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.


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.


If the Greens weren’t so red

January 22, 2020

Another delivery failure from the government:

No progress has been made on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary over the past two years despite specific Government promises in their coalition agreements to do so, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“Written Parliamentary Question to Ministers reveal the Government has all but given up on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There has been no Cabinet papers and little work by Ministers or officials on the sanctuary. There has been no meetings, no correspondence, and no official papers in more than six months.

“There is now no realistic prospect of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary being put in place during this term of Parliament, despite specific promises in the Confidence and Supply agreement with the Green Party to do so.

“Far from helping to create the new Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, the Government has blocked attempts to progress it. They have put my original Government Bill to create the sanctuary at the bottom of the work schedule and repeatedly blocked my Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Members Bill from being introduced.

“This important sanctuary would protect an area of ocean twice the land area of New Zealand and hundreds of threatened marine species. The Kermadec Sanctuary now joins a long list of policies this Government has failed to deliver on.”

The government hasn’t delivered on this coalition agreement promise which is Greens’ core policy because that party hasn’t the bargaining power of NZ First which is beholden to the fishing industry.

If the Greens weren’t so red they might have contemplated a coalition with National and had no argument about creating the sanctuary.

But the party is deeply red and the environment is the loser because of that.

 


Closed and opaque

December 6, 2019

Didn’t Jacinda Ardern promise to lead an open and transparent government?

That promise has been broken again:

Labour’s decision today to block the request of former New Zealand First President Lester Gray and former Treasurer Colin Forster is the Government covering up serious allegations of financial impropriety of its coalition partner New Zealand First, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“There was no good reason for blocking these senior New Zealand First officials from being heard at the Justice Select Committee on electoral law. They sought the hearing because they had serious concerns about the failure to disclose major donations, unauthorised campaign expenditure and concerns over the New Zealand First Foundation.

No-one with any knowledge of running a political party and election campaign could believe that a party could do that on membership subs, members’ fund raising and donations under the disclosable amount alone.

If the way the NZ First Foundation has been used to funnel donations is within the law then the law must change.

“They were fearful of speaking publically with threats of legal action and the Justice Committee provided a safe place for them to disclose their knowledge of what has occurred.

“Labour is part of a cover up in denying the Committee and New Zealand the opportunity to hear their concerns.

“These issues in New Zealand First go to the heart of our democracy and the result of Election 2017. New Zealanders have a right to know who were the financial backers of the Party that was decisive in the 2017 Election outcome.

We also have a right to see if any dots can be joined between those backers and NZ First policy.

“New Zealand First was the only Party that did not disclose the source of any donations and it had 10 times the value of anonymous donations of any other Party at Election 2017. It has also been revealed since that $500,000 was secretly contributed to the New Zealand First Foundation.

“Labour’s denial to allow senior New Zealand First officials to submit to the Justice Select Committee makes a joke of the Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever.

“There could be nothing more important than the transparency of the source of funding for the Party that ultimately determined the Government.

“This is deja vu of the New Zealand First funding scandal that led to the defeat of the last Labour Government. Labour has learnt nothing and is continuing to cover for New Zealand First’s shady dealings.”

The failure to deliver open and transparent government joins a growing list of this administration’s record of rhetoric unmatched by action.

This government is closed and opaque and its MPs’ veto of  NZ First’s former office holders to be heard is another brick in the wall between its promises and delivery.


Bold intentions bad policy

May 22, 2019

Farming leaders are meeting the government today to discuss problems with the Zero Carbon Bill.

National MPs voted for the Bill at yesterday’s first reading but expressed serious concerns over details:

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National): The National Party takes climate change seriously. I want to just reflect on the fact that, as a Minister of the Crown, in my last three years I lead on electrification of our vehicle fleet, of our energy system, and wider than simply electricity, that when it comes to renewables, we saw New Zealand go from 65 percent in electricity to some 85 percent—and, on a good day, 90 percent. By the way, the trend right now is downwards. So, we understand these issues. We take these issues seriously.

I gave—in fact, in one of my first speeches as leader of the National Party, at Field Days, on the issue of climate change last year. I set out our principles and our desire to be bipartisan on this issue, because I agree with James Shaw that it is too important—economically, socially, and, clearly, environmentally—for petty partisanship. Can I acknowledge Todd Muller in relation to that, for having done an outstanding job of thinking through the difficult and the intricate economic, social, environmental issues that go with this area of reform, and for working hard with James Shaw, with the Prime Minister, and with me on this law change.

What I said in that speech at Field Days was, yes, we believed—in fact, before the Government had stated their position, I think—in an independent advisory climate commission, with the requisite expertise economically, socially, environmentally, to do the work and the mahi required. I set out our principles in this area that we would follow and that we think should be followed on climate change. It is science based—that we work heavily on innovation and technology; that there are appropriate economic signals; that we are in step with and work closely with our international partners; and that we think very carefully and understand the economic impact of this. I am glad to say that in the bill that is before this Parliament right now those principles that we outlined are there, as is the split treatment of gases that we made clear in that speech, and our position was the right approach. Those principles, those things, as I say, are in the bill. For those reasons, the National Party will vote for this bill at the first reading, but I want to be very clear with the Government: on this bill, we have real differences with the Government, and I’ve made them clear to the Hon James Shaw, to the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, and indeed to the New Zealand First Party. We need to see change in this law.

The primary area of difference that we have—it may not surprise the Parliament—is in relation to the methane target. There is, in short, no satisfactory basis for setting the targets in 2030 and 2050 as high as the Government has chosen to do in this bill. The 2030 target is negative 10 percent, the 2050 target is negative 24 to 47 percent, and I reflect, when I think about the 2030 target, on what James Shaw has realistically, I think, said himself: that emissions in New Zealand are going to rise into and beyond the mid-2020s. So he is making it quite clear to New Zealand, in terms of methane and agriculture and what needs to be done, that that change is literally in the last three, four, five years before that target is to be met in 2030.

The stark reality is that the science isn’t there yet. I am all for investment in the science. I argued, in the previous Cabinet, that we needed to increase the funding we were making in Palmerston North in science in the Global Research Alliance to make sure— . . 

I say, actually, that biotech is an incredibly important part of this answer. I think it’s a tragedy that the Green Party outright rules it out and the Labour Party isn’t sure of its position. Actually, Sir Peter Gluckman and people like William Rolleston, who know what they’re talking about, have made quite clear that it is an essential part of the answer. The reality is that, without doing that, by 2030 we will be culling significantly our herds. That’s not alarmist; that’s the reality of the situation. When half of our exports around the world are food, Mr Peters, who’s shaking his head on this issue, that’s how we pay our way around the world, and we take that seriously as well.

No one else—none of our partners—are doing this. They may have moved in other areas. There is not a country in this world, no First World nation, that is moving on agriculture, in what is a global problem that requires global leadership. But also, if we act unilaterally, it simply sends that production offshore, and 2050—a target set by the other side, unilaterally cherry picked, I’m sorry to say, for political purposes from parts of the United Nations report, but economically disastrous, wrong on the science. Don’t trust me; ask the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, ask Professor David Frame, ask many of the experts in the science throughout New Zealand who argue for a much lower target of 10 to 22 percent methane reduction, a target too high in this bill for the National Party and for New Zealand. The whole purpose of this bill, it seems to me, in dealing with climate change is based around an independent climate commission that provides reasoned, worked-through, evidence-based advice, and my position certainly is that that is where we should be sending the methane targets for an answer on that issue to be thought through. The Government will say that’s non-binding but certainly, if done well, difficult to ignore, and I’ve made those points to the Prime Minister and others.

I’m also concerned and the National Party, on behalf of New Zealanders, is deeply concerned about the wider economic impact of this law. We take climate change seriously, but we cannot accept—indeed, we believe it’s naive—when James Shaw stands up in this House and says that it’s the single greatest economic opportunity for us in at least a generation. James Shaw—I respect him; he believes we can bend the arc on climate change quite quickly, rip the plaster off and get to some sort of economic innovation nation nirvana. Well, the reality is not that simple. Short of someone inventing the new iPhone or the next great big thing, this will have very real economic consequences on working Kiwis, on working New Zealand families and on their petrol costs and their electricity costs and their incomes and their jobs. Indeed, the RIS on this bill—the regulatory impact statement—makes quite clear that, even with a tailwind, there is $300 billion of cost to 2050 on the New Zealand economy and New Zealand workers and families; a reduction in gross domestic product by 9 percent in GDP, $10 billion to $12 billion a year; and indeed at 2050 a $45 billion smaller economy.

