That’s no way to say goodbye

May 13, 2020

National is threatening to fight Level 2 enforcement law if the rule on tangi and funerals isn’t changed:

Under level 2, only 10 people can attend a tangi or church service at any given time. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she, like other world leaders, struggled with the decision, but had to play it safe. . . 

But what’s safe and what’s not doesn’t seem to be consistent.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the public had been writing to him raising the point that people could still go to a restaurant or movies with 100 people at the venue.

Yet at one of the most tragic defining points of life, at a funeral, direct family members cannot attend them under those rules. That’s not just unkind, it’s inhumane, and I think we can do better than that,” he said.

One of the doctors who looked after our son and was there when when he died told us that it was very important to say goodbye properly.

We didn’t know much about funerals and others said it would be best to keep it private.

Tom was only 20 weeks old, had spent almost a third of his life in hospital and few outside the family and hospital staff had met him so we followed that advice.

It was a mistake. We had afternoon tea after the service then our parents and siblings went home leaving us alone with our young daughter and our grief.

We learned from that and when our second son died we had a public service.

It was so much better. Some people left after the service, others stayed to talk, to listen, to comfort us.

That’s how saying goodbye  should be, a service about the one who has died to for the ones who are left, and for most that needs more than 10 people.

Anger and upset over this is made worse by inconsistencies:

Grieving families are distraught over inconsistencies with the COVID-19 alert level 2 rules, baffled that the Government will trust people to go to the movies, gyms and malls but not to farewell friends and whānau. 

Kiwis will be privy to a whole lot of new freedoms on Thursday when the level 2 rules come into play, but it won’t bring satisfaction to the family of Southland man Maurice Skinner, who passed away last week, three months before his 90th birthday. 

A former jockey and racing trainer, Maurice Skinner was a well-known Southland figure, and a funeral could’ve drawn hundreds. But his family just wanted a small private service – 21 people – so they delayed until alert level 2. 

But holding off has left them disappointed because the level 2 rules don’t allow it. 

“We can’t even do that now, so we’re absolutely devastated,” his daughter told Newshub. “One of the worst things you can stop people doing is being able to farewell their loved ones.”

Under level 2 there’s a cap on gatherings – no more than 10 people. And yet, up to 100 people could be in a gym, a restaurant or the movies, as long as they’re socially-distanced. 

In the normal course of events, people would be much closer than two metres and part of comforting the bereaved would be hongi and hugs. But funeral directors and celebrants, as required under health and safety legislation, could make sure that social distancing was maintained.

We know this is causing pain but we equally have tried to be really consistent,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. 

But it doesn’t feel consistent for grieving families. 

“The Government is telling us we need to be kind but where on earth is the kindness in that? It’s actually inhumane,” Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker told Newshub.  . .

Those in mourning want the Government to trust them. 

The woman Newshub spoke to anonymously is from a family of medical professionals including a COVID-19 nurse, and they know full-well how to manage the risks. 

“We can be responsible with our loved ones and the people that are around us – just give us the benefit of the doubt,” she said.  . . 

Ten is a very small number for most families. We had 11 adults and six children at Tom’s private service.

It is possible for far more than 10 to join via electronic communication but that is a very poor second to being there, with the people you care about, albeit two metres apart.

If there was widespread community transmission of Covid-19 the insistence on no more than 10 people at a funeral would be more easily understood.

But there is not.

Yesterday’s ODT reported no new cases of the disease in the Southern District Health Board area for 16 days and the Waitaki District, like several others has recorded no cases at all.

It defies logic that the government trusts casinos, bars and movie theatres to have up to 100 people but no more than 10 at a funeral.

Preventing people from saying goodbye properly is the antithesis of the kindness we’re all exhorted to show.

It’s inhumane and the rule must be relaxed to allow families and whanau to farewell the dead and comfort the living.


Rural round-up

May 30, 2018
Collective responsibility tough – ODT editorial:

The Government and farming leaders have made one of the hardest decisions imaginable in deciding to attempt the eradication of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand.

The decision has been made to protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.

Farming leaders have thrown their support behind the eradication attempt, but it is the actual farmers with the infected herds who will now be facing the reality of losing cows they may have bred into milk-producing animals. . . 

Mycolplasma bovis – focusing on the immediate – Keith Woodford:

[This is an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, sent on the evening of 29 May 2018, as part of an ongoing dialogue.]

Dear Damien

Mycoplasma bovis: focusing on the immediate

This is a further open letter. It is an open letter because it contains information that I believe both you and others need to hear.

First of all, I want to acknowledge phone and email interactions we have had in recent days. I note in particular that you emailed me at 3am this morning which surely tells its own story. Farmers too are emailing me at that time, indicative of the stress they are under.

Now that the eradication decision has been made, then I do not wish to debate that here. Instead I want to focus on maximising the chances that it will work and minimising the pain to the affected farmers.

On the Newshub AM show this morning I focused among other things on the need for MPI to ‘up its game’. Response Director Geoff Gwyn subsequently acknowledged that there may well be lessons to learn, but did not name any when asked by the presenter, and said that he thought that MPI had done many things well. . . 

Mental health fears for farmers over mass cow cull – Tim Brown:

The people at ground zero of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak are warning that the eradication bid could have disastrous knock-on effects.

Others in the small Southland town of Winton are backing the government cull of 150,000 cows.

Yesterday, the government announced it was committed to eradicating the illness with a ten year plan that would cost about $886 million.

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said the government had “one shot” at eliminating the disease.

It was discovered in July last year and since then 41 farms have been confirmed as infected. That has since dropped to 37 farms, with more than 11,000 cattle slaughtered. . . 

Cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis rated ‘low risk’ by health officials – Gerard Hutching:

The possibility of humans contracting Mycoplasma bovis from eating meat or drinking milk from infected cattle has been dismissed by officials and food safety experts as a “low risk”.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said the disease was not a food safety risk. Concerns have again been raised over the culling of 152,000 cattle and whether their meat or milk might threaten human health.

“There is no issue with eating beef or drinking milk from infected herds. This disease is in every other farming nation and people have been consuming products from cattle with Mycoplasma bovis for decades,” MPI said. . . 

Good on-farm management essential for eradication plan to succeed:

Good on-farm animal management will be essential if plans to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) are to succeed, the New Zealand Veterinary Association says.

“This will be essential to stop the infection spreading and to ensure M. bovis isn’t re-introduced into New Zealand,” NZVA President Dr. Peter Blaikie said.

The industry and government today announced a phased eradication plan to attempt to get rid of M. bovis. . . 

M, bovis: how did we get here?:

Everyone’s been playing catch-up since the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak – and everyone’s blamed each other.

