Theft as servants

19/04/2022

A letter from the bank told me the supposed good news.

The interest on my savings account is going up from not very much to a little bit more.

I don’t expect a letter form my bank to talk about tax and inflation and it didn’t mention that the government will take tax off the interest nor did it say that inflation will take even more not just from the interest but the real value of the money invested.

When that money is for extras, that’s unfortunate. When it’s for rainy days, it undermines security and feeds uncertainty, and when, as it will be for a lot of people, it is for necessities it will lead to hardship.

Inflation is even worse for people with no savings as it feeds the cost of living crisis:

New figures on food prices from Statistics New Zealand confirm the cost of living crisis is only getting worse on Labour’s watch, says National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis.

Data released today shows the highest annual food price increase in a decade at 7.6 per cent, with fruit and vegetable prices increasing a staggering 18 per cent in the past year.

“These numbers confirm what Kiwis already know: New Zealand is experiencing a worsening cost of living crisis, with prices running laps around wage growth.

“Meanwhile the Minister of Finance continues to pat himself on the back, telling Kiwis they are better off, while in reality many Kiwis are slipping further behind each month as they struggle to keep up with skyrocketing costs.

“Labour needs to stop playing the blame game on inflation and do their bit to rein in costs.

“The War in Ukraine isn’t to blame for fruit and vegetables going up by 18 per cent in the last 12 months.

“The Government should rein in its big spending plans, hit pause on plans to add more costs to business and prioritise tax relief for the squeezed middle.

“Right now the biggest beneficiary of runaway inflation is the Finance Minister – who will rake in billions more in tax receipts as a result.  He should put New Zealanders first and give them some relief. 

“Kiwi families deserve relief. Under National’s tax plan, a family with two earners each on the average wage would receive $1600 a year in tax relief. In contrast, Labour is doing nothing for the squeezed middle and their failed policies are pushing everyone further behind.”

Last week Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark blamed supermarkets for inflation but as Eric Crampton pointed out, that’s economic nonsense:

. . . Greed is a poor explanation for inflation, not because companies are altruists, but because greed is always with us. It isn’t cyclical.

Should we credit corporate public-spiritedness for the five years from December 2011 through December 2016 when inflation ran well below the midpoint of the RBNZ inflation band?

Of course not. Monetary policy drives inflation, not changes in greed. . .

And whose responsible for monetary policy? The Reserve Bank. And whose responsible for the Bank’s target and ensuirng it meets it? The government.

. . . In short, the minister was wrong from beginning to end. Absolute economic ignorance would be the most charitable explanation, but even then he might have considered asking Treasury’s advice.

More plausibly, Clark was scapegoating the supermarkets to justify populist measures against them, or to deflect attention from his government’s failure to keep the Reserve Bank on target, or both.

Voters should be wary of policies justified by scapegoating.

The government’s excessive borrowing, reckless spending and the RB’s missing its target are to blame for inflation that is well above the bank’s targetted range.

Theft as a servant is a serious criminal offence. It doesn’t apply to public servants in this context but inflation is theft and they – the government and RB are responsible for it.


Rural roundup

04/04/2022

Food crisis coming farming leader warns – Tim Cronshaw:

The price of diesel has gone up so much that it cost Valetta grain farmer David Clark $4000 to fill up his combine harvester.

By the time he had finished harvesting a milling wheat crop that night it was empty and needed filling again.

A full tank only cost him $1700 last year.

Mr Clark said there was no alternative, but to pass on the extra cost to shoppers who would have to pay more for their bread. . . 

Surfing for Farmers hits the right spot – Nick Brook:

A nationwide initiative supporting farmers’ mental and physical health was a roaring success in its first season at Kaka Point in South Otago.

Surfing For Farmers (SFF) was launched in Gisborne in 2018 by Stephen Thomson after seeing how pressure on the rural sector was hurting farmers at an alarming rate.

The programme now operates at 18 beaches throughout New Zealand.

‘‘As much as we love this industry, the stress of the job can get on top of you. . . 

Govt drought support doesn’t go far enough – Simmonds

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says the Government’s declaration of a drought in Southland is big on talk, but small on funding support.

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the current drought condition in the Southland, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event.

The adverse event classification unlocks up to $100,000 in Government funding to support farmers and growers until October 2022, O’Connor says.

