Messier and messier

September 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rural round-up

August 27, 2018

Plenty of advice for Fonterra’s bosses – but are our expectations too high? – Point of Order:

Dairy farmers  should be pleased with the  advice  liberally and freely tendered to Fonterra in the wake of the co-op’s board deciding to halt its international  search for a  new  CEO and instead,  with an  interim CEO,  Miles Hurrell, “pause and  assess  the  way   ahead”.

Fran  O’Sullivan,  Head of Business at NZME,  which publishes the  NZ  Herald, says appointing an interim chief executive to run New Zealand’s largest company is an admission of failure that should force Fonterra’s board to look hard at its own performance.  And she  concludes: . . 

Brexit opportunity: just don’t call it another free trade agreement – Point of Order:

LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Does New Zealand’s government understand the opportunity which Brexit presents? Are they and their advisers working tirelessly to realise it?

OK, difficult questions, not least because there are no binding decisions on the shape or timing of Brexit and these are likely to come in a final rush. But the underlying position is so positive that it would be a tremendous shame if New Zealand’s policy was not being shaped to take advantage of it.

Given the scorn critics are pouring on Britain’s post-Brexit trade prospects, the UK really needs an eye-catching trade deal to kick in on leaving. It would be a political coup, more than an economic one. The partner which Britain’s politicians think will deliver this reliably and quickly should get the most attention and the best terms. . .

Let’s open the gate to our young people:

The Primary ITO is challenging schools, school leavers and farmers to open the farm, garden, or orchard gate as this year’s “Got a Trade? Got it Made!” week highlights the huge potential in industry training for a primary sector career.

The Primary ITO (industry training organisation) leads the training in New Zealand’s largest export sector. It is taking part in this year’s “Got A Trade? Got It Made!” week to showcase the advantages of tertiary on-the-job education and to connect young New Zealanders to real employers in the primary industries. . . 

Horticulture Welcomes Major Biocontrol Milestone:

The New Zealand horticulture industry has welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision allowing the release of a tiny Samurai wasp into New Zealand, if ever there was an incursion of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).

BMSB Council Chair Alan Pollard applauded the outcome as a major milestone against one of the greatest threats to New Zealand’s horticultural industry and urban communities.

“The industry greatly appreciates the positive decision and acknowledges the consideration given by the EPA to the significant number of submissions made on the application. . . 

Horticulture levy votes successful:

Horticulture groups seeking levy renewals have all had votes of confidence from growers to continue the work of the industry good organisations Horticulture New Zealand, TomatoesNZ, Vegetables New Zealand, Process Vegetables New Zealand, and Onions New Zealand.

The individual groups’ levy referendums closed on 13 August and independent vote counting shows resounding support. The levy orders come up for renewal every six years. . . 

New programme to foster high value goat milk infant formula industry:

A new Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme launched today has its sights on growing a sustainable, high value goat milk infant formula industry in New Zealand.

Caprine Innovations NZ (CAPRINZ) is a five-year, $29.65 million PGP programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Dairy Goat Co-operative (NZ) Ltd.

The end goals include improving the health and wellbeing of families, delivering a range of benefits such as growing research and farming capability, and increasing export revenue across the New Zealand dairy goat milk industry to $400 million per annum by 2023. . . 

Honey goes hi-tech: new tool has industry buzzing:

With New Zealand’s annual honey exports currently valued at $300 million and growing, a new web-based honey blending tool is set to save honey distributors significant amounts of time and money.

The Honey Blending Tool, developed by a team of scientists and data analysts at Hill Laboratories, allows honey distributors with large inventories to easily blend individual honeys to form a target blend to meet specific sales and export criteria.

New Zealand produces around 15,000 – 20,000 tonnes of honey each year. Most honey bought from a supermarket is blended honey. . . 

Decades of rural experience for new NZ Pork Chair:

NZ Pork has appointed former Southland MP Eric Roy as Chair of a new board of directors, as the industry-good body positions itself to face key challenges for New Zealand’s commercial pig farming industry.

Mr Roy, who has spent many decades working in the rural sector, was a six-term MP for the Awarua and Invercargill seats. During his time in Parliament, Mr Roy was a select committee chair of the Primary Production Select Committee, chairing the rewrite of New Zealand’s fisheries laws in what was a world first in sustainable management. . . 

