If not sacking AG must investigate

March 11, 2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Rural round-up

June 5, 2017

It’s Complicated: Is NZ Media’s Relationship with Kiwi Farmers Busted? – Ben Stanley:

I’m a farm kid, and a journalist, and right now that’s an awkward position to be in.

There’s a name you don’t say out loud in rural New Zealand right now unless you want to draw scorn and outright disgust.

It’s the name of one of my childhood heroes.

For the majority of the 1990s, Cameron Bennett was New Zealand’s foreign correspondent; our eye on international conflict and disaster. He’d travel to Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan and the West Bank and report back home with his gritty, but revealing, insights on war and why people make it. . .

A water battle looms in NZ’s Middle-Earth desert – Matthew Brockett & Tracy Withers:

In the rugged heart of New Zealand’s South Island, a high-altitude desert where the men of Middle-Earth made their last stand in the “Lord of the Rings” movies has become a battlefield once again.

Environmentalists and farmers are clashing over the Mackenzie Basin, an area known for its scorched-brown grasslands and crystal-blue lakes – and now, massive irrigation systems that are spreading circles of emerald-green pasture across the Mars-like terrain.

“It’s similar to greening the desert of Nevada or California,” said Annabeth Cohen, a freshwater scientist at environmental group Forest and Bird. . .

Mackenzie Basin set to lose $1.2b in farming production if wildings aren’t controlled  – Pat Deavoll:

The Mackenzie Basin could lose $1.2 billion in farming production a year if the spread of wilding conifers is not brought under control, said Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) wilding programme manager Sherman Smith.

Few species would survive if the basin was smothered by wildings, he said.

“If the basin is taken over by wildings, that’s 50 cumecs (of water) drained out of the Waitaki system, biodiversity that would suffer and there would be a lot of species that wouldn’t survive,” said Smith at the Federated Farmers High Country Conference, . .

Cut debt or go  – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers with unsustainable debt who can’t build equity buffers with profits should exit the sector, Reserve Bank governor Graham Wheeler says.

But Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard says Wheeler used outdated figures when he warned the dairy sector was still a financial risk to the economy and banks should monitor it closely.

“The uncertain outlook for dairy prices and the rising proportion of highly indebted farms means there remains a risk that non-performing loans could increase in coming seasons. . . .

Whitehall kiwifruit growers come out the other side of Psa disease – Gerald Piddock:

It’s been a slow road to recovery for Mark and Robyn Gardiner since Psa ripped through their kiwifruit business.

Called Seudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, the deadly viral disease was first discovered at their 200 hectare Whitehall Fruitpackers operation in 2010.

Left unchecked, Psa destroys green and gold vines and spawns leaf spotting, cankers and shoot dieback.

At the worst point of the outbreak, Mark cut out 40ha of his 16 Gold kiwifruit crop as well as partial cuttings of green fruit. At the same time, the more resistant G3 variety was grafted to the vines. . .

Farm win gets civic reception – Hugh Stringleman:

Winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy for Maori Excellence in sheep and beef farming was the achievement of a lifetime for Northland farm manager Lloyd Brennan and his staff, he told Hugh Stringleman.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy might be scheduled for another visit to Kaikohe, the Northland town that needs to celebrate success and encourage more young Maori into farming.

A civic reception was being planned by the Far North District Council with the Omapere Rangihamama Trust (ORT) and its board of trustees, headed by Sonny Tau. . .

National ambassadors for sustainable farming recognised:

The winners of the national ambassador title for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards describe their farm as the largest lifestyle block in Taranaki.

Ohangai sheep, beef and dairy farmers Peter and Nicola Carver won the National Ambassador title over 10 other regional supreme winners at the National Sustainability Showcase event at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on May 31.

Operating as Holmleigh Trust Partnership, the couple combine dairy and dry stock farming on their 515ha family property east of Hawera. . .


Rural round-up

May 18, 2016

NZ primary sector needs story to sell globally, trade envoy Petersen says – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand needs to develop a new primary sector story to help sell its products to the world, says Mike Petersen, New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy.

Speaking at today’s Dairy NZ Farmer Forum at Mystery Creek, Petersen said he has been “banging on” about this idea for some years without getting much traction.

“We need a coherent New Zealand story and we need it desperately to take out into the world,” he said. “We are behind the game at pulling this together to make the most of our opportunities.” . . .

Monsanto’s pesticide ‘unlikely to cause cancer’ :

The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, probably does not cause cancer, according to a new safety review by United Nations health, agriculture and food experts.

In a statement likely to intensify a row over its potential health impact, experts from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) said glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food.

It is mostly used on crops.

Having reviewed the scientific evidence, the joint WHO/FAO committee also said glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic in humans. . . .