On Monday, the government announced a 10-year plan to eradicate the disease, saying about 150,000 cows would have to be slaughtered.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had “one shot” at eliminating the disease, at a cost of about $886 million to government and industry bodies.

The news is devastating for many farmers who have devoted their lives to the industry. Some fear their livelihoods will be destroyed.

But how did we get here? . . 

In a word from Sir Humphrey – courageous – Gravedodger:

During my life spent in primary production one of the most stressful segments arose around the determination to eradicate TB. Bovine Tuberculosis is one insidious little beastie with a remarkable ability to thwart detection.

Once every  year all bovine stock were mustered and put up a race where a MAF person would inject a small dose of reagent  in the soft skin  between the tail and the rump, three days later that crat would return and scan by feel for a lump at that injection site and if a reactor (a palpable lump) was discovered that beast would be slaughtered asap where TB would be confirmed  post mortem but alas sometimes the animal would be a “clear”.
One reactor and the whole heard would be placed on ‘movement control’ requiring any cattle for sale to carry a “white ear tag” and receive  a discounted price.

We farmed in an area of the Wairarapa where our eight neighbours all went on and off “movement control” over the twenty years yet surprisingly  we managed to remain “Clear” throughout the two decades we operated there.
It did not come easy, I wish to forget how many nights were spent sometimes more than five hours on an open quad bike seeking the dreaded Possum, an uninvited guest that could become infected with Bovine TB but before inevitable death could infect pasture from suppurating lesions, leaving infected grass to be ingested by a grazing beast and a “reactor”  created. . .

Olive Oil 
the New Zealand Way: –

David Walshaw 

“I have a lot invested in each drop of this gorgeous, golden liquid. There is the time and money, of course, but there is far more than that, too. It is the distillation of a dream and the physical and emotional effort required to realise that dream. The flavours and the aromas of the oil are like a story — the story of the tree’s experience of a year, itself a chapter in the life of the tree, and the tree’s life a volume in the ages long story of the cultivation of the olive. My own story is in there, too, intertwined with the gnarled wood of the olive tree.” 

When, after a successful career in banking and finance, David Walshaw decided it was time for a change, he settled on growing olives for oil as his new direction. Neither he nor his wife Helen had any previous experience, but by doing the research, by seeking the advice of other growers, by putting in the work, by trial and not a few errors, they made a go of it. . . 

The build of Synlait’s liquid packaging facility is on track:

Synlait Milk is pleased with the progress made on the building of its advanced liquid dairy packaging facility by Tetra Pak.

The two companies have worked together for over ten years, beginning with the building of Synlait’s anhydrous milkfat (AMF) plant in 2007.

The new facility will produce fresh milk and cream for Foodstuffs South Island’s private label brands from early 2019, and will be a platform for Synlait to pursue a range of dairy-based products for export markets. . . 

Milk NZ Holding surprised by Fonterra’s $7 payout for 2019 given outlook for global demand Jonathan Underhill

(BusinessDesk) – Milk New Zealand Holding, which owns and manages dairy operations controlled by Shanghai Pengxin, says it didn’t expect such a bullish forecast from Fonterra Cooperative Group for its 2019 milk payout.

Last week Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for 2019 of $7 per kilogram of milk solids from the $6.75 /kgMS projected for the current season, while cutting its projected dividends for 2018, saying rising global dairy prices were squeezing margins. . .

Federated Farmers appoints Terry Copeland as its new CEO:

The man who helped transform NZ Young Farmers has been appointed to lead the country’s most influential rural lobby group.

Terry Copeland, 50, has been named the next chief executive of Federated Farmers. He replaces Graham Smith.

Mr Copeland has been the chief executive of NZ Young Farmers since 2013 and is looking forward to a new challenge. . . 

Butchers ‘living in fear’ as vegan attacks on the rise, says Countryside Alliance – Helena Horton:

Attacks on small businesses by vegan activists are on the rise, according to the Countryside Alliance.

Death threats, stoked by social media and encouraged by international groups of activists, have caused butchers and farmers to “live in fear.”

Marlow Butchers, in, Ashford, Kent, was targeted earlier this month by activists who daubed red paint on the doors and windows of the shop . .

Organic vs conventional food fight: Focus on pesticides distracts from real environmental problems – Marc Brazeau :

A quick note in my news feed highlighted a new data set from the World Bank that shows that while the US has one of the most productive agriculture sectors in the world, it also has some of the lowest rates of pesticide and fertilizer use. Good news. The author’s title, however, stuck me as unfortunate: World’s Model for Sustainability in Food Production. His write up was about pesticide and fertilizer use, and while high yields, with low pesticide and fertilizer rates are very commendable (and surprising to many), pesticide and fertilizer use is hardly the last word in sustainability in agriculture. And among the biggest impacts of agriculture: land use, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution; pesticides hardly rate. And yet…

One of the things that has really begun to stand out in the debate between advocates of technologically progressive agriculture and the critics of technological agriculture is the persistence of the idea that the use of pesticides is still a major problem, if not the central environmental impact of agriculture, that needs to be addressed. This is unfortunate. It’s just not accurate. It’s a cul-de-sac in the discussion about how to improve the environmental footprint of agriculture. It’s a distraction from the addressing the major environmental impacts. . .


e-mob for Roxburgh children’s village

May 29, 2018

Southern mayors are asking people to join an e-mob today to save Roxburgh children’s village.

Message from Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan: the people of the South are being asked to join in an e-mob protest (possibly the first of its kind) to get the message that failing to increase funding so the Roxburgh Children’s Village can remain operating is unacceptable to the people of the South.

Those who care about the Village and the children and families of the South that have used its services since 1949 are asked to join an “e-mob” protest, sending the very poignant Garrick Tremain cartoon (with his permission) to Jacinda Ardern this Tuesday 29 May.

The cartoon attached (is available and instructions for where to email it by emailing cartoon@codc.govt.nz

May 29 has been chosen as it is one month until the doors close on the Village. It is very important that you know that the residential therapeutic service that the Village offers will no longer be available to the children of the South, while it does remain in place for other parts of New Zealand. This is service by geography at its worst.

May 29 is also the anniversary of Mabel Howard being made our first female Cabinet Minister in 1949. Ironically, she was made Minister of Health and Children’s Welfare.

The cartoon (is available and instructions for where to email it by emailing cartoon@codc.govt.nz

No automatic alt text available.

Everyone who sends the cartoon is asked to email: roxburroxburghletsnotdothis@gmail.com so an accurate count of support can be made.

The ODT answers questions about the village and the service it provides for children in desperate need here.


Commissioner for SDHB

June 18, 2015

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has appointed a commissioner to replace the Southern District Health Board.

The financial problems at Southern DHB are longstanding. I do not have confidence that the current governance arrangements are suitable for delivering on the changes required in Southern DHB,” says Dr Coleman.

