Lawrence Yule’s maiden speech

November 20, 2017

National’s Tukituki MP, Lawrence Yule delivered his maiden speech last week:

Ki te iwi o Ngati Kahungunu, tena koutou

To all the people of Ngati Kahungunu, greetings

Ki nga hapu whanui o Heretaunga tena koutou

To all the hapu of Heretaunga, greetings

Ki nga kaumatua o Heretaunga tena koutou

To all the elders and leaders of Heretaunga, greetings

Kia ora mo te aroha, me te manaaki ki au mai ra no

Thank you for the love and support you have given me over the years

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

Mr Speaker it is a tremendous honour to speak for the first time at the beginning of the 52nd Parliament. It is a privilege to represent the people of Tukituki in this house and I thank them for voting and bringing me here.

Mr Speaker I acknowledge and congratulate you on your appointment, the appointment of former Hawkes Bay resident Hon Anne Tolley as Deputy Speaker and other presiding officers.

I acknowledge the sanctity if this house, those that have gone before and all members of this 52nd Parliament. Regardless of your political convictions, I know you all enter this place to make a difference.

I acknowledge the leaders of all political parties and respect their seniority and mana.

Congratulations to Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister Hon Winston Peters and all Ministers.

I acknowledge the Rt Hon Bill English and Hon Paula Bennett as Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Party. On behalf of all National MPs, I wish to thank both members for their outstanding performance across the nation in the election campaign. I am incredibly proud to be elected as a National MP and I thank them for their time in Tukituki during the campaign.

I acknowledge Party President Peter Goodfellow, the Board and National party staff led by Greg Hamilton. I offer a particular vote of thanks to Central Region Chair Bernard Cleary for his support, advice and personal help.

It is an honour to join my fellow Hawke’s Bay MP’s Stuart Nash and Meka Whaitari who, although across the political divide, I regard as friends after working with them for many years. I welcome a working relationship with my National Wairarapa MP Alistair Scott as we work together to support the people of Central Hawkes Bay where we share a common boundary.

I acknowledge and thank my predecessor Hon Craig Foss for his dedication and commitment to the people of Tukituki. I also greet our community leaders HBRC Chair Rex Graham, Hastings Acting Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Central Hawkes Bay Mayor Alex Walker.

Honourable members thank you for the courtesy already shown to me by many members of this house, whom I have worked with in my former role as President of Local Government New Zealand. I look forward to continuing these respectful relationships.

As Member of Parliament for Tukituki, I want to share a little about myself.

I am married to my wonderful wife Kerryn who I love and who has been a tower of strength since we met and was a superstar in the Campaign. Mr Speaker not many wives or husbands in this chamber would actually enjoy door knocking!

I am the father of four wonderful adult children from a previous marriage who are doing incredibly well. Emma, Thomas, Henry, and Charles continue to give me a huge sense of pride in their achievements and success with life. I love them and acknowledge them and their mother for all they have done to help me.

My Mum (who is in the gallery) and late Father gave myself and my siblings an idyllic life surrounded by love in a Christian household. We never wanted for anything but we had modest means. My brother Andrew, and sister Jeanette have both been a supportive part of our nuclear family and as siblings, we have all supported each other through life’s rough patches. I thank Kerryn’s parents for their love and support complete with free-flowing political advice.

My dearest friends Michael Hindmarsh and Peter Roil have supported all my political campaigns and are hoarding professionals to die for. We met through Board of Trustees work at Sherenden School and have been friends since. Thank you, both for your hours of work and support. Every time we were putting up signs for the mayoralty is was going to be the last, but remarkably you have stuck by me.

Trevor Helson Tukituki Electorate and Campaign Chair, thank you for a full-time voluntary role during the campaign. You were supported by a wonderful energetic team and we achieved a wonderful result. Thank you to those of you who have come to support me today who helped during the campaign and those that supported financially.

I am proud to say I represent the people of Hastings, Flaxmere, Havelock North, Whakatu, Clive, Haumoana, Otane, Ongaonga, Tikokino, the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Plains and rural hinterland of places like Otamauri where I was brought up. I also represent the people of Ngati Kahungunu, more than 25 Marae. I specifically acknowledge my good friend Ngati Kahungunu Chair Ngahiwi Tomoana and his wife Mere.

