A complete meth of drug policy

28/07/2021

Shane Reti says Labour has made a complete meth of dealing with the drug that is doing so much damage to addicts and the country:

Labour’s short-sighted decision in 2018 to scrap National’s highly successful Meth Action Plan – and its outright refusal to accept that New Zealand has a gang problem – is contributing to a surge in gang membership, meth use and misery in New Zealand’s most deprived communities, National’s health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

Ditching something that works because it comes from a political opponent is rank stupidity.

Wastewater testing shows meth use is highest in locations with higher levels of gang membership per capita, notably Northland, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.

“The rise in gang membership and drug abuse go hand-in-hand,” says Dr Reti. “It’s an indictment of Labour’s ‘nothing-to-see-here’ approach to crime, which is now causing lasting damage to communities across New Zealand.”

Meth use is widely recognised as a major factor in domestic violence, social deprivation, crime and social harm. It also helps to enrich criminal gangs, whose membership has ballooned under Labour.

Labour purports to want to address child poverty but its inaction on meth is adding to the problem.

The cross-agency Meth Action Plan introduced under the last National Government implemented policies to crack down on the supply of meth, while providing a health-based response for the victims of the drug.

This is the sensible approach to drug policy – being tough on suppliers and compassionate with addicts.

Using $10 million set aside each year from the proceeds of crime fund – money seized from criminals – the plan gave Police and Customs the resources they need to disrupt supply chains and crack down on gangs.

“This plan was working, with a 50 per cent reduction in usage among adults between 2009 and 2015.

“Labour’s decision to cancel this programme three years ago was baffling at the time, but with meth use and gang membership both climbing, it’s absolutely clear now it was the wrong one.

Rather than hiring gang members to run rehab programmes for their own victims, Labour should swallow its pride, admit it made a mistake in cancelling the Meth Action Plan, and go back to what was proven to be working.

“At the election, National released set of proposals that would build on our past success in reducing meth use, and would tackle the meth problem from all angles, addressing both demand and supply.

“We’re calling on the Government to urgently reinstate the Meth Action Plan, and to commit to tackling both supply and demand for methamphetamine in New Zealand.”

National has a plan to tackle meth supply:

  • Increase funding for drug intelligence to enable Customs and Police to identify drugs coming into the country.
  • Deploy the latest detection technologies at New Zealand’s airports, ports and distribution centres, where the majority of illicit drug shipments are arriving without detection.
  • Improve the use of data and artificial intelligence to analyse drug use, criminal networks and patterns of supply so enforcement agencies can better disrupt supply.
  • Target criminal gangs, their precursor supply chains and drug distribution networks with additional focus and resourcing for Police.
  • Crack down on illegal smuggling of cash and money laundering to prevent domestic gangs and the international syndicates they work with from extracting super profits from meth distribution.

National also has a plan to tackle demand:

  • Deploy the Matrix Methamphetamine Treatment Pilot Programme across several District Health Boards to provide direct support to those recovering from methamphetamine use.
  • Add 13 detox beds for methamphetamine across New Zealand, ensuring every District Health Board has at least one.
  • Ensure at least one methamphetamine specialist per District Health Board is available to assist with in-patient detoxing from methamphetamine.
  • Establish a contestable fund of $50 million to pilot new or scaled-up whole-community harm reduction programmes.
  • Establish best practices for frontline police to refer meth users to DHBs, Ministry of Social Development, education resources and community-based support.

Reducing the harm meth does requires a two-prong approach to reduce supply and help the uses.

Labour’s policy has led to an increase in supply and created more addicts.


Now they’re coming for the dead

20/07/2021

Labour broke it’s no-higher-taxes promise with the extension of the bright line test.

It broke its no-new taxes with the one on utes.

Now it’s looking at bereaking the no-new taxes promise again by taxing the dead :

 There are a couple of pieces of evidence to suggest may Labour may want to go to the next election proposing an inheritance tax.

The first is the Government’s decision to allocate $5 million over two years to Inland Revenue in the Budget to assess the income and wealth of high-wealth individuals.

An IR spokeswoman confirms that work should shed light on issues including the amount of inherited wealth.

If the Government is going to consider an inheritance tax, commissioning such research was probably going to be a necessary first step. . . 

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke lays out five reasons against the idea:

Incentives: A death tax would discourage New Zealanders from saving and investing their earnings. Less capital would be built up as older New Zealanders choose to spend their savings instead of building an economic legacy for future generations.

Fairness: A death tax is a double tax. Someone would spend a lifetime giving up their earnings via income tax, only to have their remaining earnings taxed again as savings upon their death.

Complexity: The biggest beneficiaries of a death tax would be accountants and tax lawyers, who would be engaged by the wealthy to thread investments through complex exemptions and loopholes in the tax, such as exemptions for farm assets, trusts, and gifts prior to death.

Gift tax was axed a few years ago because it garnered so little.

Revenue: Any revenue from a death tax would be meagre. Of the OECD countries to have implemented death or gift taxes, an average of just 0.5 percent of total tax revenues is generated by those taxes. This means that even if our government decided to make a death tax revenue neutral by cutting income tax, the income tax cut would be nearly imperceptible.

Problem definition: A death tax, or indeed any kind of wealth tax, fails to address the actual causes of rising inequality: specifically the shortage of housing which has pumped up the value of assets held by the upper and upper-middle class.

Sigh.

If only the government put some effort into carefully managing the money it already gets rather than devising additional ways to part us from more of ours.

Instead of looking at ways to take more money from taxpayers the government should be analysing its own spending and reducing the burden of tax, reducing the amount needed in the public purse and leaving more money in the public’s pockets.


Rural round-up

18/07/2021

Rural living: the good, the bad and the glorious – Nicky Berger:

I never wanted to be a farmer. Growing up on a small sheep and beef farm north of Auckland, I spent many sunny afternoons in the “Pooh Bear Forest” below our house, and others learning how to handle wool from eternally patient shearers.

But I never believed it was my destiny to grow food. Instead, I spent my teenage years imagining myself working in one of the skyscrapers we would see on occasional trips into the city. When I was old enough, off to the city I went.

However, the unexpected death of my dad one sunny evening in 2004 changed everything.

Sitting at the kitchen table in my family home the following morning, I stared in wonder at ute after ute coming down our driveway, past our house, and heading over to the woolshed. . .

Images of distressed animals misleading council says :

Recent publicity surrounding intensive winter grazing in Southland has been unhelpful, the regional council says.

Images of distressed animals deep in mud have circulated on social media in recent weeks.

But Southland Regional Council chief executive Rob Phillips said some of them were not from this winter and many appeared to be taken outside of Southland.

“We want to follow up and address any poor practice, but when those circulating the images aren’t prepared to tell us where the properties are, it lets everyone down and certainly doesn’t help to improve the situation, he said. . . 

Farmers a cut above DOC in caring for Crown land – Jacqui Dean:

There’s some people who are firm in the belief that Crown land can only be properly looked after if it’s under Department of Conservation (DOC) control. In my opinion, that view is misguided and fails to recognise the state of vast tracts of land across the South Island.

I’ve spent the first half of this year visiting Crown pastoral leaseholders in the South Island to better understand the implications of the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill that’s making its way through Parliament.

This piece of legislation is touted by its proponents as a way to improve environmental outcomes. It puts an end to tenure review and places heavy-handed restrictions on the most basic of farming activities on crown lease land.

During my visits to these rugged and remote areas I’ve been able to compare high country land being farmed under a pastoral lease with nearby land under DOC administration. . . 

