Rural round-up

August 15, 2016

Unreliable rain reduces sheep numbers – Kate Taylor:

The seasons are changing at Patoka Station and less reliable rainfall is affecting the way it’s farmed. Kate Taylor reports.

It looks green but the grass is much shorter than normal for late winter on Patoka Station in Hawke’s Bay.

That picture is about to change, though owners Ben and Suzie Crosse are unaware of it as they discuss their upcoming lambing, starting from August 31. A storm is approaching the central North Island and will dump 190mm of freezing-cold rain on the 1200ha farm.

The farm has monthly records going back to 1948 but the rainfall hasn’t been reliable lately, Ben says. . . 

Biggest year’ ever for avocado growers

With avocados back on the menu, New Zealand growers are gearing up for their best season ever.

That’s according to John Carroll, director of the country’s largest exporter Avoco, who says his firm expects to ship off about 3.2 million trays of the fruit in the coming months.

In total, 5.1 million trays, about 28,000 tonnes, are predicted to depart our shores, mainly bound for Australia and Asia. . . 

Forest industry’s challenge to manage supply fluctuations:

The pan forest and timber processing industry organisation, the New Zealand Wood Council (Woodco) says there is a supply challenge for many regions in the domestic processing industry.

Woodco Chair, Brian Stanley says timber processors are being hindered by a current lack of logs, especially in the higher grades.

He says small scale woodlot owners are being enticed into quick export contracts instead, where the buyers are not providing the domestic processors with an opportunity to purchase these logs. . . 

Deputy PM Bill English visits Blue River dairy factory – Dave Nicoll:

It was a bit surreal for Deputy Prime Minister Bill English to see award winning cheeses named after places his mother grew up.

English made a special visit to the Blue River Dairy factory in Invercargill on Friday as part of a trip to the Southland region.

Blue River Dairy produced a number of award winning cheeses, and milk powder from sheep milk and has expanded into exporting sheep milk baby formula into China. . . 

Fonterra Announces New Palm Products Sourcing Standard:

Fonterra has adopted a new standard for sourcing of palm products as part of its commitment to sustainability.

The standard was developed in consultation with key supply partners, and it follows discussions with Greenpeace that began in December 2015 to strengthen Fonterra’s existing sustainable palm products sourcing procedures.

“The new standard requires us to purchase only segregated supply palm oil by 2018, and to work with suppliers of palm products to ensure that plans are in place for full traceability to plantation by 2018,” said Fonterra’s Director of Social Responsibility, Carolyn Mortland. . . 

Action to help farming productivity in Manawatu-Whanganui:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says $465,000 towards primary sector initiatives in the ‘Accelerate 25 Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan’ launched today will make a real difference to the region.

“Manawatū-Whanganui has the largest sheep flock and beef herds of any region in the country, and half of New Zealand’s lamb exports come from within two hours’ drive of Feilding. We need farming to do well to drive economic prosperity here,” says Mr Guy.

Speaking at Ross and Wendy Humphrey’s farm in Cheltenham, Mr Guy says much of the funding will be used for information sharing to lift productivity.   . . 

Report shows good results from flood recovery money:

A report on Government assistance to farmers following the June 2015 Taranaki-Horizons storm shows that good results were achieved, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

“These storms had a major impact on the region and caused widespread damage, so it’s pleasing to see that Government funding has made a real difference,” says Mr Guy.

“The storm on 18-20 June 2015 brought widespread heavy rainfall, flooding and erosion to the Taranaki and Horizons regions. Hill sheep and beef farmers were particularly affected by flooding of river margins and damage to tracks and fences, with damage also to dairy land and young forest plantations.” . . 

Wools of New Zealand well set for end of grower-funding

Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) Chairman Mark Shadbolt says the company is making strong commercial progress with an expected maiden profit for the 2016 financial year.

Shadbolt was responding to a recent shareholder comment in a local rural newspaper that the company would “almost certainly fail” without income from farmers’ Wool Market Development Commitment (WMDC).