“The drought coupled with pandemic disruption to meat processing has contributed to added strain on people. . . 

Looking for the perfect peanut – Country Life:

Can New Zealand grow peanuts suitable for peanut butter?

To find out, eight peanut varieties are currently being trialled in Northland and one looks particularly promising…

A text of GPS coordinates leads Country Life to a paddock of peanuts in the Far North. It can’t be spotted from the road.

“It’s by design,” laughs Greg Hall from the Whangārei development agency Northland Inc. “It stops people ripping off our peanuts.” . . 

The roots go deep at Wanaka vineyard – Cosmo Kentish-Barnes:

Rippon winemaker Nick Mills looks across his family vineyard on the western flank of the Upper Clutha Basin, overlooking Lake Wānaka.

He says the land has its own spirit that he feels strongly.

Asked by Country Life to elaborate, he puts it like this:

“This land is about belonging, connections, love, family, team, voice, being blessed to be a place that grows grapes… that can talk with warmth and accuracy to this beautiful place.” . . 

Taking Stock: No shearers? – the wool industry hits a dilemma – Stephen Burns:

There have been many issues which have threatened the existence of the wool industry during the past 200 years when Merino sheep have been bred in Australia.

Some have been divisive to the point of pitting neighbour against neighbour, family against family – think of the troubles to introduce a Reserve Price Scheme in the early 1960’s or think again about the rancorous attempts to introduce wide combs.

Each were a cause of much heartache and dispute at the time but wide combs are now so readily accepted, it is a wonder so much time was sweated in denying their use.

That the Reserve Price Scheme eventually came undone only caused great financial pain to the many woolgrowers who continued to breed Merino sheep for their fleeces only to see them added to the wool stockpile until that accumulation was eventually sold. . . 


Rural round-up

19/03/2022

‘Russian soldiers took over my farm’: the battle for food supplies in Ukraine – Tom Levitt, Chris McCullough:

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has upended the farming industry, raising fears of disruption to domestic and international food supplies. The Guardian has spoken to three farmers about what life is like on the ground, with the Russian army hiding tanks in barns and stocks of potatoes expected to deplete within weeks.

Andrii Pastushenko, 39, is a dairy farmer who lives 12 miles from Kherson in the south of Ukraine, a city that has been under control of the Russian military.

On Monday, 10 Russian soldiers came to set up a base on the farm, leaving their tanks in barns, and more soldiers arrived later. But after overnight shelling by Ukraine’s military at Kherson airport, the Russian troops left on Wednesday morning.

“They quickly packed up this morning, taking two cars and food from the farm and saying they were ‘nationalising’ them,” he said, adding that they did not pay for either but said: “See you soon.” . . 

Smart tags help farmers to track cows’ health remotely :

A pair of Massey University students have developed game-changing technology that helps dairy farmers monitor their cow health remotely.

Engineering and PhD students Tyrel Glass and Baden Parr’s have set up an agri-tech start-up company called Protag, which has now raised $1m from investors.

This funding will be used to fast-track the development of their company’s smart ear tag sensors, which transmit crucial health and location data to dairy farmers within seconds. Protag’s small, internet-enabled device clips onto a cow’s ear. This allows farmers to continuously monitor the animal’s health, grazing and breeding habits.

Machine learning is used to process data from the device’s temperature, movement and location sensors. This helps farmers map animal behavioural patterns and detect the early onset of illnesses in real time. . . 

Tough times forge fighting spirit for Northland Dairy Industry Award winners :

The 2022 Northland Share Farmers of the Year identify their cows as their biggest asset and say looking after them in the best possible way is their greatest motivation.

Antje and Soenke Paarmann were named winners of the 2022 Northland Share Farmer of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands in Waitangi on Wednesday night.  The other major winners were the 2022 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year Phillip Payton, and the 2022 Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year Macee Latimer.  

The third-time entrants believe the benefits from the Awards programme include making smart goals, forward-planning and using the judges’ feedback to improve weaknesses.  

“It is beneficial to sit down and work on your business instead of in your business.” . . 

David MacLeod appointed chair of Predator Free :

Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050) has welcomed the Minister of Conservation’s appointment of David MacLeod as its Board chair until 30 November 2025.

