Can’t even build a slide to budget

June 23, 2020

Day by day it’s looking more like New Zealand’s low incidence of Covid-19 owes a lot more to good luck than good management and when you look at the government’s record, that’s no surprise.

It’s been very good at making announcements but woefully inadequate in making a positive difference.

One of their flagship policies was Kiwibuild.

David Farrar has a graph updating progress on that – at the end of April they’d built 395 of the 5,167 they’d promised by then – that’s just  0.4%.

Another goal was reducing child poverty. It hasn’t declined – even before the economy got flattened by the harsher than necessary  lockdown, there was no measurable improvement in most indicators and some had got worse.

In spite, or is it because?, of Labour holding all the Maori seats, tangata whenua are still over represented in negative statistics and under represented in the positive ones.

To give just one example, not only is there little if any progress in most areas, Maori mental health and addiction services are going backwards.

Mental health and addiction services have got worse for Māori since work began to overhaul the system nearly two years ago and serious gaps remain for young mums and those in forensic units, according to a new report from the mental health commissioner, Kevin Allan. . . 

The Government has failed to keep the promise in its coalition agreement with NZ First to progressively increase the age for free breast screening to 74 years of age. 

This is just one of myriad failings in the health system including delays in elective surgery.

The government has also had some strange priorities, such as budgeting more for racing than Pharmac :

It is a damning indictment of the Government’s priorities that the racing industry is getting more additional funding in Budget 2020 than Pharmac, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says

“On Sunday the Government gave Pharmac an extra $10 million for the next financial year, today we learnt that Winston Peters is giving racing multiple times that. . . 

This follows the earlier money given to good looking horses.

That was just one of the large lollies New Zealand First managed the grab from the tax treat jar. Even bigger is the Provincial Growth Fund, the latest news of which is the $6.2 million spent on the railway line used by only three trains.

Apropos of wasting money, there’s the scandalous overspending on parliament’s playground:

Parliament’s new playground is a monument to extravagance and waste with revelations it cost $572,000 and went 43 per cent over budget, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“Spending $242,000 on a slide is scandalous. The $180,000 on consultants is equally outrageous. The civil works involved minimal earth moving, yet came to an excessive $171,000.

We build three-bedroom houses clad in Oamaru stone with a garage, floor coverings including wool carpet, curtains, oven and heat pump for dairy staff for not much more than the slide.

“I built my own children’s playground in Nelson with a playhouse, slide, two swings and a climbing frame for $5000, or one hundredth of the cost. There are good quality playgrounds built all around New Zealand for $50,000 or a tenth of the cost.

“This half a million dollar extravagance on Parliament grounds is an insult to the thousands of playcentres, kindergartens, schools and other children’s organisations that scrimp and save for playgrounds across the country.

“The playground was opened by the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House on International Children’s Day last year. At the time the Prime Minister said having a playground sent a message about the Government’s focus on children’s wellbeing.

“But this was just another hollow statement. By the most important measures, poverty in our communities has got worse since the change of Government three years ago. According to the Government’s own data around 20,000 more children are living in poverty.

“Parliament’s playground was all about politics and a photo opportunity to show a child friendly Government, but it has backfired, exposing a culture of extravagance and waste. It contradicts the Government’s pledge to reduce waste on consultants when consultants have milked $180,000 from the small playground.

“Spending $500,000 on a small playground on Parliament grounds is not going to lift children out of poverty. It exposes the shallowness of expensive photo opportunities over the real work required to lift children’s wellbeing in New Zealand.”

This is a very serious symptom of a government that values the quantity of spend rather than the quality; that talks big and acts small and day by day is looking less and less competent.

If it can’t even manage to build a slide to budget, it’s no wonder it’s making so many mistakes in managing incoming passengers to keep us all safe from Covid-19.


How many more out there?

June 17, 2020

Very soon after the Christchurch mosque massacres, people started asking how Brenton Tarrant had been able to obtain a gun licence. More than a year later, it’s found he shouldn’t have:

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff.

The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom. 

More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. . .

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) highlighted shortcomings in the system in a submission to the Royal Commission into the killings last year:

COLFO chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.

“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.” . . 

“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.

“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.

“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.” . . 

Not having the resources to handle applications properly might be an excuse for delays, it’s not an excuse for failing to follow the correct procedure and for granting a licence to someone who so obviously didn’t meet the required criteria.

This appalling systems failure led to the death of 51 people and injuries to several more.

It also led to the contentious and expensive gun buy-back scheme that may have done no more than take firearms from innocent people and left more with criminals.

Yesterday we learned that another systems failure led to two people with Covid-19 being grant compassionate leave from managed isolation after arriving from the UK:

Two Kiwi women – one in her 30s and one in her 40s – arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation.

The pair was given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to support grieving family after a parent’s death in Wellington. Officials were adamant the pair travelled in a private car and did not use public facilities during their journey.

Bloomfield confirmed the pair was not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel in Auckland, but had complied with the terms of their special dispensation and underwent testing in Wellington. 

The women are now in self-isolation in the Hutt Valley.

“The relative died quite quickly, the exemption was granted and the plan was approved,” Bloomfield said.

“Again, I just want to support the efforts that these women have gone to abide by the agreed plan,” Bloomfield said. 

But the emergence of the two cases has sparked an immediate change in policy, with the Government temporarily suspending all compassionate exemptions at the border.

It would only be reinstated once the Government had confidence in the system. . .

Yesterday we also learned that two teenagers ran away from authorities after being allowed special dispensation from Covid-19 related quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

They have since been located and one is in managed isolation while the other is in an agreed community arrangement, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon.

He did not know how many days their whereabouts were unknown. . . 

Speaking to Heather Du-Plessis Allan on Newstalk ZB Tuesday evening, Health Minister David Clark did not seem to know about the runaway pair.

“I’m not aware of the details of that case…I have not had a briefing on that, I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark said he was disappointed to see that the measures he thought were put in place to prevent another outbreak didn’t appear to be.

“If it is as you described it, then it underscores my request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure that the system is working as intended.” . . 

Working as intended?

How hard is it to test people when they arrive and again before they are permitted to leave isolation or quarantine?

No wonder National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse is questioning whether the Ministry of Health is following its own protocols:

. . . Both cases recently arrived from the United Kingdom and left managed isolation on compassionate grounds after six days with no Covid-19 test. However compassionate leave to exit managed isolation can only be given after seven days and a negative test according to guidance from the Ministry dated 9 June.

“Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield claimed in the press conference that going forward they will now test on exit in case of compassionate grounds, but the Ministry of Health website said this was already the case and the ministry simply failed to fulfil its own procedures.

“It’s fair to expect there will still be the occasional case of Covid-19 pop up as we recover from the past few months, but we need to be positive that the Government has the appropriate protocols in place to identify and trace these cases so they don’t become a bigger cluster.

“New Zealanders have done the hard yards over recent months in flattening the curve of Covid-19, the Government can’t let this hard work go to waste due to sloppy lapses in procedure.” 

Covid-19 spread through New Zealand because our borders weren’t closed soon enough and people who came in were trusted to self-isolate themselves.

When the disease is still rife in so many other countries it is not surprising that people coming in to New Zealand have brought it with them.

But it is sheer incompetence that allowed people to have compassionate leave without being tested and let a couple of teens to run away after a funeral.

