National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

Amy Adams, who had announced her retirement, is staying on with responsibility for Covid-19 Recovery.

Judith Collins:  Economic Development, Regional Development, is Shadow Attorney-General and takes on Pike River Re-entry.

Paul Goldsmith keeps Finance and has responsibility for the Earthquake Commission.

Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament; GCSB; NZSIS and Shadow Leader of House.

Michael Woodhouse keeps Health, is  Deputy Shadow Leader of the House and Associate Finance

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

Scott Simpson:  Environment, Climate Change and Planning (RMA reform)

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

Shane Reti: Tertiary Skills and Employment,  Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Health

Melissa Lee: Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Data and Cybersecurity

Andrew Bayly:  Revenue, Commerce, State Owned Enterprises and Associate Finance

Alfred Ngaro: Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary, and Children and Disability Issues

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

Matt King: Regional Development (North Island), Associate Transport

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

Maureen Pugh: Consumer Affairs, Regional Development (South Island), West Coast Issues

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

At the time of the announcement SImon Bridges was considering his future, he nas subsequently announced he will stay on in parliament and contest the Tauranga seat again.


Quotes of the month

May 1, 2020

The most galling aspect of the current lock down is that we could’ve prevented it. If we had introduced strict quarantine at the border and made provision for widespread testing much earlier, like South Korea and others, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we now find ourselves. We all have to pay a high price to bring this disease under control and that cost is now as much in our liberty as our wallets. I don’t think there is anything to be gained at this time in castigating the Government for their earlier inaction, but let’s not give them undue credit either. Hopefully there will be a reckoning after all this is over. – Kiwiwit

One should never underestimate the power of amnesia in human affairs. Even catastrophes on a vast scale are often soon forgotten, at least by those who were not directly affected by them. The young in Eastern Europe, it is said, know nothing of the ravages of communism, though they lasted decades and still exert an influence, and quite a lot think that socialism might be a good thing to try, as if it had never been tried before. Moreover, no memory exerts a salutary effect by itself unaided by thought and reflection: memory (even where accurate) has to be interpreted, and where there is interpretation there is the possibility of error and disagreement. – Theodore Dalrymple

With a full belly, everyone knows better than farmers how to manage land, and how to care for the countryside. – James Rebanks

This is our wake-up call to respect farming once more — not uncritically: we have an absolute right to want more nature on farmland, high welfare standards for farm animals, and safe and healthy food. –James Rebanks

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in the Listener in which I was too dismissive of the health risks of the Covid-19 threat. The reaction was furious and often vituperative – which is another thing we have all become accustomed to these days. My column that would normally be spinning off the printing press right now, said, “I got it wrong”.

I did get it wrong, but our job is to scrutinise, and I remain more afraid of the economic fallout of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 than I am of the virus itself. – Joanne Black

I don’t jeer at smokers, though. Nicotine is a drug, you get hooked on it, and it takes a lot of effort to stop – I had someone doing it with me and we could console and help each other when it got too hard. It was also a time when I didn’t have any money worries, but really, in the end I kept it up because I was determined I wasn’t going through withdrawal symptoms ever again. I hated that I couldn’t just stop without enduring what seemed like punishment instead of the congratulations I deserved. Renée

That cast iron aversion to enforcing personal responsibility is baked in to our law in numerous areas. . . Shame (whakaama) is the mechanism at the cultural heart of nearly all successful systems for control of anti-social behaviour.  – Stephen Franks

It is as if the government is afraid of confronting and dealing with real hard choices –  and being honest on what they value, what they don’t –  and just prefers now to deal in simplistic rhetorical absolutes, when not much is very absolute at all.Michael Reddell

 Bauer’s exit is further evidence that foreign control of New Zealand media is generally ruinous. Australian ownership did grave – some would say irreparable – damage to both our major print media companies and it seems the Germans are no better. Overseas owners have no emotional stake in the country and no long-term commitment to our wellbeing. They don’t understand our culture and ethos and are largely indifferent to New Zealand affairs. They are interested in us only for as long as they can make a profit, and when that ceases, they cut and run. – Karl du Fresne

Many politicians and voters don’t seem to appreciate the reality that every dollar spent by the government needs to come from taxpayers, who need to earn that dollar in order for the government to take and spend it. Even when the government borrows money to fund its splurge, it is just postponing the bill to future taxpayers. Kiwiwit

We will decide to end social isolation and take to the cafes (those that have survived) with gusto. It will be our duty to support what is left of the economy and keep people employed. We will rush to businesses that the COVID-19 Czars deemed non-essential and hope we have the cash to spend and hope they survived. – Judith Collins

Consistency, at least in matters of public policy, is no doubt the hobgoblin of little minds, and not every argument has to be followed to its logical conclusion. Philosophical abstractions cannot be the sole guide to our political actions, though neither can they be entirely disregarded. The man with no principles is a scoundrel; the man with only principles is a fanatic.Theodore Dalrymple

The feminization of society isn’t  the overlay of feminist values. No. It’s the overlay of natural feminine tendencies. Don’t tell me they don’t exist. Most females become mothers. They are biologically designed to nurture. To bond through touch and soft murmurs. To provide their bodies to their babies (and lovers) as cushions and warmth. They placate, they adjudicate. They practice kindness with reasonable ease because that is at the core of the jigsaw puzzle piece they are.

