Rural round-up

25/02/2021

The rewards of good data – Peter Burke:

New Zealand’s primary sector is our equivalent of the USA’s Silicon Valley of excellence.

That’s the view of one of the country’s illustrious agricultural economists, Rob Davison, who recently received an award for his outstanding contribution to the primary sector.

The award goes alongside the ONZM he received in 2016 for his services to NZ’s sheep and beef sector.

This latest award is well deserved for a person who has helped build and shape one of the most respected economic institutions in the country. Davison has been with Beef+Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service for more than 40 years, much of that time as its executive director. . . 

Rural trust there for anyone having ‘tough time’ – Shawn McAvinue:

Otago Rural Support Trust chairman Mike Lord, of Outram, said if anyone in Otago’s rural community needed help — or knew of anyone who needed help — they could call the trust.

People called for a “range of reasons” such as financial stress, the impact of adverse weather such as flooding, snow, or drought or any other type of “tough time”.

“I have no doubt we make a difference.”

After Covid hit, a “desperate” farmer called because he had stock and a lack of feed due to meat works taking fewer animals as it dealt with new protocols. . . 

Recommendations ‘ambitious and challenging’ – Peter Burke:

Initial reaction to the Climate Change Commission report has been generally muted, but there are some concerns in the agricultural sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims the commission’s draft advice, released earlier this month, sets out an ‘achievable blueprint’ for New Zealand. She says the report demonstrates NZ has the tools to achieve our target but calls on us to accelerate our work.

“As a government we are committed to picking up the pace and focusing much more on decarbonisation and reducing emissions rather than overly relying on forestry,” Ardern says. . .  . . 

North Otago chicken farm sharpens its focus – Shawn McAvinue:

Anna Craig knew it was the right time to get cracking and launch a new brand to market the free-range eggs produced on her family’s farm in North Otago.

The Lincoln University agribusiness and food marketing student said she was “torn” about how to spend her summer break.

She could spend it working on her family’s 450ha farm in Herbert, about 20km south of Oamaru, or seek work elsewhere, which might look better on her CV.

She returned to the farm and set herself a goal of launching a new brand to sell some of the eggs laid by about 30,000 free range shaver chickens there. . . 

Strengthen your farming system by leveraging your #1 asset – people:

“Over the years of working with people in many different sized teams, we discovered that it mattered how we were behaving and acting with our team,” says Rebecca Miller of MilkIQ.

Dairy Women’s Network knows that putting people first drives a healthy business and will be running a series of workshops focused on this. They want to ensure that farmers attract and retain talent, and continue to grow the people in the industry.

The free workshops are funded by New Zealand dairy farmers through the DairyNZ levy and align with Commitment #5 of the Dairy Tomorrow Strategy: Building great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce.

It does not always require big changes to build a great workplace, but small changes that make a difference. The workshops will provide an overview of how to be a good employee or employer and the steps each can take. . . 

 

Handheld breath test device for pregnant cattle to move to industry trials – Joshua Becker:

A device that could change the way farmers preg test cattle is a step closer to commercialisation.

The federal government has offered $600,000 to help a company adapt advances in medicine for use in the grazing industry.

The prototype works by simply putting a device over the cow’s nose while it is in the crush and testing its breath.

Bronwyn Darlington, a farmer at Carwoola in southern NSW and the founder and CEO of Agscent, said the device worked by applying nanotechnologies to what was called breathomics. . . 

 


Partisanship trumps right for right and left

15/02/2021

Partisanship from Republicans allowed former USA President Donald Trump to escape impeachment.

. . .The final vote, 57-43, fell 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection. . . 

In the vote, seven of the 50 Senate Republicans joined the chamber’s unified Democrats to convict Trump, but it was not enough to find him guilty. . . 

Those seven let right overrule the partisanship that led the rest of their colleagues to vote against impeachment.

At least there were seven with the courage to vote against their party.

No-one at all in Labour stood up for what was right when Chris Bishop moved a vote of no confidence in the Speaker Trevor Mallard    which Barry Soper says shows their hypocrisy:

Jacinda Ardern preaches about it time and again: How we should all be kind to each other and to look after our wellbeing.

Well, the Prime Minister’s just lost all moral authority to preach to us about niceness, because on that score she’s failed miserably – and so have her Labour sheep in Parliament.

You just had to hear them bleating in Parliament’s debating chamber as National’s Chris Bishop attempted against all odds to move a vote of no confidence in Speaker Trevor Mallard. . . 

If they were an open and transparent Government, if they were democratic and prepared to have the country listen to why National’s lost confidence in Mallard, they could have remained silent and the debate could proceed, even if at the end of it Mallard would remain in his job.

Perhaps they felt the argument for removing him would have been so overwhelming – and it would have been – that their defence of him would have burned their political capital in bucket loads.

So in reality they are now telling us it’s okay to call a man a rapist, to ruin his life leaving him bereft and jobless? Well, that would seem to be the case.

For Ardern to simply say Mallard made a mistake and he’s atoned with an apology for it is simply not good enough.

Within 24 hours of labelling the man a rapist, Mallard says he realised he was wrong. But he waited for 18 months, leaving the taxpayer with a $330,000 legal bill, before he admitted it. He waited for the last day Parliament was sitting to make public his dreadful mistake and issue an apology, on the same day that the Royal Commission into the mosque shootings delivered its report and knowing Ardern had finished her round for media interviews for the year.

This was simply his attempt to bury it, to hope no one noticed.

Mallard may be safe in his job but is now without any moral authority.

Not only has he no moral authority his inability to do the right thing after besmirching a man’s reputation with an unwarranted slur that cost him his job and his health, his colleagues in standing with him have lost some of theirs too.


Gulf between myth and reality

08/02/2021

Oliver Hartiwch wrties on the myth of Saint Jacinda:

Every time I read another excitable media article about New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, I am reminded of an old quip: ‘Viewed from a distance, everything is beautiful.’ That was Publius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-120). Were this Roman intellectual and historian alive today, he would make a great columnist. His tactic was to spin political and historical analogies so they could influence public affairs back home. . . 

That is happening again, except this time New Zealanders are the noble savages being lovingly invented by global columnists. Hardly any of these writers actually live in New Zealand or understand it. Their op-eds reveal more about them than the country they purport to write about. In normal circumstances, this would not be a problem. But over the past few years, Jacinda Ardern has risen to international stardom. Her rise was based on remote reporting by a progressive world media thirsting for a noble alternative to strongmen leaders. . .

Ardern’s political tenure is soaked in progressive holy water. The list of her adopted causes is long. She cited child poverty as her reason for entering politics. When she first ran for prime minister in 2017, she declared climate change her ‘generation’s nuclear free moment’. In early 2019, she promised in the Financial Times to champion a new ‘economics of kindness’. This was demonstrated shortly afterwards in the world’s first ‘well-being budget’.

Ardern has become the media’s poster child of a modern, centre-left politician, not least thanks to her expertise in communicating to every audience. Whether it is a Facebook Live broadcast from her home in her pyjamas or a traditional press conference, Ardern oozes a highly personalized brand of warmth, kindness and empathy.

This PR dexterity helped her steer through two major first-term crises. She found the right words to heal a shocked nation after a terrorist attack on the Christchurch Muslim community in March 2019. Last year, her near-daily TV appearances guided Kiwis through the first months of the coronavirus crisis. . . 

Would any of our recent Prime Ministers have been any less effective in these circumstances?

For people watching from afar and sick of dealing with mortal, flawed and ineffective leaders, Ardern’s superheroine star shines bright. As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt revealed in The Righteous Mind, we wish for things to be true, and no amount of counter-evidence will change our minds. Ardern is lucky that humans have this mental bug because on practically every single metric her administration has failed.

