conference 2021 :

This week approximately 400 rural health professionals and administrators will come together at Wairakei Resort in Taupō for this year’s National Rural Health Conference.

This conference is the first ‘in person’ health professionals conference in 2021 and the biggest event for rural health professionals for close to two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Health Hon. Andrew Little will open Conference on Friday 30 April.

Among the many other excellent speakers to present over the two days are Associate Minister of Health Hon. Peeni Henare and Martin Hefford from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Transition Unit. . . 

Five Riverina artists launch Regenerative Visions exhibition at Fitzroy gallery  – Jodie O’Sullivan:

In many ways the work of a farmer and an artist are not so dissimilar, insists Courtney Young.

“You try to look at the landscape with fresh eyes and see beyond what you can actually see,” explained the emerging artist from Savernake.

“There are correlations with farming where you have to think outside the box and look for nuance in the world around you.”

Young is one of five women from the Riverina who have created a collection of paintings for an exhibition exploring the similarities between art and farming. . . 

 


It was always too hard

24/03/2021

Finally the admission that should have come years ago:

Going further into the Pike River coal mine is too hard and too expensive, Minister Responsible for Pike River Reentry Andrew Little says.

The minister’s comments come even though no detailed technical assessment or cost analysis has been done.

Little said the Government was not willing to consider doing a risk assessment and cost analysis of recovering evidence from the mine’s main ventilation fan, which could hold clues about what caused the first explosion in the mine where 29 men were killed in 2010.

He said the mine’s geotechnical strata was “inherently unstable” and the technical challenge of getting past a roof fall blocking the mine workings would be phenomenal. . . 

It was always too hard.

Sometimes when you’re in Opposition you have to back the government when it’s doing the right thing.

Instead Labour and New Zealand chose to do the political thing, promising a re-entry of the mine.

In doing so they exploited the families and friends of the men who were killed, giving them unrealistic hope and stoking their grief.

Ten years and more than $50 million later Little has admitted what they should have accepted from the start – it was too hard, too dangerous and too expensive.


$50m wasted on politicising grief

11/06/2020

Andrew Little, says it is “just impractical” to expect the remains of all of the fallen miners to be recovered from the Pike River mine:

Instead, the re-entry efforts are now essentially solely focused on gathering evidence in the “homicide of 29 men”, Little told a select committee hearing this morning. . .

Re-entry originally had a $23 million budget but the Government has already spent roughly $35m and that that could reach as high as $50m.

But that, according to Little, is the absolute funding limit.

“There is always a limit to these things – I have no plan or intention of returning to Cabinet for any further additional resources.” . . 

The limit was reached a decade ago when the then-National government made the only sensible and ethical decision that lives would not be risked to rescue the dead.

That decision was criticised by Labour, NZ First and the Green Party all of whom are guilty of politicising the grief of the families who believed them.

Mike Hosking says the fiasco has been exposed:

. . .The retrieval of bodies is no longer practical. The simple truth, a decade on, is that the retrieval of remains was never practical.

Little perpetrates the con a little further by suggesting that the main reason they are still there, apart from perceived political gain, is to gather evidence for the crime committed.

If it needs to be stated, let me state it again, there is no evidence, there will be no evidence, and there will be no charges. . . 

Families who are angry, and rightly so, who want vengeance, justice, or a bit of both, all have good arguments and much emotion behind the cause. But that does not a case or charges make, or indeed anywhere close.

The Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves. They took a tragedy, saw a political gap, and leapt on it.

Not just Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party leapt on it too.

The previous National government did what any logical, sensible, and adult government would have done, all they could. Short of making up stories and promising false hope like the current lot have.

They consulted experts, the experts said it was too dangerous and too big a risk. The Labour Party promised the world. Winston Peters chimed in equally as opportunistically and promised to be one of the first down the shaft.

Millions has been spent, budgets have been blown – and now the cold hard truth. There will be no bodies. The families asked for and were granted by the Labour Party their loved ones back, but it won’t be happening.

But the con is, it never was. The families were used for political gain, and cheap violin string headlines.

Most of them won’t admit it, I don’t think because they all seem enamoured with the Labour Party. This was as much about being against the last government as it was about a rescue. . . 

If they really wanted to know what went wrong they could have saved their time and our money and spent just $40.00 for Rebecca MacFie’s book Tragedy at Pike River.