Sheepmeat and beef levies to increase:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Board has decided to proceed with the proposed increase in the sheepmeat and beef levies following significant support from farmers.

From 1 October 2018 the levy for sheepmeat will increase 10 cents to 70 cents per head and the beef levy by 80 cents to $5.20 per head. This is 0.4 per cent of the average slaughter value for prime steer/heifer, 0.7 per cent cull dairy cow, 0.7 per cent of lamb, and 1.1 per cent of mutton over the last three years. . . 

2018 Tonnellerie De Mercurey New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year announced:

Marlborough’s Greg Lane was crowned the 2018 Tonnellerie de Mercurey New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year in Auckland last night.

Lane, who is the brand winemaker for Grove Mill fought off some tough competition from three other young winemakers, representing both the North and South Island.

Runner up was Kelly Stuart, Assistant Winemaker for Cloudy Bay based in Marlborough.

Into its fourth year, the competition aims to promote the skills of the next generation of winemakers emerging in New Zealand. The four contestants had already battled it out in either the North or South Island regional finals, prior to taking part in yesterday’s final. . . 

10 things only a farmer’s wife would know – Emma Smith:

To some, being a farmer’s wife or partner sounds an idyllic lifestyle. A beautiful farmhouse to live in complete with Aga, rolling landscapes to admire and cute animals to nurture.

In today’s world women are at the forefront of managing farm enterprises and are sometimes doing so singlehandily.

The reality is a farmer’s other half needs to be patient, know the “lingo” and be the queen of multitasking. . . 


Rural round-up

August 26, 2018

NZAgbiz launches first electrolyte product:

Developed by NZAgbiz in conjunction with leading veterinary scientists, Novolyte has been formulated to replace fluids lost due to scouring, treat dehydration and exhaustion and help calves recover from stressors such as transportation.

NZAgbiz is a Fonterra business unit that manufactures livestock nutrition products using primarily Fonterra ingredients, and General Manager Greg Cate says Novolyte was the logical next step in their range of scientifically formulated animal health supplements.

“All NZAgbiz products are based on solid scientific evidence and we saw the need for a high-quality electrolyte replacement to help farmers raise calves that thrive,” says Cate. . . 

Farm plans reduce N loss:

Farming practices now piloted by Mid Canterbury dairy farmers Grant and Jan Early could show other New Zealand farmers how they can successfully reduce their environmental impacts.

Earlys’ Mayfield farm is one of a small group in the Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching project looking for ways to cut nitrogen losses.

They have so far achieved a 20% cut in one year on their dairy support farm. The research results are made available to help farmers adopt new practices. . .

Milking it: I”m a farmer and I’m a very lucky man: – Craig Hickman:

NZ is known for its dairy products, and is home to one of the biggest dairy companies in the world. In this Stuff special investigation, we examine how the price of milk is set and explore the industry behind our liquid asset.

OPINION: Someone recently asked me why I’m a farmer and I think it’s fair to say it was something of an accident; I don’t’ come from a farming background and I had only a vague notions of what it might be like having spent a few summer holidays working on a deer farm.

I broached the idea with my parents at the end of my sixth form year, saying I would like to skip my final year of college and go work on a dairy farm, ostensibly to earn enough money to put myself through university.

My father, ever the practical man, came back to me with a counter proposal; if the object of working for a year is to save money for university, why not do something that pays real money? . . 

Hill country going well – Peter Burke:

Beef + Lamb NZ director Kirsten Bryant is concerned about the perception that hill country farmers aren’t doing well. Bryant says she and her husband have three hill country farms and financially they have never done as well as they are doing now.

Their properties are returning 5% to 8% on capital. “I don’t know where this perception that hill country farming is not profitable has come from,” she told Rural News. “For a start, let’s not forget about hill country farms that this is where the lambs are bred.

So you start focusing on hill country farming as a negative and talking it down and soon you are going to lose your breeding ewes and total lamb production,” she says. . . 

First NZ company receives Medical Cannabis license:

Hikurangi Cannabis has become the first New Zealand company to secure a license to cultivate medicinal cannabis plants.

The license issued by the Ministry of Health enables Hikurangi to breed cannabis strains that can eventually be used in medicines.

Hikurangi has secured significant investment and will now start building high tech greenhouses and processing facilities near Ruatoria on the East Coast. Hikurangi has commissioned clinical trials to start next year for the first New Zealand made cannabis medicines. . .