“To the contrary, WNZ is making investments that are reducing the company’s reliance on the WMDC.” . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s 2015/16 base milk price calculation:

The Commerce Commission today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2015/16 dairy season. The base milk price is the price Fonterra pays to farmers for raw milk and it is currently set by Fonterra at $3.90 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2015/16 season just ended. The report does not cover the forecast 2016/17 price of $4.25 that Fonterra recently announced.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s calculation each year at the end of the dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

Deputy Chair Sue Begg said Fonterra’s calculation of the 2015/16 base milk price is consistent with both the efficiency and contestability purposes of DIRA. . . 


$1b housing help

July 4, 2016

The government has announced a $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the supply of new housing where it’s needed most, Finance Minister Bill English and Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith say.

The contestable fund will be open to applications from councils in the highest growth areas – currently Christchurch, Queenstown, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland.

Mr English says the Housing Infrastructure Fund will help bring forward the new roads and water infrastructure needed for new housing where financing is a constraint.

“The Government will invest up front to ensure the infrastructure is in place. But councils will have to repay the investment or buy back the assets once houses have been built and development contributions paid.”

Dr Smith says the fund will be available only for substantial new infrastructure investments that support more new housing, not to replace existing infrastructure.

“To access the fund, local councils must outline how many new houses will be built, where they will be built and when they will be available. Ideally, they will have agreements with developers on these issues.

“Funding may also have other conditions attached, such as faster processing of resource consents. All of this will require close collaboration between central and local government.”

Mr English says infrastructure, and its financing in particular, is one of the three key constraints to building more houses – alongside land supply and consenting requirements.

“Councils have strict debt limits which means some lack the headroom to invest in infrastructure now and then wait for future development contributions to recover the costs. The fund will help provide more infrastructure sooner by aligning the cost to councils with the timing of revenue from development contributions.”

Depending on the number and timing of applications, it will require the Government to temporarily borrow up to $1 billion, which will increase net debt until it is repaid.

Dr Smith says the Government is also considering establishing Urban Development Authorities (UDAs) to help further speed up the supply of new housing.

UDAs have streamlined powers to override barriers to large-scale development, including potentially taking responsibility for planning and consenting and other powers.

“These changes are just the latest steps in the Government’s ongoing, comprehensive programme to increase the supply and affordability of housing,” Dr Smith says.

“They will complement the work of the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas, our social housing build, our emergency housing programme, the expanded HomeStart Scheme for first home buyers, the development of surplus Crown land, the National Policy Statement, RMA reform and the extra tax measures we took last year.

“We are making good progress in facilitating increased investment in housing with a record $11.4 billion of residential building work underway this year. This initiative to support councils with infrastructure provision is the next logical step in this programme.”

The housing shortage is a result of supply outstripping demand.

It takes time to build new houses and it also requires new infrastructure. The costs for developing that is incurred long before councils start collecting enough in rates to fund it.

This new fund will enable councils to borrow the money needed for new infrastructure – roads, water and sewerage – and gives them 10 years to repay it by which the increased rate-take from the new houses will enable them to do.

It’s a good idea and while $1 billion is a very large amount of money, the cost to the taxpayer is the interest only because the fund is for loans not grants.


More feathers more hissing

June 27, 2016

One fact which is rarely mentioned in discussions on inequality: around 40% of people pay no net tax:

. . . A table from Finance Minister Bill English’s office shows 663,000 households – or 40 per cent – receive more in tax credits and other benefits than they pay in tax. Thousands more are neutral contributors, or are close to it. . . 

Households earning less than $50,000 receive more in credits than they pay in direct income tax by about a third.

By comparison, the top 3 per cent of individual income earners, earning more than $150,000 a year, pay 24 per cent of all tax received.

Mark Keating, a senior lecturer in tax at the University of Auckland Business School, said the idea of “net tax” – the amount paid after credits and benefits were deducted – was hard for some people to get their heads around.

But he said people who received any benefit, or superannuation, as well as people who worked and met the criteria for Working for Families tax credits could end up with a net result that was negative or neutral.

“If you are working and earn $1000 a week but have four children, you might pay $200 a week in tax but get back $300.

“They are net receiving. It’s quite a strange system. It’s not common overseas because it’s quite bureaucratic.”