Mine is a traditional but organic view of what a women is. She is not less than a man. And she is not more. – Lindsay Mitchell

When the New Zealand public looks back on the response to Covid-19 they won’t be judging success by whether we went ‘faster’ or ‘harder’ than other governments. Instead, we will want to know whether the Government’s response was balanced and proportionate.

Specifically, was the response proportionate to the risks posed to the citizenry from the virus? Were the short-term and long-term consequences to health and wellbeing appropriately balanced? Were the impacts on younger members of society who bear the brunt of the financial consequences appropriately weighed against the interests of the elderly members who carry the highest health risks? And were the impacts on low-paid wage earners and disadvantaged communities who will fall deeper into poverty appropriately considered and compensated?

Certainly, extending the lockdown beyond four weeks and prolonging border closures would be the right thing to do only if it saves more lives than it costs. Grant Guilford

 I get home and just try to catch up on all the news I missed while I was writing it. As with March 15, I find filtering the horrible events through the filter of a news story that I am writing the best way to numb myself to their power. If you have to sit back and think about the world shutting all its borders for years to come, of a recession deeper than any we’ve felt in a century, of needless deaths if we don’t resist all the things that make us feel alive, then it all gets a bit much. When you get to write it out as a news story its just data to feed into a well-worn formula, a coping mechanism that also happens to be your job. – Henry Cooke

 The best battery of all is a lake. Water management allows more investment in plant based proteins, better management of waterways, and more green industry. If we want this renewable future then as a country we need to have a mature discussion about water storage which must be, and will be, a net positive for the environment. – Rod Drury

One of the lessons from the animal world, is that every disease has its unique characteristics that determine the specific strategy. But every time, one way or another, it requires a track and trace that is carried out with speed and rigour. – Keith Woodford

I write my way into a story, a poem, a play and I write my way out. One thing I know for sure – there’ll be sticking points, hurdles. Writing that flows like it was effortless and easy to write comes only after hard work. Renée

There must be many other people in these strange times who find that having the time, no longer trying to stuff too many duties and activities into their day, they can now discover the world of small things around them, and find it utterly loveable. Birds singing, leaves unfolding, spiders spinning their miraculous webs – all these things can be food for the soul and can remind us of the goodness of life even in ‘these interesting times’, in the words of the Chinese proverb. –  Valerie Davies

What other industry is allowed to steal the product of another industry’s endeavour and pay nothing for it, while at the same time steal their livelihood through advertising? Because that’s what social media does. They pay absolutely nothing for the product that is the lifeblood of their operation and that is the news content made and paid for by news media organisations.

“I know of no other industry where you can steal something and not only get paid for it through advertising but get the government’s backing for it as well. – Gavin Ellis

So let’s use every nuanced tool we have available to us. Let’s protect the vulnerable, require businesses to prove they can operate safely before reopening, seriously consider regional alert levels, and continue with our physical distancing and virus hygiene protocols. But let’s also move quickly to staunch the bleeding of our troubled economy. Otherwise, we may need to start including suicide statistics, domestic violence call-outs and bankruptcy numbers in our daily briefings. – Lizzie Marvelly

My mum has probably never shown up in the GDP. Men can be pretty shit with a tape measure when it comes to women. No offence. But she could help you with that. Run it down your arm. Around the cuff. Calculate costs in an instant. Show you where you went wrong. Pins askew in her mouth. Glen Colquhoun

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  – Penny Clark-Hall

The people that we are talking about now are not the sports stars, not the celebrities, they are the people at the front line -the health workers – the Jenny’s from Invercargill, they are the special people. – Sean Fitzpatrick

One of the problems with Government money is that it always feels like other people’s money, doesn’t it? At the end of the day it’s ours or at least future generations’, who will have to pay it back in some way. We ought to be just as cautious with that money as we would be in our own businesses.

If you give cheap or free Government money to enable businesses to continue, in doing so you may be destroying the very thing that is valuable in business, which is the ability to evaluate risks and to take risk where the benefits that flow are greater than the costs. – Rob Campbell

Not all deaths have the same social cost. The death of a 90 year old can be sad, but the death of a child or young adult is almost always a tragedy. Burden of disease estimates often adjust for the number of life years lost and this adjustment should be made in assessments of the benefits of intervention options.Ian Harrison

Is there any rail network in a sparsely populated narrow and skinny country like ours that has ever paid its way? Perhaps the Greens can enlighten us if there is. The Greens will probably say that there is a financial cost to an economy where climate change is front and centre, but we already know what a carbon-free economy in the year 2020 is like – we just have to reflect on the economic destruction that has taken place during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rail is not an asset – it’s a liability. And it’s not a stimulus package, any more than spending money on people digging holes in the ground is. Stimulus money should be spent on work that will facilitate commerce and enhance the economy in the long-term, not destroy it, which is what the Greens are proposing. – Frank Newman

If the government wants to build on its success so far and continue running an effective public health campaign against Covid-19 at minimal cost to the economy, it needs a robust decision-making framework that will allow rapid response to changing circumstances and reflect a broad range of health, social and economic considerations. – Sarah Hogan

The more the government can show it is learning and carefully considering the complex sectoral, health, social and economic trade-offs at each alert level – most likely by comparison with a ‘no intervention’ alternative – the more likely it is that decisions will prove durable.