So I say: let’s have an honest discussion with New Zealanders about this—the costs and the trade-offs—but let’s be clear, Hon James Shaw, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, that those costs are real. There’s a phenomenon in our rural communities, which I’m sure others in my party will speak about—but what is happening right now with dairy conversions and other farming conversions and the very real effect of this Government’s policies, the billion trees and so on, for no good, that’s actually resulting in a hollowing out already in some parts of New Zealand. We worry and we’re concerned about that on behalf of New Zealand.

We get climate change, we want bipartisanship, but all New Zealand needs to come on this journey. We want to see this bill changed—it’s essential that it is—so that we take out the politics; we do this on the policy. I urge New Zealanders to be heard on this, from the students to the farmers, right around the country.  . . 

TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak for the first time on the Climate Change Response, (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. Just over a year ago, our leader, Simon Bridges, in the Fieldays, outlined our approach that we would take in the negotiations with the Government over this bill. He touched on some of the principles that he felt, from a National Party perspective, were absolutely critical to inform this commission’s judgment. 

The first was the importance of broad science. The second was the fact that we needed as an economy to have access to innovation and technology to assist us on this journey. The third was that we needed to calibrate our response, aligned with our trading partners in the global response. Fourthly, we saw a key role in the emissions trading scheme as a signal and an incentive for the change over time. Fifthly—and most critically—that we assure ourselves of the economic costs of this transition. At the core of the National Party approach to this issue is that climate change is an issue that we have to confront as a collective country, but we do it best when we are informed in a dispassionate way about what the science is suggesting is available in terms of innovation for us to apply and what the economic costs are for this change. 

We have had a fair discussion with the Government over the last 10 or 12 months. As I noted the last time I spoke—last week—for most of that period, it has been a very forthright and goodwill-based conversation between myself and my opposite number, James Shaw, and we are very pleased to see that in this legislation are the key tenets that underpin our principles and approach to climate change. There is science to inform the conversation and judgment of the commission. Innovation and the availability of that innovation is a critical part of their judgment. So is global response and so is the economic costs that we need to reflect on as a country, as is the importance of this commission being advisory and also the approach with respect to split gases. But, clearly, we have a challenge with respect to the target that has been landed with respect to methane. 

I listened closely to what the Prime Minister said, and her speech today, more than anything else, reinforces the importance of having a commission to reflect on where this methane target should be. She spoke with authority in terms of her own interpretation of what the science says. She talked to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which says that minus 24 percent to minus 47 percent of an interquartile range of four illustrative pathways out of 85, and each one of those pathways is hugely challenging. Most of them actually don’t see the economies reaching the targets, and they say in that report they are not to be used for national guidance. She used one line out of that and said, “That that works, and I’m cloaking science and the credibility of my comments around that.” It is nonsense. That interquartile range is just one line from a series of illustrative pathways that can be considered by countries as they walk this journey. David Frame says methane should stay at minus 10 percent; the Parliamentary Commissioner: minus 10 to 22 percent. 

The point is: why are we having this debate in this House? None of us are qualified, from a scientific perspective, to hold a view, when the economic cost of getting this wrong is eye-watering. This is not something that you can just wash away with lovely words. If we get this wrong, regional New Zealand will not look the same again. If we get this wrong, the standard of living that exists in this country will be materially impacted. The whole purpose of a bipartisan conversation around establishing a commission is for them to look at the competing objectives of science, of available innovation, of what the rest of the world is doing, and of what the economic impacts are.

The emphasis is mine because this is very important – the cost of getting it wrong is high in both economic and social concerns for no significant environmental gains.

The view expressed by the Government that the primary pinnacle perspective that floods all of this legislation is that we must do our bit to keep the global temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Well, the global temperature is already over 1 degree Celsius, it’s pushing to 1.3 degrees Celsius, and this country is 0.17 percent of global emissions. The very idea that our collective effort will somehow impact the global temperature is nonsense. We have to call this for what it is. One point five is an objective in this legislation, it is one of the perspectives that the commission has to bring to bear along with what the science says is possible, what innovation is available to apply across the economy at a cost that works, and what the economic impacts are for New Zealanders.

The regulatory impact statement talks to the modelled cost on this economy between the current gazetted target, that we have supported previously as the National Government, and what is suggested in this bill. The sum of the difference is $300 billion; $45 billion different than what it would be if we stayed with the National Party’s target. Prime Minister, I’m sorry, those modelled assumptions assume that electricity has been integrated across our entire transport sector, assume that electricity is in our industrial heat, and assume that we have found technology to support our opportunity in the agriculture sector—all those innovations are baked into the model and it still costs us $300 billion.

That’s a lot of assumptions.

So for us to sit here and say “This is a new nirvana and we’re just going to walk there together.” is not giving New Zealanders credit. This is hard transitional stuff. It will cost and it will continue to cost, there will be opportunities there as well, but it is going to cost. The Government’s own regulatory statement talks to the scale of the cost. I’d venture to suggest that there would not be a bill that has been in front of this House in the last two decades that has a regulatory impact statement saying that the cost is $300 billion. But on this side of the House, we stand willing to support a conversation around a commission that can guide us; but to frame this up as a headlong run, to commit to 1.5 degrees Celsius even if the rest of the world doesn’t, and that those other conditions are secondary is flawed, from our perspective—seriously flawed.

I am not arguing that we do not progress our own emissions reduction journey over the next 10, 15, or 20 years. I am not suggesting that because it’s $300 billion we do nothing, because the world expects us to play our part. What I am saying is that our communities expect us to be prudent and to be measured and to use evidence as we slowly make this transition, because if we get it wrong, the Taumarunuis, the Te Kūitis, the small communities who have been so strongly underpinned by our agricultural exports and activity, the most efficient and effective emissions efficient food producing sector in the world—I repeat that for people listening at home: our agricultural sector is already the most emissions efficient food producing sector in the world. No one here suggests that New Zealand does not put its shoulder to the wheel, but we must not be so naive that we get crushed under the axle. We need to be seriously measured and prudent as we step through this. That is why, when we go to the select committee, I hope—and I echo my leader’s comments—from students to farmers to academics to those who just have a passing interest in this: please, we want to hear your voices. We want to hear the scientists—you’ve rung me, I want to hear you at that select committee, because, as James Shaw has said himself, this is an opportunity but we have to do this together.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): National is supporting the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill because a climate change commission is a good idea that will help New Zealand make progress on the challenging issue of climate change. This is the National Opposition being both responsible and being constructive about one of the most challenging issues that faces our country and, actually, faces the world.

I brought five climate change – related bills to this Parliament during the last Government. On not one did the Opposition support it. I do say it is a big step for an Opposition party to say, yes, it wants to back this idea because it’s constructive.

I’m the only member of this House that was here when New Zealand signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. You might not believe it, I was even younger than Chlöe Swarbrick, and I was privileged to be part of the New Zealand delegation to Rio de Janeiro when that initial convention was signed. But if there’s an important lesson from the intervening 25 years that this Parliament must recognise it’s that good intentions are not enough to be able to address this issue.

I’ve totalled up that over a hundred countries have made bold commitments on climate change that have failed and come to naught. The reason the Climate Change Commission is such an important part of the solution is that it will enable us to be able to have a more constructive, a more open, and a more honest conversation about how we actually can make progress on this issue. When the world signed up to the UN convention on climate change, global emissions were 24 billion tons. The commitment was to stabilise them. Today they’re 37 billion tons, or 60 percent greater.

I have to say, I’m a bit tired of big, bold commitments that set ambitions way beyond members of this House, or beyond the term of the Prime Minister or the climate change Minister, without the grit as to how you’re going to get there. I remind this Parliament that Prime Minister Helen Clark in coalition with the Alliance Party, including the Greens, came to Government in 1999. They said it was our “nuclear-free moment”. Sound familiar? They said their goal was carbon neutrality. Well, what happened during the nine years of that Clark Government, supported by both the Alliance and then the Greens? Emissions went up by 10 percent. We actually went backwards on renewables from 73 percent of our electricity being renewable to 65 percent being renewable. So my plea to this House is to not be carried away with big bold intentions but to actually look to the policies that will make a material difference to our country and globally making a difference on this issue.

