Inconvenience tiny compared with consequences

13/11/2020

Everyone who works in downtown Auckland is being asked to work from home today after the confirmation of another case of Covid-19 in the community:

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay says Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has interviewed the person.

The student in her 20s was one of three cases announced at the afternoon media briefing today.

McElnay says the woman’s job is a customer-facing role. She called in sick to work after being tested but went to work after talking to her boss, although she wore a mask. . . 

The worker and her manager will be two of the most unpopular people in the city, given the potential for another cluster and then another increase in lockdown levels.

It’s difficult to understand what motivated the woman who’d tested positive to listen to her manager rather than the advice to isolate and what motivated the manager to tell the staff member to ignore the advice. That isn’t an invitation to unleash invective on them or the business. Who knows what pressure they were under?

But no matter what the motivation or the pressure, they’ve risked the health of a lot of people, increased the threat of another lockdown, and imposed costs and inconvenience on other people and businesses. They’ve also added the cost of a shut-down and deep clean on their own business and almost certainly breached health and safety law.

The message on acting responsibly, using the Covid app or keeping a record of where you’ve been, getting tested if you have symptoms and isolating until you get the result is clear but it obviously isn’t getting through to everyone:

Covid is back in the community, back in Auckland city, threatening to cut short our window of recovery and jolting us out of complacency and slack behaviour, says Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett.

“Our continued freedom of movement is in our hands. The price is simple and so are the guidelines that we can follow to stop another outbreak – stay home if there is the slightest indication of illness, alert the helpline, get tested at one of the pop-up stations being set up across the central city, always sign in using the tracer app, wash your hands, wear a mask and keep a distance,” he said. “Employers need to act responsibly and show care. Tell any of your staff who are not feeling well to stay home and give them the support they need to do what is right for them – and for all of us to keep the virus away. The cost of another lockdown, even if it is possible to localise it to a specific area, is too high for many businesses to bear and the knock on effects will shake confidence, viability and sustainability of jobs.”

Mr Barnett said while most businesses have contingency plans in place if alert levels shift up and can have their staff working remotely as a precaution, the new Auckland case is a stark reminder that we all have to do the right thing to keep the virus away.

“It’s a tiny inconvenience to use the Covid app or jot down where you have been so that the track, trace and isolate processes designed to keep us safe can be activated. Christmas is coming and I am sure no one wants the pandemic grinch to steal it away from us because not all of us could be bothered following the guidelines. So when you are told to stay at home and use the app wherever you go, please do so.”

I wasn’t particularly good at using the app at first but the second Auckland lockdown, and the knowledge that my daughter is vulnerable because she has cancer persuaded me that the inconvenience of acting responsibly is tiny in comparison with the consequences of contracting and spreading Covid-19.


If you don’t learn from mistakes

14/08/2020

The government is making the same mistake it made during the first lockdown at higher levels:

Wood processors say plants will close for good if the government persists with its plan to shut non-food industries in the event the Auckland lockdown moves into level 4.

Industry executives were alarmed yesterday when told that officials expected to apply the same essential and non-essential split as in March in the event that deeper workplace restrictions are required. During that lockdown many manufacturers – particularly exporters – fought unsuccessfully to keep operating given the safe distance working inherent in many of their operations.

Jon Tanner, chief executive of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, said the stakes are now much higher.

“If we get shut down this time there are plants that will close. There are plants that are that vulnerable,” he told BusinessDesk.

And he said all the sector’s efforts in April, getting safe working practices approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, are at risk of being wasted.

“We’ve got all the protocols in place. We’ve had them approved by MPI and MBIE. There’s no reason for the wood processing industry to be shut down.” . . 

The insistence on the arbitrary essential rather than safe is also a problem for horticulture. Mike Chapman, CE of Horticulture NZ  has outlined his concerns in an open letter to the Prime Minister:

We are writing to you on behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry to collectively address our growers’ concerns that independent fruit and vegetable retailers are not classified as essential services under Covid-19 Alert Level 3 and 4.

In New Zealand there are multiple ways fresh fruit and vegetables are available for sale to the general public. The majority of these sales are made through large supermarket chains and independent fresh fruit and vegetable retailers, at a market share of approximately 80 and 20 percent respectively. However, in Auckland independent retailers represent 60% of sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Growers will still be able to harvest fruit and vegetables but if 60% of Auckland sales aren’t available there will be a lot of wastage.

Unlike supermarkets, fresh fruit and vegetables sold through independent retailers are different grades than sold in supermarkets and in some outlets at more affordable prices and in high end outlets at higher prices. Independent retailers also sell culturally significant fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities (that aren’t readily available in supermarkets) that form the staple diets of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Supermarkets usually cater for mass buying, smaller greengrocers cater for niche markets.

When New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 and 3 earlier this year, households were significantly impacted by not having access to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from independent retailers, especially lower income households. In addition, rural communities often rely on independent retailers for supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables that are produced locally, where large supermarket chains are not readily present. This is in alignment with the government’s messaging to support local businesses.

In Auckland a large number of households in the poorer outer suburbs have lost the ability to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their local independent retailers at affordable prices. Supermarkets tend to operate a structure whereby the consumer drives to the store. In lower socioeconomic areas this is not always practical and a portion of the population needs walking access to retailers selling fruit and vegetables.

Some elderly will usually shop close to home and might need only fresh produce. If they can’t get that locally they will be forced to go to supermarkets where they will be exposed to more people.

This issue is exacerbated by many households facing financial hardship since lockdown due to loss of employment and other pressures. The result of this situation is a significant increase in demand at foodbanks across New Zealand to provide food parcels to families in need. The horticulture sector has programmes in place supporting foodbanks, but this only addresses a small portion of the lack of supply.