This is income tax. Everyone pays GST too and while poorer people are more likely to spend a greater proportion of their income, wealthier people generally spend more in total and therefore also pay more GST.

Peter Vial, New Zealand tax leader at Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, said some people would be surprised to find they were not paying more than they received.

“It’s not a calculation they would do automatically. In an ideal world it would be good if there was more knowledge about the interaction between the tax and benefit systems.”

Many were unaware how dependent New Zealand was on a small group of high-earning, salaried individuals to pay a large chunk of the tax, he said.

“We never talk about that. It’s always a risk to our tax base because people are mobile and can move. But New Zealanders want a progressive tax system, the more you earn the more you pay.”

This is something those called for higher taxes on higher incomes overlook.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert said, the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing. 

Tax is necessary to fund essential services and infrastructure but there comes a point when people believe enough is enough and the extraction of more feathers will result in more than just more hissing.

If taxes on higher incomes become too high, at least some of the geese laying the golden tax eggs will start looking at ways to minimise their liability which will hit productivity and discourage investment.

It could also encourage flight to countries with less punitive taxes leaving fewer geese to provide more feathers.

 


Before the Budget

May 26, 2016

Finance Minister Bill English will deliver his eighth Budget this afternoon.

Before it’s delivered, Prime Minister John Key offers some briefing notes:

1. More than 200,000 jobs have been created over the past three years – that equates to around 180 new jobs every day.

2. New Zealand has the third highest employment rate in the developed world.

3. We’re on track for annual economic growth of about 3 per cent for the next few years.

4. We’re also on track for rising surpluses and falling debt – we were one of the first developed countries to be back in surplus after the global financial crisis when we posted a surplus of $414 million last year.

5. Budget 2016 will contain $1.6 billion in new spending. We’ve already announced funding for more lifesaving drugs, emergency housing, and to support our thriving tourism sector.

This year’s Budget will further advance our work to support a strong, growing economy. It’s only through a strong, growing economy that we’re able to create more jobs, lift wages and deliver better public services to those who need them most.

Labour’s last Budget in 2008 was forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of the GFC, Canterbury earthquakes and other unforeseen hurdles, the government books were back in surplus last year and, with continued careful management, are expected to stay there.

This isn’t about a surplus for surplus’s sake. It’s the only way to sustainably fund public services, reduce debt, look after those who need help and leave us all with more of our own money.


Rural round-up

May 19, 2016

Forging a path for other young Maori women to follow :

Confidence and self-belief have always help Ash-Leigh Campbell achieve her goals in the dairy industry – and she hopes her success will inspire more young Maori women to follow her lead.

“You have to back yourself. If you know you can do it, everyone around you will eventually buy into that too,” she says.

The enthusiastic 25 year-old from Lincoln is one of three finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua Young Māori Dairy Farmer Awards and has big career ambitions.

“I don’t see myself as an industry leader now but the journey I’m on will hopefully fulfil that in future.

“I definitely want to make an imprint on Maori farming in New Zealand and become an ambassador for others. I especially want to publicise that Maori females can do it.” . . .

Up and coming Agri:

The children are the future, but how well do they know the in’s and out’s of agri? 17-year-old Greer Baldwin, an Agribusiness student at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, sat down with us to give the inside scoop.

Despite not growing up on a farm, Greer has been around agri her whole life. Her Mum, Karen, works in Agri-tourism and the Baldwin family have been involved at National Fieldays for generations. Karen’s line of work allows overseas visitors to experience a real life Kiwi farm in action and is an interesting line of tourism a lot of young people aren’t aware of.

Thanks to Greer’s experience with her mother’s business, she has grown up fully aware that agri is more than gumboots and milking cows, and now has her sights set on studying agriculture at a tertiary level. Born and bred in the Waikato, Greer is excited to branch away from home and is tossing up between either Massey or Lincoln University where she will study agribusiness and tourism. . . 

New irrigation investments for Canterbury:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed three new investments totalling $7.85 million into irrigation projects in Canterbury from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF).

“These projects are a real boost to the Canterbury regional economy. A reliable source of water gives farmers certainty and options to invest in such as arable, intensive pastoral, dairy support or horticulture.”