Without more structure, rigour and intense communication effort, the gains won so far against the virus risk unravelling if public scepticism and weariness combine to thwart the battle in the months ahead. – Pattrick Smellie

We shouldn’t take our culture and heritage for granted because it has helped us to strengthen our resolve and courage in such an uncertain time.

I have found that looking out for each other and valuing our culture makes us stronger and although it has been tough we will come out stronger as a community. – Hana Halalele

It does stick in my craw that even the most self-reliant of us have all become dependent on the state. I can’t help thinking that this is seen by those in power as a useful by-product of their Covid-19 response. The metaphysical basis of almost all political belief today is social, cultural and economic collectivism. We are all just part of one big, global village, and, as in any village, every person should be concerned with everyone else’s business. Self-reliance is seen as selfishness and is not to be tolerated, and if you think you know what is best for your own life, you simply don’t know what is good for you. – Kiwiwit

As leader of the nation, Ardern is unparalleled. But her performance as leader of the government is less flash. – Matthew Hooton

Amid the coronavirus implosion I’m guessing productivity failures won’t even get much attention this election.  But they should, and any serious recovery plan should go hand in hand with a strategy that has some credible chance of finally beginning to reverse decades of failure.  Turning inwards and looking more heavily to the state is most unlikely to be such an answer. – Michael Reddell

Any one country trying them will quickly find that tariffs meant to protect domestic steel producers, for example, ruin domestic industries that use steel. And when everyone turns protectionist, the complex international supply networks that deliver us everything from cars to phones seize up. –Eric Crampton

Given that a supply chain these days can take in the entire globe, how is the official to know whose making “essential” parts and who’s not? How, even, are manufacturer’s to know, if the screws they’re making are just the ones that are needed to hold together this machine that when running properly makes thatmachine, and that machine is the one that makes ventilators, say. – Peter Cresswell

Here’s what politicians don’t understand: The economy isn’t a lightswitch that can be turned off quickly, then turned back on without consequence. Economic freedom isn’t just an integral part of the American dream, it’s a prerequisite for prosperity.

Most importantly right now? Everyone’s livelihood is essential to them.

Economic activity is, at its heart, a human activity. To disregard some as non-essential is a mistake with heavy consequences. – Amanda Snell

I find myself wondering if people can identify with what I have written about how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer and whether they have found themselves glimpsing the world I live in. In some strange way it could be possible that people are experiencing to one degree or another, what it feels like to have the rug abruptly pulled from under their feet and to wonder if they are going to die. Right now, people are facing one of the greatest challenges in life that they could ever imagine, just as I and many like me faced when we were given our cancer diagnosis. No words can ever describe what it’s like living with cancer but maybe an experience such as what we’re currently living through might provide a glimpse. Like with a cancer diagnosis, this pandemic will change lives and for many life will never return to what they have always known. It will change the way they view their lives and the world, perhaps even their priorities so post-pandemic life becomes a new normal for them. That phrase is one that everyone who has experienced cancer will have heard at some point because life post-cancer is never the same again, it actually does become a “new normal”.  – Diane Evans-Wood

You know, the theatre has kept going through the plague in the 1600s and it has a 2000 year-old history. Performers are part of that whakapapa and there will always be a need for human beings to connect…and, of course, that is what the arts does for us. – Jennifer Ward-Lealand

We need to balance the ability to be financially sustainable while being environmentally sustainable, not be expected to reach lofty targets set when the world was burning more fossil fuels and living beyond its means before the pandemic.

For NZ those targets need to be readdressed as soon as possible. We must lift the lid on the pressure cooker the primary industries have been under as we look to the future. – Craig Wiggins

One thing I do know is that what has become important now has always been important – food, shelter and good company – Craig Wiggins

Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. Every single job that is being done in our economy with these severe restrictions that are taking place is essential. . . People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that’s an essential job. Jobs are essential – Scott Morrison

Merit of action should be based on decisions made (or not made), the application of reason and science, and of course, the final results. Merit and accolade should never be given simply because of person’s age, gender, belief system, or political leanings. Sadly, we are seeing a commentariat very willing to continue its pursuit of identity politics where the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Simon O’Connor

Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones

And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands, history of pragmatism and underdogs’ craving for recognition.Damien Cave

You are going to be part of a team facing tradeoffs.  Will we cancel the upgrading of the Tauranga to Katikati highway where there are too many road deaths so we can plant trees on good farm land to suck up CO2?  Will we delay buying equipment for an isolation strategy in a probable flu epidemic or build a cycleway on the Auckland harbour bridge?  Should we introduce tough new water quality measures while farmers are struggling and suiciding?  Will Pharmac get more money for new drugs to save five to ten lives or will we build a tramline to the airport?  Can we afford to close maternity hospitals in Southland risking mothers and babies lives so we can shift the Port of Auckland to Whangarei? – Owen Jennings

I have been alarmed to see that disdain for the mainstream media has spread to the mainstream media itself. Recently I was contacted by people who should know better, asking me to send them a copy of my column because they refused to fork out the readies to breach this paper’s paywall. The total required at the time was $1 a week. This much they would not sacrifice because of their aversion to one columnist. They would forgo the fine work produced by many excellent writers who did not have that columnist’s attention-grabbing profile and gift for alienating readers. . . .

