Need more than magical thinking


It’s almost as if the media has been under a magical thinking spell that led them to believe that the Chris Hipkins who is now Prime Minister is not the Chris Hipkins whose legacy as a Minister in the last five years was anything but stellar.

That same spell somehow blinds them to the fact the public don’t see him through such rose tinted glasses, a point made by Heather du Plessis Allan :

I’m surprised that voters don’t really seem to like Chris Hipkins that much. 

We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing Chris Luxon’s poor popularity, but take a look at last night’s poll: Hipkins’ is really poor as well.

His personal popularity in last night’s TVNZ poll: 25%.

Last week in the Newshub poll, only 23%.

That means three-quarters of us don’t want him as PM. 

That’s bad for an incumbent prime minister,  . . 

So why don’t we like him? 

I suspect it’s because voters aren’t quite as dumb as politicians assume, when they think a quick switcharoo at the top changes a party’s fortunes.

I suspect it’s because voters haven’t forgotten the stuff that frustrated them about Labour.

They gave Chippy a chance, but they haven’t seen him prove that his Labour is all that different. 

Tell you what, Labour should be worried about that.

This spells trouble for them because Chippy is the only asset they’ve got.

They’ve got rubbish policies, they’ve got a rubbish track record in the last 5.5 years, they’ve got rubbish ministers, and they’ve got rubbish coalition partners. . . 

Hipkins is partly responsible for that rubbish track record as Graham Adams points out:

The Prime Minister must be keeping his fingers crossed that the mainstream media continues to largely ignore the fact he was an influential minister in Jacinda Ardern’s government. He’s got away with it for the four months since he took Labour’s leadership — and there is less than five months to go before the election. His luck may well hold.

By anyone’s reckoning, it is an extraordinary indulgence to overlook the five years Hipkins spent as part of Ardern’s kitchen Cabinet, especially given his mediocre record in portfolios that included education, health and police.

From the moment he stepped up to be Prime Minister in late January, most journalists have been happy to cast him as a new broom. This can only be true in the very limited sense that he has lifted a corner of the carpet and swept policies such as hate-speech laws and the social insurance scheme under it, from where they can be retrieved after the election.

How often do journalists remind the public that the disastrous push to centralise the nation’s 16 polytechnics under the Te Pūkenga umbrella was Hipkins’ baby as Minister of Education? Or the compulsory history syllabus foisted on school children this year that views New Zealand’s past almost entirely through a lens of colonial oppression? Or the transgender ideology of sex being a “construct” having been inserted into the Religious and Sexuality Education guidelines for primary school children — in the science section?

Let’s not forget his mismanagement of the MIQueue of misery, his lying about the women who crossed into Northland during the Auckland lockdown and his treatment of Charlotte Bellis.

On Tuesday Hipkins deplored the alarming number of ram-raids, but few, if any, journalists have pointed out that he was the Minister of Police from last June to 25 January this year.

With such determined amnesia by the media, Hipkins can continue to pretend to be a special envoy parachuted into the Beehive’s ninth floor to clean up the nation’s problems as if he had nothing to do with the policies that helped produce them. . .

His performance as Prime Minister has hardly been stellar too.

He was slow to deal with Stuart Nash, his response to  Kiri Allan’s criticisms of RNZ was weak, and there have been no consequences for her acceptance of donations from Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon and one of his Ministers has defected to the Maori Party.

Then there’s his gaslighting victims of Cyclone Gabrielle over criminal activity and what Ben Thomas describes as the decline in the overseas image of our PM from sought after to sausage rolls :

. . . Her successor, Chris Hipkins, resembles more a child who has been dragged somewhere boring by their parents. His recent international meetings all seem to begin with world leaders politely offering the prime minister a little treat: a plate of sausage rolls from the UK Prime Minister, a can of Coke Zero from the US Secretary of State.

The same Kiwi touchstones that made Hipkins a relatable breath of fresh air on his ascension to the top job suddenly seem, in the bulb flashes of the international media, at best cliched and at worst contrived and cringeworthy.

Most New Zealanders will not care too much that our image in world affairs has gone from “the anti-Trump” to “the sausage roll guy”. But political assets in any area can become liabilities. Like sausage rolls, even those from the royal kitchen, politicians have a shelf life.

It may seem ridiculous to talk about Hipkins’ best-before date only four months into the job. But next week will mark almost the exact halfway point between his elevation and the election, and like a can of Coke Zero, the fizz of a new leader can dissipate over time. . . 

While the media focuses on the popularity of National Party and Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon, many ignore the poor rating of the man who is PM.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar ranks 14 PMs and Opposition leaders:

. . . So in May of election year  is the 4th highest  opposition leader and Chris Hipkins is the 4th lowest polling .

Yet the  generally report the poll as terrible for Luxon. I can only assume they don’t know history.

Whether or not they know history, many don’t recognise that Hipkins, in Damien Grant’s words, fails the moral and competence test to be PM:

. . . Hipkins fails on his own moral test. So be it. Politics is about tough decisions, and maybe Chippie has demonstrated a willingness to make the hard calls.

So long as he is competent, perhaps an element of ruthlessness is a good thing in a prime minister.

Except, he isn’t competent.

Hipkins was the Minister of Education from the start of this government until his ascension to Premier House, and under his guidance the only achievement has been his decision to close charter schools.

In a foreword to a recent study by free market think tank the NZ Initiative, Professor Elizabeth Rata articulates the decline in our education system: “The emptying out of academic knowledge and its replacement with discredited student-centred, cultural identity, and competencies approaches are the drivers of the decline.”

Under Hipkins we have seen an acceleration of the rate of descent, best reflected in a steep fall in the level of attendance.

In his last year as minister, Hipkins presided over a sector where half of all students failed to achieve regular attendance, defined as being present 90% of the time.

It was, to be fair, 63% in the year he became minister, but that had been a fairly stable figure.

Some 5.8% of students were turning up less than 70% of the time when he took over, but 12.4% when he left the portfolio. The data for Māori is worse; 10% were hitting the 70% or less figure in 2017, more than 20% by 2022.

A report in March 2022 by the Education Hub revealed that literacy rates had declined to the point that a third of 15-year-olds struggle to read and write. And this under the guidance of a politician who, in his maiden speech, declared, “if we are to realise our full potential as a nation in the coming decades, education will be critical”.

More was to come. Hipkins took 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics and forced them into one morass of dysfunction called Te Pukenga, that has managed to lose 10 percent of its student body and $63 million in 2022 alone, and asked the Crown for $330m to bail it out earlier this year.

The failure in that one portfolio should have ended his political career. He has demonstrated that he either cannot drive performance from the civil service, or he does not care what is happening in his portfolio.

Either would be disqualification for further promotion if the Government’s talent pool wasn’t as shallow as the fawning access-junkies of the parliamentary press gallery.

Then we come to Covid 19 and his central role in events.

Hipkins resolved we would be at the “front of the queue” when it came to getting the vaccine, then botched the ordering process.

In late 2020, in a report critical of aspects of the Covid response, Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche made a number of key recommendations, including the rapid introduction of saliva testing. Hipkins, the relevant minister, failed to sort this out and we were still groping around with the slow and expensive PSR tests nearly a year later.

The premiership of Ardern should have taught us that electing leaders on the basis of likeability isn’t optimal. Competence matters. So does experience.

Hipkins had achieved almost nothing by the time he entered Parliament, and in the 15 years since has left nought but a trail of mistakes and missed opportunities.

In his brief tenure in the top job he has managed to unwind a few unpopular agenda items of his predecessor and preside over another $7 billion budget deficit in the middle of an inflationary cycle. And yet he remains stubbornly popular.

Christopher Luxon isn’t a down-to-earth bloke who likes sausage rolls. He comes across as someone who is trying too hard to be liked because he is trying too hard to be liked.

But Luxon does not have five years of repeated incompetence and failings in government, laced with a hint of malice, on his resume.

Even if you believe in the policies of this government, it is impossible to credibly believe that they have the competence to implement anything other than a campaign to encourage the poor to have shorter showers because the electricity infrastructure has deteriorated to the point that rolling blackouts are a real prospect.

Luxon isn’t my first choice for prime minister, but he has the managerial competence and intellectual curiosity to actually govern.

There has been too much focus on whether Luxon can win the election when we should be asking if he has the skills to competently perform the duties of the office, because it appears evident that the incumbent cannot.

Luxon had a successful business career before entering parliament and since he has been leader he has re-established discipline in the National caucus, uniting what was a fractured team, and working with them to develop good policies.

He has far more of the experience and ability necessary to turn the country round than the incumbent Prime Minister who failed as a Minister and is achieving little as Prime Minister.

It will take a lot more than magical thinking to solve the many problems the country faces and who is better qualified to do that – the man who has achieved a lot in business and in leading his party, or the man who fails the moral and competence test to be PM?

Te Pāti Māori: Kingmaker or Labour’s albatross?


Graham Adam’s is at The Common Room and asks : Te Pāti Māori: Kingmaker or Labour’s albatross? :

Hipkins will not welcome renewed debate on democracy and co-governance in the election run-up.

Chris Hipkins must be fast realising that with friends like these he really doesn’t need enemies. In fact, the strong possibility Labour will require its support to form a government is looking like a real threat to its chances of re-election in October.

When Chris Luxon last week ruled out coming to an arrangement with Te Pāti Māori in post-election negotiations it lost its crown as “kingmaker” — although some journalists persist in calling it that. Mostly it will now be seen as tied to the Labour-Greens bloc on the left.

After Luxon had drawn a line in the sand — and dubbed a union of Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori a “coalition of chaos” — Hipkins felt moved to assert his own authority by warning Te Pāti Māori not to get too far ahead of itself in issuing “bottom lines” as conditions for its co-operation. Its demands so far have included some sort of wealth tax, the removal of GST from food, and withdrawing from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

In an effort to reassure voters that the tail wouldn’t be allowed to wag the dog too vigorously, Hipkins said Labour would release its own “bottom lines” before October “because, ultimately, the larger parties do need to be able to implement the commitments that they campaign on”. He reiterated the point at this week’s post-Cabinet press conference: “It may well be, as we get closer to the election, that there are some areas where we don’t agree with [Te Pāti Māori], where there are things that we take off the table.”