“Southern is forecasting a final deficit of $27 million for the current financial year. That figure has effectively doubled in the last six months.

“The DHB has also forecast that its deficit position will further increase in 2015/16 to between $30 million and $42 million – this accounts for over half the combined deficit of all 20 DHBs. This situation of fluctuating forecasts and progressively worsening deficits cannot continue.

“The Government is committed to the redevelopment of Dunedin Hospital and the provision of high quality health services to all the people of the Southern region.

“All DHBs are funded according to the same population-based funding formula. This formula includes adjustments to recognise rural populations, age and other demographic issues.

“In a tight fiscal environment, all DHBs need to use available funding effectively. No other DHB has failed to control its finances in the way that Southern has.”

Kathy Grant has been appointed Commissioner and takes up the role on 18 June 2015. After discussions with Mrs Grant, she has indicated that she intends to appoint Graham Crombie and Richard Thomson as deputies. A third deputy with a strong clinical background will be appointed by the end of the month.

“Mrs Grant is from Otago and brings significant local knowledge. She has significant business and governance experience and a proven track record in turning around struggling organisations,” says Dr Coleman.

“The team will bring together a mix of strong financial, governance and clinical skills.

“I would like to thank the Board members for their work to date. My decision is not intended to devalue their efforts and achievements. However, a new approach is now necessary.

“My decision is based on the need for a new approach to the DHB’s longstanding financial issues, and to help move the DHB to a more sustainable position over time.”

This is a good move by the minister and the commissioner has made a very good start in the appointment of her deputies:

Kathy Grant bio
Kathy Grant was born in Otago and has spent most of her life in the region.

Mrs Grant currently works as a consultant in the legal practice of Gallaway Cook Allan in Dunedin. She has significant governance experience. Mrs Grant holds several current directorships including Chair of the Otago Polytechnic Council (appointed 2010), a trustee of Sport Otago (appointed 2007), and a director of Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (appointed 2012), Dunedin City Treasury Ltd (appointed 2013), and Dunedin International Airport Ltd (appointed 2008). She was also a member of the Anglican Family Care Board (2009-2013).

Mrs Grant has been on the Board of Trustees for several schools and colleges, and a previous member of the University of Otago Council (2007-2010). She was also previously Chair of the Dunedin College of Education Council (2001-2006).

Graham Crombie bio
Graham Crombie is a Dunedin local. He attended Bayfield High School and Otago University. Mr Crombie has a strong background in accountancy, with a proven record in high level assessments of the sustainability of health organisations. He was President of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (2008) and went on to become chair of the organisation (2009-2014).

Mr Crombie also has lengthy governance experience. He is currently chair of Dunedin City Holdings (appointed 2012), Dunedin City Treasury (appointed 2013), Otago Museum Trust Board (appointed 2011), Dunedin Venues (appointed 2015) and director of Surf Life Saving NZ (appointed 2013). He was also the independent chair of South Link Health (1999-2009).

Richard Thomson bio
Richard Thomson was born in Invercargill and attended Otago University. After specialising as a Clinical Psychologist he took up a lecturer role at Otago Medical School. He is now a successful businessman.

Mr Thomson has key insights into Southern DHB. He was chair of Otago DHB (2001-2009) and became a Board member after Otago DHB merged with Southland DHB (2009-2015).

Mr Thomson is currently serving his second term on the Dunedin City Council.

They have a difficult job to do but it must be done to secure health services in the south.

All DHBs have population based funding which takes into account a variety of factors.

Advocates in the south have long-argued that the formula doesn’t take enough account of the costs of servicing a smaller population, which isn’t growing much and is older than the average, spread over a large area.

The ODT editorialises:

. . . The fairness of the opaque population-based funding model again has to be questioned. The South failed to attract the increases of other areas in recent times and for various reasons could be seriously disadvantaged.

If the appointment of a commissioner is the signal for a fresh start then everything should be on the table, including how funding is calculated with an analysis of its fairness. After all, the South has to cope with the largest geographic area, the extra costs for teaching and many – and usually more costly – older patients. . .

The commissioner and her deputies will have to make the formula work or prove the advocates right.

 


Quote of the day

June 2, 2015

There is a time and place for upset and even anger. There are reasons to take offence and demand appropriate responses. But are not we all these days too ready to cry foul, to hound and pester? Do we leap too easily on a word out of place or a relatively innocent action?

And do we not bow too easily before the slightest complaint?ODT


Lone voice not answer

January 13, 2015

The ODT editorialises on climate change and concludes:

. . . No sudden shift in policy by the Government will stop the forces of nature. Mr Groser says New Zealand is taking a balanced approach to climate change and New Zealand is playing its part in avoiding imposing excessive costs on households and businesses.

In that sentence is the nub of the problem. The New Zealand economy is going against the trend seen in Australia, Japan and the euro zone with economic growth set to rise in the coming year. Imposing energy charges on households and businesses will slow growth and put jobs at risk.

Climate change is an important issue for communities facing previously unheard weather conditions but New Zealand being a lone voice on change is not the answer. A balanced approach is the best solution.

Quite.

Sustainability is the balance of economic, environmental and social considerations.

Handicapping the economy and hurting the poor by imposing excessive costs which would have little if any impact on the climate would be the triumph of politics over science and common sense.

 


Hoardings hooligans

August 18, 2014

Another election, another spate of attacks on hoardings.

And who wins from the hooliganism?

This letter from today’s ODT makes it clear:

I own a sign company. Local body and national elections are good business for me and others in our trade. We get commissioned to produce and erect party signs and predetermined locations around the country. Every party has the same rights to advertise in these spaces.

My question is, why do folk feel the need to pull dow, deface and destroy these hoardings> It is a total waste of time and money, and to be fair we (sing writers) are the only winners. Drawing phallic symbols, horns, of Nazi symbols on oppositions’ signs does not promoted your own cause – if anything it only shows the mentality behind your own ideology.

Here is an out-there idea: why not just accept that every party will try to promote itself this way and get on with selling your own policies and values?

I’m no social political expert but I know many of us look at Gaza and wonder how the parties involved can be so hell-bent on destroying each other, yet the behaviour of the sign smashers, while not life-threatening, is not a million miles way.

Show some leadership and if that’s too hard, just grow up.

Bruce Carvell, Managing director Williams Signs & Graphix Ltd.

Some of the hooliganism is politically motivated, some isn’t.

This year the has been a disturbing level of anti-Semitism and personal denigration in some areas.

All of it is expensive in time, energy and money for the volunteers who fund, erect, clean and re-erect the damaged hoardings.

I’d like to think that people make their decisions on how to vote on a lot more than hoardings.