As is often the case in major failures, there were multiple faults that led to the tragedy and at least some of those should have been known by the union which Little headed at the time.

The chances of investigations uncovering anything that isn’t already known about the compounding failings in design and operation are tiny.

The three governing parties have already done far too much harm, stringing along the grieving families with promises that should never have been made.

They have wasted $35m and finally admitted that they’re not, as they foolishly promised, going to be able to bring the men back.

There is nothing to be gained by wasting another $15m in hopeless pursuit of answers that almost certainly won’t be there.

There is something to be gained if they learned from their mistakes and in future followed National’s good example with the Christchurch massacre and White Island tragedy, in not politicising tragedy.


Rushed law is bad law

04/12/2019

This headline is a lie:

Government to ban foreign donations

So is the first paragraph:

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

It isn’t banning foreign donations, it’s lowering the amount foreigners can donate from $1,500 to $50.

Concern about foreign influence on elections is real, but why the lies and why rush the Bill through under urgency?

Why not give parliament and the public at least a little time to scrutinise it and recommend improvements?

One such improvement would be making it quite clear that donations to a foundation set up to fund a political party would be treated like, and subject to, the same requirements for disclosure as, donations to a party.

Winston Peters claims the New Zealand First Foundation is a similar model to the National Party Foundation.

But National the National Foundation has a website on which the purpose of the capital-protected fund and the uses to which investment proceeds are put is explained.

It also discloses donations to the foundation as donations to the party.

This openness contrasts with the secretive nature of the NZ First Foundation and the way in which it appears to have funded the party’s operational and campaign expenses.

The Electoral Commission is investigating claims it breached the law.

Whether or not it did, this Bill is an opportunity to make it quite clear that donations to party foundations should be disclosed as donations to parties, whether or not proceeds from foundations are donated or loaned parties.

Rushed law is bad law and this one is no exception. This omission could have been corrected and further time to consider could well have discovered other faults and allowed for improvements to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


No ifs, not buts, no exemptions

28/08/2019

Giving the Pike River re-entry plan a safety exemption would set a dangerous precedent:

The Government’s intention to exempt the Pike River Mine re-entry team from safety laws and regulations is concerning and inappropriate, National’s Pike River Re-entry spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“One of the most important failures identified by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Pike River was the unsafe design of the mine in not having two means of egress.

“The regulations were re-written in 2016 to specifically address this. It is unacceptable for the Government to now consider bypassing the very laws and regulations that were put in place to prevent a repeat of this awful tragedy. This shows a complete lack of leadership.

It’s not just lack of leadership, it’s lack of judgement and hypocrisy.

Labour is supposed to be the party that cares about workers.

Worker safety should be of paramount concern, no ifs, no buts and definitely no exemptions.

“The Minister for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little, has confirmed in Parliament that the Pike River Agency is seeking exemptions from the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and its regulations, to allow the re-entry to continue.

“It was disappointing to see a Minister of the Crown, under Parliamentary Privilege, mocking long-time mining journalist Mr Gerry Morris, a proud West Coaster with a long history of involvement in mining.

“The Minister should have fronted up and explained to New Zealanders why the Government has decided to not adopt new safety regulations that were put in place to prevent any further loss of life at Pike River.

“The advice that National had in Government was that it was always too dangerous to re-enter the mine. Our position has always been that we’re not against a safe re-entry of the drift provided it is done well within new safety guidelines.

“I am extremely disappointed and have lost all confidence in the Government, which now appears to be prioritising an entry at all costs, rather than a safety first approach.”

I have been opposed to re-entry attempts from the start because the living should never be put at risk for the dead.

Entertaining the possibility of re-entry to the mine and retrieval of bodies by the three parties in government is playing politics and prolonging the uncertainty for grieving families.

Inadequate attention to health and safety was a major contributor to the Pike River tragedy.

The only good to come from it was a change of law to ensure far better protection for workers.

That law prevented any attempts at re-entry in the past because the safety of the workers could not be guaranteed. It ought to bring an end to this attempt too.

Kwiiblog has Gerry Morris’s article here.

 


Unintentional balance

06/08/2019

When I saw this on Twitter on Sunday I wondered how long it would be before someone took it down.

I took a screen shot and when I checked back shortly afterwards the tweet had gone. It was replaced by another with a photo of Justice Minister Andrew Little who is introducing legislation legalising abortions.

