Rural round-up

03/05/2021

Health restructure leaving rural GPs and nurses in the dark:

Rural communities across the country will lose out under Labour’s radical health restructure, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“National believes our health system should fundamentally be based around need, those who have the greatest need receive the greatest resources.

“New Zealand’s rural communities are an essential part of New Zealand and face unique health challenges, but Labour has failed to put forward how its health restructure will benefit our small rural communities and their GPs.

“In any major merger or centralisation it’s the small communities who lose their voice, but they’re the ones who best know what works for them when it comes to keeping their people healthy. . . 

Battling pines on Molesworth Station – Country Life:

There’s a war being fought on the slopes and gullies of Marlborough back country.

Among the foot soldiers are students, builders and Coast to Coast athletes – their enemy, unwanted pine trees.

Their uniform is high viz and their weapons – “blue glue” pesticide and chain saws.

In the tree control gang is Anzac Gallate, a university student with an appropriate name for the task at hand. . . 

Efficient water use on a drought-prone farm:

In a region increasingly prone to drought, being able to reduce the amount of water being used in your dairy shed by 50% is a massive win.

For Hukerenui Holstein Friesian breeders Kevin and Michelle Alexander that win came down to measuring good data, a commitment to finding a better way to manage water on their farm and using better tools and methods, including a hose nozzle that uses a significantly less water than a normal hose.

The couple have been on their 178 hectare farm about 20km north of Whangarei for the past 20 years. They milk around 350 mainly Holstein Friesian cows, which in a good year return about 1,100kgMS/hectare. . . 

Never underestimate the great importance of farming friendship – Will Evans:

The recent, sudden passing of a very close friend has left me feeling both bereft and pensive and, being truly honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this achingly sad before.

The sense of loss and injustice is all consuming, and it’s hard to really concentrate on anything else. But it has led me to contemplate the true meaning of friendship and how very fortunate we are in the farming community in this regard.

Rachel was, in many ways, the heartbeat of a group of us who were thick as thieves from the start of our time at Harper Adams University more than 20 years ago, and we have remained as close as family ever since. Best men and bridesmaids at each other’s weddings, godparents to each other’s children, and unfailingly there for each other through life’s good times and bad.

Though we all scattered to the four corners of the world after university, and have become older and marginally more responsible over the years, on the occasions when we do reunite, it feels, temporarily at least, as if we’re young and daft and invincible again. What an incredibly joyous thing that is. . . 

Garry Diack appointed new Ravensdown CEO:

Ravensdown has announced Garry Diack as its new CEO, replacing Greg Campbell who has held the position at the farmer-owned co-operative for the past eight years.

Diack joins Ravensdown from his position as CEO and Executive Director of Tait Communications on 19 July 2021. He has over 30 years’ experience of improving corporate performance, effective governance and driving growth.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson said Garry’s experience across many industries, his rural connections and his grounded-yet-innovative approach, made him a compelling proposition for the Board. “The Board is excited that its search for someone that offers strategic continuity and deliberate evolution has been successful.

“There’s no doubt that our purpose of enabling smarter farming for a better New Zealand has never been more important and Garry is passionate about that direction.” . . 

Reduce nitrogen, phosphate use without compromising pasture & milk production with NZ’s leading expert in soil fertility:

Developed from proven science, Hamilton-based Soil Scientist Dr Gordon Rajendram (PhD), shows how one farm improved plant nutrient uptake, pasture production, milk production, root growth, earthworm and increased water holding capacity through soil, pasture and clover only testing followed up by sound agronomic advice.

“This study is highly relevant, especially to Canterbury dairy farmers as the NZ Government requirement that no more than 190 kg of nitrogen per hectare is applied in any one year. It is also likely in the future that there will be restrictions in phosphate (P) use, as P is more of a threat to the environment if it gets into waterways than N” adds Gordon.

‘Farmers are very worried about the 190 N rule particularly in Canterbury, they do not have to be as you can grow enough pasture with high-quality feed if you get the right advice based on sound scientific principles’ adds Gordon. . . 


Rural round-up

27/04/2021

Farming director on SFF knew the time to go – Sally Rae:

When Fiona Hancox stood for the board of Silver Fern Farms, it was all about timing.

Six years later, the West Otago farmer’s decision to not seek re-election in this year’s farmer director elections for Silver Fern Farms Co-operative was also about timing.

While acknowledging it was sad to leave what was a “fantastic company and board” and also such an important part of her family’s own farming business — it was the right time, she said.

“I think I’ll be just be able to be pleased with what I’ve done,” she said. . .

Govt hasn’t got its ducks in a row on firearms licensing:

The Government’s focus on hitting legal firearms owners with more costs and regulations has meant those keen to participate in the Roar and duck shooting season may miss out.

Opening weekend of duck shooting season is just around the corner and the Roar is drawing to a close but many hunters are still waiting for their paperwork to be processed in order for them to hunt legally.

National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says police have been unable to get on top of the situation.

“Police are telling people it’s taking four months for a license renewal and six months for a new license. But in reality, for some it’s taking much longer than that. . . 

Ag export sector backs scrapping UK Tariffs – Nigel Stirling:

New Zealand’s largest agricultural export industries have given conditional backing to calls for Britain to scrap tariffs on food imports.

Britain’s Trade Minister Liz Truss set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission last year, to plot a path forward for the country’s trading relationships with the rest of the world following its departure from the European Union’s customs union on January 1.

Former NZ trade minister Lockwood Smith, who joined the commission as an expert on international trade and helped write its final report published in February, has said its recommendation to Truss to open the border to food imports from countries with equivalent animal welfare and environmental standards as the UK is potentially a breakthrough moment for NZ dairy and beef exports shut out of the British market by high EU tariffs since the 1970s. . .

Using Mandarin to meat a need – Shawn McAvinue:

Southern students considering careers in the red meat processing and exporting sector were among the Meat Industry Association scholarship recipients for 2021. In a series, reporter Shawn McAvinue asks them about their study and plans.

A Nelson Mandela quote resonates with Meat Industry Association scholarship recipient Joelle Gatenby: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Her dream was to use her agribusiness and Mandarin language skills to “bridge the friendship” between New Zealand and China and sell more red meat to the populous nation.

She learned to speak, read and write Mandarin at high school and represented Columba College at national Chinese speech and essay competitions. . . 

Defining year for winter grazing practices:

While the Government has delayed the implementation of winter grazing regulations by 12 months, it has made it clear it will be keeping a very close eye on wintering practices this year.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s North Island General Manager Corina Jordan says farmers should follow the good practice management advice developed by B+LNZ, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and other industry partners and ensure they have a plan in place that identifies any winter grazing risks and outlines the strategies to mitigate them.

Based on recommendations from the farmer-led Southland Winter Grazing Advisory Group, B+LNZ is planning to hold Forage Cropping Workshops this winter, which are a component of the organisation’s recently released Farm Plan.     . .

* Big agriculture is best – Ted Nordhaus and Dan Blaustein-Rejto:

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

But U.S. dependence on large farms is not a conspiracy by big corporations. Without question, the U.S. food system has many problems. But persistent misperceptions about it, most especially among affluent consumers, are a function of its spectacular success, not its failure. Any effort to address social and environmental problems associated with food production in the United States will need to first accommodate itself to the reality that, in a modern and affluent economy, the food system could not be anything other than large-scale, intensive, technological, and industrialized. . .

* Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour


If proportionality is so important . . .

23/04/2021

The waka jumping law was one of the dead rats that New Zealand First forced Labour and the Green Party to swallow in the previous government.

It’s a rat for which Labour has now developed a taste:

Labour will vote against a proposed repeal of the Waka Jumping law, killing off any chances of removing the controversial law.

The Waka Jumping or ‘party hopping’ law allows parliamentary parties to remove their own MPs from Parliament in some circumstances, meaning party leaders and caucuses have the power not just to expel MPs from their own party, but from Parliament itself.

It was passed with much controversy last term after NZ First won agreement for it in the party’s coalition agreement with Labour. The Green Party, who have long opposed such laws, swallowed the “dead rat” and voted for the law – as the party believed it was bound to honour Labour’s obligation to NZ First. . . 

The Green Party’s disquiet with the law remained, and in the final months before last year’s election it backed a National Party members’ bill by Nick Smith which sought to repeal the law.

At that point before the election National and the Greens had enough votes together to pass bills, so the bill passed the first of the three readings it would need to become law.

But at the election Labour won an outright majority, meaning no bill can pass if Labour votes against them.

Labour had voted against repeal at the first reading, but openly mulled a change in position following the election.

However a report from the Justice Select Committee which considered the bill makes clear that Labour’s opposition to repeal remains – with the Labour-majority committee voting to recommend the bill not be passed.

Labour MP and Justice Select Committee chair Ginny Andersen said the committee members heard no compelling new case to repeal the law.

She said the “proportionality” of Parliament – basically the fact that the number of MPs in Parliament roughly corresponds to the number of party votes they received – was important.

“The proportionality of Parliament is important, that’s why we have MMP, maintaining that is important.”

“The Labour members on the committee all agreed that this is an important principle – the idea of proportionality. It helps maintain public confidence.” . . 

If proportionality was really the issue then Labour would be addressing the way a by-election can upset it if it’s won by a candidate from a different party than the one that held the seat before the election.

That’s what happened in Northland when National’s Mike Sabin resigned and Winston Peters won the by-election.

To maintain proportionality, National ought to have got another list MP. Instead another NZ First list MP came into parliament completely upsetting proportionality by leaving National with one MP fewer and the opposition with one more.

Labour didn’t make a murmur then and raising proportionality to oppose repeal of the waka jumping legislation is a feeble excuse not a valid reason.

It does however, beg a question – what makes Labour so unsure about the loyalty of its caucus that it isn’t prepared to bury the dead rat this term when it  swallowed it so reluctantly last term?


When lawmakers abuse the law

21/04/2021

Governments are supposed to make laws not abuse them:

The Auditor-General has confirmed the Labour Government unlawfully used millions of taxpayer dollars to settle the Ihumātao land dispute.

In response to a letter from National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis, written in March, the Auditor-General has confirmed today that the $30 million deal to buy the disputed land from Fletchers was not done by the book.

“The Auditor-General’s report uncovers extremely dodgy behaviour from Labour Government Ministers as they tried to justify this spending,” Ms Willis says.

