Will supermarket investigation look at govt role?

18/11/2020

Did the last government’s investigation into petrol prices achieve anything? Will this government’s investigation into supermarket prices achieve anything?:

Supermarkets will be subjected to a year-long “market study” by the Commerce Commission to see if they are offering consumers fair prices and their suppliers a fair deal.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark announced the study into the $21 billion groceries industry would get under way this week, making good on a promise in Labour’s election manifesto.

New Zealand has only two big supermarket chain owners: Countdown, and Foodstuffs which owns the New World and Pak ’n Save brands.

“Groceries are one of our most regular expenses, so we want to make sure pricing is fair,” Clark said. . .

On the subject of fair, will the review look at the government’s in role in adding costs?

The Commerce Commission inquiry into supermarkets must look at the Government’s role in price increases, National’s Commerce and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“During the lockdown the Government refused to allow local butchers or fruit and vege shops to open, effectively handing a duopoly to large supermarket chains.

Worse they didn’t learn from the mistake they made during the national lockdown and allow these businesses to operate safely during the Auckland lockdown.

Through its term the Government has continued to add more costs onto businesses through fuel tax increases and sharp increases to the minimum wage. It has now said it will hike costs on businesses by doubling sick leave, imposing 1970s-style employment laws and adding another public holiday at a cost to Kiwi businesses of $2.8b per year.

“These cost increases added by the Government will inevitably mean fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers.

“About $2.8 billion of extra costs are about to be served onto businesses and this will flow through to higher prices to consumers.

These costs imposed by the government will put upward pressure on the price of goods and services at every link in the food chain.

We support consumers paying a fair price for their groceries, and the Government has a role to play in this.

“Rather than waiting a year for the inquiry, the Government can do something to help consumers and every single business in New Zealand now by finding ways to reduce costs on them, not piling more on.

“Lowering costs to businesses will lead to greater affordability for consumers, that’s where the Government’s focus should be.”

The review probably won’t look at the anti-competitive behaviour enabled by the RMA, and the planning and building regulations which add delays and costs to new businesses setting up and existing ones expanding.

Then there’s GST. Our system is simple, and it should not be made more complex by making food exempt, but the tax does add 15% to every grocery bill.

However, there is one area over which the government has direct control which ought to change but it is one the review is unlikely to look at – the hardline environmental policies that add costs and reduce production.

If all the factors over which the government has control are going to be overlooked or ignored, regardless of what the review finds, just like the petrol price investigation, it will achieve nothing that makes a difference to prices.

 


Rural round-up

21/10/2020

Urban New Zealand – you have been lied to – Jane Smith:

 Environmentalist and farmer Jane Smith says she wants to make urban New Zealand aware of the true long term costs of “headline-grabbing heroic environmental crusades”.

Urban New Zealand you have been lied to. You believed someone had your back, a master plan, a blue print for the future. In its place is a lonely black box. They say the devil is in the detail. There are no details – only hyperbole and headlines.

At record speed, New Zealand is blindsiding opportunities to embrace the unique advantage we have as a sustainable island nation.

As a humble food producer, environmentalist, taxpayer and common sense advocate I can’t help but analyse all aspects of policies, not just a one-sided narrow environmental view. . . 

Farmers want Labour to govern alone – Sally Murphy:

Farmers are anxiously waiting to see whether or not Labour will choose to govern alone or bring in the Green Party.

In one of the elections biggest surprises the strong National electorate of Rangitata swung with Labour candidate Jo Luxton winning the seat – becoming the first Labour MP to do so.

Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president David Clark said he has heard of farmers voting strategically.

“I think potentially plenty of farmers have voted Labour so they can govern alone rather than having a Labour-Greens government- there’s been a lot of chat around about that but each to their own, the people have spoken.” . . 

IrrigationNZ appoints Vanessa Winning as new chief executive:

IrrigationNZ is delighted to announce that Vanessa Winning has been appointed as the organisation’s new chief executive starting on Monday 19th October, based in its new Wellington HQ.

Vanessa is a strategic executive leader with over 20 years experience in the agriculture, banking and corporate sectors with excellent stakeholder management and engagement skills.

Vanessa was most recently General Manager Farm Performance at DairyNZ, where she led a large team across the country to help farmers improve their businesses and reduce environmental impacts. Prior to DairyNZ, Vanessa spent 18 years in banking; trade; product development; marketing and communications. Vanessa has a commerce degree in economics and management, and a postgraduate degree in marketing. . . 

The cavalry arrives — finally! – Sudesh Kissun:

The first batch of overseas drivers for local agricultural contracting work is expected in the country next week, says Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) chief executive Roger Parton.

He says 119 applications filed on behalf of members by RCNZ were approved by the Ministry of Primary Industries and passed onto Immigration NZ for final verification and issuance of visas.

After arriving in the country, the drivers will spend two weeks at a Government quarantine facility. The cost will be met by the sponsoring contractor. Visas are being issued for six months and this includes the two-week spent in quarantine.

Parton says contractors will be breathing a huge sigh of relief. . . 

Family farm and sport combine for simple balanced life – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Farmer, husband, father, multisporter: Hamish Mackay prides himself on keeping life simple.

He owns Spotts Creek Station, a 1300ha property in the Cardrona Valley, near Wanaka, that he runs himself, with a bit of help from his father and uncle.

“I don’t have health and safety, PAYE or employment contracts, because I don’t need to, and because it’s frustrating. Keeping things simple is my priority.”

The straight-talking eldest son of Don and Sally Mackay grew up on Motatapu Station, near Wanaka, one of four stations in the Wanaka-Queenstown high country leased from the Crown by Canadian country-pop singer Shania Twain’s ex-husband, Robert Lange. . . 

New Tasmanian program to look at wool workforce needs – Caitlin Jarvis:

Tasmania’s shearer shortage will be put under the microscope as part of a new program run by Primary Employers Tasmania.

PET has secured funding from Skills Tasmania to run a program to examine the present and future workforce needs of wool.

Shearers and wool classers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the inability to move around the country.

Border restrictions and quarantine measures have left some shearers stranded in a state, other than the one where they normally live. . . 


Wrecking ball politics

18/09/2020

David Clark writes:

Over the weekend I had a phone call from a mate who lives in urban Auckland and he wanted to have a yarn about the new Green Party Agricultural Policy, that to his mind seemed logical, fair and reasonable, almost an exciting step forward, but he wanted to see the policy through the lens of a farmer as well,

I have been reflecting on his question regarding the launching of the Green Party Agricultural “Policy” trying to quantify the feeling of hopeless that I and many farmers feel.

So let’s unpack this a bit.

How our business works is we have a farm income, that is the culmination of all the stock we sell and the grain and seed crops that we grow and sell to processors as it’s eventually makes it way to your local Supermarket.

Out of that income, we pay our farm expenses, seed, fertiliser, fuel and electricity, farm supplies, and various other goods and services. Most of this expenditure benefits businesses in our local town Ashburton and across the wider Canterbury economy.

Once we have sold our produce and paid for our expenses, there is hopefully a wee bit left over, which is what most business owners refer to as their return on investment.

Last year our arable and stock farming business made a pre-tax return on total assets of 3.6%.

The Greens intend to impose a “Wealth Tax” of 2%.

That leaves us with 1.6% return on assets before we pay any Income Tax.

The Greens then plan to “charge a fair price” for the Methane burped by our sheep. I have previously heard prices of $50-$250/t of Carbon Equivalent suggested by the Greens, but let’s say at the low end of that range, our Climate Change cost just for Methane will be 1.5% of total assets.

That leaves us with 0.1%.

The Greens intend to develop a Water Charge in consultation with Iwi.

Previously the Greens have stated that charge should be 10 cents per cubic metre. David Parker publicly stated an intention for a water charge of 2 cents per cubic metre.

Here a Valetta, even at the lower charge of 2 cents per cube, the cost of watering our arable crops would be another 0.4% of total assets annually.

That leaves us making a 0.3% loss.