Farmers sent a clear message, Labour should listen:

The immense turnout to yesterday’s nationwide protests by the rural sector sent a clear message to the Government, they are fed up with Labour penalising them at every turn, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“Yesterday farmers up and down New Zealand told the Government they wouldn’t be sitting down and taking the hits Labour is dishing out. All National MPs were with them, showing our support and how much we value the work our farmers do.

“Farmers helped New Zealand get through Covid-19, and Labour is repaying them through unworkable freshwater regulations, failing to deal with serious workforce shortages and now it’s hitting them in the wallet with a Ute Tax.

“The rural sector has rightly had enough. They’re not alone though, almost every other New Zealander is being hit in the back pocket through new taxes, rent increases and costs on businesses. . . 

 

Malaysian firm to convert Southland farm into forestry block – Shawn McAvinue:

A Malaysian company has been given consent to buy a nearly 460ha sheep and beef farm in Western Southland.

The Overseas Investment Office gave the consent to the 100% Malaysian-owned company Pine Plantations Private Ltd to buy the farm – near Tuatapere – from vendors Ayson and Karen Gill for $4 million.

The consent states the company intends to develop about 330ha of the land into a commercial forest, principally in pine trees.

Planting was intended to start in 2021-22, for the trees to be harvested in up to 30 years. . . 

City kids go bush – Sally Blundell:

It’s called real world learning: pine nut pesto, bush tea and home kill. Bush Farm Education is taking kids out of the classroom and into nature.

The classroom is a place of puddles and hay bales, trailers and tractors. Today’s lessons – fire safety, edible mushrooms and the reality of home kill.

“Just imagine if every kid in Ōtautahi Christchurch, or even New Zealand, could have a day a week out on the farm, in nature, learning about it,” says Katie Earle, founder of Bush Farm Education on Lyttelton Harbour. “It would just be incredible.”

Incredible but unlikely. A Sport New Zealand survey in 2019 found that only 7 percent of children and young people aged five–17 met the Ministry of Health guidelines of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. Recent research by Ara Institute of Canterbury into education outside the classroom found a third of schools struggle to get students outside, citing time constraints, added paperwork, education regulations and health and safety rules. . . 

Increased demand for softwood lumber in the US and Asia will change the global trade flows of wood in the coming decade:

Softwood lumber has been in high demand in the US and Europe throughout 2021. The limited supply resulted in temporary price surges to record high levels during the spring, followed by substantial declines in early summer. The outlook for lumber demand is likely to be strong worldwide in the coming decade in most world regions, including North America and Asia. Both these regions are consistently dependent on imported wood.

Few countries in the world can significantly expand lumber exports, and Europe will play an increasingly important role as a wood supplier in the future. Tighter lumber markets will impact not just the sawmilling industry but also forest owners, pulp companies, wood panel manufacturers, and pellet producers.

The latest Focus Report: Global Lumber Markets – The Growing Role of European Lumber from Wood Resources International (WRI) and O’Kelly Acumen examines the forces driving the tightness of global lumber markets, including the demand outlook in the US and China and the supply potential from Europe, Russia, and other regions. It also analyses the possible implications of near-term changes in the lumber markets for all players in the value chain. . . 


Demand the debate

12/07/2021

We can quietly accept what the governmet is trying to foist upon us or we can demand a debate:

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says New Zealanders are being left out of important decisions by the Labour Government and today she has launched a campaign for Kiwis to ‘Demand the debate’.

“The Labour Government continues to make policy announcements that were never campaigned on and will have a significant impact on New Zealanders.

“From the Car Tax, cancelling promised infrastructure projects, the $785m Auckland cycle bridge, rushed law changes to deliver Māori wards, to the hastily announced oil and gas exploration ban; New Zealanders are starting to feel left out.

Not just starting to feel left out. We are being left out.

“At the same time more than 4000 children are left to grow up in motels, mental health services are in crisis, the Government is looking to criminalise speech they disapprove of and tell you what car you can drive.

“Let’s be clear, Labour was elected on a Covid-19 mandate and nine months later we are still waiting for border workers to be properly vaccinated and MIQ beds sit empty while migrant families wait in desperation to be reunited. We are still last in the developed world for Covid-19 vaccinations. Kiwis deserve better.

“Every week, I’m contacted by thousands of Kiwis who are worried they just don’t have a say in the future of their country anymore. They’re being kept in the dark and their questions go unanswered by Ardern’s Government. So today, we launch the first in a series of billboards on important issues that Kiwis deserve to have their say on.


“The first campaign relates to the Government’s 2019 He Puapua report. Kiwis were never told about it at the time and it was never campaigned on by Labour. It has recently been considered by Cabinet and is being consulted on with a select few New Zealanders.

“The He Puapua report contains recommendations for fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements. Changes like separate health and justice systems, separate RMA rules, and separate electoral arrangements. These proposals must be taken to an election so all Kiwis can have their say.

“While they claim publicly it’s not their policy, the Labour Government has already started to implement large parts of He Puapua like Māori Wards and a Māori Health Authority, without the wide-ranging public debate that these changes deserve.

“The Government’s parliamentary majority is not a mandate for Labour to promote their ideological wish list. New Zealanders deserve a say on their country’s future and together we must demand the debate.”

Some background on He Puapua:

In 2019, the Labour-NZ First Coalition Government set up a Working Group to devise a plan to give effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The vision laid out by the Working Group, in the document they called He Puapua, makes wide ranging and fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements across New Zealand.

The Working Group behind He Puapua was given two months to draft their plan, and they themselves acknowledged in their plan that they have “been constrained by time, which has hindered our capacity to review and take into account relevant initiatives, policies and laws including recommendations of advisory and other working groups on related kaupapa.”

In line with their terms of reference, the mandate of the working group also ignored New Zealand’s previous position of support for the declaration, our past and present implementation of the Declaration, or whether a Declaration plan or engagement is required. (Pg 1 and 2).

To refresh everyone’s memory of the context in 2010 and the caveats that were put in place, the Declaration was signed in 2010 with the understanding that it:

    • reaffirms the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system, noting that those existing frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration.
    • does not confer the right of veto over Government decisions.

Labour Ministers, and the Working Group, willfully ignored this information, instead choosing to dismiss the context in which the declaration was signed and push their own new agenda.

The Working Group report (He Puapua) was delivered to then Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta in late 2019. Against the advice of the Working Group, He Puapua was never released or acknowledged publicly by the Government at the time, nor was it sent to Cabinet for discussion.

Coalition Ministers in Cabinet were also not aware of it, and it wasn’t raised during the 2020 Election Campaign.

We’ll never know if its release would have made a difference in an election that was both dominated and derailed by Covid-19. But tht it wasn’t suggests those in the know thought it would and would hurt them.

You can find a copy of He Puapua here.

Even though He Puapua has finally been acknowledged as not being official Government policy, nearly two years after it was received by Nanaia Mahuta, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has spent that time implementing numerous recommendations from the report behind your back:

  • Māori Wards in Local Government – Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta progressed legislation under urgency in Parliament, and against official advice, to establish Māori Wards. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 54.

The way this was done suggests a government that thinks democracy is only for some of the people.

  • Separate Māori Health Authority – Health Minister Andrew Little has begun work on restructuring the Health Sector to create a two-tier system based on race. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 90.

Does anyone seriously think that the millions of dollars that will be wasted on the setting up and administration of a separate authority improve health outcomes for anyone?

  • Education Curriculum – Education Minister Chris Hipkins is currently rewriting the compulsory history curriculum to reflect Māori History, colonization and the effects of power. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 38.