Mr MacLeod was appointed to the PF2050 Board in November 2016 and has been acting chair since the departure of inaugural chair Jane Taylor from the role in March 2021.

In addition to his role with PF2050, Mr MacLeod is chair of Taranaki Regional Council. He has iwi connections to Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāti Porou.

“We have made some major strides since PF2050 was created from scratch five years ago and I’m honoured and excited to help lead the next phase of our mission,” Mr MacLeod said. . . 

Fruitful partnership nets bumper crop of Axis Awards for Rockit and Special:

Sometimes it pays for the apple to fall a really long way from the tree.

Doing things differently and continuing to disrupt the commodity apple category has seen the team at snack sized apple company Rockit nab nine gongs at the Commercial Communication Council’s 2022 Axis Awards, including one gold.

The awards, which celebrate the enormous breadth of talent within the New Zealand advertising industry, were held virtually yesterday afternoon, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Rockit™ Apple took gold in the coveted Design 360 category – which recognises a brand’s success across all its touchpoints – along with five silvers and three bronze awards in both the Craft and the Magazine and Newspaper categories. The accolades come 12 months after the innovative apple company partnered with agency Special to tell the story of its delicious, nutritious miniature apples. . . .

Diversified grazing and cropping bock with value high horticulture placed on the market for sale :

A block of productive rural land transitioning from traditional livestock grazing and feed production activities into more lucrative avocado orcharding has been placed on the market for sale.

The property at Maungatapere just west of Whangarei comprises some 47-hectares of long-standing grazing and cropping paddocks, alongside a burgeoning eight-hectare avocado orchard planted last year. The property predominately consists of volcanic soils with some clay loam, and flat to gentle sloping contour.

Farm records show the property has sustained between 100-130 cattle over winter, and between 50-70 cattle during summer. Concurrently, the farm has produced approximately 300 bales of baleage annually, along with 20-hectares of maize which has been grown on lease for approximately $1,000 per hectare. Annual ryegrass is sown in Autumn following the maize harvest for winter and spring grazing. . .

 


Rural round-up

25/02/2022

Forestry rule changes for overseas investors planning to convert farmland – Maja Burry:

The government is winding back rules which have made it easier for foreign investors to purchase farmland in New Zealand for forestry conversions.

The special forestry test is used when an investor is looking to invest in production forestry for harvesting.

It was introduced in late 2018 in a bid to support the government’s forestry priorities, including more tree planting.

Farming groups have repeatedly called on the government to urgently review foreign investment in forestry, warning too much productive farmland was being lost . .

Passion fruit growers lose up to 80% of crop to Fasarium disease – Sally Murphy:

Some of the country’s passion fruit growers have lost up to 80 percent of their crop due to a plant disease.

Fasarium – also known as passion fruit wilt – is a fungus that infects the plant through the roots, travels up the plant stem and cause the leaves to yellow, killing the plant.

NZ Passion fruit Growers Association president Rebekah Vlaanderen said the disease had been more prevalent in the last two years due to warmer weather.

“It was first discovered here in 2015 but we think it’s probably always been here, it’s pretty common overseas,” Vlaanderen said. . . 

TEG wins Gold Award for  project to keep meat processing industry safe :

Workers at some of Aotearoa’s largest meat processing plants are feeling safer at work thanks to a large-scale project by TEG Risk and Sustainability Services that has won Gold at the ACE Awards Tuesday 22 February.

TEG was employed by ANZCO Foods, Bremworth, Sanford, and Alliance Group to identify risks at their seven plants across the country to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

One of the biggest meat processors in the country with 2,800 machines and 5,000 employees, Alliance Group needed a pragmatic and risk-effective approach. TEG worked on a massive scale to identify nearly 7,000 risks. . . 

Record first half earnings at Comvita:

§ Record H1 operating profit $7.2m, +39.4% versus PCP (+2.0m)

§ Record H1 EBITDA $12.1m, +14.1% versus PCP (+$1.5m)

Double digit top and bottom-line growth in focus growth markets, China and North America

Double digit top and bottom-line growth in Mānuka honey product category . . 

Wireless providers ready to speed up rural broadband:

New Zealand’s wireless internet service providers are gearing up to take part in a major upgrade to benefit New Zealand’s rural Internet users.