I thank the Hon Chris Finlayson for the great work in settling all the claims in the area I represent. We are in a post-settlement positive mode now and the benefits are quickly flowing with investment and confidence.

Mr Speaker it is no accident I am here, as my father was a political and National Party stalwart and supported Former Speaker Sir Richard Harrison and Waikaremoana MP Hon Roger McClay. From the earliest of memories, I can remember him always being at meetings and the rituals of election night parties. They weren’t raucous affairs but full of stern study, opinion, predictions and either elation or gloom. The gloom quickly subsided, however, as planning begun for the next three years just like my colleagues have done in this Parliament. There is certain a tinge of sadness knowing that he died too young to see me enter this house. He would, however, be very proud.

Mr Speaker I come here as the oldest member of the National Class of 2017. I prefer the nickname Uncle to Dad but what a great group of new National MPs I have joined. We have all come here to make a difference to a positive New Zealand.

While I have been Mayor of Hastings, President of LGNZ and Chair of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum I start this new journey with great optimism for both the change in environment and for New Zealand.

I have been out of National Party Politics for decades but I am excited to re-join. Unlike many, I am fortunate to have enjoyed a good life, good health, a loving stable family, a university education and an enjoyable career.

Despite this, my work, faith, and Christian upbringing have shown me that many people are not so fortunate. I enter this place to make a difference for those who have not enjoyed what I have. I enter this Parliament to help improve things for my people and New Zealand.

I do so from a philosophical viewpoint that we need to empower people to succeed not fund them to do so. I also have a fundamental mantra that people can spend their own money more efficiently than any form of Government whether central or local.

This does not mean I do not support the state or local Councils as a collective way of doing things more efficiently than individually. I support both but we should always remember that neither actually has any money. The money and support people receive in health, education or welfare is all of our money. As we ration services or build infrastructure we should constantly assess what makes sense, even if the approach needs to be very different from the past.

My life has been a journey made all the richer for my growing understanding of what is important to Maori. In the last 20 years, I have grown huge respect for the long-term relationship driven perspective that comes from our Treaty Partners. I have learned a great deal about patience and the very real understanding of the land, water, and cultural assets.

New Zealand is a blessed nation at the bottom of the Pacific surrounded by a pristine ocean. We enjoy a quality of life that is the envy of the world. I am incredibly optimistic about our future and the issues we face are all solvable. We punch way beyond our weight on the global stage and in relative terms, even our poorest are supported.

I joined the National Party because I believe in free enterprise, rewarding hard work and risk, and in personal responsibility. A strong economy gives us options to address challenges. We need to constantly remind ourselves that our wealth is created by what we export whether it is food, wine, manufactured product or intellectual property. There is no free lunch and as a nation, we have to earn it before we can spend it. Every effort should be made to support our export base.

Mr Speaker I have come here to make a difference in the following areas.

The home and the family.

The work done by the Rt Hon Sir John Key and Rt Hon Bill English’s last Government and outlined by the new Government in the speech from the throne is to be applauded. Both sides of this house want better for our families in health, housing, education for those that are most vulnerable.

We do however, have an ingrained level of poverty that is hard to fix. In my view, most of it stems from a lack of work and low incomes.

This leads to boredom, lack of motivation, abuse of alcohol and drugs and a slow unwinding from the productive society. A loving family can only do so much if there isn’t enough money to cover the basics.

In Hastings, the most recent living example was the closure of the Whakatu and Tomoana Freezing works. Over 4000 people lost their jobs between 1986 and 1994. Generations of families worked in these plants and so began a painful adjustment in thousands of homes. Unemployment skyrocketed and people lost hope, it particularly disenfranchised our Maori communities.

Recently, for the first time in decades, I can now see the opportunity for young people to be actively employed in our region. The economy in Hawke’s Bay has never been so good. We cannot squander the opportunity and we need to back the next generation of people into the new work opportunities. The challenge is to get them the skills, work experience and take some risks on people. They are worth it.

Two recent phenomena are adding a new challenge to many homes. The proliferation of P and dramatic increase in reported domestic violence impact on thousands of women and children.

I am appalled that in Hawke’s Bay Police were called to over 6000 domestic violence cases last year. It is great that it is being reported but sobering in scale. We will not arrest our way out if this as it requires an attitudinal shift.

Equally, Methamphetamine is a scourge of society like I have not witnessed before. Its availability, widespread use, and mind-altering behaviour is fundamentally damaging families, homes, employment opportunities and leading to a massive spike in crime.