A2 Milk reports an a1 result while scientists work on the health benefits – Point of Order:

Revenue up   68%, profit up 116% , cash  on hand up  280% …

Those annual results are the sort most  companies’ bosses  dream of.  They are certainly are the  kind  of  results  Fonterra’s  farmer-suppliers    are  not  likely  to  hear  from  the  co-op’s  board in  this lifetime.

But  for A2 Milk’s  shareholders  they are  real.   Reporting to shareholders  (who  indeed have had a  dream run  this year), the   company this week  said revenue  reached  $922.7m,  annual profit $195.7m,  and  the sales margin  was  31%,  up  from  26% . . 

NZ pipfruit industry heading for a record 2018 crop, MyFarm says – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s pipfruit industry is headed for a record crop this year as it benefits from favourable growing weather, low Northern Hemisphere stocks, market changes, premium varieties, and a weaker New Zealand dollar, according to a report published today by MyFarm Investments.

The vast majority of the 2018 apple crop has been picked and nearly 90 percent has been exported, said MyFarm head of investment research Con Williams, who joined New Zealand’s largest rural investment syndicator last month after eight years as ANZ Bank’s agri economist. Williams said the crop is expected to have increased by 5-6 percent from last year, registering a new all-time high. . . 

Red meat sector confident despite some headwinds – Allan Barber:

Since I attended the 2016 conference, having missed last year’s, several things have changed considerably: two years ago Donald Trump wasn’t President, Silver Fern Farms hadn’t concluded its capital raising with a Chinese investor, alternative proteins and non-meat burgers weren’t on the industry’s radar and there was little recognition of the need for a Red Meat Story.

This year the conference programme acknowledged these changes by focusing on disruption to global trade, the China influence, heightened consumer expectations, the effects of the digital revolution and the importance of building consumer trust by telling our story about product provenance, traceability and environmental credibility. The conference was very well attended by farmers, processors and service providers, all of whom were optimistic about meeting the challenges ahead of an industry which has faced many different threats to its survival in the past 140 years. . . 

Country Life rural wrap from around New Zealand:

Do you know what is happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week reporters from Country Life talk to rural people about what is happening around New Zealand. Here’s what they told us.

Northland
Younger cattle have been selling well coming into a spring market. An average-to-better yearling steer has been fetching $880 to $950 and decent heifers $800 to $860. Wednesday was one of the worst days this winter – cold and bleak with hail, thunder and lightning. Thursday was sunny and Friday sunnier.

Pukekohe
This weekend’s weather will be like the last – fine. Unfortunately, the work days have been wet. With few exceptions, growers have kept off their fields unless crops were ready to harvest. With heavy supplies of broccoli retailing at unprofitable prices, working in the rain and muddy fields would appear to be a waste of time. . .

Tariff turmoil in times of abundance – Tim Burrack:

U.S. crop export prices dropped like a rock last month, falling by more than 5 percent. That’s the fastest dive we’ve seen in seven years, according to a report issued on Tuesday by the Department of Labor.

Government figures are important for understanding trends, but they cover up a lot of individual stories.

So let me tell you what these export-price statistics have meant for my farm in Iowa, where I grow corn and soybeans and raise hogs. Or, to look at it another way, let me tell you about my farm’s financial snapshot.

We’re facing tariff turmoil in a time of abundance. . .

 

Cavalier turns to profit in 2018, sees continuing improvements in future years –  Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Carpet-maker Cavalier Corp turned to an annual profit and improved its debt and cash balances as it benefits from the previous year’s restructuring.

The Papatoetoe-based company posted a net profit of $4.1 million in the year ended June 30, from a loss of $2.1 million a year earlier. That’s above the top end of its forecast range of $3.7 million to $4 million. . . 


Rural round-up

August 16, 2018

 A flow of “fresh air” – here’s hoping Fonterra’ s financial performance gets a good whiff – Point of Order:

Fonterra’s  latest move, appointing Miles Hurrell as interim CEO  “with immediate  effect”, has   sent  fresh rumbles  through the  dairy industry.

The  co-op’s  chairman John Monaghan, announcing the move,  spoke of the need  to  “breathe  some fresh  air  into the business”.