She wanted to solve New Zealand’s housing crisis by building 100,000 homes over a decade. This unworkable state-run program was abandoned after two years, and house prices have skyrocketed faster than before. A promised light-rail connection from Auckland’s central business district to the airport met the same fate: the project was scrapped before it even started. Child poverty also rose under Ardern’s leadership, as did carbon emissions. The so-called ‘wellbeing budget’ earmarked funds to fix mental health — but has still not found any projects on which to spend the money.

Even in the two major crises, actual policy implementation differed immensely from the PR-shaped perception. A gun buyback scheme after the Christchurch attack was a costly fiasco. And the country’s success against Covid-19 was more a result of geography than policy. The government failed to manage even basic quarantine facilities.

Can we be confident that all the management failures have been addressed? Is there a plan to get a much better system? No.

In the 2020 election campaign, Ardern should have struggled to explain why her grand promises had so utterly failed. Except no one demanded any accountability, and Ardern cruised to an absolute majority based on her saintly image. Ordinary Kiwis, unused to being the global centre of attention, also desperately want this internationalist narrative to be true.

Before Covid-19 changed the world, successive polls showed National ahead or just behind Labour. The pandemic and National MPs’ many mistakes changed that but didn’t change the fact of that Ardern’s words were rarely matched by effective action.

The gap between people’s impression of Ardern and her actual performance as a leader has widened to a gulf. So long as enough modern Tacituses write gushing Ardern portraits, her superstar status will not change.

I came across the column via Twitter where its author laments:

We have a lot of blessing to count in New Zealand but that shouldn’t stop the media covering the problems we face; the government’s failure to address them and the shortcomings of a Prime Minister who Monique Poirier points out has got very good at making announcements about announcements:

. . It’s quite a skill, really, making announcements about a policy without any sort of plan to achieve it, and then have the country believe that what you’ve just said is significant, transformative or, as we heard this week, foundational. . . 

The media here, and abroad, has a responsibility look beyond the skills of the messenger to analyse the messages, and to to question both the messenger and the messages.

Being young and female makes Ardern stand out among other leaders but neither of those should stop the media from judging her; focusing on, her performance rather than her personality; and paying a lot more attention to what she does and accomplishes than what she says.


Crisis warrants emergency response

27/01/2021

Emergency powers are needed to solve the housing crisis:

National is calling on the Government to introduce urgent temporary legislation to make housing easier to build, and has offered to support the law change through Parliament.

At her State of the Nation speech in Auckland today, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins said the time had come for an extraordinary solution to an unfolding emergency.

“It is too hard to build houses in New Zealand. We need to make it drastically easier. With rents and house prices spiralling out of control, Kiwis can no longer afford to wait.”

The law change would give Government the power to rezone council land, making room for 30 years’ worth of growth in housing supply, both through intensification and greenfield development.

The appeals process would be suspended so district plans could be completed as quickly as possible. Requirements for infrastructure to be built prior to zoning would also be suspended.

It would be a nationwide equivalent of the emergency powers put in place to get houses built in Christchurch following its earthquakes, which enabled the multiple between median incomes and house prices to remain constant there between 2014 and 2020.

What worked in Christchurch could work in the rest of the country.

Ms Collins has today written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, suggesting that a special Select Committee be established immediately to develop the emergency legislation, with the committee’s recommendations available for consideration by the end of March.

With house prices having jumped 41 per cent since Ms Ardern became Prime Minister and the waiting list for public housing almost quadrupling to 22,409 households, building public houses alone will not be enough to make a meaningful difference, Ms Collins says.

“New Zealanders have had enough. It’s time for the two major political parties to work together to fix this problem.”

National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says that while the dream of home ownership has been disappearing for many Kiwis, rents have also ramped up by an average of $100 a week in just three years.

“This means people are struggling to keep up with the other necessities of life – food, power and doctors’ visits.

“National wants more for New Zealanders. We don’t want a future where the only answer to being able to afford a place to live is to get on a Government housing waiting list.”

The debate over whether or not there is a housing crisis is over.

House prices are increasing far faster than incomes and inflation, rents are following, and poeple earning more than the average wage can’t afford to buy a house.

Unless drastic action is taken to address the root cause – supply falling so far behind demand, prices will continue to climb and the problems associated with unaffordability will get worse.

The government must make it easier to build houses and it must do so with urgency.


House prices don’t have to keep going up

26/01/2021

A guest poster at Kiwiblog predicts a property price crash.

Jenée Tibshraeny considers the impact of a 20% fall in prices:

1. Someone wishing to make a 20% deposit would have to save $23,400 less. . . 

That would make houses more affordable though it would come at a high price for any vendors who had bought recently.

2. Rents would likely stabilise. . .

That would be an improvement on increases that are making the poor and not-so-poor poorer, although some would still be too high for many.

3. Homeowners would feel less wealthy. . .

If they don’t have to sell, that’s only a feeling.

4. A 20% fall in house prices would put 7.7% of mortgage debt ($22.3 billion) in negative equity, according to the RBNZ. . .

That would be only a paper loss for anyone who held on to their property but an expansive problem for anyone who had to sell.

5. Businesses – particularly small ones – with loans secured against residential property would get nervous, threatening people’s jobs. . .

That isn’t good for businesses or their employees.

6. Business confidence would take a knock, with a question mark over the degree to which this would stymie investment. . .

Falling business confidence reduces investment and employment.

But what of the harm caused by continuing steep rises in house prices?

New Zealand’s economy and financial system are precariously built on the housing market. It is for this reason policymakers would rather protect than risk damaging this market.

But what we need to realise is taking a block off the top of the game of Jenga that is the housing market, and sliding it back into the foundation, is possibly lower risk than taking another piece out from the bottom to keep building an increasingly shaky tower.

More research needs to be done around the trade-offs surrounding changes in house prices from inflated levels.

2021 needs to be the year of challenging the narrative that house prices must always keep going up.

A fall in house prices would hurt some people, but what if the steep increases are doing more harm than a fall would?

Ben Thomas writes:

. . . Prime minister Jacinda Ardern must take her share of responsibility for encouraging the property feeding frenzy of the past few months, which threatens to create a new and permanent class division in New Zealand society.

Ardern did not create the conditions for New Zealand’s housing crisis – blame for that falls mostly at the feet of Sir John Key, Helen Clark, and the Reserve Bank’s plummeting interest rates and removal of loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) in response to Covid-19.

However, through her actions and her words, the prime minister has not just failed to dampen down, but has actually poured petrol on the pyrotechnic panic-buying that has seen prices spiral out of control. . .

In December, she gave her clearest commitment yet to seeking “sustainable” growth in house prices: “I think people expect you see that in the market,” she told Interest.co.nz by way of explanation.

What’s sustainable? The sort of mad prices people are paying now, well above what anyone on an average income can afford aren’t.

This reassured homeowners. But the comments are extraordinary: the Government does not even currently guarantee savings that are deposited in Kiwibank in the event of a financial crisis (and which offers a 0.9 per cent interest rate on term deposits).

The flipside of the implied, but increasingly explicit, guarantee for housing is a signal that the Government will try and ensure housing only ever becomes more expensive, even if more slowly. That’s a red rag to investors who can leverage existing homes to borrow almost free money, and desperate first-home buyers borrowing to the hilt.

It also ensures, as we are seeing now, record low levels of houses available to purchase. Why would you sell now if the prime minister has guaranteed that your house will be worth more next year and in fact, probably, next month? . . 