Te Pāti Māori’s co-leader Rawiri Waititi, predictably, didn’t take kindly to being told his party should “be careful” with its non-negotiable policies. He described it as “oppression”, and warned the Prime Minister: “You don’t tell indigenous peoples what our bottom lines are.”

Hipkins’ instructions to Te Pāti Māori to play nice were bound to backfire. It’s simply not in its DNA as a revolutionary party to kowtow to anyone. In fact, its electoral purposes may be best served by continuing to show just how contemptuous it is of the conventional political hierarchy. Chances are that snaffling a government minister to its ranks in the form of Meka Whaitiri was just an opening move. Who knows what other disruptive tactics it has up its sleeve?

One area in which it may create serious problems for Labour is co-governance. The point of Hipkins rejigging Three Waters in April to expand the number of regional water entities from four to 10 was to neutralise the issue as an election topic by making it look as if the government had responded to the public’s objections — even while leaving the co-governance provisions intact and arguing the term had been misapplied.

The tactic seems to have worked so far. National and Act have gone quiet on Three Waters, as have the media. However, Te Pāti Māori is unlikely to allow the issue to be buried for long. Last week, its president, John Tamihere, said he wanted to have a proper discussion over co-governance, particularly regarding Three Waters. Reviving such a discussion would give National and Act a welcome opening to pitch in.

Discussion of co-governance leads quickly, of course, to its implications for democracy — and in particular how sacred the principle of “one person, one vote of equal value” is to New Zealanders. Equal suffrage has been one of the nation’s most cherished achievements since women were given the vote in 1893 but Te Pāti Māori doesn’t share that enthusiasm.

In April last year, Waititi made it clear that the sort of co-governance he favoured was embodied in the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which would have allowed 21,700 voters on the Māori roll to elect three ward councillors while 55,600 voters on the general roll would also elect three ward councillors. Waititi said: “Rotorua’s electoral bill is brave and progressive. This is an exciting opportunity for our country to learn from Te Arawa [iwi]. This is the sort of equality of governance that our tipuna signed up for when they gave consent to Pākehā coming here.”

This despite the fact that the far greater weight of a vote available to someone on the Māori roll than that of a vote on the general roll would have been inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. As Attorney-General David Parker said in belatedly quashing this attempt to “tweak” democracy: “I have concluded the bill appears to limit the right to be free from discrimination” and “cannot be justified”.

Last May, Waititi and his fellow co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, made their disdain for equal suffrage explicit. Speaking with Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q&A, Waititi declared that democracy in the sense of one person, one vote of equal value was a colonial construct that “belongs to a Westernised system. The system that does belong to us is mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga.”

“[Democracy] is the tyranny of the majority,” he said. “Minority groups like Māori, like rainbow groups, disabled communities, have all felt the wrath of democracy — the tyranny of the majority. It works against what mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga is and what Te Tiriti actually promised.”

When Tame asked: “So less than 20 per cent of all the people in Aotearoa will have enshrined in law representation of 50 per cent?” both co-leaders thought that was perfectly reasonable and just. In fact, Ngarewa-Packer seemed slightly bemused that he would even ask. As she put it: “It’s already enshrined in Te Tiriti, Jack. It already exists… Mana motuhake is that 50:50 [split].”

The problem for Labour is that its own position is hard to distinguish in important respects from that of Te Pāti Māori. Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has similarly argued that, “Democracy has changed… we’re in a consensus-type democracy now. This is a democracy now where you take into account the needs of people, the diverse needs, the minority needs… It’s not the tyranny of the majority anymore… that’s what co-management and co-governance is about.”

Nevertheless, Labour understands how explosive these issues are in an election year, and won’t welcome them featuring prominently in campaign debates. That may, of course, make them all the more irresistible for Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer to raise.

Last week, Luxon explained that the reason National wouldn’t work with Te Pāti Māori was because their basic values were incompatible. “We believe in very different things. They believe in a separate Parliament, they believe in the co-governance of public services and they have a much more separatist agenda, and that is just something… we’re not aligned with. National believes New Zealand is one country with one standard of citizenship — meaning one person, one vote.”

Waititi dismissed Luxon’s statement as race-baiting and argued that New Zealand’s democracy doesn’t operate on a one-vote, one-person basis anyway: “It’s dog-whistling because it’s not one person, one vote. It’s one person, two votes — so you get a vote for a candidate and you get a vote for a party. Maybe somebody should give civics education to Chris Luxon and his mates.”

In fact, Waititi appears to be the one in need of better civics education. Under MMP, everyone has one vote to decide who becomes their electorate representative and another vote that decides in what proportions political parties make up Parliament. Each category maintains the principle of “one person, one vote of equal value”.

Perhaps signalling just how keen Labour is to not be drawn into a debate about democracy, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni echoed Waititi’s opinion of Luxon’s views: ”Oh yeah, that is totally dog-whistling.”

Hipkins is in favour of Māori having disproportionate representation himself, although — like his predecessor Jacinda Ardern — he’s loath to admit that it undermines democracy. Quizzed in March about iwi being represented in disproportionate numbers on the Regional Representative Groups in Three Waters that will oversee strategy, Hipkins, against reason, said, “Do I think the Three Waters model is democratic? Yes, I do think it is democratic.”

On Q&A earlier this month, in an effort to distinguish Labour from Te Pāti Māori, Willie Jackson painted his party as reformers and Te Pāti Māori as radicals. He argued Labour was willing to help Maori increase their influence via “incremental change” but that Te Pāti Māori would chafe at that pace if they were part of a government. Labour, Jackson said, knew how to work within the system, and he implied Te Pāti Māori were hotheads, while Labour was a safe and steady pair of hands. However, he had no objection to them wanting to have a separate Māori Parliament or to own water. In fact, he applauded their vaulting ambition “to own everything” and not being willing to stop at co-governance.

The ownership of water is possibly the most explosive topic of all — and one that Hipkins will fervently hope doesn’t become part of the election campaign debate either. However, he may be entirely out of luck on that count too. Last Friday in an interview, John Tamihere posed questions in relation to Three Waters and co-governance: “How did the Pākehā get in the room? How did they get 50 per cent of an asset we own 100 per cent of?”

He explained the point of his questions by saying he wanted a proper conversation about water rights, “as opposed to people thinking it is a bad thing to have co-governance”.

In a cosy chat on Waatea News last month in his role as a talkback host, Tamihere spoke to Tuku Morgan — a former president of Te Pāti Māori and the chairman of the Waikato-based Tainui iwi — about the future of freshwater. Tamihere once again stated his position clearly: “We own the water.”

Morgan agreed: “Clearly, that’s the next issue to be addressed… The ownership of water is probably the most important issue of our time… As we settle Three Waters and work with the Crown to manage waterways and get certainty and confidence going forward, then we’ll push on with the most important issue to face Maoridom — the ownership of water.”

For Tamihere and Morgan, Three Waters is just a way station towards full ownership of water — which Tamihere suggested should soon include charging electricity generators a levy for using it. If anything will provoke voter alarm, it will be the prospect of skyrocketing electricity bills.

Morgan’s comments about Three Waters and working “with the Crown to manage waterways” are revealing. Hipkins has insisted that the concept of co-governance in Three Waters was always a chimera because the co-governed Regional Representative Groups had no actual governance function. He claimed they were simply advisory boards that select a board to govern the water services entities. Morgan — who chairs the northern Three Waters iwi body across Northland and Auckland — sees it differently. To him, Three Waters means co-governance not only at the level of strategic oversight but also as part of water management at the operational level.

He also made it clear his objection to people continuing to hide behind “this tyranny of the majority, this Pākehā democracy nonsense” and minimising “the significance of the Treaty”.

A fiery debate around democracy, Three Waters and co-governance before the election would be exceedingly difficult for Labour and one it would much prefer to avoid. But it’s hard to see Te Pāti Māori keeping quiet to please Hipkins or his colleagues and for Labour not to be drawn into it. As Waititi told Newshub Nation: “We will continue to be the Māori Party that everyone expects. We are challenging the status quo… We will continue to push for constitutional transformation. That’s our goal.”

A persistent problem for Hipkins this election season will be trust. Labour never openly campaigned in 2020 on implementing its extensive co-governance programme — in areas ranging from health and education to the conservation estate and local government. How then will it convince voters it won’t adopt Te Pāti Māori policies after the election as the price of its support — including making Treaty settlements no longer “full and final” and Waitangi Tribunal recommendations binding on the Crown?

Five months before the election, a clear choice is opening up between a left-of-centre group of Labour, Greens and Te Pāti Māori and a right-of-centre group of National and Act.

Anyone who believes firmly that equal suffrage is an essential part of a multi-ethnic, liberal democracy will find it difficult to vote for the coalition shaping up on the left while those who think democracy based on one person, one vote is no longer viable as a political system and would prefer a state in which ancestry confers special political and civil rights will vote accordingly.

The stakes for New Zealand’s future are high.

Graham Adams is a freelance editor,  journalist and columnist. He lives on Auckland’s North Shore.

What matters


The media are all atwitter about poll results which show many people are yet to appreciate Christopher Luxon’s many strengths.

The commentariat conveniently ignores the same poll that shows that Chris Hipkins has only 23.4% support, a dismal total for a Prime Minister.

Meanwhile what matters far more than leaders’ popularity is this:

Erica Stanford correctly points our that the not very popular Prime Minister was the Minister of Education for five years while this dreadful decline was going on.

Educational failure is failing the future of the children who aren’t being equipped with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in trades, professions and other jobs and it’s failing the future of the country which will need well educated people to do the work that will keep us in the first world.

Better way than Three Waters tragi-comedy


Graham Adams writes that Three Waters is a tragi-comedy:

The government’s disdain for democracy is a gift to National and Act.