No doubt someone realised this photo was an inappropriate one to accompany such a story.

But it, unintentionally, gave a little balance to the debate by illustrating the intellectual inconsistency of one of the pro-abortion arguments – that it’s just a bunch of cells, a fetus, not a baby.

How can it be a baby when, as the photo shows, it’s wanted and loved but not a baby when it’s not; a baby if it is lost in a miscarriage and that is a reason for deep grief, but not a baby when it’s an abortion; or a painful experience when a baby dies in utero and a simple medical procedure getting rid of some cells when it’s aborted?

It can’t but we’re unlikely to see much if any discussion of this in the media, if coverage since the news broke is anything to go by. Everything I’ve read or heard so far accepts a woman’s right to choice with no consideration of a baby’s right to life.

There is an irony that Newshub’s exclusive breaking of the news showed some balance, albeit unintentionally, with that photo because as Karl du Fresne points out  anyone looking for it in coverage of the debate shouldn’t hold their breath :

. . . As the abortion debate heats up, we can expect to see many more examples of advocacy journalism for the pro-abortion case. Overwhelmingly, the default position in media coverage is that the abortion laws are repressive and archaic and that reform is not only overdue but urgent.

But at times like this the public more than ever look to the media for impartial coverage. Is it too much to expect that journalists set aside their personal views and concentrate instead on giving people the information they need to properly weigh the conflicting arguments and form their own conclusions?

That accidental photo could well be as close as much of the coverage  gets to impartiality and balance on this issue.


Can it ever be safe enough?

03/05/2019

The re-entry to Pike River won’t go ahead today as planned:

Andrew Little announced on Thursday there has been a set back with the Pike River Mine re-entry due to elevated oxygen levels at the far end of the drift.

The minister described the elevated levels as “unpredicted and unexplained,” and because of this, the mine will not be entered, although there will still be an event for families.

“If you can’t explain it, you stop what you’re doing until you can,” he said.

The shift in oxygen levels means the atmosphere in the drift has changed and the air is no longer breathable. . . .

Calling off the re-entry is the right decision.

But it raises questions: can there be any guarantee that there wouldn’t be “unpredicted and unexplained” elevation in oxygen levels while people were in the drift and what would happen if there was?

That leads to another question: can it ever be safe enough?


Personal or political?

01/05/2019

Is the media’s determination to claim the scalp of National leader Simon Bridges personal or political?

Two months ago John Armstrong said the media script required Bridges to end up as dog tucker:

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It might seem unfair. It will likely be regarded in National quarters as irrefutable evidence of media bias.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs. . . 

Those predictions are heating up again, but why?

Is it personal dislike of him?

Probably not.

There were similar campaigns against Bill English and Don Brash when they were opposition leader.

So is it partisan?

The media were just as quick to criticise and slow to praise Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little so no, it’s not necessarily partisan.

But is it political?

The media tends to be liberal on social issues and Bridges is more conservative.

Could the sustained campaign against Bridges be because he has said he will vote against the Bill to legalise euthanasia and is likely to oppose any liberalising of abortion law?


Let’s not panic

02/04/2019

Andrew Little plans to fast track a law review which could make hate speech illegal:

. . .He said the current law on hate speech was not thorough and strong enough and needed to change. . . 

Isn’t it thorough enough and does it need to change?

The Free Speech Coalition disagrees:

The Free Speech Coalition will campaign against new laws to suppress traditional freedom of speech signalled by Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Constitutional lawyer, and Free Speech Coalition spokesperson, Stephen Franks says, “New Zealand already has clear laws against incitement of violence. We have a very new, uncertain, and far reaching law against digital harassment.”

“We have seen little or no effort by the government to enforce the existing law in the internet era, or even to explain it. Few New Zealanders know how our existing law works to criminalise genuinely hateful attempts to incite violence and contempt. We have seen instead repeated efforts to justify the granting of fresh powers like those used overseas to allow authorities to criminalise arguments and the expression of concern about issues where they want only one view to be expressed or heard.”

“The Government and the Human Rights Commission should focus on explaining and enforcing the existing law, not disgracefully seizing on the wave of sympathy from all decent New Zealanders, to rush through new restrictions on the opinions we may debate, express and research.”