You don’t have to live in it or rent it out is you know that significant capital gain is assured making it a very secure investment, albeit one predicated on growth rather than yield.

Just as the public (or at least those who can save, beg or borrow for housing) is responding to incentives offered by the Government, Ardern is responding to incentives of her own.

The obscene political calculus is that, while 64.1 per cent of people still live in owner-occupier households, if property prices were to double in the next three years Ardern’s party would probably be re-elected with an even larger majority than it currently has. . . 

What politician would not find that attractive?

The result of pursuing these short term incentives is less palatable for the long-term legacy of a centre-left government. That is, overseeing the final seismic shift in house prices, out of the reach of all but existing homeowning families, that leads to not just widening but perhaps irreversible inequality.

It’s worth considering the scale of the disparities between two different New Zealands.

The idea that an Auckland home could earn more than an Auckland worker is no longer even shocking. But during the month of October alone, the value of a median price Auckland house went up by $45,000.

Whether or not it’s shocking,  it’s wrong.

Like any mass panic, it is contagious. Alert level 3 lockdown stopped the coronavirus spreading outside Auckland in the second half of last year, but it could not hold back Auckland investors from bidding up, then buying up, property throughout the regions, as has already happened in large parts of south Auckland.

Gisborne, on the East Coast, one of the regions the hardest hit by the early Covid disruptions and with a median household income roughly $23,000 less a year than Wellington’s, saw house prices increase by 43.8 per cent.

We have, in part at the government’s urging, gone past a housing crisis, a mere shortage of homes, and into a frenzied carve-up of the country’s future wealth.

Whatever this month’s announcement, the bigger “reset” that is almost complete is a fundamental shift away from a society where social mobility is possible (however imperfectly) through education and work, towards one where property and even the trappings of a middle class life are kept exclusively within one band of society. Haves and have-nots; the landed gentry and serfs.

The idea of New Zealand as an egalitarian country where Jack and Jill were as good as their masters and mistresses has been in no small way been built on the ability a sizable majority had to own their own homes.

Now that has become an impossible dream for too many and created the nightmare of increased rents and more poverty with all the social problems that stem from that.

This has provoked the usual calls from the left to increase taxes, or impose new ones. That would be nothing more than tinkering and hasn’t worked as a brake on house prices anywhere else.

The steep prices are a result of demand outstripping supply and the only sustainable solution is to increase the supply.

The much slower rise in house prices in and around Christchurch when constraints on development were lifted after the earthquakes shows what can be done.

The supply is so far behind demand even that won’t be a quick fix, but it will eventually work and when supply catches up with demand, the pressure on prices will subside, as it should.

House prices don’t have to keep going up. Once people get their heads round that they’ll look for other more productive investments without the financial and social ill-affects that come from the current steep and unsustainable increases in property values.


To see ourselves as others see us

02/12/2020

When I read reports on Peter Goodfellow’s speech to the National party conference I wondered if the journalists and I had been at the same event.

All took the same extract where he spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on the political landscape. He gave credit where it was due but also spoke of the grandstand it gave the government and especially the Prime Minister, and he mentioned media bias.

The reports gave credence to the last point. From where I was sitting the whole speech, of which the extract was a small part, was well received by the audience. But all reports were negative, and many commentators said the listeners didn’t like it, which was definitely not the impression I got. Most were surprised, even critical, that Goodfellow retained the presidency given the election result.

None appeared to understand that the president wasn’t responsible for the self-inflicted damage by some MPs  nor that while party members elect the board it is the board members who elect the president.

They might have known that he had called for a review of the rules after the last election. They were not privy to the report on that by former leader Jim McClay which was delivered in committee,  greeted with applause and well received by everyone I spoke to afterwards.

But why would they let the positive get in the way of the negative if it fitted their bias?

Bias, what bias?

The non-partisan website Media Bias paints the New Zealand media landscape decidedly red.

The almost universal lack of criticism has been noticed by Nick Cater who said media ‘diversity’ is alive but not at all well in New Zealand:

. . . The media paradise Rudd craves looks somewhat like New Zealand, where inoffensive newspapers compete for drabness and commentators are all but united in adoration of Jacinda Ardern.

You’ll struggle to read a word of dissent in the four daily newspapers. Mike Hosking and some of his fellow presenters are prepared to break from the pack at Newstalk ZB, but that’s it. Retired ZB host Leighton Smith remains in the fray as a podcaster and columnist but, when it comes to broadcast media, Hosking is Alan Jones, Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray rolled into one.

If the columnist listened to Magic Talk he might add Peter Williams and Sean Plunket to those who challenge the pro-PM narrative. But these are few against the many whose reporting and commentary are rarely anything but positive about Ardern.

The only hint of irritation at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference is that she isn’t running fast enough with her agenda of “transformational change”, the umbrella term for the righting of social injustices, including those yet to be invented.

Ardern’s decision to hold a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis was widely praised as another step on the path to sainthood. The proposal was rejected by 51.6 per cent of voters, prompting this exchange.

Media: “In terms of governing for all New Zealanders, you do have 48.4 per cent of New Zealanders who did vote for legalised cannabis.”

PM: “And the majority who didn’t, and so we have to be mindful of that, too.”

Media: “But you’ve promised to govern for all of those New Zealanders, including the 48.4 per cent who did … there is an appetite among an enormous section of the population for something. And obviously the referendum did fail, but it doesn’t mean … ”

Can we assume that because 48.9 per cent of Americans didn’t vote for Joe Biden, Donald Trump can stay in the White House? Or does the ballot only count when the left is winning?

Those with a more sophisticated understanding of liberal democracy than “Media” (the generic name ascribed to journalists in the transcript, presumably because they are all of one mind) may be feeling a little queasy.

A Prime Minister who tells voters she chose politics because it was a profession that “would make me feel I was making a difference”, and holds an absolute majority in the parliament’s only chamber, is an accident waiting to happen. An independent media should be the first responders in such circumstances, ready to erect barriers in the path of the Prime Minister, should she swerve across the line.

Yet the press pack are not merely on the bus, they are telling her how to drive it.

New Zealand’s small population and splendid isolation are part of the explanation for the enfeeblement of its media. Ardern’s sledgehammer response to the COVID-19 pandemic hastened the decline.

In May, Nine Entertainment let go of the newspapers it inherited from Fairfax, The Dominion Post, The Press and The Sunday Star-Times, for $1 to a company that goes by the name of Stuff. It seems like a bargain given the copy of the Post at the newsstand will set you back $2.90, hardly a vote of confidence in the future of NZ media.

Yet market size is only part of the explanation. It doesn’t explain why, for example, in a country split politically down the middle, 100 per cent of daily newspapers and virtually every TV and radio station stand proudly with Ardern.

We can only conclude that commercial logic no longer applies. Media companies are no longer driven by the pursuit of unserved segments in the market. It’s not the product that is faulty but the customer. When commercially minded proprietors leave the building, the journalists take charge. They are university-educated professionals cut from the same narcissistic cloth as Ardern. They, too, want to feel like they are making a difference.

With the collapse of NZ’s Fourth Estate it is difficult to see what might stop Ardernism becoming the country’s official religion. The National Party is in no position to offer effective political opposition. The party that reinvented credible government in NZ is bruised from two defeats, uncertain who should lead or in what direction it should head.

Intellectual opposition is all but extinguished in the universities, but still flickers on in alternative media, blogs, websites and YouTube channels, which serve as a faint beacon of dissent.

Is this what Rudd seeks? The last thing a country needs is a prime minister basking in applause who switches on the news and finds herself staring at the mirror.

Would today’s journalists and commentators be familiar with Robbie Burns who wrote:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion.

If they are familiar with these words, would they attempt to see themselves as others see them and accept that not only are most biased but that it shows in their work?


From KiwiBuild to KiwiBlame

01/12/2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pointed her finger at the public over the housing shortage:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is putting some onus on the public for the housing crisis, saying the Government had tried taxation to ease the soaring market three times without public support. . . 

KiwiBuild was an abject failure but that’s no reason to move to KiwiBlame.

Haven’t any of the proposals for capital gains and other such taxes exempted the family home?

Is this the same Prime Minister who campaigned for a CGT but then was eerily silent on the proposal for one from her own Tax Working Group in her first term?

And have capital gains or wealth taxes in other countries had a dampening affect  on house prices?

The answer to the first two questions is yes and to the third is no.

New Zealand First got the blame for stopping a CGT in the last term. That can’t be used as an excuse now and the government could introduce a CGT if it wanted to.

Good governments do unpopular things if they believe them to be the right thing.

A CGT would not however, be the right thing to address the increasing cost of housing. It would raise some revenue eventually but it would have a negligible if any impact on the housing shortage and consequent rising prices.

The steep increase in house prices has more than one cause but the main one is that supply has been outstripping demand for years.

The reason behind that includes the high cost of development, largely as a result of the expensive and time consuming RMA process and regulations that restrict where houses can be built, and how many, and how high they, can be built.

If the PM wants to point any fingers it should be at her government and herself who should be prioritising the promised repeal of the RMA and working on its replacement.

Her KiwiBuild was a practical fail and KiwiBlame is a political fail.


NZ Covid resilience high but low access to vaccine

26/11/2020

Bloomberg has ranked 53 countries’ Covid-19 resilience:

Bloomberg crunched the numbers to determine the best places to be in the coronavirus era: where has the virus been handled most effectively with the least amount of disruption to business and society? . . .

The Covid Resilience Ranking scores economies of more than $200 billion on 10 key metrics: from growth in virus cases to the overall mortality rate, testing capabilities and the vaccine supply agreements places have forged. The capacity of the local health-care system, the impact of virus-related restrictions like lockdowns on the economy, and citizens’ freedom of movement are also taken into account. . . 

 

Effective testing and tracing is a hallmark of almost all the top 10, embodied in South Korea’s approach. The country approved home-grown diagnostic kits within weeks of the virus’s emergence, pioneered drive-through testing stations and has an army of lightning-fast contact tracers who comb through credit card records and surveillance camera footage to track down clusters. Like Japan, Pakistan and other parts of Asia, Korea has drawn on recent epidemic experience after suffering an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, in 2015. . . 

The under-performance of some of the world’s most prominent democracies including the U.S., U.K. and India contrasted with the success of authoritarian countries like China and Vietnam has raised questions over whether democratic societies are cut out for tackling pandemics.

Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking tells a different story: eight of the top 10 are democracies. Success in containing Covid-19 with the least disruption appears to rely less on being able to order people into submission, but on governments engendering a high degree of trust and societal compliance. . . 

The result is an overall score that’s a snapshot of how the pandemic is playing out in these 53 places right now. By ranking their access to a coronavirus vaccine, we also provide a window into how these economies’ fortunes may shift in the future. It’s not a final verdict, nor could it ever be with imperfections in virus data and the fast pace of this crisis, which has seen subsequent waves confound places that handled things well the first time around. Circumstance and pure luck also play a role, but are hard to quantify.

The Ranking will change as countries switch up their strategies, the weather shifts and the race intensifies for a viable inoculation. Still, the gap that has opened up between those economies at the top and those at the bottom is likely to endure, with potentially lasting consequences in the post-Covid world. . . 

Although the USA ranks poorly for case numbers and fatalities it ranks highly for access to vaccine which brings its resilience ranking up.

New Zealand tops the list and has done well with relatively few cases and fatalities but has a lower ranking (2/5) for for access to vaccines.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says we’ll need a ‘certain’ level of herd immunity before our borders open:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed New Zealand will need to have a certain level of Covid-19 herd immunity before border restrictions are significantly altered.

But that may still be a long way off – the Minister of Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said some travel restrictions would likely remain in place for another 12 to 18 months. . . 

‘Certain’ must mean quite high which will require widespread access to publicly funded vaccines.

No-one is suggesting the government will force anyone to have a vaccine, but governments, and businesses, can restrict access to people who don’t get vaccinated. Qantus has already announced it will require people to be vaccinated before they fly.

People will have the freedom to refuse a vaccination but those who do will find their freedom to travel is restricted.

 


61% support 4-year term

24/11/2020

A research New Zealand poll found 61% of respondents support a four-year parliamentary term.

. . . Three-fifths (61%) of New Zealanders would support increasing the Parliamentary term from 3 to 4 years.

This was consistently supported across the regions.

Younger respondents were less in favour with 53% of 18 to 34 year olds in support compared to 62% of 35 to 54 year olds and 67% of those aged 55 years or older.

Forty percent would support the introduction of compulsory voting in New Zealand. There was strongest support from Aucklanders at 45%.

Twenty percent support lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years.

Not surprisingly, support was strongest amongst younger respondents, with support from 28% of 18 to 34 year olds, 23% of 35 to 54 year olds and just 11% of those aged 55 or older.

Male respondents were more in favour at 24% compared to females at 17%, and Wellington was the region most in favour with 29% support. . . 

In one of the election debates National leader Judith Collins and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern found common ground in supporting a four-year term. Most other political parties prefer that option too.

If the views reflected in that poll are correct, the public is coming round to the idea of an extra year between elections too.

The Maxim Institute found three-year terms are very much in the minority internationally:

New Zealand’s House of Representatives is one of only seven parliamentary chambers with a term of three years. The others are
in Australia, Mexico, the Philippines, Qatar, El Salvador, and Nauru. . . 

Australia, Mexico and the Philippines are bicameral.

Focusing on unicameral parliaments paints a similar picture, with the majority of countries surveyed favouring a four or five-year term.  More specifically: fifty-three countries (46.9 percent) have a five-year term, and fifty countries (44.25 percent) have a four-year term.

Local Government New Zealand favours a four-year term:

. . . Newly elected president Stuart Crosby said there were high levels of frustration with the three-year term, and all the processes councils had to go through to make a decision.

He said three years was not enough time to get action on increasingly complex tasks.

Crosby said councils were going backwards faster than they were going forward.

“To get a decision made can take a long time, then a new council comes in and wants to review it so you take a step back before you go forward.

“That doesn’t happen on every decision but on the major, big strategic decisions I’ve seen it happen time and time again.” . . 

The Taxpayers’ Union supports the idea, with a proviso:

“A four-year cycle would help to focus local councils on longer-term projects such as major infrastructure works. But the downside would be a loss of accountability: if voters elect a mayor or councillor who soon disgraces the office or breaks a major promise, we’ll be stuck with them for the full four-year term.”

“There’s a simple fix for this problem. Any extension of the electoral cycle should come with an option for recall election. This means that during the electoral term voters could petition to recall a representative. If enough signatures are gathered, a recall election is triggered for that position, meaning voters can replace a dysfunctional representative with someone more effective.”

“LGNZ has advocated for recall elections previously. If they’re serious about extending the electoral term, they’ll need to address justified concerns about democratic accountability. A recall option will serve this function well.”

The Taxpayers’ Union made the case for local recall elections in a recent briefing paper available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper.

No-one is suggesting recall elections for central government and opposition to the proposal of a four-year term is usually based on the view we don’t have enough checks on governments and four years is too long to let them loose.

The answer to that would be to ensure there are more checks should a four-year term be enacted.

Three year terms are a handbrake on progress and productivity.

It takes at least the best part of a year for a new government to get up to speed, the second year some progress is made but everything slows down for the election and its aftermath in the third.

A one-term government is very rare in New Zealand, and most rule for three which means we effectively have a six or nine-year terms with a hiatus after three for an election.

Let’s save some money and increase government efficiency by having three elections every 12 years instead of four.


How diverse?

04/11/2020

Jacinda Ardern’s new Cabinet is being celebrated for its diversity.

In that context diversity is referring to gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

When it comes to diversity of experience there’s a glaring omission – business ownership.

Damien O’Connor owned a tourism business.

An admittedly fast search for business ownership among the rest of Cabinet didn’t uncover anyone else who had run their own business and very little experience among Ministers of working for private businesses.

Does it matter?

It might be fairer to wait and judge them on their performance rather than their pasts. But I’d be a lot more confident of policy that reflects an understanding of private enterprise and the importance it will play in the recovery that Covid-19 has wrought on the economy if at least a few more of the Ministers had first-hand experience of owning or at least working in it.


Ports close hole govt left open

29/10/2020

Ports of Auckland has closed a hole in the country’s Covid-19 defense that the government left open:

New Zealand’s biggest port has sharply criticised the Government’s lack of COVID-19 rules for international shipping crew, and together with Tauranga Port has introduced its own rules. 

Ports of Auckland told customers in an advisory, obtained by Newshub, that recent positive cases represent “significant failings”.

Foreign ships manned by foreign crew are critical to trade, but swapping crews on these vessels represent an obvious risk. 

Current rules mean foreign crew can fly into Auckland and travel to a port to board a ship without mandatory testing or any isolation. 

“We see crew transfer as a weak point, so we’ve acted immediately to close that,” Matt Ball, General Manager of Public Relations and Communications at Ports of Auckland.

“What we’ve done is introduced a rule that crew can only transfer if they’ve undergone 14 days of managed isolation beforehand.”

The requirement, which includes double tests while in isolation, was implemented after the Auckland marine engineer tested positive after working on the Sofrana Surville. Also on deck that day were eight Filipino seafarers, who’d just flown in and boarded the ship without a test or isolation. . .

In an advisory, the Ports of Auckland told its customers: “We had thought that the New Zealand authorities had a robust process in place for international crew exchanges, but this case has identified some significant failings.” 

In the advisory, it states that the New Zealand authorities need to tighten up the crew change process and that this point has been made very clear at the highest levels. . . 

The company saw a hole and plugged it, why didn’t the government do it months ago and why isn’t it requiring all other port companies to follow Auckland’s example?

The failure to test high risk workers, including port, airport and quarantine workers was first highlighted by Newshub on August 13 – almost two months after a testing strategy was announced.

On August 17, when questioned about the lack of testing of quarantine workers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials didn’t know testing rates were not up to scratch.  

“No one of course said to us at any point, that I recall, that what we asked for was not happening,” Ardern said. 

However, newly released documents show Cabinet did know.

An August 7 briefing told Ministers weekly testing of quarantine workers hadn’t started and only 12 of 2,100 port workers had been tested.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister says issues with testing of border staff have now been rectified.

Can we rely on that reassurance? Is every other port taking Auckland’s strict approach?

We’ve managed to stamp out community transmission of Covid-19 at significant financial and social cost.

The only vulnerability is with incoming passengers and workers on planes and ships. The only way to keep the disease from spreading in the community is to ensure it can’t get past the border.

That requires plugging every hole and ensuring they stay plugged not just for New Zealand’s sake but for that of the crew on ships and for the people in the next port the ships will visit.

 

 

 


Shabby halo

16/10/2020

Australian journalist Greg Sheridan doesn’t share the adulation of Jacinda Ardern:

No international halo is so shabby, or so fraudulent, as that worn by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Politically she resembles Dan Andrews. They excel in woke gesture and progressive symbolism. Their achieve­ments in real policy terms are thin or negative. 

This is a judgment against the dominant narrative concerning Ardern, so let’s first acknowledge her strengths. . .

Ardern has done three positive things. She has just about eradicated COVID-19. She has navigated the politics of the virus so well she stands on the brink of electoral triumph. And she responded with moral clarity and decency to the Christchurch massacre. However, she has still been a poor Prime Minister, elected almost by accident under the Byzantine protocols of her country’s eccentric electoral system, though she won far fewer votes than the National government she replaced. . .

Ardern too is a global media superstar. It goes without saying that her achievements should never be diminished because of her gender or age; she was only 37 when she became Prime Minister. But undoubtedly part of the international Jacindamania comes from the fact she is a young left-wing woman who gave birth in office and took maternity leave. That is all wonderful but it has no bearing on policy achievement. . . .

The truly fatuous Maureen Dowd wrote a gushing profile in The New York Times in which she praised Ardern for trying to rescue refugees from Australia’s “hideous holding facilities in Nauru”. But wait a minute. The Morrison government in the budget just handed down will gradually reduce over four years Australia’s annual refugee intake from nearly 19,000 to about 13,000. Australia has 25.5 million people. New Zealand has five million people and takes around 1000 refugees or fewer a year. Whichever way you cut it, the Morrison government is vastly more generous to refugees.

But Vogue, The New York Times, Time magazine and the fatuous follies of the Nobel Peace Prize, which had Ardern in the running to win the prize, as Barack Obama did, for doing nothing at all, rejoice in the virtual Ardern, the idea of her as a living rebuke to Trump. That’s the point with progressive politics. It has almost nothing to do with competent government administration and useful policies reliably delivered, and almost everything to do with gesture, narrative and the endless recital of the progressive line.

Even on COVID-19, the Ardern government has done much less than it seems and at much greater cost than other countries have paid. There are other countries whose governments have even better records of eradicating COVID-19. And they are? Fiji with 32 cases, Solomon Islands with two cases and Vanuatu with none. Their leaders are not worldwide media sensations yet they got those numbers for the same reasons as New Zealand. They are isolated island nations. Auckland, with something over a million people, is one of the most isolated cities of its size.

The Ardern government was a bit slow to realise how serious COVID-19 was and when it finally responded it did so with overkill. It instituted one of the most severe lockdowns in the world. To give it its due, this was substantially effective in stamping out the virus. Progressive governments have typically been attracted to the most extreme versions of lockdown possible. Progressive pol­itics is inherently authoritarian and enjoys bossing people around. Its key support base is typically government sector employees whose jobs are not lost in lockdown and it is inherently suspicious anyway of the capitalist economy it gets to close down at least for a while. . . 

The Covid-19 response wasn’t hard and early as the government, and most media, keep telling us, but late and lax then harsh.

The more total your shutdown, the more you can eradicate COVID-19. It’s then a matter of keeping your borders shut. This, incidentally, is medieval plague policy — keep everyone out and keep everyone isolated until the plague runs its course.

New Zealanders embraced this policy for the sake of getting rid of the virus. But this is not remotely comparable to the achievements of nations such as Taiwan, South Korea and to some extent Singapore, which have kept the virus under control or out altogether while also keeping their society and economy going. . . 

Sheridan points out that tourism and international education can’t restart and that the IMF Is forecasting our economic decline will be much longer than Australia’s.

Before COVID-19, Ardern was trailing in the polls. Her list of undelivered election promises is staggering: 100,000 affordable homes promised, 600 built; homelessness to be eradicated, it increased; zero carbon emissions by 2050, emissions went up; reduce child poverty, it went up; regional public service emphasis, more public servants based in Wellington than before; light rail from Auckland airport to CBD, abandoned. But then came the virus and she could do her high priestess of the woke religion stuff, day after day. Validated by a swooning international media, unchallenged by a tepid and under-resourced local media, she has sold the narrative that her government has saved NZ. With Peters gone, and the Greens more influential, she will move left in her second term, presaging a lost decade for our beloved cousins across the ditch. One consolation: the best of them will come here.

If our media had concentrated even a little more on performance than personality we’d have a lot more analysis of what Ardern and her government had done.

This, in the NBR, is one of very few criticisms of her record:

If the election had been a referendum on the progress that the government had made over the three years, I think we would have been in a very strong position.”

He said KiwiBuild had been a flop, Labour had abandoned fees-free tertiary education for the second year of study, the Auckland light rail project had flopped and the Provincial Growth Fund was a byword for pork barrel politics. The government had also done poorly on its promise to reduce poverty, with a number of indicators getting worse, mainly because rents had gone up as a result of government policies, he said.

The government had also inherited the public finances in good shape and recording surpluses, yet within two years it was forecasting a deficit before the additional borrowing required in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak. . .

That comes from National’s finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith. He’s right but he’s not impartial.

Several media outlets here quoted Sheridan but where is our home-grown analysis of what the government has done?

It’s much easier to find the media adulation of the leader than it is to find criticism of her government’s performance but until Covid-19 struck polls had National and Labour more or less neck and neck.

The pandemic changed life and it also increased our media’s emphasis on personality at the expense of analysis of performance and none would dare highlight the shabby halo as Sheridan has.

 

 


Rural round-up

10/10/2020

Prime Minister woefully ignorant on livestock emissions:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has displayed glaring ignorance about the impact of livestock biological greenhouse gas emissions on global warming in the latest leaders’ debate.

The Prime Minister stated that agriculture contributes 48 % of our total emissions to justify her position that these emissions are a problem.

What Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does not realise is that cyclical carbon emissions from livestock are not comparable or equivalent to non cyclical carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel. Non cyclical carbon emissions add to the greenhouse effect by increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas while cyclical carbon emissions do not. Just because it is claimed livestock carbon emissions make up 48% of our emissions it does not mean they are 48% of the problem because most of them are cyclical and atmospherically neutral. The 48% figure is also now debunked by leading IPCC scientists. . . 

Government nixes call for fruit pickers to be let into New Zealand, for now

The Minister of Immigration is adamant the government will not let overseas workers cut corners through border controls to fix a horticulture labour shortage.

Growers around the country are facing a crisis like they’ve never seen before.

Usually, about 14,000 workers come in to the country to work the apple season, taking part in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

But there’s only about six thousand in the country from last season, and not all of them want to stay in New Zealand. . .

Shearing her knowledge – Mavis Mullins – Suzanne McFadden :

In the first of three Q&As with keynote speakers from the Sport NZ Women + Girls Summit this week, Suzanne McFadden chats with Mavis Mullins, who’s as comfortable with the buzz of the boardroom as she is with the buzz of sheep clippers. 

A two-time national champion wool handler and the first female president of the world’s most prestigious shearing event, the Golden Shears, Mavis Mullins is also an agribusiness icon and an influential Māori leader.

She started her working life in her family’s shearing business, Paewai Mullins Shearing – which dates back to her grandfather, All Black Invincible Lui Paewai – and grew it to handling two million sheep a year.

After raising four children, Mullins built up an outstanding commercial and governance portfolio, and helped negotiate the treaty settlement of her iwi, Rangitāne. . . 

Innovative wintering research launches in Southland :

Southern dairy farmers will have a front-row seat in designing, approving and testing a new wintering system in Southland.

Invercargill’s Southern Dairy Hub research farm is hosting a new project that will take an innovative, cost-effective wintering system into a full on-farm trial in 2022. The research is the first time this infrastructure has been trialled in New Zealand.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the project is researching two concepts for uncovered structures where cows are kept during winter.

“As well as being effective for the environment and animal wellbeing, the infrastructure needs to be good for people working in it and cost-effective for farmers,” said Mr Mackle. “Investing in new systems and infrastructure is a big decision and cost. This work will not only stress-test the solutions, but also put farmers and their animals at the centre. . .

Sheep milk demand soars – Sudesh Kissun:

Sheep milk company Maui Milk is looking for new farmer suppliers as demand soars.

The company has taken on four new independent suppliers in Waikato this season to complement milk from its own farms.

Maui Milk general manager operations Peter Gatley says the company needs a lot more milk to satisfy demand from Danone for its Karicare brand sheep infant formula.

One of the new conversions is a greenfield site development on a sheep farm; others involve fitting out existing herringbone sheds on dairy farms.  . . 

Tatua payout tops – again! – Sudesh Kissun:

Small Waikato milk processor Tatua has done it again.

The cooperative has declared a 2019-20 season final payout of $8.70/kgMS, after retentions, to its farmer shareholders.

Tatua has continuously topped the milk payout chart over the last decade, leaving bigger players like Fonterra and Open Country Dairy in its wake.

Fonterra’s final payout for last season is $7.19/kgMS, $1.51 less than Tatua. OCD’s final payout hasn’t been made public yet. . . 

Tourism worker left without job sees future in horticulture industry :

A displaced tourism worker says he has no regrets about switching the office for an orchard.

After 18 years in the tourism industry, the impact of Covid-19 left Papamoa-based Geoff Rawlings out of work. In June this prompted him to take up a job in a completely new field, horticulture.

Geoff Rawlings, who is pruning and planting kiwifruit in Matapihi, recently became involved in the Ministry for Primary Industries campaign Opportunity Grows Here. The campaign is trying to attract thousands of New Zealanders to fill the gaps in the primary sector created by Covid-19 border restrictions.

Rawlings said he had spent his entire career in tourism and while it had its ups and downs, including the global financial crisis, this was the first time he had ever felt that it would take a long time to get back up. . . 


Business confidence tanks

29/09/2020

Business confidence has plummeted:

The New Zealand Herald’s  2020 Election Survey has been released with top business leaders saying New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery is in peril – and they want a decisive role with Government in the country’s future.

The annual boardroom barometer of 165 CEOs and high-profile directors has business confidence at the lowest it’s ever been in the survey’s 19-year history.

When asked to rate their level of optimism in the New Zealand economy the CEOs surveyed collectively scored it a 1.36 out of 5.

These are bigger businesses and predominantly urban.

I doubt if farmers are any more confident given the fear and uncertainty around added costs and complexities that are being imposed on primary production.

Westpac CEO David McLean says the future has never been so uncertain, but that means that the need for crisp and clear policies and plans has never been greater.

“We need to see pathways mapped, not just for how to escape from the current Covid-19 crisis, but to take us toward a better future by addressing some of the big challenges we face beyond Covid-19, such as increasing our productivity and tackling climate change,” said McLean.

Many, like Mainfreight’s Don Braid, question Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heavy reliance on Government bureaucrats for advice and execution and her apparent unwillingness to listen to the private sector for ideas.

“There are many willing to devote time, energy and ideas in areas that allow New Zealand to find the right environment to operate in a post-lockdown economy,” said Braid.

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Year survey, taken in association with BusinessNZ, provides an in-depth assessment of CEO opinion at what is the most concerning time in the survey’s long history.

“It’s heartening that a record number of CEOs took part in the 2020 survey against a background of the Covid-19 pandemic. Optimism may be at the lowest levels seen in the survey’s history, but the CEOs’ responses demonstrated their own commitment to turning the economy around,” said says Mood of the Boardroom executive editor and NZ Herald’s Head of Business Content, Fran O’Sullivan.

With the General Election just weeks away business leaders are looking for more from both Labour and National.

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos points to tax policy being a key issue.

“Though Labour’s proposal to increase the highest personal tax rate doesn’t impact on the majority, National has upped the ante by helicoptering in temporary tax relief across the board to stimulate economic growth. Tax therefore promises to be a very complicated and emotive topic, that will either be centre stage this election or not far from it,’’ says Pippos.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said Labour’s economic policy response to Covid has underpinned the economy in a challenging time.

“However, the long-term plans are less well understood. They will need to do a hard sell. National’s plans are slightly more pro-business. But both parties need to talk about how quantitative easing enables them to maximise a reduction in borrowing costs to help grow the economy.” . . 

You can read more about the Mood From the Boardroom at the NZ Herald here.

Confidence isn’t helped by the fact that Labour hasn’t released its fiscal plan:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to immediately release their fiscal plan, so it can be subjected to the same scrutiny as the National Party’s fiscal plan.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The National plan was found to have a few holes after analysis by Labour and independent economists. The Nats admitted to one $4 billion mistake but denied another. It is healthy that major spending plans are put under intense investigation before an election.”

“That is why the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately release Labour’s own fiscal plan. She has told the nation that her numbers ‘stack up’. That clearly means their plan is finished, fact checked, and ready to go. There is no need to wait for a September Treasury data release to unveil the plan – the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) was reported a little over a week ago. All the fiscal data is there.”

“Let people like Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Cameron Bagrie, and your humble Taxpayers’ Union check that Labour’s numbers really do stack up. Then, taxpayers can make an informed choice about who should manage our economy in a post-COVID recession.”

It’s not just a fiscal plan that hasn’t been released, Labour keeps telling us it has a plan for recovery but has given scant details.

Uncertainty is one of the bigger drags on business confidence.

That matters because businesses that lack confidence at best don’t invest and don’t hire more staff, at worst they retrench and make staff redundant.

That so much about Covid-19 and how it will impact the country and the world is uncertain, and to a large degree uncontrollable, makes it even more important that politicians are upfront about their plans and what they can control.


Labour policies could add $2.8 billion costs to business

28/09/2020

Labour policies will add up to $2.8 billion in costs to businesses:

“Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and explain to New Zealanders how much Labour’s policies will hurt the New Zealand, economy National’s Economic Development spokesperson,” Todd McClay says.

“Labour have not shown New Zealand any costing of the economic impact from their recent policy announcements.

“The cost of their policies might not show up in the government’s books, but they will be paid by all New Zealanders – through fewer jobs, lower wage increases and a decline in economic growth.

“So far, Labour has committed to lifting the minimum wage; increasing sick leave requirements; creating another public holiday; and less flexible working agreements.

This won’t only add costs to businesses it will reduce productivity which is already too low.

“The total cost of Labour’s policies could be as much as $2.8 billion per year for New Zealand businesses. What does Labour say the costs are?

“Business NZ said an employee’s absence is currently estimated to cost about $1000 per employee, or $1.8 billion across the economy, will Labour’s policy on sick leave double this?

“Based on previous MBIE estimates of minimum wage increases, raising the minimum wage to $20 will likely cost the economy around $280 million per year.

“An additional public holiday could cost as much as $700 million in extra costs for businesses, based on average wages and the size of the New Zealand workforce.

“The solutions businesses need to grow New Zealand out of our current recession is help with paying the bills, not even higher bills due to Labour’s costly policies.

“New Zealand needs to know what the impact of these policies will be on our weak economy. These policies have consequences.

“Time for some answers.”

These added costs imposed on businesses show Labour is building a barrier to economic recovery:

With businesses failing and unemployment rapidly increasing, Labour’s plans are like throwing petrol on a bonfire, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Nearly 100,000 small businesses have had to borrow $1.6 billion from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) just to cover their cashflow under Labour.

“Grant Robertson thinks he can continue to pile costs on businesses while ignoring the real and disastrous impact. Repaying this debt will be even more difficult with Labour’s agenda to raise the cost of doing business.

“Labour’s announcements of a higher minimum wage, a new public holiday and an increased sick leave could cost the economy $2.8 billion per annum.

“These are not small costs that can be easily absorbed. They amount to over $1000 per employee.

“Despite prompting from National on Friday, Labour has been unable to make a case as to why these policies will be good for our weakened economy.

“Labour’s plans will also lead to higher power prices for businesses of over 30 per cent for industrial users.

“Labour’s idea that $5 billion to $10 billion could be spent on a pumped hydro scheme in Central Otago without raising power prices has been described by electricity company executives as ‘dreamland’.

“Labour need to front up with their assessment of the impact these policies are having on the economy.

“These higher costs will affect Kiwis through fewer jobs, lower pay rises and a smaller economy.

“National will create an environment where businesses can grow and prosper. We’re supporting businesses with $10,000 to hire new staff and provide modern, flexible working practices.

“We will work with businesses, not against them, to create more jobs and higher incomes for Kiwis and their families.”

Some commentators say there is little difference between National and Labour.

In some matters they are right, but not when it comes to the economy.

Labour plans to add costs and complexity which will make it more expensive and difficult to employ people and add other costs to business.

In stark contrast National plans to cut red tape and taxes. This will make it easier to employ people and for businesses to invest in themselves and grow.

National is focusing on what matters, Labour has lesser priorities:


This isn’t best use of borrowed money

25/09/2020

Look what the government is spending borrowed money on:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the value of the Arts Continuity Grant, a COVID-19 response fund which has so far paid out $16 million in grants to a variety of questionable short-term arts projects.

Since March, Creative NZ has offered grants of up to $50,000 for ‘a short-term arts project, or the stage of a project, that can be delivered within a changed and evolving environment as a result of COVID-19.’

Many of the descriptions of these projects are, frankly, incomprehensible. It’s hard to see how bureaucrats in Creative NZ can make an objective judgment on which projects are worthy of funding, and which aren’t.

The resulting handouts speak for themselves. Creative NZ is fighting COVID-19 by spending taxpayer money on plays about menstrual cycles, Māori ‘healing theatre’, and ‘Indigenised Hypno-soundscapes’. That’s madness and it reflects terribly on the Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage – who happens to be Jacinda Ardern.

These grants are massively unfair to taxpayers, with the benefits skewed toward politically-connected Wellington weirdos. Handouts for fringe interest groups mean less money is available for tax relief that would reward productive work. . . 

Here’s a selection of projects on which this money is being spent:

Every cent of money spent on these projects is borrowed, accruing interest (albeit rates are low) and must be repaid.

Does anyone, except perhaps the recipients, think this is the best use of borrowed money when the country is in recession and facing decades of deficits?

People who can’t get the health care they need, whose schools are in disrepair, and who care about worsening deprivation for far too many children won’t.


Govt pressure not in ‘world that has passed”

24/09/2020

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern raised a lot of ire on social media for a comment she made when she interrupted National leader Judith Collins:

That is how a lot of people picked up the comment, though when you see the whole comment it is probably not what she meant.

“If I may, that feels like the view of the world that has passed. When I meet with our dairy sector, and I have to say our primary producers as a sector I’ve probably met with more than any other because of this important work, they absolutely see the need for us to be competitive in this environment.

“We’ve got Australian farmers now talking about climate change. There’s an inevitability here we have to face. But they are the ones talking about sustainability. They are the ones talking about regenerative farming.”

She might not have meant farming was in a world that had passed, but in interrupting Judith she missed the point she was making – that farmers were highly regarded when she was growing up on a dairy farm and now they are feeling anything but and that is due in part to government policies.

Southland dairy farmer Hadleigh Germann said the comment had been taken slightly out of context.

He didn’t believe Ardern was saying that farming was a sunset industry, but he said it was still insensitive to claim that farmers were over the sentiment Collins had highlighted.

“Farmers do feel a lot of weight and uncertainty are on them at the moment. I do believe she’s out of touch and to say that on the whole we’re quite positive about the current state affairs I don’t think is quite right.

It is quite wrong.

“These latest land and water plans have ignored the whole effort farmers having been putting in around our environmental footprint. It’s sort of ‘nice try but still not good enough so we’re re-setting the goalposts and shortening up the time you’ve got to achieve them’,” he said.

Many farmers were throwing up their hands and asking: “Now what?”

Taranaki sharemilkers Simon and Natasha Wilkes said that, while the comment might have been taken out of context, the rural community still felt “raw” about its treatment from Government.

“We feel we have continually been overwhelmed with comments, policies and forever changing goal posts. Farmers have been working so hard to implement environmental requirements, but it still feels like it will never be enough.

“At the end of the day, we work hard for our animals and land which provides for communities and our country and we want to work together to do the best we can,” they said. . . 

The water policies are typical of big-government thinking.

They have been imposed from the government down and are telling farmers what they can and can’t do and how they can do it,  rather than working with farmers to get effects-based rules then leaving them to work out how best to achieve the desired results.


Collins 54% Ardern 41%

23/09/2020

Here’s a poll that will give National supporters some hope:

It’s not scientific, but commentator Jennifer Lees-Marshment said to her surprise, Judith Collins was the better communicator in the first leaders’ debate:

Ardern, who is normally the really effective communicator, was speaking like a typical Prime Minister at the end of their third term, not first, lots of big numbers, lots of big words, lots of complex communication, whereas Collins was much more effective at communication, more relateable and more empathetic.

“And Ardern seemed to lack passion, it came out right at the end, but for most of the debate we kept discussing, where’s the passion where’s the heart?”

1 NEWS political editor Jessica Mutch McKay agreed, saying it was captured in a question from Auckland schoolgirl Aigagalefili Fepulea’i Tapua’i, who spoke about kids in South Auckland having to leave school to support their families.

“Judith Collins came in with the answer relating to her husband and really spoke from the heart and quite naturally and quite passionately.

“When Jacinda Ardern came in second, it almost felt like an echo of what happened before.”  . .

The full debate video is here.

 


If this is the new normal . . .

19/08/2020

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern wants the politics taken out of the Covid-19 response:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for politics to be taken out of the Government’s COVID-19 response as Opposition leader Judith Collins grilled her on the lack of testing of border workers.

The Prime Minister acknowledged in Parliament on Tuesday that the Opposition has contributed to constructive criticism of the Government’s response, paying tribute to National’s health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

“I have to concede that in my view that at these times I absolutely expect as a Government we should be held to account. That is why we are here,” Ardern said.  . .

That criticism has included valid questions over shortcomings which have put Auckland in level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country at level 2.

But the Prime Minister hit out at the Opposition over criticism of the Government’s testing regime and previous calls to ease lockdown restrictions.

When the testing regime hasn’t even met the government’s own expectations it is absolutely in order for the Opposition to question it. It is also valid to ask for an easing of lockdown restrictions so that exceptions are based on what can be done safely rather than the arbitrary definition of what’s essential.

“There are areas where I think it would be useful if we took the politics out of the response.”

That might have more sway had she not declared this will be a Covid election which put politics firmly into anything to do with the response.

“We have always prepared for this scenario because no one has managed to get themselves to a situation where they haven’t experienced a second wave – no one.”

If not testing all frontline workers, having so few testing stations people have to queue for hours, and forcing essential workers to queue for hours to get out of Auckland is being prepared they need to seriously reassess what is adequate preparation.

Even if she hadn’t said it was a Covid election and that they were prepared, the Opposition should be questioning the Government’s handling of the response which, as Kate Hawkesby points out has shown a marked lack of competence:

If we’re weighing up competence, what’s our most recent example of it? The border. The testing, the lack of testing, the failure to check things are being done that they say are being done.

That sheets back to the lack of commercial and private business experience in this Government. It is not used to the measures, checks and balances that a robust business in the private sector would have in place. It is not used to demanding higher standards, or running things efficiently.

Health Minister Chris HIpkins has followed his predecessor’s example of blaming the DG of Health.

Hipkins may have some grounds for that but not sufficient to excuse his own failure to check that what the government had requested to happen was happening, especially when there had been similar failings so recently.

If, as the government has told us, this is the new normal, they need to urgently address their preparation for, and ability to cope with, it and to accept that the Opposition’s criticism, political or not, is valid.


Leadership failure fosters fear

07/08/2020

Why have we become a nation of scaredy cats?

Most Kiwis want New Zealand’s borders to stay shut to non-residents, despite high-powered calls to soften restrictions to ease economic pain.

That’s according to the NZ Herald-Kantar Vote 2020 poll, suggesting 68 per cent of people think our border policy should be kept as is.

About 29 per cent thought the ban could be relaxed to allow in non-New Zealand residents and citizens, so long as they quarantined for two weeks and paid for it. . . 

People weren’t  asked if they favoured laxer border controls or imposing more costs on the taxpayer for non- New Zealand citizens and residents.

They were asked if foreigners could come in if they underwent two weeks quarantine and paid for it and more than two thirds said no.

Had the poll asked if people wanted less stringent border controls and more costs for the taxpayer I’d have been surprised if anyone said yes.

But what’s the problem with letting in people who aren’t citizens or residents providing they are quarantined at their own cost?

Why would so many people be frightened of that?

Kate Hawkesby has the answer:

. . . Labour has seen what Covid has done for them, and they’re running with it.

Forget policy, forget issues, forget future plans, as long as they can keep reminding us to wash our hands, it keeps us in a state of fear. It keeps people on the back foot and it yields a sense of gratitude. It makes an inexperienced disorganised government look like saviours. We focus less on what they haven’t done, and how many ill conceived bills they’re rushing through, and more on the fact the international press said Ardern is eloquent. Are we really that shallow?  

And is anyone questioning why new Covid advertising is coming out now? After months of Level 1, we need to start some more advertising on how to wash your hands, now? Aside from what that must be costing us the taxpayer in advertising, isn’t it essentially politically motivated? What worked well for us – Covid. What should we do in the lead up to the election? Policy messaging? Nope, more Covid. . . 

Labour wants us in a state of fear and is stoking it in what must be the most cynical election strategy it could come up with.

Even former Prime Minister Helen Clark says there’s no reason not to open to border door a little more providing it’s done safely:

The current border arrangements would need to change, soon, to help the city and country’s economic fortunes.

“Even with a two week quarantine, there is so much more we can do. It will need major private sector partnerships to gear up the quarantine system.

“There’s no reason in principle why the [international] students could not come back with effective quarantine. There’s no reason in principle why tourists who are prepared to pay for two weeks’ quarantine can’t come back, there’s no reason in principle why you can’t have Covid-free travel channels with others, or that working holiday makers couldn’t come back if they are prepared to pay for quarantine … certainly the skilled workers, the global visa people who could drive the economy.

“If, post-election, the thinking can go to how to try to remove this chokepoint which is existing quarantine, that would help even within the existing two week quarantine setting. We need a national conversation and buy-in to this… from let’s get this done to how do we get the next stage done.” . . 

The current Labour leader Jacinda Ardern could use her popularity to reassure the public that more people could come in safely.

That wouldn’t mean doing anything to encourage reckless behaviour, but it would mean stopping the political manipulation of Covid-19 strategy and fostering fear.

That she isn’t is a failure of leadership and it’s showing anything but the kindness she preaches we all should be practising.


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