Last week, we watched the Prime Minister rebrand the contentious Three Waters project with a name so banal it is surprising he didn’t fall asleep while announcing it. “Affordable Water Reform” is, in essence, a Post-It note to stick on your computer while you struggle to come up with an arresting title. If you suggested “Affordable Water Reform” to your colleagues in an advertising agency they’d assume you were joking.

There’s a lot that is risible in Labour’s ongoing attempts to find a Three Waters arrangement the nation might even grudgingly accept. The Water Services Entities Act was passed in December — and within hours a second bill that included extensive amendments to the first was introduced to Parliament. In fact, that bill is as long as the Act it seeks to amend. Now, the government will introduce and pass further legislation to implement the changes Hipkins announced last Thursday — as well as “associated matters” — all before this year’s election.

At the press conference held inauspiciously in a car park in Greytown, Hipkins also attempted to amend his own party’s history. Apparently, everyone has misunderstood all along what co-governance actually means. The Regional Representative Groups — which have now metastasised from four overarching strategic groups to 10 — aren’t examples of co-governance after all, according to the Prime Minister. This despite the extremely inconvenient fact that he, and Labour’s most influential ministers — including Nanaia Mahuta, Kieran McAnulty, Grant Robertson and the recently departed Jacinda Ardern — have repeatedly referred to the RRGs, with their 50:50 split of mana whenua and council representatives, as examples of co-governance.

Inevitably, this bid to magic away co-governance has resulted in a glorious muddle, with a Newshub headline declaring “Hipkins rejects [that the] new water reforms include co-governance” while 1News announced “Three Waters reset: McAnulty explains why co-governance stays”.

The Prime Minister and McAnulty faced the media together in the car park. Hipkins promoted him from Associate Minister to Minister of Local Government in late January because it was clear that Nanaia Mahuta’s handling of Three Waters had become electorally toxic. She retained her portfolio of Foreign Affairs, however, and, despite her well-known aversion to travel, has barely been seen since. It appears the minister has suddenly developed a taste for long flights, high-level meetings and foreign hotels. Rumours that she has been locked in the basement of the Beehive until after the election are entirely mischievous.

McAnulty has shone brightly in comparison with his predecessor — not least because he actually answers questions rather than answering a question that hadn’t been asked, which Mahuta had turned into an art form.

Lean and wiry as a whippet, McAnulty stares unwaveringly ahead while speaking without moving his lips any more than is strictly necessary. You get the impression he’s happy to be seen as a hard man. Certainly, his cultivated persona of a cross between good keen man Barry Crump and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor lends itself to the perception of him being capable of tough in-fighting, which won’t do him any harm. No doubt he will be hoping against hope that most voters won’t see him and the Prime Minister as having slavishly kowtowed to the demands of the Māori caucus.

That hope would have been more plausible if Waikato-Tainui grandee Tuku Morgan had managed to contain his effervescent glee and had not immediately performed a victory dance for media, declaring he was “over the moon” and that iwi were “euphoric” with the changes to Three Waters.

Morgan was happy to boast that when he and other iwi representatives had met ministers Kieran McAnulty, Willie Jackson, Kiritapu Allan and Kelvin Davis a week earlier and presented their immovable demands, they had been warmly received. Their three bottom lines concerned “Partnership Boards”; the preservation of Entity A incorporating Auckland and Northland; and the status of Te Mana o te Wai statements. All these demands were met.

Morgan crowed: “Those are the three points we debated with the ministers and we got what we wanted. I am very, very happy.”

Act’s David Seymour characterised the situation as — Māori caucus 1; Hipkins 0. He said: “Co-government remains part of Three Waters because the Prime Minister was either too scared to stare down the powerful Māori caucus, or he did and he lost.

“This shows how powerful the Māori caucus is and that Chris Hipkins has no control over them. If Hipkins had control over of them, he would have at least dropped the unpopular and divisive co-government element of Three Waters. Instead, Māori MPs are riding roughshod over him.”

If this view becomes widespread, it will be disastrous for Labour. After Hipkins sent Mahuta tumbling down the Cabinet rankings from No 8 to 16 in late January, his apparent willingness to keep the Māori caucus on a much tighter rein than Jacinda Ardern ever managed was an important factor in his surge in popularity. And after his announcement there would be imminent changes to the Three Waters programme, many had high hopes he would deal decisively with the most controversial aspects of Three Waters, particularly co-governance. Those hopes have been shattered.

A perceived victory by the Māori caucus will have ramifications far beyond the popularity of Three Waters (to use its dead-name, as most will). It will signal to voters that if the Labour Party is re-elected with Hipkins at the helm of a coalition it will continue to give way at every turn to the Māori nationalists — not only in its own caucus but also in the Greens and Te Pāti Māori (if either or both make it back into Parliament).

John Tamihere — a former co-leader of Te Pāti Māori and now its president — did nothing to allay such fears when he told Newshub Nation in the weekend that the debate around co-governance was simply misguided. “The right to the asset called water is still a customary entitlement to all Māori,” he said. “Māori rightly say, ‘How do we get co-governance when we own 100 per cent of it?’ The real issue is how do the Pākehās get into the room [via co-governance]?” Evidently, for Te Pāti Māori, co-governance is simply a way station towards full control of water at every level.

And any lingering hopes that Labour might defend democracy disappeared when McAnulty was interviewed by Jack Tame on Q&A on Sunday. Asked whether he agreed that the RRGs, with their equal numbers of iwi and council representatives, are “not strictly a one-person, one-vote model”, McAnulty said firmly, “Yes”. In his mind, democracy with equal suffrage seems to be an academic concept that is incompatible with honouring the Treaty.

Voters, of course, have never been asked to approve such a profound constitutional shift. Yet it is clear that we now have “democracy with New Zealand characteristics” sanctioned at the highest levels of government.

All this opens a clear path for National and Act to legitimately damn any prospective Labour / Greens / Te Pāti Māori coalition as the sworn enemies of democracy — at least of the traditional “one person, one vote of equal value” kind that New Zealanders have cherished since suffrage was extended to women in 1893. It’s obvious now that a win for any combination of the three main parties of the left will further embed the mechanisms and policies of an ethno-state.

Although McAnulty told Newsroom’s Jenna Lynch that while he didn’t think Three Waters would be an election issue, he also said voters have “a clear choice at this election”. National’s proposed water management model, he said, “doesn’t have mana whenua representation; our one does”. A general election is rarely fought on a single issue but this is so important to the nation’s future it will undoubtedly be pivotal.

One consequence of Hipkins’ and McAnulty’s clumsy attempts to diminish the importance of “co-governance” in Three Waters is that it invites a focus on the power and scope of Te Mana o te Wai statements. These are edicts that only iwi and hapū can issue and — as Mahuta and the Department of Internal Affairs have affirmed — the Water Services Entities are obliged to give effect to them. They give Māori untrammelled power over freshwater and coastal and geothermal water. Although many believe the statements only relate to the purity and health of water, that is far from the truth.

Anything an iwi or hapū thinks is relevant to Māori wellbeing — whether in employment opportunities, investment or spiritual matters — can be the subject of a Te Mana o te Wai statement. In fact, the last category may even include accommodating the presence of a taniwha. When Act MP Simon Court asked Mahuta last October: “Are spiritual beliefs — such as the existence of a taniwha on a bend in the river — permissible subject matter for Te Mana o te Wai statements?”, she did not deny that possibility.

Former mayor of Kaipara Dr Jason Smith, who was appointed to Mahuta’s Working Group on Three Waters in late 2021 and has been a consistent critic of the statements’ undemocratic nature, responded to Hipkins’ and McAnulty’s announcement last week by drawing attention once again to their role.

Describing the edicts as “the very core, the citadel at the heart of the Three Waters programme”, he wrote: “Te Mana o te Wai statements are in a league of their own within the Three Waters reforms, far removed from the already-controversial co-governance arrangements, or entity size and shape….

“Te Mana o Te Wai statements are legislated to cover every square centimetre of all the land, including under every home, farm or place of business as well as many kilometres out to sea. Simple and powerful, whatever these statements contain must be put into effect, no questions asked. The problem is only some parts of society are allowed to write them, though they affect us all. There is no co-governance in the simple truth that Māori only may write Te Mana o te Wai statements. There is nothing “co-“ about this, it’s a different type of constitutional arrangement from anything we’ve seen before.”

Dr Smith predicted the undemocratic and divisive nature of the statements “sets up everyone for civil unrest in the future”.

Given that the statements have been almost entirely ignored by mainstream journalists, it was surprising that Hipkins felt the need to mention them in last week’s announcement. Discussing co-governance, the Prime Minister said: “There is also an ability for Te Mana o te Wai statements [to be issued by iwi]. And we’ve introduced an equivalent for other significant interested parties in water use to also have a say in that.”

The operating principles of the Water Services Entities, which manage day-to-day operations on the ground, already include engaging with the communities they serve but they are under no obligation to act on their recommendations.

Tuku Morgan made it clear, however, that no matter what legislative amendments are introduced, Te Mana o te Wai statements will lose none of their force. He told the NZ Herald: “Even though there’s a provision for communities to have a priority status, it will not in any way shape or form, overshadow, minimise, or compromise the standing of Te Mana o te Wai statements being provided by iwi and hapū.”

The fact Hipkins referred to Te Mana o te Wai statements, albeit briefly, means news has reached his ears that they are an issue that needs addressing publicly. But he’ll have to do a lot better than glossing over them — or offering a sop to the 84 per cent of the population excluded from issuing them — if he hopes to placate the growing number of voters who are aware of their scope and deeply undemocratic nature.

Labour strategists should be very worried. Co-governance is already electoral dynamite but Te Mana o te Wai statements are thermonuclear devices in comparison.

A tragi-comedy?

It’s a tragedy for democracy and all of us who will have to pay so much more for water, but there’s nothing funny about this disastrous policy.

Eric Crampton has a much better way to deal with three waters:

I don’t know the right number of local water service entities. Neither do you. And neither does the Government.

Sometimes, the right number isn’t the number that drops out of a careful tallying of sums by people far removed from the consequences of a decision. The right number instead is the number that emerges from a process led by those affected by it. Get the process right, and it will produce the right number, by definition.