But they’re legitimate advertising and should be left alone to give their message rather than demonstrate the idiocy of those who for political or other reasons deface, destroy or steal them.


Class Act

August 17, 2014

Prime Minister John Key presented certificates to the ODT’s Class Act recipients on Friday.

He told the 58 outstanding pupils from 29 secondary schools it was the sixth time he had attended the Class Act ceremony at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and he looked forward to it each year because it was an opportunity to celebrate each new generation of New Zealanders coming through.

”They will be great leaders for our nation in the years ahead.”

Mr Key praised this year’s award recipients and gave credit to their parents and teachers for guiding them in the right direction.

He also shared some sage words of advice: ”Have really big dreams and big ambitions.”

”My big thing for you would be for you to go on and become a great leader in New Zealand.

”There’s lots and lots of potential that you have and we have a great need for what you’re doing.”

Otago Daily Times editor Murray Kirkness said events such as Class Act provided a ray of light in a world where more newspapers were sold if they were filled with trauma and tragedy, tears and fears.

”So, to our Class Act 2014 recipients I say: You may not realise it, but you already inspire and encourage those of us around you.

”The world is yours for the taking. Grasp your opportunities. Continue to strive to achieve.

”Refuse to yield. Be humble. But most of all, keep the sun shining.”

Class Act was established in 2000 by former Otago Daily Times editor Robin Charteris because the newspaper felt, and continues to feel, excellence should be encouraged.

As such, the criterion given to schools when nominating Class Act recipients is simply, excellence.

Academic, sporting, social, artistic or cultural excellence, leadership qualities, or a combination of those, was the standard by which pupils were nominated.

The 2014 award winners now join the ranks of the 837 other Otago school pupils who have won Class Act awards since they were established in 2000. . .

Last Saturday’s print edition of the ODT included a supplement celebrating the recipients achievements.

The overwhelming impression was of talented, well rounded young  people who provide a wonderful contrast to the often negative portrayals and stereotypes of the youth of today.

A photo of all the recipients, with their names and schools is here.

 


Editorial approval for Budget

May 16, 2014

From south to north:

The Southland Times writes of felines and finances:

As the budget debate was winding down in Parliament yesterday the most popular story on the Stuff website was still “Cat saves boy from dog”.

Bill English will hardly be distraught. He knows this is not an election-losing Budget.

It’s the first since 2008 to project a surplus. Technically, it is perfectly possible for a Government to be rolled in an election year while economic figures are doing OK. Jenny Shipley managed it while running budget surpluses and with economic growth knocking around 3.5 to 4 per cent.

But the public had emphatically soured on the politics of her administration whereas the Key Government, for all that it has had a wretched couple of weeks, would still need to subside spectacularly to find itself in such straits.

English has found himself in the fairly happy situation of not needing a budget that would quicken any pulses . . . merely keep them steady. This one will surely manage that.  . .

Australia has done English the very considerate favour of delivering a gasper of a hard-times Budget just days before his. So if it was a test, we’d be the winners, right? And who doesn’t like beating the Aussies? Big tick for the Nats, then?

Truth to tell those contrasting fortunes are indeed likely to accelerate the net immigration inflow of more than 38,000 this year. That’s assuming people have been paying attention, what with that fabulous cat footage.

 

The ODT calls it a clever document:

This was the Budget that National – right from the time of its re-election in 2011 – would have hoped it could produce leading into this year’s election.

Mr English has not swayed from his path of fiscal restraint. Sure, he has had to borrow heavily during the past six years, but not to the extent the country plunged into recession.

Now, the return to surplus gives options such as paying down debt.

The careful management of the country’s finances by Mr English, and his team of ministers, has helped ensure New Zealand has been mainly immune from the worst of the global decline affecting Europe, parts of Asia, the United States and, latterly, Australia.

Economic growth has been one of the highest in the OECD and, for once, all Treasury indicators are pointing in a positive direction.

This was a Budget of few surprises, but with enough good news to count for something. . .

It will enable Prime Minister John Key to go into the election campaign confident his 2008 promises of fiscal restraint, providing the best care for families, and delivering a better public service have not been compromised.

Opposition parties will have to promise big to counter National, and if they do, the onus will be on them to say exactly how they will fund those promises. . .

If he is looking for a document to define his legacy as Finance Minister, Budget 2014 is a good place to start.

There is some criticism the Budget is too conservative, but that personifies Mr English, who learnt the trade from former finance minister Sir William Birch. And would most New Zealanders rather have a gambler as a finance minister, or a safe pair of hands?

The ”Boy from Dipton” has lived up to his reputation as a ”conservative” politician in every way.

The Timaru Herald opines on the Budget highlight:

The contrast was telling, helped by the fact Australia’s Budget and ours came just two days apart.

Theirs: there will be pain for everyone.

Ours: we’re operating with a surplus and tax cuts may even be on the way.

But hey, we’re heading into an election, so there’s bound to be some gloss. They aren’t.

The National Government has worked long and hard on being able to say it is spending less than it is collecting, and right on cue it has achieved that.

Selling off a few state assets and spending most of the proceeds has helped, of course, and as Labour’s David Cunliffe rightly points out, National has borrowed a massive $56 billion in its tenure, which costs $10 million a day in interest.

He says that’s a lot of money that could be spent on lifting kids out of poverty, which indeed it is.

But because National is the Government it sets the agenda, and the agenda yesterday was for enough lollies to keep sugar levels up without creating a free-for-all. . .

It’s a steady Budget without attempting to buy votes.

The best thing about it?

It’s not Australia’s.

 

 

The Press writes of seeking the recipe for growth:

When he delivered his first Budget six years ago, Finance Minister Bill English faced a grim prospect. Even though the global financial crisis had not yet hit, the economy had gone into recession some time beforehand.

Government debt was at a reasonable level, but spending in Labour’s last years in office had ballooned and, according to Treasury projections, the Government faced deficits for a decade or more ahead.

National had been elected promising responsible Government finances and a stronger economy, but without changes those looked unlikely.

English smiled yesterday as he took delivery of the bound Budget document and well he might. By delivering a surplus, albeit a tiny one, several years ahead of what he had forecast several years ago, today’s Budget will be brighter than even he expected it to be by now.

Since it came to office six years ago, the Government’s core promises have been that it would deliver a stronger economy, responsible public finances and a better public service.

In 2011, after the earthquakes, it added a promise to rebuild Christchurch. Those pledges have become a mantra and can be expected to be repeated today.

Without engaging in a wholesale slash and burn, it has kept public spending under control while maintaining services.

So far as it is possible for a government to claim credit for the performance of the economy generally, National can be pleased with the prospect of growth possibly hitting more than 4 per cent this year. The trick will be to make that growth enduring. . .