Now more than ever, mainstream media which, for all its flaws, continues to uphold basic journalistic standards has a vital role to play in society.

As I explained at the time, refusing to share my column with my stingy friends, if you think life without magazines is bad, wait until you live in a world without newspapers.Paul Little

We must never again allow a situation where the law allows a young woman with much charm and little real world experience, to legally take such dictatorial powers.

The current legislation needs to be reconsidered in Parliament. While it’s conceivable such situations could arise in the future requiring such a heavy-handed approach, the supporting legislation should require say a 75% Parliamentary vote. Sir Bob Jones

There are two clear dangers for New Zealand.

The first is the virus – or more specifically, the prime minister’s strategy of eliminating the virus; how many lockdowns can we endure?

And the second is our prime minister, who fundamentally believes in state control, and is being given a free rein to embed her agenda deep into the heart of our democracy.  – Muriel Newman

Instead of adding to the deficit by throwing expensive shovels at projects, and thereby taking the public sector’s share of total spending up even further than its current, very high, level of 40 per cent of GDP, let’s hold the line on spending and cut tax revenues for a while, and let the households and the business sector sort out the shovelling for themselves. – Tim Hazeldine

For a Government, public confidence is the most precious of commodities. In ordinary times, it allows businesspeople to take more risks, invest in plant and technology, open new markets, start new ventures, employ more staff. It allows householders to decide yes, we will buy the new fridge, take a bigger holiday, eat out more often. Confidence turns the wheels of the economy. Simon Wilson

We are right to take a strong stand to value life and be against premature death. What we should now ask of our leaders is that they be consistent and place equal value on the risks, both physical and mental, for all people. One of the important roles of teachers in a crisis situation is to hear students’ questions and concerns with an open mind and allow them to work their way through things. Suppressing this process can only lead to conformity for the sake of it and a deep sense of helplessness. – Alwyn Poole

We’ve flattened the curve; we don’t need to flatten our country. Indeed, we now need another curve, an upward growth curve – growth, jobs, and a track back to normality.Simon Bridges

 The instinct of the Labour/ New Zealand First government will be to assume that a committee of Wellington politicians and officials, with a couple of business folk, a union rep and two iwi leaders should steer our path into the new economy. The likes of Shane Jones and Phil Twyford will implement it. . .

But the core engine of growth will always be private sector investment – men, women and their businesses taking on new ventures, rebuilding their businesses, expanding, hiring people – taking mad risks. No committee would have thought Kiwis should get into rockets, or into online accounting systems.

The recipe hasn’t changed. Successful economies make it easy for the investment to flow to more productive activities – they welcome investment, they don’t over regulate or over tax, they provide clear and consistent rules, properly enforced, and don’t go changing them all the time. – Paul Goldsmith

This is not a time to panic or point fingers. It is time for us to reveal our true character. Sir Don McKinnon

We need to speak very plainly about this: these three career politicians have absolutely no idea what sectors of the economy are doomed, which have a future, and whether any particular commercial proposal makes sense. Add Economic Development Phil Twyford to the mix, and it risks the appearance of a circus run by clowns. . .

Free-market capitalism works not because it is individualistic — although it is — but because it collectivises everyone’s best guesses and analysis. In contrast, collectivist economic systems reply on the brilliance of individuals or, worse, committees. Again, we should speak plainly: central planners are not just often wrong, but invariably wrong, just like most of us. – Matthew Hooton 

If you have one tenth the number of intensive care beds per capita that Germany does, if you don’t have contact tracing in place, then if you don’t have that level of resourcing available, you’ve got to focus very hard on the keep-it-out strategy. The fact that we’ve had to work so hard to stamp it out can only mean we’ve failed to keep it out. – Des Gorman


Not the time for contentious legislation

April 7, 2020

The government is, rightly, expecting the opposition to support it through the lockdown.

In return it ought to hold back on contentious legislation.

Instead we have this:

The Government is using Parliament’s select committee process to sneak climate change provisions into the Resource Management Act, National’s RMA spokesperson Judith Collins says.

“A recently-released report by the Environment Select Committee recommends several changes to the Resource Management Amendment Bill, including provisions for climate change considerations in RMA decisions.

“These late changes are an abuse of the select committee process because they were made after public feedback was called for, meaning submitters have not had the opportunity to properly consider the new bill.

“The climate change considerations were not in the original bill, and it appears only some of the people who submitted were aware of them.

“The amended bill also gives submitters the right to cross-examine each other during RMA applications. This would significantly increase the time and cost of hearings.

“The Government’s expert review panel is likely to recommend significant reform when it reports back in May so it makes no sense to proceed with these changes now.

