Wasting time

12/02/2021

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

I submitted:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Why was I wasting my time?

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

So why did I bother submitting?

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

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

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

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


Reheated announcement won’t help housing

22/01/2021

When escalating rents are forcing families into emergency housing.

And

Mortgage arrears grow as demand for credit hits pre-Covid highs.

And

The lack of properties for sale is putting pressure on house prices and speeding up sales.

And

The public housing waitlist grows by 1000 in two months to new record high as high rents hit the poor

And

Newsroom shows the housing affordability crisis by the numbers .

We have a problem in urgent in need of a solution but all the government gives us is a reheated announcement from last year’s Budget.

The Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 outlines where the government intends to build the 6000 public and 2000 transitional housing places it promised in last year’s Budget.

In all those months since the Budget, all the government has done is identify areas where they think the need for social housing is highest, none of which are in the South Island.

A reheated announcement like this won’t solve the housing crisis and there’s shades of the KiwiBuild debacle in it.

If it’s taken all these months to sort out where to build, how much longer will it take to get the building done?

There has to be a better way.

The Government’s public housing plan will fall well short of fixing New Zealand’s housing emergency, National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“The social housing waiting list is growing at an alarming rate. In the past 12 months alone another 7900 people put their hand up for a home.

“At this rate, another 32,000 people could be on the waiting list by 2025. That makes today’s announcement a drop in the bucket when it comes to fixing New Zealand’s housing woes.

“More and more Kiwis are being priced out of the private market as rents surge and house construction fails to keep up with demand.

“Rents have gone up $100 per week in just the past three years. This is a far higher rate than any time in our history. What is Jacinda Ardern’s solution to that problem?

“For many Kiwis, joining the queue at MSD to apply for emergency housing isn’t the answer they’re looking for. We need to drastically increase our housing stock by making it easier for everyone to build houses in this country, not just the Government.”

The number one solution to the fix the housing emergency is repealing and replacing the Resource Management Act. National has also proposed these shorter-term solutions:

    1. Strengthen the National Policy Statement on Urban Development: The Government should bring this urgent rezoning of land by local authorities forward, and increase the competitiveness margin, to enable intensification and growth.
    2. Remove the Auckland Urban Boundary: This arbitrary line has been found to add $50,000 or more to the average cost of houses in Auckland. The Government committed to removing it in 2017 but progress has stalled.
    3. Make Kāinga Ora capital available to community housing providers: Proven social housing providers have land and consents for new housing projects ready to go. The Government could make these projects happen immediately by releasing some of the $9.8 billion in taxpayer funding currently ring-fenced for future social housing.
    4. Establish a Housing Infrastructure Fund: This would help local government finance the pipes and roads required to accelerate rezoning of land for Greenfields developments.
    5. Implement new finance models: The Government should work with industry to develop finance models that leverage Accommodation Supplement and Income-Related Rent entitlements to drive new housing development.

“We need emergency measures to release land for development and boost construction as National did successfully in response to the Canterbury earthquakes. We will work constructively with Labour to achieve this.

Labour wasn’t prepared for its first term in government and had the excuse of being held back by its coalition partners.

Those excuses wont wash now it’s in its second term and has an outright majority.

It can’t keep trying fool us into mistaking announcements and re-announcements for action.

When the root cause of the housing crisis, and the social and financial problems associated with it, is demand outstripping supply the solution is urgent action on the supply constraints not a timid reheating of last year’s Budget announcement.


Are we ready?

13/01/2021

How serious is the infection rate for Covid-19 in the UK?

This serious:

That tweet is from a doctor in the USA.

In New Zealand we are in the very fortunate situation of having no community transmission of the disease – at least none we’re aware of.

Is enough being done to ensure that continues and is enough being done to keep border workers safe?

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to deepen overseas, the National Party warns we’re exposing people to a “totally unacceptable” level of risk at the border. 

Four new cases were announced in managed isolation on Monday, and with the threat of two new strains of the virus looming, Judith Collins is telling the Government to start vaccinating now or consider closing the borders.

She’s accusing the Government of playing fast and loose with the new, more infectious strains of COVID-19, and agrees with epidemiologist Michael Baker, who told Newshub on Sunday it’s time to consider closing the borders to some countries.

“I think we are being a bit slow in response to these new, more infectious variants. I think now we have to be very proactive again and take decisive action,” he said.

“At one extreme, unfortunately, I think we may need to look at suspending travel from countries where this new variant is circulating very vigorously.” . . 

The government has already announced stricter conditions for returnees:

On Tuesday, the Government announced it will give the Director-General of Health the power to require a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test from all New Zealanders returning to the country – and he will soon do so.

Arrivals from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations will be exempt.

Currently, just those returning to New Zealand from the UK or the US have to test negative prior to departure. . . 

Now all returnees will have to remain in their hotel rooms until they can be tested on their first day back in New Zealand. . . 

These measures will increase the likelihood of catching anyone who is infected and quarantining them sooner, but is it enough?

Citizens always have the right to come home.

Does that mean the government doesn’t have the right to require anyone coming from countries where the disease is rampant to be disease-free before they board a plane to return?

Even if they can, it would take time to to set up and in the meantime highly infectious people are coming home.