Mr Speaker, while we can have conversations around cannabis and its legalisation we need to take a much stronger stance on P. It is a drug on its own and its impact on health statistics is not even measured in many parts of New Zealand.

In simple terms I want it gone from our society.

Mr Speaker I am a strong believer in Climate Change and from international travel know that we are well placed to manage it affects. Our deep blue ocean surrounds will temper its impacts on New Zealand but not entirely. It is my simple view that the sooner we take action the better we support future generations of Kiwis.

We need to continue to take a leadership role acknowledging the significant challenge this brings to our transport, energy, production and farming sectors. I am confident and optimistic we can find a scientific solution to many of the challenges faced in these areas.

Mr Speaker I have watched the painful Ruataniwha Dam project come to its knees. While some members of this house will be pleased with this outcome I strongly caution members that doing nothing is not an option. Climate Change will have a profound impact on water distribution on the eastern edge of our nation and water storage of winter flows will be vital to support productions in areas such as the Canterbury, Heretaunga, and Ruataniwha Plains.

Unfortunately, many New Zealanders have formed the view that irrigation and water storage is a bad thing. In reality, the real concern is actually about nutrient pollution. I would encourage members of this house to take a long-term approach to water storage just as we have done with renewable energy and port and airport infrastructure. By all means, manage nutrient flows but water is a natural advantage for New Zealand.

Honourable members, long term cross party thinking is required if we are going to manage sea level rise, coastal erosion and harness our precious water resources.

I am a strong advocate for the environment but from a pragmatic perspective. I have watched people’s anxiety about the state of our environment increase. I have watched a largely urban electorate show less and less tolerance to our rural friends.

From a farming background, I know of very few farmers that do not want to pass their land onto the next generation in a better state than they found it. To do this not only requires environmental discipline but complex financial management. It is hard.

So while we are quick to point to cows wading in a lake in the South Island on a hot day, or shots of pollution in rivers, the bulk of urban population goes unnoticed. Our urban estuarine environments are being polluted by rubber from tyres, brake linings, and heavy metals. Technology to stop this is both expensive and complex and the costs have not yet been attributed to people’s rates bills. The challenge is for urban and rural people alike.

Honourable members all these things can be solved but only by working together. The discourse around much of this saddens me. As a nation, we felled trees, drained swamps, built stop banks and imported grass and fertiliser to build an export-led economy. This wealth allowed us to build hospitals, roads, houses, and communities. In my view, we have gone too far in parts of our environment but we can fix this.

In closing Mr Speaker it is also important that this house is also aware that the good people of Tukituki will be looking for Government support a number of major capital projects.

A new main hospital block and Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Hastings at approximately $150 -200 million.
The 4 laning of the Hastings to Napier Expressway.
Assistance with Central Hawkes Bay 3 Water upgrades
Assessment and possible construction of a new school in Havelock North.
Mr Speaker I am incredibly grateful to the people of Tukituki for placing me in this chamber. I will represent them with all my knowledge, skill and humbleness.

Mr Speaker I have a faith and stand by my Christian values of honesty, tolerance, love, and care for fellow human beings. To this end I and completely accepting of diversity, race, gender, culture and sexual orientation.

I enter this Parliament comfortable in my own skin, confident in my ability to deliver for Tukituki and with an open mind to listen to others.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa


Rural round-up

May 27, 2016

More charges laid in reponse to Waikato bobby calves footage Edwin Mitson:

(BusinessDesk) – The Ministry for Primary Industries has laid a second set of charges as part of an investigation into the alleged abuse of bobby calves in the Waikato.

MPI began investigating after TVNZ’s Sunday programme broadcast footage which showed the calves being thrown onto trucks and being left for dead.

Ten charges were laid against an individual in March, with a hearing due to take place on June 2. Four charges have been laid against a company and a different individual today, with a hearing due at Huntly District Court on June 21.

MPI acting director of compliance, Steve Gilbert, said the investigation is onoing and had been “careful, methodical”. . . 

Farmers applaud responsible budget and urge tax cuts for 2017:

Federated Farmers supports the Government’s prudent financial management and maintenance of surpluses announced in today’s Budget.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said: “The Government has clearly decided to invest surplus proceeds in a series of funding initiatives for the future including science and skills.