I remember when our party in Government worked hard to secure the Paris Agreement. Members on this side of the House say, “Actually, New Zealand needs to do its fair share, but the solution to this has to be globally.” and I’m proud of the role that we played in securing the Paris Agreement and of New Zealand’s commitment to a 30 percent reduction by 2030. But the part that I do have to challenge parties opposite—and this part, for, me is extraordinary—is that in all the talk we know that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the key of this issue. And I choked on my cornflakes. I literally could not believe it—that when we’re describing climate change as an emergency, when we’re saying it is our nuclear-free moment, to hear the Minister for Climate Change say that he expected emissions to continue to increase until 2025. I’m sorry; this has got an awful sound like KiwiBuild and some of the other big, bold intentions of Government—of not having followed through. Effectively, what James Shaw said on the radio is that this Government would not do as well as the previous Key Government in making progress, and that would be a grave disappointment.

I also want to make a plea for scientific literacy around the issue of climate change. I totally support the provisions of this bill that set up the Climate Change Commission. The reason the Climate Change Commission is a good step forward is that with the expertise, with the setting of budgets—not just big, bold targets but actions—it will enable us to get down emissions and that will help us get there. But scientific literacy is important. This notion of this bill being called “Carbon Zero” is really a misnomer. The first thing is, carbon is not the problem; carbon is at the heart of life. There would not be life on this planet without the existence of carbon. The issue is greenhouse gas emissions. Some of those greenhouse gases do not even have carbon in them: 11 percent of New Zealand’s emissions are nitrous oxide, which we are—I’m sorry; where’s the carbon in nitrous oxide? If this bill was to be scientifically literate—and I continuously have a problem with the Green Party in not being scientifically literate—it should be a bill referring to greenhouse gases, at the very least carbon dioxide and methane that are the core issues.

Now, my colleagues have rightly challenged the notion of these incredibly bold targets around the issue of methane, one of the significant gases for New Zealand. Here’s my problem. I haven’t heard a single Government member or the Minister tell us how a mid-range on a 35 percent reduction in emissions can be achieved. You know how I think they can be achieved? I think our best hope is biotechnology. When I look at the development by Landcare Research of ryegrass that can achieve as much as a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions, I see light, I see hope, I see a solution. For me, what is extraordinary is for the Government to set targets for the agricultural sector that go beyond what the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and scientists have said are realistic, and then take away from our agricultural sector and our farmers the very tools that would enable us to achieve those targets. So my last challenge to the Government is let’s have a conversation about the actions.

I say to Minister Shaw, let’s have an honest conversation about the cost. Ten years ago, I bought an electric car. It cost me $84,000. The petrol equivalent was $26,000. There is a real cost. My community at the moment is looking about getting electric buses. The cost of an electric bus is about $800,000, compared with $180,000 for the diesel equivalent. There is a real cost. If we want to convert over to wind, solar, and those energies, let’s have the honest conversation that there is a real cost.

For those who pretend that those costs can be ignored, I ask them to look at the yellow vest protests in France, to realise that if we are to win these arguments, we need to take New Zealanders with us. Blind open commitments that say there are no cost impacts on New Zealanders, in making progress on climate change, risk repeating the mistakes I’ve seen of the last 25 years, and it is not being upfront and honest about the trade-offs that we need to have.

I’m very proud to have invited Lord Deben to New Zealand, the architect of the climate change commission legislation in the UK, and of being a member of the Environment Committee that triggered our visit there. In my view, the Climate Change Commission is a step in the right direction, but don’t let any member of this House pretend that establishing a Climate Change Commission is going to take away the really gritty, the really tough, the really difficult issues that we have to work through in our energy sector, in our agricultural sector, in our transport sector, and in our industrial sector, if we’re going to have another round of meaningless targets and not get the runs on the board to really make progress on this huge issue.

If the government wants National’s support for progressing the BIll at subsequent readings it will have to start accepting the science.

It will also have to take far more account of economic and social costs.

The bold intentions in the Bill are no compensation for the faults which make it bad policy.


Three day stay

May 13, 2019

National MP Louise Upston has a Member’s Bill to support new mothers:

The first few days after giving birth are some of the most important, but can also be the most challenging for new mums.

“National is proposing that new mums should be entitled to three days of care after giving birth, and that support should be available after each child.

“At the moment, new mothers have 48 hours of care funded by DHBs, but we know that they’re often encouraged to leave as soon as possible. This sort of pressure can cause additional stress in what is already a stressful time.

Many aren’t just encouraged to leave, they’re told they have to leave and often just an hour or so after their baby is delivered.

That’s not always optimal for those with support from husbands, wider family and/or friends at home and it can be difficult at best for those without support.

During the first few days after birth we know mothers can experience the baby blues, have difficulty breast feeding, can be exhausted and sometimes just need a bit of extra help while they build up confidence.

“We believe mums should have a choice in the kind of care that they opt for, whether that’s in a hospital or at a community or private facility. We would make community care available to all women, no matter where they choose to give birth.

“This policy will cost an additional $16-$20 million. It would also be ring-fenced, meaning if one mother only requires one day in care, her additional two days would be used for another mum who might need a five day stay and the money can’t be put into other areas by DHBs.

Not all mothers will need or choose to stay for three days, some will need more. Ring fencing will give birthing centres the funds to provide that extra care when it’s needed.

“National believes the first thousand days are the most important in a child’s life. We will do all that we can so kids get off to a good start and make sure their parents are supported.”

National went into the 2008 election with a promise to fund maternity services to allow mothers to stay in birthing centres until breast feeding was established should they choose to.

It came from a policy I’d pitched at the party’s Southern regional conference that was received so enthusiastically I was asked to present it to the national conference.

When I got down from the stage Nick Smith told me that sometimes good policy is bad politics and bad policy is good politics but this was good policy and good politics.

National did provide funding for the policy in its first Budget after the 2008 election but sometime between then and now the funding evaporated.

I’m delighted that this Bill will, if it’s passed, reinstate the funding.

The science is clear, breastfeeding is best for mothers and babies, if mothers are willing and able to do it.

The willingness and ability are much more likely in a birthing centre with professional help on-hand than at home with limited if any assistance.

An extra day or two of postnatal care could make a huge difference to the mental and physical health of the mother and consequently the wellbeing of the baby.


If can’t count the concrete . . .

April 11, 2019

Statistics NZ has finally come out with the number of partial responses to the census:

Stats NZ’s confirmation that the problems with Census 2018 is not just with the record low response rate, but a doubling in the partial response rate compounds the problems for the State Sector, says National’s State Services Spokesperson Nick Smith.

“We now know over 700,000 people or one in seven New Zealanders did not complete Census 2018. This leaves a huge data hole that will create problems for years in allocating tens of billions of dollars in funding for central state services like health and education, as well as affecting electorate numbers and boundaries for Election 2020.

“Stats NZ needs to accept responsibility for the 2018 Census shambles. It cannot blame the funding when it was 36 per cent greater than Census 2013 and when this budget was underspent. It cannot blame the digital strategy when Australia successfully delivered its 2016 Census with a 95 per cent response rate using a similar strategy.

“Stats NZ botched the delivery of Census 2018 by excessively relying on online responses and providing insufficient neighbourhood backup for others. It compounded the problem by dismissing concerns expressed by Census field offices, commentators and the National opposition when the Census could have been retrieved. . . 

The census shambles hasn’t stopped the department coming out with more things to measure:

Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand is being developed by Stats NZ as a source of measures for New Zealand’s wellbeing. The set of indicators will go beyond economic measures, such as gross domestic product (GDP), to include wellbeing and sustainable development.

The wellbeing indicators will build on international best practice, and will be tailored to New Zealand.  . . 

The indicators cover New Zealand’s current wellbeing, future wellbeing (what we are leaving behind for future generations), and the impact New Zealand is having on the rest of the world. Under these dimensions are a list of topics and indicators developed to measure wellbeing.

You’ll find a link to the suite  of indicators if you click on the link above.  Among them are abstract things like spiritual health,  sense of belonging, ability to be yourself, locus of control and sense of purpose.

If Stats NZ hasn’t managed to properly count concrete things through the census, how on earth is it going to measure these abstract things?

Even if it can, when did spiritual health, a sense of belonging, the ability to be yourself, locus of control (whatever that is) and sense of purpose become the government’s business?