The Greens then want to impose a levy of fertiliser, want us to run a zero-till or minimum-till system, not sure how that works in a long term seed production system and adopt Regenerative principles.

But here’s the clanger, they intend to impose a Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) level of 1mg/litre for all waterways in NZ. Currently water flows out of DoC land at western side of Mid Canterbury at 3.2mg/l.

To meet a DIN of 1mg/l, Environment Canterbury’s own report from 2017 found that land use in the neighbouring Selwyn Te Waihora Catchment would have to revert to dryland sheep grazing.

We have budgeted that impact on this farm and it looks like this-

Crop Income, down 92%

Sheep Gross, down 62%

Expenditure, down 70%

Wages, down 91%

EBIT, down 68%

Capital Re-investment, down 74%

Net Profit, down 105%

Tax Paid, down 75%

The actual numbers are irrelevant, because the percentage drops will be seen across many or most farm businesses, regardless of size.

Of course, that is before any of the other new taxes and levies they wish for detailed above.

This conversation hasn’t even begun to touch on the significant investment in technology and infrastructure we have made in the last 15 years to reduce our environmental impact, all of which would be both unaffordable, and irrelevant because none of it will get us even close to meeting the limits the Greens wish for.

The end result of all this is we would now own a totally unviable, un-bankable business that is not much more than a glorified life style block and has no economic future in food production. The knock on impact is that land values will collapse.

My suggestion to my mate, or anyone else in urban New Zealand reading this is to enjoy and savour the standard of living that you currently enjoy, make diary notes, take photographs so that you can look back on the “good ole days” as we embark on our journey to becoming a Zimbabwe or Venezuela of the South Pacific.

It was not sensible policy announced this last weekend, it was the framework for economic destruction.

Given the catastrophic economic news released in the PERFU today, I’m not sure we can afford to take a wrecking ball to the agricultural and horticultural sectors right now.

We definitely can’t afford the wrecking ball approach to agriculture and horticulture which are two of the country’s very few bright economic bright spots and we don’t need to.

Most farmers and horticulturalists have been doing, and are continuing to do, everything they can to operate sustainably environmentally, socially and economically and they are using science to guide them in the best way of doing it.

The Green policy isn’t science based and focuses on the environment with no consideration of the enormous economic and social costs.


Rural round-up

03/09/2020

A classic example of the disconnect from farming:

The new “National Environmental Standards for Freshwater” which were introduced by the current government in August are to be amended. The Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor announced Wednesday that cabinet had agreed the winter grazing regulations weren’t practical. This announcement comes before the new regulations have even taken effect; they actually come into force in September.

Federated Farmers aren’t convinced the changes to the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater, announced Wednesday, will make much difference for Southland and Otago farmers.

Southland Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt welcomed the amendments and Government’s acknowledgement that the policy was flawed, but said the changes still didn’t address the unique challenges farmers in the south faced, with its wetter than average winters. . .

Freshwater regs will stall progress add costs on Canterbury:

The new National Environment Standard (NES) for Freshwater could derail the progress already made on improving water quality in Canterbury, Federated Farmers presidents say.

“The new regulations coming in over the top of what Environment Canterbury already has in place will waste farmers’ time and ratepayers’ money,” says Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cam Henderson, who was also speaking on behalf of David Clark (Mid Canterbury), Jason Grant (South Canterbury) and Jared Ross (North Otago).

The new NES rules include limits on land use intensification, set controls on intensive winter grazing, and limits the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Federated Farmers has been consistently raising issues with the workability of the regulations. The organisation’s Southland province went as far as calling for a boycott on consents related to winter grazing. . . 

Land girls kept farms running – Sally Rae:

They were the women who kept the country running. Yet members of the New Zealand Women’s Land Service were largely the unsung heroes of World War 2 – until now.

Those women who worked on the land while men went to war will be honoured in rural South Canterbury, thanks to the efforts of former land girl Sadie Lietze (97), of Alexandra, and Fiona, Lady Elworthy, of Timaru.

A plaque and seat will be unveiled on October 18 in a park and walkway established by Lady Elworthy at Maungati in memory of her late husband, Sir Peter Elworthy.

Mrs Lietze, who was 19 when she was dispatched from Dunedin to help out at Tara Hills, near Omarama, said many people in modern times would not have heard of the organisation. . . 

Wagyu calves pricey but worth it – Annette Scott:

Wagyu cattle are treated like first-class citizens with the best of everything on Rockburn farm and they are appropriately rewarding their farmers Evan and Clare Chapman for their preferential treatment. Annette Scott reports.

Evan and Clare Chapman of Rockburn Farming in South Canterbury have produced one of the biggest Wagyu steers ever seen in New Zealand.

The Chapmans turned to Wagyu cattle just three years ago and have routinely produced 800 kg-plus cattle, but the massive 946kg steer processed this month has put the farm in the First Light record book.

In October last year, the Chapmans marked a century of farming on the rolling downs of Rockburn, near Geraldine. . . 

PWC, WONZ to merge – Annette Scott:

Two key wool grower organisations are planning a merge of operations to deliver better financial results for farmers.

Wools of New Zealand (WONZ) and Primary Wool Co-operative (PWC) have committed to work together with formal discussions under way on how to combine operations in a way that will rejuvenate NZ’s languishing strong wool sector.

WONZ chair James Parsons said the wool industry must collaborate to get a better financial result for farmers.

He said bringing together two like-minded grower organisations will be an important first step in rejuvenating the current dire economic plight of wool. . . 

Pāmu performs solidly despite Covid overhang; declares strong operating profit and dividend:

Landcorp Farming Limited (Pāmu) has delivered a strong performance for the year ended 30 June 2020, achieving EBITDAR of $65 Million.

EBITDAR is Pāmu’s principal measure of performance, and this year’s result was 91% above the figure achieved in the previous year. The company’s revenue of $251 Million was a $10 Million improvement over 2019, driven by increased milk and livestock revenue.

Chairman Warren Parker and Chief Executive Steven Carden said the result was very pleasing given the unique circumstances posed by Covid-19 and the worst drought conditions in Northland in half a century. . . 

Are sheep getting too big for shearers? – Joely Mitchell:

There is a growing chorus coming from the Australian shearing industry that wool growers’ push to increase the size of their sheep is making them too big for shearers.

And it’s making the industry a less appealing option for those considering a career in it, which could cause problems down the track in regards to the future availability of shearers.

Phil Rourke has been a shearer for over 30 years and currently works for a contracting business in north-east Victoria. . . 


Team let down

20/08/2020

We were told to stay home in our bubbles and we did, even though we now know that the government wasn’t acting lawfully in ordering us to do so for the first nine days.

A Full Bench (three Judges) of the High Court has made a declaration that, for the 9 day period between 26 March and 3 April 2020, the Government’s requirement that New Zealanders stay at home and in their bubbles was justified, but unlawful.  . . 

The government, not surprisingly has seized on the word justified.

It should however be concentrating on unlawful so it learns from its mistake and doesn’t repeat it as it has repeated several other mistakes most glaring of which are those that led to most people working at the border where they could be exposed to Covid-19 not being tested for the disease.

When most of us did, and continue to do. what we are told to do to keep ourselves and others safe it is galling to be let down when those doing the telling aren’t doing all they should be doing.

As Shane Reti, National’s health spokesman said:

 New Zealanders did their part. We all did our part. We’re asking the Government, “Did you do your part?” We believed. We stayed at home. We did our best to keep our businesses running. We did our best to keep people’s jobs. People missed their operations, their diagnostic tests, their school exams. We all did our part. Has the Government done theirs?

You see, we believed we were all part of a team—a team of 5 million. Well, the team of 5 million turned up and on game day, the coach didn’t have the right gear. We all trained during the week. We all went to practice. We all understood the plan. On game day, the coach didn’t have the right gear and hadn’t started the clock. When we were told that Jet Park, our highest quarantine facility for positive cases, we were told all staff were being tested weekly—all staff were being tested weekly. Now we know they weren’t. Yet Ashley Bloomfield said he gave the Minister full and very regular updates on isolation testing. Who do we believe?  . . 