Is our border secure enough and are we ready if it’s not?


Fewer police, fewer prisoners

11/01/2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


No coincidence

15/12/2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That interview was in May last year.

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

Are we expected to believe the timing was coincidental?

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

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

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

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

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

The timing of neither was a coincidence.

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

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

Barry Soper explains why he should resign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather du Plessis-Allan also says Mallard must go:

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

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

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

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

Kerre McIvor said the defamation debacle stinks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They might think it will all go away over summer.

It won’t.

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


That was then

07/12/2020

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

What was the response from the Opposition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was then, this is now.

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

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


To see ourselves as others see us

02/12/2020

When I read reports on Peter Goodfellow’s speech to the National party conference I wondered if the journalists and I had been at the same event.

All took the same extract where he spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on the political landscape. He gave credit where it was due but also spoke of the grandstand it gave the government and especially the Prime Minister, and he mentioned media bias.

The reports gave credence to the last point. From where I was sitting the whole speech, of which the extract was a small part, was well received by the audience. But all reports were negative, and many commentators said the listeners didn’t like it, which was definitely not the impression I got. Most were surprised, even critical, that Goodfellow retained the presidency given the election result.

None appeared to understand that the president wasn’t responsible for the self-inflicted damage by some MPs  nor that while party members elect the board it is the board members who elect the president.

They might have known that he had called for a review of the rules after the last election. They were not privy to the report on that by former leader Jim McClay which was delivered in committee,  greeted with applause and well received by everyone I spoke to afterwards.

But why would they let the positive get in the way of the negative if it fitted their bias?

Bias, what bias?

The non-partisan website Media Bias paints the New Zealand media landscape decidedly red.

The almost universal lack of criticism has been noticed by Nick Cater who said media ‘diversity’ is alive but not at all well in New Zealand:

. . . The media paradise Rudd craves looks somewhat like New Zealand, where inoffensive newspapers compete for drabness and commentators are all but united in adoration of Jacinda Ardern.

You’ll struggle to read a word of dissent in the four daily newspapers. Mike Hosking and some of his fellow presenters are prepared to break from the pack at Newstalk ZB, but that’s it. Retired ZB host Leighton Smith remains in the fray as a podcaster and columnist but, when it comes to broadcast media, Hosking is Alan Jones, Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray rolled into one.

If the columnist listened to Magic Talk he might add Peter Williams and Sean Plunket to those who challenge the pro-PM narrative. But these are few against the many whose reporting and commentary are rarely anything but positive about Ardern.

The only hint of irritation at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference is that she isn’t running fast enough with her agenda of “transformational change”, the umbrella term for the righting of social injustices, including those yet to be invented.

Ardern’s decision to hold a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis was widely praised as another step on the path to sainthood. The proposal was rejected by 51.6 per cent of voters, prompting this exchange.

Media: “In terms of governing for all New Zealanders, you do have 48.4 per cent of New Zealanders who did vote for legalised cannabis.”

PM: “And the majority who didn’t, and so we have to be mindful of that, too.”

Media: “But you’ve promised to govern for all of those New Zealanders, including the 48.4 per cent who did … there is an appetite among an enormous section of the population for something. And obviously the referendum did fail, but it doesn’t mean … ”

Can we assume that because 48.9 per cent of Americans didn’t vote for Joe Biden, Donald Trump can stay in the White House? Or does the ballot only count when the left is winning?

Those with a more sophisticated understanding of liberal democracy than “Media” (the generic name ascribed to journalists in the transcript, presumably because they are all of one mind) may be feeling a little queasy.

A Prime Minister who tells voters she chose politics because it was a profession that “would make me feel I was making a difference”, and holds an absolute majority in the parliament’s only chamber, is an accident waiting to happen. An independent media should be the first responders in such circumstances, ready to erect barriers in the path of the Prime Minister, should she swerve across the line.

Yet the press pack are not merely on the bus, they are telling her how to drive it.

New Zealand’s small population and splendid isolation are part of the explanation for the enfeeblement of its media. Ardern’s sledgehammer response to the COVID-19 pandemic hastened the decline.

In May, Nine Entertainment let go of the newspapers it inherited from Fairfax, The Dominion Post, The Press and The Sunday Star-Times, for $1 to a company that goes by the name of Stuff. It seems like a bargain given the copy of the Post at the newsstand will set you back $2.90, hardly a vote of confidence in the future of NZ media.

Yet market size is only part of the explanation. It doesn’t explain why, for example, in a country split politically down the middle, 100 per cent of daily newspapers and virtually every TV and radio station stand proudly with Ardern.

We can only conclude that commercial logic no longer applies. Media companies are no longer driven by the pursuit of unserved segments in the market. It’s not the product that is faulty but the customer. When commercially minded proprietors leave the building, the journalists take charge. They are university-educated professionals cut from the same narcissistic cloth as Ardern. They, too, want to feel like they are making a difference.

With the collapse of NZ’s Fourth Estate it is difficult to see what might stop Ardernism becoming the country’s official religion. The National Party is in no position to offer effective political opposition. The party that reinvented credible government in NZ is bruised from two defeats, uncertain who should lead or in what direction it should head.

