Stop the ‘smorgasbord of abject waste’

22/09/2021

If only Jason Walls was making this up :

As New Zealand faced the brunt of a global pandemic, the Government spent $26,000 commissioning a novel about the collapse of democracy in an association of alpaca breeders.

As people lost jobs in droves, almost $50,000 was given to the Comedy Trust to examine what changes need to be made to better support a more diverse and sustainable comedy industry.

I’m not making this up.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has spent $57 billion on New Zealand’s economic recovery.

A lot of this money has been well spent – the wage subsidy scheme prevented what would have likely been an economic collapse.

But amongst the important, well-targeted spending is a smorgasbord of abject waste.

Billions and billions of dollars have been spent on projects that don’t come close to a semblance of sensible spending, let alone meeting the threshold for Covid Recovery.

What makes this waste even worse is that every cent of those billions and billions of dollars is borrowed.

Every cent wasted on these projects is a cent that has to be repaid, with interest.

None of these cents will be available for health, education, infrastructure, police, welfare and other essential public spending for decades.

Take the $18,000 for writing poetry that “explores indigeneity and love in the time of climate change,” for example.

It’s easy to take aim at the Creative NZ funding and to poke holes in what the Government’s decided to fund through its $55m “public interest journalism” fund.

And yes, although $21,800 for the writing music that forms a song-cycle from the suburban labyrinth is a relatively small amount when considering the Government’s mammoth budget, other larger projects are harder to ignore.

Some $26.7 million was spent on cameras on fishing boats, in the name of Covid recovery.

There was also $200m for the construction of a new building at the University of Auckland.

And a whopping $1.22 billion was spent on the jobs for nature scheme – as a little perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly 1000 houses in Auckland.

Are they important projects? Maybe. Should they have been the Government’s focus in these unprecedented times? Absolutely not.

The focus should have been on what was really needed, one, arguably the most urgent, of which even without a pandemic, is the health system.

The currency of politics is opportunity cost – what project has missed out on funding as a result of another getting the nod from the Beehive.

In the case of the Covid-19 Recovery Fund, every cent spent on commissioning podcasts, picture books and poetry is money not spent on New Zealand’s health care system.

Meanwhile, that very system is being stretched to its limits. . . 

Hardly a day goes by that serious problems with health services and for the staff who provide them, don’t feature in the news.

Many of the problems are long running but all have been exacerbated by this government’s policies. These include the failure to grant residency to overseas health professionals who are here, not giving those outside New Zealand priority in MIQ, and wasting millions with a wholesale change to the system that will do nothing to improve services.

The very real threat of overburdening the health system was a major reason for lockdowns. Little if anything has been done to improve its capability and resilience.

But there is some hope.

Tacked at the bottom of a Grant Robertson press release about New Zealand’s “strong economic momentum” was a fairly significant note.

Cabinet’s decided to allocate a further $7 billion to the Covid-19 Recovery Fund.

When added to the $3b that’s left in that fund, ministers have a tidy $10b extra to spend.

Although it’s a sixth the size of the overall Covid fund, it’s not an insignificant amount of money.

It needs to be spent properly, with New Zealand’s health care system at its focus.

That’s more hospital beds – not funding the instrumental arrangement of 10 songs for children, from ideas given by children.

More nurses – not paying for seven large domes in fiberglass for exhibition as exoplanets using satellite imagery.

More money for New Zealand’s hospitals – not funding for obscure and wasteful projects in the name of the ‘Covid Recovery’. 

More money not just for hospitals and their staff but for primary health services too.

The Taxpayers’ Union has been highlighting bizarre funding decisions on Twitter:

Arts are important but the biggest benefit from these grants goes to individuals.

That money would have done so much more for so many more had it been spent on health.

 


Getting NZ moving

17/07/2020

National leader Judith Collins has announced a $31 billion infrastructure package to get New Zealand moving:

About half ($17 billion) would be invested in the upper North Island – home to half of all New Zealanders.

“Auckland and the Upper North Island are broken by congestion, worsened by the current Government’s incompetence, and everyone knows it,” Ms Collins says.

“Congestion means goods being delivered late to our ports, parents being late to pick up the kids from rugby practice, and a tradie only doing two, rather than four, cross-town trips per day.”

This has a huge cost in human, economic and environmental terms.

To fix this, Ms Collins said National would go ahead with everything Labour has said it will do in transport – with the exception of Phil Twyford’s light-rail Ghost Trains, and the probable exception of the $360 million Skypath 2 – but would go much further.

First, Ms Collins said National would connect Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga with four-lane expressways – including tunnels under the Brynderwyn and Kaimai mountain ranges – to create a genuinely integrated region of 2.5 million New Zealanders.

“National’s vision is to transform the four cities to be one economic powerhouse, unlocking their potential so the upper North Island becomes Australasia’s most dynamic region.”

Second, Ms Collins announced National would complete Auckland’s rapid transit network, including rail to the airport and new busways, as envisaged by its former mayors Sir Dove Myer-Robinson and Len Brown, and former Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee.

“One rough definition of a city is that it is a place you can get from one side to the other in an hour, or a place that the average time to get to work is 30 minutes. National will measure our progress against the goals of 30 minutes to get to work and one hour to get across the city.”