Stats NZ isn’t the only state entity getting touchy-feely.

Eric Crampton reports on a Treasury initiative:

There’s a $35 registration fee for this event at Treasury. . .

I have no clue whether the money goes to the folks running the session or what; I suspect it covers a cost of the deck of cards provided. But they recommend that attendees buy a deck of their cards in advance as practice as well, so attendees would wind up with double the compassion. It’s wonderful how Treasury is helping to promote a small business by hosting it and encouraging folks to buy its products.

Minister Jones would approve, if Heartwork were based in the Provinces.

Here’s the pitch. Treasury is Love.

Imagine surprising Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!

COME TO THIS SOCIAL LAB TO CONNECT AND CREATE TOGETHER.

We’ve created a “compassion starter culture” – a network of people who want to create a more compassionate culture in Aotearoa, starting where we are – in our workplaces.
We’ve been playing and rapidly prototyping with the Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game* – now available publicly. 
We know that the intention for what we want to create has a huge power.
We don’t have all the answers. And we can’t do this mahi alone.

So we’d like to invite you into this social lab.

So we can grow an even more beautiful, and more resilient strain together.
We’ll share what we’re learning while we’re still metabolising. . . 

Crampton concludes:

I, for one, love that this is a priority both for Operations and for Strategy and Performance at Treasury, as indicated by the attendance and presumed endorsement of the Chief Operating Officer and the Manager for Strategy and Performance.

Just imagine how better Treasury would have been prepared for the currency crisis after Muldoon lost election if they had thought to consult both their sun feelings and their moon feelings. I don’t know how New Zealand came through it without that. But we will be far better prepared for the next crisis. Treasury may have few remaining economists, but every single person who remains there will care deeply.

And surely that matters more than anything else.

You can watch a video of the card game here.

Not surprisingly the Taxpayers’ Union isn’t impressed:

Treasury’s ‘well-being’ focus is leading it to replace economic rigor with buzzword culture, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, as top department officials host a ‘social lab’ centered around a ‘Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game’.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The purpose of Treasury is to provide the Government with economic analysis and monitor the success of the wider civil service. It seems this has been abandoned in favour of feel-good card games.”

“It’s no wonder we need a taxpayers’ union when the agency responsible for monitoring public spending is busy trying to ‘surprise Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!’”

“Treasury was once a proud institution, a key cog in the vital economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a bleak vision of the future when you see adult civil servants consulting with their ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ feelings.” . . 

Do the government, and it’s agencies, know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. . . 

 

Image result for maslow hierarchy of need

The government has a role in ensuring some of its citizens’ basic physiological and safety needs are met.

The abstract concepts in the indicators come under psychological and self-fulfilment needs. Most of these aren’t the business of government and those which are won’t be met unless the government and its agencies get the basics – health, education, welfare, housing, infrastructure . . .  right.

 


What’s she hiding?

April 9, 2019

Government Statistician Liz MacPherson is facing a contempt of parliament charge after refusing a select committee request for information on last year’s census:

In an unusual move, a select committee invoked a standing order compelling Statistics NZ chief executive to produce the number of partial responses were received in Census 2018.

This is not a partisan request, the whole committee is seeking an answer.

National state services spokesman Dr Nick Smith said the committee unanimously decided such an extraordinary measure was required after MacPherson again refused to answer on the basis it would require “extensive contextual information”. 

“It is the first time ever that I have seen a select committee having to use its powers to require a public servant to provide an answer to a basic question.

“I can only draw the conclusion that Stats NZ has something to hide.”

This is public information. The refusal to supply it begs the question: what is she trying to hide and why?

Last year’s census was a shambles and the failure to provide parliament with the information requested does nothing to improve confidence in it.

 


Rural round-up

December 13, 2018

Bill’s passage clears way for Dam construction:

The passing of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill has cleared the way for the construction to begin on the largest dam to be built in New Zealand for more than 20 years, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“The Bill passed by 112 – 8 votes and clears the way for a sustainable solution to the regions long standing water problems.

“The passage of this Bill concludes a 17-year tortuous process for developing and gaining approval for a sustainable solution for the regions water problems. This Bill resolves the last issue of access to the conservation and LINZ land. . . 

Govt adopts National’s Bill to stop livestock rustling:

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie is pleased that his Sentencing (Livestock Rustling) Amendment Members Bill has been adopted by the Government as a Supplementary Order Paper on the Crimes Amendment Bill.

“Stock rustling is a crime that cuts to the heart of many rural families and the farming community.

“Theft of livestock from farms or property is estimated to cost the farming community over $120 million a year. More recently, the risk to farms of Mycoplasma bovis spreading through stock theft has added strength to the call to take action. . . 

Something festive for Fonterra farmers? A hint of solace would be a start… – Point of Order:

Fonterra’s  suppliers will be choking on their  Xmas  rations, as they  digest the  price  blows  the co-op  has delivered.  First,  the dairy giant has  revised down  its  forecast milk payout  range  for the season to $6-$6.30 from the  earlier  $6.25-$6.50, and, second,  it is clawing back  some of the $4.15/kg  advance payment  rate.

Farmers  in  January will be paid  $4/kg for the  milk they supplied in  December plus the  co-op  is  clawing  back  15c/kg for all the  milk  supplied   between  June and November.

It  is  not   surprising that farmers   with  costs of  production  running   at  or above  $6/kg  are  reported to  be  “shocked”  and  “angry”.   Even those  efficient  operators   who have  lower  operating costs  won’t be happy  with   Fonterra  saying it  “appreciates”  the budgeting impact  the updated $4 advance rate will have on farmers in  January.  . . 

The facts about nitrogen in horticulture – Mike Chapman:

Stuff recently gave space to an opinion piece from Glen Herud, a dairy farmer, which had a number of inaccurate references to the use of nitrogen in horticulture and horticulture practices in general (Stuff, December 4, 2018).

 It is important to note, the primary industries are working together to address both the real and the perceived impacts of food production on the environment. At Horticulture New Zealand, we are sitting down and talking to key Government Ministers and their officials from the relevant government agencies to look at the best ways to clean up waterways and address climate change. This is how the best policies will continue to be made.

 In his opinion piece, Mr Herud’s numbers and references to research are unsubstantiated. I don’t want this to be a science class, but there is a lot of misinformation about nitrogen being spread around and it is essential to deal in facts, backed by science. . . 

Getting a buzz out of dairying – Samantha Tennent,:

Michael McCombs has had success by putting himself out therein the NZ Dairy Industry Awards, FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest and the Young Farmers Excellence Awards just by doing his thing and loving the journey along the way. Samantha Tennent reports.

A geography class trip sealed the deal for Michael McCombs  – he knew dairy farming was where he wanted to be. He grew up in Upper Hutt, attending Upper Hutt College and from a young age had always planned to become a farmer.

It was a 220-cow farm near Carterton he’d visited with school and thought to himself he’d love to work there.  The following summer holidays he did. It was a once-a-day herd and the owner, Dave Hodder, recommended Michael look at the Taratahi training farm.

“I wasn’t enjoying school and was looking at my options. I landed a spot on the training farm so left school at the end of year 11.” . . 

Milmeq sale expected to expand service offering:

Privately-held New Zealand engineering company Milmeq Limited, a designer and manufacturer of meat processing equipment, will be split and sold in the coming months, but it doesn’t mean the end of the brand. An agreement was signed at the end of last week for the sale of Milmeq’s chilling and freezing capability to New Zealand-listed company Mercer Group Limited, effective from 1 March 2019.

Chairman Ralph Marshall describes the sale as a good move for staff, customers and suppliers.

“Being purchased by a publicly-listed company, with a range of complementary products, positions Milmeq equipment well for future growth. We have been nimble over the years, always innovating to meet market needs, but we anticipate this innovation will further accelerate under the new owners.” . . 


Rural round-up

November 30, 2018

Flying the flag for female farmers – Sally Brooker:

Kerry Watson is a can-do person.

The Five Forks dairy farm worker is the only woman in the Aorangi regional final of the Young Farmer of the Year competition.

But rather than being concerned about its physical challenges, she is more worried about the theory.

Miss Watson (27) grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, until her family emigrated to New Zealand when she was 11. . . 

Farm advisors helping improve water quality – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra’s director of sustainability Carolyn Mortland says she is very heartened by the work farmers are putting into the environment.

