PM there and here


Happy headlines are following Jacinda Ardern in New York.

Back home the media are looking past the stardust to the continuing saga over Derek Handley and the position of Chief Technology Officer he was appointed to then disappointed from.

NZ Herald opines:

There can be no doubt the Derek Handley saga is a train wreck that is now threatening to derail confidence in the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have been hoping she could leave the domestic turmoil of the past few weeks behind her, while she – with partner Clarke Gayford and baby Neve – wows world leaders and their delegations at the United Nations in New York.

But she clearly wasn’t banking on tech entrepreneur Derek Handley yesterday releasing his text and email communications with her and former Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, and speaking further about the whole sorry saga – including bemoaning his lack of apology or explanation in the matter of the bungled chief technology officer recruitment process.

Possibly Ardern thought sacking Curran from that ministerial post – and Curran’s subsequent resignation from all her ministerial portfolios – was enough to put the incident to rest.

However, yesterday the PM found herself having to fend off accusations she had misled Parliament over her own communications with Handley, Finance Minister Grant Robertson was forced to correct his answer in Parliament over emails between Handley and Curran, and new Digital Services Minister Megan Woods was clearly forced to finally call Handley to apologise for the “impact this has had on him and his family”. She also had to retract her statement there had been a confidentiality agreement with Handley over his financial settlement.

What a shemozzle.

It still doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion for anyone – if indeed this end of the matter. . .

This is a serious black mark for the Government. The overall unease around communication, competency and transparency over this issue is now raising questions about the PM’s leadership and the Government’s integrity in general. . .

Audrey Young writes:

It is becoming a habit – for the second time in three weeks, National leader Simon Bridges has accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of misleading the public.

This time she has also been accused of misleading Parliament as well as the public and Bridges has demanded she correct her statements.

Ardern put up a strenuous defence on both counts that there was no need for corrections. . .

But Kiwiblog quotes Hansard: and shows on the 18th and 19th of September in answer to questions from National leader SImon Bridges that taking the most generous view of what she said, she was at the very least economical with the truth.

Back to Young:

Until now, the fiasco, mainly over an undisclosed meeting, had reflected badly on Curran but the contagion has spread to Ardern and made the Government look amateurish.

Grant Robertson had to correct an answer in the House today he gave last week on Clare Curran’s emails to Handley and Woods had to retract a suggestion that the severance contract with Handley may have been subject to a confidentiality clause.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters swore blind Ardern was blameless of anything and everything.

True, she will not have to correct any answers she has given to Parliament.

But that is almost irrelevant because even if she did, it would not undo the damage she has done to herself.

A train wreck, a schemozzle,  a fiasco. These aren’t adjectives any government wants applied to them.

But nearly a year into office, the one that explains the mess is amateurish.


Edwards 1 – SST 0


The media is supposed to be one of the guardians of free speech, why then would a national newspaper seek to muzzle a blogger?

Brian Edwards has had a series of blog posts on Amanda Hotchin and the Sunday Star Times. 

His second last post on the matter was a carefully worded one in which he reported on four affidavits from witnesses who backed Ms Hotchin’s story. It was a model of how to give the facts without disclosing an opinion.

The SST has responded by threatening him with defamation.

The email informing him of that is headed not for publication:

I have chosen to ignore that advice. The Sunday Star Times is a national newspaper with a circulation massively bigger than my website. It has a large and powerful voice. If it is unhappy with what is said about its content or its writers, it has the opportunity, not available to the average citizen, to make a public response which will reach a large audience. Instead, in this case, it has chosen to send me a lawyer’s letter, marked “Not for Publication.” My response is that I am not prepared to be bullied or intimidated, and certainly not in secret.

Edwards 1 – SST 0.

The blog is probably read by only a few hundred thousand people but the threat ensures it will be read by many more.

It was referred to a post on the journalist’s chat group Journz last night.

It’s made the  NZ Bloggers Union see red. Cactus Kate , Kiwiblog and Whaleoil,   three  of New Zealand’s most widely read blogs, have taken up the fight for free speech.

And the paper’s only rival, The NZ Herald, is loving it.

What would have been a story read by a few hundred people is now reaching 10s of thousands.



Just 7/10 in this week’s Dominon Post political triva quiz.

Since Keeping Stock’s not one to boast I’ll do it for him – he got 10/10.

UPDATE: I feel better knowing Kiwiblog found it hard.

Some more foreign than others


Why does an increasingly more urbanised population care so much about farmland?

Most will never own it nor want to; some may visit a farm but many will never get any closer to one than a trip down State Highway 1 at 100 kph, or faster.

In spite of that they’re very keen to have a say in who the owners can sell it to – or rather not sell it to.

At the moment any sale of five hectares or more of farmland must go before the Overseas Investment Commission if a foreigner wants to buy it.

I don’t have a problem with some oversight over land sales to people from other countries, but why five hectares?

Depending where it is that could be more than enough for at least one thriving horticulture business or not enough to carry a  single stock unit. Why doesn’t the ownership of flat, fertile land where the climate is temperate matter if who owns rough, hilly, less productive land where it blows and snows does?

If you looked at farms from the road you may be able to tell something about the owners’ ability as farmers but I doubt if you’d be able to work out where they came from. Even if you went on to the farms and spoke to managers and staff it probably wouldn’t be obvious if the owners were New Zealanders or not.

I can see why people wouldn’t want all or even most land owned by foreigners and I also understand the danger of vertical integration of the supply chain by foreigners. They can’t take the land with them but they could take the produce and valuable export dollars.

But it doesn’t need a total ban on land sales to foreigners to keep processing and some of the export returns here.

However, the anti-foreign ownership feeling isn’t just about people from overseas. A Curia poll (on which Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog and Whale Oil have commented) shows those asked regarded some people as more foreign than others.

Sixty five percent of people polled wanted land sold only to New Zealand residents. That dropped to 55% if staff were locals; 54% if the owners paid tax here; and 52%  if the extra capital from the owners tripled exports.

But the most telling result was on the question which moved from foreigners in general to specific nationalities. If the buyers were from Australia 18% were extremely uncomfortable and 42% weren’t uncomfortable at all; if the buyers were French 31% were extremely uncomfortable and 24% weren’t at all uncomfortable; if the buyers were Chinese 41% were extremely uncomfortable and 21% weren’t uncomfortable at all; if the buyers were British 23% were extremely uncomfortable and 31% weren’t at all uncomfortable and if the buyers were from the USA 27% were extremely uncomfortable and 24% weren’t uncomfortable at all.

This means that the opposition isn’t necessarily to foreign ownership per se – the strength of feeling varies with where the would-be owners come from.

That explains why the possible sale of the Crafar Farms to Chinese owners has caused an uproar but the actual sale of Big Sky dairy farm in the Maniototo to Harvard University’s global investment fund has hardly raised an eyebrow.

There is some logic in the desire for some control of farm sales to foreigners. But this poll shows that arguments for a total ban on sales to foreigners is based on emotion and one of those emotions is xenophobia.

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