History is supposed to help us understand and learn from the past, not indoctrinate us with dogma of the present.

  • Water – The Labour Government established Te Mana o Te Wai, resource management reform that provides a role for Māori in decision-making, and work on Māori rights and interests in freshwater. A recommendation of He Puapua– Pg 66.
  • Land – Department of Conservation (DOC) was consulting on proposals to transfer Public Conservation Land, reform conservation governance to reflect Treaty Partnership at all levels, and provide for the delegation, transfer and devolution of functions and powers within the conservation system to tangata whenua. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 65.
  • Infrastructure – Nanaia Mahuta is working to establish four new super entities to manage drinking water and waste water. She is proposing that each entity is run on a co-governance model where half of entity board members will be elected and the other half represent mana whenua. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has pointed out this will mean the organisation will lack rate payer accountability and risks becoming self-serving.

The proposal is that water infrastructure owned by councils, paid for through rates and uses charges will be taken over by central authorities and half given to Iwi.

These are just a few examples of policy being implemented by Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government. It would seem that He Puapua is Government policy in all but name.

In the spirit of being open and transparent, National has made its position clear on Labour’s plans. We believe many of their ideas are a step too far.

It is right that we acknowledge and address the wrongs of the past, which is why National continues to support targeted programmes based on need. We can also be proud of supporting initiatives like Kōhanga Reo; Kura Kaupapa Māori; Whare Wānanga and Whānau Ora, just to name a few. These initiatives demonstrate the commitment from National and National-led governments to upholding the Crown’s unique and enduring relationship with Māori.

Maori were wronged in the past and consequences of that are still being felt today but that is neither a reason nor an excuse to implement an undemocratic and separatist agenda.

We are better off addressing the flaws within the current systems that aren’t working for Māori. Ethnicity should not divide us. We are better together.

Putting resources – people and money – into addressing real problems of poverty, poor education and health, crime and other areas where Maori are over represented would do far more for all of us than most, perhaps all, the He Puapua recommendations the government is foisting on us.


Rural round-up

10/07/2021

Labour shifts goalposts on forestry goal, its first policy of 2020 campaign – Thomas Coughlan:

Labour has quietly shifted the goalposts on its first campaign promise of the 2020 campaign, a policy that would make it more difficult to plant swathes of prime food-producing land in trees to harvest carbon credits.

Last July, Labour’s rural communities spokesman Kieran McAnulty and Forestry spokesman Stuart Nash promised that within six months of the next Government being formed, Labour would amend National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to allow councils to determine for themselves what classes of land can be used for plantation and carbon forests.

Resource consent would have been required for plantation forests to be grown on land known as “elite soils”, land which has a Land Use Capability Class of 1-5. Land of a higher ranking, deemed less essential for food production, could still be used for forestry as now. . .

Rural vaccine availability fears:  ‘I think we are being disadvantaged’

There are fears rural communities in the south may be left behind during the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Community leaders say there has been scant information about when vulnerable populations in remote areas can expect to be inoculated.

The Southern DHB said more clinics would open by the end of July in remote areas so no one was more than an hour from the nearest clinic.

Fiordland Community Board chair Sarah Greaney said despite group 3 – those over 65 or at greater risk from Covid-19 – being eligible for the vaccine, the nearest clinic at present was 140km away in Gore. . . 

Breakthrough in Hawkes Bay Bay TB response – Sally Murphy:

The animal health agency working to eradicate TB in the Hawkes Bay has gained access to two large forestry blocks in order to cull possums.

OSPRI is working to eradicate the disease – which is spread mainly by possums and can compromise immune systems in stock, causing serious production losses and animal welfare issues.

There are currently 18 herds infected with Bovine TB in the region – but there are also 572 herds under restricted movement controls – which means those farmers can’t move stock off farm without approval – which is a source of great frustration for some in the area.

During the response OSPRI has had trouble getting approval from some land owners to carry out pest control work, which can involve 1080 drops. . . 

David Grant is Federated Farmers Arable Farmer of the Year:

Mid Canterbury Arable Farmer David Grant was awarded the “Federated Farmers Arable Farmer of the Year Award 2021” at the arable industry awards in Christchurch tonight.

David’s contribution to the industry through is work with the Foundation for Arable Research, and in innovation and information sharing, made him an outstanding candidate for this year’s award, Feds Arable chair Colin Hurst said.

The Arable Farmer of the Year Award is designed to recognise a member who excels at arable farming and to acknowledge the standard of excellence they set for the industry. . . 

Silver Fern Farms commits to its course for a sustainable future:

Net Carbon Zero Certified* Beef, Regenerative Agriculture and the elimination of coal by 2030; today, Silver Fern Farms has committed to several bold initiatives to drive its vision of being the world’s most successful and sustainable grass-fed red meat company.

Silver Fern Farms Co-Chair, Rob Hewett, said it was after a significant amount of work and with real satisfaction the company was in the position to make these commitments publicly.

“We have set targets to stretch us, but we are ready for the challenge. If anything, we are committed to investing to accelerate our progress to achieve these significant milestones early. . . 

Savvy commercial partners sought for novel Australian oat products :

Australian oat noodles and oat ‘rice’ are set to become popular pantry staples here and overseas, once new manufacturing processes developed by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) are matched with the right commercial partners.

AEGIC is looking for food brands, manufacturers or investors who can fast-track getting the new healthy plant-based products to market, and help move oats beyond the breakfast table to becoming an option for lunch, dinner and snacks.

Developed from Australian oats, which are high in beta glucan, the new products offer superior nutritional benefits.

AEGIC’s oat rice has twice as much dietary fibre than other white and brown rices, fewer carbohydrates, more protein, and a greater concentration of healthy unsaturated fatty acids. . . 

Boosting agricultural insurance based on earth observation data and blockchain technology:

BEACON advances the inclusion of EO satellites within the AgI processes and adopts a smart contract and blockchain technology which will low the operational and administrative costs by transforming traditional processes to automated ones.

Agricultural Insurance (AgI) is the most weather-dependent sector among insurance services. The premiums’ calculations and the development of new products are highly depending on the continuously changing climate and the high variability of extreme weather events, for which such historic records are absent or not sufficiently accurate. In addition, the damage assessment and the handling of claims is rather costly including high operational and administrative costs since the verification of a claim requires on-the-spot inspections. Most of the times, the results of such inspections are controversial, since the final estimations are performed by inspectors who by human nature are less objective. . . 


Approved opinions only

28/06/2021

The Free Speech Union has had its first win:

. . .Rachel Poulain from Free Speech Union says “we’re delighted by this result – it’s a win for free speech in New Zealand, at least when it comes to Councils trying to deplatform views or groups they don’t like.” . . 

The win is even more important given the proposed law change which would limit free speech and is about controlling our lives:

I want to be very clear with New Zealanders, the National Party will reverse any attempts Jacinda Ardern’s Government makes to criminalise speech beyond the threshold of ‘inciting violence,’ Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“This is an opportunistic grab at one of our most fundamental rights and New Zealanders can be assured that we will fight this on their behalf.

“To frame these proposed laws as a response to the atrocity in Christchurch is disingenuous at best. There is no evidence to support the idea that ‘hate speech’ laws would have prevented the massacre.

“The National Party condemns vile speech that is intended to insult, but there is a big leap from condemning it to criminalising it.

“This is about control. It is about ensuring that only approved opinions are allowed and making questioning those opinions criminal. The matter of who decides what opinions are acceptable is unclear.

Who would dictate which opinions are approved and which are not?