He is  not alone with this observation:  several  politicians  have been calling for just that – but  many of the  co-op’s 10,500 farmer-suppliers may be wondering  what exactly  a  blast of   “fresh air”  may do. . .

Animal tracking legislation to be debated under urgency – Gia Garrick:

Legislation to properly enforce the animal tracking guidelines, which were found to be hugely inadequate during the Mycoplasma bovis response, is to be debated under urgency tonight and through tomorrow.

It will mean farmers’ compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT) – the country’s cattle and deer tracking system – will be properly monitored.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said there would be penalties for those who did not comply.

“We will certainly have enforcement of these new guidelines, I can promise you that,” he said. . . 

Farmers encouraged to open homes to drought-hit Australians –  Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers are being urged to extend the hand of mateship to their drought-stricken Australian counterparts.

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said the organisation was working on ways to help farmers hit by severe drought across the Tasman.

Much of southeastern Australia is struggling with drought but conditions in New South Wales are the driest and most widespread since 1965.  . . 

Poorest performing iwi invested in large farms, ANZ report says – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – The poorest performing iwi investment in recent years has come from farming, which is often favoured for cultural rather than economic considerations, according to the latest annual ‘Iwi Investment Insights’ report by ANZ Bank New Zealand.

In its 2018 annual ‘Te Tirohanga Whānui’ research report, ANZ evaluated the asset base of 34 iwi and hapū, finding the commercial assets of the combined group had increased by just over $1 billion, or 12 percent, to $5.4 billion since 2015. The report found the most common asset in the top quartile for underlying returns was the significant holdings in managed funds which have performed well in recent years. On the flip-side, most iwi/hapū in the lower quartile were actively managing large farms. . .

Raising triplets indoors works – Joanna Grigg:

It’s raining outside, again, but it’s not worrying these new lambs.

All 250 of Richard Dawkins’ triplet-bearing ewes get seven days or so indoors to adjust to supplementary feed, birth their lambs, bond and feed.

Then it’s out to the real world, albeit a nearby paddock with ad-lib clover and a watchful eye for that fading third lamb. . .

Sheep meats are in a sweet spot – Keith Woodford:

This year has been an exceptional year for many sheep farmers.  Lamb and mutton prices have been at record levels.

The key drivers have been increasing demand from China combined with lower exchange rates. Sales to Britain have slowed down, linked to a ‘buy British’ campaign over there. But that has not been enough to counter the overall good news story.

Sheep farmers are telling me that, for the first time in many years, sheep farming is fun again. The cash is coming through to upgrade tracks and other infrastructure. Venison prices have also been exceptional for those sheep farmers who also farm deer. Most sheep farmers also run beef cattle and they too have been paying well. . .

LIC’s Murray King named Co-operative Leader of the Year:

Farmer owned co-operative LIC is pleased to announce its board chairman Murray King has been named Co-operative Leader of the Year at the Co-operative Business NZ Awards 2018.

The annual award recognises those who have shown strong leadership and commitment to the co-operative sector.

A Nelson-based dairy farmer, Murray has a long-standing connection to LIC and the dairy farming community of the upper South Island. . .


Rural round-up

July 23, 2018

Sharemilkers vital, new section chairman says – Sally Rae:

A new farming leader believes sharemilkers are a vital part of New Zealand’s dairy industry.

Grant Tremewan has been elected as the North Otago Federated Farmers sharemilkers’ section chairman. He is passionate about sharemilking being retained as a viable pathway into farming and valued for its contribution.

”It’s the competitive advantage of the dairy industry, where much of its productivity and innovation comes from.

”I want to see sharemilkers treated fairly . .

Beingmate has muted Fonterra’s Chinese hum – Point of Order:

Fonterra is “humming” in China, according  to  a headline  in the  NZ  Herald,  although the  text  of the article beneath it mentioned  the  “woes”  associated with  the co-op’s investment  in Beingmate.

The  co-op  is having to absorb   an impairment of   $405m    on the value of its 18.8%  holding in Beingmate.  On top of the $183m payment it has had to make  French  giant  Danone, the  writedown  takes the gloss off that  otherwise  “humming”  performance.

Some of its farmer-shareholders may be looking over the  fence to  the rather different  outcome  for A2 Milk, which lifted its annual  sales  68% in the June year,  with  revenue   rising  from $549m in the June  2017 year  to  $922m.  During  the latest  year A2  Milk achieved gross margins  up  to  49%.   . .