Tackling Covid-19 has come at a huge cost. Opening the border is necessary to help with the recovery and for compassionate reasons but it must be done in a way that doesn’t risk the spread of disease here.

The answer isn’t denying compassionate leave to other innocent people, it’s following the necessary protocols to test people, and get the result of the tests, before allowing that leave.

Police and health are two of the basic public services we should all be able to trust and that requires systems we can all have confidence in.

But the serious failures in these cases undermines confidence and raise another very big question: how many other people have been given gun licenses who shouldn’t have and how many others have come through the border and been let out of isolation or quarantine without testing for Covid-19?


Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

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

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

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

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

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

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

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

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

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

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

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

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

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

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

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

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

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

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


Good communication doesn’t confuse

April 29, 2020

A few days before the country was locked down Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the four levels.

As has happened so many times she was congratulated for good communication.

But a little more than five weeks later, Cactus Kate points that if what was said about what happens at which level still held, we wouldn’t be stuck in level three now.

You are already there.

You are already there

You are already even here.

We’ve been repeatedly told the reason for the hard lockdown is the goal of elimination of the virus.

As the definitions for yesterday’s word of the day, showed elimination for those of us who speak English means getting rid of something.

Epidemiologists and politicians speak another language and it was only a few days ago that we learned that elimination doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

And on Monday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and the PM told us that we had, by the epidemiological definition, eliminated Covid-19.

But yesterday we were told that wasn’t the case:

At yesterday’s daily press conference Dr Bloomfield was asked whether New Zealand had achieved elimination.

It was his answer that “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4” – and the Prime Minister chipping in that New Zealand “currently” had eliminated the virus – that resulted in yesterday’s confusion.

Realising the waters had been muddied, Dr Bloomfield arrived at Parliament today armed with a clarification.

Asked whether he accepted yesterday’s remarks had given the country and the rest of the world a false impression, and whether he was concerned New Zealanders would be breathing a sigh of relief at a time they should still be vigilant, Dr Bloomfield didn’t mince his words.

“I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it, and we haven’t eradicated it.”

He said elimination is about having a low number of cases, and a knowledge of where they’re coming from and identifying people early.

Then it’s a case of stamping out the virus and continuing to maintain strict border restrictions to be sure no new cases are being imported.

Elimination is by no means eradication and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this is a situation of entering into the world of epidemioligist-speak.

“And they know well what each of these terms mean in a health sense, but of course in an every day sense they mean, often, something different.

“Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine,” she said. . . 

It’s not good enough to blame the jargon.

Good communicators put jargon into everyday language, using words that we all understand and whose definitions fit our understanding.

National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said Dr Bloomfield probably felt the need to clarify on behalf of the Prime Minister.

“This underscores the importance of talking in plain English. The public are not epidemioligists, they don’t have the same information the Prime Minister has and it’s really important they get on the same page, talk in English, and make it clear to New Zealanders where we’re at and how we’ve got to stay there.” . . .

I think we’re now clear that elimination doesn’t mean what we think it means but, we are no clearer on what the levels mean.

We’re told there’s no evidence of community transmission and that the disease is contained. It’s not quite so clear whether no evidence means there’s no risk of community transmission or if we’re now down to the risk of only household transmission.

But if we can take the information on alert levels to mean what it says, it ought to mean we can go down to level two, if not one.

But yesterday we only went to level 3 and while there’s the expectation this will last no more than a fortnight, there’s no certainty.

Given that the information on levels is different from what’s happening, there’s even less certainty.

The communication on this is confused when it needs to be clear.

Good communication isn’t just about getting your message across, it’s also about ensuring the people to whom you’re communicating understand what you’re saying and clarifying any confusion when they don’t.


A tale of two caucuses

June 26, 2019

National leader Simon Bridges announced a minor reshuffle of portfolios yesterday:

“Paul Goldsmith will become the spokesperson for Finance and Infrastructure following today’s announcement from Amy Adams that she will leave at the next election.

“Paul is the natural choice for the Finance role. He has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account in the Economic and Regional Development portfolio.

Shane Jones will be very happy with this change, though he shouldn’t relax, the two taking over Paul’s portfolios will be just as effective at holding the Minister to account.

“Regional and Economic Development will now be split across two spokespeople. Todd McClay will look after Economic Development, while Chris Bishop will take over the Regional Development and Transport portfolios.

“Chris has done a brilliant job as spokesperson for Police and deserves to take on more responsibility.

“Jo Hayes has been appointed the spokesperson for Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations following the departure of Nuk Korako. Jo is a passionate advocate for Māori.

“Gerry Brownlee will pick up the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Brett Hudson will take on the Police portfolio and Tim Macindoe will become the Shadow Attorney-General.

“Other changes include Michael Woodhouse as the Associate Finance spokesperson, Maggie Barry taking over the Disability Issues portfolio, Stuart Smith will be the spokesperson for Immigration, Todd Muller will be the spokesperson for Forestry, Nicola Willis will take on the Youth portfolio and our newest MP Paulo Garcia will become the Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott for their valuable contributions to the National Party and Parliament. Amy was a brilliant Minister across a range of portfolios. The changes she made to domestic violence laws as Justice Minister have made families in New Zealand safer. Amy has excelled as our Finance spokesperson and has been an outstanding member for Selwyn.

“Alastair should be proud of the work he has done to prevent drug driving, and for the way he has represented and advocated for the people of Wairarapa. I’m pleased they will be here for the rest of the term to help us form policies for the 2020 election.

“National is the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen. I’m proud to lead such a talented and hardworking team.” 

There are no surprises there and there will probably be none in tomorrow’s reshuffle of Cabinet but there is a major difference between the two caucuses – there’s plenty of talent in National’s with many MPs capable of becoming Ministers.

By contrast Labour’s is a shallow pool and, as Barry Soper noted:

. . .The reshuffle will be minor because most of those who should be in Cabinet are already there. And the amount of time Ardern’s taken getting around to shuffling the chairs just goes to show how hard leadership is for a person who clearly finds it hard to be hard. . . 

Ardern doesn’t have much to choose from and, if past form is a guide, will be reluctant to demote the poorest performers.


Incompetent or ?

November 9, 2018

A decision to deport a convicted criminal could be made in a very few minutes.

A decision to give residency to one needs a lot more time than it got:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway made the decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency in less than an hour.

The revelation has led to calls from the Opposition for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack her Immigration Minister.

Lees-Galloway said he did not read the full file on the Czech drug smuggler, and instead “read the aspects of the file that I thought were necessary to make the decision that I made”. . .

How can you know what you need to read to make a decision if you don’t read all the information you have?

“I took the information that I had and I took the time that I felt was necessary. I read various aspects of the full file. I didn’t rely solely on the summary.” . . 

Various aspects? That’s not the full file and it defies belief that he could have read even some of the information that has made this decision so inexplicable and granted residency.

National Leader Simon Bridges has renewed his call for the Prime Minister to sack Lees-Galloway over the “careless decision” after Lees-Galloway claimed he carefully considered all the relevant information.

He allowed a drug dealing gang associate to remain in New Zealand without reading all the information available to him, Bridges said.

“Either Lees-Galloway has misled the Prime Minister or she’s misled New Zealanders.