Intellectual opposition is all but extinguished in the universities, but still flickers on in alternative media, blogs, websites and YouTube channels, which serve as a faint beacon of dissent.

Is this what Rudd seeks? The last thing a country needs is a prime minister basking in applause who switches on the news and finds herself staring at the mirror.

Would today’s journalists and commentators be familiar with Robbie Burns who wrote:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion.

If they are familiar with these words, would they attempt to see themselves as others see them and accept that not only are most biased but that it shows in their work?


What’s the difference?

17/11/2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s changed? Just the government.

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


Shane Reti Nat deputy

10/11/2020

Shane Reti is National’s new deputy leader:

Judith Collins has been reconfirmed as Leader of the National Party, with Dr Shane Reti selected as the party’s new Deputy Leader.

Both were selected unopposed following a Caucus meeting in Wellington today.

“It is an enormous privilege to be reconfirmed as Leader of the National Party,” Ms Collins says. “I’m looking forward to leading a strong, united and focused Opposition that will deliver for all New Zealanders.

“I’m delighted by Dr Shane Reti’s appointment. He is a hard-working, intelligent MP with all the skills needed to be an effective leader. His detailed examination and prosecution of the Government’s handling of Covid-19 helped improve the response for New Zealanders.

“Dr Reti’s knowledge and history working in the health sector will be an asset as Parliament deals with the impact of Covid-19. His experience will be invaluable to me as deputy leader and I’m looking forward to working closer with him.”

The National Party Caucus also voted on two Whips, with Matt Doocey selected as Senior Whip and Maureen Pugh selected as Junior Whip.

“The Whips have an important role to play in helping ensure all our MPs are focused on holding the Government to account,” Ms Collins says. “I’m sure Matt and Maureen will do a wonderful job.

“National’s MPs are energised about the term of Government ahead. We owe it to the people of New Zealand to provide a strong and effective Opposition as we navigate the difficult economic and health issues ahead of us – and this is exactly what National will do.”

WHO IS DR SHANE RETI?

· Politics is Dr Reti’s third career. He first practiced family medicine and dermatology in Whangārei for 16 years.

· He was appointed for three consecutive terms to the Northland DHB, has published research that won literary awards, completed his first Masters in 2004, registered with the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants and was awarded a QSM for Public Service in the 2006 New Year Honours List.

· He was awarded the NZ Harkness Fellowship to Harvard and went to the United States in 2007 to gather experience to bring home. While at Harvard he completed his second Masters and was promoted to Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.

· His work over the following seven years also included an appointment with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise in an economic development role as Beachheads Advisor to the New Zealand consulate in Dubai.

· Dr Reti has held a wide range of portfolio. He has been National’s spokesperson for Health; Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment; Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Data and Cybersecurity; and Disability Issues.

· Dr Reti’s has been deputy chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee; deputy chair of the Health Select Committee; co-chair of the NZ/US Parliamentary Group; chair of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament and the parliamentary facilitator for Arthritis New Zealand.

· He served as MP for Whangārei from 2014 to 2020.

If you want to learn more about Shane this interview with Simon Barnett and Phil Gifford is a good place to start.


National loses 2 more MPs

06/11/2020

The final election results bring more bad news for National:

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

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

Electorate vote – main points

Three electorate results have changed since election night:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key statistics

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

A high turnout is good for democracy.

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

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

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


One of the Ws is missing

30/10/2020

A public sculpture commemorating political pioneer Dame Hilda Ross and the 1919 Women’s Parliamentary Rights Act is to be unveiled in Hamilton on Saturday:

Dame Hilda Ross was the first Hamilton/Waikato woman elected as an MP in 1945 and became the second woman in New Zealand to become a Cabinet Minister in 1949. Artist Matt Gauldie’s bronze sculpture portrays Dame Hilda in Parliament, with one hand holding a copy of the 1919 Act which finally allowed women to become MPs, while the other is raised, advocating on behalf of women and children, whose welfare she considered her principal concern. . . 

One of the first things would-be journalists learn is that a good media story or release should answer the Ws – who, what, which, where, when, why and, if appropriate, how.

The first paragraph in the media release tells us who, what, where and why.

The following paragraphs add more whos, and whys but the media release leaves out one very important w – which party Dame Hilda represented in parliament.

Was it an oversight or deliberate?

Call me cynical, but could it be because she was a National MP that her party wasn’t mentioned?

Why would I think that?

Because often feminists, and other proponents of identity politics, don’t celebrate people on the right because, for them, it’s not enough to be a woman, or of a particular race or ethnicity or whatever other sub-section of humanity they file people under, you have to fit their political agenda as well.

These are the feminists for whom Margaret Thatcher is anathema; who ignore Ruth Richardson as our first female Finance Minister; and who pass over Dame Jenny Shipley as New Zealand’s first woman Prime Minister and label her successor as the first elected woman Prime Minister.

These people didn’t celebrate when National’s leader and deputy were Maori, that only became an issue when they could criticise the party when Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett were replaced.

If you want to learn more about Dame Hilda, Te Ara’s entry on her is here.