“The Prime Minister has delegated the task of imposing these laws on New Zealanders to a minister who doesn’t understand how the laws will work himself. He cannot tell us what ‘hatred’ looks like nor what the threshold for punishment is.

“I am calling on Jacinda Ardern to front these proposed ‘hate speech’ laws herself. If she is going to erode our democracy and control our speech she needs to own it.

“New Zealanders are entitled to hear from their Prime Minister as to why it is she thinks she is entitled to control even our most core rights.

“I will not be allowing her to palm the issue off to others. It is too important; preserving our democracy is too important. I will be going directly to the Prime Minister to get answers for New Zealanders. I certainly hope she has better answers than Minister Faafoi.”

National’s Justice Spokesman Simon Bridges says freedom of speech is a fundamental right:

. . . “The Prime Minister has already begun mischaracterising the proposed law changes by framing them as simply adding ‘religion’ as a protected group in light of the Royal Commission. I encourage all New Zealanders to read the 6 proposals for themselves because these laws reach much further than that.

“The National Party encourages open debate and discussion as this leads to people being better informed and able to form their own opinions. Democracy relies on the ability of people to speak freely and in turn others are, of course, free to disagree.

“Protecting free speech does not mean that there isn’t speech that I find abhorrent. We are all offended by a variety of things. However, it would be complete overreach to criminalise people, throw them in jail for up to three years, because they caused offence.

“This Government, unable to deliver on much else, appears to want to regulate New Zealanders in every facet of our lives. Not content with just telling us what car we are allowed to drive, they want to restrict and regulate the words that come out of our mouths.

“This is Orwellian and the National Party will oppose such a complete encroachment on our rights.”

Words can hurt. Words can harm – but why would hurting someone with words carry a harsher penalty than inflicting physical harm?


Rural round-up

22/05/2021

Feds slam Govt’s immigration plans –  Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are urging farmers with staffing shortages to write to the Government to outline the effect it was having on their businesses.

The move comes after two announcements from the Government over the past few weeks concerning immigration.

It firstly denied an application by Federated Farmers and DairyNZ to bring in 500 skilled migrants to work on dairy farms.

Instead, it approved 125 agricultural machinery operators, below the 400 that is needed. . . 

Treasury to review forestry policy – Neal Wallace:

The Government has approved the sale of 32,644ha of farmland to foreign buyers since 2018 for conversion to forestry under its special policy that encourages overseas investment into the sector.

Information provided by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) reveals it approved through the forestry test the purchase by foreign investors of 30 livestock farms for conversion to forestry, and a further 35 existing forestry blocks covering 111,517ha.

The special forestry test was introduced in 2018 as part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement, which effectively streamlines the OIO process for foreign entities wanting to invest in forestry.

The policy is about to be reviewed by the Treasury, says an OIO spokesperson. . . 

South coping with the long dry – Sally Blundell :

The parched paddocks of farms on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula have run out of moisture – nothing is growing. Farmers fear climate change has arrived and have begun adapting the way they work the land.

Tim Davie, director of science at Environment Canterbury, pauses in a stony gulley, a narrow trough between banks of browning grass. It was not what he expected to see.

“I was hoping to show you some water on the Port Hills of Banks Peninsula,” he tells Frank Film. “But there’s nothing here. Normally this pond would be full of water, up to my waist. On the western flank of Pigeon Bay, Edward Aitken of Craigforth farm walks across the parched ground of his sheep and cattle farm. The scenery is dramatic, the hills a uniform brown against a relentlessly blue sky. “These paddocks would normally have new grass and established greenfield crops. They’ve been fallow now since last November. There is absolutely no moisture in the sub-soil.” . .

Budget 2021: Federated Farmers welcome funding, Dairy NZ says it missed the mark:

Biosecurity, agricultural emissions research and farm planning were areas that received a funding boost in yesterday’s Budget.

On the agricultural emissions front, $24 million was committed to research and mitigation technology development, which could include things like methane inhibitors and the breeding of low emission animals.

Meanwhile, $37m would go towards a national farm planning system for farmers and growers, in line with the government’s plan for all farms to have written plans to measure and manage emissions by the end of 2024.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said in order to meet its climate and environmental goals, there needed to be a single, easy to use framework. . . 

Women in seed forum :

A recent turn out of women engaged in employment within the Seed Industry shows the future of diversity within the sector is looking good.

The second NZGSTA Women in Seed Forum was held at Riccarton Park Function Centre on the 19th of May and attended by 108 women from the Seed Industry. The roles of these women varied from agronomists, lab technicians, logistics roles, administrative roles, account managers, research technicians, grain traders, farmers and those passionate about the grain and seed industries.

Developed and hosted by the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association, Executive Councillor Charlotte Connoley said “the purpose of the forum was to provide more opportunities for networking amongst women within the industry in addition to providing a platform for further discussion and collaboration around key challenges and opportunities that face the grain and seed industries.” . . 

Here Come The Girls: Cork students clinch 2021 Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition title

Five teenage girls at St Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill – who come from non-farming backgrounds – have just been crowned overall winners of the 2021 Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition.

Emily O’Donovan, Kelsey Hourigan, Helen Savage, Leah Buckley, and Rachel O’Gorman explored the topic ‘Communicating with the Consumer & Producer’ throughout the course of their 18-month project for the competition.

And, in an effort to educate consumers on the beef process, they created an App called ‘Angus Adventures’ which is available to download from Google Play.

The App focuses on the daily tasks of a farmer in an effort to inform consumers of the work and dedication required to produce Certified Irish Angus beef from farm to fork. . . 


It was always too hard

24/03/2021

Finally the admission that should have come years ago:

Going further into the Pike River coal mine is too hard and too expensive, Minister Responsible for Pike River Reentry Andrew Little says.

The minister’s comments come even though no detailed technical assessment or cost analysis has been done.

Little said the Government was not willing to consider doing a risk assessment and cost analysis of recovering evidence from the mine’s main ventilation fan, which could hold clues about what caused the first explosion in the mine where 29 men were killed in 2010.

He said the mine’s geotechnical strata was “inherently unstable” and the technical challenge of getting past a roof fall blocking the mine workings would be phenomenal. . . 

It was always too hard.

Sometimes when you’re in Opposition you have to back the government when it’s doing the right thing.

Instead Labour and New Zealand chose to do the political thing, promising a re-entry of the mine.

In doing so they exploited the families and friends of the men who were killed, giving them unrealistic hope and stoking their grief.

Ten years and more than $50 million later Little has admitted what they should have accepted from the start – it was too hard, too dangerous and too expensive.


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.


Wasting time

12/02/2021

I wasted my time yesterday making a submission on the Bill that seeks to trample’s over local democracy.

I submitted:

I write to oppose the Local Electoral (Maori Wards and Maori Constituencies) Amendment Bill.

The Bill undermines local and direct democracy and I oppose both the manner in which it is being rushed through urgency and the Bill itself.