Who do we believe?

 Karl du Fresne shows it is hard to know who to believe::

The big picture is one of a fiasco. Consider the following.

By common consent, the Covid-19 tracing app is a clunker. It seemed to work fine on my phone until several days ago, when it suddenly went into meltdown. After repeated attempts to re-activate it, I gave up.

The police checkpoints around Auckland are a joke, massively disrupting daily lives and economic activity for no apparent purpose. In one 24-hour period more than 50,000 vehicles were stopped but only 676 were turned back. That means people spent hours trapped in stationary cars and trucks for an almost negligible success rate against supposed rule-breakers.

Even worse, people with valid reasons for travelling – for example, trying to get to work or deliver essential goods – have reportedly been turned back or made to wait days for the required paperwork. Others, meanwhile, have been waved through. It all seems totally haphazard and arbitrary, with decisions made on the spot by officers who don’t seem to be working to any clear and consistent criteria. . . 

Then there was the panicked decision – or at least it looked that way – to test 12,000 port workers and truck drivers within a time frame that was laughably unachievable (and perhaps just as well, since it would have caused more business chaos).  

And once again, there were mixed messages about eligibility for testing – a problem that first became apparent when the country went into lockdown in March. The official message then was “test, test, test” – yet people seeking tests, including those showing Covid-19 symptoms, were repeatedly turned away. And it’s still happening.

Glaring discrepancies between what was being said at Beehive press conferences and what was actually happening “on the ground” have been a recurring feature throughout the coronavirus crisis. Many were highlighted by Newshub’s investigative reporter Michael Morrah. He revealed, for example, that nurses and health workers were said to have ample protective equipment when clearly they didn’t.  Similarly, Morrah exposed a yawning credibility gap between what the government was saying about the availability of influenza vaccine and what was being reported by frustrated doctors and nurses.

Somewhere the truth was falling down a hole, but the public trusted in the assurances given by the prime minister and Ashley Bloomfield. Many will now be thinking that trust was misplaced.

The most abject cockup of all was the failure (again exposed by Morrah, though strangely not picked up by the wider media for several days) to test workers at the border. Former Health Minister David Clark told the public weeks ago that border workers, including susceptible people such as bus drivers ferrying inbound airline passengers to isolation hotels, would be routinely tested. This seemed an obvious and fundamental precaution, but we now know it didn’t happen. Nearly two thirds of border workers – the people most likely to contract and spread the coronavirus in the community – were never tested. Some epidemiologists believe the Covid-19 virus was bubbling away undetected for weeks before the current resurgence.

On one level this can be dismissed as simple incompetence, but it goes far beyond that. People might be willing to excuse incompetence up to a point, but they are not so ready – and neither should they be – to forgive spin, deception and dissembling. Misinformation can’t be blithely excused as a clumsy misstep, still less as “dissonance” (to use Bloomfield’s creative English). On the contrary, if misinformation is deliberate then it raises critical issues of trust and transparency.

At a time of crisis, people are entitled to expect their leaders and officials to be truthful with them, especially when the public, in turn, is expected to play its part by making substantial social and economic sacrifices. If the government doesn’t uphold its side of this compact, it forfeits the right to demand that the public co-operate.  That’s the situation in which we now appear to find ourselves. The bond of trust that united the government and the public in the fight against Covid-19 has been frayed to a point where it’s at risk of breaking. . . 

We’ve been asked to do a lot, to trust a lot and we’ve been let down.

That the government has  drafted in Helen Clark’s former chief of staff Heather Simpson and NZTA chair Brian Roche to sort out the border  is an admission of how badly mismanaged it’s been.

Theirs is no easy task and while it won’t be one of their KPIs, helping the government win back trust will be part of it.

 


Planning to fail

03/07/2020

Ensuring Covid-19 doesn’t get past the border has widespread support, but it’s time for a plan that keeps it there and lets more people in:

The Prime Minister needs to stop misrepresenting the border issue and tell New Zealanders what her strategy is to protect the economy long-term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Government’s clumsy and incompetent management of our quarantine procedures means it is impossible for New Zealand’s border to open tomorrow, next week or even next month.

“That simply would not be safe.

“However, New Zealanders also need to know how and when the border will progressively be reopened, because not doing that is untenable.

“New Zealanders deserve the highest standards to protect them from getting Covid-19, both at the border and when it comes to tracking and tracing in the event of cases in the community.

“We need to know when those standards will be in place so that New Zealanders have confidence to progressively and safely open the border and grow the economy.

“Locking down what’s left of the economy and waiting for a vaccine isn’t an option.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response ignores the issue:

 . . .”It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19.

“In some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they are not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month,” Ardern said.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous.” . . .

No-one is asking for the borders to open at this point.

A lot of people, businesses and organisations are asking for information on the plan for when and how the borders will open at some point in the future.

Farmers and contractors need experienced workers, principals facing teacher shortages are looking for staff, secondary schools and tertiary institutions want to be able to host foreign students again . . .

None of these is asking for anything that would risk Covid-19 getting past the border, but all want to know the government’s plan for safe entry of more than returning New Zealanders and the heavily restricted number and categories of people deemed essential workers so they can plan.

Any half competent government would have had people planning ahead months ago.

The omnishambles at the border that required the military and another minister to take over running it, shows that wasn’t done.

The current situation needs a strong focus but the inability for someone in government to look further ahead while others deal with immediate priorities reinforces Todd Muller’s observation there are three or four competent ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs in Cabinet.

Had there been anyone with more ability in any of those chairs, perhaps one of the three deputy Health Ministers for example, Chris Hipkins who already had a very heavy workload wouldn’t have been the only one capable of taking over as Health Minister yesterday after David Clark resigned.

That appointment highlights the shallowness of the Cabinet pond and explains why Muller’s request for details of the strategy for opening the border is being ignored.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the government with the time and ability to plan that far ahead which is a very serious problem because as the adage says, if you fail to plan then you’ll plan to fail.


Bridges & Reti up, Clark down

02/07/2020

National leader Todd Muller has announced two promotions in the wake of Paula Bennett’s decision to retire from politics:

Dr Shane Reti will be ranked number 13 and will take on Associate Drug Reform. Shane has demonstrated a huge intellect and capacity for work, supporting Michael Woodhouse in our Covid-19 response, as well as achieving much in the Tertiary Education portfolio.

Simon Bridges will be picking up the Foreign Affairs portfolio and will be ranked at number 17. Simon has been leader and a minister for a number of years in the last National Government. He expressed a desire for this portfolio and his experience will be valuable in this important role.

Deputy Leader Nikki Kaye will pick up the portfolio of Women and will make several announcements associated with this portfolio in the coming months.

Amy Adams will take the portfolio of Drug Reform. She will work with Shane Reti in this area. . . 

These are all good moves, I am especially pleased that Simon’s experience and skill will be put to good use.

Gerry Brownlee did have the Foreign Affairs portfolio. I have no idea what negotiations went on, but Gerry stepped aside to allow Bill English to be John Key’s deputy when John became leader for the good of the caucus and party. It looks like he has done so again which shows commendable loyalty and grace.

Meanwhile, a mess has been tidied up for the government.

David Clark has resigned as Health Minister:

The embattled MP for Dunedin North said he had become a “distraction” and that the “time is right” for someone else to fill the role, but he will stand as an MP in the upcoming election. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Dr Clark contacted her on Wednesday to “confirm his wish to resign as a minister” and that she had accepted his resignation. 

The Prime Minister has appointed Labour MP Chris Hipkins as Health Minister until the election. Hipkins is currently the Minister of Education.  . . 

Clark is the third of Ardern’s Ministers to lose his warrant – Clare Curran resigned, and Meka Whaitiri who was sacked.

It has taken a while, had Ardern had more steel the resignation would have been accepted weeks ago when Clark first offered it.


Clark & Ardern doing a Pilate

25/06/2020

As a former minister of religion Health Minister David Clark will be familiar with the story of Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to absolve himself of any responsibility for Jesus’s life.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was raised a Mormon and should know the story too.