The Auditor-General’s inquiries have revealed that after Treasury officials refused to let the Government use money from the Land for Housing programme to make the Ihumātao payment, Ministers invented a completely new spending category: ‘Te Puke Tāpapatanga a Hape (Ihumātao)’ within Vote Housing and Urban Development in the Budget.

“They did this on February 9 but tried to keep it secret,” Ms Willis says. “The Auditor-General raised serious concerns about the way this was done, saying ‘the payment of $29.9 million was incurred without the proper authority’.

Tried to keep it secret? What happened to the most open and transparent government?

According to the Auditor-General, the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals for money in the Budget to be used in this way, making the payment unlawful until validated by Parliament as part of an Appropriation (Confirmation and Validation) Act, Ms Willis says.

“This is a disgraceful abuse of the law. Ministers are not a law unto themselves with authority to write cheques whenever they wish. They need to get the approval of Parliament first.

“But when it came to Ihumātao, the Labour Government decided the usual rules need not apply.”

The Auditor-General says the Housing Minister will now be required to explain the matter to the House of Representatives and seek validation of the expenditure from Parliament through legislation.

National’s Finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says this is a shocking abuse of privilege and of taxpayer funds by the Labour Government.

“We warned the Government all along that its treatment of the dispute was leading to awkward precedents, and here is the proof.

“Taxpayers aren’t a bank to be called upon to clean up the Government’s poor decisions, particularly when it is meddling in private property rights.

“The Prime Minister should never have involved herself in the Ihumātao dispute and stopped 480 much-needed houses from being built.

“National would protect the land owner’s property rights and ensure full and final treaty settlements are just that – full and final.”

You can read the Auditor General’s reply to Nicola Willis here.

He is quite clear that the payment was unlawful:

. . .In our view, the intent of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and the intent of Ministers, was to establish a new appropriation that would provide authority for the purchase of the land at Ihumātao. However, because the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals, the expenditure was incurred without appropriation and without authority to use Imprest Supply. For these reasons, the payment is unlawful until validated by Parliament. . .

This started when the Prime Minister interfered in an illegal occupation with a total disregard for property rights and the urgent need for more houses.

As a result of her interference the occupation was prolonged, houses weren’t built and the taxpayer ended up with a $30m bill that the government paid unlawfully.

This wasn’t accidental or carelessness. It was deliberate and compounding the wrongdoing was using money set aside to build houses to stop houses being built.

What happens when lawmakers abuse the law in this way?

They will retrospectively approve the payment to validate it.

That will sort the legal issue and the government will ride out any political damage it’s inflicted on itself.

But it won’t build any houses and it won’t do anything to remedy the undermining of the principle that Treaty settlements are full and final.


Still not kind enough

20/04/2021

The government is giving some long overdue relief to migrant families who have been separated for more than a year:

National is pleased a solution has finally been found for some of the migrants split from their families after the Government forced them to endure more than a year of distress and uncertainty, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“News that many migrants, including our critical nurses and health workers, will finally get to hug their children and partners will be an enormous relief to them.

“New Zealand is critically short of nurses and is undertaking the biggest vaccination programme in living memory, so it’s reassuring that migrant nurses caught by a policy anomaly can now stay here and be reunited with their families.

“We can’t afford to lose the highly-skilled migrants who fill gaps in our workforce that we can’t otherwise fill. They are our doctors, our engineers, our tech experts, and our children’s mathematics teachers – we desperately need them in this country.

We need them and they need their families.

“While National welcomes today’s announcement, which is clearly the right thing to do, it is a shame the Government only acted after intense and sustained pressure from the Opposition, the media and split migrant family advocates.

“It should not have taken nurses shedding tears on the 6pm news night after night, having been separated from their babies, for the Government to act after it ignored them for months.

“Today’s move is a good start, but there is more to do. This decision won’t cover many families whose visas were being processed but had not yet been approved.

“Families still left in limbo will be deeply disappointed the Immigration Minister did not give them a roadmap to reunification.

“This overdue announcement, coming after months of pressure, shows the Labour Government does not have a clear plan for our immigration settings.

“National will continue to closely scrutinise the Government’s immigration and border response, and will continue to be the party that values and speaks up for our migrants.” 

The government is acting on its be-kind mantra, albeit belatedly, but it is not yet being kind enough.

Too many families won’t qualify for this and there are a lot of businesses desperate for workers who still can’t get them through the border.

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them.

“When the labour shortage expired last Friday, we laid off 22 staff,” he said. “There simply aren’t the tourist numbers by the time you get into April to find those people [again].” . . 

Fruit growers further south are facing the same problem:

Central Otago’s horticulture sector fears fruit may be left to rot if a labour shortage isn’t filled soon.

The region is suffering from a lack of the usual seasonal workers from the Pacific because of Covid-19 border restrictions.

Many locals who filled in for the summer fruit harvest have left for university or jobs elsewhere.

With the borders creaking open with the announcement of the trans-Tasman bubble last week, horticulturists are calling for a Pacific bubble to follow.

Wine grower James Dicey said this year’s vintage would be an expensive one.

“We’ve scrapped through by the skin of our teeth,” he said, of the difficulty of finding workers to pick grapes.

“It’s going to cost us a lot more – not only the minimum wage increase, but the loss of productivity we’ve had has been a double bite. I’ve had to put extra vans on, find accommodation for staff, go to a huge extra level just to make sure we are able to secure the people we need.”

Orchards and vineyards would pay the cost of getting foreign workers into MIQ, if that was an option, but the risk was so low from the Pacific workers should just be let in, Dicey said. 

The five main countries which supplied seasonal workers – known as RSE – had few or no cases of Covid. . . 

It’s not just added stress and loss income for the businesses, less fruit and vegetables picked means less to sell. That will result in less export income for the country and higher prices for households here.

The government needs to reassess its priorities when the cast and crew of The Lion King have been allowed in but the workers needed to pick fruit and vegetables aren’t.

Its current policy is not nearly kind enough.


Rural round-up

11/04/2021

Industries desperate for workers urge government to open borders to Pacific – Tom Kitchen:

Fruit, meat works and food processing industries are calling on the government to open Pacific borders to tackle what they’re calling their worst ever labour crisis.

At a media conference in Napier this morning they demanded more help.

Apples are rotting on the ground at many orchards.

Chestergrove Orchards owner Bruce Mitchell said he could not find enough pickers to pick his royal galas . . 

Government needs to move faster on Pacific bubble :

National supports the call by Hawke’s Bay orchardists and businesses that are reliant on seasonal work to open a travel bubble with the Pacific Islands, Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Growers and processors have good reason to be frustrated at the Government for not acting fast enough. This frustration boiled over in today’s extraordinary call for help.

“The Minister of Agriculture recently confirmed he has not prepared any papers for Cabinet this year relating to a Pacific bubble, despite calls from the sector. It’s his responsibility to advocate on behalf of horticulturalists who have seen devastating losses this season. . .

Hollywood director James Cameron’s enviro-farm turns to dairy cow grazing:

James Cameron’s plans to convert his Wairarapa properties into organic veggie farms appear to have fallen short – with hundreds of cows now understood to be grazing in his paddocks.

The Avatar film director owns more than 1500 hectares of land in South Wairarapa, and has been outspoken about the need for New Zealand to move away from agriculture to curb carbon emissions.

Locals say he’s not walking the talk – with plans for crop farming giving way to more lucrative dairy grazing.

However, they did note the farm had moved to get away from agriculture, that there was no intensive stock grazing taking place, and that staff did an excellent job with the property. . .

Slowing down and family time key – Maggie McNaughton:

If Pukekohe market gardener and CEO of  The Fresh Grower Allan Fong could dish out one piece of advice to his younger self, it would be to slow down and spend more time with his family.

The 65-year-old has recently stepped back from the job that has consumed his life since he was a youngster.

“My parents were from China and they started their own vegetable growing business in Pukekohe in 1950 and us kids would help out before school and after school every day,” Allan says.

Allan and his younger brother Colin eventually took over the farm and recently Colin’s three sons have taken up the reins. . . 

Ahuwhenua finalist showcases farm :

Pouarua Farms is the largest, single dairy platform in the Hauraki region and it can also lay claim to be one of the best Maori dairy farms in the country.

The farm is one of the finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua trophy for the top Maori dairy farm.

As part of the competition, each of the three finalists have to hold a field day on their respective properties to give other farmers, and all those with an interest in the dairy sector the opportunity to see first-hand just why these farms have made it to the top.

Pouarua’s 2,200ha platform comprises ten farms: nine dairy units and one drystock unit. A total of 4,600 cows are milked across 1,775ha and produce approximately 1.65M kgMS. . . 

 

David Littleproud urges Australian shearers not to take up exemptions to work in the UK – Billy Jupp:

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has urged Australian shearers not to travel internationally to aid in global workforce shortages.

New Zealand and Australian shearers were recently given an exemption to travel to the United Kingdom to help combat its shearer shortage.

However, the Nationals deputy leader said travelling abroad was ill-advised due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last place I’d want to go to is the UK,” Mr Littleproud told The Land. . . 

 


Stop tax increases by stealth

09/04/2021

National is seeking to stop tax increases by stealth:

National is committed to letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and has proposed new legislation that will end tax hikes by stealth, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says.

Mr Bridges’ Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill, drawn from the Member’s Ballot today, will require tax thresholds to be adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. This will mean that within a year, after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This will stop New Zealanders moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living, putting an end to inflation being an annual tax increase by stealth.

“New Zealanders will be able to keep more of what they earn, helping them stay on top of rising costs for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“The Tax Working Group advised the Government that bracket creep could lead to as much as $1.7 billion in stealth tax increases in a given year. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

If passed into law, this change will make a real difference, Mr Bridges says.

“It will mean Kiwis can keep more their own money in their own bank accounts,” Mr Bridges says.

“This law change shows how committed National is to helping New Zealanders get ahead.

“There is widespread agreement that bracket creep is a hidden tax increase on hard working New Zealanders, and I urge Finance Minister Grant Robertson to stop taxing Kiwis by stealth and wholeheartedly support this law change through all stages.”

The Taxpayers’ Union applauds the Bill:

. . . Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “From a taxpayer perspective, this is one of the most important private members’ bills we’ll see in our lifetime. For decades successive governments have exploited inflation to sneakily increase the average tax rates levied on New Zealanders. It’s a stealthy, dishonest tax hike that makes a liar of any politician who promises ‘no new taxes’.”