  1. Local body election are nearly two years ago, that’s plenty of time to let the Bill go through the proper democratic process without ramming it through under urgency. .
  2. Decisions on local government should be made by local people in their own local communities. Aiming to abolish the right of ratepayers to veto decisions by councils to establish Maori wards without a community mandate, as this Bill does is an unprecedented attack on local government democracy.
  3. The percentage of Maori councillors is very close to the percentage of Maori in New Zealand. They got elected on their merits not race, they don’t need this patronsing legislation.  Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta claimed in her media release, “Polls have proven to be an almost insurmountable barrier to councils trying to improve the democratic representation of Maori interests. This process is fundamentally unfair to Maori. Increasing Maori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Maori voice in local decision making.”That is wrong. A survey carried out by Local Government New Zealand in October 2020, showed the proportion of Maori elected to local authorities is now 13.5 percent. With the 2018 census showing Maori as 13.7 percent of the adult population, there is no under or inequitable representation.
  4. It is racist to suggest there is a single Maori view on rates, rubbish, and other business that local authorities deal with; and that Maori can only be represented by Maori. 
  5. The argument that no veto applies to any other change of wards is irrelevant. Changes to wards are administrative not political; they do not change the voting system which Bill proposes to do. If however, the minister thinks the difference between changes to general wards and the establishment of Maori wards is the problem then legislation should be ammended to allow petitions to veto ward changes. This would enhance democracy not trample it as this Bill does.
  6. Parliament should be focusing on the many far more important issues confronting local government and the country.
  7. This measure was not part of Labour’s election manifesto.

Conclusion

I oppose this Bill because in a democracy the voting system is sacrosanct and needs protecting to prevent those in power from manipulating it. I support local people in local communities making decisions about their local government, not central government running roughshod over the top. I’m not opposed to communities establishing Maori Wards, but the people affected by that decision should have a say in it.

The 78 councils across NZ already have well established obligations, under legislation, to work with Māori and help the Crown comply with its Treaty obligations. They should work out together how best to improve and deepen their relationship.

There is no good reason why this change is so critical and the most pressing priority right now with everything else that is going on in the local government sector.

This Bill is being rammed through under a shameful, arrogant and undemocratic process with no meaningful public consultation.

It didn’t take long thanks to some inspiration from the New Zealand Centre for Political Research and the National Party

Why was I wasting my time?

Because the whole process is a sham, only one day was allowed for submissions and they will be ignored.

So why did I bother submitting?

Because the government should be left in no doubt that this process is an affront to democracy and the Bill itself is unnecessary.

This is the second instance Labour has burned its political capital this week.

Neither National’s attempt to pass a vote of no confidence in the Speaker Trevor Mallard nor this Bill and the way it is being rammed through under urgency may matter to anyone but political tragics now.

But political capital is far easily lost than won and burning some of that precious commodity so early in the sitting year provides the Opposition with the opportunity to keep stoking the fire that will, sooner or later, become hot enough for voters to notice and move away.


Where’s the urgency?

11/02/2021

Another day, another announcement of an announcement that shows no sense of urgency:

The Government needs to show more urgency and commitment if it ever wants to make meaningful strides towards solving the housing shortage and getting wins for the environment.

National’s spokesperson for Housing and RMA reform Nicola Willis says first-home buyers will be disappointed the Government isn’t moving fast enough to make house building easier.

“House prices have risen more than 40 per cent since Labour came to office, yet Labour has shown no urgency when it comes to making it easier to build houses in this country.

“National has offered to work with Labour on emergency legislation, much like the special powers used in the Christchurch rebuild, which would accelerate house building nationwide.

What worked in Christchurch would work everywhere else.

“We’re disappointed that Labour hasn’t accepted our offer to form a special select committee and get on with this, much like it turned down the chance to work in a bipartisan way on RMA reform while National was last in Government.

“Now Labour plans to spend another three years moving RMA legislation through Parliament. Given the time it will also take local councils to amend their plans, it could easily be the late 2020s before any of these changes take effect.”

Ms Willis says she is concerned about the proposal for developments to be within biophysical limits and have positive environmental outcomes before proceeding, which David Parker has acknowledged will need to be carefully managed to avoid impacting house building.

“These changes may actually make it harder to build houses.”

National’s spokesperson for Environment and RMA reform Scott Simpson says Labour is heading down the wrong path with its reforms.

“For a Government that talks a big game on the need for environmental gains, it is moving at a snail’s pace.

“There’s a real risk its plans for new legislation will make things more complicated, costly and confusing than is currently the case, without achieving the environmental gains they seek.”

At the last election, National proposed splitting the RMA into an Environmental Standards Act, setting clear and efficient environmental bottom lines; and an Urban Planning and Development Act, making it easier to build houses in our cities, Mr Simpson says.

“This approach would ensure that our natural spaces are well protected, while also making sure we have a positive process for allowing houses to be built in already developed areas.”

Labour was telling us there was a housing crisis long before the party was in power.

It’s now in its second term, the lack of supply is driving house prices well beyond the means of average earners and rents are following a similar path.

The RMA is one of the factors contributing to development and building costs.

The government should stop playing politics and work with National to get solutions with the urgency that’s required.

 


Discrimination doesn’t solve discrimination

02/02/2021

The government has major problems to address.

Among them are dealing with Covid-19, including issues with border protocols, shortcomings in MIQ and lack of certainty around when and if we’ll get vaccines; the housing crisis; and increasing numbers of people in poverty.

Is it an admission it has no answers to these problems that instead of focusing on these, it is going to prioritise a law change to take away the right for people to petition against Maori wards on local councils?

The government is to introduce legislation to uphold council decisions to establish Māori wards, said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta who made the announcement in New Plymouth today.  . .

Mahuta said the rules needed to change.

“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards. . . “

Maori and general wards are very different – the latter apply to all people in the area, the former doesn’t.

If that difference isn’t a strong enough argument against the change and the issue is that general and Maori wards are treated differently a better solution would be to allow petitions over changes to all wards.

Discrimination isn’t solved by more discrimination, although a lack of Maori wards isn’t discrimination when Maori have the same rights as other New Zealanders to stand in local body elections.

If the issue is that in spite of this there are too few Maori on councils, the solution isn’t special wards, it’s addressing whatever stops more standing for councils in existing wards.

There is no single Maori view that will be given a voice by separate wards but this law change will give some Maori more control over councils with less accountability than general wards provide.

That is another good reason to support the Taxpayer’s Union’s call for the right to petition for recall elections:

Stronger accountability tools for local government will be needed if the Government succeeds in entrenching Māori wards, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “As more councils introduce Māori wards, a significant proportion of our local representatives will be accountable to just one segment of local of voters. This loss of accountability needs to be offset with new accountability tools.”

“An obvious example is recall elections: when a councillor breaks a promise or brings disgrace to their authority, voters shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to vote them out of office. Voters should be able to petition to recall a councillor. Under this model, as practiced in the UK and many parts of the United States and Canada, if the petition reaches a given threshold of signatures a recall election will be triggered for that ward.”

Last year the Taxpayers’ Union, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and Northern Action Group jointly released a paper proposing recall elections. It is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper

Disfunction in several councils in recent years provide good arguments for the ability to petition for recall elections. Losing the right to petition against Maori wards is another one.

What makes this worse is that it appears this was on Labour’s agenda before the election but wasn’t in the party’s election policies.

That wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome but it is a very bad look for a government that aspires to be open and transparent.

 


Fewer police, fewer prisoners

11/01/2021

Labour’s promise to give us more police is on hold:

The Government has lived up to its soft-on-crime reputation by pushing pause on its plans to increase police numbers by 1800, National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

In 2017, Labour promised to grow the Police’s ranks by 1800 over three years, but it never got close. Instead, it tried to fool the public by claiming its promise never included attrition. Former Police Minister Stuart Nash shifted the goalposts last year, saying the net increase of 1800 officers wouldn’t actually happen until 2021.

Now it’s been revealed that police stopped training because they got ahead of their five-year budget, according to the Police Association. The 1800 target is unlikely to be met until 2023.

“It is disappointing to learn that Police have deferred all upcoming intakes until at least May because it feels there is now ‘less of a need for recruits’,” Mr Brown says.