While the government did confirm that independent retailers are able to operate in a contactless manner at Alert Level 3 and 4, this method of business operation is not suitable for many lower income households who don’t have the ability to order or pay for food purchases online.

The closure of independent retailers does not only impact consumers, it also impacts the horticulture industry who work tirelessly to provide all retailers, large or small, with seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. The closure of independent retailers during lockdown resulted in an excess of fruit and vegetables that could not enter the supply chain. This loss of access resulted in direct financial loss to growers from failure to sell their products, causing some to exit the industry and delay or reduce replanting. Ultimately, this impacts on consumers due to lower supply levels and increased pricing. These impacts will be further exacerbated by the current Alert Level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

When New Zealand was in lockdown earlier this year the horticulture industry, together with independent retailers, developed a protocol for the safe operation of retailers. This protocol used the principles of essential service operation, the same as other primary industry businesses and dairies had been using to operate. We know that the New Zealand government recognised protocols for independent retailers during Alert Level 3, as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment approved the operation of some retailers. Independent stores are much smaller than supermarkets and have indicated their ability and commitment to operating safely.

Producing fresh fruit and vegetables is regarded as essential, selling them should be too and the criteria for who sells them should be safety.

To maintain adequate supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to all New Zealanders, it is critical that both supermarkets and independent retailers are able to operate if they are able to demonstrate they can do so using Covid-19 safe practices. The horticulture industry sincerely requests that the government re-considers their decision not to recognise independent retailers as essential services. We ask that a decision is made to consistently apply to all independent retailers to ensure New Zealanders have access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables across the country.

We are available to discuss this request with you and your officials to find a solution that is in the safety and wellbeing interests of our team of five million.

Yours sincerely

Mike Chapman

On behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry

Butchers will also be on the wrong side of the essential vs safe debate as they were last time. That nearly caused an animal welfare issue with pigs until the government bought 2,000 pigs a week and gave the meat to food banks.

Auckland Business Chamber CEO says the lockdown cost is too high:

Government says they learned things from the last lockdown so if they did can we do things differently and let all businesses that can comply with Covid-19 safety measures stay open, says Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett.

“The cost to businesses locked down and out of their livelihoods is too high,” he said. “Why can a dairy open and a supermarket sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but your local greengrocer cannot? It would be much better for the economy and wellbeing of the community to allow shops to operate if they follow the strict compliance and safety requirements that can be enforced for each alert level.”

Many small businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, are teetering with reserves run down, jobs at risk and confidence shaken, forced to shut their doors because they are not on government’s list of essential retail and services, Mr Barnett said. . .

If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them.

The government obviously hasn’t learned from its mistaken insistence on what was essential rather than what could operate safely earlier this year and is repeating it.

Businesses, consumers and the economy will pay the price for this with no health benefit.


Rural round-up

07/02/2020

Coronavirus: Generates a “perfect storm” for meat exporters & a “get prepared” warning for other business:

Business exporters and importers are advised to take steps to ensure there are ‘no surprises,’ if trade with China is disrupted by the Coronavirus situation.

“Talk to your bank, make sure customer expectations are established and understood, and that no sudden surprises occur,” suggests Auckland Business Chamber head, Michael Barnett.

He sees a perfect storm coming for meat and other traders. . . 

New Zealand forest owners wary of closing access risk in Chinese market:

New Zealand log exporters are bracing themselves for supply chain problems in China due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Some forest owners are already reducing their harvesting rate. Regrettably this will have an immediate effect on harvesting crew employment.

The New Zealand Forest Owners Association says that the extended Lunar New Year public holiday makes it difficult to know what is going to happen when sawmills in China restart. . . 

Fake meat ‘an opportunity not a threat’ for Kiwi farmers – Esther Taunton:

Taranaki dairy farmer Trish Rankin used to worry about the rise of plant-based proteins. Not anymore.

Now she sees alternative proteins paving the way for Kiwi farmers to market their meat and dairy to consumers who just want to do one thing “better”.

“Things like the Impossible Burger aren’t aimed at vegetarians and vegans, they’re aimed at meat eaters who want a meal that’s better for the environment, better for animal health and welfare, and lower in cholesterol.  

“Our meat and dairy ticks those boxes and when people start realising that they can make better choices without having to eat fake meat, that’s where we can come in – we’re the ‘possible’ to the Impossible customer.” . . 

Farmers waiting to count the cost – Richard Davison, Louise Scott, and Karen Pasco:

Farmers across Southland and Otago are counting the cost of serious flooding which has left hundreds of farms underwater and resulted in lost livestock and ruined crops.

The Government declared last night it was a ‘‘medium scale adverse event’’, opening the way for funding of $100,000 through Rural Support Trusts to speed up recovery and provide technical advice.

Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor, who had flown over the affected areas, said the response to the flooding event had been ‘‘absolutely amazing’’. . .

Plant and Food Research sponsors Inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy competition for horticulture:

Plant & Food Research is proud to be a Gold sponsor of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy, Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award 2020. This year marks the first time since its establishment in 1933 that the competition has celebrated outstanding Māori in the horticultural industry.

David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research says, “For decades the competition has alternated between dairy and sheep & beef farming each year. We appreciate this timely recognition of Māori contribution to horticulture. We’re particularly delighted to support this event and be part of its legacy because we believe good practices in horticulture are fundamental for us and te hapori whānui to build a smart green future together.” . .

Zero-carbon Britain presents a subsidy challenge for farmers – Jeremy Clarkson:

There is currently a lot of snarling and teeth-grinding about government plans to let a Chinese company called Huawei install and run lightning-fast 5G services for our driverless cars and our mobile phones and our wind farms.

The Americans say this is madness, because, should there ever be any hostilities with China, which isn’t entirely out of the question, Huawei could come through an electronic back door and instruct our driverless cars to crash into our wind farms, and our nuclear submarines to rain fire on our own cities.

Or the Chinese could simply push a button and switch the whole system off, which would turn Britain into a muddy, medieval hovel full of disease and people with warts on their faces. Imagine your kidwith no wi-fi. You can’t, can you? . . 

New partnership supports sustainable future for New Zealand farming:

We’re delighted to announce that Ruralco has become a strategic partner of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust and will be aligned with the nationwide Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The new partnership is timely, as those eligible for the 2020 Awards have just been finalised and can be viewed here.

Ruralco is a values-led farming cooperative that has been supporting farming businesses and their families with competitive pricing and real value since 1963. Their vision is to be the partner of choice for rural New Zealand, a goal which includes supporting credible organisations that are committed to building a sustainable future for farming. . .


Who’s fleecing us?

10/10/2018

Jacinda Ardern reckons fuel companies are fleecing us.

The Motor Trade Association says that isn’t so:

. . . MTA Chief Executive Craig Pomare says the biggest influences on prices at the pump are the landed refined price of petrol and diesel, taxes and the value of the NZ dollar against the USA dollar.

“Competition also has a big effect in New Zealand. It is well recognised that the deregulation of the market and the emergence of Gull, and other smaller independents such as Challenge and G.A.S. have affected prices in the areas where they operate. So too has the widespread use of discounting.”

Mr Pomare says the independent fuel retailers have minimal control over their daily pump prices.

“Most of these small businesses have contracts with the oil companies which give them very little wriggle room when it comes to setting their pump price.

“We take issue with the Prime Minister for suggesting that service stations, or oil companies are ‘fleecing’ motorists. Last year’s review of pricing by MBIE found no evidence of this. Like others in the sector, and the public, we support a further detailed market study to give us all more information on pricing structures.”

He says if the Government is seriously concerned, there is plenty of precedent for reviewing fuel taxes and either lowering them, or holding off on further increases.

Michael Barnett, chair of the Auckland Business Chamber has no doubt where the blame lies:

The tipping point for fuel consumers has been the blunt and ineffective fuel taxes imposed by local and central government. The margins identified by media today are less than most retailers would seek and have not changed.

It is worth noting:

• The major fuel companies welcome the proposed investigation from the Commerce Commission

• Of the 1,500 service stations in New Zealand, over 1200 are mum and dad running their small businesses, employing people and trying to make a profit. They deserve a return on the risk

• There are 20% more fuel providers than 5 years ago – does this signal a lack of competition?

The currency and additional Government taxes have created a price point consumers find unacceptable.

Consumers don’t only find the price unacceptable, Many also find it unaffordable.

The National Party has called for the tax increases to be dropped.

The Government should axe its fuel tax increases to provide immediate relief to motorists, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s response to record high fuel prices is to announce yet another inquiry.

“She’s saying consumers are being ‘fleeced’ while her Government is driving up fuel prices and taking hundreds of dollars from Kiwi households through higher taxes on fuel.

“The inquiry will take months and any resulting changes could be years away. Meanwhile New Zealanders are paying record prices for petrol and the Government is collecting hundreds of millions of extra tax from them.

“Unlike petrol, talk is cheap. And the Government is a big part of the reason why petrol prices are so high.

“The importer margin, the profit petrol companies make on every litre of fuel sold and which the Prime Minister wants more information on, is 31 cents per litre and around the same as it was last year. The amount the Government makes is $1.25 – and that keeps increasing.

“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes. It’s pricing Kiwis out of their cars.

“There are a number of other reasons behind record petrol prices and National supports another look at the practices of fuel companies, something we also looked at in Government, but the Government should also be looking in the mirror.

“While the Government passes new legislation and waits for yet another report it should provide immediate relief to motorists by putting a stop to its relentless imposition of new taxes.”

The Taxpayers’ Union agrees:

Taxpayers’ Union Economicts Joe Ascroft says “When the Government was legislating for fuel tax hikes, we argued that these taxes punish hard-working families – especially those that live in the city-fringe and are forced to commute for work. The Government should back the call from the Opposition and provide much-needed relief to family motorists who are struggling.”

“Now that National has called for fuel tax repeal, it must meet that commitment if it goes back into Government in 2020, 2023, or later. It’s easy to argue for tax cuts in opposition, but walking-the-talk in Government is much harder. The Taxpayers’ Union will be watching closely
.”

Who is fleecing us?

The government that is taking nearly half the price of fuel in tax and worsening the pain by spending the increases not on roads but public transport and cycle ways most of us will never use.


Top 10 fixes for loopy rules

22/09/2015

The Rules Reduction Task Force, co-chaired by Jacqui Dean MP and Michael Barnett has released its report.

In their introduction they say:

New Zealanders are fed up wasting time and money trying to work with loopy rules. We were tasked with identifying rules and regulations which are not fit-for-purpose and which impose unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on property owners and businesses.

Everyone we heard from has had tales to tell of loopy rules – requirements that are out of date, inconsistent, petty, inefficient, pointless or onerous. These are the things that really annoy people, whether they run a business or own their own home.

In the last few months we have travelled around New Zealand listening to people in their communities. We have also met with councils, sector interest groups, and government agencies.

We thank all those who have candidly shared their frustrations and given us their views on how rules could be changed to make more sense.

We did hear of rules that protect people, the environment, infrastructure and our heritage but which still enable individuals, businesses and our economy to prosper and grow. But we are struck by the number of instances where the good intentions of the rule-makers are somehow lost in the translation to the real world. Examples abound of inappropriate interpretation, over-zealous enforcement, and lack of focus on the customer. (My bold).

New Zealanders have told us they are confused and frustrated by frequent changes in the rules. They are exasperated by inconsistency, time-consuming processes and unreasonable costs. It was a surprise to us to find out that a number of the loopy rules are in fact just myths. They are misinterpretations and misunderstandings that have been repeated so often that they have taken on the status of facts. (My bold).

We heard many examples where people are not clear about what they need to do and why. Myths fill the gap when clear information is hard to find. We highlight these myths in this report along with the loopy rules that need to be changed or removed. We discovered that loopy rules are difficult to get rid of because they’re part of a wider system, because a focus on the customer is absent, or because of the interests of experts or the fears of their administrators. What’s clear is they thrive when rule makers fail to take responsibility for them. Most importantly, we identify opportunities to fix many loopy rules and bust the myths. Our top ten fixes are listed on page 7. We call on both central and local government to stop making more loopy rules.

The legislation which causes most problems are the Resource Management and Building Acts – the source of 32% and 27% of complaints respectively.

They give examples of loopy rules which include:

The rule is not practical The owners of a bus depot structure that has no walls are forced to install four exit signs, just in case people can’t find their way out if there is a fire.

The rule makes no sense The Health and Safety mining regulations define a tunnel as ‘what it is not’ rather than ‘what it is’.

Compliance with the rule defeats its very purpose An owner of a rural property had to spend $30,000 putting in a driveway and watertank to meet the fire requirements. The tank was at the back of the house. When the house caught fire, the fire chief would not drive his truck past the house to the tank in case it caught fire too.

A small change is treated the same as a big change: As part of the refurbishment of an earthquake-damaged building, a pharmacy is being added to the front of a 1950s building. The pharmacy is to be 3.5% of the building. The rest is residential. The pharmacy has triggered the need to upgrade the fire rating of the entire building at a cost of $50,000.

The rule sets a standard that can never be achieved: Converting a shop into a two-bedroom residential unit required a reduction in noise levels from 70db to 35db. We tested the required noise levels in our brand new home; the only place that complied was the wardrobe.

The rule is inflexible and imposes costs far in excess of any benefits: Under direction from Wellington, our council enforces clean air standards. For 12 days of the year our town does not meet the standard for PM10 particles. For the other 353 days of the year the air is great. The council has subsidised the replacement of hundreds of fires – often very efficient ones – and replaced them with inferior models for little or no change.

The rule requires permission to fix something the property owner doesn’t want: An owner had two protected trees on his property, listed by the council. One was dying, the other was unsafe and needed trimming. The owner is expected to get resource consent to maintain the trees on behalf of the council.

The rule means I cannot assume to benefit from value I have created from my own efforts: A farmer planted 5,000 kauri trees and asked the council if he could eventually harvest them. The council said it could not guarantee he could harvest them because they were kauri.

A rule can be interpreted in many ways: Having a level entry to showers: Some councils say yes, some say no, and then charge for an opinion or ruling.

There is no mechanism to update legislation as circumstances change: Long ago, hairdressers were once a source of infection – but no more. Even so, councils must register and inspect them yearly.

A rule has a compliance regime that does not allow for the fact nothing may change: Rigging loops have to be put in to a specified standard but then must be re-certified each year. If a year is missed, they must be abandoned and new ones inserted into the concrete, which would weaken the concrete.

The rule arises from officials’ zealousness and has no material effect: A council advised a farmer it was going to classify his land as a significant natural area under the Resource Management Act. Such a classification would limit his ability to use the land in certain ways, including turning his car lights on at night in case it disrupted the flight of Westland Petrels. The council acknowledged the birds never landed, swam, nested or mated there. It was simply on their flight path.

The report lists its top 10 fixes for loopy rules:

1. Make it easier to get building consents

 Speed up the development of risk-based consenting and investigate other ways to simplify the consenting of minor structures.

 Promote the use of building consent exemptions under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004.

 Complete the fix-up of the building fire upgrade regulations this year. Ensure additional requirements imposed reflect the extra costs imposed and the benefits to be gained.

 Use progressive building consents so work can begin sooner, with nonstructural details confirmed later.

 Streamline the determinations process for applicants.

2. Get serious about lifting the skills of building sector

 Develop an industry-wide strategy to lift the professional practices of builders.

 Work towards builders certifying their own work so as to deal with joint and several liability pressures on councils.

3. Make it easier to get resource consents

 Establish an end-to-end relationship management approach for all resource (and building) consenting within councils.

 Require councils to report publicly on their actual performance in meeting the statutory 20-day deadline (for building and resource consents), as well as the total time (including all delays resulting from information requests and so on).

 As part of the planned Resource Management Act 1991 reforms, eliminate the need for resource consents for minor and technical breaches.

 Introduce a faster, more flexible process for changing plans under the Resource Management Act 1991 reforms.

4. Reduce the cost of consenting fees

 Cap government building levies. 5. Sort out what “work safety” means and how to do it  Define what is meant by “all practicable steps” in the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1991 and any replacement term in the Health and Safety Reform Bill.

 WorkSafe should do more about mythbusting, correcting misunderstandings and providing consistent information.

 Develop clear and accessible guidelines and codes of practice once the Health and Safety Reform Bill becomes law, working with all other agencies involved.

6. Make it clear what the rules are

 Define what is meant by “as nearly as is reasonably practicable” in the Building Act 2004.

 Require the Ministry for the Environment to work more closely with the other agencies to provide more timely and comprehensive guidance when developing and issuing national directives.  Make government agencies accept their responsibility to correct misunderstandings about their policies and regulations, particularly in the building and resource management areas, and as noted in health and safety.

7. Establish a new customer focus the public sector  The State Sector Act 1988 and the Local Government Act 2002 should include customer service responsibilities for chief executives.

 All Local Government Chief Executives should have a customer focus component in their Key Performance Indicators. They should consider utilising the Customer Champion and Fast Fix approaches.

 To maintain a permanent focus on loopy rules, establish a website for people to report loopy rules, which are then referred to the responsible agency to put right.

8. Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations

 Require all government departments to adopt a stakeholder approach, such as that used by the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry signals policy changes in advance, involves stakeholders early on and is open to critical feedback.

 Require central government to develop a project-specific engagement approach when developing policies and regulations that local government must implement. This approach could be useful for example, in the development of proposed changes to amended shop trading hours (Easter Sunday trading) and the implementation of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Act.

 Amend the guidelines for Cabinet papers so they include “consultation with the Minister of Local Government” when a proposal will affect local government.

9. Reform the Local Government Act 1974 and the Reserves Act 1977

 Update the remaining provisions of the Local Government Act 1974 Act.  Review and update the Reserves Act 1977. And, most importantly:

10. Stop making loopy rules

 Develop a coordinated pipeline approach to regulation.  Include a cost-benefit analysis prior to development.

 Create a mechanism to actively review central and local government regulations.

 Extend Treasury’s annual review of departmental regulations, and incorporate an assessment of local government regulations.

In releasing the report, Local Government Minister Paula Bennett findings from the Rules Reduction Taskforce show real opportunities for both central and local government to make life easier for New Zealanders.

‘The loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories’ is being released by the Government today following 50 public meetings and close to 2,000 submissions.

“We have listened to New Zealanders and the message is clear: there are too many frustrating rules and regulations, and too many are being applied inconsistently, and it is holding our communities back,” Mrs Bennett says. 

“The Report outlines practical opportunities for Government departments and local councils to improve the level of customer service they offer, and give that clarity people need. We will be embracing these opportunities finding practical solutions.”

The range of submissions cover 11 Ministers’ portfolios, with the majority relating to the Resource Management Act and the Building Act.

“Over the next few weeks, Ministers will be working with their departments and agencies to progress the quick fixes and what will take a bit longer to tackle. We’ll continue to update www.rulesreduction.govt.nz and make announcements as this work progresses,” Mrs Bennett says.

“The Government will also be working with local government to ensure they are providing the right advice to their residents about what rules and regulations mean and how they apply in their communities.

“The members of the Taskforce also heard loud and clear that there are several myths about rules and regulations that don’t actually exist. This includes the misconception that lolly scrambles have been banned, and that people can’t use three-step ladders.

“By breaking through this misinformation, New Zealanders will be better placed to focus on the serious rules designed to keep people safe and our economy growing.”

Several common ‘myths’ can be found on the Rules Reduction Taskforce website atwww.rulesreduction.govt.nz. New Zealanders can continue to share their experiences by sending a message through the Rules Reduction Taskforce’s social media pages.

“I’d like to thank everyone that took the time to share their experience with the Taskforce. I would also like to acknowledge the dedication of co-chairs Jacqui Dean MP and Michael Barnett, as well as the other members of the Taskforce,” says Mrs Bennett.

A lot of these problems  would not have arisen if regard for property rights and common sense were both at the basis of legislation.

If this report is acted on, loopy rules fixed in existing legislation and not added new legislation it will make a significant and positive difference to the country.

 


Rules reduction task force launched

21/10/2014

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has launched the Rules Reduction initiative, opening the way for people to submit examples of property regulations and local rules that don’t make sense.

“People can now head to http://www.govt.nz/rulesreduction, to start telling us what bugs them when it comes to loopy rules and regulations,” says Mrs Bennett.

“I’m also pleased to announce the Rules Reduction Taskforce will be jointly chaired by Jacqui Dean MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary for Local Government, and Michael Barnett ONZM, Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

“Both Jacqui and Michael bring with them a strong understanding of the local government and business sectors and will be well placed to guide the Taskforce in its work to cut red tape.

The remaining members of the Taskforce will be appointed within the next month, and will include central and local government experts, and specialists from the building and trades sector, with further announcements to come on the timeline for the Taskforce’s work.

“I’m asking property owners, builders, tradespeople and businesses who have experienced the issues caused by irrelevant or unnecessary regulations, to help draw these to our attention,” says Mrs Bennett.

The information gathered will inform the Taskforce, which will consider submissions and ultimately recommend any necessary changes.

“Central and local government need regulations which are effective, and help get the job done – not get in the way. Regulations that frustrate property owners and business people also suck up councils’ precious resources in administration time and effort.”

“We need to hear from New Zealanders about examples that have got in the way of their building, renovation, landscaping, and home improvement plans, so that we can cut the red tape where it needs to be cut, to help them get on with the job.”

The submission form can be filled out online at http://www.govt.nz/rulesreduction

Facebook (facebook.com/cutredtapenz) and Twitter (twitter.com/CutRedTapeNZ) will be used to spread the word and encourage submissions via the online form to the Taskforce.

When we were altering our home last year, our builder told us he reckoned legislation, most of which was unnecessary had added about $20,000 to the cost of a new home.

Some rules are necessary for safety’s sake and to protect people from shoddy standards.

But this task force should have no shortage of rules which at least need to be simplified and probably could be done away with altogether.

And building won’t be the only area where fewer rules could reduce costs without causing any harm.


Extraordinary results

21/02/2014

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce adds to the good news:

A survey of more than 800 business’ over the last 48 hours in Auckland reveals some extraordinary results.

71% of survey respondents believe that the general business situation in New Zealand will continue to improve over the next six months, an increase from 61% last quarter. This response is also matched by 68% of respondents believing that their own personal business situation will see a direct improvement in the coming six months, another rise in confidence from the last survey in Nov 2013 which reported 63%.

“Businesses are gearing up for a greater investment of time, increased profitability and are looking ahead to improved export opportunities” Michael says “But it seems we still have a long way to go to resolve the problems around skilled staffing shortages”.

The survey also revealed:

Intentions to employ UP
Hours to be worked UP
Costs UP
Selling Prices UP
Profitability UP
Sales UP
Exports UP

Confidence begets confidence which is good for business, the people they employ and the whole economy.

However, there is concern over a shortage of skilled labour:

Securing workers with the right skills and experience is becoming increasingly difficult for business in Auckland.

Survey results across the past 12 months show a growing concern amongst business about the challenges of finding skilled staff. February 2013 saw 25% of respondents having difficulty employing specialist staff, increasing to 32% in our most recent survey.

“We need strategies to offset this issue fast, business needs to place a greater focus on training existing staff for the specific needs of their business and work hard on making sure their business is where top staff will want to stay” says Chamber Chief Executive Michael Barnett

“It also sends out a clear message to the Department of Immigration. We need to look at getting some flexibility into our Immigration policy to help bring into New Zealand skilled workers to fill these gaps. If Auckland and New Zealand are to achieve deserved economic growth there needs to be policy that actually helps deliver these much needed skills to our work force now”.

The policy to employ locals first is sensible but when there are no locals with the right skills, and attitude, it would be helpful if immigration policy was sufficiently flexible to help businesses employ the staff they need and do so quickly and easily.


Rural round-up

13/12/2013

How we manage incidents still needs fixing:

While it is good news that the inquiry into the whey protein incident concludes there was no failure with New Zealand’s dairy regulatory system it simply confirms what we already knew, said Michael Barnett, chairman of the NZ Infant Formula Exporters Association.

“We do have world best regulations. We are world leaders in whey production. Within the terms of reference of the inquiry to look into our dairy food safety system the report is a good outcome.”

However in our view the incident was never a failure of our dairy regulations. “It was a failure to manage the situation and the reputational damage it caused New Zealand. This report will not fix that failure,” said Mr Barnett. . .

Red Meat Profit Partnership underway:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has welcomed the announcement that the Red Meat Profit Partnership is underway, acknowledging the significant opportunities it will provide farmers.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman, Mike Petersen says: “The significance of this collaboration cannot be underestimated as it draws together a big part of the red meat processing industry along with farmers and two banks, with the common goal of improving the profitability of sheep and beef farms. Profitability has been too variable and insufficient in recent years, but through this collaboration there is a significant opportunity to improve it.” . . .

Rabobank welcomes signing of Red Meat Profit Partnership:

Agricultural banking specialist Rabobank has welcomed the recent signing and successful contracting of the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

The finalisation of the $64 million dollar partnership has been announced with the Crown officially contracting its support of the initiative.

Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said the bank was pleased to confirm its support as a partner of the RMPP alongside the other co-investors. . . .

Week one in a revolutionary fortnight for red meat  – Jeanette Maxwell:

With red meat industry reform a big topic for farmers, Federated Farmers is welcoming the most comprehensive collaboration ever seen in the sector.  With the Federation going out to its members next week on meat industry reform options, this becomes the first week in a revolutionary fortnight for New Zealand’s number two export industry.

“It seems ironic that I am going to welcome 1.3 million fewer lambs being tailed in 2013 over 2012, but the second smallest lamb crop in nearly 60 years is a good outcome following the 2013 drought,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“To be brutally honest, that 4.7 percent decline to a 2013/14 crop of 25.5 million lambs, underscores how vital this week’s announcement of the Red Meat Profit Partnership is. . .

Government Industry Agreements to strengthen biosecurity:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed Cabinet’s approval of the GIA (Government Industry Agreement) Deed as an important tool in strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity.

“Under the GIA, industry organisations and the Ministry for Primary Industries can sign a Deed that formally establishes the biosecurity partnership. Partners will share decision making, costs, and responsibility in preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions.

“The GIA is important because it will give industries a direct say in managing biosecurity risk. Joint decision making and co-investment will mean that everyone is working together on the most important priorities.

“Biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister because it is so important in protecting our economy. We know that unwanted pests and diseases can have devastating effects on our farmers and growers,” says Mr Guy . . .

Biosecurity Government Industry Agreements a major boost

Winning Cabinet approval for any policy initiative is never easy so the efforts of Primary Industries Minster, the Hon Nathan Guy with Government Industry Agreements (GIA), must be acknowledged for the way it will boost biosecurity readiness and response.

“GIA’s are a positive development for biosecurity,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson.

“Cabinet approval is the roadmap forward and follows Federated Farmers leadership last year, which successfully unblocked five years of stalled talks by bringing together key industry players.

“For the general public, GIA’s are about ‘Readiness and Response,’ which are the two key planks to our biosecurity system.  . .

Forest owners welcome biosecurity deed:

Cabinet approval of the deed that will govern how the government and primary industries respond to biosecurity threats has been welcomed by forest owners.

“The biological industries need secure borders, effective monitoring for possible incursions and a rapid response if an exotic pest arrives here. It is essential that we all know who does what and who picks up the tab,” says Forest Owners Association biosecurity chair Dave Cormack.

“The forest industry, through the FOA, has partnered with government in forest biosecurity surveillance for more than 50 years and has funded its own scheme for the last 25 of those years. We look forward to formalising this relationship in a Government Industry Agreement. . . .

Warwick Roberts elected President NZ National Fieldays Society:

The Annual General Meeting for the National Fieldays Society was held last Thursday night at Mystery Creek Events Centre.

Experienced dairy farmer and local resident, Warwick Roberts, was elected President of the NZ National Fieldays Society and starts his term immediately.

Mr Roberts had held the position of Vice President of the Society since 2012 and takes over the presidency from Lloyd Downing, whose term ran 2010-2013.

In speaking about his appointment, Mr Roberts said he was very proud to be leading such a prestigious organisation. . .

Start date for farm training scheme – Annette Scott:

The farm cadet training scheme proposed for the upper South Island has a start date.

Mendip Hills Station, in North Canterbury, will host the new farm cadet training scheme aimed at the sheep, beef, and deer industries.

Scheme co-ordinator Sarah Barr signed a statement of intent agreement last week with Lincoln University, incorporating the Telford division of the tertiary institution, for the scheme to start in 2015. . .

Amendments to layer hens code of welfare:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced amendments to the Layer Hens Code of Welfare 2012, in a move to avoid a large increase in the price of eggs.

“The final date of 2022 for all layer hens to be out of battery cages remains unchanged. However, the amendment alters the transition dates by two years:
• Cages installed before 31 December 1999 must now be replaced by 31 December 2018 (previously 2016);
• Cages installed before 31 December 2001 must now be replaced by 31 December 2020 (previously 2018).

The amendments have been made after advice from the independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC). . . .

The long and the short of it is  . . . – Mad Bush Farm:

I got what I always wanted. I can wake up each morning, have breakfast and get a friendly greeting at the door. He got my toast,  I got my coffee and the company of an equine friend. Animals can do so much for healing a hurt, and helping us forget our troubles. And in turn we can help them get through their troubles. Most of the horses I have on the farm have had sad backgrounds. Ed too had a hard life before he came to me nearly ten years ago. His days are coming slowly to an end. Soon I’ll have to make a decision about his future. . .

New Zealand Young Farmers raises over $1400 for men’s health:

New Zealand Young Farmers was a proud participant in this year’s Movember campaign – and it was a wild and hairy 30 days.

For the month of November the Young Farmers Movember ambassadors Terry Copeland NZYF CEO, Ashley Cassin ANZ Young Farmer Contest Events Leader, and Nigel Woodhead Pendarves Young Farmers Club member, cultivated impressive moustaches all in the name of men’s health.

A charity quiz night was held on the last Friday (29th) of November at the Blue Pub in Methven as a final drive for donations. It was well attended with 13 teams and over 60 people participating. There were top prizes from Silver Fern Farms, Husqvarna and a sell-out raffle for a Vodafone Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.   . .  .


Green’s not for growth

03/05/2013

The Green party is soliciting funds for its election campaign with an email that says:

 . . . National’s policies of more mining, weakening environmental protections, poor economic management and growing inequality are not the recipe for a fair society and a better future.

 In contrast to National, we have the ideas to deliver a richer New Zealand. . .

Green is supposed to be the colour of growth but these Greens are really reds promoting the policies that have failed in the past.

Take their plan to bring down the exchange rate. Prime Minister John Key says currency intervention and printing money won’t work:

. . . “It didn’t work very well for Argentina, or Venezuela or Zimbabwe and it could never be done in New Zealand at the sort of magnitude we’ve seen in the United States,” said Key.

As for the New Zealand dollar versus its United States counterpart, Key used a seesaw analogy.

“It’s a bit like being a seesaw and if I weigh 85 kilos and you weigh 170 kilos, I’m going to go up when you sit on the seesaw and you’re going to go down. And that’s really the situation we’ve got at the moment.”

“We kind of weigh 85 kilos and the United States weights 850 tonnes. Right up to this point it (the US) has been very unwell. It has got everything from aids to bird flu. It has really been pretty unwell so the market’s just massively adjusting what they’re doing.”

When people say the Reserve Bank should be printing money, Key said you wouldn’t do that with base rates – the Official Cash Rate – at 2.5%.

“All you do is cut interest rates for a start off. The second thing was even if you printed money, it’s never going to work. I think they’ve printed US$5.5 trillion in the US. I mean it’s massive. So what would we print? NZ$50 billion or something? It wouldn’t make an iota of difference.”

“So my view would be I know we want to get the exchange rate down and I know it’s hurting a lot of companies. But it’s a cycle you’re going to have to ride through and all the Government can do is control the things that are in our control. So get out there and reform the Resource Management Act, make sure we don’t spend too much money, make sure we keep pressure off interest rates, manage the place well,” Key said. . . .

The reds want to increase the burden of government, their policies will lead to higher interest rates and they haven’t a clue about good economic management.

. . . Furthermore, he said intervention in the currency markets never works.

Here Key cited an example from his previous career at Merrill Lynch, where at one time he was head of global foreign exchange. One of Merrill Lynch’s biggest clients was the Bank of Japan, which used to intervene in the currency markets through Merrill Lynch.

“To tell you how bad it got, one night we were sitting there and the Bank of Japan rang up and the US$-yen was about 90 or something and they didn’t want it to go down lower. And the guy said to me ‘I want you to start buying dollars at 90’. And I said ‘how many do you want me to buy’, and he said ‘well, I’m going out for three hours so I’ll give you a yell when I get home.’ And I said ‘yeah, but how many do you want me to buy?’ And he said ‘I’m going out for three hours, don’t you understand the conversation?’

“I bought US$4.5 billion in three hours. He said ‘where is it (the US dollar-yen exchange rate)’ and I said ‘it’s 90, you bought US$4.5 billion. And he said ‘ah, well I’m off to bed now give me a ring in the morning’,” said Key.

“It never worked, it just never worked. I don’t know how much money they lost on intervention but it was massive.” . . .

Who do you believe – someone who has worked in international finance and has managed the country through the global financial crisis or people who want to print money and whose power policy would have a chilling effect on on private investment? Rob Hosking writes:

. . . There is something essentially frivolous about anyone who would cheerfully rip up the value of some of the country’s largest firms, and the value of the investment in those firms, simply for a political positioning exercise.

This is why the exchange caught by TV3 between Green energy spokesman Gareth Hughes and party spin zambuck Clint Smith was so telling.

For those who missed it, Mr Hughes was asked if the party was pleased at the reaction: Mr Hughes paused, turned to Mr Smith and asked “Hey, Clint – are we pleased?”

It was telling that he even had to ask.

But the almost palpable glee coming out of the Green and Labour camps at the destructive impact of their policy is highly revealing. 

It underlines – not for the first time – the problem with the makeup of both parties. They are dominated at the MP and the staff level by the sub-genus homo politicus.

That is, they are full of people who have done nothing in their lives apart from politics. All parties have a complement of this group, but with Labour and the Greens the group has reached critical mass.

This group has been involved in politics at university, moved from there to various political/union offices and then into parliament. 

There is little real world experience and everything is viewed through a very narrow prism of political advantage.

It’s the sort of attitude which means the value destruction seen this week can be just laughed off.

There will, unless we are careful, be more such frivolous policies to come.

I would use a far stronger word than frivolous and the business community certainly isn’t taking it lightly.

In an open letter to LabourGreen they say the policy would harm jobs, growth and investment, causing interest rates to rise, reducing KiwiSaver retirement savings and making people less well off.

. . .Business shares your concerns about constantly rising power prices and their impact on our global competitiveness. Businesses and consumers work hard every day to minimise their spending on electricity in order to stay in business and

to make their household budgets stretch further.
However, we do not think that electricity policies based on subsidies and greater state control are the right answers. Such policies have been tried in the past and have been shown to be incapable of meeting the challenges of a modern economy
with a complex, real-time electricity market.
 
Putting aside the sheer complexity of their implementation, policies that protect businesses from the full costs of the inputs they use ultimately dull the incentive to innovate and make them less, not more internationally competitive. Reducing retail
prices below the full marginal cost of production encourages households to use more than they should.
Of particular concern with the policies announced is their chilling effect on investment across the entire economy.
 
We are especially concerned at investment analyst reports noting the potential for $1.4 billion of shareholder value to be wiped off the books of the private power companies. A similar amount, if not more, will come off the value of the public power companies.
 
 
Capital destruction on such a scale will severely undermine business confidence.
It sends signals to investors, on whom the New Zealand economy relies, that their wealth and the benefits it provides are not welcome.
 
Investment plans and job creation opportunities are foregone.
 
Rather than remote and intangible, this dampening of investment intentions will have a direct and real economic impact on those of all walks of life who seek to accumulate wealth by working hard to save, invest and grow. It causes interest rates
to rise, depletes retirement savings held in KiwiSaver accounts and means that other economic opportunities such as first homes are foregone and new business ventures as savings are unexpectedly reduced.
 
Individuals are less well-off as a result.
 
With the good of all New Zealanders in mind we ask you to withdraw these damaging policies. We offer to work with you in increasing public understanding of the operation of the electricity market and in ensuring consumers, both small and large,
have better choice from one of the increasingly competitive electricity markets in the world.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 Phil O’Reilly Chief Executive BusinessNZ
 
Ken Shirley Chief Executive Officer Road Transport Forum
 
Catherine Beard Executive Director Manufacturing NZ
 
Ralph Matthes Executive Director Major Electricity Users Group
Chris Baker Chief Executive Straterra

John Scandrett Chief Executive Officer Otago Southland  Employers’ Association

Raewyn Bleakley Chief Executive  Business Central–Wellington

Kim Campbell Chief Executive EMA

Peter Townsend Chief Executive CECC

Michael Barnett Director  New Zealand Chambers of Commerce

These people represent people who employ people, the ones who need certainty and confidence to make investment that creates jobs, earn export income and pay taxes.

These are people who work in the real world.

They know there’s nothing funny about bad policy that would take the country backwards, cost jobs and make us all poorer.

They know that Green isn’t for growth and it doesn’t mean go.

Green economic policy is bright red and it will mean stop to economic growth and job creation.


Certainty and predictability needed

12/04/2012

Sir Graeme Harrison, chair of the  NZ International Business Forum, wants the Cabinet ministers considering the Crafar farm sale to Shanghai Pengxin to give a clear signal foreign investment is welcome here:

NZIBF chairman Sir Graeme Harrison makes the point that foreign investors are prepared to respect the rules but they need predictability and certainty that when conditions are complied with the investment will be able to proceed.

“That is why the current uncertain situation with regard to the Crafar Farms is so negative for New Zealand’s interests. It risks detracting from New Zealand’s attractiveness as an investment destination at a time when there is strong competition for foreign investment from other countries.”

Sir Graeme’s determined push follows a strong statement by Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett who railed against the way the Shanghai Pengxin bid had been demonised by late-comer bidders in an appearance on Q&A at the weekend.

Fran O’Sullivan has added Sir Graeme to her unofficial roll-call of business people who are finally stepping up and saying this country needs to protect its reputation as a fair regime for foreign investors.

But the big question is why is that only Sir Graeme, Barnett, BusinessNZ’s Phil O’Reilly and George Gould have been prepared to openly speak up for what matters in this area. The paucity of open debate on the pros of foreign investment is astounding and business does need to step up here.

One of the glaring omissions from the list is anyone from Fonterra.

I can’t understand why the company which sells most of its produce overseas and which itself owns farms in other countries, is opposed to foreign ownership here.

As Sir Graeme says, we need foreign investment to make up for our own lack of savings:

“Foreign investment is what plugs the gap in our low domestic savings rates. Without it, ratings agencies could react by increasing New Zealand’s (already high) credit risk rating and interest rates will rise.”

Would the people so strongly opposed to foreign investment be quite so sure of their stand if their mortgages increased without it?


First world power supply

07/06/2008

We’re just four weeks away from major power shortages unless the hydro lakes get topped up.

Auckland Regional Council deputy chairman Michael Barnett said he did not think Civil Defence was over-reacting.

“I’m thinking of an exporter … ” said Mr Barnett, who is also Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive. “Is he talking to his clients offshore today about his June-July deliveries and saying, ‘You will have to wait until I see if the village generator is working that week’? That to me is a nonsense.”

 Oh dear. We’ve had strong nor westers since yesterday morning which usually means precipitation in the mountains, but at this time of year that’s much more likely to be snow than rain.


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