Wallace Group extends Southland operations; achieves nationwide slink and casualty cow collection service:

Nationwide coproducts business Wallace Group today announced it had extended operations in Southland with the addition of a Mataura processing site, requiring around 20 seasonal contractors and 30 seasonal staff.

Wallace Group Chief Executive Officer, Graham Shortland says, “We’re very pleased to have extended our presence in Southland. The recycling of coproducts from the agricultural sector performs a valuable service for farmers and processors as well as protecting the natural environment from the impact of dead stock. . .

Otago/Southland named best Young Farmers’ region:

Otago/Southland has been named the country’s best NZ Young Farmers region.

The region’s members cheered excitedly when the award was announced in Invercargill.

“Our clubs are welcoming and well connected which ensures lots of interclub activities,” he said.

Marlborough wine – protecting and promoting the real deal:

A new initiative has been launched to safeguard Marlborough’s wine reputation and Lawson’s Dry Hills is among the first to jump on board.

The protection of ‘brand Marlborough’ has been under discussion for some years but with the proliferation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc labels over recent times, a group of key industry people led by Ivan Sutherland of Dog Point Vineyards, have been spurred into action. . .

Bayer Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 announced:

Congratulations to Ben Richards from Indevin who became the Bayer Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 on Friday 13th July.

This is the second consecutive year Richards has competed in the National Final, however he was representing Hawke’s Bay in 2017 as he was working at Indevin’s vineyards there and finishing his degree at EIT. At the start of this year he was promoted to Viticultural Technician for Indevin and moved to Marlborough, so is delighted to represent his new region in this year’s National Final. , ,

Honey venture big winner at North Maori business awards:

The efforts of a 100 percent Maori-owned company specialising in manuka honey production have been recognised with two awards, including the coveted Taitokerau Maori Business of the Year award.

Kaitaia-based Tai Tokerau Honey was named overall winner, as well as securing the Northland Regional Council’s Excellence in Environmental Awareness and Management category, when the business awards were held in Whangarei recently. .


Rural round-up

July 18, 2018

Super grass offers huge benefits – and it’s green! Pity about the GM … – Point of Order:

Environmentalists should be encouraging NZ’s development of ryegrass with the potential to substantially increase farm production, reduce water demand and decrease methane emissions.

We are told the grass has been shown in AgResearch’s Palmerston North laboratories to grow up to 50 per cent faster than conventional ryegrass, to be able to store more energy for better animal growth, to be more resistant to drought, and to produce up to 23 per cent less methane (the largest single contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions) from livestock. . .

Dig deep for sheep – Annette Scott:

Confidence in sheep is at an all-time high with demand at the Temuka in-lamb ewe fair providing the real proof of industry positivity.

With record processing prices for mutton the sale was always going to be the real test for the market, PGG Wrightson livestock manager Joe Higgins said.

With just 6000 ewes offered and close to 100 registered buyers it was a sellers’ market with clearly not enough sheep to go around. . .

Wool Summit leads to greater direction:

Key players in New Zealand’s wool industry are to form a new coordinating group to better tell wool’s story, says Federated Farmers.

At this week’s Wool Summit in Wellington there was a real sense of urgency to get cooperation and momentum, says Miles Anderson, Federated Farmers Meat & Wool Industry Group Chairperson.

New Zealand wool producers have been under pressure, particularly in the last two years as prices for strong wool hit record lows. . .

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Richard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake. . .

Works not an out for sick stock – TIm Fulton:

Stock transport is high on the animal welfare agenda as new regulations come into force.

Inspectors will be especially alert to badly lame stock being carted to meatworks, Ministry for Primary Industries compliance team manager Peter Hyde told a Beef + Lamb New Zealand meeting in North Canterbury. 

“Using the meat companies to sort out your lameness issues is not acceptable,” he said. . .

 

Kiwifruit expected to remain king of horticulture export industry – Julie Iles:

Kiwifruit exports, valued at $1.86 billion, remains New Zealand’s most valuable horticulture export. 

It’s closely followed by the value of wine exports, at $1.72b, though they were less than half the value of the kiwifruit exports in 2004. 

The latest forecasts by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) predict the kiwifruit export industry will grow in value at a slightly faster pace than the wine industry over the next four years.  . .