If anyone ever tried to ask how many law firms or barber shops the country should have, no sensible person would ever try to answer it. The right number simply finds itself as people who want services shop around for them, and people wanting to provide services either take up jobs with existing providers or strike out on their own.

Are water service providers really that different? . . 

What was needed wasn’t consultation with Scotland about amalgamations, armies of local consultants picking numbers, or hasty rejigging of those numbers in response to political pressure.

There was, and remains, a big problem to solve.

There’s little if any argument that there’s a big problem that needs to be solved. There’s very good arguments that there are better ways to do that than the government’s plan.

Amalgamating council water service providers into larger water service entities provided a solution, but only in a very roundabout way. If amalgamated water entities were sufficiently divorced from the councils they serviced, those entities’ debts might not count towards council debt limits. They could raise debt to fund infrastructure, finance it through water service charges over time, and start fixing the problems.

And suppose those entities came under rate-of-return regulation, like electricity lines companies, and faced commercial incentives. In that case central government might have to do less cajoling to get councils to extend the infrastructure needed for growth. In the same way that power lines just seem to show up where they are needed, without substantial council-level bottlenecks, water pipes might as well. . . 

Crampton argues there’s a better way to solve the problems without picking numbers or taking council’s assets.

Central government could set legislation authorising councils and council-owned entities like water service providers to issue debt that has no recourse to the council main balance sheets. This kind of project-based financing was common in New Zealand decades ago and continues to be the dominant form of municipal debt in the United States.

Rather than pay off the debt for a new pipe out of general council revenues, targeted rates on the serviced properties would cover the cost over the life of the pipe. While councils can currently set special ratings areas to finance projects, the mechanism doesn’t work for projects backed by councils’ main balance sheets. There is a need for legislation allowing such bonds, while prohibiting councils from using general revenues to pay them back.

The recently-created water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, will make it harder for councils to let drinking water quality slide. And if councils had better tools for funding and financing necessary upgrades to wastewater pipes and treatment plants, regional councils might be less reluctant to hold councils to adequate standards.

Tightened standards enforcement, combined with the sheer magnitude of the job of getting pipes up to spec, would force harder thinking about finding savings in delivery. If councils could save money by combining efforts or by contracting for shared services, they’d have strong incentive to do so.

Getting the standards and enforcement right while enabling water entities to fund and finance the necessary works would let the number of water service entities find its own proper level – without expropriating council assets, and without anyone having to guess at the right number of merged entities. . . 

This is definitely a better plan than the government’s and it sensibly doesn’t include go-governance nor is there any mention of Te Mana o te Wai statements.

Rural round-up


Farmy Army lightening spirits – and farmer workload – Simon Edwards :

“When we get people walking up the drive, legitimately offering their time and labour to help clean up the massive damage and mess that the cyclone left behind, it brings with it such a huge boost to our morale – that someone cares.  It lifts our spirits so much.”

They’re the words of Rob Wilson, who with his wife Hine owns an orchard and farm near Napier flooded out during Cyclone Gabrielle in February.  They’re over the moon with help they’ve received from Farmy Army and other volunteers.

One group that pitched in was in the Hawke’s Bay for a reunion.  Karen Smith lives in a city now but grew up on a dairy farm.  She says when she saw the images of farms coated in silt and fences wiped out “my heart just went out to them”.

Karen and seven other former flatmates and friends from Wellington now scattered around Whangarei, Hamilton, Auckland and the Capital had a weekend of socialising in the Hawke’s Bay all mapped out.  Karen’s suggestion they build in a couple of hours’ work on a damaged farm was taken up, and Federated Farmers co-ordinator Catherine Van der Meulan in conjunction with Kerry Goldsmith, a local community member who has submitted a request for support for her farm (and co ordinating work for 40 plus other farms), put them in touch with the Wilsons. . . 

Taxpayers should be hopping mad at $153,000 kill cost per wallaby in Otago :

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that taxpayers and Otago Regional Council ratepayers have forked out $2.76 million and more than 26,000 hours of work for a wallaby control programme that killed just 18 wallabies.

The Otago component of the National Wallaby Eradication Programme administered by Biosecurity New Zealand cost an average of $153,422.72 per wallaby “destroyed” (terminology used by officials) and averaged 1,459 hours of human labour per kill. $341,894 was spent on aerial shooting, $34,089 on ground shooting, $71,028 on ground toxin and a staggering $2.3 million on surveillance.

By comparison, in Canterbury the cost per wallaby destroyed was $763.57 and just under 5 hours of human labour.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says: “This is a shocking waste of taxpayer money. It would have been cheaper to charter a private jet for each of these wallabies to send them back to Australia. . . 

Looking beyond Aussie and China for trade wins – Jo Moir :

The citizenship announcement in the late hours of Friday night left some New Zealand officials with the impression the Australian government was trying to quietly bury it. Now it has finally been put to rest, New Zealand can focus its diplomatic energy elsewhere, writes political editor Jo Moir.

Plans in Australia to drop the news late on Friday night that it was finally sorting out citizenship hurdles for Kiwis living across the ditch came as a surprise to New Zealand officials.

The Australian Government’s 10.30pm announcement (12.30am Saturday NZT) was in the dead of night and 12 hours ahead of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins even boarding his plane to Brisbane.

Officials from the Prime Minister’s office and the travelling delegation were under the impression citizenship changes would be announced in Brisbane at the weekend. . . 

Why fighting the cost of living crisis needs to start on the farm – Bryce McKenzie :

None of what I am about to write will be news to rural New Zealanders, but I’ll say it in the hopes that our message is heard a little farther afield.

When farmers and food producers suffer under an endless deluge of government regulations and policies, all Kiwis suffer.

When we struggle to keep our farms and businesses going under a Government that has slapped more costs on us than ever before, it costs more to produce the food for all of our families.

Grocery bills aren’t going up because farmers are making a huge margin and going on tropical holidays. In fact, food producers are receiving considerably less for their produce now than they were 12 months ago. . .

Maintaining milk production with fewer cows :

Fernside dairy farmer Julie Bradshaw has reduced her herd size by 15 cows while maintaining the same milk production levels using genomic information provided by Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) that enables her to make informed decisions about which animals to retain for long term genetic gain.

Julie is participating in Next Generation Farming; a project to help farmers meet tough nitrate caps while maintaining their viability. As part of this project, farmers like Julie are using innovation and demonstrating its productivity and environmental benefits to their neighbours in the region and beyond.

Waimakariri Landcare Trust (WLT) and Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) have partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for the project, with support from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund along with Environment Canterbury, Ballance, and DairyNZ.

One of Julie’s key goals for the two-year innovation project is using genomic data to refine herd numbers. Her current herd sits at 400 cows after she reduced the herd by 15 cows earlier this year and she is comfortable with losing another 15 cows to further lower the herd size if she can still achieve the same milk production rates. . . 

Marlborough winemaker trials virtual supply in a New Zealand first :

In a first for the New Zealand electricity market, Rose Family Estate (RFE), the owner of the brand Wairau River, is now virtually powered by a new rooftop solar array owned by Energy Marlborough on the outskirts of Blenheim.

Initially the solar array is expected to supply about seven per cent of RFE’s electricity, which is then ‘sleeved’ into their regular electricity supply by their retailer, Mercury. Mercury tops up the supply when solar generation is low, as well as purchasing excess solar generation. RFE continues to receive a single bill from Mercury each month, which now includes the solar electricity from Energy Marlborough.

The trial was arranged by EVA Marketplace, New Zealand’s renewables marketplace, which brokers power purchase agreements (PPAs) between renewables developers and businesses, and facilitates PPA sleeving arrangements. . . 

Te Mana o Te Wai even worse than co-governance


Co-governance of the assets to be taken from councils under the government’s Three Five Waters legislation gets a lot of attention.

John Roughen shows the costs and risks from Te Mana o Te Wai statements are  much, much worse:

. . . Hipkins’ line on Three Waters has been that the Government had not explained it very well and that if people knew more about it they would be less concerned. I doubt that he believes this and I wish television reporters who take this line would read the reform prospectus and the legislation.

I am fairly sure that if most people read these documents they would be more worried, not less.

Two months ago, when Hipkins was preparing the ground for a retreat, Maori speakers at Ratana and Waitangi were saying we had “nothing to fear from co-governance”. Having read what is proposed I think we have reason to fear it.

The power to be given to iwi and hapu within the territory of each Three Waters entity goes further than their collective representation as mana whenua in the “governance” (choosing a panel that appoints the board) of the entities.

Each iwi and hapu (there could be hundreds within the territory) would also have the right to issue “statements” to which the entity would be legally obliged to respond. These, directives in effect, are called “Te Mana o te Wai” statements, a phrase not clearly defined but it is the governing principle of the legislation.

Māori cultural explainers tell us that in te ao Māori (Māori worldview) each body of water has its own mauri and tribal identity is closely linked to freshwater. For Māori, great care must be taken in managing human impacts on it. The implications of these values deserve more attention.

These statements would affect all waterways and the use of the water from them.

They could override consents for water supplies for people, stock and irrigation.

It is one thing to set up co-governance arrangements for geographic features that require mainly conservation, quite a different matter to impose these arrangements on vital economic resources. Water is used in just about every economic activity, its efficient allocation and delivery should be decided by objective measures of economic value, not just its “mana”.

It’s not just economic activity, water is essential for animal and human survival.

If there is a case for co-governance of a natural body of water – a lake, river or sea coast claimed under Article II of the Treaty – it is hard to see a case for co-governance of the infrastructure that brings water from those sources and carries it away for treatment and disposal.

These facilities have been financed and built since colonisation by communities that should not be deprived of their democratic control.

Co-governance is just part of the plan to remove water infrastructure from accountability to those who pay for it. And that is the plan, stated shamelessly in the case for Three Waters reform, readable online. . .

The government has tried to placate us by saying we’ll pay less in rates. They conveniently don’t add we’ll be paying for our water and the layers of bureaucracy imposed on us by the new system, over which we will have no control and from which there will be no accountability.

Nor have they been open about lack of certainty we’ll be subject to with the power given through Te Mana o Te Wai statements.