Both of them have washed their hands of the Covid-19 response omnishambles and sheeted all responsibility home on DIrector General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Ardern was very happy to share the platform and the glory with Bloomfield when he was being sanctified at the 1pm broadcasts through the lockdown but won’t accept the responsibility for the omnishambles or hold Clark responsible for the disgraceful way he behaved last night:

Health Minister David Clark has brutally thrown Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield under the bus while standing right next to him, after the Government’s quarantine testing botch-up. . . 

Dr Clark pointed blame at the Director-General as they stood next to each other in Wellington on Wednesday. 

Newshub’s footage captured Dr Bloomfield’s face after Dr Clark told reporters, “The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn’t being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that.”

If you click on the link you’ll see the footage as Clark humiliates his DG whose face shows how he is feeling.

Newshub asked the Health Minister why he won’t take some of the responsibility.

“The Director-General has already acknowledged that the system didn’t deliver here.”

It wasn’t just the system that didn’t deliver, the Minister was’t even present to deliver when he should have been front and centre.

Dr Clark shouldn’t be so quick to lay blame.

If Dr Bloomfield hadn’t been forced to step up as a de facto Health Minister during the COVID-19 response because Dr Clark was AWOL, perhaps Dr Bloomfield would’ve been able to focus on his actual job – running the operational side of things. . . 

A Minister shouldn’t be involved in operational matters but does have responsibility for ensuring that the right processes and systems are in place and they’re operating as they should be.

As Toby Manhire writes:

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”.

Throughout lockdown it was obvious there were problems with supply and deliver of personal protective equipment (PPE), the availability of testing, contact tracing and frustration from health workers that the Minister ought to have ensured were sorted.

Instead, he wasn’t even in Wellington most of the time and now he’s back he’s rewarded the man who was on the spot by pushing all the blame on him:

Health Minister David Clark has finally turned up to work, and when he did, his first job was to throw his Director-General of Health under the bus, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“David Clark’s treatment of Ashley Bloomfield is a disgrace. He humiliated a man we have grown to respect and trust during lockdown.

“While Dr Bloomfield has fronted up day after day, Clark hasn’t even bothered to look at the quarantine arrangements that are so vital in protecting New Zealand from the virus.

“Clark is the very definition of a ‘non-essential worker’.”

Mr Muller observed that while the Minister of Health’s continued, bumbling presence defines the incompetence of the Labour Government, he shouldn’t be the one who should accept responsibility for the furore.

“Did the Prime Minister know that Clark would be directing all blame on Dr Bloomfield?

“Jacinda Ardern is happy to take centre-stage during lockdown briefings but as soon as there’s bad news, she is nowhere to be seen.

“For Ardern, when things go wrong, the buck stops with the frontline workers, never her Ministers, never herself.”

Ministers should not only take responsibility they must act responsibly.

By washing their hands Ardern and Clark are failing to do both.


It’s still an omnishambles

22/06/2020

The Minister of Health, David Clark,  is Minister in name only, the oversight of border controls has been passed to the military and another Minister, Megan Woods, but it’s still an omnishambles.

A friend arrived in New Zealand 11 days ago, she still hasn’t had a test for the virus.

She has asked for one, as have others on her flight who are at the same isolation hotel. None of them has been given one and none has been told when they’ll get one even though everyone is supposed to be tested on days three and 11.

She said her hotel is probably one of the better ones for protocols with social distancing but new intakes are arriving each day so even if everyone is careful about social distancing, there’s a heightened risk of arrivals from different cohorts infecting those who’ve been there longer.

She’s in Auckland but a friend of hers was one of those who was put on a bus and only when they were well on the way were they told they were going to Rotorua.

Were those in control scared of a revolt if they announced the destination earlier?

If there is not enough accommodation for isolation and quarantine in Auckland people have to go somewhere else but surely they should be told where they’re going, especially if they’ll be on a bus for four hours as those going to Rotorua were.

There is a health risk for people sitting still on a long flight that is exacerbated if it’s followed by sitting still for a long time soon after. Several years ago a friend flew from New Zealand to London then drove three hours, got deep vein thrombosis and died as a result.

I supposed we should be grateful that even though everyone is still not getting tested on days three and 11, more people are being tested before they leave isolation and tests are catching people.

There’s been at least one more case since yesterday’s announcement of two more cases:

That makes eight cases caught in the past few days.

Had it not been for the agitation from National MPs and the media at least some of these people could well have been leaving isolation without a test.

As Point of Order says:

. . .The management of people arriving at the border has cost the government $81 million so far.

That’s a lot of money to spend on a sieve when you needed – and thought you were buying – a top-quality bucket. . .

We can’t know how many people with the disease have slipped through the sieve, but if there have been eight cases detected among people coming in from overseas in less than a week, is it possible there were absolutely no cases among all those people who have come into the country and not been tested in the past couple of months?

More than 200 people a day for a couple of months is a very big number to have no infections.

Given how rife the disease is overseas, it is almost impossible that there has been not been people with the disease, asymptomatic or not, who came in, went through isolation and were released without a test.

We have been very, very badly let down by the government and the agencies that were supposed to be keeping the border secure.

And while the military and another Minister have taken charge, the management of isolation still seems to be an omnishambles when people who ask for tests aren’t getting them and don’t know when they will.


From bad to worse

18/06/2020

National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse was right: the two latest confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand did have contact with someone after getting lost on their drive from Auckland to Wellington.

After leaving quarantine in a car provided by friends, the two women got lost on the Auckland motorway system.

The friends who lent them the car met with them and guided them to the right motorway, and were in physical contact for about five minutes.

The National Party’s health spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, told Parliament this afternoon that the pair had hugged and kissed someone on their travels.

That was after Dr Ashley Bloomfield said they had no contact with anyone.

The ministry didn’t confirm if they hugged or kissed their friend, and said it received the update this afternoon.

Woodhouse told Parliament a “reliable but confidential source” had informed him that story was “not all as it seems”.

“They did become disorientated and lost their way coming out of Auckland and needed help to get on the right road,” Woodhouse said.

“They called on acquaintances who they were in close contact with and that was rewarded with even more close contact – a kiss and a cuddle.” . . 

The announcement that the women had Covid-19 and hadn’t been tested before being granted compassionate leave from isolation was bad, the new information makes it worse and  this shows things can get even more worse:

Former police commissioner Mike Bush has admitted one person who should have returned to managed isolation after a funeral, is still at large.

The 18-year-old was part of a family allowed a compassionate exemption to attend a funeral. The five other family members are now in quarantine after avoiding their return to managed isolation “for some time”.

Initially all six were evading managed isolation. Then four family members returned and just two – an eight-year-old and 18-year-old were missing. 

The child has since been brought back to managed isolation and the teenager remains at a family property in Hamilton in self-isolation. . . 

Does the fact that it was a gang funeral give confidence that the teenager will self-isolating as required?

But wait, there’s more:

Newshub can reveal another serious blunder by health officials who have failed to follow their own rules.

A group of around 10 people, who were in quarantine in Christchurch, were allowed out early to attend a burial with more than 150 people on Tuesday. 

That’s despite the Ministry of Health announcing nine days ago that such exemptions were no longer permitted – leaving a funeral director and his team thoroughly perplexed. . . 

And more:

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is furious that his staff were forced to mix at a hotel with people who were being put into quarantine.

Boshier told the governance and administration committee this morning that his staff had arranged to stay at a hotel in Auckland before inspecting a prison the next day a few weeks ago.

“Suddenly in the evening, all these people arrived from overseas to be put into quarantine and we weren’t told. So we were all mixed up with everyone else and I was livid.

“I had to cancel the prison visit the next day.” . . 

And in spite of the sacrifices we’ve all made and the dangers of importing new cases,  Covid-19 tests for people in managed isolation are voluntary:

As two new confirmed Covid-19 cases broke an almost month-long streak of no infections, people in mandatory quarantine have been told that swab testing is voluntary.

It goes against what many people believed was a compulsory test for those entering New Zealand – particularly those coming in from countries where Covid-19 has run rife.