“Last week, Environment Minister David Parker said he was working on ways to improve the speed and certainty of consenting. This bill will have the opposite effect.” 

Could there be a worse time to add such contentious provisions to the Bill?

Now is not the time to be adding contentious, expensive and time-consuming hurdles to the RMA.

Now of all times, the government should understand the need to relook at everything that could hamper the recovery.

When the lock down is over we’ll be facing a new, and much poorer, normal. We need to be reducing red tape and simplifying regulations not adding to it and complicating them.


RMA reform welcome and needed but

July 25, 2019

The government plans to reform the Resource Management Act:

The Government is overhauling our resource management system, focusing on the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) – the primary legislation governing the use of our land, water and air resources. 

The Government wants the RMA to support a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. It also wants the RMA to be easier for New Zealanders to understand and engage with. The Government is approaching this in two stages. 

It plans to start by amending the RMA.

The Government is proposing several specific changes to the RMA through an amendment bill. The aim of the bill is to make the RMA less complex, give people more certainty on RMA issues, and increase opportunities for public participation.

The bill will address issues with resource consenting, enforcement and Environment Court provisions within the RMA. It may also include some other policy proposals. 

The bill is currently being drafted and we are working to introduce it to Parliament later this year. Public submissions will be called for when the bill is referred to a select committee. . . 

Then there’s the second stage:

The Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of the resource management system. This review will examine the broader and deeper changes needed to support the transition to a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. 

The aim of the review is to improve environmental outcomes and enable better and timely urban development within environmental limits. . . 

Few if any will argue with the aims to support a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy and to make the RMA easier to understand and engage with.

Media releases from right, left and centre support the proposal. Reform is welcome and needed but getting agreement on that is the easy part.

The difficulty will be getting those who support the need for reform to agree on the details of any changes that are proposed.

Federated Farmers says reform will be a huge challenge:

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says.

The Act is a source of much frustration for resource users across the country. It is now twice the size it was on enactment in 1991 and while it has created a booming market for planners, lawyers and other experts, this has been at the expense of resource users, ratepayers and the environment.

Federated Farmers would support amendments that made the Act, in the Minister’s words, “fit for purpose in the 21st century”, and approve of any attempt to remove unnecessary complexity, delays and costs.

“But we have a word of caution – it’s hard to make processes move faster, when regional and district councils are already under-resourced and facing increasing public pressure and inadequate central government support,” Chris says.

There is also insufficient weighting given to the economic impacts of regulation on farms, rural communities and the regions of New Zealand. Economic impacts should be considered in balance with environmental, social and cultural wellbeing, instead of just the quick skim currently given.

“The trend appears to be for central government to push national regulation onto local government, expecting them to both resource and fund processes. This isn’t a case of local government being given too much power, rather it’s a trend of central government putting out cookie-cutter national rules and regulations, and expecting local councils to ‘make them work’.

“We have real concerns over central government interfering with local processes, as many regional councils are well underway in developing plans to address water quality and quantity,” Chris says.

Some of these plans are already in place, and other regions are wrestling with tricky questions around how plans can be tailored so they are both efficient and effective. Anything that interferes with these processes, and the considerable economic and social investment already made by our communities, could be a step-backwards for water quality management in New Zealand.

There has been a massive investment in time and money into changing farm practices and infrastructure, and getting a better understanding of the implications of activities on land to the environment.

This groundswell of change has been happening across the country, from landowner level through to catchment groups and wider district efforts. These efforts do not result in improved outcomes overnight, but trends are indicating we are on the right track.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to see this timely opportunity to reform the RMA, being instead used simply to put up as many affordable houses as possible, with an overly urban focus, to the peril of fixing other key issues with the Act,” Chris says.

The previous government’s attempts at reforms were vehemently opposed by the parties in the current government and it won’t be easy to reconcile those parties’ differing views on what needs to be done and how to do it.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Parker said that no RMA reform legislation would be introduced until after the 2020 election because the working group would take nearly 10 months to make its recommendations.

Collins called this “cynical timing.” Given that the next government to consider legislation could well be a National one, she believes Labour should be consulting the Opposition. But Parker refused to consider including the Opposition in the reform process until legislation is introduced, insisting it was the “parliamentary process”.

Given this, the latest effort at fixing the RMA is unlikely to succeed, Collins believes. “You’ve got New Zealand First going around the provinces saying, ‘We’re going to sort out the RMA and stop all these impediments to development.’ You’ve got the Greens saying, ‘We’re gonna stop all these developments.’ It just must be a nightmare for Labour.”

Winston Peters didn’t disagree with her. When asked if he thought New Zealand First would be on the same page as Labour and the Greens about RMA reform, he answered simply, “No”.

“I cannot agree with their race-based approach,” he said of Green Party support for a Māori role in the resource management system. . . 

That isn’t an encouraging start to the process.

Getting consent through the RMA is process is a long and frustrating process, reforming the act won’t be any easier.


Paying price for unpreparedness

December 10, 2018

Got a problem? The government almost certainly has a review to consider it:

New figures released by National show that since being sworn in, the Government has announced 206 reviews and working groups, or one approximately every two days, at a cost of almost $700,000 dollars a day, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“The Government has abandoned New Zealanders and delegated the job of governing to officials, think tanks, consultants and former politicians while it focuses on tidying up after itself and cashing its coalition negotiation cheques,” Mr Bridges says.