There’s no doubt that many councils have been poor managers of water infrastructure and that getting it up to the required standard for human and environmental health will be expensive.

But that does not require taking council assets, creating new bureaucracies, and taking away accountability.

People are not fooled by the argument Ardern used to offer – that Three Waters removes the costs from ratepayers. The entities’ borrowing would be secured by consumers who would no longer have an effective vote.

This is not only an outrage to democratic rights, it is economically unhealthy for any supplier of goods and services to face no possible resistance from its consumers. It is a recipe for over-investment, over-staffing, over regulation and waste.

The Government will surely produce its revision of Three Waters sometime this month. If the changes are merely cosmetic the Government will be April’s fool and risk October’s regret.

That regret will be nothing compared with what we will all be faced with if we’re forced, as the legislation dictates, to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai.

Co-governance replaces democracy and accountability with an expensive bureaucracy. Te Mana o Te Wai makes that even worse.

Straight question, crooked answer


What is a woman?

Anyone who understands biology shouldn’t have any trouble answering that question.

A woman is an adult human female.

But listen to this exchange:

Sean Plunkett: “. . . how do you and how does this government define a woman?”

Chris HIpkins: “ (long pause) um, I to be honest Sean that, that question has come slightly out of left field for me. Um the, well,  biology, sex gender um, people define themselves, people define their own gender. . . “

How did it come to this?

The Prime Minister of the first country in the world to give women the vote, the one so proud of its three women Prime Ministers, is asked a straight questions about how to define a woman, and gives a crooked answer.

As I write, I haven’t found any reference to this in the mainstream media, but it has got international attention:

Ooh look over there!


The government would like our attention to shift from its very bad week to an announcement of an announcement about the fast-tracking of a second harbour crossing in Auckland.

If we judge them by the lack of progress on so many of their announcements of other grand plans we can be confident that whichever option is chosen will be on a slow track.

Meanwhile, in spite of their efforts to distract us, those who care about high standards have not been mollified by the explanation without apology from Marama Davidson.

While the attempted diversion by bridge or tunnel was going on, questions around Stuart Nash’s misdeeds got even more serious:

Labour MP Stuart Nash appears to have improperly withheld the June 2020 email that forced prime minister Chris Hipkins to sack him as a minister for “inexcusable” behaviour, lending support to accusations by National Party leader Christopher Luxon of a “cover-up” and highlighting systemic issues with the Official Information Act. . . 

On June 8, 2021, Newsroom made a request to Nash’s office under the Official Information Act for “All written correspondence and details of the nature and substance of any other communication since the start of 2020” between Nash and 19 of his political donors. Included on the list of donors was Troy Bowker. Given that the June 2020 email to Bowker concerned discussions Nash was having in his capacity as a minister, it appears that the June 2020 email fell within the scope of Newsroom’s request.

In August 2021, however, Nash’s office responded, “I hold nothing that is within the scope of your request as the Act relates only to information provided to me as minister. I must therefore refuse your request under section 18(e) of the Official Information Act as the information does not exist or cannot be found.”

Failing to disclose documents within the scope of a valid request without justification is a breach of the Official Information Act. Nash has been approached for comment.

Both Nash’s office and the office of then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were aware of the existence of the June 2020 email at the time Nash’s office responded to Newsroom’s OIA request. On Tuesday afternoon, Hipkins told reporters that Nash’s office had notified staff in Ardern’s office that the June 2020 email existed and that they were excluding it from their response to a 2021 OIA request. Whether that was Newsroom’s request is not clear, but the timing indicates that it was.

On Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement attributing the withholding of information to staff oversight. 

“Two staff members in the Prime Minister’s Office, deputy Chief of Staff Holly Donald and a senior advisor were aware of the original OIA. Only the senior advisor was aware of a subsequent complaint to the Ombudsman. 

“It was not escalated to the former Prime Minister or the former Chief of Staff at any point.”

Both staff had reportedly apologised for their error of judgment in “not recognising the significance of the email and escalating it at the time”. . . .

If senior staff did not understand that the PM and Chief of Staff needed to know about this it’s a very poor reflection on them and their judgement. It also raises a question of how many other times this happened because of their ignorance.

An alternative to that is that the staff did understand who needed to know and deliberately didn’t move it upstairs to protect the minister and the government.

Neither of those are good and there is another alternative: that The PM and CoS did know and the staff are being sacrificed.

Any of the three add evidence to the assertion that the government’s claims of openness and transparency are words without matching action.

They all show a disdain for democracy, as does what the New Zealand Initiative describes as a farce of a parliamentary process:

The New Zealand Initiative has damned the consultation process for the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Bill. It urges that the Bill be amended to force rigorous [MB1] post-enactment scrutiny, with the legislation repealed by 30 September if that scrutiny does not take place.

The Government and Administration Committee sent an email at 9:00 pm on Tuesday 28 March, calling for submissions by 5:00 pm the following day, Wednesday 29 March. This move has left submitters with less than 24 hours to respond, a timeframe that Executive Director Dr Oliver Hartwich has described as “outrageous.”

Hartwich further emphasised that the bill is not a “harmless run-of-the-mill bill” but a powerful tool that could effectively suspend primary legislation and grant broad powers to the Minister over an extended period. He expressed disappointment in the lack of democratic etiquette demonstrated by the government, particularly in light of the entrenchment fiasco last year.

The Initiative’s Chief Economist, Dr Eric Crampton, echoed Hartwich’s sentiments, stating that the legislation had received no prior scrutiny and that the current process provided no opportunity for appropriate deliberation. Crampton criticised the select committee process as an insult to those invited to submit and to parliamentary democracy.

In its 2018 report, “Recipe for Disaster: Building Policy on Shaky Ground”, the Initiative recommended that off-the-shelf legislation be prepared well before any disaster, with appropriate scrutiny and consideration.

The government cannot undo its failure to adequately prepare for emergency situations. But it can require immediate post-implementation review of the legislation, with a more rigorous and appropriate Select Committee process to amend it. In its one-page submission, this is what the Initiative recommends.

The Initiative views this episode as a shameful moment in New Zealand’s parliamentary democracy.

The Taxpayer’s Union says this ministerial power grab must be stopped:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union condemns the Government’s decision to allow only one day for written submissions on the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Bill.

The proposed legislation would allow a minister to exempt, modify, or extend provisions of almost any piece of legislation without any form of democratic scrutiny.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves says:

“This bill would give ministers extensive powers, some lasting until 2028, that would allow them to take action in a range of areas with no democratic parliamentary scrutiny.

“Not only is this ministerial power grab an extremely disproportionate response to the situation, but the government is trying to rush the legislation through with submitters only having a single day to make their views known.

“This truncated process, and the attitude towards democracy shown by some of our lawmakers, is dangerous. Lawmaking at this pace inevitably means mistakes will be made with potentially serious consequences.

“We have already seen emergency powers being abused by ministers wasting billions of taxpayer dollars with the COVID-19 slush fund, this time they are reaching for even more power.

“This legislation would set a dangerous precedent for future governments to seize the opportunity of an emergency to make a ministerial power grab.

“This bill and its token consultation make a mockery of the parliamentary process.”

The government hasn’t learned from the mistake it made last year in its attempt to undermine democracy by entrenching provisions of its Three Five Waters legislation.

Democracy and the part proper parliamentary process plays in it are a necessary part of good governance and essential for the maintenance of trust in the government.

It’s very convenient for the government that this has gone almost unnoticed while attention is focused on its other messes.

It’s attempt to further divert attention from the messes with its announcement of an announcement of a bridge or tunnel that will go nowhere fast adds confirms its lie of openness and transparency and shows yet more disdain for democracy.

One Minister down


Stuart Nash has been sacked for a fourth strike:

Stuart Nash has been sacked as a minister, after Stuff revealed he had emailed business figures, including donors, detailing private Cabinet discussions.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the people Nash emailed were donors to his campaign, which he said was a serious breach of trust and expectations for ministers.

”His conduct is inexcusable,” Hipkins said. ”He is no longer a Cabinet minister and won’t be coming back.”

Nash, the minister for economic development, forestry and fisheries, was already on his “final warning” for breaches to the Cabinet Manual. 

He’s also been sent a very clear message to not stand again:

Hipkins said he had asked Nash, who is MP for Napier, to also consider his position as an MP generally.

“He is MP for Napier as of right now… Stuart will be reflecting on his position over the next little while,” Hipkins said.

That’s one Minister down and Marama Davidson will be thanking him for taking the spotlight off her.

That does not however, stop criticism of her racist and sexist diatribe on Saturday for which she refuses to apologise:

Marama Davidson is refusing to apologise publicly for saying it’s “white cis men who cause violence in the world”.

Appearing before journalists and in Parliament on Tuesday, the Greens co-leader and Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence repeatedly said she felt it appropriate to clarify her comments, but she didn’t apologise.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has said she apologised to him privately, but National’s Christopher Luxon wants a public apology “to the people that she caused offence to”. 

Davidson on Saturday was approached by an individual from the far-right conspiracy theorist website Counterspin for her opinion on behaviour at the Posie Parker protest. 

“Trans people are tired of being oppressed and discriminated,” Davidson said. “I am a prevention violence minister [sic]. I know who causes violence in the world, it is white cis men. That is white cis men who cause violence in the world.” . . 

She uses the excuse of being in shock after being hit by a motorcycle for her vitriol but there is nothing in her appearance in the video to back that up.

Just as being drunk might explain but not excuse bad behaviour, being in shock doesn’t excuse her words and behaviour which are a very clear example of conduct unbecoming for a Minister and for which she owes the many good men she erroneously labelled as perpetrators of violence a sincere apology.

Apropos the subject of unbecoming, it is fair to ask what standards of behaviour Chris Hipkins is willing to tolerate in his Ministers, whether or not they are in Cabinet.

Local government doesn’t matter?


Have Labour’s unpopular policies been binned or just parked?

At least one has been softened – instead of attempting to lower the voting age for all elections to 16, which would require 75%  support in parliament, Chris Hipkins has announced they’ll try to get the age reduction applied to local body elections only.