$47 million dollars is going to be spent to upgrade New Zealand’s rural broadband capacity with the goal of increasing the internet speed of 47,000 rural households and businesses by the end of 2024.

The Minister for the Digital Economy, David Clark, made the announcement yesterday, saying the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see cell towers upgraded and new towers built in rural areas experiencing poor performance, as well as fibre, additional VDSL coverage and other wireless technology deployed in congested areas.

Mike Smith, the head of WISPA NZ, the group representing more than 30 wireless internet service providers around New Zealand, says this is a great step up for many rural households. . . 

The hidden life of a farmer: playful cows, imperious sheep – and a grinding struggle for survival – Sirin Kale:

The UK has some of the cheapest food in the world, but thanks to spiralling costs and the effects of Brexit, farmers like Rachel Hallos are on the edge. She explains why she could soon lose the way of life she loves – and her family depends on.

The stereotype is that farmers are up with the crowing cockerel, but that’s only really dairy farmers. Most days it is not until 7.45am that you’ll find Rachel Hallos swinging open the door of Beeston Hall Farm in Ripponden, Yorkshire. Beeston Hall is a hill farm overlooking Baitings reservoir, which lies in the valley of the River Ryburn. The 800-hectare (2,000-acre) farm consists of steep fields demarcated by dry stone walls that crumble in a squall. The hill is crested by heather-covered moorland that turns purple in summer and copper in autumn. Hallos lives in a traditional Pennines farmhouse made out of handsome slabs of grey Yorkshire gritstone. A Brontë house, for Brontë country. Inside, wan light streams through single-pane windows on to a well-trodden oak staircase that creaks.

Hallos steps outside, dressed in a padded waterproof coat and wellies. She is met by a cacophony of noise. Her terrier Jack yaps with shrill urgency. Jim, a border collie, barks incessantly. Hallos feeds the dogs and then the two scrawny black-and-white cats, which sleep in the outbuildings and yowl for treats at the kitchen window. She fills a sack with hay that is sweet-smelling and almost yeasty, from the fermentation process that takes place when it is stored in plastic for the winter months. She hoists the sack on to her shoulder like Father Christmas and takes it to feed Aiden and Danny, her dun geldings.

It is late October 2021. Autumn is Hallos’s favourite season. The trees around the reservoir are gold-flecked, ochre and vermilion. Her herd of 200 cows and calves and flock of 400 sheep are out in the fields. The cows will return when the frost sets in; the sheep stay out all winter. Hallos usually feels a sense of quiet satisfaction this time of year. The autumn calves are grazing beside their mothers in the fields. The sheds have been power-hosed and disinfected, ready for winter. There’s a bit of breathing room, after the rigours of summer: the never-ending hay baling and attending to the newborn calves and lambs. In autumn, Hallos can start to plan for the spring calves and lambs. Which tup will go with which sheep, and which bull with which cow? . . 


Rural round-up

22/12/2021

My thoughts on carbon farming – Pete Fitz-Herbert:

Manawatū farmer Pete Fitz-Herbert is worried about carbon farming and he’s got something to say about it.

As you sit by your prematurely harvested and quickly wilting tree this Christmas, ponder this – have you heard about this carbon farming thing?

I think it’s getting out of hand.

Most people don’t appear to understand it, so they think it doesn’t affect them, but it will very soon. . .

Looking on the bright side for 2022 – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Remembering the good things of life is a great resolution for 2022, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes.

In October this year, New Zealand was ranked eighth of 167 countries in the Legatum Prosperity Index.

Denmark topped the list, followed by Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg and then New Zealand. The UK is thirteenth and Australia sixteenth. The USA is twentieth.

We sometimes forget how good New Zealand is. . .

Feds ask for flood protection for all :

Canterbury Federated Farmers’ presidents are alarmed to hear urban based regional councillors wildly claiming entire towns should be shifted to avoid flood protection costs.

Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president David Clark warns councillors to remember to focus on flood recovery and river management for all ratepayers, not just a few.

“Proactive management of our flood protection works is essential for the wellbeing of our communities,” David says.

During 2021 most of Canterbury has been challenged by flooding, with Christchurch and Banks Peninsula the most recent areas receiving more heavy rain.   . . 

Feds survey shows slight uptick in farmer bank relationship :

Farmers are feeling slightly more satisfied with relationships with their banks but interest rates are starting to rise and some are reporting a tougher attitude from lenders.