“We strongly support the increase in funding for science and technology and also welcome new spending on skills, transport, establishment of a Freshwater Improvement Fund, regional development, and commitments to fund TB control and to contain the spread of wilding pine. . . 

Funding good start in tackling Wilding Pine but biosecurity incursion response needs more:

Federated Farmers welcomes funding for the control of Wilding Pines but warns that more money is needed for biosecurity incursion response measures.

The Wilding Pines initiative sits within MPI’s existing allocation for Biosecurity Incursion Response and Long Term Pest Management, which for 2016/17 will increase by $1 million from 2015/16 (from $34 million to $35 million).

High Country chairman Simon Williamson said: “The money allocated to Wilding Pines is the bare minimum we need to demonstrate that the long term strategy for wilding control, worked on for the past 18 months, is of both environmental and economic benefit to the country. . .

Budget 2016 boost for regional economies, infrastructure, social housing and biodiversity:

LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule, acknowledged a much needed boost for communities in four key areas LGNZ has been advocating for: stronger regional economies, infrastructure, community and social housing, and biodiversity.

“Stronger, more successful regional economies and better community wellbeing are key areas of focus for LGNZ. We are pleased to see Government focus on these priority areas for communities,” says Mr Yule.

“$44 million over four years to assist regions to develop opportunities in their economic action plans is a useful start to investing in local economic initiatives, and consistent with what LGNZ has been asking for,” says Mr Yule. . . 

 

Trickledown benefits for rural health in Budget 2016:

There might be no silver funding bullets for rural health in the Government’s latest Budget but there should be trickledown benefits across a range of health initiatives nationally, says New Zealand Rural General Practice Network chief executive Dalton Kelly.

“For example the Wairarapa and the Hutt Valley will host the start of a bowel screening programme, both of which areas have rural populations, especially the Wairarapa.

“All DHBs are to receive a total of $400 million extra funding and again this should have positive implications for rural New Zealanders across most, if not all, DHB areas. . . 

Safely.nz’ app targets better farm health and safety without the hassle:

With the launch of a new app specifically tailored for New Zealand’s farms, professional services firm Crowe Horwath is making it easier and more convenient to institute sound health and safety practices in rural workplaces. Dubbed ‘Safely.nz’, the app is the result of a partnership between Crowe Horwath’s Human Resources division, Progressive Consulting, and developer Peak Software.

Safely.nz is customised to Kiwi farms and agricultural support businesses, such as agricultural contractors, transport providers, fertiliser spreaders, vets and shearing contractors. . .

Milk price prediction means farmers will tread water for another season:

Farmers are resigned to another tight season after Fonterra confirmed its milk price at $4.25 for the coming season.

Dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said: “Many were hopeful of a price in the vicinity of $4.50, so optimistic farmers will be feeling disappointed.

“The reality is we have seen the opening forecast price change quickly as the market has changed. Unfortunately it has changed for the worse in the previous two seasons. Hopefully with this conservative forecast, we won’t see any further drops. Especially as there are some more positive signs out there in the markets presently. . . 

New Zealand Avocados Break Record for New Zealand Sales at $41 million:

New Zealand’s love affair with avocados has produced record-breaking domestic sales of $41 million during the 2015-16 season.

Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado, today announced impressive end-of-season results of $134 million in industry value from export and New Zealand market sales.

Strong global demand also delivered outstanding returns from the Australian market and strong returns from the Asian export markets. . . 

Wool Celebrates Its Place In The Built Environment At One of the Biggest Architectural Events:

The Venice Architecture Biennale 2016!

For the first time ever wool is being celebrated at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, with an installation in the New Zealand Room and a hosting event set down for September.

The Architecture Biennale kicks off on Thurs 26th with the Vernissage (an exclusive launch) and runs for six months. This Biennale, sister to the Art Biennale, attracts over 3000 media and more than a quarter of a million global visitors.

“This is a highly attentive and influential audience, and it’s great to see New Zealand companies with a strong design focus appreciate the opportunities the Biennale offers,” says Teen Hale Pennington, CE, New Zealand Institute of Architecture (NZIA). . . 

Stoned sheep invade Welsh village:

Stoned sheep have gone on a “psychotic rampage” in the small Welsh village of Rhydypandy after eating cannabis plants.

The plants, left-overs of an illegal cannabis factory, were dumped at the side of a road near the village and there are fears things could get worse.