Why Many Midwestern Farmers Are Pro-TPP – Kristofor Husted:

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape the acronym TPP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries that’s currently being negotiated. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are deriding the TPP, saying it’s a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers.

But if you venture into the Midwest and ask a farmer about the TPP, you’re likely to get a different answer.

“This pending TPP trade negotiation, to me, is hugely important for agricultural commodities, but specifically for beef,” says Mike John, a cattle rancher in Huntsville, Mo. He’s one of many Midwest farmers and ranchers who are bucking the political trend to dog the TPP. . .  (Hat tip: Kiwiblog)

Māori land report shows potential in Northland:

Māori land owners in Northland have promising options for developing their land, according to a report commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi-O-Ngāpuhi and the Far North District Council.

“The report shows that in a 50km radius around Kaikohe there are nearly 4000 small parcels of unproductive land that have the potential to be developed for uses like horticulture and agriculture,” says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The report highlights two case studies focusing on horticulture and pastoral land use scenarios that show the potential for many parts of Northland. . . 

Summit to Consider Farming Within Environmental Limits:

The 2016 New Zealand Primary Industry Summit will once again provide farm and business leaders with the opportunity to consider sustainability and environmental issues.

This years programme includes sessions that will tackle the hottest topics in the industry including the TPPA, sustainability, smart branding and marketing, and foreign investment. A highlight for those interested in sustainability will be a session delivered on day two by Fish & Game New Zealand’s Environmental Manager Corina Jordan entitled ‘Farming within environmental limits.’ . . 

Fonterra NZ, Australia milk collection drops in season to date – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group says milk collection is down in New Zealand and Australia, its two largest markets, in the first 11 months of the season during a period of weak dairy prices.

Milk collection across New Zealand fell 3.3 percent to 1.499 billion kilograms of milk solids in the season from June 1, 2015, through April 30, 2016, with all of the decline coming in the North Island while good weather conditions kept South Island production unchanged, Auckland-based Fonterra said in its Global Dairy Update. The 2015/16 season forecast has been revised to 1.558 billion kgMS, down 3 percent on the previous season, its said. . . 

Fonterra Confirms Early Final Dividend Payment:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today confirmed it will pay part of its forecast final dividend earlier, to support farmers during a time of extremely tight on-farm cash flows.

Chairman John Wilson said a solid performance during the nine months to 30 April in the current financial year enables the Co-operative to declare the 10 cents per share dividend today. Payment will be made on 7 June, bringing dividend payments so far this year to 30 cents per share.

“While the milk supply and demand imbalance continues to impact global milk prices and our forecast Farmgate Milk Price, the business is delivering on strategy and has maintained the good performance levels seen in the first six months of the financial year. . . 

Drop in number of farms on the market:

Farm sale prices held steady in April, but the number of farms on the market is falling, says the Real Estate Institute.

New data showed there were 16 percent fewer sales for the three months ended April this year, than for the same three months last year.

But the median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to April was $30,000, up nearly 5 percent on the same period last year. . . 

 

image

Hat tip: Utopia

 


Rural round-up

April 12, 2014

Drought causing problems in Rawene – Sophie Lowery:

The top of the North Island has been given a good dousing of rain today, but the region that desperately needs it received just a thimbleful.

Rawene, on the Hokianga Harbour, is just days away from running out of water and there are serious concerns for the local hospital.

The tiny Petaka Stream is the only water supply for the 250 residents of Rawene and it is almost dry.

“The situation in Rawene is critical. We are urging residents wherever they can to minimise their use of water to the essential uses only before we have to impose any more austere methods,” says the Far North District Council’s Tony Smith. . .

Exports to the motherland – Keith Woodford:

 There was a time when New Zealand’s exports went almost exclusively to Britain. Before and during the Second World War, and for many years thereafter, New Zealand was Britain’s farm. It was only in 1973 when Britain joined the EU, which itself had food surpluses, that we had to search for alternative markets.

Now, some forty years later, the only two major products exported to Britain are sheep meat and wine. Britain takes about 20% of New Zealand’s sheep meat exports and is the second most important sheep meat market after China. For wine, Britain also takes about 20% of New Zealand’s exports and is the third most important market after Australia and the USA. Minor export products include apples at about 10% of total apple exports. For wool, about 5% reaches the shores of the UK. Overall, only 3% of New Zealand’s exports are destined for Britain. . .

Minister welcomes Manawatu River clean-up progress:

Environment Minister Amy Adams has welcomed a new report on cleaning-up the Manawatu River, saying it shows that progress can be made even on the most difficult environmental problems when communities work together.

“It is still early days as far as the time frames for cleaning up polluted water ways are concerned, but I am pleased to see the Manawatu Leaders Accord reporting overall improving trends in nutrient levels and levels of bacteria in the Manawatu River,” Ms Adams says.