“The Prime Minister has defended that decision for the past two weeks, telling New Zealanders it was a ‘difficult decision’ but that she had been assured by Lees-Galloway he had given it ‘careful consideration’.

“We now know he hadn’t.”

An hour was not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision and it was not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister, he said.

“Lees-Galloway’s credibility is now shot. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Sroubek’s residency.

“The Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Lees-Galloway from Cabinet immediately.”

Woodhouse said Lees-Galloway had arrogantly refused to reveal the evidence upon which he made his decision, saying it was not in the public interest.

“He insisted it was a complicated decision not taken lightly.

“The Prime Minister even went as far as saying Lees-Galloway ‘shared with me the careful consideration that he gave this case… it was clearly a very difficult decision’. Only clearly it wasn’t,” Woodhouse said.

The evidence was now overwhelming that Lees-Galloway didn’t do his job, he said.

“It is now clear he made that call without asking questions and without proper consideration of the facts or the track record of the convicted criminal he was allowing to stay. Sroubek needs to go and Lees-Galloway does too.” . . 

To have read all the relevant information and made that decision indicates gross incompetence or something conspiracy theorists would delight in.


What’s the price of more refugees?

September 20, 2018

The government announced New Zealand will take more refugees in a couple of years.

This means NZ First has been prepared to drop its opposition – but at what price?

Labour needs to fess up about what NZ First has gained from agreeing to increase the refugee quota by 500 in two years’ time, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“The handling of what has been a cornerstone issue for Labour has been a mess from start to finish. First they were increasing the quota, then they weren’t, now they are – but not for another two years.

“The hold-up was of course Winston Peters’ exercising his authority over his larger but weaker coalition partners. Now he’s changed his mind and allowed the Prime Minister to make yet another announcement designed to boost her international profile, New Zealanders deserve to know about the quid pro quo.

“National believes 1000 refugees was about right. It costs around $100,000 per person per year to properly settle refugees to help them integrate and lead productive lives here and any increase needs to be balanced against other priorities.

“The fact that the Greens were nowhere to be seen in this announcement is evidence of the strong influence of New Zealand First had on it. The big question is what was the price of its support for a policy that only a week ago it denied the existence of. Time will tell.”

Will it be watering down the changes to employment legislation or something else that has bought NZ First’s support?

The self-labeled open and Wintransparent government ought to tell us.


Rural round-up

July 7, 2017

Govt renews call for Landcorp dividends – Alexa Cook:

The government wants better returns and a dividend to the Crown from Landcorp but isn’t looking at selling it, the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises says.

A strategic review advised the government to sell Landcorp because the asset-rich, cash-poor nature of farm ownership was not well matched to the government’s fiscal objectives.

Independent financial consulting firm Deloitte carried out the review in 2014, which was released under the Official Information Act to agricultural markets publication AgriHQ Pulse. . . .

Speech to RSE Conference – Michael Woodhouse:

. . . It’s a big year for the RSE scheme – 10 years since it was first introduced and what a difference it has made. To the horticulture and viticulture industries, to business growth, to Kiwis looking for work, and of course, to the Pacific communities.

As I stand here today, I can’t help but think back to 2007 when the RSE scheme began, with around 65 RSE employers and a national cap of just 5,000. Today, there’s more than 130 RSE employers and the national cap has more than doubled to 10,500.

That growth is a vote of confidence in the scheme. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ground-breaking policy has been such a success.

The RSE scheme has been regarded as one of the best circular migration schemes in the world, and without the dedication and willingness from employers to try something new back in 2007, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating its 10th anniversary. . .

Pukeko Pastures: Bridging the urban-rural divide – Siobhan O’Malley:

Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley are the current NZ Share Farmers of the Year. Here Siobhan writes about why they decided to put their farming practices out into the digital world.

Lately, we can’t go to an event, meeting or even open a rural newspaper without someone asking the question: “What are you doing about the public image of dairy farming? The media hate us. We feel picked on. It is an unfair and inaccurate portrayal. What are you doing about it?”

We sympathise. We feel like the media have created a narrative that vilifies the “dairy industry” while forgetting that behind our corporate co-operative stand literally thousands of families. .  .

Sheep industry leaders recognised: 

The skills and depth of talent within this country’s sheep industry was recognised at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill last night.

Now in their sixth year, the Award’s celebrate the top performers in the field of science, innovation, industry training and genetics and acknowledge emerging talent and outstanding contributions.

Among the award recipients was retired Hawke’s Bay Romney breeder Tony Parker, whose stud, in 1961, was the first to produce a Selection Index for sheep. This was selecting sheep on recorded performance data rather than physical attributes alone. Although controversial at the time, this represented a step-change in this country’s sheep industry. . .

Westland appoints new Chief Operations Officer:

Westland Milk Products Chief Executive Toni Brendish has continued her drive to add depth and strength to the dairy co-operative’s management team with the appointment of a new Chief Operations Officer, Craig Betty.

It is the second new appointment to Westland’s Senior Management Team (SMT) following the announcement of Gary Yu taking up the role of General Manager, China.

Brendish says Betty’s appointment will bring considerable operations experience to the Hokitika based company. . .

National apiculture conference set to break record numbers this weekend:

Myrtle rust, manuka honey and the impact of neonicotinoids on bees are just some of the current topics that have been making global headlines. These and more will steer the conversations at the Apiculture New Zealand national conference this weekend.

A record 1200 plus people from around the country and abroad will be in Rotorua for the conference, which will be held at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre from Sunday 9 July to Tuesday 11 July 2017. . .

International staff seeking short term agriculture employment :

New Zealand as a location to work and travel is becoming more popular amongst students and graduates from abroad.

While it has always been a popular choice, many travellers are now looking to seek work in advance and secure longer term positions, from 6-12 months, as opposed to trying their luck when they arrive. This is largely due to many travellers wanting to experience New Zealand’s working lifestyle, particularly in agriculture, and to be able to learn on the job and pick up some knowledge they can take away with them. . .


Labour now the Sweatshop Boys

June 23, 2017

Duncan Garner has the line of the day on the AM Show – he’s calling Labour the Sweatshop Boys.

He’s referring to the party’s botched intern scheme :

There are calls for Immigration NZ to investigate a Labour-linked election campaign which used unpaid labour in the guise of an education programme.

More than 80 overseas students have been doing unpaid “drudge work”, and living in a cramped Auckland marae without a working shower, reports political blog Politik. . .

Rivals ACT called the campaign a “sweat shop filled with immigrant labour”.

“I cannot believe the Labour Party’s do as we say, not as we do attitude. This is a new low for hypocrisy, even for them,” ACT leader David Seymour said.

“Who would believe in Labour’s promised crackdown on cheap student labour when Labour are one of the worst offenders in the country?” . . .

That is hypocrisy writ large.

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said Labour had to explain how it could justify “exploiting” international students for its election campaign while it was also speaking out against international education providers.

“This is truly appalling behaviour both for its lack of human decency and industrial strength hypocrisy,” Joyce said.

“If the allegations are correct, Labour has brought international students to New Zealand on false pretences, failed to look after them, and failed to meet their obligations to the students in the most basic way, while at the same time campaigning against exploitation of migrants.” . . .

Employers are very, very worried about Labour’s threatened changes to immigration.