Results from the November Federated Farmers Banking Survey show 67 percent of the more than 900 respondents are satisfied with their bank relationship, up 5.5 points on the May survey and a break in what had been a steady erosion in satisfaction since 2017 (when it was over 80%).

“It’s also pleasing to see that the 13.5 percent of respondents feeling ‘undue pressure’ from banks is down 4.4 points compared to six months ago,” Federated Farmers President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“However, there are hints of more bumpy times ahead, with a quarter of farmers saying their lending conditions had changed since the May survey, and of those with changed conditions most said they were tougher rather than easier.” . . 

Fruit exports dominated by gold kiwifruit :

Gold kiwifruit continues to dominate fruit exports in an otherwise challenging market, Stats NZ said today.

In the year ended November 2021, gold kiwifruit made up 47 percent ($1.9 billion) of total fruit export value, while green kiwifruit made up 23 percent ($923 million).

Both increases were quantity driven, with prices falling compared with a year ago. Gold kiwifruit have a traditionally higher unit price than green. Since the kiwifruit season in 2016, which is typically from March to November, gold has overtaken green in terms of value. In the 2020 season, gold kiwifruit also overtook green in terms of volume. . .

Rain dances don’t provide water security – Tom Marland:

Paradise Dam on the mighty Burnett River has now released more water than it can store at its reduced capacity of 170,000 megalitres.

Bundaberg farmers who started the water year on just 22 per cent of their allocations have been provided with a stay of execution, with widespread rainfall across the Bundaberg region and the Burnett River catchment.

Many farmers were facing significant crop losses across the region prior to the much-needed rain.

Despite assurances from the Queensland Labor Government that a decision about the future of Paradise Dam would be made before Christmas, it looks like Santa Clause will have come and gone before we see any leadership on water security in this state. . .


Paying cost for incompetence

25/11/2021

Kate MacNamara asks: Did scandal-mired former Health Minister David Clark ignore Pfizer’s vaccine meeting request?

Labour Minister David Clark was sent a key Pfizer letter on June 30 last year, in which the drug company pressed the head of New Zealand’s “vaccine taskforce” to meet and discuss its vaccine candidate.

Taskforce officials, however, were not equipped at the time to begin talks with the drug company, and over six weeks elapsed before a first meeting took place.

The Cabinet finally armed the taskforce with funds both to contract specialist negotiation expertise and to make vaccine purchases on August 10; officials signed a non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer on August 13 and a first meeting with the company took place the following day, on August 14.

Clark, the then Health Minister, refused to answer questions about the letter, including whether he read it at the time and whether he made any effort to hasten the readiness of the taskforce to begin meetings and negotiations with the drug company. . .

Clark’s press secretary, Sam Farrell, said Clark, now reinstated to the Cabinet with four portfolios, including Commerce and Consumer Affairs, will not answer questions about the Pfizer letter because, “[he] no longer has ministerial responsibility for the health portfolio …” . . .

But he did have responsibility at the time.

Pfizer’s June letter noted: “We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021. . . 

Once we came out of the first lockdown the government rested on its laurels, basking in praise for no community transmission (well apart from that which locked Auckland down again, and again . . ); and responding to criticisms that we needed vaccines sooner by saying other countries needed them more.

Chris Bishop, National’s spokesman for Covid-19 Response, said Clark’s “inaction” showed “unforgivable incompetence from a minister clearly distracted by other things at the time.”

“He should have been moving with speed and alacrity to get a meeting with Pfizer as quickly as possible. The fact that the Pfizer meeting took over six weeks clearly set us back in 2021,” Bishop said. . . 

At the very least it shows a lack of focus and poor prioritisation.

It’s unclear whether earlier engagement with Pfizer could have secured a larger quantity of early vaccine doses for New Zealand.

If in June 2020 Pfizer was telling the government it could supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of the year, it almost certainly would have done so had the government not delayed responding.

By October, New Zealand lagged many of its peers in signing so-called bilateral advance purchase agreements with drug companies for vaccine candidates.

In March the Government signed a second agreement with Pfizer to secure a further 8.5 million doses, likely on a delivery schedule for the second half of 2021.