“There is already a flock of sheep roaming the village causing a nuisance,” said County councillor Ioan Richard.

“They are getting in people’s gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom.” . . .


Rural round-up

April 1, 2016

Nutritional Sales Underpin Half Year Underlying Profit of $12.3 Million:

Synlait has reported an underlying net profit after tax (NPAT) of $12.3 million for the first half of the 2016 financial year (HY16).

In contrast to $0.4 million in HY15, this improved performance is primarily the result of increased nutritional sales in canned infant formula.

“We’re glad to deliver a solid result for the first half of FY16. Our significant investment in customer and product development, people, plant and operating systems in recent years is beginning to transform our earnings,” said Chairman Graeme Milne. . . 

European market conditions depress Westland’s payout prediction:

Global market conditions for dairy products point to at least two more seasons of low milk payouts in New Zealand, Westland Milk Products told shareholders today as the co-operative revised its predicted payout for the 2015-16 season to $3.90 – $4.00 per kilogramme of milk solids, down from last month’s prediction of $4.00 – $4.10.

Westland CEO Rod Quin said the major driver of the revised payout remains the global oversupply of milk, compounded by the ongoing high availability and aggressive approach by the European dairy market.

Quin and Westland Chair Matt O’Regan have recently returned from Europe where they met with customers, farmers, processors, traders and industry advocates. . . 

Fonterra makes best of a bad job – Allan Barber:

The PR spin has been pretty active signalling a much improved half yearly result which was duly delivered this morning. The company confirmed a 40 cent dividend for the full year with the interim dividend being paid next month as usual and the final dividend being paid in two tranches in May and August instead of October.

This improvement in cash flow will do something, but not a lot, to comfort farmers labouring under a debt burden. Unfortunately it will do absolutely nothing to support sharemilkers who will have to rely on their share of the milk payout. Predictions for the rest of 2016 are notable for their conservatism, probably in recognition of a disappointing track record when forecasting the extent of the current downturn. . . 

Fonterra’s six-month results – good news but some underlying issues – Keith Woodford:

As expected, Fonterra has announced a greatly enhanced six-month profit for the period ending 31 January 2016. The profit of $409 million (NPAT; i.e. net profit after finance costs and tax) is up 123% from the same period in the previous year.

The expected full year profit of 45-55c per share implies an annual profit of about $800 million compared to $506 million for the full year 2014/15.

These figures are all very much in line with expectations . The reason for this is that when milk prices to farmers are low, then Fonterra has low input costs. Accordingly, there is more scope for corporate profit. . . 

Keep sharing the load by talking about it:

No matter which branch of farming you are in, you will face tough times, says Nelson farmer and Horticulture NZ President Julian Raine. When that happens, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

Speaking to the Farming Show’s Jamie Mackay as part of the Getting Through Adversity radio series, Julian said that even with the best planning, erratic weather events can cause mayhem. Jamie suggested that growing fruit crops is arguably one of the riskiest pursuits in farming: “One adverse event at the wrong time and suddenly your whole crop is wiped out. If you are a sheep farmer, for example, you at least have lambing spread over three weeks, or if you are dairy your risk is spread over nine months of milking.” . . 

Meat exporters ready to reap benefits of TPP:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement eliminates all tariffs on beef into our biggest market, the United States, within five years of coming into force.

Trade Minister Todd McClay, speaking at the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce this morning, says New Zealand exported meat products worth over $2.8 billion to TPP countries in 2015 and the gains once TPP comes into force will be significant.

“Our beef into Japan currently attracts a 38.5 per cent tariff. That has made it extraordinarily hard for our exporters to compete with other countries with lower tariffs. . . 

Ongoing market challenges weigh on New Zealand farmers, with confidence close to 10-year low:

The significant and persisting challenges in market conditions continue to weigh heavily on the nation’s farmers, with New Zealand’s rural confidence at the second lowest level recorded in the past 10 years, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

Completed earlier this month, the survey found more than half of farmers surveyed (53 per cent) had a pessimistic outlook on the agricultural economy over the coming 12 months. This was significantly up from 30 per cent with that view in the previous survey, in late 2015. . . 

Dairy downturn: councils prepare to tighten belts:

Councils in rural areas might be forced to cut spending if the dairy downturn lasts for a long time, Local Government New Zealand head Lawrence Yule says.

