Just when you think it can’t get worse

May 30, 2019

Treasury allowing Budget information to be found from a simple search on its own website was bad enough.

Calling it hacking and involving the police without properly investigating first was worse.

And just when the organisation ought to be showing it’s learned a lesson and taking extra care it does the opposite:

. . . 10:30am – In a major blunder, Treasury staff mistakenly handed out copies of the budget to journalists and political commentators.

Newshub’s Political Editor Tova O’Brien tweeted that she was given one of the top secret documents. When the recipients questioned whether they were supposed to see them before going into the lock-up, she says an official asked “Are you not Treasury?” before hurriedly taking the copies back. . . 

It’s a simple human error but given the lead-up it shouldn’t have happened.

So will heads roll?

Treasury bungled badly and Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Winston Peters made baseless accusations against Simon Bridges.

Will there be resignations or even apologies?

Don’t hold your breath.


Rural round-up

May 28, 2016

Westland ups its payout prediction for the coming season:

New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative Westland Milk Products has released a budget for the 2016-17 dairy season of $4.55 – $4.95 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS).

Payout for the current season will be in the range of $3.80 – $3.90 per kgMS.

Westland will also start its payout advance payments for the 2016-17 season at $3.80 per kgMS, payable 20 September 2016. . . 

Westland tops Fonterra – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers received cold comfort when Fonterra announced a low forecast milk price of $4.25/kg milksolids for the new season from June 1, with an advance rate beginning at $3.01.

Analysts’ expectations had been for an opening price of $4.60 or more, as well as some upside when world product prices steadily improved as expected towards the end of 2016.

They said Fonterra seemed to base its opening forecast on spot market prices and not the generally expected improving trend. . .

Farm profits help rural students get ahead – Kate Taylor:

A hill country farm east of Dannevirke has helped hundreds of young people with their tertiary studies. Kate Taylor visited to find out how.

Sheep and beef farmer Max Buckendahl has called the Weber district home for almost three decades but when his 30th anniversary rolls around next year he’s off to see the country.

Together with partner Lynn Moss and a fifth-wheeler artic truck caravan, he’s going to work (and fish) in the warmer climates of Northland for half the year and travel New Zealand for the other half.

“There’s no particular reason to go now but I wanted to stay here 30 years first,” he says. . . 

Silver Fern Farms:Details of Special Meeting:

• Special Meeting date set for Monday, 11 July 2016

Dunedin 27 May 2016: Silver Fern Farms has today settled the statement from two of the 80 requisitioners, in a form that Silver Fern Farms is willing to include in its Notice of Meeting, and has set a date of Monday 11 July to hold the Special Meeting.

The Board has received a statement from two of the 80 requisitioners and notes that the original 80 requisitioners sought a meeting of shareholders to consider: . . 

Silver Fern shareholders to vote again on Shanghai Maling deal in July – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Shareholders of meat processor Silver Fern Farms will have a second vote on whether to approve its planned tie-up with China’s Shanghai Maling Aquarius in July, though the board intends to go ahead with the deal irrespective of the outcome.

The cooperative today set the meeting for July 11 in Dunedin where shareholders will vote on approving the proposed partnership and restructure, where the Chinese firm takes 50 percent ownership of the meat processor in return for $261 million of cash, a special dividend, and funds to bankroll the cooperative for seven years. Shareholders backed the deal in October, but John Shrimpton and Blair Gallagher, representing a group of 80 shareholders, have since sought a special meeting to effectively reconsider the transaction. . . 

Federated Farmers welcomes Freshwater Improvement Fund:

Federated Farmers is commending the Government on a new $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund to aid communities investment in solutions for water quality in New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies, announced in yesterday’s budget.

Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen says the fund will help communities achieve desired water quality outcomes sooner.

“It’s going to take innovative thinking, time and money to get to the level of water quality our communities aspire too,” he said. . . 

TB continues to be challenge for next decade:

Funding for TB control is less than it has been in the past but Federated Farmers is confident the new programme will continue to make progress with a more efficient spend of the money.