“The term ‘hate speech’ is deliberately extreme. It has been designed to prejudice discussion. It exploits the decency of ordinary people. How could anyone not oppose ‘hate’? But as defined legally it generally means something that could upset someone. Overseas examples often just gives authorities the ability to say it means what they want it to mean from time to time. Recently, in Britain, their version of the law was used to bring criminal charges against an elderly woman who refused to use a transgender man’s preferred designation as a woman and insisted on referring to him as a man who wanted to use women’s toilets.”

David Farrar lists a few more of the perverse outcomes from hate speech laws in the UK which includes:

  • A student was arrested for saying to a mounted police officer “Excuse me do you know your horse is gay”
  • A teenager was arrested for barking at two labradors, as the owner was non-white
  • A teenager was prosecuted for holding up a placard that described the Church of Scientology as a cult
  • A man was charged with racially aggravated criminal damage for writing “Don’t forget the 1945 war” on a UKIP poster
  • An Essex baker Daryl Barke was ordered to take down a poster promoting English bread with the slogan “none of that French rubbish”, because the police believed it would stir up racial hatred. . . 

Emotions are understandably high after the Christchurch terror attack but that’s no reason to panic and rush.

Freedom of expression is a basic plank of democracy which must be protected from the borer of emotive and ill-defined constraints.


Drip, drip, drip

30/11/2018

Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.

It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.

The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.

They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.

They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.

They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.

They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.

They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.

The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.

Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage  didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.

It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.

What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.

This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.

He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.

I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.


No more lives should be risked

26/11/2018

The Listener editorial says there should be no more lives put at risk in the Pike River mine.

It goes without saying that New Zealanders have enormous sympathy for the families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine disaster. However, it does not automatically follow that all New Zealanders think there should be an attempt to enter what is sadly now more tomb than mine.

That such an attempt seems set to be made is the latest turn in a chain of events whose origins lie in actions and inactions long before the mine exploded eight years ago. It is unarguable that the mine operator, Pike River Coal, bears primary culpability because no agency had more knowledge, more ability to affect the workplace culture and more responsibility for the safety of the men underground than the company. It abjectly failed its workers, contractors and their families.

Statutory health and safety provisions that should have been a back-up had been eroding under the previous Labour Government and continued to do so under National. One of the findings of the royal commission into the tragedy was that mining inspectorate services had been so run down that by the time of the disaster, New Zealand had just two mines inspectors, and their travel budget was so constrained that their invigilation was patchy. 

There were so many failings that “accident” is hardly the right word to describe the disaster that occurred on November 19, 2010. This tragedy could have happened at any time to any shift of miners.

It was a disgrace that when Pike River Coal, then in receivership, was convicted of charges relating to the explosion, the company went under leaving more than $3 million in reparations unpaid. WorkSafe New Zealand then laid 12 health and safety charges against mine boss Peter Whittall. Yet they were dropped in return for his insurance company providing the reparations the mine company failed to make. The Supreme Court last year ruled that the deal was “an unlawful agreement to stifle prosecution”. However, it may still never be possible to hold any person or entity to account. As with the collapse of the Canterbury Television building, the denial of even an attempt at justice rankles with New Zealanders.

It was a further disgrace that New Zealand First and Labour chose to politicise the tragedy at the last election, with Winston Peters promising to be one of the first to re-enter the mine. His swagger implied that cowardice, not caution, was the problem. Never fear, Peters would go where Mines Rescue had not been allowed to tread. This determination to re-enter the mine flies in the face of the only positive development to have come out of the disaster – a new zeal for health and safety.

To unnecessarily risk more lives in the same mine, however much some of the families want it to happen, undermines the very principle this tragedy so firmly established: that safety is paramount.

Through all this, some of the victims’ families have heroically battled on, determined to see responsibility sheeted home somewhere, somehow. Their efforts have been laudable. The idea, however, that a team will be able to find in the devastated, burnt mine evidence that will lead to a prosecution seems illusory and the recovery of human remains sadly unlikely. Regardless, politicians have for years kept the families’ hopes dangling. This seems more cruelty than kindness. The closure the families seek might be further advanced had it been given more of a chance.

The $36 million cost of re-entry would not be worth mentioning, even to those who think the money could be better spent on reducing the rising road toll or child poverty, if the chances were higher that it will serve any purpose except political triumphalism. Little has spoken of “knowing when to call it quits”.

Arguably, and regrettably, that point has probably passed. There must be no more lives put at risk.