In spite of the benign aggregate position it should not be forgotten that, as an Otago University survey reiterated last week, New Zealand still has significant pockets of deprivation.

There are likely to be numberless reasons for them but a growing economy delivering opportunity and jobs offers part of the solution for sustainably dealing with them.

The Marlborough Express writes the jobs challenge continues:

. . . Finance Minister Bill English told Parliament the realisation of job growth forecasts depends on the confidence of businesses to invest more capital and employ more people.

“That is where new jobs come from. They do not come from the Easter bunny.”

The Easter bunny didn’t get a mention when English unveiled his sixth Budget yesterday.

The test will be how much his programme can lift confidence and stimulate growth to create the environment that will put priority on employment growth.

The Dominion Post notes the crowd goes mild:

This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?

National has made a virtue of small gifts: it shows that the party is “responsible” and not spending money it doesn’t have. And that is why the $372m surplus is intended to have such political heft. The amount is piffling within a $70b budget, and would make no economic difference if it was an equally mouse-sized deficit.

But the surplus is the signal that a caring government has brought us home safely after a nasty trip through recession. And if we carry on being careful and good, the Government says, life will carry on improving. Finance Minister Bill English gave a hint of tax cuts to come, but waffled when pressed. So that means National is keeping its tax promises till closer to the election.

The real question is: is this all the voters want – thrift, mild rewards, steady-as-she-goes? The dissenters have pointed to National’s noticeable lack of flair and imagination. No big new policies, no bold new directions, no surprises.

But that is what the John Key Government is, and so far it has won elections. In tough times, the Government has spent freely to keep the ship afloat, and then it has slowly brought it to the fiscal shore. Now it welcomes us to dry land. . .

Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.

At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.

The Manawatu Standards call it a Budget comfortable fit for many Kiwis

There may be little bling to Finance Minister Bill English’s sixth Budget but, like a pair of sensible shoes, it will make for a comfortable fit for many New Zealanders.

It was a budget light on ambition, heavy on prudence, in its commitment towards a modest $372 million surplus, but with a few policies bearing a distinctive Labour hue to them.

Its “steady as she goes” tenor does shrewdly mine the Kiwi ethos. Yes, a tax cut would have been nice, but they’ve balanced the books and haven’t forgotten the children. So she’ll be right.

It is a budget good enough to serve its purpose, whether that is pragmatic progress towards further surpluses and the lure of an eventual tax cut or simply placating middle New Zealand until after the general election in September is a matter of perspective. . .

The NZ Herald says the Budget steers safe course in rough waters:

The Treasury gave the show away in the Budget’s supporting documents, mentioning that while tax revenue is running at a lower level than expected, some of the Government’s intended spending has been “rephased” to produce the surplus it has promised.

Opponents can call it a trick of “smoke and mirrors” but the verdict that matters comes from credit agencies. They are unlikely to be concerned. Spending rephased is spending we might never see unless surpluses can be maintained. . . .

The Budget’s best feature is the value Bill English seems to be getting for little extra spending on public services. Departments know the results he wants and seem to be delivering them without complaint from providers or the public.

They have stopped demanding endless increases in funds and he shared the credit with them yesterday for his surplus.

Doctored it may be, but it will get better.

The Herald’s last point is a pertinent one and one of the National governments successes – getting better pubic services for less money.

 


Not so good old days

March 16, 2014

From the ODT’s 100 years ago, a moving tale of cruelty:

Some sidelights on the work which women are sometimes called on to do on a farm were given in the Hawera Magistrate’s Court today, when a farmer’s wife proceeded against her husband, for persistent cruelty to her and her two children and for (1) a maintenance order, (2) a separation order, and (3) a guardianship order.

According to the evidence the parties were married six years ago, and they went to live on a farm at Patea. For a time matters went on smoothly, but subsequently trouble arose, the complainant saying that the defendant insisted upon her assisting with the milking. She had to do her own household work in addition, feed the calves, and chop the firewood. Witness used to go into the shed between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning, when she milked from 25 to 30 cows out of a herd of 112.

Witness had to milk the same number of cows in the evening, and did not finish until nearly 8.30. She had too much to do, and had often complained of having to work in the cowshed, but her husband only retorted: ”You will come if I want you.” Witness was milking up to the night before her first child was born and three weeks later she was in the shed again. Later on, the defendant put in milking machines, and then she had to strip over 40 cows.

Witness complained that she had to borrow money to come to Hawera to be confined for her second child and while there she received ”pocket” money from her mother. She had only received £1 in pocket money during the six years of her married life. On one occasion the defendant had made trouble about her asking for a shilling to buy a hat, remarking that she could do without it. Her mother made most of the clothes for the children, but had never been paid for them. . . .

A sad reminder that those weren’t always the good old days.


Standing up for Otago

January 19, 2014

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull’s campaign to Stand Up Otago has gone quiet with his less than enthusiastic response to the news that Shell plans to drill for oil and gas in the Great South Basin.

But Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher is happy to stand up for jobs.

Anadarko is due to start exploratory deep-sea drilling in the next few weeks, and Mr Kircher said yesterday’s meeting had provided a chance to ensure that safeguards were taken to protect the environment, as well as a chance to ensure the district was well placed to take advantage of any opportunities that could arise.

”The potential is absolutely enormous for our region. Oil and gas has transformed the Taranaki region, bringing prosperity, jobs and opportunities for the whole area. Test results indicate that the area being tested off Otago may have much greater reserves than Taranaki.

”I was elected on the basis of growing our economy in the Waitaki district and I see this as a major possible game-changer for us all.

”Even if the production is based in Dunedin, the flow-on effects for our district will be significant.”

He said he would always be willing to listen to any concerns people might have about oil and gas exploration.

”I represent our district and will do what I can to pass on those concerns and ensure they are dealt with properly.” . . .

Otago won’t be as strong as it should be if Dunedin is weak.

The jobs and economic growth that would flow from Shell basing its exploration in Dunedin would benefit the whole province.

This prospect has its detractors but there’s more than a little hypocrisy in their protests as these letters to the editor in the weekend ODT says:

The front page article (ODT, 13.1.14) regarding the small group of protesters who want to block the offshore drilling by Anadarko gave prominence to an incredibly small proportion of the Dunedin population; as such it did not deserve front page positioning. That said it was interesting to note these people who wish to limit oil exploration were using boats and boards, wetsuits and probably vehicles to get to Port Chalmers, all of which need petroleum products in their manufacture.

This group would carry a greater message if they used wooden canoes, dressed in wool, and used cork as their flotation aid. If this group want alternatives why can’t they come up with bright ideas and interesting conversations, not protests and negativity? R.J. McKenzie.