A Westpac-McDermott Miller regional economic survey has shown big falls in confidence in major dairy areas including Waikato, Taranaki, and Southland.

Mr Yule said the businesses in many rural towns were already hunkering down as farmers tightened their spending, and that could spread. . .

NZX to teach farmers about new milk contract:

NZX expects to receive regulatory approval for the new fresh milk futures and options product within two weeks.

Chief executive Tim Bennett said there was a demand for the fresh milk contracts product after Fonterra scrapped its guaranteed milk price product for the upcoming season. . . 

NZ helping to restore Fiji’s dairy sector after Winston:

The New Zealand government says it will help restore Fiji’s dairy industry which is losing thousands of litres of milk and was devastated as a result of last month’s cyclone.

New Zealand announced additional aid to help Fiji’s recovery on Wednesday.

A lot of that money is going into the continuing infrastructure rebuild led by the New Zealand Defence Force. . . 

Helensville Farmers First To Claim Supreme Title In Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

“Environmental champions” Richard and Dianne Kidd are Supreme winners of the inaugural Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 30 (2016), the Helensville couple was also presented with the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

BFEA judges described Whenuanui Farm, the Kidd family’s 376ha sheep, beef and forestry unit, as “a show piece farm on the edge of Auckland city”. . . .

From paddock to packet: The family behind NZ’s most successful independent chips – Ryan Bridge:

You’re about to meet a family of potato farmers who beat the odds to grow one of the country’s most successful independent chip businesses.

The Bowans are from Timaru and not only do they grow spuds, they transport them to their own factory and make the chips too.

Together they are Heartland Potato Chips.

It all started when Raymond Bowan decided to grow his own potatoes as a teenager. His son James Bowan has taken over running the family potato farm and unlike his old man, he doesn’t do it by hand anymore, there’s a flash piece of kit to help. . . 

Food development facility opportunity for creative entrepreneurs:

Those looking to be innovative with their food are wanted at the FoodSouth food development pilot plant on the Lincoln campus, but there are no Heston Blumenthal creations on the menu.

The final part of a national food innovation network, the facility provides three purpose-built independent food safe development spaces along with a variety of processing equipment — an extruder, ovens, dryers, enrober, mixers, and a mobile product development kitchen among them.

It enables businesses to develop product prototypes for market validation, trial new equipment, carry out scale-up trial work and sample manufacture in 20L to 200L batch sizes, conduct process development and improvement, and validate quality systems. . . 

It’s in the family for new A&P Association President:

Sheep and beef farmer Warrick James has been elected as President of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association for 2016 at the Annual General Meeting at Riccarton Park Racecourse on 30 March.

Based in Central Canterbury near Glentunnel, Mr James was confirmed as President of the 154th Canterbury A&P Show in front of outgoing President Nicky Hutchinson and Association Members.

“It means a lot to be President of the Canterbury A&P Association. We host the largest and most prestigious Show in the country – it really is the pinnacle of the A&P movement. Having been involved from a young age with my family and seeing my own children take part over the years just makes this even more special.” . . .

Trio spread cheer on woolshed tour – Suzette Howe:

At a time when life’s a bit tough for rural communities, a trio of Kiwi performers are setting off on a woolshed tour to boost morale. 

They’re coming armed with their own stage curtain, a bar and plenty of laughs.

Over the next five weeks the talented ladies will transform more than 20 working wool sheds into live stages the length of the South Island.

They’re travelling by horse truck, carting hundreds of chairs, a bar, and full production set.

Farmer Georgie Harper says it’s hard to say no when the performance is brought to you. . . 

Itinerary and booking information at The Woolshed Tour.


More tax not answer

February 3, 2015

Local Government New Zealand has launched a funding review paper with options on how councils can raise more money:

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the findings, along with increasing demands from central government policy-makers, means we must take a fresh look at the way local government is funded for the benefits of communities. There is currently a significant shortfall between revenue and expenditure.

“Councils spend approximately 10.5 per cent of all public expenditure, yet they raise only 8.3 per cent of all public revenue,” says Mr Yule. The World Bank, in its recent report on local government finances, describes this as a vertical fiscal gap caused by a “mismatch between revenue means and expenditure needs.”

“As a result, a growing number of councils face financial challenges at a time when demand for infrastructure and services is greater than ever. Local government is also an important contributor to economic growth but the right incentives and resources must be in place to drive this growth,” Mr Yule says.