The Government has declined to release the Pfizer contracts, citing commercial confidentiality. The first doses arrived in New Zealand in February, 2021, following Medsafe approval, and the Ministry of Health’s schedule shows that 1.5 million doses had arrived in the country by early July, 2021.

New Zealand has subsequently incurred a roughly estimated cost to the economy of some $10 billion through lockdowns and the Government has pinned reopening to very high levels of vaccination. . . 

Had more people been vaccinated sooner the latest lockdown could at least have been shortened and possibly avoided.

Instead we were all locked down for three weeks and Aucklanders have now been locked down for more than three months.

Delays in vaccination have been very expensive in both human and financial terms, and recovery from both the social and economic impacts will take years.


Rural round-up

03/11/2021

Business owner: ‘They won’t let me home to run our company’ –  Evan Harding:

The frustrated owners of a large farm contracting business have been stuck in Australia for six weeks, unable to secure MIQ spots to return to New Zealand and run their company.

The couple, Lindsay and Kaz Harliwich, say the Government’s MIQ [managed isolation and quarantine] system is “cruel”, and can’t understand how some sportspeople are allowed home but they and others aren’t.

They have tried to secure MIQ spots for six weeks running, but had been unsuccessful on each occasion.

Kaz Harliwich said they had not applied for emergency allocation spots in the MIQ system because there were no options for business people to do so. . .

Rural kiwis need to step up vaccination rates – Jamie Mackay:

I’ve always subscribed to the theory that heroes need to be older than their admirers. And I’ve (nearly) always practised what I’ve preached.

Sure, Richie McCaw sorely tested my resolve in 2015 when I wanted to run on to Twickenham to kiss him after he heroically led the All Blacks to Rugby World Cup glory, but the security guards were having none of it. Besides, I was a 50-something at the time and it would have all been a bit too undignified and cringeworthy.

So, yeah. Nah. My heroes belonged to a previous generation. Colin Meads, Brian Lochore and Ian Kirkpatrick. Sadly only Kirky, scorer of the greatest All Blacks test try of all time, remains with us. Sir Colin and Sir Brian are gone, but never forgotten. Heroes are, after all, for keeps.

When I was a seven-year-old growing up on a Southland farm, the 1967 All Blacks dominated my life and their poster adorned my bedroom wall. They remained in pride of place for the best part of a decade, until they were superseded by a brief, and embarrassing, infatuation with Farrah Fawcett-Majors (tail-end Boomers will know who I’m talking about). Mercifully, Farrah was relinquished for a real girlfriend but my love for the 1967 All Blacks has never waned. . .

Fed Farmers rubbishes Ashburton feedlot criticism among probe – Adam Burns:

Federated Farmers’ Mid Canterbury president says the animal and environmental standards of a major Ashburton farming feedlot under investigation are world class.

David Clark has rubbished fierce criticism from an environmentalist who has accused the Five Star Beef feedlot of animal cruelty in a series of social media posts recently.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed its animal welfare inspectors are conducting an investigation at the ANZCO-owned Five Star Beef feedlot this week after receiving a complaint.

Environmentalist Geoff Reid posted several aerial photos of the feedlot on both his Facebook and Instagram channels, condemning the operation. . . 

 

Business blooming for Southland tulips with $1.6m Dutch investment –  Blair Jackson:

A $1.6 million investment by way of the Netherlands signals growth for a Southland tulip business.

Horizon Flowers NZ plants and processes tulip bulbs for export, from Mabel Bush.

The business’ ultimate holding company is Dutch, and the Overseas Investment Office signed-off on the deal in September.

For the $1.6m investment, Horizon Flowers NZ have acquired a freehold interest in 41.5 hectares, adjoining its current bulb processing facility, information from the investment office shows. . .

New Zealand-United Kingdom trade agreement boost for red meat sector :

The Agreement in Principle (AIP) signed between New Zealand and the United Kingdom represents a significant boost for New Zealand’s red meat sector.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) say farmers, processors, exporters and the New Zealand economy will benefit from greater export revenue once the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) trade deal is signed and ratified.

Key features of the AIP include improved access for high-quality New Zealand beef and more certainty for sheepmeat exports. The New Zealand red meat sector has not had quota free access to the British market since the United Kingdom joined the European Union in 1973.