Federated Farmers OSPRI (TB Free NZ) spokesman Anders Crofoot said: “The amended TB Plan is a shift in approach from containing the disease to active eradication in livestock and wildlife. To date we’ve been successful at removing TB from large areas of New Zealand. This means with improved operational efficiencies and targeted work, enabled by advances in modelling we should see new TB Plan targets achieved.

The programme carried out by OSPRI will aim to eradicate bovine TB from cattle and deer by 2026, and from TB-infected wildlife in New Zealand by 2055. . . 

Government Support for Landcare:

Yesterday’s Budget marks a return to stable base-line funding for the work of NZ Landcare Trust.

The Minister for the Environment is responsible for financial appropriations for the 2016/17 financial year which include approximately $27 million for grants to third parties for water initiatives, environmental management and education programmes.

A specific appropriation identified within ‘Vote Environment’ has been established for the promotion of sustainable land management practice through a national network of coordinators. These funds are available due to the reprioritisation of $800,000 from the Community Environment Fund. This transfer reflects joint Ministers’ decision to fund the NZ Landcare Trust activities for 2016/17 and out years. No expiry date for this resourcing commitment has been set and it is identified as an on-going commitment. . . 

DairyNZ’s commitment to supporting dairy farmers:

Industry body DairyNZ is committed to supporting dairy farmers following the announcement by Fonterra of an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price of $4.25 per kgMS for the 2016-17 season.

“The $4.25 per kgMS is not a surprise, although the particularly low opening advance rate of $2.50 per kgMS plus capacity adjustment is tough for farmers who will find the winter particularly difficult,” says DairyNZ chief executive, Tim Mackle. “This is the lowest opening advance rate in at least the last 14 years.

“The break-even milk income required for the average farmer is $5.25 per kgMS, yet under this forecast scenario they’ll only be receiving $4.45 per kgMS all up in terms of farm income, including retro payments from last season and dividends. . .

PwC supports NZ Milk Futures to manage milk price risk:

The NZX today launched a NZ Milk Futures contract that will eventually provide the opportunity for large and small dairy farmers to proactively risk manage milk price movements and volatility.

“The new futures contract essentially replaces, and considerably enhances, the Guaranteed Milk Price (GMP) contract previously offered by Fonterra,” says Roger Kerr, PwC Partner and Treasury Advisor.

“While the new futures contract has been expected, it will need support from the market to ensure its viability. This means that industry players with resources available to make this commitment, should be encouraged to participate,” says Mr Kerr. . .


Budget changes will benefit children – Dr Lance O’Sullivan

May 24, 2015

Northland GP and New Zealander of the Year says the Budget announcement of more money for beneficiary families and the requirement to seek work when the youngest child turns three is a good move:

Dr O’Sullivan says in the Northland communities he works in, the kids of beneficiaries are often better off out of the home because they’re less exposed to social dysfunction.

“Now that could be alcohol, drug abuse; that could be violence; that could be mental health problems; that could be problems with incarceration,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

He says putting those children into childcare during the day ensures they have some good role models early on.

“I think we should be able to expose them to positive environments, keep them warm, safe and dry and give them a learning opportunity that will prepare them for school. I don’t believe we should waiting until they’re five.” . . .

Home ought to be the safest place for children.

Parents ought to be the best teachers and role models but tragically for too many children they aren’t.

Dr O’Sullivan sees them and knows that these children will be better away from their homes, if only while their parents are at work.


More of what’s working not boring

May 21, 2015

Several commentators are criticising today’s Budget for being boring.

Boring in the sense of no surprises is good for Budgets.

We should be grateful the days when everyone stocked up on fuel and fags then sat round the radio listening to the Finance Minister add taxes here and give out subsidies and other taxpayer largesse there are long gone.

But a Budget that delivers more of what’s working for New Zealand shouldn’t be written off as boring and the programme being built on in successive Budgets is working.

NBR editor Nevil Gibson writes of a Budget success story we don’t hear about:

One of the biggest contributors to the reduction in the budget deficit is the money not being spent on welfare.

It’s a success story you won’t hear much about as opposition parties insist a rise in the welfare budget is a better measure.

But, like the ACC reforms and its lower fees, the savings in welfare benefits are like a tax cut for all other taxpayers. . .

The reduction of people on benefits pays dividends in financial and human terms.

The reduction in benefit numbers since the reforms began in 2012 and the projections are described as “startling” by an Australian commentator, Rick Morton. 

His column quotes figures that show the number of years people will spend on benefits has fallen 12%, worth 650,000 years of benefit receipt in the next five decades.

“Two-thirds of this is due to a reduction in the number of people who will gain benefits and one-third is a reduction in the time they will spend on those benefits,” Mr Morton writes.

“From $NZ86 billion, the future liability of the welfare recipients shrank to $76.5 billion in 2013 and to $69 billion last year, largely on the back of economic factors such as inflation.

“But $2.2 billion of the reduction was attributed, in a report released earlier this year, to the ‘effectiveness’ of the policy, which is measured by fewer people getting access to benefits and more people leaving them.” . .

Lindsay Mitchell notes the success in reducing the number of teen pregnancies:

. . . To be demonstrating prevention-success alongside support for the diminishing number who do become teenage parents is a political dream. 

Stopping people going on to welfare and getting beneficiaries from welfare to work are two of the best ways to alleviate poverty.

Whatever further measures to address the problem of poverty are announced in today’s Budget, the significant reduction in the long-term financial and social costs of welfare are anything but boring.

An email from the National Party yesterday made these points:

  1. 194,000 new jobs created since the start of 2011 under National – that equates to around 120 new jobs every day.
  2. We’ve turned the Government’s books around – the deficit peaked at $18.4 billion in 2011 and now we’re expected to be back in surplus next year, a year later than the target we set in 2011. We’ll still be one of the first developed countries to be back in surplus after the global financial crisis.
  3. This will be the type of Budget a responsible Government can deliver when it’s following a plan that’s working.
  4. Budget 2015 will contain $1 billion in new spending. It continues to support New Zealanders and help families while responsibly managing the growing economy and the Government’s finances.
  5. The Government will continue building on what we’ve put in place to address the drivers of hardship. This approach is working – there are now 42,000 fewer children in benefit-dependent families than three years ago. So our spending will make a difference to those who receive it, while at the same time we respect the taxpayers who pay for it.

There is no money for a lolly scramble budget and even if there was that would be wrong.

A business as usual budget might be boring to some but it’s working for New Zealand.

 


Why the numbers matter

May 29, 2014

Budget 2014 has the books back in black – but why do the numbers matter?

The numbers matter because only when they are positive can a government afford policies to help people that will be sustainable.


Budget day behind the scenes

May 23, 2014


Lower welfare costs fund surplus

May 20, 2014

A reduction in welfare spending is funding the surplus.

Economic growth has helped but a faster than expected drop in the cost of welfare is the bigger contributor:

English told an audience of business people that in 2010 the Government had expected to be spending $11.5b on welfare this year.

However in following Budgets it trimmed the forecasts and this coming year it would be spending about $10.5b.

“The welfare bill is going down and going down faster than we expected. . .

English said governments in the past had been passive on these costs but National had tightened up the system and the expectations of people on welfare.

It got experts to work out what the 290,000 people on welfare would cost in the long run.

Their total liability was $76b. Apart from superannuation it was one of the big costs that underpinned the tax bill.

That is a huge amount of money, and National has proven that with the right policies it is possible to reduce it.

Two thirds of the liability came from people who first got a benefit under the age of 20. “So it confirms what grandma told you. “Don’t let those young people get off the rails because when they do it’s very expensive.”

The experts told the Government that if a person got a benefit once it made them much more likely to get a benefit again. If a young woman under 20 with a child went on a benefit the average length of stay on the benefit was 20 years.

“That’s expensive, very expensive,” English said.

A couple of years ago the Government put a supervising adult with the 4600 mostly young women under 20 with a child who were on a benefit. They typically had little education and lived in old, cold houses and had been left to sink or swim on their own.

That number had now shrunk by 40 per cent to 2600.

“And that’s going to save us hundreds of millions.”

Kiwiblog has a budget slide that illustrates the savings:

welfare

The savings aren’t just in welfare spending.

Health and educational outcomes are better for children in families supported by work rather than welfare.

Those savings aren’t just financial either – there are significant social dividends from stopping people going on to welfare and helping those who can work to work.

 

 


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