As part of the solution, LGNZ proposes a principles-based partnership model with central government. This would include central government fully considering the costs and benefits of decisions for local communities and co-funding costs where policy proposals have significant national and local benefit.

“The goal is not to increase the overall tax burden for New Zealand, but rather to determine whether a different mix of funding options for local government might deliver better outcomes for the country,” Mr Yule says.

“The sustainability of local government funding has become an increasingly important policy issue in the face of demographic and economic change. Some metropolitan councils are having to invest heavily in infrastructure to accommodate growth, while others have to maintain and renew infrastructure in the face of declining populations and funding bases.”

“This is alongside increasing community and central government expectations, and increasing impacts from natural hazards and environmental challenges. Earthquakes and flooding events in recent years have highlighted this.”

It is fair comment that successive central governments have required more and passed on more costs to local government.

The goal to not increase the overall tax burden is welcome, but is threatened by some of the options:

The paper elevates the key issues and identifies how present funding frameworks might be improved, and ways to incentivise local government.

It examines options that could sit alongside a property tax (rates) based funding system. Options suggested for discussion include local income tax, local expenditure tax, selective taxes, regional fuel taxes and transaction taxes.

“However, before pursuing fundamental changes to the funding regime, the local government sector needs to assure communities that it is open to innovation in service delivery, to build confidence in the quality of its spending decisions,” Mr Yule says.

Some councils, such as Rangitikei District Council, have already taken steps to develop innovative approaches to address funding gaps. Rangitikei is considering a number of measures to tackle the issue of population reduction. Likely changes to infrastructure by 2046 include a smaller number of council-managed community facilities, with some transferred to community ownership, and a larger network of roads, some in private ownership; along with modifications to its water and wastewater provision.

Other areas are planning for growth. Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District, for example, are collaborating on a spatial plan, called Smart Growth Bay of Plenty, which is a comprehensive, long term strategy to ensure infrastructure is available for new residents. . .

Some councils face challenges of population decline and some face challenges with growth.

But too many councils have been living beyond their means and increasing rates well beyond the level of inflation for too long.

Whatever the questions asked, new and more taxes, whether they are levied by central or local government should not be the answer.

The discussion paper is here.


Defending democracy no stunt

September 29, 2013

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule says a reward for information about mistakes in election booklets is just a stunt.

. . . Lawrence Yule says that while voters do use the booklets to make their choice, they also get information about candidates from other sources, such as advertisements.. .

Where else they get information from is irrelevant.

If mistakes have been made which could influence the way people vote then the elections are compromised.

The offer of rewards by Franks & Ogilvie is an attempt to find out how serious the problem is in response to the lack of any official investigation.

It’s a defence of democracy not a stunt.


Aging population will affect local government

July 24, 2013

University of Waikato demographer, Professor Natalie Jackson, presented the inconvenient truth on demographics to Local Government New Zealand’s annual conference.

Professor Jackson said over the next two decades, all growth in 56 of New Zealand’s territorial authorities (84 per cent of the total 78) will be in the 65 years-plus age bracket.

By 2031, an estimated 91 per cent of territorial authorities (TA) will have more elderly than children. This figure currently stands at just 15 per cent. This will have a major impact on employment, housing and infrastructure in much of New Zealand.

This, Prof Jackson says, is the inconvenient truth of population ageing, already well advanced across the developed world. . .

The government is not going to force amalgamations on councils but reorganisation was discussed.

. . . Ganesh Nana, Chief Economist at BERL said “Economies of scale make sense, where there is synergy and, importantly, where communities are comfortable with the change being proposed.”

The panel also recognised issues caused by changing demographics where some areas will have declining populations, whilst other grow.

LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule, said “This makes it more of a challenge for smaller councils. The inevitability of change means that councils will be finding innovative approaches to deliver their services.”

“The answer to “is Bigger Better?” will be very different depending on where you are and what challenges you are facing as a council – but one thing is certain – there will be changes ahead for local government in New Zealand.”

Some amalgamations are inevitable to get economies of scale but could a different approach to doing what they have to do also work?

For example, do councils in close proximity have to duplicate everything they do, or could one specialise in certain areas and its neighbour or neighbours tackle others?

This wouldn’t work where each council had different policies but could it where policies are set by central government rather than councils or would distancing staff from elected representatives cause more problems than it solved?