Oh the irony of the Oil Free Otago rent-a-mob pictured on the front page. Virtually every object and action in your pictures of the so-called protesters is ultimately derived from the use of fossil fuels – including the PVC jackets, neoprene wetsuits, plastic kayaks, the paint on the banners to the smart phones and computers used to organise the mob. It even appears as though the majority of protesters travelled to Port Chalmers from Dunedin in private motor cars and one wonders how much fossil fuel was burnt in travelling to Dunedin by participants in the Oil Free Future Summit. When will these people learn that in every single moment of every day everybody uses something that is either drilled or mined and that include the alternative future technologies so beloved of the rent-a-mob. The alternative is the Stone-Age. Peter Dymock.

Anti-tobacco lobbyists who smoked would have no credibility, anti-progress protesters who use the fuels against which the rail and provide no alternatives for sustainable growth are little better.

Waitaki’s mayor understands the importance of economic growth in the region and is standing up for Otago, I’m not sure Dunedin’s does and is.


The people are speaking

January 11, 2014

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull and some of his councillors are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of Shell drilling for oil and gas in the Great South Basin.

But yesterday’s ODT (print edition) had three letters under the heading ‘silent majority’ needs to stand up for Otago.

Stand up Otago. An empty slogan or a real call for action? The Otago Daily times (8.1.14) headlined with the dreadful news of major cutbacks at Macraes. As with all big business job losses the impact will be felt far beyond those directly affected. These jobs are skilled and well paid, making them even harder to replace in a region where wages have been driven down relentlessly in a crowded marketplace. . .

There is hope for a reversal of our sad fortune, particularly in the field of engineering. Peter McIntyre’s call for support of Dunedin’s push to service the gas industry in its exploration of southern waters should be a rallying call for our future.

Dunedin’s famous silent majority needs to lose its inhibitions and start shouting really loudly to drown out the lunatic fringe whose drums are already beating. Gareth Hughes is up and running with his beak in our business, babbling on with the usual scaremongering that is the trademark of his breed. Dave Cull needs to get off the fence and start thinking about real jobs for real people. Tim Shadbolt will be more than happy to champion Invercargill’s virtues as a base for drilling.

Dunedin still has the skills and equipment to support this enterprise. Should we lose out this time, we will have neither in the future.

Stand up Otago. The revolution starts now!Richard O’Mahony.

Wake Up Dunedin. You should be doing all you can to attract the drilling by Shell off the coast to be based in Dunedin. I visited Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1980 and it was a dull, old grey-stone city. When I visited again in the 1990s it was a bustling, bright city. Why? Because oil had been found in the North Sea and Aberdeen was the onshore base.

Our city could be rejuvenated if something similar was found off our coast. Come on Dunedin mayor and councillors, do everything in tyour powers to encourage use by shell and co of our city and have what could be a bright, vigorous future. Invercargill will take a welcoming attitude. Alexa Craig.

It is great news to hear that Shell has announced, along with its partners OMV and Mitsui E&P, it will go ahead with a $200 million test well for natural gas in the Great South Basin. the well will be located 150 KM offshore from Dunedin in 1350m of water, making Dunedin the ideal base.

Should a discover be made and the gas fields fully developed, then within five years, the potential employment opportunities and benefits for local business would be huge. The Berl report estimates the potential benefits will be: 256 jobs, $179 million spent regionally and $71 million generated per year in GDP for the local community over 45 years. In the first few years of development, there would be an excess of 1000 jobs created and $1 billion spent.

Dunedin and the Otago region need to roll out the red carpet to support the supply hub to be based in Dunedin. We are fortunate that we already have many of the required support businesses based in our city. Now we need the entire community to support this new industry. – Cr Andrew Whiley.

The ODT itself opines:

. . . What we cannot afford as a community is for one sector to stand against the chance of experiencing a possible huge economic boom. To convince Shell to establish here, and possibly keep Macraes operating longer, the whole community and its representatives must be united as one. Let us not allow this opportunity to pass by.

Shell has a choice about where it will base its on-shore support.

No-one doubts that Invercargill will put out the welcome mat.

Mayor Cull must get over his personal antipathy to the development and show the sort of enthusiasm these correspondents are if Dunedin and Otago are to have an even chance of being chosen.


Bad and good

January 9, 2014

Yesterday’s ODT led with the bad news of job losses at Macraes mine.

That’s followed up by today’s story of more job losses in firms which service and supply the mine.

Yesterday’s paper also had the good news story of Shell’s decision to drill in the Great South Basin.

This is how life goes. Good things happen during bad times and bad things happen during better times.

But the outlook for those people who have lost jobs or business because of Oceana Gold’s slow-down at Macraes is better now the economy is improving than it would have been even a year ago.

It would be better still if Dunedin was showing a warmer welcome to Shell.

The city is vying with Invercargill to be Shell’s base and mayor Dave Cull is at best lukewarm:

. . . Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull – who remained personally opposed to the increasingly difficult search for fossil fuels – said he was nevertheless ”cautiously optimistic” the city could benefit from Shell’s plans.

He was encouraged the company was prepared to invest up to $200 million in its search for natural gas, and not oil, off the city’s coast.

However, with the test drill not scheduled until 2016, and any full-scale extraction – if it eventuated – a decade away, he cautioned against too much excitment, too soon.

”What comes out of it, in terms of job creation and business and economic development, will depend on the size of what they find.

”If they are going to be drilling, this is pretty good, and clearly Dunedin is very well placed to offer the services and facilities that they might need,” he said. . .

Two councillors are even less enthusiastic:

. . . including Cr Aaron Hawkins, who said the council had a ”moral obligation” to protect the interests of future generations.

”I don’t think it’s fair to clamour over a few jobs now and leave our grandchildren to pick up the tab environmentally and economically.

”Frankly, I think that’s a very selfish way of looking at economic development.”

Cr Jinty MacTavish agreed, saying the city would not spend money to try to attract the ”unethical” tobacco industry, and should avoid the oil and gas industry for the same reasons.

”It’s an unethical business and I wouldn’t like to see Dunedin setting out to attract it.” . . .

Contrast this with the reaction from Invercargill.

Yesterday’s Southland Times devoted its whole front page to telling the story – consortium backs $200m basin well –  and followed up with enthusiastic welcome for drill plan.

Today’s story is headlined drilling holds promise of job bonanza.

Shell will make its decision on where it’s based on a variety of factors, one of which will be the attitude of the city.

In good times and bad, you have to do what you can to help yourself.

Invercargill is doing that, Dunedin must do better.


Presbyterian approach to recovery prudent

December 24, 2013

The ODT opines:

Even though the Treasury forecasts have been notoriously cautious for many years, there is a general feeling within the business and economic communities that New Zealand is about to start a purple patch of economic growth.