The Taxpayers’ Union has campaigned against bracket creep since 2016. In a submission to the Tax Working Group, the Union highlighted bracket creep as the ‘under-arm bowling of our tax system’, explaining: Inflation sees taxpayers’ nominal incomes, but not real incomes, increase. Because income tax thresholds are fixed, taxpayers face a higher proportion of their income lost to income tax, without any corresponding increase to their real income.

“Take our 30 percent income tax rate. When it was introduced in 2010 for income over $70,000, that was the equivalent of $83,000 in today’s money. That meant only high earners were hit. But today, $70,000 is an unremarkable salary. It’s atrocious that middle-income New Zealanders are forced to give up 30 percent of any pay rise to the taxman.”

“Labour has no good reason to block this bill. They’ve already rushed through unannounced taxes on housing, so they don’t need extra revenue. In fact, under Bridges’s bill, the Minister of Finance could still veto bracket adjustments on a case by case basis. Of course, he’d have to explain himself to New Zealanders, but he shouldn’t be afraid of accountability.”

Having no good reason to block the bill might not be enough to stop Labour doing that.

But if it is serious about its quest for wellbeing and the need for kindness, it will do the right thing and back this bill to stop the stealthy tax increases by adjusting thresholds in line with inflation.


Unfunded chemo drugs could be administered by DHBs

06/04/2021

If you get cancer in New Zealand and have the means you might be able to pay for chemotherapy drugs that aren’t funded here but are funded in other countries.

Paying for the drugs is expensive, what makes it even harder for many to afford, is paying for them to be administered.

National wants that to change:

The National Party wants to see the law changed so that Kiwis can have their unfunded chemotherapy drugs administered in DHBs and cover the cost of this, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“At the moment cancer medicines unfunded by PHARMAC can only be administered in expensive private cancer facilities at a further cost to the patient.

“So not only are patients mortgaging their homes, taking out loans and using up all their savings to buy their desperately needed medicines that PHARMAC won’t fund, they then have to pay tens of thousands of dollars on top of this to have these medicines administered.

“Transport for these people is a further hurdle and I have been contacted by patients who have had to travel many hours past their local DHB in order to access an expensive private facility.

“These are New Zealanders who are already in the incredibly heart breaking situation of having cancer and their chemotherapy drug isn’t funded. Making these New Zealanders then pay the costs of administering their medicines doesn’t seem fair to the National Party.

“National is proposing a law change that would allow DHBs to administer, and cover the cost of administering, day-stay cancer medicines where they are not funded by PHARMAC.

“Many New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices in order to get the treatment they need, it’s time for the State to partner with our most vulnerable and give them the best possible chance to manage their cancer.

“A few hours in an armchair in a day-stay chemotherapy unit pales in comparison to the tens of thousands, often hundreds of thousands, of dollars some people are paying for their unfunded chemotherapy drugs.

“When you see how much of an impact this would have on our vulnerable Kiwis, it’s a no brainer.

“The National Party is calling on the Government to support this law change and help make life a little easier for those Kiwis facing significant medical bills while trying to beat cancer.”

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is difficult.

Knowing that if you lived in another country, Australia, for example, you could get treatment that isn’t funded here, makes it even harder.

Paying for that treatment is very, every expensive; and too expensive for most patients. Even if medical insurance covers the cost of the drugs, it often doesn’t cover the cost of administering them.

Funding DHBs to administer chemo drugs that people fund privately, would relieve some of the financial burden for them, and could make a lifesaving difference.


Is the ‘flu vaccine late?

31/03/2021

Last week I went searching for news on the ‘flu vaccine programme and came across a page with the Ministry of Health policy:

From 2019 the Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme (the Programme) will start from 1 April each year.

This start date differs from previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The Ministry has considered a range of factors in making this decision including: emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector.

The start date from 1 April will be subject to the vaccine being available for distribution across New Zealand by then. Changes to vaccine strains can result in longer manufacturing lead time and the arrival of vaccines in late rather than early March.

Duration of influenza vaccine protection

New evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness begins to decline after influenza vaccination. Maximum protection from influenza is observed around two weeks after vaccination and starts to decline by about 7 percent every month. . . .

Influenza activity may occur throughout the year with the peak incidence during the winter months. New Zealand’s surveillance data shows that the peak has moved to August in recent years. Influenza surveillance data and the shift in peak influenza activity, in conjunction with declining vaccine effectiveness supports a change in the start date. The programme start date from 1 April ensures better protection against influenza during the peak incidence particularly for our most vulnerable populations.  . .

That all seems reasonable but yesterday I checked the MOH website and found this:

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme will commence on 14 April 2021, with a two-week priority period for people eligible for a free influenza vaccination. These dates are dependent on approval by the regulator. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising those who are eligible for a funded vaccination for the first two weeks of the programme to protect as many of those who are at greatest risk first, well ahead of the influenza season.

The first week of the prioritisation period is only for adults aged 65 and over and there is an additional vaccine this year that is specifically intended for this population.

The second week of the prioritisation period, from 21 April, extends to all those eligible for a funded vaccination.

Vaccination can then be extended to include the general population from 28 April 2021. . . 

April 14 is two weeks later and April 21 three weeks later, than the policy to start the programme on April 1.

That probably won’t matter for the people on the priority list.

But if the general population doesn’t start to get their vaccinations until 28th of April and the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum effectiveness for two weeks, are most people going to be at risk of contracting the disease before they’re protected?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid when there are so few people coming into the country, the risk of ‘flu might be much less than it would have been pre-Covid.

But this is the Ministry that bungled the measles vaccination. It’s also the Ministry that swore black and blue that there was plenty of stock for last year’s ‘flu vaccination rollout while those on the ground who were supposed to be administering them were saying there wasn’t, and they were eventually proved right.

It’s also the Ministry that’s in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for which we haven’t been told a plan, and for which there is no target:

National is calling on the Government to make a statement of intent about protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 by setting a target of having at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the OECD that doesn’t have a target for how many adults should be vaccinated. The others are Colombia and Mexico.

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either.

“The best the Government can say is that it wants all New Zealanders to be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. This isn’t good enough.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.

“Targets exist for the measles and flu vaccines. Not having one for Covid-19 suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this.

“If KiwiBuild taught us anything, it’s that the Labour Government isn’t great at hitting targets. But that shouldn’t matter. Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout is too important not to have one.

Mr Bishop also criticised the slow pace of the Government’s vaccine rollout to date, and the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are being administered in New Zealand.

“Most countries are doing daily, or near-daily, updates on how many people are being vaccinated. New Zealand has to settle for sporadic updates, randomly announced by Chris Hipkins or Ashley Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should be getting near-daily announcements, published by the Ministry of Health, so everyone can see how our vaccine rollout is going. This isn’t rocket science – it already happens with testing and tracing.

“New Zealand started slow on vaccinations and we’re falling further behind the rest of the world. The latest available public information shows we have administered just 0.56 vaccines per 100 people, while Australia has administered 1.21 vaccines per 100 people.

“We weren’t at the front of the queue for receiving vaccines, like the Government said we were, and our vaccine rollout started slow because of this. It needs to gather pace.”

Call me cynical if you like, but the government is always keen to tell us the good news.

That it has made no mention of this year’s ‘flu vaccination programme, is being quiet about how many people have received the Covid-19 vaccine, has given only vague details about its roll-out to the general population, and appears to have no plan to set targets feeds the suspicion that it doesn’t have any good news about any of this.

 


National helps govt with numbers

30/03/2021

A misdirected email from the Prime Minister’s office sought information on rent rises.

The response was probably not what they wanted:

In the spirit of bipartisanship, National has helped the Prime Minister prepare for her post-Cabinet press conference today by collating the data she requested on rent increases – although she might want to think carefully before drawing public attention to it, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, recent trends in house price growth, rental hikes and wage growth don’t make good reading for her Labour Government.

“Jacinda Ardern has unleashed a raft of changes on rental properties: two extensions to the bright-line test, banning letting fees, and major amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. All the way through, officials told her that rents would increase but her Government maintained a view that the officials were wrong.

“The Government’s policies have seen weekly rental costs shoot up a massive $120 in just over three years. This is a record increase and a clear sign these policies are failing.

“Rents have increased by 8 per cent per year under Labour, compared to 3 per cent per year under the previous National Government. The median house price has also spiralled out of control on Jacinda Ardern’s watch, jumping 12 per cent per year compared to the 5 per cent per year increase under National.

“Neither of these increases under Labour have been in step with wage growth. The median weekly income increased by 2.7 per cent per year under the previous National Government and has only increased by 2.1 per cent per year under the current Government.

“The sad reality is, renters have been thrown under the bus by this Labour Government.

“As was the case with its changes to rental standards last term, Labour has failed to grasp that forcing more costs onto landlords will ultimately reduce the number of rentals on the market, making renting more unaffordable and exacerbating homelessness.

“This is why Finance Minister Grant Robertson is now on the verge of dictating terms to landlords even further by introducing a cap on how much rent they can charge.

“This policy-on-the-fly approach is eroding the confidence of property investors and, ultimately, discouraging them from building more houses, which is exactly what needs to happen to solve New Zealand’s housing shortage.

“But at least now the Prime Minister will be fully informed when she addresses the media today. I hope she has some decent answers for the many New Zealanders who will be worse off because of her Government’s housing policies.”

One of this government’s priorities was reducing poverty.

Rising house prices and rising rents have done far more harm than any good any other policies might have done.

While we’re on the topic of housing.

How much confidence does this give you that the government has what it needs to tackle the crisis?


Penny Simmonds’ maiden speech

25/03/2021

National MP for Invercargill Penny Simmonds delivered her maiden speech yesterday:

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Oku Rangatira

Nga mihi nui

Ki a koutou katoa

Karanga mai karanga mai

Mr Speaker and parliamentary colleagues, I proudly represent the people of the Invercargill electorate, which takes in the communities of Invercargill, Bluff, Stewart Island, Riverton, Tuatapere, Otautau, Wyndham and Edendale. Its boundary to the east is the Catlins Conservation Park, to the west it extends into Fiordland National Park and to the south it takes in Rakiura National Park.

It is a region of stunning rugged beauty, important rural and manufacturing industries and innovative, hardworking people.