This government’s Three Waters legislation has taken assets from councils; the RMA replacement would take even more from them and now they’re sending the message that voting for local bodies doesn’t really matter.

Running a country involves a lot more than running a region, district or city, but that’s not a good reason to devalue councils by lowering the voting age.

Turning sixteen is the trigger for:

   16          getting a learner’s driving licence
   16          leaving school (earliest age)
   16          living with a partner
   16          to leave home without parental consent
   16          age of consent for sex
   16          deciding on which parent to live with (if separated)
   16          parental consent is required for medical/dental treatment
   16          starting full time work
   16          getting a tattoo
   16          getting married or having a civil union (with parents’ consent)

But no-one can get a full licence or join the armed forces without parental consent until they’re 17.

At 18 people can:

   18          getting married or having a civil union (without parents’ consent)
   17          buy a Daily Keno ticket
   18          buy a Lotto ticket
   18          can be legally independent of their parents’ guardianship
   18          enter into contracts
   18          buying alcohol
   18          drinking alcohol
   18           buying cigarettes
   18           buying firecrackers
   18           opening a cheque account, applying for credit card
   18           borrowing money
   18           joining the Police Force
   18           electoral voting
   18           making a Will
   19           the right to free education ends

And some rights don’t apply until people turn 20:

   20           if adopted applying to Births Death and Marriages for a copy of the birth  certificate (to find out birth parents)
   20           adopting a child if they are related.
   25           adopting a child – if the child is at least 20 years younger.
   20           enter a casino

If 16 and 17 year-olds can’t gamble, borrow money or enter contracts which could have personal consequences, how can they be mature enough to vote for councils the consequences of which have a big impact on so many other people?

The government is right to not waste time and money on an attempt to reduce voting for central government elections but it should not be sending the message that local body elections aren’t important with legislation to lower the voting age for them.

Crocodile smile


A regular visitor from England commented he was noticing far more division in New Zealand than he’d ever seen before.

That is one of the previous leader’s worst legacies. Is the new one any better?

A friend sent me this poem which questions if he is:

Dear Jacinda

You may have run away

From your five years in the sun

But I will not forgive you

For the damage you have done


Our beautiful New Zealand 

Can it ever be the same?

Now ravaged by division

And you alone to blame


You’ve left us with so much to fix

You’ve made things so much worse

Your reckless overspending

Has drained the public purse


Children still in poverty

Criminals running rife

Race based legislation

Set to ruin Kiwi life


You grasped your socialist dagger

And you plunged it in our heart

Creating vile apartheid

Which will tear us all apart


So I’m glad you’re gone, Jacinda,

But does Hipkins wear your smile?

I fear the face of innocence

Just masks the crocodile.

The new PM is the old Minister who oversaw continuing lockdowns and the MIQueue of misery in response to Covid; escalating crime rates while Minister of Police; deteriorating education achievement as Minister of Education; and the bloating of the public service bureaucracy as Minister for State Services.

He was known as Mr Fixit but what did he actually fix?

If performance was so poor in the ministries he headed, how can we trust him to do better now he heads the whole country, have we got a new leader who will continue with the old failures?

Labour failing the future


One of Labour’s worst legacies will be the decline in educational standards.

The Government must rule out lowering the standards required to obtain the NCEA literacy and numeracy co-requisites, National’s Education spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Revelations that the Government is considering lowering standards to help students pass shows an astounding lack of ambition from Labour.

“Two-thirds of New Zealand students failed to pass the new minimum literacy and numeracy standards for NCEA.

“Instead of simply dumbing down the tests to make them easier to pass, the Government could actually consider teaching kids more maths, reading and writing before they start secondary school.

“The Royal Society has already recommended that kids spend at least one hour a day learning maths. Why has the Government not acted on this advice?

“Rather than focusing on what students need in primary and intermediate school to be better prepared, the Ministry of Education has blamed the tests themselves, calling into question the use of ‘complex’ words such as tramping and potluck dinner.

“The ministry also requested changes including fewer questions, the use of simpler language, and allowing students to use spell-checking software.

“Instead of dreaming up excuses, the Government should admit our education system is not equipping kids with the knowledge and skills they need.

“Our children deserve better than a Government that would consider lowering standards simply to avoid a bad headline.

“We need a serious plan to deliver kids an education with the basics they need to succeed, not more excuses.

“Labour is spending $5 billion more on education every year but student achievement has nose-dived. National will be laser-focused on lifting student performance, and that starts with a stronger emphasis on maths, reading and writing.”

Labour is failing the future and much of the blame for that is the immediate past Education Minister, now Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins.





Déjà vu all over again


Remember when Covid struck health professionals said they didn’t have enough PPE?

The answer from the then Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was that there was plenty.

Who did you believe?

There’s a similar disagreement between people on the ground and ministers over whether or not there’s a problem with crime in Hawkes Bay.

Some residents in Hawke’s Bay are furious at the attitude of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins in an interview on RNZ’s Morning Report today in which he said an incident involving firearms was unsubstantiated and insinuated the report was without basis.

In an extensive recorded interview with Newsroom on Sunday, Ryan Lawson, whose company East Coast Traffic is contracted to set up the necessary traffic management in the region, provided a detailed account of an incident on Pakowhai Road between Napier and Hastings in which firearms were used to threaten his staff.

“Two of my staff members were encountered with firearms being directly pointed at them while they were sending out temporary traffic management. Honestly for us it was a very, very scary moment and that crew just had to up and leave.”

Like many people here, Lawson and his staff don’t want the attention and are just getting on with the job. Lawson didn’t want to comment further, but plenty of other locals were angry and upset at the comments Hipkins made downplaying the extent of the issues they’re facing. . . 

Dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, threats and thefts is bad enough. Not having their worries taken seriously makes it worse.

But locals in Hawkes Bay spoken to by Newsroom felt the PM was out of touch and didn’t understand what it’s like on the ground.

“Not everyone reports everything because the police are busy, and so is Civil Defence. It shows the force isn’t actually coping with the amount of crime that’s happening in the Bay,” said one Awatoto resident who lost everything in the flooding.

“There’s been people everywhere you go, making the most of the situation, stealing stuff.”

Checkpoints have been put up by locals at multiple spots, including tractors at Whirinaki up the coast and tree stumps blocking the entry to Waiohiki, which lost the bridge that connects it to Taradale.

In rural Puketapu, which resembles an apocalyptic war zone, residents are putting trucks across the road to keep looters and other opportunists out.

“Seventeen cars turned around about two or three hundred metres away and sped off on the first night we set up the roadblock,” said one couple, who had their fridge and washing machine – both of which they were hoping to salvage – taken early on. A neighbour had to board up their garage when they went off to work for the day, so thieves couldn’t see what they had inside.

One man who lives in Puketapu had a message for the PM: “Come and spend a night out here.” . . 

People shouldn’t have to be protecting their property from the lawless.

Newsroom spoke to a group of locals who have banded together to set up a night roadblock with people working in shifts. They are livid they have to spend all day trying to clean up their properties, work, look after their families and then spend their nights keeping their area safe.

“We’re pissed off. If you’ve got a flooded house, you’re vulnerable. You can’t live in them, there’s no power so we’ve got houses susceptible to people coming in and helping themselves,” says Carl.

Ali is in charge of a team of 30 RSE workers from Samoa who have volunteered to help at the roadblock. “This is their home, but they’ve got a job to do during the day, too.”

“The RSE workers have been fricken awesome,” adds Kylie. “But none of us should have to do this.” . . 

They shouldn’t have to do this and they should be believed when they say there is a major problem.

Then there’s this:

Who do you believe?

The ministers and Police Commissioner or the people quoted above?

I believe the people on the ground whose homes, businesses and property are under threat from looters and thieves.

There’s another reason to distrust politicians and that’s the prospect of them reversing the commitment to no new or increased taxes:

The Government is open to raising taxes at the Budget in May to cover the cost of the Cyclone Gabrielle clean-up, potentially reversing a position taken earlier this month to stick to former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s revenue policy.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Finance Minister Grant Robertson have both said they will look at both expenditure and revenue options at the Budget, likely to be delivered in May, which is being rewritten in light of the impact of the cyclone.

When asked about a one-off “cyclone levy” of the kind used following the Queensland Floods, Hipkins told RNZ’s Morning Report, “the issue of how we pay for all of this in the medium term will certainly be front of mind in the budget. It is certainly not something we will make immediate decisions on”.

When directly asked whether it could be ruled in or out, Hipkins said “at this point I am not ruling things in or out”.

This is a change from how Hipkins answered question about changing tax settings soon after he became prime minister.

In January, when asked about tax changes, he said he would be honouring the Labour 2020 election manifesto, which promised to make no tax changes beyond those Labour campaigned on like introducing a new top tax bracket.

“We’ll honour the commitments we made around tax at the last election; I absolutely stand by those commitments,” Hipkins said in January, adding that any tax changes would be part of Labour’s 2023 manifesto that has yet to be written. . . 

They will make the excuse that the cyclone changes everything but what the government doesn’t seem willing to change is its wasteful spending:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to rule out raising taxes to fund the cost of the Cyclone Gabrielle clean up after earlier today Chris Hipkins refused to rule out a ‘cyclone levy’ similar to that used after the Queensland floods.

Instead, the Government should use this as an opportunity to cut back on wasteful spending and prioritise clean up costs and investment in necessary infrastructure going forward.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“While rebuilding after the devastation of the past week will undoubtedly come with a cost, the last thing Kiwis need now is a tax hike during a cost of living crisis.

“The Government can’t just refocus its policies, it needs to refocus its spending too. The over $1 billion spent on consultants each year, the significant increase in managers in the public service, and the expected nearly $9 billion central government contribution to Auckland light rail would be good places to start.” 

Those would be very good places to start and there will be lots of other places where waste can be cut before there is any need for new or higher taxes.

This is déjà vu all over again with the people in the know not being believed by people who think they know better and the government addicted to spending taking the easy option of taxing more before it cuts its own waste.

There’s a new leader but it’s the same old government. far better at talk than effective, and cost efficient, action.