John Roughen also argues against any attempt at re-entry and makes the point, the announcement so far isn’t to go very far at all:

Just as in 2013, they don’t propose to go further than the point where the tunnel has collapsed about 2km in. The only difference is that five years ago this plan was reportedly estimated to cost $7.2 million. Last week we were told it will cost $36m. This is madness. . .

But it’s not just the dollar cost, it’s the potential cost in more lives that really matters.

“Safety is paramount,” they all say. If you listened closely last week, they’re not definitely going further than a second chamber, a trifling 170m into the 2km tunnel. Beyond that, they say, it might not be safe. In other words, nothing has changed but the bill.

The company, successive governments, the union and even workers themselves who didn’t act on justifiable fears about safety, are to a greater and lesser extent culpable.

The only good thing to have come out of this disaster is much stricter legislation that makes everyone involved responsible for health and safety.

Even without that, to risk further lives for the very, very slight hope there will be evidence that could be used, or bodies to be returned, can not be justified.


Risking living to find dead

19/11/2018

The decision to attempt to re-enter the Pike River mine drift has been widely praised.

The families deserve justice, the families deserve closure, and the families want their men back are among the reasons for the praise.

I can’t argue with the need for justice.

Twenty nine men lost their lives at work and that’s unjust but I doubt that any evidence that could result in justice for them could be found in the drift.

The families deserve closure.

There is no closure with grief, you just learn to live with it. Had Labour and NZ First not played politics by disagreeing with the previous government’s decision that the risks of re-entry were too great, the families would have been learning to live with it for years instead of stuck in limbo, pinning their hopes on re-entry.

They have been strung along by politicians and some media. If there’s no evidence and little if anything to be found of anyone whose life was lost, they will be further still from learning to live with their grief and there will be more agitation to go beyond the drift.

The families want their men back.

Some do, but not all. Marion Curtin, the mother of one victims says the attempt to re-enter is disgraceful.

Her son, Richard Holling, never came home after the November 2010 tragedy, but she wanted it to stay that way.

Some people might assume that all 29 affected families considered yesterday’s news as a “victory,” she said, but she was one of the silent many who disagreed.

Almost all reports since the disaster make it appear as if all the families support the re-entry. The ‘silent many’ are rarely mentioned.

She said the plan was an “appalling” waste of $36 million.

“I’m just so disappointed. I couldn’t believe that cabinet would sign this off,” she said.

Ms Curtin was deeply grateful for the money already spent at the site, but at the same time wondered how others can’t see “all the other important things in the country that the money could be spent on”.

Especially given the lack of certainty, she said, with nobody able to tell her exactly what the mine recovery experts would be looking for.

“I see it as sacrilege, really. To go in fossicking around for remains… to go in just to see what they find – I think it’s just disgraceful,” she said.

Ms Curtin loathed the fact it had become so political. She said the months leading up to last year’s election were especially challenging. “Some people liked that… the politicians climbing on board. I certainly didn’t. That was my son’s death they were playing with.” she said. . . 

It’s also playing with the lives of the people who will re-enter the mine.

Stacey Kirk writes of the high risks for re-entry:

But the biggest concern might be that the word “safety” appears to be becoming more subjective by the day.

“Safety is paramount” Little repeated ad nauseum. 

It’s hard to understand that if that were the case, why more people would be sent down there.

A mine filled with explosive gases, no matter how much are pumped out, surrounded by rock of variable stability and the simple fact it’s a coal mine – which in the best of situations are hazardous sites – there is no way it’s objectively safe.

The previous Government decided the danger threshold was more than it could stomach, on the back of technical advice. This Government has decided it’s comfortable with whatever risk is still there, on the basis of a different set of technical advice.

Without a very specific type of engineering degree, the differences between the two sets of advice are unlikely to be translatable to the wider public. Still, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the venture is far from risk-free. It’s debatable, but perhaps at least partially irrelevant, whether $30m dedicated to 29 families is a worthwhile cost.

But it’s without question that the risk of one more life, definitely isn’t.  

No employer should ask anyone to undertake the work and no politician should ask it of anyone either.

Health and Safety laws were changed as a result of the Pike River disaster and any Person in Charge of a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) is now liable if a life is lost or someone injured.

Nothing can be done to make no risk at all for anyone going into the drift and it makes it worse that one of the motivations for putting lives at risk is to bring back bodies, or what remains of them.