The projects receiving funding are: . . 

Government supports Ashburton water study trial:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has allocated $312,000 to a trial project in the Hinds Plains area which aims to improve water quality and restore spring-fed flows.

The funding comes from MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) and the announcement was acknowledged by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, during his visit to Canterbury today.

David Caygill, Environment Canterbury Deputy Chair of Commissioners, welcomed the announcement which will allow the Regional Council to carry out the Hinds Managed Aquifer Recharge Pilot Study in an area where groundwater nitrate concentrations are well above the national bottom-line. . . 

Central Plains schemes receive government support:

Government support for the Central Plains Water (CPW) Scheme was announced today by the Ministry for Primary Industries during a visit to the scheme by Minister Nathan Guy.

Through the Ministry for Primary Industries Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF), up to $6.64 million has been allocated to CPW to support completion of Stage 2 of their scheme’s development as well as $898,000 for the Sheffield Irrigation Scheme (a sub-scheme of CPW).

CPWL CEO, Derek Crombie has welcomed the latest funding announcements for the two projects. . . 

Change in responsibilities for Crown irrigation bodies:

A change in responsibilities for the Government’s irrigation programmes will help streamline and speed up water storage projects, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

From 1 July, Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL) will take over the responsibility for funding grants to regional irrigation schemes in the early stages of development, which are matched by local backers. This role has previously been carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF).

“It makes sense to have a single agency looking after this funding as well as CIIL’s current role of commercially investing in projects which are investment-ready,” says Mr Guy. . . 

Hold on tight farmers, the future is bright – Farmers’ Forum experts:

Leading industry speakers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum held in Hamilton this week reaffirmed the view that while another year of low milk prices is on the horizon, the long-term outlook for dairy remains bright.

Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English, Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings and Rabobankhead of food and agribusiness research and advisory, Tim Hunt, all reiterated that global demand for dairy products will continue to grow.

Mr English said in the government’s view, the dairy industry will remain the engine room of growth as the second biggest New Zealand exporter behind tourism. But facing up to the reduced milk price is the current challenge. . . 

Fonterra expected to lift milk price – Tina Morrison:

Fonterra is expected to lift its farmgate milk price payout to farmers next season, although it’s likely to mark the third year of prices below the level required by most farmers to break even.

The company is scheduled to hold a board meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and may release its opening milk price forecast for the 2016/17 season early Thursday morning. Analysts in a BusinessDesk survey expect a payout of at least $4.43 per kilogram of milk solids for next season, up from a $3.90/kgMS forecast payout for the 2015/16 season, and from $4.40/kgMS in 2014/15.

DairyNZ estimates the average farmer required $5.25/kgMS to cover costs this season and hasn’t yet finalised a break-even price for next season. . . 

Sharemilkers lose 49 cows and $73,000 to nitrate poisoning – Gerard Hutching:

Waikato sharemilkers Cam and Tessa Hodgson have lost 49 cows to nitrate poisoning, which could cost them up to $73,000. 

Nitrate poisoning happens as animals graze, and often occurs after a drought when there are high levels of nitrogen in the soil, and is exacerbated by humid, cloudy conditions. 

Cam’s brother Matthew Hodgson has started a givealittle page for them, saying their passion is farming “and to see the cows die in front of them is heartbreaking to them”. . . 

Farmers can cope with stress during busy times – Jill Galloway:

Experts suggest the best way farmers can cope with busy times is by exercising, sleeping and eating well and to never stop talking with people.

Wairarapa farmer, phycologist and rural trust co-ordinator Sarah Donaldson gave stress hints to about 50 people, mainly farmers as well as bank people, trust organisers and rural professionals at last week’s Beef & Lamb New Zealand AgInnovation conference in Palmerston North.

She said it was hard to recognise stress. . .

Food Safety Science & Research Centre launched:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister JoGoodhew today launched the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre at Massey University in Palmerston North.

Formed as a partnership between government, industry organisations and research institutions, the virtual centre aims to ensure New Zealand’s food safety system remains among the best in the world.

“The centre will use the best science available to protect and enhance New Zealand’s international reputation as a producer of safe and  trustworthy food,” Mr Joyce says. . . 