Skills shortage in many sectors including IT, trades, farming, contracting and hospitality mean employers are already struggling to get anyone to fill positions. They’re wasting time, money and energy working their way through the process of employing immigrants.

Labour’s threatened changes would make that much, much worse.

These employers are working hard making a significant and positive economic and social contribution to New Zealand.

Labour wants to hobble them and yet has the hypocrisy to bring in people from overseas, not to work in productive businesses,  but to campaign for the party, and do it without pay.

Compounding that, the party that is supposed to stand up for workers put them up in sub-standard accommodation.

Matt McCarten did a mea culpe yesterday but the party can’t blame the mess only on him.

Newshub has obtained internal documents outlining Labour’s ambitious plans to put foreign students to work on its campaign.

The plan shows the party needed to find $270,000 in funding to pull it off and was banking on unions to fund a lot of it. . .

The budgeting was based on 100 students staying for an average of eight weeks. The cost of feeding and housing them in motorhomes was estimated at $240,000, with an operational budget of $30,000 for petrol, venues and AT HOP cards.

The documents show First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” – likely the likes of the PSA – committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000.

The plan was to get E tū and “other appropriate unions” on board too.

The Council of Trade Unions was also to be involved in management of the project, and while Labour has been distancing itself from the project, the documents explicitly states: “The programme and certification is the responsibility of Labour.” . . .

Hypocrisy is bad enough, but there are also questions over which visas the students are on.

. . . We know these “fellows” are being given free accommodation in exchange for their work, so they are in breach of their visitor visa conditions, if they have visitor visas.

It is possible they have other visas, such as work visas. But it is hard to imagine they could qualify for work visas, and the hypocrisy would be great – Labour bringing in unpaid fellows on work visas, while campaigning against such work visas.

So it looks like either Labour has arranged 85 work visas for its unpaid fellows while campaigning to reduce the number of work visas for unskilled jobs or Labour has been complicit in a huge case of immigration fraud.

Even if the students are on working holiday visas, there are other questions:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse did not know whether Immigration NZ or MBIE’s labour inspectorate was investigating the issue, but believed Labour had serious questions to answer about possible breaches.

Woodhouse said the students would be allowed to undertake the work if they were on working holiday visas, as Labour believed, but there were still questions about whether there had been breaches of employment law.

“What I am aware of is similar schemes to this have been investigated very seriously by the labour inspectorate because it is work masquerading as voluntary work, and I think that is also a question that should be asked of the Labour Party.”

Providing services for food and board counted as work under employment law, he said.

“Regardless of what visa they’re on, there are certainly questions about the nature of the work they’re doing and whether that meets the definition of employment.” . .

The Sweatshop boys and girls in Labour will be sweating over this.

Even if there is no immigration fraud, what they are doing is in direct contradiction of their immigration policy and their supposed role in protecting workers from exploitation.

 

 


Rural round-up

February 8, 2017

‘Moment of truth’ for NZ agriculture in 2017 – industry report:

New Zealand agriculture faces a “moment of truth” in 2017, according to a report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

In its recently-released New Zealand Agricultural Outlook 2017 report, Rabobank says as an industry traditionally characterised by a liberal operating environment, and a key beneficiary of several decades of global shift to freer trade, agriculture faces a period of heightened regulatory uncertainty and change on both fronts.

Releasing the report, Rabobank Country Banking general manager Hayley Moynihan said 2017 was ushering in a period of considerable change and uncertainty for New Zealand agriculture with developments throughout the year likely to have a significant impact on the sector’s prospects this year and in the years to come.

‘They’ve signed off on everything we’ve done’

A Canterbury dairy farmer is defending the use of public land 50 metres from the Rakaia River, saying the regional council has let him farm it since 1990.

A report by the Canterbury Regional Council has detailed agricultural encroachment on nearly 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers, between 1990 and 2012.

Forest and Bird said the areas taken over for farming have effectively been stolen, and their environmental values were, in effect, gone for good. . . . 

Council to use ‘rule book’ for river side development:

Canterbury’s regional council says it now has the enforcement tools needed to deal with farmers enchroaching public land and it won’t hesistate to use them.

An Environment Canterbury report has revealed almost 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers was been converted for intensive agriculture between 1990 and 2012.

One-quarter of the land developed for farming was in public reserve. . .

Paddock to plate: chefs taste-test Omega lamb – Sally Rae:

It might still be early days for the Omega Lamb Project but feedback has been “overwhelming”, general manager Mike Tate says.

The project involves bringing healthy fat back on to the menu by producing lambs with naturally higher polyunsaturated fatty acids, intramuscular fat and omega-3.

Promoted as being the world’s tastiest and healthiest lamb, the project is a collaboration between Alliance Group, Headwaters Group and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Last week, a gathering was held in the South, bringing chefs from throughout the country together with farmers in the Omega Lamb pilot group. . .

RSE employers hiring more kiwis:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse welcomes a report showing the vast majority of employers who take on seasonal workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are also employing more New Zealanders.

The eighth annual survey of RSE employers found that 79 per cent of the 92 respondents had employed more permanent New Zealand workers in addition to their RSE workers.

“The fact that more RSE employers are now taking on more Kiwis as well is great news and shows once again the huge benefits of the RSE scheme,” Mr Woodhouse says. . .

Lamb flap prices match record high, on limited supply, strong demand – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Strong demand from China combined with limited supply has seen the price for the humble lamb flap rise to match its previous record high.

The price for lamb flaps advanced to US$5.50 per kilogram in January, from US$5.40/kg in December, matching the previous record set in January 2014, according to AgriHQ’s monthly sheep & beef report.

Poor lamb growth rates through spring and early summer combined with improved grass growth has crimped the number of lambs being sent for slaughter in New Zealand, pushing up the price of all lamb cuts tracked by AgriHQ compared with their year-earlier levels. Lamb export volumes in December fell 25 percent from the year earlier to 20,580 tonnes, the lowest level for the month since 2011, according to the latest data.  . . 


Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


Rural round-up

November 28, 2016

Aiming for better public science understanding – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Interactions between agriculture and the environment have rarely been so much in the face of the public, and finding a path for the future is proving challenging.

Should New Zealand remain GE-free, ban glyphosate and embrace organics, or should it lead in adopting new technologies to increase efficiencies whilst minimising impact on the environment?

The general problem is that decisions have to be made on issues which arouse high public interest, and where knowledge is incomplete and complexity great. These issues are almost always linked to values, emotions and personal experience — what the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, professor Sir Peter Gluckman, describes as “the political power of the anecdote”. . .

Improved environmental performance to provide long-term strategic value for New Zealand’s agri sector– industry report:

Improved environmental sustainability should provide long-term strategic value to New Zealand’s food and agri sector, according to a recently-released report by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

In the report, Sustainable Returns: Finding the value in Environmental Sustainability, Rabobank says two major types of value have been identified for farmers and food & agribusiness (F&A) companies from improved environmental practices – the immediate monetary benefit of these practices (from a price premium) and the long-term strategic advantages that provide growth and prosperity into the future.

Report author, Rabobank rural manager Sustainable Farm Systems, Blake Holgate says the type of value farmers and F&A companies can derive will vary depending on the product they are producing, how they are producing it, where they sit on the supply chain, and who the end consumer is. . . 