“I think we will see it really turning around in future years,” she told Dairy News.

Fonterra recently put out a progress report on its six commitments to improve waterways — one year on from launching the actions. . .

Partnership approach pays off – Pam Tipa:

The partnership approach was a key to Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) winning the industry award at the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards last week, says KVH chief executive Stu Hutchings.

The partnership approach has ensured the industry was better placed for any future biosecurity event, he says.

“There is no doubt that by working in partnership we can achieve better biosecurity outcomes,” Hutchings says. . . 

What’sthe beef with methane? – Eloise Gibson:

The Government’s proposal for a Zero Carbon Bill has exposed an argument between scientists about the importance of methane. But it’s not really about science, as Eloise Gibson reports in this deep-dive news feature.

There’s beef in the world of methane. Like a piece of marbled Wagyu, it is probably quite healthy — if consumed in moderation.

The argument is over when and how much New Zealand should reduce the methane from cow and sheep burps, which make up almost a third of our emissions, as we currently record them. . .

Anonymous anti-dam brochure reckless, says MP:

Nelson MP Nick Smith is concerned at the distress being caused by an anonymous anti-dam brochure delivered to all households in Brightwater that makes false claims of the town being at risk of an eight metre tidal wave if the dam proceeds.

“I am appalled that dam opponents have resorted to this sort of desperate scaremongering. I have had frightened older residents contacting my office scared witless and mothers in tears at the A & P show over the weekend out of fear for their family. Nobody should be publishing or distributing made up claims on issues as serious as earthquake and tidal wave risks.”

“It is bad enough that those responsible for this scaremongering have not put their name to it, but worse that they have tried to give it credibility by using the good names of Dr Mike Johnson of GNS and Tonkin and Taylor. These experts have dismissed the accuracy of the claims in the brochure, saying they are “very misleading” and “mischievous.” . . 

Farmers’ perspective vital to long-term improvements in agricultural practices:

A study published by scientists from The University of Western Australia jointly with farmers is one of the first to address the role of temperate perennial grass pastures in contributing to soil organic carbon in south-western Australia.Intensive sampling was conducted on a trial site near Wagin consisting of a mix of temperate perennial and annual grasses that had been sown over a ten-year period. The results demonstrated the potential of perennial pastures for short-term gain in soil organic carbon stocks.

Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture said temperate perennial grass pastures are currently an uncommon choice in this region but have the potential for future development.  . . 

Yorkshire shepherdess and her nine VERY free-range children: Christmas presents for £2, no computer games and six mile walks to buy a packet of peanuts – meet the ultimate antidote to helicopter parenting:

  • Amanda Owen gave birth to five of her nine children in a car or an ambulance 
  • She lives in an isolated farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales with her large family
  • She grew up in suburban Huddersfield but fell in love with the idea of rural life  
  • Her family were filmed on and off for a year and will star in a TV show next week

Five of Amanda Owen’s nine children were born in either cars or ambulances at the side of the road. Quite frankly, on the tortuous (if scenic) journey to her farmhouse high in the Yorkshire Dales, you wonder how she made it to hospital with any of them.

On the map, it looks as if Amanda, better known as the Yorkshire Shepherdess, lives just a hop and skip from civilisation. In reality, the drive is a precarious one involving a twisty road, with sheer drops. The nearest maternity unit is two hours away. For a woman in labour, in the dark, this must be the road to hell.

Little wonder, then, that when the contractions started for baby No 8, Amanda didn’t even wake husband Clive and tell him to get the car keys. She simply piled towels in front of the fire, gave herself a stern talking to, and eased the baby out with her own hands. . . 


Rural round-up

September 20, 2018

Scratching beneath the surface of Fonterra’s accounts – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s loss of $196 million for the year ended 31 July 2018 has left nowhere for the Fonterra Board to hide. Wisely, it has chosen to take the loss on the chin. In line with this, it has completed the jettisoning of CEO Theo Spierings. Two of its most experienced directors (Wilson and Shadbolt) are also departing.

Fonterra plans to now take stock of the situation before charting a path to the future. However, the latest Fonterra communications at farmer meetings are emphasising debt reduction.

A black and white sort of a guy
New Chairman John Monaghan has been described to me as a black and white sort of a guy. That might be exactly what Fonterra needs; someone who calls a spade a spade and cuts through the public relations massaging that bedevils Fonterra
. . .

Synlait nearly doubles profit in tenth year of operation:

Synlait has reported a net after tax profit (NPAT) of $74.6 million, almost double the NPAT of $39.5 million announced for the same period last year.

The results for the financial year ending 31 July 2018 (FY18) were achieved in a period of large investment, and a renewed focus on the future.

An increase in finished infant formula sales helped to drive this profit, which was enabled by a number of investments in the blending and consumer packaging space. . .

Comedy night to highlight rural wellness:

A group of Kiwi comedians are set to hit the road for a series of shows designed to get farmers off the farm and laughing.

Farmstrong, a group which promotes rural wellness, has helped organise five further comedy nights after a successful sold-out first show in Waikato.

The initiative is also supported by NZ Young Farmers and the Rural Support Trust. They say it aims to help highlight the issue of mental health and wellbeing, and are a way for farmers to take a break. . .

Apropos of this, Farmstrong has a wellbeing check list.

New boss aiming for more talent – Pam Tipa:

To hit targets and ensure a flow of young talented people coming into agriculture requires connecting with everybody.

This is the view of Lynda Coppersmith (48), who takes over as Young Farmers chief executive on October 1.

”If that means we need to do more to connect with women and show young women there is a career path, then let’s do it,” says Coppersmith. . .

Waimea Dam Bill widely supported at first reading:

Support has been welcomed from National, Labour, NZ First and Act parties for the introduction of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill that saw 112 votes in support to eight opposed and its referral to the Governance and Administration Select Committee, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“This Bill is the last critical piece of work required to enable the construction of this dam in the Lee Valley and resolve the long term problems of water security and river health on the Waimea Plains. The project has full resource consents and the $100 million in funding required from horticulturalists, Government and Council. This Bill is about resolving the issue of access to the land for the reservoir in the Mount Richmond Forest Park. . .

Urgent cull of South Island’s Himalayan tahr population ordered by Conservation Minister – Holly Carran:

The Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has ordered an urgent cull of the Himalayan tahr population across the central South Island, claiming the numbers have reached destructive levels.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) wants to remove 10,000 tahr on public conservation land, including the Westland/Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next ten months. 

The Tahr Liaison Group – made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.  . .

Walking Access Commission appoints new Chief Executive:

The Walking Access Commission, the Government’s expert agency on public access to the outdoors, is pleased to announce the appointment of Ric Cullinane as its new Chief Executive.

Mr Cullinane has been the Commission’s Operations Manager since 2010, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new role. . . 


Messier and messier

September 15, 2018

Former minister Clare Curran’s mismanagement has cost taxpayers $107,000.

Dumped chief technology officer candidate Derek Handley has been paid out more than $100,000 in compensation by the Government, Digital Services Minister Megan Woods has confirmed.

Woods said the Government had agreed to pay Handley compensation totalling $107,500 after deciding to put the recruitment process for the country’s first national chief technology officer on hold and “rethinking the role”. 

Woods issued the statement after Handley said the Government had reneged on a commitment to give him the job and paid him three months’ salary, and costs, as compensation.

Handley said he had decided not to keep the money, and would instead donate it towards a fund to support ideas, programmes and grants to tackle “digital inequality”.

Former communications minister Clare Curran resigned first from Cabinet and then as minister after it emerged she met Handley in February to discuss the job and then “omitted” to document the meeting in response to a parliamentary question.

Handley said he was “offered and accepted” the job – which had been billed as offering a salary of up to $400,000 plus a $100,000 travel budget – a month ago.

“Earlier this week I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Government will no longer follow through with their commitment and will not be making that appointment at this time.”  . .

 National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith sums it up:

. . .“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started.

“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled.

“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence.    . .

Point of Order calls this a disgraceful  saga, one  which  has  few parallels  in the history  of state-sector  appointments.

Curran’s resignation as a minister ought to have put this particular mess behind the government, but the mess just keeps getting messier and more expensive.

 


Rural round-up

September 10, 2018

Tasman District Council U-turn on Waimea dam draws mixed reaction –  Cherie Sivignon:

The Tasman District Council decision on Thursday to revoke its earlier in-principle agreement to effectively end the Waimea dam project has received a mixed reaction.

Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith welcomed the 9-5 vote to proceed with the $102 million project after a new funding model was presented to councillors, calling it the right decision for the region’s future.

“The big gains from this project are environmental and economic,” Smith said. “It will enable the minimum flows in summer in the Waimea River to be lifted five-fold and fully meet the national standards for water quality. It will also enable another 1200ha of horticulture, creating more wealth and jobs.” . .

Tough job to get staff – Neal Wallace:

Labour hungry farmers and primary industry employers face stiff competition for school leavers with regional unemployment below 5%, secondary school teachers are warning.

Mid Canterbury’s unemployment rate is 2%, creating a competitive job market with school leavers having multiple offers and attractive wages and employment conditions, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said.

So the days of farmers offering youth rates or minimum wages and expecting them to work 50-hour weeks are gone. . .

Better understanding of nutrient movement – Pam Tipa:

We need a better understanding of nutrient transport across catchments, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Simon Upton.

And he says we also need better understanding of what nutrient models can and can’t do to assist in building a picture and better communication of what is happening to water quality. Upton highlighted several gaps and faults in this information to a recent Environmental Defence Society conference.

The PCE is analysing Overseer as a tool for measuring water pollution from agricultural sources. Upton told the conference he is not yet in a position to preview findings on his Overseer report.

But the need for better understanding of nutrient transport, models and communication were among aspects which so far stand out to him in his findings. . .

Inquiry after lambs killed –  Tim Miller:

Mosgiel man Roy Nimmo says the killing of three of his two-week-old lambs is abhorrent and whoever is responsible should take a long hard look at themselves.

The three lambs were being kept in a paddock next to his home in Cemetery Rd, beside the East Taieri Church, with about 15 other lambs and ewes.

A ewe was also shot in the head but at this stage was still alive, Mr Nimmo said. . .

Agritech deal opens door to US markets – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s agritech innovators will have better access to the massive United States market through two new partnerships.

Agritech New Zealand, which represents some of the country’s top tech companies, has signed an agreement with California-based Western Growers, a trade organisation whose members provide more than half the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables.

Signed last week, the deal will open doors for Kiwi agritech companies to enter the US market via the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology in California and for US-based agritech startups to access the New Zealand market, Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton said. . .

Shortfall of tractor drivers a concern – Yvonne O’Hara:

Although a new apprenticeship scheme will address future labour needs in the horticultural industry nationally, there is also a shortage of skilled tractor drivers and irrigation technicians to work on Central Otago vineyards that needs to be addressed.

The three-year programme provides on the job training and support for 100 new horticulture and viticulture apprentices, and was launched last month.

It is supported by New Zealand Winegrowers, Primary ITO, the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) . .

Don’t take our dairy industry fro granted :

The current drought is showing the detrimental impact that the $1/litre milk and the discounting of dairy products has had on the profitability of dairy farmers across NSW.

Retailers’ behavior to discount dairy products had deteriorated farmers’ economic resilience and the prolonged drought is highlighting the reduced profits of farmers. 

Preparing for drought requires that during good years farmers from across all commodities have extra cash that they reinvest back into their farm to prepare for the lean times. . .


Principles pay price of power

July 27, 2018

The Green Party has paid for power with the loss of its principles in supporting the waka jumping legislation.

. . .Labour promised to support the waka jumping legislation in its coalition agreement with NZ First, but the legislation is not covered in its agreement with the Green Party.

However, a clause in the agreement seemingly holds the Greens to supporting any legislation not specifically flagged in the coalition talks, meaning the Greens MPs feel they have to vote for the waka jumping bill. . .

Have they voted for every piece of government legislation so far and will they continue to do so?

Didn’t they vote against the CPTTP? If they could stick to their principles then, when they were in the wrong, why not now when they’d be in the right?

It’s understood that the Green negotiators were asked to produce a list of potential NZ First legislation they could not agree with during coalition talks, and did not think to include Waka Jumping as it had been so long since the law had been an issue.

That was at best naive.

Former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was part of the negotiating team, said earlier this year the agreement did not in fact force the Greens into supporting the bill.

Then why are they doing it?

Green MP Eugenie Sage said “we don’t like it” but it was “very important” to one of the coalition parties.

“It is a dead rat they we have to swallow,” Sage said.

The Greens have long opposed such legislation. . .

Proponents argue that it maintains the proportionality of Parliament while opponents say it stifles democracy.

If maintaining proportionality was so important, National would have got another list MP when Peters won the seat of Northland. Instead of which NZ First got another MP.

National MP Nick Smith said the Greens had “sold their soul” and were “trashing their core values.”

“We’ve never before had a party saying it opposed a bill – leat alone a bill that makes changes to our electoral law and constitution where they are oppose to it but are going to vote it anyway.

“This is the Green Party selling its soul for power,” Smith said.

“They are the last party I would expect to do this.”

He goes further in a media release:

Government changes to New Zealand MMP electoral law enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP would break the constitutional law Allied Powers put in place following the end of the Second World War, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions. In fact, the Human Rights Commission has drawn to Parliament’s attention that it would be ironic and wrong for New Zealand to have insisted on specific democratic protections in Germany, but to be breaching those protections at home,” Dr Smith says.

It is not just Germany that has constitutional protections for MPs’ free speech. The European Court has over-ridden similar laws like those being proposed for New Zealand as undemocratic. The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea struck down similar laws there in 2010.

New Zealand is putting itself in the company of totalitarian states like Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone with these electoral law changes.

That isn’t company any country, government or party that stands up for democratic rights would want to be in.

In these countries, Members of Parliament have been dismissed for challenging corruption in their own Government, for participating in a press conference without their leaders consent and for voting in Parliament differently to how their leaders instructed them. The Government is opening up the risk of this happening in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders should be deeply concerned that changes are being made to our electoral law that would be illegal and unconstitutional in most parts of the world. At a time when autocratic rulers are on the rise, New Zealand should be strengthening and not weakening our protections for democracy and free speech.

“This draconian bill that the Government accepts will have a ‘chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs’ must be abandoned.”

The select committee received submission after submission from legal experts, academics and a broad cross-section of people concerned for this assault on democracy.

And all because New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters is so insecure and distrustful of his caucus.

Labour swallowed the dead rat in coalition negotiations. Green Party MPs are facing up to swallowing it now so the legislation will go through.

Their members won’t be happy but they are the ones who wouldn’t have countenanced the party going with National.

Had they agreed to a blue-green government they would have got several conservation gains, including the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Instead of which they’re watching their MPs dine on a large dead rat and wondering what other principles they might sacrifice as the price of power.


10% can’t be counted

July 17, 2018

The release of data from this year’s census has been delayed because not enough people participated in it:

Stats NZ has revised the date for first release of census information from October 2018 to March 2019.

We will confirm the exact response and the coverage rates for the census after we complete our reconciliation processes. Stats NZ’s interim calculations show that full or partial information for at least 90 percent of individuals was received, compared with 94.5 percent for the 2013 Census.

As with previous censuses, we will use statistical methodology to compensate for missing data. For the 2018 Census we are revising this methodology because of the lower-than-expected response. We are discussing this new methodology with our technical customers. We’re also undertaking analysis on how to improve data for small populations, subgroups, and small geographies. The new date for our first release will give us time to develop revised methodology for processing and analysing census data. We are committed to delivering a high-quality and accurate dataset.

There is a long term, international trend of declining census response rates. Because of this we have made a strategic decision to use more administrative data to improve the quality of census data.

Stats NZ is in a good position to adopt this approach as we have been investigating future census models that would supplement census data with administrative data.

How significant is the drop?

Over at Kiwiblog David Farrar says:

. . .The Minister of Statistics should call for an independent review of this failure, to ensure the next census has a much higher participation rate.

Also we should not be given spin for months about how great the census went and then find out only now, how bad the participation rate was.

The last Australian census had a 96% response rate. They regarded 93.3% as the minimum required.

The Canadian census had a 98.4% response rate.

A better way to look at it is the non response rate. In Canada is was 1.6% and in NZ it was 10% – six times higher.

The move to on-line forms was supposed to make it easier to complete the census.

We won’t know if completion would have been worse if Stats NZ had stuck to the paper-based system but there were lots of complaints from people about the difficulty of dealing with the call centre by those requesting paper forms.