New Zealand Apple Industry the most competitive in the World:

New Zealand’s $700 million apple industry has again been named the world’s most competitive performer.

The World Apple Report, out this week, ranks New Zealand first over 33 major apple producing countries.

Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said it is a great achievement to have a competitive edge over the world and to keep holding the position. . .  

Johne’s disease solutions available:

Help is at hand for dairy farmers facing a problem with Johne’s disease in their cattle.

LIC is reminding farmers of the options available from their herd improvement co-operative to help them manage the disease, including diagnostic testing and a comprehensive Johne’s disease management guide developed by experts.

“We know Johne’s disease can be a stressful and frustrating challenge for many dairy farmers,” LIC GM Biological Systems Geoff Corbett said. “We want to make sure farmers know there are tools available that can help them manage the disease in their stock.” . . 

 


Surplus challenges

May 16, 2016

The government is facing challenges, Finance Minister Bill English told the National Party’s Mainland conference at the weekend.

The prospect of economic growth is good but brings with it the challenge of dealing with ongoing surpluses.

The government books scraped into surplus last year but few would have been surprised if they slipped back into deficit given low dairy prices and the various problems facing many of our trading partners.

However, the government is now looking ahead to multi-billion dollar surpluses in the short to medium term which provides the challenge of how best to use that money.

The opposition and the usual other suspects who think the quantity of spending matters more than quality have been calling for increased spending in all sorts of areas. Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar has calculated that meeting the demands would require a top tax rate of 100%.

But this government has a much better focus than the quantity of spending.As the Finance Minister saidWe measure spending by results rather than the level of spending.

Some issues do require more money now in order to reduce future costs and that is why the government has taken an investment approach to social spending with a whole-of-government approach.

At the conference, Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke about this and explained that getting better results in her portfolio didn’t require more money for it. What was needed was spending that addressed the drivers of crime – welfare dependency and poor education and health.

Few would argue with that, but increased surpluses don’t only give the government the ability to spend more, it also has room to take less.

Last week’s announcement that there won’t be tax cuts in this year’s budget disappointed some, but I think most people accept Prime Minister John Key’s view hat there are other priorities this year.

National had looked at around $1 billion for tax cuts in the Budget the year but it was discarded because it would have delivered $7 or $8 a week to many households, Key told Newstalk ZB.

He said the choice they were faced with in the short term was either a billion dollars worth of tax cuts which would deliver a small amount of money to New Zealanders, or spend the money on other things such as cancer drugs.

Labour was, rightly, pilloried for its chewing gum tax cut and this government wouldn’t get any thanks for offering something similar.

However, people won’t be so patient when there’s a prospect of on-going billion dollar surpluses which give the potential for meaningful cuts and the PM gives room for hope:

“Philosophically we believe in lower taxes and smaller government, and government’s definitely getting smaller,” he said.

“The point is if we’re going to have a tax programme – we’re not ruling that out in for 2017 or campaigning on it for a fourth term. But having probably a bigger one, to be blunt.”

When asked how much was needed for meaningful tax cut, Key responded: “$3 billion I reckon.”

He wouldn’t reveal the budget surplus forecast for next year, but it was nowhere near enough for that.

He said it was realistic to forecast the tax cuts without voters considering it a ploy to be re-elected. 

Tax thresholds would probably change because of the increase in wages, he explained.

“The average income is going up and we think in a few years time the average income will be say $68,000, well the top rate cuts in at $70,000. If you don’t adjust thresholds over time you get to a point where the average income earner is paying the top personal rate of tax. That can’t be right.” . . 

Bracket creep erodes the value of wage rises and needs to be addressed.

Tax cuts  also help retirees. Superannuation is linked to after-tax wages. When taxes drop, after-tax wages increase and so do superannuation payments.

A party conference mid-way through a government’s third term could have been subdued. Confidence that the government will rise to the challenges of growth, continue to focus on the quality of its spending and results helped contribute to a buoyant mood.

It’s far better to be dealing with the challenges of growth than those of recession facing many other countries.