. . . Hilda Ross’s other major life interest – the welfare of children, women, the needy and the disadvantaged – first manifested itself during the influenza epidemic of 1918, when she worked with the sick. For the next 40 years she was vitally involved in welfare work at local and national levels. She organised committees to dispense assistance to victims of the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in 1931, established relief committees during the 1930s depression, and was a serving sister and later commander in the St John Ambulance nursing division. In 1927 she established, with the bookseller William Paul, the Waikato Children’s Camp League; the following year, the league held its first holiday camp for children from impoverished backgrounds. Hilda Ross remained closely involved with the camp for the next quarter of a century, returning every summer to attend the camp, where she cooked the breakfasts for more than 200 children and organised nightly concerts. Her interest in children’s welfare also led to her becoming an honorary child welfare officer for Hamilton in the early 1930s, and in 1939 a justice of the peace, in which capacity she served in the children’s court. Intensely devoted to patriotic duties, during the Second World War she formed (and was commandant of) the Hamilton Women’s Auxiliary Volunteer Corps, and was president of the Lady Galway Guild and the Hamilton Ladies’ Patriotic Committee.

Family matters occupied her at this time as well, and for several years a grandson lived with her following his mother’s death. With her husband’s death in 1940, Hilda Ross began a new career in local body and national politics. She was elected to the Waikato Hospital Board in 1941, and to the Hamilton Borough Council in 1944 – the first woman to hold a council seat. Her connection with the Greater Hamilton Society saw her become deputy mayor in 1945. She resigned that post later in the year when she was elected New Zealand National Party MP for Hamilton, a seat she held until her death.

Hilda Ross continued her involvement in welfare matters in her various parliamentary positions. As minister in charge of the welfare of women and children (1949–57), then minister in charge of child welfare (1954–57) and minister of social security (1957), her only cabinet post with a portfolio, Hilda Ross took a close personal interest in the problems of welfare recipients, particularly the elderly. Her office was frequently crowded with people seeking assistance, and as she was the only female minister at the time, many people believed that they would receive a more sympathetic hearing from her than from some of her male parliamentary colleagues. While prepared to arrange housing and welfare matters, and to offer tangible aid when necessary (including giving from her own pocket), Hilda Ross could also be blunt, and did not suffer fools gladly. Her belief in the importance of marriage and family led her to deliver stern lectures to spendthrift or neglectful husbands and fathers. Parents whose children were under the supervision of the Child Welfare Division could receive sharp letters rebuking them for their child-rearing practices or expectations that the state would provide for their families.

Her parliamentary duties furthered her interest in issues of importance to women. She represented New Zealand at the United Nations Status of Women Commission in Geneva in 1952, and supported the campaign for equal pay launched by female public servants; she also advocated compulsory domestic education courses for all girls and women, no matter what their career choice. She received, and accepted, invitations to speak at women’s conferences, greet débutantes, and open nurseries and kindergartens: ‘I suppose you could call me New Zealand’s kindergarten opener-in-chief’, she reflected once. For her services to social welfare the American Mothers’ Committee cited her as ‘Mother of New Zealand’ for 1951, and in 1956 she was made a DBE, only the third New Zealand woman to be so honoured. . . 

 Her achievements are definitely worth celebrating and I am pleased she is being recognised with a statue.

I’m also pleased that while the media release, by intent or accident, omitted to mention that Dame Hilda was a National MP, the party hasn’t forgotten her.

It has a memorial fund in her name to promote greater opportunities for women in politics.


No room for leakers

21/10/2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said there was no room in caucus for leakers.

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

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

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

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


If you don’t learn from history . .

19/10/2020

National didn’t learn from its 1999 defeat and paid for it in 2002.

Only after that loss did the party do some serious self-examination, make necessary changes and rebuild.

John Key led National back into government in 2008 and for nearly nine years we looked at Labour focused internally, disunited and leaking and knew they weren’t a serious threat.

National could have and should have learned from that recent history but didn’t.

Until early this year the polls had both Labour and National at similar levels of support. There were ups and downs but no major drops or rises for either.

Then Covid-19 struck, the Prime Minister’s popularity soared and Labour’s followed.

National’s popularity plummeted and the leaks and disunity exacerbated that.

Covid-19 was always going to favour the incumbent. Even had caucus stayed united and loyal, some of the blue party vote was going to go red to keep the Greens out. But unity and loyalty would have kept more votes blue and safe seats might have stayed safe.

Disunity and disloyalty made National a party that didn’t deserve to win.

We must learn from this and make some big changes because those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.


More debt or higher taxes?

15/10/2020

Labour policy is offering voters two bad choices:

Labour’s inability to control their spending means they will either drown New Zealand in a sea of debt or burden hardworking New Zealanders with higher taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Labour have a track record of failing to control their spending. When they came to office they said they would spend an additional $1.9 billion in Budget 2019. In actual fact, they blew their Budget and ended up spending an extra $3.8 billion.

“That one failure alone means Government debt will be more than $20 billion higher by 2030. That is irresponsible and reckless.

“A Government that can’t control its spending will inevitably come after New Zealanders for more tax.

“The choice under Labour is clear: higher taxes to pay for all of the uncontrolled spending, or an economy that drowns in a sea of debt.

The sensible course for individuals and businesses facing tough financial times,  is to look at what’s essential and what’s not. Governments should do the same.