It is a region that produces its wealth from farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, tourism and aluminium smelting. Much of this wealth comes from the consistency of our rainfall, which, despite the often unflattering comments by the misinformed about our climate, is the lifeblood of our industries. As our famous Mayor, Sir Tim Shadbolt prophesized many years ago, water will one day be more valuable than oil!

My foray into politics has perhaps been more of a surprise to me than to many of my supporters. After several decades of involvement in the communities of Invercargill, and Southland, many saw my move into politics as logical or even inevitable, however it was anything but for me.

I loved my work at the Southern Institute of Technology, SIT, and in various community organisations such as the Community Trust, Hockey Southland and in the implementation of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

However the foundation industries of our Southern community are coming to critical junctions, where decisions will be made that will impact on several generations of Southerners, and I want to be part of that decision-making, not just subjected to them.

I would, however, Mr Speaker, like to first refer to the influences of my early years growing up on a farm in Riversdale in Northern Southland. Ours was not a traditional farming family with land passed down through generations. My parents’ first farm was a returned serviceman’s settlement block, acquired after my father served in the Army in World War II and after many years of working as a shearer. My father was the oldest of five siblings and when his own father died at a young age, my father, at the age of only 14 years, became the family breadwinner. This experience, and the kindness shown to him and opportunities given to him by many people in the Northern Southland rural communities, shaped the values of his and our lives. He carried a deep sense of fairness and looking out for others, until his own relatively early death.

My mother came from a large farming family of, well to be blunt, fairly stroppy, high achieving females. She, like her sisters excelled in many sports, with three of her sisters playing hockey for New Zealand, two of them captaining the New Zealand team. My father, and indeed most of the male in-laws in our extended family had to quickly adapt to being regularly thrashed at tennis, golf, bowls or any other sport they might have the misfortune to compete against their wives in. This laid the foundation for a highly competitive spirit and instilled the notion of “girls can do anything” long before it became a popular slogan. It also supported a number of us in subsequent generations to achieve national honours in hockey.

My mother was also a skilled pianist. She had to turn down a scholarship to study beyond her teaching letters at Trinity College in London. Due to her family’s financial circumstances they couldn’t afford it, and her mother was in a wheelchair. So her duty was to help the household. She did continue to use her skills as a music teacher and in local choirs and both she and my father, who also played several instruments instilled in us a love of music.

The one element that stood us apart from most of the community was our oldest sibling being intellectually handicapped as a result of decisions made during a difficult birth. This extended our world into the families, institutions and bureaucracy of dealing with disabilities. This has continued for our family with the birth of our youngest daughter, Briony, who has Down’s Syndrome.

Apart from that, my upbringing was pretty standard fare in a Southland rural community. We were neither wealthy, nor poor. We understood the need to work hard but also to support those who needed it. We immersed ourselves in the community through school, sport, music, church and social activities. We learnt the value of family and community engagement and support.

It was that understanding of the value of interconnectivity with community which drove me in my 30 year career at the Southern Institute of Technology.

I started as Chief Executive when the then Southland Polytechnic, although financially stable, had experienced two consecutive years of declining student numbers. With only 1400 equivalent fulltime students it didn’t have far to fall to reach an unsustainable level and risk closure.

Our SIT team, over the 23 years I was Chief Executive, secured the support of our local community to implement a number of innovative schemes and initiatives which impacted positively on individuals, their families, local industries and organisations as well as the community itself.

Our Zero Fees Scheme, supported by Community funders, Local Authorities and many individual businesses, and championed by my good friend and mentor, His Worship, Sir Tim, was a pivotal community initiative. Mayor Tim’s account of my devising the scheme in the shower, has an element of truth to it. I did after all, at that time, have a very young family of three daughters and uninterrupted time to think and plan was a rarity, although I can assure you, Mayor Tim was not privy to my daily ablutions.

Our Zero Fees scheme was not a lone initiative. It was part of an overall strategy to rejuvenate the economic, social and cultural elements of our community after the devastation of the 1980s which we were still suffering the effects of.

The establishment of a strategic partnership with Te Wānanga O Aotearoa in 2001 through the assistance of two other people pivotal in my career, the late Koro Riki Cherrington and Ngāi Tahu kaumātua Michael Skerrett enabled a raising of awareness, knowledge and capability in tikanga and te reo Māori in our communities. The Wānanga gained many friends when they were large, wealthy and influential. However, the founding members, Rongo Wetere and his family, and other early managers of the Wānanga never forgot that we worked with and supported the Wānanga when they were small and struggling.

A Woolf Fisher fellowship enabled me to visit a number of innovative educational institutions in various parts of the world, including the Canadian distance tertiary education delivery in Nova Scotia, using technology to overcome the tyranny of geographic isolation. Modelling this lead to SIT developing its own distance learning delivery faculty, SIT2LRN, which has proven to be invaluable, enabling SIT to deliver cost-effective, quality tertiary education and training throughout New Zealand and across the world, as well as blended on-site delivery and seamless delivery for SIT students during the 2020 Covid lockdown.

SIT’s international strategy, brought to our local communities international graduates with diversity, vibrancy and skills to address industry skills shortages. Again working with the community, SIT brought the international students into Invercargill to study, not Auckland as many other institutions did, simply clipping the financial ticket. The need to work for and integrate with the local community was always top-of-mind.

I am extremely proud of what SIT has been able to achieve for Invercargill and Southland over the two decades and more I was Chief Executive, and my reason for recalling these achievements today is to underpin why I made a decision to stand for the Invercargill MP role.

I believe in the value and importance of our communities in the south and I have unashamedly fought to strengthen and support our people, industries, organisations and communities in my various positions at SIT, and in other community leadership roles I have held.

At times my parochialism and intransient attitude to changes imposed from Wellington may have been interpreted as disruptive or even cantankerous. But I learnt many years ago how important it is to push back against “Wellington knows best”.

I looked back to the development of the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter in 1971, the economic development brainchild of long-serving Invercargill Mayor Neil Watson and then MP Ralph Hanan, set up in conjunction with the Manapouri power station, and currently under threat, and with it the jobs and livelihoods of several thousand Southlanders and their families.

I also looked to our Southland rural sector, the economic bedrock of Invercargill and Southland’s wealth and prosperity, which survived the reforms of the 1980s and pulled itself back to a powerhouse once more, ensuring that Southland punches well above its weight consistently contributing around 15 per cent to NZ’s GDP with less than 1.2 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

The South’s rural sector is justifiably proud of its long history of economic success. But our rural sector is facing significant threats that seem to ignore, or not understand, the unique climatic and geographic challenges of the southern farmer, and give no credit to the incredible progress already being made by farmers working together with scientists to improve environmental outcomes.

And I look to the threat of SIT, the organisation I had the privilege to lead for over 23 years, losing its autonomy and innovation, being swallowed up in the ideological mega-merger of institutes of technology and polytechnics.

While there may be better alternatives to the status quo in each of these industries, I know that the decisions must be driven by Southlanders to ensure the benefits stay in the south. The decisions must also be pragmatic, science, technology and engineering based, not reacting to emotive sound bites from people who don’t understand either economics or science.

Ngai Tāhu’s Murihiku regeneration project provides the opportunity for a partnership to drive our future from the south. As Tā Tipene O’Regan said recently: “we are facing a once-in-many-generations opportunity to reset the way we manage energy”.

We need to ensure that the clean energy from Manapouri and the abundance of freshwater in the south is harnessed to provide jobs and prosperity for the south. However, the Crown’s plans to spend over half a billion dollars on upgrading transmission lines to take power north does not fill me with confidence that they share our vision for the south’s clean energy and freshwater.

It is these important local issues and pending decisions that led me to stand for the Invercargill electorate at a time when my role at SIT could no longer achieve the things that I considered important to Invercargill. I saw an opportunity to further our community’s needs and support our farmers and industries as the local MP.

In securing the role of MP for Invercargill, I extend my thanks and gratitude to the Invercargill National Party executive, my campaign team, the regional chair and the hundreds of members and volunteers whose hard work made this transition possible for me, and I thank my caucus colleagues, and in particular our leader, the Honourable Judith Collins, who have helped ease my way into the intriguing world of politics.

I also acknowledge my long suffering family, who for years have put up with me being away on business for significant family events like birthdays and anniversaries, and despite this have encouraged me in my new endeavour. My thanks to my husband Marty, twin daughters Alex and Whitney, their spouses Kurt and Rowan, our little mokopuna Flynn, Lily and Harrison, and of course our very special youngest daughter Briony. Briony’s support person, Jicinta Veale, must also be acknowledged as playing a large part in enabling me to do what I do.

A career politician has never been my aim, but then a career chief executive wasn’t my aim either, and I lasted 23 years in that role. In both instances I have been driven by what the roles enable me to do, rather than the role being an end in itself.

The position of Chief Executive of SIT enabled me to do what I loved – contribute to the economic, social and cultural development and wellbeing of our southern region through the benefits SIT provided for our students, their families, our industries and our community.

It was an honour and a privilege to work in tandem, with the community to implement many innovative initiatives and I acknowledge all my SIT senior management colleagues who were instrumental in these achievements. In particular I thank those in the gallery here today still supporting me, Bharat Guha, and Teri McClelland, as well as my good friend and colleague Patsy Eade and the many supportive SIT Council members I had over the years.

I will always be indebted to our famous Mayor, Sir Tim Shadbolt, who was with me through these golden years at SIT as well as the very influential Ngai Tāhu and SIT kaumātua Michael Skerrett.

I will be driven in this new role as Member of Parliament for Invercargill to continue my advocacy for the people, industries, organisations and communities of the Invercargill electorate.

I come to the role with the experiences of a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife, a mother and a grandmother, an educationalist and a soldier for several years in the Territorials, a businesswoman, a community leader, and a sportsperson.

But most of all, I come as a passionate Southlander who will not stand by and allow the place that I proudly call my home to be adversely impacted upon by poor political decisions. Our farmers, rural communities, SIT, our productive land, fresh water and clean energy are worth standing up for.

In concluding, I will chant a waiata written for me by the late Koro Riki Cherrington. It refers to the people and rivers of the south and the pathway of the whales. Murihiku, the southern region is of course the important and powerful tail of the whale of Aotearoa. Something best not to get in the way of.

Kia Ora. Thank you.


Christopher Luxon’s maiden speech

25/03/2021

National MP for Botany Christopher Luxon delivered his maiden speech yesterday:

E te mana whakawā. E nga mana, E ngā reo, E nga mataawaka.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa e tau nei.