Less need? That’s not what the crime statistics show.

“There were more than 270,000 victims of crime in the year ending October 2020. I don’t think they would agree there is less need for police officers out on the beat.

A six-month drought of new cops hitting the streets doesn’t make sense when there has been a 13 per cent increase in gang membership over the past year and we have seen an increasing amount of gang and gun violence on our streets, Mr Brown says.

“Many of these promised new police officers were meant to be focussed on organised crime and drugs.

“This is yet another broken promise from the Labour Government, which shows it is not fully committed to stamping out crime and keeping New Zealand’s communities safe.

“National is committed to keeping New Zealanders safe and giving Police the resources they need. We will grow police numbers and increase the allocation of officers to rural areas, including expanding one-person police stations to two-person police stations.”

Remember that Labour not only pledged to increase police numbers, it also wanted to reduce the number of people in prison?

Could it be the delay in increasing police recruits is a cunning plan to reduce the prison population? No, not deliberately but that will be a consequence.

After all if there are fewer police there will almost certainly be more crime that isn’t solved and therefore fewer prisoners.

 


No coincidence

15/12/2020

Had it not been for Barry Soper who had an exclusive interview with the man Trevor Mallard accused of being a rapist, we might never have known the disastrous impact Trevor Mallard’s loose lips had on his victim.

. . . In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker.

“At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said.

He said his family was dumbfounded, they couldn’t believe he could be accused of sexual misconduct. . . 

That interview was in May last year.

Last week, on the day most media and public attention was on the release of the Royal Commission’s report on the Mosque murders, Mallard released an apology?

Are we expected to believe the timing was coincidental?

Are we also expected to believe the timing of the rule change allowing costs for all MPs’ court settlements to be covered by taxpayer funds, after Mallard was sued for making the remarks, was coincidental?

At the same time Speaker Trevor Mallard was being sued for defamation, he changed the rules so other MPs could also have theirs covered by the taxpayer without disclosing it publicly.

National and Act leaders yesterday said they no longer had confidence in the Speaker after he revealed he’d cost the taxpayer more than $330,600 settling a case after incorrectly calling a former Parliamentary staffer a rapist.

It has also now come to light that the rules for when MPs can claim legal costs when they’re being sued were expanded by the Speaker in August so damages and settlements can come from the public purse.

Those applications have to be signed off by the party leader, the Speaker and chief executive of Parliamentary Service. . . 

The timing of neither was a coincidence.

Releasing the apology that day must have been a deliberate attempt to bury it while attention was focused elsewhere. Changing the rules at the very least was opportunistic.

National and Act have both announced they have lost confidence in Mallard as speaker and they are not alone:

Barry Soper explains why he should resign:

National’s lost confidence in him and Labour, the party that preaches wellbeing and kindness, surely will have no choice but to vote against his continuing in the role.

Labour does have a choice : do they, and their leader want to squander political capital protecting Mallard?

It’s been confirmed that the almost $334,000 in legal costs have been paid out by the taxpayer. Why? Well Mallard had the rules changed after he made his outrageous comment to protect him from having to pay the bill for something he should have known would go against him.

The tragedy in all of this is that the man he accused of a terrible crime, who spoke exclusively to me after the Mallard allegation last year, has suffered serious health issues since he was sent packing and it looks as though he will get nothing from the settlement.

Lawyers for both sides got five-figure payments, The accused man lost his job and his health but it appears he got no compensation.

Mallard must have known his rape claim was false last year, but waited until after the election and much litigation to apologise. If he’d done it last year he would have faced a no confidence vote in Parliament and would likely be gone, as New Zealand First was unlikely to support him.

It’s difficult to fathom why he unsuccessfully demanded the man’s name be made public, other than to cause embarrassment.

It demeans the inquiry into bullying and harassment Parliament launched with great fanfare by Mallard and consultant Debbie Francis. The silence of Francis was deafening when the claim of rape was made.

It shows how the powerful can ride roughshod over the powerless. If the Parliamentary staffer hadn’t spoken to me, this would have been swept under the carpet.

It shows how manipulative the Speaker, ranked as the third most important role in the country after the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, can be in releasing his apology late on the day of the Royal Commission on the mosque shootings and on the eve of the first anniversary of the Whakaari/White Island eruption. . . 

Heather du Plessis-Allan also says Mallard must go:

. . .I don’t believe Mallard should have been given the role. In my opinion the role should have been given to someone who has the respect of their colleagues, control of their temperament and can suspend their party bias.

Mallard is, by contrast, not well-liked in Parliament, has a history of ill-judged behaviour (including punching Tau Henare and saying he wanted to shove a Heineken in an “uncomfortable” part of a rugby official’s body) and has been accused of bias in the debating chamber through his apparent attempts to protect the Prime Minister. . . 

He is a bad look for Labour. For a party that makes a big claim of kindness and wellbeing, it’s a terrible look to promote and defend a senior MP who did the opposite of kindness to a working-class Kiwi.

Mallard should resign, for the sake of his party and the Office of the Speaker. In my view, his conduct is unbecoming of both . . .

Kerre McIvor said the defamation debacle stinks:

. . .  Bad enough that Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard falsely accuses a parliamentary staffer of rape, but while he was being sued for defamation by the aforementioned staffer, he was part of a very quiet rule change. . .

There’s several things about this that stink. One, that Mallard should have been involved in a scheme to extend protection from financial consequences across all of Parliament at a time when he was trying to save his own sorry skin in a defamation suit – a suit he must have known he would lose.

And two, that on the day the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings released its findings, the Speaker of the House used the distraction to issue an apology to the staffer involved, knowing full well that his apology would be buried under the huge number of stories on the inquiry and its recommendations.

He’s not the first person to have done this and he won’t be the last – of any party – but it’s a cynical, shabby move. He’ll be hoping the story will simply disappear over summer and that by the time the House sits in the new year, all will be forgiven and forgotten.

National and Act have declared the Speaker must resign and that his behaviour is such that he no longer has their confidence. A vote of no confidence will surely fail because of the enormous majority Labour enjoys in the House.

But Mallard’s 36-year career has been tarnished. And he’ll likely have a very tough ride over the next two and a half years – deservedly so. 

Labour should have been finishing the year on a high as the first party to command a majority under MMP.

Instead it’s being tarnished by the actions of the Speaker.

They might think it will all go away over summer.

It won’t.

If Mallard doesn’t resign National and Act will make sure it doesn’t and that it is front and centre of attention when parliament resumes in February.


That was then

07/12/2020

Cast your mind back a few years to when a National Minister sacked Environment Canterbury councilors and appointed a commissioner.

What was the response from the Opposition?

The Labour Party has complained to the United Nations over the continuing denial of democratic elections for Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillors.

“The National government took away the right of Canterbury people to elect councillors on ECan and in doing so denied them their democratic rights contrary to international agreements we are party to,” Labour MP for Port Hills Ruth Dyson says. . . 

Ms Dyson is no longer an MP which may be just as well because Labour is now now in government and look what is about to happen:

Nanaia Mahuta, the Minister of Local Government, has revealed she plans to appoint a Commission in response to governance problems at Tauranga City Council.

The deeply divided council has recently been slammed as being made up of “petty politicians” in “desperate need of progressive thinking”, by Tauranga’s outgoing mayor Tenby Powell. . . 

“I have been closely watching the conduct of the Council for a number of months. I have grown increasingly concerned at the governance issues, and the impact this has on Tauranga ratepayers and significant investment in the region,” she said. . . 