Third, Ms Collins announced work towards an additional harbour crossing would begin immediately, with the intention of work beginning on the ground in 2028.

“National’s Plan is that the crossing should be a tunnel or tunnels, and be for both road and rail, and new public transport technologies that come on line.”

Ms Collins announced Auckland’s ferry network would be expanded to reduce congestion on road and rail. National’s Plan also includes new walking and cycling links as well as expanded park-and-ride facilities.

National’s projects will be sequenced over the next decade and beyond, but work will also begin immediately on $300 million worth of digger-ready projects in Auckland – and throughout the country in 2021 – to fix potholes, roundabouts, and crash corners.

The $17 billion earmarked for the Auckland and upper North Island projects, and the $14b for soon-to-be-announced projects in the southern half of the country, would come from the current Government’s Covid fund. NZTA will also be allowed to better leverage its balance sheet by borrowing up to $1 billion a year, and there will be tolls on the new Brynderwyn, Waitemata and Kaimai tunnels.

Ms Collins said her Government would be different from Labour, saying “it’s time for boldness and long-term vision”.

“National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.

“Today’s plan is one that New Zealanders – including Aucklanders – have been waiting for, for generations.”

The Transport Funding summery is here and says:

National intends to make a major change to the way we fund transport investments in New Zealand.

This simple yet profound shift in thinking fundamentally changes the game by allowing us to significantly invest more on an annual basis, develop a pipeline of projects, and invest in important projects before they become urgent.

We call this the intergenerational approach.

Our policy
National will let Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) borrow significantly more on its own balance sheet, using the $4 billion of annual revenue it receives from fuel tax and road user charges to service the debt. 

The current Government has recently made a similar move with Kāinga Ora.

Transport infrastructure has intergenerational benefits, it is fair to take an intergenerational approach to paying for it.

While this was Judith’s first big policy announcement, and she was happy to share the attention:


Rural round-up

31/07/2015

Westland Milk cuts payout further as dairy prices fall – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Westland Milk Products, New Zealand’s second-largest dairy cooperative, cut its forecast milk payout to farmers by 10 cents for the current season and for next season’s by $1, in the face of sustained weakness in global dairy prices.

The Hokitika-based company will pay $4.80 to $4.90 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2014/15 season, with the final payout to be determined at the September board meeting, it said in a statement. The forecast payout for the 2015/16 season was slashed to between $4.60 and $5/kgMS, from a previously band of $5.60 to $6/kgMS.

The advance rate for this season remains at $4.80/kgMS, although the 2015/16 season rate was revised to $3.80/kgMS from $4.40/kgMS. . .

 

Light at the end of the paddock for dairy farmers – Jason Walls:

The New Zealand dollar is poised to shed more value against the US by the start of next year and dairy prices may only be at the current level temporarily.

This is good news for farmers, says ASB Bank rural economist Nathan Penny, who forecasts the New Zealand dollar will be at 61c against the US by the beginning of 2016.

He says the one of the biggest factors to this will be the US interest rate hike later this year. . .

Speech to Horticulture New Zealand Conference Award Dinner:

Good evening. Thank you Julian Raine, Horticulture New Zealand President, for that introduction. It is a pleasure to join you this evening in recognising excellence and future leaders of the horticulture industry.

I would particularly like to acknowledge outgoing Chief Executive Peter Silcock for all his contribution to the industry over the past 30 years.

Tonight I want to talk to you briefly about the long-term value that can be created by recognising talent and growing leaders.

A growing industry

Horticulture is a top performing primary industry. In the year to June 2015, export revenue reached $3.897 billion. This is up $602 million from 2012, a total of over 18 percent growth over four years. . .

 

Dairy modules hitting the spot for DWN members:

Dairy Women’s Network has received feedback on how its latest professional development offering is being perceived by its members – with impressive results.

The network launched its new Dairy Modules programme for the first time in November 2014 and has since had the programme evaluated by the renowned Net Promoter Score system, confirming world class standard. . .

 

Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2015 announced:

A great win for Mark Langlands from Te Kairanga as he becomes the Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2015. Contestants battled it out at Te Kairanga Vineyard with their final challenge being to deliver a speech to a key audience in the evening at the Martinborough Village Cafe.

Contestants completed a wide range of activities including questions on trellising, vine management, pests & diseases, budgeting, tractor maintenance and irrigation as well as having an interview and a quick fire buzzer round. . .

 

Wool Firms:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that despite a slightly stronger New Zealand dollar wool prices were firm to slightly dearer. With less wool available due to weather affecting shearing and vacation related shipping requirements this has helped underpin prices.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies increased 0.99 percent week on week.

Of the 7,905 bales on offer 96.2 percent sold. . .

 

PERRIAM on national stage at New Zealand Fashion Week 2015:

Luxury merino fashion brand PERRIAM has been selected for a special showcase on wool in fashion at the prestigious New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW) in August.

PERRIAM is among some of the country’s iconic labels chosen for the Choose Wool show, taking to the runway with Sabatini, twenty-seven names, Tanya Carlson, Hailwood, Liz Mitchell and Wynn Hamlyn on Tuesday, August 25.

Curated by leading Kiwi stylist Anna Caselberg, who is known for her work with NZ wools, Choose Wool represents an important aspect of the NZ fashion industry. . .

 


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