Farmlands joins Apple and Emerites in KPMG Award

Farmlands Cooperative has been named the New Zealand winner of KPMG’s prestigious Global Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) Award.

New Zealand’s largest rural supplies and services cooperative was presented with the award at a ceremony hosted by KPMG in Auckland this morning.

Farmlands joins 13 other winners of the award world-wide, including Singapore Airlines (Australia), Apple Store (Italy), Alipay (China) and Emirates (UAE). Following Farmlands in the top five for New Zealand were Air New Zealand, Kiwibank, New World and ASB Bank. . .

America’s cheese stockpile just hit an all-time high – Caitlin Dewey:

The United States has amassed its largest stockpile of cheese in the 100 years since regulators began keeping tabs, the result of booming domestic production of milk and consumers’ waning interest in the dairy beverage.

The 1.39 billion-pound stockpile, tallied by the Agriculture Department last week, represents a 6 percent increase over this time last year and a 16 percent increase since an earlier surplus prompted a federal cheese buy-up in 2016. . .

 


Less for more or more for less*

July 3, 2018

Governments have choices when giving assistance.

They can make it universal – giving to more people, but each getting less; or they can target it – giving it to fewer people but each getting more.

With two payments starting this week, the government opted for the less for more approach.

There was $65 a week for a year for all parents of new babies and $450 to help all beneficiaries with winter heating – or whatever else they choose to spend it on – whether or not they needed it.

The baby payment can’t be claimed with Paid Parental Leave so single-earner double-parent households will get it and those earning less than $79,000 will get the payment for up to three years.

But some families still won’t have enough with it and others will have more than enough without it.

Most beneficiaries who get the winter heating payment will need it, but among those receiving it are pensioners, including those still in paid work, in receipt of more than one pension and/ or with more than enough other income.

Act Mp David Seymour says:

Around 9 per cent of superannuitants earn over $60,000 a year – more than the median income and three times the level of the pension.

“Their slice of winter energy payments will cost taxpayers about $73 million. . .

Eloquently as the gentlemen at Point of Order argue for a mate who will use the payment to power up his electric Mercedes, most of us would find more pressing needs for that $73 million.

There are costs to targeting but it would have been very simple with the heating payment.

Had it been opt in most of the better-off pensioners wouldn’t have bothered to claim it. Since it’s opt-out few will bother to turn it down.

Both these payments are part of the nanny state Damien Grant says insulates us from the consequences of failure:

. . . Children protected from the rigours of life fail as adults. We all understand this and parents grimace as our children stumble through the same mistakes we made. Yet we have unlearned this obvious truth when it comes to the wider community.

What happens to an individual when the consequences for failure are removed? What happens to families whose parents are not expected to provide for their own off-spring? What happens to a community over multiple generations of dependency?

We have been taught that we are not responsible for providing for our own education, paying for our healthcare or even scrabbling for food. The existence of poverty is never the fault of the individual but of the wider society who, as a consequence, must bear responsibility for the poor life decisions of all its citizens.

We can see the result, as most OECD nations have been conducting an inter-generational experiment on shielding their citizens from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Controversial-yet-influential American political scientist Charles Murray’s 1984 book Losing Ground outlines a theory that welfare can increase poverty because it rewards self-defeating decisions, such as avoiding employment. His writing contributed to then-US President Bill Clinton’s limited wind back of federal welfare in 1996.

In New Zealand, every citizen is a beneficiary. We are all eligible for free healthcare, pensions, TVNZ and a welfare system that is so invasive that my local district health board keeps sending me requests for a stool sample. (Seriously, cut it out!)

We are insulated from the full consequences of failure and hampered by a progressive tax and social regime that places a drag on success. The results are rising numbers of single-parent families, record levels of incarceration and persistent pockets of poverty and low academic achievement.

The response to this ongoing failure is ever-increasing intervention.

Today makes the start of the Orwellian Working For Families programme, where middle-class parents receive even more government cash paid for by scrapping the last government’s tax cuts. 

We have become infantilised by this paternalistic managing of much of our economic life and are unwilling to embrace the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. 

It is very difficult to design a welfare system that helps those in genuine need without trapping them; to give people enough without incentivising them to stay dependent; to give hand- outs that provide hands-up without holding people back.

But targeting extra payments would be a good start.

* I know that should be fewer not less, but whenever has correct grammar got in the way of a headline?

 


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