While there are still some issues to be worked through, Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ, says the AIP is an important step towards the conclusion of an FTA between the two countries and builds upon the strong trade links between the United Kingdom and New Zealand. . . 

15 stores recognised for excellence promoting NZ cheese :

Fifteen stores – from Auckland to Oamaru – that specialise in selling locally made cheese have been named Top NZ Cheese Stores for 2021, marking the end of a successful NZ Cheese Month.

This is the second year the New Zealand Speciality Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) has recognised cheese shops across Aotearoa which celebrate and support the local industry by educating cheese lovers and promoting locally made cheese.

Announcing the Top NZ Cheese Stores for 2021, NZSCA Chair, Catherine McNamara said it was wonderful for the country’s speciality cheesemakers to be supported by such a strong and vibrant retail culture. . . 


Rural round-up

17/06/2021

Floods highlight farmers’ vulnerability – Nigel Malthus:

The vulnerability of the roads has become a major concern for Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury president David Clark over a week into the clean-up following the region’s damaging floods.

Many road closures were still in force several days after the event.

“Delivering grain to the feed mill for us has gone from being a 30km trip to an 80km trip each way,” Clark told Rural News.

“We’ve got the [State Highway 1] Ashburton River bridge severely damaged and the slumping arguably is continuing to get worse,” he adds. . . 

Concern over SNA costs – Neal Wallace:

It will cost an estimated $9 million or $3000 per site for the Southland District Council (SDC) to map significant natural areas in its territory as required by the Government’s proposed biodiversity strategy.

The cost to ratepayers of councils having to identify significant natural areas (SNAs) is starting to materialise, but resistance is growing from private landowners concerned at the imposition on their property rights.

Although the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity is not yet Government policy, the Far North District Council is suspending its SNA identification process after protests from Māori landowners, including a hikoi.

The Far North District Council estimates 42% of the district on land owned by 8000 landowners could have areas of high ecological value. . . 

Council pausing SNA identification work – Rebecca Ryan:

The Waitaki District Council is pushing pause on its work to identify significant national areas (SNAs).

Last month, the council sent letters to nearly 2000 landowners about proposed changes to mapping in the district plan review, advising them the new district plan would increase the level of protection for SNAs, “outstanding and significant natural features”, “outstanding natural landscapes” and wahi tupuna (sites and areas of significance to Maori) on their private land. The letters also included maps of the proposed new protective overlays on the properties.

Waitaki landowners hit back at the council, criticising the mapping process and saying the letters did not contain enough information about what the proposed changes meant for them. Many expressed fears about losing productive land and the impacts changes could have on the value of their land.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher announced the pause in the council’s SNA work yesterday. He said there was “too much uncertainty” as the national policy statement for indigenous biodiversity (NPSIB) was still being developed. . .

Zero-injuries goal major investment for Alliance -Shawn McAvinue:

Alliance Group Pukeuri plant manager Phil Shuker takes it personally when anyone gets injured at the meat processing plant, about 8km north of Oamaru.

The days of telling staff “to take a concrete pill and harden up” were over, he said.

Nearly 19 injuries were sustained for every 1million hours worked at Alliance sites across New Zealand.

The injury rate had fallen 80% in the past five years, he said. . . 

Back up the bus! – Sudesh Kissun:

Work together and stop throwing each other under the bus. That’s the message farmers delivered last week to Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) at its first roadshow meeting in Glen Murray, Waikato.

About 35 farmers heard BLNZ chief executive Sam McIvor and director Martin Coup outline work being done by BLNZ on their behalf.

However, former Federated Farmers Auckland president Wendy Clark told the meeting that “there was a lot of throwing under the bus” during the Plan Change 1 consultation process.

Plan Change 1, introduced by Waikato Regional Council, is about reducing the amount of contaminants entering the Waikato and Waipā catchments. . .

Project pitches benefits of working with wool – Stewart Raine:

A new initiative focused on the recruitment, training and retaining of shearers and shed hands is expected to help ease the shortage of shearers across Tasmania.

The Wool Industry Workforce Development Project, funded by Skills Tasmania and coordinated by Primary Employers Tasmania, aims to attract young people into the industry.

It will provide coaching and mentoring throughout their developmental journey, and support farmers and contractors to improve workplaces to remove retention barriers. . .