The living should never be asked to put their lives at risk to rescue the dead.


She said, he said

06/09/2018

Government policy is to increase the refugee quote to 1500, or is it?

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said:

. . . there was only an agreement to take the refugee quota to 1000, not the 1500 wanted by Labour.

“We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota,” Peters said when questioned by reporters.

When it was suggested Labour had, Peters said: “Labour’s not the government.”. .

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

. . .The Government remained committed to doubling the refugee quota, Ardern said.

“That is a commitment that we’ve made. It hasn’t come through Cabinet yet. What we have had to make sure that we can do is ensure that all of those refugees at this point can be resettled appropriately, and that we have the facilities to do that.

Increasing the quota to 1500 is policy of one part of government but not the other.

Whatever the number is, doesn’t matter nearly as much as what the difference between the PM and deputy say about the government.

This is the second time Peters has pulled the rug out from under Labour.

The first was when he ruled out striking out the three-strikes law just as Justice Minister Andrew Little was about to introduce legislation to parliament.

This is his second strike.

It’s unlikely to be his last and it’s very unlikely to be three strikes and he’s out because it was he who put Labour into government and they can’t stay there without him.

That’s what happens when you’re in government but not in power.


If Cabinet counts . . .

12/06/2018

Labour’s attempt to repeal the three-strikes legislation has been struck out by New Zealand First:

. . . Justice Minister Andrew Little was forced to backtrack on the proposed repeal that he was planning to take to Cabinet on Monday after NZ First indicated it wouldn’t support it.

In a press conference on Monday morning Little tried to leave the door open on three strikes being repealed in the future, saying NZ First didn’t support a “piecemeal” approach and wanted to see the total justice reform package. 

However, it’s understood NZ First MPs have been working on this issue for weeks. The caucus has no plans to budge on its long-held view of being tough on law and order after seeking feedback from its voter base. . . 

Little might have thought he could get the legislation past NZ First’s tough law and order stance because the party has managed to support other policies to which it is supposedly opposed but he was very silly not to have had a water-tight commitment of support well before this.

That wasn’t his only mistake.

. . . On Justice Minister Andrew Little’s backtrack today on the Three Strikes law repeal, Ardern said it would have been better to wait until a Cabinet decision had been made. . . 

Yes indeed.

But if Cabinet is supposed to count in this decision why didn’t it count in the decision to ban oil and gas exploration?


Bending branches

07/02/2018

Government ministers are bending the branches of government to breaking point, Helensville, and lawyer, MP Christopher Penk says.

By constitutional convention, respective roles played by our three branches of government are deliberately distinct. The “executive” (which is led by cabinet but includes all the civil service) basically runs the country. The “legislature”, aka parliament, passes laws defining the limits of that executive power, among other things. And the “judiciary” (our court system, more or less) applies the law, deciding each case on its individual merits in accordance with existing legal norms – without fear or favour and free from political pressure.

The doctrine demanding a separation of powers is a sacrosanct safeguard within our partly written, partly unwritten constitution. Its importance lies in preventing any one individual or group from gaining an outsized portion of power.

Taken together, constitutional safeguards have helped to keep New Zealand blessedly free of corruption in our short but proud history. Enjoying such stability and certainty is an international advantage that we should guard jealously and zealously. . .

He gives four examples where ministers’ behavior has weakened the constitutional framework:

* Andrew Little’s comments on a perceived problem with bail

* Little’s comment on the decision not to prosecute over the CCTV collapse.

* Clare Curran’s tweet on a police prosecution.

* Grant Roberston’s threat to make an example of landlords illegally raising rents.

In this country it’s pretty hard to hold a government to account when it bends, or even breaks, constitutional convention. That’s the thing about conventions, of course: for better and worse, they’re almost impossible to enforce. The flexibility of our constitutional arrangements is actually a real strength most of the time (whatever advocates of a comprehensive written constitution may say), so this is not a criticism but an observation.

That said, with few firm legal constraints in the form of “black letter law”, political accountability becomes all the more important. As Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, that is where we come in. And take note, ministers: we will.

The transition from opposition, where there is greater leeway for criticism, to government and cabinet where much more circumspection is required, isn’t always easy.

But that’s no excuse for bending the branches of government as these ministers have.

Adam Smith writes on this at Inquiring Mind.

 

 


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