Since April, everyone arriving in the country has had to spend 14 days in managed isolation or a higher level of quarantine if they have symptoms.

The Ministry of Health earlier announced that from June 8, all travellers who arrive in the country would be tested for Covid-19 at their respective facilities. . . 

But some guests under mandatory quarantine in Auckland hotels have revealed that they have been told the Covid-19 swab tests are voluntary – not mandatory.

A woman staying at the Grand Millennium, in downtown Auckland, said a pamphlet guests had received said the choice was ultimately theirs.

“I’m worried that they’re not testing everyone,” she said.

“Isolation is so difficult, but this one thing is not compulsory. This country is doing such an incredible job, we can’t mess this up.” . . 

The country has been doing an incredible job but the government and the ministry are letting us down and innocent and grieving families who are paying the price:

The Government has refused to apologise for the strict quarantine protocols, despite leaving would-be compassionate exemption recipients heartbroken.

On Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern announced that compassionate exemptions from quarantine have been suspended after two women were allowed to leave isolation without being tested for COVID-19, and later tested positive. . . 

“The important thing is to fix this problem,” David Clark said. “The director-general [Ashley Bloonmfield] has owned this failing… I have every sympathy for those people, my expectation is it will be fixed.”

Ardern said the case is an  unacceptable failure of the system” that should never have happened and “cannot be repeated”.

“My job is to keep New Zealanders safe, I know the decision to suspend compassionate leave will not be a popular one, but it is the right one,” she said.  . . 

What does it say about the competence of the people running all this when  the military has been brought in to oversee the border?

As more than 300 close contacts linked to New Zealand’s two Covid-19 cases are “encouraged” to get tested, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is bringing in a military leader to oversee the country’s isolation and quarantine facilities.

Ardern addressed media on Wednesday, as the fallout from Tuesday’s revelations two women were able to leave mandatory isolation six days into their stay on compassionate grounds continues to intensify.

Assistant chief of defence, Air Commodore Digby Webb, has now been called in to oversee border facilities, including how travellers depart from them. . . 

Most of us did as we were told in adhering to lockdown rules, at considerable personal and financial cost. Why hasn’t the government been doing what it should have been to ensure that the hard-won Covid-free status wasn’t squandered by slack systems and protocols with people coming in from other countries?

It took the detection of two new cases of Covid-19 for the government to take border security and isolation seriously yet the media has been reporting people complaining about lax standards at isolation facilities for at least a week.

As Todd Muller said:

“The sacrifice of the ‘team of five million’ cannot be put at risk by a clumsy and incompetent Government that allows bureaucrats to run the show by deciding which of the rules they are going to apply on any given day. . . 

Alex Braae echoes this in writing of an avalanche of incompetence:

It is staggering to see so many stories come out all at once, and many people will feel an uncomfortable sense of deja vu. I realise a lot has happened between then and now, but all of these stories feel deeply reminiscent of the incompetence shown at the border before lockdown started. Systems were theoretically in place, but weren’t being enforced with any sort of rigour or discipline, and it took media reports for those who were meant to be in charge to take notice. Readers might also remember that those blunders were arguably what necessitated lockdown in the first place. It’s not bloody good enough at all.

The government lost its social licence for keeping us at level 2 when nothing was said to deter protest marches.

It needs to get quarantine and managed isolation sorted because this week has shown how soon things can go from bad to worse and it won’t have the social licence to lock us up again.


How many more out there?

17/06/2020

Very soon after the Christchurch mosque massacres, people started asking how Brenton Tarrant had been able to obtain a gun licence. More than a year later, it’s found he shouldn’t have:

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff.

The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom. 

More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. . .

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) highlighted shortcomings in the system in a submission to the Royal Commission into the killings last year:

COLFO chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.

“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.” . . 

“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.

“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.

“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.” . . 

Not having the resources to handle applications properly might be an excuse for delays, it’s not an excuse for failing to follow the correct procedure and for granting a licence to someone who so obviously didn’t meet the required criteria.

This appalling systems failure led to the death of 51 people and injuries to several more.

It also led to the contentious and expensive gun buy-back scheme that may have done no more than take firearms from innocent people and left more with criminals.

Yesterday we learned that another systems failure led to two people with Covid-19 being grant compassionate leave from managed isolation after arriving from the UK:

Two Kiwi women – one in her 30s and one in her 40s – arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation.

The pair was given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to support grieving family after a parent’s death in Wellington. Officials were adamant the pair travelled in a private car and did not use public facilities during their journey.

Bloomfield confirmed the pair was not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel in Auckland, but had complied with the terms of their special dispensation and underwent testing in Wellington. 

The women are now in self-isolation in the Hutt Valley.

“The relative died quite quickly, the exemption was granted and the plan was approved,” Bloomfield said.

“Again, I just want to support the efforts that these women have gone to abide by the agreed plan,” Bloomfield said. 

But the emergence of the two cases has sparked an immediate change in policy, with the Government temporarily suspending all compassionate exemptions at the border.

It would only be reinstated once the Government had confidence in the system. . .

Yesterday we also learned that two teenagers ran away from authorities after being allowed special dispensation from Covid-19 related quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

They have since been located and one is in managed isolation while the other is in an agreed community arrangement, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon.

He did not know how many days their whereabouts were unknown. . . 

Speaking to Heather Du-Plessis Allan on Newstalk ZB Tuesday evening, Health Minister David Clark did not seem to know about the runaway pair.

“I’m not aware of the details of that case…I have not had a briefing on that, I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark said he was disappointed to see that the measures he thought were put in place to prevent another outbreak didn’t appear to be.

“If it is as you described it, then it underscores my request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure that the system is working as intended.” . . 

Working as intended?

How hard is it to test people when they arrive and again before they are permitted to leave isolation or quarantine?

No wonder National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse is questioning whether the Ministry of Health is following its own protocols:

. . . Both cases recently arrived from the United Kingdom and left managed isolation on compassionate grounds after six days with no Covid-19 test. However compassionate leave to exit managed isolation can only be given after seven days and a negative test according to guidance from the Ministry dated 9 June.

“Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield claimed in the press conference that going forward they will now test on exit in case of compassionate grounds, but the Ministry of Health website said this was already the case and the ministry simply failed to fulfil its own procedures.

“It’s fair to expect there will still be the occasional case of Covid-19 pop up as we recover from the past few months, but we need to be positive that the Government has the appropriate protocols in place to identify and trace these cases so they don’t become a bigger cluster.

“New Zealanders have done the hard yards over recent months in flattening the curve of Covid-19, the Government can’t let this hard work go to waste due to sloppy lapses in procedure.” 

Covid-19 spread through New Zealand because our borders weren’t closed soon enough and people who came in were trusted to self-isolate themselves.

When the disease is still rife in so many other countries it is not surprising that people coming in to New Zealand have brought it with them.

But it is sheer incompetence that allowed people to have compassionate leave without being tested and let a couple of teens to run away after a funeral.

Tackling Covid-19 has come at a huge cost. Opening the border is necessary to help with the recovery and for compassionate reasons but it must be done in a way that doesn’t risk the spread of disease here.

The answer isn’t denying compassionate leave to other innocent people, it’s following the necessary protocols to test people, and get the result of the tests, before allowing that leave.

Police and health are two of the basic public services we should all be able to trust and that requires systems we can all have confidence in.

But the serious failures in these cases undermines confidence and raise another very big question: how many other people have been given gun licenses who shouldn’t have and how many others have come through the border and been let out of isolation or quarantine without testing for Covid-19?


No plan, wrong people

15/05/2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Where are all the Ministers?

08/04/2020

Several questions have arisen in the wake of Health Minister David Clark’s admission he breached lockdown rules twice, one of which is why was he in Dunedin rather than in Wellington during this unprecedented crisis?

That leads to another question, raised by Chris Trotter:  where are the other Ministers?