With the economy set to grow by 3.6% in the coming financial year, followed by annual growth of between 2.1% and 2.4% for the following two years, New Zealand’s economy may well be the envy of many in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Mr English is rated with restoring the Crown accounts to surplus and doing more than his fair share of the heavy lifting on policy by the publication Trans Tasman. The deputy prime minister has driven reform in the state sector to use resources more effectively and deliver higher quality services. In the House, he has become a commanding performer, blunting Opposition attacks. . .

In past times of good fortune, government finance ministers have come under strong pressure to try to ensure re-election by making big-spending election promises. Those times have hopefully passed. The importance of having a sound economy, the growing of employment, certainty for businesses and households must overshadow the individual ambitions of politicians. . .

We must take the opportunity the sunnier outlook provides to make hay and put away a good harvest like good ants rather than squander it like grasshoppers.

The Southland Times also combines praise with the need for caution:

A slew of economic reports in the past week or two have shown an ever-sunnier view ahead for New Zealand, and especially Otago and Southland.

Business New Zealand’s latest surveys of services and manufacturing sectors showed strong expansion under way across the country but with stellar scores Otago-Southland region far eclipsing all other regions. In Westpac’s survey of regional economic confidence Southland scored second highest. . .

It is not hard to pick the source of the extra optimism here in the south. Take a bow, Mrs Cow. . .

The glow from the white gold is spreading throughout the economy, earning money and creating jobs not just on-farm but in servicing and supplying them and the people who live on them.

Treasury is forecasting economic growth next year of 3.6 per cent.

Barely a day later Statistics NZ announced that a 17 per cent surge in agricultural production had helped growth to hit 3.5 per cent already. Higher than Australia.

We can laugh at that, but it should be remembered that it is not unusual for New Zealand to grow faster than Australia, or even beat them at cricket. The problem is that it always proves a one-off. While the Kiwi economy puts on bursts of speed, the Aussie trucks along steadily and just like the fabled tortoise, wins the race.

Just as on the rugby field, the champion team is the one that performs consistently, week-in, week-out, not the one that plays the occasional blinder, then falls apart a week later. Graphs of New Zealand’s growth rate tend to be too much like Fiordland’s landscape: leaping and plunging in a fashion adventure tourism operators might appreciate but stolid Southlanders should not.

In the past, the attitude of both individuals and Governments has all too often been “Great! Crisis over. Lets go back to the bad habits that created it.”

That would be easy and wrong, not just for individuals but the country.

That is an important  message for the run-up to next year’s election.

A change in government would undo all the good that’s been done and take us back to the over taxing, over spending policies of the Labour-led government which put the country into recession before the rest of the world.

We still carry too much debt. We continue to run nasty current account deficits. And the evidence is that Aucklanders at least have not yet cured their mania for property bubbles.

It is easy to go on a diet, to quit smoking, to start saving for the future. The harder part is to keep doing it. The reward for losing a kilogram is a cream cake. And all too quickly, the old habits return.

The secret to sustained economic success is not a bottle of miracle oil, or a lucky puff of the economic trade winds. It is discipline and perseverance.

Solid southern men and women know that. We should set an example for those northerly types: eat the cupcake, but sell the cream.

We can celebrate the purple patch but can’t afford to squander the opportunities it will provide to strengthen the economy and help people most in need.

As the ODT says:

. . . Balancing the budget is important. Taking on less debt is important. Ensuring business confidence leads to job growth is important. Ensuring social justice remains a key part of the country’s psyche is important. Mr English knows the challenges. In 2014, he must balance the needs of the Government with the needs of the people.

A Presbyterian approach to the recovery is prudent and necessary to ensure we don’t return to the bad habits of the past and to provide weather-proofing to help us withstand the next storms.

The need for this isn’t just economic but social. A strong economy is the only sustainable way to provide first-world health, education and other services that address the needs of the people.


Where were the subs?

December 17, 2013

The ODT and NZ Herald often run the same columns.

Today they both published one by Bob Jones.

The ODT subs did what they were supposed to do and edited out a paragraph in which Jones delighted in a protester committing suicide after he’d told him to.

But where were the Herald subs? They left the offending paragraph in until readers reacted.

The ODT column isn’t on-line. The Herald’s edited version is now with an apology for causing offence to some readers.

Keeping Stock has the original version.

Jones enjoys a reputation for blunt speaking and writing but he crossed a line with this column. The Herald subs ought to have realised that and edited it, as the ODT ones did.


Public spending evenly spread

October 9, 2013

A snapshot of government funding by regions shows public spending is evenly spread across the country.

Finance Minister Bill English and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today released the Regional Government Expenditure Report jointly commissioned by Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and undertaken by NZIER.

The report to 30 June 2012 provides estimates of central government spending (operational and capital) in each of New Zealand’s 16 regions. The estimates are based on a direct expenditure approach and a measure based on services. The expenditure approach assigns spending to a region according to where money is spent and the service approach assigns expenditure according to the region for which a government service is provided.

Key findings include:

  • Using the expenditure method, in the year to June 2012 the Government spent $78,020 million, 92 per cent of which was operating expenditure
  • Wellington had the highest per capita operating expenditure ($22,297) and capital expenditure per capita ($2,184) because it is the capital and headquarters of many of the government’s core functions such as policy advice that supports services across New Zealand
  • Canterbury’s per capita share of expenditure is above average due, in large part, to increased spending following the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes
  • Using the services method, Otago had the highest capital expenditure per person ($1,993; page 7 of the report) and Gisborne the highest operating expenditure per person ($19,578; page 6 of the report).

Table 1 Core Crown Spending by region

Table 1 Core Crown Spending by region

“The development of all of New Zealand’s regions is hugely important to the Government and the national economy. This report shows the Government is investing in all our regions helping to support families, business growth, jobs and higher incomes,” Mr English says.

“The report will be a useful tool to monitor changes over time alongside the Regional Economic Activity Report and Statistics New Zealand’s Regional GDP update, which have both been released in the last four months.”

Mr Joyce says the report covers all Government expenditure, everything from building roads and hospitals, to social welfare payments, education and research and development.

“The results in the expenditure report show that regional expenditure broadly reflects the size of the population in each region,” Mr Joyce says.

“Small variations in Government spending across regions reflect their different demographics and characteristics. Regions with higher numbers of older people tend to have higher superannuation and health expenditure; areas with lower unemployment tend to have less social welfare spending.

“The Government remains committed to strengthening investment in all our regions helping them achieve their potential and boosting jobs and quality of life for all New Zealand families.”

The full report is here.

The ODT is running a Stand Up Otago campaign, with the support of southern mayors, largely predicated on the belief the south isn’t getting its fair share.