There hasn’t been a single sign from this government, or the election policies of the parties forming it, that recognise that let alone plan to do it.

“There is a better alternative.

“National will take a more disciplined approach to Government spending. We will eliminate waste such as Fees Free and KiwiBuild, we will be more careful with new spending each year, and we will put a halt to nice-to-have spending such as contributions to the NZ Super Fund.

“Our plan will restore debt to 36 per cent of GDP by 2034, compared to 48 per cent under Labour. And we will balance the budget and return to surplus by 2028 compared to never ending deficits under Labour.

“Future generations do not deserve to inherit an economy crippled with higher debt and higher taxes because Labour can’t control its spending.

“We need to stop the waste, stimulate the economy with short term tax relief, and trust Kiwis to grow their businesses and create jobs.”

This government wasn’t able to deliver most of its pledges from the last election when it had surpluses and before Covid-19 struck.

Why would anyone trust them to do it now debt is high and growing and while Covid-19 is still very much part of the problem?


Too much of a good thing?

14/10/2020

When I do a questionnaire on which party I support, National always comes first and Act usually comes a reasonably close second.

If actual voting reflects the latest polls, Act would well have 11 MPs and that might not necessarily be good for the party or parliament.

Most small parties that have had a big increase in MPs have struggled to maintain unity and, if memory serves me correctly, all  have lost several MPs at the next election and all but the Green Party and NZ First have disappeared from parliament.

Act could buck the trend.

But if National supporters think ticking Act instead would be a good idea, it isn’t.

I’d be happy with few more Act MPs but 11 might well prove to be too much of a good thing.

 


Rural round-up

02/10/2020

Freshwater rules take toll on confidence – Sally Rae:

Southern sheep and beef farmers have experienced their worst fall in confidence in a recent survey by Beef+Lamb New Zealand, as the Government’s freshwater rules are cited as a major factor.

Nationally, confidence dropped to the lowest recorded level since August 2017 with less than half — or 46% of farmers — confident in the future of New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry compared to 58% in May.

Farmer confidence was down in all regions, except for the northern North Island, and the largest fall was in the southern South Island at 32% (down 27%), followed by the central South Island at 42% (down 19%).

In a statement, B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison, a Southland farmer, said sheep and beef farmers were increasingly concerned at the speed and scale of government-led reforms. . . 

26 million national flock down 2.3% – Sally Rae:

Sheep numbers in New Zealand have dropped 2.3% over the past year to 26.21million — a far cry from the 57.85million recorded in 1990.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s annual stock number survey estimated this spring’s lamb crop would be 4.2% lower — or 980,000 head down — compared with spring 2019, while adverse weather events could lessen that further.

Ewe condition during mating was poor to average due to lower overall feed availability while ewe pregnancy scanning results were 5%-10% lower due to dry conditions and feed shortages. Fewer ewe hoggets were also mated.

In a statement, B+LNZ Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt said drought meant farmers decided to have fewer hoggets, weaner cattle and cows mated which would have impacts on future stock numbers. . . 

Fruit picker shortage reaches new levels :

With closed borders and no backpackers or casual labour coming in, the fruit picking industry desperately needs more workers than ever before.

Today The Detail looks at why it’s so hard to fill the gaps and whether robots are the answer to the labour shortage for what even employers admit is a “shit” job.

Horticulture is a $10b industry and is one that will continue to grow despite covid-19.

But the lack of workers has been something that has plagued the sector for years, even before the pandemic. . . 

Work experience helps fresh talent into dairying

Gillian Saich from Invercargill is new to dairy farming and was thrilled when a dairy farmer offered her work experience on his farm.

Gillian recently finished DairyNZ’s GoDairy Farm Ready Training, designed to give Kiwis throughout New Zealand entry level training to work on dairy farms.

After the training, dairy farmer Edwin Mabonga from Otautau offered Gillian two weeks’ work experience and she jumped at the chance.

“It’s been brilliant to get hands-on experience. I have learned so much and have been involved in lots of aspects on the farm, including calving and milking,” she says.  . .

NZ cheese sales a lockdown silver lining:

Everywhere, everyone agrees that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years. For many NZ cheesemakers that has meant quickly adapting and finding new markets as farmers’ markets, some specialty retail food stores, cafes and restaurants closed during lockdown.

However there is a silver lining, while New Zealanders hunkered down staying safe they used their free time to explore and support NZ made produce, including New Zealand cheese, which is enjoying record sales.

According to Nielsen Scantrack[1] – a record of supermarket sales for the year to 9 August 2020 – total value for all cheese sales is up by 12.2% for the 12 months. Among these numbers is a strong increase for speciality cheese – up in value by 9.5%. Always a favourite with families, blocks of cheese are up 14.5% in value and grated cheese sales were up a whopping 25.1%. . . 

Silver Fern Farms awards additional scholarship in light of Covid crisis:

Silver Fern Farms has announced their Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships recipients for 2020, adding two additional scholarships this year, on top of the six normally offered, to strengthen their support for the industry through the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says the commitment Silver Fern Farms has to developing young people and their careers has become even more important as the red meat industry responds to disruption around the world.