Mr Speaker, I rise today mindful of the privilege and responsibility it is to serve in this House of Representatives, and also as the last of the new intake of MPs in the 53rd Parliament to give their maiden speech. And while some time has passed, I want to congratulate all my parliamentary colleagues for their election success. I also want to acknowledge the work that all the parliamentary staff do to ensure this House and our democracy functions well for New Zealanders.

I am honoured to be the member for Botany. Because it is one of the most diverse communities in the country and is full of hard-working, determined and aspirational people. I want to thank the people of Botany for their trust. I will work hard for you.

Politics, contrary to what people say, is actually the ultimate team sport so I want to thank my tremendous team of local volunteers and supporters, many of whom are here today. In particular, the incredible Katja Kershaw, Lisa Ambridge, Jake O’Flaherty, Graeme Rayner, our Executive Committee and our outstanding Campaign Team.

To my children, William and Olivia, thank you for being so supportive, understanding and encouraging as I take on this new challenge. Our future is in great hands with your generation coming through.

And most of all, thank you to my wife Amanda. She is my best friend. We met when we were 15 and she is the most extraordinary person I know – strong, wise, smart, and funny.

Botany Electorate

Mr Speaker, MPs in this House represent different communities, and all of them together make up Aotearoa New Zealand. Botany makes a special contribution to our Kiwi mosaic.

From our mana whenua with their long connection to our land and sea; to the northern suburbs of coastal Cockle Bay, Shelley Park and Botany Downs; to the converted farmland and home to New Zealanders in Dannemora, Sommerville, Shamrock Park and East Tamaki Heights; to Flat Bush and Chapel Downs – some of the fastest growing residential areas in the country; and our proud Pasifika community in the southwest in Rongomai and Clover Park.

Botany’s diversity makes it special. Over half its population was born overseas and New Zealand is a much richer place economically, socially and culturally because of these communities. But whether you have lived 40 years in Cockle Bay or four years in Flat Bush, Botany people have all worked incredibly hard to get to where they are. It is that desire to get ahead, for ourselves, our families and our community, and our country that unites us regardless of our age, ethnicity, language and faith.

But like most districts, Botany has its challenges. East Auckland is already bigger than Dunedin and Tauranga, yet it is chronically under-served by public services. On behalf of those who voted for me, and of those who didn’t, I am committed to solving these problems.

Origins

Mr Speaker, let me share a little of where I come from.

My ancestors came to New Zealand as Irish miners and hotel keepers; they came as Scottish stonemasons and bakers; and they came as English farmers, labourers and fishermen. They were new New Zealanders too.

I remember and honour in this special place, my late grandparents, Bert and Clare Turnbull, and Fred and Joan Luxon. I thank my brothers and all my family members for their love and support. Nothing is more precious than family.

From my father – Graham Luxon – I learned to set big goals and to work hard to achieve them; to have a positive attitude and to never let your circumstances define you. He left school and worked his way up from sales rep to General Manager. He’s a real life MacGyver and a very present father. His enthusiasm and positivity are truly infectious.

From my mother, Kathleen, I learned about people, perspectives, relationships and I inherited my sense of humour. Mum came to university the same year as I did, to do a Diploma in Social Work. She has become a highly respected psychotherapist and counsellor. She taught me to walk across the room, to engage with people different from me, to see both sides of an issue and, in doing so, to broaden my horizons.

Faith

Mr Speaker, it seems it has become acceptable to stereotype those who have a Christian faith in public life as being “extreme”, so I will say a little about my Christian faith. It has anchored me, given my life purpose and shaped my values, and it puts me in the context of something bigger than myself. My faith has a strong influence on who I am and how I relate to people. I see Jesus showing compassion, tolerance and care for others. He doesn’t judge, discriminate or reject people. He loves unconditionally.

Through history we have seen Christians making a huge difference by entering public life. Christian abolitionists fought against slavery. Others educated the poor and challenged the rich to share their wealth and help others less fortunate. The world is a better place for Christians like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King and Kate Sheppard contributing to public life.

My faith is personal to me. It is not in itself a political agenda. I believe no religion should dictate to the state and no politician should use the political platform they have to force their beliefs on others. As MPs we serve the common cause of all New Zealanders – not one religion, not one group, and not one interest. A person should not be elected because of their faith and nor should they be rejected because of it. Democracy thrives on diverse thinking and different world views.

Career

Mr Speaker, until now, my career has been in business.

My first job after leaving university was at the global multi-national, Unilever – a huge company that is bigger than many countries. I had amazing opportunities and a truly global business education. I spent 16 years overseas working in developed and developing countries, turning businesses around and working alongside some very smart people. I realised that down-to-earth Kiwis could be as good as the Oxbridge set from England, Ivy League educated Americans, and born-confident Australians.

I came home to New Zealand and had the great privilege of leading our most iconic company – Air New Zealand – for seven years. My team, many of whom are here today, turned a good New Zealand company into one that was truly world-class and globally acclaimed.

Over my career I have come to believe more and more strongly that successful businesses have a critical responsibility to engage on the economic, social and environmental issues a country faces. Making a difference to people’s daily lives is a shared responsibility for government, community and also business.

In my time, Air New Zealand employed 12,500 people. It was a cross-section of New Zealand life. As CEO, I had the opportunity to get things done and demonstrate that a business could do well by doing good.

For example, we decided that New Zealand’s shameful record of family violence was a workplace issue as well as a social issue. So we introduced a three-week paid family violence leave policy for victims.

The pay equity gap at Air New Zealand was reduced to zero and we introduced a 26-week paid parental leave policy. Senior Leadership Team positions held by women went from 16 per cent to 44 per cent.

We worked hard to grow career pathways and internships for young Māori and Pasifika. We worked hard to champion and mainstream te reo and Tā Moko. We earned gender and Rainbow tick certifications.

Air New Zealand was also a foundation member of the Climate Leaders Coalition. 100 per cent of our company car fleet became fully electric – and that was over five years ago.

When the business delivered superior commercial returns we shared those profits with our employees through a Company Performance Bonus. The principle was simple: when Air New Zealand did well, all our staff should do well too.

Mr Speaker, I understand, of course, that a country is not a company. However, New Zealanders look to the Government to get things done. It’s not good enough saying you’re going to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but not do it. It’s not good enough saying you’re going to reduce child poverty but not actually do it. Talking about it gets you a headline but only doing it makes a difference. I have entered politics because I want to make a difference, to solve problems and to get things done.

Economy

Mr Speaker, New Zealand’s ability to become more prosperous and to enjoy a higher quality of life as a nation depends on the size and output of our economic engine. Just as growing Air New Zealand provided the opportunity for all staff to benefit, I believe that it’s growing New Zealand’s economy that will provide the opportunity for all New Zealanders to benefit.

However, I believe that right now, New Zealand’s economic engine needs major modifications and serious upgrading. We are underpowered because our economy for the last 30 years has been suffering from a productivity disease. Economic growth has largely been driven by having more people in the country and more people working harder.

We need to work smarter, not harder. We can do this by building and unleashing genuinely world-class export businesses, step-changing education and labour skills, and delivering infrastructure better. Improving productivity is the single biggest thing we can do to improve our standard of living.

Some Kiwi firms are succeeding internationally but, frankly, New Zealand needs many more of them. Only two of our Top 10 firms on the NZX compete in global markets at scale. Yet New Zealand has many opportunities on which it can build its future. We are well located to access the rapidly rising middle class and urbanising populations in the Americas, Asia and Australia. The question is: will we take advantage of and fully exploit and convert these opportunities, or will they just pass us by?

New Zealand has not invested in skills, R&D and innovation to nearly the same extent as the high-performing, small advanced economies of the world. New Zealand’s rapidly falling international performance in the basics of reading, maths and science is extremely concerning. I worry not because of a graph on a league table but because of the strong link between educational attainment and higher wages. Higher wages and greater job opportunities underpin the choices that New Zealand families have in how they live their lives.

Automation technologies, which span advanced robotics, machine learning and AI, will unleash unimaginable change in our society and our working lives. When I chaired the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, we looked very closely at both the opportunities and challenges greater automation presents New Zealand. It has the potential to help us work smarter and seriously improve our competitiveness and productivity. However, we are not currently geared-up for it. We need to build a bold plan with real actions to harness the opportunities and to ensure that large parts of our society are not left behind. The urgency can’t be understated.

Let me also talk briefly about infrastructure, which is at a crisis point. The issues are multi-generational and systemic. We need to reset and develop a new model to power the country into the 2040s rather than continuing to Band-Aid and No.8 wire our current system.

Infrastructure is not just about dams and transmission lines and highways. It’s about nation building. It’s about how we see our future. We need an overarching vision, new funding and financing mechanisms, upgraded legislation, and better project management and execution. Investing in world-class infrastructure that effectively connects, transports and develops information and ideas, people and products, is critical to New Zealand’s creation of wealth and the distribution of prosperity.

National Party

Mr Speaker, I am a proud member of the National Party. I believe that positive, practical centre-right principles and policies are best to navigate the challenges and opportunities that New Zealand faces.

I’m proud to be here under the leadership of Judith Collins and, like my colleagues, have built my personal and professional life on National Party values of freedom and choice, rights and responsibilities, limited yet better government, competitive enterprise, and equal opportunity and citizenship.

I believe in tackling inequality and working to find that balance between encouraging and rewarding hard work and innovation, while always ensuring there is social mobility and a safety net. Every New Zealander who cares about other New Zealanders understands what this means.

No matter your situation, I believe in a New Zealand that backs Kiwis to work hard, to convert opportunities, to create prosperity for themselves, their families, their communities and our country. Because that is how we will make our country stronger.

But I also believe that governments must make powerful and targeted interventions on behalf of those with the most complex and challenged lives. With the right resources at the right time, in the right place, the State can help people make positive and sustained changes that enable them to rise up and realise their potential.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, regardless of the different political views we hold in this House, New Zealanders can all agree that we are incredibly fortunate to live in this country.

I believe, more than ever, that if we make the right decisions, New Zealand has a great future ahead of us. We can do better, be more prosperous, and more ambitious – if we think strategically, solve problems, deliver results and get things done. I don’t want to settle for mediocrity and I don’t believe other New Zealanders want it either.