Meanwhile in other news

May 12, 2016

While the Panama papers and examining the entrails of The Bachelor are getting headlines the government books are in a healthier state than forecast:

The $167 million operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) surplus for the nine months to 31 March was $334 million better than forecast, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Core Crown revenue was $206 million higher than forecast, largely due to core Crown tax revenue being $702 million higher than forecast by the Treasury in December.

These aren’t big numbers in relation to the government’s total finances. But given the global financial position and the impact of low dairy prices, this is an achievement.

This was partially offset by core Crown interest and dividend revenue being $456 million lower than forecast.

Mr English says because of sustained, moderate growth in the economy, the Crown accounts are in good order ahead of the delivery of Budget 2016 later this month.

“We’ve been successful in turning an $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 to a surplus last year. In Budget 2016 our focus is shifting more to repaying debt.

“Budget 2016 will reflect this Government’s continued commitment to responsible fiscal management. At the same time it will build on the good progress we’ve made over the previous seven Budgets, with further investment in a growing economy and public services.

“We measure success by results, rather than the level of spending.”

It’s not what they’re spending but the impact that spending that matters.

One area that always takes a lot of spending is welfare.

The government is taking the investment approach which means spending more in the short term for longer term social and financial gain.

A report from Deloitte and NZIER says that the investment approach needs to become a mainstream way of working across more of the social sector.

State of the State New Zealand 2016: Social investment for our future advocates broadening the use of the social investment approach to manage New Zealand’s future fiscal challenges and support better outcomes for Kiwis.

NZIER Deputy Chief Executive John Ballingall says the State of the State takes a close look at government finances and the burdens New Zealanders could face in the future.

“A combination of our ageing population, low productivity and revenue growth, and the need to reduce government debt will impose huge fiscal pressures in coming decades – particularly in social spending. More importantly, too many people in New Zealand are experiencing poor life outcomes and too many of their children are at risk of following them,” says Mr Ballingall.

Deloitte partner and public sector leader Dave Farrelly says it’s the sum of these factors which drove us to focus the report on social investment, an approach to funding social services focusing on root causes to prevent the need for these services in the future.

“For example, with social investment the task is not to deliver the next 100 prison beds for the same cost as the previous 50. It’s to remove the need for those new prison beds altogether,” says Mr Farrelly.

“Today social investment is like a start-up – a small number of people are working incredibly hard to bring a big bold vision to life. Tomorrow, social investment needs to become a mainstream way of working,” he says.

In the six months of research for the report, Deloitte and NZIER spoke to some of the most senior and influential leaders in the public, non-government and private sectors – all of whom provided a unique perspective on social investment.

State of the State proposes a package of bold reforms to realise the aspiration for social investment in New Zealand. The recommendations are:

1. Release, every four years, a government-wide statement to define the outcomes and targets for at-risk New Zealanders
2. Establish a new agency to commission specialist social services for people at risk of poor life outcomes
3. Embed the social investment approach to funding quality and sustainability in the new agency’s operating model
4. Enable better access to government-held data and detailed evaluation reports

“We suggest a structural reconfiguration that some will find challenging, while acknowledging we don’t yet have all the answers,” says Mr Farrelly.

“But we must be bold in tackling these challenges today to maintain our way of life in the future,” he concludes.

Social investment is working and the reforms Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is promoting will do more.

Trans Tasman notes:

. . . The reform being pushed through by Tolley is perhaps the most far-reaching undertaken by the Govt and could stand as its greatest legacy if it achieves its goals. Already it has made some headway in improving the lives of Maori children who are more than twice as likely as Pakeha children to grow up in households experiencing hardship, and fare worse in most indicators. A report by the University of Otago-based Child and Youth Epidemiology Service shows increasing numbers of Maori pre schoolers are getting early childhood education. There’s also been a halving of school suspensions for Maori students, an increase in immunisation rates, fewer young Maori smoking,and falling hospitalisation rates for Maori children for injuries from assault, neglect or maltreatment. Tolley is understood to have secured an additional funding, probably of the order of $500m in this year’s budget for the reform. . . 

Turning around benefit dependency and all the financial and social costs that go with it will not be neither easy nor cheap but the investment approach is working and it’s a much better story than many of the others which are getting attention at the moment.

 


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