What’s the difference between National sacking ECan councillors and replacing them with a commissioner and Labour doing the same to Tauranga City Council?

That was then, this is now.

This isn’t the first time Labour has done what they criticised National for doing. Labour in opposition had a prolonged protest against the planned Trans Pacific partnership. In government they signed up to, albeit by a slightly different name.

There’s a lesson in this – Opposition MPs should be very careful in choosing which cars to bark at lest they find they catch them in government and have to do with them what they were so critical of their opponents doing when they were in the driver’s seat.


What’s the difference?

17/11/2020

When National promoted the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Labour, New Zealand First, the Green Party and their followers were vehement in their opposition.

When Labour added a couple of words and made it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Trade most MPs who had been so strongly against the TPP were just as strong in their support of the CPTTP and there was hardly a whisper against it outside parliament.

The Labour government has just signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with 10 countries from the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Australia, China, Japan and South Korea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFaT) says this anchors New Zealand in a region that is the engine room of the global economy.

The 15 RCEP economies are home to almost a third of the world’s population, include 7 of our top 10 trading partners, take over half New Zealand’s total exports and provide more than half our direct foreign investment.

RCEP deepens our trade and economic connections in the Asia-Pacific region, an important part of New Zealand’s Trade Recovery Strategy. The agreement will help ensure New Zealand is in the best possible position to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and seize new opportunities for exports and investment. RCEP is projected to add $186 billion to the world economy and increase New Zealand’s GDP by around $2.0 billion. . . 

New Zealand is too small to benefit much from bilateral trade agreements and has a lot to gain from multi-country deals like this one.

The government has done the right thing in concluding the work started under National but could be called hypocritical after the vehemence of its criticism of the TPPP.

And while some call Federated Farmers right wing and accuse it of being National in gumboots, it has given the agreement the thumbs up:

The prospect of reduced red tape from a single set of trade rules for the Asia Pacific is a major reason why New Zealand producers and exporters will give the RCEP deal the thumbs up, Federated Farmers says.

“Anything that takes us further along the path of ironing out border costs and delays, and reducing protectionist tariffs, for our exports has to be a good thing for farmers, and for New Zealand, Feds President Andrew Hoggard said.

A degree of scepticism has been voiced about how quickly our GDP would be boosted by the estimated $2 billion a year from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement signed at the weekend, given we already have free trade agreements in one form or another with all of the 14 other signatory nations. But new opportunities should eventually flow.

“This is now the largest free trade agreement in the world, covering nations with nearly one third of the world’s population. It includes clear mechanisms to us to address any non-tariff barriers put up against our exported goods by the other signatories,” Hoggard said.

RCEP delivers additional tariff elimination on a number of New Zealand food products into Indonesia, including sheepmeat, beef, fish and fish products, liquid milk, grated or powdered cheese, honey, avocados, tomatoes and persimmons.

The Green Party is the only one in parliament opposing the new agreement. Opposition from outside parliament has been muted and it’s not just on trade where the left is less vocal on issues than it was a few years ago.

When National was in power stories of homeless people and their plight were regularly featured in the news. Politicians and other groups on the left were happy to be quoted criticising the government and demanding action.

Homelessness and overcrowding are still be a major problem and, given the escalating price of houses, a growing one. But the stories of people living in cars and other suboptimal accommodation aren’t nearly as frequent.

What’s changed? Just the government.

Could it be that the people who advocate so loudly for the vulnerable when National is in power let their own partisan attachments get in the way of their political agitation when Labour is ruling?


National loses 2 more MPs

06/11/2020

The final election results bring more bad news for National:

National has two fewer seats and Labour and the Māori Party each have one more:

  • The number of seats in Parliament will be 120.
  • The Labour Party has 65 seats compared with 64 on election night.
  • The National Party has 33 seats compared with 35 on election night.
  • The Māori Party has 2 seats compared with 1 on election night.
  • ACT New Zealand and the Green Party remain unchanged with 10 seats each.

Electorate vote – main points

Three electorate results have changed since election night:

    • Labour Party candidate Priyanca Radhakrishnan has won Maungakiekie with a majority of 635 votes over National Party candidate Denise Lee.
    • Labour Party candidate Willow-Jean Prime has won Northland with a majority of 163 votes over National Party candidate Matt King.
    • Labour Party candidate Emily Henderson has won Whangārei with a majority of 431 votes over National Party candidate Shane Reti.
    • All other electorate candidates leading on election night have been confirmed as winning their seats.

The low party vote for National didn’t surprise me.

This was always going to be the election that Covid-19 stole and National worsened its prospects by self-sabotage. A caucus that shoots itself in the foot, stabs itself in the back and trips over its own tongue isn’t going to gain voter support.

But the loss of so many electorates, especially the provincial and rural ones, both surprises and saddens me. Generally good MPs will  be able to stand firm even if the tide swings against their party.

I am pleased that Shane Reti has a high enough place on the list to retain a seat in parliament although he lost the seat.

One new MP who withstood the red tide is Penny Simmons who has been confirmed as the MP for Invercargill.

Key statistics

  • The total number of votes cast was 2,919,086.
  • The number of special votes was 504,625, 17% of total votes (2017 – 17%).
  • 68% of votes were cast in advance (2017 – 47%).
  • 82.2% of people who were enrolled voted (2017 – 79.8%). This is the highest turnout since 1999 (84.8%).
  • The final enrolment rate was 94.1% (2017 – 92.4%), the highest since 2008 (95.3%).

A high turnout is good for democracy.

Allowing people to enroll on Election Day no doubt helped increase the enrollment rate.

The increase in advance votes might prompt a change in the law that makes Election Day campaign-free.

Labour has the numbers to change the law by itself but such changes ought to be made by consensus and passed by far more than a simple majority.


Foot in mouth outbreak at Massey

02/11/2020

A Massey University professor is suffering from foot in mouth:

National and ACT have become “vanishingly irrelevant” in Parliament following the Greens’ acceptance of the cooperation agreement offered by Labour, a politics professor believes.

The deal has locked in a political arrangement that will see Labour and the Greens “monster the Parliament” for the next three years, according to Massey University’s Richard Shaw, with a combined 74 of 120 seats held by the parties. . . 

“The National Party, ACT, and the Māori Party – assuming that the specials mean they keep Waiariki – are vanishingly irrelevant to what occurs in the Parliament,” Shaw told Newshub on Saturday.

He says the agreement – which the Greens will sign in a ceremony on Sunday – marks the largest political alliance in New Zealand’s parliamentary history.

It is the first time under MMP one party has gained more than 50% of the vote. But the political alliance isn’t very much bigger than the 2008 National-led government with 58 National MPs plus five each from Act and the Maori Party and one from United Future.

“It’s really hard to overstate how much the legislative agenda and the executive agenda will be driven by Labour with some support from the Greens, it’s a really remarkable state of affairs,” Shaw says.

Oh dear, it’s really hard to overstate what a very ill-informed remark that is. How can a professor of politics not understand how parliament works?

Unless it’s a minority government, the government has a majority as a result of which it passes the legislation it wants to. This one doesn’t have to negotiate with partners, but the major parties in previous governments could use their confidence and supply agreement to get their allies to support their Bills.

“And if you’re a National or ACT MP, you would be sitting there thinking, ‘Shit, what am I going to do for the next three years? I’m going to be surrounded by Opposition members in all of the select committees’ – it’s just dominated by Labour’s policy.” . . 