Over 60 people applied for this year’s scholarships. “They were asked to identify outstanding opportunities for the red meat industry in light of the Covid-19 crisis and to share the role they could play in New Zealand’s recovery. . . 


Nat’s SFO announcement happy coincidence

30/09/2020

National is promising to do more to stamp out corruption:

A National Government will back the Serious Fraud Office to do more to stamp out corruption, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

“New Zealand’s most successful crime fighting agency will get the resources it needs to deliver on its stated role as the ‘lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious financial crime, including bribery and corruption.’

“National will double the Serious Fraud Office’s budget, from its present total budget for the 2020/21 financial year of $12.7 million to $25 million a year.”

Ms Collins says it doesn’t make sense for the lead agency battling fraud, bribery and corruption, with the greatest legal powers to uncover those things, to be playing second fiddle to other government agencies working in this area.

“The SFO will continue to work alongside the likes of the NZ Police’s Financial Intelligence Unit, but it will have the funding it needs to do the job it was established in 1990 to do.

“The SFO has statutory powers that other New Zealand crime fighting agencies do not, including powers to compel the production of information and to require witnesses and suspects to answer any questions put to them without the right to silence. But these powers aren’t being given enough opportunity to be used.

“The SFO takes very few prosecutions, not because there isn’t fraud, bribery and corruption in New Zealand, but because the office doesn’t have the resources to do its job properly. The office needs more investigators and more resources to work with its domestic and international counterparts.”

Ms Collins acknowledges New Zealand is regarded as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but says that’s no reason for complacency.

“The SFO says the threats to our reputation as a relatively corruption free country ‘have probably never been greater today than any other time in our history.’

“National agrees, and we’ll resource the office properly to do the job New Zealanders expect it to do.

“In a way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you aren’t searching for something you’re unlikely to find it.”

New Zealand is usually at or near the top of lists for less corruption but being less corrupt than other countries doesn’t mean we have no corruption.

Maintaining our reputation and stamping out corruption must be taken seriously, and financed properly.

Ms Collins says National will also change the office’s name from the Serious Fraud Office to the Serious Fraud and Anti-corruption Agency.

“We would change the office’s name because we think New Zealand needs to better understand the types of crime fighting it is responsible for.

“Over many years the SFO has developed a reputation for targeting the private sector, in part due to its self-publicised focus on ‘white collar crime.’ Many people think this means the big end of town, but that’s far from the office’s only focus.

“We want people to know the office’s mandate and focus goes well beyond the world of investment, accounting and banking. It also tackles fraud, bribery and corruption in local government, community entities and iwi trusts.

“It prosecutes wrongdoing in infrastructure contracting, project tendering and central Government, including ministries, Crown agencies and political parties.

“In many ways corruption in the regions has the greatest impact on New Zealanders, by eroding small communities’ trust in institutions they deserve to believe in, and depriving them of resources they desperately need.

“We think the name the Serious Fraud and Anti-corruption Agency makes it much clearer what the office’s business is, and why anyone thinking about trying to circumvent the laws of New Zealand should be aware that an agency exists to stamp out that behaviour.”

By a happy coincidence this announcement came yesterday when the SFO announced it has filed charges against two people involved in the New Zealand First Foundation investigation.

The SFO has filed a charge of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ against two defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation electoral funding case. The charges were filed on 23 September.

The defendants have interim name suppression and so cannot be named or identified at this time. We note, however, that neither defendant is a Minister, sitting MP, or candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or a current member of the New Zealand First party.

The SFO has no further comment.

The announcement comes just in time.

The SFO said it would make an announcement before the election. Overseas voting begins today and early voting opens on Saturday.

The announcement would have been a little earlier had Winston Peters not taken the SFO to court:

. . . An SFO spokesman said NZ First brought proceedings against the office to stop it issuing a media release, on September 23.

The court ruled in favour of the SFO, the spokesman said, and released a statement on Tuesday when the timeframe for appealing the decision lapsed.

The statement was amended after the court challenge, due to the upcoming election, “to reflect the categories of people that were not charged”, he said. . .

That it has taken the SFO so long to file charges supports National’s policy to better resource it.


Rural round-up

29/09/2020

Southland Federated Farmers plan ‘town and country’ hui over freshwater rules  – Rachael Kelly:

Southland’s farmers are being encouraged to drive their (road registered) tractors or utes to a ‘town and country hui’ being organised to inform people about the new freshwater regulations – and townies are invited too.

Southland Federated Farmers and the Southland Chamber of Commerce are hosting the hui at Queen’s Park in Invercargill on October 9, to ‘’bring town and country together over something that affects us all,’’ Southland Federated Farmers president Geoff Young said.

“This isn’t just about farmers. We all live off the land, so this will bring town and country together to highlight some of the concerns farmers have about the new freshwater rules are, and what the ramifications are for us all.” . . 

How agritech can provide the green shoots for NZ’s post-Covid economic recovery – Wayne McNee:

In the wake of Covid-19, New Zealand should be focusing on industries that can help drive our economic recovery and growth over time.

While some of our key sectors have been hit hard, the dairy industry, and wider food sector, is well-positioned to continue to deliver for Kiwis through Covid-19 and help our economy get back on its feet.