 


Rural round-up

06/05/2021

Rabbits: ‘It’s as bad as it’s ever been’ – Melanie Reid:

Rabbits are once again over-running parts of New Zealand. This week, in a series of short videos, Newsroom Investigates lays out the remarkable impacts in the south.

Farmers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on rabbit control, with some employing full time shooters. But what if you control the rabbits at your place, and next door they don’t?

For Phillip Bunn, a third generation farmer on 149 hectares of Central Otago family land, there are a lot of things that make farming in the Queenstown Wakatipu Basin tough.

But dealing with rabbits is by far the hardest part. . .

Truckers at risk crossing Mt Ruapehu bridge with ‘severe’ defects – Phil Pennington:

A century-old wooden bridge full of holes that carries masses of the country’s potatoes and carrots is jeopardising truckers’ safety and farmers’ livelihoods.

But government funding changes make it less certain the local council can get the bridge, on a back road on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, replaced.

Between a 10th and one-fifth of the washed carrots and potatoes used in the North Island come across the one-lane timber Mangateitei rail overbridge near Ohakune.

There is no other public road out from the farms. . . 

Rein in rates and show some backbone over water rules, Feds urges ECan:

Federated Farmers is strongly urging Environment Canterbury to demonstrate financial discipline and stick with current water plans developed with the community, rather than cave in and start a $25 million exercise re-writing them.

Feds Mid-Canterbury President David Clark and fellow Ashburton farmer and national board member Chris Allen said the Federation’s Canterbury membership of around 3000 are outraged and hugely disappointed with the very large rates increases proposed.

Most farmers face bigger hikes than the overall average of 24.5% in the financial year starting July 1.

“No business has the luxury of unlimited income, especially farmers who as price takers cannot just increase their prices. ECan should be no different,” Clark told councillors at a hearing this morning. . . 

Log exports high prices create New Zealand trucking backlog – Maja Burry:

Strong export prices for logs are creating bottlenecks in the local supply chain, with forest owners reporting problems securing log truck drivers and in some cases, harvesting contractors.

Forest Owners Association’s president Phil Taylor said when log prices were high, smaller forest owners, including farmers, seized the opportunity to maximise returns.

“It’s a very good opportunity to realise their investments and for those farmers that have trees to provide them with a significant boost to their incomes.”

The shortage in log truck drivers was a developing concern and the association was keen to work with Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service to encourage more people into the industry, Taylor said. . .

Nadine Tunley is HortNZ’s new Chief Executive :

Nadine Tunley has been announced as Horticulture New Zealand’s new Chief Executive. 

‘We are very pleased to have been able to appoint a candidate of Nadine’s calibre, with her level of horticulture and wider food and fibre sector experience.  This was after an extensive recruitment process,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil. 

‘Nadine will lead HortNZ into new territory, as horticulture adapts to Covid and the operation of industry changes.  Over the next decade, climate adaption, freshwater quality improvements, and increased use of technology and automation will result in significant change to the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand. 

‘HortNZ’s role will be to help steer the industry through this change, advocating for growers to be given the time and support to adapt.  This is so our growers can remain viable during the transition, and do what they do best: feed New Zealand and the world healthy, good tasting and safe food. . . 

Rob Hewett appointed Silver Fern Farms co-op chair:

At the Co-operative’s Annual Meeting on 29 April, Richard Young announced that he was standing down as Co-operative Chair to facilitate transition to the next generation of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative leaders.

To bridge this transition period, the Co-operative Board has requested that Rob Hewett step back into the Co-operative Chair role that he relinquished two years ago, together with continuing in his role as Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited.

Mr Hewett said “Firstly I want to thank Richard for his significant contribution as Co-op Chair for the past two years. Over that time, he has led the development and establishment of a clear vision and purpose for the Co-operative, which ensures we continually work cohesively with our investment in Silver Fern Farms Limited, but also ensuring the voice of our farmer shareholders is heard. I also know he will continue to make a significant contribution for the balance of his current term. Over the next three years there will be significant managed transformation in our Board composition as several of our farmer elected directors come to the end of their maximum terms as allowed for in our Constitution – myself included. While the Constitution does allow for term extensions on a case by case basis for Directors who have reached their maximum term, it is the clear intention of the Co-operative board to manage succession proactively.” . . 


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?


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