Stronger farm partnerships beneficial:

A national programme to increase profitability and productivity of sheep and beef farmers by strengthening farming partnerships is being scaled up to reach 2800 farms.

Since 2014, almost 500 women involved in sheep and beef farming businesses have completed the Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) programme, designed and delivered by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT).  That included 50 women who last month graduated from the similar AWDT programme for Maori women, Wahine Maia Wahine Whenua.

The four-month programme, funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership , builds business and communication skills, and confidence of farming women, empowering them to view themselves and their farming roles differently and help lift farm performance. . . 

South Island leaders in for Australasian agri-business award

2017 Zanda McDonald Award shortlist announced

Three young agriculturalists from the South Island have made it through to the next stage of the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award. The three – Morgan Easton, a 33 year old farm owner and sharemilker from Oamaru, Jolene Germann, a 32 year old dairy consultant from Invercargill and Henry Pinckney, a 34 year old farm owner from Waiau were selected for their impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry.

The three will head to Brisbane next month for the interview round for a place in the finals. They will be up against Australia’s Anna Speer, CEO of AuctionsPlus, Will Creek, a Stud Manager at Stanbroke and Airlie Trescowthick, a business analyst and managing director of The Farm Table. . . .

In the running for agribusiness award – Sally Rae:

Papakaio dairy farmer Morgan Easton has been shortlisted for the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in 2014.

It was in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died in 2013 after an accident at his Queensland property.

Mr Easton (33), along with Invercargill-based dairy consultant Jolene Germann (32) and Waiau farmer Henry Pinckney (34), have made it through to the next stage of the award.

The trio were selected for their “impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry”. . . 

New plan to target Mackenzie wilding conifers:

A new strategy for tackling wilding conifers in the Mackenzie Basin has been announced today by Conservation Ministers Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

“Currently, wilding conifers impact on almost a quarter of land in the Mackenzie Basin, and without further control they will spread and take over large areas of farm and conservation land,” Ms Barry says.

“Wilding conifers are a major threat to our ecosystems, land and farms. These invasive self-sown trees spread fast and are very hard to eliminate once established.

“Prevention is the best form of management. Removing young seedlings now, before they start producing seeds, costs less than $10 per hectare, but removing mature trees can cost $10,000 per hectare.” . . .

National milk production down 1.5%:

Despite New Zealand dairy farmers receiving the lowest milk prices in 20 seasons, milk production dropped just 1.5%.

That was one of the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2015-16 released on November 14 by DairyNZ and LIC. They revealed there were 52 fewer herds and 20,522 fewer cows than in 2014-15.

Dairy companies processed 20.9 billion litres of milk containing 1.86 billion kilograms of milk solids in 2015-16. The previous season, they handled 21.2 billion litres of milk, with 1.89 billion kilograms of milk solids. . . 

Increase in seasonal workers for RSE:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced an increase in the number of seasonal workers who can come to New Zealand to work in the horticulture and viticulture industry under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season.

Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. . . 

Kiwifruit industry welcomes Government decision on seasonal workers:

• 1000 additional seasonal workers for horticulture

• RSE workers support New Zealanders who remain primary workforce

The kiwifruit industry has welcomed the Government’s announcement of an additional 1000 seasonal workers for the coming season.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Chief Executive Nikki Johnson says the extra workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are essential to support the kiwifruit industry’s strong growth. . . 

Crown Irrigation Invests up to $3.4m in North Canterbury – some good news for the region:

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury.

The scheme infrastructure includes water intakes from the Hurunui and Waitohi rivers, with both on plain and dam storage, and a pressurised piped distribution system. The current project cost estimate is approximately $200 million. . . 

Hurunui irrigation funding welcomed:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming an investment of $3.4 million into the Hurunui Water Project by Crown Irrigation Investments.

“This is fantastic news for North Canterbury after the recent earthquakes and severe drought they have suffered through,” says Mr Guy.

The Hurunui Water Project is a $200 million irrigation scheme capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares within an area of around 60,000ha on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. . . 

New Zealand Bloodstock – a victim of its own success:

The record turnout for last week’s New Zealand Bloodstock’s (NZB) Ready to Run Sale at Karaka shows our bloodstock industry is still punching well above its weight says Crowe Horwath’s bloodstock specialist Hayden Dillon. As interest from Australian and Asian buyers continues to grow, the sale saw a record number of entries with 552 horses offered, however, this was tempered by a low clearance rate of 60% compared to the 81% of last year’s record-breaking sale, which left a number of vendors taking their horses back home. Dillon, says “the industry should take comfort that this is not a structural issue for the sale, rather growing pains, and NZB and the vendors will be making adjustments as necessary for the 2017 sale.” . . .

The Cambodian farmers paid to protect birds:

Rice farmers in Cambodia are battling falling regional rice prices and a black market that’s been undercutting them.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, together with a firm called Ibis Rice, is offering to pay above market price for the rice.

In return, the farmers must help protect Cambodia’s national bird – the Giant Ibis. . .


Rural round-up

November 24, 2016

SPCA the voice of reason in farm animal welfare debate – Jon Morgan:

To many North Island farmers it must seem like yesterday that they were watching their animals struggle to deal with facial eczema. But now the warnings are here again.

With NIWA’s seasonal weather outlook signalling warm, wet conditions across the island, farmers will be doubly cautious. So far, there’s been an increase in demand – and prices – for rams that have been bred to be FE tolerant.

No farmer likes to see their stock suffer and no farmer likes to lose money, which is what facial eczema means. . . 

Avocado crops thrive under different systems – Anne Boswell:

The phrase ‘chalk and cheese’ has been bandied about when referring to Katikati avocado orchardists Barry Mathis and Bruce Polley.

It is true that the neighbours have a fair amount of differences in both their personalities and the way they grow their fruit, but it must be said that there is also a number of similarities at play. . .

Increase in seasonal workers for RSE:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced an increase in the number of seasonal workers who can come to New Zealand to work in the horticulture and viticulture industry under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season.

Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. . .

Great white butterfly eradication success:

The invasive pest great white butterfly has been eradicated from New Zealand in a world-first achievement, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say.

“This is the first eradication of an unwanted butterfly population in the world and is another impressive example of New Zealand’s innovation and skill in removing pests,” Ms Barry says.

Great white butterflies posed a major threat to native plant species and primary sector economy.

“They were first seen in Nelson in 2010 and the DOC-led joint agency eradication effort ran for three and a half years. It’s now been two years since any have been seen, and we’re confident we can declare them eradicated,” Mr Guy says.

Biosecurity 2025 direction statement launched :

The newly launched Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement will shape the long-term future of biosecurity in New Zealand, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The long term plan was launched today at the 2016 Biosecurity Forum in Auckland and follows widespread public consultation earlier this year.

“Biosecurity 2025 will guide New Zealand’s biosecurity system over the next decade. It provides a shared direction to ensure we can cope with increased challenges such as increasing trade, more complex markets and supply chains, and rising tourist numbers. . . 

Masterclass had lessons for all sectors:

Despite being the only winegrower in the Rabobank Master Class this year, New Zealander Duncan McFarlane says there’s been plenty to learn from the other sectors.
McFarlane, of the Indevin Group in Marlborough, says one issue that everyone is focused on is sustainability.

“We are very fortunate in the wine industry in New Zealand that the economy of the industry is in a strong phase with good growth prospects,” McFarlane told Rural News at the Rabobank Farm2Fork summit at Cockatoo Island in Sydney yesterday. . . 

Showing the boys how it’s done:

Helen Slattery is the rural contracting sector’s first woman to gain a national certificate in infrastructure works supervision Level 5.

A Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) board member and partner in the Matamata firm Slattery Contracting, Slattery has penetrated the ‘glass ceiling’ to be the industry’s first woman to gain a national certificate in infrastructure works supervision Level 5.

The qualification covers core management skills including scheduling infrastructure works project resources, health safety and environment, monitoring project quality assurance and documenting infrastructure works projects. . . .

Hurunui irrigation funding welcomed:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming an investment of $3.4 million into the Hurunui Water Project by Crown Irrigation Investments.

“This is fantastic news for North Canterbury after the recent earthquakes and severe drought they have suffered through,” says Mr Guy.

The Hurunui Water Project is a $200 million irrigation scheme capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares within an area of around 60,000ha on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury.

 


Not Ministerial language but . . .

August 16, 2016

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse posted on Facebook:

Plenty of Q&A from attendees at the annual NZ Association of Migration and Investment conference today.

Michael Woodhouse MP's photo.

He got several responses, one of which was:

Mark Lambert Here’s a question n answer in one, when are we going to get tough n say no more immigrants? And if yr answer is why then you need to go to specsavers, then remove yr self from my page ….

To which he replied:

Michael Woodhouse MP I think you’ll find you’re on my page you redneck.

Several others responded, most of whom had realised what the first commenter hadn’t – he’s in the UK and the Minister is a New Zealand MP.

The commenter’s last comment included several expletives and the hope he’d meet the Minister one day to which he got this response:  unlikely, NZ has a strict no dickheads rule.

It isn’t Ministerial language but sometimes giving in to the temptation to respond in that way is understandable.


The story but not the whole story

April 1, 2016

RNZ asks is the minimum wage increase helpful or hopeless?

. . .  a cleaner who does night shifts at Auckland Council said the rise was still not enough to make it easier to support her family.

Before today, Lupe Funua’s wage was $15.10. That rate would be pushed up 15 cents to match the new minimum wage.

With a three-year-old son at home, a baby due in a few months, and a husband who was also a cleaner on minimum wage, she said every week she worried she was not earning enough. . . 

That’s the story but not the whole story which should include the family’s entitlement to Working for Families and they might also be eligible for housing assistance.

. . . Once the bills were paid, she said she had nothing to send home to her parents in Tonga, which devastated her. . . 

Wanting to help her parents is commendable but an employer can’t take that, or any other wishes however noble they might be, into consideration when determining what wage rates are affordable for the business.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government first considered a 25-cent rise, but decided to be more generous.

He said lifting the rate any higher would mean some people losing their jobs.

That is a very important part of the story. Increasing the minimum wage can cost jobs and drives the move to more mechanisation. It also has a flow-on affect for people who are paid more the legal minimum.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said any rise would affect the struggling dairy industry.

“I think the concern for farm employers might be around farmers employed in the roles above those on the minimum wage – farm assistants – who would also get a boost,” he said.

“That’s going to be the discussion that farm employers will have with the employees and for many it’s not going to be an option.” . . 

I don’t know anyone who pays farm workers the minimum wage and most farm staff have non-cash rewards like a rent-free house which takes their annual effective pay well above the minimum.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

January 13, 2016

Alliance moves to deepen cooperative culture as Silver Fern sells stake – Tina Morrison:

Alliance Group, New Zealand’s second-largest meat processor, plans to entrench its cooperative status, encouraging farmers to ‘share up’ at a time larger rival Silver Fern Farms is watering down its cooperative by tapping a Chinese investor for capital to repay debt, upgrade plants and invest for growth.

Farmer groups failed last year to force a mega-merger on the country’s two large South Island-based meat cooperatives. Both changed chief executives last financial year and Dunedin-based Silver Fern is now awaiting regulatory approval for the $261 million sale of half its business to Shanghai Maling Aquarius, while Invercargill-based Alliance is moving its business model further towards a cooperative system. . . 

Milking sheep has potential to earn billions of dollars for NZ –  Jill Galloway:

Isobel Lees did a veterinary degree at Massey University and is now in Grenoble, France, doing a post graduate study in sheep milking.

She says her research investigating if New Zealand can establish an internationally competitive sheep dairy industry might shed light about how farmers might set up the industry.

“This research focused on the lessons learnt from France, a world leader in sheep dairy.”

Her studies indicate there is vast potential for New Zealand to establish a sheep dairy industry and for it to be a billion dollar contributor to the economy.

“New Zealand has a competitive advantage and superior performance. It has pasture-based agricultural production systems, leading innovations from the dedicated agricultural research community and market leading standards for sustainability, animal welfare and food safety.” . . .

Turangi Maori land trust brings in Chinese partners for sheep milk expansion – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Waituhi Kuratau Trust, the Turangi-based Maori land trust, has teamed up with Chinese interests to develop its sheep-milking interests as part of a plan to sell into the world’s most-populous nation.

The trust sold a leasehold interest in 490 hectares of land in Kuratau to Maui Milk for $1.2 million, which has been slated for development into a sheep dairy farm, according to the Overseas Investment Office summary approving the transaction. The trust owns 40 percent of Maui Milk, with the remainder held by four Chinese nationals. . . 

Govt happy with farm conditions monitoring:

The Government is ruling out an an inquiry into the pay and conditions of farm workers in New Zealand, saying standards are already in place.

Former Council of Trade Unions head Helen Kelly made the call, saying many farm workers were working up to 70 hours a week for low pay, and that was leading to high staff turnover. 

She said fatigue was a major cause of workplace accidents, and an official inquiry was needed to introduce regulations.

But Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse said the Labour Inspectorate already monitored non-compliance with minimum employment standards in the dairy sector. . . 

Right attitude key to $70k jobs – Tamsyn Parker:

A farm worker with the right attitude could take fewer than five years to get to a $70k-plus salary, says an industry leader.

Andrew Hoggard, a farmer who is on the board of farming body Federated Farmers, said Seek data showing a 14 per cent rise in the average salary for the sector was probably a little high as it was based only on jobs advertised through that business. . . 

Federated Farmers mourns the loss of life member Gordon Stephenson:

Federated Farmers expresses their deepest sympathies to the family of farmer and environmentalist Gordon Stephenson who died on Boxing Day.

A stalwart of Federated Farmers, Mr. Stephenson served as national chairman of the dairy section from 1973 to 1977 and instigated the Farm Environment Awards in 1991.

“Gordon was instrumental in the formation of QEII National Trust and the legacy he’s left behind can be seen all around the country in the land and native forests now voluntarily protected by farmers through the Trust,” says Federated Farmers National President Dr. William Rolleston. . . 

Farm Environment Awards Founder Leaves Lasting Legacy:

The passing of Farm Environment Awards founder Gordon Stephenson is a huge loss for New Zealand agriculture, Simon Saunders, chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFET), says.

“Gordon was a farsighted and inspirational leader. As a passionate advocate for conservation he was steadfast in his belief that good farming and good environmental management go hand in hand. This message is still very much at the heart of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) today.”

Mr Saunders says the establishment of NZFET and the success of the BFEA programme are legacies of Gordon Stephenson’s drive and vision. . . 

Federated Farmers grieves loss of former Chief Executive:

Federated Farmers is saddened by the death of former Chief Executive Tony St Clair.

Mr. St Clair served as Chief Executive between 1997 and 2005 following several years as Executive Director of the Victorian Farmers Federation.

“Tony was an inspirational and passionate advocate for agriculture and farming and he had an intimate and detailed knowledge and understanding of Federated Farmers,” says Federated Farmers National President Dr. William Rolleston. . . .

 

Fonterra Announces Record Export Volumes in December:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced it has exported record volumes for the month of December 2015.

Export data for the Co-operative in December confirms the new record for a single month’s volume, with more than 300,000 MT shipped to its global markets.

December’s volume was approximately 10 per cent higher than Fonterra’s previous record month in December 2014. . . 

NZ honey exports double in November on manuka demand – Tina Morrison::

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand honey exports doubled in November as the country benefited from demand for high-value manuka honey.

The value of honey exports jumped to $27.4 million in November from $13.6 million the same month a year earlier, according to the latest Statistics New Zealand data. That helped boost the annual value of honey exports in the 12 months through November by 45 percent to $281 million, the figures showed.

New Zealand is the world’s third-largest exporter of honey by value, behind China and Argentina. However it is only the 16th biggest global supplier on a volume basis, reflecting the premium price garnered for manuka honey, which accounts for as much as 80 percent of New Zealand exports and is prized for its health benefits. . .

Final report into killer swedes released:

The group investigating the fatal poisoning of hundreds of animals by swedes in Southland has issued one last warning to farmers not to feed herbicide tolerant swedes to cows in the spring.

The Southland Swedes working group today released its final report into the incident which left hundreds – if not thousands – of sheep and cows dead across the region.

In 2014 farmers across Southland reported sick, dead and dying livestock – after they’d been fed on swedes – mostly a new herbicide tolerant variety developed and sold by PGG Wrightson Seeds.

Farmers were subsequently warned by industry experts not to feed the HT Swede variety to cows when they were heavily pregnant or with calves – because the chemically mutated HT swedes were producing unnaturally high levels of glucosinolates that are toxic to livestock. . . 

 Recreational fishing parks proposed in Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds as part of Marine Protected Area reform:

The Government has today launched a consultation document on a new Marine Protected Areas Act to replace the Marine Reserves Act 1971 that includes proposals for recreational fishing parks in the inner Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

“We are proposing a new system of marine protection that will include marine reserves, species-specific sanctuaries, seabed reserves, and recreational fishing parks. This more sophisticated approach with four different types of marine protection is similar to the graduated approach we take to reserves on land that vary from strict nature reserves to those for a specific or recreational purpose,” says Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“We want to improve community and iwi involvement in marine protection and develop a comprehensive network of areas that better protects marine life and which enhances New Zealanders’ enjoyment of our marine environment.” . . 

Seafood industry supports sustainable fisheries:

The seafood sector supports effective marine conservation, its Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst said today.

He was commenting on today’s release of a consultation document on a new Marine Protected Areas Act to replace the Marine Reserves Act 1971 that includes proposals for recreational fishing parks in the inner Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

The proposals would cut commercial fishing in the proposed areas. . . 

Easing NZ Dollar Helps Lift Local Wool Market:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s C.E.O, Mr John Dawson reports that the first sale after the Christmas break of approximately 13,700 bales from the North Island saw a generally firmer market in local terms with 98.5 percent selling.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies eased 1.3 percent compared to the last sale on 17th December, however compared to the US dollar the New Zealand was back 1.9 percent. This weakening NZ dollar underpinned the market for most types. . . 

Grow Food, Not Lawns's photo.


Rural round-up

November 28, 2015

Trade agreement opens door for agricultural exporters:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has dominated media recently, but a Lincoln University expert says an equally significant trade-related development has gone largely unnoticed.

Agribusiness and Commerce lecturer Eldrede Kahiya said the Global Procurement Agreement (GPA) – which New Zealand became part of in August – opened up a $2.65 trillion-dollar market for New Zealand exporters.

Dr Kahiya said the GPA came within the framework of the World Trade Organization, and was designed to make it easier to compete for foreign government contracts. . . 

Livestock antibiotics to be replaced with vaccines by 2030:

Antibiotics for livestock are likely to be replaced with various vaccines by about 2030, and the value of New Zealand meat exports will grow because of the switch.

That growth was among the findings in a new report by the Veterinary Association, which shows the antibiotic era was coming to an end because of a growing resistance to them.

A consultant for the Association, Eric Hillerton, said antibiotics would still exist but they would not be a first choice in animal health. . . 

Slight drop in production keeps focus on high value products:

Westland Milk Products says its 2.5 percent drop in peak milk processing has meant more capacity available for the co-operative and its shareholders, enabling more focus on added-value product.

Chief Executive Rod Quin today confirmed that Westland hit peak mid November. In total, Westland processed 3,843,250 litres of milk by peak flow, compared with 3,931,022 the season prior.

“This slight drop, combined with our new dryer seven coming into commercial production meant we had greater capacity to put more of the peak milk flow into higher value products,” Quin said. “In previous years peak milk has all been channelled into bulk milk powders to maintain throughput, which give a lower return compared to products such as infant formula. . . 

Peter Tate makes the case for the broker and auction based system to sell New Zealand’s wool – Peter Tate:

New Zealand agriculture efficiently produces large volumes of commodities and while it would be great to have a stake in all the added value from the front end of the commodity chain, the large amounts of capital both intellectual and financial required, makes it difficult to achieve.

There are some companies that seek publicity about sales contracts they have made. That’s fine but often the fanfare is over a very small volume of product. This distorts the view growers have of marketing to the point that they think these companies are the only ones doing anything to market the NZ wool clip.

The real exporters, those with the long track records, continue to stay out of the limelight. This is due to what is called commercial sensitivity, it is an extremely competitive business. More cut throat than meat marketing, hence the old Yorkshire phrase “meaner than a mill boss”. So the firms who are selling and shipping  90% of the NZ clip remain tight lipped about their daily deals. . . 

RSE employers praise seasonal worker scheme:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says two recent reports show the huge benefits of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to employers, workers and the Pacific region.

A report into a pilot project involving 640 Tongan and Samoan RSE workers has found that they sent home more than 40 per cent of their take-home income between November 2014 and June 2015 –an average of between $4,600 and $5,500.

“Remittances have been playing an increasingly important role in reducing the scale and severity of poverty in the developing world,” says Mr Woodhouse. . . 

Praise for seasonal employment scheme:

Experience confirms two recent reports showing huge benefits from the scheme to employers and workers, the Rural Contractors Association says.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse released the reports in which employers continued to praise the scheme, with an annual survey showing 95 percent believed the benefits of participating in the scheme outweighed the costs.

Rural Contractors President Steve Levet said it had made great inroads into being able to bring in seasonal machine operators to alleviate a shortage of labour in that area. . . 

Sound science point of difference for Waipara winemakers:

More than two decades of soil science work in the Waipara area has been brought together in a document launched at a Vineyard Soils Day at Black Estate Vineyard this week.

The document was received with enthusiasm as an invaluable resource by local wine growers, who acknowledged the potential for far greater collaboration in research initiatives between wine growers and Lincoln University.  

Former Lincoln University soil scientist Dr Philip Tonkin, Associate Professor Peter Almond, current Head of the Soil and Physical Sciences Department, Trevor Webb from Landcare Research, and other scientists, have spent the best part of the last two years drawing together available information on the geology and soils of the region gathered in the last 20 years, along with the records of former Soil Bureau surveys. . . 


Quote of the day

August 24, 2015

. . . But I’m also sure that we can write all the rules and regulations we like. What is going to make the step change in our workplaces is different attitudes and different behaviours. And that’s going to involve all of us, not just the health and safety rep with the high-vis vest. Every single person in the workplace has got to contribute to that. Michael Woodhouse

 


NZ open for business and people

July 27, 2015

Prime Minister John Key today used his speech to the National Party conference yesterday to reiterate his Government’s commitment to an open economy which embraces free trade and immigration.

. . . Earlier generations could never have imagined the global opportunities opening up for New Zealand.
I want to lead a country that embraces those opportunities.
An open and confident country that backs itself on the world stage.
As I’ve said many times, we won’t get rich selling things to 4.5 million New Zealanders.
But we could by selling to 4.5 billion people overseas.
Our Party supports strong international connections.
We value the benefits that free trade agreements deliver and the opportunities they offer.
I back our farmers, our manufacturers, our ICT companies and in fact all our export industries to succeed.
If we can get an equal crack at world markets, we’re up there with the best in the world.
That opportunity is what free trade is about for New Zealand.
When the previous Government, with the full support of National, signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, our annual exports to that country totalled $2.5 billion.
Since then, they’ve quadrupled and China is now our biggest trading partner.
That FTA has had huge benefits for New Zealand.
Just a few months ago, I was in Seoul to witness Tim Groser signing another free trade agreement – this time with Korea.
When that agreement comes into force, half our exports to Korea will immediately be tariff-free, and almost all the rest will follow.
I can tell you that the kiwifruit growers of Te Puke are going to be delighted when the 45 per cent tariffs they currently face are finally removed.
We’re also in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
TPP has been a big focus for our Government.
A successful conclusion will mean a trade agreement with a number of countries, including the giant economies of the United States and Japan.
This is something that successive governments in New Zealand, of both stripes, have been actively pursuing for many years.
That’s because it will mean better deals for Kiwi producers and exporters, better access to world markets, and better prospects for growing those markets in the future.
It will help diversify the economy through a broader range of trade and investment relationships.
And it will flow through to higher incomes and more jobs for New Zealanders.

The ability to export freely and earn the returns from exports unhampered by tariffs and other protective measures is one part of our international connectedness.

Immigration is the other.

New Zealand’s connectedness with the world is also about people coming to New Zealand to live and work.

Immigration benefits New Zealand because people coming here provide more of the labour, skills, capital and business links we need to grow.
A lot of people coming to New Zealand settle here in Auckland.
But as I go around other parts of New Zealand, mayors and employers often tell me they can’t get enough workers of the type local businesses need.
Southland, for example, is always crying out for workers in the dairy sector.
Across the whole South Island, in fact, the unemployment rate is a very low 3.6 per cent.
I can assure people that New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs. That will not change.
And Auckland, as our largest city, will continue to grow.
But I believe we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors.
So today I’m announcing some changes to our immigration settings.
The first is aimed at encouraging people who come to New Zealand as skilled migrants to take up jobs in in the regions.
Around 10,000 skilled migrants get residence each year, together with their family members, and almost half of them come to Auckland.
We want to balance that out a bit, by attracting more people into other parts of the country to help grow local economies.
Currently, skilled migrants with a job offer get 10 extra points if that job is outside Auckland, and those points count towards the 100 they require.
From 1 November, we will treble that, and give them 30 extra points.
In return, they’ll have to commit to a region for at least 12 months – up from the current requirement of three months.
New Zealand also needs entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing firms and create jobs.
So the second change we’ll make is to encourage entrepreneurs wanting to come to New Zealand to look for business opportunities in the regions.
Last year we launched an Entrepreneur Work Visa, targeting migrants who offer high-level business experience, capital and international connections.
Currently, people applying for this visa get 20 extra points if they set up a business outside Auckland, and that counts towards the 120 they require.
From 1 November, we will double that to 40 extra points.
Immigration New Zealand expects to approve up to 200 people next year under this visa.
With the changes we’re making, we expect to see most of these entrepreneurs setting up or growing businesses outside Auckland and creating new jobs across the country.
The third change I’m announcing will help employers find out faster whether New Zealanders are available to fill a particular vacancy, before they lodge a visa application with Immigration New Zealand.
From 1 November, they’ll be able to contact Work and Income directly to check availability.
This is a small measure, but it’s been really appreciated by employers in Queenstown and we’re extending it across the country.
The fourth announcement I want to make today is that the Government intends to provide a pathway to residence for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
These people and their families have been in New Zealand for a number of years.
Their children are at schools. Their families are valuable members of their communities. And they are conscientious workers paying their taxes.
Their employers want to hold onto them because there aren’t enough New Zealanders available.
Around 600 overseas workers in lower-skilled occupations in the South Island have been rolling over short-term work visas for more than five years.
We envisage offering residency to people in this sort of situation, who commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.
We’ll set out the details of this pathway early next year.
Finally, the Government will consider a new global impact visa.
This would be targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.
There’s been quite a bit of interest in this idea and we’re going to look at it carefully over the next few months.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Taken together, the changes I’ve announced today will contribute to a better balance in our immigration settings.
They will help spread the benefits of migration across the country, particularly in those regions crying out for workers, skills and investment.
As I said earlier, we need to be more connected with the world, because that’s where our opportunities come from.
This is just one small part of that approach.
We’ll also continue to press on with free trade agreements, build stronger investment links, and embrace the openness and connectedness that characterises successful countries in the 21st Century. . .

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said:

. . . “Thousands of people from all over the world are moving to New Zealand because it is a good place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Those people make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth by providing skills, labour and capital we need, along with valuable cultural and business links.

“New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and that won’t change,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Currently, many new migrants settle in Auckland, which faces infrastructure challenges as it transforms into a truly international city. At the same time, business owners in other parts of New Zealand often struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet their demands.

“While there are already incentives to encourage migrants to move to areas outside of Auckland, we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors,” Mr Woodhouse says.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

In addition, from mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Most workers in lower skilled jobs must apply to renew their work visas every year. Some of these people have worked hard and paid tax to New Zealand for many years. They are valued at work and in their community, but have no avenue to settle here permanently.

“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

These are very welcome changes which will make it easier for immigrants to settle in the regions and for employers in the regions to attract and retain staff.

I know a family who will benefit from the new policy to allow people on temporary visas who’ve been here for at least five years to settle.

They’ve been here for a decade, working, paying tax and contributing to the community.

They’ve spent 10s of thousands on immigration consultants but don’t have enough points to gain residency.

They are good people who would make good citizens and now they will be able to stay in the place they call home.

That’s good for them and the small town where they live.

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

This announcement shows National is open to business and people, a policy from which we’ll all benefit.


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