But like all sectors, particularly at the moment, the dairy industry needs to keep evolving to meet new challenges head-on and maximise new opportunities.

With Kiwis relying on the primary sector to help lead them out of this crisis, agritech has a vital role to play. . . 

 

$50m commitment not enough for farmers — National:

Labour’s $50 million commitment to support integrated farm planning will do little for farmers, claims National’s ag spokesperson David Bennett.

He says Labour doesn’t back farmers and today’s announcement will do little to ease burden of meeting regulations.

“Today’s promises around farm environment plans will do little to alleviate the individual farm cost and won’t necessarily mean that there will be a streamlined process for all farmers,” says Bennett.

“Labour can’t be trusted to deliver reasonable and rational rules when farmers know the true intentions of their party.“. . .

Cow-shy hairdresser now cutting it – Yvonne O’Hara:

Before she met her dairy farmer partner, hairdresser Ashleigh Sinclair did not own a pair of gumboots and was scared of cows.

Now she co-owns 20.

She spends most weekends with Clint Cummings on his family’s 106ha, 230-cow Wyndham dairy farm.

“I started off being petrified of cows, and going out on the farm was a challenge for me, but now I’ve seen how friendly they are and I love spending time with them. . . 

Scholarship opportunity firms up career – Yvonne O’Hara:

Ella Zwagerman intends to follow a food science career in the meat industry, and after a recent trip to Wellington as part of the Meat Industry Association’s scholarship programme is even more convinced it is the best path for her.A trip to Wellington as part of the Meat Industry Association scholarship programme helped convince Ella Zwagerman she was on the right career path.

Ms Zwagerman’s parents are dairy farmers at Isla Bank, near Invercargill, and she is studying for a bachelor of science (human nutrition) at Otago University.

She and 10 other scholars were hosted by the MIA in Wellington earlier this month and spent the day listening to speakers from several meat industry organisations, the Ministry for Primary Industries and AgResearch, and people who had various careers within the sector such as trade, food safety, nutrition, science and engineering. . .

Kiwi farmers identify pros and cons of conservation :

New Zealand farmers identified a wide range of advantages connected with on-farm biodiversity in a recent scientific survey.

The study, which surveyed 500 sheep and beef farmers from around Aotearoa, received nearly 700 responses that described advantages to managing and protecting biodiversity on their land.

While most participants were male Pākehā/NZ European over the age of 45, responses to the questions showed a huge variety of viewpoints when it came to native biodiversity on farms.

“This study highlighted that many farmers associate a range of values and benefits with biodiversity on-farm, spanning social, environmental and economic themes,” lead author Dr Fleur Maseyk from The Catalyst Group said . . 

Countryside improvements fund could be raided – Roger Harrabin:

A budget designed to fund improvements to Britain’s countryside is set to be raided, the BBC has learned.

Cash will be diverted away from ambitious conservation projects and towards protecting farm businesses.

The government previously promised that the £3bn currently paid to farms under EU agriculture policy would be wholly used to support the environment.

Ministers had said that, after Brexit, farmers would have to earn their subsidies. . .


Business confidence tanks

29/09/2020

Business confidence has plummeted:

The New Zealand Herald’s  2020 Election Survey has been released with top business leaders saying New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery is in peril – and they want a decisive role with Government in the country’s future.

The annual boardroom barometer of 165 CEOs and high-profile directors has business confidence at the lowest it’s ever been in the survey’s 19-year history.

When asked to rate their level of optimism in the New Zealand economy the CEOs surveyed collectively scored it a 1.36 out of 5.

These are bigger businesses and predominantly urban.

I doubt if farmers are any more confident given the fear and uncertainty around added costs and complexities that are being imposed on primary production.

Westpac CEO David McLean says the future has never been so uncertain, but that means that the need for crisp and clear policies and plans has never been greater.

“We need to see pathways mapped, not just for how to escape from the current Covid-19 crisis, but to take us toward a better future by addressing some of the big challenges we face beyond Covid-19, such as increasing our productivity and tackling climate change,” said McLean.

Many, like Mainfreight’s Don Braid, question Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heavy reliance on Government bureaucrats for advice and execution and her apparent unwillingness to listen to the private sector for ideas.

“There are many willing to devote time, energy and ideas in areas that allow New Zealand to find the right environment to operate in a post-lockdown economy,” said Braid.

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Year survey, taken in association with BusinessNZ, provides an in-depth assessment of CEO opinion at what is the most concerning time in the survey’s long history.

“It’s heartening that a record number of CEOs took part in the 2020 survey against a background of the Covid-19 pandemic. Optimism may be at the lowest levels seen in the survey’s history, but the CEOs’ responses demonstrated their own commitment to turning the economy around,” said says Mood of the Boardroom executive editor and NZ Herald’s Head of Business Content, Fran O’Sullivan.

With the General Election just weeks away business leaders are looking for more from both Labour and National.

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos points to tax policy being a key issue.

“Though Labour’s proposal to increase the highest personal tax rate doesn’t impact on the majority, National has upped the ante by helicoptering in temporary tax relief across the board to stimulate economic growth. Tax therefore promises to be a very complicated and emotive topic, that will either be centre stage this election or not far from it,’’ says Pippos.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said Labour’s economic policy response to Covid has underpinned the economy in a challenging time.