Like most New Zealanders, I have sat around the kitchen table talking to my kids about the subjects they’re choosing to study, or talking to Amanda about the care of elderly or sick friends. I understand that the choices that every New Zealand family has at such times are constrained by their circumstances. I’ve come to politics because I want those choices to be better for more New Zealand families. It’s by being more successful as a country that we can ensure that those kitchen table decisions include wider choices and better options for all New Zealanders.

The choices we all have, whether at the kitchen table or the boardroom table, are never made in isolation. The resilience and wealth of a student flat, a family home, a small business or a big corporate are all affected by how New Zealand is doing as a country. It’s my absolute belief that New Zealand can do better and when it does, New Zealanders will do better too.

We will ultimately get the country – the economy, society, and environment – we deserve, and I think we deserve the very best.

Mr Speaker, that’s the work that I am committing myself to today, and for as long as I am in this House, I intend to represent the people of Botany and to serve New Zealand to the very best of my ability. Thank you.


Simon Watts’ maiden speech

24/03/2021

National MP for North Shore, Simon Watts delivered his maiden speech yesterday.

 I look forward to my first term in New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament. It is with a sense of humility and awe that I address this House, but it is also with a sense of continuity. I’m keen to pay tribute to my predecessors who have represented Auckland’s North Shore with distinction, the Hon Maggie Barry and the Hon Wayne Mapp. Thank you for all of the support that you have shown me—support, I’m glad to say and honoured to say, that was echoed around the North Shore.

Thanks also to the people of my electorate for the faith that you have placed in me. Without your support, I would not be here today. I see that many of the North Shore team have made their trip down here today. I want to especially acknowledge David, Andrew, Gary, Azita, Judith, Logan, and Bradley. The significant contribution that you made to my campaign is greatly appreciated. I also want to thank the many volunteers who got me here today, members of the North Shore National Party and my friends, who ensured that a candidate campaigning in his first election was always supported. You matched my determination to reach out to everyone who lives on the shore with enthusiasm and agility. Because of you, our campaign benefited from fresh perspectives, and because of your efforts, we enrolled voters across the political spectrum in conversations about things that matter, no matter and regardless of the political party they would typically vote for. You helped to achieve this because you understood that there is a new expectation in this country. New Zealand needs leadership that enrols all of our energies to tackle the tasks facing us. Challenging times demand more than ever that we work together in the interests of all New Zealanders.

When we campaigned on the shore to clean up our beaches now, not in a couple of years, I knew that there were the people on the left, on the right, and in the centre who agreed. They may not have all voted for me, but right now they are demanding action, and quite rightly so. When I stood up in town hall meetings to say that traffic-clogged roads are a nightmare for commuters and the environment, I knew there were people who had never voted National before who nevertheless agreed that we need more ferry services and expansion, not cutbacks. The Harbour Bridge is the bane of the lives of everyone who lives on the shore. The lack of a second Waitematā Harbour crossing stifles business and chews up time that none of us can afford to waste, regardless of where our political loyalties lie.

So I congratulate the volunteers who worked with me to get the important stuff in front of the people, as did the volunteers who supported candidates from all parties across New Zealand. Whatever your politics, you brought a passionate commitment for our democracy, the ideals that make this country exceptional, and I thank you for that. It was certainly an election like no other, and I thank our president, Peter Goodfellow; regional chairs; party office holders; and staff, who rose to the challenge. I especially want to acknowledge the fortitude and tireless commitment of our leader, the Hon Judith Collins.

In fact, there are so many great people who should be thanked for me being here today. So I’m going to acknowledge them by sharing how they and the experiences they provided me informed my opinions and enriched my understanding of the world. I grew up in a typical rural family with parents who had a healthy respect for the benefits of hard work and a genuine love of the land that provided for us. I remember the time well when my two brothers, Tim and Paul, and I sold wind-fallen apples at our farm gate to finance a family holiday, and we roped in our cousins to help, too. You know, kids can achieve a lot with the right encouragement and support. Thanks, Mum and Dad. You are great role models.

I knew then, as I do now, that I am very lucky, and as a member of this Parliament, I am acutely aware that too many children throughout this country and in my own electorate don’t have the advantages I enjoyed. That knowledge stands beside me today. As an ambulance officer for St John, I’ve been into homes with black mould on the walls, treated children with breathing problems in overcrowded housing, self-harm due to mental health, and I’ve been on the roadside with colleagues as we tried to save the life of yet another person blighted by drugs and crime.

When I decided to complete a Bachelor of Health Science in paramedicine and become a paramedic, I wanted to make a difference, but having spent much of my adult life in banking and in finance, I quickly saw that the system wasn’t working. To deliver change, real change, I’d have to apply all of my skills and experience to the challenge. I set my sights on pushing the health system from within. I became the deputy chief financial officer for one of the country’s largest district health boards while still volunteering on the ambulance after hours. Working simultaneously at both ends of the system opened my eyes to the importance of a bold vision, coordinated approach, and action, not talk. Health and education can’t be siloed from our country’s economic performance, our strategy for affordable housing, or the importance of providing a self-worth for our citizens. It’s all linked, and these challenges need action to sort out not only just the symptoms but the root cause of these issues.

I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of 21 months old. I’ve had a lifetime association with a system that is blessed with passionate professionals yet plagued by broken decision making. It is time to fix that. We must fix that. We have the people; we undoubtedly have the resources. We must put individuals, families, and communities at the heart of decision making, not existing government structures and ways of doing things.

When I graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Management Studies, I, like many New Zealanders, headed overseas to broaden my mind and to gain new experiences. My accounting and finance majors inevitably lead me into banking with stints in Canada and Ireland before moving to London. My OE coincided with the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC). At the time, I had a senior role in one of the world’s largest investment banks, and that experience is with me today. I saw that people in glass towers can be heroes too. They can work around the clock to save the livelihoods of people they’ve never met. They can shoulder the responsibility to find a way through an economic calamity that seems without end. The people I worked with through the GFC brought agility to new challenges, insight to complex issues, and bestowed a valuable education on a business graduate from the Waikato.

The importance of decisive, informed decision making was hammered home to me then, and that experience is with me now. And that experience resonates with the economic challenges that I see in my electorate and as a country as a whole, as we seek a path beyond COVID. An economic rebound that leaves the most disadvantaged behind and that locks young people out of work and home ownership is a mirage. It might look good in the business pages, but if it fails where it counts, in our homes and in our communities, then it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

Right now, we’ve got a housing crisis in New Zealand, and yet there’s plenty of land to build on. Why can’t Government, in partnership with iwi, community groups, and the private sector build and supply superbly designed and built homes that people are proud to live in? All that is lacking is our willingness to look beyond what we’ve always done and act.

In world terms we are a young country. And we are blessed with enviable resources and creative people. There is no excuse for a lack of vision. My friends and colleagues will tell you that I have little appetite for bureaucracy, excuses, and time wasters. I want action backed by decisive, informed decision making. How do we build an economy that empowers everyone to be all that they can be? An economy that shares the opportunities it is creating? How do we get a health and education system that is eliminating waste so that we can ensure those resources are channelled to the people who are making a difference? The answers and leadership will come from our communities, our entrepreneurs, our workers and, yes, our Government. So that everyone in this country can get on with making their lives better. It is no secret that I believe in limited government, but limited doesn’t mean being constrained in our vision. It means having a laser focus on the stuff Government is meant to be doing. The stuff only Government can do: regulate, legislate, investigate, but also cajole, inspire, and lead.

Sitting on these benches isn’t an opportunity to indulge in our particular and individual interests. Being in Government is about getting the important stuff done and not being distracted from that task. Many, many people throughout this country are capable of making their own decisions. What they want from us is action on the things they can’t influence. Limited government creates laws; it builds frameworks and structures of better governance to support our communities; it is focused on the incentives that will enable the private sector to thrive and generate jobs; and, it takes a leadership role on protecting our environment.

A better Government will focus on a bold, long-term infrastructure plan, ensuring Government spending is not wasteful, spelling out the returns to a nation of that investment, creating an environment that encourages local and foreign investment and ensures incentives align with the outcomes we want as a country. Let’s take on these challenges with the vision and teamwork to drive positive change beyond the next election. Our lives are not governed by three-year intervals, so why is our decision making? New Zealanders expect more of this House than that. We need to put in place the ideas today that will guide this country to 2040 not 2024.

It is our responsibility to define a clear roadmap for New Zealand, and to put in place the measures that will ensure all Kiwis will get there. Being part of a Parliament that’s going to define this roadmap for our country and act on it is why we are here. All of the people and experiences that informed us on our various paths to these benches in this Chamber are here in this Chamber with us. We owe it to them.

I owe it to my two young boys, Jack and Callum, and to my lovely wife, Shannon. I’m incredibly grateful that they have supported me in my decision to enter Parliament, but they want to see results. There has to be a reason why I spend half the week away from my family in Wellington. We have to deliver outcomes that will resonate beyond this Chamber and continue to resonate for the generations to follow.

I want to finish with a vision mentioned only a few years ago about New Zealand becoming a technology and innovation centre. I’m sure in this Chamber today that there will be members who consider that prediction a fantasy. But is it really so unreal to believe that our future is going to be exceptional? Or is it simply that we don’t have the confidence to go for it? Look at the ideas and innovation created in this country, just as the rest of the world is struggling. See farmers working flat out, factories producing valuable goods, and people from around the world are hammering on our doors to get into a country they know is exceptional even though we don’t sometimes quite believe it. Complacency will condemn us, as will the future generations, if we don’t take this opportunity to lift up this country with both hands. Fellow parliamentarians, let’s make it happen. I thank the people of New Zealand for this opportunity. I am proud—so very, very proud—to be the National member of Parliament for North Shore. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.


Nicola Grigg’s maiden speech

24/03/2021

National MP for Selwyn, Nicola Grigg, delivered her maiden speech yesterday:

 E te Whare e tū nei, e ngā rau rangatira ma, tēnei tāku mihi atu ki a koutou. Tēnā koutou katoa. I’m thrilled to stand here before this House today, elected by the people of Selwyn in this 53rd Parliament. May I begin by acknowledging them and the National Party members across Selwyn for the generosity they’ve shown me in my journey from candidate to member of Parliament. I acknowledge my National Party friends and colleagues, particularly our leaders, Judith Collins, Dr Shane Reti. I’d particularly like to single out and thank Gerry Brownlee for the unfailing friendship, generosity, and guidance that you’ve shown me over many years. It’s due to your faith in me, Gerry, that I’m here today.