“This is a Government whose parties had three terms – nine years – to develop their own ideas, but they’re now farming the thinking out to others and charging the taxpayer as they do.

Instead of using opposition to prepare for government, Labour spent the best part of nine years on in-fighting and looking inwards. We are paying the price for their lack of preparedness  for government.

“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the Coalition together and treading water while we wait for the ever-growing list of reviews and working groups to report back with instructions.

“Meanwhile taxpayers are forking out half a million dollars a day to pay for this Government’s laziness.

“The total cost so far is around $280 million but it is set to be much higher. The Government doesn’t know the cost of 79 of their reviews, so taxpayers could be looking at a $450 million bill. At a time when cost of living is on the rise, rents are going up, and more taxes and regulations are being piled on, New Zealanders don’t need this wasteful spending as they feel the pinch at Christmas time.

Some external consideration and advice is sensible, but 206 reviews and working groups at a cost of $700,000 a day is simply wasteful.

“It is flabby spending. National would cut the waste, stop mulching trees and rolling out free fees, and invest taxpayer dollars in a more considered, targeted way. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, end the teacher strikes, fund 5,600 cochlear implants or axe the regional fuel tax.

“Kiwis can go into this Christmas knowing that only National will be doing the hard yards all summer to hold this Government-of-missed-opportunities to account. We’ll do the work so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”

That one of the expensive working groups is working on ways to tax us more is particularly galling.

If the government spent less and spent more wisely there would be no need for it to take more tax.

Judith Collins sums it up: Rather than $700,000 per day being spent on Working Groups to tell the Government what to do, wouldn’t it be better to just have a WORKING GOVERNMENT?

 


$600,000 is cheap?

March 26, 2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced what looked like a big boost to Auckland’s housing supply yesterday.

It didn’t take National’s housing spokeswoman Judith Collins to point out it was old news:

“The previous Government signed off on Unitec’s investment plans to consolidate their campus and develop the spare land for housing.

“The plan change has already been through Auckland Council. We know that because various local councillors were opposing the development.

“All that has happened here is that a land development that was owned by one part of Government is now owned by another arm of Government. A pure re-badging exercise.

“The development at Unitec has already been factored into the plans and predictions for housing development in Auckland.

“All that seems to have happened here is that Mr Twyford wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise the building and selling of homes that were going to happen anyway. . . 

Involving the government is likely to add to costs and delays.

It would be far better to leave building to the private sector rather than tying up taxpayers’ money with all the complications that brings.

Then there’s the cost which Corin  Dann raised on Q&A:

PHIL: So, you’re talking medium-density, as pretty much all the KiwiBuild homes in Auckland are going to be medium-density, apartments, flats and town houses, terraces. 500,000 to 600,000 is the kind of range we’re talking about.

CORIN​: So somebody is going to get a $600,000- what, two-bedroom, three-bedroom house in Mt Albert?

PHIL​: Yes. Two to three, yes.

CORIN​: That’s really cheap.

PHIL​: Sure.

Cheap? Since when has $600,000 for a two to three bedroom house been cheap?

Since demand for houses outstripped supply so badly and as Act MP David Seymour pointed out the government isn’t addressing the root cause of that problem:

. . . The Government’s own officials have said that, in Auckland, land use regulation could be responsible for up to 56 per cent, or $530,000, of the cost of an average home.

“ACT has revealed from Written Parliamentary Questions that Cabinet hasn’t even decided whether to consider reviewing the Resource Management Act – rules that determine what can be built where – after 150 days in the Beehive.

“New Zealand does not have a free market in housing. It is a market created and manipulated by government.

“The Government – whether central or local – controls the Resource Management Act, zoning, consents and other factors that influence the market.

“Our housing market isn’t a case of market failure but an example of regulatory failure. New Zealand has planning rules which mean that the market is not able to increase the supply of houses in response to increases in demand. . . 

The RMA and zoning are a big part of the housing cost problem.

So too are building regulations.

Economies of scale with bigger populations don’t explain all of the difference in the cost of building a house in Australia and New Zealand.

If the government is serious about affordable housing it needs to look at building regulations which require more expensive materials on this side of the Tasman than the other.


Steven Joyce’s maiden speech

February 20, 2018

National’s finance spokesman Steven Joyce is standing for National’s leadership.

I posted Mark Mitchell’s maiden speech yesterday and those of Amy Adams, Simon Bridges and Judith Collins on Saturday.

Here is Steven’s:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) : Firstly, I would like to congratulate my local MP, Lockwood Smith, on his election to the role of Speaker.

Could I start by saying a fond greeting to Jeremy Greenbrook-Held of Oriental Bay. In the letters to the editor in the Dominion Post on 24 November, under the heading “Just who is this man Joyce?”, Mr Greenbrook-Held lamented that I had made it into my role without giving a single interview. This will come as a surprise to a number of journalists who had interviewed me prior to that time, but I will nevertheless attempt to fill some gaps for Mr Greenbrook-Held today.