“However, the long-term plans are less well understood. They will need to do a hard sell. National’s plans are slightly more pro-business. But both parties need to talk about how quantitative easing enables them to maximise a reduction in borrowing costs to help grow the economy.” . . 

You can read more about the Mood From the Boardroom at the NZ Herald here.

Confidence isn’t helped by the fact that Labour hasn’t released its fiscal plan:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to immediately release their fiscal plan, so it can be subjected to the same scrutiny as the National Party’s fiscal plan.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The National plan was found to have a few holes after analysis by Labour and independent economists. The Nats admitted to one $4 billion mistake but denied another. It is healthy that major spending plans are put under intense investigation before an election.”

“That is why the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately release Labour’s own fiscal plan. She has told the nation that her numbers ‘stack up’. That clearly means their plan is finished, fact checked, and ready to go. There is no need to wait for a September Treasury data release to unveil the plan – the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) was reported a little over a week ago. All the fiscal data is there.”

“Let people like Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Cameron Bagrie, and your humble Taxpayers’ Union check that Labour’s numbers really do stack up. Then, taxpayers can make an informed choice about who should manage our economy in a post-COVID recession.”

It’s not just a fiscal plan that hasn’t been released, Labour keeps telling us it has a plan for recovery but has given scant details.

Uncertainty is one of the bigger drags on business confidence.

That matters because businesses that lack confidence at best don’t invest and don’t hire more staff, at worst they retrench and make staff redundant.

That so much about Covid-19 and how it will impact the country and the world is uncertain, and to a large degree uncontrollable, makes it even more important that politicians are upfront about their plans and what they can control.


Rural round-up

28/09/2020

Farmers on board with environmental fairness but want time and fairness – Liz McDonald and Henry Cooke:

Canterbury farmers want politicians to stop painting them as climate change villains, listen to their needs and allow them more time to boost environmental standards.

The Labour, National, Act and Green parties have all released agriculture policies in the past few days as they vie for the government benches in October.

National’s agriculture policy, released on Thursday, promises to “review or repeal” the Labour Government’s nine freshwater regulations introduced this year, and remove the possibility of agriculture entering the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2022.

It also promised to allow skilled and seasonal workers to enter New Zealand with a fast-tracked primary sector visa. . .

Primary sector wary of health and safety if cannabis legalised:

Legalising of recreational cannabis could increase health and safety risks for the primary sector, say wary employers.

The sector already has one of the highest workplace accident and death rates in the country, and leaders say it could be another risk if the referendum gets support on 17 October.

Chris Lewis from Federated Farmers said while the organisation doesn’t have a stance on the referendum it does have concerns about the health and safety implications if the bill is passed into law.

He said farming already has a high accident rate around livestock and machinery, and workers need to be aware of what is around them without being impaired. . .

 

LIC begins insemination of millions of cows – recruits asked to put hands up:

Artificial breeding technicians (AB techs) across the country have begun rolling up their sleeves in order to get millions of dairy cows pregnant over the next six months. Their role is critical in producing the next generation of animals and ensuring New Zealand’s hugely valuable milk supply continues.

Last year LIC, which employs around 900 AB techs between September and March, oversaw the insemination of over four million cows. While undertaking this work, the cooperative is also seeking new recruits to train ahead of next season.

Once trained many return year-after-year including the McCarthy family. Paul McCarthy first trained with LIC in 1978 as a 20-year-old. After nearly 40 years he has inseminated thousands of cows while running a 134ha dairy farm in Galatea in the eastern Bay of Plenty with his wife Johanna. . . 

Bees are flourishing in New Zealand:

Bees are an essential component of a strong agricultural sector. They support New Zealand’s $6 billion horticultural industry by pollinating food crops as well as producing a multitude of honey-based products.

Despite recent reports of declining bee numbers due to pesticide use, figures released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) show that beehive numbers have increased three-fold since 2005. According to its apiculture monitoring programme, hive numbers reached over 918,000 in 2019, up from below 300,000 fourteen years ago. The numbers have consistently been on an upward trend since then, with the latest figures showing a four percent increase on the previous year.

Independent scientific research included in the report concluded that the destructive varroa mite is the main cause of bee losses. . . 

Chop to it – Southland lamb goes nation-wide:

Southland meat processor Blue Sky Pastures is looking to new pastures by expanding its business, launching its namesake Blue Sky Butchery.

Bringing southern lamb to the digital fingertips of all New Zealanders, Blue Sky Butchery is a completely online store where users will be able to purchase the finest and freshest cuts of Southland lamb, delivered overnight nation-wide.

Many cuts of this New Zealand-favourite will be available, including Frenched racks, striploin, leg, shoulder, loin chops and mince. . .

Crops will be ploughed under if workers can’t be found – Andrew Miller:

A Bacchus Marsh vegetable grower says her farm will have to plough crops back into the ground, if sufficient workers can’t be found as harvest ramps up.

Rae McFarlane, Boratto Farms, Bacchus Marsh said the business produced fancy lettuce, rocket, parsley and baby spinach.

She said the coronavirus lockdown had hit the restaurant trade hard. . . 


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