We were in Queenstown on census night. Nothing was said at the hotel when we checked in but there were papers under the door when we left at 6:30 next morning. I picked them up, stuffed them in my bag and forgot about them until I got home when I found forms at the door.

We had breakfast with around 50 farmers from Australia and New Zealand so I did a census on census completion and asked everyone if they’d done it.

One of the hotels had run out of forms, none of the Australians had completed them and all of the New Zealanders had done theirs at home, as if they were at home.

A woman who gave forms to tourists staying at her B&B was told where she could put them.

A friend has a holiday home in Wanaka with two houses and one mail box. She presumes her tenant would have got the letter fromStats NZ that went to every household, but would have filled it in for only one of the houses.

Anecdotes don’t make good data but they do illustrate problems with this year’s census.

With the old system someone visited every house and some census staff went many extra miles. A friend was climbing in the Southern Alps on census night and was presented with forms by a worker who came to the hut.

The on-line census was easy if you have a computer and are comfortable using it but that’s not everybody and problems with the call centre didn’t help.

It would have been more expensive to have people calling on every house as they used to do, but it would have ensured a better count which is important for planning and funding.

It’s also necessary for working out electorate boundaries and the delay in the data release will delay the final release of new boundaries which in turn will delay the candidate selection process.

As National’s Statistics spokesman Nick Smith points out:

. . .There is over $10 billion of health funding allocated to the twenty DHBs each year based on census population data. The funding formula for the operating grants for our 2500 schools is derived from the census as are decisions about the allocation of resources in social services, police, sports, transport and many other services.

“It also has major implications for the Representation Commission. The number of general and Maori electorates in Parliament are determined by the Census and the process for determining the new boundaries was due to start in November.

“Changes in population figures as small as 1 per cent can impact on whether there is, for instance, an extra or the removal of one of the Maori electorates. This process will now not be able to start until April next year and the compromised statistics will affect the integrity of the make-up and boundaries for the 2020 and 2023 elections. . . 

The significant drop in completion rates and consequent delay in releasing data are concerning.

Having 10% of the population not counted is serious, especially when it is likely to include more people who for example have intellectual or mental disabilities, don’t speak English, are illiterate or for other reasons are more likely to be in need of publicly funded support.

A review must determine what went wrong and why, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again in 2024.


Can’t grow trees in thin air

January 24, 2018

Forestry Minister Shane Jones admitted to the AM Show that he’s struggling to find enough land to plant the billion trees he promised:

The Government in this context is not going to go into the business of buying land.

“There is a lot of land out there – [but] the farmers are leery [and] the Māori often find it difficult to agree, as you’re seeing in Waitangi.”

The Government will only boost the current 50 million trees bring planted annually by 10 percent this year, Mr Jones says. That would bring the total to 55 million – well short of the target.

“It’s not realistic to say it can be done exclusively by the Government,” Mr Jones says, adding it was “always a target for the industry”.

The billion trees was supposed to be policy, National MPs Simon Bridges and Nick Smith say it looks more like a mirage.

We learnt on Friday that Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is now hoping to plant just five million extra trees this year,” Regional Development Spokesperson Mr Bridges says.

“At 5 million trees a year, it would take 200 years to achieve a billion trees. I know Mr Jones is not the hardest worker but stretching a ten year target out to 200 years would be an impressive under-achievement even for him.”

Forestry Spokesperson Nick Smith says this back down on the flagship forestry policy is hugely embarrassing and damaging to the Government’s economic and environmental credibility.

“The Government initially promised 100 million extra trees per year. This was then cut in half by including 50 million trees already being planted each year. The latest back down further reduces the new planting planned for this year to only five million,” Mr Smith says.

“The new target for 2018 is now no different from what is already happening. An average of 55 million trees were planted each year over the last seven years, increasing to 62.5 million in 2016, the last year of full data. The Minister’s new promise of 55 million trees being planted this year is barely any promise at all.”

Mr Bridges says this change in target is on top of plans to change the overseas investment rules so the values of forest investments drop significantly. That will only decrease forest plantings.

“We are three months in and not a single tree has been planted – so the Government is around 24 million trees behind target already. . .

You can’t plant trees in thin air.

There might be some land in the conservation estate that would be suitable for planting and there might be some land on Landcorp farms where forestry is an option.

But even with that, the government hasn’t got enough land for all the trees it’s promised nor has it the money to buy more for forestry.

That leaves the bulk of the planting up to farmers and other private individuals and businesses who for very good reason are wary about putting their money into enterprises based on a government policy which looks more like a mirage than a sound investment.

 


Mining personal grief for political ends

November 19, 2017

When politicians make promises do you take them at their word?

Under MMP that’s harder because they can always use the excuse, that was their policy but had to let it go during coalition negotiations.

But if it was a promise made by the two parties in government and their coalition partner outside government that one can’t be used.

In August, leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment to reenter Pike River mine.

National, rightly, put lives before politics:

Environment Minister Nick Smith responded to the commitment and said the parties were either making empty promises to the families or proposing to water down a law intended to prevent future workplace tragedies. 

“It is a hollow political stunt for parties to promise manned re-entry of the mine by the end of 2018,” he said.  

“It would be reckless for politicians to override the 800-page detailed assessment that concluded that manned entry deep into this drift was too risky to life.

“There is no cover-up. There is no conspiracy. Pike River was a horrible industrial accident that unnecessarily killed 29 men.

“The greatest duty we owe the memory of these men is to take the risks of explosions in gassy coalmines seriously and to comply with the new workplace safety laws that stemmed from the Royal Commission of Inquiry [into the Pike River Mine Tragedy].”

Winston Peters said he’d be one of the first to go back into Pike River and manned entry was one of New Zealand First’s bottom lines.

Such promises are oh so easy in opposition, but what happens when the reality of government bites?

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority. . . 

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

He did not intend to legislate for any exemption to the health and safety laws or immunity from liability for the Pike River Agency.

Safety was the priority of the previous government in the face of harsh criticism from the Pike River families and then-opposition parties supporting them.

That was the right position.

The Pike River disaster was a tragedy. There are many unanswered questions on how it happened and the shortcoming that led to it happening.

Some of the answers to those questions might be found if it was possible to safely reenter the mine.

But safely is and must always be the operative word.

The bottom line that National and the mine owners stuck to still stands: no lives must be endangered, no lives must be lost, to retrieve the dead.

Some families have accepted this.

Some have not and put their faith in the politicians who promised them manned entry would be undertaken.

Little will be criticised for his safety-first stance, but this time it’s the right one.

The wrong one was making a promise that he and the other politicians, including his leader, Jacinda Ardern, should never have made.

Those politicians were mining personal grief for political ends.

It was despicable behaviour.

 


Rural round-up

September 3, 2017

Irrigation brings environmental improvements Greenpeace wants – Andrew Curtis:

I am sure Greenpeace felt very proud of themselves when they locked themselves inside a Central Plains Water irrigation pipe to “protest dairy intensification”.

They shouldn’t be. Quite apart from putting themselves at risk on a dangerous construction site, breaking the law and tying up police time, they were wrong on a number of counts.

The first problem with the Greenpeace protest was the idea that irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water automatically lead to more dairy intensification. This is not true. The new farms connecting to Central Plains Water are traditional mixed cropping farms. The same holds true for other new irrigation developments like the Hurunui Water Project in North Canterbury, the North Otago Irrigation Company and Hunter Downs in South Canterbury. Across the country, around 50 percent of irrigated land has other uses – growing food, raising sheep and beef cattle, and for wineries. . .

Hawke’s Bay honey company stung by theft:

A Hawke’s Bay honey company has been stung by the theft of almost 500,000 bees.

Nineteen hives of Arataki Honey were stolen from a remote forestry block in Putere, an hour and a half north of Napier, this week.

The site was hidden from the road and Arataki Honey’s field manager Duncan Johnstone said the thieves must have known where to find the bees.

It was an expensive loss for the company – each hive is valued at $700 and all up it was a $20,000 loss. . .

QE II Trust Members reappointed:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry today announced the re-appointment of two members of the Queen Elizabeth ll National Trust.

“I’m delighted Chairperson James Guild (MNZA) and Director Bruce Wills have agreed to stay on the board and continue the excellent work underway as the Trust celebrates its 40th anniversary,” Ms Barry says.