A huge and heartfelt thankyou to my campaign team: James Christmas, Major James Russell, Tait Dench, Bernard Duncan, Murray Smith, and Ben Smith. I’d like to pay particular acknowledgment to my campaign chair and very dear friend, James Christmas. He’s been named in this House by at least two Prime Ministers and an Attorney-General as one of this country’s greatest legal and political minds, yet he is the kind of friend who will deliver pamphlets in a blizzard, babysit your kitten, and turn up with a bottle of Chard at the drop of a hat. James, every day I count my blessings for having you in my life.

I’d also like to pay tribute to my former boss the Rt Hon Sir Bill English, who I had the enormous privilege of working for as a press secretary from 2015 until 2018 when he retired. Not long after I was selected by the National Party, Bill rang me—I thought “What do I do now?”—and he said, “Just be yourself. Let the world see the real Nicola Grigg.” I will always be grateful for the opportunities I was given working in Bill’s office.

Above all, thank you to my friends and family for the love and support that you’ve gifted me throughout my life, particularly in the last year. Mum, Dad, Gemma, Amanda, Arthur, you’ve stood by me through thick and thin. The strength and stability of our family is what guides me and what grounds me. Thank you.

From the mighty Rakaia River in the south, to Darfield, Sheffield, and Arthur’s Pass in the west, picturesque Tai Tapu, Prebbleton and Lincoln in the east and booming towns like Rolleston at its core, Selwyn represents everything that is so special about New Zealand. We are a region full of ambitious go-getters. Ours is an economy founded in agriculture and food production, well served, might I add, by the infrastructure investment of the previous National Government. Selwyn is powering New Zealand’s economy. We’re a region full of young families and immigrants, innovators and entrepreneurs, a place where people simply want to get on with the job of fulfilling their destinies without the spectre of Government breathing down their necks, and they do so admirably. We have one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country, one of the strongest local economies, and we’re one of the fastest growing territorial authorities in New Zealand. Selwyn is an exemplar to the rest of the country.

Any newly elected MP for Selwyn will be acutely aware of the expectations set by those who have gone before her. I follow in the footsteps of great New Zealanders like my own forebear, Sir John Hall, Premier of New Zealand at a difficult time in our history, and who later devoted himself to the cause of universal suffrage; and our first female Prime Minister, Dame Jenny Shipley. Dame Jenny is a trailblazer for women in politics. She broke the glass ceiling for the top job in New Zealand. My friend Ruth Richardson is another trailblazer and change agent. Ruth has taught me what having courage of one’s convictions really looks like and how making great change takes great heart. Sir David Carter, a former Speaker of the House, is a long-time source of wisdom and advice to this rookie MP. My immediate predecessor, Amy Adams, served Selwyn for 12 years and was so widely regarded and respected, and made an historic contribution to New Zealand as a Minister of Justice.

There’s another person I want to pay tribute to today: Sir John Hall’s granddaughter, my great-grandmother and National’s first female MP, Mary Grigg. Mary was elected to the mid-Canterbury seat held by her husband, my great-grandfather Arthur, who was killed in action in Libya in 1941. As a total aside and nothing more than evidence of what a small world we live in, our very own Sir Jim McLay’s father was in the field hospital with Arthur when he died. Thank you to Sir Jim for passing your father’s memories onto our family.

Almost 80 years ago this newly widowed mother of three stood in this very Chamber hammering the Fraser Government on some of the very issues that have led me here—farming, rural communities, and women. She spoke fiercely and with deep conviction. In her first eight weeks in the House, she bombarded Ministers with questions on anything from wheat growing, police uniforms for women, maternity benefits, occupational therapy, the need for more radio broadcasts in te reo Māori, car registration, and even the lack of lemons available in Canterbury. She was formidable. In her maiden statement she said: “I was told when I was coming into the House that it was a waste of time to look for common sense in Parliament. I am still hoping to find that is not true.”, and my own personal favourite, “I know I am going to get myself in dreadful hot water, but I should like to say quite honestly that the Cabinet is the cause of weakness and a lack of confidence. No one, even when the Cabinet was originally formed, would have claimed that it was a galaxy of all the talents.” Some might call that 78-year-old prophesy, but I wouldn’t be that ungracious. I can only imagine what she would have made of her eldest great-grandchild standing here today, the 157th woman to enter Parliament. I promise that I will try to bring the same energy to my work in this House as she did, and I too will be looking for more common sense.

I walked out of the parliamentary precinct in December last year, just weeks after arriving, a bundle of nerves, self-doubt, and with a well-advanced case of imposter syndrome. I was quite sure I wasn’t going to be able to handle the hours, the workload, the pressures, the expectations of the role, and, frankly, I dreaded returning. Since then, though, I’ve spent the summer reading American psychologist and researcher Dr Brené Brown. Her book, Daring Greatly, is inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech at the Sorbonne in 1910. In it, he said this: “It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

It is nerve-wracking and uncomfortable entering the political arena and the public eye. But now we’re in that arena, we cannot be afraid to take risks, make unpopular decisions, confront big issues—and sometimes fail—with all the backlash and embarrassment that might come with that. Any holder of public office must dare greatly, and now more so than ever.

This is a place that will make you question everything you ever knew or thought you knew about yourself. You must know your “why”. My why? I am the daughter of six generations of Griggs who have farmed in mid Canterbury since 1864. I come to this House wanting to represent and improve outcomes for rural New Zealand, particularly rural women and families. Campaigning in Selwyn last year, I saw for myself the very real fear and anxiety that farmers across my electorate feel when slapped with whatever new arbitrary regulation or restriction is handed down to them on any given day by Ministers and their officials. I want us to reject ideology and blame in favour of a relentless focus on science and fact. I want us to choose constructive dialogue over condemnation. It’s my hope that one day, New Zealanders will once again appreciate and, in fact, be proud of our farmers and the contribution that we make to an innovative, thriving, sustainable economy and environment. That is my “why”.

I challenge the Government on the paradoxical approach that it’s taking—on one hand, charging the primary production sector with doubling its export earnings in the next 10 years, while on the other ham-stringing farmers and growers with regulations that leave them with little choice but to de-stock. How can productivity possibly increase on those terms? Selwyn is home to some of the country’s leading agritech and agriscience innovators. We have Lincoln University, Lincoln Agritech, AgResearch, Manaaki Whenua—Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research, Ngāi Tahu Farming, Lincoln University Dairy Farms. So given Selwyn, with its university, agresearch centres and incubators, is the epicentre of New Zealand’s agritech and innovation, one would have thought that our producers would meet requirements more easily than most. That they can’t says to me the Government has it wrong.

Have no doubt: New Zealand’s success in the coming decade is going to be powered by our farmers. We are already world leaders in the clean and efficient production of protein and dairy, and the home-grown science and technology coming out of my community is cutting-edge. We need to encourage it and help export it. Sir John Key always used to say we won’t get rich selling to ourselves. Our economic growth must be export-led, and that includes the export of innovation. So let’s dare to build an export empire of intellectual property. Let’s sell to the world our clean-tech and our green-tech. The economic and social impact of the pandemic means we must dare to make some difficult decisions in the next decade. But first, let’s dare to stop deceiving ourselves that Governments can find solutions to every problem, or that throwing public money at a problem will make it go away.

Anyone who talks to people in Selwyn will soon realise that, as often as not, Governments cause as many problems as they seek to resolve. The thing the public most wants from its Government is competence. When it does regulate, or when this House legislates, we should be drawing on the expertise already out there on the ground. If a Government truly wants to make it easier to earn a living, to address environmental problems, or to increase our exports, it needs to listen. As my old boss Sir Bill used to say, nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, and politicians most certainly do not.

Let’s dare to innovate. Now, I know innovation is a popular buzzword around here, but we in this Chamber cannot innovate on people’s behalf. We can, however, provide the conditions for investment, invention, development, and science. Our capacity to innovate begins in our education system. Every child in New Zealand should leave school knowing that he or she can imagine something, create something, build something, develop something, dream something. Innovation will require us to stop this close-minded mentality where we shut ourselves off from foreign investors and foreign capital. We must open our borders and open ourselves up to the world again. We need trade, we need investment, we need immigration, and we need the growth that these will bring. We need to go all out to attract the best and brightest from other countries to come here and make a contribution to New Zealand. This “fortress New Zealand” mentality will only continue to mire us in mediocrity, and it must stop. Mediocrity is the virus that we should be protecting our country against.

Speaking of innovation and innovators, people who aren’t afraid to push boundaries and do things differently, I am proud that the rūnanga of Selwyn is none other than the mighty Ngāi Tahu. Twenty years ago, Tā Tīpene O’Regan and others dared greatly. They showed vision and fortitude and, in my opinion, set the bar for iwi across Aotearoa as to what intergenerational investment should look like. This House should remember that 2040—just under 20 years away—will mark 200 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We should all be looking to that milestone with a view of achieving a fair and equitable society. We should ask ourselves: how do we weave our past, our present, and our future together? So I acknowledge Ngāi Tahu as tangata whenua of Selwyn. I look forward to our upcoming kōrero and a future working together.

My mother is a St Hill-Warren of Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay. Her family worked side by side with local iwi, and one of her aunts eventually married into the Mohi whānau. As a result, I count Ngāti Kahungunu as my cousins. This kahu kiwi—her name is Piata—I wear today was gifted to our family by a wahine rangatira of Ngāti Kere, Ngāti Hinetewai, and Ngāti Pihere of Porangahau in around 1854. I wear it as a mantle to remind me to be fair, equitable, and just—as my forebears were—in all that I bring to this office.

I am a member of the National Party because I believe our principles will put New Zealand in the best position to both meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities of the coming decade. I am a member of the National Party because I draw my convictions—my political principles—from the reform and liberal traditions from which the party was founded. I am a member of the National Party because I know that we are not afraid to dare to confront the big challenges. I am proud to join a caucus that I know will dare greatly—to ask the hard questions of itself, to rebuild and repurpose to reflect the ambitions and demands of a modern, multicultural, forward-looking New Zealand in the years to come.