What’s changed?


Remember in 2020 in the early days of the COvid pandemic when people on the health frontline were saying they didn’t have enough PPE and the then PM and Director General of Health were saying there was plenty?

What’s changed?

New Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall says she expects improvements to staffing levels at Middlemore Hospital’s under-pressure emergency department before the start of the next winter flu season.

That is despite recent comments from frontline healthcare workers, who have said the hospital’s ED is haemorrhaging staff who are heading across the Tasman for better pay and conditions.

They were also concerned about the impact the loss of staff will have on the department’s ability to function during the upcoming winter flu season.

A spokesperson from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and Middlemore ED staff member said the department was continually short-staffed and vacancies were not being filled in time to keep up with resignations, which was putting patient safety at risk.

But Verrall, who was promoted in the recent cabinet reshuffle, was confident Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand could make the necessary changes to boost staffing levels.

“I know the sector is working hard to alleviate pressures on EDs and my expectation is that improvements will be in place by this winter,” she said.

“I know Te Whatu Ora has work under way on initiatives such as increased access to telehealth and extra after hours options, including providing vouchers for some people to visit a GP rather than an ED.”

She said it was also working to boost local recruitment and attract foreign talent, including helping overseas-trained nurses complete the required assessments so they could work in New Zealand.

“I have stated that this work is to be prioritised,” Verrall said.


But Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand chairperson Rob Campbell said workforce shortages plaguing Middlemore’s ED would not be addressed in time for the pending winter flu season and would continue to impact services.

A new intake of junior doctors was in the pipeline and new pay equity rates for nurses would make it more attractive to work in the sector. However, it would be a “long hard road” to turn things around, he said.  . . 

Who do we believe – the people on the front line or the politician?

It looks very like we’ve got a new minister but the same old problems:

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was right to demote Andrew Little, but changing the Health Minister will do nothing by itself to improve New Zealand’s declining health statistics,

National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It is no secret that the health sector has been in crisis for more than a year. Instead of being supported by the Labour Government and its ministers, the sector was put through drastic changes, pulling all the attention and resources from the front line.

“Under this Labour Government’s watch, access to healthcare services are getting worse.

Wait times across every major area of health are at record highs, including first specialist appointments to surgery and emergency department wait times.

“Newly appointed Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall must shoulder some of the blame for the mess that the health sector is in, given that she was the Associate Health Minister.

“Dr Verrall had responsibility for maternal services, an area hit by an acute shortage of midwives, yet midwives remained off the fast track to residency pathway until two months ago.

“When Dr Verrall was asked last year if she thought midwifery services were coping in the regions that had shortages, she responded simply with a ‘yes’. An out of touch response from an out of touch Minister.

“Dr Verrall should be open and transparent and start by publishing the emergency department wait times instead of hiding them like her predecessor Andrew Little did. These have not been publicly reported in almost seven months and are of huge public interest.

“While Labour simply shuffles the deck chairs, a National Government will build the health workforce, set health targets and hold itself accountable to New Zealanders. Better access to health is needed and a change of Minister will not deliver outcomes for our most vulnerable.”

It’s unfair to expect a new Minister to have an impact immediately, but how we can expect much-needed improvements if what she says is so different from what’s really happening?

Rural round-up


Onion crop quality may be affected by floods; avocado harvest interrupted

The quality of New Zealand’s most valuable vegetable export crop may be affected by the recent deluge.

Last Friday’s heavy downpour washed tonnes of onions off the Pukekohe fields where they were drying, and left others lying on soggy ground.

Onion exports are worth $150 million a year and exports to New Zealand’s main market, Europe, were set to ramp up this week.

Onions New Zealand chief executive James Kuperus said initial fears that volumes would be down had eased, and quality would be more of a factor. . . 

Trading cows for kayaks – Wayne Parsons :

Callum Kingan treats milking and multisport much the same.

The North Otago dairy farmer is no stranger to pre-dawn starts and an intense daily workload — and that has prepared him well for a debut in New Zealand’s greatest multisport event.

Kingan (46) will next week compete in the two-day section of the 243km Coast to Coast, his debut delayed after Covid forced a cancellation of that part of the event last year.

Training for the great race has had to be intermittent from time to time as Kingan juggles kayaks and cows. . .

Physical, mental challenge of shearing for 24 hours – Shawn McAvinue:

Southland shearer Matt Hunt has ditched the booze and the pies and hit the gym as he prepares to shear sheep for 24 hours in West Otago this weekend. He talks to Shawn McAvinue about getting out of a dark place to be set for Shear 4 A Cause at Wohelo Station.

Southland shearer Matt Hunt is ready to realise a dream.

He will attempt to shear sheep for 24 hours over a 32-hour period at Wohelo Station in West Otago from 6am on Saturday.

“This is redemption.” . . 

Otago shearers break own 24 hour goal – Ryan Boswell :

Five men have shorn thousands more sheep than they were anticipating at a fundraiser in Otago.

Shear 4 A Cause had set a target of 10,000 sheep over a 24 time frame, but the group exceeded it by 3000 sheep.

The men had a couple of breaks during the challenge.

Shearer Matt Hunt told 1News it was no easy feat. . . 

New Prime Minister needs to halt new indicated extractive bans :

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has been asked to intervene following confirmation today that the Government plans to implement a ban on all extractive sector activities on the conservation estate.

Wayne Scott, CEO of the Aggregate and Quarry Association, says while the media coverage focuses on the possible effects of such a ban on mining and the West Coast, such a decision would have profound implications across New Zealand.

“If this new bill extends to all minerals covered under the Crown Minerals Act, it will end access to riverbank gravel deposits on land with little or no conservation values.”

Wayne Scott says Chris Hipkins should contemplate what that means for his Government’s plans for infrastructure and housing as well as its current efforts to support flood-ravaged regions. . . 


New Zealand seeds exports worth $221 million :

The total value of New Zealand seed exports, in calendar year 2022, totalled $221m, 9% down on the previous year, according to data issued by Stats NZ this week.

New Zealand seeds were exported to over 70 countries in 2022.

The top five export markets by value were the Netherlands, Australia, USA, China and Germany. Together, they account for around 60% of total export sales.

Pasture seeds including ryegrass and clover seed, vegetable seeds . . 

A preferred PM leads no party


Sunday night’s two political polls showing a jump for Labour wasn’t surprising.

A new leader almost always improves a party’s favourability.

What was surprising was that among the preferred Prime Ministers in the Newshub-Reid Research poll was Leighton Baker on 3.9% even though he doesn’t lead a party.

He was leader of the New Conservative Party a couple of years ago.

More recently he was an anti-mandate protestor who was charged with trespass after last year’s protest at parliament. The charges were later withdrawn.

What can be read in to that level of support for someone who doesn’t lead a party, keeping in mind that people polled are not prompted with names?

It shows there is a sizeable number of people who are still very angry about the mandates.

They are likely to be still very angry when they vote and 3.9% added to someone who does lead a party could get past the 5% threshold.

Apropos of this, RNZ reported on the poll and gave the support for preferred PM as:

  • Chris Hipkins: 19.6 percent
  • Christopher Luxon: 18.8 percent
  • David Seymour 3.9 percent
  • Jacinda Ardern: 12.4 percent
  • Winston Peters: 2.9 percent

There’s no mention of Leighton Baker and the Newshub poll it’s reporting on gave David Seymour 8%.

It’s most likely an unintended error, although conspiracy theorists among whose numbers might be counted some of Baker’s supporters, could read something sinister into it.

Rural round-up


Southland contractors see ‘bumper season’ while parts of North Island suffer from wet season  – Sally Murphy :

Rural contractors in Southland cannot keep up with bumper grass growth, while those in parts of the North Island are having problems from the recent wet weather.

Southland has had a warm summer with consistent rain providing the perfect conditions for strong growth.

Southland Federated Farmers arable chair Sonya Dillon said farmers were happy to be out in the fields harvesting solid crops after a dry summer last year.

“We’ve been really lucky we’ve had a bumper season. It was a bit dull in November, which probably stole a bit of the yield, and now we are starting to get some dry patches, which has stolen some of the weight. . . 

Farm leaders are watching whether O’Connor keeps Agriculture as the climate lobby presses for methane action – Point of Order :

Farming leaders  are watching  closely  whether  Damien O’Connor keeps the key portfolios of Agriculture and Trade when Prime Minister Chris Hipkins  restructures his Cabinet.

O’Connor  has been one of the  few ministers during Labour’s term in office who has  won broad support for what he has done as minister, but  he  is now in his 65th year   and  the  heavy  load  he  has  carried  as minister  would have exhausted  any  but  the  fittest.

Hipkins  could be  under  pressure  from climate change lobby groups to put  a  new minister into  the Agriculture  role  to enforce tougher policies on reducing methane emissions from livestock  which make up nearly 40% of NZ’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Only this week  lobby group Greenpeace said polling showed 61% of New Zealanders  favoured regulating the dairy industry to reduce  water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions.  Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel said this is a significant increase from 48% in a similar poll only a year ago, in December 2021. . . 

Farming without a road – Joanna Grigg:

Farmers in parts of the Marlborough Sounds have been cut off from truck access for months and now rely on service by sea. Joanna Grigg reports.

Farms in the Marlborough sounds carry about 35,000 stock units, with six large farm businesses carrying a fair chunk.

Emma Hopkinson and her husband ‘Hoppy’ run 6000 stock units over three farms: the home farm at Kenepuru, a 20-year lease block at Titirangi and a smaller lease block at Waitaria Bay. She wants those making roading decisions to know these farms are productive and earn export dollars for New Zealand.

“Without truck access, our business is hugely affected,” Emma says. . . 

Biosecurity NZ launches campaign to stamp out wallaby populations

Wallaby populations continue to grow in New Zealand, something which has prompted the launch of the first national awareness campaign.

The Tipu Mātoro: Wallaby-free Aotearoa is designed to shine a light on the extensive damage wallabies can wreak on the environment, asking Kiwis to report wallaby sightings.

John Walsh, Biosecurity New Zealand’s director of response says wallabies silently prey on the futures of forests and farms.