Yes it’s dominated by Labour policy and Act and National will be surrounded by government MPs. But good Opposition MPs won’t be wondering what they’ll be doing for the next three years. They’ll do what they’re paid to do – work very hard to to get better legislation, not by opposing for opposition’s sake, but by working with and against other members of select committees as appropriate, and on some, albeit rare, occasions they might even support government legislation.

If they hold a seat, they’ll also be very active in their electorate supporting and advocating for their constituents, and  a good list MP will also be doing electorate work.

They will be drawing up Members’ Bills in the hope they’ll be drawn out of the ballot too.

National MPs will be working very hard to be loyal members of a united caucus that doesn’t leak and will be contributing to policy development that is consistent with the party’s principles and philosophy unless they want to contribute to an even worse result for the party in three years time.

If they have spare time, they might also,  in an act of public service, help to extract the foot from the mouth of the professor of politics, and educate him on how the political system works and the essential democratic role a hard-working opposition plays in that no matter how outnumbered its members might be.


Rural round-up

24/10/2020

Fired up over freshwater – Hamish MacLean:

Stop the degradation, show real improvements in five years, restore New Zealand’s waterways in a generation, and infuriate how many farmers? Environment reporter Hamish MacLean checks in on the fight for healthy rivers after 100 tractors rolled through Gore last week in protest over new freshwater regulations. 

Southern farmers are facing reams of new rules and red tape as New Zealand starts to go hard on keeping sediment, E.coli, phosphorous, and nitrogen out of its rivers.

But Federated Farmers calls some of the new rules “unworkable” and prohibitively costly, and says they will need to be amended by Cabinet.

Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen says a parade of tractors down Gore’s main street and a gathering of hundreds of farmers in Invercargill last week amid public calls for ignoring the new rules en masse are representative of farmers’ anger about the costs and the extent of the changes being forced upon them.

Measures would squeeze businesses ‘doing it tough’ – Jacob McSweeny:

Business and farming leaders in the South are joining a chorus of similar stakeholders throughout the country hoping the Labour Party forms its own government rather than going into a coalition with the Greens.

Labour won 64 seats according to Saturday’s preliminary results and can govern alone if it chooses.

Farra Engineering chief executive and Southern Otago Regional Engineering Collective chairman Gareth Evans said he was not surprised by the result, just that it was more comprehensive than expected.

“It’s good in a sense that Labour have an absolute majority so that they have to be accountable for everything that they do from here on in.” . . 

Research funded to unlock seaweed’s potential as new ‘superfood‘ –

It is far from a staple on most Kiwi dinner tables, but AgResearch scientists are aiming to unlock the potential of seaweed as a go-to food with proven health benefits. And they have enlisted the services a of a world-class chef to help them do it.

The scientists are joining counterparts in Singapore in a project funded by New Zealand government, in the amount of $3.3 million, alongside parallel funding from the Government of Singapore. The New Zealand funding is from the Catalyst Fund:Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme.

The research, focused on the Undaria pinnatifida species of seaweed abundant in waters around New Zealand and Singapore, also involves partners the University of Otago, University of Auckland, A*STAR, AgriSea NZ, Ideas 2 Plate and AMiLi. . . 

Waikato berry farm expecting influx of visitors due to strawberry picker shortage:

Strawberries may be harder to come by on supermarket shelves this year due to an expected shortage of pickers, so a Waikato berry farm is gearing up for a big influx of Kiwis wanting to pick their own.

Whatawhata Berry Farm, located five minutes from Hamilton on the Raglan Road will open for the summer this Friday (23 October) and is expecting record crowds during the strawberry picking season, which runs from now until late March or Easter if demand exists.

Owner Darien McFadden says commercial growers are deeply concerned there won’t be enough overseas RSE workers or those on Working Holiday Visas to pick this year’s crop, leaving fruit to go to waste and creating supply and demand issues for both export and domestic markets. . . 

Shearers were among those travelling to Melbourne via Sydney :

New Zealand shearers were on the first flights to Australia and among those who travelled on to Melbourne.

Shearers who boarded the first flights to Melbourne should have been praised for their work ethic not “poo-pooed by the Premier”, an industry representative has said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford confirmed New Zealand shearers were on the first flights out of New Zealand to Sydney, and they later went on to catch a flight to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.

“Anecdotally I know they were on those flights and there was nothing illegal or incorrect in what they did – they followed process and were sponsored by their employers and had the correct permit to travel from metropolitan Melbourne to rural Victoria,” he said. . . 

HappyMoo developing tools to monitor cow health :

ICBF is participating in a large-scale European research project called HappyMoo. The project aims to develop tools to identify cow welfare issues before they become a problem and affect performance. There are many different aspects to cow welfare and essential among them are freedom from hunger, stress, and disease. These are the areas that the HappyMoo research project is focusing on.

The project will use machine learning to identify patterns in milk spectral data that are associated with undesirable conditions in the cow. Milk spectral data is recorded when milk samples are analysed in a milk recording lab by mid-infrared machines. Essentially a mid-infrared laser is shined into a milk sample and the absorbance levels are recorded. Every analysed milk sample generates 1060 data points and when we consider the thousands of cows in the thousands of milk recording herds it does not take long to add up to Big Data. Therefore, these absorbance levels provide a deep dataset and in the HappyMoo project the spectral data will be correlated with phenotypes. Already, spectral data can be used to measure milk constituents, but it has also been shown to indicate difficult to measure phenotypes such as energy balance. . . 


No room for leakers

21/10/2020

People who know my National Party affiliation keep asking me if I’m in mourning. I’m not, but I am both sad and angry and I’m not the only one:

Melissa Lee – who is one of those still in a job – said the result was “devastating”.

“We’ve always been very close friends and we’ve all become, you know, brothers and sisters. I love every single one of my colleagues and I feel terrible for those who did not make it this election,” she said.

So far as the leaking during the campaign is concerned, she said: “That’s something I’m really angry about. I just think New Zealanders will be very disappointed in us. We just look like politicians who can’t actually keep it together.

“I’m really disappointed whoever it is and hopefully it will stop.” . . .

The only ones to win if the leaking doesn’t stop are Labour and the media.

Lee said the problem with emails was they were sent to not just MPs but also their staff and possibly other people. She added she was not accusing staff of being behind the leak of the email she sent.

She advised any National MP who was leaking to media about Judith Collins being dumped as leader to “shut up”.

Departing Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe who has been in Parliament for 12 years, said his message for his colleagues was to be decent.

“To be fit to govern you must be absolutely united, you must demonstrate a very clear vision for what is important … and also demonstrate fundamental decency.

“You have to be a team that people can respect and want to have lead a nation.”

He said the National caucus needed to focus entirely on being fit to govern, otherwise “it would be a difficult way back”.

For nearly nine years Labour didn’t look like it was fit to govern. National should have learned from that.

Macindoe said Collins had done a good job in “extraordinarily challenging circumstances”, and it would be a mistake “to get the knives out” for her.

Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger said the caucus was united behind Collins. Three leaders, departing MPs and board members and leakers had made for a difficult year but Collins had “kept a smile on her face every day”.

She said there was no room in caucus for leakers.

Whoever has been leaking obviously doesn’t understand that the media is never a politician’s friend. A journalist will welcome leaks and use them, but won’t give any favours in return.

She agreed it was ironic that the team ran on a strong team banner.

“We weren’t the best team… You can have all the best players, it’s no different to the rugby. If you’ve got people dropping the ball, or not being able to do the right thing, then you don’t win, and that’s what happened.”

This was the election that Covid-19 stole but National’s result was far worse than it would have been if it wasn’t for the damage inflicted by the disloyalty and leaks that sabotaged the team.


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