Beyond the sterling example provided by the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister, New Zealanders could be forgiven for wondering if there is anyone else in the Coalition Cabinet equal to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 Pandemic. One has only to consider the curiously disengaged behaviour of Health Minister, David Clark. Yes, there was that ill-advised bike ride, but of even more concern is the fact that, in the midst of a national health emergency, New Zealand’s Health Minister has isolated himself in his Dunedin family home – 600 kilometres south of the capital. Moreover, as citizens’ rights are being necessarily curtailed, why do we hear so little from the Justice Minister and the Attorney-General? With more and more “idiots” flouting the Covid-19 rules, where is the Police Minister?

Shouldn’t Police Minister Stuart Nash be in Wellington, working with officials and available to answer questions given the draconian powers police have under the state of emergency?

Shouldn’t Justice Minister Andrew Little be concentrating on the crisis rather than trying to rush through the contentious Bill on prisoner voting?

Civil Defence officials are regularly fronting the media, where is their Minister Peeni Henare?

MBIE has a huge job working out what’s an essential business and what’s not. Where is their Minister Phil Twyford and why isn’t he at the media briefings?

Phone and internet enable good communication but conversations and deliberations at a distance are second best when compared with being on the spot.

The response to Covid-19 has been likened to a war. Shouldn’t there be a war cabinet, albeit at the two metre distance required for anyone outside their bubbles, working to not only deal with the health crisis but formulating the plan that will be needed to counter the economic and social challenges that are already apparent?

It doesn’t need a whole of government approach – and given the three parties in this one that wouldn’t be advisable. But it does need more than a cabinet of two.

Could it be that the crisis has shown the shallowness of talent in the government and that as Chris Trotter says, we could be forgiven for wondering if there is anyone else in the Coalition Cabinet equal to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 Pandemic? 

Is the reason the reason there isn’t a new Health Minister because there isn’t anyone else up to the job?

This begs another question: if they’re not equal to dealing with these challenges, are they equal to dealing with the challenges the recovery will pose?


Rural round-up

22/11/2019

Jane Smith on what urban people really think about farmers:

Although the Government may be “factose intolerant” when it comes to farming, urban people are hungry for more information says Jane Smith.

The North Otago farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that she had “some really robust conversations with urbanites” in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown recently.

“I’ve in effect sort of run my own referendum of what they really think about farmers and gosh, it’s been really insightful”. . .

Farmers fear significant losses – Toni Miller:

As farmers anxiously await the outcome of the Government’s Essential Freshwater plan, Ashburton farmer David Clark has outlined the significant losses it could have on his arable farm operation.

It includes crop income losses of 92%, sheep gross income losses of 62% and an expenditure decrease of 70%, affecting businesses, contractors and services in the district used by the farm.

He questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ”such economic vandalism”.

Mr Clark, attending a public meeting in Ashburton, organised by National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller, said it was a comparative analysis based on a report done by Environment Canterbury’s head scientist Dr Tim Davie in 2017, using similar cutbacks for the Waihora Selwyn Zone. . .

Farmers fear loss of millions as slip repair wait continues – Aaron van Delden:

Waikura Valley farmers face missing out on millions in income during one of their most lucrative seasons of the year following a road slip three months ago.

Access to about 9000 hectares of some of the country’s most isolated productive land – about four hours’ drive north of Gisborne – was completely severed for several days when a slip came down on Waikura Road about 15km from the turnoff on State Highway 35.

The slip on 22 August left 36 valley residents from 13 households stranded in a part of the country that averages up to 3m of rain a year. . .

OAD milking brings environmental, financial benefits – Yvonne O’Hara:

Milking once a day year-round has both environmental and financial benefits, Dipton dairy farmer Jim Andrew says.

Mr Andrew and his wife Sandra bought and converted the Lumsden-Dipton highway property specifically for once-a-day milking full time, about 10 years ago.

He was born and bred on a Wairarapa sheep and beef farm before moving to Southland to become a rural manager for the Bank of New Zealand.

The Andrews then bought their own farm as part of a syndicate before buying the Dipton property. . .

Apple industry changes prompt some growers to get environmentally creative with plastic waste:

Significant growth and redevelopment in the apple industry has prompted some growers to get environmentally creative with the way they dispose of kilometres of plastic irrigation pipes.

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, pulled out 80 kilometres of irrigation pipes during winter and has teamed up with Aotearoa New Zealand Made to recycle it into black damp-proof film for the building Industry and black rubbish bags.

Bostock New Zealand Orchard waste coordinator Lisa Arnold said the initiative is a good way to give a new meaningful life to orchard waste. . .

Promising signs for drive for milling wheat self-sufficiency:

A big drop in the amount of unsold cereal grain since July, and continuing strong demand for milling wheat, are key features of the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey.

It is estimated unsold stocks of cereal grain, summed over all six crops, reduced by 44% between 1 July and 10 October.  “That’s a good sign, even if deliveries hadn’t happened by the time of the October survey, that people have been meeting the market and getting product sold,” Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

Total production from the 2019 harvest (wheat, barley and oats) was 799,900 tonnes, about 25,000t up on the 2018 harvest. . .


Countering the methane myth

19/08/2019

David Clark, Federated Farmers’ Mid Canterbury chair is fed up with the methane myth:

As a farmer I am fed up with being vilified and our industry accused of being the primary contributor to climate change in New Zealand.

He’s not alone. I haven’t encountered such strength of feeling among farmers since the ag-sag of the 1980s.

The myth is that agricultural gases, primarily methane, make up 48.1 per cent of this country’s emissions profile. That is nothing more than a politically and socially convenient half-truth/untruth.

So here are established, scientific facts pertinent to the Zero Carbon Bill and the Emissions Trading Scheme:

• A pre-existing and stable level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is required to maintain our temperature levels and is essential to life on earth.

• The Paris Accord calls for countries to take steps to limit global warming to 2 degC and preferably 1.5 degC above pre-Industrial temperatures.

The Paris Accord also stipulates that climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.

• NZ has set a target of Zero Carbon by 2050 – no mandated reduction in gross carbon emission, just an aspiration to offset by forestry plantings so that carbon emitted will be in balance with carbon sequestered.

• Total methane emissions in NZ have increased 6.2 per cent from 1990 to 2017 (they have been declining since 2006). Agricultural production has doubled in this time.

• The ZCB has an aspiration of reducing methane by up to 47 per cent by 2050.

• Methane is a short-lived gas that originated from CO2 absorbed by the growing grass and when belched by livestock rapidly breaks down into CO2 again to complete the cycle. No additional carbon enters the atmosphere.

Fossil fuel carbon has not been circulating in the atmosphere for thousands or millions of years, but once burnt will circulate in the atmosphere for centuries to come, with constant additional warming effect.

• The key objective is to limit any further warming.

Clark says representing methane on the same graph as fossil carbon and stating that agricultural gases are 48.1 per cent of our emissions is simply wrong and does not recognise the cyclical nature of methane.

He then shows why:

Methane is a short lived gas, known as a “flow gas” which rapidly breaks down compared to carbon, which is known as a “stocks gas”.

So let’s represent methane as water and carbon as small stones. I have a bucket that is the atmosphere and the level inside the bucket is the global warming effect.

I have a centimetre of water in the bucket, which has a small hole in the bottom of it.

I start tipping cupfuls of water into the bucket. So long as I do not tip in water faster than it drains from the hole, the level does not increase.

It would be wrong to count the number of cupfuls put into the bucket, only correct to pay attention to the change in level. The number of cupfuls has absolutely no relationship to the level in the bucket.

If I take the same bucket and start dropping small stones into it, none of which fit out the hole, every stone is additional and the bucket gradually fills up. The total number of stones added has a direct correlation to the number of stones in the bucket.

Methane and carbon are water and stones. So long as stock numbers remain static, or more correctly the feed fed to livestock remains static, the emission of methane today replaces the methane that degraded today. The cycle stays in balance.

Every gram of carbon emitted from a power station, factory, car, aeroplane or any other part of our life adds to all of the carbon previously emitted from all sources.

The only way of reducing that carbon is to effectively bury it by absorption into soil by plants.

Our Government need to stop telling the methane myth and stop counting the water and the stones as if they were equal. They are not.