“We are working in partnership with regional councils, local iwi, farmers and landowners through Tipu Mātoro to manage and reduce populations, but we need everyone’s help.”

Leading US scientist to clear the air on methane and livestock – Sheep Central :

LIVESTOCK producers will have the air cleared on the measurement of methane in agriculture in a special lecture in Perth next month.

‘How well is methane calculated to determine livestock emissions?’ will be the topic for discussion at a public lecture in Perth and online next month by leading United States animal scientist and air quality specialist Professor Frank Mitloehner.

The professor from the University of California at Davis will speak on new methane accounting methods for agriculture and the and the climate neutral challenge.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Western Australia Livestock Research Council are hosting Professor Mitloehner, who is director of the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) Centre. . . 

Take your pick from Seeka’s seasonal job variety :

Over 400 jobs are up grabs as this year’s Kiwifruit season takes off in Taitokerau, and there’s something for everyone.

Horticulture employer Seeka has collaborated with Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to deliver a series of job expos for the upcoming 2023 kiwifruit season.

Expo attendees will have the opportunity to speed interview for any one of these roles next month and walk away with a job, and a kete of information to support their employment.

New Zealand’s premier produce company has positions for forklift operators, graders, packers, and supervisors for the 2023 season. . . 

Rural round-up


Feds’ request to Hipkins: slow down, prioritise :

Slow down the legislative programme, get it right and concentrate on those things that will help families and businesses prosper.

That’s the request from Federated Farmers to Chris Hipkins as he is sworn in as New Zealand’s 41 st prime minister today, and then gets to work on the policy “re-set” he has talked about.

“Farmers have many times in the last three years expressed concern about rushed, poorly-consulted-on legislation that has proved to be flawed and impractical,” Feds president Andrew Hoggard says.

“The proposed replacement legislation for the Resource Management Act has those same hallmarks. . . 

Primary sector leaders draw up Hipkins wish list – Neal Wallace :

Food and fibre sector leaders are mostly in the dark about what their industry can expect from newly elected Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

The Food and Fibre Leadership Group is seeking a meeting with the new prime minister, with most members saying they have not had dealings with him.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said Hipkins has not been part of the government ministerial group, headed by the prime minister, that regularly meets with food and fibre leaders.

He fears the change in prime minister could mean a loss of contacts within the leader’s office as staff are replaced. . . 

Te Anau station’s court victory sees SDC drop two cases – Neal Wallace,

The Southland District Council has withdrawn two pending prosecutions for the clearance of indigenous vegetation after losing a legal battle with a Te Anau station.

The council’s environmental planning manager, Marcus Roy, said following the Environment Court decision against the council and in favour of Te Anau Downs Station, two prosecutions relating to the clearance of indigenous vegetation have been dropped. 

The court decision in favour of Te Anau Downs followed a four-year legal battle in which the council sought an enforcement order to prevent any further indigenous vegetation clearance on the station, and to require significant remedial work for clearance dating back to 2001.

Late last year the court declined the council’s application for an enforcement order and required it to pay costs and compensation of $300,000. . . 

Food security at heart of our cost of living crisis – Dr Catherine Knight :

New Zealanders have been finding their supermarket shop a painful experience for some time now, but in December many reached their pain threshold as food prices increased by 10.6 percent compared with 2021. Fresh produce was a whopping 24 percent more expensive – at a time of the year when it is usually plentiful and cheap. Economists reassure us this is just a momentary blip in an otherwise smoothly running economic system – prices will ‘soften’, inflation will ‘moderate’ and ‘better times will come’. These reassurances are comforting and most of us are happy to be soothed by this narrative.

But what if empty supermarket shelves and high prices are symptomatic of something much bigger? A sign of a broken system, now starting to show the tell-tale fissures of climate disruption, ecological collapse, energy descent and increased resource scarcity.

The immediate causes of surging food prices are familiar to most of us: high shipping costs, supply chain disruption, a tight labour market, disrupted weather patterns, spiralling on-farm costs such as fertiliser and diesel.

But all these factors are more connected than we might think.  . . 

NZ’s fatally flawed climate strategy – Dame Anne Salmond :

 A recent article in the Guardian based on research into Verra, the world’s largest global carbon-offsetting scheme, reveals more than 90 percent of its tropical rainforest carbon credits are worthless, making no positive impact on climate change. 

In a subsequent article, the Guardian shows that the fossil fuel company Shell was heavily involved in setting up Verra and its rules. Like New Zealand, Shell has placed carbon offsetting at the heart of its climate change strategy, although the research indicates that many of the claims made about the efficacy of such schemes cannot be trusted.

The implications of this research for New Zealand’s carbon strategy are fundamental. At present, New Zealand relies heavily on carbon offsetting to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, through the purchase of international credits and through the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

On both scores, New Zealand’s strategy is fatally flawed. While the government proposes to make up shortfalls in meeting our NDC with the large-scale purchase of international credits, given the research into Verra and its ‘phantom credits’, it is highly likely that in future this kind of offsetting will be tightly controlled or excluded under international conventions. This would leave New Zealand unable to meet its carbon targets. . . 

Fonterra looking to expand its international recipe contest – Nona Pelletier :

Fonterra sees international competition as a way to bake in global demand for New Zealand butter.

The best use of New Zealand’s bright yellow, grass-fed butter was the secret of success at the cooperative’s confectionary and bakery recipe contest which saw 60 of Japan’s leading chefs create a range of award worthy buttery treats.

Among the winning entries at the Fonterra Grand Prix included a bread named, Moon of Grass Fed Butter, and a confectionery called, Fonterra Butter Sand.

The competition was held in 2019-2020 but the winners had to wait until recently to collect their prize, which included a tour of New Zealand, as well the commercialisation of their winning entries, aimed at promoting grass-fed butter and dairy products in Japan. . . 

Brief the new PM


The Taxpayers’ Union is making it easy for anyone to brief the new Prime Minister:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is giving Kiwis the means to send their own ‘brief’ to the incoming Prime Minister outlining the policies that they would like to see ditched.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Callum Purves says:

“New leaders receive lots of briefings, but the briefing that Chris Hipkins will be missing is one from the taxpayers and voters of New Zealand. That’s why we have set up a quick tool to make it easy to Brief The PM on which projects and policies they should lob straight into the bin.

“Soon-to-be Prime Minister Hipkins will without a doubt be hearing from the champions of Ardern’s most unpopular and expensive policies and they will be spinning all sorts of yarns to ensure they don’t end up in the scrap heap where they belong. It is important that the people who have to live with the impacts of these policies have an avenue to provide their perspective.

“Brief The PM is about giving our new Prime Minister a good faith ‘heads up’ about policies that will make life worse for New Zealanders and which could be turn-offs for voters.

”Kiwis can Brief The PM at” 

There’s plenty to choose from:

Three (Five) Waters, the TVNZ/RNZ media merger, co-governance of public assets, the Unemployment Insurance scheme, speed limit reductions instead of improvements to roads, Auckland light rail, KiwiBuild . . .

It’s not too late to unwind the disastrous and expensive centralisation of polytechs and the the even more expensive and disastrous creation of two health systems.

Stepping back from bad policies would be a good start but can we trust this government to implement good ones?

Labour has changed its leader but its the same team that has shown it’s much better at promising than delivering anything that makes a positive difference.


Principles, policies, personality


Prime Minister-elect Chris Hipkins has made a plea that the privacy of his wife and children be respected.

 Incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed his recent marriage separation in a plea to New Zealanders to respect the privacy of his wife and children. . . 

It is impossible to always separate the personal from the public, but the families of public figures have a right to their privacy and this plea ought to be respected.

Democracy would be better if there was a lot more separation of the personal and personality from the political, not just of politicians’ families but of the politicians themselves.

Politicians aren’t blameless. They can use their personal lives for political reasons and that’s all well and good when the personal is positive. However, it can far too easily be negative.

There’s been a lot of chatter about whether personal abuse and misogyny played a part in Jacinda Ardern’s resignation. She says it didn’t and former PM Dame Jenny Shipley says there’s nothing new in such abuse:

Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, the first woman in the role, told 1News on Friday part of the problem was the focus on personality, rather than policy, in politics.

She thought people could “trivialise” women in politics, but said all leaders copped abuse.

“I don’t think women are in a unique position here.

“What I think is different for Prime Minister Ardern is that social media is a much bigger factor than it was for Prime Minister Clark or myself.

“What happens is if an abuser then has a voice, others amplify that voice.”

Mainstream media has far more vigilant gatekeepers than social media does.

The latter enables people who would otherwise not have a voice to be heard and have what they say amplified, but it’s not only social media at fault.

She said the news media also had to be careful not to amplify “personal controversy, as well as personal popularity”.

As Margaret Thatcher said:

If the media put a politician on a pedestal, it opens up the opportunity for others to point out and criticise feet of clay.

They ought to be able to do that without getting nasty but it’s better not to put politicians on pedestals in the first place.

“Democratic government is about our parties and our nation and our best prospects.”

Parties’ policies should be of far more importance and command far more attention than personalities.

Shipley said threats she’d faced included death threats and personal abuse.

“This is not new.

“To some extent, you have to accept that. It doesn’t make it right.

“It’s not good for New Zealand, it’s certainly not good for leaders, and I don’t think it’s a reflection of who we are.

“We can debate policy and disagree, but we do need to respect the people who step up and take the leadership responsibilities.

“Stick to the issue, not the person. You demean yourselves as you try and demean others. If you can’t win the argument, shut your mouth and get off social media.

“We should watch what’s good for New Zealand, rather than putting personal pressure on the individual leaders, whether they are women or men.” . . 

We need able, capable and skilled people as politicians but voters, and the media,  need to look beyond personality.

We should start with our own principles and find a party whose principles best match ours.

Parties should formulate policies that are in keeping with their principles and it would help if more of us joined parties and participated in policy formation.

It would also help if all of us – the  public, media and politicians paid far more attention to policies than personalities and debated policy rather than denigrating people.

Personal abuse shows a lack of intellect and ability to debate issues.

Margaret Thatcher again:

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