This reports shows that isn’t the case and spending is evenly spread across the country and pretty closely related to the population.


Standing up for ourselves

September 12, 2013

The ODT’s Stand Up Otago campaign was sparked by the announcement of major jobs losses at Invermay Agricultural Research Centre.

Those who joined the campaign seemed to be looking to government to help Dunedin and the province.

But a recent editorial, correctly, looks beyond government for growth:

. . . The Government needs to know the anger and outrage in Dunedin as it abandons the city in these areas. The Government needs to play its part in Dunedin’s future.

Nevertheless, the retention of such jobs is but one part of economic development and Dunedin’s future. At the next level, the mayor and the council need to be accountable for their part.

It is fine for the council to point to its economic development unit and its work to convince Wellington politicians about government and quasi-government jobs. But just how supportive of business is the council from top to bottom?

Through planning, building permits, transport planning, rates and so on, is the council in fact business friendly?

Does what it provides impress possible immigrants to Dunedin? Does it and the city generally project the attitudes and produce the goods that make Dunedin an attractive place in which to live. The council must ”stand up” for the city.

What, too, about the attitudes of business people, workers and residents in the South? Do we really want, in matters both large and small, to be efficient, effective and positive?

Is our customer service, as has been claimed, at best mediocre?

Would a new business really want to set up here when the attitudes around it are slack and making progress is much harder that it should be? Would residents want to live here because we are friendly, vibrant, proud, helpful?

Do high standards flow through our hospitals and in our schools? Can we show the rest of the country we are superior in what we do and how we do it? Business and residents must ”stand up” for the city.

Dunedin has many inherent advantages, not least of which are relatively high education standards and relatively low numbers of social problems.

It has an intellectual, social, sporting and cultural life well beyond what might be expected in a small city. We also have companies blazing trails and quietly doing the business. This all needs to be built on and fostered.

Although we do not expect the Government wrongfully to strip away jobs, Dunedin as a community fundamentally has much of its future in our own hands.

The raw fact is that, in an intensely competitive world, Dunedin has to ”stand up” for itself.

We are all responsible for growth.

Government has  a part to play but that should be a small part in comparison to our own efforts.

Government should create the environment for growth but it doesn’t create jobs. Those come from businesses and they’re much more likely to grow in places which are vibrant and welcoming and with a culture that celebrates enterprise and success.


Can’t run itself, can’t run country

August 31, 2013

Quote of the day:

If Labour cannot run itself, it must be assumed it cannot run the country. ODT

The ODT is not alone in this opinion. John Armstrong writes:

. . . Regardless, the new rules have been symptomatic of an increasingly toxic relationship between the bulk of the caucus and factions within the wider party. . .

In Parliament, with the outgoing leader on leave, his deputy consumed with getting the top job and the rest of the caucus viewing the race with trepidation, Labour drifts leaderless and rudderless for two weeks. Labour is the Mary Celeste of Parliament.

Labour’s new rules make it even less stable than it was.

On top of that the party has failed to learn from the mistakes National made after its 1999 election loss and the necessary changes it made after the 2002 defeat.

Losing parties have to get rid of the dead wood.

They also have to demonstrate they are able to run themselves properly with unity in and between the caucus and wider membership if they’re to convince voters they’re fit to run the country.


Stand up on own feet

August 5, 2013

The Otago Daily Times devoted the front page of Saturday’s paper to a campaign Stand Up Otago with its editorial saying its time for the South to fight:

Today, the ODT is calling on the people of the South to try to save jobs and services that are shifting out of regional New Zealand – and in many cases being transferred to two main centres.

We believe it is time residents of the South stood up and made a statement to the Government and others that stripping jobs out of the regional economies of New Zealand is not in the country’s best interests.

The paper has been covering growing concern over job losses in Dunedin and its hinterland and the last straw has been the announcement AgResearch is to cut 85 jobs from Invermay.

The concern is understandable but the ODT is aiming at the wrong target.

The Invermay decision was AgResearch’s, not the government’s and looking to the government for jobs in the city is short-term thinking.

The government does fund plenty of jobs in Dunedin through the university and hospital but iIf governments give they can also take away.

The city and province should be looking to the private sector not the government for long-term sustainable businesses and jobs.

There is a very good example of this in the same edition of the ODT in an interview with Tony Allison, CEO of Night ‘n’ Day Foodstore Ltd.

The company was ranked fourth in the country in the Deloitte Fast 50 companies last year, with 952% growth. It was also Otago’s fastest-growing retail or consumer products business. Its CEO was winner of this year’s Otago Southland branch of the Institute of Directors’ aspiring director award.

The interview concludes:

. . .Mr Allison could not understand why more companies were not based in Dunedin, saying there were ”really smart people” in the city, along with the resources and infrastructure.

The city, and province, have lots going for them including good people, good infrastructure, good services and relatively inexpensive real estate.

There are plenty of examples of people running successful international businesses in Otago, including Ian Taylor who is calling for the formation of a  political party to be the voice of the south.

Mr Taylor told the ODT public dissatisfaction meant any new party could snap up seats in Dunedin, Southland and Waitaki and ”bowl in” to Parliament.

Once there, it could be a voice for regional development in the corridors of power.

”Now is the time to take our future in our own hands and do something about it … [to] come together and force the politicians to take notice. No-one else will.

”It is up to us to stand up and be counted and the best way to do that is from the inside,” he said.

He is a very good businessman but doesn’t know much about politics.

A south of the south party would have even less chance of success than a South Island one. This has been attempted but never made traction for very good reasons among which is that there aren’t enough people to make a big enough difference.

Sustainable development and growth in the south won’t come from the government directing agencies to locate down here.

It will come from policies which enable businesses to prosper and grow.

The south should be advocating for these policies at local, regional and national levels.

The south won’t be strong if it’s beholden to government. It’s strength will come from standing on its own feet.

The paper has a role to play here by highlighting, as it often does, the good news stories about successful businesses and business people.

They’re the ones who depend not on governments but their own ability and hard work.

The south does need to stand up – but on its own feet, not leaning on the government.


Coalition conundrum

February 27, 2013

The ODT editorial on Labour’s reshuffle highlights the coalition conundrum:

. . . With support for the Greens remaining at election night highs, it is conceivable that party could have five ministers in any future government, perhaps even including a deputy prime minister. . .

Despite the need to govern together, Labour and the Greens are not always natural friends, with each party continuing to snipe away at each other. To provide the electorate with a compelling argument on why it should vote for a Labour-Green government though, some collaboration is necessary. . .

To be  lead a stable government under MMP the major party has to attract the swinging voters in the middle.

Voters need to be convinced parties could work together but the people in the middle are least likely to be attracted to Labour if they fear the Green Party  will drag it too far to the left.


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