Councils should stick to knitting

December 10, 2012

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule has welcomed  comments  from Auditor General Lyn Provost on local authority Long Term Plans:

It notes councils’ financial strategies in their Long Term Plans (LTPs) are characterised by:

  • reducing or deferring spending
  • stabilising or reducing overall debt.

Regarding rates, it is noted that “the year-on-year movement is on average five per cent (for Auckland Council the average is 6.1 per cent and for all other local authorities the combined average is 4.3 per cent).

“The findings are in stark contrast to the justification for the recent Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, which has just received the Royal Assent. The Bill was introduced in response to a perceived crisis in the way councils manage their finances,” says LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule.

“The sector continually seeks efficiencies and savings and the audit process will always focus a Council’s attention on this approach. This report shows that these improvements are being made.”

Although the report also highlights the challenges facing councils in funding infrastructure, it states “overall, local authorities are planning to live within their means.”

Debt when used wisely can be a way of spreading the costs of infrastructure over a period of time.

Debt  used wisely can be a way of spreading the cost of infrastructure which has inter-generational benefit over its lifetime.

But that doesn’t mean that the LGA 2002 didn’t require amendments because Ms Provost said:

However, a question remains about what specific information in the LTPs (and in the audited annual financial statements) is most helpful for informing judgements about the financial prudence and long-term financial sustainability of an individual local authority or the sector as a whole.

What constitutes prudence and long-term financial sustainability is a matter of judgement, and there are currently few agreed methods of analysis. As a result, it is difficult to be definitive about the state of an individual local authority or the sector. . .

The AG points out that some capital expenditure is often associated with the need to upgrade systems to meet new standards which reinforces the justifiable complaint from councils about the burden imposed on them by successive governments.

The AG concludes:

As part of the Better Local Government initiative, the Local Government Efficiency Taskforce is considering the nature of planning, accountability, and decision-making of local authorities. We have offered our insights (consistent with those outlined in this report) to the Taskforce. We have also suggested that local authorities present a more strategic focus on the main issues (including prospective financial information and level-of-service intentions), and provide access to supporting data and policies through the local authority’s website.

I continue to encourage local authorities to consistently invest in preparing shorter, clearer, and more informative LTPs, so the community is able to take part in more informed and effective consultation on a local authority’s intentions.

The future sustainability of local government services such as roads, water, libraries, and rubbish disposal are critical to our communities. Delivering on these LTPs in an effective and efficient manner is the next challenge.

The report says:

1.14
In the last two years, local authorities have been good at budgeting for their operational expenditure, but overestimated their likely levels of capital expenditure. We consider this under-expenditure indicative of the challenges of delivering a diverse range of projects each year. However, there is scope for the sector to improve reporting in this area so that it is easier for the users of local authorities’ annual reports and LTPs to understand whether forecast projects have been delayed, whether there is a tendency for conservative overestimating, or whether cost savings have been achieved. In the LTPs, capital expenditure for 2012-22 is forecast at $37 billion. Of this, 59% is to meet increasing demand (often as a result of growth) or to improve levels of service.

1.15
The overestimation of likely levels of capital expenditure in the past two years raises questions about the realism of local authorities’ longer-term assessments of the cost of their asset renewal and expansion programmes, as forecast in the LTPs. This emphasises the importance of robust asset management plans (AMPs) as the foundation of every LTP. . . .

1.18
However, we are concerned that a small number of non-metropolitan local authorities are planning large increases to their debt levels. We assessed these local authorities as financially prudent, but they face greater risks in the accuracy of their forecasting, growth patterns, and ability to deal with the unexpected as their capacity to respond to shocks reduces.

1.19
Conversely, a number of mostly smaller local authorities are planning for little or no debt during the 10-year period. If these local authorities are carrying out large capital projects, this raises some questions about the appropriateness of their financial strategies and equity between ratepayers in paying for long-term infrastructure projects. These two contrasting approaches demonstrate the importance of a clearly described financial strategy that enables the community to understand the current and long-term implications of the local authority’s forecast use of debt, particularly in the context of asset condition and forecast capital expenditure levels. . .

My interpretation of that is that councils need to stick to their knitting, and ensure the patterns they use are simple and easily understood by ratepayers.

Hat Tip: Credo Quia Absurdum Est.


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