Today, I step into the arena. I enter this Chamber with the firmly held belief that those of us in public office have a responsibility to show up—to bring our whole selves and our whole hearts—and lean into the tough conversations and the big issues. We should not play it safe, but we should dare to make decisions and do the things that mean we will sometimes err and we will sometimes come up short. We must dare greatly, and I will try to do that every day the people of Selwyn send me here. Thank you.


Petition to open Trans Tasman bubble

18/03/2021

Last week’s announcement of MIQ-free travel with Niue means little to most people when what many want is to be able to travel freely to and from Australia:

The National Party has launched a petition calling on the Government to get a move on with the trans-Tasman travel bubble, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“There’s no good reason why we can’t have quarantine-free travel with Australia right now. Australia did it for New Zealanders last October, but our Government won’t return the favour.

“Australia has proven it can be done safely, but after nine months and 12 rounds of talks our Government still hasn’t moved.”

People arriving from Australia would be required to show evidence of a negative pre-departure test within 72 hours of travel, but not have to go into isolation on arrival in New Zealand, Ms Collins says.

“Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he’s keen for Australians to come to New Zealand and support our tourism sector, so what are we waiting for?

“Our tourism industry is on its knees, a bubble would be the lifeline they need.

“Managed isolation is overrun with long delays because 40 per cent of places are being taken up by Kiwis returning from Australia where there is little, if any, risk of Covid-19.

“A bubble will free up space, meaning more room for Kiwis abroad trying to get home and our critical workers.

“New Zealanders deserve a travel bubble with Australia and the benefits it brings. There’s no reason for the Government to continue to delay.

“Like New Zealand, Australia has done a great job at eliminating Covid-19.

“It’s time the Government takes the next step and opens up the trans-Tasman bubble.”

If the government could explain why it won’t follow Australia’s example and what is required before it does, we might be more patient.

But there has been no clear explanation and no attempt to explain the delay or outline a plan to let us freely cross to and from Australia.

The longer this goes on the more it looks like excessive caution is turning into incompetence.

You can sign the petition here.


Rural round-up

15/03/2021

Office staff asked to help out in apple packhouses due to labour shortages  –

The corporate fruit and vegetable firm T&G Global is asking its office based staff to help out in apple packhouses.

This year all apple growing regions are facing severe labour shortages for both picking and packing the crop.

As a result T&G Global, originally known as Turners and Growers, is asking Hawke’s Bay staff to swap computer terminals for apple trays.

Its operations director Craig Betty said the firm was under real pressure to meet export schedules and needs 70 more people right now, so salaried staff and family members were being asked to help out. . . 

Covid-19 exposes global biosecurity systems as ‘fractured’ – expert – Riley Kennedy:

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a fractured global biosecurity system and a new approach is needed, a biosecurity expert says.

The paper by distinguished professor Philip Hulme from the government funded Bio-Protection Research Centre has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal BioScience.

Hulme said Covid-19 had shown there needed to be an approach to biosecurity that integrated threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, recognising that disease or invasions in one sector often spilled over into the others.

He said the Covid Tracer app and the National Animal Indenification and Tracing (NAIT) system, were two examples of where lessons can be learnt and shared among different industries. . . 

Duck shooting season in doubt for many this year:

Many hunters and farmers will miss out on this year’s duck shooting season because the Police are failing to address a backlog of firearms licence applications, National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There are 10,000 applications waiting to be processed with 3000 of those just licence renewals.

“With opening weekend for duck shooting season fast approaching the Police should be adding more resources to help clear the backlog.

“Hunters missed out last year due to the Covid-19 restrictions. They’re understandably itching to get back out on the pond, but they may miss out again this year because of an administrative backlog. . . 

FarmIQ links to Lead with Pride :

For Darfield dairy farmer Dan Schat, the decision to supply Synlait and participate in the company’s Lead with Pride initiative has proven to be a good one three years into farm ownership.

The Schats enjoy the double premium of supplying A2 milk and being on the Lead with Pride initiative, both making the company payments worth the extra effort the initiative involves.

Lead with Pride encompasses the four pillars of supply to Synlait, recognising and rewarding best practice in environment, animal health-welfare, social responsibility and milk quality. . . 

Produce industry launches UN initiative in New Zealand to address hunger and increase wellbeing:

Aotearoa’s $6 billion fresh produce industry today rolls out a localised UN initiative, as it celebrates the launch of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV).

The 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to highlight the nutritional benefits of fresh produce.

The official launch this evening at Parliament will be hosted by the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture, in partnership with United Fresh, New Zealand’s pan produce industry organisation, Horticulture New Zealand and Plant & Food Research.

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables will showcase the government-funded Fruit & Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative which addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an exemplary programme with a case study presented by the international group AIAM5 in August last year. . . 

This California start up has a meat test it says can help prevent the next pandemic – Chloe Sorvino:

Food ID, a San Mateo, California-based startup, has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will help improve the safety and transparency of the U.S. meat supply.

The funding comes from S2G Ventures and will be used to commercialize the company’s rapid-result tests that can detect antibiotics in animals and a range of other adulterants, like heavy metals in seafood. Food ID says it has been working inside some industrial slaughterhouses for more than a year and that its tests are finding many of the meats being sold as “antibiotic-free” are not.

“There’s a feeling that consumers understand what they are buying and there’s authenticity,” says Food ID cofounder Bill Niman, the legendary grass-fed beef rancher in Northern California. “We know that’s not totally true, and when that becomes clear to the suppliers and to the brands that depend on antibiotics costing a premium to consumers, we’re gonna be very busy.”

Niman says he is offering the meat industry its first comprehensive testing platform and can provide more accuracy and transparency for consumers, who are increasingly looking for antibiotic-free meat, and paying on average $1 more per pound for it. . . 


This one isn’t angry, frustrated

10/03/2021

The election review the National Party board instigated is finished and the full report is being kept confidential:

Newshub understands the National Party has created two versions of its election review – the full report, and a sanitised version with all the “gory details taken out”, according to one party insider.

In an email to party members sent on Tuesday morning, National Party President Peter Goodfellow explained the move.

“I hope you can appreciate that we are unable to publish a copy of the Review Report online. To do so would give our political opponents the much-needed distraction they want from us holding the Government to account for its failings. We will not allow that to happen.” 

Given that leaks were part of the problem, this is reasonable and sensible.

Newshub has been told the membership is frustrated with the closed process, that there is anger about how tightly held the report has been after everyone was asked to be open and share details during the actual review process. . .

Which part of the membership and how many members?

National is still the only party that still has 10s of thousands of members. Was a representative sample asked for their views?

I wasn‘t and I am neither angry nor frustrated with the closed process.

I was angry and frustrated over the fact that the party didn’t have a strategy for loss after the 2017 election, that MPs didn’t learn from the mistakes made by the party after the 1999 loss and almost nine years of Labour MPs doing stupid things for almost nine years from 2008.

I was angry and frustrated over the way MPs leaked and showed disloyalty not just to successive leaders but to the party and its members.

I made my feelings quite clear when invited, as all members were, to contribute to the review but that’s in the past and I support the board’s decision to hold back the full report.

We’ve been invited to a series of meetings to learn what’s in the report and the response to it.

We’ll learn what we need to know then and that is what matters.

It’s was a party review and it’s a party report. The public will be able to judge whether it makes a difference but there’s no need for them, or all party members, to know the nitty gritty details.


There is a better way

01/03/2021

You’ve got to feel sorry for Aucklanders.

Level 2 is bad enough for the rest of us with the impact on businesses and the uncertainty about public events and private functions.

How much worse if must be for Aucklanders at Level 3 – again.

It’s easy to say with hindsight, shifting the city out of Level 3 after only three days was a mistake.

There’s no point looking back to cast blame but we must learn from what’s gone wrong and look forward to how to do much better.

And National has a plan for that:

National is urging the Government to get on top of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland by adopting a five-point plan for managing community cases, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.

National’s five-point plan for managing community outbreaks:

  1. Introduce rapid antigen testing – nasal swab tests that return results in 15 minutes.
  2. Roll out high intensity, well-staffed testing stations across Papatoetoe and at every single location of interest
  3. Conduct higher intensity wastewater testing at suburb and sub-suburb levels in Papatoetoe
  4. Set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland
  5. Increase monitoring of people who are required to self-isolate, including spot checks

Mr Bishop says New Zealand should follow the example of Taiwan where managed isolation at home comes with strict protocols, such as random phone calls and requests to confirm their location through a video call or supplying an image.

“The high trust approach we take to self-isolation in this country comes with risks, as we’ve seen over the past few days.

“New Zealanders have largely done a great job of following self-isolation advice but it’s unlikely we’ll ever have 100 per cent compliance, and it’s extremely frustrating when a small number of people don’t follow the rules.

“Monitoring of self-isolators should be ramped up to guarantee compliance. This means regular spot checks, and if no contact is made within 24 hours then police are involved.”

The Government also needs to roll out more staff across more testing sites to cut down waiting times and make it easier for people to visit a testing station, Mr Bishop says.

“Long queues and wait times will discourage people from getting tested. We need to fix this.”

Dr Reti says the Government should also introduce rapid antigen testing in New Zealand. These nasal swab tests provide results in 15 minutes and are common overseas.

“Rapid antigen testing would allow us to test large numbers of New Zealanders, quickly. Those who test positive would then have their results confirmed by a standard PCR test.

“These tests are common in other countries like the United States where there are FDA-approved home test kits for less than $15.

“They are especially good for giving quick answers and peace of mind to people who are showing symptoms of illness and want to know if they have Covid-19.”

Rapid antigen tests would be an added layer of testing alongside the standard nasal PCR tests already being done here. Our Government already considers them reliable enough to accept them as a pre-departure test for arrival into New Zealand.

Dr Reti says there should be daily wastewater inspection at ports, and at a more granular level in Papatoetoe than just the main interceptors.

The Government should also set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland, starting with Papatoetoe High school followed by wider Papatoetoe in parallel with border and health workers.

“South Auckland presents an increased risk of transmission due to the density of its population and the number of border workers who reside there,” Dr Reti says.

We understand the need to prioritise other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, for vaccination but stopping outbreaks at the source is also a form of protection of these groups.”

That we’ve been able to enjoy a summer as near to normal as it could be with the border closed looks more and more as if it was due to good luck than good management.

We can’t keep relying on luck.

None of the suggested improvements National is suggesting look difficult and whatever the cost it would be less expensive than shutting down Auckland and restricting what the rest of us can do, again.

 


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.


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