“Both men will serve another 3-year term and use their considerable skills and experience to ensure the Trust continues to win support from landowners willing to covenant their land for future generations. . .

Dairy industry set for big crash – Susan Murray:

The dairy sector faces another big price drop if the industry doesn’t continue to push for innovative ways to use dairy protein, warns KPMG.

Dairy companies need to think of themselves as protein or nutrition companies, said KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot.

He said there will be 10 or more items able to compete with traditional natural cow’s milk in a supermarket chiller.

“It’s interesting to me when I look at what’s happened in the last sort of six months – as the dairy price has gone up, the desire for change has gone down. . . 

Powering up Predator Free 2050:

National will boost Predator Free 2050 with $69.2 million of new funding over the next four years to ramp up the ambitious, world-leading pest eradication programme, Conservation Spokeswoman Maggie Barry says.

“We have been absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm of communities up and down the country about Predator Free since it was launched one year ago,” Ms Barry says.

“National in Government will match the commitment of our volunteers, councils and philanthropists and turn this project into something that will achieve what Sir Paul Callaghan called “New Zealand’s moonshot”.” . . 

Smith welcomes sanctuary pest control work:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith is hailing today’s pest control operation in the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary as a win for the survival of New Zealand’s native birds.

“The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust has fought long and hard for today’s pest control operation. It has had to go to court three times as a result of action by the Brook Valley Community Trust to try to stop it, and three times the court has backed the Sanctuary Trust,” Dr Smith says.

“The science is clear that the only way birds like kiwi, kokako, kea and kaka will survive is to effectively control the pests that have decimated their populations. I can appreciate people’s angst at killing rats, stoats and possums but every year these pests brutally kill 25 million native birds. . . 

This tiny country feeds the world – Frank Viviano:

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise.

From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20.

That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.”  . .

#LoveLambWeek: Sheep farmers call on consumers to put lamb back on plates –

The next generation of sheep farmers has called on the next generation of shoppers to put lamb back on plates across Britain through Love Lamb Week.

Over the past 15 years, fewer people have been regularly eating the very British meat, and with those aged 55 years and over making up the lion’s share of the market, time is ticking for lamb.

This year the annual campaign runs from 1-7 September, and social media users are being urged to tweet the hashtag #LoveLambWeek . . .

 


Rural round-up

August 23, 2017

Hard work earned admiration of all:

WHEN it came to work ethic, it would be hard to look past legendary North Otago market gardener Reggie Joe.

For more than 45 years, Joe’s Vegie Stall on State Highway 1 at Alma has been a landmark. From humble beginnings as a small roadside stall with an honesty tin, the business expanded to a busy operation, attracting a loyal following of customers.

His wife Suzie acknowledged it was his garden and customers that Mr Joe put first, followed by his family for whom he did it all.

His ambition in life was simple; to create a better future for his four children. Having known hardship firsthand, he was determined they would receive a good education.

Mr Joe died peacefully, surrounded by his family, in Dunedin Hospital on June 8, aged 82. . . 

Primary industries feel under siege as prospect of Labour-led govt firms:

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS – The divide between regional and urban politics is being thrown into ever sharpening contrast as the election campaign unfolds. Agricultural industries and rural communities feel under siege in the looming election.

As reported in Trans Tasman’s sister publication The Main Report Farming Alert, weeks ago the chances of a Labour-led government seemed unlikely, but now the chance of this happening seems possible with policies which could prove ruinous for NZ’s main export industries.

Labour will tax users of water, including farmers (but not those companies using municipal supplies). Both the Greens and Labour are committed to bringing agriculture into the emissions trading scheme and say the carbon price should be higher. They have not stated how high they want animal emissions to be taxed. . . 

Farming leaders pledge to make all rivers swimmable – Gerard Hutching:

Farming leaders representing 80 per cent of the industry have pledged to make all New Zealand rivers swimmable, although they don’t say how or by when.

Confessing that not all rivers were in the condition they wanted them to be, and that farming had not always got it right, the group said the vow was “simply the right thing to do”.

Launching the pledge by the banks of the Ngaruroro River in Hawke’s Bay, spokeswoman for the group and Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said the intent behind the commitment was clear. . . 

Swimmable means swimmable:

Agricultural leaders have, for the first time ever in New Zealand, come together to send a strong message to the public.

We are committed to New Zealand’s rivers being swimmable for our children and grandchildren.

DairyNZ chair, Michael Spaans, says “this is a clear message from New Zealand’s farming leaders that we want our rivers to be in a better state than they are now, and agriculture needs to help get them there.

“I have joined my fellow leaders to stand up and say that I want my grandchildren, and one day my great grandchildren, to be able to swim in the same rivers that I did growing up. . . 

Farmers’ river pledge welcomed:

A new pledge by farming leaders to improve the swimmability of New Zealand’s rivers has been welcomed by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“This pledge from farming leaders shows the real commitment farmers have to tackling these long term issues,” says Mr Guy.

“Farmers are closer to the land to the land than nearly anyone else, and they care deeply about leaving a good legacy for their children. . . 

Hundreds expected for launch – Sally Rae:

When a book on the history of the Wilden settlement is launched this month, it will also serve as a reunion.

Wilden — The Story of a West Otago Farming Community — has been written by Dunedin man Dr David Keen.

The driving forces behind the project were retired Wilden farmer Bill Gibson, now living in Mosgiel, and Neil Robinson, from Wanaka.

In the late 1860s, the discovery of gold at Switzers, now Waikaia, further sparked West Otago’s development. . . 

Keen advocate of the tri-use sheep – Sally Rae:

Growing up on a sheep and beef farm in Invercargill, Lucy Griffiths and her siblings were not allowed to leave home without  a woollen garment.

The many benefits of wool were drummed into them from an early age, not only as a fibre to wear but also as one to walk on and use in innovative ways.

But somewhere since then, strong wool had “lost its gloss”, and Mrs Griffiths wants to play her part in re-educating consumers about those benefits.

She is one of three new appointments to the board of Wools of New Zealand, a position she felt was a “big mantle of responsibility”. . .

Dispath from NZ no. 3 conflict, collaboration and consensus – Jonathan Baker:

New Zealanders are generally though of as pretty relaxed; but having spent ten days here it’s clear that the current debate around farming is anything but. From the Beehive (NZ’s parliament) to the kitchen tables of farmers, there is a very strong sense of tension. Most I talked to present farmers on one side and ‘townie’ environmental groups on another.

The main cause of the tension is the state of New Zealand’s water quality. This issue has jumped up the public agenda over the last 10 years and is now a pretty substantial issue in the upcoming election. Environmental groups, notably Greenpeace have done much to start this debate and the impact of their ‘dirty dairy’ campaign can even be felt in the UK. . .

My great-grandfather fed 19 people, my grandfather fed 26 people, my father feeds 155 people I will feed 155 and counting . . . embracing technology a family tradition.


Immoral victory

August 16, 2017

Pike River families are hailing today as a “moral victory” after MPs from four parties pledged to act immediately to re-enter the West Coast mine if in government.

Environment Minister Nick Smith calls it a political stunt that doesn’t change the risks.

 . . Prime Minister Bill English gave a commitment to the Pike River families earlier this year that the Government would see through safe, unmanned entry to the area of the drift that had not been accessed.

“This work would be delayed if taken off Solid Energy and given to some new agency. It is a hollow political stunt for parties to promise manned re-entry of the mine by the end of 2018. A political statement does not change the risks in the mine. It would be reckless for politicians to override the 800-page detailed assessment that concluded that manned entry deep into this drift was too risky to life.

“This political commitment of manned entry of the complete drift by the end of 2018 could not be done under New Zealand’s workplace law – a law supported by these very parties. They are either making empty promises to the Pike families or are proposing to water down a law intended to prevent future workplace tragedies.

“There is no cover-up. There is no conspiracy. Pike River was a horrible industrial accident that unnecessarily killed 29 men. The greatest duty we owe the memory of these men is to take the risks of explosions in gassy coalmines seriously and to comply with the new workplace safety laws that stemmed from the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”

 

Employment law was changed because of the Pike River disaster. Under that law no-one in Solid Energy could countenance anyone entering the mine and changing the law to allow it would be a travesty.

The pledge is an immoral victory and the undertaking by the MPs is irresponsible. All it does is give false hope to the bereaved.

No lives should be risked to bring out whatever remains of the men who died in the mine.


%d bloggers like this: