More generous, better targeted

May 7, 2020

National has come up with a more generous and better targeted plan for small businesses hit by the Covid-19 lockdown:

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today announced the first part of National’s plan for getting New Zealand working again.

“New Zealand has flattened the curve. Our first priority now must be to lift the restrictions that are flattening the economy.

“We need to get cash flowing to the thousands of small businesses that were forced to close in the national interest, and left shouldering a disproportionate amount of the economic burden.

Businesses, and the jobs they support, come and go at the best of times.

But these are the worst of times owing to circumstances beyond their control and as a direct result of government directive.

The directive was made with the best of intentions and for the public good but that in no way softens the blow to businesses nor reduces their need for help.

“To reduce the damage and to save jobs, National would offer a GST cash refund of up to $100,000 – based off the GST they paid in the 6 months to 1 January 2020 – to the small businesses most affected. They would need to demonstrate a revenue drop of more than 50 per cent across two successive months due to the lockdown rules.

“We estimate this could benefit up to 160,000 businesses and save countless jobs.

“If the business paid more than $100,000 in GST over that period, then they would be able to claim up to an additional $250,000 as a repayable loan over 5 years.

“National understands the key to growing the economy is to encourage and incentivise business investment.

“That’s why we would temporarily lift the threshold to expense new capital investment for firms. The Government lifted the threshold from $500 to $5000 as part of its Covid response. We’d go much further and lift it to $150,000 for two years.

For example, if a company spends $145,000 on a new machine to improve its productivity, rather than depreciating that asset over many years, it will be able to expense the full $145,000 in this tax year.

“What we do in the next few months is critical to help businesses survive and save jobs.

“The Government took the right steps to contain the virus but already it’s stalling on what to do next.

“National will work alongside New Zealanders to achieve jobs, sustainable growth and boundless opportunities for New Zealanders and their families.

“Kiwis have done a great job self-isolating and social distancing to save lives. But with 1000 people a day joining the dole queue, we now need to turn our attention to saving jobs.

“National will get New Zealand working again.”

Business NZ approves:

BusinessNZ says National’s proposals for business support would help build investment and confidence.

Chief Executive Kirk Hope says National’s proposals for cash grants, low-interest loans and a higher cap on depreciation are sensible options. . . 

Luke Malpass says Bridges has hit the right note:

. . .For a start he has been positive: although all the usual political point-scoring applied, he has announced a new policy that, were it to be enacted, would greatly assist many small businesses which are currently being nursed through the continued lockdown. It is new, it has been roughly costed (at a cool $8 billion it is not chump change) and it is specifically designed to support small businesses which will struggle to make payroll once they can start operating again.

The second policy announced — a temporary instant asset write-off for investments of up to $150,000 (supercharging the Government’s $5000, which was increased only in March) is also good policy given the circumstances. It is designed to provide an extra incentive for firms to invest as the lockdown continues to wind down. 

Importantly, the policies are both forward-looking and recognise that as the economy loosens, the next wave of Government support is going to be needed. This will clearly be the focus of Grant Robertson’s Budget next Thursday.

The entire basis of the lockdown was that the Government was prepared to induce a sharp recession in order to avoid a surge of Covid cases  resulting in deaths, which would in turn lead to an elongated downturn, driven by fear and uncertainty.

Yet as the will-they-won’t-they nature of the Covid alert levels rolls along the Government risks having both the sharp and deep recession, followed by a drawn-out period of uncertainty which it sold the New Zealand public on hopefully being able to avoid.

It is this risk that Bridges is seizing on, pushing the Government to move to level 2 quickly, and it is not unreasonable. . .

The Prime Minister was praised for her announcement explaining the alert system levels but they no longer mean what she said, and what the Ministry of Health’s website, say they mean.

A couple of weeks with new cases in single figures, two days with no new cases and then just one confirmed and one probable case yesterday should mean the risk of community transmission is low.

People are losing patience with the constraints under which we’re working and the lack of information on what will happen next, and when it will happen.

We’ll learn today what will and what will be permitted at Level 2 but won’t know until Monday when we’ll get there.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker writes of the need for certainty:

. . .The Government needs to be giving details of the conditions that will enable an easing of the alert levels, and when Southland will be able to function normally again. If normal functioning is not possible, the Government needs to tell us what restrictions will be put in place and what support there will be for businesses?

The Government needs to be providing details to us now so businesses can plan.

Sir Bill English once said to me “Hamish, it’s uncertainty which kills business and the economy. People can live with negative decisions that affect them, but you need to tell them so they can plan.” . . 

The government isn’t following this advice and National has stepped into the vacuum with a policy that would provide certainty and enable businesses to plan.  Unfortunately it’s in opposition and therefore not in a position to implement it.

That leaves us with uncertainty until the government deigns to provide us with the information we need and the assistance businesses require.

The full speech is here.


Rural round-up

May 16, 2017

Three Years On and more progress by dairy farmers:

Greenie groups who seek to bolster their fundraising campaigns by using dairy farmers as their favourite target need to read the Water Accord report released today.

Federated Farmers Dairy Industry chairman Andrew Hoggard says the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord ‘Three Years On’ report underlines how seriously dairy farmers take their environmental responsibilities.

“None of us are claiming we’re perfect, or that there is no problem with dairy’s impact on waterways. But the latest report shows the strenuous and ongoing efforts the vast majority of dairy farmers are making to lessen their environmental footprint,” Mr Hoggard says.

The level of compliance for dairy effluent systems is at its highest ever, at a shade under 95 percent. . .

Latest Water Accord update shows good environmental progress by farmers:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the latest progress report of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord project, showing dairy farmers have now fenced off over 97 per cent of waterways.

“The Water Accord is a voluntary project led by the industry to improve farming practices and water quality. This Year Three update shows a range of targets have been achieved, including stock exclusion from 26,197 km of measured waterways which is the equivalent of Auckland to Chicago and back again,” says Mr Guy.

“99.4 per cent of regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now have bridges or culverts to protect local water quality, and over 10 million dollars has been spent on environmental stewardship and farmer support programmes. . . 

Climate change report indicates challenges for NZ agriculture – Allan Barber:

GLOBE-NZ, a group of 35 MPs from all the main parties, has released a report by UK firm Vivid Economics which lays out various scenarios for New Zealand to meet the target of zero emissions by 2050. Business New Zealand and the Sustainable Business Council have both welcomed the cross party initiative, saying it gives confidence there will be collective and coordinated action towards meeting the target. It will also help to achieve commitments under the 2030 Paris climate change agreement to reduce emissions to 20% below the 2005 level.

The report, Net Zero in New Zealand, acknowledges this country’s unique characteristics: a significant amount of renewable energy, large share of land sector emissions (i.e. methane from sheep and cattle) and a large forestry sector. . . 

Waikato farmers launch innovative health and safety app:

Waikato farmers have developed an innovative app that aims help farmers meet their health and safety obligations and streamline communication to those who come to farm.

Husband and wife Horsham Downs dairy farmers Megan Owen and Jason Ham teamed up with Hamilton-based tech company Bridge Point to create the cloud-based app Orange Cross, which launched in late 2016.

Orange Cross will be showcased at the Innovation Centre at Fieldays from June 14-17. . . 

Feds’ keen to improve awareness with stock management on roads:

Federated Farmers is looking forward to working with Marlborough District Council on building more awareness and good practices around stock movement on local roads.

This follows a recent review of the council’s Traffic Bylaw which found current guidelines as being sufficiently “practical and enforceable”.

“It’s very pleasing to see the council have taken on board our feedback and listened to the local community,” says Sharon Parkes, Federated Farmers’ Marlborough Provincial President.

“Many farmers rely on the ability to use public roads in rural areas to move stock between different parts of their farming operations, while clear, workable bylaws assist everyone in their application and use. . . 

Forestry Training and Success Celebrated in the South:

Last Friday saw an outstanding turnout by local forestry companies, contractors and transport operators from throughout the lower South Island of New Zealand. The function was the 2017 Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards.

The Council, representing all major forest owners and most of the major wood processing companies in Otago and Southland ran the 2017 Awards programme in conjunction with the country’s industry training organisation, Competenz. . . 

High producing contract vineyard placed on the market for sale:

A boutique highly productive vineyard supplying grapes to one New Zealand’s largest contract winemakers has been placed on the market for sale.

Zaccarat Vineyard in Renwick on the outskirts of Blenheim consists of some eight hectares of grape plantings – encompassing 6.55 hectares of sauvignon blanc vines and 1.43 hectares of pinot noir. . . 


More ambitious climate change targets

July 8, 2015

New Zealand will commit to a new, more ambitious climate change target, Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser announced:

“This target is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Groser said. “This is a significant increase on our current target of five per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.”

New Zealand will submit the target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. All countries are expected to table targets as part of work towards a new climate change agreement, due to be concluded in Paris in December.

“While New Zealand’s emissions are small on a global scale, we are keen to make a fair and ambitious contribution to the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the most harmful effects of climate change,” Mr Groser said.

“Almost 80% of our electricity is renewable already, and around half our emissions come from producing food for which there aren’t yet cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions. So there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now.

Those who think New Zealand isn’t doing enough forget that we’re already doing quite a bit.

Some of that is because there aren’t many of us and we don’t have a lot of heavy industry but do have a natural advantage in generating renewable energy

It’s also important t take a global perspective and acknowledge that although farming contributes a high percentage of our emissions, most of what we produce goes to other countries few if any convert grass to protein as efficiently as we do.

“However, I’m optimistic about the future – our investment in agricultural research is beginning to bear fruit and the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continues to fall. I think in 5-10 years we’ll be in a good position to reduce our emissions in both agriculture and transport.

“In setting the new target, the Government needed to ensure it was achievable and to avoid imposing unfair costs on any particular sector or group of people. . .

“New Zealand’s target is equivalent to a reduction of 11 per cent below our 1990 emission levels by 2030. Our target is expressed against 2005 emission levels similar to the approach of other significant players including the United States and Canada,” Mr Groser said.

“The target will remain provisional until we ratify the new international agreement. The detailed rules and guidelines for national reduction targets are likely to be set after the Paris meeting. These will cover matters such as the rules on accounting for the land sector, and ensuring international carbon markets meet high standards of environmental integrity.”

“The Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met. In particular, we will begin a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme this year, which will include scope for further public discussion on what New Zealand will do domestically.” Mr Groser said.

Federated Farmers says the new target is an ambitious one:

Federated Farmers Climate Change Spokesperson Anders Crofoot says in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which says reducing fossil fuel use will need to be the major focus to achieve this target. However agriculture will also play its part in development of technologies which will increase productivity whilst reducing carbon intensity of primary sector products.

“Agriculture takes its responsibilities as New Zealand and global citizens seriously and the primary sector already has an impressive track record in achieving carbon efficiency.”

“We continue to play an on-going role in meeting the world’s demand for nutrient-dense protein and finding solutions which addresses both climate change concerns and the food security dynamic.”

“To date, the amount of carbon released in producing a block of butter here in New Zealand is the lowest in the world. It is important to make sure our approach to reducing New Zealand’s emissions does not undermine our critical export industries.”

“In a resource-constrained world, it is vital to use resources efficiently and wisely. Climate change does not begin or end at New Zealand’s borders and New Zealand plays a vital world leading role as one of the most emission efficient food producers and exporters in the world.”

Beggering agriculture here would cause great harm to our economy and it would also increase emissions as less efficient producers in other countries increased production to fill the gap left by us producing less.

Anders Crofoot says New Zealand’s primary sector has made huge gains in carbon efficiency in the past three decades, through enhanced animal and plant genetics, as well as through a much greater understanding of livestock digestion and metabolism. He says our agricultural emissions intensity has declined more than 20 percent since 1990.

“Reducing emissions from biological systems such as dairy cows is not easy. That’s why since 2003, New Zealand’s agricultural sector has invested $30 million to help find solutions. AgResearch scientists have already identified five different animal-safe compounds that can reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle by 30 to 90 percent. Further trials are needed to confirm that these compounds can reduce emissions in the long term, have no adverse effects on productivity and leave no residues in meat or milk. But all going well, we could possibly see a commercial product for use on-farm within five to ten years.”

“Continued investment will be required to develop science to reduce and treat biological agricultural emissions. This is how we can make a considerable contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by getting larger developing country emitters to adopt our technologies.”

“New Zealand is already sharing its developments and gains through the Ministry for Primary Industries and Federated Farmers Global Research Alliance World Farmers Organisation Farmer Study Tours. The aim is to increase global understanding on agricultural greenhouse gas research and engage farmers on environmental management practices that support sustainable productivity.”

Mr Crofoot concluded “The task before us now is to work on solutions built off an understanding of the strengths we have as an agricultural producer, and how best we can grow those strengths in a manner that improves emissions efficiency and farm productivity.”

Business New Zealand says the target is challenging but achievable :

. . .”Our unique profile, with unusual predominance of agricultural and transport emissions, means we must be deliberate about how we achieve reductions without harming the economy.

“Key to this will be a balanced outcome for all countries taking part in forthcoming negotiations in Paris, facilitating investment, technology development and access to markets in a way that provides New Zealand businesses with the confidence to invest in low-carbon solutions for emission reductions over the long term.”

Balance is indeed the key – balance between all countries and between environmental and economic concerns keeping in mind it is the most vulnerable people who would  pay most dearly if that balance isn’t achieved.


Cosy deal continuing to end of year

January 15, 2014

The Taxpayers’ Union blew the whistle on the $19m wasted on contracts for workplace safety training:

Material released by the Taxpayers’ Union show a cosy deal between Business New Zealand, the Council of Trade Unions (“CTU”) and ACC has cost ACC-levy payers $19 million since 2003.

The documents, available and summarised below show ACC knew that millions paid to Business NZ and the CTU to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.

Recent ACC analysis concludes that, even with optimistic assumptions, for every dollar spent on the training 84 cents is wasted. 

A 2013 briefing to the Minister for ACC, Judith Collins, states that the CTU has found it “challenging” to meet its performance obligations even though it has been contracted for service since 2003. 

The documents show that Business NZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture and doubts about the value of the scheme have existed since at least 2008.

It appears that Business NZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves. But we think it’s a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash. We think members of Business NZ and the CTU should be asking hard questions of their respective management teams.

Even the report in 2008 shows that that whole scheme was achieving little more than ‘engagement’. While ACC, Business NZ and the CTU must have known the scheme was worthless, they all allowed further millions to be spent.

This is the worst example of government waste the Taxpayers’ Union has seen to date. It involves two quasi-political organisations from the left and the right complacent in receiving taxpayer funds, likely knowing that the benefit was a small fraction of the amount being spent.

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Ms Collins to put an end to this hand out to Business NZ and the CTU.

ACC Minister Judith Collins says this has all the markings of a taxpayer rort:

. . . Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme on Wednesday the scheme is clearly not working and she does not intend to waste more money on it by taking further action, since the contracts are unlikely to be renewed.

The minister said the programme looked like a very cosy deal set up in 2003, leaving the people it aimed to help with nothing.

“I think it’s pretty clear what happened and the review that’s been undertaken by ACC has already shown that it has been a waste of money,” she said.

“I actually think it has all the hallmarks of a rort.” . . .

There’s nothing new in cosy deals which give unions public funds for programmes which may or may not be value for money.

Business New Zealand members should be asking very serious questions of the organisation to find out why it too has been wasting money in this way.

Yesterday it looked like ACC was canning the scheme but today the Taxpayers’ Union says the schemes have been extended to the end of this year.

Despite the ACC telling media yesterday that it decided ‘late last year’ to can the programme, we learned this morning that the contracts were renewed in December. The end date is now 31 December 2014.

It appears that ACC only changed its tune since the Taxpayers’ Union publicly exposed the rort.

Remember, it’s not the Taxpayers’ Union who labelled the training scheme a waste of money, it’s ACC’s own experts. Telling the public that they will scrap the scheme but waiting for the new contracts to expire is not good enough. They conveniently failed to mention that the contracts have just been renewed…

The Taxpayers’ Union is also backing the Minister for ACC’s reported comments that Business NZ and the CTU should pay the wasted money back to ACC. With such clear evidence that the money did little if anything to improve workplace safety, we think Business NZ and the CTU are morally obliged to stop wasting this money and compensate ACC levy payers.

ACC fees are being reduced for most workers and businesses.

If it wasn’t wasting money on useless training it might be able to make further cuts.

Workplace safety is a serious business, it shouldn’t be a vehicle for a rort by unions and the group which is supposed to work in businesses’ best interests.


Accountability requires good information

August 9, 2012

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced that achievement education for schools will be publicly available on a Ministry of Education website, Education Counts,.

It will allow parents to see how their child’s school is performing and will allow the Government to see how well the system is doing as a whole in order to raise achievement for all learners.

Public Achievement Information will include National Standards data, Education Review Office (ERO) reports, schools’ annual reports and NCEA data. Over time other relevant national and international reports will be added.

National Standards data, reported for the first time this year, will be published on the website in September in the format that schools’ submitted it.

“I accept that the data is variable. It is the first year, and no consistent format was required so that was to be expected. It can only get better and better both in quality and its use over time and we want to work with schools to do this,” says Ms Parata.

Using a variety of data is a good idea because it will give a much fuller picture of a school’s performance than just one source, especially if that was reports on National Standards which the Minister admits is inconsistent.

Business New Zealand has welcomed the announcement:

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says more accessible information is
essential to improve school performance.

“Accountability for performance requires good information. . . “

Unions and the left are painting this as an assault on schools and teaching. It’s not, it’s merely a tool to improve transparency and accountability.


Partner schools could help those other schools can’t

August 3, 2012

 

The government’s announcement on the framework for Partnership Schools has found favour with Business NZ  which says choice and flexibility are good for learners.

The inclusion of another option for quality schooling is welcome, says BusinessNZ.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says all learners deserve a bright future and this requires choices and flexibility for learners and their families.

“One of the strengths of the New Zealand schooling system is the variety of different types of schools.

“Tai Wānanga, state, private and integrated schools, tertiary-high schools, service academies, and trade academies all bring different strengths and values to their learners and communities,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“Partnership schools will be a welcome addition to this suite of education options.

“The partnership school model will provide options for flexibility and innovation that some other learning options currently available are not able to provide.

“The focus has to be on meeting the needs of the learners and ensuring that their potential is realised“Business is particularly interested in improving outcomes for all students by ensuring that they are well equipped for success in work and further learning. Our hope is that increased choice and flexibility for learners will result in improved achievement for many more of our young people.”

New Zealand’s education system does very well for most pupils but it’s failing with the long tail of under-achievers who leave school with no qualifications and without the skills needed to get and hold down a job.

An alternative system provides an opportunity to help those the current system can’t.

 


Speakers lets sun shine on access

July 26, 2012

Proving once more that sunlight is a good disinfectant, Speaker Lockwood Smith has released a list of members of the public who hold access cards to Parliament:

Dr Smith said that members of the public were only given approved visitor status if they had been security cleared and agreed to their names being public.

“The benefit of being an approved visitor is that the person does not have to be security screened each time he or she comes to Parliament. Instead, an approved visitor can access the public areas of Parliament through a security cleared entrance”, said Dr Smith.

 CARD HOLDERS
Name Organisation
Nicholas Albrecht Vector
Tim Clarke Russell McVeagh
Peter Conway Council of Trade Unions
Daniel Fielding Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Charles Finny Saunders Unsworth
Helen Kelly Council of Trade Unions
Tony O’Brien Sky TV
Phil O’Reilly Business NZ
Leigh Pearson L.A. Pearson Limited
Barrie Saunders Saunders Unsworth
Mark Unsworth Saunders Unsworth
Jordan Williams Franks & Ogilvie
Rasik Ranchord Parliamentary Breakfast Group
 Philippa Falloon Former MP’s spouse
Lady Jane Kidd Former MP’s spouse

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