Net methane makes up only a very small portion of NZ’s total emissions. Our farmers are being asked to reduce methane emissions way beyond the equivalent of “Zero Carbon” and are being vilified in the process.

The current fixation on methane is a dangerous, politically convenient distraction taking the focus of the enormous task of eliminating our reliance on carbon for our modern existence.

Not only is it dangerous and a political distraction, the government’s determination to impose unrealistic methane reduction targets on farmers would at the very best have no impact on the global methane emissions, and almost certainly worsen them because New Zealand accounts for such a small percentage of the world’s farm stock.

New Zealand has about 6.5m dairy cows and 3.6m beef cattle.

That’s a lot of cattle when you compare it with the human population of fewer than 5 million people.

But how does that compare with other countries?

India has 305,000,000 cattle – 30.44% of the world total.

Brazil has 232,350 – 23.19%.

China has 96,850 – 9.6%

The USA has 94,399,00 – 9.42%

The EU has 88,445,000 – 8.83%

Argentina has 53,765,000 – 5.37%

Australia has 25,500,000 – 2.55%

Russia has 18,380,000 – 1.83%

Mexico has 16,584,000 – 1.66%

Turkey has 14,500,000 – 1.45%

Uruguay has 11,754,000 – 1.17%

Canada has 11,625,000 – 1.16%

New Zealand has 10,082,000 – 1.01%

We have a lot of sheep and cattle per head of population but that’s only because we have so few heads.

This puts into perspective the calls from radical and not so radical environmentalists for New Zealand to cull its dairy herd.

Half of 1.01% is not very much in global terms.

When it is better environmentally for the people in Ireland, the country with the second-most efficient dairy production to drink milk from New Zealand, the most efficient producers, the aim ought to be to produce more milk here, not to cut production.

The case for cuts doesn’t add up in economic, social or environmental terms, nor is it based on science.


Decriminalisation by stealth?

12/12/2018

The National Party has labelled the medicinal cannabis bill which passed into law yesterday as decriminalisation by stealth.

Health Minister David Clark said until a regime was set up, the legislation would help people ease their suffering with a wider range of medicinal cannabis products becoming available over time.

“We know that some people cannot wait for medicinal products to become more readily available and will want to use illicit cannabis to ease their pain,” he said.

“People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain. So as a compassionate measure we are also creating a statutory defence for people eligible to receive palliation so that they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.”

The bill will introduce a statutory defence – or amnesty – as a stop-gap measure to allow people at the end of their lives to use illicit cannabis while the scheme is still being established. . . 

Serious question: if cannabis is a medicine, why isn’t it treated like all other medicines and prescribed by doctors who consider it the best option for their patients?

However, National leader Simon Bridges came out swinging in Parliament, calling the bill “decriminalisation of cannabis by stealth”.

“What will the police do when they’re outside a school and someone, under this bill, is smoking cannabis? What will they do?

“I don’t reckon they’ll do much at all,” he said.

“Shame on the House for passing this terrible, unsafe, dangerous bill.”

National’s spokesperson for health Shane Reti also labelled the bill as “lazy and dangerous”.

“This government is simply ticking the 100-day box that they were forced to by the Greens and it is permitting the smoking of drugs in our communities.”

Mr Reti said National supported medicinal cannabis regulation but opposed the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public.

“That’s why we did the work and created a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that widened access to medicinal cannabis and provided a framework for licensing high-quality domestic production under sensible and achievable regulations.

“We offered to share our regime with the government but egos got in the way and we were turned down.”

He said experts in the field should be the ones to decide what medical conditions were suitable for medical cannabis.

Exactly – if it’s medicine it should be treated like other medicines.

It’s not all bad though, the law change could provide an alternative income for farmers:

New Zealand cannabis company Zeacann, which is undergoing a $20m capital raising round to grow cannabis and manufacture medicines for domestic and export markets, welcomed the bill.

Co-founder Chris Fowlie said it was big step forward to helping New Zealanders who were suffering.

“The government is finally removing the stigma that cannabis has suffered from for decades,” Mr Fowlie said.

He said it was good to see that a timeframe had been set for a legal framework on making the products available.

Zeacann estimates it will be able to begin growing cannabis in the first half of next year, once it has received a government licence. . . 

I wonder what security will be required to stop thefts?

I visited farms which grow opium poppies in Tasmania where security was tight.

 


Rural round-up

22/11/2018

Will to live response pleasing -Sally Rae:

“Overwhelming” is how Elle Perriam describes the public response to the rural mental health awareness campaign Will to Live.

Targeting young rural men and women, it was launched following the death of Miss Perriam’s boyfriend, Will Gregory, in December last year.

Her target for a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign to cover the expenses of a regional Speak Up tour in country pubs next year was $15,000.

But with a bit more than $18,000 raised through that, and more sponsors coming on board, she reckoned the amount  raised was now around $20,000. That meant  the number of events  throughout the country could be extended from 10 to 14. Financial contributions had also been matched by “kind affirmations” about the initiative. . . 

Virtual rural health school plan unaffected by Govt move – Mike Houlahan:

A week-old proposal by the University of Otago and other providers to create a virtual school for rural health remains very much alive despite the Government killing off an alternative school of rural medicine this week.

The lead article in last week’s edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal featured a proposal, driven by the University of Otago, University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), for a virtual rural health campus.

On Wednesday, Health Minister David Clark announced the Government would not support a Waikato University initiative — which dated from the term of the previous National-led government — to establish a $300 million school of rural medicine. . . 

Shortage of vets cause of concern for rural and urban areas – Matthew Tso:

A national shortage of vets has New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar rural sector on high alert. 

Rural veterinary practices are finding it tough to fill vacant roles – and MPI says this could have an impact on biosecurity surveillance issues.

Miles Anderson, Federated Farmers meat and wool industry group chair, says the dairy, meat, and wool industries are dependent on healthy herds. . . 

Dunne in style:

It was once jokingly said that the next most-important job after the All Blacks coach is the head of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Joking aside, there is some truth in this because MPI plays a largely unsung, yet critical, role in the lives of every New Zealander.

With the prospect of a world war unlikely, the next most-serious threat to NZ is in biosecurity, food safety, trade and people’s perception of how the precious land we live on is farmed. . . 

Cavalier eyes anti-plastic trend :

Cavalier Corp says it is well-placed to take advantage of a growing consumer shift away from plastics.

That trend fits well with the carpet maker’s renewed focus on its high-quality wool products, particularly higher-margin, niche opportunities and the potential of major markets like the United States and United Kingdom, chief executive Paul Alston said.

“Investment in research and development and creating ranges that command a premium is a priority and critical for our success,” he said in notes for the company’s annual meeting. . . 

 

Quality over quantity: climate change affects volume, but not quality of aquaculture – Matt Brown:

Dairy farming would appear to have very little in common with farming mussels.

But now, a Netherlands-born Southland dairy farmer is taking the mussel capital by storm with his enthusiasm for the green-shelled bivalve molluscs.

Much like dairy farming, the Havelock-based business focused on their commodity product “with value add”.

Mills Bay Mussels owner Art Blom said their point of difference was the ‘raw-shuck’.. . 

Feds President spearheads delegation to Uruguay and Argentina:

Farmers, dairy product manufacturers and trade representatives in Uruguay and Argentina are hearing a New Zealand take on current agricultural issues this week.

Federated Farmers of NZ President Katie Milne is engaged in a busy schedule of speaking and meeting engagements in Montevideo and Buenos Aires in a programme put together by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and New Zealand’s Ambassador to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, Raylene Liufalani. . . 

Two new faces for Farmlands’ board:

Farmlands’ shareholders have voted two new Shareholder Directors on to the Farmlands Board.

Dawn Sangster and Gray Baldwin join re-elected Director Rob Hewett on the rural supplies and services co-operative’s Board of Directors.

Farmlands Chairman, Lachie Johnstone congratulated the new arrivals to the Board of Directors, as well as thanking the other candidates who put themselves forward for election. . .