I live north of Auckland but I am a Naki boy—born and raised in New Plymouth. It is a wonderful part of the world, and I love to go back to visit the mountain, the parks and the wild west coast. However, I have to say I am a fan of pretty much all of this country; I am actually a bit of a greenie, just not the type who sits over on that side of the House.

As it is for all of us, my family came here from lands far away. My father’s family are Irish Catholics. My great-grandfather Eugene Joyce arrived as a young man on the Invercargill in 1879. He married Ellen and they settled in Taranaki, where they had seven children. One of them was my grandfather Len, a bee-keeper who lived with his wife, Eileen, in Eltham, which is where my father grew up.

On my mother’s side, my great-grandmother Granny Hooper was a Cockney. She migrated with her family in 1878, landing in Nelson after 4 months at sea. She must have liked it here because she lived to 101, and I can vaguely remember her 100th birthday party, held when I was about 5. My mother was born in Kaponga. Her father was a lawyer turned insurance salesman, and a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. Their family were staunch Anglicans, my father’s family were staunch Catholics, and that was a time when those differences did matter. It tested both families when my parents married in 1961, now nearly 50 years ago. I am thrilled they are both here together in the gallery today.

My parents scrimped and borrowed and bought a Four Square dairy in New Plymouth. They were not greatly educated—they both left school at 15—but they worked really hard to make a go of their business and their family. They ran a 7-day business and brought up five kids at the same time. From where I am sitting today, that seems pretty heroic. My family, then, is from a long line of small-business people. Apart from a few years managing a supermarket, my father and mother always owned their own businesses, including their own supermarket. So it is probably not a surprise that I did the same.

I had my first taste of radio when I was finishing my zoology degree at Massey University in 1983. A bunch of us worked at Radio Massey. In 1984, members may recall, there was an election, so we decided to run a series of current affairs shows in the style of the political television shows of the time, with intercut interviews. With seriously inferior equipment, a fearless group of us worked 24 hours at a time to bring to air the hugely important Radio Massey election specials on political issues of the day. We interviewed luminaries like the late Bruce Beetham and the late Trevor de Cleene, and put those shows to air for audiences of roughly 50 people each night, probably 48 of whom would have preferred to hear the latest Joy Division track.

So I could have been a journalist, maybe. I have a brother and a sister who are members of that truly esteemed profession. Instead, it was during those late-night sessions at Radio Massey that five of us decided to start a commercial radio station of our own. We each put in $100, and Energy Enterprises—which became RadioWorks—was born with $500 in the bank. Energy FM ran as a summer station in New Plymouth for 3 years, which was all we were allowed to do under the law at that time, each time making a bit of money to help pay for our full-time FM licence application. We chased down shareholders and a board of directors, went to a licence hearing with the Broadcasting Tribunal, then waited 15 long months for a decision to be released. During that time we lost three of our number—I think they got bored—and found one more. In mid-1987 Energy FM got a licence to start broadcasting across Taranaki, and on 30 November that year we went to air.

Running one’s own business is hard work. It is hard work a lot of the time, and fantastic fun some of the time. Running one’s own radio station is even more fun. The three of us poured all we had into that business. We continued to live like university students for years, on the grounds that if we did not become used to a more comfortable lifestyle, we would not miss it. We bought stations in Tauranga and Hamilton. We started The Edge, and Solid Gold FM, and built those two and The Rock into national, satellite-delivered networks. We added stations by growth and acquisition, until by 2000 we had offices in every major town and city in the country, and 650 staff across four networks and 18 local radio stations. It was an amazing ride. We all learnt a huge amount about growing and running companies, organisational cultures, and getting the best out of people. I met, and worked with, hundreds of fantastic people, many of whom I count as friends today. Throughout, we had mostly the same board: Norton Moller, Derek Lowe, and John Armstrong. They were my mentors commercially, and I am greatly indebted to them.

CanWest raided our share register on the stock exchange in 2000. Some of us held out for a while, but eventually we realised the dream was over, and I retired from my role as chief executive officer of RadioWorks on my 38th birthday.

It was time to take stock, and time to give something back. I joined the gym. I started running; unfortunately, I later stopped running. And I joined the National Party. I put my name forward, and nearly stood, in 2002, but as it turned out it would have been a purely academic exercise. Instead, I got my first National Party job after the election. I was asked to join the campaign review, and then the full strategic review of the organisation. It was an absolute honour to do both, and to be trusted by a set of people who had no history by which to trust me. The party in 2002 was hurting pretty badly, and I was conscious of the need to take real care.

The rebuilding of the National Party was a team effort, and I am very proud to have played my part. However, a lot of the credit must go to our party’s president. Judy Kirk is now coming up towards 7 years in the role. In 2002, when she took over as president, an opinion poll that week rated the National Party at 18 percent. For the first time in its history it was in danger of no longer leading the centre-right in the New Zealand Parliament. In the 2008 election—1 month ago—the National Party achieved 45 percent of the party vote, the highest vote by any political party under MMP, and the highest vote full stop since 1990. It is a fantastic turn-round, ably led from the front by our new Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, and, prior to him, our previous leaders, Don Brash and Bill English. However, any great leader needs an organisation to lead, and Judy Kirk rebuilt that organisation, without sacrificing either her decency or her principles. When all is said and done, I am confident her name will be up there as one of the National Party’s great presidents, alongside the name of her mentor, Sir George Chapman, and that will be no more than she deserves.