“The Government regards its $5.2 million investment in cleaning up this river as well worthwhile. By working together, we can achieve far more than leaving it to one group or organisation. . .

LIC scientists discover ‘fat gene’ in cows:

LIC scientists have discovered genetic variations which affect milk composition in dairy cows.

All cows have the ‘fat gene’, named AGPAT6, but LIC senior scientist Dr Matt Littlejohn said the variations they’ve discovered provide a genetic explanation for why some cows produce higher fat content in their milk than others.

“If you think of milk production in the cow’s udder as a factory assembly line, this variation is one of a few workers in the ‘fat chain’, with that worker being very efficient in some cows, and a bit lazy in others,” he said.

“The finding of AGPAT6 helps us to better understand what goes on in a cow’s mammary gland and how milk composition is regulated by genes.” . .

Pukekawa grower named New Zealand’s best young vege grower:

Brett Parker was crowned the New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2014, beating six other competitors, at the national competition on April 10.

Held in Pukekohe, the day-long event saw seven contestants go head-to-head in a series of theoretical and practical challenges needed to run a successful vegetable growing business.

Parker, 26, works at Hinemoa Quality Producers in Pukekawa as an assistant crop manager, and won $2500.

Of that $1000 will be used for professional development.    . . .

Diverse Farming Business Scores Supreme Double in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Kaiwera farmers Andrew and Heather Tripp, Nithdale Station Ltd, have won the Supreme title in the Southland Ballance Farm Awards for the second time.

The Tripps were announced Supreme winners of the 2014 Southland Ballance Farm Awards (BFEA) at a special ceremony on April 10. They also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the Massey University Innovation Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Alliance Quality Livestock Award.

Since first winning the Supreme title in the inaugural Southland BFEA in 2002, the Tripps have added a dairy farm to their diverse farming operation based on historic Nithdale Station, south east of Gore. . .

Support to build winter feed with urea price drop:

As the dry summer conditions ease, a drop in urea prices by Ballance Agri-Nutrients will be welcomed by farmers looking to build up feed reserves to meet stock requirements over winter and early spring.

Ballance dropped the price of urea from $695 to $645 and SustaiN from $751 to $697 yesterday on the back of a slump in global prices for urea.

Ballance General Manager of Sales, Andrew Reid, says that the imbalance between supply and demand that put upward pressure on urea prices earlier this year has now reversed.

“Currently global supply is exceeding demand, which has resulted in international prices easing,” said Mr Reid. . .


Carter to contest Far North Mayoralty

February 22, 2013

Former Northland MP and serving High Commissioner to the Cook Island’s John Carter plans to contest the Far North Mayoralty.

. . . On the top of his list of concerns is disunity among local body leaders in Northland and what he sees as resultant lack of progress.

“I love the Far North, I am deeply aware of what a wonderful place it is and how many talented people live here, and I know it should be doing better.

“I also feel that my many years representing the area have given me the knowledge, skills and contacts to provide the unifying leadership needed to achieve that.” . . .

He was a very popular MP which will give him a head start in the contest for mayor.


Rating the Councils

June 11, 2009

The Ministry for the Environment’s two yearly Resource Management Act survey of local authorities showed a big difference in performance among councils.

In 2007/8: 

  • 51,960 resource consent applications were processed through to a decision.
  • 0.74 per cent (385) of resource consent applications were declined.
  • 4.7 per cent (2409) of resource consent applications were publicly notified.
  • 1.9 per cent (975) of resource consent applications were notified to affected parties only (limited notification).
  • 69 per cent of resource consent applications were processed on time.

The councils which were best at processing consents on time were:

Stratford District Council processed 97 applications and 100% were processed on time.

Buller District Council 130 – 100%

Taranaki Regional Council 401 – 100%

Matamata Piako District Council 281 – 99%

Waitaki District Council 157 – 99%

Kapiti District Council 317 – 99%

Western Bay of Plenty District Council 431 – 99%

Northland Regional Council 904 – 99%

Wellington Regional Council 703 – 99%

The worst performing were:

Environment Canterbury which processed 3,374 applications and managed only 29% on time.

Westland District Council 183 – 30%

Far North District Council 609 – 37%

Waimate District Council 70 – 41%

Carterton District Council 106 – 42%

Auckland City Council  5,434 – 45%

Whakatane District Council 287 – 45%

Gisborne District Council 525 – 50%

The Waitaki District lies within the boundaries of two regional councils – Environment Canterbury and the Otago Regional Council.

Anecdotal evidence which points to major frustrations with Canterbury and fewer problems with Otago is supported by this report. Environment Canterbury was the worst in the country at processing consents  on time and Otago which processed 734 managed to do 67% on time.

The table with results for all councils is at the link above.

The full report is here.


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