Almost spent the lot

25/06/2018

Nurses and health boards are continuing to negotiate improved pay and conditions in an effort to avoid strikes.

Last-ditch talks between the nurses’ union and district health boards (DHBs) will continue on Monday in a bid to avoid planned strike action.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and DHBs’ negotiating teams attended mediation on Friday after nurses “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest offer on Monday.

The NZNO issued strike notice to the DHBs on Wednesday for July 5, with notice of a second 24-hour strike planned for July 12 likely to be issued next week. . . 

A survey sent to NZNO members on Monday to gauge their priorities for any revised deal had received close to 13,000 responses a day before it closed at 1pm on Thursday.

A message sent to union member’s said their feedback had helped negotiators be “very clear on what your priority issues are and what will be required on order to avert strike action and resolve this dispute”.

The three main priorities were remuneration, safe staffing and pay equity.

However, whether the first nationwide nurses’ strike since 1989 can be averted remains to be seen.

Nurses on Monday “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest collective offer, a $520 million package described by Health Minister David Clark as the best in a decade. . .

A $520 million package sounds generous but there would be $275 million more this year had they not wasted it on free fees for tertiary students, nearly $40 million of which will be spent on students who fail to complete their first year.

It would be difficult to find anyone who thinks spending millions on students who don’t need help is a greater priority than  improving pay and conditions for nurses.

Teachers are lining up for more pay and better conditions too and it would be equally difficult to find anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be a higher priority than fee-free tertiary study.

The free-fee policy is just one of several expensive policies. Another is the winter power payment for beneficiaries, some of which will go to wealthy retirees. These are extravagances that Labour and its coalition partners have put ahead of funding necessities.

Then-National Finance Minister Steven Joyce was laughed at when he said there was a big hole in Labour’s pre-election spending calculations and that they hadn’t factored in pay increases for public servants.

The trouble the government now has finding enough to satisfy nurses shows he was right.

Remember how Michael Cullen boasted they’d spent the lot after his last Budget in 2008?

The current government has almost spent the lot already if it wants to keep to the budgetary constraints it’s imposed upon itself to counter accusations it’s a poor manager of money.

Cullen left power with the new government facing a decade of deficits.

By contrast the current government came to power with forecasts of continuing strong surpluses.

They could have spent wisely, factoring in the need for fair increases to give nurses and teachers much better pay and conditions.

Instead they’ve wasted money on fripperies like the fee-free tertiary study and power payments for wealthy people and left far too little for basics like improved pay and conditions for nurses and teachers.


So bad so soon

19/06/2018

How did it get so bad so soon?
It’s a mess of ministers
acting like goons.
My goodness how the
mess has grewn.
How did it get so bad so soon?

With apologies to Dr Seuss, how did it get so bad so soon?

Audrey Young writes that Jacinda Ardern will forgive Winston Peters for anything, even the unforgivable.

A National MP joked this week that the Opposition didn’t want things to get so bad under Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave that the country was desperate for her return – they just wanted a medium level of dysfunction.

That threshold was almost reached this week even before the big event, and things got worse as the week wore on.

Ardern’s faith in Winston Peters being able to manage the inevitable bush fires that will flare when she is away must be seriously undermined given that he and his party have caused many of them.

A series of accidental and deliberate mishaps has raised questions about a series of important issues including basic coalition management, ministerial conventions, the application of the “No Surprises” policy, and when a minister is not a minister. .  .

Stacey Kirk calls it a three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre .

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess? 

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave. . .

Patrick Gower wants the old Kelvin Davis back.

Patrick Gower on The AM Show. Credits: Video – The AM Show; Image – Newshub.

Kelvin Davis is a “wounded man walking” who better watch out, says Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower.

The Corrections Minister on Wednesday announced plans for a new prison, but appeared to be unaware how many of its inmates would be double-bunked.

Corrections boss Ray Smith interjected after Mr Davis froze, confirming Newshub’s suggestion it would be around half.

“I get nervous before interviews,” was Mr Davis’ explanation, when asked about it on The AM Show. . . 

Duncan Garner describes government MPs as misfit kids.

. . .It’s taken them three minutes to look as shabby, arrogant and as broken-down as a third-term government suffering rampant hubris and pleading to be put out of its misery.  . .

Sue Bradford thinks the Greens are in mortal danger.

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green Parliamentary operations 

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that their own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs. . . 

Hamish Rutherford writes with Winston Peters in charge everything could be up for grabs.

. . . These are extraordinary times. Suddenly, with a Government already battling to keep business confidence up, with a story that the economy keeps on rocking, it seems as if everything is up for grabs.

We are now being handed lessons that have been coming since Peters walked into the Beehive theatrette on October 20 and announced he was forming a Government with the Left.

A Government so broad that the issues on which there is division become so amplified that they could almost appear to outnumber ones where there is consensus.

Where previous coalitions since the creation of MMP managed to keep together because the centre of power was so obvious, the timing of Peters’ action will be further unsettling. . . 

Health Minister David Clark has been accused of trying to gag a health board chair.

A leaked voicemail message appears to show Health Minister David Clark attempting to gag top health officials over the woeful state of Middlemore Hospital buildings. 

Clark has rejected the accusation, which has stemmed from audio of him telling former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Rabin Rabindran it was “not helping” that the DHB kept commenting publicly.  

Emails suggest he also attempted to shut down the DHB from answering any questions along the lines of who knew what, and when, about the dilapidated state of Middlemore buildings. . . 

Peter Dunne asks is the coalition starting to unravel?

Almost 20 years ago, New Zealand’s first MMP Coalition Government collapsed. It was not a dramatic implosion on a major point of principle, but was provoked by a comparatively minor issue – a proposal to sell the Government’s shares in Wellington Airport – and came after a series of disagreements between the Coalition partners on various aspects of policy.

There has been speculation this week in the wake of New Zealand First’s hanging out to dry of the Justice Minister over the proposed repeal of the “three strikes” law that the same process might be starting all over again. While it is far too soon to draw conclusive parallels, the 1998 experience does set out some road marks to watch out for. . . 

Michael Reddell writes on how the government is consulting on slashing productivity growth.

 . .  I have never before heard of a government consulting on a proposal to cut the size of the (per capita) economy by anything from 10 to 22 per cent.  And, even on their numbers, those estimates could be an understatement. . . .

Quite breathtaking really.   We will give up –  well, actually, take from New Zealanders –  up to a quarter of what would have been their 2050 incomes, and in doing so we will know those losses will be concentrated disproportionately on people at the bottom.   Sure, they talk about compensation measures . . 

But the operative word there is could.  The track record of governments –  of any stripe –  compensating losers from any structural reforms is pretty weak, and it becomes even less likely when the policy being proposed involves the whole economy being a lot smaller than otherwise, so that there is less for everyone to go around.  The political economy of potential large scale redistribution just does not look particularly attractive or plausible (and higher taxes to do such redistribution would have their own productivity and competitiveness costs). . . 

And the Dominion Post lists mis-steps and mistakes and concludes:

. . .Some of this has been simply amateurish.

Such things are often a sign of a government that has outlived its mandate and begun to implode around the core of its own perceived importance. In its tiredness it can trip over the most obvious hurdles.

This Government is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.

Has there ever been a government that has attracted this sort of criticism just a few months after gaining power?

How did this government get so bad so soon?


Wrong priorities

01/05/2018

Labour can’t afford its campaign promise of cheaper GP fees :

. . . Health Minister David Clark said the Government would meet all its promises over the course of the term, but its GP policy would have to be phased in. 

“We are not going to release details of Budget announcements today, but I think the public understands that we do need to prioritise policies. . . 

The government doesn’t need to subsidise GP fees for the wealthy but ensuring primary health care is affordable for lower income people ought to be one of its top priorities.

It not only helps with quality of life it can prevent the development of more serious, and more costly, health conditions.

Having to back-track on this election promise shows it’s got it’s priorities wrong.

What’s more important – fee-free tertiary education for all, $1 billion for projects in the regions which may or may not be worthwhile or more affordable health care for those in most need?


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