It is traditional to thank your electorate workers in your maiden speech for helping you get to Parliament. I am, of course, one of the lesser beasts—a list MP—and, worse still, one who did not stand in an electorate. But I did run a campaign of sorts. It was a little bit dire in places, according to some of my critics, but redeemed by a fine candidate who shone through despite the poor support he received from his national campaign chair! There are many people I can and do want to thank for that campaign, particularly those at campaign HQ in Wellington, and the thousands of volunteers around the country who put up with the rather dictatorial requirements of the Wellington crew. I will not mention names today. They all know who they are. Can I just say that I could not hope to work with a finer bunch of people.

So, via a stint running another marvellous, proud, smallish New Zealand company with another great team of people, Jasons Travel Media, I arrive here in this building, this hermetically sealed vortex, which is our Parliament. So what contribution can I make to this place? Who do I represent? Well, I think I can be a voice for the people who always pay their taxes and who want to see them go to a good home. Primarily because I have been in business for most of the last 21 years, I can bring an understanding of the thinking of business people—small and medium sized business people in particular, who organise most of the wealth creation that takes place in this country.

I understand the mentality of those who become frustrated at Government getting in the way of their doing their job, who chafe at needless regulation and the sight of wasted tax money, who become frustrated by poorly performing infrastructure. I understand the fear they have of Government organisations muscling in on their industries by spending public money to compete with them in their marketplace for no good reason.

I bring a real understanding of the value of a dollar. From the time I was a little tacker, sitting at my family dining table as my parents added up the week’s takings, I understood that there was no money around if you did not go out and earn it yourself. I understand those people who see Wellington as a “great sucking sound” that hoovers up more and more of the nation’s money so that politicians can look like heroes when they spend it—people who are happy to pay their share but are not happy to see it wasted. I also understand what drives people: the desire to better the lot of themselves and their families under their own steam, and to not have to rely on Government handouts.

I understand that as a country we have limitless calls on our resources, and limited resources. I know that the only way we are going to progress in the manner we all hope for and provide for those less fortunate is by spending wisely the money we have, and spending most of our time working out how to grow faster to pay for all the things we need. And I think I understand what is possible in organisations that think small and nimble, where the frontline is encouraged and well resourced and the back office is pared back, and that are tuned to what the customer is seeking.

One of the distinctive features of this country is that we are a small group of islands at the bottom of the world. There are only 4.25 million of us. Small can be tough. It means small home markets, not as many resources, and not as big a pool of talent as some bigger countries have. However, our smallness need not be a negative; it can be a strength, and it should be more often. Individuals with ambition and drive have shown throughout history that they can achieve a lot more here a lot more quickly than they can in bigger countries. One great running coach, one great rowing coach, can achieve amazing things. Our smallness means that a high proportion of us are interconnected. People used to talk a lot about the six degrees of separation; in New Zealand I am sure that half the time it is just two or three degrees.

Our smallness can translate to nimbleness: the ability to change course, move quickly, make things happen. Sadly, from a vantage point outside the Government and, now, from inside it, I can see that we get wrapped up in the fact that this new regulation or law, or entitlement, or initiative is world best-practice, that by doing it we are suddenly right up there with the EU, or the UK, or the US. Maybe a world-beating, all-singing, all-dancing, multilayered process is the correct approach for a large country. Maybe for us we can trim it down, shorten it, and, dare I say, spend less money doing it. Put it this way: if we cannot, how can we compete with much larger countries? I am all for fair and sensible rules of commerce and social interaction; we just need to scale them to our size and look for the simpler way.

I believe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in this country, and a corresponding risk that goes with it. We can recapture our mojo and become the feisty, resourceful, exciting, No. 8 wire sort of place that enabled all our forebears to make a success of themselves way down here at the bottom of the world; or we can fade away and continue on the path of figuratively, and maybe one day even literally, being the smallest and poorest also-ran state of Australia.

I do not believe I bring any pretensions to this new role. I am honoured to be provided with the opportunity to serve, and I will work diligently to repay the confidence that has been shown in me by my party, by my leader, and by New Zealanders. When it comes to work I am a believer in doing the hard yards. In rugby terms, and I stress that my familiarity with the code has pretty much always been as a fan, I like to grind it out—nothing too flashy.

I also, these days, like to have a little balance. Members may ask what I am doing here! Apparently, it is a little bit tricky in this Parliament to have balance, but I find that it helps people to keep perspective—which also might be a bit tricky here. I have an inspiration, though: my wonderful wife, Suzanne; our daughter, Amelia; and Gemma the retrodoodle. I know they will insist on seeing me regularly, no more than I will insist on seeing them.

Mr Speaker, I will work diligently to help make this country a stronger, more successful, and proud place. That is why I am here—for no other reason. If I can help to do that, then I will be able to hold my head high when I report back to New Zealanders when my time here is done.


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